Thursday March 18, 2010
We decided to make our annual late winter trek to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, to see the wildflowers. Expectations were high, since this El Niño rain season had brought 7.41 inches to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center (as of March 15), at least 50 percent above normal.
We drove through Ramona, to snap a few photos to add to our recent blog, then stopped at the Dudley's Bakery and Café in Santa Ysabel. They had changed their operation quite a bit since our last visit in March 2009. Before, they kept their inventory behind the counter, where personnel would slice the loaves on request. Now, they have racks of pre-sliced bread arranged in front of the counter, to allow customers to pick their own loaves. (We suspect this approach was an attempt to save labor costs). We selected three: our favorite, apple pecan; a new Louisiana maple pecan; and a rosemary savory bread. Current prices are $4.65 per 24-ounce loaf; if one buys four loaves, the fifth one is free. Too bad we do not have sufficient freezer room to accommodate five loaves!
On our way to Julian the first time today, we noticed swatches of bright yellow daffodils. We learned that Julian was celebrating a Daffodil Festival the March 20-21 weekend. The last remnants of snow were gone and temperatures in Julian were in the 60s F.
We decided to take the Wynola Road cutoff to reach SR 78 and Banner Grade. County Road 3 (Yaqui Pass) took us to Borrego Springs past the now defunct Casa del Zorro Resort/Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa. We first checked out the picnic tables at Christmas Circle Community Park. However, this was a warm, sunny day with an intense sun and essentially no shade. We decided to head to the Visitor Center via Palm Canyon Road.
Even this weekday, the Visitor Center was swarming with people. But the grounds were in spectacular bloom. The painter indicated that Borrego Springs was hosting a plein aire art festival that coming weekend.
After our visit we decided to have our lunch among the palms in a picnic area located immediately south of the Visitor Center parking lot. Many of the tables were well-shaded and we dined in comfort. (Note: there is no parking or standing allowed next to the picnic area, but it's only a short walking distance from the main parking lot).
We spent early afternoon heading east on Palm Canyon Road (County Road S22), north on Pegleg Road and west on Henderson Canyon Road. The best flowers were on the east portion of Henderson Canyon Road, where the ground was hummocky and the drainage was good. Note the ranger-led group in the background of the second photo.
The comparatively cool, wet winter had resulted in an unusually abundant crop of field mustard (by now bereft of flowers), resulting in a green groundcover in the less well-drained areas, especially those along Henderson Canyon Road just east of Di Giorgio Road.
We took a run up Di Giorgio Road to its terminus at Coyote Canyon where we had seen beautiful flower displays in the past, but this year they were not especially noteworthy (perhaps the recent warmer weather improved things). Additionally, the sand looked a bit too treacherous for our little Corolla.
Our final stop in the Borrego area was a little fruit stand located at the northeast corner of Di Giorgio and Henderson Canyon roads, where we bought a large bag of tangelos for $3.
We returned to Julian via Banner Grade to indulge in a tasty, sinful treat-slices of Dutch style crumb-topped apple-berry pie a-la-mode at our favorite pie shop, The Julian Pie Company. There are several other pie shops in Julian, some perhaps better known, but we have always enjoyed the personable staff here. By the way, the pie was delicious and we recommend it highly. Note: they were mourning the passing of one of the founders of the shop, Keith Smothers, 69.
We finished the drive by driving past nearly-full Cuyamaca Lake and still snow flecked Cuyamaca Peak to Interstate 8 and home. Approximate mileage: 200.