Palm Canyon oasis in Anza-Borrego State Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Borrego Springs—population 2,566—is in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The entire area is one big playground in the Southern California desert, with just enough amenities to keep locals and visitors satiated.

I had the good fortune earlier this month to be shown around by a dear friend who now calls Borrego Springs home. It was the perfect sampling of activities—hiking, eating, viewing art, driving tour—and of course an abundance of conversation.

I completely understand why she lives there.

I’m looking forward to more than a day visit in the future so I can experience even more of this swath of California.

A solitary bighorn sheep almost looks like a statue. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Kim came through in a big way by delivering a desert bighorn sheep for my viewing pleasure. I’m sure she conspired with the park rangers to make this happen since I kept striking out on my hikes in nearby Palm Springs.

A lone young male peninsular bighorn sheep seemed to be posing on a rock, standing still so I had time to grab my camera. Maybe he was really scanning the area for friends or foes, or lunch options, or a place to hide from the two-legged creatures on the trail.

According the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website, “Desert bighorn sheep inhabit rocky slopes and cliffs, canyons, washes and alluvial fans. Like other bighorn sheep, they prefer rugged and open habitat, and use their climbing abilities, vigilance, and excellent vision to detect and escape from predators. They are generalist herbivores and eat a wide variety of desert plants, including cacti.”

They are a federally endangered species.

“My sheep” was never to be seen again as we made our way along the Palm Canyon trail.

Kim and Kae exploring Anza-Borrego State Park in early December.

While there are plenty of palm trees in the desert, looking from a distance at the area we hiked I would never have imagined the fertile oasis we walked to existed or that there would be running water.

Desert terrain captivates me—the ruggedness of the rocks and plants. And the wildlife, well, it has to be hardy to live in this environment.

But that grove of palms—wow, just, wow.

According to a sign along the way, fan palms are the only palms native to California. They can reach 60 feet in height, and are the tallest in the state. Most are found in spring- and creek-fed areas like the one we were in.

Unfortunately, the trunks of many of the palms in this grove are charred. The remnants of a fire started by a group of Boy Scouts on Jan. 18, 2020.

The trail leading to the canyon full of palms. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Information at the visitors center says, “The trees are making a stunning recovery. However, it is still too soon to walk around in the grove because the topsoil layer was damaged and remains fragile and easily eroded.”

Not being able to get closer was no big deal to me. I was still taken with the beauty. It was magical.

This is one of 30 palm oases in the park.

Another thing I learned at the visitors center is the oldest living plant is the creosote bush in the Mojave Desert, which is about 9,400 years old.

The desert—it really is an underappreciated landscape.

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