Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hiking the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

Although there are numerous hiking trails in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, my sister-in-law and I chose the Palm Canyon Trail for three reasons:  Its accessibility, its ease and its beauty.  At the oasis, we stopped and chatted with some veteran hikers who told us they have come to the park every year for the last ten to specifically hike this trail.  "It's the most beautiful," they said.  Ah!  Our decision was validated!

The trail head is located just north of the Visitor's Center at the campground.  There is an $8.00 fee (the only fee in the park) but worth it.  A pamphlet is available that offers information corresponding to the markers on the trail.   The plants, animals and geology are all included, and I find such guides to be an added pleasure to any hike.
  For example, we never would have known that this reddish patina on the above boulders took 10,000 years to form if it weren't for that little blurb in the pamphlet.  Bacterial colonies on the rocks absorb manganese and iron from the atmosphere to form this beautiful "varnish".  Other markers talked about the plants--the desert lavender, willows, ocotillos and chollos you see along the trail.  The hope of seeing a Bighorn Sheep kept us scouring the rocky slopes above us, but a ranger told us later that even if they were up there, we wouldn't have seen them, they blend in so completely.

A tiny stream of water provides just enough moisture for a swath of green and a lovely trickling waterfall. Then the trail changes completely.  In a few more minutes we arrive at the oasis. California Fan Palms provide shade and a welcome venue for a picnic.

We decide to take the Alternate Trail back, but this trail wasn't as easy to follow.  We ended up hopping boulders as we headed down.  We could see the parking lot below so there was no chance of getting lost.  The views of the desert were spectacular.  The entire hike ended up taking three hours.  Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and long pants.  And carry lots of water.

It truly is a beautiful trail!  We picked the right one.

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