An Oasis in Borrego Palm Canyon

IMG_8707I swung by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Foundation Store and Visitor’s Center in Borrego Springs and asked about another hike that my little Honda Fit would be able to drive me to. I was told to check out Hellhole Canyon or Borrego Palm Canyon. Since I was by myself I chose the one with more foot traffic just to be on the safe side. I headed over to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground and drove towards the back where the trailhead is. It was around 3:30pm, so I had about 2 hours before dark to make the 3 miles.

I grabbed a pamphlet at the trailhead which marks different plants, rocks, animals, and waters throughout the trek and started my hike following the clearly marked trail. I took note of two signs posted about bob cats and rattle snakes to my left and quickly made my way to the first point. I stopped to read my pamphlet about the cacti at this location, thinking to make sure I stayed clear of any cacti. I don’t need to be pricked by anything along my journey.

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I continued to point 2, 3, 4, and 5 quickly and thought to myself how this hike was going to be very fast if I kept coming upon the points at this rate. I got a false sense of distance and time spent on the trail as the map I had looked at made them all look  relatively similar in distance from each other.

The sun dropped below the mountain tops around me and after point 5, the points seemed to get farther and farther apart from each other. I was a little nervous I would not make it to the oasis in time to make it back before the sunset, but I continued on. I kept a careful eye out knowing that the cooler temperature might bring out snakes.  Little creatures, like lizards had started to scatter across the path in my way. The last thing I wanted was to come across a rattle snake.

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I picked up my pace a bit and continued to the next points. 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Bees buzzed pasted my head, and more little creatures scattered across my path. My intuition had been right, I came around a bend in the trail and there was a snake. I froze, not sure what to do. I can only imagine that it was as fearful of me as I was of it. It was a dark grey color with a long nose. I didn’t believe it was poisonous, but I had no way to move it off the path. I tossed a stick at it, hoping it would cause it to clear the pathway, but it just stayed where it was. I slowly walked around the backside of it, keeping my distance and made it past without incident. Thinking back to it now, I should have stopped to take a photo of it, but that was the last thing on my mind.

I continued onto point 11. Right before I reached it I could hear the first signs of the oasis being near, running water. I came to where the stream dies out and to my right I could see it, far off in the distance, about a 1/2 mile away, the oasis. A small patch of palm trees peaking over the rocks in the valley of the mountains on each side of me. The excitement ran through my body and I hurried on my journey.

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I came across two elderly couples as I climbed up and down rocks, moving closer and farther from the stream. They said they were the last people that had been up that way, but that they didn’t reach the oasis. I feared there was no one behind me, so I picked up the pace even more, closing the gap between me and the small paradise in the desert. Every bend watching the palm trees grow bigger and bigger.

When I finally reached the paradise there was a small family there getting ready to head back. I observed the small waterfall, palm trees, and beautiful stream. The green lush plants and cool shade made it all worth it. I could have continued another mile or so to a bigger waterfall, but I didn’t have the time. I decided to turn back, quickly catching up to the family that had departed about 5-10 minutes before me.

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On the way back to the trailhead I scanned the mountains for the ever popular and desert animal, bighorn sheep. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park gets its name from 18th-century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word for bighorn sheep. I thought it would be an amazing and nice ending to my trip if I was able to spot one. Unfortunately none were around that day so instead I settled for some beautiful tiny flowers once the trailhead was back in my sights.

I made it back to the trailhead before the sunset, got in my car and headed back to LA. As I drove up over the mountain I watched the sun’s rays stretch across the desert in an amazing board of breath-taking colors. As the last light of the sun left the sky, the stars started to scatter across the sky. I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Maybe spend a night camping under the stars there too.

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