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The Elephant Trees Trail of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

IMG_8973On our drive leaving Fish Creek’s wind caves Katie and I found another small trail, the Elephant Trees Trail off Split Mountain Road. There was still some light in the sky and we weren’t quite ready to leave the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park so we decided to see what the 1 mile nature trail was all about.

We turned off Split Mountain Road and quickly bounced down the 1 mile dirt and rock filled road to the trailhead. I believe a high clearance vehicle is best, but a lower vehicle could possibly make it if you went slowly. On the day we were there we had only seen 2 other cars in the park so we knew we wouldn’t run into any other cars leaving the trail. Good thing because the road is only about the size of one vehicle, very narrow, and is lined by stones to prevent vehicles from driving off the path.

After our short laughter full jaunt down the road we parked the truck right by the entrance to the trail. The same stones outlined the round-about at the end of the road as there really is no parking lot. We grabbed our packs and a nature trail pamphlet from the trailhead and started off on our self-guided nature walk.

There is basically no shade on the trail, not a problem if you go later in the day before the sunsets, but if you plan to go mid-day in summer be sure to bring your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and some loose light clothing. The trail is very easy and is great for people of all ages. It is clearly marked and easy to follow with only a couple questionable spots that can be distinguished if you just keep moving a little farther down the path.

The  first stop is to welcome you to the trail. The following couple are very close together and include a catclaw plant, a creosote bush, and a desert lavender plant. You learn a little about each plant at each stop.

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The trail tends to get farther and farther between each point as you continue. An indigo bush which developed light-colored bark to reflect the sun’s rays, a brittle bush which leaves brittle stalks behind after producing bright yellow flowers, and an ocotillo which drops its leaves and grows new ones up to seven times in a year. After reading about each plant’s flowers and leaves I can only imagine what it would look like in the flower blooming season, February thru April.

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The smoke tree was the next to see along the trail. Apparently their seeds need a flash flood before they will sprout in the newly moist sand to grow into seedlings with big green leaves.

Number 9 is the plant the trail is named for. The Anza-Borrego  Desert is the only place in California that the elephant tree grows. We finally reached the only one along the path with its trunk that stores water and its gummy sap that bleeds when it is injured.

The desert trail ended with barrel, fishhook, prickly pear, and cholla cacti. This last stretch is your chance to observe all the different cacti and see if you can locate a few plants that were pointed out along the trail. The desert is an amazing place with plants that have adapted to the conditions around them.

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With one final look at the desert trail we headed back to the truck as the sun set behind the mountains of Fish Creek. The sky lit up on fire as streaks of red, pink, purples, and blues colored it just above the horizon. I absolutely love desert sunsets in Anza-Borrego. They are something that everyone should see at least once in their lives.