Anza Borrego: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast — Just as art imitates life, “which is which” is in the eyes of the beholder.IMG_7297

I like to think I am a person who can find the beauty anywhere….well, almost anywhere. Particularly when those places lean toward the extreme or exotic. I spent a month at Mittry Lake last year hiking across what often times looked like the surface of another planet. I marveled at rugged rocks, their only diversity being the subtle differences between the shades of chocolate, lavender, and mauve. This year, not so much. Three days was my max. It felt harsh, desolate, and dull. Last year, I was charmed by small discoveries like an Ocotillo decorated with Christmas ornaments, or rocks spray painted with “art.” This year, I looked at them through the eyes of a cynical malcontent.IMG_7230

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So to leave Yuma bound for more of the same was an automatic recipe for more of the winter of my discontent. Under other circumstances, I know Anza Borrego would have proven to be intriguing, other worldly, unique in it’s austerity. But after the back-to-back browns of Quartzsite and Yuma, I was in bad need of more of an oasis than the glorious palm trees could offer.

Hell Hole Canyon

Hell Hole Canyon

Palm Canyon trail, Anza Borrego State Park

Palm Canyon trail, Anza Borrego State Park

I was surprised to see how much water was in the spring at Palm Canyon.

I was surprised to see how much water was in the spring at Palm Canyon.

These groves of palm trees make me think of hula skirts.  ;-)

These groves of palm trees make me think of hula skirts. ;-)

This begs the question, Does my mood determine the scenery, or does the scenery dictate my mood? I have often had this conversation in my head about music. Do I gravitate to a certain genre because it matches my mood, or does my own personal atmosphere change with the music? In the case of Anza Borrego, I would say I would most likely have found it beautiful had I not been looking at it through beige-colored glasses.IMG_7247

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As the thermometer rose, so did our altitude as we went in hot pursuit of cooler temperatures. We told ourselves it was to hike Volcan Mountain, but really, it was for pie…

A rare sighting off in the distance of the Cummings-Johnson Gazelles.  Known to be the fastest breed among their species.

A rare sighting off in the distance of the Cummings-Johnson Gazelles. Known to be the fastest breed among their species.

Which one of these is not like the others?  Or as Jim so eloquently put it, "What bastard ordered the ice cream??"

Which one of these is not like the others? Or as Jim so eloquently put it, “What bastard ordered the ice cream??”

I did enjoy riding my bike amongst the massively impressive desert sculptures. The detail on these sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda, the metal works sculptor, was mesmerizing. Breceda has created over 100 sculptures in the Anza Borrego desert, most of them animals which once lived in the area.

The Desert Snake, near our Rockhouse Rd camp.

The Desert Snake, near our Rockhouse Rd camp.

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Although I have seen these sculptures on numerous blogs, I really couldn’t appreciate the magnitude until I stared into the hair-lined ear of a Tapir or studied the eyelashes on the camels. I was fascinated by the creative construction, from the muffler in the undercarriage of the jeep to the grasshopper’s delicate wings made from fence wire. With each stop along the bike ride, I found I was still examining the intricate, imaginative creations while my compadres were well on their way to the next stop. My intention was to go back later on my own to spend more time studying the scale, the construction, the significance. But alas, my plan was foiled by unseasonable rising temperatures. Driven out of the desert by heat…imagine that. What a beastly thing to have happen in such a beautiful place…

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Note car on right for size perspective -- serpent extends on both sides of the highway.

Note car on right for size perspective — serpent extends on both sides of the highway.

i am not sure what animal this was, but he was wounded.  It made me sad...

I am not sure what animal this was, but he was wounded. It made me sad…

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“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

12 thoughts on “Anza Borrego: Beauty and the Beast

  1. I love that Terry Tempest Williams quote. I’m sure that’s the reason I have a permanent place in the desert in NM.
    I’ve never seen those sculptures. Thanks for the peek!

  2. I can totally understand how the mood influences your view. Anza Borrego isn’t for everyone. There are times this barren area is beautiful and times is appears as a beige wasteland. I had mixed feeling during our visit in November. It seemed more beige this year. Not sure why.

    Come to Arizona!! The desert is really beginning to explode with color and getting very green:) Of course, we are moving on Monday…figures! But the red rocks are right around the corner!! Can’t wait!

  3. Haven’t been there for about twenty years, but did enjoy the little town there. I had to find a telephone booth every day to check on my mother – long before the days of common cell phones – and it was fun to watch the world go by from that vantage point. Never did see any of the mountain goats, but not for lack of searching the canyons. Have wanted to go back, but so far that hasn’t happened.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  4. When I had my last RV, I spent one of my winters traveling thru the panhandle. A nice change from the desert. I actually ended up down in the keys for most of it but the panhandle in Texas, Florida, would be nice this time of year !! A change from the desert.

  5. Your perspective is your reality, I have read. Very true. Where do you find all your wonderful quotes. I enjoy the quotes, the journaling and the beautiful photos you take. Thank you so much.

  6. I love seeing all the statues. You actually posted a pic of one I hadn’t seen before. Seeing something for the first time always carries a bit of a thrill and wonder for me too. But unfortunately my grey moods can make a blue sky grey too. Here is to a new adventure and many new places !

  7. I think mood often determines our reaction to the scenery. Better not go anywhere truly gorgeous in a bad mood…!

    We’ll be in Borrego in a couple of weeks, can’t wait to see the sculptures with my own eyes!

  8. I loved the sculptures at Anza Borrego, it’s hard to choose a favourite, but I think the grasshopper is. I’m intrigued where the snake and other rock art is near Rockhouse.

  9. First Mark and now you. We haven’t made it back to Anza for a time now, but the last time we were there it was enchanting! Maybe because it was late March and the flowers were in full spring mode, the skies were incredibly blue and most of the flatlanders….I mean snowbirds…or whatever they are….were gone. That was a few years ago and we keep meaning to go back. This year we just drove from Desert Hot Springs to Temecula and managed to meet the sculptor himself…walking down the hill with his dogs at the roadside area where he sells those sculptures. Kind of an amazing guy I think. Yeah, the eyelashes. Brown and dusty deserts, flat and ugly can be so demoralizing if you aren’t in the right space or at the right time. I know there are more of your stories coming up that include water and I am looking forward to seeing how happy that makes you as I continue to read.

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