Borrego Palm Canyon (7 photos)

I’ve always avoided hiking Borrego Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park – it’s one of the most popular hikes in the (vast) park for sure – and my personal expectation for a “desert experience” does not include crowds. After the nice winter rains we had now though, I knew the creek in the canyon would have water – enough to finally pique my interest in the place.

My friend Joe and I drove to Borrego Springs Monday morning. It rained steadily in San Diego and even as we drove down Montezuma Grade to Borrego Springs it was still raining. The rain was very light though, and we managed to avoid it altogether by having a cup of coffee in town first before beginning our hike.

What I didn’t know about Borrego Palm Canyon was that a flash flood of epic proportions took out a lot of the trees in September 2004. Chunks of old palm tree trunks, decaying ever so slowly in the dry and hot desert, are still strewn across the lower parts of the canyon. Jerry Schad describes this flash flood as “a wall of water at least 20 feet high” and that it was dubbed a “hundred-year flash flood” or even a “thousand-year flash flood.”

The hike itself is easy (I logged about 3 miles out and back), only the approach to the first palm grove involved navigating the rocks and stream. What first drew our photographic attention were not the palm trees at the first grove though, but a beautiful Cottonwood tree that still had its leaves, dressed up in a bright autumnal yellow. As the sun peeked through the clouds it was backlit, and quite naturally, we obsessed about photographing it. :-)

From the first palm grove it’s possible to hike further up into the canyon, where more palms grow, but our curiosity and photographic desires were satisfied from what we saw at the first grove. These trees are California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) and they are native to California.

We returned to Borrego Springs for a late lunch and then finished the day at Clark Dry Lake (photos to come) before heading home. It’s the first really wet winter in Southern California in at least 4 years, and more rain is on the way as I write this – a lot more, actually. I think it’s going to be an exciting number of days and weeks to hike!

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