A few weeks ago I visited Anza-Borrego State Park for an off-road tour of the wildflowers.  Included in that excursion was a bonus trip to the Badlands, the Malpais.  As you probably have discerned, I know little about the destinations I visit.  That’s why I travel, to explore and learn something new!  Seeing this desolate badlands in the springtime was an eye-opener.  This year is a good year for wildflowers!

Something different

My tour group left the flowers behind and headed down a lonely road going in who knows what direction.  The land was strange, with tall cliffs running along the side of the road.  These looked like solid structures, but I soon learned the truth.

A Smoke Tree in a wash by the strange towering cliffs

A Smoke Tree in a wash by the strange towering cliffs

The cliffs aren’t sturdy granite; they are loose sandstone, and it will easily crumble.  We decided to take a closer look.

Ever daring or foolhardy, I too, joined the group in the climb up to a mud cave.

Our tour group entered a mud cave in Anza Borrego State Park

After a short climb up a crumbly slope, we entered the mud cave!

Those walls may look rough and tough, but they easily break.  The roof of the cave has a hole in it, and I think there was a back entrance as well.  I was the last one in and only too happy to be the first one out.  I didn’t want an earthquake to bring the entire hillside down on my head.

Open your eyes!

As we drove along, our guide, Wade, told us the story of the Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza.  (Yes, the park is named for him.) He led a group of colonists from Mexico, northwest across the desert, to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, near Los Angeles.  Wade talked about the hardships of the journey and the promised respite these people would have once they crossed the coastal mountains.  As he told this story, he had us climb a trail and close our eyes as we neared the top.  At his command, we all looked out upon this landscape.

A panorama of the Anza-Borrego badlands

A panorama of the Anza-Borrego badlands

The barren rolling hills seemed to go on and on.  I hope Anza’s party didn’t come this way.  It would have taken a strong heart and a determined soul to face that view after so many days of walking.

Although the land looks barren, there was one small clump of flowers.

A tiny patch of sunflowers clings to the land below our vista point.

A tiny patch of sunflowers clings to the land below our vista point.


Don’t despair.  On the way back to base, we drove through an ocotillo forest.  I thought these were flowers, but according to Wade, the ocotillo is a tree.  It being spring, the tree was in blossom!

Up close photo of an Ocotillo blossom.

Up close photo of an Ocotillo blossom.

The branches, or stems, were also appreciating the spring rains. Notice all the green leaves!  Once summer arrives in the desert, these leaves will disappear, and the tree will look dead.  It will be a jumble of sticks, all with sharp thorns.


As always, I have a few bits and pieces to share

  • 2019 is a super bloom spring in California.  Not every spring is like this.
  • I recommend taking a tour if you are driving a car.  Most of the park is unpaved.  A four-wheel vehicle is best.
  • The tour company I chose was California Overland Desert Excursions.  I’m considering taking another of their tours.
  • If you wander off road-on your own, tell someone where you’re going!
  • Take water.  I’m sure you know that.

To see more of my photos from the Badlands, please click here.





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