PHOTO DIARY: Anza-Borrego Desert / It’s Really, Really Hot Here

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You can’t see it, but the feeling of standing in an oven was ever so present at the time this photo was taken.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

After a tumultuous month of uncertainty, big decisions, and a whole lot of change, I finally had a chance the other weekend to get out of town for a bit and hit ‘reset’. So, I went to a place, far away from distractions and people and hustle and bustle, where I could soak in the beauty of being in solitude: the desert.

Now, I have to admit – family plans and good timing fell into place to influence this action. My family had planned to visit the Anza-Borrego Desert to go stargazing on a moonless night, and I decided to join them. And I am so glad I did.

The Anza-Borrego Desert, which is about a 3.5-hour drive southeast of Los Angeles, is a magical place. I know New Mexico holds the official title of the Land of Enchantment, but there’s something so enchanting and mysterious about this place that captivates me. Home to lots of desert bighorn sheep and some of the hottest temperatures of the Sonoran Desert’s Colorado Desert region, it’s a place that seems to have a life of its own. It’s inviting and uninviting; tranquil and unforgiving; beautiful and fearsome.

All poetry aside, I should warn you: in the summertime, it’s really, really, really hot here. And in pursuing solitude and tranquility, you may find yourself getting antsy when you realize there are very few humans and a whole lot of nothingness around. (No kidding, right?)

To curb the potential restlessness that may be induced by these *shocking* realizations, I’ve put together a scavenger hunt that can keep you entertained, should you decide to visit the good ol’ Anza-Borrego Desert during the summer.

  1. Find all 130 Ricardo Breceda Sculptures across the Galleta Meadows Estate.
  2. Count how many liters of water you can drink in one day. You’d be surprised at just how much you can consume.
  3. Grab a bite at the Red Ocotillo and play a fierce game of Trivial Pursuit while you’re waiting for your food.
  4. Taste the Red Ocotillo’s homemade ranch sauce. It’s pretty much the best tasting thing you’ll have out there.
  5. Find your favorite ocotillo plant and give it a cool name. Try to find it again at some point during your stay in the area.
  6. Take at least one photo of one the kitschy architectural landmarks in Borrego Springs. (Hacienda del Sol and Carlee’s come to mind – I wish I took a pic of them while I was there.)
  7. Find a pool. Stay in there for the rest of the day. Get out and time how long it takes you dry off without a towel.
  8. Head to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to find a good trail to scope out in the wee hours of the morning. Head back there at night for free stargazing. (There are tons of gems you can find in the night sky during the summer – including Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars!)
  9. Find a real oasis at the end of the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail.
  10. Look for desert bighorn sheep. This is their home!

Here’s my mini photo diary of the weekend.

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I don’t have the answer to this question in the circle because it was too hot for me to walk the entire paved trail. But if you want to find the answer, go to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center.
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Waiting for complete darkness. Level of heat: less, but still in the 80s, even at night. Served with a side of unbelievable dryness. My eyeballs felt it most.
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Head to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center at night for some free stargazing. Don’t forget your redlight (e.g. a flashlight wrapped in red cellophane) – this will help you preserve your night vision!
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Race against the sun and go on an early morning hike.
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Relish the quiet beauty… before the sun comes out and the heat is in full force.
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Admire rocks. All of the rocks. (And keep your eye out for desert bighorn sheep, too.)
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If it starts getting too hot, distract yourself by pretending you’re on Tatooine.
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Find a real oasis.
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Take shelter under the fan palms before you head out of the canyon. (Again, watch the time – you don’t want to get stuck in the late morning heat!)
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Stop for a moment and enjoy the view of the desert. But not for too long – you might get baked by the sun if you don’t get out fast enough.
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Relax and reset.
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