California super bloom: the desert is never the same
March 21, 2017 10:46 AM   Subscribe

California, including the southern desert region, has received record rainfall this winter, which has lead to a once in a decade "super bloom" that is bringing visitors from as far as Europe, Africa and Asia. If you want to head into Anza-Borrego, California's largest state park and about a four-hour car drive from Los Angeles, KCET has directions to some sights to see, and Desert USA has a wildflower report plus more resources. If you were ever considering a spontaneous trip to the desert, now is your time. Peak bloom for Anza-Borrego wildflowers is expected to occur mid-March and last until the end of the month.
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Uuuugh I want to go see this so bad. I don't want to spend 3-6 hours in traffic each way to see this. I've heard that pretty much every entrance is a nightmare every weekend now. Maybe I'll take a weekday off to do it...
posted by Lyn Never at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2017

Yeah, that's a link I missed: Traffic advisory issued for Borrego Springs wildflower bloom visitors
Another weekend of huge crowds streaming into the East County desert in search of blooming flowers prompted the California Highway Patrol to issue a traffic advisory Saturday morning for the Borrego Springs area.

The advisory was issued at 9 a.m. for San Felipe Road and Montezuma Road, also known as S2 and S22. They are the main arteries for travelers approaching from the north.

Significant traffic jams caused the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to issue a traffic advisory last weekend.

The sheriff's Rural Command issued tips for anyone planning a trip to Borrego Springs to see the wildflower bloom in the coming weeks:

-- Follow all instructions given by sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement agencies related to the traffic situation in Borrego Springs;

-- Try visiting the area during the week when crowds are smaller;

-- If you plan on visiting during a weekend, expect traffic delays up to several hours on roads leading in and out of Borrego Springs;

-- Do not stop your vehicle in the middle of the road. Find a legal spot to park on the side of the road or in a parking lot;

-- Respect private property. Anyone caught damaging or parking on private property will be cited;

-- Pick up any trash you have and dispose of it properly;

-- Come prepared by bringing plenty of water, food/snacks and make sure your cell phone is fully charged;

-- Check the pressure on your vehicle's tires before the drive out to Borrego Springs;

-- In the event of an emergency, dial 911 or call the sheriff's department at 858-565-5200.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:57 AM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Uuuugh I want to go see this so bad.

This, a million times.
posted by Melismata at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2017

And if you're looking to go elsewhere: Other regions of the state are also seeing their spring flowers start to open, such as Joshua Tree National Park, which has it's own wildflower report.

In fact, Desert USA reports:
March 21, 2017 - The 2017 desert's super bloom wildflower season is close to its peak in some areas, but there should still be many wildflowers to see for the next few weeks. Joshua Tree NP, Mojave Desert and Anza Borrego DSP have many wildflowers in bloom now.
There's also a page for Death Valley NP, Southern California, and Northwest California.

They also have individual state report pages for Arizona | Nevada/Utah | New Mexico | Texas -- in short, Arizona also looks good, while there are a few nice spots in Nevada and Utah, as well as New Mexico (we're pretty dry, and things are warming up), and Texas has some nice blooms in places.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:09 AM on March 21, 2017

pretty much every entrance is a nightmare

Would traffic be much better on a Thursday specifically this Thursday, or is it going to be a nightmare in general?
posted by efalk at 11:15 AM on March 21, 2017

So this catalyzes an ethical dilemma that I've had recently. Since November, I've been ostracizing my uncle, who voted for Trump, and is frankly an Islamophobic homophobic bigot. Said Uncle owns a lovely mountain cabin conveniently close to Yosemite, which would greatly facilitate a road trip to enjoy the super bloom (and apparently it's absolutely gorgeous up there right now). Members of my family have wanted me to reconcile with the man- he's old, frail, and he's still my kinsman. Do I stick to my guns, or offer an olive branch? And what's the ethical way to go about reconciling?
posted by LeRoienJaune at 11:27 AM on March 21, 2017

Between my allergies and a phobia of bees and wasps, this is not a thing I could ever see in person. The pictures are very lovely, though.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:28 AM on March 21, 2017

Olive branch, LeRoienJaune. We are just specks of dust in the universe. Specks who should enjoy the damn superblooms.
posted by Melismata at 11:29 AM on March 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Olive branch! Family is family, and flowers are really important.
posted by sammyo at 11:31 AM on March 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was in Anza Borrego yesterday. We got to Borrego Springs around 9 or 9:30, and traffic was not bad at all. It was clearly more crowded than usual, but there wasn't any stop-and-go traffic like I've been hearing about on the weekends. That being said, we got gas on the south end of town and heard that was the only gas station in town that still had gas. If you can take a weekday off for this, it's well worth it. DO IT!

We also drove through the park down S2 to the 8, and the whole park is pretty amazing right now (and I say this as someone who has spent several weekends a year in the park for the last couple of years). The annual wildflowers around Borrego Springs are definitely the most impressive but most of the desert was yellow due to the insane brittle bush blooms, and the cholla is especially thick right now. We ended up in an area I've done a fair amount of backcountry hiking in, and it was practically impassable. The cacti and ocotillo are just starting to bloom, so even if you miss peak wildflower, there will still be plenty of color over the next couple of weeks. (And, frankly, there's something really special about seeing spiky, hostile-looking desert plants explode in flowers.)

Even just driving around on the highways here in San Diego is pretty impressive. We were heading home on the 8 a little late in the day yesterday, so the poppies were already closed, but you could tell they would have been quite a sight in the morning.
posted by natabat at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm not generally drawn to desert landscapes, but those pics are gorgeous.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2017

Well, this explains why my allergies are off-the-charts awful this spring.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

All the plants are having sex, and looking fantastic while doing it.
posted by clawsoon at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

I was there two weekends ago. If you can arrange to arrive before 8 AM, the traffic is pretty light.

Stay far away if you have allergies, though; by the time I left everything below the knee was smeared with pollen.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:35 PM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

FYI - I have a coworker who went on Sunday, and he said the traffic wasn't that bad, but that he got a late start. It sounds like he was dropping down into Borrego Springs around 2 or 3 pm. The morning is better because the flowers close up in the heat of the day (also, it's hot, so you don't really want to be out wandering around either), but it's an option.

Re: allergies - this morning, I was so stuffed up and sniffly that my fiance thought I was crying in bed when he woke up. I had seasonal allergies growing up in LA, but SD hasn't really given me problems as an adult.
posted by natabat at 12:45 PM on March 21, 2017

We spent four hours getting to Anza-Borrego from LA last week. Honestly, the poppies at Lake Elsinore, which was a 90 minute drive (we hit it on the way back from Anza-Borrego), was more interesting. Both were filled with a sea of humanity. Our attempt to get to the park early was thwarted by construction on the 91 (two lane closure) that had us moving at 5mph for almost an hour, so if anyone wants to try from LA I suggest heading east on the 60 to get to the 15.

I'd never been to Anza-Borrego. I had no idea there was a small town area inside the park, complete with resorts and, for that weekend, hosting an arts show (also a traffic factor when we got there).
posted by linux at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

For those in Sacramento or the northern Bay Area -- I know from back-channels that Jepson Prairie is blooming,. (It's between Sacramento, Vallejo and Rio Vista. In that blank spot on the map.) These are *very short* flowers, but you might see the amazing fairy-circles effect of the vernal pools.

Good birding, too, as a rule.
posted by clew at 1:18 PM on March 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Heading to Joshua Tree this weekend just for the bloom. Very excited.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:24 PM on March 21, 2017

Olive branch, LeRoienJaune

Ostracizing each other doesn't help much, I think, especially older people who don't really have much influence. I think it's allowable if you can't emotionally deal with it, but if you can find a way through, even if it's catalyzed by self-interest, then consider it. Don't do it _only_ because of self-interest, though, because that won't ultimately be a healing thing.
posted by amtho at 1:30 PM on March 21, 2017

All the plants are having sex, and looking fantastic while doing it.

The blister beetles are doing it, too!
posted by Scram at 11:54 PM on March 21, 2017

On the one hand, I really want to see the wildflowers.

On the other hand, I'm experiencing hay fever in LA for the first time ever. And I live in the concrete-jungle bit. I'm seriously wondering if I'll even be able to breathe if I go out there.

Has anyone with hay fever gone out to see the blooms, and if so can they report back as to how rough it was allergy-wise? (Yeah, I know, YNINMN [your nose is not my nose] but it would be interesting to get feedback.)
posted by rednikki at 6:45 AM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

So if anyone is still checking this and thinking of going - drove over from San Diego this morning (Friday). Traffic wasn't bad. What was bad were the roads. I took one way in, through the reservation, then 78/79 and left via going more directly south. Most of the 40 or so miles on both routes are insanely twisty and slow I've honestly never seen anything like those roads and I've driven quite a bit on remote areas of the West. By the time I was headed back and got to I-8 I was almost carsick, as the driver.

However, it was really cool to check out. Gas at the Borrego Springs town was easily $1 more than anywhere else I've seen on this trip. I gave up trying to get to the Park HQ and most of the spots recommended on their website weren't even that busy.

I can't imagine going out there on a weekend. Yes its absolutely worth seeing, but call in sick on a weekday. Bring sunscreen, water, a good camera, and maybe drammamine.
posted by efalk at 12:35 AM on March 25, 2017

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