When I first visited Anza-Borrego in 2008, I wasn't much of a hiker yet. In fact, I wasn't a hiker at all. I limited my desert travels to vehicular tourism, and when Edith suggested we get up early and take a little walk on a hot September morning, I thought, "Ick, who'd want to do that?"
Despite my disinterest, we got up early and tried anyway, but we couldn't quite find the trail. And it was hot.
I returned last year to check out the wildflowers, a bit early in the season, a bit overcrowded with camera-toting tourists, and embarked on my first real hiking of the park. I was intimidated. I got lost.
This year, I returned during peak wildflower season, and, still intimidated by the vastness of the park and the solitude of its less flowery trails, joined a group hike of the highlands, where the wildflowers are blooming more in this off-season than they are down below, where most of the tourists hike, just outside Borrego Springs.
Lucky for me, our hike was guided by park volunteers who knew their fair share of botany and could point out the various flora and foliage that surrounded us, much of it relatively subtle underfoot, closed buds in the early morning waiting until the later afternoon hours to open.
We even found some last remaining edible fruit hanging off branches, including the yellow jujube...
...whose thin, drying skin was sweet and chewy like a date.
The nine-mile hike went relatively quickly with companion chatter to pass the time...
...and staggering views as we gained elevation to dazzle the eyes.
Besides, the rainbow of colors beneath our feet - though somewhat sparse for the season - kept us delighted throughout the seven-hour hike.
We passed a few pinyon pines, the namesake of the ridge we traversed...
...and followed an old Jeep trail up through fields of gold...
...until a wooden pole marked the end of it.
We then began the real hike up to the peak of Pinyon Ridge, bouldering our way up to a lovely vista...
...and squeezed and slashed our way through scratchy brush - me with my bare legs hanging out of cargo shorts, subjected to the menacing cholla - up to the second highest peak, Wilson.
It was a hike I don't think I could have ever done by myself, and probably up to this point would have never attempted, being the longest distance I have ever hiked (surpassing my Death Valley archaeological excursion).
The thing is, the whole time, I was kind of wishing that I was alone...away from all the gossip and the local drama, uninvited intruders on my rendez-vous with nature.
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