April 11, 2012

Photo Essay: Hellhole Canyon, Anza-Borrego

I didn't do a very good job of planning my most recent trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, mostly because I've been too busy with work to pay attention to anything personal. So I kind of hoped I could just, you know, show up and let the desert speak to me.

I managed to hop onto a park-guided group hike on Saturday morning despite only four hours of sleep, and when one of my fellow hikers asked me what I was going to do on (Easter) Sunday, I said, "I don't really know. I don't really have any plans."

It's not like me to be spontaneous in the desert - a landscape so unforgiving, you have to plan and pack (water, toilet paper, sunscreen, snacks, GPS, compass, maps, etc.). So when he said, "You should go hike Hellhole Canyon. It's not too far, and it's a good one," I immediately inherited a plan.

Hellhole Canyon's first two miles or so are straightforward enough, a relatively level walk straight in to the canyon mouth.

Most of the lower regions of Anza-Borrego near Borrego Springs are missing their signature wildflowers this year (though they do contribute to a more lush landscape up in the highlands)...

...but the farther in you go, the more blossoms you can see...

...particularly on the blooming red ocotillos.

Into the canyon, the trail becomes more circuitous...

...following an old creek bed lined with blossoming cacti...

...leading to a palm oasis.

The path gets wetter as you go, leading to a grotto and, in the spring, a waterfall just over five miles in.

On the way back, a bit later in the morning with the sun beating down even more than it was before (hot even at an 8:30 a.m. departure time), more buds open, pushing their petals up for sun-bathing...


...and bee-feeding.

It's an impressive view of the valley below, which you thankfully get to see on an out-and-back hike, since most people don't turn around to see what's behind them when they're backpacking onwards.

And it's a great time of year to visit, when even the spiny sort of plant is flowery...

...though no less spiny...

...and colorfully, staggeringly beautiful.

Related posts:
Photo Essay: Wilson Peak Via Pinyon Ridge
Photo Essay: The Wildflowers of Anza-Borrego

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