While my mom continues to undergo treatment, things have stabilized enough that we felt comfortable taking off for a 12 day trip away from San Diego. Our first stop was Agua Caliente County Park. Located about 100 miles east of San Diego, Agua Caliente is nestled up against the Tierra Blanca Mountains in the Anza Borrego desert and features geothermal heated mineral pools.
Though the desert has heated up lately we were looking forward to catching some spring bloom, hitting a few trails, and soaking in those mineral pools.
|When the daytime temp is expected to hit 90, we hit the trails early...that's why I was up for the sunrise!|
On our way to our first hike we made a brief stop at Indian Gorge because a local said bighorn sheep had been hanging out in the canyon. While we didn't see any sheep, we enjoyed the early morning shade of the canyon and a lot of lovely blooms. This gorge, off highway S2 just a few miles south of Agua Caliente, would be worth further exploration on a return trip.
|The hedgehog cactus are just starting to sport their shocking pink blossoms.|
|I was surprised to see a few lupine.|
|Silver cholla are abundant in Anza Borrego, their yellow blooms are just starting to open.|
|Tiny Bigelows monkeyflower.|
Leaving the shade of the gorge we continued south on S2 to Mountain Palm Springs. Primitive camping is available here, as well as a few miles of trails to several palm oases. These fan palms are a welcome sight in the dry desert and are evidence of tectonic activity that has allowed water to rise to the surface. The palms are thirsty, they can consume 200 gallons per day, so they are a reliable indication of water in the desert.
|The bare trunks of these palms mean fire swept through here at one time.|
|Hans spotted this little guy, perhaps a kangaroo rat, peeking out at us.|
|We hiked a loop that took us to several palm groves.|
We followed cairns up and over this rugged hill giving us an excellent workout in 80+ degree temps.
Can you find Hans in his St Patrick's Day green?
|View to the south from the saddle (where we had good cell reception).|
|We scrambled down the other side towards this palm grove.|
|I loved how each of these flowers looked just a little different!|
|Western Zebra-tailed lizard.|
Back at Agua Caliente we were treated to several bighorn sheep sightings. A former park ranger told us that due to recent mountain lion sightings the sheep may be hanging out closer to people, plus this is lambing season and lambs need water to survive so the oases are popular at this time of year.
|Spotted high on a hill above us.|
|Soon we spotted a second sheep.|
This ram is pawing at a barrel cactus, then he would eat it.
|A third sheep shows up!|
Below is the view from our site. I glassed the hillside for sheep and was rewarded by a bachelor group of 8 rams!
|Five rams munching and messing around on the hillside.|
|They can be very difficult to spot among the vegetation.|
|Blending right in...|
|Slowly, in ones and twos, they moved on across the desert.|
Moonlight Canyon trail is a gorgeous 1.5 mile loop right from the campground.
|The beavertail cactus are just beginning to bloom.|
|Moonlight Canyon trail.|
|Hooded Oriole in an ocotillo.|