Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Wildflower Surprise


Last updated 5/24/2023 at 12:19pm

Ernie Cowan

Sunset Glow

It was warm for a spring day with temperatures nudging the low 90's as we bumped along the dusty road into Coyote Canyon last week.

Most of the wildflower have vanished at lower elevations, so this adventure seemed to be more about the solitude of a desert weekday than looking for flowers.

Water flowing in Coyote Creek has already started to recede. First Crossing is now dry, and the puddles at Second and Third Crossings are hardly daunting to cross.

Driving up the bypass into Collins Valley is always a chance to keep an eye out for a prehistoric-looking Chuckwalla sunning on the rocks, and right on cue, there was one seemingly posing for photographs.

There were blooming ocotillo standing like greeters to welcome us into the gentle valley between Lower and Middle Willows, so we did get some flower color to enjoy.

Cactus tends to bloom a bit later, so there were small clusters of hedgehog cactus or cholla in bloom as we passed. A few indigo bush shrubs were cloaked with their tiny, deep indigo blossoms as we passed by.

Flocks of silky-black phainopepla darted from bush to bush feeding on insects produced from the heavy rains over the past few months.

As we approached the Sheep Canyon remote campground, a flash of color caught my eye.

At the far end of Indian Canyon, the ground was bright yellow from a spectacular blanket of wildflowers that have not yet faded. Perhaps things here are blooming a bit later in this gentle valley that sits at an elevation of 2,000 feet.

To the west, late afternoon sun grazed the boulder studded slopes of the San Ysidro Mountains, igniting the clusters of blooming brittlebush in a brilliant yellow glow.

What a wonderful surprise.

The desert sands at lower elevations are slipping back into their drab hues of summer and the impressive wildflower show that spring visitors enjoyed is now mostly a pleasant memory.

But those who explore the remote places are often surprised by the beautiful things they see.

This was one of those days.

We had the vast expanse of Collins Valley and Indian Canyon all to ourselves as the late afternoon sun created dramatic shadows and seemed to make colors more vibrant.

I was getting late, and I was getting hungry for my favorite steak sandwich at Carlee's; you know, Number 19, with homemade chips.

But the wildflowers here were so stunning, the air was soft and there was still enough sunlight for a short hike up Indian Canyon to enjoy the beauty and silence of this place.

Cottontail rabbits and larger, black-tailed jackrabbits were surprised by this two-legged visitor, but the birds seemed to ignore me.

The only sound was gentle gurgles of water flowing generously from Cougar and Indian Canyons until vanishing in the porous sands of the valley floor. I wished there was time to hike to the secret waterfalls in Cougar Canyon, but that will have to be another day.

Is there any wonder we love this place so much?

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