Visitor's View – Blair Valley
Last updated 9/14/2023 at 10:29am
Summer can be a challenging time to visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park as searing daytime temperatures create dangerous and unpleasant conditions.
But evenings are often mild and comfortable and the desert's dark sky away from urban lights can offer incredible viewing of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower that will peak this year on the night of August 12-13.
One of the best locations to do that is the relatively flat and isolated landscape of Blair Valley, an ancient lakebed, now popular as a camping destination adjacent to County Highway S-2.
The Blair Valley area is actually composed of two flat areas surrounded by hills of jumbled boulders, accessible by a loop road winding around the hills. Sitting at an elevation of about 2,500 feet, it offers a bit of relief from the wilting summer temperatures on the desert floor.
In fall, winter and spring months, hikers, campers and photographers will enjoy a variety of attractions, including unique geology, wildflowers, discovery trails and excellent camping locations.
Alcoves in the rocky hills provide campsites for recreational vehicles or tents offering privacy from other campers. Nearby trails offer adventures to both historic and prehistoric sites once occupied by the Kumeyaay people who visited here on their annual migrations between the summer mountains and the ancient shores of Lake Cahuilla in the winter.
At the southeast end of the valley, hikers can climb to Ghost Mountain, a steep trail of about 1-mile to the ruins of Yaquitepec where a pioneer couple homesteaded in 1930 to raise a family and live off the land for 17 years.
In Little Blair Valley, hikers can explore the nearly two-mile Pictograph Trail through fascinating rocks and desert landscape to view an ancient site where Kumeyaay Indians painted designs on the boulders more than 2,000 years ago.
These are not hikes to be made in the heat of summer, so we will save those destinations for readers to discover in cooler months.
Because of Anza-Borrego's dark night sky, visitors may be surprised at how many people are out on moonless nights, even in the middle of summer.
Designated as an International Dark Sky venue, Anza-Borrego gives city dwellers a view of the heavens that can't be seen from urban centers shrouded in light pollution.
For that reason, expect crowds to travel east for the Perseid Meteor Shower, likely even better this year because at its peak there will be no competition from the moon, since it will just be a sliver in the night sky.
The flat terrain of Blair Valley and broad view to the southeast provide an ideal location to set up cameras or simply a reclining folding chair to lay back and enjoy this annual celestial show.
According to In-The-Sky.org, this year's shower will be active between July 17 to August 24, but the peak will be in the morning hours of Aug. 13.
The dark sky location of Blair Valley is also enhanced by the taller coastal range of mountains to the west which helps screen light pollution from coastal urban centers.
What it means is this year's meteor shower will be one of the better ones, especially if you set up to watch in Blair Valley.
Astronomers are hopeful that the dark sky this year will allow viewers to see as many as 150 meteors an hour under the most ideal conditions.
Typically, the best show is after midnight when the earth rotates into the cloud of space dust that creates the flash as tiny fragments burn up while entering Earth's atmosphere at speeds of nearly 50 miles per second.
The cloud of space dust that creates the meteor shower is from the remnants of Comet 109P/Swift Tuttle.
Blair Valley can be reached by traveling six miles southeast on Highway S-2 from State Route 78 at Scissors Crossing. Turn left on a dirt road into Blair Valley Campground.
The main rood extends nearly four miles to the east, with spurs to camping alcoves tucked into the rocks on the left.
If you are planning to visit Blair Valley for the meteor shower, be sure to carry plenty of water and food. While roads into the campground are generally good, a high clearance vehicle would be better.
Along with a Solar eclipse, the Northern Lights and spectacular sunsets, a meteor shower can be one of the most memorable events to view in nature.
Blair Valley is just the place to do it this year.
You can reach the author at Ernie at Packtrain.com.