The return of the ‘super bloom’

It’s official. The ‘super bloom’ is back in California.

It feels like only yesterday that the entire state was headed for the flower fields to experience the super bloom resulting from the drought-ending El Niño rains of the 2016/17 winter. Californians jumped for joy as three of the driest years on record were followed by the wettest winter ever on record. Just like that the reservoirs were full and the entire state erupted with vegetation growth, even out in the driest areas of the desert.

Well, after a one year hiatus, we experienced another wet winter in California, resulting in another impressive flower bloom all around the state.

The plethora of flowers has drawn a lot of attention and created some interesting scenes in the blooming hot spots.

The media attention, which in my opinion gets blown out of proportion, creates a craze and fascination that surrounds the super bloom. It’s as if the media outlets that don’t have a generic super bloom story are doomed. As if Instagram models’ cashflow will dry up if they are not photographed in a colorful field of flowers.

Just google ‘super bloom’ and you’ll find articles on USA Today, BBC, NPR, CNN, Fox News and The Guardian, to name a few. Search #superbloom on Instagram and you will see a pretty hilarious swath of photos, my personal favorites being a woman playing a violin in the flowers, an LA Instagram model getting berated in the comments for trampling flowers, and a guy photoshopping himself into the flower field (and I didn’t even scroll that far down).

Many of the articles contain little-to-no substance and some even paint pictures of dramatic scenarios unfolding among the crowds, which I feel may be a little sensationalized. The poppy bloom at Lake Elsinore in Riverside County definitely stole the show as far as online attention, with reports of traffic gridlock, overcrowding, and rattlesnake bites grabbing the headlines. Our bloom in San Diego County’s Anza Borrego was not as rowdy or scandalous, but still spectacular in its own right, nonetheless.

The result of this constant media attention? Everyone that has watched the news or checked social media over the past month has been inundated with super bloom content. It leads to a mass exodus of people in a short time window to these fairly remote parts of the state, reminiscent of the traffic to a summertime county fair. With many people who are not typically the outdoorsy types sprinkled in with the regular hikers, it definitely makes for an interesting crowd.

Despite my lamenting of flower stories saturating the internet, I must admit that witnessing a vibrant springtime bloom beneath the bone-dry, towering mountains of the desert is pretty spectacular. Having already made a few trips out to Anza Borrego State Park this winter and spring, I also had the urge to go witness the flower blooms the first chance I got a free weekend in March.

Without further ado, here is my Anza Borrego flower report for March 17, 2019.

We left San Diego around 4:45am to make it out to Anza Borrego before the sunrise.
First stop was Devil’s Slide. We were the only people out there for the sunrise, except for a few people on dirt bikes who could be heard in the distance. Photo: Madison Snively
Desert sunflowers stretch for miles across the plain at Devil’s Slide.
California evening primrose (white) and desert sand verbena (pink) were numerous as well, dispersed among the desert sunflowers.
Note: We were cautious to stick to existing trails to avoid stepping on flowers.
We were not in the flowers! Just the perspective makes it appear so. The flowers honestly were not as dense or impressive as the 2017 super bloom, but still a great bloom.
The morning sunlight shining on the hairs and pollen of the California evening primrose was amazing.
We came across a few desert lilies as well, but they were not as common.
We then packed up camp and headed over to the slot canyon off highway 78. This is the most easily accessible slot canyon in Anza Borrego that I am aware of, as you can drive nearly to the mouth of the canyon after a few miles of good dirt roads. The mouth of the canyon had purple lupine on the hillsides.
Walking through the slot canyon. There were only a few other people on the trail, but on the way out there were a lot of people starting the hike. We just beat the crowds.
Exploring another arm of the slot canyon there were brittlebush in bloom (correct me if I have identified the flower wrong).
For the next stop we headed over to the town of Borrego Springs and went to the end of Di Gorgio Road. The caterpillars were out in full force, munching on the flower bloom. It was impressive to watch the rate at which they could eat a stem. Photo: Madison Snively
More of the same flowers over here.
My favorite part of this bloom is the yellow bloom barely noticeable on the slopes of Coyote Mountain in the background (at least I think that’s what that is).
The easy to access spots in Borrego Springs were a little more crowded, but nothing crazy. The crowd in town is a little more touristy and less hiker oriented, exemplified by the designer backpack worn by the woman on the bottom right of the photo.
After receiving an influx of visitors in 2017, Borrego Springs was prepared for this bloom. Bathrooms were present at least at this bloom site.
A bit farther south on Di Gorgio Road there was a dense bloom of dandelion nestled between the agriculture. This bloom was all about the photo ops, as you can see.
For the final stop on the flower tour, we headed east of Borrego Springs on the S-22 and stopped at this field of desert sand verbena off the road. It was really crowded and judging from photos I had seen online, this bloom was past its prime, but still pretty. I think I could have skipped this one and been perfectly happy. Photo: Madison Snively
To cap off the day we continued on the S-22 east of Borrego Springs out towards the Salton Sea and did a nice little hike up the south fork of Palm Wash. As soon as you enter the canyon you are greeted by this impressive natural arch.
Deeper in the canyon the slot narrows and starts to resemble the famous canyons of Utah and Arizona.
Having done a few slots in Anza Borrego, I would say that Palm Wash jumped to the top of my list. There are two other forks of the canyon that I didn’t get to explore, but surely will next time I am out here. Photo: Madison Snively
Panorama of a horseshoe bend in the slot.
We spotted brown eyed primrose flowers in the canyon, flowers that we hadn’t seen at the other blooms we visited that day.

All in all, the ‘super bloom’ once again did not disappoint. And I was actually pleasantly surprised by the relative lack of crowds. I remember sitting in heavy traffic getting back to San Diego in 2017, but this time we scooted over the mountains in no time.

Growing up in northern California, I didn’t know jackshit about the desert when I was younger. We probably even turned our noses up to it, wondering what would ever lead someone to live in such a place. I spent many summers frequenting the community swimming pools and retirement track housing of Coachella Valley’s Palm Desert during visits to the grandparents. I was ignorant to the beauty of the desert that was hidden in plain sight, or maybe I just didn’t care.

Anyway, after moving to the desert’s edge in San Diego, I’ve grown fond of its many hidden treasures over the past few years. The super blooms are a great piece of the puzzle to the desert’s beauty, but it’s just a piece. I encourage the super bloom visitors to return to the desert, put their shoes in the dirt, and explore some of the other gems that it has to offer even when it’s not flower season (an Anza Borrego slot canyon is a great way to start!).

P.s. If you are looking for flowers in Anza Borrego, visit their flower site.

4 thoughts on “The return of the ‘super bloom’

  1. FROM UNCLE LEE: Evan, I just got out of the hospital.(but I’m OK, just weak) and I’d post more words if I felt a little better … but as always, your words and photos are beautiful. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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