UPDATE 2/8/19: The trip is a go! The weather looks good in the forecast: mid 60's and partly cloudy over the area. Expect it to be breezy with cold winds for most of the morning.
DIFFICULTY: MODERATE 4 miles
PLANT KNOWLEDGE: Beginner to Novice, Professionals always welcome!
ACCESS: Open to all, no charge
[ALL WEATHER EVENT]
We'll be doing a two part trip on this winter Sunday, going from an area in Imperial County that is heavily disturbed by different types of human activities to a similar ecosystem that has had the benefit of restricted land use management under the umbrella of the State Park. It'll be a first hand account of both areas to compare and contrast different impacts and the resiliency of the desert ecosystem.
After joining up as a group, we'll make our way past the windmills and mines of Ocotillo to the Painted Gorge of western Imperial County. Painted Gorge is a popular destination for geologists, fossil hunters, snowbirds, and off roaders. From the iron stained canyonsides, we'll poke around to mark the species and density of the life in the area, taking pictures and discussing the future of Imperial County and the Salton Sea. We'll add what we can to iNaturalist as this area is not very well documented.
Next, a short drive away is Anza Borrego State Park and the extraordinarily different environments found in each canyon and valley floor. The Mtn Palm Springs holds records of the seldom seen Elephant Tree (Bursera microphylla) and an abundance of desert life. I hope to time the hike just right so we have lunch in the shade of the palm oasis. On the the first known of the western visitors to the oasis was Frank Gander [masked]), one of the most prolific plant hunters in the history of San Diego.
The desert has gotten a good bit of rain lately and is already blooming with a low carpet of annuals. I hope we'll see Parish's desert thorn (Lycium parishii), Velvet mallow (Horsfordia newberryi), maybe Hairy stickleaf (Mentzelia hirsutissima) and of course the Elephant tree for the rare species. As for the other natives, there will be plenty of cactus, microphyll trees, ocotillos, and creosote for that iconic Sonoran desert palette. There is always something new to find in places seldom trodden.
Pack a lunch and suitable gear and clothing to handle both cold or heat. The temps shouldn't get above mid 70's, but there is the possibility of getting soaked in February. Keep a cautious eye out for rattlesnakes and sidewinders, and know that the most dangerous thing we'll encounter will likely be the cholla and dehydration. For any desert trip, come prepared with plenty of water.
We'll be driving on compacted sand roads which may or may not be graded when we go. I expect to encounter little to no serious issues, but try to carpool if your vehicle can't handle soft sand.
I will provide my truck (black Toyota Tundra) with three (maybe 4) seats from Fashion Valley Mall Transit Center parking area nearest Fashion Valley Rd (west end of the mall) from 7:20 to 7:30 AM. Be prepared to drive if space fills up. Parking at the Transit Center parking lot is free for 24 hrs and is occasionally patrolled by security. That being said, the same risks apply there as to regular street parking. Donations for gas are welcome, but not required. The roundtrip is about 240 miles. Expect to return to Fashion Valley after 3:30PM.