Anza-Borrego Desert Bighorn Sheep

In which my mom describes a close encounter with a rarely seen, perhaps endangered, animal of the California desert…

Guest Post:  Marilyn Ebner

This March, Denny and I spent a month at one of our favorite, warm places in the states, Borrego Springs, California. It’s a small retro town that was popular with the movie stars of the 50’s and 60’s and has the architecture to prove it! It sits smack in the middle of a 600,000 acre state park, Anza Borrego State Park, which is actually the largest state park in the nation! Most years the wild desert flowers are absolutely gorgeous and people come in the spring specifically to see the flowers. This year was a drought year so the majority of flowers didn’t bloom.
There are no Macy’s or Nordstroms in Borrego Springs, you’ll have to go to the nearby big towns, Palm Springs or Palm Desert if you have to shop. What Borrego Springs has in abundance is natural desert beauty and hiking trails in and around the town.
One of our favorite hikes is the 3 mile round trip Palm Desert hike just outside the town. A few years ago, I think it was 2004, there was a major rain storm and subsequent flash flood. Many of the 300 plus palm trees at the end of the Palm Canyon trail, plus a wall of mud  came down the hillside, filling the ravines and parts of De Anza golf course. It was a mess! Presently, there are few palm trees left and when you hike  into the palm grove, you’ll see the evidence of those palm trees downed along the trail and stream.
Each year, we hike Palm Desert and this year was no different. This year, we took our friends, Judy and John. They own a home at De Anza and have come to Borrego Springs for years. However, John hadn’t hiked into Palm Desert for years and Judy never had! So it was a real treat when while on our hike we were lucky enough to come around a bend and have a herd of Bighorn Sheep coming up the path and along the small rocky ridges on either side! There were 10 total and they walked along seemingly oblivious to the numerous hikers around them. I was so excited! I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures fast. I was taking one of several sheep walking along the southern ridge, when I heard a noise, and two were coming right at me! I’d been shaking with excitment at seeing these elusive creatures but now I was just a bit nervous as they got closer. They seemed much bigger than those from a distance on the ridge! I was amazed at the size of those horns that wrapped around their heads! The horns reminded me of big overgrown toenails! Being wild animals, I was concerned that they would try to ram me. However, I was in no danger. They gave me space and went on their way up the trail.But what a thrill!
We all felt priveleged that they came down that day so we could see them in their natural habitat. As my dad would say,” That was worth the price of admission!”  We felt especially lucky,when later, relating our story to others, we found that many people who live in Borrego Springs have never seen Bighorn Sheep in the wild!

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