California’s appeal can be attributed, in part, to it’s spectacular and varied terrain. Ocean, mountains, and desert are all easily accessible with a car. One of my favorite road trips is the drive to Anza-Borrego Desert. From coastal north county San Diego, it is an easy two hour drive that provides scenic views of lush green valley hills, pastures with grazing horses and cows, and mountains that lead to the arid desert plains. The second week of March my sister, mother and I set out for a night over in Anza Borrego Dessert. Our primary points of attraction for this year’s desert frolic were Montezuma Valley Road, Casa del Zorro, and the starry night sky.
Montezuma Valley Road/ County Hwy S-22 is a rugged, rocky two lane mountain road that drops into the town of Anza-Borrego Desert. While the road’s twists and turns might seem formidable to some travelers, it also offers sublime views of the desert landscape below. As we were driving on Montezuma this past March, we pulled off on one of the road’s overlooks so we could snap a few pictures. Once out of the car, I quickly became aware of a silence that seemed so present it was palpable. The flat desert floor and surrounding mountains stretched out below: desolate, barren, and beautifully dusted with shades of browns and muted pinks. Cloud shadows painted the landscape.
After winding our way down Montezuma, we took a right onto Palm Canyon Drive and drove to the next roundabout. A left onto Borrego Springs Road and a right onto Yaqui Pass Road took us to Casa del Zorro, our accommodations for the night. The resort sits as a kind of oasis in the middle of undeveloped, unspoiled desert terrain. It’s history dates back to 1936 where it was first purchased as an adobe ranch house consisting only of two rooms. The resort of today encompasses 42 acres with deluxe rooms and casitas for families and groups. “The private casitas, with one to four bedrooms, feature a classic Southwest desert décor, wood-burning fireplaces, service bars, and a private pool, spa, or both in their backyards. The 19 rustic casitas are spread across the 42 acre property. Perfect for a romantic escape or a gathering of friends and family” (retrieved from Casa del Zorro’s website).
Casa del Zorro has the typical resort activities (tennis, shuffleboard, golf, ping pong, yoga classes), but the most original feature is their stargazing theatre. It is a large enclosed space surrounded by a twelve foot wall so to block out the artificial light from the resort. Though our initial trip’s purpose was to experience the desert’s starry night sky, I regretfully admit we did not live up to our expectations. Clouds suggested only a mere possibility of rain, but the wind blew strong. After a cozy dinner in the resort’s Fox Den Bar and Cantina, we shuffled off to our rooms. Other guest’s reviews suggest that the enclosure does offer a good stargazing experience. Stargazing is one of Anza-Borrego’s main attractions. Designated as a “Dark-Sky community”, residents and businesses are required to follow artificial light guidelines. On clear nights the sky becomes like a natural theatre showcasing ‘knock out’ presentations of the “Milky Way, Galaxies, Constellations, Meteor Showers” . It has been described as “overwhelming” and a “stargazer’s paradise” (Chamber of Commerce & Visitor’s Bureau). Stargazing tour information can be found here.
Our March 2018 Desert Trip lacked the amazing Super Bloom of last year. Our stargazing plans were thwarted. And yet the desert had another surprise for us. With temperatures in the low seventy degrees Fahrenheit, the weather provided dynamic clouds against a desert landscape backdrop. Waking early the morning after our night stay, I stepped out of bed and walked onto the room’s private balcony. Across the poolside courtyard large billowy clouds floated above. Rays of morning sun glistened on the building’s rooftop and neighboring palm trees. It was thrilling, serene, beautiful. As I listened to a hooting owl, I began to make plans for my next trip to Anza Borrego.