Trip Number: 13444A
Staff: Didi Toaspern
- Camp in the California desert during wildflower season
- Hike to palm oases and view desert wildlife
- Participate in a rewarding restoration project in the company of fellow
Club members and in amazing surroundings
- All meals and snacks
- Group campsite at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground
- Training and guidance from staff and park personnel
Photo: Didi Toaspern
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) takes its name from the early Spanish
explorer Juan Bautista de Anza -- whose 1775-76 overland route from Mexico to
San Francisco Bay passed through what is now the park -- and from the Spanish
word for sheep, specifically the endangered peninsular bighorn whose habitat
includes Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
This spectacular desert park is the largest state park in California, and the
largest desert state park in the nation. The park is over 1,000 square miles
and includes about 456,000 acres of designated wilderness and 110 miles of trails.
Seen by biologists as one of "the planet’s biodiversity hotspots,"
the park supports a remarkable array of plant and animal life that is as varied
as the physical terrain. We could see coyote, black-tailed jackrabbit, desert
iguana, road runner, rock wren, and phainopepla -- and if we are extra-lucky
the bighorn sheep. Along with the desert wildflowers and a variety of cacti,
there will be towering ocotillo, smoke tree, and the endangered California fan
We will be manually removing an invasive annual plant known as Saharan mustard
(Brassica tournefortii). Our goal will be to remove the mustard plants before
they have had a chance to produce seeds.
Saharan mustard is native to the arid regions and deserts of North Africa,
the Middle East, and Southern Europe. Botanists believe it was introduced to
Southern California in the early part of the twentieth century along with date
palms that were imported for cultivation.
Photo: Didi Toaspern
We will work with small hand tools designed to remove weeds without disturbing
native vegetation. We may also use stirrup hoes (a long-handled tool with an
oval cutting edge). Detailed instruction in plant recognition and proper removal
techniques will be provided by the park staff.
We will assemble at Borrego Palm Canyon Group Campsite in the late afternoon
on Sunday, February 17. After orientation and introductions, we'll set up our
base camp for the week. We will work four days in all, taking two days off to
explore and/or relax. Hiking, birding, botanizing, photographing, and stargazing
are all free-time possibilities. The trip will conclude the morning of Sunday,
The closest major airport to Anza-Borrego is San Diego International, and
it is just over a two-hour drive away. There are two good routes from San Diego,
both on well-traveled interstates and/or state highways. An alternate airport
is Palm Springs International, which is also two hours from the campground.
Detailed directions to our meeting place will be provided by the trip leader
as well as roster information to facilitate ride sharing.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Didi Toaspern
We will be tent camping in Borrego Palm Canyon Campground in a site designated
for groups. The campground has bathrooms, running water, and showers.
Come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Trip menu planning
considers that there will be no refrigeration other than coolers with ice, and
that food must be protected from animals. We provide healthy, nutritious, vegetarian-friendly
meals, with occasional meat on the side.
We have a group commissary, with everyone taking turns in food preparation.
Before applying for the trip, people with food allergies and/or strong food
preferences must contact the cook to see if accommodations are possible.
Our first meal will be dinner on day one and our last meal will be lunch on
the final day.
This trip will be moderately strenuous. Though average daytime temperatures
are in the mid- to high-70s you will be working out in the sun. This could add
to the trip difficulty for those not accustomed to working in warmer weather.
Our off-day activities will involve hiking and you will want to be in good shape
for maximum enjoyment. You will need boots while we are working on the project
-- they are recommended for hiking, as well.
Our work will be the removal of mustard plants using light-duty hand tools.
Health and safety are very high priorities, and you are the best judge of your
abilities. We'll each work at our own pace.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Didi Toaspern
The State Park will provide the tools for the work project. In addition to
your regular camping gear, come prepared to work with sturdy boots, long pants,
long-sleeved shirts, and leather work gloves. Because of the warm weather you
will want lightweight and light-colored clothing. You will need a day pack to
carry your lunch, water, raingear, sunscreen, etc.
We will provide food and the necessary equipment for cooking it. You will need
personal eating utensils such as bowl, cup, and spoon. A plastic food container
with a tight-fitting lid is necessary for carrying your lunch to the work site
We will also provide a first-aid kit for emergencies, but you should bring
any personal medications you require. Please do not forget that all participants
must have a current tetanus shot within the past 10 years. This injection is
most commonly available from your doctor or at your local public health department
for a modest cost.
A full list of needed equipment will be sent to you after you've been accepted
onto the trip. If you have questions please contact the trip leader.
- Hogue, Lawrence, All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys In
A Desert Landscape. Island Press.
- Lindsay, Lowell & Diana, The Anza-Borrego Desert Region, A
guide to the Stare Park and Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert.
Wilderness Press (includes separate map).
- Munz, Philip A., Introduction to California Desert Wildflowers.
University of California Press.
- Lindsay, Diana, Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things.
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638
Photo: Didi Toaspern
While there is concern that the spread of Saharan mustard will greatly reduce
the wildflower displays in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, what is at stake
is of much greater significance. As with any extremely invasive plant species,
the health and diversity of an entire ecosystem can be threatened. We will be
working on this very important restoration project while learning about other
conservation issues being addressed in the park.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Didi Toaspern is very excited to again be leading the service trip to Anza-Borrego. She has been leading service trips since 1986. Many have been in her home state of California, but she has also led or cooked on trips in Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming. For her, service trips are a magical combination of challenge, friendship, exertion, and fun.
Arlene Jamar has been the cook for several Sierra Club service trips in the western U.S. and Canada. She carefully plans meals that are tasty as well as nutritionally balanced. Arlene also enjoys the satisfaction of accomplishing hard work in beautiful wilderness setting along with the fellowship of others with similar interests. Arlene began her involvement with nature as a Girl Scout and enjoys many outdoor activities. When not involved with outdoor activities, she enjoys playing music and dancing.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips