On the Trail of the Elusive Borrego (Bighorn Sheep): Borrego Palm Canyon Hike, Anza Borrego State Park, CA

Anza Borrego State Park is named after the 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista deAnza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep.

The park covers 600,000 acres and is the largest state park in California and, the second largest in the contiguous United States. It contains 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 designated wilderness areas, and 110 miles of hiking trails.

The endangered peninsular bighorn sheep, often called desert bighorn sheep, make their home here. It’s said that visitors and residents seldom get to see them as they avoid human contact.

We arrived at the park about 45 minutes before sunset (golden critter hour) and decided to go for a quick run up the scenic and pleasant Borrego Palm Canyon Trail (3.25 miles) before dark.

 

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We looked up the steep rock studded canyon walls at precarious boulders, wondering if they ever dislodged…We walked part of the way back hoping to see some wildlife.  I told Ken to keep his eyes open. I have terrible eyesight and the stone and sunset shadows are perfect camouflage for anything that wants to evade notice. Then I heard something that sounded like a boulder crashing down…and Ken saw something in the distance…The head bangers in action! A group of 5, the one sitting on the rock officiating looked frail, perhaps an elder. I felt like I was in a National Geographic show. It was amazing!

The next morning we had breakfast at the local coffee shop. While we were there, we struck up  a conversation with a ranger and local at the next table. We shared our adventure and the video on my phone. There was an elderly couple standing nearby, watching me with annoyed faces and their arms  crossed. (Was I talking too loudly or did I steal their table?) Nope, the woman finally broke her silent glaring and told us in an exasperated voice that they had been hiking the canyon nearly ever day for years and had never had a big horn sheep sighting – not even 1. That’s how lucky we were.

Turns out one of the fellows that we were chatting with was the co-creator of the Desert Bighorn Sheep Book that I was browsing through. How cool is that?

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And yes, this gorgeous book is available at AMAZON  and the Anza Borrego Visitor Center.

And if all that wasn’t magical enough, on our drive out of the park, this healthy coyote couple appeared to see us off.

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What are your most memorable wildlife sightings?

Local color, the Hungry Horse Reservoir & a scary attic

After working up an appetite on the Avalanche Trail in Glacier National Park, we stopped in for some sustenance at a local watering hole…It was very “colorful” as they say…Friendly barmaid and a handful of Montana mountain men.

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On the way back to Columbia Falls, we swung by the scenic  Hungry Horse Dam, the 11th highest concrete dam in the  US at 544 ft tall, 2115 ft wide, 39 ft thick at the top, and 330 ft at the base. There’s a 15 mile loop you can drive or bike, but it started pouring rain and visibility was poor so we opted out.

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Stopped for a cocktail at the Blue Moon Bar and Casino.

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Have I mentioned that it’s all about hunting in these parts? Taxidermy shops and small bars / casinos are as common as nail salons back in LA. When I walked into the Blue Moon, it was like walking into a natural history museum (and I’m not talking about just the patrons either).

 

Later, the granddaughter of the owner took me on a private tour of the attic that was jam packed with the owner’s “trophies” of big game from Canada, Alaska, Montana, etc…It was like something out of a horror movie, a bit creepy, and way over the top for this animal lover.