by Bonnie Clapp

“You live here full time?  What do you do in the summer?”  It is not a question.  It is a challenge.  I feel secretly proud that I am among the few who have “braved” the Borrego summer – and I reflect on why I love this desert as much on July 10th when the temperature is 110° as I do on November 10th when it is 75°.

The summer dawn is crisp and colorful; the sun rolling over the purple mountains, an orange glow. Early morning, even before the sun is up, is the best time to venture out-of-doors.    Hiking is delightful.  The coyotes sing and the birds join in; the rabbits scurry about;  the heavy fragrances of summer-blooming plants fill the air.  This is a time to carry your camera.  The light and shadows provide wonderful photo opportunities and the heat of the mid-day leaves plenty of time to play with your photos on your computer.

Exploring the desert in one’s off-road vehicle is also best done in the early morning hours, around sunrise and not into the extreme heat of the day.  Take your cell phone.  And if you find that you are in need of cell service and none seems to be available, climb to the highest point around you and chances are good that you will acquire a signal.  Make sure your vehicle is desert-ready with plenty of water, a shade tarp, and a shovel.  Be prepared with protective clothing, sunscreen, a hat, a good map, extra food and, of course, extra water.  Leave information on your destination with a friend, complete with your intended route and your expected return time.  Never stray further than where you can comfortably walk to a paved highway.  Leave daredevil explorations for cooler months.  Roam within reason.  Pick up the handy little pamphlet “Don’t Die in the Desert” at the Visitor Center for tips on how to handle heat emergencies.  Remember the most important rule:  Carry water and drink it!!!

As day ends the deep colors return;  the orange glow recedes and the Mountains go again to purple.  The air softens and the stars begin their climb.  Breathe in the stillness.  And yes, get the camera!

The Night Sky is a black velvet canvas alive with millions of lights;  the Milky Way so clear you can count the stars.  The night air is intoxicating in its luxuriant warmth.

Summer is magic.

In Borrego Springs you have summer to catch up on the little chores you have been too busy to attend to during the months of perfect weather, when you want to be out much of the day.  Summer is like winter in New England;  a time to quilt and read.

There are, of course, days when you need a change of scenery and the best answer is to head for higher ground.  With an elevation gain of 3,000 feet, an early morning drive up Montezuma Grade to Culp Valley cools you down and provides good morning hiking as well as sweeping views of the Borrego Valley.  Climb a little higher and you have wonderful hiking on The Pacific Crest Trail.  Explore Cuyumaca Rancho State Park and don’t miss the majesty of Palomar State Park, cool and shaded by ancient Incense Cedar Trees.  All these wonders are no more than an hour out of Borrego Valley.

When my family first discovered Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs, we fell in love with all of it.  For Christmas that year (1989), I bought the beautiful book Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with photographs by Paul Johnson and text by Mark Jorgensen.   I was particularly moved by Harry Daniel’s Forward:

The heart of the matter lies in the desert summer, the season of delight for the true desert lover …  I have found that in summer I am intensely aware of every facet of the desert.  The white light of noon saturates each stone and leaf so they are drained of color and seem transparent.  The silence makes itself heard as a sort of subliminal humming from deep within the rocks and hills … I walk through the desert, wrapped in the stillness and absorbed by the still light.  All around me I feel life, crawling, flying, growing life, endlessly striving for a perilous equilibrium with the dry heat.  It is then radiantly clear to me that I am in harmony with that life, that I too have persevered … and I am surprised by a surging wave of joy so intense that I laugh out loud.

“What do you do in the Summer?!”   The challenge is out there.  Embrace it!