If landscape such as that at Anza-Borrego desert doesn’t grab you and you find it difficult to see beauty in a desert environment, then a visit here may not be appropriate. But what if the same place had a bunch of huge quirky sculptures located in its midst?
As we drove through the desert during our stay, we caught glimpses of many rust-colored sculptures dotting the landscape. I was curious about them, so I got a map from the visitor center, grabbed my camera and headed out to inspect the collection up close and personal. It took me a couple of visits to see them all, with so many spread out in the desert outside of town.
It was in 2008 that the late Dennis Avery, heir to the Avery Dennison label fortune, commissioned metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda to build free-standing metal sculptures for his massive property in Borrego Springs. Mr Avery purchased many acres in the valley to keep it from ever being developed, calling his land Galleta Meadows Estate. Since then these quirky sculptures have been installed throughout the property.
The sculptor had a vast palette to work with, and there are more than 130 metal sculptures scattered over three non-contiguous square miles of Borrego Valley. Much of the theme centers on prehistoric animals that once roamed the valley. The fossils of these animals have been found nearby in some of the most extensive and well-preserved paleontology sites in North America. So most of these creatures really did live here at one time.
The sculptor/artist brings life to his sculptures by capturing each subject in motion:
Over time the theme has evolved and now includes galloping and fighting horses, mythical birds with prey, giant insects and a celebration of the history and culture of the desert environment.
But the biggest of them all is the mythological dragon. It’s huge, rising about 15′ out of the ground and stretching 350′ long with the tail of a rattlesnake. It appears to undulate through the ground as it passes under an adjacent road:
The menagerie of quirky life-like sculptures is the pride and joy of Borrego Springs, thanks to its benefactor. These are just a few of the pictures I took, and there are many more sculptures to check out here. Viewing and touching them are free, and it’s the only way to appreciate the intricacies, details and the creative imagination of the sculptor.
Spring would be perfect for a visit, so the blooming of the wildflowers could be enjoyed at the same time!
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has a special place in Steve’s heart. This is where his parents used to boondock in their RV every winter for years, and he visited them several times during their stays. Our last visit here was a decade ago when we flew down to spread his parent’s ashes in the desert that had been their beloved winter home. Now we were excited to return with an RV of our own.
This state park is the largest in California. Located about 80 miles northeast of San Diego, it encompasses more than 600,000 acres of mostly desert wilderness and is framed by many rugged and beautiful mountain ranges. It takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep.
This wondrous and wild place with its sweeping vistas offers lots of surprises that beg to be explored, and because it’s so huge our two week stay wasn’t enough to cover it all.
The borregos did not disappoint, as they were there watching and waiting for us to pass so they could cross for their drink of the clear water:
A couple of bighorn sheep
We never get tired of seeing these guys
Hummingbird keeping a lookout
To get off the beaten path and experienced the desert in its most primal state requires a high clearance vehicle. So weren’t we lucky that our friends (and Jeep owners) Dave and Sue of Belugas Excellent Adventures were also in the area and offered to share with us what they had already seen and experienced. Our first drive was to the Wind Caves through Split Mountain. The drive itself was a journey through a geological wonder, and we made several stops to gaze and ponder how time, weather and geology have created so many interesting formations here.
At the Wind Caves, the wildly eroded pockets were such a lure to be explored that Steve and I instantly became kids and started scrambling in and out wherever we could. After lunch we all spent a few more minutes listening to the stillness of the desert and just enjoying the peaceful scenery.
One of the best places to get a look at the Badlands’ surreal scenery was from Font’s Point, at the end of a 4-mile sandy primitive wash. The point has a commanding view of the Borrego Valley and Borrego Badlands below.
We should mention that Jeep owners Dave and Sue, John and Pam, Joe and Gay and Bob and Dee Dee are very kind to us CRV folks. Not only have we enjoyed seeing places we otherwise wouldn’t, but we’ve loved hanging out with all of them as well. A Jeep might be in our future, but what’s the hurry when we have such great folks to take us to these spectacular places?
Two weeks was just too short to thoroughly explore this amazing place. We’ve seen quite a bit, but plenty remains for a return visit. Who knows, we may have a Jeep of our own when we return 🙂
Finally, while driving around we caught glimpses of prehistoric creatures casting a shadow on the desert. Some, like the one pictured below, will be featured in my next post: