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So so many stories, so many images make up the experience of being in the Anza-Borrego Desert and Borrego Springs. We've captured these impressions from a number of times, places, and people, and present them here to help you form your own impressions. If you have a story and image of your own to contribute, let us know.

Spring Painters

February 18, 2014
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The great outdoors is the plein air painter's studioThe great outdoors is
the plein air painter's studio
It was fun to see a harbinger of the upcoming 8th Annual Borrego Plein Air Invitational, which starts March 2. A group of outdoor painters congregated nearby this morning, their umbrellas shielding them from the sun as they captured the changing light and shadows of desert scenery. They worked outside all day long, inspiring us with their diligence and patience. Plein air painters aren't content to paint in indoor studios. They prefer to share the environment of their subjects in real time, even if it is hot, windy, cold, or otherwise uncomfortable.

Today's painters enjoyed a picture perfect day, with cloudless skies and sun illuminating the natural desert landscape. Watching them work made me wish I could paint. I imagined being able to artistically "transmit" what I see, using just the right colors and just the right brush strokes to re-create a scene right before my eyes. Imagine is all I could do, but that didn't stop me from dreaming a bit about a painter's life and talent. Spring is coming right up here in the desert, and our plein air painters are a sure sign that it's time to get outside and enjoy nature's artistry with them.

The Palm at the End of the Mind

January 31, 2014
by Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

I took a really nice couple from New York on a half-day tour recently, and as we all sat in our picnic chairs eating lunch and gazing at the palm oasis around us, a mesmerized Stan said, "This reminds me of the Wallace Stevens' poem that begins, 'The palm at the end of the mind. . . ' I'd never heard of the poem, and I asked my fiance, a writer, about it later that day. She enthusiastically shared with me Stevens' "Of Mere Being:"

5 Palms, an Anza-Borrego palm oasis5 Palms, an Anza-Borrego palm oasisThe palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

The imagery in this poem may well have been inspired by Stevens' trips to Key West, one of his favorite getaways. But for me, it reminds me of what it's like to soak in the quiet beauty of a palm oasis in Anza-Borrego. At a place like 17 Palms, where we had our lunch that day, you truly feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere, appreciating the sensation of being "on the edge of space" and time. For some people, it's soothing. For others, it's transcendental.

Perhaps the golden bird is the mythical phoenix, a symbol of re-birth that thrived in the Arabian Desert, life cycle after life cycle. The bird's "fire- fangled feathers" make me think of the way palm fronds glimmer golden in the sun. Whether we like poetry or not, everyone ought to experience the serenity "beyond the last thought" of a palm oasis and think of what it means to merely be.

Oh, Water, Where Art Thou?

January 16, 2014
by Joe Rafetto, Guide & Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

Imagine setting out in 1774 to discover an overland route from Sonora, Mexico, to Alta California and approaching the Yuha Desert — one of North America’s hottest and driest — without knowing where your next gulp of water would come from.

It didn’t help that leader Juan Bautista de Anza’s men had already struggled across a seemingly impassable stretch of sand dunes and been brought off course. The threat of thirst set in, so before Anza reached the Yuha Desert, he assigned scouts to move ahead to look for water. The scouts crossed paths with a small group of Kumeyaay Indians who brought them to earthly salvation: wells.

A retired newspaper editor, Bob Kittle, who is writing a book about Anza’s expeditions hired me this week to help him find the Wells of Santa Rosa de las Lajas (St. Rose of the Flat Rocks so named by Anza because of the peculiar formations nearby). The wells are on Bureau of Land Management terrain about 15 miles southeast of Ocotillo. Our own overland exploration was a difficult one with unmarked washes and gnarly off-roading, but we had plenty of modern horsepower and water on our side. We arrived at a very remote, stark landscape — Not exactly where you'd expect to find water!Not exactly where you'd expect to find water!the last place you’d expect to find water. Yet that’s what the Anza expedition found in abundance after digging down into the mesquite hummocks.

Perhaps more priceless than water was hope. Once at the wells, Indian guide Sebastian Tarabal and Father FranciscoGarcés recognized the area and knew from there they could find safe passage and plenty of water on the way to their destination, Mission San Gabriel. The hardest part was behind them.

Not exactly where you'd expect to find water!Besides this weathered sign of unknown origin, little remains
at the site.
Now referred to as Yuha Well (yu-ha is Kumeyaay for “there is water”), this location was also an important stop for Anza’s next expedition of settlers making their way to San Francisco. Today all that remains are wood and metal fragments and wells closed up with sand -- and a sense of wonder and appreciation for what those wells signified to those who came upon them without Jeeps and full water bottles.

Happy 2014!

January 1, 2014
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

We got this new year off to a great start today by doing something we enjoy -- getting outside to enjoy the desert scenery! We went up to Culp Valley with long-time friends visiting from Los Angeles and headed out to Big Spring. We've been fascinated to watch the area's re-growth after ferocious fires in the summer of 2012 burned the nearly impenetrable thicket of trees and shrubs that completely obscured the streambed

Regrowth after the infernoRegrowth after the infernoAs we knew we'd find, Big Spring vegetation is rapidly re-establishing. Seeing it again was another visceral reminder of the ebb and flow of life itself. Full moons and high tides give way to new moons and low tides; autumn morphs into winter, and very soon, we'll hear spring song birds announce the birth of a new season. And today, 2013 recedes slowly in the background as we embrace the new year. May 2014 hold the promise of good things for all people.

Return from India

December 20, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

After a month-long adventure in a yoga ashram in Khajuraho, India, I'm very happy to be back at home in Borrego Springs. And yes, I do have my yoga teacher certificate -- I passed the course!

Life at Arhanta Yoga Ashram (www.arhantayoga.org) was focused, demanding, and full of learning. Days were crammed with meditation and chanting, and classes in "How to Teach Yoga," "Philosophy and Theory," and, of course, yoga practice -- along with written homework papers every night. Gwenn receives her yoga teacher certificate from her teachers at Arhanta Yoga AshramGwenn receives her yoga teacher certificate from her teachers at Arhanta Yoga AshramAccommodations were spartan, with few comforts. Hot water for bathing and hand washing clothes was available once a day, fetched in buckets from the fire-powered cauldron. Vegetarian meals (quite delicious) were to be eaten in silence, and the electricity was cut off nightly at 9:30 pm -- an emphatic lights out.

I learned about classic Hatha yoga from accomplished Indian teachers, raised and well-versed in the history and traditions of ancient practices. Devised by monks more than 8,000 years ago to support hours of daily meditation, classic Hatha yoga strengthens the body's endocrine system and the potent mix of hormones that virtually govern health and well-being. It's a far different philosophy from the Western approach, which touts muscular development and fitness.

I am now a certified and registered Yoga Alliance teacher. I am exploring the options for teaching classes here in Borrego Springs, so I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, it's wonderful to be back at home!

Exploring "Little Baja"

November 30, 2013
by Rich Caldwell, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Datura in bloomDatura in bloomWe had an amazing rain storm in August. You may have heard about the flooding down here in the valley, but it rained so hard it also changed the face of Indian Head Mountain, where a rock slide began at the top and flowed all the way down the side of the mountain. It exposed a huge slash of raw, gray granite that has to be around 3.000' tall. Some people are calling it The Indian's Tear, which isn't bad, actually, when you see it.

The torrent of water and rock opened up a really neat wash that's hikable for a good way up from the valley floor, starting in the Little Baja area which lies about a half mile north of where Palm Canyon emerges between Indian Head and San Ysidro peaks. I've been up this wash/canyon twice now since August, and each time I see interesting new things.

Tarantula out for a walkTarantula out for a walkOn today's hike with a friend I came across a male tarantula out for a stroll. This is the first one I've seen this fall, though it's kind of late, almost December. He let me photograph him for quite while before deciding to hide between two rocks. What a beautiful animal – the picture does not do him justice. it was an honor to watch him navigate over and around the rocks on those amazing legs.

Quartz boulder split in halfQuartz boulder split in halfOn the previous hike here, I spent a lot of time appreciating the massive quartz/granite boulders that were split wide open by the force of their descent. It's really special to be able to essentially look at the inside of a boulder before it becomes covered with dirt and corrosion. Here's one quartz boulder with beautiful inclusions I came across – it won't be so bright and beautiful for long, once the sun, wind and rain to do their work on it...

Verbena and CinchweedVerbena and CinchweedThe rains also got a few wildflowers blooming in Little Baja, with verbena, cinchweed, and datura doing very well. Unfortunately there are some Saharan Wild Mustard plants sprouting too – this invasive species had pretty well died back over the last 2-3 years. All the more reason to appreciate the natives when they are in bloom.

If you get a chance, this hike provides some novel experiences and some real insight into what water and gravity can do!

On the Trail to Villager Peak

November 24, 2013
by Rich Caldwell, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

What a Gorgeous View!What a Gorgeous View!I've always wanted to make the trip to Villager Peak, so prominent in the Santa Rosa range north of the Borrego Valley. I'd read the hike description many times in Jerry Schad's book, "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County", and it always sounded daunting. Nine miles one way along a 20% grade. Not a half-day hike...

But there's no requirement to "bag the peak" if you want to take a very nice hike along the first parts of the trail. The views are spectacular -- the day I went, the sky was filled with picturesque clouds. It's still a 20% grade, though.

The first leg of the trail begins at S-22 and continues to the nortwest, crossing a large rock field emanating from Rattlesnake Canyon. After crossing the rock field and the wash, I came to the base of the giant blade of rock that leads up and up to Villager Peak. At first, I thought I was in the wrong location, because I was facing what felt like a wall, with no immediate sign of a trail. It was tricky to spot, a vague thread slicing up the rock face. I started up, wondering how far I might get.

The trail switched back and forth in tight runs up the rock face. A couple of times I had to stand and look for a long time before I could see where it lead next. After a lot of trail-finding and huffing and puffing, the route leveled off to a steep but steady and clear path -- up. Up I went, and the views just got better and better the further I went.

There's a nice plateau along way up, and I stopped and explored there. I found this decapitated California barrel cactus lying uprooted a few steps east of the trail. In a nearby bush was the missing cap piece. Decapitated California barrel cactus along the trailDecapitated California barrel cactus along the trailHmmmh.. I've watched a Peninsular Bighorn Sheep ram butt open a barrel cactus with his forehead before, and then feast on the innards. Could this be the leftovers from a sheep feast, or some random human-on-cactus violence? Hard to know -- I'm betting on the Bighorn sheep theory.

After pondering this discovery for a while I decided it was time to turn around and return to earth. The walk down the hill was delightful, with spectacular vistas of Font's Point, Rockhouse Canyon, and the Borrego Valley stretching in every direction. Even though I was walking the same path, it felt entirely different in reverse. I'm glad I went.

Hiking Alcoholic Pass

November 17, 2013
by Rich Caldwell, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

I never tire of the hike to Alcoholic Pass. I always see something new there. This trip, I took some extra time to explore the area up top around the pass itself. There is a rocky shelf that extends off to the west, with an impressive cliff to walk along. Lots of rock-hopping, great for balance and strengthening!

The AuthorThe AuthorThe hike begins at the floor of Coyote Canyon and heads right up the side of Coyote Mountain. It's good exercise, with lots of climbing. I have to stop and catch my breath every so often on this part; more than I used to have to, I'm noticing. Back in 1999 I could scurry right up that trail. What's different, I wonder?

Today was perfect hiking weather – warm sun, cool air, and not a cloud in the blue, blue sky. While I was ascending, a couple of military aircraft, Ospreys, flew right overhead, skimming the ridge line above me. I don't know if they were surprised to see me, but I'm sure they did. Otherwise, there was no one else on the trail, and it was wonderfully quiet up there away from the busy metropolis of Borrego Springs.

Shortly after the climbing part of the trail levels off, it comes to a log station. I always stop to look at the last entry in the log book, and often add one of my own. It's a notebook inside an old ammo case mounted on a post – just the right vibe, not fancy at all. There's been at least one hiker a day visiting this month, according to the log entries. I enjoy the ritual of returning the logbook to its safe place inside the box, knowing that many loving hands have worked the clasp on that old ammo case over the years.

Then I left the trail and headed across country toward the area I wanted to explore. I spent a good chunk of time just wandering, following the animal trails among the rocks along the rock shelf. I laugh with appreciation every time Alcoholic Pass, On TopAlcoholic Pass, On TopI walk along an animal trail, enjoying how like each other we are in this way – following the familiar paths that others have found and forged for us. Why not?

Most of the shelf is covered with a wild variety of rocks of all colors and sizes in a gravelly matrix. Even so, I found a couple of excellent potential campsites, where the rocks were few, and the gravel almost sandy. The entire shelf area is very exposed, though, so not a good camp for a windy period. I know you will also want to know about cell coverage up there – excellent, as is the line-of-sight view all the way to downtown Borrego Springs. I sent texts and sunny blue-sky pictures to some relatives who were suffering in rainy parts of the country.

The way down is also great exercise, more muscular than aerobic, with a real workout for knees and thighs. The views are really inspiring!

Once I got back to ground level, I had a short walk back from the hillside to my car. This part of the trail follows a small wash filled with ocotillo, creating an arbor-like effect. It's really nice to wind through this tiny "ocotillo forest". Smart Hummingbird!Smart Hummingbird!With all the rain we received this summer, the ocotilo have been carrying lots of leaves. Here in Coyote Canyon I saw ocotillo in bloom! One ocotillo I came to was filled with flowers, and a hungry hummingbird was methodically working over every blossom. He let me come close for photographs, but always managed to keep the bush between us. I only got one fleeting shot of him in action. Smart hummingbird!

it felf good to hop back in the Land Rover and bounce my way back out of Coyote Canyon in search of lunch. What a great day!

Did you see that car?

October 19, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley inn

Swing through our parking lot this weekend and prepare to be delighted by what you see. Really? What's so exciting about a parking lot? This weekend, there's a lot to be excited about as we welcome a friendly and convivial crowd of classic car lovers to the Inn. They arrived from all over Southern California, and most of them didn't know where they'd end up, thanks to the "Mystery Tour" efforts of the organizer.

Something we don't see every day!Something we don't see every day!They all met in Temecula and then followed clues that took them all over the San Diego back country on a beautiful afternoon. Finally, they made their way down Montezuma Grade and checked into the Inn. We had a few classic Jaguars, a pink finned Cadillac, and this beauty, a 1939 V-12 Lagonda Le Mans, which the owner thoughtfully parked right out front for us to enjoy!

Chef Pamela prepared a delectable BBQ dinner for everybody after they arrived, and the weekend was a huge success. What a lovely and lively group! We waved goodbye on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and they were on their way to new adventures.

Cookie Time Again!

October 5, 2013
By Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Luisa's homemade cookies make our day!Luisa's homemade cookies
make our day!
We admit there are times over the long hot summer that we remember our in-season routines with nostalgia. Lots of visitors, great hiking weather, crystalline (and chilly!) nights. . . . .and COOKIES! Well that time has come again, as we open our season with full lobby hours, Chef Pamela's amazing Badlands Breakfast Buffet. . . . .and COOKIES!

Luisa has been very busy preparing the magic dough for everybody's favorites, including peanut butter, white chocolate and cranberry, date, molasses, and chocolate chip. She uses only the finest and freshest ingredients, and she promises that her cookies don't include harmful calories (just kidding). Every day when she's baking, the lobby smells like your favorite bakery, and when we set the cookie plate out at 4pm, there's always a happy crowd waiting for their afternoon treats.

For us, cookie time is a favorite, too. It's the perfect time to catch up with our guests, find out about their adventures and chat about their dinner plans. And there's just nothing like a freshly baked, homemade cookie to make things right and bring a smile to our faces. Remember? Come on out and have some with us!

Welcome Back!

September 28, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

So glad to see you!So glad to see you!Finally, fall has arrived, releasing us from summer's grip. The last month of torrential rains ,floods, humidity, and the hatching of an entirely new (and unwelcome!) variety of biting gnats just about put us all over the edge. But now. . . .Now, the days are shorter, cooler, and drier, and the night skies inviting and clear. We've even needed light sweaters in the early morning, as nighttime temperatures dip well into the low 60s. Heaven!

We've been working to prepare everything for the season ahead, including new Welcome Art created by our friend, staffer, and resident artist, Leslie Duncan. It's a bright and appealing "hello" for guests making their way back to desert delights. Before we know it, we'll be lighting up the fireplaces, presenting Chef Pamela's Badlands Breakfast Buffet and making tea for our afternoon cookies. Sounds good to us!

We extend our warmest welcome to old and "not-yet-met" friends. We all look forward to seeing you.

September Spring

September 8, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

For the past two-plus weeks, we've been caught in the grip of monsoon, likely to continue through the next few days. That means lots of humidity and torrents of rain. Green meadows at summer's endGreen meadows at summer's endNow, the desert is green like we don't usually see in September. This morning, we took a drive up to Culp Valley, our first since Montezuma Grade was closed for 10 days of repair after the floods two weeks ago. It's all clear for now, and the sight of surrounding hills and canyons had us exclaiming, "Look at how green everything is!" The ocotillos couldn't possibly get any furrier, and we witnessed streams of huge caterpillers crossing the highway, heading to a feast.There's plenty of new grasses and seeds, which should please Bighorn Sheep, birds, and bunnies, too.

We're wondering what's in store during the next few months. With more rain October through January, we could see quite a bloom this spring. But for now, we're just happy to see everything so lush and vibrant at summer's end when native flora is generally dry and brown. Not this year!

Surprise!

August 29, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Surprise! An August cactus beauty.Surprise! An August cactus beauty.We are accustomed to colorful, visual delights in the spring as the desert comes to life and offers native blooms for us to admire and appreciate. We're less accustomed to seeing cactus blooms in... August? On my way into the pool at the Springs at Borrego this morning, I couldn't resist being captivated by this beauty, blooming away, oblivious to the heat and humidity and the season. I can only guess it was inspired by the 3-1/2 inches of rain that have drenched us in the past month -- must be time to bloom, nearly September or not!

Sweet surprises like this one are there for discovering. If I keep my eyes open.

Ferocious!

August 25, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn


All we can say after witinessing and experiencing this afternonn's ferocious downpour is, "Wow." The skies had threatened for hours and then opened, and we were drenched with a reported three inches of rain in the span of an hour. When is tee time?When is tee time?That kind of intensity means portions of the Borrego Valley were completely inundated, flooded by rivers of water and debris rushing down mountains and through canyons and every available channel. It was awe-inspiring, humbling, and frightening to see.

We're happy to report that we haven't heard of any injuries, but we're sorry to report that the homes of many of our friends and neighbors in the de Anza Country Club area were flooded, leaving thick coats of mud, debris, and grime everywhere, inside and out. The clean up began immediately, and the de Anza manager says that the front nine will be ready for play this coming weekend -- amazing. We remain grateful that while there's certainly some clean up to be done, our home and the Inn both escaped damage.

If you've ever wondered about the various "water features" you see in the desert -- gorges, washes, slot canyons, rock erosion -- this is the kind of storm that pointedly illustrates the concept. When the weather is warm, dry, and sunny -- which it usually is here -- it's hard to imagine torrents of rainwater gauging the earth, wearing it away, and unleashing floods. But this afternoon, we saw it in action, yet another reminder of the stunning force of Nature.

Borrego Stardance

August 2, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Borrego Springs has gone virtually viral, thanks to the work of Sunchaser Pictures. With painstaking precision, the producers created an amazing timelapse video featuring Ricardo Breceda's memorable Galleta Meadows sculptures Borrego Stardance from Sunchaser PicturesBorrego Stardance
from Sunchaser Pictures
and Borrego Springs' notable desert scenery and starry night skies. Popular Science has called the resulting 3-minute video, "The trippiest time lapse video we've ever seen."

Sunchaser Pictures used no special effects to get this "trippy." The astonishing results were created by tracking the movement of the stars with 25-second exposures. The Sunchaser team worked for three days in early June, scouting and planning the nighttime shots in scorching 112-degree days. Borrego Stardance was produced by Michael Darrow, Ben Dally, and John Brookins and directed, shot, and edited by Gavin Heffernan.


Put on your headphones, crank up the sound, and be prepared to be amazed.
http://vimeo.com/album/189653/video/71227394

Blooming in August

July 31, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The Borrego Valley took a real pounding from a freakish summer storm on July 21 that dumped nearly two inches of rain in two hours on parched desert terrain. Thanks for the drink!Thanks for the drink!Meterologists called it "possibly the first ever Transcontinental Retrograding Storm," meaning it moved from the north eastern corner of the US southwest all the way into southern California -- an event practically unheard of in weather history.

We were vacationing on the east coast and missed the drama. We hear Palm Canyon Drive was flooded all the way from Christmas Circle to DiGiorgio Road, with some areas covered by 7 to 8 inches of water. Amazingly, flood damage was minimal and there were no injuries. The desert got a greatly needed tall drink of water, and now the ocotillo are lushly green and theTexas Rangers are putting on a colorful show.

Morning Swim

July 30, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

On summer mornings, I feel incredibly lucky to slip into a lane at the high school pool and swim. And swim, and swim -- 35 fifty meter laps, about a mile. For me, it's not only great exercise, but also a moving meditation. About eight years ago, I discovered Total Immersion Swimming Ready to dive in!Ready to dive in!(www.totalimmersion.net), and it changed my approach and results dramatically. So in the water I happily go!

Thanks to the generosity of local benefactor Audrey Burnand, who has funded a renovation and summer operations, this Olympic-sized beauty is open to the public when school's out. That means morning swim classes and lap lanes and afternoon open swim for relaxation. It's fun to watch all the kids at play, no matter the age!

When temperatures head well north of 100 -- the norm from June through August -- there's just nothing like a swim in a gleaming cool pool to take the edge off. Then, in the low humidity, we shiver when we get out. How can it be 106 and I'm cold? Just one of summer's desert delights!

Fourth of July

July 4, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valey Inn

Never take it for grantedNever take it for grantedYes, it's July in the desert, and there aren't too many of us here, but we won't forget it's the 4th. Thanks to the efforts of Borrego Springs' American Legion Post 853, Palm Canyon Drive is lined with an inspiring display of Old Glory, waving majectically in the breezes and reminding us of how fortunate we are to live in the Land of the Free.

As we ponder current world events, the flags are a humbling reminder of the treasure we enjoy as a free and democratic society. There are no fireworks or public gatherings planned here today, but we each have the chance to gaze at the star-spangled banner and remember in gratitude the opportunities we have in abundance. Thanks to our Founding Fathers, those who have served this country, and the dedicated Borrego Springs Legion members for making that possible.

Summer Solstice Sunset

June 22, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

2013's longest day ends2013's longest day endsWhat we love most about the summer here are the long, slow sunsets that lure us out for hours of inspired vistas. ever-changing light and shadow on the mountains. Late this afternoon, a thin cloud layer moved over the valley and that turned to our advantage as the sun finally set on this longest day. The solstice sky painted a canvas worthy of the occasion -- the first day of summer. The forecast calls for scary-hot weather next week, but for now, we settle in to the cooling dusk, faces glowing in the rosy light. Happy Summer!

Forever Marilyn

June 16, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Celebrity spotting in Palm SpringsCelebrity spotting in Palm SpringsWe headed over to Palm Springs for a little change of pace and scenery for a few days, and we got a lot of each -- and just 90 minutes away! While we were there, we visited the Palm Springs Art Museum for the first time, and what an amazing treat. The building itself is magnificent and a real pleasure to wander through. We spent a magical morning getting lost in the Robert Rauschenberg exhibit (through July 28th), a comprehensive overview of works by the artist who "pushed the boundaries of printmaking. " We were also impressed by the breathtaking Contemporary Glass exhibition, a collection of unbelievably complex works representing a range of techniques, styles, and objects.

And for a really big thrill, we gawked with lots of other tourists at the 26-foot tall sculpture "Forever Marilyn" by Seward Johnson, now in place at Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Way. It's on display for the next few months, commemorating Miss Monroe's unique connections to Palm Springs -- including being "discovered" there at the Raquet Club.

Change of pace? Change of scenery? You bet!

Icing on the Cake

June 10, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The finishing touch in placeThe finishing touch in placeA good thing (the new Borrego Art Institute building on Christmas Circle) just got better (its new identity)! We've had a lot of fun watching visitors' reactions to the BAI's new home. They are astounded, delighted, thrilled, and very eager to get inside and have a look. But until last week, a paper sign in the window was the only indication of the building's identity.

No longer. The smart new letters spell it out for all to see, and they are the perfect icing on the perfect cake. Now, there's no mystery about "that new building on Christmas Circle." It's the
B-O-R-R-E-G-O A-R-T I-N-S-T-I-T-U-T-E!

Mother's Day Bloom

May 12, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Happy Mother's Day!Happy Mother's Day!Today's the day we honor mothers everywhere. We celebrate all that mothers bring to the world in many ways. Breakfast in bed; brunch, lunch, or dinner out at a restaurant; a family picnic; and remembrances for those special women in our lives, our actual moms and those who support and love us like moms. We shower moms with cards, perfume, chocolates, gadgets, and, of course, flowers.

I loved the bouquet my daughter sent, so colorful and pretty, with iris, Gerber daisies, and blue belles. And I also deeply appreciated the one delivered straight from the cactus garden -- full and perfect, golden yelow, a lovely gift from Mother Nature. As always, a humbling reminder of the profound and simple wonders right in front of our eyes.

Birthday Rainbow

May 6, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

I have mixed feelings about my birthdays, especially now, when there's a long list of them behind me. Today is another one. I acknowledge my latest turn around the sun, but I'm pensive about the idea of "celebrating" it. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...Happy birthday to me,
happy birthday to me...
Yet once again, Mother Nature had other ideas for me.

I was stunned to see this as I took my customary morning peek at the surrounding desert beauty. What a birthday present! It's not rare to see rainbows here, but this one was bright and strong, a particularly potent reminder of the value of wonder and awe -- no matter how old I am.

Thanks for the nudge, Universe! I hear you loud and clear.

Serving and Preserving

May 5, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Guide & Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

After weeks of hard sweaty work protecting Anza-Borrego's natural environment, it was time for this group of young people to enoy some well-earned R&R on a California Overland desert tour. Introducing AmeriCorps Team Blue 6, a group of energetic 18 - 23 year olds who have been working together in efforts to eradicate the invasive Saharan mustard plant in various parts of the Park. The youthful esprit de AmeriCorpsThe youthful esprit de AmeriCorpsAmeriCorps is a federal program often considered the domestic counterpart to the Peace Corps. Young people join to serve a year in rotating community service projects. Part of their pledge is, " I will get things done for America." I was moved to meet these young adults, recent high school and college graduates, deciding to work on behalf of the rest of us first.

With team leader Alicia D'Alessandro at the helm, Team Blue 6 has been braving hot temperatures and sun exposure to pull the mustard from sensitive areas to prevent its further spread. Sahara mustard is a fierce competitor of desert wildflowers for precious sun and water, eventually crowding them out. The good news is that the seeds have a shelf-life of only three years. With the two-year drought and the help we've been getting from AmeriCorps and other concerned community groups, we just might be able to beat the invaders back and save our wildflowers. That's a cause we can all get behind!

After hiking and exploring with this admirable group of young people, I came away deeply impressed with their dedication and camaraderie. A couple of days after their departure, Alicia posted on the California Overland Facebook page that they'd soon be off on their next assignment -- in Kauai, Hawaii! I wish them the best and know that Hawaii is truly fortunate to be the recipient of their next community service project. Thanks, guys!

The Dust Settles

April 23, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Owner & Guide
California Overland Desert Excursions

As the peak of the tourist season dies down and snow birds start to leave the valley, Borrego Springs returns to the sleepy little desert hamlet that it often is. "March Madness" is not just a basketball term; it applies to our town as well. Wildflowers or not, from mid-February through late April, we see an influx of visitors who sell out hotels, pack restaurants, and (hopefully!) take desert tours. Local entrepreneurs all give appropriate thanks for that strong shot of business. Without it, it is unlikely that many Borrego businesses would survive.

Kicking back... at last!Kicking back... at last!So around this time in April, many of us in the tourism business breathe a collective sigh of relief. The past ten weeks have been like an exhausting sprint that we're not quite sure how we sustained. We go from tour to tour at an invigorating pace, running on strong coffee, adrenaline, and the authentic enjoyment of being with our customers. But when the dust settles, we exclaim in wonder, "Whew! We did it again!"

It takes a while to realize that the frenzied pace has, in fact, eased. Free time becomes a real thing again, rather than a concept. We relish the chance to catch up and visit with friends and loved ones. I am grateful to all of the people from all over the globe who joined us in exploring this incredible park over the past few months. It was an extraordinary experience!

But now, I just might lie down and take a nap...

Digging Out, Cleaning Up

April 9, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

It will be replaced!It will be replaced!The Inn survived an unnerving windstorm that rocked the desert for nearly 20 hours, starting early yesterday morning. The Wind Advisory in effect had us expecting to see gusts to 60 MPH, but we weren't prepared for the 83 MPH gust clocked in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It was a vivid demonstration of how wild this wild and remote place can be.

The electricity went out about 10:30 A.M., which at least gave us plenty of time to prepare before nightfall. We knew there'd be no shopping or dining or gassing up the car, or working on our computers.

Fortunately, no one was injured during the storm, and we were all able to make do with snacks, candles, and flashlights. We had a full house, and everyone stayed put. Most guests considered it a memorable adventure -- which it was, indeed. Power was finally restored to the Inn, and we were back in business for breakfast, happy to share our tales.

All in a day's workAll in a day's workLuisa and our housekeeping staff had their work cut out for them. The storm blasted fine dust everywhere, requiring a deep cleaning.

We lost the fence around the European pool (it will be replaced!), and we had to close the main pool for a day while Rich and Francisco drained it and shoveled eight inches of muck from the bottom. It was amazing how much sand and debris the wind carried.

It was a night we and our guests won't forget soon.

Hold on to your Hats!

April 9, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Owner and Guide
California Overland Desert Excursions

On Monday morning April 8, I lookedat our schedule and realized it was the first day without a tour since March 3. That was a very good thing because wind gusts were lashing the office roof and windows. The National Weather Service reported winds as high as 83 miles per hour in Borrego Springs! At times all I would see outside was a brown haze with varied debris flying past, like roof shingles and uprooted plants. It's bizarre to have hurricane-force winds without the rain; it makes for a real dusty mess! I parked the vehicles on the eastern side of the building to protect them from the fierce western wind, just like boats seeking shelter on the leeward side of an island. We lost electricity around 10 A.M. and didn't get it back until about 5:30 P.M., and then the power went out at least two more times that evening.

When dealing with Mother Nature, it's always on her terms. Luckily for me, the crazy winds came just after the busiest time. Had they wrought havoc even one day earlier, it would have meant cancelling tours and a financial loss. As it turned out, I enjoyed relaxing and listening to the howling wind. Many people I talked to, however, found the gale-force gusts unnerving as iwindows and doors rattled and fine dust blew in through the tiniest cracks.

Pickup cap impaled on a postPickup cap impaled on a postThe fierce windstorm left behind a lot of grime and disorder. All of my vehicles, as well as the just-cleaned office, are filled with sand; many trees throughout town lost branches, and several signs now point to nowhere. Luckily there were no infuries and no structural damage at the office. I can't say the same for the property next door, where a mesquite tree toppled onto the shed, and a truck cap took flight and came crashing down on a post in the yard like a horseshoe scoring a ringer.

Today it's time to brush the dust off, get back in gear, and keep an eye on the forecast!

A Night Out at Fantasy Springs

April 7, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Borrego Springs is not known for its night life. Sometimes even Carlee's rolls up the sidewalks by 10 P.M. So when we saw that one of our favorite musicians, John Legend, was performing at Fantasy Springs in nearby Indio, we jumped at the chance for a night out, a change of scenery, and some amazing live music.

John Legend, extraordinary performerJohn Legend,
an extraordinary performance
Legend did not disappoint. He is a truly generous performer, delighting the crowd with nearly two hours of non-stop music. He is a virtuoso pianist, a thrilling vocalist, and accomplished song-writer. We especially enjoyed people-watching and seeing such a diverse and happy crowd. From 21 to 81, white, black, Latino, Asian, the appreciative audience seemed to love every minute – I know Rich and I did! It was an inspiring and uplifting show.

This was our second visit to the Special Events Center at Fantasy Springs (we saw Bonnie Raitt there previously), and we remain extremly impressed with the smooth operation there – easy parking and box office access, a clean and inviting venue, friendly ushers, and ample bar service, all just a little over an hour from here.

We're looking at their line up for summer. Los Lobos in August should be fun!

Sheep in the Canyon

March 27, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

This spring, we've been hearing from many guests about Bighorn Sheep sightings on their hikes into Palm Canyon. So when we hosted our daughter's family for a visit from the east coast, we decided to get out there to see for ourselves. We were on the trail before 8, and we were not disappointed!

Our grandson Jaxon spotted the first, a ewe making her way down the canyon wall. We pulled out the binoculars to get a better look. Jaxon and Ella, his cousin, both 9, were entranced -- and the adults were, too. A morning drink in Palm CanyonA morning drink in Palm CanyonLittle did we know what was in store for us further down the trail. As we made our way to the streambed crossing, we were delighted to find ourselves in the company of more than a dozen ewes and lambs, out for their morning drink.

We stood mesmerized for a good twenty minutes, cameras cranking, as we enjoyed a rare up-close and personal look at the federally endangered species. They didn't seem to mind our presence; we must assume they've become accustomed to a steady stream of spring hikers. For us and our visitors, it was a special memory, and our photos quickly found their way to Facebook and a string of texts to friends and family.

After that, it was time for another favorite activity in Borrego Springs -- a big breakfast at Kendall's!

March Madness

March 26, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Owner and Guide
California Overland Desert Excursions

Beavertail make a strong and early showingBeavertail make a strong
and early showing
Spring has officially sprung in the desert, and though Borrego Springs is buzzing with travelers from both near and far, the wildflowers are still few and far between. Perhaps retired Park Ranger Fred Jee was right when he predicted that we needed one more inch of rain to produce a beaugiful bloom. Nonetheless, the beavertail cacti are showing signs of life with their magenta blossoms, and the palo verde trees are sprouting bright yellow flowers against distinctive blue-green branches.

Despite the dearth of wilflowers, business is cranking along, and right now we're offering the same tours that we do year-round. If a significant wilflower bloom happens in the higher elevations, then we'll schedule seasonal wildflower tours. In the meantime, we're doing everything we can to run like a well-oiled machine. It's the only way to keep up with the last-minute requests for tours and the higher volume of customers this time of year.

Though we focus on providing our guests with a fun, relaxing, and educatiional outdoor experience, behind the scenes there's a lot of preparation, hard work, and long hours, especially in March. That's why I appreciate being out in the field because I can also kick back (to some extent!) and enjoy what the day brings. Soon enough, it's back to the office to catch up with all the logistics for upcoming tours.

Right now, it's time to call it a day, and as I lock the office door, the entire landscape is lit by the full moon. If you've never seen the Anza-Borrego Desert in the blue-hued, mysterious full moon light, add it to your must-do list. Even though it obscures the stars, it is strangely beautiful and magical, just like the desert itself.

Spring Bloom

March 18, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

A shy verbena bloomsA shy verbena bloomsThe first day of Spring is upon us, but it won't be greeted by a wildflower show this year. We had some winter rains, but not quite enough to entice a bloom. Years like this remind us that we can never assume anything about nature's timeline or intentions, and a spring bloom is never a given.

But as we discovered the other day, if we look down and keep our eyes peeled, we may be rewarded with a surprise. We discovered this tiny verbena blooming its heart out along a neighborhood road, a tiny splash of spring color that brought big smiles to our hearts.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

March 8, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Guide & Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

So how did you end up here doing this? I get variations on this question all the time since neither my line of work nor Borrego Springs are exactly typical. The simple answer is, after numerous trips at sea as a marine biologist and years of working in New York's advertising world, I wanted a change. I was enjoying my life and work, but... I had an itch to “do something different.”

In the field, enjoying my third career...In the field, enjoying
my third career...
One weekend in 1998, I was visiting Plymouth, Massachusetts for a friend's wedding, and I sat in a cafe, people watching. An amphibious military vehicle passed by, full of tourists on their way to the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. It may sound strange, but the idea for California Overland Desert Excursions struck me right then. I immediately envisioned making a living by showing people amazing sights. I pictured Anza-Borrego, where I so enjoyed camping, hiking, and riding my motorcycle after long trips at sea for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was one of my favorite places, and I though it would be the perfect location for adventure tours in – you guessed it – military vehicles.

I kept on running my advertising business in New Jersey and dove into turning California Overland from a coffee shop concept into a business reality. After 9/11, a reminder for all of us about how short and precious life is, I took a business planning class and began forming and refining what was to become my desert tour operation.

I'd originally envisioned running the company with two Humvees that would travel from Alpine down to the desert and back again. I'm glad I changed my mind about that idea! Seven years after my “cafe encounter” back in Massachuetts, I launched California Overland in 2005 with the ultimate goal of giving my customers incredible, lifelong memories of exploring this spectacular corner of the earth.

Now, when I hear the thrilled reactions of my guests, I know I'm in the right place, doing the right thing.

Blooms and Snow

March 8, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Not often seen!Not often seen!We're keeping a watchful eye for spring wildflowers, but they are quite shy this year. Aside from the dependable chuparose and brittlebush, there's not much of a bloom out there. Even the ocotillos, while green, are holding back their bright lipstidk red blooms – except for a special few

Early spring is always full of surprises, though, and this one is no exception. A winter storm started sweeping across the desert last night, with winds and rain in the forecast. Sure enough, before dawn, we heard the soothing sound of rain drops on the roof, and by sunrise, we saw snow on the Santa Rosas – always a welcome sight.

On the way to the Farmers Market, we spotted this bloomer, and couldn't resist sharing the juxtaposition of blooms and snow. Neither will last for long, but it was our morning pleasure.

Hiking Plum Canyon

February 25, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Chuparosa, the dependable bloomerChuparosa, the dependable bloomerWe're just as curious as everyone -- will there be wildflowers this spring? We've had some rain (though more would be better) and cold temperatures, two requirements for flowers. But we haven't been seeing much evidence of an inspiring show. On our way up to hike Plum Canyon this morning, we noted that there were grasses sprouting, and the ocotillos were green and furry -- but we saw very few blooms.

Plum Canyon was captivating, as always, and the barrel and hedgehog cactus looked happy and healthy. We hiked up to the Shelter Valley overlook and saw snow on the far mountains near Julian. The sky was blue, the bees were buzzing in the abundant mistletoe, the birds were chirping -- all sure signs of spring. But precious few flowers, other than the dependable chuparosa that lined the trail.

Meet the Off-Road Fleet

February 22, 2013
by Joe Rafetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

Before we head off into the desert, people often stare up at the large, ten-wheeled troop carriers they are about to board and ask, "Where in the world did you get these vehicles?" That's an understandable question! They are former military issue, and have the capacity to carry two-and-a-half tons of cargo or personnel -- hence the nickname, "deuce and a half."

The two date from the early 1970's, and they served their time on military bases, not in combat, which is why they both had such low mileage. Ready to rough itReady to rough itI purchased them from Idaho Motor Pool, a company that specializes in procuring and selling military vehicles to the public. They weren't quite "tour ready," though. Realizing that my customers might not want to ride on the original hard wooden benches, I replaced them with cushioned bus seats and added a windscreen to reduce the amount of wind and dust. Each truck comfortably seats up to 16 passengers. Now, I like to think of them as work horses transformed into wild stallions, free to roam the desert.

When I launched California Overland in 2005, I incorporated my personal 1986 CJ7, a Jeep I've owned since 1993, into the fleet. CJ stands for "civilian Jeep," because the original Jeeps were built exclusively for the military. The last off-roading vehicle to join the fleet is the M715, a 1969 Kaiser Jeep. It's the perfect intermediate size for groups of four to eight.

I've never parted with a vehicle that I've owned, and not too many people can say that! I have a 1957 Buick Super and a 1970 Mustang that I hope to have roaring back to life soon (though not on desert terrain!) I've always loved restoring things, whether a Victorian house, a piece of furniture, or a vehicle from the past. When customers ask me which vehicle is my favorite, I simply can't answer. They are all like family to me!

Exploring the Burn

February 18, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Changed by the flamesChanged by the flamesOn rare days off, we love to get back out into the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park -- the treasure that originally lured us here. We've now spent 15 years exploring, and we feel like we've just scratched the surface. While we're always eager to take a new trail, we also appreciate re-visiting a favorite, which we did today at Big Spring.

For a few nights last August, we watched the flames of a wildfire blazing in the hills around us. It was unsettling, but this blaze was caused by a lightning strike, a purely natural phenomena. We knew the desert landscape was changing before our eyes, but it wasn't until today that we got up there to really see for ourselves.

The last time we'd hiked the trail was with our 8-year old grandson, just a little more than a year ago. As we approached Big Spring, the growth was thick and tangled, and hardly navigable. Rich and Jaxon had fun making their way into the stream, which was not an easy task (but perfect for an adventurous young visitor). I waited on the edge of the vegetation, listening as they navigated through thick underbrush back to the trail.

Today, we were stunned as we approached what had been a wild, impenetrable thicket of growth. It was gone, completely burned out, with new growth sprouting. We walked along the streambed, boots wet and muddied, marveling at the change, and grateful we'd had the opportunity to experience the two extremes.

Early Bloomer

February 5, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

A little rain, a few days of warm sunshine... Voila!A little rain, a few days of
warm sunshine... Voila!
After last week's chilly soaking, we've enjoyed a string of bright, warm, sunny days with highs near 80! That's exactly the kind of coaxing it takes to convince a few early bloomers to put on a show. As Californians know, by Valentine's Day, we're usually getting our very first hints of Spring. Sure enough, the days are noticeably longer and warming, the land has had a bit of a soak, and nature takes its cue. Lights, camera, action!

We're just starting to see the first showy color of the eager Brittlebush, thrusting its bright yellow cheer into our winter days. We're not yet sure what visual delights may be waiting on the sidelines, but the initial bloomer delights us with its cheery reminder that...

Spring is on the way!

A Day in the Life

February 3, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

Yesterday I popped awake at 6:00 A.M. and brewed a strong pot of coffee to jumpstart the busy day ahead. At 9:00 a group of 21 Cub Scouts and their parents were scheduled for a 2 1/2-hour tour, and at noon I had a 5-hour private tour. So not much breathing room! Tom, one of my driver-guides, would join me on the first excursion because we needed both big trucks. We washed and inspected the vehicles and made the necessary preparations (water, first-aid kits, satellite phones, chairs, etc.) and were ready when the Cub Scouts arrived from Fallbrook.

A smoke tree flourishes in the washA smoke tree flourishes in the washNot surprisngly, the boys took a tactile approach to experiencing the desert. They ran around the badlands, climbed rocks, picked up stones and cautiously touched the spines of an ocotillo. We let them be kids and explore in their own way, and kept the talking points to a minimum. Their boundless energy and excitement were fun to watch, though at times it was like herding cats. It was a miracle of sorts that we returned to the office on schedule with just enough time to catch our breath before the private Jeep® tour at noon.

Inside the slot canyon -- mystery!Inside the slot canyon – mystery! Our customers were an “alumni” couple who had gone with us on a camping trip and were eager to see more. Our conversations seemed effortless as we all calmly soaked in the desert, sometimes quietly introspective while we hiked up Slot Canyon. The mid-day light was so exquisite that I marveled over familiar scenery. Later, Chris commented on how varied the terrain was – we had gone from a slot canyon to a thriving palm oasis and then to a barren landscape that looked like the surface of Mars.

I was pleased that both groups got to revel in Anza-Borrego in exactly the ways that they wanted.

We got back to the office a little after 5:00, with dusk quickly turning to dark, After wrapping up a bit more business, I was more than ready for a hearty dinner and some rest and relaxation, planning for tomorrow's totally new adventures with more great people.

Mist-ical

January 25, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

While “sunny and dry” is the most-usual descriptor for our days in the desert, that's not always the case. Today, we are in the midst of a slow, drippy rain storm. It's not a dramatic, flooding gusher like we sometimes get. We can almost walk through the clouds!We can almost walk
through the clouds!
This one is quiet and steady, and it's chilly – a perfect fireplace night.

What makes it so beautiful is that the clouds are hovering so close to the earth that it feels like we could walk through them. What a sight! It's very ethereal, magical, and certainly mystical... This precious moisture is being welcomed by wildlife and plants and people. You can almost hear us all breathing a sigh of delight. It's the kind of weather that might – just might – mean we'll see wildflowers in a few weeks. We'll see!

But in the meantime, we have this. We gaze out the windows, marveling at what we see, appreciating the rare opportunity to live in a cloud...

New Perspectives

January 24, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

One aspect of my business as a desert tour guide that I love is meeting people from all over the country and world who travel to Anza-Borrego to experience the engaging mystery of the desert. I am fortunate to guide them through some of its many wonders. Along the way, they share with me their ideas, experiences, and influences. It’s an ongoing cultural exchange program

This week, I took out a photographer from Finland named Anders. By reputation, Fins are very frank and will tell you exactly what’s on their minds. Anders was “blown away” by the desert landscape, remarking on how amazing he found his experience on the tour. Today's winter rainbow on Clark Dry LakeToday's winter rainbow
on Clark Dry Lake
And I was equally blown away by his rendering of it, a photo of the cracked surface of the lakebed taken maybe eight inches off the ground with a vanishing point out to the distant mountains. It gave me a fresh perspective on something I see all the time.

Today I enjoyed the opportunity to take the assistant editor of Men’s Health Australia on a private tour. At one point, Luke said the varied scenery reminded him of the old Westerns of his childhood, and that he had never experienced vastness and silence like this before. He lives and works in Sydney – a city he finds both beautiful and exciting – but he hasn’t visited the Outback in his own country. It was a pleasure to show Luke our equivalent, especially today, when the unusual weather spawned a beautiful rainbow.

Customers often want to know how I like living in such a remote town. It doesn’t feel remote to me because I am not at all “cut off.” Indeed, it’s just the opposite – I am constantly interacting with people from around the globe, from Korea to Egypt and everywhere in between. Even when my customers come from nearby San Diego, it is still gratifying to introduce them to new perspectives, to something remarkable in their own backyards.

Big, Bold, and Beautiful

January 20, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The transformation is complete!The transformation is complete!The moment we've all been waiting for arrived last night. Our new Borrego Art Institute hosted their opening show “Big. Bold. Beautiful” to rave reviews from a huge crowd. More than 600 people poured through the brand-new doors of the beautiful building to celebrate this grand occasion, visit with each other, enjoy wine and savories, and buy the art on display.

The art is inspiring and moving and interesting and accomplished. The building is sleek and shiny and inviting and awesome.
And the comibination is exhilirating! Yes, this is Borrego Springs...Yes, this is Borrego Springs...The setting last night felt like it could have been in Manhattan -- it was that buzzy and sophisticated and lively. It's hard to believe that less than 18 months ago, the site was home to the ugly and long-abandoned building that had been the Borrego Valley Foods market, a real eyesore. No longer!

Under the watchful eye of renovation architect Richard Orne, the transformation is stunning. In his rendering, Orne stayed true to the original 1949 design of acclaimed Southern California mid-century architect William Kesling. The result leaves us speechless, proud, and delighted.

We congratulate the Borrego Art Institute and benefactors Jim and Anne Wermers for their big, bold and beautiful vision, the courage of their convictions and the determination to create such a significant community resource. The BAI plans workshops, classes, forums, and monthly shows that will draw us in again and again. We're thrilled to follow our artists, leading the way to an even better Borrego Springs!

Remembering Huell Howser

January 8, 2013
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Huell Howser, producer and host of “California's Gold” the long-running and much-loved television series about the many and various treasures of our Golden State.

We first met Huell in October of 2008 when he served as the Grand Marshal for our Borrego Days Desert Festival Parade. He stayed at the Inn for a couple of days, and we were always impressed with his generosity of spirit, quick wit, and genuine friendliness. He had so much fun at the Festival that he stayed in Borrego Springs another day! A visit with Huell HowserA visit with Huell HowserIt was during that visit that he decided to produce an hour-long “Road Trip” edition about Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and our little town of Borrego Springs.

He returned in the Spring of 2009 for a few days of production, and stayed at the Inn again. We had so much fun! He was such pleasure to be around -- uplifting and engaging and silly and smart and completely natural. His cameraman, Cameron, snapped this photo after Huell's on-camera interview with then Honorary Mayor Betsy Knaak and I (then President of the Chamber of Commerce). So many people saw that show! It's a wonderful tribute to the Park and our town.

We mourn Huell's passing and join with his many, many fans in remembering his gifts and his spirit. Thank you for everything, Huell. We miss you terribly.

New Year, New Life

January 2, 2013
by Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California
Overland Desert Excursions

On New Year’s Day, I joined my girlfriend Carey and our friend Will on a hike in Culp Valley. We were curious to see what Big Spring looked like in the aftermath of last summer’s wildfires, sparked by lightning strikes. We’d heard reports about the naturally altered landscape and wanted to experience it for ourselves.

We descended a short ridge, and a palm tree with a blackened trunk came into view near a stream wending its way over dark soil through vibrant green plants. Out of the ashes, verdant shoots of new life grew from the base of charred tree trunks. From the ashes...From the ashes...We found mushrooms and datura flowers thriving along the gurgling brook. It was rebirth after destruction, the perfect image to contemplate on New Year’s Day, one year giving way to the next.

Far from destroying it, the fire had opened up the landscape. Before the flames roared through the canyon, the stream was practically cut off by the thick vegetation growing around it. Today we could walk unimpeded past the tall cottonwoods and waterfalls, marveling at the stunning patterns imprinted by the fire’s path. The interplay of black and white on green was something we might see in Ansel Adams’ or Georgia O’Keefe’s works.

As we anxiously watched the hills burn around us on hot August nights, we knew we were witnessing the end of an era’s distinctive desert landscape. But on this crisp winter day, we were introduced to the next one, unfolding beauty in the making. It was a landscape of hope and regeneration, nature’s fitting tribute to a new beginning.

Moonset on 2012

December 31, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Very early this morning, we watched the moon set behind Indian Head Mountain, a fitting symbol as we close another year and welcome the new. Farewell and welcome – nature's cycleFarewell and welcome –
nature's cycle
The desert offers so many beautiful reminders of the ephemeral nature of life, the predictable cycles, as well as the unexpected.

This year we experienced devilish and destructive wind storms, pounding rain storms, natural wild fires sparked by lightning in the hills around us, innumerable magical sunrises and sunsets, beautiful clouds, scorching heat, and veils of humidity so thick they obscured mountain views. We've shivered in the winter cold as we've marveled under crystalline night skies, studded with stars. We've lost a few friends and gained a few new ones, celebrated accomplishments, and dreamed of those yet to come.

As the moon sets today, we're grateful for the many memorable moments and cherished friends of 2012, and wish all of us many more in 2013.

Desert Holiday

December 24, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

‘Tis the season. . . . At this time of year, we welcome a number of families and friends from all over the world who come to the Inn to spend this special time together. It's always such a pleasure to see them laughing, discussing excursions and dining plans, The heart of the seasonThe heart of the seasonsharing tea and cookies by the fireplace, telling stories, catching up with each other, and just plain relaxing.

As 2012 comes to a close, we reflect on how many special people we've met, many of them first-time visitors, and many more of them long-time guests we've come to know well over the years. We consider it a real privilege, one of the “perks” of being innkeepers here, to welcome them.

May our hearts be full of love and compassion as we connect with those we hold dear and celebrate the spirit of the season.

Wildflowers This Spring?

December 20, 2012
By Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

This time of year those of us in the Borrego tourism business start paying close attention to the weather and praying to the rain gods. Rain in December and January (preceded as well by fall rains) Wildflower enthusiasts!Wildflower enthusiasts!can mean bountiful spring flowers, but not always. Unseasonably cold weather or or too much rain can interfere with a good bloom.

It’s like a recipe with the same ingredients that turns out differently each time. Throw in some sunshine, some rain, some warmth – all artfully timed – and voila, a beautiful batch; or not. But Mother Nature (especially under the influence of humankind, who, among other things,has introduced Saharan mustard to the recipe) is a temperamental chef. You don’t know what she’s going to serve up. For instance, in 2010, conditions led to a wonderful year for desert lilies. Holy Grail of wildflowersHoly Grail of wildflowersNormally considered the holy grail of wildflowers, the desert lilies were instead abundant. Then in 2011, the lilies were back to their elusive selves, while verbena (which had a poor showing in 2010) thrived. Spring of 2012 had very few flowers.

As I watched the mild rains last week, I hoped it spelled a good omen for spring wildflowers. In what other tourism business do you actually wish for rain? However, it is certainly a conditional wish – “Please rain, but not on Sunday, when I have two tours...” In winter when a tour gets rained out, I console myself by knowing it’s an investment in the future.

So, like many Borregans, I’m watching the interplay of precipitation, temperature, and sunshine, wondering what feast Mother Nature is cooking up for us.

In Search of Bailey's Cabin

November 26, 2012
by Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

On a crisp autumn day, we set out on a reconnaissance mission. The objective: to find Bailey's cabin, a former cattleman's dwelling that is still intact and located in upper Coyote Canyon. The crew: my girlfriend and a few friends. Beautiful -- and impassable!Beautiful -- and impassable!The purpose: primarily to entertain ourselves (let's be honest), while also scouting the route for a future California Overland excursion. The first time we tried to find it was last spring, with what we learned was a poorly-marked map. This time we had the GPS coordinates, so we were sure to succeed.

After a picnic lunch at Sheep Canyon, we set off, excited, for the adventure at hand. At the beginning of Middle Willows, we hiked past bobcat tracks impressed into the streambed. We expected undergrowth, palm trees and a barely-visible trail at times. This time around, however, the undergrowth had become so thick it was impassable. Complicating matters, summer thunderstorms had caused landsides, obliterating the side trail. It was a one-two punch from Mother Nature. A sight rarely seen in the desert, the valley was choked off by a massive stretch of green, thriving plants.

Ascending the rocky ridgeAscending the rocky ridgeTo higher ground, we said. We scrambled up boulders and around cactus to get a better view. We hoped to hike along the rocky slope until we were close to Bailey's Cabin and then cut back down into the valley. Unfortunately, daylight was burning and boulder scrambling is not a quick way to travel. We looked down at the glorious stretch of green that dazzled the senses but unfortunately also blocked the way. In the other direction, our two yellow Jeeps were no more than dots in the chiseled landscape. What had started as an adventure with a particular aim in mind (and GPS in hand) morphed into an appreciation for the ever-changing nature of this incredible Park.

Evening Fire

November 24, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Warmed by the glow...Warmed by the glow...We can feel winter's approach as the days get ever shorter. About now, the sun dips below Indian Head well before 5 P.M., casting the Santa Rosa mountains in dramatic bronze shadows. We remember summer's long sunsets, with dusk at poolside lasting well past 8 P.M. But things have changed! As we edge toward December, we turn to other evening pleasures -- an outdoor fire to warm us from the chill.

Tonight was our first of the season, shared with a dear friend visiting from the city. The air was clear and cool as we struck the match and lit the fire, pulling our camp chairs in close to the chiminea. The late autumn dusk welcomed us, and we enjoyed a perfect blend of moonlight, starlight, firelight, and friendship.

Tarantula's Risky Romance

November 20, 2012
by Joe Raffetto, Guide and Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

On our way to camp at the Clark Homestead site, a blurry, dark movement caught my eye. I stopped the truck and, sure enough, it was what I thought: Tarantula promenadeTarantula promenadea tarantula ambling along the dirt wash. Fall is tarantula mating season, and we sometimes see males out wandering, looking for females hidden in burrows.

My customers craned their heads in delight to watch the brown, hairy spider’s slow stroll. The tarantula’s first and third legs on one side of its body move at the same time as the second and fourth legs on the other side. This makes it look like the tarantula is slow-motion tiptoeing, with its body going along for the ride.

I put the truck in gear and wished him well on his romantic quest. I also hoped he’d be spared a potentially nightmarish fate – an encounter with the beautiful but deadly wasp called a tarantula hawk.

Beautiful but deadly Tarantula HawkBeautiful but deadly Tarantula HawkThe female tarantula hawk paralyzes tarantulas with neurotoxin and then uses them as hosts for her offspring. If the victim is female, the wasp moves her back into her own burrow. If the victim is male, the wasp will drag the spider, sometimes hundreds of yards, to a burrow already dug by the wasp. Then the wasp lays an egg onto the living tarantula’s abdomen, seals the burrow and moves on to find other prey.

In the dark burrow, the larva hatches and sucks the spider’s fluids for sustenance. As the larva grows bigger, it eventually bores its way into the tarantula’s body, feeding off the spider but keeping it alive by avoiding vital organs. Once the tarantula hawk reaches adulthood, it tears through its natal cavity (the tarantula’s abdomen), finally dealing the fatal blow.

It’s an ironic twist of nature. The romantic tarantula’s stroll can turn quickly into a death march. And the wasp that starts life in such a violent and carnivorous way then turns to flowers and fruit for sustenance as an adult.

November Sunrise

November 15, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Not a bad way to start the dayNot a bad way to start the dayGlance through the posts, and it's easy to see that we're always fascinated by the skies around here. While most months offer us day after day of "boring old blue" skies, we become entranced when clouds move in. That's when the magic happens -- and that's what happened this morning.

Just as the coffee was finishing brewing, we noticed a strong rosy light that seemed to permeate the atmosphere, even inside. We looked out, and sure enough, the collision of the morning cloud cover and the rising sun had produced a spectacular sunrise. It was ephemeral, lasting only a moment or two before the arc of the sun changed the magical equation, but we enjoyed an inspiring and beautiful start to the day.

Art at the Inn

November 10, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Start hereStart hereThis weekend we've welcomed five noted outdoor landscape painters to the inn for a few days of comraderie and painting. Our friend Saim Caglayan invited John Burton, Scott Burdick, Ken Auster, and Mark Kerckhoff to "come paint the last of the warm autumn light," and that's what they've been doing for the past few days.

A few of them had never visited or painted in the desert, so it was a special treat to see them create memorable art right on the spot. We watched their canvases go from "blank" to "painting" within a few hours. We were a bit worried when we saw the forecast for their visit -- cloudy and windy -- but they seemed thrilled. "Clouds!" exclaimed Saim. "We love to paint clouds!" Mother Nature cooperated, giving the The scene takes shapeThe scene takes shapeartists three days of dramatic skies. (She also threw in a lot of wind, but they didn't seem to mind the challenge -- even though there may be more than a few grains of desert sand in the paintings!)

John Burton was so mesmerized by the vistas all around the Inn that he camped out for nearly a day out front in our driveway, capturing the scenery. He said, "I can't stop painting! I could stay right in this spot for days and find so many different scenes to paint, it's amazing."

That was fine with us. We enjoyed peeking in on his progress. Art inspired by natureArt inspired by natureLater, we'd hang fresh art, still wet, and welcome the community for a sales reception. Nearly 100 Borregans and visitors stopped by the Inn to see the latest work and visit with the artists, have a glass of wine, and sample chef Pamela's savory creations.

Great art, great people, great party!

Getting Close!

November 9, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

First rocks, then plantsFirst rocks, then plantsThrough the hot summer months, we watched in awe as the long-abandoned Borrego Valley Foods building on Christmas Circle started turning from an ugly duckling into a graceful swan. The transformation is now nearly complete, and the result is beautiful and inspiring. There's still plenty of finishing details on the inside, including construction for the Red Ocotillo bar and restaurant, which will be co-located in the building with the Borrego Art Institute. But it's getting closer to finished by the day.

Today, shoppers at our Friday Farmers Market were stopped in our tracks as a massive truck with a huge dump chute pulled up to the front of the building. The chute went up, and within minutes, massive boulders --an integral part of the landscape design -- came tumbling out with a roar and fell to the ground. So that's how they deliver those things!

It was an exciting moment, and we're eagerly watching the landscape take shape. The Borrego Art Institute fund-raiser is next Saturday evening, and we're anticipating making our contribution to such a significant improvement in our village. Kudos to the Borrego Art Institute Board of Directors for the vision and courage to make it a reality. What a community treasure!

Cowboys and Aliens -- Anza-Borrego Style

October 28, 2012
by Joe Raffetto, Guide & Owner
California Overland Desert Excursions

Our most popular excursion for visitors begins with a stop at Clark Dry Lake. Even though I've taken people there too many times to count, the area still fascinates me. As I look out at the dry lakebed’s vast expanse, where distance and perspective are deceiving, it strikes me how one historical era transforms into the next. You can find traces of bygone days leading back to Native Americans, cattlemen, World War II and deep-space studies.

Clark Dry Lake & Santa Rosa Mountains - June SunsetClark Dry Lake & Santa Rosa Mountains - June Sunset

As a licensed concessionaire of the state park, California Overland is granted rare access to the area. Though anyone can hike through it, only rangers and licensed concessionaires can drive across Clark Dry Lake to the rake stations and the homestead site on the far side, where we frequently host camping trips.

There are petroglyphs and other evidence of Indian habitation, such as the rock houses, nearby. The Clark brothers were cattlemen here in the early 1900s, and the remains of their cabin are tucked behind sand dunes and tamarisk trees near the base of the Santa Rosa mountains. On the lakebed itself, visitors find evidence of fighter-plane practice dating back to World War II. A "rake" station at Clark Dry Lake -- guess what it was used for?A “rake” station at Clark Dry Lake -- guess what it was used for?Imagine a P-40 Warhawk with its signature shark mouth painted on the nose, swooping down, machine gun at the ready, target in sight, and the roar of its engine breaking the desert silence.

Or, visualize an array of 720 antennas, together listening far into deep space from the dry lakebed, while the rest of the country listened to Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. The Clark Lake Radio Observatory lasted until 1986, when a lapse in funding did it in. It was the only radio observatory of its kind outside of the Soviet Union and was used to search for quasars, pulsars, other celestial objects – even sounds of extraterrestrial origin.

For me, finding so much history right here in the “middle of nowhere” boggles the mind.

A Favorite Tradition

October 26, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Time to greet friends and start the season!Time to greet friends
and start the season!
It's the Friday of Borrego Days weekend, and that means one thing -- the annual Rotary Breakfast kick-off to the festivities. We haven't missed one in the ten years we've lived here! They open at 6:30 am, and it seems the whole town turns out for what is considered to be the first official "welcome back" of the season. We happily line up for a buffet of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, fruit, pastries. and coffee -- all catered by local favorite, Kendall's Cafe and served with a smile by Rotary volunteers.

We breathe a collective sigh of anticipation in the cool morning air, see old friends just back from summer travels, and simply enjoy each other's company for a while. We shared a table today with Dori Holladay, the esteemed Chair of the Festival, who was beaming with delight at the fun to come. It's a lovely way to start a celebratory weekend, everyone is in high spirits, and the Santa Rosas look glorious in the early morning llight.

The pleasures of life in a small town are simple and authentic, and the annual Rotary Breakfast this morning was certainly one of them!

Transformation on Christmas Circle

October 25, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The Bprregp Art Institute's new homeThe Bprregp Art Institute's
new home
If you haven't been to Borrego Springs since last spring, you are in for a real surprise when you return this season. That old, vacant, dilapidated eyesore of a building on the west side of Christmas Circle that sat abandonded for years is coming to life as the sleek, newly-renovated home ofthe Borrego Art Institute. What a beauty it's shaping up to be!

We watched the painstaking transformation happen all summer. The roof was completed during an incredible hot spell -- we don't know how the crews managed, but they did. There's a sweep pf windows, letting in light and views, and vaulted ceilings give the building a sense of spaciousness. There will be plenty of room for art display, classes, and offices, and even a restaurant and bar-- the popular Red Ocotillo. It's expected that the building will open shortly after the first of the year, and it's certain to become a favorite destination for visitors and residents.

Outside, there will be fresh new desert landscaping and plenty of patio seating to enjoy the views and ambience, day and night. This is a wonderful thing for our town, and it's causing quite the buzz. Now other businesses along Palm Canyon Drive are sprucing up buildings and landscaping in a much-needed and appreciated beautification effort. It's time for Borrego Springs to shine again, and we tip our hats to the Borrego Art Institute Board of Directors for having the gumption, will and enthusiasm to pull it off.

Stand by to be impressed and delighted!

Great Coffee

October 23, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Have another cup?Have another cup?We admit it. We're coffee lovers -- good coffee lovers. That's why we serve the outstanding and flavorful coffees from Equator Estate (www.equatorcoffees.com), a premier roasting company in San Rafael, California. They provide elite coffee blends to some of the very finest establishments in the country (like Napa's famed French Laundry restaurant). Yes, it costs plenty, but why compromise on coffee? Not on our watch!

We've gotten used to hearing, "Wow, you've got great coffee!" and that makes us happy. Many guests tell us that they daydream at home about sitting in the arcade with a piping hot cup of our coffee, catching the morning sun and watching the bunnies at play. That's quite a testament, and that's why there's always a fresh pot waiting, especially around our 4pm cookie service.

Great coffee is one of life's little pleasures, and we love starting every day with a smile and our favorite java. And we've got plenty of company to share it with!

First Morning Fire

October 21, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Make yourself comfy!Make yourself comfy!It was cool enough this morning to light the fireplaces! Hard to believe just two weeks ago we were sure summer would never end. But today, there's no question. That chill in the air (did we actually say "chill?") is re-invigorating us. We're busy changing out cool summer wardrobes for warmer choices. We can't wait to climb back into our jeans, pull on the boots, and hit the trails, and we'll need sweaters for crisp mornings and evening star gazing. Thrilling thoughts!

There's something magical about early autumn desert mornings like this one. The rising sun casts a rich bronze light on Indian Head, and the welcoming glow of the morning fire draws us in. And if we've got a great cup of coffee (which we do!), well, there's just no better way to start the day.

A Knitter's Dream

October 2, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

FinishedNorosweater-revNow it's finished, what's next?Knitting has become my new addiction, thanks to Karen Bobren, proprietor of On Pins & Needles in The Mall. Over the past two years, Karen has transformed her shop into a knitter's dream. The wall cubbies are loaded with beautiful yarns from all over the world -- wools, blends, novelty, chunky, silky, variegated, textured, all in a riot of color. It's easy to get lost in the variety, dreaming of the scarf or sweater or hat that would be "just perfect" in that yarn. . .

I hadn't knitted for years, but Karen's gentle encouragement got me started again, and I have to say that I'm hooked (and Rich would agree!) Most Wednesday afternoons this past summer, I joined "Sit & Knit," a weekly circle of friendly knitters that convenes in Karen's workshop. We loved seeing progress on our different projects and enjoyed sharing tips and tricks. And Karen, who knows everything there is to know about knitting, crocheting, quilting, and other crafts, is a generous and helpful mentor.

When she started unpacking her new Noro yarn from Japan, I bought some right out of the box to make a cozy hooded sweater. All summer, I had a bundle of wool in my lap, slowly stitching my way to the goal. I've just finished it, and now I can't wait for cooler weather to wear it! I have a hunch this will be my new "go to" winter jacket. And now that it's complete, I can indulge in the fun of dreaming of what's next. Thank you Karen!

Re-Inventing Breakfast

September 27,2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Pamela Levens, our new chefPamela Levens, our new chefGuests have always appreciated our in-season breakfast buffet because it's fresh and tasty. Luisa's fresh-cut fruit salad and our homemade carrot and banana nut breads and scones are standard favorites. But starting this weekend, we'll serve our new Badlands Breakfast, created and prepared by our new chef, Pamela Levens. This is something to be excited about!

If you visited Borrego Springs between 2000 and 2006, you might have visited the Badlands Cafe and Market, in the space where Calico's now is. Pamela owned and operated the Badlands, and it was an extremely popular deli-style eatery because of her exceptional artistry and dedication to fresh, original preparations that had us coming back for more. When Pamela closed the Badlands to keep up with the demands of her family, we were crushed. Pamela continued to cater private events, but we all missed dashing into the Badlands for one of her delicious breakfast paninis or Morrocan chicken salad sandwiches.

We can't believe our good fortune because now Pamela is at home in our kitchen, busily re-inventing our breakfast menu. And we mean re-inventing! Pamela is planning rotating menus, featuring different items every day. As we prepare for our first breakfasts of the season, we've been delightfully overwhelmed by tantalizing smells coming from the kitchen.

We'll serve up potato-chorizo tacos with homemade salsa verde, yogurt-pear parfaits with homemade granola, mango and pineapple slices with freshly-made prickly pear sauce, our homemade breads, and fresh squeezed limeade with hibiscus-- and that's just Saturday! On Sunday, we'll feast on bagel bread pudding with goat cheese, grilled sausages and peppers, strawberries with lavender and honey, and orange-carrot juice. Hungry yet?

We're thrilled to welcome Pamela to the Borrego Valley Inn team, and we think you'll enjoy the delicious Badlands Breakfast start to your days in the desert. And yes, of course, help yourself to seconds!

Proud Supporters of the Park

September 16, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Anza-Borrego Foundation PartnerWe are happy to announce that the Inn has become an official 2013 sponsor of the Anza-Borrego Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to acquire land for conservation in and around the Park, educate the public on its resources, and support research relevant to our region.

We are ardent fans of the Park and have logged many happy hours and miles exploring the geography, geology, flora and fauna. It was the Park that first captured our souls and spirits -- so much so that we chose to get married at Fonts Point. Our love of the Park eventually led us to our passion -- operating the Inn as a special place to host and introduce others to the desert's magic and mystery. So our partnership with the Anza-Borrego Foundation is fitting, and one we are delighted to be part of. Find out more about the mission and excellent programs offered by ABF here.

Sunny and Dry at last!

September 14, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Ahhh! This is more like itAhhh! This is more like itOur spirits have lifted as the monsoonal weather that has blanketed us for the past two weeks evaporates. At last! The change has brought clear blue skies, sunshine ,milder temperatures, low humidity and our sanity back. Some people find it hard to believe that humidity (sometimes lots of it) is part of the desert summer. It doesn't happen every day, but it starts sneaking in around mid-July and can get especially intense for brief periods from mid-August into September, when summer storms threaten. Some days we can't even see the mountains, the veil of moisture is so thick. And when it's hot, too. . . .well, it can be oppressive.

But then it breaks, like today. We woke to familiar sunny views, and we're all exclaiming about how wonderful it is. The sometimes extreme desert weather is an experience we Borregans share, and it's always a topic of conversation at the Post Office and Center Market. Today, there are plenty of smiles, and we're hearing, "isn't it a beautiful day?" all over town. We expect to continue to dry out as the summer wanes.

Yellow Watermelon?

September 2, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

All summer, we've enjoyed being part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) experiment. With the end of our beloved Friday Farmers Market looming late last spring, the enterprising Tish Wagoner (of Tish's Health & Herbs) got together with Eli's Farm to deliver fresh organic produce to us twice a month from June through mid-October. Have you ever had a yellow watermelon? Neither had we!Have you ever had a yellow watermelon? Neither had we!The program has been warmly received -- sometimes Eli delivers nearly 70 boxes to little Borrego Springs! At 7 AM every other Wednesday, we all show up at Tish's to take away our prize -- and there's always a surprise inside!

We've had fun trying new recipes (we discovered that grilled kohlrabi is delicious!) and planning summer meals around what's in the box. We love having finely chopped chard in our scrambled eggs (along with feta cheese), and the fresh greens are gone in a flash in our daily salads. We were expecting to see bright red when we cut into what we though was a "regular" watermelon -- only to find it was yellow! We'd never had a yellow watermelon! But let me tell you, it is sublimely delicious. Can't wait to see what's in our next box!

Green Ocotillo

September 1, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Much of the year, conserving energy when there's little water, our iconic ocotillo plants are brown and dry. Observing the apparently lifeless brown branches, many people assume they are dead. That would be a mistake. The desert ocotillo is the best example of A little rain, and POW!A little rain, and POW!an opportunist, taking advantage of resources when they are available and doing something with them.

We've had some good drenchings the past two weeks, and all those "lifeless stick bushes" were quickly covered in lush, bright green leaves. It's a beautiful sight at this point in the summer, reminding us that looks can be deceiving. Somehow they know to hold on to their bright lipstick red blooms until it's spring. But for now, the ocotillo forests are green.

Then the Skies Opened!

August 30, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

This morning, there was only a "slight chance of rain," according to the forecast. We saw a few clouds with our morning coffee, but we've gotten used to that, especially during this hot, muggy August when we've been teased so many time by the hint of rain. So we didn't pay much attention.

A few hours later, the clouds were massive, and we were looking at a flash flood warning. The ominous skies opened up at 1 pm, just as we were closing the office. By the time I made it to the car, just a few steps away in the parking lot, I was drenched. Run for cover! Now!Run for cover! Now!My windshield wipers could not keep up with the deluge during the drive down Palm Canyon to the Post Office, and I got even wetter on my short walk in to collect the mail. It was intense, serious rain for more than an hour, and the temperature fell into the 80's -- a big dip. Then it started clearing, and by late afternoon, it was all over.

If you're used to being here when it's dry and sunny (which it is, most of the time), it's hard to grasp the concept of floods in the desert and just how much water we can get in the valley. Floods are what create the slot canyons, washes, and other desert "water features." It happens ferociously during storms like today's, and more gently with the long, soaking winter rains. Average rainfall here is a mere 6.5 inches, but the ways we get that can be quite dramatic.

August Storm Teaser

August 21, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Threatening clouds, deafening thunder – maybe some rain?Threatening clouds, deafening
thunder – maybe some rain?
How can the thunder be so loud, and the clouds so threatening, yet we get no rain? It’s all part of the drama of the desert. While we’re getting no rain here at the moment, the radar shows that Ocotillo Wells is getting a pounding – yet once again this summer.

There’s a flash flood watch in effect today – and that’s serious business in these parts. Massive floods are responsible for all the desert washes and slot canyons, and they move swiftly and with enormous force.

But still. . . . no rainfall in our neighborhood. Just the tantalizing hope that maybe we’ll get wet, with no damage. But as we’ve learned over the years – there’s really “no telling” when it comes to nature.

Summer Rain -- At Last!

July 30, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The gift of summer rainThe gift of summer rainAt the height of summer, after countless dry days, we get excited and heartened when we see storm clouds building. Often, the clouds darken, the winds blow, and we’re sure we’re going to get wet. But just as often, the clouds break up and move on, leaving us without a drop, to keep wishing – and perfecting our rain dance steps.

But not today! The storm clouds are actually giving us rain, sweet rain.

The desert’s summer rain is different than winter rain, when the temperatures are much cooler, and we may see snow on the mountains. The summer rain comes when it’s hot and welcome. The smell of scorched earth getting moisture is unmistakably metallic in nature. The creosote give off their distinctive odor, and the resulting herbal aroma is heady. We can almost feel the plants breathing, and sighing in relief. Desert wildlife rejoice, too, running for puddles to sip and bathe in.

In a few days, we expect to see the ocotillos green, awaking from dormancy at the first drops of welcome moisture. And we’ll keep scanning the skies and doing that rain dance, hoping for another downpour.

Flag Day

June 14, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Old Glory on Palm Canyon DriveOld Glory on Palm Canyon DriveIt's Flag Day, and thanks to the members of Borrego Springs' American Legion Post 853, Palm Canyon Drive shows a stirring display of our beautiful flag.

On special days like this and Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, the Legion lines the Drive with American flags – a potent visual reminder of our great country and all it stands for, in good times and bad.

Thank you Post 853 for helping us remember how incredibly fortunate we are to experience life in the Land of the Free.

Night Light

May 5, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The desert night invites us out.The desert night invites us out.We can feel it happening, the slow advance of summer, the longer days and rising solar intensity, reminders of what’s to come – heat, mostly dry and invigorating, but sometimes heavy with moisture and misery.

This time of year, it’s all about the pleasures of the night -- and it really helps to have a pool! Floating around and playing in the water is a relaxing way to witness sunset. Later, it’s truly divine to float, just pondering the universe, experiencing the Milky Way.

After the searing daytime sun, the dark calls us out to enjoy balmy breezes, moonrises, and shooting stars. In the summer desert, lifestyle is decidedly after dark.

Just One Day

April 15, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

A fleeting sight. Enjoy it now!A fleeting sight. Enjoy it now!As human beings, we are known to sometimes put an astonishing amount of time, effort, and energy into planning and executing a one-day special event. The weddings, the Olympic opening ceremonies, the concerts, the surprise birthday celebrations, the bon voyage and graduation and anniversary parties, the memorial gatherings. These moments occur in a short, intense burst, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end, never to be repeated.

Are we crazy? Yes, sometimes. But then, nature must be crazy, too, because the same phenomenon routinely occurs there. And there’s no better example than the mind-boggling show than the night-blooming cereus cactus presents, sometimes several times a year. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightblooming_cereus). Often called the “Queen of the Night” (and for good reason!), it blooms after midnight, and the delicately-scented flowers last for just one day.

Here’s what we found this morning on our front doorstep, to the delight of our guests, who ran for their cameras:

Tomorrow, the blooms will be gone. But today, we’ll marvel at this riotous act of natural optimism, the miraculous planning and effort it took to grace us with such fleeting beauty. Crazy? Maybe. Memorable? Yes. Astounding? For certain.

The Bunny Was Here

April 8, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Did The Bunny do this?Did The Bunny do this?Some of the most visible and abundant desert wildlife are the rabbits. The cute little cottontails and the amazingly nimble jack rabbits never fail to amuse us with their antics. We love watching baby cottontails play with each other, spinning and leaping and dashing about. And we never cease to marvel at the preposterously large ears of the jacks -- how on earth do they make it around with those things?

Appropriate to the day, we're pleased to see that The Special Bunny made it to the Inn last night and brightened this morning's breakfast table. Guests seemed to enjoy the surprise almost as much as watching the bunnies.

Fonts Point Sunrise

March 25, 2012
By Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

We lived for a decade in the middle of bustling Santa Monica, in a townhouse within walking distance of no less than six Starbucks and 30 movie screens.

So why on earth would we want to move to this tiny, barren desert town, an hour from any freeway? No Starbucks, no Thai food, no spur-of-the-moment movie dates. No shopping malls, no traffic. Heck, not even any stoplights.

Instead, we have this --

Greeted by a glorious sunrise, framing our wedding chapel, Fonts PointGreeted by a glorious sunrise, framing our wedding chapel, Fonts Point

Now I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of times when I deeply miss the friends, social life, and amenities that we enjoyed back on the coast. We visit once a year to see friends and go to a few favorite restaurants. But we find life here is very full and rewarding, close to nature with scenic views, acres of wilderness all around, the ultimate balm for stressed souls

Here, finding solitude, pondering night skies, and hiking on pristine desert trails are part of daily life. And there’s a vibrant little community under the surface, a very wide network of talented and generous people who care about the future of our town. We’ve been very active, serving on Boards and working on committees, and have delighted in finding so many like-minded friends. Two of our dearest friends moved here several years ago from – Santa Monica! Never met them there, but found them easily here. Here, people know who you are, we engage in easy banter at the Post Office and Center Market. Different – and in a nice way.

And this morning, we open our bedroom curtains to this magnificent view of Fonts Point, the place we married on December 14, 2002. How special it is to witness our wedding chapel, first thing every morning, and remember. . .

Blooming with Art

March 24, 2012
By Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Every March, the desert blooms with art.Every March, the desert
blooms with art.
It’s the end of March, and there’s no denying that spring is in the air. Winter fades from memory as the light changes, the days lengthen, and the sun warms. We start to crave trading hiking boots and trail shoes for flip flops and sandals. Sometimes, if we’ve had rain, there is a colorful (and fleeting) wildflower display. But not this year – it was more dry than wet this winter, and though there are a few blooms, they are generally hiding in canyons.

Flowers, or not, we welcome Spring by blooming with art. On the first spring weekend for the past twenty years, the Circle of Art has transformed Christmas Circle into an inviting outdoor gallery, an artists' celebration of creativity, reflecting the natural beauty of the fair season.

They display one-of-a-kind paintings, photographs, jewelry, textiles, sculptures, carvings, pottery, clothing, and more. There’s music and a few food vendors, and the atmosphere is light and lively. Visitors come to soak it all in, look and wonder, and purchase new treasures. It’s a feast for eyes and soul, a reminder of our collective and individual genius and brilliance. The arrival of Spring deserves no less.

New Life on the Circle

March 23, 2012
By Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Fridays are always great days, at least from late October through May, because Friday is our Farmers Market day. Christmas Circle becomes the busy hub of a growing network of farmers offering fresh and organic produce and meats, flowers and shrubs, herbs and honey, and avocado tamales. The popular event is also a community gathering, a place to see friends and neighbors and catch up a bit while stocking up for the week.

Architect Richard Orne gives a thumbs up on the construction surveyArchitect Richard Orne gives a thumbs up on the construction surveyToday was like that, only better. Because in the background, at the southwest corner of Palm Canynon Drive and Christmas Circle, on the roof of the abandoned and long-shuttered Borrego Valley Food Market building, was a renovation team performing a construction survey.

This is major news for Borrego Springs! It's finally happened. The long-standing eyesore, which once was the hub of community life from the 1950's through the mid-80's, will have new life. The building has been purchased by the Borrego Art Institute to house their gallery, new classrooms. and offices. Demolition is slated to begin shortly, and the Institute plans to open its stunning new home by early 2013.

The renovation will honor the building's original mid-century modern design, but will incorporate new methods, materials and techniques appropriate to the desert climate. The building will also include a restaurant with outdoor patio seating, and possibly a small retail space. The new enterprise is expected to generate a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for both the Borrego Art Institute and the community. Not only will it enrich our lives and vastly improve the view downtown from Christmas Circle, it will give us a place for morning coffee on our way to the Farmer's Market. We're looking forward to it!

Spring? What Spring?

March 19, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Springtime Snow on San YsidroSpringtime Snow on San YsidroThe calendar tells us the vernal equinox will occur in a few days, ushering in the Spring. But not this year. Organizers had to postpone the annual Circle of Art as we rode out a powerful winter storm this past weekend, with plumetting temperatures, winds, and rain. Brrrr! There was snow up in Ranchita, and as the storm clouds cleared this morning, we woke to snow on San Ysidro. This is a sight we don't see too often because the snow line us usually at much higher elevations. So it's cold!

We understand a warming trend is on the way, and Circle of Art has been re-scheduled to this coming weekend. In the meantime, we're stoking the fire, piling on the fleece, and the hot chocolate tastes great. Spring will wait for another day.

Farmers Market Friday

March 16, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Who could resist those strawberries?Who could resist those strawberries?Our Friday Farmers Market is something we look forward to all week. Starting at 7 AM, Christmas Circle becomes a cornucopia for all kinds of delectables. Oodles of fresh produce prompt on-the-spot recipe exchanges ("How do you cook chard?"), the flower stand inspires creative arrangements, the tamale booth calls us (perfect for lunch!), and the breads and sweets sorely tempt us. We find honey and herbs and plants and grass-fed meats, all sourced andbeautifully presented by area farmers, some who drive more than two hours to get here! The market is home to an artistic bunch of entrepreneurs who offer handmade crafts, soaps, jewelry, notecards, and clothing. It feels like the whole town, residents and visitors alike, turns out for Friday morning's treasure hunt!

The market ends for the season on Memorial Day, but that means we've got more than two months ahead. Today we found the first of the season's strawberries, looking luscious and sure to be bursting with flavor. They'll be on the breakfast table in the morning!

Pot of Gold

January 16, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

That pot of gold must be there somewhere!That pot of gold must be there somewhere!Living as we do in this small town, surrounded by 680,000 acres of pristine desert wilderness, we get to see things that not everybody does. The fleeting images of mother nature at work are often amusing (baby bunnies at play), inspiring (meteor showers), startling (a rattlesnake gliding UP a tree, hunting for eggs), and jaw-dropping -- like what we saw this morning.

A welcome winter storm has buffeted and chilled us with windy storms, clouds and rain. But this morning as the sun rose, the clouds parted just enough at just the right time for the rays to shoot through, giving us a glorious rainbow. If we weren't at the right place at the right time, we wouldn't have gotten to see it at all. It stopped the few who saw it in their tracks, knowing it would last only seconds, or minutes at best. Our long-time Guest Host Kathy Pratt was on her way to work, had her camera handy, and captured the essence of this one-of-a-kind moment.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2012
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Today, we indulge. Resolutions start tomorrow!Today, we indulge.
Resolutions start tomorrow!
On New Year's Day, there's no bigger pleasure than the first cup of our delicious Equator Estate Iguana Blend coffee. Ahh... The new year starts on the right note. And to make that pleasure even better, we treat ourselves to one of our homemade scones -- with butter and jam. Oh my!

Luisa makes them right in our kitchen, some with apricots, some with raisins, and the whole place smells like a bakery (lucky us!). Golden brown, with a subtle sprinkle of sugar on top, the scones do a quick disappearing act from the breakfast table.

Our New Year's resolutions can start tomorrow. Welcome 2012! We hope you're as appealing and satisfying as our freshly baked scones.

Holiday Warmth

December 24, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

A Cozy Christmas EveA Cozy Christmas EveIt's Christmas Eve, and we're deep in winter's darkness. The sun sets behind Indian Head in the late afternoon, and nighttime temperatures can fall into the low 40's, so we must bundle up to enjoy the clear, crisp night air and stars that sparkle like diamonds on a field of lapis velvet. Inside, we find comfort, warmth, and cheer in front of the fire, and cookies and hot chocolate warm body and spirit.

Soon we'll close this year and welcome the next. But tonight it's time to relax with each other, reflect, and bask in the cozy intimacy of this peaceful and beautiful night. Our warmest holiday wishes!

First Snow

November 5, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Winter already?Winter already?Wait a minute! Just days ago, we were sure summer was never going to end, and we were in the pool. Today, after a brief storm blew through last night, we see snow on Rabbit Peak, we've pulled out our fleece, and we're laying a fire for later tonight. Just like that! With the start of winter still six weeks away, we're wondering what's in store for the rest of the autumn.

But desert weather can be accurately described as "capricious," so we're not surprised by extremes. Who knows? We could very well be back on our pool floats tomorrow afternoon.

Star Parties

October 27, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

The 19th annual NightFall gathering of Southern California amateur astronomers opens today over at Palm Canyon Resort. As California's first and only certified "Dark-Sky Community," designated by the International Dark Sky Association, it is fitting that Borrego Springs host such a gathering. There will be a big crowd, with telescopes, of course, to observe, learn, and just plain mavvel at the galaxy above.

A cozy homebase for star gazingA cozy homebase for star gazingWe're so fortunate that seeing stars is a routine part of our lives here. We welcome so many visitors who admit they had "forgotten what the stars look like" because most of our communities are surrounded by creeping light pollution from giant mall parking lots, brighly lit auto malls, and glaring video billboards. Here, the biggest competition for the stars occurs on full moon nights!

We welcome visitors from the Riverside Astronomical Society, and we congratulate them on this occasion. We're happy to have you with us, and even more, we're thrilled that you appreciate the treasure of our dark night skies.

Borrego Days Desert Festival

October 22, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

For nearly 50 years, our community has pulled out all the stops for the Borrego Days Desert Festival, a late-October weekend of events and festivities celebrating our survival through months of triple-digit temperatures and the start of the cooler season ahead. Things start bight and early Friday morning, with the annual Rotary Club breakfast, a hugely popular event. Friday evening, we gather at the High School for the Miss Borrego Springs pageant and the installation of the new Honorary Mayor (who is required to promise, "no stoplights during my tenure!")

On Saturday, we're up and out early to get a good vantage point for the hometown parade. Lined up on Palm Canyon Drive, crowds are jovial and relaxed as the opening "fly over" Local dancers on parade. Local dancers on parade. pilots buzz overhead. The color guard, floats, marching bands, equestrians, flag twirlers, unicyclists, and clowns bring smiles to our faces and shrieks of delight from the youngsters.

After the parade, we all head over to Christmas Circle to enjoy the array of games, food and craft booths, and plenty of live music. The American Legion Beer Garden is a favorite stop, especially with a piping hot sandwich we get from the Philly Cheesteak booth. Even with Louie the Lightning BugLouie the Lightning Bugtemperatures in the mid-90's today, we're ready to shake off summer's torpor. We revel in the milder weather, visit with friends and neighbors, and anticipate the coming months. The music continues into the night, and there's more to enjoy on Sunday, too.

It's a cherished tradition, something of an anomaly in these times of Twitter and Facebook. It's old-fashioned, a little tired and corny, and extremely comforting at the same time.

Autumn's Wildflowers

October 10, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Rich was one happy hiker!Rich was one happy hiker!After summer’s heat, this morning’s decidedly cooler temperatures lured us out for a hike, and we went up to the Wilson Trail. It felt so good to be back outside and on the trails again after a summer hiatus, trading our flip flops for hiking boots.

We relish the idea of the cooler desert season ahead so we can spend more time out in the Park. We’ve been at it for more than a decade, and there’s always something new to discover – we just have to keep our eyes open.

Yes, there are wildflowers in the fall!Yes, there are wildflowers
in the fall!
After a desert summer, you would not expect to see wildflowers in bloom, would you? Neither did we. We expect to see blooms in February and March if we’ve been blessed by winter storms. But October? We might have missed this unexpected display of autumn wildflowers, but we’re glad we didn’t.

Hold on to your Hair!

October 5, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

Get ready, here it comes!Get ready, here it comes!Hold on to your hair! We're amazed at how fast weather patterns can change here, literally in front of our eyes, and especially during the change-of-season months. There's a big storm brewing right now, with rain and possible 50 mile-per-hour winds in the forecast. Time to batten down the hatches!

We're hoping this early storm portends more rain for the desert this winter, but there's no telling. In the meantime, we'll hunker down to enjoy the ferocity, cross our fingers that the power holds on, and pray there's not too much damage.

Summer Sunset Surprise

August 17, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

This evening's sunset surpriseThis evening's sunset surpriseWith a decade of living in Borrego Springs under our belts, we've learned to expect surprises from the desert environment. When we're sure it's going to rain, it doesn't. When we're sure it's going to be calm, there's a ferocious windstorm. When we bundle up for chilly weather, it takes a turn for the warmer. And like this evening, when the sky holds no clue of any thing other than an "ordinary" sunset, we can be startled and delighted by a spectacular show.

The "sure surprises" are what make life in the desert a continuing adventure. What unexpected something will happen next? How will we be captivated and enthralled by a simple act of nature? We are happy to stand by and see.

New Gates

August 15, 2011
by Gwenn Marie, Innkeeper
Borrego Valley Inn

We’ve started a project that we’ve been longing to – improving the back patios to make them more comfortable and inviting. Step one – design, build, and install new gates for every room. Because of the structure of the patio walls, each gate is somewhat different, so requires a custom approach – no easy job.

Your new gateway to the desert.Your new gateway to the desert.We started with hardware – and what a dizzying array of choices we had! Of course, the hardware had to be a match with our Southwest buildings as well as be sturdy enough to withstand the punishing desert environment. Hinges, clasps, and handles had to be the right style, the right size, and the right quality.

Then we started working with local carpenter Paul Taylor to come up with the construction plan. Lumber had to be measured, precisely cut, and stained. Every gate required careful calibration and installation – no easy job, there, either, considering construction irregularities.

But we’re happy to say, the gates are complete and installed, and we’re thrilled with the results. From inside the rooms, looking out, the views are more appealing, as the new gates bring a fresh finish to our private spaces.

We think you’ll enjoy the change and stepping through to the desert beyond. The next patio improvements are coming next summer – leveling and adding flagstone and new pots and plantings.