Someone asked me the other day if I’ve ever visited Borrego Springs and I sheepishly admitted that no, not only I had never been there, but never heard of it, either. I had to make up for the time lost and decided to go there the very next day. It takes about an hour and a half from Palm Springs by driving down the 10 Freeway East, alongside part of the Salton Sea, and Highway 78, which crosses the magnificent Anza and Borrego State Park.
The largest park in California, Anza and Borrego is not a park in the conventional sense of the word, but rather a desertic plateau with rock formations entirely different than the ones found in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. There are mini canyons made of red clay, followed by vast meadows dotted with green ocotillos and bushes all framed by the majestic Santa Rosa mountains. About half hour into Anza Borrego, the familiar palms start to reappear again and houses emerge in a disorganized order on both sides of the street which ultimately leads to a big roundabout: the heart of Borrego Springs.
This unincorporated community of approximately 3,000 people is possibly one of the loveliest I’ve ever seen. Downtown features buildings in different architectural styles —including Santa Fe’ and Old West, among others — which house a museum, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and small motels and hotels. From the center, wide rolling roads unfold for miles intersecting meadows with sparse, charming old churches and buildings.
The unique landscape and surrounding mountains instills a sense of tranquility. Always a rational one, I figured that my blissful state must have been originated by the elevation. But at 597 feet, Borrego Springs has roughly the same elevation as Palm Springs … after some research, I came to the conclusion that this place is so peaceful because of the absence of traffic lights. Who would have thought traffic lights could cause so much stress? It is precisely the lack of streetlights and traffic lights that makes Borrego Springs one of a kind and California’s only certified Dark-Sky Community by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).
I didn’t have the chance to stay until dark, but I had the best time looking for the giant iron installations spread along the main road. There are dozens of them including horses, camels, elephants, dinosaurs, and dragons and they’re all larger than life and so surreal against the backdrop of the mountains. I felt like a kid again, today. Thanks for the magic, Borrego Springs!