My friends and I recently stumbled upon a true gem in Southern California. It’s called “California’s Secret Desert,” and I sure do hope it stays that way. We visited Borrego Springs after a weekend of wine tasting in Temecula, figuring that getting to this desert paradise in the middle of nowhere would a lot closer from SoCal’s wine country than it would be if we went straight there from Los Angeles.
In reality, Borrego Springs is just 150 miles from Los Angeles and 90 miles from San Diego, not far from the more-populated resort area of the Salton Sea, known for their avian biodiversity. In fact, experts say more than 400 species have been documented there. But, on this particular weekend, we weren’t on the search for rare birds or hot spots. We were seeking peace and quiet, a serenity away from the city, and with the Perseid meteor shower about to hit its peak, I was on the search for a clear, dark sky.
We stayed at the Palms at Indian Head, a lovely little property that is most definitely in need of some updates, but whose charm and history made us feel right at home. It’s also the physical embodiment of one of my favorite cartoons growing up, “The Bugs Bunny and Road Runner show,” with dozens of resident cottontail bunnies who lounge on the property’s lawns and roadrunners who scurry across the road and throughout the desert landscape.
In fact, as we sat at the pool, enjoying a bottle of Temecula wine and being entertained by the bats swirling about in near nose-dives into the ground in search of their dinner, you could almost feel the ghosts of celebrities past. Stars among the stars… they used to flock to the hideaway of Borrego Springs (and the then-Hoberg Resort) to get away from it all. And when I say “celebrity,” it’s celebrity by 1950’s standards, meaning the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable.
I fell in love with the quaint little town for its simplicity. It’s not trying to be anything other than it is. It’s not trying to compete with the numerous luxurious resort towns in the deserts. It doesn’t need to. It is what it is. And that’s just perfect for me. With one main road, less than a dozen streetlights, and literally only a handful of restaurants to choose from, your options are simple: eat, drink, explore, talk, and relax.
Borrego Springs is probably the best place in Southern California to stargaze, and one of the most interesting places to check out authentic wildflowers. In fact, there’s a hotline devoted to “wildflower season” so you know the best time to see the blooms blossoming. It’s a place where I’d imagine Hemingway would have loved to visit and stay awhile. The locals are characters who all have a story to tell. The sunsets and sunrises are full of creative inspiration. And the quiet is a writer’s dream.
It’s also an adventurers’ paradise with strenuous hiking and rugged terrain to traverse in the surrounding Anza-Borrego State Park. It’s important to note that in the middle of Summer, hiking can be dangerous if you’re not disciplined about hydrating. Temperatures can often get upwards of 110 degrees. And don’t be alarmed that the area is ON the San Andreas fault — make it part of the adrenaline rush!
For the most part, I infrequently visit the same place more than once. The planet is a big one and I want to see and experience it all. Borrego Springs, however, will be an exception to the rule. It may not be a secret celebrity hideaway anymore, but it could very well become mine.