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Desert Life : Borrego Summer



This article was originally published in The Sand Paper, the membership newsletter of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association

Did you just hear the sigh of relief? We desert dwellers hear it every year at this time. The sigh? It’s the sound of the desert preparing for the long hot days and balmy nights of summer. The snowbirds have flown. Visitors and tourists from cities are flocking in droves to the beaches or to national recreational parks or state parks having moderate summer temperatures. Borrego Springs is an entirely different place during this time of year.

But, summer in Borrego is a special time. Residents are mulling over inside summer activities and chores. In fact, just a hardy few (many of them Europeans) will decide to hike or play in the desert during the summer season. For the people who live here, life is slow. No guilty feelings. Read a book or watch a movie, who cares? Take a nap, or perhaps it’s time to take an on-line class or research a topic you have never had time to delve into, or twelve other options of your own choice! Swamp coolers are economical and are adequate to keep inside temperatures comfortable during most summer months. Overhead fans are also economical and, in our opinion, are worth their weight in gold. The swamps supply the coolness; the fans supply air motion, which makes an 80-degree inside temperature very comfortable during the dry summer months. When humidity rears its ugly head (usually in August), we find it is often cheaper to take a vacation than to stay home and use the conventional air conditioner. If we do go on vacation, we look forward to going, have a good time while there, but always experience a contentment and excitement upon returning to Borrego.

The desert uses the summer season as a time to rest and repair itself. Some desert animals spend the entire season resting in cool underground burrows. Plants shed their leaves and keep their energy stored awaiting the first drops of moisture. The wind wafts sand over tracks made by off-road vehicles and covers footprints in the washes and on the trails. Summer rains or even a hurricane can drench, cleanse, and change the landscape drastically. During the night, the silence is dramatic; moonlight bathes the scene with a subdued soft glow, and on dark nights the stars twinkle with an intensity that is unbelievable. It is then the night activity begins. Coyote on the prowl, bobcat hunting, black widow sitting on the web–myriads of night creatures scurry here and there. You can actually say the night life is wild during Borrego summertime.

Summer season cannot repair all things, however. Though plants and animals are adapted to live in this sometimes hostile environment, there is also a great fragility here. Poachers have been apprehended collecting reptiles during summer nights along almost-deserted highways. Entire fields, once plowed, very seldom renew themselves with the same type vegetation once found there. As evidence, observe the area looking south toward Glorietta Canyon. You will see several “square areas” of different vegetation. What do you think may have happened to cause that? Also, please examine the photo my husband took from a plane one day. See the dirt road running through residential property? That is the old road used during the 1940s to transport people and supplies from the town of Borrego Springs to the old Hoberg hotel, now the Palms at Indian Head! From the air, old Indian trails may also be observed. Park personnel ask people to be careful where they park and drive in the state park. This is also valid when developing a new plot for construction or development. My hope is that the people of Borrego will offer a helping hand to nature. We can help by replanting native plants on plots having none or by offering habitat to wild animals native to the desert right in our own backyards!

This is the season we often review our reasons for moving to Borrego Springs. The contrast to our previous place of residence is gigantic. There, traffic was stupefying. People were everywhere. Days on the calendar were penciled in. In other words, life was hectic. Here, during summer, often the paper delivery is the only vehicle seen on our street during the day, and, guaranteed, not too many people are seen walking around during the daytime! There are many ways to describe Borrego in summertime, but we just call it “the good life.”