A California desert in bloom
The Anza-Borrego Desert is a “master of disguise,” said Hugo Martin in the Los Angeles Times. For most of the year, California’s largest park seems to be a “lifeless wasteland, devoid of color and sound.” But come spring, the “600,000 acres of sand, rock, and cactus” just east of San Diego transform into a “riot of swaying flowers, buzzing bees, flapping birds, howling coyotes, and hopping hares.” Among the barren lands of southernmost California, some of the world’s rarest species of wildflowers blossom. Usually hidden from the desert’s howling winds and devilish heat, these shy blooms peek out in April and May, revealing a rainbow’s worth of color. Sand verbenas, “a pink-magenta annual,” appear like splashes of paint against the beige of the desert. Pale pink evening primroses complement the “turquoise sky.” The desert lily, “a white starburst flower,” stands tall amid the flat, barren land, its face tilting toward the sun.
Contact: Parks.ca.gov

Where California’s wild things are

Life’s a zoo at Vision Quest Ranch, said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. On a “typical day” you can watch elephants roam, zebras graze, and leopards prowl the grounds of this safari-style bed-and-breakfast resort just outside Salinas, Calif. Founded more than 15 years ago by Charlie Sammut, the 51-acre ranch has become a “safe haven” for 150 wild and domesticated species, ranging from Canadian lynxes and “fat-as-Garfield” raccoons to a baboon named Babs and a “4,500-pound African elephant” named Malika. Thanks to the ranch’s “‘free-contact’ approach to wildlife viewing,” visitors can encounter all this animal life without ever leaving their own natural habitat. Overnight guests staying in Pachyderm Palace or one of the three other tent-like bungalows awake each morning to the sound of a lion’s roar. Breakfast arrives in a cooler, along with fruits and vegetables to feed the elephants that come up to the porch.
Contact: Visionquestranch.com