Super Blooms & Lycra Dog Suits: Liz & Mugsy in JTree

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By Liz Nemeroff.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
-Wendell Berry

Like so many of us, I have been feeling some despair for the world and craving to be in the peace of wild things (and get some warm sun on my rain-paled skin!). So Mugsy and I headed out to visit Joshua Tree and Anza Borrego. And what luck—we would be just in time for the Anza Borrego Super Bloom!

First Stop: Joshua Tree

Liz and an impressive joshua tree

Dogs aren’t allowed on any trails in Joshua Tree National Park, so I decided to splurge on the dog-friendly Pioneertown Motel for the first few nights, in case I wanted to leave Mugsy in the room while I explored. And just across the way from the motel is the famous Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, which hosts bands five nights a week. This would be the perfect start to my vacation, combining two of my favorite things in one place: nature and music, set in the charming little Pioneertown Village.

Sunset/Moonrise over Pioneertown

I ended up bringing Mugsy along with me to the park each day, geared up in his lycra suit and booties to protect him from the prickly desert flora. Together we managed to find plenty of good places to hike, or picnic, or just to sit and be still and behold the grandeur of the landscape that looks like a scene out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Mugsy and Sonny

For three days Mugsy and I explored the park by day and danced to live music by night (well, Mugsy didn’t dance, but he loved the attention he got from the joyful, inebriated crowd). Whether hiking, or dancing under the stars, or sipping my homemade pomegranate margaritas, the Yucca Valley was inspiring.

Next Stop: Anza Borrego State Park

The social media frenzy surrounding this rare bloom brought throngs of people to the park. The one developed campground, Borrego Palm Canyon, was completely booked except for a couple group sites. So what did we do? Mugsy and I camped in a 25-person site, just the two of us, and it was gorgeous! After a little exploring, we were back at camp for the stunning pink sunset, complemented by my pink pom margarita. And we were entertained by five bighorn sheep romping on the hillside! The air stayed warm all night, and I lay under the stars for hours taking in the immensity of it all.

The next morning I sipped my coffee with the pink sunrise. The entire area surrounding the campground was carpeted with flowers. And the smell! I wish you could smell it now. Our wildflower hike that morning started right from our camp and it was stunning.

Walking around Borrego Palm Canyon Campground

The next day we moved to Culp Canyon Primitive Campground. This was a sweet spot—and free! I set up right next to some giant rocks that provided shade throughout the day, and privacy too. There were plenty of other folks camping there, but it never felt crowded. At night it was quite a bit colder than at Borrego, being about 3000ft higher in elevation. But Mugsy and I snuggled up in our blankets, and stayed warm and cozy.

My Culp Canyon home

But during the day, Anza was HOT. About 95 degrees hot. Mugsy was so hot that he was actually wanting me to dump the ice water from the cooler on him! So each day after our campground hike and driving around for a while with the AC on, all that was left to do was chill. It was the perfect opportunity to just be, with nothing to do but read and take in the scenery.

Sunrise/Moonset at Culp Canyon Campground

Everywhere you looked in Anza Borrego was beautiful, and with the bloom it was truly epic. I’m glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed, but I miss the rhythm of life winding down when it’s dark and waking when it’s light; the smell of the desert flowers; the warm air on my skin. I’ve tried to maintain a bit of that rhythm since returning home, turning off tech early and dimming the lights, allowing my body to more naturally wind down to sleep. And the air and flowers here at home are pretty amazing now too.