“It’s a madhouse” is the first thing that my wife and I thought as we arrived at Anza-Borrego on a Thursday morning in March. We wanted to see the wildflower superblooms and thought we’d beat the crowd by visiting midweek. Everybody else clearly had the same idea. Hundreds of cars were trying to shoehorn into the tiny lot of state park headquarters. We aborted and drove past the dozens of frustrated drivers that had just pulled themselves off the road haphazardly like pick-up-sticks.Our escape was bumpy. Winter floods had rutted the roads, which is why sand verbena, desert lilies and dandelions and arroyo lupines stretched out as far as the eye could see in a multi-hued carpet rolling right up to the dark sandstone mountains that framed the valley floor.
We had to stop and gawk, so tried to walk lightly. Or as lightly as we could under the circumstances. We tip-toed through the natural bouquets––avoiding the densest arrangements–– and made every effort not to break the quilt-like plates of sunbaked mud that anchored the yellow-flecked creosote bushes above them.
Leaving no trace is difficult in practice. No matter how careful you are, a single pair of boots will leave an impression of some kind. Multiply that by tens of thousands of footfalls and the landscape will inevitably be the worse for wear. A churned aftermath of bent stems, flattened petals, uprooted plants.
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