Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Rain, Leaves and the Ocotillo Plant

Cycling to Yaqui Pass

Cycling to Yaqui Pass

©Bert Gildart: We’ve settled into a campground in Borrego Springs and have been making daily excursions from our Airstream into the surrounding desert. For Janie, yesterday was laundry day, so I got out my bike and peddled what our neighbors (Steve and Linda) said would be a wonderful loop outing. Their recommendation was not to be taken lightly for last year they cycled from northern California to Maine on a tandem bike, taking a total of 96 days.

My loop of yesterday was substantial enough, climbing 1,860 feet from Borrego Springs to Yaqui Pass and returning me to the campground 36 miles later. The route exposed me to a variety of different types of moistures conditions, which in turn affected the appearance of cacti and other thorn-like plants.


Earlier I had learned about one of the plants, the ocotillo, at the park’s informative visitor center. It’s a plant that produces scarlet tubular flowers atop the graceful stems, and can at times lend a colorful counterpoint to the drabness of the desert in mid-winter.

Yesterday, the ocotillo was also showing the effects of small amounts of rain, which is the beginning of flowers. Several days ago, the Borrego Springs area had been touched by a brief rain. To Janie and me, the rain seemed insignificant, but the plants didn’t “think” so; they responded as though doused with profuse heavenly showers-something I noticed as I was cycling. Here and there, particularly as I ascended the flanks of the Pinyon Mountains, I could see the start of leaves.

“That’s all it takes,” said a volunteer at the Anza-Borrego Visitor Center. “The leaves will flourish, but, then, if the ocotillo isn’t exposed to more rain, the plant doesn’t have sufficient energy to maintain the leaves, so they fall off. The process will, of course, repeat itself, until the ocotillo has sufficient energy to produce flowers.”


As I neared Yaqui Pass I stopped to examine an ocotillo plant, which was in fact, beginning to produce small leaves in large numbers. I photographed the stems and leaves, using the built-in strobe on my Nikon D300. I set the camera’s lens to “macro,” and then framed the image so that a few rays of sun would be included. Liking what I saw in the camera’s screen, I peddled on.

Rain leaves and Ocotilla

Rain, leaves and Ocotilla

After reaching Yaqui Pass I then coasted down almost four miles, and because the desert air was so cool I stopped once to dig out a wind breaker. After the long descent the road leveled and the remaining five miles was an easy pedal. That’s not to say I wasn’t tired and slept about as well last night as I have in a long time.

3 Responses to “Rain, Leaves and the Ocotillo Plant”

  1. Gadget Says:

    Hey Bert! You’re time in Borrego is making me jealous. :) I’m hoping to head there in a few weeks!

    Enjoy yourself!


  2. Kimmy Says:

    What an interesting plant and something beautiful to see there in the desert in winter I’m sure. You’re having a ball I can tell. ;)

  3. Alcoholic Pass | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] Over the past few years I’ve posted several blogs on lighting with multiple strobes, and on the ocotillo plant, and how it blooms only following rain storms. Obviously, there has been much rain in recent months [...]