During the pre-dawn hours of June 5, 2013, the Milky Way arched over one of many impressive metal sculptures scattered around Borrego Springs. The power to the town was out, making this "Dark Sky Community" even darker than normal.©Dennis Mammana/dennismammana.com
“Take a big long deep breath in, and then slowly exhale out,” according to my yoga teacher. But for those of us who rush through life in a hyper-busy routine, there’s no time to stop to take a deep breath, right?
Signage in Borrego Springs.
The solution? Visit Borrego Springs, a rural community only 90 minutes from San Diego that claims 3,000 year-round residents, is a star gazers' heaven, and has an air quality 57% better than the national average - perfect for breathing deep. Borrego Springs reminds me of my desert roots in Tucson, minus the big city.
Much like Palm Springs was 30 years ago, here you can indulge in off-roading or hiking by day, immerse in luxury spa pampering in the evening, and stay up all night gazing at the sky full of twinkling stars and a view of Milky Way so clear that it looks like clouds.
Give yourself the gift of doing nothing for a change!
Where to stay?
Camp. There are several campgrounds in Anza-Borrego State Park. Be sure to make a reservation. Hotel or RV camping is available at Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort.
Historic Hacienda Resort. La Casa Del Zorro (760-767-0100) is perfect if you're more into laying the by pool and going to the spa. Forty-two expansive acres boast 24 swimming pools, 6 tennis courts, 19 casitas (1-4 bedrooms), 44 deluxe rooms, a fitness center, yoga studio, life-size chess set, croquet, bocce, shuffleboard, and horseshoes. There's really no reason to leave the resort!
This legendary hacienda has been host to many celebrities, heads of state, former presidents – including Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. Open for business in 1937 as a two-room adobe "Desert Lodge," La Casa Del Zorro recently underwent a $7M renovation. The large deluxe rooms have luxury bathrooms and very comfortable beds with a rustic luxury ambiance. ($115-$800+ a night.)
Ask the hostess Dee to tell you stories about the Copley's – newpaper magnates and former owners of La Casa Del Zorro. Dee has seen Mrs. Copley's ghost visiting her in the ladies room.
Where to eat and drink?
Carlee’s Bar and Grill is one of the few places open past 10 p.m. on Saturday night in the summer, and it's more of a bar than a restaurant. Try Assaggio Italian Restaurant at the Borrego Springs Airport – you can watch the planes take off and land. Calico’s is the spot for breakfast, including vegan muffin options (587 Palm Canyon Dr.).
What to do?
Do nothing! Sleep, lounge by the pool, read, write, reflect, and connect with your family or lover. Leave the electronics at home and communicate with others without using a cell phone, tablet or laptop.
Stargaze. Explore beyond yourself. Bring binoculars, a telescope, or join in a stargazing event to see and learn what’s out there deep in the universe. Join world renowned Dennis Mammana on a Night Sky Tour. Borrego Springs is one of the few "Dark Sky Communities" in the world designated by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Get pampered. Allow yourself to relax and de-stress at a resort spa.
The Balance Spa at La Casa Del Zorro (760-787-2660) offers a wide range of salon and luxury spa services, including a wide variety of facials, massages and body treatments including express facial (25 minutes for $65) or Sole Retreat for the hikers (50 minutes $120). Spa Serenity offers the typical massage and facial services but you might want to try the unique Avocado Horsetail Hot Oil Scalp Massage (30 min for $50).
Hike in the largest state park in California. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has over 1,000 square miles and runs along the Pacific Coast Trail. See a Kumeyaay Indian village, pictographs, a waterfall, panoramic viewpoints or desert cactus.
Make sure you wear a hat, good shoes, bring snacks, and lots of water. Be prepared for scorching hot weather in the summer – over 100 degrees – or sudden showers and flash floods in the fall and spring. It's a good idea to go hiking with someone experienced in the area.
Video of Anza-Borrego Badlands by Lisa Bruhn.
Off-road in a Jeep with Joe, owner of California Overland (866-6-Explore). Joe will take you to places like Hawks Canyon, Clark Well, Slot Canyon, Wind Caves or Font’s Point, un-accessible by regular car. You'll feel like you're at the end of the earth. (From $55 for public tour to $250+ for private tour for two people.)
At the top of Font’s Point you can look out to the horizon and take in the majestic view of nothing but nature. Joe knows the area well - geology, wildlife, vegetation and history - and will share stories and facts along the way. Ask him about all the movies that were filmed here.
An off-road overnight sky gazing trip is a unique thing to do with family. Approximately 22 hours total for $225 per person, it includes chuck wagon dinner, three-hour tour, hot breakfast, and all camping gear.
In October the annual event Borrego Days Desert Festival offers a parade, food, car show, live entertainment. Also in October is Nightfall] for stargazing.