Incredible Super Bloom Turns Desert Into Enchanting Wonderland
By Breena Kerr
March marked the first time in a drought-parched decade that Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—located in the Colorado Desert about two hours outside San Diego—saw 10 inches of rain. This is according to Norb Ruhmke, acting district superintendent for the Colorado Desert District. In a normal full year, he said, the Anza-Borrego desert gets six inches.
Park guide Sally Theriault added that it was the first time since she moved to Borrego in the early 1980s that she could remember visitors arriving before employees, filling the parking lot by 8 a.m. It was also the first time she could remember highway patrol officers shutting down the S22, the main highway leading into town, because traffic was so bad.
That's because for a few weeks this March, all that rain triggered an unprecedented spring "super bloom" of annual wildflowers, including sunflowers, sand verbena, dune evening primrose and ocotillos. The onslaught of visitors to the park, Theriault said, had the feel of Disneyland, overflowing with tourists in shorts and sneakers, cameras in hand. "There were people arriving in their cars and asking where the rides were."
Anza-Borrego is no theme park. It's an arid, sandy desert with the Borrego Valley at its center. The park is surrounded by the Vallecito Mountains to the south and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the north. The sun is shadeless and punishing and for the majority of the year, shrubs and rocks dominate the landscape.
Many of the visitors who turned out for the super bloom were flower enthusiasts—some came from as far away as Washington State, the East Coast and even Japan, according to Theriault. Many had never been to Anza-Borrego before but had seen reports of the super bloom via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and afterward hopped in their cars to see the phenomenon for themselves. Some out-of-towners, unaccustomed to the wildness of park roads and overly trusting of technology, followed GPS imperatives into sand-filled ditches and required help getting out.
Ruhmke said park officials posted updates on its website about where to find flowers, in hopes that flower pilgrims would spread out across the park. But most came straight to the visitor center, which saw 90,000 visitors in March—between 2,000 and 5,000 every day. In years past, Theriault said, that number has been closer to 30,000 annually; during summer, when the temperatures can spike well beyond 100 degrees, only a couple hundred people tend to visit each day.
"The word seemed to get out faster this year and more people seemed to be coming to the visitor center," Theriault said. "We were really just about at capacity."
According to Theriault, the super bloom did indeed live up to its hype—at least for a couple of colorful weeks. By now, most of the flowers have dried up, but Theriault said it was the biggest bloom she could remember since the spring of 2005.
Ruhmke said that while most people congregated at the visitor center during the bloom, the "most majestic" flowerscapes were in Coyote and Henderson Canyons. "For me to enjoy the desert," he said, "I really have to get away from the crowds." But, he's confident that those who came during the bloom found what they were looking for.
"There's nothing better than when you're driving down to Montezuma Grade and dropping down into the desert floor," he said. "It's beautiful."
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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