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Where’s the Oasis?!?

A few weekends back my boyfriend Ben and I decided to celebrate our three year anniversary with a backpacking trip to Anza Borrego Desert. I hadn’t been since I was a little girl and thought it would be perfect timing to check out the beautiful wildflowers I had often heard about. I did a little online research and discovered reports of a stunning waterfall and oasis flowing through Coyote Canyon. Wildflowers and a waterfall, in the desert?

This was our destination.

We arrived at night to otherworldly glimpses of sand, rock and cacti illuminated by our headlights and set up our tent under the stars.


Our first campsite in the morning, right before we took it down!

We had headed out in Ben’s trusty Swanymobile, which had four-wheel drive but lacked clearance. When we tried to continue further down the dirt road in the morning we were met by big piles of angry rocks. This left us hiking a good chunk of the road as raised jeeps and other monster off-road vehicles flew by, leaving us to eat their dust. Lesson learned, never come to Anza Borrego, specifically the Coyote Canyon area, without a big truck.


This is about as far as we made it before sharp rocks threatened to take the Swanymobiles life.

Ben had never been backpacking, and I hadn’t been in a while. We were in for a treat.


Regular Tom Sawyer!

We walked and walked and walked under the sun along the dusty road with visions of wildflowers and waterfalls dancing in our heads. But began to fear it was a mirage.


You said there was an oasis, right?

We found a few pretty cacti, but the desertscape was sans wildflowers. Had they bloomed early? Were they a myth? We didn’t know, but their absence saddened me.


We hiked for hours on this dirt road that ran through the wide basin of Coyote Canyon until we reached the northern end of it where it narrowed into Upper Coyote Canyon, which was where I thought our oasis would be awaiting. We found water, but definitely no waterfall.


Once we could walk no further up our water trail because of the entangling stands of vegetation, we sat and rested pondering what had gone wrong. A few minutes into this, an older man with a panama hat and his young spritely sidekick appeared. They informed us it was Cougar Canyon we were looking for, within the greater Coyote Canyon Basin. That’s where we’d find our waterfall, and we only had to retrace our steps back for a few miles and then head further west on the basin floor. We thanked the kindly men and pushed on, hoping we could make it before dark.


Eventually we found a nice walking path, with no cars, and the hue of the desert changed from shades of brown to pale shades of green. At dusk our determination to find the elusive oasis was rewarded with a series of baby waterfalls at Cougar Canyon. Still not quite what we had envisioned, but a beautiful spot to spend the night nonetheless.


Looking back toward Coyote Canyon Basin as we hiked into Cougar Canyon.


Our humble oasis and home for the night

Ben soldiered through despite expressing mild discomfort, as in “this backpack is killing me cause of my crooked spine.” But I did see him experience moments of true joy as he gathered wood and built a fire for us. It transformed him from your average camper into Daniel Boone.


The hike back the following morning was stunning, despite the dearth of wildflowers, and we counted it a successful anniversary adventure!


4 Responses to “Where’s the Oasis?!?”

  1. alanzo says:

    Shannon: thanks for sharing your anniversary adventure. Ben certainly is a good sport trekking about the desert in search of this mythical waterfall.I love your persistance.

  2. sean says:

    Do you see a lot of scorpions or tarantulas out there? It looks so beautiful, but man am I arachnophobic….

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