Deserts

WELCOME, DESERT DENIZENS!

Our deserts section covers the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the communities of Borrego Springs, Ocotillo, Ocotillo Wells and Jacumba.


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RENEGADES, ROCK HOUSES, AND RESORTS: NEW BOOK CHRONICLES EAST COUNTY HISTORY

By Miriam Raftery

July 2, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Author Cheryl Diefenbach’s new book, Renegades, Rock Houses and Resorts…Stories of Jacumba Hot Springs and Surrounds, is now available through the Mountain Empire Historical Society.

The 500-page book, finished after nearly five years of research, chronicles the colorful history of Bankhead Springs, Boulder Park/Desert View Tower, Boulevard/Manzanita, Hipass/Tierra Del Sol, Jacumba Hot Springs, Live Oak Springs, Mountain Springs, and Oasis.


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PHOTOS OF THE MONTH: HORNED LIZARD, A FORMIDABLE FIGHTER

Debbie Ekhaml took these close-ups of a horned lizard (also known as a horned toad) in East County. 

Resembling a miniature dinosaur, the horned lizard has an impressive array of protective features ranging from camouflage to spiked horns to an ability to puff itself up and even squirt blood at an attacker.


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FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND FORECAST: FIRE WEATHER AND RIP CURRENTS

By Miriam Raftery

June 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The weather will be warming up over the Fourth of July weekend. But before you head to the beach, be aware that elevated surf is forecast to generate strong rip currents that will be hazardous to swimmers this weekend and next week.

On Sunday and Monday,  breezy winds, warmer conditions and low relative humidity will create elevated fire weather conditions, says meteorologist Casey Oswant with the National Weather Service. The conditions are “favorable for fast-moving grass fires,” Oswant cautions.


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A BITTERSWEET REOPENING OF THE ICONIC JACUMBA SPA, NOW FOR SALE

By Daniel Smiechowski

June 19, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- The East County Jacumba Resort and Spa has fallen victim to uncertain times. Owned for many years by Dave Landman, an affable character who coincidentally owns most of Jacumba and about 800 acres east to Yuma, Arizona, the Spa is currently listed for sale by Coldwell Banker. 


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VIRTUAL CAMPFIRE CHATS WITH ANZA-BORREGO PARK RANGERS KICK OFF THIS WEEKEND

 

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East County News Service

Photo by Kirtland Smith: Verdin in Ocotillo

June 18, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – The Anza Borrego Foundation is planning five virtual Campfire chats with retired Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Rangers and Superintendents, streamed live from various Park locations.

In 30-minute segments, each ranger will share stories, focused on their favorite park topics such as birding, bighorn sheep, land conservation and military history of the Park.


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SYCUAN SUPPORTS LA MESA BUSINESS COMMUNITY WITH $5,000 DONATION

East County News Service
 
Photo courtesy of the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce
 
June 16, 2020 (La Mesa) — The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation has donated $5,000 to help La Mesa businesses impacted by civil unrest the night of May 30th.  

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AS WEATHER HEATS UP, COUNTY OPENS COOL ZONES -- AND OFFERS FREE FANS FOR THOSE HOMEBOUND WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of County News Service

June 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – As summer approaches and temperatures heat up, the County will open several “Cool Zones” starting this week.  The Cool Zones will be open from Monday through Friday between 12 noon and 5 p.m.at the following inland locations:


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AMID PANDEMIC, ANZA BORREGO FOUNDATION ACQUIRES LANDS TO EXPAND STATE PARK

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Ursula Esser courtesy of Anza Borrego Foundation:  Base of Sheep Canyon

June 8, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – California’s largest state park is about to get even bigger. The Anza Borrego Foundation announced that it has closed escrow on several properties it plans to donate to the state to expand Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The land transfer will include 331 parcels totaling 17,598 acres over 25 years of land acquisitions.

“In response to COVID-19, there has been increased land activity. Landowners have called eager to sell, and a couple even wanted to donate their land to ABF,” a newsletter sent by the ABF to its members states.

Grant writing and land acquisition have continued even while the park has been closed off to the public due to the pandemic.


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WIND ADVISORY IN EFFECT NOW; FIRE WEATHER STARTING SUNDAY

By Miriam Raftery

June 5, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – A wind advisory is in effect for East County’s mountain areas and deserts through Sunday morning with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. Light showers are possible west of the mountains through Saturday afternoon. But a warming trend after that will bring elevated fire weather conditions Sunday through Tuesday, the National Weather Service predicts.


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PREDATOR POULSOM TO BE RELEASED JUNE 5 IN EAST COUNTY

East County News Service
 
May 30, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Members of the Sheriff’s SAFE Task Force went door to door on Wednesday in Jacumba Hot Springs and Boulevard to inform the community that Michael Poulsom is slated to be released June 5 and move to 45612 Old Highway 80 in Jacumba Hot Springs. Poulsom is registered as a sexually violent predator after felony convictions for lews and lascivious acts against girls under age 14.
 
He served time in prison from 1985 to 1995 and was later sent to Coalinga State Hospital, which approved him for release over the objections of Supervisor Dianne Jacob and community members.

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HEAT WAVE MAY BREAK RECORDS THIS WEEK

By Miriam Raftery
 
May 23, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Memorial Day is going to be toasty, ushering in a heat wave through Friday with temperatures 15 degrees above normal, predicts National Weather Service meteorologist Bruno Rodriguez.

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"DANGEROUS" HEAT WARNING FOR DESERT, HEAT ADVISORY FOR INLAND VALLEYS ALL WEEK

 

East County News Service

May 5, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat waring for San Diego County deserts, where dangerously hot temperatures of 103 to 108 degrees are forecast each afternoon this week. In addition, a  heat advisory is in effect local valleys including the cities of Escondido, El Cajon, San Marcos, La Mesa, Santee, and Poway today through Friday.


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COUNTY REOPENS PARKS AND GOLF COURSES, ALLOWS BOATING

By Miriam Raftery

April 30, 2020 (San Diego) – Starting tomorrow, a new county health order eases many restrictions on recreational facilities. Specifically:

  • All county parks will be reopened, with 50% parking capacity for social distancing.
  • Members of the same household can picnic or participate in sports or other activities in parks, but gatherings are still prohibited.
  • Recreational boating can resume at local lakes, bays and the ocean, however passengers must be in the same household.
  • Golf courses can also reopen, but golf carts are not allowed. Courses must provide physical distancing and conduct temperature screenings on all golfers.


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RESIDENTS URGED TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS DURING HEAT

By Yvette Urrea Moe, County of San Diego Communications Office

April 24, 2020 (San Diego) - With high temperatures forecast over the next several days, County health officials are encouraging San Diegans to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses. People should especially pay close attention to children, the elderly and pets.


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LOAN PROGRAM TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES IN UNINCORPORATED AREA AFTER SBA FUND RUNS OUT OF MONEY

By Miriam Raftery

April 24, 2020 (San Diego) -- The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $5 million loan program to help small businesses in the unincorporated area that have suffered losses because of COVID-19.

After more than a month of mandatory shut-downs, promised relief has not arrived for many businesses and individuals.  Pam Garcia owns a hair salon in the unincorporated area of El Cajon.  “None of my self-employed people have gotten unemployment. I filled for small business help and have received not even a letter,” she posted on Facebook. “ I also have not received my stimulus.”


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: EASTER LAMBS

East County News Service

 

April 18, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs)  - Photographer Debbie Merrill writes, “While on a `Sanity drive’ on Easter Sunday, we spotted a small group of Desert Bighorns below Desert View Tower on the boulders along the highway. I was able to get quite a few pictures before they moved over the ridgeline.  Easter lambs!”
 
Click "Read more" for two more of Merrill's sharp, crisp and clear bighorn sheep photos.
 

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STORMS TO IMPACT REGION

East County News Service
 
April 5, 2020 (San Diego) – Two storms are forecast to hit our region this week, bringing rain, gusty wind, mountain snow and possible thunderstorms Sunday through Friday, the National Weather Service predicts.
 
The heaviest rain from the first storm is expected Monday and Tuesday, with snow levels dipping as low as 5,000 feet. No impacts on interstate freeways such as 8 or 15 are expected, however. 

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MISSING WOMAN WITH DEMENTIA,86, LAST SEEN IN MIRAMAR, TRYING TO GET TO PALM SPRINGS

 

Update: Barbara "Betty" Wells has been found safe in Cathedral City in Riverside County.

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2020 (San Diego) – The Sheriff seeks public help to find Barbara “Betty” Welt, 86, reported missing yesterday by her daughter. She has dementia and speaks with a German accent. She was last seen yesterday getting off a bus in Miramar in a blue sweatshirt, maroon pants, black shoes and carrying a black purse. She was asking for directions to Palm Springs and may be trying to get a ride to her former home there.  

After going missing from her daughter’s home in Rancho Santa Fe, she got a ride to the Escondido Transit station before taking the bus to Miramar yesterday morning. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weights about 150 pounds, has hazel eyes and white hair.


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VIRTUAL DESERT WILDFLOWERS TOUR

East County News Service

April 4, 2020 (Borrego Springs) -- The COVID-19 stay-home order and parking lot closures at all state parks has prevented many San Diegans from traveling to see desert wildflowers. Fortunately, the Anza-Borrego Foundation has put up a video tour of this year's blossoms, with this note:  "Since so  many of you cannot visit Anza-Borrego right now, we wanted to bring our spring bloom to you. Enjoy!

Take the virtual wildflowers tour here:  https://www.facebook.com/AnzaBorregoFoundation/videos/1112381709122228/


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4.9 QUAKE NEAR ANZA ROCKS SAN DIEGO REGION

By Miriam Raftery

April 3, 2020 (San Diego's East County) --  A quake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale occurred this evening at 6:53 p.m. near Anza, at the boundary of San Diego and Riverside counties.  The U.S. Geological  Survey earlier ranked the quake a 4.6 but later upgraded its intensity.

The shallow quake, at a depth of about 6.6 miles, occurred along the San Jacinto fault which seismologists have previously indicated is capable of generating a powerful quake up to 7.5 in magnitude. There is a 5 percent chance that this quake could be a precurser to a large quake within the next 48 hours, seismologist Tom Rockwell with San Diego State University told the San Diego Union Tribune.


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WHAT’S OPEN AND CLOSED IN BORREGO SPRINGS

Borrego Springs Wildflowers Mountains Sky

By Miriam Raftery

March 28, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – The Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce has sent an e-mail with information for Borrego-area residents on what’s open and closed.


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HUNGRY OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS? EMERGENCY FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS ANNOUNCED COUNTYWIDE

March 22, 2020 (San Diego) -- In addition to emergency food distributions, Feeding San Diego offers food assistance at many sites throughout San Diego County including rural, mountain, desert and urban communities. Click here to find a location near you.

 Feeding San Diego is working on adding additional distributions based on community input and the needs of specific populations. Listings of available emergency distributions will be updated daily and published at feedingsandiego.org/coronavirus.

NOTE: There are NO REQUIREMENTS to accessing any of Feeding San Diego’s food distributions.


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TWO NEW STORMS TO BRING FLASH FLOOD RISKS AND SNOW TO OUR INLAND REGION

By Miriam Raftery

Photos: Alex Tardy, National Weather Service

March 11, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – A pair of storms are forecast to bring heavy rain this week and next, with snow dropping to 3,000 feet by next week.  Flash floods, lightning and mudslides may also occur.


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PUBLIC COMMENTS NEEDED ON STATE PARKS PLAN TO RESTORE CLOVER FLAT WILDLIFE PRESERVE DAMAGED BY OFF-ROAD VEHICLES

By Patrick Williams, Back Country Land Trust

Photo; Typical Clover Flat OHV trail for closure and restoration:

March 2, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Mountain Empire residents and others interested in seeing the Clover Flat wildlife preserve near Campo restored can submit comments on the restoration proposal by May 4, 2020.  Below are details on the proposal and how to submit your public comments.

California State Parks  proposes to  restore off-highway vehicle (OHV) including quad and four-wheel drive damaged areas totaling five restoration acres at Clover Flat wildlife preserve. Damaged areas will be secured, then restored with native plant seed, wattles and mulch and signage will be placed to direct riders (mostly accessing the area from the RR access road) to legal OHV Corral Canyon or Lark Canyon riding areas.

State Parks OHV public review and comment instructions:


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FREE SANDBAGS FOR THE STORM

Source: County News Service

March 9, 2020 (San Diego) – With heavy rains from an atmospheric river set to douse our region over the next several days, the County is urging residents to be prepared.  Mud, plants an debris washed away can clog storm drains, damage roadways and cause flooding.  

You can stock up on free sandbags at these locations in the unincorporated areas, but call ahead to be sure of availability, and bring a shovel to fill the bags:


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FREE ART WORKSHOPS IN BORREGO SPRINGS FOR ALL AGES

By Miriam Raftery
 
March 6, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – Candlewood Arts Festival Gallery is hosting free art workshops for all ages each Sunday in March from 1 to 5 p.m. Aspiring artists are invited to make new projects with different artists each week:
 
Drop in anytime and stay as long as you wish at Candlewood Arts Festival Gallery, 587 Palm Canyon Drive, #125, at the mall in Borrego Springs.
 
For more information, visit www.CandlewoodArtsFestival.org 

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APPEALS COURT BLOCKS RELEASE OF “BOLDER THAN MOST” RAPIST

By Miriam Raftery
 
February 27, 2020 (San Diego)—The appellate court on Monday voted to block release of Alvin Quarles, dubbed the “Bolder than most” rapist, into Jacumba Hot Springs.
 
The appellate court overturned a decision made by Superior Court  Judge David Gill to grant a conditional release to Quarles, who drew criticism for holding closed-door hearings that shut out victims and the public. 
 
A bill supported by District Attorney Summer Stephans, called the Sexually Violent Predator Act, has been introduced in the State Senate to require that hearings on release of sexual predators be held in open court, unless a judge can provide a compelling reason for secrecy.
 

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​PASSAGES: RHONDA BURT, 57, HIKING LEADER

By Miriam Raftery
 
February 20, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Rhonda Burt, 57, died doing what she loved most – hiking.  On Saturday, Feb. 15, the hiking leader was on the trail with the Jacumba Hikers group through rugged terrain in the Anza-Borrego desert when she suffered a fatal heart attack.
 
She had stopped to rest several times. Another hiker looked back, saw her lying on the ground and rushed to assist her. 911 was called, A Sheriff’s helicopter and ambulance responded, but efforts to resuscitate her failed. Burt, a resident of Imperial, was pronounced dead at the scene, on McCain Valley Road in Boulevard.

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PETCO FOUNDATION PROVIDED A VALENTINE SURPRISE FOR SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY STAFF

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

February 15, 2020 (San Diego) - Petco Foundation provided a $250,000 grant valentine surprise to staff at the San Diego Humane Society on Gaines Street on Feb. 13.

“As part of our mission we have committed $10 million to making a difference to shelters and pets during the valentine day week,” said regional field program manager Bill Gialenes with the Petco Foundation.  The $10 million will go to animal welfare organizations across the country.

Two hundred staff, guests, and volunteers gathered for lunch followed by the presentation of an oversized check for $250,000 to Dr. Gary Weitzman, president/ceo of the San Diego Humane Society from Gialenes.


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