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Landscape Makeover

by Ellen McJolly

Recently, my family spent ten days vacationing in Ensenada, Baja California. We usually spend our yearly summer or spring vacations somewhere in the Caribbean where we lounge the the days and weeks swimming, sunbathing and the occasional shopping in the surrounding areas near the hotel we were staying. After my son read an article in this site however about desert biking in Baja, he never left me and his dad alone for one minute until we finally decided to go to Baja California for this year’s vacation.

When we landed in Ensenada after a quick flight from DC, the first thing I thought of was that this place was not as hot as I expected it to be. Although the temperature was worlds apart from that in DC which we left still a little wintry, Ensenada has a soothingly warm climate that was not humid but rather there always seems to be a breeze, however slight, in the air.

The hotel resort we stayed in was curiously located between the ocean and the desert mountains, giving it a nestled appearance which no place I have ever visited had. You can simply turn your head a few degrees and look out into the ocean when just a while ago you were looking far off into the peaks of those desert mountains and hills.

After a day of lounging in the beach which we always did on vacations, we tried something new and went desert biking. Again, the experience was better than I expected and it was already by this time that I began thinking I underestimated just how amazing this place can be. The desert trail which we took was surrounded by fabulous, almost surreal plants and trees. We passed by several gnarled and twisty gigantic trees with very wide trunks and colorful leaves which we found out were called elephant trees.

There were also all sort of cacti, probably hundreds of species although I am not so sure. However, I can say that I have never imagined one kind of plant to have so many species with varieties, colors, shapes and sizes of numerous types. There were pale and round ones with thin, sparse thorns that bloomed yellow flowers. Others were round but a little bumpy, had ridges sort of like an orange, that had thick, needle-like thorns. Some were very tall and thin, and had thin arm-like protrusions on their sides which showered the ground with soft pink petals that fell from the bunches of flowers on them. There were also cacti plants that formed dense shrubs and hills of thorn and flowers, while many carpeted the ground so much you can barely see the golden yellow sand underneath them.

Although we only went desert biking in Baja twice during our stay, the sceneries and plants I saw left a very deep impression on me. On our second bike ride, I made sure I brought my digital camera with me so I could bring home some pictures of the desert landscape since I could not bring home the plants themselves and place them in a box on a plane which would fly them back to Washington, DC with me.

When we got home, I visited every physical and online gardening store I could find in search of plants and flowers which I can buy to place in our garden to make it appear more like the desert we explored in Baja California. I have already bought more than two dozen cacti plants and even two miniature palm trees which are already lending a tropical, desert look in our DC backyard garden.

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