By Irene Lechowitzky, Special to the Los Angeles Times
9:11 PM EDT, March 14, 2014
Welcome to Borrego Springs, Calif., population 3,400, in the middle of nowhere (actually, about 150 miles southeast of L.A.). Throw away the smartphone; this is a place to unplug. This designated Dark Sky Community offers breathtaking views of the stars at night. The days aren't too shabby either, as my husband and I learned on a late February getaway. Be sure to stop at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center (200 Palm Canyon Drive;  767-4205, http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638) to get the scoop on the magnificent 600,000-acre park. The tab: A poolside room for a night at La Casa del Zorro cost $242 (before taxes and a $25 resort fee), and we spent $105 for meals and drinks.
La Casa del Zorro (3845 Yaqui Pass Road;  767-0100, www.lacasadelzorro.com), a classic desert resort, started as a 1930s adobe ranch house, then was bought in 1960 by newspaper magnate James S. Copley, who greatly expanded it. It flourished for decades until his heir sold it, then closed for a few years and reopened in June. Some of the 42-acre grounds were still a work in progress when we visited, but it has its charms: There are five swimming pools, a spa, tennis courts and a fitness center. The question is whether to choose a deluxe poolside room or to bring the gang and upgrade to a private rustic casita with multiple bedrooms and a private pool or spa.
Los Jilberto's Taco Shop (655 Palm Canyon Drive;  767-1008) and Carmelita's Mexican Grill (575 Palm Canyon Drive; [760)] 767-5666) are downtown staples. For a meal with retro ambience, head to the Red Ocotillo at the midcentury Palms at Indian Head Hotel (2220 Hoberg Road;  767-7788, www.thepalmsatindianhead.com), a former hideaway for Old Hollywood. Sit on the patio. La Casa del Zorro has good choices too. We lingered over lunch on the terrace of the Butterfield Room (a Cobb salad and a club sandwich) and had burgers and cocktails later at the cool Fox Den Bar.
How did these strange creatures wind up in the middle of the desert? You don't need a Jeep to take your own desert safari adventure to see Ricardo Breceda's life-size metal sculptures of camels, horses, mammoths, giant birds, wild pigs and more. This gift to the town from the late philanthropist Dennis Avery is spread out in two areas easily accessible from Borrego Springs Road (www.galletameadows.com). Be sure to bring your camera.
The lesson learned
If you come expecting to see desert wildflowers, you may be disappointed. Because of the lack of rain, the wildflowers are playing possum. Even so, there are plenty of native flora and fauna to enjoy. With luck, the recent rain will bring some color.
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