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alifornia’s desert is a magical place and nowhere is that more obvious than when visiting the little town of Borrego Springs. 

While there is a plethora of things to do and see in this desert area, one experience that stands above all others is checking out the 130 metal sculptures dotting the town’s dusty landscape.

All the sculptures were created by one man, renowned metal artist Ricardo Breceda.

If you are not prepared you might be a little surprised to see life size prehistoric creatures, elephants, camels, sloths, llamas, horses, pigs, sheep, tortoises and the highlight, a huge dragon. 

Called the Galleta Meadows sculptures, these freestanding sculptures were a gift from town benefactor Dennis Avery and most sit on his private parcels in the Galleta Meadows area of town. 

The first sculpture was installed in 2008 and most are based on renditions from a book called “Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert.” Using metal, scrap reinforcement bars and wire to fashion these unwieldy creatures, the metals were pounded together with hammers to create the final product. 

It is also interesting to note that fossils found in this area do reveal that some of the prehistoric renditions might have been a reality in the location during the Pliocene-Pleistocene and Miocene era some three million years ago.

Also added more recently to the sculpture collection are life-like renditions of humans including Mexican explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and field workers who worked the land in the area  picking grapes back before the United Farm Workers Boycott in the 1960s. 

How to find these larger than life sculptures? It’s easy since viewing is free and all are easily accessible from Borrega Springs Road, north and south. 

Take the time to spend the night in Borrego Springs, since driving around and visiting the sculptures will take all day. 

A recommendation and perfect place to relax is Borrego Valley Inn (www.borregovalleyinn.com) located in the desert. Offering a rustic elegance, two pools and rooms furnished in authentic Southwestern/Mexican décor it’s the best of taste. 

At night you can also check out the dark sky from the private patio and truly be overwhelmed at how many stars you can see on a clear desert night.

For other stops on your Southern California wild west sojourn, consider Ramona, Calif., located in the Valley of the Sun and stay at the San Vicente Resort. 

The resort is a one-stop shop with a Western and International Equestrian Center so you can horseback ride or just do a tour of the area offering what the resort coins as a “modern Wild West” experience. 

The California Wolf Center is a stop on the way to the next little jewel of a town called Julian. 

The Wolf Center offers a chance to get up close and personal with the wolves both the Mexican gray and the Alaskan gray wolves. 

The center was founded in 1977 and gives visitors a chance to understand the highly endangered Mexican gray and the once endangered Alaskan gray wolf as well.

Next stop, Julian, Calif., where you really will feel like you have stepped back in time. You can take your pick of exploring the downtown area, visit an old gold mine or just take a historical tour including the Julian Haven of Rest Cemetery, Julian Pioneer Museum and even the two-cell Julian jail circa 1914. 

The town of Julian was a big deal during California’s gold rush boom in the 1870s and it definitely still maintains its charm and Old West architecture with a general store, antique stores and country restaurants. 

I recomment that you stop in at the Candied Apple Pastry Company and ask for one of the famous Pear Lavender Tarts. 

Jeremy’s on the Hill also offers a dinner menu not to be missed and is family-owned featuring a seasonal menu by Cordon Blue Chef Jeremy Manley. The standout here is that they use fresh, local ingredients and also offer hand-crafted desserts.

For more information on all three towns visit the websites at:

www.julianca.com

www.borregospringschamber.com

www.ramonachamber.com

Rita Cook is a freelance travel author whose columns appear frequently in the Waxahachie Daily Light.