A Crown Jewel

Michael and I biked close to 20 miles today! That means we probably biked 19, but 20 sounds more impressive and who’s counting! It is starting to heat up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, but if you get out the door around 7 am and return by 10:30, you will miss most of the intense heat.

We biked up to Di Giorgio and over to Coyote Canyon, took Henderson Canyon to the starting point of the state park, over to Seley Ranch- the ruby red grapefruit farm, back to Di Giorgio and south to the Locust and Scorpion sculptures, returning to the Dragon Sculpture and around the De Anza Country Club Golf Course.

During our bike ride we saw at least 3 different coyotes hunting, numerous cottontails, kestrels, roadrunners, a jackrabbit, common grackles, quail, and doves. It is the tail end of spring and everything is trying to eat or not be eaten before summer settles in with a vengeance. When I watch the cottontails enjoying a moments respite in the bright sunshine, all I can think of is being here and now; they are a good meal source for many of the predators. Watching a bobcat chase one down, only to abort the hunt because we came along on our bikes, this particular bunny was saved to appreciate one more day. As we rounded the bend on the last leg of our journey, I spotted these bright yellow cactus blooms, a crown jewel to me, and the desert willow, which smells just like fresh, clean soap and were covered with wild desert honey bees.

It was beautiful out and now I can start preparing for Lake Cuyamaca as we will try and leave first thing in the morning. There is a thunderstorm predicted for tomorrow and I love storms. It will be windy here, so I am really appreciative that we are heading up to the mountains. Reading about the mountain bikers that were attacked by a male cougar in Eastern Seattle was a little unsettling. I have seen evidence of mountain lions when we bike in Cuyamaca and know that if I were to come into contact with one of these majestic predators, I would not run. The friend that was killed, took off running when his friend was attacked. The man that was attacked watched as his friend was chased down by the 110-pound cat and was able to bike away himself to call 911.

They tracked the cat down and found him standing over the dead man’s body. The cougar was chased up a tree and then shot. You must make eye contact and do what it takes to fight back. Use your bike as a weapon and start swinging it around. Throw your helmet at it. Scream, shout, anything but run. They have more of a right to be there than we do and if they succeed in attacking someone, they are hunted down themselves and destroyed.

Looking forward to my next adventure, and Callie is more than ready to go. She gets bored hanging around the house and loves to travel. As soon as the motor starts up in the RV, she jumps up on the dash and is ready for action.

Ride ’em Cowgirl

I have been forced to hide Callie’s butt ugly worm toy because she became so addicted to it that she wouldn’t even go outside to climb her beloved olive trees. That was quite a startling revelation for me and I pondered over the thin line between seeking pleasure and it becoming an addiction. I have Bipolar Disorder, so I have to always be aware of being too attached to something, anything, everything. Balance and moderation with a good dose of routine, exercise and healthy eating habits is the key for me.

When Callie sat over her worm toy and only wanted me to play THAT game with her, I had to put it away and find other fun things for her to enjoy! Ride ’em cowgirl is her new fun and favorite thing, but it doesn’t consume her every waking hour like the worm did. She jumps up on my old leather reclining chair and sweetly looks up at me and invites me to get behind it and literally rock it back and forth aggressively so that she can ride her bucking bronco. She holds on for dear life as I tumble her back and forth. What a funny one she is. I have to make sure that there is balance in her life though. Climbing trees, going on walks, riding in her bike basket and being the queen of the RV dash is the variety that keeps her stimulated and engaged, but healthy and happy too!

We leave for Lake Cuyamaca on Monday and the fun will begin again for her and for us. We all go a little crazy out here in the middle of nowhere after a while, even if it is beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Off-road biking and hiking the beautiful trails of this gorgeous country park will be restorative and exciting. Callie hates being bored and hanging out in this house for too long drives her crazy. I can relate!

A Treasure to Behold

I haven’t studied the science behind cactus blooms, so suffice it to say, my mind is blown away in a similar fashion as to when I ponder metamorphosis. I saw a beautiful short animation film on metamorphosis once and it was broken down into simple parts and stages, but nevertheless, when a caterpillar emerges into a butterfly, I choose to marvel at Mother Nature with a sense of wonderment. Just the thought of instinct for one thing; the ability to be born with all the knowledge that you need in order to survive from the moment you are brought into being. Wow! But back to the cactus flowers, how can they produce such outrageously, large and numerous blossoms, with no leaves, and all those wicked quills poking out to protect the vulnerable, water saturated stalks?

So I biked for a couple of hours yesterday morning in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and there is very little out there that appears to be alive, or at least at a glance, not suffering horribly through this season of so little rainfall. The acacias still have a few golden flowers on them, the century plants, all in tandem it seems, have shot up their asparagus type stalks and another species, the yucca, that supports a plume of gorgeous, white flowers, are far and few between. Some palm trees have flowering bouquets, heavily laden with clusters of tiny white blooms, are humming and vibrating with desert bees. The sage, though struggling and brittle, has managed to support a few silvery blossoms.

This particular cactus, that was so exquisite I jumped off of my bike and took numerous photographs of; this fortunate plant was growing in a tended yard and had the benefit of being watered. It was covered with beautiful, soft pink and white flowers, their edges touched with salmon and burgundy. The wild desert honey bees had discovered this treasure to behold and were rolling ecstatically in the center of the blooms as they collected pollen in an orgy of delight!

As I bike, I look around attentively and it takes my mind off of the effort of pedaling in the heat. I love biking and really appreciate being in the desert where very few people are around and I don’t have to worry about cars on the road. I didn’t pass one vehicle yesterday. The temperature has stayed under 100 degrees, so it is still very tolerable here. We are planning on going back up to Lake Cuyamaca on Monday to continue exploring off-road biking. The trails are incredible there. It’s too crowded over the weekend though. Callie is bored with olive tree climbing and ready for another adventure! She won’t have to wait too much longer.

We Could All Use A Good Laugh

When I took Callie to the vet in Morro Bay, I felt sorry for her miserable toy collection, so we went to Safeway and I picked out this butt ugly worm on a hook with an elastic black and white rope and wand. There wasn’t much to choose from and I thought it was better than nothing. Who would have thought it would become Callie’s prized possession? She walks around with it wrapped around her neck and drags it everywhere she goes. She sits by it and waits for me to wack her on the rump. To up the torture that Callie seems to enjoy so much, I now have her jump up on an old leather recliner and then I yank the chair back and forth so that she literally gets tossed around and has to hold on for dear life, all the while making sure her beloved toy is staying by her side. She is one funny cat and needs to be beaten within an inch of her life so that she can relax for the rest of the day and relish being alive!

Moonlight Canyon Trail- Agua Caliente

Michael, Callie, and I left Lake Cuyamaca because of a snowstorm that was moving into the area and packed up for the warmer climate and hot springs of Agua Caliente. The same late storm front was heading toward the desert too, but precious rainfall never materialized. The desert received storm clouds and powerful wind, but no precipitation.

It took less than a couple of hours for us to pull into the county park and we were able to nab campsite #68 which has a view of the east and no one in front of us. Apparently, the hot, mineral pools were filled to capacity over the weekend, but everyone had cleared out by the time we arrived on Monday, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I love it that way, and Callie does too! She can take long walks without worrying about children running up to pet her, or dogs barking at her.

Michael and I took the 1.4-mile hike behind the campground called Moonlight Canyon Trail and we watched as the clouds zipped by and the air cooled considerably. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and Agua Caliente both received very little rainfall this winter, and sadly, there were only the century plants, ocotillo, sage, and creosote bushes blooming this spring. There is some vertical climb before you reach the ridge, but very doable and the pathway is well marked.

Moonlight Canyon Trail is an easy hike that takes you past the natural spring on both ends of the loop that helps provide fresh water to plant life, sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, numerous birds such as quail, roadrunners, finches, desert wrens, and is a wonder to see the life-giving water bubbling up to the surface even during a drought. As you walk past the palm trees that are native to the area, listen to the buzz of the abundant wild, honeybees as they search for pollen and take a quick drink at the water’s edge.

It is springtime lambing season for the local herd of Bighorn Sheep and I was able to watch the mothers and their newborn lambs scramble down the mountainside to drink from the spring and nibble at the thorny acacia bushes. It looked like slim pickings to me, so I can only hope that the young survive throughout the intense summer heat. One mature collared ewe was followed by a very young lamb who was bleating and racing back and forth on the cliff side and too afraid to follow her into the campgrounds. She was a very experienced and calm mother and the lamb was forced to eventually dash down the rock cliff all by itself in order to be reunited with her as she chomped down on acacia leaves.

I chose not to take photographs of the young lamb once it was separated from the ewe and kept my distance because I didn’t want to add to the poor things stress. The older lamb, a female, I ended up taking close up shots of because she was super bold and curious, and a nightmare for the less experienced mother. This lamb would have marched right up to me if I had let her. I continued to back away from her ever so slowly as she advanced toward me, matching step for step with the mom watching intently from a distance.

We had a fabulous time soaking in the mineral pools, hiking, biking, BBQing and playing cards in the evening. Callie had a blast too! She took several long walks a day with me out into the desert and loved every minute of it. We are back home now in Borrego Springs and she immediately jumped up into her bed on the hutch in the master bedroom to take a nice, long, quiet, nap.

There’s Gold in them Hills

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has some of the best off-road biking (at least in my limited experience) that I have come across. I thought Morro Bay and Mammoth were incredible, but today’s biking takes the prize. It is really windy again and only in the 50’s because snow is expected on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop us from having a lot of fun. I am so tired of wind, at least here though, it is fresh and cool and it energizes you rather than makes you go insane like it does me in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park.

Michael and I took the Soapstone Grade Fire Road all the way up and over to the Anza-Borrego State Park boundary line and marveled at what a difference a higher altitude can make. Instead of sand and ocotillo, there were golden meadows filled with tidy tips, a petite, yellow flower that blankets the entire meadow in early springtime. Massive oaks lined the trails and evidence of past fires could be seen in the charred trunks of some of the older trees. Stonewall Mountain has some very powerful storms and it isn’t uncommon for trees and sometimes people to be struck by lightning.

Having biked for over 3 hours, we covered some pretty challenging terrain. I have learned the hard way to keep your weight way back and to look forward about 10 feet. It does you no good to stare down at the rocks directly below you while you worry about whether you are going to crash or not. My skills have improved already and I only tipped over once today when I hit a stationary rock. When we reached the top of the trail, we could see the storm building up as the clouds raced in from the southwest of Stonewall Mountain. The powerful gusts of wind would make the tiny tip flowers dance and sway, turning the meadow into a field of shimmering gold.

Since we discovered so many new trails, we can now hunker down in the RV and watch the storm build up. The RV is rocking and rolling and the clouds are sweeping past at an alarming speed. Most everyone has left and we have the campsite to ourselves again. I prefer it that way. Callie can’t walk around on her leash if there are dogs running loose. They take one look at her and then take another look and you can just see the thoughts churning around in their heads. “What the hell is a cat doing on a leash?” I have to be on constant alert just in case a dog wants to charge us. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am ready for it if it does.

The three of us may head to Agua Caliente tomorrow morning if it is too cold outside for us to play. Callie doesn’t like it when it is windy, and cold and windy it is. That is the wonder and joy of traveling in a small enough RV. We are so mobile, that we can pick up and leave at a moments notice. Callie in the meantime is buried under the covers high up in the loft. How fun is that?!

Cat Tails

Last night we were playing cards and Michael was teasing Callie by pulling and yanking on her tail because her tail was knocking the cards off of the table. I don’t know about you, but I think she is showing a certain type of intelligence by going after his toes that were propped up on the bench on the other side of the table. It shows an awareness that she didn’t just turn around and playfully swat at his hands. She took us both by surprise by swiping at his feet instead. Notice that she doesn’t have her claws extended. She is such a cool animal and an awesome RV companion. We couldn’t ask for a better cat! I am so glad that we adopted her as a stray 7 years ago when she came running across our front yard and pleading for help.

Callie had been abandoned by her first family because she was too difficult and demanding; they stopped by a year later to tell me when they were sure that I would keep her. I think it is because she is super curious and they didn’t understand her needs. She wants to be a part of it all and gets bored very easily. RVing is the perfect remedy for boredom. She gets to go on walks, sailing, bike rides, meet new people, their dogs, and live life as one, great, big adventure!

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

The wind that haunts us in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has followed us up the mountains and into Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. I have never experienced so much wind before I moved to the desert. It blows often and it blows hard, sending sand and debris everywhere. At least up in the mountains, it is cool and fresh and the ground has green stuff growing on it that prevents the soil from being swept away. A rainstorm is heading our way, and because Southern California still needs rain before the summer settles in, I shan’t complain.

We got up first thing Saturday morning and had a lovely breakfast and then hopped on our bikes and headed toward Stonewall Mountain Trailhead and the ranger station. As we biked along the roadside we stopped to watch 4 coyotes working in tandem in the meadow to flush out ground squirrels and mice. You could listen to their progress as the squirrels chirped out warning calls across the land. The coyotes would jump up in the air and pounce multiple times as they efficiently trotted along, but we didn’t see them catch one rodent.

When we made it to the trailhead we discovered that bikes and horses are not allowed and I stopped and talked with two equestrian volunteers that ride the numerous trails and keep an eye out for hikers and to make sure that the trails are in good condition. They showed us the Cold Stream Trail that we could bike on and I asked them if they wanted to exchange mounts? They said they did not!

Biking in the meadow along the back side of the lake, we watched several Red-Winged Blackbirds sing their hearts out and flash the beautiful red shoulder pads that make them so sexy to the females. I love the song they sing and the whole atmosphere of the tall dried grasses being rustled in the wind and the blue water rippled and patterened by the waves that then cast reflective flashes of light into your eyes.

We did a two-hour bike ride and Michael went down twice. I managed to do better this last time because I lowered my saddle and wasn’t as preoccupied with falling. Yesterday’s bike ride, my seat was too high and whenever I stepped off, I almost tipped over before my foot could touch the ground. It is one thing to bike on flat pavement and another to pedal furiously on steep, rutted trails.

Callie had zero separation anxiety when we left her and she didn’t even lift her head when I said goodbye. When we returned, I opened up the window for her to look out and gaze over the lake. It is too windy for her to take a walk and she knows it. She hates it when the wind rushes into her ears. If a breeze so much as hits her in the face, she flattens down and makes a dash for cover. She is far better off today in the safety of the RV where it is warm and cozy.

Cranking Up the Heat

I don’t know what it is about cats, their small body mass probably contributes to it, but Callie absolutely cannot handle the cold. She huddles under blankets when it drops below 80 and prefers basking in the sun behind curtains that are drawn to keep the sunshine from blasting inside when it is 99 degrees in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I would be baked alive if I did that, but Callie finds it ever so delightful.

This morning dawned brisk and windy with a temperature of 40 and I was glad I left Callie’s personal heater churning away all night. We sleep up in the loft above the cab and need to have a window cracked open so that it isn’t so hot for us, but Callie finds it barely tolerable. She delicately declines the offer of sleeping down below though, much preferring the warmth and company of our bodies during the night, but as soon as I get up, she pounces on the suggestion of lounging next to the heater.

I tried walking her this morning, but the winds have strengthened because of an upcoming rainstorm and she doesn’t like the wind either. So, huddling by the heater today and watching all the new campers from inside the RV will have to do. Surprisingly, Lonepine Campground has filled up and there are people in tents lined up along the shoreline. It can’t be super fun for them in the wind! It will be a beautiful day nevertheless and we will probably go on another bike ride. Stronger winds and a further drop in the temperature is predicted for tomorrow. On Tuesday, we are heading to Agua Caliente to ride out the storm.

DANGER- Hunting Occurs Wednesday & Sunday

Thank goodness it is Friday and not Wednesday or Sunday because we would have been in danger of being shot by hunters while off-road biking in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We did not see any deer grazing at all in the lush, golden meadows and sadly, they must not know that it is only Friday and have taken cover regardless. I did come across one lone tom turkey and the red-winged blackbirds were out in force. I could hear the meadowlarks calling their lovely warbled trill, but couldn’t see them in the tall bleached grasses. The Canadian Geese couple were proudly standing over their goslings on the shoreline, and coots and mallard ducks were enjoying the warm weather and ample sunshine. I can also hear the bald eagles screeching but can’t see them either. I learned to recognize their call when I was visiting Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. They are common there and so remarkable to watch as they catch fish in the ocean. They are making a comeback in the United States thanks to a ban on DDT.

Michael and I left Callie happily resting in the RV and biked over to the old Stonewall Goldmine. It is abandoned now but was once a thriving mining town. Nothing is left except for rusted mining parts and equipment that is fenced off and on display and one, single room, lone cabin that is maintained and left open for visitors to check out how the pioneers once lived. The bike ride was a tad bit difficult for me because of how narrow and grooved the trail was, and I actually knocked my back wheel loose hitting a rock. That was a first for me and I skinned up my shins with the pedal too. It was well worth it though and if I had a choice, I would do it all over again.

Today it is gorgeous out and we have neighbors. Michael, Callie and I have had the campground all to ourselves. It is supposed to fill up over the weekend. Callie is in love with the feel of grass under her paws and looks up at me with wonderment and a twinkle in her eye. Mountain lion warning signs are everywhere and raccoons, are nightly raiders. Callie is picking up new and interesting scents because she stops and sniffs and has a faraway look in her eyes. I am so happy for all three of us and for getting out of the desert heat.