I Brake for Tarantulas

Michael and I went on a bike ride this morning over to Borrego Palm Canyon to see what the status is on camping here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We are considering heading to Agua Caliente for a 40 year relationship anniversary and haven’t been able to get anyone on the phone to let us know if the campground is full or not. Borrego Palm Canyon is not full, so that is a good sign for Agua Caliente.

The bike ride to the campground is around 5 miles each way, and when we were pedaling past the headquarters, what should I see but a large, reddish brown and very furry tarantula, attempting to cross the road. I was afraid it would get run over by a car, so I got off of my bike and escorted it across the street. He was beautiful but didn’t have a clue to the possibility of danger, and was just sauntering along while minding his own business. When he got to the other side of the road, I blew on him gently to nudge him safely off of the shoulder and only then did he get all indignant and puffed himself right up and stuck his abdomen in the air while tucking his head and fangs down to the ground. He was a menacing sight to behold. I was very impressed and waited until he headed out into the desert before I got back on my bike.

I can’t help but think of tarantula wasps whenever I see a tarantula. These wasps are very large, sinister, jet black with bright red wings and search out tarantula’s to lay their eggs unsuspectingly on the tarantula so that the offspring can feed off of the living tarantula when they hatch! Isn’t that horrible? So I was glad to see this beautiful spider making its way across the wild desert and there wasn’t a flying insect anywhere in sight to bother it.

Borrego Palm Canyon suffered a lot of damage during the past winter rains, but it is open again and ready for the camping season. The campsites are spacious and for those willing to dry camp, some of them are incredible. The campground only had a few campers out and about and it was so quiet and peaceful. It made me very excited about the possibility of camping again soon myself!

If all goes as planned, I will be joining them in spirit as I camp at Agua Caliente. The advantage of this campground is that there are heated pools to swim in and to soak your weary bones. Trust me on this one, after you reach 60 years of age, your bones will be weary. It is hard to imagine when you are young and fit, but it happens to the best of us. Biking helps ward off the inevitable, but you can’t be in a relationship with someone for over 40 years in length and not be getting old and weary. Maybe the hot pools will revive my aching bones and rejuvenate my tired soul. How could it not? I will toast to that!

The Locust and the Scorpion

I am trying to bike around 20 miles every day so that I can eat whatever I want. I love to eat and can’t stand dieting. Today we did 23 miles and biked past one of my favorite sculptures by Ricardo Brecera. He lives in Perris, California but got his start as an artist here in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park.

His sculptures range from mythical dragons and beasts to bighorn sheep, camels, desert tortoises, sloths, javelinas, horses, sabertooth cats and many more. As you bike or drive around the outskirts of Borrego Springs, you can’t help but notice them.

We biked all the way to Henderson Canyon, Seley Ranch, (Seley Ranch offers free samples of organic- ruby red grapefruit) Coyote Canyon and around the golf course again. It was too early for the bighorn sheep to descend onto the golf course. Now I can pig out and eat ice cream and whatever else I want to eat!

A Sequel to the Sacred Olive Trees

Today dawned golden and bright with a brisk temperature of only in the 50’s. This is the best time of year to be living in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. Exotic migratory birds like the oriole, tanager and flickers, return for the winter. Packs of coyotes have raised their young and if all goes well, the pups will survive and contribute to the chorus of howls and yips by adding their own little squeaky voices to the early morning mix. The bighorn sheep once again move to higher ground with their springtime lambs and every one of us that made it through the harsh summer, can take a deep sigh of relief. The desert is where I call myself home now, and I am eternally grateful that the heat is once again behind us.

The summers are brutal here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We had a high of 124 degrees F, but because there is a constant source of water that is made available with natural springs flowing most of the year, big horn sheep, bobcat, mountain lions, badgers, desert foxes, quail, roadrunners, many species of birds, jack rabbits, cotton tails and so much more, are able to survive the summer heat.

Fortunately for us, we were able to travel in our 24ft Class C RV during most of the hot summer in order to escape the scorching months of July and August with our cat, Callie and only had to return last week to settle in for the fall and winter season. We will continue to take shorter trips for the fun if it, but the desperation of fleeing the heat of summer is behind us.

Callie has been on an antibiotic for 7 days now for acute bronchitis, which was triggered again when we drove through the horrific fires of Santa Rosa, California. Due to the highway 101 closure, we were forced to dry camp at Salt Point Campground north of Bodega Bay in order to try and get away from the smoke. Fires had broken out all over the map and we were not successful in finding a campground which was smoke free. She started coughing soon after we spent the night there and it became progressively worse the second half of the 5 week trip. Fortunately, I have a good vet in Morro Bay who was able to call in a compound prescription for us and she is on the road to recovery.

This morning was the first day Callie dashed across the back yard in order to reach a fast enough momentum to climb high up on her beloved olive trees. She loves these trees and climbing them is a passion for her. The higher she climbs, the prouder she becomes! It is always a good sign when she throws herself on the trunk of the tree and then dashes straight up until she can climb no higher. It made me feel good too, to see her once again feeling better.

Home at Last

Having to leave Morro Bay and head home to the desert was a mixed bag of emotions. My daughter, husband and sweetest cat in the whole wide world, have been on a month long road trip in our 24ft Class C RV and we got as far north as the redwoods in Eureka. We had a fabulous time except for the smoke and devastation that broke our hearts in Santa Rosa and Callie’s bronchitis returning from inhaling all the smoke. We are so fortunate though and are reminded of how good we have it when others have lost their lives, loved ones, pets and homes.

The drive from Morro Bay to the desert takes about 7 hours, but you have to tack on all the errands you need to run before returning to the middle of nowhere. Food and supplies have to be purchased, and a thoughtful assessment of what one will need for about 3 weeks or so planned out. We are an hour and a half from any decent grocery store and it is necessary to prepare yourself as much as possible before crossing into the desert to get back home.

We managed to return to the house in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and Borrego Springs around 7:30 pm to winds that were blowing strong, with gusts that bent the palm trees and olive trees low to the ground. When there is a rainstorm inland, the desert usually pushes that storm along when the cold meets the hot temperatures. Today the winds are blowing again and I have heard that the coastal areas of Southern California received light rain. Maybe Northern California will get a drenching so that all the fires are put out once and for all.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is cooling off now and today the high is only 78 degrees. We got in an early afternoon bike ride and we have unloaded the RV, done all the laundry and put away all the groceries and supplies. Callie’s cough is improving and she actually climbed one of the olive trees this morning. That is a good sign that she is feeling better.

Being home at last and settled in the desert is a good thing after all. I love the solitude of and the wildness of this location as long as I have good food in the house and plans to get away in the near future! Anza Borrego is a beautiful place to live as long as you don’t have to tough it out during the hot, summer months!

My sister sent me this photo of when I was a young girl. The pigeon was my brother’s bird, but I have no recall of what I was doing with it. To this day, I love animals and riding on my Cannondale Bike!

A Rest Stop in Morro Bay

It feels wonderful to be parked at Cypress RV Park in Morro Bay after a month of being on the road with our grown up daughter and darling cat- Callie. We can look west to the rock and smoke stakes and can see a peak of the sunset if you dodge the buildings across the street. I saw the gentleman who fed the seagull and raven over the summer and we stopped by at Coast Veterinary to pick up an antibiotic and steroid for Callie.

Callie developed bronchitis last summer and it took 4 months for her to be properly diagnosed and treated and Dr Stephens in Morro Bay was the one to finally get her well. Callie made it up to BC Canada and sailed on my brother’s catamaran called: El Fresca, while enjoying a 7 week trip featuring one fantastic adventure after another. She has managed to stay well up until the fires in Santa Rosa, and the smoke became too much for her and she relapsed. We started her on the meds this evening, so I am hoping she will feel better by tomorrow. She is coughing and wheezing and feeling quite crummy, poor little thing.

We will stay here until we see that her health is improving and feel that it is safe to continue south to Anza Borrego Desert State Park where we live. If she doesn’t show improvement, we will take her back in to see the doctor.

But for now, it will be so nice to relax and bike, walk and rest in this idyllic beach town near San Luis Obispo, California.

*Callie is showing signs of improvement this morning.

The Beauty of Dawn

It is another beautiful morning in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. When the sun rises in the east and there are shades of pink in the sunrise, the San Ysidro foothills in the west blush a beautiful rose color. It is my favorite time in the desert. It is also Callie’s favorite time of the day! The birds are singing and the temperature is still tolerable. It looks like the series of summer storms are behind us. Soon the desert will start cooling down.

Desert Storms-Part 2

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is having a series of summer storms in September that build up in the early afternoon with ominous, dark gray clouds forming in the northwest. As they move slowly across the sky, the sound of low emitting thunder, grumbling and rumbling deep in the belly of these clouds, is like no sound I have ever heard before. Instead of a crashing boom after the crack of a lightening bolt, there is just a constant, thrumming vibration as the clouds pile up overhead. If the desert is fortunate, these clouds will give up their moisture and provide life giving water to the plants and animals below. If not, the clouds will move on and pass overhead without releasing so much as a drop of water. The entire desert seems to hold its breath in anxious hope that rain will come soon. And when the rain does come, it arrives in torrents and sheets and all at once. The rain is usually a drenching downpour, saturating the foothills as the water finds a path to lower ground. You would think that the rainfall would immediately be soaked right up and into the sandy soil, but it doesn’t. The water stays on the surface as it turns into a muddy, raging, flash flood and can be quite dangerous to anything left in its path. Because these storms are putting on a display right in my very own back yard, I feel like I have a ringside seat to nature’s  “Greatest Show on Earth!”

Below are a few of the photographs that I took today. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a beautiful and wild place in which to live out my retirement years. At least for now that is.





Desert Storms

Yesterday late afternoon, a storm built up in strength and power, with heavy, saturated clouds that formed over the San Ysidro Mountains. These rain saturated clouds then ominously fanned out and over the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, casting purple shadows over the desert landscape. We watched as bolts of lightening pierced the darkened sky, and sonic booms of thunder, slowly and laboriously, followed shortly afterwards. It was the perfect condition for a downpour. Behind the house and along the foothills, you could see that the storm was building up strength and moving in our direction.

First you get a whiff of the scent of desert plants being blown around haphazardy. Then the sky darkens and cools as it covers up the sun. Next, a blast of dry, hot, brittle, wind, sends debris swirling up all around you, causing you to close your eyes tightly as you quickly throw your arms up to protect your face. After that, big, fat, cold, raindrops start to fall as you take serious notice and run for cover. And with that, the heavens suddenly open up, providing life giving rain to the parched, dry, desert below. The smell of creosote suddenly fills the air and birds take cover and try to cling to tree branches that are being whipped around in a frenzied circle. Palm trees bend and give into the force of the wind, rather then snap and break in two. The olive trees out back seem to dance and twirl and fortunately are hardy enough to withstand the force of this storm.

We all hung out in the backyard to watch the drama unfold, and Callie showed no fear and was not afraid of the thunder and lightening. Even the rain didn’t seem to bother her too much. When the gusts sent sand and palm fronds, olives and dust her way in maddening swirls and blasts, she raced for the door to watch the storm blow past from the safety of the house. And just as suddenly as the storm arrived, it moved away, leaving a delicate imprint of solitary raindrops on the desert floor.

The storm had stalled, backed up and stayed concentrated over the foothills behind the house. It put on quite a show for us at a safe distance. There was torrential rain for an hour or so, which prompted flash flood warnings to blast from our cell phones. I jumped in fright when the phone sent a shrill warning, but ignored the warning of course. In the morning when we got up, I discovered that the warning had indeed applied to us. Our street was flooded and fortunately the sand and mud was kept mostly at bay with sandbags and small retaining walls.

We live in the aluvian flood plain and are subjected to seasonal, flash floods. Most of the houses on our block have dealt with this before and have been built and rebuilt with potential, future, flooding damage as a distinct possibility. Only one house was damaged this time though. Our house did well and the rock barrier did its job to keep us safe and dry. Another storm is building again today but does not seem to be as powerful as yesterdays.  Such is the life in the desert. I love it.



Just Another Day

I love biking in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. There is hardly anyone here until the first of October. You can bike for hours and not see any people. Wild animals are a whole other story though. We watched a magnificent, young male coyote in his prime, with a fine coat of rust and gray, jog across our street as we were heading out. Flocks of twenty or more quail explode out of the brush as we pass by quietly, and the cottontails and jackrabbits dash in front of us, still curious and not quite sure what a person on a bike is. Roadrunners run by and look left and right as they trot along, and are just as funny to look at as the cartoons that depict them.

We biked over to Coyote Canyon on our street bikes today, and passed one of the orange groves that was left to die, and some of the trees still have a branch or two that are green, trying desperate to survive. These trees have been abandoned to save on water and it breaks my heart to watch them die a slow and agonizing death. I don’t care what anyone says, these trees want to live and not to die. They bore fruit for years that this rancher harvested and profited over, and to just turn off the water source and walk away seems unnecessarily cruel and ungrateful. Cut the trees down and harvest the wood, don’t let them die slowly.

Life in the desert is harsh and you pay a serious price if you are under the sun during peak hours without water. People have died out here that are hiking and unprepared for the heat. Every once in awhile you will hear a helicopter buzz overhead, searching for hikers that have not returned as scheduled.

Today is just another day in the desert. The high will be 107, so we have gotten our exercise over with early in the morning and can now relax in a cooled, air conditioned house. What a luxury that animals out in the wild do not have!