Batgirl to the Rescue

With close to 50% humidity in Borrego Springs, it feels like the tropics minus the greenery. The gnats are everywhere and flies are circling, seeking out your eyes and nose for moisture. The cicadas too are buzzing furiously and “batgirl” has her job cut out for her. Seeing as I won’t let her catch any birds on my watch…. cicadas are all that is left besides dry palm fronds blowing dustily in the wind… PS You will have to look carefully, she is very clever and difficult to spot, and will only be discovered once it is too late!

Four Sisters Come Calling

When I headed out for my early morning bike ride before the inferno kicked in, ( it is suppose to reach 113 today) I happened to spot four hen turkeys getting ready to jump over my back wall in search of food… Turkeys in Anza Borrego Desert State Park? Amazing! I have yet to see a tom- turkey, but the four hens today all looked the same age and are probably sisters.

Wild turkeys are omnivorous and will eat both animal and vegetable products. They forage as they roam and when moving along, one behind the other in single file, they peck at seeds and insects, looking up and all around in a constant search for danger and possible predators. 

This is the first summer I have witnessed turkeys in the desert, I also saw two hens about a month ago along Henderson Canyon where I shoot all of my wildflower photographs. I wonder if there has been a big spike in their population growth due to ample rainfall and the lush vegetation that followed this spring? Neighboring Julian and Ramona, at much higher elevations, and up in the mountains, are known for wild turkeys, but in the desert? These four hens looked healthy and alert, and they were obviously enjoying the bright, early morning sunshine. It hadn’t warmed up yet, and birds were singing and insects buzzing. I left them alone as soon as I shot a few photographs, and they headed back out into the desert in a slow and meandering way, glancing back at me often in silent, calm, curiosity.

Joe Hutto in The Sun Magazine- May-2017, issue 497, gives a wonderful interview in which he shares his experience with living for a couple of years with mule deer and again with wild turkeys. He has the utmost respect for these beautiful creatures, and developed long lasting relationships with some of them. It was quite an honor to watch these four hens obviously thriving in the harshest of climates, and looking out for each other- as only good sisters will do.

This morning on my bike ride with Lara and Michael, we saw many cottontail bunnies, jackrabbits, roadrunners, a hawk soaking in a puddle, one lean coyote and common grackles. Hummingbirds are still braving it out, along with quail. It is amazing that anything can survive in the summer heat. It will be 117 on Friday and thunder strorms are expected on Sunday. We are going to try and pack up the RV and head to the beach for a few days. Hope we can find a camping site!

Happy Days

Rise and shine and let your little light pour through for all to see…. Callie is responding to the antibiotic and climbed her beloved olive tree and asked for rough and tumble playtime. She is still coughing, but less often. She has always done well on the antibiotics, so I am still guarded in my enthusiasm for a cure, but at least for today, it is a happy day!

Back in the Saddle Again

Having returned to Borrego Springs and neighboring Anza Borrego Desert State Park, you have to find ways in which to endure and stay sane while living in the inferno! Temperatures are hovering in the triple digits, but less than the 122 of two weeks ago. Thank goodness we were up in Mammoth during that heat wave….

Getting up early and going for a bike ride while it is still cool enough is a treat. It is still cooling off around 3am and if we hit the road by 6:00, we can get in an hour and a half bike ride, before the sun intensifies and we have to seek shelter in the house. We can only use the swamp cooler because of the high cost of air conditioning, so finding ways to play before being a prisoner in your house the rest of the day, is the only way to avoid going stark, raving mad. Nothing moves outside in this kind of heat, and I have joked that birds drop from the sky fully roasted when the temperature is over 115. Sadly, we saw a young coyote pup hit and killed on the road this morning, and he or she looked like she was bringing up the rear in a pack and killed before she had a chance to grow up. I adore the coyotes out here in the desert, with their sing song howls and yips, fierce independence, and ability to survive in such a hostile climate. This spring brought a lot of rain, and the jack rabbits and cottontails are prolific too! Such is the life in the desert and the balance that must ensue. A bumper crop of flowers and greens produces more small mammals which in turn feed the coyotes. The pack is the largest I have heard howling at night, but it will also be a long, hot, dangerous, summer for all the living creatures of Anza Borrego.

Michael and I had a fabulous bike ride and rode out to S22… Henderson Canyon is still partially shaded early in the morning because of the foothills, and we biked along the road that I have shot all my desert, wildflower photographs. Compare the diffence from the spring this year, to the summer time now! Everything is burned to a crisp, and the sand dunes only show the prints of tiny mammals and the wave patterns of the wind.

We have a couple more weeks in the desert, and then we are heading to the coast.

We dropped the RV off to be serviced after our bike ride, and Michael and I picked up 2 gallons of Tillamook ice cream to make the day even better!:)

The Road Home

It was with a somewhat heavy heart that we had to head back to the inferno, but with Callie’s cough getting worse by the day, we had no choice but to hit the road toward home.

I took her to the vet yesterday, and we should know in the next 72 hours what type of bacterial infection she has. It could be a chronic bronchitis because there was a spot on her left lung. She has lost some weight, but is still eating and drinking with gusto and still climbing her beloved olive trees!

It actually feels good to be back in Borrego Springs, in spite of the 106 degree temperature expected later today. Michael and I went on an early morning, road-bike ride, and had to marvel at how much stronger both of us are after having biked up in the mountains at high altitude and on rocky, sandy, hiking trails. Riding along a flat, well paved surface, and on my Cannondale, felt like riding a thoroughbred horse instead of a Welch Pony!

Callie loved the drive back toward home and rode on the dash most of the way! She is happy to be home though and can once again roam around and snuggle in her Kong bed on top of the hutch in the master bedroom. Living in a 24ft RV for weeks at a time needs some getting use to!

From Dawn to Dusk

The morning started out bright and early with Callie once again expecting me to get up and serve breakfast so that she and Michael could go back to sleep for a couple of hours. It is rather funny and because I am a morning person, it is no big deal. As soon as I fed Callie, Michael was already sleeping and Callie tucked herself into the tent I created for her on the sofa. It is chilly at night but today it reached 85 and it felt warm to me. It is nothing compared to Anza Borrego though, which will hit a high of 121 on Tuesday. Those kinds of temperatures are a killer for birds and mammals and plants. It is so hot that when you take in a deep breath, your lungs feel scorched.

Michael and I went on a fabulous off road bike ride again this morning and because it was so difficult, I am considering packing a first aid kit. I wear a scarf around my neck in case I will ever need a tourniquet, but can see the use of bandages and wraps for all kinds of injuries. You can’t see the deep sand in the shadows when it is mixed with dappled light and the ruts in the trails trap you before stopping you in your tracks. I had air put in my tires this morning and I think the added pressure made for a much more difficult ride. We made it back to the RV in one piece though and felt the zen of having a strenuous workout roll over our shoulders all day today. 

Fred decided to head back home this morning so Michael, Callie and I have the rest of the vacation to ourselves. I will be able to celebrate Father’s Day and not worry about Fred anymore. He blew a tire heading home and is waiting for a tow service as I write. The same right back tire that we had a flat fire with! RV’s sit a lot and the tires are the first to show wear and tear. He has a long way to go yet to get home, I wish him the best.

Callie got a morning walk and was able to hang out on the picnic table most of the day while Michael worked on the bikes. She is getting more than her fair share of excitement and the strain is starting to show. When I find her up in the loft in between the rungs of the step up ladder to the loft bed, I know I have sufficiently worn her out from dawn to dusk. Wearing out a cat is always a good thing!

A Borrego Palm Canyon Hike with my Irish Twin

My sister Gayle, who is my Irish twin, came to visit me for a couple days so that we could celebrate our last few days as sisters who are both 60 years of age.  We have a very special relationship and enjoy each others company a lot. We both like the great outdoors and to hike, so I took her to Borrego Palm Canyon early this morning. It is still too warm to hike with Callie and I had to once again leave her behind… GULP!  I will make it up to her this afternoon with rough and tumble playtime during happy hour. Before we went on the hike, I gave her time to climb the olive trees and watch the sun reflect off the San Ysidro foothills behind the house.  It was a beautiful morning and only 62 degrees and 78 when we finished the hike. We met a wonderful woman ranger that was checking out internet service on the trail and she told us she does lectures and field trips for children that come to visit the nature center. I promised myself I would remember her name and repeated it to myself several times while heading up the trail. Well, I don’t remember it. Do you think it could be because I am turning 61? At any rate, the hike was lovely, the sky a soft powder blue, lots of sunshine and this time I found the entrance to the oasis with ease and wanted to make sure that any of you reading this blog, find it too. When you get to the number 15 marker, you have to walk past it and head toward the two palms west of the sign. When you have gone 10 ft or so you veer to the left and follow the pathway through the reeds and standing water in order to get to the other side and enter the shaded oasis. There are a lot of thirsty bees buzzing busily when you walk through the water but just walk fast and don’t swat at them. Bees need water just like most living creatures and they favor the shallow water so they can land safely and drink. They won’t bother you if they don’t feel threatened. Once you pass the water you will hike up into the entrance to the oasis.  I have a feeling that a fair amount of hikers find it difficult to actually discover the final resting spot where you can relax in the shade of the skirted fan palms. We heard voices as we were preparing to hike back, and thinking that the hikers would want some private time, we headed back out. We didn’t run across them, so they did not find the trail entranceway and were probably scampering up and around and over the rocks the hard way. When you do manage to arrive at the destination, it is very cool and shaded and it is truly an astonishing discovery in the middle of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Some of the ocotillo were actuallly blooming after what little rain we had about a month ago and there were still a few blooms on the desert willow. The trail is well maintained and there is a lot of evidence of bighorn sheep near the oasis. Pay attention when you are hiking and look down for hoof prints, trampled areas where they bed down for the night and best of all, black pellet piles. The three mile hike is fairly easy and there is a spring at the head of the trail with a restroom for your convience. Gayle and I went swimming when we got back home, and can now relax and enjoy a couple more days of being 60 years old together. What a wonderful way to turn 61. 

A Hike to Borrego Palm Canyon-October 6, 2016

My brother Tom and sister in law Frances, Michael and I went on a mid morning hike to the oasis of Borrego Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego State Park today. It was a beautiful morning with just a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky. We started out with a temperature of only 79 degrees and ended the hike with it reaching 89. It is not a major hike and most people in moderate health and fitness should be able to finish the round trip of approximately 3 miles with relative ease. You start off winding through and up a sandy wash with ocotillo, sage, desert willow and creosote bordering the trail. The trail is well marked until you reach the last few markers and we ended up helping a couple who had turned around before making it to the fan palm oasis. Michael and I were able to convince them to head back up because they were so close and the end journey so worth it. At marker number 15 you have to veer sharply left in order to cross what little standing water is available after a long hot summer. If you stay to the far left side you can cross over and into the oasis. It is like entering another world and must be so cherished by the sheep and wildlife native to the area. The last time I hiked Borrego Palm Canyon, I was able to literally walk right past a large herd of bighorn sheep. We had taken the alternative route in the spring and today we just stayed on the main trail. There was evidence of recent sheep, but because it was so warm, I am sure they were resting in the shade of distant rocks. The oasis is quite spectacular and you can rest and have a picnic in the shade of these massive skirted palms. My brother lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, so the dramatic and stark contrast of the desert in comparison to the lush climate of Canada made for an exciting adventure. I did not hike with my cat Callie today because of my concern for her becoming overheated. The photos below of the bighorn sheep are from the hike I did last spring. 

Off-roading in Coyote Canyon, Anza Borrego State Park

Michael, Callie, my brother Tom and his wife Frances and I went off-roading this morning to Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego State Park. It is autumn now but we had a lovely rainstorm about 2 weeks ago and the red ocotillo took no time at all to leaf out and in some cases have even bloomed. The creosote and desert willow were also blooming and the desert was fragrant and filled with the sound of bees buzzing and birds singing.  The weather was a pleasant 80 degrees and the sky was a powder blue. There was just enough of a breeze to keep it cool. We went as far as lower coyote canyon and stopped at the spring. I was surprised to find as much water as we did so late in the year. Summer has just left its searing mark and the nights are crisp and the desert has sighed with relief. The high this summer was a deathly 124 degrees and at that temperature, it is very difficult to enjoy yourself outdoors. I felt for the plants and animals during the brutal summer. You can almost sense that the threat of eminent death from sunstroke and lack of water has passed. Callie loved the ride and enjoyed walking around the spring waters edge. Hummingbirds were abundant and the bees were prolific. It felt reassuring to see a healthy population of wild bees pollinating and working so diligently. Callie rolled in the warm sand and enjoyed discovering bugs and scents that only she could pick up. I could tell she had smelled something especially intoxicating because she stands still, closes her eyes and breathes in deep with her upper lip curled, she is so expressive. When we headed back, we drove through town and I showed off Carlees and the Art Institute. I am proud of Borrego Springs. It is a resort destination but closes down for the summer, and only a few diehards manage to survive the hot season of summer. Michael and I were here all but the month of August and we had the town mostly to ourselves. Borrego Springs is welcoming her human population back again and the town is just beginning to receive her guests with open arms.

Afternoon Delight- A drive around Anza Borrego State Park

Due to the fact that I can’t let Callie run loose in the back yard unattended because of coyotes, I have found it necessary to come up with adventures in the afternoon to entertain her. She loves riding with me in a backpack while I bike, hikes with me in a front loading pack when we go on walks, and her favorite adventure of all, are car rides in the afternoon, exploring Anza Borrego State Park and Borrego Springs. She loves riding in the car and looking out the window! If you don’t drive too fast, she can keep her eyes open and take in the sites, smell the creosote and sage and bliss out with the wind gently blowing through her fur. If you drive too fast, it makes her ears tickle and her eyes water, and she will sit back down in my lap. I make sure to hold on to her back leg or the strap when she has her harness on because there are times when she really wants to hang all the way out! It took several attempts to get her use to the car but once she relaxed, there was no going back.


Callie and me going for a bike ride!