Lake Cuyamaca

The temperature is really heating up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, so we decided to get away for the day and meet our RV travel partners, Fred, and Becky up at Lake Cuyamaca. It is less than an hour drive to the lake from our home, and the 110-acre reservoir provides natural air conditioning to the surrounding shoreline and kept the temperature at a comfortable 85 degrees. We sat around the table at the only restaurant that overlooks the water, and this eatery is famous for its chicken pot pies and fresh, fruit pies. You can be seated outdoors on a wooden balcony and hummingbird feeders hang from the eaves and Brewer’s Blackbirds wait patiently for you to finish eating before descending, somewhat mannerly, onto the leftover French fries when you get up to leave.

I pigged out on both the chicken pot pie and the Mountain Berry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with whip cream that was then generously sprinkled with cinnamon on it for dessert. Fred and Becky had the veggie burgers with coleslaw and fries, and that too was fresh and delicious. All of the meals were served in a timely manner and were very delicious. Our waitress was good-natured and accommodating, and even filled up the hummingbird feeders so that I could take photos with my camera. I highly recommend going there because it is also a fabulous place in which to camp overnight in an RV. I have written about Lake Cuyamaca in past posts, so I won’t get into a lot of detail, but just wanted to once again reiterate what a nice place it is to visit and camp at.

The lake provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Canadian Geese and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Red-winged blackbirds, and Great Blue and White herons can be seen fishing along the shore. There is also an elusive pair of Bald Eagles that nest there every year in the fall way up high in the branches of magnificent evergreens on the island. If you are so inclined, easy hiking and biking trails are also available and you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a great way to spend time outdoors and escape the summer heat. One can also rent a boat and go fishing or just enjoy bobbing on the surface of the water and checking out the wildlife.

On the way back home, just as we were heading down the hill at San Filipe Wash in Anza- Borrego, a handsome bighorn sheep ram, dashed across the street in front of the car and up and over the rocks. Michael slammed on the brakes so that I could take one photo of him before he disappeared. I was still in the passenger seat with my seat belt on and used Michael’s shoulder for a tripod. I was very lucky he stopped for just a brief moment in time to look around. What a magnificent beast. He was probably searching for water and looked very healthy.

We came back home to Callie sound asleep on her chair and it appeared that she didn’t miss us one bit. We are heading back to the beach tomorrow and had a very relaxing time in the desert.

Summer in the Desert

The temperature is steadily rising, but life still abounds in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The birds that consist on a diet of reptile, seeds, and insect, flourish in the summertime. Early morning and dusk are the preferred hunting hours and most animals know to seek shade and retire during the day, people included.

I have been doing a lot of photography lately and appreciate that this form of creativity doesn’t make me too manic. Just a solid haaaaappppy! In the early morning hours, I head down to the pond and photograph dragonflies and damselflies that flit back and forth along the surface of the water. Black Says Phoebes are in hot pursuit of them and it is a free for all feeding frenzy. Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons stalk the shoreline and wade into the water searching for frogs and fish. The pond is teeming with life in spite of the heat. Kestrel’s swoop down from the sky at dizzying speeds and grab lizards sunning themselves contentedly on rocks. It is an eat and be eaten world in the desert, survival of the fittest, and probably because of the inhospitable conditions, (many people leave in the summer and I have the place mostly to myself) I have wildlife in abundance all around me, and the opportunity to record what I see uninterrupted by the impact of humans.

Callie has had another episode of asthma attacks but I took her to the vet in Encinitas and she prescribed oral prednisone. She hates having the pills rammed down her throat and has taken to avoiding me. It is helping though and she hasn’t had a bad coughing spell in days. The secret to ramming a pill down the throat of a cat is to have a towel wrapped tightly around them in a burrito style with the head sticking out so that they don’t claw you. Coating the pill with butter helps make the pill go down easier, and it most certainly helps to have a partner in crime assist you in the process.

We will be heading back to the beach tomorrow or Thursday, and I am waiting for a surgery date for cervical stenosis. It will be a relief to have this done and I am hoping for a positive outcome.

Happy 4th of July to all of my readers. Keep your pets safe during the fireworks display. Dogs in particular panic at the sound of fireworks and many pets are lost during this holiday celebration. Putting dogs in the bathroom with the fan running is a great way to help them feel more comfortable because the white noise drowns out the sound of fireworks exploding.

Animal Planet

Callie is learning to go on long walks with the leash and harness every morning because there is no way that she can run free and unattended in the desert. The coyotes and raptors are so abundant here, that all Callie has to do is look out the window and see for herself ducks, herons and great white egrets being hunted at the pond behind the house. Bats swoop down in dizzying numbers at dusk and she is entertained for hours at a time. As soon as I feed her dinner, she races over to the back bedroom just in time for the show to begin. I peek in on her every once in a while and watch her peering under the drapes as her tail swishes back and forth in spasmodic jerks. She can almost taste duck and bat herself. Fortunately, I have not witnessed any kills as of yet, and I imagine that the coyotes are much more successful with mice and smaller prey.

We will not be hitting the road quite as often now that the temperature is mild here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I don’t think Callie will mind at all though because she has Animal Planet playing out in real time every evening. This is almost as much fun for her as being the dash cam cat in the RV.

Full Circle

I have finally arrived back home to my beloved Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but have moved up to Ram’s Hill Country Club. We are attempting to sell the beautiful house that I took all of the incredible sunrise photographs. Ram’s Hill has its own unique charm and as I write, I am listening to a chorus of coyotes howling and yipping off in the distance. I have a pond in the back of the house that attracts a lot of wildlife, so I am excited about the prospect of new photo opportunities.

Michael, Lara, Callie and I piled up most of our belongings into the SUV so that we could leave the RV in Encinitas and have the chance now to go back and forth to the beach and the desert. It can feel a little isolating in the desert and Callie can never run around free because of all the predators. I actually let her explore her surroundings at the beach with frequent checks from me so that she could feel a little more freedom. She loved it and stayed close to the RV.

Callie is doing very well and loved all the travel time. She has had so many experiences as a cat that it still amazes me how much she has learned about travel. She can watch the world go by as she rests on the dash, she walks with a leash along wilderness trails and will soon be put on a bike basket again to whiz along the roads and feel the wind in her fur.

Off-Road Biking at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

I finally took a mean spill yesterday on my bike at the Soapstone Fire Trail as I was climbing up and banking into a sharp right-hand turn. My front tire hit a rock and I ever so serenely and dreamlike, lost my balance and in slow motion, started to fall to the right and up and over my bike. I didn’t have much time to panic and I thought to myself, no big deal, but when I landed in the bushes, there was a pointed, jutting boulder hidden from view and my right thigh took a direct hit. It hurt and I gasped from the searing pain but after pushing the bike off of me, got back on and pedaled in search of Michael who was in front of me and oblivious to the accident. I casually let Michael know that I had fallen, but didn’t make a big deal of it until we got back. There were still many miles of trail to go, so I ignored the pain and fortunately, the adrenaline kept me going.

I will spare my dear readers the details and the photo my husband took of the bruise, but suffice it to say, it is by far the biggest bruise I have ever had the pleasure of wearing. It is larger than my hand when my fingers are spread out, is the color of a rich and dark, burgundy wine that has spilled across the side of my thigh, and very swollen today. I am icing it and did manage to ever so bravely get a bike ride in this morning, but I feel just a little more restrained and a lot more subdued today.

Every time we head out on the trails though, I am rewarded with glimpses of wildlife and that more than makes up for all the falls I have taken lately. The other day I ended up on my back in a large patch of prickly foxtails, and when I was finally able to stand up and brush myself off, I had foxtails piercing me everywhere. My shoes, socks, pants, and shirt, all had multiple foxtails buried in the fabric and ready to be transplanted in foreign soil. No wonder this particular grass flourishes so well, it hitchhikes on every unsuspecting creature that happens to cross its path!

Michael and I have spotted deer, hawks, bald eagles, turkeys, herons, red-winged blackbirds, Canadian Geese, coyotes, ducks, cormorants and much more. Swimming is not allowed, only boating and fishing, so maybe that is why the wildlife is so abundant here. Hunting is permitted on Sunday’s and Wednesday, but I haven’t seen any evidence of hunters as of yet.

Callie is having a fabulous time and appreciates the wide open space and cooler temperature. We are heading back to the desert tomorrow to get some work done, but are planning a trip to Mammoth as soon as possible.

Blood Sweat and Tears

Today is my 38th wedding anniversary. I met Michael when I was only 21 years old and he was 31. It has been 40.5 years since our very first date. We have been through so much together, and have somehow managed to stay in love. People ask me what the secret is and I can honestly answer that respect, forgiveness, appreciation, gratitude and a good sex life is the key. We both feel a special connection and bond toward one another that somehow gets us through the difficult times. I am still astounded that my first pick for a husband was a winner. I have 6 sisters, and they too have managed to make their first and only marriages a success story. We had incredible parents that passed on the wisdom and strength it takes to keep a marriage alive and well. What it does take I now know, is blood, sweat, and tears, and in my case, the journey has been well worth it.

We got up at the crack of dawn, and after taking Callie for a lovely walk, we loaded up the Nikon D70s camera and three lenses into a backpack. Michael’s new contribution to my well being is to haul all the stuff around on his back when we bike and hike. It is heavy and burdensome and I have been lazy and relying on my iPhone camera in order to take photographs. Now that I have upped my game and joined 500px, I need to improve the quality, clarity, and focus of my subject-matter.

Biking rapidly, we didn’t even get past the partial island here at Rancho Cuyamaca Park before a flock of wild turkeys came into sight. Two toms and 7 hens were crossing the grasslands as they headed toward the lake, with the boys stopping and displaying their tail feathers periodically while they gobble gobbled noisily as they followed the hens. I chose to take a series of turkey photographs with my iPhone before I used the Nikon camera just in case they took off. Next, a Great Blue Heron was spotted fishing intently on the other side of the bridge and I was able to take a few photos of this handsome bird with his reflection in the water. We then headed into the wetlands and I captured Red-Winged Blackbirds singing melodically while clinging to tall reeds that swayed in the gentle breeze. I watched a coyote hunting for just a few seconds before it spotted me and took off at a quick lope, glancing back nervously as it ran toward the shelter of the forest. I was not able to get to my camera fast enough for the coyote.

But the grand finale’ of all, were the Bald Eagle pair, perched majestically and way high up in a pine tree at the edge of the lake directly above me. One of the eagles flew off when it was disturbed, but the other one hung around just long enough for us to get off of our bikes, grab the telephoto lens out of the backpack, quickly switch out the macro lens, and with hands trembling in excitement, take aim and shoot. I did not have a tripod with me and the lighting was poor, but I was able to take about 7 images. I can’t download these photos until I have internet service, but I am hoping that they turned out.

Once the second eagle flew away, we hopped back up on our off-road bikes and did the entire Soapstone Trail loop all the way back into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Sunrise Highway. We think it may have been a total of 20, rough and steep miles and it took us about 4 hours. Exhausted and happy, I feel really appreciative that Michael carried my camera equipment for me and that we saw so much wildlife on our very first attempt. With the iPhone, I would have only been able to take itty bitty images of faraway animals. The telephoto images may be grainy because of poor lighting, but you will at least be able to recognize and see the pair of famous Bald Eagles that have made Lake Cuyamaca their home. I will continue to improve with practice again and have already learned that you carry the camera with the telephoto lens already snapped on and ready to go. The macro lens isn’t as time sensitive because flowers won’t walk or fly away. As soon as it is possible, I shall upload the heron and eagle photos, so please stay tuned.

The Mohave Indigo Bush

On our bike ride this morning to Coyote Canyon, I did a double take and switched back in order to admire this lone bush filled with beautiful indigo colored blossoms. This is the Mojave Indigo Bush and it was absolutely loaded with flowers and the wild desert honey bees were swarming all over it and having the time of their lives. The buzz was deafening and I respectively took photographs while giving them enough space to do their work.

It is difficult to believe that this wild bush that had received so little rainfall could produce such an abundance of flowers. The color can range from pale blue to the deep, purple indigo blue that this bush sported. It made my bike ride extra special and because it was so windy out due to the thunderstorms in the surrounding mountains, I was a little surprised to capture some of the bees attempting to harvest pollen. When you look closely at wild bees, their pollen sacks are the color of whatever flower they have come into contact with. When I lived in Redlands, California, the bees would have brilliant, golden orange sacks laden with pollen because of the citrus trees.

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.

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.

The Fountain of Youth Spa

Founded in 1965, The Fountain of Youth Spa is located in the Sonoran Desert region of California by the Salton Sea and is about an hour and a half drive from our house in Borrego Springs. It will be our first time that we visit this RV park, and boy am I ready to get away.

The hot springs has a pH value of 6.5 and loaded with minerals that help reduce inflammation and calm arthritic joints. Count me in! There are full hook-ups which is a must because the overall temperature next week will be in the high 90’s.

Callie is anxious to get on the road again too and is watching my every move as I pack up supplies and organize clothes. She used to get really nervous when the suitcases came out, but now she knows she is part of the plan.

Our daughter, Lara will be heading out on her next adventure and will be moving in with my sister, Gayle as she hunts for a job. Callie and I will miss her sunny disposition and great company so I am relieved that she, Michael and I will be enjoying ourselves while we grieve the loss of our daughter. She has been wonderful and a joy to be around. I hope the best for her in life and that she finds a fabulous career in game development or tutoring students in math and science. She can do anything she puts her mind to!