The Sacred Olive Tree

I know when Callie’s health has returned, only because she has the strength and energy to climb her beloved olive trees again. She has always loved climbing trees and I can remember when we lived in Redlands, California, and I adopted her as a stray, she would scurry up a eucalyptus tree and frolic joyfully on the roof of our rental house.

When I reluctantly decided to keep Callie, I had tried to leave her in the driveway of our landladies “grove house” in the middle of an orange grove and across the street from my house. Theresa’s family had long been farmers in the Redlands area and I thought Callie would be happier over there. So I raced across the street with Callie in my arms and left her in hopes that she would stay. I had only had her for a couple hours and was sure someone was looking for her. Such a cute little cat couldn’t possibly have been abandoned!

Well, Callie had other thoughts, and as soon as she noticed that I was missing, she started howling and looking frantically for me. My landlady opened the window of her upstairs bedroom and leaned out and yelled: “Joanie, your cat is calling for you!” Theresa had watched me assist my Jack Russel during the last days of her life and had told me frequently that I had a way with animals. She wanted to see me keep this cat. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to adopt a cat after having only recently put “Addie” down. I was still in mourning and I wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of another pet. But Callie had other ideas, so I had to run back over and scoop her up in my arms and take her home with me to stay.

So fast forward three years later, we are now living in the desert and she can’t run free anymore. I have to supervise her playtime outdoors at all times because of all the predators that live wild in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Our backyard is adjacent to this wilderness area and I can see foxes and coyotes hunting on the other side of the wall. They could easily scale the wall and attack her.

With supervision, climbing the olive trees is her favorite thing to do, but she can’t do it when she has bronchitis. It takes too much strength to climb and her cough stops her mid track! So today is a good day for Callie and an even better one for me. To see her joyously climbing the trees again makes my heart sing. Two more days of antibiotics and we should be finished dosing her. It has been a tough illness again for her. The Santa Rosa fires with all the smoke it produced, was just too much for Callie. The clean, dry, air of this beautiful wilderness area, is starting to do its magic and Callie is beginning to finally heal.

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 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.

Heading Home!

We are heading back home to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park after a month of being on the road. We forgot to pack toys for Callie, so a thrift store bag and iPhone chord will have to do! The thrift stores in Monterey and Carmel are incredible. The Humane Society Thrift Store, The Yellow Brick Road and Joining Hands help the homeless and animals that need to find a home too. Callie loved playing in the bag after we finished shopping.

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Fires Raging in Santa Rosa

We left South Lake Tahoe and innocently headed to Bodega Bay, oblivious to the fires that were raging in Northern California. About the time we came closer to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, we could see smoke billowing off to the right side and north of us. By the time we merged onto the 101 North, we received an evacuation notice that blasted over the phone and we took notice that most people on the highway were zipping by us and going in the opposite direction with their lights on. Soon, whole hillsides were engulfed in flames and smoke. Cattle were actually grazing in fields that had been recently charred and smoke was curling up gently all around them. It was so eerie to see the cattle walking around in burned fields with smoke and blackened grass. They weren’t even reacting, just ambling along quietly with young calves at their sides.

As we drove past Petaluma, the smoke became more and more densely thick and you could actually see flames! We also saw a sign that informed us that the freeway was closed up ahead and that we needed to find an alternate route. Because the smoke was so thick, we had made a joint decision earlier not to go to Bodega Bay, but to try and continue north to escape the pollution. By then, we were all coughing and our eyes were burning from all of the smoke. We were forced to get off though before we got to Santa Rosa and thought that maybe Salt Point State Campground would be clearer. When we drove through Bodega Bay, it was really dark with smoke and after another hour or so of driving north on the 1, we made it to our Campground.

It wasn’t any better at the campground though. Apparently, there are fires burning all over and the entire coastline is smokey and the sun is tinged a blood red. We spent one night there and woke up to smokey skies and took the 1 to Casper Beach RV Park and Campground which is north of Fort Bragg this morning. The skies are still smokey and because we dropped by and had lunch in Point Arena, near Irish Beach, we watched the news and were horrified at the extent of the fires and the sheer number of lives and structures lost. Horses and people and vineyards and a Hilton Hotel, and the list goes on and on. I am in shock and feel so bad for all of those that are affected. It is hard to imagine in this day and age, that fires can still swoop through whole neighborhoods and kill everything iI its path. It was apocalyptic though! We were just at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds not more than 2.5 months ago.

We will be staying tonight at the Casper Beach Campground in Westport and may decide to head back south again tomorrow. The skies will not be clearing up anytime soon and we are miserable. Certainly, it is nothing like what others have had to endure, but it is awful never the less.

I have a good friend, Catherine who I have written about concerning Anza Borrego Desert State Park and she lives in Petaluma and has been watching as rescue trucks have delivered animals out of the fire zone. Apparently, a lot of horses have perished. She dropped by the Red Cross today and delivered donated clothes. I am so sorry for the fire victims. What a horrible thing to endure.

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Cayucos Beach

We are a weary foursome of travelers. After spending two nights at a Morro Strand RV Park that smelled of water treatment ( a necessary part of community living) we headed 4 miles north to Cayucos. It brags about being the last funky beach town in California, and it is an accurate statement. This charming, funky town is a lot like Encinitas near Del Mar, California. We are staying at Bella Vista and it is right across from the beach at the north end of town. Bella Vista RV Park is not my favorite place either, but it will have to do. We are all too tired to continue up to Monterey at the moment.

We walked over to the pier around 3:00 and the humpback whales and pelicans put on quite a show of gorging themselves on the massive schools of anchovies that were trying to escape from all the predators up above. The winds were whipping the water into white caps and I can only imagine what it looked like below the water. Apparently, this has been going on for over three months now. I was really impressed and very appreciative of seeing all the wildlife. I have never witnessed so many pelicans diving into the water at breakneck speed, while seagulls attempted to maul the pelicans in groups of five or more. The sounds of a feeding orgy with screeching and splashing and the constant screaming of the gulls added to the overall scene unfolding. It was quite the show, to put it mildly!

Tomorrow we are going to try to bike to Morro Bay; the opposite direction of what we are used to biking in. The weather is gorgeous and the marine layer burns off in the afternoon. It is so nice and cool compared to Borrego Springs that I can’t help but be in heaven. It has been very hot and humid in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. We had flash flooding from storms right before we left.

My daughter ended up taking better photographs than I did, so I am posting hers along with a few of mine. She added the pier and other man-made objects and balanced it with nature which made for a better composition. Mine was boring!

Callie was able to go on a few short walks with me and loves sleeping in the sun on the front seat of the RV while it is actually cool outside!

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!