Bon Voyage

Today is the day! We are leaving for Lake Cuyamaca because there is an early in the season heat wave descending on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with a high of possibly 100 degrees today. We can’t afford to invest in solar quite yet, and we definitely can’t afford the high utility bill that comes with air-conditioning, and because our daughter is heading out too, a celebratory exodus to the beautiful local mountains is one I am very much looking forward to.

Callie loves traveling in the RV, so as soon as the suitcases come out, I will put her in there while we pack up; that way she will know that the plan includes her and won’t be as stressed out.

Last night we had a beautiful sunset and the evenings are still cooling off. When summer hits with a vengeance, the air temperature stays warm all night and there is no relief. This morning Callie climbed her favorite olive tree and the sun rose and shone it’s beautiful, golden, rosy light on Mount Illuminous.

A change of Plans

The mornings are absolutely gorgeous now in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, but the days are heating up to 99 and we have decided to go to the mountains instead of The Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort. This week, in particular, there is a heat spell going on, and I am tired of being hot!

Lake Cuyamaca is the second oldest dam in California, having been completed in 1888. It is located off of California State Route 79 and the lake wraps around three shores. Julian is to the north and l-8 to the south. Julian is famous for its apple pie and rustic atmosphere. Cuyamaca Reservoir is a 110-acre recreation area with biking, hiking, fishing, and camping. The weather will be in the high 60’s with a low in the 30’s. Now that is quite a difference from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park!

Callie loves the mornings and takes the challenge of climbing her olive trees quite seriously. She is not allowed to leave the yard because of rattlesnakes, coyotes, kit foxes and owls, so she has to find entertainment and exercise with the trees while being under constant supervision. Callie knows that something is up because packing has begun and she is already stressed out about our daughter leaving. Putting her in the RV and taking off to the mountains will make all of us feel so much better.

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!

The Other Side of the Mountain

I had no idea before I lived in the desert how much that wind is a factor for weather conditions everywhere else. It takes the low pressure of the arid desert to drag moisture-laden clouds toward it, but then in return, the mountain ranges block the rain from falling on the arid side. This low pressure-high pressure dance of aerial currents pulls storms across the land. The clouds have to be heavy enough with moisture and the wind strong enough to pull them over to the other side before precious rain can then fall in the desert. If they don’t have enough moisture left after they pass over the peaks, the desert receives only the gift of wind which carries the sand instead. We have had a lot of wind this season, and because it has been a dry winter, the sandstorms have been fierce and unrelenting.

Last night was particularly windy and the banshee howls and shrieks shook the house and rattled the windows. When I rise, I must sweep up fine grains of sand most every morning, but I haven’t been able to stay on top of it. I have resigned myself to the realization that I can’t be as good of a house cleaner as my sensibilities would like, so screw it, I must lower my standards in order to stay sane.

This morning the sun rose to a delightful and peaceful stillness, so I jumped on my Raleigh bike and headed over to Coyote Canyon to see if I could find any wildflowers left. The creosote bushes still have their pale yellow flowers, frosted, blue colored berries and the adorable white cotton balls all over them. The wild desert honeybees were covering the creosote in a frenzy of pollen-collecting and to my delight, I came across the Sacred Datura blossoms too. This trumpet type flower is a luminous white with pale lavender colored edges. It is also known as Jimson Weed and is very toxic. Native Indians have used this plant in religious ceremonies for centuries to induce a hallucinogenic trance, but if one is not extremely careful, the plant can cause an agonizing death.

I also biked over to the dragon sculpture by Ricardo Breceda that I had mentioned in the Bighorn Sheep Sculptures post so that I could take a photograph of it. Today is calm and clear and my sanity has once again been restored. We are planning on another RV trip next week and are thinking of going to The Fountain of Youth RV Park by the Salton Sea. I could use some of that magic because my skin feels really dry and my throat parched from the intense heat and lack of moisture. The Fountain of Youth sounds like a miracle to me! Callie was able to climb her olive tree again this morning and can actually hang outside for awhile today. It has been too windy almost all week for any outdoor activity.

My Morning Wake-Up Call

Being retired but young enough to hop out of bed with the knowledge that the wind that howled all night, sending sand spraying into the house, and outdoor furniture skittering across the patio, means that the sunrise will be dramatic and I had better get my ass into gear so that I can capture the moment by taking photographs.

I have to jump up onto a wall in order to level my iPhone7 camera lens at Mount Illuminous, (as I fondly call the San Ysidro Mountains and the foothills behind my house), and snap images of the scene unfolding. I hope that someday I don’t trip and land on my face, so I try to be mindful as the wind is whipping up all around me and the early morning chill leaves me stiff and somewhat clumsy. Staying active and biking and hiking have kept my aging joints limber, but still, being 62 years old is a lot different than 52.

This morning did not disappoint me and as the sun rose and peaked out from behind the clouds in the east, my west view lit up delicately with dramatic clouds that were ever changing from the wind and light.

Callie got in one quick climb up her favorite olive tree as I took photographs, and then we both scrambled back inside because it was so chilly outside. We aren’t used to the cold out here in the middle of nowhere at Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, and because I only had a tank top and leggings on, I felt it. Callie is such a wuss too that anything under 80 degrees makes her want to crawl under the blankets and stay there. Another day has dawned for me and for that, I am grateful.

Now What!

It is an absolutely gorgeous morning in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the powder blue sky. The temperature is a lovely 65 and the high today will be 85 degrees. The winds won’t return until tomorrow, so a bike ride is in order.

Callie climbed her second favorite olive tree at dawn with Lara and I singing her praises and offering encouragement. The reason this is her second favorite tree is that the bark is stripped and the trunk is narrower. It is a difficult tree to climb up high in. That didn’t discourage Callie this beautiful morning though and she took to the challenge like a duck to water. The only problem with climbing so high was getting back down.

Outsmarting the Roadrunner- Outrunning the Wind

I had the good fortune to catch a quick glimpse of a local roadrunner who’s territory is about a 1/2 mile from my house. Their territories can extend for miles as they hunt for insects, lizards, snakes and even small birds. I have seen juvenile roadrunners carrying baby birds in their beaks, so I can only imagine that a parent has fed it to them during training. What I usually see though, is a lizard or small snake dangling precariously from their long beak as they run at blinding speed across the desert.

How in the world do they avoid the cholla cactus when they run so fast? Their powerful legs look just like wheels as they churn across the sand and cactus quills are literally everywhere in their path! It is quite comical to watch because they take off in quick bursts and then stop abruptly, look back and forth and then take off again in a cloud of dust. The artist who created the cartoon series of the Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner did his homework when he designed the cell animation storyline. He was able to capture the movements of a roadrunner perfectly but at the expense of the very maligned coyote. He made a fool of the coyote!

This morning I took another bike ride through the desert before the winds picked up again. It is very difficult to live out here when the wind kicks up sand and dust that blows debris every which way. I can’t imagine how any of the animals that need to hunt in order to eat, manage to catch anything. The coyotes must have to hunker down and wait out the sandstorm, while the roadrunner and I get up extra early in order to avoid the wind. You can’t bike when it is windy out here. Callie too won’t even step outside the doorway when it is blowing. She knows better than to get sand in her ears and eyes. She is such a smart little kitty!

I stopped along the way to take a few more photographs of what cactus are still blooming before everything turns to dust. As I biked away, I inadvertently picked up cactus quills in my gloves. The quills had pierced all the way through to the padded sections of the gloves. All I did was brush past a cactus while focusing on an image. I still don’t know how coyotes and roadrunners avoid them, and I suppose for some, they must learn the hard way as I did. It has been a very windy, dry winter, and I can only hope that all of the native critters and plants that live out here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park make it through the summer. Chances are, many won’t survive.

Past photographs of Callie in her bike basket!

Bone Dry

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park received scant rainfall this year, but two years before that we experienced the super-bloom. It just amazes me to no end how the flora and fauna of desert life survive in such extremes. I hear the pack of coyotes most evenings and once again at dawn as they howl and yip their joy at being reunited once again after a long night, the big horn sheep that come down to the golf course to drink and graze on the grass have moved back up to higher ground, my cheeky roadrunner will stop and look Callie right in the eye if she happens to be outside while he is making his rounds, the Anna’s hummingbird dips and dives and attacks any other bird that comes into the yard, the mockingbird that Callie almost killed when we first moved here is still singing up quite a storm, and I could go on and on.

I biked today around the De Anza Golf Course and took photographs of every bloom I came across. The ocotillo have thrust out their bright orange/red blossoms even if there are only a few pathetic leaves on the stalks, the scrubby creosote have white, puffy blooms that look like cotton balls before they turn a pretty yellow, there is scarce purple desert verbena in small patches, cactus of all kind including a saguaro which is not native to this desert has gorgeous white blossoms on its tall, slender sides that bats, moths, and hummingbirds find irresistible, beaver tail, cholla and yucca throw everything they have left into desperate, ornate flowers, but the plant that gets first prize for putting on the most dramatic and dazzling display this season, is the hardy and thorny, acacia tree.

As I stepped up to each tree cautiously in order to take a photograph, the deafening buzz of thousands of wild, desert, honeybees filled the air as they covered the tree and left me in awe at just how much nature depends on these industrious pollinators. The hardy, wild bees that live in the desert year round are much smaller and darker than their European cousins, and I marvel at how they can survive in the long, hot, summer months? They are also much more aggressive and protective, so you do have to be careful when getting too close to them. So everywhere I looked today, I could see the bright, golden yellow blooms that completely covered the acacia trees dominating the arid landscape. It is a welcoming sight for an otherwise bone-dry desert, with little else that was native, even remotely green as far as the eye could see.

Oh, and did I mention the intoxicating scent of the acacia along with the well watered and pampered, grapefruit and orange blossoms of the farmers groves that are grown here locally? These farmers can tap into the ground water in Borrego Springs for free and use up all the water that they need! That is another story to be told, but the Ruby Red’s, Navels and Valencia’s, plus the seedless Cuties that everyone loves to eat are offered here at local stands and shipped out everywhere.

Callie has been very happy and healthy ever since she was diagnosed with asthma and is also on a special diet for her itchy ears. She loves dashing up the olive tree in the morning and then sleeping the day away, high up on her loft bed. The heat hasn’t arrived in all its vengeance yet, so it is still a hospitable place in which to live. In another month or so we will have to make our great escape with Pipsqueak, our 24 ft Class C RV, in search of cooler ground.

Vim and Vigor

My daughter Lara made fun of Callie this morning and remarked that she must be over the hill and getting old because she hadn’t climbed her beloved olive trees yet. Well Callie, as if she heard Lara’s callous words, sprung into action and climbed up much higher than usual and with greater speed, while also jumping from branch to branch in mid-air no less, in a daring display of olive tree climbing talent. She wasn’t going to let Lara get away with her inaccurate assessment and needed to prove to us, and to herself that she is still full of vim and vigor. We were very impressed, to say the least, and I was glad that I had my camera ready to capture the moment when she sprung into action.

With little ado, Callie raced up the main trunk of the first tree at blinding speed because the trunk has plenty of textured bark for her claws to grasp on to. It gets a little more complicated as she moves up the trunk and then heads out over to the narrower branches. These branches tend to shed their bark and are smooth in texture with much thinner auxiliary branches that get in her way. When she reaches the tip top canopy and is forced to turn around, I sometimes want to stand below her just in case she falls. She never has though, so I don’t know what I am really worried about.

To get back down, Callie has to first squat down on her butt with only her back legs and paws gripping the branch for balance. She must then twist around, lifting her front paws into the air so that she can reverse her direction as she continues heading down the steep, thin branch, but this time, head first! It is a little unnerving to watch, and I hold my breath until she finds a firm grip on the bark before settling into her graceful and athletic stride.

Today she also leaped from a much lower branch and up onto a narrow, upper branch and it was quite a feat to watch. Callie might be about 10 years old, but she acted like a kitty in her prime today. She knew how to climb an olive tree and wanted all of us to know it. Lara will never again tell Callie that she is over the hill!

It is a beautiful morning in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The sun is rising in the east and reflecting molten, pink light on the sides of my very own Mount Illuminous with a rich, powder blue sky for a backdrop. We will bike today over to Di Giorgio, Coyote Canyon, and Seley Ranch before the winds start up again.

The Acacia’s are in Bloom

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park received very little rainfall this year, so little that only the occasional buttercup, beaver tail, saguaro, and purple desert verbena have managed to bloom. The acacia trees are making up for it though, and everywhere you look, you can see the gorgeous, golden yellow flowers of this hardy desert tree propped up in front of the powder blue sky that this desert is so famous for. There is something about the lighting and dryness of this desert that flattens the landscape out and makes the distant mountains seem like pale, purple, paper cutouts.

Lara and I went on a lovely bike ride today around the De Anza Golf Course and I stopped frequently in order to take photographs. Riding a bicycle in Borrego Springs is like biking in the middle of nowhere, you are rarely interrupted by traffic. The wind was very strong all day yesterday and long into the night, and when there is that kind of a wind-storm in the desert, it means that rain is probably falling somewhere else, I hear that Northern California got so much rain that flooding has occurred. All we got was wind, interesting clouds, and lots of sand dumped into my pool and all over the windowsills and doors. The palm trees and Callie’s olive trees danced and twirled at sunset and pollen and debris have been blown everywhere.

But today it is calm and clear and the sky a deep powder blue. Lara and I are baking fresh, pumpkin, banana bread and homemade vegetable soup for the return of my husband, Michal who has been in New York for a Podiatry seminar. Callie can once again sit outside and enjoy the outdoors without being blown sideways and all is good. Having gone on a nice bike ride earlier, we can now enjoy a hearty bowl of vegetable soup and a slice of bread slathered with butter.