Lake Sabrina

Lake Sabrina is located above Bishop in the Eastern Sierras of California and has some of the most beautiful lakes that I have ever seen. We stayed at South Lake for almost a week and then moved over to Sabrina which is on the other side of the fork leading up to the campgrounds.

Lake Sabrina Campground was dry camping but the bathrooms were very clean and we had site number 16 that had a view of Bishop Creek and the snow-dusted mountains that cradled the lake. The mosquitos are bad but because we were there when a cold front had moved in and the first rain fell of the season, it wasn’t too bad for us at all. Not being right by the river helped too!

Michael hiked every day and I hung around because of an injured tailbone and I took Callie on walks and did a lot of photography. The rain came down hard several days with thunder and lightning, and the view was spectacular. White-tailed deer sauntered past our RV without a care in the world and Robins and Scrub Jays were everywhere. Callie loved it there because there were very few dogs and the fishermen were quiet and very respectful.

It only cost us $14.00 a night to stay there and it was one of the best places we have ever camped at. We have now moved over to the Keough hot springs right outside Bishop and can spend some time soaking in the mineral pools and relaxing before we have to go to Encinitas for eye surgery on the 18th. I am trying to get as much photography and writing done as possible before I am laid up. I am having a pterygium removed that has grown quite large and has now become a major surgery. I had one removed about 25 years ago and it was so traumatic, that I have held back on having the other eye done until it has now become absolutely necessary.

Nature

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This is a photographic compilation of some of my travels, not all with Callie, but with Michael for sure. He has been quite supportive all these years. He bought me a Polaroid camera when my daughter Lara was born 32 years ago, and I haven’t stopped since!

Biking in Borrego

I am not sure if I would have become much of a cyclist if I hadn’t moved to Borrego Springs which is nestled alongside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. When I get on my bicycle and head out into the desert, I rarely come across any cars and viewing wildlife is an everyday occurrence. This morning a coyote dashed across the street but stopped along the tamarisk grove on Henderson Canyon to watch Michael and me intently. They don’t seem to recognize us as a threat as much as if you were walking or driving in an automobile.

I tried to whip out my iPhone in order to take a photo of this handsome guy who I have seen on numerous occasions, but the simple act of reaching for the camera made him skittish and he took off at a fast lope. It is a good thing that he is afraid, otherwise he may get shot. I happen to really value the predators in the desert and appreciate their role in keeping a healthy balance with the up and down population of rabbits and small rodents.

Yesterday morning I chanced upon another gorgeous cactus bloom and stopped to take photographs. These flowers only last 24 hours; when you pass them the next day, they are all shriveled up and having served their purpose, wilt and drop off from the main stalk. The brilliant white petals didn’t have a flaw on them and the wild desert honey bees hadn’t even discovered them yet. This morning when I biked past them again, you would never have known how beautiful they were just the day before. I also came across some brilliant red blooms and these flowers had attracted the bees.

We have decided not to go to Rancho Cuyamaca this week for various reasons and are enjoying some rather unexpected, lovely weather and the temperature won’t rise about 95 degrees. That is so wonderful that we have decided to hang out for a couple more weeks. Once the temperature soars, we will have to pack up and head out for most of the summer months.

Callie has been taking it easy and I am being much more protective of her when she is in the backyard ever since the bobcat made his appearance. This cat was so bold and lightening fast, it brought the wild right inside my backyard in a flash. She wouldn’t stand a chance if a cat like that decided to make a meal of her. I always leave the backyard door open too so that if she is startled, she can run back inside.

A Treasure to Behold

I haven’t studied the science behind cactus blooms, so suffice it to say, my mind is blown away in a similar fashion as to when I ponder metamorphosis. I saw a beautiful short animation film on metamorphosis once and it was broken down into simple parts and stages, but nevertheless, when a caterpillar emerges into a butterfly, I choose to marvel at Mother Nature with a sense of wonderment. Just the thought of instinct for one thing; the ability to be born with all the knowledge that you need in order to survive from the moment you are brought into being. Wow! But back to the cactus flowers, how can they produce such outrageously, large and numerous blossoms, with no leaves, and all those wicked quills poking out to protect the vulnerable, water saturated stalks?

So I biked for a couple of hours yesterday morning in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and there is very little out there that appears to be alive, or at least at a glance, not suffering horribly through this season of so little rainfall. The acacias still have a few golden flowers on them, the century plants, all in tandem it seems, have shot up their asparagus type stalks and another species, the yucca, that supports a plume of gorgeous, white flowers, are far and few between. Some palm trees have flowering bouquets, heavily laden with clusters of tiny white blooms, are humming and vibrating with desert bees. The sage, though struggling and brittle, has managed to support a few silvery blossoms.

This particular cactus, that was so exquisite I jumped off of my bike and took numerous photographs of; this fortunate plant was growing in a tended yard and had the benefit of being watered. It was covered with beautiful, soft pink and white flowers, their edges touched with salmon and burgundy. The wild desert honey bees had discovered this treasure to behold and were rolling ecstatically in the center of the blooms as they collected pollen in an orgy of delight!

As I bike, I look around attentively and it takes my mind off of the effort of pedaling in the heat. I love biking and really appreciate being in the desert where very few people are around and I don’t have to worry about cars on the road. I didn’t pass one vehicle yesterday. The temperature has stayed under 100 degrees, so it is still very tolerable here. We are planning on going back up to Lake Cuyamaca on Monday to continue exploring off-road biking. The trails are incredible there. It’s too crowded over the weekend though. Callie is bored with olive tree climbing and ready for another adventure! She won’t have to wait too much longer.

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.

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.

The Acacia‚Äôs 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.

We Got Rain!

Another storm has been drenching Los Angeles, and we are actually getting light rainfall too in the desert. It has been a very dry winter so far and there aren’t many wildflowers blooming, but it is still a welcome relief and very much appreciated.

Callie loves it when a storm front moves in and you can tell the smells are intoxicating to her. She sits primly on the pool deck and wiggles her nose in search of scents riding on the wind. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is always buffeted by wind before any rainfall is received and this storm was no exception. The wind roared last night as it pulled the storm up and over the barrier of the mountains.

The rain finally came around 5:00 pm and while not much of a drenching, it is still so dramatic with the dark and ominous clouds and lighting. It was also much cooler today. I just finished listening to the chorus of coyotes yipping and howling behind the house. The Coyotes love a storm too!

The Stories just Write Themselves

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t take at least a couple of photographs of poor Callie. Whatever we are doing together, I have my iPhone 7 plus handy and I am always capturing the moment with images of her. I would hate it if someone had the lens turned on me, and Callie sometimes shows great irritation when I have it aimed at her, but for the most part, she is a good sport about it all.

So this afternoon we spent time rescuing wild desert honey bees from the pool and basking under the diffused light of the sun. There is a hazy cloud layer but the temperature is warmer, maybe 82 degrees and the insects are starting to hatch and the gnats which feed the hummingbirds aim for your eyes and nose and ears. They are quite annoying but a necessary part of living in the desert where water has been interjected.

So many wild animals benefit from the water sources of golf courses and the trees and shade that they provide. I for one am not a fan of golf but do appreciate the shade and cover from the sun the park-like setting provides for birds, cottontails, and coyotes, even the bighorn sheep depend on the grass and water before the rains come. There have been times that I am driving at night and I will see an entire pack of coyotes romping along the lush green belt.

Springtime is almost upon us and you can feel it in the air. The days are getting longer and this is probably the best time of year for desert inhabitants. Cactus start to bloom which feed the hummingbirds and pollinators, insects thrive which in turn sustain the flocks of migratory birds and people get to enjoy the mild climate in a paradise setting.