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!

Plenty of Time to get into Trouble!

Callie has finally recovered from her viral pneumonia. She had one mild coughing spell yesterday, but none the day before and we are finished with the antibiotic. It has been a difficult illness for her, but the joy of feeling well again is obvious. She has a spring in her step and wanted to rip out all the bark of every pine tree she came across on her morning walk here at Mammoth. Tiny chipmunks kept running in front of her and birds of all kinds were singing and flying from tree to tree. The sky is a deep blue with just a few puffy clouds in the distance. Apparently it snowed just two days ago, but you would never believe it from the mild temperature today and it almost feels like summer.  

Michael, Fred, Callie and I left Anza Borrego yesterday morning at 7am and made the heroic effort to get to Mammoth Lakes before sundown. Preparing for an RV trip is work. You have to be organized in your thoughts and have the energy and strength to load up everything you will need. You must grocery shop, get gas or diesel fuel, make sure the oil levels are good and the water tank has some fresh water in it.  You don’t want to drive around with too much water because of the added weight. We don’t have the luxery of leaving a lot of stuff in the RV in between our trips, because everything would melt. The temperature in Borrego Springs is expected to reach 117 this week. Thank goodness we made it to Mammoth and as I write about this blog this fine morning, it is a beautiful 75 degrees out with a low of 41 at night. 

We arrived in plenty of time to set up camp but unfortunatly the lakes are closed to camping because of massive amounts of snow still on the sides of the mountains. We were turned around at Lake George and Mary and finally at Twin Lakes we had to drive back into town and are staying at a local RV park called New Shady Rest which is at a lower elevation. It is beautiful here and we are parked under pine trees with Fred camped right across from us. *

Callie loved the drive yesterday and sat on the dash most of the way. She loves to look out the window and feel the sun on her face with the air conditioning blasting right below her. She really is jostled around quit a bit, and it is funny to watch her with her eyes closed and a content look on her face while appearing to be tossed up and down at a rapid pace. It looks like she is a baby taking a nap and her mommy is jiggling her to sleep. Her head bobs up and down and lulls her into a deep sleep.

We plan on staying here for a couple of nights and may attempt to go to Convict Lake next. It is at a lower elevation and may be open to camping. I have called but no one at the campground has returned my call as of yet. Sitting here in the RV with Callie napping after a long walk this morning is such a treat. People always comment on what an unusual sight she is, and I always tell them she is a D.O.G.- spelling it out for them slowly until they get it. It usually produces a hearty laugh and a response that you don’t see a cat being walked very often. She is really improving on her walking skills and we are going further and further and she respects my wishes to go one way when she would rather go another! We also went on a long bike ride with her sitting primly in the basket. Mammoth is very biker friendly and there are paved bike paths all over the town. 

 It is so wonderful to be here and I can’t wait to share all of the adventures that Callie and I will discover and experience.  We hope to travel for about 2 weeks; plenty of time to get into loads of trouble!

* The reason that the campgrounds around the lakes are closed is because of record breaking amounts of snow and the generator has broken. There is a concern of raw sewage seeping into the lakes.

A Cat Day Afternoon

It is warm and balmy today…. not hot and dry. I think you would call it a dog’s day afternoon! But since we are talking about a cat named  Callie, I shall call it a cat’s day afternoon instead! Air conditioning in this area is a luxery and wasteful because of the cost and how compromised this old house is. The windows aren’t double paned and the doors all have gaps in them. We are attempting to seal them up as much as possible because I have sand dunes forming inside the house whenever there is a sandstorm outside. The renovations of the house are a work in progress, and the next goal is to go solar.* That would be the sensible and responsible thing to do in the desert.  But for now, we are using the “swamp cooler!” The swamp cooler (now isn’t that a funky word) is a boxed contraption that sits on a window sill, and cools air by circulating water and air through a filter.  It is noisy and you have to make sure that the filters are clean and free of mildew and mold. You can’t run it when it is windy outside because it will blow desert sand all over your house. If Callie walks past it, she is almost lifted off of her feet and blown backwards from the blast of wind generating from it. She has learned to hesitate, duck down low, and run really fast with her ears pinned back, whenever she is forced to cross its path. We have it in the master bedroom window, and it is necessary to turn it off at night or we all freeze to death. There is no gage to set the temperature; just low, medium and high for the force of wind being generated by it. It also isn’t the best cooler to use when it is humid outside, because it cools by water, and needs hot, dry, outside air circulating through the filters in order to cool the air inside. If the outside air is already moist, it struggles to make any difference to the temperature inside the house. So today is a cat day afternoon, with the swamp cooler on high, and Callie, Michael and I on ~ lay -down ~low and easy!!!!

* I am getting a quote tomorrow for solar panels!

The Return of the Cicada

Summer doesn’t really make itself known until the cicada emerges from slits in the bark of the olive tree. They typically live in trees and feed off of the sap. I do not think these are periodic cicadas because I see them every summer. The periodic cicada emerges every 13 to 17 years, and arrive in such large numbers that they overwhelm the predator population. This gives the cicadas a chance to survive, and to begin the process all over again. There are over 1,300 species, many of which have not been listed, so I shall call my cicadas the “Anza Borrego Cicada.” It is my story and I shall call them what I want to! Cicadas have been written about in myths and folklore since the beginning of the written word, and represent immortality and a laid back life style. 

When the “Anza Borrego Cicadas” make themselves known in the desert, it is usually after a couple of days that are cooler, and lukewarm, balmy nights. June gloom has hit the coastal areas and because of milder temperatures inland, the desert has cooled off considerably. The sky is cloudy and the sunlight diffused and much less intense. When the song of the cicada is added to the mix~ it is the call of summer to me. Their song can be heard mostly at night so that they can avoid being eaten, but when a bird or other predator is chasing after one, they screech for dear life. The sound is produced not by stridulation, but by vibrating like the beating of a drum; only really, really, fast! I suppose if you slowed it down considerably, you would be able to hear a thump-thumping beat. I actually like the sound and it reminds me of the tropics. It can be deafening at night, and when you hear the cicada and the male mockingbird singing it’s heart out in the middle of the night, summer is in full swing mode.

This morning when Callie and I were enjoying her usual climb up her beloved olive trees, we saw several cicadas crawl out from their hiding places. One in particular; in its nymp state, had left the eco-skeleton behind, clinging tightly to the curb by the pool. The actual cicada has beautiful membranous wings that are clear and you can see through them and are quite extraordinary. I find them to be a beautiful insect and because they don’t bite and stay clear of you; totally benign. They are quite a feast for all the birds that toughen it out over the summer, including the roadrunner. 

The War on Drugs

The latest diagnosis for Callie has been viral pneumonia. She started coughing in early March and every time she finishes up a round of antibiotics, she starts to cough again. It is a deep, wracking cough, that stops her in her tracks. It has not been a fun experience for her or for me. I have to administer a decongestant and an antibiotic, a 1cc syringe full of fluid every 12 hours. This will be her 5th and 6th round. We doubled up this time in hopes that we finally get her 100% well. 

In order to not get scratched, I pull out a towel or blanket and wrap her up nice and snug with just her head peaking out. I then hold her tight and pry open her mouth so that Michael can inject the medicine down her throat. Once it is in her mouth, I have to make sure that she doesn’t spit it back out, so I have to hold her firmly until I see that she has swallowed. The first decongestant I gave her was so bitter and nasty tasting, she would froth at the mouth and then vomit. When I told this to the doctor, he laughed and said “He knew it was bitter, but had never heard of a pet acting out so dramatically!” We switched to another med that seems to be much more palatable.

Callie has figured out the 12 hour encriments too and runs and hides under the bed. She watches my hands to see if I am holding anything in them, and will take off at a brisk trot at the first hint of trouble heading her way. We have about 10 more days of dealing with this before we can be done. She is going to be so neurotic by then…. I have taken to holding her tight for awhile after she swallows the medicine, to praise her and tell her what a good girl she is. The war on drugs has been a hefty battle, but I will win the war because it is for her own good. I imagine that if this round doesn’t do the trick, we will have to figure out what to do next. It is still plausible that she has asthma or heart worm.

This morning has been a good one so far. She has climbed her favorite olive tree and came head to head with the rascally roadrunner. That bird shows no fear of Callie. She hasn’t coughed once yet and her energy is back. It is a beautiful morning in the desert and birds are singing. My hummingbirds entertain her with their swoops and dives, clicks and flashes of green and purple. It will be a mild temperature outside, with high clouds and a slight breeze in Anza Borrego. There are no more flowers left blooming except for domesticated oleander and bougainvillea and the desert has returned to an arid landscape once again…

Henderson Canyon-ABDSP

Michael and I had a fabulous bike ride to Henderson Canyon this morning. The weather has cooled off and that is always a nice surprise. We didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and when we got to Henderson Canyon, we noticed that a new sign had been posted that read- Anza Borrego Desert State Park. I am so happy to see that the park has expanded and that this favorite bike ride of ours will be protected. This canyon is where I take photographs every springtime for the spectacular desert wildflower bloom. This particular spring we had a super bloom! It is famous world wide for sand verbena, dune primrose and sunflowers. Today I took photographs of a few stragglers that had found reason to bloom because of a storm that passed through last week; but these will be the last of the flowers until next spring. I am so heartened to see that this valley will remain wild and that no developement will destroy the beauty of the place. * 

* super bloom- be sure to check out stories and photos I uploaded during the super bloom as a comparison to now!

Hot & Bothered

Borrego Springs peaked at 104 today and Callie doesn’t like the heat. It makes her hot and bothered and she can’t play outside. Because we had so much rain this spring, there are a lot of insects outdoors and the gnats are the worst. They go for your eyes and ears and make doing anything outside, difficult and annoying. Taking walks is uncomfortable when the gnats swarm you, but you can get away with biking early in the morning, just as long as you keep your mouth closed and your sunglasses on.

So Callie had a long and boring day of moping around and she slept a lot. I had to make sure that she got some playtime in before bedtime though, so I invited her up on the bed to play and I snap her with a wand that has a pile of feathers at the end of it, and a mouse that has catnip stuffed inside. We have about 10 minutes of rough and tumble playtime and then she is ready to have an evening snack and climbs up onto the hutch where her two beds are, and will sleep for awhile. She gets up several times at night to eat small amounts of kibble, and then back up to either the Kong bed or the round one depending on her mood. Her cough is improving every day, but she still has several spells of hacking and wheezing. Her energy level is better though and she has a sparkle back in her eyes. Her desire to play has increased again and I think she is getting better from her upper respiratory infection….. YAY!

Biking Sand or Sea

Biking in Morro Bay on the new bike trail by the sea was fabulous when we camped at Cypress RV Park, but Michael and I still rate Anza Borrego Desert State Park as the best. This morning we got up early and got a ride in before it became too hot. Temperatures are already passing 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark! You have to get your outdoor activities in before noon, or the heat becomes too oppressive and even dangerous. We have a couple more weeks before we head out again in our RV, so we are going to try to bike every morning and swim in the afternoon. I have put on some weight over the winter months and want to lean out again;  not so much for appearance sake, but because my overall health improves. Once you hit 60+, it is a slippery slope to age related illnesses.

In De Anza Desert State Park, all the visitors have abandoned the desert for the coast and the mountains, so we have the place to ourselves along with the few locals that stay during the summer. This summer we will only come back periodically to check on our house and caretaker and then off we will go again. It is just too hot to stay here year round! Last summer it peaked at 124 degrees Fahrenheit and I swear, birds were falling from the sky already pre-roasted…

But biking before it gets too hot is the best of all. You hardly ever see a car on the road, and the light and shadows on the mountains cast a unique pattern superimposed against the powder blue of the sky. The mountains all around appear pasted on a background and look incredibly surreal. It must have something to do with the dry air, because I have not seen this look anywhere else. There are still plenty of cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits, roadrunners, coyotes, quail, hummingbirds and bighorn sheep to keep you company. Today I came across 2 cactus blooming their outrages pink blossoms that must be dependent on a particular moth or migrating hummingbird to germinate it. I also find it interesting that they were both blooming at the exact same time and were not next to one another. I am reading a wonderful book called: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlieben & Tim Flannery, and it suggests that plants do communicate with one another and have a consciousness that we have yet to fully understand. This book crossed my mind when I saw these two neglected and pathetic, water starved cactus plants flowering their hearts out in full display about 5 feet apart.

If we can get up early enough; my husband is not a morning person, we will attempt to do Coyote Canyon tomorrow morning. It is a sandy, off road trail that winds around and over 2 possible water sources at this time of year and is home to a variety of wildlife; especially the bighorn sheep. While I may miss Morro Bay, I am making the most of a situation by biking in desolate Anza Borrego Desert State Park in the early hours of the day, or after the sun sets in the evenings. There is something to be said for worrying about running into a bighorn sheep or rattlesnake; rather than a car. Callie, of course, spends most of the day, sleeping in her red basket, and assisting me with my blog. Her health is still improving and she is coughing less often, so I am hopeful she will continue to get well.

Sitting Tall and Pretty

Today is Callie’s 3rd day riding in the front loading bike basket. She is sitting tall and pretty and seems to be having a good time. Oleander and sage fill the air with a beautiful, desert scent, and birds are all that you hear besides the wind and occasional golf course worker. The insects are not yet dominant and the temperature is still mild enough for a bike ride as long as you do it before 10:00 in the morning. By the time we head out in the RV, she should be comfortable enough to bike out on some of the nature trails. I am very happy for her and for myself. Hauling her around in the backpack, on the bike, was not easy. She was gentle with her claws, but I could tell she would get hot, and her line of vision was obscured by my back. Happy trails for all!

Off Road Biking in Coyote Canyon

It doesn’t get any better than this. After dropping Callie off to continue biking, we headed to Coyote Canyon which is something we have only done with a 4 wheel drive car. Riding the sandy trail with bikes was as close as it gets to riding a horse; which is my all time favorite thing to do with my sister Gayle. The day was gorgeous and still cool enough to enjoy exerting oneself under the sun.

When we got about half way to our finish line, I noticed one Hawk-moth pollinating a lovely scented Desert Willow tree. We had just passed through the second wash of deep sand, and I was getting use to biking off road. The tree was covered with bees buzzing all around it and I just happened to see the one moth. I raced over and was able to get a couple shots of it before it headed out into the vast desert. I was just writing about this moth yesterday when I posted about the Sacred Datura and how it depends on this type of moth to help pollinate it. They look just like hummingbirds in flight and their size is somewhat off putting because they are so large. 

The bike ride was fabulous and I love off road biking. There is a trick to driving over soft sand but I got the hang of it right away and feel like a natural. I can’t wait to take the bikes to Mount Laguna. When we hiked there in early March, the trails were perfect for biking. Not too steep and rocky and wide enough to guide yourself around obstacles. What a fun day so far. Callie is resting and I was able to do the photography that I so much wanted to do. A Hawk-moth in flight in the middle of the desert. You cannot ask for more!