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.

Romeo Romeo-Where Art thou Romeo?

Poor Callie, she is still sneaking down the hallway to the master bedroom and parking herself by the glass door and looking out into the night for hours at a time. I suppose it keeps her busy and she has something to focus on. She heads down the hallway right about the time I am cooking dinner and I see her glance fleetingly over her shoulder to check if anyone is looking at her. For some reason, she prefers to be private about the whole affair and acts so secretive.

I am not sure if Romeo has made any more nightly visits, but the coyotes were howling and yipping tonight. There is a robust pack that has pups every year in the canyon behind the house because you can hear the chorus of young voices chiming in with the adults. The pups have much higher yips, and become very excited and sound almost hysterical when the pack is reunited after a hunt. Some years there are fewer pups, but this pack sounds very rambunctious and joyous and there are at least 10 of them.

One year, a pup with a really high pitched and squeaky howl would crack me up because her howl stood out among all the others. It sounded like a young female with a lot of attitude, and if she was able to mature into adulthood, I would hope she became an alpha female. I wonder if she is still alive today and has pups of her own? I have a great deal of respect for coyotes and admire their family unit and how adaptable they are. I see them frequently during the day and they hunt cooperatively in 2’s or more.

If Romeo is out there, I hope he is really vigilant and takes great precautions not to become a meal. As for Callie, I can only come to the conclusion that she is enjoying some kind of attention in return for her loyalty and that her efforts are being rewarded. Her patience is commendable and totally out of character.

Deep Sand

Today we chose to bike off-road behind the house and Michael and I took a trail we tried to bike on about a year ago thinking that our bikes were an improvement from the last time. I had a Marin hybrid and didn’t make it 5 ft into the what is really a sandy, dry river bed before I had to get off and walk. In fact, I cursed mightily the whole way because I was rarely able to stay upright in the deep sand and kept falling over and having to walk alongside my worthless bicycle.

I have a Raleigh now with 2.5-inch tires, maybe 3 inches, max. I have shocks on the front and a very hard saddle. My bike handled better than last time but still not as good as I had hoped. I was able to stay upright about 1/3 of the time versus practically zero last time. You really need the balloon tires to stay vertical in deep sand and I was smart enough to walk when I thought it was necessary.

Michael’s bike wasn’t much of an improvement either and he walked some of the time but also spent a fair amount muscling himself up and over the handlebars by accident, tipping sideways frequently and almost landed on a cactus, once. We have very different biking styles when it comes to difficult terrain and my motto is to NOT get hurt anymore. I am accident prone and I don’t want any more injuries, period.

It is an awesome hiking trail nevertheless, and the wash follows along the base of my famous self-titled, Mount Illuminous. When you look up close and personal to the foothill, you can see how sparse the side of the mountain is, and how extreme the conditions are for growing any kind of plants. Ocotillo thrive at the base of this hillside and sage and creosote have a foothold wedged around some of the boulders along the sheer cliff, but it is mostly sand, rocks, and boulders.

I could hear wild honey bees humming and came across a desert honeysuckle bush in the wash that was desperately trying to call attention to itself and the bees were responding by poking around in the closed blossoms in search of nectar. Some of the ocotillos were blooming too, and that and the honeysuckle were the only flowers that I could see in the desert at this time. There hasn’t been much rainfall so far, but I am hoping for another couple of showers before the sun heats the desert up too much.

The sand may have been too deep for easy riding, but it was still a fun morning of off-roading and the sky was a deep blue and the temperature a mild 68 degrees. Now I can relax in the house and not feel restless. Lara baked chocolate chip cookies, so I can eat several cookies without feeling guilty.

Callie has enjoyed the morning basking in the sunshine and is still pining for Romeo. She spends several hours in the evening looking out the master bedroom sliding glass door and makes it a high priority to smell the oleander bushes and olive trees where he has been known to mark. Hopefully, someday he will show himself. She has never been interested in another cat before so I am glad we are hitting the road next week. She seems a little lonely out here in the middle of nowhere and getting back in the RV and being the queen of the dash will make it all better!

In Search of Romeo

Callie was called upon by a tomcat last night, and once it was light enough in the morning for her to go outside and into the backyard safely, I opened up the slider and Callie didn’t even make it past the door jam before she stopped to inhale the scent of Romeo’s calling card. It was intoxicating, to say the least. She then proceeded to check out all of the olive trees, oleander bushes, and the back wall. She knew exactly where he had been. At one time she would have had her hackles up and been totally outraged and indignant, now she seems interested and curious. Nothing like playing hard to get, to turn a feline on like little miss hard to get, Callie. I wonder if her suitor will ever show himself in the light of day?

Callie has a Suitor

I have suspected for several nights now that Callie’s suitor has returned because she disappears in the evening for hours at a time, and after searching for her, I found her under a chair in the master bedroom that has a hollow base to it. She curls up under this chair with her front paws and chin facing the sliding door, and peers out intently into the blackness of the night. When I caught her hiding under there, she got up quickly and sat by the window and kept staring. I can’t let her out at night because of coyotes, so she has no choice but to stare at whatever it is she is looking at but with the glass door as a barrier between her and it. Living in Borrego Springs prevents her from unchaperoned access to the outdoors, and I am not about to let her out after dark when I can’t see a thing.

About a year ago, we had the tuxedo tom, a relatively young black and white, tall and lean, gorgeous male in his prime, strolling through the backyard, meowing as tomcats will do, and Callie would throw herself against the door in outrage as she screamed like a banshee and scared the shit out of me. She has always despised her own species because the boys in particular when we lived at the beach, would take one look at her cute little behind and darling back legs and be totally smitten. They would advance on her aggressively instead of taking it slow and easy, and this would make her very upset. I would have to chase them off when we went out for walks together and she hated the attention.

There is also a ginger tom that has managed to survive as a semi-feral male for at least 4 years now that I know of, and he is squat with a thick neck, is short legged and one tough looking home-boy. I am amazed he is still alive and can only surmise that someone must periodically feed him and provide fresh water. I suppose he has access to all the backyard pools too. But summer temperatures can reach a whopping 124 degrees, and most people leave until the fall, so this is one tough cat. He has managed to avoid becoming a meal to the many coyotes in the area and hunt for himself, so this makes him a hero to me.

Both mark the olive tree and the screen door because Callie reacts by curling her lip and staring out into space with a funny, intent look on her face when she gets a whiff. Living out here in the desert for almost two years now has left her just a little bit lonely, and I think she doesn’t mind their presence as much as she used to. This morning because of the brightness of the moon, I got up at 4 am and while I was sipping coffee and Callie was resting on the stereo that provides warmth for her, we heard the distinctive mournful meows of one of her suitors. I couldn’t see which one it was, but Callie jumped up on the windowsill and stared out into the void, and this time she appreciated the attention.

Now I know why she is secretly going into the back bedroom and staring out into the backyard for hours. She is carrying on a secretive romance with Romeo, and this time because of the glass barrier, he is having to take it nice and slow and easy, just the way she likes it!

Lower Coyote Canyon

The weather has been perfect for outdoor activity and Michael and I impulsively decided to off-road cycle to Lower Coyote Canyon. I have a somewhat new Raleigh bike that I had yet to try out in deep sand and wanted to check it out. It performed beautifully and we were able to bike all the way to the first spring where coyotes and Bighorn Sheep drink and Brittle Bush bloom in the middle of February. The Ocotillo were starting to green up too and some even had the beautiful bright orange blossoms at the end of their thorny stalks. Purple, fragrant desert verbena is only blooming along the banks of the water source, nothing like last spring when the super bloom blanketed the entire desert.

Swainson’s Hawks are migrating overhead from Argentina and Mexico on the return trip to Canada and they only eat insects on the wing as they travel home. Birders come from all over the world to count how many hawks pass over Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and there is a bench at the entrance to Coyote Canyon for the counters to sit on and watch with binoculars.

There has been very little rainfall this winter, but the natural spring is still flowing and the sky a deep, powder blue with wispy cereus clouds and contrails streaking high up overhead. Wild bees were buzzing and we were the only bikers out there this morning. Five 4 wheel drive jeeps caravanned past us slowly as they continued up the road to the upper spring, but otherwise, it was only us and nature.

It felt good to bike off-road and I actually prefer it to street biking. I love horseback riding, and this type of biking reminds me of being on a horse. We did pass two riders that board their horses at Vern Whittaker Stables and I was just a tad bit jealous. I love horseback riding and miss doing that with my sister.

A beautiful day unfolded and it was a perfect bike ride. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is at its best in late winter and early spring. Callie has enjoyed several servings of the new, homemade cat food and I hope she will continue to eat it. All is good in the middle of nowhere!

Beware of Automobiles

What with the dangers of cycling in the city, Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is an awesome and safe alternative. California’s largest state park, it has miles and miles of paved roads and off-road trails that are scenic and you rarely come into contact with a car. It is only about a 2-hour drive east of San Diego and is a fabulous destination if you want to get away from it all.

This morning, Michael, Lara and I biked to Indian Head Ranch, Coyote Canyon, Seley Ranch and the start of Henderson Canyon. The weather was perfect and we met Ed from Oregon and Tom from Colorado. Michael was delighted to have some male companionship and the three guys talked nonstop as they biked along behind Lara and me. All three men are in their 70’s and in great shape. We did 19 miles today and my daughter, Lara was able to keep up with all of them.

There is something so wonderful about cycling and then coming back to a quiet house in the desert in order to relax and read and write and look at photography. I would go a little crazy living out here in the middle of nowhere if I didn’t at least wear myself out for the day! So three cheers to biking in the desert. You are more apt to see a coyote, roadrunner or quail than you are a car!

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Callie got just a little bit too rambunctious this morning climbing up her beloved olive tree! She raced up the trunk of one offshoot branch that was smooth and didn’t have any bark on it. When she decided to come back down, she couldn’t turn around because there was nothing to hook her claws into. The look in her eyes and the expression on her face was hilarious and I could tell that she was in just a little bit over her head as she reluctantly slid and scraped her way back down the slick and tractionless trunk, butt first!


A Winter Storm in the Desert

When a winter storm makes it’s way past the barrier of the San Ysidro Mountains, it does so by way of wind. You can usually hear the storm advancing long before there is much in the way of clouds. If the storm is powerful enough and the clouds heavy with water, rain will be dropped on the dry side of the mountain. If not, the desert will just embrace the wind and the wind will send the sand flying in all directions, making it difficult for birds to fly, road runners to run and coyotes to hunt. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park has had a very dry winter so far, so I am hoping for a little rain.

First thing this morning, I awoke to the roar of wind through the olive trees and watched as the tall Mexican Palm trees danced and twirled while being anchored in one place. Cloud shadows raced along the sides of the mountains and the foothills at the base, which then glowed with molten light as the sun rose in the east. Callie loves to climb the olive trees when there is a storm developing, and gets a kick out of being tossed around while surveying her view of the desert.

This storm has produced dramatic light and shadow, but very little rainfall so far. Another storm was predicted in a couple of days, but I can already see that that storm too has given up its punch and fizzled out. It takes a really strong and powerful storm to push its way past the mountains, that is why it is called a desert. Rainfall has trouble getting over to the other side!

The wind also makes it next to impossible to cycle in. At the very least, you have to work so hard to push forward with any momentum, and I always worry about getting sand in my eyes. As a high schooler, I use to bike to school, and one day during a particularly strong Santa Ana wind, I actually scratched the inside of my eyelid and it took months for me to recover from the pain and discomfort.

Today will be a day of writing and I will be reading indoors, so I am appreciative that I was able to capture the photographs that I did at sunrise. Now I can write and share with my viewers, the beautiful cloud shadows and Callie climbing her beloved olive trees. Every morning she attempts a dash up at least one of the trees before going back to sleep for a nice long nap.

Cycling in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

What with mild temperatures, few cars and very little hill work, Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is an ideal spot for cycling. Street bikes have numerous locations in which to explore and if you are so inclined, the many nature trails also allow for off-road bikes. One of my favorite trails is Coyote Canyon, and if the weather stays mild, Michael and I might take an off-road ride in the near future.

Yesterday, Michael, Lara and I rode to Henderson Canyon and Lara is capable of doing 15 miles now! She has a beginner, low end priced, Alight that weighs much more than my Cannondale and Michael’s Trek, and she has managed to keep up with us. I am very proud of her.

Henderson Canyon is a beautiful stretch of flat road that has a north view of Coyote Canyon that during the springtime, and if conditions are right, explodes with wildflowers. For now, it is mostly sand with creosote bushes sprinkled sparingly among the low lying dunes. We also biked to Seley Ranch, an organic citrus fruit grove that offers free chilled water and sweet, ruby-red grapefruits for visitors to sample. An entire 10lb bag of grapefruits only costs $3.50. A table and benches are set up under a palm frond roof and a cutting board with a knife is provided. We usually bike along Di Giorgio and pass the scorpion and locust sculpture that sculptor, Richardo Breceda created and erected maybe 10 years ago, and then finally to the De Anza Golf Course on our final leg of the journey.

It is a delightful way to pass the time and you are left feeling relaxed and stress-free for the rest of the day. There is also Borrego Bikes which rents bikes out for the day if you don’t own one, or simply don’t want to haul a bike into the desert.

Callie is climbing her beloved olive trees, and this morning, she climbed quite high in order to survey her domain in the crisp chilled early morning light. She is feeling wonderful and there is no residual sneezing on her part. Her appetite is ravenous so I am going to have to be careful not to indulge her too much. She is getting a little pot belly, and as cute as she is, too much weight gain will be hard on her asthma. She sure is persuasive and charming though when it comes to begging for food!