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 Crown Jewel

Michael and I biked close to 20 miles today! That means we probably biked 19, but 20 sounds more impressive and who’s counting! It is starting to heat up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, but if you get out the door around 7 am and return by 10:30, you will miss most of the intense heat.

We biked up to Di Giorgio and over to Coyote Canyon, took Henderson Canyon to the starting point of the state park, over to Seley Ranch- the ruby red grapefruit farm, back to Di Giorgio and south to the Locust and Scorpion sculptures, returning to the Dragon Sculpture and around the De Anza Country Club Golf Course.

During our bike ride we saw at least 3 different coyotes hunting, numerous cottontails, kestrels, roadrunners, a jackrabbit, common grackles, quail, and doves. It is the tail end of spring and everything is trying to eat or not be eaten before summer settles in with a vengeance. When I watch the cottontails enjoying a moments respite in the bright sunshine, all I can think of is being here and now; they are a good meal source for many of the predators. Watching a bobcat chase one down, only to abort the hunt because we came along on our bikes, this particular bunny was saved to appreciate one more day. As we rounded the bend on the last leg of our journey, I spotted these bright yellow cactus blooms, a crown jewel to me, and the desert willow, which smells just like fresh, clean soap and were covered with wild desert honey bees.

It was beautiful out and now I can start preparing for Lake Cuyamaca as we will try and leave first thing in the morning. There is a thunderstorm predicted for tomorrow and I love storms. It will be windy here, so I am really appreciative that we are heading up to the mountains. Reading about the mountain bikers that were attacked by a male cougar in Eastern Seattle was a little unsettling. I have seen evidence of mountain lions when we bike in Cuyamaca and know that if I were to come into contact with one of these majestic predators, I would not run. The friend that was killed, took off running when his friend was attacked. The man that was attacked watched as his friend was chased down by the 110-pound cat and was able to bike away himself to call 911.

They tracked the cat down and found him standing over the dead man’s body. The cougar was chased up a tree and then shot. You must make eye contact and do what it takes to fight back. Use your bike as a weapon and start swinging it around. Throw your helmet at it. Scream, shout, anything but run. They have more of a right to be there than we do and if they succeed in attacking someone, they are hunted down themselves and destroyed.

Looking forward to my next adventure, and Callie is more than ready to go. She gets bored hanging around the house and loves to travel. As soon as the motor starts up in the RV, she jumps up on the dash and is ready for action.

Ride ’em Cowgirl

I have been forced to hide Callie’s butt ugly worm toy because she became so addicted to it that she wouldn’t even go outside to climb her beloved olive trees. That was quite a startling revelation for me and I pondered over the thin line between seeking pleasure and it becoming an addiction. I have Bipolar Disorder, so I have to always be aware of being too attached to something, anything, everything. Balance and moderation with a good dose of routine, exercise and healthy eating habits is the key for me.

When Callie sat over her worm toy and only wanted me to play THAT game with her, I had to put it away and find other fun things for her to enjoy! Ride ’em cowgirl is her new fun and favorite thing, but it doesn’t consume her every waking hour like the worm did. She jumps up on my old leather reclining chair and sweetly looks up at me and invites me to get behind it and literally rock it back and forth aggressively so that she can ride her bucking bronco. She holds on for dear life as I tumble her back and forth. What a funny one she is. I have to make sure that there is balance in her life though. Climbing trees, going on walks, riding in her bike basket and being the queen of the RV dash is the variety that keeps her stimulated and engaged, but healthy and happy too!

We leave for Lake Cuyamaca on Monday and the fun will begin again for her and for us. We all go a little crazy out here in the middle of nowhere after a while, even if it is beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Off-road biking and hiking the beautiful trails of this gorgeous country park will be restorative and exciting. Callie hates being bored and hanging out in this house for too long drives her crazy. I can relate!

Where to put the Litter Box when RVing

Callie, Michael and I are traveling in a 24ft Icon Class C RV, and because Callie is a cat, the question of where to put the litter box loomed over us for a short while. You don’t want it too close to the kitchen area and you especially don’t want it near the bed. Actually, you don’t want it anywhere in the RV, but the advantage of traveling with a cat instead of a dog is that you can leave them unattended and you don’t have to take them out to go potty, and they don’t bark while you are away. A lot of RVers don’t realize that their beloved dogs are howling their separation anguish the whole time they are away!

I have seen some setups where a cabinet door has been removed for the litter box, or under the sofa or table, but in our case, because the RV is medium size, I was very concerned. I had a brainstorm though and measured the shower floor to see if possibly that would work. It did, and Callie not only uses the same space that we do for going potty, she also has a bench in the shower for her kibble and water to be placed on. It couldn’t be more perfect.

We are currently up at Lake Cuyamaca because our home in the desert is having a heat spell. It is difficult to imagine the heat at the moment because it is so fresh and cool at the lake. Callie and I went for a lovely walk first thing this morning until the Canadian Geese honked too loud at us. That was a little too much for her and we high-tailed it back to the RV lickety-split. I don’t download videos anymore because they take up too much storage space, and my daughter has failed to teach me well enough to do it on my own. I also have to set it up on YouTube and I don’t have my computer with me. You will just have to use your imagination to visualize Callie’s tail held high in the air and trotting quite briskly in front of me as we head for the safety of the RV.

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.

The Bighorn Sheep Sculptures of Anza- Borrego Desert State Park

What a beautiful day it was for an off-road bike ride in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. The weather is peaceful and the wind has died down for now. Another windstorm is expected tomorrow so we took advantage of playing outdoors today. We biked over to the herd of bighorn sheep sculptures that aren’t far from my house.

Ricardo Breceda is a local sculptor that works primarily with metal and places his artwork, here in the desert, free of charge, for people to appreciate and admire from all over the world. I love the animals that are native to the region, but Breceda does have a dragon near my house that attracts a lot of attention and is one of his favorite pieces. The head and snake like body is situated on one side of the road, and the tail with a rattle like a rattlesnake sits on the other side of the road. It appears that a section of the dragon’s body has slid under the street. There are scorpions and locusts, saber-toothed tigers, horses, a raven, elephants, tortoises and many more.

Biking up to the bighorns is like sneaking up to a real herd of sheep with 2 rams butting heads and ewes nursing their lambs. They are very realistic from a distance and beautifully designed. You can also drive your car up to the herd if you are a visitor from out of town. The sculptures are situated right across from Indian Head Ranch in Borrego Springs, CA.

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.