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!

Moonlight Canyon Trail- Agua Caliente

Michael, Callie, and I left Lake Cuyamaca because of a snowstorm that was moving into the area and packed up for the warmer climate and hot springs of Agua Caliente. The same late storm front was heading toward the desert too, but precious rainfall never materialized. The desert received storm clouds and powerful wind, but no precipitation.

It took less than a couple of hours for us to pull into the county park and we were able to nab campsite #68 which has a view of the east and no one in front of us. Apparently, the hot, mineral pools were filled to capacity over the weekend, but everyone had cleared out by the time we arrived on Monday, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I love it that way, and Callie does too! She can take long walks without worrying about children running up to pet her, or dogs barking at her.

Michael and I took the 1.4-mile hike behind the campground called Moonlight Canyon Trail and we watched as the clouds zipped by and the air cooled considerably. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and Agua Caliente both received very little rainfall this winter, and sadly, there were only the century plants, ocotillo, sage, and creosote bushes blooming this spring. There is some vertical climb before you reach the ridge, but very doable and the pathway is well marked.

Moonlight Canyon Trail is an easy hike that takes you past the natural spring on both ends of the loop that helps provide fresh water to plant life, sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, numerous birds such as quail, roadrunners, finches, desert wrens, and is a wonder to see the life-giving water bubbling up to the surface even during a drought. As you walk past the palm trees that are native to the area, listen to the buzz of the abundant wild, honeybees as they search for pollen and take a quick drink at the water’s edge.

It is springtime lambing season for the local herd of Bighorn Sheep and I was able to watch the mothers and their newborn lambs scramble down the mountainside to drink from the spring and nibble at the thorny acacia bushes. It looked like slim pickings to me, so I can only hope that the young survive throughout the intense summer heat. One mature collared ewe was followed by a very young lamb who was bleating and racing back and forth on the cliff side and too afraid to follow her into the campgrounds. She was a very experienced and calm mother and the lamb was forced to eventually dash down the rock cliff all by itself in order to be reunited with her as she chomped down on acacia leaves.

I chose not to take photographs of the young lamb once it was separated from the ewe and kept my distance because I didn’t want to add to the poor things stress. The older lamb, a female, I ended up taking close up shots of because she was super bold and curious, and a nightmare for the less experienced mother. This lamb would have marched right up to me if I had let her. I continued to back away from her ever so slowly as she advanced toward me, matching step for step with the mom watching intently from a distance.

We had a fabulous time soaking in the mineral pools, hiking, biking, BBQing and playing cards in the evening. Callie had a blast too! She took several long walks a day with me out into the desert and loved every minute of it. We are back home now in Borrego Springs and she immediately jumped up into her bed on the hutch in the master bedroom to take a nice, long, quiet, nap.

DANGER- Hunting Occurs Wednesday & Sunday

Thank goodness it is Friday and not Wednesday or Sunday because we would have been in danger of being shot by hunters while off-road biking in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We did not see any deer grazing at all in the lush, golden meadows and sadly, they must not know that it is only Friday and have taken cover regardless. I did come across one lone tom turkey and the red-winged blackbirds were out in force. I could hear the meadowlarks calling their lovely warbled trill, but couldn’t see them in the tall bleached grasses. The Canadian Geese couple were proudly standing over their goslings on the shoreline, and coots and mallard ducks were enjoying the warm weather and ample sunshine. I can also hear the bald eagles screeching but can’t see them either. I learned to recognize their call when I was visiting Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. They are common there and so remarkable to watch as they catch fish in the ocean. They are making a comeback in the United States thanks to a ban on DDT.

Michael and I left Callie happily resting in the RV and biked over to the old Stonewall Goldmine. It is abandoned now but was once a thriving mining town. Nothing is left except for rusted mining parts and equipment that is fenced off and on display and one, single room, lone cabin that is maintained and left open for visitors to check out how the pioneers once lived. The bike ride was a tad bit difficult for me because of how narrow and grooved the trail was, and I actually knocked my back wheel loose hitting a rock. That was a first for me and I skinned up my shins with the pedal too. It was well worth it though and if I had a choice, I would do it all over again.

Today it is gorgeous out and we have neighbors. Michael, Callie and I have had the campground all to ourselves. It is supposed to fill up over the weekend. Callie is in love with the feel of grass under her paws and looks up at me with wonderment and a twinkle in her eye. Mountain lion warning signs are everywhere and raccoons, are nightly raiders. Callie is picking up new and interesting scents because she stops and sniffs and has a faraway look in her eyes. I am so happy for all three of us and for getting out of the desert heat.

A Walk in the Woods

We had an absolutely perfect first day here at Lake Cuyamaca and in the late afternoon, Michael and I took a walk in the woods to explore the partial island and view of Stonewall Mountain. Lake Cuyamaca is home to ancient oak trees and evergreens that border the woods and provide shelter for a pair of bald eagles, numerous turkey buzzards, and owls. I noticed two nest boxes hammered to a large pine tree but they were both empty.

On the lake, I witnessed a lot of Canadian Geese noisily honking and one pair, in particular, had 7 goslings with a mallard duck couple that seemed transfixed by them. The two geese allowed them access to the babies and it almost appeared like they were assisting with parenting the noisy children. The turkey buzzards were swooping and soaring and seemed to just be enjoying the thermals that they caught along the shoreline.

As you head toward Stonewall Mountain, you walk over the decreased water levels and shrinkage of the lake and the path takes you through grasslands that are usually submerged. Male, Red-Winged Blackbirds were singing their hearts out and arrogantly displaying the bright red shoulder pads on their jet, black wings and fisherman were catching trout that are stocked once a year.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we are planning to bike the same path today. The temperature is cooling down because a rainstorm is predicted after the weekend. We are the only campers at Lonepine Campground, but it is expected to fill up by Saturday. The showers which cost $1.00 in quarters every 3 minutes is a bit steep, but the bathrooms are brand new and the campground is still under some construction. We have an uninterrupted view of the lake on site number 38 and are very pleased with our experience as of yet. It is one of Callie’s favorite campsites of all time because of the peace and quiet and the numerous birds that keep her endlessly entertained.

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.

Homeward Stretch

We are returning south to Anza- Borrego Desert State Park on Friday and will stay in Morro Bay for a couple of nights before heading to Malibu. Lara, our daughter has a job interview with Interpret LLC on Friday and we thought it best to fit it in on the way back instead of having her drive back to Los Angeles. She met the president of the company when she was at the GDC18 in San Fransisco and will now get an interview with his company. He checked out her resume when they met with her friend, Laura, and found it very interesting. Lara is fluent in Japanese and moderately so in Mandarin and we think that and her math and computer skills along with music and art put her in good standing for this marketing firm.

The drive from Pillar Point to Morro Bay was spectacular and the North and Central California coastline are experiencing a super-bloom. We walked down to the marina last night and checked out the herons that fish along the rocky shore and on the dockside and watched the sunset. Callie loves it here and sits by her personal heater in order to stay warm. We always walk down to the rock and bike over toward Cayucos. It is bright and sunny out but very chilly. There is a warming trend developing and no rain in sight. What a wonderful couple of weeks we have had.

The Sun has come Out!

We are camping at Pillar Point RV Park and it has been raining off and on since we left Morro Bay. The sun has finally come out and it will continue to peak through the scattered clouds intermittently for the rest of the week. I love the rain but have to admit that the sunshine feels pretty good after all the cold and wet.

I went for a walk along the coastline yesterday afternoon and watched a hawk dipping and diving and sailing over the ice plant. I have tried my best to identify the raptor without any luck. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know. I thought at first it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk, then a Marsh Hawk, and now I really don’t know. It has an unusual brown head with a white chest. The winds were really strong and it took powerful wings to keep from being blown away. The hawk would settle on the top of the evergreen tree and jump up into the air before being blasted sideways in an attempt to gain some lift as it took off to hunt for small rodents.

The waves were crashing violently over the rock jetty and seagulls were screeching while 3 harbor seals were playing and surfing in the rough sea. It appears that even the wildlife enjoys a break in the weather when the sun comes out and lights up the sky and warms the earth.

And Callie loves it when I work on my blog posts because it gives her an opportunity to get in my way and demand that I pay more attention to her- it works, she takes over the entire table so that she can request ever so sweetly for a tummy rub, and I have no other choice but to comply!

Morro Bay is very Bike Friendly

Morro Bay is a fabulous place to cycle and hike in. The community is very bike friendly and a coastal trail for walking and biking extends for many miles. We have taken the trail to Cayucos on Highway 1 which had some traffic on it but the shoulder is spacious and I didn’t feel too uncomfortable. I do not like to share the road with cars and that is why biking in the desert is so appealing to me.

The nature sanctuary trail is also wonderful and there are viewing benches to observe birds such as the endangered Snowy Plover. The sand dunes have nesting areas cordoned off and these adorable little shorebirds are treated with respect and courtesy and given prime site sanctuary locations in which to raise their young without being stepped on and trampled. I love this about Morro Bay; they are very pro-wildlife and try to give local and migratory animals a place to thrive in alongside us humans.

If you are staying in Morro Bay and wish to bike north, head down to Morro Rock and follow the boardwalk north of town until you pass the water treatment plant. Right before you bike underneath the Highway 1 bridge, turn left into the high school and follow the paved path on the west side of the highway. This trail will take you to Morro Strand State Beach and from there you can hook up to the 1 and follow that North to Cayucos. If you wish to bike south, Morro Bay State Park is another great place to bike around in. I don’t recommend going to Montana de Oro by bike because of the narrow roadway, but it is an incredible place in which to hike along the sand dunes. Biking through town is also fun because the cars go slowly and there is a bike path.

I have a front loading handlebar basket that I use for Callie and she loves biking but it has been too rainy and she has had to be left behind in the RV. I don’t think she minds all that much though. When we return, I find her in the same position as when we left. She seems to really enjoy all the activity of RVing and there is never a dull moment. She can rest on the dash and watch people walking their dogs or she can jump up into the loft for privacy and take an uninterrupted nap.

Morro Bay has a fabulous bike repair and rental shop called – The Bike Shop that is on Main Street in town and my husband bought an off-road Raleigh bike for me last time we stayed here. I love this bike and use it off-roading in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. We have been coming to Morro Bay for 40 years now and this sleepy fishing community hasn’t changed all that much. It is a great place for walking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, and windsurfing.

Mount Illuminous

Since my dear friend Dolly has fondly named my beautiful foothill behind the house Mount Illuminous, so shall I with fondness. It is an apt name for such an unremarkable pile of purplish rock and stone, that is sprinkled sparingly with sage, some creosote, and the occasional barrel cactus. This insignificant hillside lights up with illuminated rays from the rising sun, and when the sun is parallel to the foothills, glorious color unfolds every morning that puts on quite a display for anyone wishing to watch.

Today there is another storm blowing through with 20 mph winds and big, puffy, ominous clouds that have not produced any rain. A lot of rain has fallen on Los Angeles, and because California so desperately needs rain, I am happy about that. The sunrise was spectacular though and lit up the hillside like a golden torch. I was even able to spot a tiny diffused rainbow nestled in the canyon, and if you look closely at the last few photographs that I have displayed, you will see it too!

It is not a day for biking or even hiking because the winds are blowing so hard, but it is a day for staying indoors and reading and writing and tucking oneself in under a quilt made by my late mother. A cup of hot chai tea sounds wonderful too! Callie was able to get in one quick roll in the sand before the wind drove her back inside too.

Death Valley National Park

I am not sure what I expected when we decided to visit Death Valley because the campsites at Valley of Fire were all full, but I can honestly tell you, it was better than my wildest imagination.

Death Valley has the honor of being the hottest, driest, and lowest place in North America. It is an endorheic basin, which means that the rivers that flow in the valley do not head out to sea. It is part of the Mojave Desert and is famous for its unusual geographical features. There are sand dunes, salt flats, craters, and hardy stalk-like plants called Devil’s Corn Stacks.

This arid desert valley was once covered by a very large lake named Lake Manly that has since dried up. When the water evaporated, it left behind large deposits of minerals and salts that were once harvested by mules. Harmony Borax and the 20 mule team rigs that hauled the salts out of the valley that is used for washing clothes, was a well-known product when I was growing up in the 50’s.

We camped at the Furnace Creek Campground and had site number 66 and 70 which had a lot of privacy and a good view of the Panamint Mountains with white snow dusting the largest peak in the distance. It was dry camping and our auxiliary battery kept dying and our propane was low, so note to self, always fill up with propane before dry camping. I ended up having to get up at 4 am the last morning we were there because the refrigerator needed at least a charged battery or propane to continue cooling our food, and an alarm went off warning us that we were about to run out of both propane and the use of our battery. I turned the motor on and sent out a silent prayer that we weren’t causing our neighbors to lose sleep over the noise; the generator wouldn’t even turn over. I was able to get enough juice stored in the auxiliary battery after about 20 minutes of idling, and turned everything back off until 7 am when generators could be turned on once again.

The four of us spent 5 days and 4 nights at Furnace Creek and went exploring every day with our daughter’s car. My only complaint with RVing is that once we set up camp, we either have to walk or bike to wherever we want to explore. We had so much more freedom with a car. Towing a small car may have to be a necessity in the future.

On our first day, we went to Badwater and walked around the salt flats. It consists of mostly plain, white table salt, and was such a trip to look at. From a distance, it appears like snow, but up close, you can see the sodium crystals forming on the surface. On the return drive, we drove through Artist’s Palette Canyon but the lighting was too poor for a decent photograph. The colors were so spectacular with turquoise and rose and yellow ochre tints, that were layered inside golden sandstone. My photographs did not do it justice.

The Harmony Borax site was unsettling to look at because I just know the mules were worked to death and the Chinese workers that mined the salts were only paid a pittance and their wages were deducted for the cost of board and food. The Ubehebe Crater was extraordinary though, and looked like something on the moon and is only 2,000 years old. We hiked up to the crater’s first lookout and it was breathtaking! You pass the sign for the Race Track on your way to the Crater that is famous for the heavy rocks that slide along the ground of their own accord, but it was not reachable because we didn’t have 4 wheel drive. Multiple flat tires are common and there is no cell phone service available. The cost of being towed out can exceed $2,000! We tried to off-road to Darwin’s Falls, but that too became problematic because the car is so low to the ground and Lara and myself were sure that we were going to break down. A guy coming back from the falls convinced us to turn around and Michael reluctantly did so. The falls weren’t flowing strong anyway, so we didn’t miss out on too much!

We visited the Mesquite Sand Dunes, rode bikes and the last day I took photographs of Zabriskie’s Point at sunset. That was incredible and this time the lighting was perfect and I took multiple shots of the magnificent geological rocks that take your breath away.

Camping at Furnace Creek and exploring the Visitor Center was so much fun. Callie loved it too and started to feel better once she unthawed from her stay at Zion. She had the sniffles and kept sneezing the whole time we were in Utah. I wasn’t sure if it was allergies or a cold. Her respiratory system has been so compromised ever since she had that terrible bout of coughing that went on for over 4 months last winter.

I drove the RV all the way back from Death Valley to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park myself, and it handled so well. I am rather proud of doing such a good job. Michael has accidentally gone over railroad tracks in the very beginning just a little too fast, and we have had multiple flat tires and one time it separated the kitchen cabinets from the wall. The RV is a house on wheels and needs to be driven ever so gingerly. I had no mishaps on the way home. We did spot a very tame and curious coyote on the drive back and it came right up to the RV and checked Callie out. She actually growled at it so I am relieved to see that she knows the difference between a dog and a coyote. She loves dogs!

It feels good to be back in a house after 2 weeks on the road, and Callie is relishing having more room to run around in. She climbed up all three of her olive trees this morning and took a shot at the CD cabinet in the living room. All is well and another trip will be planned soon.