I have been living in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park for a year and a half now with my husband and cat, Callie. I have learned to respect and value the plants and animals that call this place, their home. Big horn sheep, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, quail, bobcats, turkeys, coyotes and many more survive and sometimes thrive here. In the springtime, wildflowers are prolific if there has been enough rainfall. If not, the ocotillo still attempt to bloom, regardless of whether the leaves find enough moisture to fill out. Sometimes you see the ocotillo as thorny sticks, rising to the sky with one bright orange blossom balanced at the tip. It takes guts and determination to live and survive in such a harsh environment.
But it can also be a breathtakingly beautiful place to bike and hike in during the fall, winter and spring. I witnessed the “super bloom” this year and was able to go on an extended, RV road trip in order to escape the summer months of intense heat. I am so grateful for that! Living in the desert can be difficult and if not for my writing, biking, hiking and photography…. I would have fallen into despair.
I would like to wish a heartfelt and very Happy Thanksgiving to all of my valued readers. May this year be filled with health, personal growth, peace of mind and happiness. It means so much to me that I have people like you, taking the time to read my blog posts, and taking an interest in the life I am living out here in the middle of nowhere!
Early this morning, Callie and I woke up to the sound of quail clucking to each other while eating olives that had fallen on the ground under her beloved olive trees. It was windy the night before and the ripened olives were perfect food for all that came scavenging. I have seen mountain bluebirds, roadrunners and ground squirrels relishing them too! The nights are once again crisp and cool and the mornings are clear, with a sky that is a deep and beautiful, powder blue.
Now that the weather has cooled off in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, Michael and I are averaging 20 miles a day on our road bikes. When it gets even cooler, we will go biking- off road to Coyote Canyon. It is paradise for us once again, but for the Bighorn Sheep, they must risk their lives to climb down the mountain to get to the desert floor so that they can graze on the newly seeded golf course at De Anza Country Club. They have run out of native foliage and are forced to graze on the newly seeded grass. It doesn’t hold much nutrition for them, but something is better than nothing. They don’t come down to graze once the rain returns.
The 20 mile bike ride takes us out to Henderson Canyon, Coyote Canyon, Seley Ranch, Borrego Springs Road and back to De Anza. Our last couple of miles puts us in direct contact with the bighorns at De Anza Villas. The sheep have to cross a road that has little traffic on it to get to the course, but even then, they are very skittish and fly across the street at the least hint of danger.
It is usually the collared ewe that steps out first and surveys her surroundings before the rest of the sheep follow. Once the main part of the herd is settled down and are grazing, a few of the younger male stragglers, continue their descent. They have to keep an eye out for “Bob” the dominant ram to make sure it is alright for them to feed. Bob has a broken horn that distinguishes him from the other males and looks much older. I have been watching him rule his harem for at least 3 years now. Some of the other rams look like they are going to challenge him this year though. They seem almost as big as him now, and their horns curl around too!
Once I am finished watching the bighorns, we turn around and continue our ride by doing a figure 8 back to the house. The entire bike ride takes us about 2 hours because I stop and take photographs. Yesterday we watched a bobcat chasing a cottontail near Seely Ranch. As soon as the bobcat saw us, he abandoned the chase and ran back into the dense tamarisk underbrush. We see all kinds of wildlife now that the weather has cooled off and we can once again enjoy a bike ride without getting cooked from the sun.
It was with a somewhat heavy heart that we had to head back to the inferno, but with Callie’s cough getting worse by the day, we had no choice but to hit the road toward home.
I took her to the vet yesterday, and we should know in the next 72 hours what type of bacterial infection she has. It could be a chronic bronchitis because there was a spot on her left lung. She has lost some weight, but is still eating and drinking with gusto and still climbing her beloved olive trees!
It actually feels good to be back in Borrego Springs, in spite of the 106 degree temperature expected later today. Michael and I went on an early morning, road-bike ride, and had to marvel at how much stronger both of us are after having biked up in the mountains at high altitude and on rocky, sandy, hiking trails. Riding along a flat, well paved surface, and on my Cannondale, felt like riding a thoroughbred horse instead of a Welch Pony!
Callie loved the drive back toward home and rode on the dash most of the way! She is happy to be home though and can once again roam around and snuggle in her Kong bed on top of the hutch in the master bedroom. Living in a 24ft RV for weeks at a time needs some getting use to!
I am gaining much more respect for trail biking! I have bruises between my thighs from braking hard and jumping off of the seat in order to prevent myself from crashing. I have discovered that you cannot use your front brake when you hit deep sand because you will go over the handlebars lickity split! Fortunately for me, I have been a horse back rider all of my life, so the urge to bail before I get into trouble is an immediate reaction to the first sign of danger! One must know their limitations, and in most cases, I most certainly do. I haven’t taken a nasty fall yet, but can only imagine not if, but when. It seems totally inevitable, so I brought along bandages and my trusty bandana just in case I loose a limb, break an arm, or worse, sever an artery or vein and bleed to death. I imagine head bashing is another thing to worry about, so we both wear helmets. You can see where the younger generation does stump jumping and rock bouncing and they must be able to become totally air born. I won’t ever get to that level of sportsmanship, but I did go over an embankment and land in one piece and I consider myself lucky. You also have to lean back and straddle the saddle with your thighs when going downhill and into deep sand, and that is a talent I am very good at. I have always had powerful thighs and Michael can attest to that, so my thighs have been a big help to me. That is also the reason why I have bruises between my legs. When I am convinced I am going to crash, I jump down with both legs to keep from falling over! When I land hard, I stop myself by planting both feet firmly on the ground and this bangs the bike frame into my thighs. Better that then landing in a broken heap. No shame in that! So, bruises between my legs at 61 years of age is a badge of honor, and I shall take it as a compliment to my level of skill at staying out of trouble. I am also having a little more difficulty with crossing my legs!:)
Callie woke up to birds singing and enjoyed watching them flit about outside the window. She loves RVing and I am so proud of her for being such a good sport. I made Michael a nice Father’s Day Breakfast and now that our bike ride is finished, we are going to have lunch and possibly walk into town for dinner tonight to celebrate. We may go to Lundy Canyon or Convict Lake tomorrow. Not sure which direction to go in as of yet, but staying out of the heat is a deciding factor. Fred made it safely home after a disastrous tire blow out near Indio and we hope he recovers from his big adventure as soon as possible. He attempted to travel with a fractured ankle and it was too much for him. Rest up Fred and get on that new awesome, Stumpjumper bike.
Happy Father’s Day to all the good men out there raising children. The world needs good parents!
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.
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!