Desert Storms-Part 2

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is having a series of summer storms in September that build up in the early afternoon with ominous, dark gray clouds forming in the northwest. As they move slowly across the sky, the sound of low emitting thunder, grumbling and rumbling deep in the belly of these clouds, is like no sound I have ever heard before. Instead of a crashing boom after the crack of a lightening bolt, there is just a constant, thrumming vibration as the clouds pile up overhead. If the desert is fortunate, these clouds will give up their moisture and provide life giving water to the plants and animals below. If not, the clouds will move on and pass overhead without releasing so much as a drop of water. The entire desert seems to hold its breath in anxious hope that rain will come soon. And when the rain does come, it arrives in torrents and sheets and all at once. The rain is usually a drenching downpour, saturating the foothills as the water finds a path to lower ground. You would think that the rainfall would immediately be soaked right up and into the sandy soil, but it doesn’t. The water stays on the surface as it turns into a muddy, raging, flash flood and can be quite dangerous to anything left in its path. Because these storms are putting on a display right in my very own back yard, I feel like I have a ringside seat to nature’s  “Greatest Show on Earth!”

Below are a few of the photographs that I took today. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a beautiful and wild place in which to live out my retirement years. At least for now that is.

A Storm for all Seasons

Anza Borrego Desert State Park had the storm of all storms last night. We had a steady rain all day long and during the night; it poured. It sounded like rain pounding on the roof of a house perched on a tropical island. Sheets of water fell from the sky and the wind howled and screeched and the desert was flooded with much needed rain-water. This storm probably helped replenish the water to the aquifer and that is very encouraging to me.  There has been concern that the citrus farmers are depleting the water to the extent that in 50 years, the aquifer could run dry. The wildflowers are growing like weeds and with a full week of sunshine predicted, they should unfurl within the next week or so. The super tiny Onyx Plant and Popcorn Flower are the first to bloom and you will see patches of white if you look really close to the ground. They are referred to as a belly flower because you have to get down low and sometimes crawl on your stomach to appreciate them. Woody Bottle Washer and Purple and White Verbena are just now poking their heads out from the sand and I am hoping that within a week the sand dunes will be covered with blossoms. Brittle Brush are sweeping the carpet of green with a blend of bright and pale yellow and the foothills behind the house were golden this morning. To see the color green along the saturated hillside is a first for me. It has never rained this much in the 10 years that I have been taking photographs of Anza Borrego. And what a beautiful morning to live in the desert! There is snow on the Santa Rosa Mountains and everything is fresh and clean. What a great way to start the day! Callie of course takes it all in stride by hanging out on the rocking chair, soaking up the sunshine and relaxing on this fine and chilly morning. She had a big night last night with all the commotion from the rain. Time for her to sleep the morning away…

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

Anza Borrego has received more than an inch of rain in the past few days. This is extraordinary for the desert. It has been a steady downpour at times and a light drizzle at other times. This is perfect for the sand to absorb the rainfall and not cause flash flooding. Everything is soaked and I can’t wait to see what the ocotillo will do right around Christmas time. Strong winds are expected the day before Christmas and this will blow all the clouds away and Christmas Day will be saturated with golden sunshine. Maybe the ocotillo will bloom and fill the desert with bright orange/red blossoms. That will be a sight to behold.

But poor Callie is getting very bored and restless. She has been so good about comforting Michael and Michael is doing much better, but it is time for an adventure again. Hanging out in the house is getting old for her. Fortunately Callie will follow me and I am able to walk her around the backyard before the rain starts again. Looking out across the desert, you can barely see the foothills that always glow so pink and golden at sunrise. There are no birds singing and it is very quiet outside except for the sound of rain drops falling. A low lying mist is hugging the foothills all the way to the desert floor and it feels odd to have so much dampness in what is usually such an arid region. The smell of wood burning in fireplaces permeates the air and rain water has collected on all the leaves and darkened the bark of the olive trees. Puddles have formed everywhere and they cast lovely images of light and shadow.  Everything is saturated and Callie cant’t even climb her trees because they are so wet.

And just when I thought I had Callie figured out, and that I would be sleeping with her from now on, she has returned to her bed high up on the hutch in the master bedroom. She has been sleeping close to me and hogging my pillow the past week and I thought the best approach is to be generous and share the bed with her. Two nights ago, she jumped back up on her own bed and has been once again using it during her daytime naps. I am thinking that she felt really insecure when she first got home after having been boarded and needed a little more reassurance. She is back to her secure self again and taking long naps and she isn’t walking around the house meowing loudly. It feels good to know that she has returned to normal.

It is dark and cloudy out today and more rain is expected tonight. There was just enough of a break in the weather that I was able to invite Callie out for a roll in the sand. Another big storm is heading our way tonight. Anza Borrego and California need the rain… So I say, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain! Callie will be going with us to Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve! She can be patient with the weather just a little bit longer.

At the Rainbow’s Edge

Michael and I left Maui yesterday afternoon with a potent storm building out in the Pacific and arrived in San Diego with the same storm packing quite a punch.  We are now in Borrego Springs and the wind is blowing really hard with some rain sprinkled into the mix. I have sand dunes forming on every door and window sill, and the pool looks like a wild and wholly pond. Palm fronds and sand are everywhere. Our power is out and the house is cold and soon it will be dark. I have plenty of candles lit, thanks to my good friend Dolly and I will just have to settle in for the night with my iPad. Aren’t storms, weather and mother nature amazing? That is, as long as you can seek shelter from the rain….

We picked up Miss Callie at 10 am Friday morning at Holiday Pet Hotel and headed home with the rain pouring down and Callie crying softly to herself. She was restless and meowed a lot but was just fine. Holiday Pet Hotel takes excellent care of her and no amount of complaining on her part will convince me otherwise. She is a funny little one, and her facial expressions are so dramatic that you can tell exactly how she is feeling. She can be very expressive and quite the drama queen. That is why she reminds me of my Jack Russel, Miss  Addie. Addie was a drama queen too. So Callie complained to herself the whole way home but perked up as soon as we started to head down Montezuma Grade. She could smell the desert and recognized that we were almost home. The wind was howling down the grade and just as we crossed the line leaving the high desert, the sun started to peak out from the clouds and a rainbow emerged in the distance. Callie sat up on top of the suitcases and watched the storm blowing past and you could tell she was excited about heading home again.

As we continued down the grade, the rainbow turned into a double with the second and higher rainbow trying desperately to hold its own. This lasted until we got down to the desert floor and we rushed over to our favorite lookout at Henderson Canyon so that I could take a couple more photographs. Michael is very good about that with me. He is always super supportive and encouraging about my photography, and even after a long day of travel, and a super long day yesterday, he goes the extra mile to place me in a good position to take a fabulous photo. As we drove past the house, Callie let out a squawk and a meow of complaint. She had recognized the house when we drove past it, and couldn’t understand why we didn’t turn into the driveway.

The last photos are taken out at Henderson Canyon and the reward at the end of the rainbow were the beautiful clouds that were forming because of the powerful winds. What a gift and a pot of gold for me to drive back home just as the storm was cresting over the San Ysidro Mountain Range. I will remember this day for a long time and I can tell that Callie is very happy to be home again and in Michael’s warm embrace. 

Put On Your Rain Dance Shoes

The storm arrived last night around 1am and I felt like doing a happy dance in the still of night. It is such a big deal when it rains in the desert that everything and everyone celebrates on some level. I didn’t exactly put on my dancing shoes, but I did pull on my UGGS for a second day in a row and Callie got to chase olive leaves and observe a beautiful rainbow developing in the northwest.  It is fresh and brisk outside and the trees have been washed and the dust and sand packed down for a day. The winds are just starting to pick up and there is a chill in the air which means I actually get to put a sweater on too! With the winds come beautifully formed clouds that spiral and sail past the mountains at dizzying speed. When a storm arrives, it is time for me to get out the camera to take landscape photographs. Cloud formations add so much to the overall scene and the desert landscape has such a big sky format that it compliments the dry and arid ground. Southern California received some much needed rain yesterday and Anza Borrego Desert State Park accepted the storm today with relief and appreciation. It feels like the ocotillo turn green and leaf out over night and the beautiful red blossom on the tips of the branches were noticeable today when I went out on a bike ride. You can smell the sage and creosote and quail are dashing around in the underbrush while the white winged doves choose to risk flying erratically overhead. There is a sharp-shined hawk that is so athletic and fast out here that even when the doves are hiding under a bush, it can divebomb down and force them to take flight. There is much more of a sense of the precariousness  of life in the desert and every day a bird or jackrabbit survives is a gift. I could hear the coyotes howling last night and the young pups do their best to join in the chorus. Their voices are higher pitched and so joyous that you just have to hope the season will be kind to them. The scorching hot summer temperatures are behind us and for that, I too can rejoice. Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday and Michael and I and hopefully our good friend, Fred are going to go to Ram’s Hill Country Club for our traditional feast. I don’t have to cook this year, another cause for celebration! Happy Thanksgiving to all…