Archive for December, 2009

Desert Holidays, Part 3

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

After picking up Medjool Dates and heirloom tomatoes at the Borrego Springs Christmas Circle farmers’ market, we traveled north on Borrego Springs Road to Galleta Meadows.  There have been reports that Gomphotherium have been spotted there, so we brought along The Anza-Borrego Desert Region: A Guide to the State Park and Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert, by Lowell & Diana Lindsay, 5th Edition, 2006, Wilderness Press.  This guide points out that Galleta Meadows is named for the coarse and stiff Galleta grass (Pleuraphis rigida), that grows in clumps, 2 to 4 feet high, making a good forage plant for browsing animals.

Indeed, as we approached Galleta Meadows, Gomphotheriums appeared to be grazing.

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We parked the truck a safe distance away and consulted our guide.

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Diana Lindsay, in her book (based on her Master’s thesis, edited by Richard Pourade), Our Historic Desert: The Story of the Anza-Borrego Desert, 1973, A Copley Book, writes that millions of years ago, this area was covered with seawater, extending from the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez).  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (the largest contiguous state park in the United States outside of Alaska) is located in Southern California’s Colorado Desert, a part of the Sonoran Desert.  While crossing the Colorado Desert in 1775, Father Pedro Font recorded seeing signs of former maritime life here, including many piles of oyster shells (see this Fonts Point video).  Many land fossils found in this park date from about two to three million years ago, and include the remains of mastodons, ground sloths, camels, horses, wolves and musk oxen. This is illustrated in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitors’ Center.

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It is also illustrated by life-size steel, free-standing art structures, such as the Gomphotheriums above, created by artist, welder, sculptor Ricardo Breceda and commissioned by Galleta Meadows Estate owner, Dennis Avery, for his property and open to the public.  The area draws many visitors, especially during the spring desert wildflower season.

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These sculptures, such as the Giant sloth below, represent vertebrates of the past that inhabited the Anza-Borrego region during the Pliocene, Pleistocene and Miocene eras.

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Along with mother and baby ground sloth

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And mother and baby camel (Camelops)…

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with a Christmas ribbon on its tail.

See desertusa.com’s video of these sculptures at the Galleta Meadows Estate.

Desert Holidays, Part 2

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Borrego Springs, California, is located in Borrego Valley, in an area once named San Gregorio by Juan Bautista de Anza, who led an expedition through here from Tubac, Arizona, in 1774, to find an overland route to bring supplies and reinforcements to the newly established Spanish presidios and missions in CaliforniaBorrego Springs is a small community that prides itself in not having traffic lights. Instead, it has a park-like hub called the Christmas Circle, possibly named because Salvador Ygnacio Linares was born on Christmas Eve in nearby Coyote Canyon on Anza’s second expedition through here in 1775, according to Diana Lindsay in her book, Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things, 2001, Sunbelt Publications.

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(Seen in the background of the above photo is Fonts Point, named after Pedro Font, a Spanish priest and diarist on the second Anza expedition, according to Diana Lindsay.  This bluff offers a spectacular view of the Borrego Badlands.)

Within the Christmas Circle is a pleasant, grassy community park that presents the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce Farmers’ Market every Friday, 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., November to June.

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Farmers’ markets, sometimes called greenmarkets, provide locally grown produce harvested at its peak flavor and nutritional content and, since this produce does not travel far, farmers’ markets help conserve fossil fuels.  The farmers’ market experience has been likened to outdoor markets traditionally held in villages and town squares throughout the world and provides a less rushed opportunity to chat with vendors and shoppers, while one samples local foods and learns about local culture.

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California is the largest producer of food for the country.  How food makes its way to the dinner plate is the subject of an excellent KPBS San Diego Envision 30 minute documentary, “Food”, seen here.

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This KPBS program (along with this one) points out that San Diego produces 95,000 tons of oranges each year, and most of them are shipped to foreign countries willing to pay premium rates for some of the tastiest oranges in the world.  Ironically, most of the oranges San Diegans buy come from Australia, South Africa and Peru because we like our oranges to be seedless, pretty and easy to peel.  Larry and I now prefer to buy our oranges at farmers’ markets because they are sweeter and tastier.

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We are lucky in San Diego to have 42 farmers’ markets.  Find your local farmers’ market here.

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Seen on our holiday dinner table are sweet Medjool dates, shards of Gouda cheese, Garlic and Fine Herbs Boursin Gournay cheese on crackers, sun-dried tomato-cilantro hummus, and strips of Larry’s homemade and very delicious sourdough bread, made following the “No Knead Bread Baking Method“.

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And after dinner, visions of sugar-plums danced in our heads.

Desert Holidays, Part 1

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

We ventured in between winter storms to another fun location in the Anza-Borrego Desert, this time to Borrego Springs.  After three years of going up and over our local mountains, both the hard way with many switchbacks, and the magical way using the flux capacitor, we have found that it is more pleasant and easier to go around them (and circumvent Julian) by traveling north on California State Route 79 and taking County Highway S2 down to Scissors Crossing and then 78 and Yaqui Pass to Borrego Springs.  Going this way we avoided potential patches of black ice and snow seen in the Volcan Mountains from San Felipe Valley along S2.

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Our mountains usually hold back rain clouds from the desert…

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Resulting in mostly sunny days that we enjoyed by hiking and visiting the local farmers’ market and Gomphotherium and other free-standing art structures (such as the tall cactus below) created by artist/welder, Ricardo Breceda, at Galleta Meadows. (More about this in subsequent parts of this article.)

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When we drove into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, we saw another Airstream and someone cheerfully waving to us.  It was Mark and his wife, Mary, who had arrived earlier and were just finishing setting up camp directly across the road from our reserved site.

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The following day I joined Mark and Mary on a hike up Palm Canyon (shown above) as Larry and the dogs relaxed at the campsite.  (Dogs are not permitted on the trails.)

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Mark and Mary have a 2010 Classic Limited FB (with two solar panels) pulled by a 2008 GMC HD bright red diesel truck with a 52 gallon Titan fuel tank.

They are from Cape Cod and have spent the past two months on the road and have put over 6000 miles on their new trailer.

On the trail they marveled at the size of the palm trees and large boulders that had been washed down the canyon during the 100-year flash flood of 2004.

After hiking one and one half miles up the canyon, we reached a lush oasis of California fan palms supplied by a trickling stream.

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(Above photo credit: Mary and Mark)

Over the next few days we enjoyed lively conversation and shared good food as we celebrated this festive season.

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On the holiday dinner table below are Larry’s deep-fried potato pierogies, homemade banana-walnut bread, and sun-dried tomato-cilantro hummus.  Mary provided a couscous dish and sliced baguette, Brie cheese, exceptionally sweet strawberries and Medjool dates from the local farmers’ market.

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Holiday cheers! Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

(Above photo credit: Mary and Mark)

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.