Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

It’s cooking up in the desert, again!

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Earlier this month, we enjoyed sunny days and moderate temperatures while we celebrated the Lantern Festival and the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations.  We spent relaxing cool evenings, sitting outside stargazing while the Full Worm Moon brilliantly lit up our Airstream Safari trailer and the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0290 Under full moon & stars

I enjoyed rich coffee, cake and reading material in the mornings before going on hikes.  I was hoping to photograph once more the elusive bighorn sheep, especially since this is the Year of the Sheep.*

DSC_0208 Morning coffee & cake

As I started my hike, the first flower that I saw was nearby our campsite.

DSC_0056 Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail Cactus, Opuntia basilaris

I then got on the Moonlight Canyon Trail where I had photographed bighorn sheep last December.

DSC_0113 Moonlight Canyon Trail

That morning, the granite walls were still cold from the chilly, desert night air and I was greeted by soothing, cool air as I entered the trail from the east.

As I hiked over the trail’s saddle, I spotted a blooming barrel cactus in front of ocotillo (Whale Mountain is seen in the background).

DSC_0142 California barrel cactus

California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus

The next morning, I hiked up the Desert Overlook Trail to get current photos of Agua Caliente County Park.

DSC_0225 Agua Caliente County Park

I was especially interested in getting an updated, overhead view of the camping loop where our original, favorite campsite and eleven other RV sites were displaced by seven cabins, which I documented in “Cabinization of our parks.”  Each cabin has an array of solar panels and the camping fee is currently $70 per night.  They are typically all occupied on weekends.

DSC_0233 7 cabins displaced 12 RV sites

Each evening Larry prepared gustatory delights, such as deep-fried Szechuan pepper-salt calamari rings and zucchini.

DSC_0268 Deep-frying calamari rings

DSC_0275-2 Fried calamari rings & squash

The desert is also cooking up, with temperatures currently 90°, so we won’t be back here until next fall.

DSC_0105 Our Agua Caliente campsite

We are currently enjoying our garden near the coast, while preparing for our return to the mountains next month.  See our garden blooms in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” in my new blog, History Safari Expresso, while enjoying a rich cup of coffee or espresso.*

*This is a YouTube video.

Desert Wolf Moon and King’s Cake

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

 

It was an auspicious way to begin the new year, returning to our favorite spot in the Anza-Borrego Desert on the Full Wolf Moon* and eve of Twelfth Night, along with the possibility of spotting Comet Lovejoy.  The days are now growing longer, so we were able to set up camp and enjoy hot turkey open-faced sandwiches before the full moon rose.

DSC_0010 Full Wolf Moon, Anza-Borrego

Twelfth Night marks the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the arrival of the Magi (three Wise men or Kings), Epiphany, and the beginning of Mardi Gras and the Carnival season.  Various cultures celebrate this time with a sweet cake, such as the Mexican Rosca de Reyes.*  We arrived with Larry’s version of King’s cake, a panettone with dried cherries, craisins, sliced almonds, and zest from a homegrown kaffir lime, all marinated in brandy.  Purple, gold, and green icing (traditional colors of Mardi Gras)* was drizzled over the top, adding a nice crunchy texture.  The cake was then charged with the magical and festive light of the full moon.

DSC_0030 King's Cake in moonlight

The next day, the cake was topped off with our homegrown Cattleya orchids and surrounded with strings of Mardi Gras beads.*

DSC_0044 King's cake in sunlight

DSC_0046 Cattleya orchids on King Cake

Following this photo shoot, I savored a slice of this rich cake, along with a cup of freshly brewed coffee before taking my morning hike on Moonlight Canyon Trail where I photographed bighorn sheep last month.  The sheep were elusive and not seen this time, but I did enjoy the sight of brilliant sunlight backlighting plants along the ridge, which I especially appreciated after experiencing cloudy days, cold rain and hail in San Diego just a week before.

DSC_0059 Moonlight Canyon ridge

We usually eat dinner outside in the late afternoon while enjoying the ever-changing display of soft, dusty pastel colors on the nearby Pinyon/Vallecito Mountains and Whale Peak, but sometimes the darkness seems to fall too quickly, and for those occasions, we now have Black Diamond Apollo Lanterns,* which, on the dimmest setting, present a soft light enabling us to see and enjoy our meal, in this case, Kalua pork and pepper jack cheese quesadillas, with a side of black-eyed peas with ham, buttered broccoli, and scallions.

DSC_0088 Apollo lanterns

After dinner, we enjoyed stargazing and looking for Comet Lovejoy.*  Larry saw what looked like a bright, flickering star with changing colors of blue, white, and green at the foot of Orion just above the horizon.  Later, I was mesmerized by the full moon that lit up the desert…

DSC_0085 Looking for Comet Lovejoy

and happy the following morning by the return of the sun!*

DSC_0102 Anza-Borrego sunrise

 

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Crowing about desert life

Friday, December 26th, 2014

“There is always something tremendously exciting about beginning a New Year…  It is the beginning of a new page; a page of some fascinating, illumined parchment. An ancient page, but to us still unread. What will it hold? The desert is full of mystery and surprise.”**  Thus begins poet, author, and artist Marshal South‘s* account of his family’s 17-year experiment in living a primitive lifestyle at their home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  Some might see this area as desolate, but Marshal saw and wrote about the desert’s cornucopia of animals, plants, weather, stars, and peaceful beauty.  Escaping the stress of urban living for 5 days each month through spring and relaxing in the desert helps restore our sanity.

Our desert mornings typically begin with a beautiful sunrise that bathes the nearby mountains with an ever-changing array of dusty pastel colors.  We delight in watching and listening to the birds that emerge and feed on birdseed that Larry placed in the bird feeder or scattered about.

DSC_0035 Gambel's quail, White-winged doves

Gambel’s quail and White-winged doves feast on wild birdseed scattered on our nearby embankment, while White-crowned sparrows land and spin around on the hanging bird feeder.

DSC_0102 White-crowned sparrows

After my morning coffee and toast, listening to the news and weather, and watching the sun rise, it was time to send out our Nutcracker to survey the prospects for a good morning hike.  He reported that prospects were good for me, but he’d stay behind due to his stiff legs.

DSC_0031 Nutcracker in the desert 2

So with camera in one hand and walking stick in another, water bottle on my waist belt, and Tilley hat* on my head, I ventured forth on the Moonlight Canyon Trail.  I traveled slowly and quietly in hopes of seeing the bighorn sheep that I first encountered four years ago.  I wasn’t disappointed as I rounded a curve in the trail before entering the canyon and spotted two bighorn sheep grazing on new vegetative growth after recent rains.

DSC_0046 Bighorn sheep

They seemed to recognize me, and came down off the small ridge, walked across the trail, and scampered up the ridge on the other side.  They paused and took another look at me before going over the ridge and galloping across a relatively flat watershed area to the east of the campground.

DSC_0059 Bighorn sheep 12:9:14

I then entered the shaded portion of Moonlight Canyon with its refreshingly cool air chilled by granite walls that retained the previous night’s cold.  The trail then opened up into warm, full sun with cholla, barrel cacti, and ocotillo piercing a deep blue sky.

DSC_0070 Moonlight Canyon Trail

No further sheep were spotted, but desert plants like the agave were beautiful to see and have inspired us to begin replacing some of our water-needy plants at home with desert plants that help us conserve water* in the face of California’s ongoing extreme drought.*

DSC_0077 Agave along Moonlight Canyon

I always enjoy a shower after a good hike before lunch, so I returned to the trailer, changed and grabbed a towel, and called out to a raven* that recognized me and circled about while calling back* to me as I made my way to the campground’s shower.

DSC_0026 Strutting raven

This common raven and the crow are both in the same genus (Corvus) of birds, and they and the beauty and diversity of the desert are something to crow about.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.

Grazing and gazing at Agua Caliente

Friday, November 14th, 2014

It was love at first sight when we began camping at Agua Caliente County Park four years ago at a campsite that had beautiful vista views and was far from the maddening crowd.  We lost that site two years ago to “cabinization of our parks,” when seven cabins replaced eleven full hookup RV sites!  We found an alternative site that had some of the amenities of our first site here, but it was not as private and was vulnerable to noisy neighbors, often lacking in good camping etiquette, who were either inconsiderate or were oblivious to how easily sound travels through a campground.  We began this fall camping season at a promising new site that may better meet our needs.

DSC_0057 Agua Caliente Fall 2014

DSC_0084 Our new campsite

One of the challenges for this park is dealing with flash floods that periodically rush down the Tierra Blanca Mountains and wash out roads and campsites.*  I learned from our neighbor that medical permittee, Barbara Macdonald, and her domestic partner of 26 years, Cynthia Rich (Desert Years: Undreaming the American Dream, and Dharma Gleanings), built a rock retaining wall on their 1983-1989 trailer site (seen below) to control erosion.

DSC_0194 Retaining wall of 1980s

One of the assets of this park is the scenic Moonlight Canyon Trail that I enjoy hiking every time we are here and where I had my close encounter with Peninsular Bighorn Sheep three years ago.

DSC_0103 Hiking Moonlight Canyon

The slopes abound with various cacti, such as ocotillo, barrel, and cholla, which provide food for the sheep.  The following day, I spotted bighorn sheep on a ridge above the campground caravan area.

DSC_0141 Seven Bighorn Sheep

Seeing bighorn sheep always brings a smile to my face… and sunshine makes me happy!*

DSC_0104 Hiker:Author resting

And hiking gives me an appetite for Larry’s savory carne asada.

DSC_0156 Carne asada

We sipped Ménage à Trois red wine* as the full moon rose…

DSC_0173 Star gazing

And leaned back to stargaze and contemplate the heavens* and this site.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part two

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Stairways lead down to South Carlsbad State Beach, one of San Diego’s top beaches, where people enjoy swimming, surfing, sunbathing, walking, running, fishing, bird watching and listening to the sounds of the surf.*

DSC_0329 Stairway to the beach

Bluff and beach erosion continue to be ongoing issues.  The City of Carlsbad and the State of California work together with local agencies to replenish sand washed away by winter storms.*  While walking on the sand, I was surprised to step on one of the tar balls recently reported to be washing up on Carlsbad beaches, which may be naturally seeping from the ocean floor.

DSC_0322 Walking the shoreline

Abundant wildlife is seen along the beach, such as this Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, a migratory bird species that breeds in subarctic North America and travels down the coast on the Pacific Flyway* to winter as far south as the tip of South America.

DSC_0276 Whimbrel

Seen below, the Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa, one of the dominant shorebirds along San Diego’s coast, has a long bill enabling them to probe deeply in the sand for aquatic insects and mollusks.

DSC_0300 Marbled Godwit

DSC_0304 Marbled Godwit foraging

We also enjoyed eating mollusks, such as the New Zealand Littleneck Clams that Larry steamed with butter, garlic, and wine and served over Shandong noodles.  The shells were saved for table decoration.

DSC_0209 New Zealand Littleneck Clams

One morning, I was looking down from the bluff and spotted a little boy picking up objects from the beach and throwing them into the sea.

DSC_0042 A boy picked up & threw something

I imagined the objects to be starfish that he was saving by tossing them back in the water, but they turned out to be flat stones and his father was showing him how to throw them to make them skip across the surface.  Still, this iconic image caused me to revisit the thought provoking and motivational “The Boy and the Starfish“* story, inspired by Loren Eiseley, which illustrates that individual actions can make a significant difference.

DSC_0043 Perhaps a star thrower

This knight-errant is currently happy as a clam at high tide regarding the good news this week that San Diego Opera will not close, due to the overwhelming support from the community and donors, and like the boy in the starfish story, every gift is significant and you can make a difference!*

*This is a YouTube video.

Mountain knight stars, part two

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The first part of this multifaceted story delineated our sally into the cool mountains while a storm was brewing back home where the San Diego Opera was fighting for its life, even as some were trying to bury it while its heart was still beating.  It was expected to begin closing down after the last performance of Don Quixote* on April 13, but now has a reprieve until May 19 while ways are explored to save the San Diego Opera.

I continued reading Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote,* seeing parallelisms, and appreciating the main character, the romantic dreamer who often faced crossroads and chose adventure over shelter.

DSC_0048 At the crossroads

We continued our Airstream Safari adventure into the mountains by hiking along the park roads and trails that permit dogs on a leash.  We had been disappointed with the scarce wildflowers seen in the Anza-Borrego Desert this spring due to the ongoing California historic drought.  Most of the late winter/early spring rain that moved through our county was intercepted by our local mountains, which resulted in some spectacular displays of flowers here, such as St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum, known by herbalists as a remedy for a variety of ills.

DSC_0039 Saint John's wort

Seen below is the Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, next to a wood fence where I had photographed jumping mule deer last fall.

DSC_0042 Red Bud

After hiking, we returned to our campsite, which was surrounded by blooming Palmer Lilac, Ceanothus palmeri.

DSC_0092 Palmer Lilac

Larry prepared langostino/pork bean curd skin rolls for dinner that were cut up, steamed, and lifted out in a stainless steel bowl by a Chinese steamer plate holder.

DSC_0109 Bean curd skin rolls

This was served with a delicious salad and dipping sauces (sriracha, hoisin, and sweet chili).

DSC_0114 Dinner table setting

We savored this and other dinners while watching beautiful sunsets and the many birds of this wooded park, such as the Western Bluebird (below) and enjoyed their songs and calls, such as those of the Spotted Towhee* and the Dusky-capped Flycatcher.*

DSC_0128_4 Western Bluebird

Each night after dinner, the mountain air quickly cooled as the stars began to shine* and my mind began to wander and dream of adventures and of the great stories and operas such as Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte (Don Quixote).*

DSC_0082 Mountain stars

In the final act, La mort de Don Quichotte (Massenet)*, Don Quixote dies of a broken heart.  Hopefully Don Quixote will not be San Diego Opera’s swan song, but will mark the crossroads where San Diego Opera resurrected itself.  San Diego Opera makes music worth seeing and supporting!

*This is a YouTube video.

Mountain knight stars, part one

Friday, April 18th, 2014

As we prepared for a change in our camping venue, from the now hot desert to our relatively cool mountains, we heard the shocking news that the San Diego Opera would begin to shut down after the last performance of Don Quixote* in April.  San Diego Opera, considered one of the top ten opera companies in the nation, is poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.  I was especially saddened because I have performed as a supernumerary in 21 San Diego operas over a ten year period, which included roles such as the soldier, guard, henchman seen here in Tosca, and lead waiter in Cosi fan tutte.*  I brought along the novel, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, to read during our 5-day mountain camping trip so that I could totally immerse myself in this multifaceted story (and local drama) and appreciate the character of Don Quixote, brought to life onstage by bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto* in the operatic version, Don Quichotte, by Jules Massenet.*

DSC_0067 Don Quixote & knights

The more I read, the more I began to identify with this knight-errant character, who goes on quests, searches for adventures, does good deeds, appreciates beauty, pursues dreams, fights for things he loves, and yet remains compassionate.  I began to see parallelisms as waxing moonlight gleamed on our trailer’s armor when the stars began to shine.*

DSC_0075 Armour under mtn

As we battled the hot sun by extending the rear awning with an additional sail held in place by ratcheted webbing, I remembered Don Quixote’s battle with giants (windmill sails).*

DSC_0029 Rear awning extension sail

We trekked on mountain trails on a quest for adventure.*

DSC_0054 Larry, Mac, & Tasha, Cedar Trail

I spotted what looked like a Dementor or something else* and prepared to do battle.

DSC_0095 Dementor?

But just then, a wary wild turkey hen emerged while foraging.

DSC_0017 Wary turkey hen

Her worried look seemed justified because she was being pursued and courted by a strutting tom turkey, whose grandiose display reminded me of the valiant character, Don Quixote.

DSC_0142 Tom turkey struts

More mountain adventures are coming up in part two, along with stunning flowers, feasts, stars, and more about Don Quixote and the San Diego Opera,** why this opera needs to be saved,* and how you can come to its rescue!  San Diego Opera makes music worth seeing… and saving!***

*This is a YouTube video.

**UCSD-TV San Diego Opera Spotlight video

***This is a San Diego Opera video produced by UCSD-TV

Desert camping relaunched

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

We stayed home for the holidays in December as we followed the activity progression schedule prescribed for Tasha by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital* following her hemilaminectomy due to a ruptured disc last November.  She has made an excellent recovery and has resumed her normal routine and activities so we relaunched our monthly camping trips and returned to Borrego Palm Canyon where we had made our maiden cruise seven years ago this month.

DSC_0162 Borrego Palm Canyon 2014

Tasha quickly learned to use the gangplank (Mr. Herzher’s Smart Ramp) that we recently purchased for our corgis to embark and disembark our Airstream Safari without injuring their backs.

DSC_0152 Tasha & telescoping ramp

As I unhitched and set up the campsite, I heard a drone hovering high above me, which turned out to be a DJI Phantom Quadcopter with a GoPro camera* controlled by Airstreamer, photographer Rich C, who we first met here seven years ago.  (See his driving and aerial video tour of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park* that includes a brief clip of me setting up camp!).  According to Rich, he “is currently on the road contracting and consulting in his ‘other career’… network and data base design.”

DSC_0139 DJI Phantom Quadcopter

The DJI Phantom Quadcopter elevates scenic photography to a new high!*

Last Friday our governor declared a California statewide drought emergency.  Our severe drought has limited the growth of plants, flowers, and seeds that sustain birds.  We were amazed, mesmerized and entertained by the numbers of birds (especially house finches and White-crowned Sparrows) that fought over the seeds from our Soda Bottle Bird Feeder by Channel Craft.  White-winged Doves and Gambel’s Quail also visited and added to the chorus of bird sounds.

DSC_0014 Soda bottle bird feeder

We also feasted. Larry is seen below preparing vegetables for a stir-fry using Zha Jiang Mian Sauce and Shirataki (sweet yam) noodles.

DSC_0024 Vegetable prep for Japchae

Rich and Jodi joined us for dinner on Monday.  On Wednesday, I joined them for a hike up Palm Canyon.

DSC_0113 Hiking with Rich & Jodi

Rich has a good eye for getting that perfect picture.  He is seen here setting up his camera on a tripod placed in a creek for a time exposure image of a waterfall.  (See Rich’s images in his post, “Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego“.)

DSC_0117 Rich, tripod & falls

We were all happy campers during our five days of glorious sunshine.  (See Rich’s video wrap-up*)  Even our dogs had happy faces as they trotted on the 0.6-mile sidewalk to the Visitor Center.

DSC_0156 Happy Tasha & Mac

Indeed, Happy days are here again!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Shifting sands at Agua Caliente

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

We had just finished celebrating Día de los Muertos* and brought along Larry’s homemade anise pan de muerto for our return to Agua Caliente County Park for five nights of camping in the sunny Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0029 Larry's Anise pan de muerto

DSC_0114 Desert bound

It was not so sunny here in late August when a weekend of heavy rains unleashed flash floods, rock slides, shifting sand and mud, causing damage to roads, parks, and homes.  When we made our November reservations for this park at the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Administrative Office in September, an administrator there told us that about $10,000 worth of damage had occurred and that the park was closed for repairs,* but would be expected to be open at least by November.  When we checked in, Supervising Park Ranger, James Stowers, said that a lot of sand had washed down onto our reserved site, but we should be able to go in and out OK.  But as I backed the trailer up into this site, the trailer tires sank into and pushed against dry, very loose, uncompacted sand (about 5″ deep), while the rear truck tires spun.

DSC_0039 Too much loose sand

Since I got the trailer far enough into the site to be workable, I unhitched, and the next morning I reported my concerns to James about the large amounts of loose sand that might make it difficult for our 2-wheel drive truck to pull our trailer out on departure day.  I was pleased that he personally got on a tractor with a front-end loader* and scooped up buckets full* of sand and placed them in eroded areas in the sites above us.  This made us smile.*

DSC_0093 Ranger removed excess sand

Beautiful sunny weather with day temperatures in the 70s also brought smiles to our faces and even my rescued childhood doll, Howdy Doody*, seemed happy as Larry worked on Howdy’s major cosmetic and clothing makeover.

DSC_0144 Desert smiles and vistas

I again hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, and although I did not see the bighorn sheep that I had seen in January, 2011, I did see interesting plants… and peculiar rocks.

DSC_0129 Interesting plants & rocks

I also spotted a large black widow spider on the fleece lining of our trailer tire covers!  (I always carefully inspect the covers during their removal since previously finding various spiders, a scorpion, and a field mouse!)

DSC_0149_2 Black widow spider

The spider had found a comfortable, albeit temporary home, while we were at home in the trailer.  We were cozy and content and had no idea that the sands would continue to shift for us when we got home, but at least wherever we are, home is where the heart is.*

DSC_0101 home is where the heart is

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Autumn leaves and leaps

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

We leaped into the beginning of our autumn camping season by returning to our favorite mountain campground, William Heise County Park, noted for its oak, pine, and cedar forests, Mule deer, and Rio Grande turkeys.  Our last autumn visit here was three years ago, so we really looked forward to experiencing the fall colors and the seasonal changes in the weather.  Last spring we rediscovered the joys of this park and were delighted to learn that the park now allows dogs (on a leash) on its more than ten miles of beautiful trails.

DSC_0073 Wm Heise autumn walk

We took advantage of the first two wonderfully sunny and mild days to get on the trails, especially our favorite Cedar Trail.  We were impressed with the sight of bright red leaves of Toxicondendron diversilobum (Pacific poison oak*) climbing up as a vine on oak trees.

DSC_0077 Pacific poison oak

Before the mid-week rain and windstorm moved in, we enjoyed watching hawks, crows, and bats fly by while enjoying sunset dinners at our campsite picnic table.  This summer our Oster long slot toaster burned out after only two years use.  We hated to toss this appliance since it has the classic, iconic shape of Airstream trailers*, so Larry gutted and converted it into a plate-napkin-chopstick holder (the treaded wheels came from Rockler).

DSC_0061 Plate-napkin-chopstick holder

I took an early morning hike hoping to spot some turkeys (last spring we noticed that they were not as plentiful as we had remembered seeing here three years ago).  As I walked up the campground road, I did spot a small rafter of turkeys* foraging on the hilltop meadow, but they ducked into the nearby woods as I approached with my camera.  I trekked further north without seeing more turkeys and began my return.  As I approached the same spot where I had earlier spotted turkeys, I was pleased to see a deer emerge from the woods, foraging…

DSC_0007 Mule deer foraging

followed by another…

DSC_0016 Mule deer foraging

Eventually a herd of five deer emerged and trotted across the meadow and leaped one by one over two rail fences and continued foraging!

DSC_0028 Deer leaping 1

DSC_0029 Leaping deer 2

They seemed to know that the safest place to cross is where there is a speed bump.  The “Speed Limit 10″ sign is a nice reminder to slow down and make the moment last,* and enjoy the falling autumn leaves* and leaps!

DSC_0120 Heise autumn leaves

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

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.