Archive for the ‘Local history’ Category

Safari hunt for wild horses

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Auspiciously, our relaunch of desert camping and return to Borrego Springs occurred on the two-year anniversary of our first photo shoot of sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda‘s The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head, when Bert Gildart (“Year of the Dragon”) and I (“In pursuit of dragons and pearls“) photographed Larry offering a pearl (symbolizing wisdom) for the dragon to chase.*

The Serpent is one of many metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda* on the Galleta Meadows Estate owned by Dennis Avery* (who sadly passed away on July 23, 2012).  Although I have photographed many of his sculptures (See “Springtime in Galleta Meadows“), there are many more that we have not seen, so upon our return to Borrego Springs, we wanted to find, visit and photograph the horses, especially since Chinese New Year 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac (Find your fortune).*

DSC_0093 Borrego Springs' horses

When we first arrived at Christmas Circle, we spotted two horses pulling a stagecoach, but we wanted to do a photo shoot with the wild horses, so we checked the Sculpture Installations Map and drove down S3 to find them.  We were not disappointed.  As we arrived, a sabertooth cat was attacking one.

DSC_0035 Attacked by saber-tooth cat

I set up my camera while Larry put on his Chinese peasant outfit of the 1880’s consisting of a tunic, trousers, coolie hat and sandals.  He then offered a wedge of cabbage to the first horse, which appeared skittish.

DSC_0040 Offering to skittish horse

He was more successful when he offered two wedges (Number 2 is a lucky number in Chinese culture).

DSC_0058-2 Offering 2 for good luck

Larry illustrated one of the themes of the I Ching hexagram 34, Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great, “Perseverance furthers“.

DSC_0082 I "Perseverance furthers"

“Perseverance brings good fortune.”

DSC_0075-2 Acceptance

DSC_0095 Happiness

We are hopeful for good fortune as we gallop into this Year of the Wood Horse, but it might be a wild ride!  For good luck, we cleaned and decorated the house with Chinese symbols and red and gold colors.  Our Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner featured roasted Chinese duck, Chinese mustard green/ham egg flower soup, and jiaozi, Chinese dumplings (See “Where Dumplings Came From and Why Eat Them on New Years,“* which has a quick image of jiaozi in our trailer)!

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Time passes, but our hearts remain young as we celebrate life!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Celebrating life on Cedar Trail

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

After updating our trip notes in my See More, Do More, Live More – The Airstream Travel Journal notebook, we hiked the Cedar Trail and noticed that there are new signs, including one that alerted us that we were “Entering Mountain Lion Country”.  Cedar Trail is a one-mile loop trail that mostly stays under a canopy of oak, pine, and cedar trees representative of William Heise County Park, in San Diego, California.

DSC_0065 New signs for Cedar Trail

“Better to have campers take their dogs on the trails with a leash, than leave them alone at the campsite,” said the ranger.   We were thrilled with this new and progressive policy and took our Corgis, Mac and Tasha, on their first hike on a county trail.

DSC_0165 Larry & Corgis on Cedar Trail

Keeping an eye out for mountain lions, we rested on a bench near Cedar Creek and marveled at the magnificent trees and chorus of bird sounds.

DSC_0144 Resting along Cedar Creek

Continuing on the trail, we saw dead oak trees killed by the goldspotted oak borer beetle, which has killed 80,000 oak trees in San Diego County over the past ten years.*  The 2003 Cedar Fire has also taken a toll here, but we celebrated the re-growth of trees, such as the California incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, coming up through holes in the oak canopy.

DSC_0055 Dead oak & live Cedar

We also spotted wild turkeys in this park and noticed that they did not seem as plentiful compared to when we first camped here six years ago.  Wild turkeys are considered a good “indicator species” and may reflect the health of an entire ecosystem.

DSC_0122 Heise Park wild turkeys

One of the trails from the Cedar Trail back to the campground passes by the cabin area.  These new William Heise Park cabins* are aesthetically pleasing, blend in well with the environment, and do not block views or replace RV campsites.

DSC_0105 Heise County Park Cabin

We returned to our favorite Airstream Safari campsite in this park and, even though we were tired, we smiled while we rested and cherished the memories of celebrating life* on Cedar Trail.

DSC_0058 A tired and happy Corgi!

*This is a YouTube video.

Summer of ’12

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Summer began by my thoroughly rinsing off all of the salt deposits that accumulated on the trailer during our beachside outing last May.  An important part of this annual process is to fully extended our three awnings and wash off the accumulation of salt and dirt.  The details of our trailer awning care are seen in my post, “Trailer Awnings“.  I am always amazed at the amount of dirt that accumulates along the very top edge of canvas where it attaches to the trailer (and can’t be seen or washed away until the awning is fully extended).

Diesel prices rose to $4.599/gallon this summer and the cost to fill up the F-250 tank was an even $100 here in San Diego, but the upside of living here is that we don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors, even our backyard is a tropical oasis.

Summer projects included Larry’s application of finishing touches to our trailer sun shade screen seen in my last post, “Drift and the land yacht“, and in my research into replacing our six-year-old trailer tires.

San Diego’s Old Town is a great place to work and play.  Larry and I put on our Victorian era attire and went to Old Town State Historic Park where Nick & Dave were photographing anybody for free as long as they were wearing vintage clothing.  Nick & Dave do tintype photography using the wet plate collodion process.

(Photo credit: Joe O’Dell)

They took our photos, showed them to us and, after they applied the finishing application of clear lacquer, we returned in two weeks to pick them up.

Nick & Dave’s assistant photographer Joe O’Dell took pictures of us with his Nikon camera and used Photoshop to make the image below showing us with the backdrop of Bodie, a ghost town in California.

Our Renaissance faire friend, Jim M., died in late summer, reminding us that life is fragile and brief and of the importance of cherishing and sharing each day with our loved ones, from season to season.  Summer is now over, the leaves are beginning to fall, the air is cooler… but love endures, along with our memories of the summer of ’12.

In pursuit of Bighorn Sheep

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

At an elevation of 3960 feet, Indianhead Peak loomed nearby as our Airstream friends Theresa, Bert, Janie, and I gathered at the trailhead of the popular Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail for another chance to see the elusive Bighorn Sheep and a spectacular palm oasis.  Just two days prior, Bert, Janie, and I found a 350-foot long serpent undulating in the desert sand not far from here, so we were hopeful for more good luck as we started our 3-mile hike.

Borrego Palm Canyon is a watershed for the San Ysidro Mountains and has a year-round flowing stream.

A thunderstorm can turn this creek into a raging river that can bring down trees, move boulders, and flood Borrego Springs, as it did in 2004.  Fires can also threaten this area, such as the Eagle fire of last July, which burned more than 10,000 acres as it spread east into the western slopes of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Fortunately, Bighorn Sheep can easily get out of range of flames in the terrain of Borrego Palm Canyon.  Historically, according to Wikipedia, they have been threatened more by hunting, competition from domestic sheep, diseases, and development but are now making a comeback.

I was bringing up the rear of our hiking party halfway into our hike up the canyon when I turned and looked back at the southwestern ridge and spotted a female Bighorn Sheep (ewe) looking down at me.  I whispered to Janie, who passed the word to the others ahead.  I took a few steps back into the shade and began taking photos with my Nikon telephoto lens set to 200mm. I had photographed Peninsular Bighorn Sheep before at Agua Caliente, but I had never seen them in person here before.  As I was photographing the ewe, to my surprise, a much younger ewe poked her head up over the ridge.

It is likely that the larger ewe is pregnant and hungry.  The breeding season, or rut, is in the fall and there is a six-month gestation period.

Bighorn Sheep eat a variety of plants such as mesquite, agave and cacti.

The ewe remained vigilant as she stood on a ledge of the canyon wall covered with desert varnish, while we continued on our hike to the First Palm Oasis.

This oasis consists of a grove of California Fan Palms, Washingtonia filifera, near a running stream.  Oases such as these were habitat sites for the Cahuilla tribe of Native Americans, who ate the palm fruit and seed, and used the palm fronds to make rope, sandals, and baskets.  According to Diana Lindsay, a clan of Cahuilla lived in Borrego Palm Canyon, but abandoned their village due to small pox epidemics and territorial struggles with cattlemen (Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things, Diana Lindsay, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, 2001, page 80).

After working up an appetite, we returned to camp and joined Larry and Theresa’s husband Bob for a feast of pork and shrimp spring rolls, pork pot stickers, and Yusheng salad provided by Larry, while savoring our memories of our hike into Borrego Palm Canyon and reflecting on those who once lived there.  (See Bert’s photos and story of our hike here.)

 

In pursuit of dragons and pearls

Friday, January 20th, 2012

There were reports that a dragon has been sighted in Borrego Valley of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, so we set up our Safari in Borrego Palm Canyon and joined writer/photographer Bert Gildart and his wife Janie on a hunt for dragons and other game along the way.  We rendezvoused with Bert and Janie at Borrego Springs’ Christmas Circle and traveled north on Borrego Springs Road.  The topography here reminded me of Ernest Hemingway’s description of parts of Africa where “the country began to open out into dry, sandy, bush-bordered prairies that dried into a typical desert country…” (Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1963, New York, page 160).  It wasn’t long before we spotted big game off to the right and we pulled off the road for a photo shoot.

It looked like elephants and camels were here.  Bert started taking photos a safe distance from these creatures, but one seemed to become wary and turned abruptly toward him.

As the space diminished between us, it became obvious that these creatures were actually large metal sculptures, Sky Art, created by sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda for Dennis Avery’s Galleta Meadows Estate, depicting Gomphotheres, Camelops, and other creatures that roamed here during the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Miocene eras, millions of years ago.  Larry and I had visited this Sky Art two years ago as seen in my “Springtime in Galleta Meadows” post.

We retreated back to our trucks and resumed our pursuit of fabled quarry, the dragon.  Further down the road, we caught sight of its humps and pulled over to visually take in all 350 feet of The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head and rattlesnake tail undulating in and out of the desert sand.  We then respectfully approached for a planned photo shoot.

Janie held the strobe while Bert used his Nikon D7000 camera to photograph Larry wearing traditional Chinese clothing of the late 1800s.  (See Bert’s photos in his posting “Year of the Dragon“.)

Larry wore traditional clothing in the Manchu style of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) such as this long blue gown (changshan), black skull cap with a jade ornament, and hair in the queue style.  (Historical note: “To frighten the Chinese, in 1873 San Francisco adopted the Queue Ordinance, which allowed prison wardens to shave the heads or cut off the long braids of Chinese prisoners,” writes Jean Pfaelzer in Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, Random House, New York, 2007, page 75.)

Larry used a long bamboo pole to levitate a white Chinese lantern symbolizing the pearl of wisdom and knowledge, which the benevolent Chinese Dragon is fond of pursuing. The pearl also symbolizes truth, enlightenment, wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

The idea for this sculpture began with Dennis Avery.  “Dennis also is keenly attuned to Chinese culture through his wife, Sally Tsui Wong-Avery, who is founder of the Chinese Service Center in San Diego and the principal of San Diego’s Chinese Language School,” writes Diana Lindsay in her new book, Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist, Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2012, page 205.

The arrival of this Chinese dragon is timely and auspicious as we enter the Year of the Dragon, which begins on January 23, 2012.  It’s a time to say “Gung Hay Fat Choy,” and watch the Dragon Dance!

Oh, there is one more thing… the second day of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration is considered the birthday of all dogs!

Holiday fun with Bert and Janie

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

There were rainbows over San Diego and snow fell on the Laguna Mountains, but the Anza-Borrego desert night sky was filled with stars the night before Bert and Janie drove down from their winter camping spot at Pegleg Smith Monument to visit us at Agua Caliente County Park in Southern California.  Writer/photographer/Airstreamer Bert Gildart and his wife Janie are from Montana and have produced a number of guide and nature books such as Bighorn Sheep: Mountain Monarchs. His beautiful articles are seen in most issues of Airstream Life magazine.  Our last hike together was New Year’s Day 2010 for an evening photo shoot of Marshal South’s home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain.

The nights were chilly but our Safari Airstream trailer was warm and cozy inside and festively decorated for the holidays.  Before we left San Diego, Larry had made a Christmas tree (in the style of ones seen in Pennsylvanian German settlements in 1747) for Bert and Janie using materials from our garden, including Juniper, Rose hips, and Bromeliad bloom spikes.

It was a glorious sunny morning when Bert and Janie arrived with good cheer, smiles, and a large bottle of California Chardonnay wine.

We happily chatted as Larry served hot cider, homemade panettone and carrot-raisin oatmeal cookies.  This is Bert and Janie’s first time here, so I had fun introducing them to the park, the Marshal South connection and its beautiful hiking trails.  They joined me on a late morning hike on Moonlight Canyon Trail, where I photographed Peninsular Bighorn sheep last January.  A third of the way into the hike, Bert pointed up and smiled.

We spent the next 30 minutes at this spot photographing 5 Bighorn sheep that were grazing on the nearby ridge.

Bert was in his element. See his photo of the above scene in his posting, “Christmas at Bill & Larry’s.”

Seeing these mountain monarchs this close is like finding gold.  Perhaps Janie helped our fortune by recently adding 10 rocks to the Pegleg Smith Monument, honoring the legend of Pegleg Smith’s lost gold.  Bert turned to me with an expression of true joy.

After a two-hour hike, we returned to camp and enjoyed Larry’s homemade Cajun pork stew while conversing over myriad subjects of interest.  At a certain point, Bert got up to stretch and whispered to me with a boyish smile, “Do you think we could go back out on that trail… I could bring my bigger lenses and strobe light equipment and photograph the California Fuchsia we saw… and maybe the Bighorn sheep might still be there!”  So Bert and I took off like a couple of school kids on vacation.  I saw and photographed more of Bert’s photographic artistry, which will be seen in an upcoming post.  We returned just as the sun went down behind our nearby mountain ridge, quickly bringing cooler temperatures.

We thanked Bert and Janie for their good cheer, insight, company, genuine warmth and understanding… especially as we approached the shortest and darkest day of the year, winter solstice… and for helping us drive the cold winter away.

Wild horses couldn’t keep us away

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Desert wildflowers were blooming and the sun was shining, so even wild horses could not keep us away while record-breaking high temperatures were rolling across San Diego County.  It took longer each day for the sun to dip below the nearby mountain range and bring comforting shade and refreshing coolness to our Safari and us.  During the week temperatures progressed from the high seventies to the high nineties in the Anza-Borrego Desert.dsc_0134-desert-sun-to-shade.jpgAreas of the Anza-Borrego Desert were once part of the ancestral Gulf of California and are rich in fossils, such as horse teeth.  According to Wikipedia, the horse is native to North America and Equidae fossils date back to the Eocene period, 54 million years ago.  Equus fossils, such as those thought to be Equus scotti, have been found in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  All Equidae in North America became extinct about 12,000 years ago, but horses eventually returned to the Americas with Christopher Columbus in 1493 (second voyage).  Some horses escaped and formed feral herds, such as the Mustang.  In 2003, the last herd of wild horses in Southern California was removed from Anza-Borrego’s Coyote Canyon, but efforts are underway to restore the herd amidst much controversy.

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We recently acquired this beautiful fused glass art, “Galloping Horses”, by Lyn Feudner, from The Art Glass Guild, part of Spanish Village Art Center, next to the San Diego Zoo.  A closeup of this piece is seen in Lyn’s blog posting, “Fused Glass Horse“, and is based on her sketches posted last May.  It goes well in front of our Vista View window.

Here is what is also new in our trailer.  We found that the Cuisinart CPT-60 2-slice toaster with its wide long slot is perfect for toasting slices of Larry’s homemade artisan bread rounds and fits perfectly in back of the stove when not in use.

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It is pulled out onto the mat under the stove hood when in use (unfortunately it is currently unavailable).

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This 39″ high Bionaire Tower Fan from Costco has a small footprint and yet produces a cooling breeze inside the trailer when it is not quite hot enough to close up the trailer and start up the noisy air conditioner.

It is remote controlled and comes with a 12″ high Mini Tower Fan.

Eventually, as the week progressed, we did turn on the air conditioner…

and began dreaming about our next camping destination

bluff-top  camping overlooking the Pacific Ocean

where wild horses couldn’t keep us away.

dsc_0087-bionaire-mini-tower-fan.jpg

Giving thanks at Agua Caliente

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Thanksgiving season is a wonderful time to visit Agua Caliente County Park, a San Diego County Park that is 111 miles from San Diego.  Agua Caliente (Spanish for hot water) is best known for its geothermally heated hot springs, which attract visitors who like to enjoy the pools and therapeutic spa in a desert oasis setting.  There are also spectacular vistas, trails, abundant wildlife, and full hookup campsites.  We are thankful that this park now allows dogs, so we booked five nights and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

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Kumeyaay Native Americans once lived here centuries ago. The first European to visit the area was Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza in 1775.  Miners, pioneers, soldiers and prospectors were thankful for the relatively abundant water supply here after crossing the arid desert.  We were thankful for the view.

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The Ocotillo were very green from the recent rains.

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We are also thankful for our Safari Airstream with two solar panels and three awnings, which was a custom factory order placed on the day before Thanksgiving four years ago.

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Vallecito Mountains are seen in the background of this Thanksgiving table setting.

We were also thankful for the waxing moon, which brilliantly lit up our campsite and surrounding terrain.

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The Tierra Blanca Mountains are seen in the background.  The Moonlight Canyon Trail is a 2.5-mile loop near here.

We are also thankful for our two wonderful Corgis, Mac and Tasha, who always enjoy camping.

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This has been a brief introduction to Agua Caliente County Park.  Future postings will cover additional information and images of its history, geology, plants, wildlife, trails, and other features.  Hear and see Ranger Kevin Benson give an overview of this park, along with its pools and therapeutic indoor spa, in the YouTube video, “County Chronicles – Agua Caliente Park“.

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We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and invite you to listen to the beautiful “Thanksgiving” music by George Winston.

Día de los Muertos

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Some say that at this time of year the veil between this world and the spiritual world is the thinnest and a good time to remember and honor those who have gone before us.  Many communities throughout the world, especially those with Roman Catholic heritage, have Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) observances and celebrations on November 2 in connection with All Souls’ DayTucson has its All Souls Procession celebrating a diversity of cultures.

Pre-Christian origins of this holiday can be traced back to indigenous traditions of various cultures.  An Aztec festival was dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, Queen of the underworld, who is said to preside over contemporary Day of the Dead festivities and associated with the cult of Santa Muerte.  The Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain occurs on November 1, a time some believe that humans and spirits easily cross over from one world to the Otherworld.

Here in San Diego we delight in celebrating our rich multicultural tapestry.  Wonderful grocery stores such as Pancho Villa’s Farmer’s Market help provide a large selection of fresh, delicious and inexpensive items for our dinner table.  At this time of year we especially enjoy their freshly made tamales.

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The tamales are made fresh daily and traditionally wrapped in cornhusks.

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Also seen on the table is Earthtones “Day of the Dead” hand-painted decorative art tile made in Tucson.

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Printed on the back of the tile are these words: “In a small town in Mexico one family begins preparations for an annual celebration.  El día de los Muertos, ‘The Day of the Dead’, to welcome the spirits of their loved ones home again.”

Also seen on our table is the traditional Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), next to a dish with tamale de puerco (pork tamale) en pollo con mole verde (chicken in a green mole sauce).

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Traditions connected with the holiday include the building of altars and providing offerings (ofrendas).   Día de los Muertos in Old Town San Diego will be celebrated with a presentation of over 30 altars, live music and skull painting, traditional bilingual poetry readings, festive restaurants, and a candlelight procession from the Whaley House to El Campo Santo cemetery.

Día de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the biggest Day of the Dead festivals in Southern California.

Earthquakes and volcanos

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Our Easter brunch family guests had just left and I was setting up the laptop computer when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck 100 miles away causing our house to rock and roll and prompting me to call our newly acquired Corgi, Tasha, to join me out on the patio, followed by Larry and Corgi, Mac.  We watched as our fish pond noisily sloshed back and forth.  Two wine bottles and a clock had fallen over but were not damaged.   Thousands of aftershocks continue to be reported (including a 4.7 earthquake this morning), and it is estimated that earthquake-related damage in nearby Imperial County will eventually be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

One week later we returned to Anza-Borrego Desert for five nights of camping in a region that lies across one of the most active seismic systems in North America, according to Geology of Anza-Borrego: Edge of Creation, by Paul Remeika and Lowell Lindsay, 1992, Sunbelt Publications.  After passing over Earthquake Valley fault at Scissors Crossing, we stopped just outside Tamarisk Grove Campground (the second largest campground in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and now only open on weekends due to California’s budget crisis) for a look at the profuse yellow flowers of the Brittlebush.

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According to Diana Lindsay in her book Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things, 2001, Sunbelt Publications,  Tamarisk Grove is named for a stand of Athel tamarisk trees (Tamarix aphylla) planted as a shade tree and windbreak.  The campground was originally a San Diego County prison camp, established in 1929 to relieve crowding in the county jail.  Nearby are the Cactus Loop and Yaqui Well trails.

After a brief stop to take photos, we continued on to our Borrego Palm Canyon campsite.  Later in the week, our friends (and veterinarian) Bob and Theresa arrived with their 30′ Airstream Classic with slide-out.  Several times Bob spotted Bighorn Sheep and lambs on the ridge overlooking the campground through his telescope.

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A volunteer in the Visitors’ Center reported that the peak in the wildflower season here was two weeks ago, but we were pleased to see many plants still blooming, such as the Indigo Bush (Psorothamnus fremontii), named after John Charles Frémont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890), the first presidential candidate of a major party to run on a platform opposing slavery in 1856.

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While walking our Corgis along the campground road, we spotted Purple heather (Krameria erecta), seen below.

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While the Iceland volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, was spewing out ash and disrupting flights across Europe, our Volcano II Collapsible Stove was deep-frying Chinese spring rolls.

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This stove was purchased at a promotional demonstration at Costco earlier this year and this is the first time we brought it along while camping.

This portable, efficient and versatile stove can use propane gas, charcoal and wood.  It collapses and travels in the case provided.

Although it was not clear in the Owner’s Manual, we eventually found that the propane burner gas flames can be optimized by adjusting the air vent found on the underside of the propane burner (see below).dsc_0031-adjustable-air-vent.jpg

Our wok ring was added to support the Dutch oven.

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The spring rolls were stuffed with pork, shrimp and cabbage.  Once the oil was at 350o, the spring rolls were deep-fried.

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The stove worked wonderfully and produced delicious Chinese spring rolls seen on our campsite picnic table decorated with Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria) flowers from home (a flowering Creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, is seen in the background).

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After dinner we enjoyed balmy desert breezes and watched the stars.  During the heat of the day, we turned on the air conditioner and read and napped…

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And listened to music and contemplated life through a dog’s eyes.  See the touching PBS film, Through a Dog’s Eyes.

We are learning to take our time and smell the flowers while time is still on our side.

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.