Archive for the ‘Marshal South’ Category

Desert flowers and devils

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Just before departing on our last desert trip this spring, a late winter storm was bringing wind, rain and snow to our local mountains and much needed moisture to the desert.  I wore long johns during our first night at Agua Caliente County Park, but by mid-afternoon the following day we had the air conditioner running as outside temperatures soared into the 90′s and continued to do so throughout the week.  I got on the park’s Moonlight Canyon Trail early before temperatures peaked and was pleased to find Desert Agave and ocotillo in bloom.

According to Wikipedia, Desert Agave, Agave deserti, also known as Mescal and Century Plant, was used by desert dwelling Indians to make cloth, bowstrings, and rope.  It also provided author Marshal South and his family with materials for fuel, food and clothing in the 1930′s and 1940′s.

Ocotillo (below), Fouquieria splendens, had bright crimson flowers, but its stems did not have a robust display of green leaves due to the below average spring rainfall.  Marshal South also used the ocotillo for fuel.

Upon return from my hike, I enjoyed a shower and one of Larry’s delicious sandwiches with chips and beer.  I then settled in under the patio awning for an afternoon of reading while enjoying a light breeze… and then I heard the devil coming… it seemed to come out of nowhere… but I’ve felt and heard its breath before at this site.  I immediately leapt out of my chair and held onto the front awning rafter arm as a dust devil sent the nearby table setting and hanging paper lantern up and over our trailer. It was over in 10 seconds.  “Well, I better put the awning in for the day,” I thought, and then noticed that it did not go in as easily as before because the rear rafter arm bar on was now bent!  Together, we got the awning back in and secured.

According to Wikipedia, “Dust devils form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low-pressure air above it.”  Certain conditions increased the likelihood of dust devil formation on that day, including clear skies, light wind, cool atmospheric temperatures, hot near surface air, and the flat desert terrain that stretched out to the east of our trailer.  It seems our favorite site here is located in dust devil alley! (See this BBC video clip on YouTube, “Dust Devil Blows Away Campsite.”)

Upon return home, I called Awnings By Zip Dee to order a replacement for the bent arm and they asked me for the model and year of my trailer and then guided me to their Parts List on their web site and asked me to click on the PDF, “Contour Hardware Installed 1989 to Present Parts,” where I identified the needed Part #5, Satin Rafter Arm Bar.  Several days later, I noticed the Rafter Arm Tube had a bow in it, so I also ordered Part #6, Satin Rafter Arm Tube Assembly.  They also encouraged me to see one of their excellent Instructional Videos, “Straightening a Bent Arm on a Zip Dee Awning.”  The parts arrived one week later, as promised.

Before installing the new parts, I lubricated them as shown in their Instructional Video, “How To Lubricate a Zip Dee Awning.”  As it turned out, the bow in the Rafter Arm Tube disappeared when it was removed from the bent arm bar, so now I have a spare part for the next encounter with a dust devil… or Mariah.

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.

Desert points of color

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Desert blooms are not as profuse in some places of the Anza-Borrego Desert this spring due to three straight nights of freezing temperatures in February, but magnificent points of color can still be treasured.  Avoiding nails, I carefully backed our Airstream Safari into our Agua Caliente County Park campsite, right up to two spectacular ocotillo plants lush with small green leaves and profuse crimson flowers.

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Every morning we opened our door to wonderful displays of color.

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Nearby our two ocotillo plants is a creosote bush in full bloom.

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The Creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, is an evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and yellow flowers.  According to Wikipedia, this plant was used by Native Americans in the Southwest as a treatment for a variety of illnesses and it is still used as a medicine in Mexico (the species is named after J.A. Hernandez de Larrea, a Spanish clergyman).

Another medicinal, the ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens, has bright crimson flowers that often appear after a rainfall.  According to Wikipedia, the fresh flowers are used in salads and the dried flowers are used for herbal tea.

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Marshal South and family’s spirits rose when spring came to their desert home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain.  He wrote in his Desert Diary 4 (May 1940) April at Yaquitepec article:

 All the desert is awake and rejoicing in Spring. Fountains of wax-like white flowers tower above the green, bristling bayonets of the yuccas and the emerald wands of the newly-leafed ocotillos are tipped with points of flame. Color! Sharp, vivid color! That is the keynote of the wasteland’s awakening. And the knowledge that the vanished Children of the Desert found in many of these gorgeous blossoms a source of nourishing food takes nothing from their charm. Both the flowers of the yucca and the ocotillo are good to eat.

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

After a cold, rainy winter, my spirits rose while hiking the Moonlight Canyon Trail in full sunlight and rising temperatures.  I spotted a lizard basking on granite surrounded by a sea of Bigelow Monkeyflowers, Mimulus bigelovii.

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Barbed cholla spines pierced my lower pant leg and shoes as I maneuvered to take the photo of the barrel cactus below.

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I returned to camp, removed the cholla spines, and enjoyed my daily noontime shower followed by savoring a cotto salami sandwich made by Larry.  Slices of cotto salami are placed in a toasted bun with finely shredded cabbage, horseradish mustard, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and onion with a side of chips and pepperoncini, Asian pickled garlic & ginger, olives and Deglet Noor dates.  This was complimented by a cold bottle of Heineken.

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Then came afternoon reading, writing, walking the dogs and dining and photographing under the stars… and listening to a French song.

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Bighorn Sheep revisited

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Agua Caliente lies in the Anza-Borrego Desert at the eastern end of Vallecito Valley at the foot of the Tierra Blanca Mountains in Southern California where seismic activity created a spur of the Elsinore fault enabling water to come to the surface, which supports lush plant life and a wide variety of wildlife including the Bighorn Sheep.  Minerals come up in the hot springs forming mounds of natural salt licks.

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Bighorn sheep are on the federal list of endangered species and seem to be making a comeback in this area.  An Agua Caliente County Park Ranger said there are about 13 of them here, so I was excited to have my first close encounter when I took a hike during our last camping trip and spotted four of them,

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or more accurately, they spotted me.  They prefer to graze on rocky ridges and slopes where they can spot and escape from predators.

I stopped in my tracks and quietly prepared my camera and spent the next forty minutes in their world.  We saw eye to eye.

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As long as I moved slowly and peacefully, they seemed comfortable in my presence.

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They came down to feed,

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and smile.

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Poet, artist, and author Marshal South, along with his family, lived on Ghost Mountain for years before they spotted a great ram while hiking near here.  Marshal reported this experience in his article, Desert Refuge 41, December, 1944 issue of Desert Magazine:

As the dark body broke from the fringe of brush and leaped upon the lower rocks of a precipitous hillside not 30 yards distant, we saw that it was a great ram… a monarch among sheep.  In that flash instant in which poised upon a boulder, he glanced back at us before starting upward; he was a sight to stop the heartbeat… he halted, appraising us.  Then he started up, bounding swiftly up the almost perpendicular ridge with a sure footed skill that gave a deceptive illusion of leisurely ease… he reached the crest.  Here, silhouetted against the hard blue of the sky, the tall sharp line of a dry mescal pole rising beside him like a lifted standard he paused again.  Silence held the desert – and us – as for perhaps 20 seconds he stood outlined against space: A creature of freedom, gazing out across the rocks and ranges of his homeland in whose beetling cliffs and hidden canyons still some trace of dwindling freedom lingers.  Then he was gone.  The skyline was empty, and our hearts came back slowly to normal beating.

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

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Contemplating time at Yaquitepec

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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It is now the dead of winter.  One winter storm follows another, even here in the desert.  Heavier desert rain this season is a good harbinger for a prolific, early wildflower season.  Just a few weeks ago we saw lush, green growth and the bright red flowers of the Ocotillo in Hellhole Canyon.

There is already a hummingbird nest with two eggs in our California Bay Tree just outside our den window.  We are in the middle of the third rain and windstorm this week and rain is expected through Saturday.

Each morning we peer outside our window to see if the nest survived the storms and each day we are amazed that the brave and dedicated mother is still there, hunkered down over her eggs.

During my last visit to Marshal South’s home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain, I thought about the bravery of Marshal South and his wife, Tanya, in choosing this desolate site for their experiment in desert primitive living and in raising a family here.

I contemplated about their experiences as recorded by Marshal South in his over 102 articles and poems written for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948.*

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At one point the South’s windup kitchen clock failed and I was mesmerized by Marshal’s story of the making of his sundial and his reflections on time, as written in his Desert Diary 10 — October at Yaquitepec:

“So again, in peace, with neither tick nor tock time marches on at Yaquitepec…”  (Allow time to slow as you savor reading this.)

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“and the unhurried, silent shadow moves round and round on the chisel-marked granite block that stands on the terrace.”

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“… It wasn’t originally intended to be a sundial.  In the beginning it was part of a crude homemade grain mill.  But another mill superseded it and in the course of time the upper millstone of the discarded apparatus was broken.  Then one day the old clock folded its hands at 4:33 and we were without the time.  Which didn’t matter much, for ‘time’ is an illusion anyway.  But there is a sort of habit to the counting of it.  So I resurrected the nether millstone with its central iron pin — which was a long iron bolt cemented into a hole in the stone — and set forth to make a sundial.”

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“… It was winter when I made the sundial and I still have chilly recollections of ‘shooting’ the North Star through the old gun barrel, lashed to a post…”  “There are teeth-chattering memories too of leveling and wedging and sighting under the chill starlight as I arranged the granite block on a big boulder pedestal in the exact position necessary…”

“… Our sundial works.  Sometimes it proves, when checked against the haughty mechanism of expensive visiting watches, to be fifteen minutes or so out.  But who would worry about a little thing like 15 minutes’ error?  Certainly not here on Ghost Mountain, where there are no ‘limiteds’ to catch and where the golden sheen of the sun wraps the desert distances in a robe of glow…”

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“… and dim mystery that is timeless.”

“What is Time, anyway?”*

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Great thinkers have contemplated about time over the ages.  (See video of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity illustrated here.)

This is food for thought and, with a little champagne (and appropriate music), I’ll muse on and contemplate the passages of time and other mysteries of life and the universe.

*(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

New Year’s Day at Yaquitepec

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Bert and I have each been here before, but never at night.  So we packed our gear and took a late afternoon hike on New Year’s Day up Ghost Mountain in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to experience and photograph Yaquitepec and the night sky.

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Yaquitepec is the name Marshal South (poet, author and artist) gave to his adobe house that he built atop Ghost Mountain, where he and his family lived from 1930 to 1947 in an experiment in primitive living.  Some consider Marshal and his wife, Tanya, as the original hippie family.  It was the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when people were without money, jobs and houses and went back to the land to survive, some, including Marshal and Tanya, by homesteading.

Years earlier they enjoyed camping trips to this area and loved the peaceful beauty of this desert wilderness, which enabled them to be creative in their writings after establishing a home here.  Marshal wrote articles for Desert Magazine and monthly drove his 1929 Model A Ford 14 miles to the town of Julian to pick up mail and supplies.  Some in Julian considered him an outcast because of his lifestyle.  Even though he painted a frieze for the Julian library, he was buried in the Julian Cemetery in an unmarked grave in 1948 (it is now marked with a headstone placed by his son Rider in 2005).

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Along the way, Bert photographed this Agave plant, called Mescal by Marshal, who used it as a food and fuel source, among other things.

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We started photographing the deteriorating ruins under increasingly cloudy skies.

After four prior hikes up here, I finally found and photographed the Souths’ kiln where they fired their pottery.

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It is located about 500 feet east of the house and was built from the surrounding granite rocks.

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Although it was mostly cloudy, the night sky had pockets of clearing, revealing stars.  Bert lit up the opposite side of this structure with a strobe light and took the image seen in his article, “At Yaquitepec, Atop Ghost Mountain in Anza Borrego, January of 1940 Was a Very Good Year“.  Afterward, he reviewed his photos (below).  Tall agave stalks are seen against the night sky lit up by El Centro, fifty miles away and the largest U.S. city to lie entirely below sea level.

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Bert’s headlamp lit up the yard in front of Yaquitepec.

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Earlier during the magnificent sunset, I reflected on the ongoing return of Yaquitepec to the earth and, like Marshal, I celebrated the life, beauty and spirit of this special place.

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Marshal wrote in his first article for Desert Magazine, “Desert Diary 1 – January at Yaquitepec”, “And New Year is somehow a joyous finale of the glad season.  A wind-up and a beginning.  And it doesn’t matter much whether the wind is yelling down from the glittering, white-capped summits of the Laguna range and chasing snowflakes like clouds of ghostly moths across the bleak granite rocks of our mountain crest or whether the desert sun spreads a summer-like sparkle over all the stretching leagues of wilderness.  New Year’s day is a happy day just the same.”

And, all in all, for Bert and I, New Year’s Day at Yaquitepec was a happy day and a great way to start the new year.

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

Also see Diana Lindsay’s website, MarshalSouth.com, for additional information, articles, images and links.

And see the video trailer of John McDonald’s 76-minute documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment.

Ocean breeze

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Surf’s up and cool ocean breezes are zipping up and over our South Carlsbad State Beach bluff campsite where we enjoyed a break from the desert heat. We camped for four nights on the edge of a 3-mile long bluff, where we were bathed in the continuous sounds of the wind and surf. Seagulls sailed by, both inside and outside the trailer.

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Seagulls by John Perry

The area of Carlsbad was once inhabited by the Luiseno Native Americans who had a village near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon which was a resting place for Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi on their expedition up the coast in 1769 to establish outposts and missions for Spain. In 1883 the Santa Fe Railroad passed near here and land was opened to homesteaders and real estate speculators, including John Frazier who tapped an artesian spring yielding mineral water which was thought to be curative and likened to the old Bohemian spa of Karlsbad (in Czechoslovakia).

Five miles north of Carlsbad is Oceanside, where Marshal South, once known as Oceanside’s Poet Laureate, met his wife-to-be, Tanya, whose parents were orthodox Jews from the Russian Ukraine and emigrated to New York in 1906. See an image of Marshal and Tanya’s “honeymoon accommodations” while camping on an Oceanside beach in 1923.

Marshal South probably would have found our trailer accommodations interesting even though he apparently had no desire to use or generate electricity at Yaquitepec. Here at South Carlsbad State Beach we are self-contained and, with our two solar panels, we generate more electricity than we use during the day, even through the marine layer. Typically by late morning each day our AGM batteries are 100 percent at 13.5 volts.

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If we did a lot of this coastal camping, a portable wind turbine could possibly take advantage of the almost constant ocean breeze.

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We found that this South Carlsbad bluff is really the turf of the California Ground Squirrel.

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 Their accommodations are underground burrows on the other side of the fence and their favorite activities are surveying the campers and obtaining campers’ food and water. Bungee cords were used to secure outdoor items that contained food or other items of interest.

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A family of nearby squirrels paused for a moment and seemed mesmerized by Larry’s ukulele playing and singing.

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 More beautiful sunsets and summer breezin’ are just around the corner.

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Desert heat

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

We celebrated Earth Day by returning to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for a five-night stay.  We arrived in warmer than usual temperatures for this time of year, which gave us a chance to see how well we could keep comfortable if we camped in the desert later in the season. We had full hook-ups at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground and used our Safari’s air conditioner extensively for the first time. This and other strategies enabled us to keep relatively comfortable, even when the outside temperature was 100 degrees.

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Our desert heat is usually a dry heat that I tolerate rather well. I sat under one of our three trailer awnings (which also help to keep the trailer cool when the wind is not gusting) and sipped on a cool one.

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Marshal South described desert heat in his article, DESERT DIARY  7, July at Yaquitepec, (August 1940 issue of Desert Magazine):

Heat! And the distant phantoms of mirage. Desert summer is with us now and Yaquitepec shimmers in the heat of a midday glare that is thirstily metallic… Nowhere but in the desert, and in summer, can you see such magnificent cloud effects as those which tower into the hard, turquoise sky above the heat-dancing wastelands.

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

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Upon arrival, the first item that I connected was shore power so that we could start running the air conditioner. Our original 30-amp power cord that came with the trailer was starting to pull loose at the male connector end. We recently replaced it with with a heavier duty Marinco 30 Amp Right Angle Locking RV Cord Set.

On an earlier camping trip here we noticed that the campground’s water pressure was overcoming our water pump’s check valve and the fresh water tank filled and water was seen trickling out of the overflow drain on the side of the trailer.  We found, that by hooking up a water regulator gauge, the incoming water pressure could be monitored and adjusted to prevent this from happening.

Once we were hooked up to shore power, we were pleased that our new 3-stage Xantrex  XADC 60A Converter/Charger worked perfectly and quietly. (Our previous two Parallax converters failed). See how I installed it: “Parallax Converter Replacement with Xantrex“, on Airforums.com.

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The desert heat prompted us to convert the trailer into a comfortable cave.

dsc_0047-insulation-leds-copy.jpg We closed the curtains, blinds and Vista View window covers. Larry made covers for our two Fan-Tastic Fans from Reflectix insulation that he cut to size and then sewed the edges together. (Our forward Fan-Tastic Fan has a reversible switch, so we have the option of pulling in cool night air at one end of the trailer and blowing it out the rear end, if we didn’t want to use the air conditioner or if we were boondocking.)

Our cave was brightened by new Warm-White LEDs that Larry installed. They use less energy and run cooler. He replaced the ceiling, over-the-stove and reading lights with LED lights (G4-WHP10-D, T10-PCB-WHP9, and G4-WHP15-T respectively) that are now available in a pleasant warm-white light from Super Bright LEDs, Inc.  See details and photos of his installation in his post, “LED ceiling lights“, on Airforums.com.

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Those hot-to-touch Halogen reading lights now feel only slightly warm with the Warm-White LEDs, which is very much appreciated when camping in the desert heat, and as a bonus, colors look truer.

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More images and notes about our LEDs appear in this Airforums post.

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Earth Day was brightened in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park not only by the blazing sun, but also by the flowering Palo Verde tree, also called “lluvia de oro”, which is Spanish for “shower of gold”…

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Reminding us that the real desert heat is still to come, and hopefully, with more gorgeous blue skies.

Yaquitepec spring

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Yaquitepec (pronounced YAKeete-PECK and coined by Marshal South from “Yaqui”, the fierce freedom-loving Indians of Sonora, Mexico, and “tepec” referring to the hill) was Marshal South and family’s home from 1930 to 1946 on an obscure ridge they named Ghost Mountain, owned by the Bureau of Land Management before it became part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Yaquitepec, where Marshal and family lived close to nature in an experiment in primitive living, was bathed in spring flowers earlier this month.

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A beavertail cactus greeted us as we approached Yaquitepec after trekking up the 1 mile trail.

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Marshal South described a spring scene at Yaquitepec in his article, Desert Home 1, in the May 1941 issue of Desert Magazine:

The squaw-tea [Mormon tea or ephedra] bush in front of the house is sprinkled thickly with clustering chrome-yellow blossoms; and down by the yuccas the white and yellow headings of my tiny desert daisy bushes nod beside the budding beavertail cactus. The barrel cacti too are crowned with flower circlets and the lone creosote bush by the great rock is already dressed in its bright new covering of varnished green leaves and is sprinkled with yellow blossoms. New pink and cream heads nod on the buckwheat. The whole world of desert growth throbs to spring.

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(Note: all 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

Ephedra funerea, Mormon tea bush, has tiny leaves and most of the photosynthesis takes place in its green jointed stems. Most Native Americans in the Southwest and some of the Mormon pioneers brewed or boiled the Ephedra stems to make a tea that was considered refreshing and therapeutic.  Marshal’s ephedra, which he called squaw-tea, was just a few feet from his front door.

Encelia farinosa,  or Brittlebush, is prolific at Yaquitepec, and helps to soften the look of its dump of rusting cans a ways down on the southeast side.  (Marshal drove his 1929 Model A Ford 14 miles monthly up the Banner Grade to the nearest town, Julian, where he mailed in his articles to Desert Magazine, bought gasoline, and brought back library books, goods and supplies, including canned goods.)

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Spring also brings warmer nights to Yaquitepec. Marshal South described one such night in his article, Desert Refuge 9, in the April 1942 issue of Desert Magazine:

Last night was warm and at midnight I went out to open another shutter of our screened sleeping porch… I did not at once go back into the house. Instead I sat down on the upper of the two rock steps that lead past the cisterns to where the woodpile is. Upon my bare body the chill of the night air struck with a tingling, electric glow that was almost warmth.

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 Far off, through a mist-rift above the shadowy ridges, the North Star gleamed. Almost I seemed to hear the deep, measured breathing of the earth…

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 The night air was like a garment of peace, and the overhead arch of the desert stars, appearing and disappearing through rifts in the canopy of haze, was a glorious procession of the Heavenly Hosts, streaming forward triumphantly across the fields of Paradise… One gets very close to the heart of things, sometimes, in the desert silence.

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(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

Ghost Mountain spring hikes

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Plans were already in place for us to spend four nights just below Ghost Mountain, so when Rich L. and family arrived in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with their friends Adam and Susan earlier in the week we were poised to go on a joint hike with them and celebrate their last full day in the desert with a sumptuous feast prepared by Larry.  We had already agreed on a hike to see the pictographs near Ghost Mountain and I was especially interested in seeing the nearby morteros for the first time. Adam and Susan had recently viewed the short film, Ghost Mountain – An Experiment in Primitive Living, shown in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Visitors’ Center, and they were interested in hiking up to see Marshal South’s former home site, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain. So we decided to do all three hikes in one afternoon.

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(Pictured above are Adam, Susan, Emma, Rich and Eleanor)

Zoe the cat enjoyed viewing the sites from the vantage point of Emma’s day bag while both Rich and Emma kept their eyes open for any curiosities along the trail.

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Bright yellow flower mounds of  Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) are prolific here at Yaquitepec right now. (The Laguna Mountains are seen along with the Mason Valley below.)

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The Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) and the Brittlebush brighten Marshal South’s dissolving adobe ruins.

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Desert Agave (Agave deserti) is also very abundant here.  Standing below are two Agave flower stalks.  Native peoples (as illustrated in Marshal South’s frieze in the former Julian Library) once roasted young agave stalks in rock-lined roasting pits for two days which resulted in a sweet, molasses-flavored agave which was consumed.

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Marshal South wrote in his article, Desert Refuge 35, in the June 1944 issue of Desert Magazine:

Mescal roasting is a family affair. Tanya and I find and bring in the sprouting plants that are ready for the baking.  Rider helps dig the pit and fetches stones to line it.  Rudyard and Victoria trot hither and thither, lugging in fuel…  you leave your mescals cooking in their primitive oven for two days… Take a knife or a hatchet and carefully trim off the outer crusting, and the prize lies before you.  Brown and golden and rich!

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in 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.)

After hiking the mile back down to Rich’s Armada, we piled back in and continued down a sandy road to our next stop, Morteros Trail.  This .25 mile walk leads to an area where Native Kumeyaay women used rock pestles to pound seeds in the bedrock mortar (mortero).

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Along the way we spotted numerous lizards of various colors.  Emma wanted to see a large one so she performed her “Homage to the colored lizard” by repeated bowing with arms outstretched.

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We then climbed back into the Armada and continued down the road to our next and final hike of one mile into Smuggler Canyon to see the pictographs.  Emma’s homage worked because the next lizard that we saw was the largest one of the day.

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We found the rock art pictographs (pictures with applied color, as contrasted with petroglyphs which have pictures etched into rock) on a prominent boulder.  Manfred Knack says in his The Forgotten Artist – Indians of Anza-Borrego and Their Rock Art, 1968, Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, this rock art may have been associated with girls initiation ceremonies… The diamond chain or “rattlesnake” may have represented a messenger from the god Chinigehinish (or Chinigchinix), who would punish those who disobey his divine laws… Paintings at the conclusion of the rites of passage reaffirmed the final lessons of the ceremonies.

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So after a total of 4.5 miles of hiking…

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We were ready to find out what Larry had been preparing back at camp just southeast of Yaquitepec.

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In Larry’s own words: “Wednesday afternoon involved preparing dinner while Bill went hiking with our friends. A majority of that time was used to assemble the vegetarian pot stickers and cook the falafels. We found that another picnic table had been moved to our campsite. We aligned them end-to-end and set out a Mexican serape as a table cloth and hung 2 Chinese bamboo flutes with red tassels, which danced in the wind, on the branches of the grove of picturesque mesquite trees. This made for a festive ambiance with plenty of seating and a buffet table for serving. The weather was beautiful with mild breezes.

I had fixings out for salad and/or pita sandwiches, which included falafels, tomatoes, onion, pepperoncini, hummus, tahini, pita wedges, vegetarian pot stickers (which were a favorite), lemonade, poppy seed short bread cookies, and celery sticks. Allowing guests to pick and choose their favorite eats always makes for a successful meal. Our guests (Rich, Eleanor, Emma, Adam and Susan) brought a bottle of wine and a delicious Julian apple pie topped with a crispy streusel topping.”

Larry enjoys researching and preparing food, recipes, and menus that are inclusive and compatible with guests’ dietary limitations.

I enjoyed the food and company so much that I forgot to take out our camera to capture the moment.  Perhaps we can entice the Man In The Maze to post some of his shots of this dinner gathering in his next post.

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.