Hiking our way into the New Year…
Our Alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled activities. For example, on the first morning after our arrival in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Rich came by and knocked on our open trailer door as I was brushing my teeth by the Vanity sink. I smiled when I saw him and immediately quoted back to him the first line in one of his posts, “The knock on the door always seems to come at the worst time”. (Salt Creek Recreation, Joyce WA) He laughed and announced that David, Ari and their son, William, would be riding with them in the Armada to visit Slot Canyon and Split Mountain and that anyone else would be welcome to follow them. I thanked him but I said I wanted to spend some time completing the set-up our base camp.
The closest we got to scheduling anything was on the night before the event, we chatted about taking a hike up Palm Canyon and decided that a 9 a.m. time would be doable. The next morning at 8:55 a.m. I saw Rich’s door swing open and he came over and munched on sweet orange slices as Eleanor and Emma got ready, while I put the polarized lens on my camera. “Hey, let’s go for a hike!”, he said.
The Palm Canyon Nature trail is adjacent to the Palm Canyon Campground, where we are staying in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and reveals the dramas of past floods that uprooted palm trees and pushed them, along with massive boulders, down the canyon. (Palm Canyon Flash Flood!) This hiking area is always a wonderful photo opportunity, especially when the wild flowers are blooming (First Field Report). Ongoing and special events are listed on the Anza-Borrego Foundation website.
With luck, patience, right timing and being quiet, sometimes Bighorn Sheep can be spotted here. It seemed we might be in luck. I spotted Rich, Eleanor and Emma ahead studying an auspicious sign, fresh scat.
Zoe the cat, in Emma’s day-pack, smelled something’s up. (Zoe the cat goes with Emma on all major hikes, including Death Valley. I’m rather skeptical, too, because this is at least my third hike here and I’ve never seen a Bighorn Sheep. I am tempted to think that this is a myth perpetuated by rangers who periodically sprinkle scat on the paths. But, then again, writer and photographer, Bert Gildart spotted 21 of the elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep here last year. (Note that all, including myself, are observing sun safety by wearing wide-brimmed hats.)
Even if we don’t see sheep, we know we will eventually be rewarded by the Palm Oasis ahead and its refreshing shade. We just have to decide which way to go. Here Eleanor contemplates going over or around a boulder, while Rich decides to cross the stream. After a while, it seemed evident to me that Rich was choosing the more challenging way at every turn in preparation for his rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year. This tested our agility and became a balancing act.
The Palm Oasis beckoned us on ahead.
Once under the shade of the oasis, Rich adjusted his camera (Nikon D70 with the same lens that I use, a 18-200mm VR zoom lens).
We felt at home in the oasis as we relaxed…
Emma is showing us her now almost empty box of raisins. She dug her fingers down into the box and found a raisin to give to Rich. As he accepted it, he exclaimed, “Wow, I’ve seen peas bigger than this!”, and Emma giggled with delight. Oops, one raisin fell to the ground and Eleanor reminded her to pick it up so that the ants would not get it. Later I questioned Eleanor about this and she said she had learned how ants can be damaging to our national treasures, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Even items like soda and juice are not allowed on their cliff dwelling tours (they could attract animals and insects which could lead to damaging the dwellings). Beyond this, Leave No Trace philosophy reminds everyone to be responsible for their actions and leave parks unaltered so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.
As we got up to leave the oasis, Eleanor’s hat fell and was stained with mud. We decided to go up the canyon a bit higher, as Eleanor looked for a waterfall to wash her hat. She was delighted to find one.
Rich forged ahead and found an even larger waterfall for Eleanor and a better photographic opportunity for himself. But she had to lean dangerously forward and swing her hat into the falls.
Great fun was had by all!
Well, we never did see sheep, but we did have a fun and enriching time…
And time for contemplating…
… crossings and passages.