Desert flowers and devils

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.