Tiki time in the mountains

Temperatures are rising in our nearby deserts with current average highs over 100o, so it was time to catch the mountains before they also become too hot for us.

dsc_0038-flag-day-in-the-mountains.jpg Our F-250 easily towed our 23′ Safari up from the Pacific Coast to our favorite wooded mountain campsite in the Cuyamaca Mountains, near Julian, California, at an elevation of 4200′.

Julian, located in a mixed pine-oak woodland, was the seasonal home to the Native American Kumeyaay people, who were displaced after the American Civil War by displaced Confederate Veterans from Georgia.

We strategically backed the trailer into the sun for the solar panels and parked the unhitched truck near the shade, where we and the Corgis often relaxed and chilled out during the heat of the day.

We raised the American flag high in honor of Flag Day.

We bring a large cooler filled with food and ice on every trip, which we usually take out of the truck and place in a shady area.  But it periodically had to be moved out of the moving sun or protected from night creatures, such as raccoons in this case.  So we found that it is more convenient (and the ice lasts longer) to leave it in the truck cargo area with the Retrax locking cover retracted for ventilation and cover it with a large truck sun shade to keep it cool.


Since we had five nights reserved here, I brought along our REI dome tent that I had brought out here two years ago and set it up to relive the joys of tent camping and being close to nature and the elements, at least for a night or two (this might become an annual event).  The Tiki, which we renamed “Iz“,  also came along to enjoy the elements, especially the sun, which almost always makes him high.


This campground is known for its wild turkeys, and one morning I found one that likes to take a walk in the sun.


Later in the day, jumbo shrimp, bell peppers, onions, and leftover salsa fresca were stir fried on the Volcano 2 stove using the propane attachment.  As the sun set, we sipped Kahlúa in half and half cream in sherry glasses while we were entertained by bats dancing through the sky in search of insects.


Tasha and I spent two nights in a row in the dome tent guarded by Iz.


We listened to the evening breezes rustling through the hillside forest trees, sounding like the ocean surf at times, as the first quarter of the Strawberry Moon slowly descended the western night sky.


We awoke at first light to the chorus of morning bird songs as our midsummer night’s dreams lingered in our minds.

World Oceans Day 2010


According to The Ocean Project, the concept for “World Ocean Day” was first proposed in 1992 by Canada at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  Listen to a very moving speech by 12-year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki given at this summit as she presented environmental issues from a youth perspective.

The Ocean Project, working with the World Ocean Network, has been promoting World Oceans Day since 2003.  World Oceans Day was officially declared by the United Nations as June 8th each year beginning in 2009.

The purpose of World Oceans Day is to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean has in our lives, inform the public of the dangers threatening the ocean and of the impact of human activities, and to encourage everyone to take action to protect and preserve the ocean and its riches.

Wear Blue and Tell Two” is The Ocean Project’s slogan to encourage people to celebrate the worlds oceans by associating the color blue with the oceans and by taking personal action to help.

I was aware of this and of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as we camped above the beach at South Carlsbad State Beach, so I curiously descended the wooden stairway to the beach below with a new perspective.  Even before I got down to the beach, I could see something that did not belong there, a tire.


Why was this vintage B.F. Goodrich Silvertown tire there?


I looked up the beach and noticed that it is losing sand, and Carlsbad’s sand is like gold for the city.


Signs on the bluff warn that the cliffs are unstable.  Cliff erosion can be seen below our campsite.


As I walked the beach, more questions came to mind, such as why was this snack package here?


Would the person who carelessly discarded it be strolling here if everyone else did the same and the beach was covered with litter?  More questions arose.  What comes out of the two large drainage pipes sticking out of the cliff?


What killed the plants nearby the pipes?  “Think Blue” is the City of San Diego’s campaign to prevent pollution from entering the storm drains, which drain untreated water into our creeks, bays, lagoons, and ultimately, the ocean.


What caused the death of this seagull?

So I am motivated to “Wear Blue and Tell Two” ways one can take personal action to help:  1. Make smart choices when eating seafood (see list).   2. Reduce our reliance on plastics, use a reusable shopping bag (See “Dr. Dre  – World Ocean Day – Project Kaisei“)

This year World Oceans Day falls on a Tuesday, so many events are taking place on the weekend before, June 5th – 6th, such as beach walks and cleanups, tidal pool explorations, aquarium festivities, and readings of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,  by Dr. Seuss.  Find an event near you here.

The health of our oceans is in our hands. (See “The Ocean in the Drop“)


Tiki, beach, and a volcano

On the edge of a bluff 50 feet above our favorite beach, we and our dogs relaxed to the continuous sounds of crashing ocean waves and effervescing sea foam for 5 days.  A continuous breeze flows up and over the 3-mile stretch of bluffs as pelicans and seagulls soar in search of food. At times the breeze becomes gusty, so we secured the sun umbrella canopy to the nearby fence with small bungee cords and clips.


This year we brought along a hand-carved tiki, bought last August at the Tiki Oasis 2009 event held at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego.  This year the event, Tiki Oasis 10 Extravaganza, will be held August 19 – 22.  In Polynesian mythology tiki is considered the first man.

Our campsite is one of 222 sites at South Carlsbad State Beach (all are non-hookup sites).  Our two Airstream factory installed solar panels performed superbly, bringing our two Lifeline AGM Glass Mat batteries back from an early morning low of 80 – 85% to 100% each day by 10 a.m., even though there was a heavy marine layer most mornings.  We conserve electricity by turning off the water pump and refrigerator fan at night.

An Asian steamer was used to cook fresh zucchini and corn and to reheat homemade kalua pork in tomatillo sauce.



The kalua pork was served over a sliced telera roll.

Fresh salsa was made in our Vortex Hand Crank Blender attached to the trailer’s lobster sink counter top by the supplied C-clamp.

The two speed gear system crushes ice…

or works as a food processor.

We got ours from REI

It is also available from GSI Outdoors.

This blender can be handy in making margaritas

Which could be enjoyed while listening to “A Touch of Honey“.

We also brought along our Volcano II Collapsible StoveOn our last outing we used the propane option to deep fry spring rolls.  This time we used charcoal to grill carne asada


And jumbo shrimp on the barbie


Seen on our tiki table setting is an immature green fruit of the Buddha’s hand citron, which had broken off from our tree at home.  The fruit is often used for its zest in Western cooking.



Four wooden stairways provide access to the beach.

In my next article we’ll take a walk down those stairs…

and take a look at the ocean and the condition of the beach.

Recent images of the Gulf oil spill were fresh in my mind…

as I strolled along and contemplated World Oceans Day, officially declared by the United Nations as June 8th each year beginning in 2009.

The beautiful sunsets and relaxing sounds of the surf were soothing…

Time seemed to slow down…

Like a slow dance.

Contemplating time at Yaquitepec


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.*


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.)


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


“… 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.”


“… 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…”


“… and dim mystery that is timeless.”

“What is Time, anyway?”*


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

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.


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).


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.