First Field Report

On a hunt for big game amidst the blooming spring wild flowers, we returned with our Safari to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park armed with our HP camera (pixels cranked up to the max) and the MacBook Pro raring to go.


We joined Rich C. and Sadira for three, starry nights of desert camping in search of Bighorn sheep and wild flowers. This trip also marked the first year anniversary of Rich’s return to Palm Canyon and his turn-around of fortune.

We all were excited about this trip because recent rains followed by the return of warm, sunny weather held out the promise of an early, glorious wild flower display. We got up before sunrise to hike up Palm Canyon and were not disappointed.


A blanket of wild flowers greeted us just a few feet into the trail head.


A photo op was present everywhere we turned.


It was also a study of contrasts, lush new growth next to dead palm tree trunks from previous floods.


Along the way, we enjoyed the refreshing and soothing sounds of the briskly flowing Palm Canyon creek.



Rich C. enjoyed his Vermont Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky.


Thinking that he had spotted a Bighorn sheep up along the ridge, Rich hopped up and quickly attached his Canon EOS-30D camera (with 70-300 mm Canon lens) to his Tricks Stick monopod . But it was only a rock.


I thought that I had seen a lion up there, but it was actually a ridge silhouette in front of a glowing sun.


The big game animals were elusive this time, but the splendor of spring wild flowers cheered us as we made our way back down the trail.


But at least I can report that I spotted more than one leopard right in our own Safari. The trophy was actually the latest operating system of our new MacBook Pro.


This first post from the field was brought to you compliments of Rich C’s WI-FI connection that I could pick up while sitting at our camp picnic table. (Thanks, Rich)


Computing and Airstreaming

Computing and Airstreaming have always gone hand in hand for us after contracting “aluminumitis” just over two years ago. The computer allowed us to see the wealth of Airstream-related information (Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, for example) that is available on the Internet. This information enabled us to make good choices regarding our first tow vehicle (2006 F-250 PSD), Airstream trailer (2007 23′ Safari SE), and accessories.

The computer continued to play a supportive and enhancing role with our Airstreaming lifestyle as we began sharing our Airstream experiences and photos on-line. It also fostered a sense of community by providing access to such places as the Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, where ideas and solutions are freely exchanged, thus increasing our joy of Airstream trailer ownership.

Up until just recently, we had been using our vintage, 1998 Gateway desktop computer. Shortly after setting up our computer ten years ago, our initial joy was quickly replaced by the brain-searing sensation of encountering system conflicts, failures, and long, late-night tech sessions. After the Windows operating system was re-installed, the computer finally settled in, but not without the typical, ongoing PC hassles of encountering viruses and spending too much time on computer maintenance.

So after the first year of setting up and enjoying our trailer, we recruited our computer to help us research its own replacement. It didn’t go unnoticed that it seemed to take much longer loading in the Apple web page, just as it didn’t go unnoticed that two well-known Airstream bloggers, Rich Luhr and Rich Charpentier, were using Mac laptop computers. Apple’s recent release of the beautiful, aluminum MacBook Pro laptop and the iMac desktop, along with the new Leopard operating system, OS X 10.5.2, made the decision irresistible. We now have one of each and are rediscovering the joys of computing.

Here’s what Rich Luhr, publisher and editor of Airstream Life, says about his Mac, “My laptop is an older Powerbook G4, the predecessor to the current MacBook Pro. I chose it because I wanted to get away from the painful Windows experience and the Powerbook was a highly capable laptop that had everything. I run my entire business on it.”

Rich Charpentier, author of The Digital RV and Gadget’s Airstream Chronicles, has the MacBook Pro and likes its stable and powerful operating system, OS X, based on the Unix system. Rich says, “That’s why I’m a big proponent. The Macs just worked. I spend more time getting work done, less time trouble shooting.” See his article, Setting Up Your Mobile Office, page 77 of the current, Spring 2008, issue of Airstream Life magazine.


So next week we will take our MacBook Pro for its first post from the field as we rendezvous with Rich C. and Sadira at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and celebrate the beginning of the spring wild flower blooming season.

Palm Oasis and Planet Earth

On this sunny day, the varied textures of plants and boulders stood out against the deep blue sky, dotted with fluffy, white clouds, making this a pleasant hike, as we continued up to see the amazing sight of a palm oasis within a desert canyon.

hpim2102l-plants-boulders.jpg(Click on image for larger and sharper view.)

Just a short way up from my resting-place log, stood a peculiar palm tree with three heads, or rather three trunks, sharing one root base. An additional log was caught in the base during a flood. (Sometimes I wish I had three heads; so did Amadeus.)


We finally arrived at our destination, a lush palm oasis with flowing water. The California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera), is the only native palm in the western United States. It was named after our first president by German horticulturist, Herman Wendland, in 1879. These palms grow to a height of up to 80 feet and may live 100-200 years, or until the next flash flood or fire. Their shallow roots and large leaf surfaces require that they live near water. Urban growth has threatened these trees by lowering the underground water table.


Palm groves are found along creeks and deep gorges. Last week Rich Luhr visited the only palm canyon in Arizona, located in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The Cahuilla Indians had a village in Borrego Palm Canyon because it supplied water, afternoon shade, and shelter from the winds. The palm trees provided the Indians with fruit and materials to make sandals, matting, baskets, ceremonial effigies, and housing structures. Notice the palm frond skirts, which protect the bark from water loss and insect predators. Unfortunately, some of these trees have lost their skirts due to fires started by careless hikers.


On this New Year’s weekend hike, we were delighted to see beautiful yellow flowers on this silvery-gray BrittleBush or Incienso (Encelia farinosa), a relative of the Sunflower.


As we started back down, we could imagine the roaring sound of a flash flood as it surges down the canyon towards our campground and our Airstream with its raised Earth flag.


Our campground and nearby town of Borrego Springs came into view, and we could now appreciate how vulnerable we are to the natural elements such as water and fire. And we now have a renewed respect for our planet Earth and Mother Nature.

Palm Canyon Flash Flood!

Hiking the Palm Canyon Nature Trail reveals the drama of a massive, 100-year flash flood that raged through here in September 2004. A sudden thunderstorm drenched the mountains above, resulting in a huge waterfall and raging river crashing down the canyon pushing palm trees and boulders along the way. It destroyed several campsites and left the hook-up area under two feet of mud.

For a celebration of New Year’s and the one-year anniversary of our trailer, we raised our Earth flag at Palm Canyon Campground, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA., and hoped that it would not rain.



Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with its 1600 square miles, is the largest contiguous state park in the United States outside of Alaska, and is now celebrating its 75th Anniversary. The first part of its name is attributed to Juan Bautista de Anza, the Spanish captain of the historic 1775-76 San Francisco colonial expedition, which passed through the area. The second half of the name, Borrego, is Spanish for sheep. This park is one of the last refuges for the majestic, and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep (humans have destroyed much of their habitat). This park also often has spectacular, spring wild flower displays.

The weather turned out gorgeous for the most part, so I joined our friends, Michael and Theresa, on a hike up Palm Canyon. I checked the latest weather forecast to make sure there were no flash flood warnings, wore layers of clothing and took water (this time) for safety and comfort.


The Palm Canyon Nature Trail is a three-mile round-trip featuring a native palm oasis. I followed Michael and Theresa as we took in the panoramic view of the canyon near the beginning of the trail. Even here we see evidence of that massive flash flood. Palm trees lay scattered about like headless corpses, having lost their crowns and roots by the tumbling action of the turbulent water as they were brought down the canyon.


One has only to gaze upon the sheer size of the massive boulders that came crashing down the canyon from the floodwaters to appreciate the powerful forces of nature.


(To appreciate the scale: click on the image to see the hikers coming down on right side.)


We’ll rest here for now. Then press on with our journey and explorations up Palm Canyon. We’ll see what’s special about that clump of palm trees seen in back of me, after I enjoy sitting on this log awhile and listen to the trickling creek below.

All Aboard…

This is the History Safari Express. All aboard!!!

As our Airstream Safari makes the rounds in Southern California, we will stop along the way and savor historical aspects and highlights.

At times we will utilize our Renaissance fair and docent skills in bringing history alive to illustrate a historic point. A recent example was that while camping at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with the Luhrs’, I portrayed the Plague Doctor as Larry talked about the plague and how it still is a current concern. See Rich Luhr’s Dec. 19, 2007 Tour of America post, “Characters“.


We will also share the ongoing history of our custom-ordered Safari built in 2006, the 75th Anniversary of Airstream. Two solar panels were installed during the build. We will touch on its performance history in a variety of settings and conditions. We will share our ongoing improvements, new ideas, items, and seasonal decorations that enhance its ambience.


Larry enjoys cooking and might be enticed into discussing some of his techniques along with some historical notes on a variety of foods including Chinese cuisine. For our December outing at Anza-Borrego, Larry prepared jook (Chinese rice congee), which we shared with the Luhrs’ while discussing its value as food therapy.


We returned to Palm Canyon Campground at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for an extended New Year’s weekend celebration with our friends Bob and Theresa. I joined them for a mid-day side-trip in their 4WD over a wash to Fonts Point with a spectacular view of the colorful Borrego Badlands. Fonts Point was named after Father Pedro Font, the diarist on the second Anza Expedition to California in 1775, bringing colonists to establish the pueblo of San Francisco.


Thank you for hopping on the History Safari Express. On our next stop, we will be taking a hike up Palm Canyon, the most popular canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is now celebrating its 75th Anniversary.