Desert Wolf Moon and King’s Cake

 

It was an auspicious way to begin the new year, returning to our favorite spot in the Anza-Borrego Desert on the Full Wolf Moon* and eve of Twelfth Night, along with the possibility of spotting Comet Lovejoy.  The days are now growing longer, so we were able to set up camp and enjoy hot turkey open-faced sandwiches before the full moon rose.

DSC_0010 Full Wolf Moon, Anza-Borrego

Twelfth Night marks the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the arrival of the Magi (three Wise men or Kings), Epiphany, and the beginning of Mardi Gras and the Carnival season.  Various cultures celebrate this time with a sweet cake, such as the Mexican Rosca de Reyes.*  We arrived with Larry’s version of King’s cake, a panettone with dried cherries, craisins, sliced almonds, and zest from a homegrown kaffir lime, all marinated in brandy.  Purple, gold, and green icing (traditional colors of Mardi Gras)* was drizzled over the top, adding a nice crunchy texture.  The cake was then charged with the magical and festive light of the full moon.

DSC_0030 King's Cake in moonlight

The next day, the cake was topped off with our homegrown Cattleya orchids and surrounded with strings of Mardi Gras beads.*

DSC_0044 King's cake in sunlight

DSC_0046 Cattleya orchids on King Cake

Following this photo shoot, I savored a slice of this rich cake, along with a cup of freshly brewed coffee before taking my morning hike on Moonlight Canyon Trail where I photographed bighorn sheep last month.  The sheep were elusive and not seen this time, but I did enjoy the sight of brilliant sunlight backlighting plants along the ridge, which I especially appreciated after experiencing cloudy days, cold rain and hail in San Diego just a week before.

DSC_0059 Moonlight Canyon ridge

We usually eat dinner outside in the late afternoon while enjoying the ever-changing display of soft, dusty pastel colors on the nearby Pinyon/Vallecito Mountains and Whale Peak, but sometimes the darkness seems to fall too quickly, and for those occasions, we now have Black Diamond Apollo Lanterns,* which, on the dimmest setting, present a soft light enabling us to see and enjoy our meal, in this case, Kalua pork and pepper jack cheese quesadillas, with a side of black-eyed peas with ham, buttered broccoli, and scallions.

DSC_0088 Apollo lanterns

After dinner, we enjoyed stargazing and looking for Comet Lovejoy.*  Larry saw what looked like a bright, flickering star with changing colors of blue, white, and green at the foot of Orion just above the horizon.  Later, I was mesmerized by the full moon that lit up the desert…

DSC_0085 Looking for Comet Lovejoy

and happy the following morning by the return of the sun!*

DSC_0102 Anza-Borrego sunrise

 

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Grazing and gazing at Agua Caliente

It was love at first sight when we began camping at Agua Caliente County Park four years ago at a campsite that had beautiful vista views and was far from the maddening crowd.  We lost that site two years ago to “cabinization of our parks,” when seven cabins replaced eleven full hookup RV sites!  We found an alternative site that had some of the amenities of our first site here, but it was not as private and was vulnerable to noisy neighbors, often lacking in good camping etiquette, who were either inconsiderate or were oblivious to how easily sound travels through a campground.  We began this fall camping season at a promising new site that may better meet our needs.

DSC_0057 Agua Caliente Fall 2014

DSC_0084 Our new campsite

One of the challenges for this park is dealing with flash floods that periodically rush down the Tierra Blanca Mountains and wash out roads and campsites.*  I learned from our neighbor that medical permittee, Barbara Macdonald, and her domestic partner of 26 years, Cynthia Rich (Desert Years: Undreaming the American Dream, and Dharma Gleanings), built a rock retaining wall on their 1983-1989 trailer site (seen below) to control erosion.

DSC_0194 Retaining wall of 1980s

One of the assets of this park is the scenic Moonlight Canyon Trail that I enjoy hiking every time we are here and where I had my close encounter with Peninsular Bighorn Sheep three years ago.

DSC_0103 Hiking Moonlight Canyon

The slopes abound with various cacti, such as ocotillo, barrel, and cholla, which provide food for the sheep.  The following day, I spotted bighorn sheep on a ridge above the campground caravan area.

DSC_0141 Seven Bighorn Sheep

Seeing bighorn sheep always brings a smile to my face… and sunshine makes me happy!*

DSC_0104 Hiker:Author resting

And hiking gives me an appetite for Larry’s savory carne asada.

DSC_0156 Carne asada

We sipped Ménage à Trois red wine* as the full moon rose…

DSC_0173 Star gazing

And leaned back to stargaze and contemplate the heavens* and this site.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Wash and wax, tricks and treats

Salt deposits had been washed off our Airstream Safari trailer just after we returned home from our last beach outing, and now it was time for our big annual wash and wax job prior to the beginning of our fall camping season.  The trick is to use a good quality wax that is easy to wipe on and off, and provides long lasting protection.  This is the eighth year that I have used Meguiar’s M20 Mirror Glaze® Polymer Sealant to wax the trailer and I have been treated with its ease of use, high gloss finish that makes it easier to rinse off dirt between washings, and its ability to prevent and/or control filiform corrosion.  The 16 oz. size nicely covers our entire 23′ trailer, including the roof and air conditioner shroud.  The trick is to get it on the roof, and I have a crutch for that, literally.

DSC_0004 Applying wax with crutch

This year, sun safety for my skin was provided by my wide brim plague doctor’s hat, and for a brief moment by a calavera mask, a calaca, a skull mask, often used in celebrating Día de los Muertos* (Day of the Dead).

DSC_0006 Airstreamer with Calaveras mask

A calaca of Catrina and other symbols of the season already decorate our dining room table and Larry will be baking Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead).

DSC_0013 Día de los Muertos table display 2014

For us, this season is also a reflective time for reviewing the past year’s events, the tricks and treats.  For example, last November our corgi, Tasha, had a herniated disc, and the trick was to find it with an MRI and to remedy it with a laminectomy, and the treat was that she went on to a full recovery.  Last June, we found the trick on how to stop paying $75/month for cable TV channels that we mostly don’t watch, and now we are treated to free TV by using an indoor antenna.  Last August, we found the trick on how to stop paying high prices for cell phone service that we rarely need, and we treated our selves to a new service provider, resulting in better service at much lower prices.  In August, we were also treated to the happy sight of our first pitahaya blooms, and last month, we were treated to the sight of our first fruit after bees and I (with a brush) performed the trick of cross-pollination.

DSC_0155 Our first pitahaya fruit

This exquisite dragon fruit was cut in half, scooped out and served with a dollop of premium vanilla ice cream.

DSC_0169 Cross section of our pitahaya

We are now ready to celebrate Halloween*, Día de los Muertos*, and our return to the Anza-Borrego Desert!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Happy in sunny San Diego

Our Airstream Safari trailer is happy as a clam after getting the salt deposits washed off upon returning to home base after basking on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach for 5 days.  The big, annual wash and wax job will take place next month before we begin our fall camping schedule.

DSC_0335 Salt deposits washed off

We have been happily enjoying viewing free, over-the-air high definition TV over the summer and celebrating our independence from pay TV with the help of our Mohu Leaf 50 indoor antenna, saving us $75/month.

Last week, we were happy to discover the first flower bud on one of our pitahaya cactus plants, Hylocereus undatus, that we planted three years ago.  This is also known as Dragon Fruit and we are happy that it grows well in San Diego.

DSC_0001 Our first pitahaya flower bud

We obtained our plants and sample fruit of the Pitahaya Roja* (seen below) from Ong Nursery.

Last night our pitahaya bloomed under a full moon. Pitahaya flowers in Southern California bloom for one night only.

DSC_0054 1st Pitahaya bloom

Pitahaya pistil with writhing tentacles happily rises above 800 stamens.**

DSC_0052 Pistil rises above stamens

I climbed a stepladder under the full moon and applied a small brush to cross-pollinate two flowers.  The deed was completed by happy bees in the early morning.

DSC_0087 Bees pollinating pitahaya

We now await the fruits of our labors.

DSC_0021 Ripe pitahaya fruit

Eating Dragon Fruit* is a happy, refreshing and healthy experience.

Another happy experience occurred early this summer when we gathered with friends for a Victorian picnic in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

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(Photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

Seen on the table is ham and cheese stromboli (made by Larry), along with German coleslaw, fresh fruit, lemonade, lemon curd, pickles, empanadas, hard boiled eggs, and sliced cheese.

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(Above photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

HPIM2905 Bill & Larry, happy in Old Town

And of course, we had a Happy time in Old Town San Diego!*

And continue to be Happy in America’s Finest City!*

* This is a link to a YouTube video.

** Pitahaya: A Promising New Fruit Crop for Southern California, Paul H Thomson, Leo W Manuel, 2002

Ocean knight currents, part four

I cautiously passed the windmill facing the ocean, which I had originally and mistakenly perceived to be a giant with waving arms,* and sallied forth to find the museum housing musical instruments that are close to my heart, such as the lute.

DSC_0165-2 South Carlsbad windmill

While venturing eastward, I came upon a lovely field of flowers (The Flower Fields® at Carlsbad Ranch)* with a beautiful damsel (Dulcinea?)* in the middle beckoning visitors to enjoy the splendor of ten million Ranunculus flowers.

DSC_0163 Flower Fields of Carlsbad

Assured that the lady was safe behind a white picket fence, I continued on in search of stringed instruments and came upon a magnificent castle* on top of a hill with a commanding view of the countryside and the Pacific Ocean.  This is the home of the Museum of Making Music,* which displays hundreds of vintage instruments and presents special exhibitions twice a year along with concerts, workshops, and educational programs.  (I last made a pilgrimage here in 2008 to view a special exhibit of ukuleles.)  I was delighted that my quest was at an end as I experienced their current, special exhibit, “The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument.”

DSC_0149 MOMM's banjo exhibit (1)

DSC_0150 MOMM's banjo exhibit (2)

The banjo’s roots are thought to go back to West Africa, where hide-covered gourd folk lutes, such as the akonting, were plucked.*  The concept was transported to Colonial America by Africans via the Atlantic slave trade.

DSC_0159 Banjo's roots

An early version of the banjo was played in degrading minstrel shows of the 1800s.  My favorite black banjo/guitar/singer of the folk song era of the 1960s was Elizabeth Cotten,* best known for her timeless song, “Freight Train.”*

DSC_0146 Recapturing the Banjo

Back at camp, Larry prepared lunch featuring pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, fried masa pies filled with ham and cheese.

DSC_0176 Larry's pupusas

A couple strolled into the sunset as I reflected on our successful quests, the rebirth of the San Diego Opera, and why music is so important.*

DSC_0018 Stroll into the sunset

It’s nice to remember the sun’s gonna shine again.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.