Safari hunt for wild horses

Auspiciously, our relaunch of desert camping and return to Borrego Springs occurred on the two-year anniversary of our first photo shoot of sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda‘s The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head, when Bert Gildart (“Year of the Dragon”) and I (“In pursuit of dragons and pearls“) photographed Larry offering a pearl (symbolizing wisdom) for the dragon to chase.*

The Serpent is one of many metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda* on the Galleta Meadows Estate owned by Dennis Avery* (who sadly passed away on July 23, 2012).  Although I have photographed many of his sculptures (See “Springtime in Galleta Meadows“), there are many more that we have not seen, so upon our return to Borrego Springs, we wanted to find, visit and photograph the horses, especially since Chinese New Year 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac (Find your fortune).*

DSC_0093 Borrego Springs' horses

When we first arrived at Christmas Circle, we spotted two horses pulling a stagecoach, but we wanted to do a photo shoot with the wild horses, so we checked the Sculpture Installations Map and drove down S3 to find them.  We were not disappointed.  As we arrived, a sabertooth cat was attacking one.

DSC_0035 Attacked by saber-tooth cat

I set up my camera while Larry put on his Chinese peasant outfit of the 1880’s consisting of a tunic, trousers, coolie hat and sandals.  He then offered a wedge of cabbage to the first horse, which appeared skittish.

DSC_0040 Offering to skittish horse

He was more successful when he offered two wedges (Number 2 is a lucky number in Chinese culture).

DSC_0058-2 Offering 2 for good luck

Larry illustrated one of the themes of the I Ching hexagram 34, Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great, “Perseverance furthers“.

DSC_0082 I "Perseverance furthers"

“Perseverance brings good fortune.”

DSC_0075-2 Acceptance

DSC_0095 Happiness

We are hopeful for good fortune as we gallop into this Year of the Wood Horse, but it might be a wild ride!  For good luck, we cleaned and decorated the house with Chinese symbols and red and gold colors.  Our Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner featured roasted Chinese duck, Chinese mustard green/ham egg flower soup, and jiaozi, Chinese dumplings (See “Where Dumplings Came From and Why Eat Them on New Years,“* which has a quick image of jiaozi in our trailer)!

DSC_0190 CNY 2014 dinner

Time passes, but our hearts remain young as we celebrate life!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Celebrating life on Cedar Trail

After updating our trip notes in my See More, Do More, Live More – The Airstream Travel Journal notebook, we hiked the Cedar Trail and noticed that there are new signs, including one that alerted us that we were “Entering Mountain Lion Country”.  Cedar Trail is a one-mile loop trail that mostly stays under a canopy of oak, pine, and cedar trees representative of William Heise County Park, in San Diego, California.

DSC_0065 New signs for Cedar Trail

“Better to have campers take their dogs on the trails with a leash, than leave them alone at the campsite,” said the ranger.   We were thrilled with this new and progressive policy and took our Corgis, Mac and Tasha, on their first hike on a county trail.

DSC_0165 Larry & Corgis on Cedar Trail

Keeping an eye out for mountain lions, we rested on a bench near Cedar Creek and marveled at the magnificent trees and chorus of bird sounds.

DSC_0144 Resting along Cedar Creek

Continuing on the trail, we saw dead oak trees killed by the goldspotted oak borer beetle, which has killed 80,000 oak trees in San Diego County over the past ten years.*  The 2003 Cedar Fire has also taken a toll here, but we celebrated the re-growth of trees, such as the California incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, coming up through holes in the oak canopy.

DSC_0055 Dead oak & live Cedar

We also spotted wild turkeys in this park and noticed that they did not seem as plentiful compared to when we first camped here six years ago.  Wild turkeys are considered a good “indicator species” and may reflect the health of an entire ecosystem.

DSC_0122 Heise Park wild turkeys

One of the trails from the Cedar Trail back to the campground passes by the cabin area.  These new William Heise Park cabins* are aesthetically pleasing, blend in well with the environment, and do not block views or replace RV campsites.

DSC_0105 Heise County Park Cabin

We returned to our favorite Airstream Safari campsite in this park and, even though we were tired, we smiled while we rested and cherished the memories of celebrating life* on Cedar Trail.

DSC_0058 A tired and happy Corgi!

*This is a YouTube video.

Summer of ’12

Summer began by my thoroughly rinsing off all of the salt deposits that accumulated on the trailer during our beachside outing last May.  An important part of this annual process is to fully extended our three awnings and wash off the accumulation of salt and dirt.  The details of our trailer awning care are seen in my post, “Trailer Awnings“.  I am always amazed at the amount of dirt that accumulates along the very top edge of canvas where it attaches to the trailer (and can’t be seen or washed away until the awning is fully extended).

Diesel prices rose to $4.599/gallon this summer and the cost to fill up the F-250 tank was an even $100 here in San Diego, but the upside of living here is that we don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors, even our backyard is a tropical oasis.

Summer projects included Larry’s application of finishing touches to our trailer sun shade screen seen in my last post, “Drift and the land yacht“, and in my research into replacing our six-year-old trailer tires.

San Diego’s Old Town is a great place to work and play.  Larry and I put on our Victorian era attire and went to Old Town State Historic Park where Nick & Dave were photographing anybody for free as long as they were wearing vintage clothing.  Nick & Dave do tintype photography using the wet plate collodion process.

(Photo credit: Joe O’Dell)

They took our photos, showed them to us and, after they applied the finishing application of clear lacquer, we returned in two weeks to pick them up.

Nick & Dave’s assistant photographer Joe O’Dell took pictures of us with his Nikon camera and used Photoshop to make the image below showing us with the backdrop of Bodie, a ghost town in California.

Our Renaissance faire friend, Jim M., died in late summer, reminding us that life is fragile and brief and of the importance of cherishing and sharing each day with our loved ones, from season to season.  Summer is now over, the leaves are beginning to fall, the air is cooler… but love endures, along with our memories of the summer of ’12.

In pursuit of Bighorn Sheep

At an elevation of 3960 feet, Indianhead Peak loomed nearby as our Airstream friends Theresa, Bert, Janie, and I gathered at the trailhead of the popular Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail for another chance to see the elusive Bighorn Sheep and a spectacular palm oasis.  Just two days prior, Bert, Janie, and I found a 350-foot long serpent undulating in the desert sand not far from here, so we were hopeful for more good luck as we started our 3-mile hike.

Borrego Palm Canyon is a watershed for the San Ysidro Mountains and has a year-round flowing stream.

A thunderstorm can turn this creek into a raging river that can bring down trees, move boulders, and flood Borrego Springs, as it did in 2004.  Fires can also threaten this area, such as the Eagle fire of last July, which burned more than 10,000 acres as it spread east into the western slopes of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Fortunately, Bighorn Sheep can easily get out of range of flames in the terrain of Borrego Palm Canyon.  Historically, according to Wikipedia, they have been threatened more by hunting, competition from domestic sheep, diseases, and development but are now making a comeback.

I was bringing up the rear of our hiking party halfway into our hike up the canyon when I turned and looked back at the southwestern ridge and spotted a female Bighorn Sheep (ewe) looking down at me.  I whispered to Janie, who passed the word to the others ahead.  I took a few steps back into the shade and began taking photos with my Nikon telephoto lens set to 200mm. I had photographed Peninsular Bighorn Sheep before at Agua Caliente, but I had never seen them in person here before.  As I was photographing the ewe, to my surprise, a much younger ewe poked her head up over the ridge.

It is likely that the larger ewe is pregnant and hungry.  The breeding season, or rut, is in the fall and there is a six-month gestation period.

Bighorn Sheep eat a variety of plants such as mesquite, agave and cacti.

The ewe remained vigilant as she stood on a ledge of the canyon wall covered with desert varnish, while we continued on our hike to the First Palm Oasis.

This oasis consists of a grove of California Fan Palms, Washingtonia filifera, near a running stream.  Oases such as these were habitat sites for the Cahuilla tribe of Native Americans, who ate the palm fruit and seed, and used the palm fronds to make rope, sandals, and baskets.  According to Diana Lindsay, a clan of Cahuilla lived in Borrego Palm Canyon, but abandoned their village due to small pox epidemics and territorial struggles with cattlemen (Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things, Diana Lindsay, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, 2001, page 80).

After working up an appetite, we returned to camp and joined Larry and Theresa’s husband Bob for a feast of pork and shrimp spring rolls, pork pot stickers, and Yusheng salad provided by Larry, while savoring our memories of our hike into Borrego Palm Canyon and reflecting on those who once lived there.  (See Bert’s photos and story of our hike here.)

 

In pursuit of dragons and pearls

There were reports that a dragon has been sighted in Borrego Valley of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, so we set up our Safari in Borrego Palm Canyon and joined writer/photographer Bert Gildart and his wife Janie on a hunt for dragons and other game along the way.  We rendezvoused with Bert and Janie at Borrego Springs’ Christmas Circle and traveled north on Borrego Springs Road.  The topography here reminded me of Ernest Hemingway’s description of parts of Africa where “the country began to open out into dry, sandy, bush-bordered prairies that dried into a typical desert country…” (Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1963, New York, page 160).  It wasn’t long before we spotted big game off to the right and we pulled off the road for a photo shoot.

It looked like elephants and camels were here.  Bert started taking photos a safe distance from these creatures, but one seemed to become wary and turned abruptly toward him.

As the space diminished between us, it became obvious that these creatures were actually large metal sculptures, Sky Art, created by sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda for Dennis Avery’s Galleta Meadows Estate, depicting Gomphotheres, Camelops, and other creatures that roamed here during the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Miocene eras, millions of years ago.  Larry and I had visited this Sky Art two years ago as seen in my “Springtime in Galleta Meadows” post.

We retreated back to our trucks and resumed our pursuit of fabled quarry, the dragon.  Further down the road, we caught sight of its humps and pulled over to visually take in all 350 feet of The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head and rattlesnake tail undulating in and out of the desert sand.  We then respectfully approached for a planned photo shoot.

Janie held the strobe while Bert used his Nikon D7000 camera to photograph Larry wearing traditional Chinese clothing of the late 1800s.  (See Bert’s photos in his posting “Year of the Dragon“.)

Larry wore traditional clothing in the Manchu style of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) such as this long blue gown (changshan), black skull cap with a jade ornament, and hair in the queue style.  (Historical note: “To frighten the Chinese, in 1873 San Francisco adopted the Queue Ordinance, which allowed prison wardens to shave the heads or cut off the long braids of Chinese prisoners,” writes Jean Pfaelzer in Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, Random House, New York, 2007, page 75.)

Larry used a long bamboo pole to levitate a white Chinese lantern symbolizing the pearl of wisdom and knowledge, which the benevolent Chinese Dragon is fond of pursuing. The pearl also symbolizes truth, enlightenment, wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

The idea for this sculpture began with Dennis Avery.  “Dennis also is keenly attuned to Chinese culture through his wife, Sally Tsui Wong-Avery, who is founder of the Chinese Service Center in San Diego and the principal of San Diego’s Chinese Language School,” writes Diana Lindsay in her new book, Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist, Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2012, page 205.

The arrival of this Chinese dragon is timely and auspicious as we enter the Year of the Dragon, which begins on January 23, 2012.  It’s a time to say “Gung Hay Fat Choy,” and watch the Dragon Dance!

Oh, there is one more thing… the second day of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration is considered the birthday of all dogs!