Desert views and illuminations

Our celebrations of life continued last week as we took our Airstream Safari and Airstream Life, Spring 2013 issue, and our dogs, Mac and Tasha, out to Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert for five days of camping under a glorious sun while celebrating my birthday and the imminent arrival of St. Pat’s Day and Spring!  This issue of Airstream Life features an article, “Airstreaming With Pets”, which lists considerations when traveling and camping with pets.

DSC_0006 Airstream Life Spring 2013

(The kissing Corgis salt and pepper shakers were given to us by our dear friend Beverly.)

Our dogs have always joined us over the past six years of camping trips with the Airstream and I have posted the article, “Traveling and Pet Safety“.  The Corgis always travel in a crate strapped on the folded down back seat of the F-250, and wear a Nite Dawg LED illuminated dog collar with a flashing feature by Nite Ize for safety and visibility at night around the campsite and while taking nighttime walks.

DSC_0042 Illuminated dog collars

Our campsite was illuminated each day by a bright sun and Larry’s sun screen sheet and toucan decorative banners provided shade, privacy and a festive display.

DSC_0010 Alternative site

The softer seascape images on the back of the sun screen gently undulate in the breeze providing shade and privacy.

DSC_0033 View from door

I again hiked the 2.5 mile loop of the Moonlight Canyon Trail, where I photographed bighorn sheep last November, but no sheep were visible and the spring flower display was meager due to scant rainfall this winter.  But I did find Chuparosa, Justicia californica, in bloom near the saddle of the trail.

DSC_0049 Chuparosa

Although the spring wildflowers were lacking, the desert presented an abundant display of subtle colors and textures of rocks and plants such as the ocotillo, agave, and cholla, which I appreciated as I climbed up the Desert Overlook Trail and enjoyed the vista views.

DSC_0056 Desert Overlook Trail

The trail climaxes on a ridge with a wonderful view of the whole park.

DSC_0068 Agua Caliente County Park

Agua Caliente Regional Park* of San Diego County is a 910-acre park next to the Tierra Blanca Mountains and features pools and a therapeutic indoor spa, trails, and spectacular views.  This park, along with many others across the country, is undergoing major changes, and I will shed light on some of these changes in my next post.

In the meantime, Round up your mates for a GUINNESS on St. Patrick’s Day.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Fired up, and ready to go

With a backdrop of fall foliage, our F-250 and Safari were fired up, and ready to go to the Anza-Borrego Desert for another adventure, meeting with good friends, hiking, reading and relaxing, especially needed after this tumultuous election year.

We love the beauty of the desert with its many colors and textures.

Bert and Janie came down from their resort camping location at The Springs at Borrego and joined us for lunch and a day of celebrating Thanksgiving, life, tarantulas, Montana Icons (Bert’s latest book), the 2012 presidential election, and our friendship.

I got another chance to see Bert’s new, lightweight Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (described in “Bert Gildart’s art“) and we took off on a short side trip for another opportunity to photograph the compassionate water tanks that Bert saw and photographed just last month, but they had mysteriously disappeared.

For this trip, I brought along a good book to read, The Presidents Club — Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, and Larry brought along kokopelli noren curtains that he had just made.  We enjoy these curtains because they provide privacy when the door is open, act as a sun screen, and are short enough for the dogs to look outside while the dog gate is up.

Just outside our door, Gambel’s Quail feasted on breadcrumbs in the morning.  At sunset, we fired up our Volcano grill and feasted on shrimp.

I got especially fired up while hiking on the Moonlight Canyon Trail and had a third encounter with desert bighorn sheep, which will be described in my next posting.

In the meantime, we’ll fire up our oven and enjoy roasting turkey as the herbal aroma of Bell’s Seasoning (that I first smelled as a child) wafts through our home, and cherish these precious days!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Catrina returns to the desert

After installing our new Marathon tires and securing the rub rail, we got underway on our return to the Anza-Borrego Desert for the start of our fall camping season.  I remembered the importance of checking the torque on the lug nuts, and did so at Vista Point along Interstate 8.  We then proceeded over the mountains with the help of our vertical thrusters (to save on tire wear) and made a soft landing at a new site for us at Agua Caliente County Park.

We delighted in our vista views of the desert that expanded to our east.

I enjoyed early morning photography, along with freshly brewed coffee, Larry’s homemade peanut butter and jelly shortbread, and my favorite traveling well magazine (current issue’s cover illustration features an Airstream with vertical thrusters).

We were not the only ones savoring this spot, as our Airstream friends Bert and Janie from Montana had arrived here just a few hours earlier with their beautiful 30′ Classic.

For five gloriously sunny days and clear nights, we enjoyed hiking, relaxing, and dining under the stars, while delighting in our camaraderie and thoughtful discussions.  For example, we discussed the magnificent aspects of the desert and life that adapts and thrives here, and the importance of preservation efforts as noted in Bert’s article, “The Politics of Preserving Time“.  We also discussed social issues, diversity of life, and the importance of water and compassion as noted in Bert’s article, “Compassionate Water Tanks — What’s Their Purpose?“.

We also experienced the heat of the desert sun as daily daytime temperatures soared in the nineties and we relied on our air conditioning and the newly completed sunshade made by Larry, featuring the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

Before the heat of the day, Bert and I hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, where we had photographed Peninsular Bighorn Sheep last December.  In my next post I’ll show Bert at work photographing what we found along the way.

Catrina joined us on our return to the desert as we look forward to celebrating Día de los Muertos!  (See the really cool video, “The Catrin Mens Dia de los muertos face paint tutorial“, and article, “Living the Day of the Dead“.)

Update: Larry baked pan de muerto in honor of this special day.

Drift and the land yacht

Seagulls and pelicans sailed by on the continuous updraft of air over the bluff at South Carlsbad State Beach where our Safari land yacht was carefully positioned last week for a direct view of the ocean.  Relaxing sounds of the surf could be heard even at night with the windows closed.  Our land yacht, with its two factory installed solar panels that generate amperes from the sun’s energy even through the early morning marine layer, is a self-contained vessel that thrives at this non-hook-up location.

“Calling travel trailers ‘land yachts’ was an old industry tradition dating back to the 1930s,” wrote Fred Coldwell in his article, “Wally Byam’s Last Caravan,” which tells about the sea yacht Caravan built for a retiring Wally Byam by Scheepswerf Westhaven of Zaandam, Holland.  (See the article in the Summer 2012 issue of Airstream Life.)

Most days were sunny and we hoisted our main sail (the awning that was recently attacked by a dust devil and repaired) and hung festive banners (papel picado, Mexican paper cutout banners) and a sun screen curtain.

Larry had sewn a striped butterfly fish appliqué (that he had made) to an old sheet, which was clipped to the top edge of the awning valance.  Homegrown bamboo poles were inserted in each side casing.  This in progress project provided a pleasant, shaded reading area.  He also made removable noren curtains with the Chinese Double Happiness symbol and a removable dog gate, both held in place by adjustable tension curtain rods. These provided sun screening, privacy, easy access, and ventilation while keeping the main door and screen door open.

We easily went in and out of the Safari by stepping over the dog gate and holding onto the side handle and door frame.

The curtains could also be used inside to separate the galley and bedroom areas.

Sounds of crashing waves below became appropriate ambiance for my afternoon riveting readings of Rachel Maddow’s Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Crown Publishers, New York, 2012.  The dust jacket proclaims, “Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel Maddow’s Drift argues that we’ve drifted away from America’s original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails.”  Rachel talks about her book in this YouTube video: “Rachel Maddow’s ‘Drift’ … Premier Book Launch in NYC.”

Besides seagulls and pelicans, military helicopters also flew by occasionally, just as in the desert while we were camping.

Thoughts also drifted by, especially at sunset as I looked up the coast at the smokestack of the old Encina Power Plant.  A plan to build a new power plant nearby is opposed by the City of Carlsbad.  I had thoughts about the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant just 30 miles up the coast, which was shut down last January due to a tube leaking radioactive water and since then hundreds of other tubes were found to be wearing out more quickly than expected.

As the days grow longer and hotter, we will suspend our camping trips until the fall, and yet still enjoy day trips… and follow the sun, but not bake in it.

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!