Springing into action at Agua Caliente

Our rooster crowed, “Awake,” and we heard his call to action and proudly flew the flag of the United States,* along with the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality flag at Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0279 Agua Caliente County Park

Like Canada geese, Bert and Janie finally, after unexpected surgeries, winged their way south from Montana to milder climes and spent the day chatting, hiking, and feasting.

DSC_0109 Bert & Janie, Larry & Bill

The following day, we drove up to Borrego Springs and visited our Airstream friends Bob and Theresa at their beautiful home.  Ten years ago, we took our 2007 Airstream Safari on its maiden cruise and followed Bob and Theresa in their Airstream Classic to our first trailer camping experience in Borrego Springs, California!  Over the years, Bert, Janie, Bob, and Theresa have joined us for desert hiking and feasting!

DSC_0237 Bob & Theresa, Bill & Larry

My breakfasts consisted of Larry’s homemade pumpkin bread, cool apple and orange slices, and reading material.  He calls it Hagrid’s pumpkin bread because it’s made from a pumpkin similar to those seen just outside Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  These large and unusually shaped pumpkins are called Mexican Sweet Pumpkins (Calabaza de Castilla), that he bought at local Latino markets, poached and made into pumpkin bread (pan de calabaza).*

DSC_0040 Breakfast & HRC leaflet

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open,* honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.  HRC’s Buyers Guide helps consumers to find and choose businesses committed to workplace equality before making purchases.

After breakfast, Larry donned a plague doctor mask that I have worn at Renaissance faires (and while camping in the forest) in preparation for a surprise visit to the park’s supervising ranger.

DSC_0049 Larry as plague doctor

“Yo soy el doctor de la peste,* and I’ve brought Hagrid’s pumpkin bread as nourishment to feign off the plague.”

DSC_0058 Pumpkin bread for Maggie Tull

Agua Caliente County Park Supervisor Maggie was delighted to receive Larry and his pumpkin bread and happily shared it with the staff!  We returned to our campsite and Larry continued on his sewing projects…

DSC_0271 Project time for Larry

DSC_0072 Larry sewing HRC appliques

while becoming energized and redirecting energy toward positive change as we both stand indivisible…*

DSC_0032 Y'all means all (HRC shirt)!

Because y’all means all.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Haunting echoes of Moonlight Canyon

Delayed by unexpected surgeries, writer/outdoor photographer/Airstreamer/snowbird Bert Gildart and Janie finally arrived in the warmer climes of California’s Anza-Borrego Desert to enjoy hiking, biking and overall renewal.  Last week they visited us at Agua Caliente County Park and Bert couldn’t wait to put on a camera backpack and carry a tripod onto the Moonlight Canyon Trail where he has photographed bighorn sheep.

DSC_0124 Bert Gildart in Moonlight Canyon

We entered the canyon from the east where its shady, steep granite walls hold onto the night cold, so a ways in, Bert enjoyed sitting on a boulder and soaking in the warm rays of the rising sun (to drive the cold winter away).*

DSC_0134 Chasing the chill away

A few moments later, Bert forged ahead and set the pace, while looking for suitable subjects to photograph, saying, “When I choose to photograph something, I like it to be better than the ones I have previously photographed.”

DSC_0197 Bert on the hunt

As we rose out of the canyon, the trail became steeper and the sides were lined with granite detritus as we stumbled upon elusive Ghost Flowers that thrive on gravely slopes and sandy washes.  The pale cream flower is translucent, sometimes hard to see, and is the basis of its name.

DSC_0198 Ghost Flowers on Moonlight Canyon Trail

Bert and I quickly went to work photographing this treasure trove of Ghost Flowers.  The last time I saw these flowers here was 6 years ago!

DSC_0203 Bert shoots Ghost flowers

Bert scrambled up loose granite to get another shot.

DSC_0219 Shooting ghost on sliding granite

Upon finding a suitable subject, Bert got serious and set up his tripod.

DSC_0186 Bert's Nikon on tripod, Ghost shot

He asked me to pull out two hand-held strobes from his backpack and showed me where to hold one of them as he held the other and took the picture.  Bert explained he sets the camera’s shutter speed to 250th of a second (which makes the flowers look motionless, even in a breeze) and sets the aperture at f/32 for maximum depth of field.  The two hand-held strobes, overwhelm ambient light and produce a dark or black background (Photographic artistry of Bert Gildart).  See Bert’s article and photos in his March 8 posting, “Ghost Flower.”

DSC_0179 Bert uses hand-held strobe

The Ghost Flower, Mohavea confertiflora, has 5 ragged-edged lobes with maroon speckles and a maroon blotch at the base (Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers).  These marks resemble the female bee Xeralictus and operate as floral mimicry (sign stimulus) to the male bee, which enters the flower and pollinates the Mohavea (Wikipedia).  (Below are my Nikon D40 images.)

DSC_0154 Ghost Flower, Mohavea confertiflora

DSC_0191 Ghost Flowers, Moonlight Canyon

Visiting these Ghost Flowers renewed our spirits and strengthened our bodies.  Thich Nhat Hanh reflects this in his meditation “Flower Fresh.”*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Year of the cock

“Year of the Fire Rooster comes a crowing saying, Wake up!  His crow alerts us that a new day is dawning, but we must rise and mobilize into action as we come together for the wellbeing of our roost/planet,” says Mysticmamma.com in the Astral Insights article, “Chinese Astrology for 2017 Year of the Fire Rooster~.”

DSC_0089 Year of the cock 2017

Our rooster couldn’t wait to arrive at Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert to celebrate and crow about the new lunar year, the Year of the Fire Rooster, which promises to “be yet another super-charged year, infused with intensity,” as noted in Sara Coughlin’s “What You Should Expect During The Year Of The Rooster.”  In CNN’s Year of the Rooster article, Hong Kong fortune teller Priscilla Lam predicts “What’s in store for world’s top leaders.”  Not surprisingly, she predicts, “There will be protests” (which have already begun, as seen in the Indivisible movement*).

DSC_0024 Year of the Rooster table

Unless I was determined to photograph the desert sunrise, I awoke on most mornings, not to the crowing of the rooster,* but to the sight of beautiful golden rays of sunlight bathing the interior of our 2007 Airstream Safari trailer.

DSC_0092 Surnrise in Airstream trailerMeanwhile, Larry has already been up and setting up our festival tree with Chinese New year decorations.

According to Wikipedia, red is the predominant color used in Chinese New Year celebrations.  Red is an auspicious color, an emblem of joy and symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity.

Seen below are two red and gold firecracker decorations used to scare away evil spirits and associated with the Chinese New Year Legend of Nian.*  Below the firecrackers are three fish symbolizing wealth and abundance.


DSC_0087 Chinese New Year decorations




















During the day, Larry worked on a new Happi coat

DSC_0047 Larry worked on Happy Coat

while I hiked and photographed ocotillo showing new green growth due to recent rains.

DSC_0096 Ocotillo new growth

Abundant rainfall this season should produce a wonderful spring wildflower season.  But winter is not over.

DSC_0123 Desert dusk silhouette

A chillness set in as the sun descended and the Full Snow Moon* rose following seasonal planetary and natural cycles.

DSC_0120 Snow moon rising

History is also seasonal with recurring generational cycles, called turnings, according to the Strauss-Howe generational theory created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe and explained in their book The Fourth Turning.*  Apparently, in this theory, we are currently in the “Crisis era“, analogous to the seasonal cycle of winter, which is followed by the “High era“!

With the turning of winter into spring, we look forward to returning to the desert this month to chase the lion and welcome the lamb and feel the sunshine, which almost always makes me high!*

In Like a Lion Out Like a Lamb,”* a beautiful poem by Marion Dane Bauer (read aloud).

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego

The Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego is a jewel in the heart of Balboa Park, but could easily be overlooked by tourists Airstreaming into San Diego because much of it sprawls through a lower canyon below the nearby Organ Pavilion.  This 12-acre garden opened to the public in 1991 and a third phase of development was completed last year, bringing in a 200 cherry tree grove, a large azalea and camellia garden, water feature and the beautiful Inamori Pavilion, built with Alaskan Yellow Cedar.


Per the Japanese Friendship Garden website, “The Japanese Friendship Garden (“the Garden”) is an expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city, Yokohama. It illustrates two cultures and creates an immersive experience into Japanese culture. The Garden’s design is based on centuries-old Japanese techniques adapted to San Diego’s climate and florae and seeks to foster a relationship between humans and nature, providing a respite attuned to Japanese simplicity, serenity, and aestheticism.”

Next to the large Event Plaza seen above, is the Activity Room and Office with adjacent Light of Friendship and Bonsai Exhibit.



Larry points to sculptured areas of the this bonsai tree that help it appear much older than it actually is.

After viewing the koi pond and upper garden, we passed through the Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate to the lower gardens.  We wound down a path to the dry waterfall and Dragon Bridge, which represents luck, fortune and longevity, per the Friendship Garden’s Audio Strolling Tour of the Lower Canyon.


Japanese garden features and elements often include ishidoros (stone lanterns), curved bridges, and water features.



The waterfalls above with its Japanese black pine trees is seen from the deck of the Inamori Pavilion (seen below)

Our brochure states that “the curved pathways discourage evil spirits from entering the Garden and the roji, or stepping stone pathways help focus your attention on the present.”


Further down the path, we got a bird’s eye view of the 1400-square foot Inamori Pavilion, built through a gift from Dr. Kazuo Inamori, a Zen Buddhist priest and founder of the Kyocera Corporation.  The pavilion is built in the traditional sukiya style of Japanese architecture.*


We passed by an ishidoro (lantern) and tsukubai (water basin) on the way out and look forward to returning to see the seasonal changes and especially the blossoming of the Japanese Cherry Trees in late winter and early spring.


See a more detailed tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden,* including a view of the karesansui (rock garden) from the Exhibit House, koi pond, and Chinese Flame Trees displaying rose-pink fruit, along with a visit to the Yokohama Friendship Bell on my post, “Japanese Friendship Garden: Oasis of serenity,” on my sister blog, History Safari Expresso, a richer blend.

For a suggested plan for RVers is to see the many attractions in the metropolitan San Diego area, while staying at a nearby, local campground, see my post, “Airstream into San Diego and beyond.”

*This is a YouTube video.

Desert bighorn sheep – Part 2

The obvious feature of the desert bighorn sheep is its big horns.  Rams have the largest horns, which are curled and weigh up to 30 pounds (including the skull, according to Mark Jorgensen, in his book and slideshow, Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon*), and become especially important in dominance rituals* during mating season.

DSC_0259 Resting ram & annular rings)

DSC_0263 Resting ram (2)

The ewes have smaller, spike-like horns that help protect themselves from predators such as coyotes.

DSC_0244 Ram and ewe

DSC_0290 Desert bighorn ewes

Mark writes (page 73) that ewes use their horns to strike other ewes in competition for food and water, and that they also use their horns to expose the fleshy fruit of cactus, which is then picked out by their lips.

DSC_0140 Cactus chewed by bighorn sheep

Agua Caliente Regional Park was once occupied by residents that planted oleander for its durability, flowers, windbreak and privacy features.  Unfortunately, this non-native plant is toxic and one oleander leaf ingested by a bighorn sheep can be deadly (page 116).  Efforts are underway by the State of California to eradicate oleander from Agua Caliente County Park within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The plants were cut down and chemicals applied to the stumps, but last month we spotted an oleander regrowing at Agua Caliente site #80.

DSC_0068 Oleander poisonous to bighhorn sheep

Peninsular bighorn sheep were listed as an endangered species in 1998 and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife now monitors their recovery* by briefly capturing, testing, counting, radio-collaring and tagging sheep.

DSC_0301 Desert bighorn sheep close-up

While the sheep socialized, I imagined them “talking” to each other, but according to Mark, the lip curl (seen below) is actually the ram’s testing of the hormonal levels and receptivity of the ewe (page 77).

DSC_0303 Bighorn sheep lip curl

DSC_0302 Large horns on rams

Not only did the sheep appear contented, I was definitely contented and feelin’ groovy* with our special time together and am looking forward to the next meeting when our camping season in the desert resumes next fall.

DSC_0284 Contented ram

*This is a link to a YouTube video.