Summertime illuminations in the Cuyamacas

After cooling off at the beach, and rinsing off the salt deposits, our Airstream Safari was ready to get high again in the Cuyamaca Mountain Range that we visited just two months ago.  Last April, after a three year absence, we were curious to see how William Heise County Park fared after trees were damaged by wind and wet snow, and oak trees were killed by the Goldspotted Oak Borer.  We were pleased to see that there were plenty of oak trees still surviving and many improvements have been made, including new picnic tables, beautiful cabins, and the surprise that dogs are now allowed on park trails.  So on the eve of summer before temperatures peak, we returned for five days of camping in this beautiful forest setting surrounded by pine, oak, and cedar trees.

DSC_0041 Cedar fire damage to Cuyamacas

Ten years ago the devastating 2003 Cedar Fire* burned approximately 70% of William Heise Park, which is now a showcase of a forest in various stages of re-growth.  Chaparral is rapidly recovering, even though bleached white skeletons of black oaks and manzanitas are still seen on surrounding hillsides.  With rainfall just 65% of normal, San Diego County firefighters are preparing for yet another potentially dangerous wildfire season.

DSC_0032 Our Wm

We positioned our Safari in our favorite non-hookup campsite for optimal sunbathing, which enabled our two factory installed solar panels to recharge our two Lifeline AGM batteries to 100% by mid-morning each day.  We had full sun all five days and the solar panels delivered a total of 193 amp-hours by the fifth day.

Each day began by walking our Corgis, Mac and Tasha.  The ranger explained that the recent decision to allow dogs on trails in this park is based on the premise that it is better to have people enjoying hiking on trails with their dogs on a leash, than having dogs left alone at campsites.

DSC_0135 Larry walks Mac & Tasha

While our trailer soaked in the rays, we enjoyed relaxing in the shade of the nearby Coulter Pine and Canyon Live Oak trees as cool breezes flowed up the forest hillside.  This was an excellent location for reading, bird watching and listening to relaxing bird sounds.*  Our peace was only interrupted by biting flies that Tasha snapped at before retreating under the truck. (Larry killed 18 flies in one afternoon.)

DSC_0025 Relaxing in shade

DSC_0018 Bird watching at Heise

Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana

My summer reading included Illumination in the Flatwoods – A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey, by Joe Hutto. (Appropriate reading in a park known for its turkeys!)

DSC_0011 My summer reading

Our summer eve feasting included hamburgers, corn on the cob, and Mexican Zucchini steamed in a cast iron Japanese nabe.  It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy!*

DSC_0036 Summertime feasting

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

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.

Tiki time in the mountains

Temperatures are rising in our nearby deserts with current average highs over 100o, so it was time to catch the mountains before they also become too hot for us.

dsc_0038-flag-day-in-the-mountains.jpg Our F-250 easily towed our 23′ Safari up from the Pacific Coast to our favorite wooded mountain campsite in the Cuyamaca Mountains, near Julian, California, at an elevation of 4200′.

Julian, located in a mixed pine-oak woodland, was the seasonal home to the Native American Kumeyaay people, who were displaced after the American Civil War by displaced Confederate Veterans from Georgia.

We strategically backed the trailer into the sun for the solar panels and parked the unhitched truck near the shade, where we and the Corgis often relaxed and chilled out during the heat of the day.

We raised the American flag high in honor of Flag Day.

We bring a large cooler filled with food and ice on every trip, which we usually take out of the truck and place in a shady area.  But it periodically had to be moved out of the moving sun or protected from night creatures, such as raccoons in this case.  So we found that it is more convenient (and the ice lasts longer) to leave it in the truck cargo area with the Retrax locking cover retracted for ventilation and cover it with a large truck sun shade to keep it cool.

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Since we had five nights reserved here, I brought along our REI dome tent that I had brought out here two years ago and set it up to relive the joys of tent camping and being close to nature and the elements, at least for a night or two (this might become an annual event).  The Tiki, which we renamed “Iz“,  also came along to enjoy the elements, especially the sun, which almost always makes him high.

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This campground is known for its wild turkeys, and one morning I found one that likes to take a walk in the sun.

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Later in the day, jumbo shrimp, bell peppers, onions, and leftover salsa fresca were stir fried on the Volcano 2 stove using the propane attachment.  As the sun set, we sipped Kahlúa in half and half cream in sherry glasses while we were entertained by bats dancing through the sky in search of insects.

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Tasha and I spent two nights in a row in the dome tent guarded by Iz.

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We listened to the evening breezes rustling through the hillside forest trees, sounding like the ocean surf at times, as the first quarter of the Strawberry Moon slowly descended the western night sky.

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We awoke at first light to the chorus of morning bird songs as our midsummer night’s dreams lingered in our minds.

Tiki, beach, and a volcano

On the edge of a bluff 50 feet above our favorite beach, we and our dogs relaxed to the continuous sounds of crashing ocean waves and effervescing sea foam for 5 days.  A continuous breeze flows up and over the 3-mile stretch of bluffs as pelicans and seagulls soar in search of food. At times the breeze becomes gusty, so we secured the sun umbrella canopy to the nearby fence with small bungee cords and clips.

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This year we brought along a hand-carved tiki, bought last August at the Tiki Oasis 2009 event held at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego.  This year the event, Tiki Oasis 10 Extravaganza, will be held August 19 – 22.  In Polynesian mythology tiki is considered the first man.

Our campsite is one of 222 sites at South Carlsbad State Beach (all are non-hookup sites).  Our two Airstream factory installed solar panels performed superbly, bringing our two Lifeline AGM Glass Mat batteries back from an early morning low of 80 – 85% to 100% each day by 10 a.m., even though there was a heavy marine layer most mornings.  We conserve electricity by turning off the water pump and refrigerator fan at night.

An Asian steamer was used to cook fresh zucchini and corn and to reheat homemade kalua pork in tomatillo sauce.

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The kalua pork was served over a sliced telera roll.

Fresh salsa was made in our Vortex Hand Crank Blender attached to the trailer’s lobster sink counter top by the supplied C-clamp.

The two speed gear system crushes ice…

or works as a food processor.

We got ours from REI

It is also available from GSI Outdoors.

This blender can be handy in making margaritas

Which could be enjoyed while listening to “A Touch of Honey“.

We also brought along our Volcano II Collapsible StoveOn our last outing we used the propane option to deep fry spring rolls.  This time we used charcoal to grill carne asada

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And jumbo shrimp on the barbie

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Seen on our tiki table setting is an immature green fruit of the Buddha’s hand citron, which had broken off from our tree at home.  The fruit is often used for its zest in Western cooking.

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Four wooden stairways provide access to the beach.

In my next article we’ll take a walk down those stairs…

and take a look at the ocean and the condition of the beach.

Recent images of the Gulf oil spill were fresh in my mind…

as I strolled along and contemplated World Oceans Day, officially declared by the United Nations as June 8th each year beginning in 2009.

The beautiful sunsets and relaxing sounds of the surf were soothing…

Time seemed to slow down…

Like a slow dance.

Desert Holidays, Part 1

We ventured in between winter storms to another fun location in the Anza-Borrego Desert, this time to Borrego Springs.  After three years of going up and over our local mountains, both the hard way with many switchbacks, and the magical way using the flux capacitor, we have found that it is more pleasant and easier to go around them (and circumvent Julian) by traveling north on California State Route 79 and taking County Highway S2 down to Scissors Crossing and then 78 and Yaqui Pass to Borrego Springs.  Going this way we avoided potential patches of black ice and snow seen in the Volcan Mountains from San Felipe Valley along S2.

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Our mountains usually hold back rain clouds from the desert…

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Resulting in mostly sunny days that we enjoyed by hiking and visiting the local farmers’ market and Gomphotherium and other free-standing art structures (such as the tall cactus below) created by artist/welder, Ricardo Breceda, at Galleta Meadows. (More about this in subsequent parts of this article.)

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When we drove into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, we saw another Airstream and someone cheerfully waving to us.  It was Mark and his wife, Mary, who had arrived earlier and were just finishing setting up camp directly across the road from our reserved site.

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The following day I joined Mark and Mary on a hike up Palm Canyon (shown above) as Larry and the dogs relaxed at the campsite.  (Dogs are not permitted on the trails.)

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Mark and Mary have a 2010 Classic Limited FB (with two solar panels) pulled by a 2008 GMC HD bright red diesel truck with a 52 gallon Titan fuel tank.

They are from Cape Cod and have spent the past two months on the road and have put over 6000 miles on their new trailer.

On the trail they marveled at the size of the palm trees and large boulders that had been washed down the canyon during the 100-year flash flood of 2004.

After hiking one and one half miles up the canyon, we reached a lush oasis of California fan palms supplied by a trickling stream.

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(Above photo credit: Mary and Mark)

Over the next few days we enjoyed lively conversation and shared good food as we celebrated this festive season.

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On the holiday dinner table below are Larry’s deep-fried potato pierogies, homemade banana-walnut bread, and sun-dried tomato-cilantro hummus.  Mary provided a couscous dish and sliced baguette, Brie cheese, exceptionally sweet strawberries and Medjool dates from the local farmers’ market.

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Holiday cheers! Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

(Above photo credit: Mary and Mark)