Back on the saddle again

I was back on the saddle again and turned to look back down the trail that curved around and down into the Moonlight Canyon in the Anza-Borrego Desert where I had my first wonderful encounter with Peninsular bighorn sheep in January, 2011. My second encounter occurred when Bert and I hiked this trail last December.  After Bert and Janie’s visit two weeks ago, I was fired up and ready to go again on the Moonlight Canyon Trail.

I got on the trail at it’s eastern side, which allows for a gradual increase in elevation to get to the Moonlight Canyon, and hiked through the canyon without spotting any sheep.  On its western side, the trail meanders sharply up and over the saddle where I spotted a hopeful sign, bighorn sheep scat!

I few more paces onward and I abruptly stopped in my tracks.  Straight ahead of me was a large ewe acting as lookout on a ledge as younger ewes were eating.

Ewes (female sheep) have shorter horns with less curvature than rams (male sheep).  While stopped in my tracks, I quietly set down my walking stick and made adjustments on my Nikon D40 camera with 18-200mm lens.  I then started taking photos and walked slowly towards them.  They disappeared around a bend in the trail and, when I got to where they were first spotted, they were nowhere is sight as I looked down the sloping trail.  But as I looked up the steep slope to my right, I was happy to see that a total of 4 ewes had just gone a bit higher for safety and continued eating.

According to the San Diego Zoo’s “Desert Bighorn Sheep Fact Sheet“, Ovis canadensis are opportunistic herbivores and ruminants, and one of their favorite foods is the Encelia (Brittlebush) seen on this slope.

According to the Bighorn Institute, most ewes have a 6 month gestation period and give birth to one lamb per year, usually between February and April.  The young ewe seen below appeared to be about 8 months old.

According to Wikipedia, Desert bighorn sheep have keen eyesight and “are able to climb the steep, rocky terrain of the desert mountains with speed and agility.”

I spent about twenty minutes with these ewes and I sensed that all, except for the youngest one, recognized me from previous visits, and seemed to accept me, smile, and move about comfortably as they focused on eating.  The youngest one, however, fixed her gaze on me and seemed curious and fascinated by my presence, and I was pleased to meet and photograph her.

I was thrilled to be back on the saddle again of the Moonlight Canyon Trail and see such beautiful and precious creatures…

May we be good shepherds to all wildlife and all of nature.*

*See Author’s note in Comments section below.

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!

Bert Gildart’s art

He’s got it down to a science, and it comes out as iconic art.  Former back-country ranger in Glacier National Park, writer/outdoor photographer/Airstreamer Bert Gildart has been providing spectacular photos and enriching stories for Airstream Life ever since it’s first issue in 2004, right up to his current article in the Fall 2012 issue, “Dark Skies – Deep in the Heart of America with Your Airstream”.

Last December I got a chance to observe Bert’s science and artistry up close as we hiked Moonlight Canyon Trail at Agua Caliente County Park in Southern California and came upon Bighorn Sheep and glorious California Fuchsia.  I got another chance last month when Bert and Janie joined us for 5 days of camping here.  Bert and I decided to go on a slow, early morning hike to avoid the midday heat while looking for interesting subjects.  Janie had already found one on the other side of the road across from their trailer, a Desert Shaggy Mane Mushroom, Podaxis pistillaris, pushing its fruiting body up after the previous week’s rain.  When it dries out, it will release its spores.

On the Moonlight Canyon Trail Bert and I came across clusters of Monarch butterflies feasting on the nectar of the yellow flowers of the Honey Mesquite shrub.

According to Wikipedia, “The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do on a regular basis.”  (Note: the Monarch can be distinguished from the co-mimic Viceroy butterfly by the lack of a black line running across the veins of the hind wing.)

“Suddenly, we saw butterflies and then, a few steps further, we found the most lavish growth of California Fuchsia I have ever seen…”, writes Bert in his weblog article, “Limiting Factors Check A Population’s Expansion…“, which includes his beautiful and colorful close-up images.

Bert’s artistry and “science”, such as his camera, settings, and use of strobes, are detailed in my article, “Photographic artistry of Bert Gildart“.  Bert now has a new and lighter tripod, a Gitzo Series 2 Carbon Fiber 6X Explorer with 3-section legs, and he says he carries it everywhere.  Bert selected a BH-30 LR Ballhead with lever-release clamp for his tripod.  He says, “… it’s expensive, but I use it all the time for fine adjustments, and at this stage of my life I said what the heck.”  (A similar set up is demonstrated here.)

Bert tells me that he will be presenting a two-part seminar on photography at Alumafiesta in Tucson, Arizona, in February.  The first part will be an hour long slide presentation on where photography has taken him around the world (such as Egypt) and will cover lighting, composition, and modern techniques that are available to people using Photoshop and Lightroom.  The presentation will conclude with how Bert assembles an article for Native Peoples Magazine.  The next day, Bert plans to lead a photographic field trip, utilizing the techniques that were discussed the day before.

Through his photos and stories, Bert has captured the beauty of nature and native peoples, even as they are being threatened on many fronts.  Bert Gildart’s art underscores the importance of recommitting to the preservation of our national parks and icons, such as the spectacular Glacier National Park!