Return to Ghost Mountain

We are preparing to revisit the area near Ghost Mountain where we enjoy the quietude of non-hook-up camping while savoring the yipping of  coyotes under the starry Anza-Borrego desert night skies.  As you may recall, this is the area where I saw strange lights in the sky last fall that I investigated with the help our our vertical thrusters. This is also the area where I spotted a possible UFO while on a hike up Ghost Mountain last spring with Rich and Sadira.

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Although the above “UFO” is actually a lenticular cloud formation, what lies below the sky on this mountain is just as fascinating.  It is Yaquitepec, the home site of the Marshal South family experiment in primitive living from 1930 to 1947.

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One year ago, writer and photographer,  Bert Gildart, and his wife, Janie, also hiked up here, explored the ruins of Yaquitepec, and he recounted Marshal South’s story, and reflected on the “Lessons From Yaquitepec“.  I also contemplated the story while sitting on Marshal South’s melting adobe walls…

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and peering eastward out of the door that he and his family passed through for over 15 years.

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In 1946 Marshal South’s wife, Tanya, took their three children and left the mountain and Marshal.  In 1948 Marshal died of heart failure in nearby Julian, CA, where he had obtained supplies to build Yaquitepec, collected his mail, and mailed in his 102 monthly articles to Desert Magazine (which were praised by Wally Byam and documented in the article, “Marshal South & Wally Byam – Parallel Roads, Different Destinations”, pages 36 to 39, in the Fall 2008 issue of Airstream Life).  Marshal had also painted a frieze on the walls of the Julian Library and befriended, the librarian, Myrtle Botts (who was at Marshal’s side when he died). The exact location of Marshal South’s unmarked grave on the hill in the Julian Cemetery had been lost for years.  David Lewis, a 4th generation Julian resident, civil engineering designer, and historian of the Julian Cemetery, determined the site of Marshal’s grave, based on information in a letter written by Myrtle Botts. (1)  (Last year David Lewis wrote, Last Known Address – The History of the Julian Cemetery, published by Headstone Publishing, and he curiously left out any mention of Marshal South in his book).

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In 2005, Marshal’s son, Rider, placed a headstone on his father’s grave.

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Marshal’s grave marker bears the sacred symbol of the House of the Sun – “that of a sun, an eagle and a cactus – carrying thus, in symbology, the truth of the upward passage of men’s souls from the thorny bitterness of earth to the higher realms of light.”(2)

Marshal wrote:

Let my House be a house of Love and Understanding.  Let the pillars thereof be the mountains and the trees and its pavement be the wide earth.  Let its roof be the arch of the sky, and its music the songs of the birds and of the wind and of the harps of the rain.  Let its lights be the lights of the sun and the moon, and of the glow of the everlasting stars.  Let Fellowship and Peace and Brotherhood dwell therein.  Of man and of every creature.  And I, the Spirit, shall dwell in that House, and walk beneath its arches, and bless it, from Everlasting to Everlasting. (3)

Note 1: Page 38,  “Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living“, edited and with a forward by Diana Lindsay and with an introduction by Rider and Lucile South, 2005, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, California, ISBN: 0-932653-66-9.

Notes 2 & 3: The quotes in the above two paragraphs are provided with the kind permission of Diana Lindsay and Sunbelt Publications from pages 28, 29 and 30, “Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living“, edited and with a forward by Diana Lindsay and with an introduction by Rider and Lucile South, 2005, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, California, ISBN: 0-932653-66-9.

Note 4:  The newly released DVD of John McDonald‘s full length and uncensored documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment, is now available and previewed here.

Airstream Alley, part three

Hiking our way into the New Year…

Our Alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled activities.  For example, on the first morning after our arrival in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Rich came by and knocked on our open trailer door as I was brushing my teeth by the Vanity sink.  I smiled when I saw him and immediately quoted back to him the first line in one of his posts, “The knock on the door always seems to come at the worst time”.  (Salt Creek Recreation, Joyce WA)  He laughed and announced that David, Ari and their son, William, would be riding with them in the Armada to visit Slot Canyon and Split Mountain and that anyone else would be welcome to follow them.  I thanked him but I said I wanted to spend some time completing the set-up our base camp.

The closest we got to scheduling anything was on the night before the event, we chatted about taking a hike up Palm Canyon and decided that a 9 a.m. time would be doable. The next morning at 8:55 a.m. I saw Rich’s door swing open and he came over and munched on sweet orange slices as Eleanor and Emma got ready, while I put the polarized lens on my camera.  “Hey, let’s go for a hike!”, he said.

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The Palm Canyon Nature trail is adjacent to the Palm Canyon Campground, where we are staying in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and reveals the dramas of past floods that uprooted palm trees and pushed them, along with massive boulders, down the canyon. (Palm Canyon Flash Flood!)  This hiking area is always a wonderful photo opportunity, especially when the wild flowers are blooming (First Field Report).   Ongoing and special events are listed on the Anza-Borrego Foundation website.

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With luck, patience, right timing and being quiet, sometimes Bighorn Sheep can be spotted here.  It seemed we might be in luck.  I spotted Rich, Eleanor and Emma ahead studying an auspicious sign, fresh scat.

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Zoe the cat, in Emma’s day-pack, smelled something’s up.  (Zoe the cat goes with Emma on all major hikes, including Death Valley.   I’m rather skeptical, too, because this is at least my third hike here and I’ve never seen a Bighorn Sheep. I am tempted to think that this is a myth perpetuated by rangers who periodically sprinkle scat on the paths. But, then again, writer and photographer, Bert Gildart spotted 21 of the elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep here last year. (Note that all, including myself, are observing sun safety by wearing wide-brimmed hats.)

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Even if we don’t see sheep, we know we will eventually be rewarded by the Palm Oasis ahead and its refreshing shade. We just have to decide which way to go. Here Eleanor contemplates going over or around a boulder, while Rich decides to cross the stream.  After a while, it seemed evident to me that Rich was choosing the more challenging way at every turn in preparation for his rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year.  This tested our agility and became a balancing act.

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The Palm Oasis beckoned us on ahead.

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Once under the shade of the oasis, Rich adjusted his camera (Nikon D70 with the same lens that I use, a 18-200mm VR zoom lens).

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We felt at home in the oasis as we relaxed…

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and snacked…

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Emma is showing us her now almost empty box of raisins.  She dug her fingers down into the box and found a raisin to give to Rich.  As he accepted it, he exclaimed, “Wow, I’ve seen peas bigger than this!”, and Emma giggled with delight.  Oops, one raisin fell to the ground and Eleanor reminded her to pick it up so that the ants would not get it.  Later I questioned Eleanor about this and she said she had learned how ants can be damaging to our national treasures, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Even items like soda and juice are not allowed on their cliff dwelling tours (they could attract animals and insects which could lead to damaging the dwellings).  Beyond this, Leave No Trace philosophy reminds everyone to be responsible for their actions and leave parks unaltered so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

As we got up to leave the oasis, Eleanor’s hat fell and was stained with mud.  We decided to go up the canyon a bit higher, as Eleanor looked for a waterfall to wash her hat. She was delighted to find one.

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Rich forged ahead and found an even larger waterfall for Eleanor and a better photographic opportunity for himself. But she had to lean dangerously forward and swing her hat into the falls.

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Great fun was had by all!

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Well, we never did see sheep, but we did have a fun and enriching time…

And time for contemplating…

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… crossings and passages.

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Happy New Year galaxy travelers

We rested and feasted while home for the holidays and kept warm and dry while our space ship enjoyed a natural washing from the recent winter rain storms along the coast of Southern California. Gas prices have now hit a five-year low and our sun now smiles down on the great Southwest, just in time for us to drive to Dos Picos Regional Park for a pre-New Year’s celebration with fellow galaxy travelers, Terry and Greg from Tucson, Arizona.

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We brought Larry’s homemade lentil soup with chicken, sausage and bacon, along with pork tamales, and chocolate biscotti.  The weather was on the cool side, but the food and hot tea warmed us up.

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(Sadie, their blond cocker spaniel, sits next to Larry, while Annie, a black cocker spaniel sits under the table, Greg is wearing the ball cap and Terry is wearing the yellow shirt.)  Terry (sometimes known as Tucson Terry) is known on Airstreamforums as TBRich where he features his travel thread “AZBAMBI… On the Road Again…“.  He also maintains his web site of the same name, which features a detailed log of their travels along with a plethora of beautiful and colorful photos. Through AZBambi Decors, Greg and Terry help others customize and personalize their Airstream interiors by making custom slip covers for the dinette, along with curtains, bedspreads, window valances, pillow shams and throw rugs. Greg made the new dinette cushion slip covers for the Luhrs’ seen here.

After lunch I enjoyed hiking the Nature Trail of Dos Picos Regional Park, located in San Diego County. Dos Picos is Spanish for “two peaks” (which are nearby) and is in a small valley filled with oak trees and surrounded by ranch land and steep rocky slopes. The Ipai (Kumeyaay) Native Americans lived here 7000 years ago. They gathered the abundant oak acorns and ground them into meal. The wide range of habitats supports birds, coyotes, foxes, possums, skunks, and raccoons. Due to the recent rains, moss grows abundantly on the rocks in shady areas.

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Along the trail I spotted a boulder that looked like a large skull.

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Snow covered the Cuyamaca Mountains in the distance.

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We re-grouped and spent the afternoon chatting.

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We talked about everything… their new interior LED overhead lights, fabrics, cushions, accessories, camping, traveling, cooking and food,  pets and even politics.  Well, New Year’s is a good time for A Year in Review – 2008… and a good time to raise our concerns for national lands and the wildlife therein (as recently done by writer and photographer, Bert Gildart)… and a time for contemplating New Year’s resolutions.  As darkness descended we talked about the Man in the Maze symbol, often used in the American Southwest by Hopi silversmiths.  According to O’odham oral history, this design depicts experiences and choices we make in our journey through life.  Greg then showed us his watchband with two A-Man-in-the-Maze gold and silver jewelry pieces made by Jason Takala (of the Hopi tribe) who specializes in Hopi Overlay Jewelry.

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I seem to recall seeing that symbol and title used somewhere else… let’s see.

We said our “See you on the road” to Terry and Greg and attempted to return to home base, but found ourselves repeatedly going in circles through the dark maze of the campground until a Park Ranger led us from darkness to the light of the Ranger’s Station at the park entrance.  Tomorrow we will reactivate the mother ship, recalibrate the flux capacitor and continue preparations for traveling to a warmer climate to greet the sun, travelers, and the new year.

Today Terry and Greg moved to William Heise County Park near Julian, CA.  I just received their report that it is cold, 35 degrees. (Current weather in Julian: temperature is 33 degrees and will drop to 22 degrees by midnight). Terry reports that the campground looks like an active lumber cutting camp with freshly bulldozed mud banks and torn up remains of trees”. He said the ranger reported that the heavy snow there earlier in the week had brought down many limbs, branches and whole trees! Hang in there, Terry and Greg, the weather in Anza-Borrego will be 70 degrees when we rendezvous there on Tuesday, and sunny through the week, which should be topped off nicely by the Quadrantids meteor shower during the pre-dawn hours of January 3.

Happy New Year! Galaxy Travelers and everyone, everywhere… Let’s toast to the New Year with champagne… or grapefruit juice… and Drive the Cold Winter Away!

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Home for the holidays

As you may recall from my previous post, I was having difficulty shutting down our Airstream’s vertical thrusters, and was losing contact with Ground Control, while desperately searching Airforums for a solution. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get back on solid ground again.  Finally, with the help of the advanced search engine, I found that the source of my problem was that I had forgotten to recalibrate the flux capacitor for vertical travel. I am happy to report that I have landed safely and we have returned home for the holidays.

This full moon, the Cold Moon, found our Safari resting on its pad at home base…

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We enjoy the holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years, along with good reading and good music.  A nutcracker rests on our fireplace mantel, reminding me of my favorite Christmas fairy tale-ballet, The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed in 1891-1892; my favorite movie version is: Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, which is a video of the performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Herr Drosselmeier is a character in this story (who visited Emma last December).

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Where are you Christmas?  Well, in San Diego, back in 1904 it was in the form of America’s first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree at the Hotel del Coronado.

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The historic Hotel del Coronado, which opened in 1888, displays a large stained glass window depicting the legendary Queen Califia, thought by some to be the origin of the state name California.

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Last Friday we returned to the Hotel del Coronado to enjoy the sights and skating by the sea.  Their Windsor Lawn has been transformed into a spectacular ice rink overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean.  I enjoyed skating while listening to Christmas songs and didn’t mind the thin water areas on the ice.  A portion of the skating proceeds goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which originated in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1980 and “grants wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

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Inside the main lobby is their spectacular Christmas tree that takes up to two months to decorate.

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We returned home to continue enjoying the holidays, decorating the house and trailer, and delighting in movies, such as The Polar Express, which seem even more magical in the Airstream when Christmas comes to town.

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“All aboard”, said the conductor, “because my dancing waiters are about to serve some hot,hot… hot chocolate!

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Watching a special holiday DVD in our Safari on Christmas eve while imbibing on a delicious beverage such as eggnog might just become a wonderful new tradition for us… which just might be repeated on New Years Eve’s eve

Happy Holidays from us to you!

Ground Control to Major Bill…

After docking our traveling space vehicle, the Airstream Safari, at this remote base station below Ghost Mountain in the California desert under the rising full moon earlier this month, we set up camp and enjoyed eating spicy food under the stars. While listening to yipping coyotes and the crackling campfire and watching the flickering lights dance on the trailer, my mind wandered to more reports of strange lights over the skies of San Diego and to thoughts about the ghostly legends of this Ghost Mountain area.

These thoughts evaporated into the thin and dry desert air the following day as I protected my skin from the burning rays of the sun while I shaved with the help of the trailer’s Vista View window, which was now multi-tasking as a mirror.

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But theses peculiar thoughts returned again after dinner at sunset…

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along with the ghostly moonlight and clouds that began looking like dragons…

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Then I saw it… an object flying over the trailer that I could not identify…

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streaking across the sky and I remembered flashing lights reported by NASA. Could this be the Ghost Lights of Anza-Borrego? It seemed to land on the other side of Ghost Mountain and I was determined to locate it, so I closed the pod bay doors and prepared to launch our custom-ordered Airstream using its built-in De Laval nozzles.

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I enjoyed the view as our Airstream rose up from the desert floor…

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But I began to sense that something was not quite right when the vertical thrusters could not be shut down and the craft drifted higher into dark space…

and the stars began to look a different way…

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Before losing my internet connection, I quickly checked Airforums, but was shocked to see no one had started a thread on this problem. As I started to lose contact with Ground Control, I wondered if I would ever be able to return to the desert…

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or if it was all due to the spicy food… I did feel like I was floating in a most peculiar way in our aluminum can… but I think it knows which way to go…

Ground ControlCan you hear me now?