Full Moon at Ghost Mountain

My timing was off so we arrived below Ghost Mountain just as the sun was setting, but my spirits were rising along with the anticipated full moon during the second week of November. We’re now on Pacific Standard Time and the shortening of the days is not helpful, except for my skin. (See my August 24th post on Sun Safety.)

Ghost Mountain is located in what is now called Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, in the eastern side of San Diego County. It was the home of poet, author, and artist Marshal South and family from 1930 to 1947. On this dry and sun scorched flat just below the top of the mountain, Marshal built his adobe home, which he called “Yaquitepec“, which means “hill of the Yaqui” after the fiercely freedom-loving Native American Indians of Sonora, Mexico. Due to his successful article, “Desert Refuge” in the March 11, 1939 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, he received a contract with Desert Magazine to write monthly articles on his experiment in pursuing a primitive and natural life style, along with his reflections on family life. (He and his wife raised three children and home-schooled them.)

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Wally Byam, designer of the Airstream travel trailer, wrote a letter to Desert Magazine, in the March 1941 issue, praising Marshal South for setting the example of escaping the treadmill side of life, along with being “slaves to businesses, jobs, possessions and conventions” and for living his dream of going back to nature and depending on minimal stuff. Read more about this and see photos of Yaquitepec along with Marshal South and family in the article, “Marshal South & Wally Byam – Parallel Roads, Different Destinations”, pages 36 to 39, in the Fall 2008 issue of Airstream Life.

Additional information, along with the complete collection of his writings from Desert Magazine, is contained in the book, Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living, edited by Diana Lindsay, Sunbelt Publications, 2005. The newly released DVD of John McDonald‘s full length and uncensored documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment, is now available and previewed here.

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Just as I had hoped, the Beaver Moon, also known as the Frost Moon or Snow Moon, rose shortly after setting up camp and bathed the trailer and landscape with beautiful, reflected sunlight which was thirstily absorbed by my Nikon D40 camera set on Auto (Flash off) Mode, as previously illustrated and described in my Cuyamaca spirits rising article.

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Rich Luhr pointed out the fun of experimenting with nighttime star photography in his article on his visit to Navajo National Monument, Az, earlier this fall.

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The above is really sunlight bounced off of the moon as evidenced by the candle light inside the trailer and the stars above.

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It really was nighttime as Larry deep fried potatoes and cauliflower while I cooked steak on the hibachi.

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We enjoyed the after dinner glow (Pug is wearing a red lighted collar for safety from REI) as we listened to the crackling fire and coyotes yelping in the distance…

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And look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends.

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If you are in the area, instead of shopping at the mall for more stuff after Thanksgiving, you could take advantage of a special event this weekend in Anza-Borrego, the screening of John McDonald’s The Ghost Mountain Experiment, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 29, at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cuyamaca spirits rising

Despite the Red Flag warnings, we returned last week to William Heise County Park near Julian, CA., in anticipation of the full moon lighting up the night sky, and we were not disappointed. As others may be about to winterize their trailers, we are just starting our camping season and will follow the sun, moon and seasons, somewhat like our local Native American Kumeyaay Indians did in finding the most comfortable sites to set up camp, ranging from the mountains to the desert and down again to the coast.

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This park is in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Cuyamaca is a Spanish corruption of the Kumeyaay phrase “Ekwiiyemak”, meaning roughly, “the place where it rains”. The Indians had seasonal mountain camps near streams and springs where acorns and pine nuts were plentiful. The Kumeyaay Nation lived in this and other areas of San Diego County for at least 10,000 years before the arrival of Spanish and other European settlers. San Diego County has more Native American Indian reservations than any other county in the United States. Richard Carrico, professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University, is the author of Strangers in a Stolen Land, (Sunbelt Publications, 3rd edition, July 31, 2008).

Shortly after we set up camp and ate dinner, the moon rose and lit up our trailer and truck.

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The stars are hard to see in the above picture, but the visual clue that this is actually night (and the reflected light is really moonlight and not sunlight) is the light coming out of the trailer windows. (By the way, the refrigerator vent is propped open to help the fan do a more efficient job… details of this can be seen here.) This and the other night images seen in this article were taken with our Nikon D40 camera set to the new feature, Auto (Flash off) Mode, useful in situations where the use of a flash is undesirable.

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Click on the image to enlarge it and see the stars. All of these night shots were also done with the camera and its heavy 18-200 mm lens supported and stabilized by the Slik heavy-duty Pro 700DX tripod.

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Sleeping under the stars…

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By the way, other than resizing, there was no image editing or manipulation in any of these images. The images were directly loaded into the iPhoto program of our MacBook Pro, resized and uploaded to this article.

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We traditionally celebrate the fall harvest season by eating apple pie. The nearby town of Julian celebrates Apple Days from September 15 to November 15. Also shown here is a pumpkin, carefully hand picked from the market (rather than the field of spikes) and maize (not to be confused with maze).

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Let us toast to the spirit of the season…

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And to the spirits of the sky and land and nature…

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And to Native Americans and all peoples of the world…

May we live in peace and harmony with a respect for life in all of its variations and life styles…

May we focus on the positive and inclusiveness

Let our spirits rise as we listen to our hearts… and Native American music.

San Diego staycation

We did not need to get hitched to enjoy San Diego… we live here. So especially now that the temperatures are rising in our nearby mountains and deserts, and the price of just about everything (especially diesel fuel) is already too high and/or rising, it’s a good time to enjoy our moderate coastal temperatures along with the many amenities that multi-cultural and colorful San Diego has to offer.

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Activities such as visiting local zoos, parks, museums, and attending festivals and backyard barbecues are becoming increasingly popular in the face of hard economic times. These activities are summed up in the relatively new term, staycation. A good local example, the San Diego Zoo is one of largest and most popular (and recommended) zoos in the world. Waiting to great you just inside the front gate are our American Flamingo friends.

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Pink plastic flamingos (not to be confused with Pink Flamingos, the movie) are retro pop icons being increasingly adopted by Airstreamers and much discussed and analyzed on the Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, especially in the threads, “All Things Flamingo” and “Why the flamingo?“.

One of the best places in San Diego to take in the wonderful, panoramic view of the San Diego city skyline, harbor, ocean, mountains, Coronado Islands, and Mexico to the south is Cabrillo National Monument, location of the historic Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse, where docents meet and greet visitors from all over the world.

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Living in San Diego is like being on vacation year round and there are always fairs and festivals occurring now or just around the corner. For example, Tiki lovers from around the world will descend upon an oasis (the Crowne Plaza), August 14 – 17, and take a “Voodoo Vacation on Zombie Island“, complete with an uke jam Sunday afternoon. Last week Larry and I attended the Na Mea Hana Lima Hawaiian Cultural Fair, where we picked up Michael Preston’s book and CD, “Let’s Kanikapila! Ten Steps To Learn ‘Ukulele The Hawaiian Way“, by Mutual Publishing, and enjoyed the entertainment.

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A staycation is also an opportunity to have backyard barbecues and visit local Airstreamers, such as jd (also known as 5cats on airforums.com). He is seen here barbecuing shrimp marinated in a pesto sauce (very delicious). His shiny, 2007 20’Safari SE is nearby under a tarp canopy that slides on a rail system that he made himself.

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Staycation could also mean simply enjoying one’s own backyard tiki oasis, and playing the ukulele as the hibachi coals heat up… and contemplating the wonderful world… and dreaming about rainbows.

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Summer flowers and turkeys…

Or Getting Cereus. So after a strong cup of coffee, I was off to hunt turkeys and flowers in the Cuyamaca Mountains.

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With shooting equipment in hand, I quietly approached the direction of turkeys gobbling in the brush. A turkey hen and her poults emerged in the sunlight.

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300 of these Rio Grande Turkeys were introduced here in 1993. There are now up to 20,000 or more in the area.

I continued my morning hunt in William Heise County Park for wildlife or at least wild flowers, and was rewarded by the Lavender Monkey-Flower

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and the Wild Rose, Rosa virginiana

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A festive meal, prepared by Larry, of pork-shrimp bean curd skin rolls, served with beignets rounded off the day. See his cooking page on our web site Dim Sum Safari Express.
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We hitched up and returned home in time to see the Queen of the Night, the Night-Blooming Cereus (Cereus greggii) profusely bursting with sweetly fragrant blooms during the night of Summer Solstice.

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I then sat back and listened to turkey-in-the straw as I contemplated my next article, “Getting hitched”.

Tent connections and options

Is having a tent a contradiction to the mission of the Airstream? Isn’t that why we got the Airstream trailer? In the old days we enjoyed the adventure of camping, but sometimes it seemed more like work than fun. When we camp with the Airstream, we have just about all of the comforts of home, contained within a double-walled, well-insulated aluminum cocoon that is relatively easy to transport and set up.

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In the morning of our departure on our latest camping trip (to Julian, CA.), I read Rich Luhr’s timely and thought provoking Tour of America posting, “Tent economics“. Knowing that our destination, William Heise County Park, has wonderful tent sites established within the non-hook up sites that we reserve for our trailer, I scrambled to locate our 20 year-old REI tent, Therm-a-Rest pads and mummy sleeping bags that were collecting dust in the rafters of our garage.

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This silver domed tent looked right at home along with its mother ship in this setting.

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It also helped me make a connection with this historical setting in the Cuyamaca Mountains where Native Americas once lived in domed, thatched huts until displaced by the explorers and exploiters. We arrived just as Julian was about to celebrate Julian Gold Rush Days, and it was an apropos time to visit the Eagle-High Peak Gold Mine.

The tent also has a historical connection with our local area in the form of the Tent City in Coronado, which provided less expensive summer quarters for visitors to the world famous Hotel del Coronado and nearby beach between 1900 and 1916.

A bit more austere than the interior of the Coronado tent summer quarters (linked above), our tent has comfortable mummy sleeping bags on Therm-a-Rest pads and a hanging candle lantern.
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As Rich pointed out in his article, the tent can be seen as an extension of the mission of the Airstream. Other Tour of America postings show how the tent can open up adventure and fun options. (By the way, our first tent was the REI Mountain Shuttle similar to the tent seen here.)

Beyond merely evoking nostalgic memories, the tent enabled me to be closer to nature and experience the magic of the night, the sounds of the crickets, the smells and sounds of the smoldering campfire, the howls of coyotes, the moon and twinkling stars shining through tree branches rustling in the wind, and the inevitable opening chorus of flitting birds at dawn.

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The tent offers variety to our camping experience. At times it could be an economic alternative, a change of pace, a guest bedroom, and a quiet spot for a moment of privacy, among other possibilities. It will be fun to continue to photograph the domed beauty of the tent and Airstream in a variety of settings.

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It could also be a place to play the ukulele.

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The bottom line is that the tent facilitates connecting with the environment, while providing more options for having fun with the Airstream.