Monday, January 30, 2017

Picacho Park

As we are discovering solar showers at Picacho, we are greeted by a park volunteer, Vickie.  She tells us that the park will be wonderfully quiet and we are likely to be the only campers....unless the Marines decide to come out and party.  She eyes Q, and suggests that we have the perfect vehicle to drive to one of the remote campsites that will be quiet even if those rowdy Marines arrive.

One of the rules in the park is illustrated with a photo of big teeth: Don't feed the wild burros!

We enjoy our first showers in 8 days.  Shocking?  And then drive along 4WD-only roads to the 4S beach camp.  It is stunningly beautiful.

It is a no moon night and we are far from city lights.  Brilliant star show. We hear coyotes barking and singing in the night.  We hope for wild burro sighting.  In the morning just as we're finishing a big breakfast and basking in the sun, Ranger Alex arrives.  He answers many of the questions we have about the roads into Picacho, but hasn't heard of Barney Road or the big W route that we took across the desert.  He recommends a stop at the Yuma BLM Field Office for maps that will make sense of the dirt roads with "designated route" and 3 digit numbers.  Ranger Alex tells us that he is here on temporary duty - and delighted because he came to this park early - at about age 1, and often after.  He hands us a map of the many dirt roads that looks a lot like the linguini in our dinner pot.  The maps from the BLM office must be better than this.

As we drive out of the park, we pause to say "goodbye" to Vicki, who wishes us well and then passes on more info than we can possibly digest, recommending a journey into Baja for the Q and crew.  Vicki says we could launch that journey from Organ Pipe National Monument where campers often meet up to travel together into Baja, driving south into Baja and then catching the car ferry across the Sea of Cortez and driving north along the coast of the mainland.  She assures us that Q would love that sort of journey.  She asks us to keep an eye out for her friend, Alison, who left San Diego with a kayak on top of her car to come out to play at Picacho Park.

Our desert meandering into Picacho Park spared us the less naturally beautiful views of the more direct route - which includes both the official town dump and the unofficial dump where the disappointed junk haulers leave their stuff when the dump is closed.

We drive Business 8 through Yuma, past the airport and along a couple of giant RV resorts where the units are parked so close together that it surprising that the campers are able to enter and exit without banging doors against each other.  I think i feel Q shudder at the sight.  Not even the pretty palm trees can make a peaceful campsite out of a giant parking lot.

The BLM office is open and the maps are free.  The official BLM maps look a whole lot like al dente linguini also.  At least the noodles are labeled with 3 digit numbers that could be useful the next time we are meandering across the dessert towards Picacho Park.  And the park is just that beautiful.  We will return.

Name Valley

An adaptive and happy couple, Lazlo and Aurora Van Dweller, proclaim that it is the journey that matters, after all.  Loquacious Lazlo.

The journey southeast takes us across the Algondones Dunes.  Riding ATVs across dunes is a favorite activity of So Californians (and others, too, right?)

Alex selects an interesting road to take us further south - it is one that is periodically sand-plowed probably using equipment similar to that used for snow plowing.  We very nearly opt to camp here in the sandy land, but the weather forecast is for wind.  As we study the map and consider options we see the California State Park that eluded us on our entry into California a month ago - Picacho.  And there is a way to get there from here.  A W-shaped route on dirt roads will take us around the Cargo Mountains.  However, some of the roads disappear under what appears to be mine (gold and silver) and tailings.  By the time we get around the mountains the light is failing.  Oh, well, looks like an interesting place to camp, and there is one other camper in view.  We leave the road to select our overnight spot and notice that jumping chollas are traveling along side.  Is it the vibrations produced by our movement that inspires them to try to hitch hike?

Quiggy eyes the peaks of Picacho in sunset light.

In the night the wind gusts are astonishing. Rocking Quiggy...and we sleep.  It is a little surprising that Q doesn't lift off.

As we continue on roads that are mysteriously marked with 3 digit numbers and say "designated route" somewhat reassuringly; we cross several washes including twice across Picacho Wash.  There are times between the somewhat reassuring signs that there are many roads crisscrossing.  We try to consistently select the road that appears to be the most traveled and hope for another "designated route" sign.  We are after all just a few miles from the border towns of Winterhaven and Yuma.  

What's this? Acres of little hills/mounds covered with names spelled out in rocks.  We later learn that the name rocks are a 60 year long tradition.  In order not to disturb existing rock names, people now carry in rocks to add their own messages & names.

Not far from the name mounds we find an official directional sign to Picacho Park.  The 15 miles to the park become ever more beautiful.

Astronauts & Janet Granite

Our modus operandi is not to drive in order to reach a destination, but to enjoy the journey.  So we take a dirt road south along a abandoned narrow-gauge railroad.  We read that this part of the desert was used to train Apollo Astronauts in anticipation of moon landing.

At this point the road also skirts a military practice range.  A little disconcerting, but the signs are helpful in knowing where the road is meant to be.

The dirt road is a fine adventure - and a good drive until we pass under the trestle nearing highway 111 along the eastern shore of Salton Sea. 

 So many off-road vehicles have cruised here that the road is just rough.  How rough is it?

Bubbe's delight:  I send track & trestle photos to Gabe thinking the train track photos will impress him. I add this one of the jumbled interior of Q after the rough ride.  His reaction, "Pringles!"

There must be something about meandering in the desert.  Alex periodically changes his name as alter-egos emerge.  Cactus Pete is grizzled and a man of few words.  Still, he is adept at surviving in the desert with little use of external resources.  He scorns cell phone and Internet and can easily read sand and clouds to predict the weather. And finds his way without use of GPS - which isn't available so far from cell phone towers anyway.

The preferred environment of Joshua Trees is high desert.  In the national park, the high desert is decorated with massive granite boulders.  One Monzo Granite is like Cactus Pete, a man of few words, but with a ton of resoluteness appropriate to someone made hefty by rock.  At the heart of both Cactus Pete and Monzo Granite is the truly kind human, Alex.  As long as he is Monzo, I'll be Janet.

We return to camp a night at the Salton Sea as we rest up before heading for Organ Pipe National Monument.

Hiking in California Snow

The next morning dawns bright and sunny - a perfect day to hike Mt Ryan (~5400 feet).  As we approach the trailhead we see that the distant mountains are capped with snow - and even Ryan has a dusting of snow on his top.  If you are impressed that we're doing a 5,000 foot climb, don't be.  The trail head is ~1000 feet below the mountain top.  It is a good climb but not a monster.  And it is just a 3 mile round trip.  We get an early start and are surprised by the number of people we encounter.  Even as we're imagining that they must be Angelinos, we hear a nice variety of accents from all over the world.  (Los Angeles is only about 120 miles to the west, making Joshua Tree a reasonable weekend destination.)

Snow on prickly pear and Joshua tree - photos by Alex who has fine eye-ability

After the hike we head for more firewood, thinking that if we don't build a big fire tonight, we'll leave the wood for the next campers.  In town we find a vendor who is part of a business compound where all sorts of goods and services are available.  We see big equipment, car repair, random hardware, and firewood.  The wood is hardwood of some sort, and promises a long slow burn that will get started with help from the grocery store pine.

The fires that allow us to be outside, let us be amazed by stars.  Tomorrow we will head south.  That is the only direction where the weather is anything but cold, windy, and rainy.  We hear from Michigan that it is warmer there!

There is another cactus park where the forecast is sunny and warm.  It is in southern Arizona near the border with Mexico.  Organ Pipe National Monument.  Our modus operandi is not to drive in order to reach a destination, but to enjoy the journey.  So we take a dirt road south along a abandoned narrow-gauge railroad.  We read that this part of the desert was used to train Apollo Astronauts in anticipation of moon landing.

Chapstick on Mountain Lyons

When we return to site #10 Alex climbs on top of Q for our camp chairs.  Outside temperature is 42 degrees.  Too cold to sit outside...unless there is a big warm fire.  With the added height of Q, Alex looks out over the giant boulders to see...The Arch!

Many campers must have abandoned their campsites due to cold weather, because we find lots of firewood to scavenge as we tour and amass a bountiful horde for a big fire.

The warm fire makes a cold dinner a fine thing: fresh tortilla chips from the mercado in Mecca (small agricultural community at the north end of Salton Sea), guacamole, sharp cheddar, and Pacificos with lime.

The Arch as seen from the trail
Q: How cold is it?
A: It is so cold i saw a ranger putting chapstick on a mountain lion. -Alex

The best way to see Joshua Tree is to hike, but the weather isn't conducive, so we opt for a trip to Joshua Tree, the town.  It is just outside the entrance gate to the north.  To get out of the rain and catch up with email we invite ourselves into the Roadside Cafe.  It is so very Californian. Sort of understated retro, but the food is really delicious.  It is pouring rain outside - and there is a river of rainwater rushing along the street in front of the cafe.  Before heading back to White Tank we stop to purchase some firewood at the grocery store - in case the rain stops and we can again have an evening outside.  It doesn't.

Salton Sea to Joshua Tree

We select our route based upon the green dotted line that indicates scenic route.  Our goal is the campground (California State Recreational Area) along the least populated eastern shore of Salton Sea.  In the 1950s it was all about turning this engineering faux pas + natural geographic feature into a posh little resort area.  It didn't work out so well, but the salty lake is now lovely in a number of ways.  Fisher people find that huge Corvina will hit artificials like crazy and fight like crazy.  It is also one of the few remaining places for pupfish.  And it supports a diverse population of birds, migrating and permanent residents.  Lovely for us too, as we find $10 camp site with big lake view over which to watch the sunset while the chicken cooks on the grill.

In the morning the prize for our determination to get out and keep on exploring without regard for cold and rain is rewarded with a rainbow.  

Our destination is north to Joshua Tree National Park.  Entrance fee with senior pass is zero.  We consider exploring the park and then finding a campsite outside the park as we've heard that the campgrounds fill early.  Maybe it isn't so true when it is rainy and cold.  

It is the The Arch that draws us in to White Tank campground.  We hike the entire trail without finding an arch, but the campground is amazingly well situated for views all around and has campsites tucked in and around monzo-granite boulders.  After we reserve the most charming site #10, we head for the geology drive.  It is a 4WD-only guided loop of 18 miles.  The photos don't do it justice, of course.



And i feel fine.

The drive through Fish Creek Canyon is only about 12 miles, but it is a dry, rocky river bed.  Going slowly means opportunities to see things.  It isn't yet the time for a big desert bloom, but there are flowers.

Palo verde trees are very well adapted to this unpredictably dry climate.  In a dry spell there are no leaves, but the young growth of the plant is green - and can photosynthesize without leaves.  Puts me in mind of the mangroves in the Everglades - well adapted to sea water because they can remove the salt.

Our exit will be through Split Mountain, but first we stop to hike to Wind Caves.  Wind whooshes through carving caves.  No more need be said.  Alex finds lizard tracks inside one.

We exit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to the east heading to Brawley for gasoline and a few groceries.  Here is some advice for couples traveling together for an extended period of time.  Don't let it get under your skin too much when map reading, GPS units, and direction-finding fail.  It isn't really the end of the world as we know it.  All will soon be fine.  And you'll feel fine.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Quiggy Admirers

In the camp we see hummingbirds and a great air show by swallows after insects. Just about the time that we settle in, closing the door and picking up Guns, Germs, and Steel, a visitor walks right up to Q with a howdy sort of smile.  He is Mike, who lives just south of Tucson.  He is driving a Westphalia and wants very much to see the inside of Quiggy.  He isn't the first to admire the Q inside and out.

The night is clear, chilly, and again windy.  That gentle rocking with the wind induces terrific sleep.  Anza-Borrego Desert SP is a night sky park.  The star shows are amazing.

As we are condensing back into travel mode our new friend from BC stops by on his bicycle this time, to say goodbye.  Our intention is to head for Fish Creek Canyon while the forecast is for sunshine.  By Wednesday night, the rain will make the canyon muddy.

We pause in town to call the lovely Rebecca Williams on her birthday - and to check in with the Gigi.  The drive to Fish Creek Canyon takes us southeast in and out of the park several times.  Fish Creek must on occasion rage with flood waters.  We're following the park map through Split Mountain, past the Anticline, Wind Caves, and Elephant Knees trying to find Sandstone Canyon.   More helpful, fellow explorers who stop us to ask directions and tell us where they are coming from.  We opt to camp in Fish Creek Canyon trusting the weather forecast for no rain until Wednesday night.

Sandstone Canyon is beautiful - and worth waiting to see in full daylight.  The guidebook tells us that for most of the years since 1992 when an earthquake caused a massive rock fall blocking the entrance, it has been hike-only access.  Q takes us about a mile into the canyon before the way becomes formidable. A small, lightweight keep Q is not.  The guidebook also says "Camping or resting under unstable cliffs. Not a good idea...massive landslides, fierce flash flooding, and devastating earthquakes."  ABDSP is on the San Andreas Fault, BTW.

After Sandstone Canyon we aim for Olla Canyon exploration.  We meet Q's expensive, posh cousin, a Sportsmobile heading a way from Olla.  The driver greets Alex with a "Hello brother!" And recommends Olla Canyon for our camp tonight.  After exploring Fish Creek Canyon to find Split Rock, we settle in front of a red-orange bluff in Olla Canyon.  The silence is greater than any other camp site on our big trip.  Even the air traffic seems either higher or wider than this lovely canyon.

One more little bit of history from the ABDSP guide book tells us that the Pupfish that used to inhabit Fish Creek were likely devastated by a huge flood in 1916 when San Diego County hired Rainmaker Charles M. Hatfield to refill the reservoir.  The storm caused the Lower Otay Dam to break and wiped out the Pupfish population from Fish Creek Canyon.  

As we are talking about where to head next and consider the weather forecast all around.  North is colder and in every direction it's rain.  This isn't the rainy season here in the southwest!  There are sites to see as we exit Fish Creek Canyon - and it won't be a fast exit, so we have time to make a decision about where next will be.

One of our guidebooks mentions that the Layer Cake formation is an interesting one - and it serves as a marker for the entrance to Sandstone Canyon.  We find Sandstone without the marker, but keep guessing about which formation is the Layer Cake.  The photo in the book isn't in color, so when we finally spot Layer Cake we agree that it is too beautifully odd not to be done up in a color photo.

Quiggy at Split Rock

Coyote Canyon

We'll stay a couple of nights in an official park campground: Palm Canyon on the west side of Borrego Springs. The time in town allows free use of the public library & connectivity, daily showers, and laundry facilities.

Farmers' Market is on Fridays 8-noon.  Pita chips and 3 layer salad catch us. We don't find the  tamales we're hoping for, but hear that usually there would be tamales.  The baker tells us that the cool temperature and rain kept several of the regulars away.  As we are purchasing oranges, the seller recommends that we try a pomelo - "grandfather of the grapefruit".

It is a holiday weekend (Martin Luther King, Jr) so we opt for remote Coyote Canyon guessing that the campground will be full of San Diegans looking for warmth.  What we find: a hummingbird who buzzes by while I'm trying to locate the bird who is singing so wildly and melodiously.  The talented singer is a California Thrasher.  It is about a 3 hour project locating him with binoculars following sound.  The song continues all evening and starts again at dawn.

It isn't only bird song and hummingbirds that make Coyote Creek Canyon beautiful.  A rainbow decorates the east wall as rain clouds descend.  The clouds seem to get hung up on the mountain tops, too, so it seems unlikely that any rain will fall on our camp.

And then frog or toad songs begin with sunset.  Coyote Creek is flowing and musical. Dinner is simply T-bone steaks smothered with onions and mushrooms. And California Pinot Noir.

Stopping by to visit: a retired miner (diamonds in the Northwest Territories) who, since we don't get around to exchanging names we will call "BC guy", and who mentions that he plays ukulele, too.

The camp is remote, but it is a big holiday weekend.  Our campsite is perfect viewing of the parade that passes by on the rough dirt road: Icelandic horse whose rider is guiding more people on more horses, bicycles, hikers, and jeeps, lots of jeeps.

The identification of the California Thrasher is very rified with SD residents who carry Sibley's bird book.  Their first response is "well you can't be sure that it is a California Thrasher because 'they' keep changing its name."  We realize later that the way we describe both the Thrasher and the Phainopepla pair just as if we'd memorized the description in the bird book. The owner of the Sibley's book is also a ukulele player.

Horse guide on an Icelandic horses.

We devour the pomelo that we purchased from the farmers' market.  It is sweeter than a grapefruit. And it is huge.  Yes, we'd buy a pomelo again.  It is just beginning to sprinkle as we finish up bowls of barley and carrots. So satisfying.

There is a steady caravan of vehicles traveling this barely passable dirt road north up Coyote Canyon.  Tomorrow we will hike the canyon.

The morning is again chilly, but not chilly enough to start the Buddy heater.  As soon as the sun is up over the horizon, it will be warm.

We hike the canyon along the Lower Willows and Box Canyon trails.  So many hikers and horses have come this way that the trail is just not clear.  It is a beautiful hike, but a bit frustrating as we end up hiking along the road for the return.  We estimate our hike at 9-10 miles. If we had found the actual trail, we could claim only 6.5 miles.  Seeing a big, fast jack rabbit makes the extended hike worth it.  It is a happy thing to return to the Q camping site.  Cold beer!


They named their desert home Yaquitepec. Both Marshall and Tanya were writers.  Marshall was the one who made monthly trips to Julian, CA for supplies.  The film showing at the visitors' center tells us that as time went by, his trips to Julian became more frequent and tended to last longer.  Not too surprising that ultimately Tanya found this unsatisfactory and moved to the Los Angeles area with their three children.

Pictographs and Morteros

Our day hikes take us to visit the sites of pictographs of the Cahuila and pictographs and morteros of the Kumeyaay.

The holes, morteros, represent hours of grinding - likely by women.  Once the holes are there, they were also used to cook - by dropping a fire heated stone into the ingredients in the hole.  The same story is told of the indigenous people who lived on Grand Island near
Munising, MI.  We paddled our kayaks into Trout Bay where we saw underwater, a boulder with very similar holes in a circular pattern.

It is a remarkable feeling to stand beside the evidence of early dwellers of the desert.

Our overnight camp is at the foot of Ghost Mountain. As we are settling into a sandy, but well landscaped (by nature) site, we notice a golden eagle soaring on thermals.  That beauty adds to the peaceful feeling.

In the morning we will hike to the top of Ghost Mt to see the ruins of the Marshall South family home. The campsite backdrop is a huge boulder that makes a terrific wind screen.  The wind has been a nearly constant presence all week.  It is heavenly in the warm sunshine when the wind stops.

While we are still inside Q sipping morning coffee, we have trouble imagining why Marshall and Tanya South chose to build a homestead on a mountain top miles from water and supplies.  It was during the Great Depression that the couple went looking for a way to live off the land.

The hike up the mountain is a mile.  It is a lovely mile climb.  We don't have to wait to reach the top to understand the appeal of the place. It remains difficult to imagine the work of hauling building material and everyday supplies up the mile climb.

Desert Dessert

I've been straining the brain to think of a way to justify the inadvertent substitution of dessert for desert in the last post.  It's just that this big desert exploration is dessert after years of work?
The holiday weekend reminds us that there are people still working hard for a living - and making the most of days off.  As the long weekend ends, we're happy to resume random exploring.

To get to Blair Valley in ABDSP (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park) Q takes us south out of Borrego Springs and then west out of the park.  We return to Scissors Crossing to turn south and east towards Blair Valley.  The out-the-window views seem to have changed since our last trip on this road.  Even the small amount of rain has brought out the green that is probably always ready to sprout.  The colors of the desert are surprising.

This is our campsite for the night.  It is wild.  While we are settling in, a coyote strolls around in front of Q and off up the hillside heading north.  The coyote is backlit by the setting sun and looks healthy and strong.  

In the morning Alex greets dreadlocked, serape draped, barefooted runner guy.  They wish each other a fine day.  I miss this exchange and still have a mind full of beautiful coyote.  This all to explain why when dreadlocked, serape draped, barefooted runner guy's big dog wanders into our camp, i shout out to Alex that there is a coyote approaching our camp.  In fact he is coming straight to me!

All my nature savvy credibility is now destroyed forever.  I doubt I'll be trusted to identify a barrel cactus.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Time flows without dates - just sunrise and sunset

Jan 2
It is the very birthday of the 100 year old Gigi.
Cousins, children, grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren all around.  And friends too.  Gigi is pleased and gratified to tears.

My first baby niece, Tammie, radiates love.  She lives and works as an ER nurse in Florida.
 I feel extreme gratitude for her safe journey here to share the celebration and to see the cousin reunion.  Just as Tammie was my first little baby of a sibling, Chris was her closest little cousin.  As she and Chris hug and cry for the joy of it, she reminds him that she used to fly him around like an airplane with a grip on arm and leg.

The Gigi with great & great-great grandchildren

This is my precious niece, Tammie, delivering a monster hug to her mom, my darling sister, Marilyn.  Big love.

Several days in January: The days full of family and friends slip by joyfully but we find that we have a certain longing for the big outdoors.  Coincidentally we are kicked out of Diamond Jacks.  There is a big group coming in for which the clubhouse suddenly needs a new hot water heater and other deluxe updates.  Even though we are paid up through tonight, we are encouraged to move on.  It seems a little odd, but we are happy to comply.  We'll camp tonight in the Cleveland National Forest surrounded by trees and no other people.  We promise ourselves that we will get the inadvertently retained bathroom key in the mail to Jack asap.

Here is a potent companion read: Mike Davis' No One is Illegal and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.  Both seem appropriate reading for a visit to Southern California.  Mike Davis's childhood home was next door to mine.  His political, cultural histories of the area are excellent.  Not cheery.

Today while searching for just the right table to hold the Gigi's new cactus and succulent collection, the very book for which i have been searching for ~5 years appears near the checkout cashier.  Our search for the table took us to second hand stores.  We didn't find the right table, but we did find new sun hats.  It is in paying for the hats that Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde comes into view.  I became entranced long ago with his Lost in a Good Book but had to return it to the library.  I never imagined that i would loose the title and author, but have been searching my memory and Google ever since.  It is a Thursday Next novel.  Highly recommended if you are a reader of fiction and enjoy intrigue.

We travel from big over-populated city east on Highway 8 until we arrive at the Sunrise Highway.  The drive is a steady climb to the top of Mt Leguna.  My parents brought us here to play in the snow ever so many years ago. When there is snow on Mt Leguna (elevation 6,000 ft) it is clearly visible from the valley below.  

Alex strikes up a conversation with a couple of guys at the Leguna camp supply store, and discovers that they have been in this family business for 75 years.  During a recent snow storm there were 5,000 cars parked all over the place while people played in the snow.  Some pickup truck drivers were filling truck beds with snow to take back to the valley for their kids rather than bringing the kids up to the snow.

The drive from the top of Mt Leguna to the desert floor is scenic and twisty.  It is the Banner grade - and crosses the Pacific Crest Trail.  Did you read Cheryl Strayed's book?  I recall another hiker from ~20 years ago, one that Joyce Teague introduced me to.  He was a young man hiking the trail to raise money for people in need of prosthetic limbs.  I met him when he came to University of Michigan for either medical school or PT school...I think.  He was young - and his determination to hike the distance from the Mexico border to Canada raised funds that helped a lot of people who may never have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the physical challenge the way we do.

We stop by one campground, Tamarisk Grove.  It looks inviting, but is close to the road in a sort of desert oasis next to a dry riverbed.  The cost is $25/night, showers extra.  More exploring is in order.  After a stop at a fine* little Borrego Springs grocery store we head east into the open desert.  The rules are that campers can be no more than a car's length off the road to protect desert life.  There are numerous dirt roads trailing off into the desert that allow for pretty secluded, quiet camping.  The Q is well equipped for this too.  We roast ourselves in the warm sunshine until the sky gets orange, pink, and blue.  Cost for this camping site = $0.
*Fine = they have my favorite pan dulce item: ginger pigs.

We're awake as usual as soon as the sun begins to create light in the sky.  Today's journey takes us a mere 15 miles over rocky, bumpy roads to hike Rockhouse Canyon.

Our guidebook is about 25 years behind usefulness, but we attempt to hike to what we think is Rockhouse, hoping to see the very house as well as other former habitations.  No positive ID, but the hike is really beautiful.   Green is ever more present the higher we go in the canyon.  It is a box canyon with boulders threatening any hikers who attempt to climb up and over.
 Q is quite capable on these rocky roads.
 And if the sun is setting, it must be time to practice ukulele chords.

The slow drive in & out of the canyon is on a road that has served the original indigenous people over eons.  Reading Mike Davis' book makes me feel like continuously apologizing for being a descendent of caucasians who wreaked havoc on established communities of people who didn't feel like they had to declare ownership of land.  It seems odd that we white people believe that we can own the earth.

During the night - big wind 30-40 mph rocking Q.
Animal sightings: desert walking stick, lizards, butterflies, hummingbirds,
Coyote!  And the next day begins with big color:

Restoration day: day use pass for Palm Canyon campground = showers, new water pump and water tank refill.  Alex buys me pumpkin bread from a baker who is knitting outside the grocery store.  If you are imagining an older woman, re-imagine her young.  Tonight we camp along the Blair Valley road on the way to hike to pictographs.  The air is fresh and still laden with the post rain fragrances of the the dessert.

No excuses - just living the dream

Dec 28
Our camp is Diamond Jack's in Jamul, CA.  This is a campground that has seen better days.  As i am struggling to describe it to daughter Rebecca, she suggests "Rustic".  Yes.  The evidence that someone cares remains.  The seating around the basketball court and horseshoe pit are cushy former bus station (?) waiting room seats on pedestals.  Instead of a lamp in the central court, there is a telephone booth absent a telephone.  The advantage here is not only a reasonable camping fee, but real peace and quiet.  We are about 20 miles out of town.

The cost of living in southern California is sufficiently high that some of the campers here are permanent residents who exit early each morning to make the commute to work.  That also means that the campground is pretty quiet at night.

Since we have acclimated well to chilly weather, we don't mind so much that here we are getting rain and somewhat cool temperatures.  Somehow Q manages to soak up the solar fuel to keep the refrigerator and lights going.

Dec 29
Today our Chicago kids arrive via Amtrak.  Imagine Chicago to Los Angeles, a missed connection and so a wait for the train to San Diego.  Grand-daughters Audrey, Kathaleen, and Olivia seem very well rested and energetic while their parents
seem appropriately exhausted. I'm not sure who enjoyed the
surprise most, us or them.  We had balloons and smiles as we waited for their train to arrive.  They expected to arrive, get into their rental car and drive to east county.

For us the trolley ride to the depot was fun.  Entertaining three granddaughters while the rental car is arranged is enough to exhaust me.  Subtext = exhausting but still huge fun.

Dec 30
Today our Michigan kids arrive: Becca, Art, Gabe and Max.  They will share a rental house with Chris, Dawn and our grand-daughters.  These cousins know each other well - and for the first time seem to relate to each other as friends rather than as objects for teasing.

The older generation spends time finalizing plans for the birthday party while the younger cousins renew acquaintances all around.

Dec 31
Gigi happens to mention how much she always enjoyed trips to the Anza-Borrego Desert in the spring when the blossoming cacti and succulents are amazing.  Incorporating this into the party decorations becomes our motivation.  We'll have tables with a few antiques from the era of her motherhood and add a collection of plants.

Alex discovers a perfect collection as we pass the Jamacha nursery.  We have no trouble selecting a sweet variety with my sister Marilyn and her Doug.  There is a variety of palm that looks absolutely other-worldly or possibly porno. Not going to be a part of the party decorations.  If you really want the visual, let me know and i'll send via email.

Jan 1
A little noise of firecrackers or maybe gun shots at about 10:30 pm and then all is quiet in the campground.  We think that most of the more permanent residents here are hard-working individuals who have to get up early to commute to work.

Our joy in the new year begins with a stop for ice cream that will be served up with birthday cake in the first celebration of the Gigi's 100th birthday - this one for her friends from church. A conflicting schedule item is a delightful meeting up with Soren & Jeneen and Gavin & Alise along with my kids' families at South Ponto Beach near Carlsbad.

If ever there was hope for this country and the world it can be seen in these two beautiful 12 year olds.  If the world is sufficiently good enough to nurture them, they will surely make the world a better place.  Alise and Audrey are kind and smart, talented and strong.

BTW, The beach is easily accessible in the winter - Californians find it too cold.