The Desert

“It’s strange how deserts turn us into believers. I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages because you learn humility. I believe in living in a land of little water because life is drawn together. And I believe in the gathering of bones as a testament to spirits that have moved on. If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.”   

                  Terry Tempest Williams

A rare storm in the CA desert

The desert is hot and dry most of the year.  There are many things that can poke, scratch, and hurt quickly. Many of the creatures also have the ability to hurt. There is little water. When it does rain much of the water runs off into arroyos, ditches, and gulleys. The ground does not quickly absorb the moisture. Everything that lives in these places has figured out how to conserve water and find food. Desert Big Horn Sheep only need to drink every three days when the temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

In this southern California desert, it gets confusing. Here it is hot, it is dry, and yet thanks to the Colorado River and rich soil, Imperial County (in the California Desert) is a breadbasket for this country. The ranchers grow iceberg lettuce, leaf lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupes, honeydews, dry bulb onions, processor onions, carrots, sweet corn, spinach, spring mix, and watermelons. During this trip, I have seen fields of hay and flowers.

All this growth makes it hard to comprehend this area is a desert. When you get away from the fields everything goes back to dry and hard land. There are still more surprises in this desert. I went for a hike yesterday and found an oasis. There were palm trees and other riparian plants growing in this one small area. As I got closer I found water and signs of deer, desert bighorn sheep, and other animals. Life is busy where there is water. Animals, amphibians, and birds know where this water is. It is their lifeblood.

Yes, the desert is hard. I discovered the desert when I moved west in 1976. The wide-open spaces, the silence, and the ruggedness drew me to the desert. The flat land is rugged and so are the mountains. I found I loved to explore this landscape and get to know it. I understood that I had to come to the desert on its terms. Its silence and beauty awakens me in a way that no other place can. I need to be aware of so much here. This awareness lets me relish being in the moment.

The Chocolate Moutains

I came to the desert after Jim died so I could grieve and the desert understood. There were times that I became hard and brittle like this place. I had to confront all sides of myself and I walked out alive. That alone is an accomplishment.

I return to this environment each year to remember and explore and let myself be absorbed in this amazing place once again. Yesterday’s surprise was a small oasis, teeming with life. The next time it might be another slot canyon or a dry waterfall that demands me to climb it. I have learned to lift the rocks and stones away from me when I want to see what is under them. I have learned to walk carefully and be careful of the Catsclaw ( a very thorny shrub that has destroyed more than one pair of hiking pants and a tent). I am still learning about all the spikey, pokey things. I am careful of the animals and creepy crawlies. Respect is taught in a place such as this.

My time is quickly drawing to a close. It is getting too hot for me and I am beginning to feel parched. The dentist is also calling me back to San Diego. Hopefully, I am at the end of this dental event.

I will return to this rugged formidable land again and again. I love all the deserts that I have seen. The California desert is amazing. Yet, have you ever seen southern Utah and northern and southern Arizona? Each area is so different and so desert. I am grateful to have been introduced to this land, to this amazing landscape, and to the desert.

Today I am thankful for my time near the Salton Sea. It has been good to be reunited with friends. It has been good to reunite with this rugged, wonderful environment. The Desert.

Finally, Into the Desert

What to do between dental appointments. There are so many choices. I guess I could have stayed in San Diego yet I am a traveler and a nomad.

How can a desert lover resist the pull of the desert? I chose to go to Salinas and the Monterey area in February when I would usually be out in the desert for the winter. It was time to change it up. I swear I could hear the desert questioning why I wasn’t there. It lures you in and the hold is strong.

Last Friday early, I climbed into my rig and headed to eastern California to kayak in the desert. Yep, you heard me right, kayak in the desert. It is a strange thing to think of water in a desolate and dry land and yet there it is.

The Colorado River begins high in the Rocky Mountains. It meanders its way southwest, through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and then rides along the border of California and Arizona before it would empty into the Sea of Cortez. It is the lifeblood of the west. Water is like gold. It is fought over and protected in a land that is often dry and forbidding.

Since it supplies water to such areas as Phoenix and Southern California the Colorado water is managed. Dams have created a playground in Southern California and Arizona right in the heart of the desert. Where one would not expect lakes, they are plentiful.

I met a friend of mine, Cori, at Squaw Lake, and on a perfectly sunny, not too warm day we took off to explore the lake and a small section of the Colorado River, where the currents can be surprisingly strong and sneaky. We kayaked for close to 4 hours in this unique land. Cori and I talked and weaved our way through “The Nile” and eventually made it to the river. It was a perfect day, perfect company, and a perfect kayak.

Swinging in the Salton Sea

We have both moved north to the Salton Sea, a dead accidental sea in the middle of the southern California desert. Not much lives in it as it is extremely salty. On the east side of the Salton Sea, there are hot springs. The Fountain of Youth RV Resort & Spa is a winter attraction for those who live in the northern United States and Canada. It is warm and pleasant in the winter. The days warm into the 80’s Fahrenheit and down to the ’40s at night.

I have friends from Michigan and New Mexico staying here for the winter. After a Covid year off it is good to meet up with everyone again. We all own Roadtreks. Owning one of these RVs has certainly added to my life in my ways. I have met and become friends with so many good people.

I have been walking and soaking in the pools and hot springs. This morning I went to Yoga. I spend much of my time alone so it is nice to visit with such good and dear friends. After almost two Covid years I have to practice being social again.

I am here for another week and a half before the dentist once again lures me back to San Diego. Sigh. The good news is I am almost done with the dentist.

What’s Next? I have no idea. Plans will take shape as spring emerges. Meanwhile, I am enjoying my brief time in the desert this year. I am enjoying my friends.

Today I am thankful, for the desert, for tried and true friends, and that I can take my kayak almost anywhere and find water to launch it.

Desert Rat-2 : Janet Won!

I have been very fortunate with my RV. Shortly after I bought my Roadtrek, I had one incident with a small creature and took care of it quickly. I blocked holes so it could not get to my food and quickly it departed. Since then I have been critter-free, until recently.

When I first arrived in Phoenix I stayed at a marvelous Boondockers Welcome site north of the city. It was rural and wildlife was plentiful. It was warm in the desert, so I decided to leave my front side windows open. I have screens to put over them. No longer traveling with a kitty I decided the windows could stay all the way down. BIG MISTAKE!

No sooner had I climbed into bed than I heard scurrying sounds in my rig. What the heck was that? Then I felt something running down my legs, on top of the covers. Arrgh, stop already! I got up turned on the lights and of course, there was nothing there. Feeling gullible I decided I had scared whatever it was off and returned to bed.

FAT CHANCE! So began the saga of Janet and the Desert Rat. First I put all the food away. Nothing remained on the counters except the bananas. The next morning there was a bite out of one of the bananas. This was war! I love bananas.

The next evening I did a double-check and everything was put away. That little mouse was quite ingenious and I could hear it scurrying up the wall between the interior and exterior of my van. Oh no, it was making a home. I knew it was time to get serious about getting rid of this invader. Oh, but it is so cute, well at least the pictures on the internet are.

Now going on close to five days I had not been successful. I started with “Fresh Cab Botanical Rodent Repellent – Environmentally Friendly, Keeps Mice Out”. I placed it what I thought were strategic spots. It added a pine scent to my RV but it did not seem to deter the determined rodent.

I decided it was time for the big guns. I was going to buy mouse traps. Did you know there are many kinds of mouse traps? There are the ones I grew up with that just snapped and hopefully killed the mouse when it reached for a piece of cheese. Now there are ones that look like a little house. You still bait them but when they go inside the deed is done and all you have to do is throw out the trap. There are sticky papers which I think are kind of cruel. Live traps are also an option. If you research mouse deterrents the choices are plentiful.

Round one-a live trap. I really did not want to kill anything. If I could catch it alive that would be the best solution. The first night I set it out I had no luck. After hearing it crawl up and down the wall that night, I decided that I was going to have to be a big girl and get a kill trap. I bought a couple of the house-type traps. On night seven I set out the live trap and two of the house traps. I could hear the darn thing as it got braver and braver in its wanderings.

Ah, there it was, the sound of something catching a cute little desert rat. I could only hope. I turned on the lights and there was the little culprit caught in my live trap. Ah-ha, I had prevailed. The mouse was still alive, I could only hope it was the only one. I duct-taped the ends of the live trap and put it outside until morning.

When morning came I took a half-mile walk into the desert and once I felt I was far enough from the rig, I opened the trap and the little rat ran into the desert to create a new home. I went back to my rig and got out of there before it could find its way back. Now I had to hope it was the only one.

As I have not heard anymore moving up and down the walls, I have gone back to my slovenly ways, leaving a few nuts, and fruit on the counter and so far nothing has touched them. The other day I was looking at my water pump which is hidden under a compartment inside the rig. I found little pieces of cloth and threads in there. I recognized what they belonged to. I cleaned those out, made sure the Fresh Cab was in place, and closed the compartment. Those pieces of thread and cloth certainly indicated that the little desert rat was making a home somewhere in the walls.

One day I was cleaning out one of the cabinets where my food is. There was more evidence it had been in that cabinet. It had bitten into the uncooked rice and chocolates. Chocolates! If I had known that earlier, the war would have escalated sooner. That cabinet is the only one with a hole in it. I moved all my canned and glass goods into that space and all other food moved into a cabinet with no entry points.

I think I have been successful.

Living this lifestyle presents unique challenges. I have to consider things I would not usually think about. It allows me to be creative in a thought-provoking way. It gives me a chance to meet up and win a challenge with a determined yet cute desert rat.

Today I am thankful that I was able to catch and release this little rat instead of killing it. Today I am thankful the rat is gone.

My Bounce Around Month-The Challenges of Personal Growth

Sunset on Squaw Lake

After spending two weeks in the desert I once again have returned to San Diego. No, wait, I am in Santa Barbara. I call this month my bounce-around month. I am moving about the southern California area to finish this visit for the year.

Why am I bouncing around.

  • I really wanted some time in the desert and two weeks was all I could find this year to venture to the east.
  • I received my second Pfizer vaccine on March 1 in San Diego. I am doing well.
  • My rig, EmmyLou is getting things done. First, she had the outside fixed. Now we are working on the inside.  RV’s need check-ups. Today we are in Santa Barbara to meet up with Dan Neely. He is one of the Roadtrek Gurus, traveling up and down California to make it easier for his customers to meet up with him.
  • I have to return to San Diego as I have a few more tests to finish up my first post-year thyroid check-up. (I had thyroid cancer a little over a year ago) Oh and I am getting old, I have to have my left eye checked for a cataract. But I don’t feel old!

Rope Canyon & Peggy

Ladder Canyon & yours truly

My trip to the desert was grand. I camped and hiked and biked and kayaked. Although most of my friends were not in the desert this winter, a few were. Peggy and Roger have managed to figure out how to be in the desert and social distance this year. Peggy took a few nights to come and camp with me. It was good to meet up with her. We did some amazing hikes-ones that challenged me. The most rigorous one was when we took an early wrong turn in the Mecca Hills and ended in Rope Canyon instead of Ladder Canyon. After we tackled the first rope in this beautiful slot canyon we decided we were in the wrong canyon and hiked back out. Then we decided to tackle Ladder Canyon. It was a challenge but after Rope Canyon it was definitely easier. It is a beautiful place in the desert.

Squaw Lake Kayak

I met up with Cori another Roadtreker at Squaw Lake, a dammed lake on the lower Colorado River. There are several lakes just north of Yuma that is part of the Imperial Dam Water District. This is a great place for boaters, fishermen, and other watersports lovers. The lakes are gentle and easy to navigate. We also kayaked to the River and went up river first so we could float back down to the lake entrance. It was a fun adventure with Cori. We hiked and kayaked for two days before I needed to return to San Diego.

My adventures in the desert were not always fun. Friendships can be hard as well as rewarding. I sometimes wonder if I know how to communicate as well with others now that I have been on my own for so long. I tend towards introversion (yes, really) and since I have been staying away from people I wonder if I need to break into the world of others more carefully and slowly.

I have learned a valuable lesson on my desert trip this year. Being respected is important to me. I try hard to respect others and I have grown enough, now to count on others to appreciate me. When that doesn’t happen then it is time to leave and regroup. I also need time to remind myself that I am a good and worthy human being and worthy of being appreciated.

Argh! Growing is hard and challenging. I have a friend who turns 90 this year who told me once that I will still be growing when I reach 80. When growth is easy, it is fun and exciting. When growth is not so easy, it is challenging and hard. It is often the challenging steps that are the most rewarding.

A Santa Barbara Sunset

I will be in the lovely town of Santa Barbara for two more nights and then will head south. I am staying in an Airbnb in a quaint section of the city. I am one block from the beach and it is quite beautiful. This morning I dropped my rig off and then bicycled the 13 miles back to my residence. This afternoon I will repeat the process to pick her back up.

The adventure of life continues. I am grateful for the challenges that come my way. I am grateful for my friends who love and respect me. I sometimes grudgingly appreciate those who challenge me and help me grow. I am thankful for the mechanics and others who help my tiny home of wheels stay in tip-top shape. I am really thankful for my tiny home. Today I am thankful for a blue sky, classic sunny southern CA day.

 

Into the Desert and Back Again

As the new year unfolded I departed San Diego to drive east to the desert, and the small town of Borrego Springs. I spent a great part of last winter in this community and liked it enough to return for another year. It is close to San Diego so I can return for appointments when needed.

Another attraction for me is seeing my friends Peggy and Roger again. They winter here and so do I. When they leave, they are going on a cruise, I will certainly venture a little further out into the rest of this very large state park.

I love the desert. I appreciate the quiet and the slowing down that seems to be required to stay here. It is a process to quiet and slow down. It doesn’t happen automatically.

Phase 1

When I first arrive here I am itchy. I want to hike. I want to bike. I want to go into town and find out all the things that are happening. I want to be busy.

Phase 2

After a few days, I find I am getting slower to start. I like to lay in bed and read and play computer games. Uh oh, I am beginning to relax.

Phase 3

Phase three started last night. I had been out bicycling during the day and did not remember to drink enough water. By evening I was exhausted and tired and recognized the signs of dehydration. Instead of going to my friends I chose to stay in. Read and go to bed early and drink, drink, drink.

Early bedtimes make for early risings. This morning I awoke just before dawn. I started to read. It is a good book. I reminded myself to look out the window to see what the sunrise was like. I immediately sprang from my comfy bed, grabbed the camera and went walking. A beautiful amazing sunrise can wake me instantly.

Ah, I am getting to the desert point of view. The desert is marvelous in the cool and quiet mornings. The animals and the birds are still about. The breeze is soft on my skin and there is still a chill to the air. It is so quiet and peaceful. I feel like I am the only one in the whole world, awake and enjoying this moment in time. I have finally arrived to that desert state of mind.

Next week I have to return to San Diego for an appointment. I can already feel myself dragging my feet. Shoot I just got settled in and now I have to go to the big city where everything is so much busier. Retaining this quiet when I am somewhere bustling and big is still a lesson I need to learn. Yoga helps. Meditation helps. Seeing friends helps. I don’t mind this too much when I know that my return to the desert will be soon, really soon. It will be good to see friends. It will be good to finally get the last phase of the treatment for thyroid cancer in order.

I can make plans and then return to the desert once again.