Friends in the Desert

A majority of the time I travel alone in my Roadtrek. I hike alone. I bike alone. I have gotten used to my own company, quirks and all.

On January 6, I left San Diego for the desert, Borrego Springs and the Salton Sea (all part of the California Desert). I love to visit the desert to breathe the air, hear the quiet and contemplate. The gentlest of breezes catch my attention. It is my time to renew, refresh and think things through.

The past two years have been different. I meet friends, travel with them, hike with them and more. Most of them I only see once a year, in the desert, in the winter. They arrive from Washington, Oregon, California and further. They come for a few days, a week, or the season.

I feel like I have been a social butterfly.

Peggy and Roger greeted me as I arrived. Peggy and I met traveling in our small B class RVs. Peggy has moved up to a larger rig since she met Roger. Usually, they are here for the winter season. This year they changed it up as they are heading east to take a cruise out of Miami in February. ¬†I had about a week and a half with them before they started the meander east. It’s always fun to meet up with Peggy, she likes to play Bananagram.ūüėĀWe talk and chat our way through hikes, catching up on everything.

Upon my arrival, Cori was here for a night in her Roadtrek Zion. Cori, like me full times in her little rig. Although our visit was brief we were able to get an evening hike in before dinner and a visit. The following day she pulled out for Quartzite, AZ.

Hiking with Sandy & Pat

On Jan 21 I had to leave for San Diego for a few days. Dr appointments waited. Three days later I arrived back at my free campground to meet up with Sandy and Pat. They own an older Roadtrek and travel each winter. I love these people. Last winter when we met up I had a hard time keeping up with them on the trail. They used to be ultra-marathoners. This year it was much easier. I am in better shape and have been hiking or biking most days since I arrived here.

I never know where I will meet up with Sandy & Pat. One July they were traveling from Britsh Columbia back to the United States and they found me in northern Montana camped next to a lake. We celebrated the Fourth of July together, got some kayaking in, hiked, and had a good steak dinner, then we were on our way in different directions once again. I have met them in Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and California.

Forster’s Tern

Salton Sea

 

Sora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After they left I headed for the Salton Sea. I love birds, all kinds of birds. At this time of year, the Sea is full of migratory and stationary birds. This winter, I have been there three times. It has yet to disappoint. I went for a day with Peggy & Roger (see paragraph 3), once on my own and this time to visit Rhonda and Jim at the Fountain of Youth RV Resort & Spa. Michigan is harsh in the winter so these folks head south in their Roadtrek for a few months every winter. A benefit of the Fountain of Youth are the mineral hot springs that are available when one lodge’s there. They are delightful people and I am glad to have met and become friends with them. I also like that they are up for any adventure. While we visited and caught up, we hiked to palm groves with thousands of palm trees, known as the Dos Palmas and Adreas Grove.

Jim, Janet, Rhonda & Cricket

We also had time to explore the eclectic and funky town of Bombay Beach, and have dinner at the American Legion (the lowest one in altitude in the United States).

I also had serious conversations on this visit with them. I miss Jim, my husband who died from cancer seven years ago, I miss having someone to hash things out with. I am glad my friends are willing to come forward and fill that role when I need someone to talk to. They asked the right questions and hopefully, I found the right answers.

Another day we bird watched along the marshes of the Salton Sea always ending with a visit to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge to see the resident burrowing owls. Beyond cute! While I was visiting there Gary, another full-time RV’er came in the night before I left to say hi and visit for a couple days. Gary gave me his knee scooter when I broke my ankle five years ago. He and Penny have been on my radar ever since.

Karen & Larry

I left The Fountain of Youth and drove up the street about twenty miles to meet up with Karen and Larry. I met them through my friend, Zee, who is in Mexico for the winter. I first met them on a river trip in Northern Montana on the North Fork of the Flathead River. This is my second year of meeting them in the desert. They are from Oregon and travel in the winter months. The added attraction of my meet-up this year is they have two kitties that travel with them. I needed a kitty fix.

Solei

They followed me back to Borrego Springs and we have been hiking and four-wheeling and of course, talking. There are marvelous things to explore everywhere I go. It is often much more fun to share it with someone else.

The flow of people in and out of my life is something I miss when I am traveling solo. This winter has more than made up for the social side of myself. On days I when I want some solo time I am able to say “I am going biking today” and I get that alone time I need in the desert. It is also nice to retreat to my Roadtrek and close the door when I need to. We all seem very respectful of the time we spend alone and together. Friends do that for each other.

Friday I am returning to San Diego. I am camping posh at an RV resort in Chula Vista for a few nights and then will be camping in another friend’s driveway for several days as I finish with the treatment for thyroid cancer.

I have family that I love and care for and hopefully, they feel the same for me. Yet, I have a true family of friends all over the country and Canada. I am grateful that they include me in their adventures, great and small. I am thankful they open their arms in greeting. I am thankful that they accept me in whatever shape I am at the moment.

Today I am thankful for true and good friends. Today I am thankful.

To the Center of the World and Back Again

Last week my friend, Leslie, from Alaska came to visit. It has been quite some time since I have seen her and we had a great  week together. Lots of walking and talking and catching up.

There is a trend happening with my visitors now. They come to visit and the next thing I know we are off in my cute little Roadtrek (RV) and traveling and camping. I bet you guessed it, Leslie and I took a couple of days and headed east of San Diego for a mini-adventure.

Church on the Hill, Felicity

Church on the Hill, Felicity

I know that I mentioned the town of Felicity, CA in a previous post. On the north side of interstate 8 approximately 10 miles west of Yuma, AZ sits a small church on a man-made hill. I have noticed this church every time I have driven that section of highway. With Leslie and myself up for adventure we drove the 3 hours to the town of Felicity. It was the beginning of a fun three days in the desert.

Felicity is an unincorporated town with approximately 9 part time residents. Jacques-Andres Instal owns thousands of acres from interstate 8 north to the Chocolate Mountains. He loved this section of barren desert so he decided that he wanted to create a town and make it¬†legally the Center of the World. In 1985 he was able to have the Imperial County set a law that Felicity is the Official Center of the World. To support this claim Instal wrote a children’s book Coe the Magic Dragon.¬†This law was¬†recognized by the Institut Geographic National of the Government of France in 1989. Jacques is also the mayor of his town.

There is a small bronzed plaque that stands within a 21 foot pyramid. I stood inside the pyramid on the bronze plaque and made a wish and was given a certificate declaring I had stood at the Center of the World. Leslie followed so now we can say we have been there and back.

Center of The World

Center of The World

Janet & Leslie at the Center of the World

Janet & Leslie at the Center of the World

Standing at the Center of the World

Standing at the Center of the World

North of the pyramid, when completed, will be over 400 granite walls with history of the world engraved on each side. Some of them are completed now. Because Instal served in the Korean War there is also a Korean War Memorial. Another wall is dedicated to the History of the French Foreign Legion. Yes, you guessed it, Instal was also part of the French Foreign Legion.  All of this history is according to the Mayor. Another wall that is not completed yet will supply the names of anyone who wants to pay $300. You too can be immortalized.

Beyond all of this is a man-made, earthquake-proof hill. They moved 150,000 tons of earth to create this hill. No town is complete without a church. On top of the hill stands a non-denominational chapel. It is very mediterranean in design and feel. People come here to get married.

Janet, Leslie and Jacques

Janet, Leslie and Jacques

All of this was created by Jacques. When we started to ask Felicia, Instal’s wife, questions she told us not to question just believe. At the end of our visit we met the Mayor of Felicity, Jacques Instal. He was a delightful older gentleman, maybe a bit eccentric yet he has created quite a place. And not everyone can say they have been to the Center of the World and back.

If you want to explore Felicity in more depth click on Felicity to go to the official web site. Felicity

After spending the night in a small RV park in Brawley, CA (I mean, really, who camps in Brawley)we moved on north to the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea region was part of the Gulf of California until about 4.4 million years ago.  The Colorado River silt eventually blocked off the gulf and separated the region from the Pacific Ocean. The Salton Sea was created between 1905 and 1907 when the Colorado River broke through diversion canals in the irrigation system in Imperial County. It is a dead sea and is dependent on the river and rain. What is really interesting and good for bird watchers are the millions of birds that winter on this lake. Leslie and I found a great spot to watch all the activity. It was a great morning.

Photos of the Salton Sea

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Hiking in the Wash

Hiking in the Wash

Celebrating Hanukkah

Celebrating Hanukkah

From there we moved on in to the  Anza Borrego Desert, one of my favorite deserts. It is so alive. We boondocked at one of my favorite back country campsites. After a day of rain on our first day, the washes were clean and fun to hike. Leslie and I celebrated Hanukkah in my RT in the Desert. I learned a lot this week and I was honored to celebrate this event with Les.

On our last day we drove into Borrego Springs and I was able to show Leslie the Galleta Meadows Sculptures that are scattered around the town.The late Dennis Avery, owner of the Meadows envisioned the idea of adding free-standing art to his property with original steel welded sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda. These sculptures are amazing and fun to look at.

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Galletta Meadows

We ended our few days in Descanso visiting friends of Leslie’s. It was a good dinner and great conversation in a beautiful adobe home in the mountains east of San Diego.

You may think that we covered some territory in three days, and we did. The nicest part was that it never felt rushed. I am frequently asked how it is to travel with someone else in my small very cute RT. It has been a good experience every time I have traveled with a friend. Usually when I am traveling with someone we have a conversation before we leave so both of us are aware of the limited space we will live in/¬†I enjoy other people’s company. It is a time where we can connect and talk and share each other’s lives and enjoy the beauty of nature and the unique places along the way.

Each friend, each person I meet continue to help me find my way into my new life. And…it is often fun. I am very¬†glad¬†that I went to the Center of the World and back.

To view all photos from this trip click below.

Center of the World