Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ezra's First Christmas

Our first Christmas on the road was a "good news, bad news" scenario. 

The really good news was that Ezra talked his parents into driving to Borrego Springs for a couple nights. The bad news was that none of the other boys could make the trip. We had hoped to rent a house so we could all be together, but none of Bill's boys could come, and travel from Seattle was a huge pain for Jeff.

Daily high winds made decorating our outdoor space impossible so we didn't have a tree, but we put up a few special ornaments to remind us of the season. After decades of decorating every room in large houses (which I loved doing), it was very nice to just have our simple reminders.

Sitting outside reading in the sunshine, and walking Tessa in the desert is a lovely way to spend Christmas day, and we are very happy when we get the text that the kids have arrived at the motel before dark!

Bright and sunny Christmas day at the state park
Taller than the mountain..... :-)

Hanging out in the backyard
They join us for a very non-traditional dinner of pork and green chili burritos with the more traditional pumpkin and apple pie for dessert. The best part is seeing them all again, and playing with Ezra. He has already grown too much!!  I don't get many pics as we're just having such a good time visiting.

Yes, I know the camera's over there.. that's why I'm looking over here
Sophie the Giraffe and Ezra in the lion seat - Happy 1st Christmas little man
Friday morning we enjoy a yummy breakfast at the Red Ocotillo (our favorite eatery this visit), and then head out in search of creatures in the desert.

With continuing winds, a day spent exploring in the Jeep seems ideal for all of us. Galleta Meadows keeps us entertained all morning. Art that you can literally drive or walk right up to, spread over miles of open desert, makes up the Galleta Meadows project. Commissioned by Dennis Avery who passed away in 2012, the 130 metal sculptures were created by Richard Breceda and placed throughout the Borrego Springs area. Breceda continues to sell his creations from a small lot near the Temecula Valley.

A magical dragon appears beside us
Charming the beast
See? He's friendly!
We are amazed by the detail in the metal - especially the "hair" on the sloths
The wind really kicked up the dust on the dry lake
Fortunately it was much clearer up the hill with the dinosaurs
Where we could take photos
and make new friends
Ezra doesn't have much to say about this holiday adventure, but he's clearly having a great time.

After lunch we peruse a couple fun shops in the tiny "mall" in town. I keep saying "I'm so glad I don't have a house" as I look at all the beautiful handmade items and colorful textiles. I sure save a lot of money :-)

Sorry Grimace, we don't have room for you
We drop the little family off at their motel for a few hours before meeting up for dinner later. If you're in need of a clean, cozy, friendly, warm and cute little place for yourself or family while in the area, the Borrego Springs Motel is a very reasonable option. The owners live onsite and take a lot of pride in their little (9 rooms and a small swimming pool) solar-powered motel.

Part of the large Palm Canyon Resort, the Big Horn Bar and Grill is a very nice restaurant with a small but decent menu, friendly staff, nice selection of brews, and enough room to enjoy a leisurely dinner with family. We take our time, knowing we'll be going our separate ways in the morning.

Granpa takes his turn showing Ezra "all the pretty lights"
The time went by way too fast
The evening wraps up with big hugs all around. It was a wonderful holiday visit, and we can't wait to see them again as soon as possible.

Saturday night we have our first full night's sleep since arriving in Borrego Springs as the winds have finally died down. Just in time for us to pack up Sunday morning :-(.  But I am grateful to have a calm, and short, driving day.

Happy New Year everyone.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Journey Becomes the Destination

Christmas Eve looks like a perfect day to make our way out to the Wind Caves. Still lots of wind kicking up dust in the valley floor, but it clears nicely as we head out the highway toward the Salton Sea.

Split Mountain Road takes us through an interesting area of what look like "permanent boondocking" spots spread out across the desert. Several mailboxes line the side of the road, some shade and storage structures sit next to various RVs.

The "turn off" to the caves is Fish Wash. For a natural trail, the washboard is really bad for a couple miles. But when the wash narrows, the Wows begin.

We'd seen beautiful pics of this gorge on Sue's and John's blogs, and are still unprepared for how truly spectacular it is.

Our first hint of what's to come
This is definitely a Jeep trail, with large rocks to navigate around soft sand, through some narrow turns. You're not going to get lost here, but you can take the "wrong" side when the trail gives you a choice :-)

We make several stops along the way, walking and scrambling up small cut-outs in the tall walls. There is little vegetation and we only see a couple birds, but the many colors and textures of the rocks is beautiful. 

Pam gives me perfect directions to find the caves sign. 

I miss it. 

In all fairness, there are two vehicles parked in front of it, and it's not very big! So we get a couple extra miles of scenic desert trail until we're confident we've passed it.

Didn't remember the hiking poles (the first part of the trail definitely needs them), and didn't dress in layers so I'm already hot in my sweatshirt. But we figure to make the hike anyway.

No dogs on trail greets us at the trailhead. There are a couple other hikers here, more are coming up the gorge, we decide this is not the time to be "those guys" who ignore the rules.

Across the gorge is one visible cave so we can say we "saw" them. The drive back is like a whole new place, with fresh views and different lighting - and more Wows.


"Extra" views through the roof
We would do the trip again, even if we never hike the short trail to the caves. 

Ezra and his folks arrive on Christmas evening for a couple of wonderful days together in the desert. Next post!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Palms and Pumpkins

Coming back into the valley yesterday we saw fields of green in the distance. This morning I want to see what they are.

With our area map and book from the VC we head out Borrego Springs Road. First are acres of huge California Fan Palms - they don't produce dates and I can't find anything on why they are being grown in groves. These are followed by citrus - the lemon, orange and grapefruit trees are bright green and heavy with fruit.

A quick stop at the corner "honor system" stand for a huge bag of oranges for $3, and we check out the map for Jeep roads.

We miss the small sign for the Arroyo Salado primitive camping area the first time, and stop to take a few pics of Truckhaven Wash when we turn around on Highway 79.

Salton Sea in the background
The beginning of wonderful geology we enjoy all day
We find the turnoff and take our time getting to the 17 Palms site. The wash runs along canyon walls of different colors and textures.

I count 21 palms, not including the "topless" one. This oasis was a regular stopping spot for nomads and early prospectors. Ground water was not always available so large jugs of water were often left for others. This tradition continues, as well as the "Prospectors's Post Office" where we read the latest entry from a visitor from Iran, and leave our own brief note.

The wind gusts hard all day
Bright sunshine keeps the temps in the high 60's

A Budweiser left behind in addition to the traditional water jug.
Numerous journals covering several years.
The trail turns into a slalom course with red canyon walls as the gates to navigate. It's a hoot to drive :-) We drop into Tule Wash, the "major highway" through this area. It is a combination of deep, soft sand and large rocks. A quick turn to our right takes us to the Pumpkin Patch.

A fascinating field of round concretions
A small fence now protects these "pumpkins"

Instead of turning back the way we came we decide to take Tule Wash through Ocotillo Wells. Woohoo! It takes us through shifting dunes and narrow openings - the tail wind is blowing so hard that our own dust passes us as we drive. Turning on Power Pole "road" takes us out to Highway 86 at Salton City. What a great day out in the desert!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Realizing the Dream - Returning to Borrego Springs in the Motorhome

Imperial County, California is an interesting combination of flat desert, rocky hills, and acres of agriculture. Our Saturday drive is uneventful with the exception of another mis-direction by Randy, our GPS.

Fortunately we've been to Borrego Springs once before, and I checked our route on Google, so we drive right to the park.

Anza Borrego State Park is up against the mountain, has wonderful views, has large and level sites, includes very nice shower houses, and wait for it.....

.....full hookups!  We haven't found that in any public park since Boardman, Oregon. Although we were prepared for no sewer for our nine day stay, it is a great surprise - Happy Christmas to us!

Compared to our frigid southern Arizona temps, it is nice and warm here. Sunday is football and house cleaning. The two small bins of Christmas decorations come out and I put our few favorite ornaments out to enjoy. The wind is blowing so I wait for the outside pieces.

Several bloggers have inspired me in different ways. Al's Bayfield Bunch has long been a favorite. Not only for his incredible photography, but for his sharing-of-self that reminds me it's okay to be human in my writings. His mentioning my blog over a year ago brought 600+ readers to that post! 

So when I see that he and Kelly, and their pup Pheebe, are in Borrego, I reach out and they respond quickly with an invite to come on over. We plan for Monday morning.

Time flies with people talk and puppy play. We get a tour of their beautiful motorhome, and drool over the exceptional Amish-built interior.

Every bit as warm and "feel-good" as in the blog, Al and Kelly are a lovely couple. Pheebs is a sweetheart as well, and Tessa is so happy to have a playmate!

Bill, Al and Jodee - hard to tell what the temperature is :-)

Let the games begin!
So excited to meet one of my blogging heroes 

Pulling out a camera with Al is like pulling out a paintbrush with Rembrandt :-)  So I shamelessly "borrowed" a couple pics from his post of our visit. Thanks to Kelly for the pic of Al and I.

In the afternoon I peruse the nice Visitor Center and pick up a map of the whole park. The botanical garden and the exhibits on the tribal culture are my favorites.

Our first wildlife spotting. This one's for you Laura :-)
With a cloudy day forecast for Tuesday, we drive to Julian for Christmas pies. Montezuma Valley Road rises quickly through switchbacks that overlook the expansive valley below. Rocks and gnarly bushes, gusting wind and fog, rain and puddles - we love the harsh landscape. By the time we reach the Julian Pie Company in San Ysabel, the heavy rain is coming down sideways. 

This pie factory runs with efficiency and olfactory excellence. I think they keep the public area small so people can't just "hang out" and soak in the deliciousness for hours.  Kelly told us about "not so perfect" options, and I grab a pumpkin pie at half price. It looks perfect to me :-)

In San Ysabel, not Julian.

They are not kidding!
Up the road, Julian is a cute town that today is cold and wet. When I don't find a parking place on the main street we decide to head home, going out Highway 79. After all, we have our pie!

Forested hillsides give us very different views. Small rock and mud slides make the drive a bit more exciting, including a larger boulder that requires a slow drive-around. Stopping to take photos isn't an option.

How wonderful to have this gift of much-needed water for the Winter Solstice! Can't think of anything more perfect to celebrate the new beginnings of the season.

We leave the rain behind as we return to the valley, where the wind continues with 30 mph gusts. Back home we pull in the large slide when the topper sounds like it is either going to tear off or launch the whole rig. It calms with the setting sun, and we tuck in for the night.

Ezra update: he loves his toes!