Friday, March 21, 2014

March Madness . . .

It took us three days to tour and photograph the Sculpture sites in and around the Anza-Borrego Park and we did miss some because they had been damaged by the recent storm and the road was not passable. The sculptures were exciting but we were disappointed with the lack of wild-flowers and not too anxious to stick around. 
Just before we left last fall there was a rash of pay-it-forward  incidents of people buying rounds of coffee for all the folks in a local favourite coffee shop (Tim Horton’s). The practice spread like wild-fire in Canada and we found ourselves experiencing the same thing at the ice cream shop in Borrego Springs. The fellow in front of us insisted on paying for ours and a few others. It was a very strange experience.
La Quinta and Lake Cahuilla
BUT it was time to leave the dry and desolate part of California and find a spot that felt more alive. A County campground (The Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta) filled that goal – in a couple of days we felt revitalized and needed to leave the cultivated city and head back to Arizona and Quartzsite..
The Highlights of our visit were spending time with our Truth and Consequences friends, Deb & Jer, Deb’s Mom’s Gum Gallery, and our trip out to Palm Canyon.
The Gum Gallery!
Deb’s Mom, Joanne Brunet has been collecting gum and gum paraphernalia since she was a young child. It is now housed in a dedicated building on their property in Quartzsite.
Joanne is hiding behind this huge crocheted gum ball machine that one of her fans crocheted for her.

Palm Canyon
Quartzsite is comfortable for us. We love our spot along the wash where we can treasure the flora and fauna around us.
I don’t remember ever seeing the Palo Verde in full bloom like it was.
Palm Canyon is in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the subject of the painting done by our friend, Elizabeth Lauder. that travels with us no mater where we go. Until now, we had never been out there . . . but now we that have the Tracker . . .
Seven miles off SR 95 a windy, desert road takes you to the entrance to Palm Canyon. Along the way, Fred managed to capture some flowering cacti spied by Sheila’s eagle eye.
 IMG_7359As with most canyons, Palm Canyon is the result of thousands of years of volcanic eruption, wind, flooding and erosion that continues to this day. The name comes from the unique grove of California Fan Palms that exist in the canyon. Apparently they are Arizona’s only native Palm trees. Some believe seeds were brought into the Canyon by birds and grew in this protected environment.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We came for the Flowers and Stayed for the Sculptures

Borrego Springs is a small resort village in the middle of Anza-Borrego State Park about 25 miles west of the Salton Sea in California.
The first time we were there was near the end of February, 2005.
DesertLavender DesertLilly DesertPrimrose DesertVervain HendersonCanyon Ocotilla
The whole winter had been rainy and the flowers flourished.
This year there had been about 4.8 inches of rain since July 1 but then there was an extended dry period and then a deluge of rain in mid-February. Too little – too late. P3060007 Even the creosote and the brittle bush were struggling to produce green leaves. 
Our viewing of flowers was limited to a few cactus flowers and others cultivated shrubs around the Visitors Centers. IMG_7282
ChollaOcotillo (4)
OcotilloFairyDuster (2)
Fairy DusterPricklyPearBloom (10)Prickly Pear
We knew that our chances of seeing wild-flowers was slim but we did want to re-explore the metal sculptures we had discovered then.
The collection has expanded from just a few renderings of pre-historic animals and historic Borrego figures to about 130 sculptures scattered over 30 sites throughout the 3000 acre Galleta Meadows owned by Dennis Avery (the grandson of the Avery Office Supplies who died just a couple of years ago). His philosophy was . . . “Blessings are meant to be shared”. And he commissioned Ricardo Breceda to create the sculptures.
Here are just a few of our favourites! (Fred is hoping to put together a Slide Show with many more  of the sculptures).
IMG_7256 IMG_7257
The Scorpion and the Grasshopper share the same site. In life the nocturnal Scorpion lays in wait for its prey-the grasshopper.
The sun and the abundance of water in the area led to the development of vineyards. The water and thus the vineyards both disappeared but the sculptures of the workers remain as a reminder.
These Camelops roamed the area and are ancient descendants of the camel. The are called Camelops because the limbs on each side moved in conjunction with one another.
Not a reproduction of a pre-historic animal but a 350 foot imaginary creature with the tail of a rattlesnake, the body of a serpent and the head of a Chinese Dragon. It’s huge and winds under the road.
This canine accompanies the sculpture of Pedro Font who was considered a spiritual leader of the mid 1770’s expeditions to California.
Three of the 6 flight-capable Wind God birds in North America were found in the Anza-Borrego area. The bird had a 17 ft wing span and stood 4 ft high. It existed about 3.5 million years ago. The sculpture is about twice the original size.
These horses became extinct approximately 11,000 years ago.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spring Starts in February

As the season unravels, our spirits get restless again and we long for the solitude and connection with the desert. Then again, we need to clean out and up and re-energize with a visit to a park.
So after we left Ogilby Road (California) we ended up back in Casa Grande (Arizona) at Rovers Roost - the Escapees Park. I like Casa Grande and I like this park. It is not the newest or the fanciest park but it is warm and inviting.
I like Casa Grande much better than Yuma, too. Did I ever mention the bumper sticker I saw in Yuma that said, “If this is Snowbird season, why can’t we shoot them?” And this is the way Yuma feels to me. So, given a choice, I would choose Casa Grande even as a city, it feels more congenial.
Having said that, we stayed our week and headed off to the desert south of Why, Arizona (about 10 miles south of Ajo and about the same distance north of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park).
It was then that I realized that spring had started!
The yellow flowers are erupting out of the brittle bush and tiny purple-flowered mats scatter the landscape. We followed the narrow Indian Road 15 from Casa Grande to Why. It runs through the Tohono O’Odham land that is covered with a unique profusion of cacti: Suarago; Prickly Pear; Cholla (No photos – was too narrow to pull over!).
Why, Why?
Why, AZ is a tiny little community at the junction of hwy 85 that leads to Mexico and hwy 86 that goes off to Tucson. It hosts the Why-Not store and service station, two RV parks Coyote West and Coyote East; a very active Senior Center and a large flock of snowbirds. There is a Casino and another RV park further down the road towards Tucson.
The settlement was named Why to qualify for a Post Office. They needed to have three letters in the name so chose ‘Y’ to coincide with the junction in the road.
The third day we were there, we went to a Flea Market/Craft show at the Senior Center and then to a great burger place in Ajo with Chuck & Sheila - our friends from Wetaskiwin.
Gunsight, the BLM where we stay, is two miles south of Why . As with most BLM lands, it is totally undeveloped except for the trails created by the campers. if you don't get back to your site in the daylight, it could take you days to find your place again!
The first site we found turned out to be a bit of a dud - not what we liked. We toured around and found another spot much more to our liking on a different Wash (a wash is a dry riverbed). After just a few hour the hummingbirds were already coming to visit . . . that’s better!
This is why we like Why!
We were parked overlooking the wash. we spotted the occasional rabbit and watch the squirrels and birds play and dart in and out of the bushes. I sit at the table with the feeder just outside on the window. We scattered birdseed and put out water in a spot that I can watch everything right from there.
Sure, it’s a hummingbird feeder and the hummers found it quickly but this year, we had so many unique and extraordinary visitors.
The Verdins and the Orioles found the feeder
But the Finches and the Gila Woodpeckers preferred the oranges that hung in the nearby mesquite tree.
The Thrashers and Towhees are species we have never seen here before and so were pleasantly surprised.
Green Tailed Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Curved Bill Thrasher

I must say that if it weren’t for our birder friends, Judy and Terry, who pulled in a few days after we arrived, we probably would have had no idea what we were looking at.
We have seen the Cardinals before but it was a delight to have them visitor again.

A less welcome visitor was the rattlesnake. He slowly slithered over the sand without even startling the birds or the Squirrel around him.

Coyote Melons
Have you ever heard of Coyote Melons? They are in abundance this year. They initially look like tiny round watermelons and then turn yellow and look like yellow tennis balls.
The Coyote Melon is native to Southwest United States and Northwest Mexico but are relatively uncommon. They grow in hot, arid regions with low rainfall in soil that is loose, gravelly, and well drained. The vines sprawl out and orange-yellow curling trumpet flowers grow out green striped fruit.
We were told they were poisonous to us but it turns out that the pulp is the “bitterest substances known to mankindFor all this, Indians did roast and eat the highly nutritional oily seeds after carefully cleaning them of pulp.  The Indians attribute coyote, “the trickster”, with giving these melons a bitter flavour while providing edible seeds.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

January is Almost Over Already

Here it is, a new year and life just goes on. I was looking back at some of the old BLOGS and we do tend to hit this point of inertia every year at this time. And this year – I just wasn’t feeling up to anything.

Casa Grande
Casa Grande is the centre of a strong unique agricultural area. At various times of the year you can see fields of cotton growing and huge feeder lots and dairies. After the cotton is harvested and transported to the nearby mills, which is another fascinating process, some of the cotton fields are seeded with alfalfa. After the alfalfa is cut, sheep are brought in to graze. They move from field to field daily fenced in only by portable electric wire.
CasaGrande=Sheep (4)
 CasaGrande=Sheep (3) The Auza and Manterola families have historically trailed their sheep from the winter range in Casa Grande to the summer pastures in the north. Today, they truck the sheep from Casa Grande to Cordes Junction, and then trail the sheep north. Trailing the sheep is good for the health of the sheep and improves lambing in November.
Using the Sun
Many of the structures built to protect the cattle are covered with solar panels; parking lots in and around town are covered with solar panels and even the Frito-Lay factory has solar panel fields that power their facilities.
Back to the Desert
Mid-January, we left Casa Grande to join Chuck and Sheila (our friends from Wetaskiwin) on the desert in California (Ogilby Road), just west of Yuma and a few miles north of Mexico.
OgilbyRd (1)
We have a number of visiting hummingbirds and had a horned toad come to visit the other day.
Hotned-Toad-OgilbyRd (1)
 Hotned-Toad-OgilbyRd (2)
Beautiful weather and we so enjoy their company - Sheila and I cook together and we all usually play cards or just sit around solving the world’s problems in the evening.
We’ve been down to Algodones, Mexico a couple of times. We both got new glasses (Fred's glasses were $39 and mine were $159); had our feed of fish and shrimp taco; and had a nice visit with the fellow who owns the taco restaurant. We have been going there for so long, that we have visited him through the marriage of two children and the birth of his second grandchild (the day before we arrived). 
Algodones seems to be getting more sophisticated  - more big stores and fancy places with huge signs but the venders and hawkers are still out in hordes and the children run rampant.

The prices have gone up this year but our friend told us that they are paying higher taxes, too.
Chuck did get his shoes shined.
There didn't seem to be as many people and we didn't even have much of a wait at the border crossing.
We have visited a few of the Mexican Flea Markets in Calexico and Yuma.

 We toured around the Sand Dunes
ImperialDunes (15)

These are called Sand Rails and can cost way up into the tens-of-thousands of $s. ImperialDunes (3)
People come from all over the continent to race through the Dunes here. We did meet some folks from Edmonton who come down every year.

Other BLOGS                                                                   2001 to 2005;                                                 Island Winter-wintering on Vancouver Island; Wildflowers