My first night outside since…???

Last weekend Mark and I drove out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, which is only about an hour and a half to the west. It was so nice out there! The weather was perfect, and getting out to the desert made me remember how much I miss it. When I was in grad school in Colorado, I usually went backpacking or camping in the Utah or New Mexico desert during spring break. Anza Borrego has spectacular wildflower blooms in the spring, but we were a few weeks early for the wildflowers. Everything was pretty green (as far as a desert can be), and we even got a rare glimpse of some desert bighorn sheep as we were driving through the mountains. We car-camped at the Tamarisk campground, which seemed to be sandwiched between two busy roads. It was fairly quiet though, except for the boy scout troop that was camped a couple sites down from ours (“Joel, get out of my sleeping bag!” and “My patrol, we’re washing all the dishes NOW!” were phrases heard several times).

Anyway, we just stayed the one night, but it was good because it has honestly been probably three or four years since I’ve spent the night outdoors. How sad. But I get to reset that clock; hopefully it won’t be too long until the next time!

Here are some pictures, but you can click on the photo album to the right to see more of my pictures of Anza Borrego.

Teddy Bear demonstrates Teddy Bear (the dog) and Teddy Bear (the cactus). We only lost one turkey burger to the campfire gods (and another to Teddy Bear).

I forgot that it gets sunny early when you sleep outside.

A nice view of the valley.

Holy Guacamole!

Did you know that the Avocado Capital of the World is just a few short minutes away, in Fallbrook? Neither did I! But since I love avocados, and Fallbrook happened to be hosting its annual Avocado Festival last weekend, I decided that Mom, Mark and I should go. And I also decided that Mom should drive because her car, more than mine or Mark’s, most resembles an avocado.

Wow – what a scene! It was an avocado mob scene, to be sure. Although it was mostly like a really really really crowded street fair (actually, that’s precisely what it was) – they were anticipating 75,000+ people – there were a few avocado-related booths. They had avocado fudge (!), fresh quacamole (yum!), avocado pottery and crafts, and fried avocado. But mostly it was just your usual street fair fare – snow cones, tee-shirt booths, sausages on sticks. And it was soooooo crowded – parking was slim to none (luckily we didn’t get a ticket or towed for parking on someone’s front lawn), and by the time we made less than one circuit through the street doing the slow-paced street-fair shuffle we were ready to go. But at least I can say that I’ve visited the Avocado Capital of the World! Woo hoo!!!

There’s no fish in the desert…

It’s true. There are no fish in the desert, especially here in Southern California. I know this because I’ve looked. Well, there are desert pupfish, but not in the area that I was in.

I have a lot to catch up on! I’ve been very busy, with training in Sacramento and Denver and moving and field work, but back to the desert. In late May, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend three days out in the desert near Palm Springs searching for the endangered Coachella Fringe-Toed Lizard. I didn’t see any of those, but I did see a ton of zebra-tailed lizards, desert iguana, desert horned lizards, and even a long-nosed leopard lizard (which was absolutely gorgeous, by the way). We were surveying in a few areas, including the valley that has hundreds of windmills. There’s a reason why they chose that area for windmills, too. You know why? Because it’s frickin’ windy! I think I saw a few lizards fly by, but I mostly just found abandoned shoes and rubber hoses in those plots. And it was global safety day – I was busted by some workers for not having a hard-hat and safety goggles, who warned me that propellers fall off the windmills all the time (my response: “gee – if one of those huge blades fall off and hit me on the head, do you really think a hard-hat will help me out?”).

I sure do miss the desert – it wasn’t as beautiful as Utah or Arizona, but it was still good being out there in the dry air and hot hot temperatures. Good times! Here are a few pictures I took – there’s the horned lizard and desert iguana, in case you were wondering (alas, the leopard lizard ran away before I could get my camera out – boo hoo!).

What did we see when we went whale watching???

We saw lots of things…but no whales! Matt and Alyssa, for the second week in a row, failed to see any whales. So that settles it – clearly they are bad luck, and next time I go I will not be going with them! But I had a good time anyway – we saw a sea lion, a couple of dolphin, lots of kelp, and actually – we did see the spray from a whale but it was kind of far away and by the time we got there the whale had disappeared. No worries though – it’s the end of the season, but the whales will be migrating back in December and I have a pass for two to go again. So here are some photos of our adventure, even though there were no whales, it was a good time!

Here’s a seagull that was following us for quite a way.

Here’s the view of San Diego from ten miles out to sea.

Oh, the excitement of it all…

Letterboxing in February?

It’s true! I drove a few of my friends/coworkers out to Volcan Wilderness Preserve on Saturday where we snagged a bunch of nicely-placed letterboxes. We weren’t able to get all five of the boxes in the Grumpy Grandeur series because the trail leading to the mountain summit was closed for the winter rattlesnake hoe-down. But we did get three boxes, and it was a beautiful day. I also checked on the two boxes that I’d placed in the same area – they were doing pretty well with several visitors, although the actual container holding the first stamp was gone. Strangely, the stamp itself was just sitting right in its hiding spot. Weird!

After boxing Volcan, we found a couple more letterboxes – one near Dudley’s Baker and another near the Wild Animal Park. It was a great day, a mellow drive, and I’m glad I finally got out. It had been too long since I’d gone letterboxing!

Here we are – from left-to-right, Matt, Beck, me, Tricia, and Alyssa.

Maxfield Parrish – Master of Make-Believe

Last Sunday, Mom and I went to Balboa Park where we caught the last day of the Maxfield Parrish exhibit. Parrish was an artist who lived in the early half of the 20th century, and is one of my all-time favorite artists. We were able to see many of his very famous works, including “Daybreak” and “The Lute Players”. His use of color and light is amazing, and it takes me to a wonderful world of magic, beauty, and serenity. One of the reasons I have such a fondness for Parrish’s work is because as a child, Nik used to tell my brother and me stories he made up from the Parrish prints he had in our home. They were wonderful stories, true to classic Nik form – I wish he had written them down for me to remember now! Below is “Daybreak”, and a re-enactment done by Mom and I in Balboa Park outside of the Museum of Art.

Stumpy’s on the move!

I finally received word from MonkeyToes…Stumpy will be sent off to his next stop tomorrow to…(drum roll here)…Olympia, Washington! He’s been patiently waiting the journey, stuffed in his box now for a couple of weeks. After Washington he’ll finally be sent back home. This little guy certainly has made the rounds, and he deserves a nice homecoming. Way to go Stumpy!!!

Stumpy the Traveling Sock Monkey Visits Escondido!

Stumpy the Traveling Sock Monkey arrived at my doorstep last week for his visit to the San Diego area. He has been vacationing around the country, staying with families and enjoying outings with them. Stumpy is actually part of a postal letterbox, and each of his host families has to take him to some place interesting, snap a picture of him at said location with a disposable camera (which he brings with him everywhere he goes), and then mail him off to his next destination. Stumpy has already been to a ton of places, including Colorado Springs, Houston and Dallas, Illinois, a renaissance faire in South Dakota, Georgia and South Carolina, and toured many of the historical sites of the East Coast. He really gets around, for a creature made out of socks!

I took Stumpy with me to work at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. My co-workers were able to confirm their suspicions that I am in fact a lunatic (carrying around a sock monkey with me and asking for people to take our picture didn’t help much). But Stumpy had a good time – he saw lots of wild animals and even visited his cousins in the gorilla exhibit. After that, I took him to the carousel where he really proved his bravery by riding the lion.

I was hoping that Stumpy would arrive while Bob was here, but he just missed him. Oh well! Maybe on his next vacation circuit he’ll visit Miami. Anyway, I’m still waiting to see where Stumpy will be sent next – he’s already squished into his cardboard box, along with his camera and a suitcase that carries punk-costume accessories. Until I find out his next stop, Stumpy’s saga will be continued at a future date….

A fine day at Point Loma

During Bob’s visit we went to Point Loma, which overlooks San Diego and the bay. It was a beautiful day – a nice cool breeze with lots of sunshine, and the views from the point were amazing.








Point Loma is part of Cabrillo National Monument, which commemorates Cabrillo coming to southern California and claiming the land for Spain in the 1500’s.

In the 1800’s, a small, squat lighthouse was built on the top hill at Point Loma. Unfortunately, fog and clouds often hid the light from the lighthouse, so it was eventually decommissioned and another lighthouse was built near sea-level, so it would shine below the fog. But the original lighthouse still stands, and you can see how the lighthouse keepers and their families lived.

Later that day we visited Old Town San Diego, which I had never been to before. It’s modeled after the original settlement near the Presidio, and has some very good Mexican Food. I had difficulty walking out of the candy shop without buying anything, especially the hand-made salt-water taffy. We had dinner at Casa Guadalupe, and a word of warning: the large margarita is boat-sized, and you practically have to climb in and drink your way out of it.