Monthly Archives: December 2013

Uno, Dos, Tres Cabezas

Three rock heads

A rock formation that resembles a head, in three different lights.  It loomed above our campsite on the crest of a ridge.  The area is called Dos Cabezas, or Two Heads, for rock formations resembling heads that perch on the hillside.

Gentle readers, it is time for another installment of…off-roading, four-wheeling, dust-covered, gear-mashing, rock-avoiding, wash board-loving vehicles, and the men who love them.  Oh yeah, and we did some desert camping with the Boy Scouts again.

Once again I managed NOT to drive when Sam’s Boy Scout troop headed out to camp in the wilds of the Anza Borrego desert.  I have a four wheel drive Outback, but the clearance is not great, which is the excuse I use for not driving.  Unlike the dads in our troop, who love driving their trucks and SUVs up and down dirt roads, careening over boulders, and brushing into ocotillo and scrub, I prefer to sit comfortably in the passenger seat of Tony’s Ford Expedition and admire the landscape.

Amazingly, we had PERFECT weather for this trip, from start (when we gathered in the Von’s parking lot at 6:00 AM (except for Mr. R. who overslept, thus catching up on his beauty sleep)) to finish, (when we cruised back to San Diego on the 8, passing giant windmills, the Golden Acorn Casino, and the many cameras at the Border Patrol checkpoint (say cheese!)).

The troop hopped on a highway heading east from San Diego, and when we reached the middle of nowhere, we turned off on to a dirt road.  The landscape was bare and beautiful, full of amazing geology and desert plant life.  In the past few years the desert has also become home to many giant windmills, which are beautiful and impressive in a way, but also quite an intrusion on the wilderness.

Windmill

We stopped on our way out, to wait for the folks at the back to catch up.  Nice view of mountains, cactus, and big vehicles.

We stopped on our way out, to wait for the folks at the back to catch up. Nice view of mountains, cactus, and big vehicles.  (For a better view of any of the pics, double click for a closer look.)

After we arrived in the area where we were planning to camp, we settled on our sites, pitched the tents, ate some lunch, and then Mr. H. gathered the scouts together to head out on a few day hikes.

Going hiking

Our first destination was a Montero palm oasis, filled with at least 50 huge palm trees.  We hiked up a canyon, to the oasis surrounded by boulder-strewn hillsides.  The palms have never been trimmed, and their skirts of old leaves stretch from their crown to the ground.  The scouts all immediately scattered, to scramble up the hillsides, or investigate the nooks and crannies of the palm grove.

Off hiking

Off we go to the palm oasis.

Rock cairn marking the trail.

Rock cairn marking the trail.

Big palm trees.

Big palm trees.  Can you find the scout leaders?

Irvin and Andrew bring their attitude along for the hike.  Smells like teen spirit...

Irvin and Andrew bring their attitude along for the hike. Smells like teen spirit…

More scouts in the palms.  J.D.'s hair color almost exactly matches the palm skirt.

More scouts in the palms. J.D.’s hair color almost exactly matches the palm skirt.

Lots of rocks to crawl over and under.

Lots of rocks to crawl over and under.

A big rock on the hillside above us that looked just like a foot.

A big rock on the hillside above us that looked just like a foot.

Scout buddies.

Scout buddies.

The view down to the valley, with windmills in the distance.

The view down to the valley, with windmills in the distance.

We spent an hour or so in the grove, and then hiked back down to our cars at the trail head.  I saw this perfect little desert bonsai tree on the way down.

Bonzai desert tree

We also saw morteres, or grinding holes, on the hike down. Kumeyaay Indians used to mash acorns in these holes when they stayed in seasonal villages in the area.  Mr. R. demonstrates the technique.  Doesn’t he look well rested?

We all saw morteres, or Indian grinding holes, on the hike down.  Kumeyyay Indians used to grind acorns when they stayed in seasonal villages in the area.

We rested for a bit, refilled our water from containers in the car, and then drove a sort distance to our second hike in the Piedras Grandes (Big Rocks) area, just a mile or so away.

Older scouts look cool when the rest, younger scouts ham it up.

Older scouts look cool when they rest, younger scouts ham it up.

Dads and Mr. M's big red Ford, festooned with a wreath for the holidays.

The dads with Mr. M’s big red Ford, festooned with a wreath for the holidays.

At the trail head to Piedras Grandes, there was this weird ocotillo branch, that looked like an alien head.

At the trail head I saw this weird looking ocotillo branch, it looks like an alien head.

The hike was along a crushed rock trail, which was almost like hiking in beach sand.  It was a gradual but constant uphill trek, and took a bit out of all of us, as we walked along in the afternoon sun.  But there were incredible views to be had all around, from the rock formations forming walls to either side, to the fields of golden cholla cactus marching into the distance.

Desert hiking.

Desert hiking.

Rock formations

Desert plants

Pictographs

The shadows started to lengthen, and it was time to head back to camp.  Night falls fast in the desert, and we had to start thinking about dinner.

2nd hike heading back

Back at camp we took a moment to appreciate Andrew’s Clint Eastwood impression.

Clint

And while the dads cooked…

Camp pano

…I hiked up the hillside with a few boys for a look at the sunset.  It wasn’t full of spectacular color, but the muted pinks and blues were still quite pretty.  And the landscape was awesome.

Mo+desert sunset

We ate great food, hung out around the fire, and tried to watch for Geminid meteors, but with an almost full moon, it was challenging to spot them.  After 2 hikes, a huge dinner, and a few hours of chatting by the fire, I hit the hay.  And that’s when the miracle happened.  I actually got a good night’s sleep!  For the first time in forever when camping!!  Yeah for me!!!

In the morning we had some breakfast…

Scouts cooking with the patrol boxes; boys with grilled cuties.

Scouts cooking with the patrol boxes; boys with grilled cuties.

…Mr. K. said a few words…

End.camp

…and we drove to our last desert adventure of the trip, a visit on the way out to an abandoned railroad station.  The building was torn down awhile ago, as it was deemed hazardous, but the foundation remains, along with an old water tower, and, of course, railroad tracks.  Before we left camp we got a picture of the “No Shooting” sign, which was full of bullet holes.  Sam thought this was very funny.

No shooting

Water tower

Water tower at the abandoned railroad station.

Sam running down the railroad tracks.

Sam running down the railroad tracks.

Final pic of the scouts, a group photo at the abandoned train station.  Back to civilization...

Final pic of the scouts, a group photo at the abandoned train station. Back to civilization…

It is pleasant to get home from these trips and take a hot shower, put on clean clothes, and check my email.  But I always think about the places we left behind, as I am lying in my comfy bed, wondering about the quiet nights and hot days, the rocks and plants, and the big sky.  It’s nice to think back and know it is all still out there.

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Filed under Boy Scout Troop 985 Adventures, Family, Travel

Turning an Antique Printer’s Drawer into a Shelf of Tiny Wonders

My son is a rock hound, as am I, and we have lots and lots of rocks we have gathered over the years.  They are in boxes and bins, piled in trays and bowls, and generally all over the place.  I wanted a small curio type shelf to display some of his rocks and fossils, but I wasn’t having much luck finding a shelf with lots of smallish compartments.  I put it out on my FB page what I wanted, and my friend Tony (see my page The Twelve Tonys) suggested I look for an old printer’s drawer.

Back in the old days, in order to print newspapers or flyers, the type would have to be set up by hand.  Wooden or metal pieces that composed words would be arranged (backwards) to make up a page, which would be put into a press.  Ink would be spread over the type, paper laid on top, and then an impression was made on the paper.  Sounds tedious, and is yet another reason to be glad you live in the digital age.

Printer's drawer.typesetting

Not many people still print this way, and as a result there are, floating about the world, many abandoned printer’s drawers.  I got on Craigslist and found this one in my area, which I purchased.  It was dusty and dirty, and it took a few days to get it cleaned up.

Printer's drawer.1

When it was done I went to Ace and got some hefty hardware used for hanging mirrors to attach it to the walls, and I borrowed my neighbor’s stud finder to make sure I was drilling into wood and not plaster.  This drawer is solid wood with brass strips on the front of each compartment, and it is not light.  Spent some time trying to make sure it would hang level (it’s pretty close!) and then we got to have lots of fun filling it up.

Many of our rocks were too big to put in, as the compartments are not very deep (about an inch).  But we have lots and lots of little treasures that we have saved over the years, and we have managed to fill up most of the slots.

Shelf of wonders.full

There are 13 cats (including a shrine to my first grey cat, Enzo), a Harry Potter box (Crookshanks, Scabbers, wands, and a golden snitch), little metal dreidels, shells, rocks, fossils, bok choy boys, pencil toppers, coins, glass beads, sea glass, incredibly small origami cranes that Emma folded, 3 rat skulls, a little bronze Buddha, go stones, and teeny tiny fruits and vegetables.  I could go on and on.  If you are a friend or neighbor, next time you are over come see our tiny treasures for yourself.  If you aren’t local, be sure to double click on the image, to get a nice close up look at our shelf of wonders.

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Filed under Arts/Crafts/Photography