Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Back to Borrego! (Brown tsunami warning!)

We were rapidly becoming much too acquainted with most of the rodent population at Sawtooth Canyon.  They seemed to have identified an easy entry point, so every evening the ritual was to empty the traps at about bedtime.  Live captures would get relocated down the campground road, non-live captures not so much.  This was OK as long as it was only small mice, as they could only access a trap filled area under the sink, but when a kangaroo rat tried to move in, it was much too noisy and potentially destructive.  Plus, I did not have any traps large enough to handle such an intruder.

It was time to move, if just to escape the invaders!  First stops along the way were to stock up on varmint control equipment.  We got larger traps, spray deterrents, lighted ropes, expanding foam sealant, and anything else we could think of to stop the assault.

I was still getting over the remnants of my first cold in 5 years, so instead of stopping to visit friends in Desert Hot Springs and area, we decided that some isolated desert time was in order.  So, on to Borrego Springs it was.  Besides, Hailey was a little under the weather as well, perhaps as a result of the non-stop mouse invasions?


As all Borrego Rv’ers seem to know, the Arco station at the corner of 78 and S22 is a great place to get fuel, propane, and of course dump and fill.  It has always been free dumping there, with the exception of an abandoned $8. charge a few years ago.  So I was somewhat surprised and disappointed to get there and find new automated, solar powered, credit card readers with a $10 price tag ;-(.  I did need to dump, so reluctantly scanned my card and got absolutely NO reaction from the machine, and the dump was still securely locked.  Made the long walk back to the store and stood in a long ‘slushie’ line for 5 minutes before explaining my predicament.  I was told that this was a brand new system that had only just been installed the previous day!  The nice clerk then charged me $5. (!), and gave me the ‘secret code’ that would allow me to dump.  Entering the code worked fine, the pit opened and I was soon able to yank the black handle and let fly.  Well, good thing I have quick reactions as there was an almost instant ‘brown tsunami’ that came bubbling out of the hole threatening to overwhelm my footwear!  Well, I slammed the valve shut again, and by carefully limiting the flow, was able to get everything to go down the drain.  That is, of course, till I turned around to see everything I had eaten and flushed for the last 3 weeks bubbling out of an adjacent dump site and flowing across the paved parking lot towards the gas pumps!  Nice. Very nice! 

After informing management of my exciting close call, they advised that it must be plugged!  NO kidding?  I also advised them that their new solar panels wouldn’t last a week where they were as they would be torn off by any RV trying to get close to the dump site.  I think this proves my theory.  I like FREE things.  Whenever I pay is when things go very wrong.  I know I should have taken some photos, but – you know how it is  …?

Anyway, now well behind schedule we continued on towards Borrego Springs.  I knew that my usual spot down Rock house Rd would be available, but with the several km of dusty washboard, and my new reliance on a strong AT&T signal in mind we searched out a new spot the Bayfield Bunch checked out last year, and found it much closer to the pavement, and with a really fast signal available.


Didn’t bother putting out the slides the first night after arriving late, but was pleased to see no new invaders targeting us.  The next day the slides were out and still no new visitors in spite of lots of signs of wildlife outside.  I sort of wanted to test each of my deterrents individually, so I could tell if they actually worked in real life situations.  But after a couple of nights of no trespassers, I couldn’t resist going crazy with a new can of high expansion foam!  I did find a spot that may have been the mouse freeway on-ramp, so tried to make it as inhospitable as possible.  Now, a week later, nothing has gotten inside, so the new traps, two types of spray deterrent, and the rope lights have gone unused.

Cheapest diesel around appears to be at the Red Earth Casino, so we toured back out there one day to top off the tanks.  While there, we were inundated with some sort of small flies that would accumulate on your windshield or hood any time you stopped. Even though they had just arrived, most seemed half dead already.  I was glad to get back to Borrego and away from this pest.  I suspect they were hatching on the Salton Sea?


Even though the cell signal was very good where I was camped, I was also sharing the tower with the thousands of ATV’ers and campers who descended on Ocotillo Wells area for the Thanksgiving weekend.  So during the day during this time, even my slow satellite internet was a faster option.  With the crowds now long gone, my speed is great day and night! 

There is wildlife in the area, including this rather large fellow.  While most of the tiny lizards are very fast movers, this guy was in slow motion.


Because of all the cholla cactus in the area, Hailey has been restrained by her leash here, and when she spotted this slow mover I had to hold her back or she would have had him for sure.  I like to give the local wildlife a sporting chance at least.


It was pretty much too hot to hike for a few days there, but off in the distance I could see some sort of installation on a ridge top.  Eventually, I was able to drive/hike into the area and found this USGS sensor.  Not sure of it’s purpose, but I suspect it is seismic in nature.


After the heat moderated, the winds came up!  The rig had been rocking all night, but a strong broadside gust as I was making morning coffee blew us right off the blocks!  That has never happened before!  Some water jugs provided some temporary support.


In hindsight, I often place a single 4x4 post under the hitch to support it, so this starts to act like a fulcrum when the wind blows, and lets the rig rotate on its wheels.  After getting things back on the blocks, I hooked up the truck as a solid anchor till the winds died down.

With the hottest days behind us, I didn’t have to worry about leaving Hailey in the trailer during the day, so a day trip to San Diego was in order.  She could have come along, but I know she doesn’t enjoy the miles of tight curves and switchbacks, especially returning in the dark.  We learned that the hard way a couple years ago.


Frys Electronics is always the first stop.  After that, it was a walk on the beach, and touring around the city a bit.IMG_9134IMG_9133IMG_9126IMG_9124IMG_9123


Sunrise, back in camp in Borrego.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Down the 395 in eastern California

Well, it seems the batteries in my calendar died again, or something.  I had no idea that time continues on – even when I’m not updating the blog.  Things have been happening, and we have been on the move since my last entry.  First off, the mouse situation has gone from poor, to bad, to downright pain in the butt.  After catching none all summer at home, it seems they have now found the secret to illicit entry!  It could be worse.  I don’t think any of the mice are inside more than a minute or two before one of my strategically placed traps have them captured, dead or alive.  But how/where they are getting in is still a mystery.  We spent a few days camped near Travertine hot springs, near Bridgeport, Ca before friends Doug and Dale showed up on their way back to BC from LA. 


They only stopped for one night, but it was good to catch up on the news, have a bbq, and have a couple of soaks in the springs.  Nights were cool, but the days pleasantly sunny and warm.


Because of quite a few days spent at Travertine hot springs, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop by all the springs in the Whitmore Tubs area further south.  But it was early in the day when we reached the area, so it was decided to make a brief stop, perhaps not over night.  I was quite disappointed in the deteriorated condition of the pool at Wild Willy’s.  People have been digging away at the mud banks around the pool to the extent that there is hardly a bank left to hold the water in.  Pretty soon, it will just be a warm stream, with no pool.

Fuel prices at Lee Vining …


In the morning, I turned around upon seeing how many cars remained in the parking lot, but decided to walk down for a look anyway.  Surprisingly, there were only 4-5 people at the springs, and they wandered off before long, leaving the whole area to myself.  That was when the two bathing suit models showed up with a photographer.  But no bathing suits.  And they left their shyness at home, too.  Sorry, no photos of that, but later it seemed that they were talented hoop dancers as well.  An impromptu performance broke out on top of an old ambulance converted to an RV in the parking lot.


Heading on south down 395, the next stop was in Bishop, where the diesel prices on the reserve by the casino provided a bit of relief from the higher prices elsewhere, and the propane was filled there as well.  The only auto glass shop in town was too busy to fix my windshield chip, but after some food and grocery updates, we were back on the road south to Lone Pine.  Movie Road, in the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine has provided the backdrop for countless movies through the years, and The Lone Ranger and John Wayne likely still roam some of the hills.  It also provides a very scenic backdrop for some camping.


It also provided hours of exploration, rock climbing, and hunting opportunities for the grey mountain lion.IMG_9009IMG_3805IMG_3803IMG_3795IMG_3793IMG_3792IMG_9017IMG_3787



Another friend from back home showed up in Lone Pine, after attending the SEMA show in Las Vegas, so the next few days was spent touring some of the scenic spots in the area, including Whitney Portal and the road up to Cottonwood Pass, where I hiked last year.


After spending about a week in the Alabama Hills, it was time to move on again, this time to Sawtooth Canyon, south of Barstow.  We made a slight detour through Ridgecrest to get the windshield chips repaired, and to stock up and essentials at WM.  I still hadn’t put new batteries in the calendar, so it was a bit of a shock to arrive (late) at Sawtooth, and find that not only all the ‘official’ camp spots were occupied; so were a lot of unofficial off-road places.  Guess that happens when a long weekend you didn’t know about is in full swing in a popular climbing area.  Fortunately, it was mostly over and I managed to get a good spot the next morning as someone was vacating.

Then, John  & Nicole showed up with their brand new Arctic Fox 5th wheel, pulled by a brand new Dodge pickup, and moved in next door.  They seem to have survived the snow that had arrived as they departed their home in BC, and were more than ready for some hiking, bbq, and generally kicking back and relaxing.


Hailey loved doing some rock climbing here too, right at the edge of camp.  I would follow her, wearing my best climbing ‘Crocs’ with the heels locked down, while sipping the morning coffee.  When it was time to descend, I would do so with an armful of squirming cat, no hands, while attempting not to spill any coffee or cats!  No cats, coffee, or humans were injured during this risky exercise.  All those years of mountain rescue are paying off now!


The mice here were even more adept at getting inside, in spite of my attempts to deter them, using lights, strobes, and tinfoil scarecrows.  At least the mice were prone to early capture in one of my many snap traps or my two live traps, though it kept me busy emptying them all.  But that all changed when a kangaroo rat got into the basement.  He was like a bull in the china shop, making a constant racket as he scratched, banged, and rattled things.  Opening doors to provide an escape did not work, but luckily he managed to get entangled in a too-small mouse trap long enough so that I was able to evict him.  My trap inventory has since been upgraded!  And the search for entry points continues.


I also managed to catch my first real cold in about 5 years while here, so that diminished my keenness to get out hiking, but I did manage a couple of ridge walks with John & Nicole.