Monday, February 22, 2010
KELLY McCAGUE.... HER AIRPLANE & HER HANGAR
After today's 'Tailgate Tour' at the Borrego Airport with California's only State Park pilot, Kelly McCague, I felt I had just met a real life 'Mighty Mouse!!' This little lady is a prime example of a sure fire modern day multi-tasker. Kelly is a full blown State Park ranger complete with a gun, nightstick, & a bullet proof vest she sometimes has to sit on. (more about that later) And, she carries whatever else peace officers may need in the line of duty. I think what makes Kelly special is her pilot's license, her 5 foot something frame, her big friendly personality, & the fact she truly loves her job.
We went to bed last night with the wind & we woke up with the wind this morning. Again, the sky was a mottle of huge iceberg clouds hanging over the valley casting long dark shadows on the mountains & canyon walls. Our walk up the footpath on Coyote Mountain was short but Max & I did manage to get a little further along than the other guys. His leg was bothering him so we turned back.
PEG LEG SMITH BOONDOCKERS ON RIGHT.... HIGHWAY LEADING TO BORREGO SPRINGS ON LEFT WITH AN ATV AREA LEFT OF THE CURVE & BORREGO SPRINGS ITSELF IS VISIBLE AT TOP CENTER OF PHOTO MOVING BACK TOWARDS THE SAN YSIDRO MOUNTAINS. PHOTO TAKEN FROM COYOTE MOUNTAIN
FIRECRACKER NEIGHBORS ARE BOTTOM BUNCH OF VEHICLES, WE ARE ABOVE LEFT & NEIGHBORS RUE & DON ARE IN THE TRUCK TRAILER COMBO AT RIGHT
Our 'firecracker' neighbors pulled out about 11 this morning so things should be a bit quieter now. They set off fireworks last night around 9 which really spooked Checkers & little Cora but other than that they were surprisingly quieter than either Kelly or I had expected.
MY BOY MAX ON THE MORNING TRAIL
Headed for the small Borrego Airport about 11:45 & joined a group of about a dozen people for the the noon Tailgate Tour. Ranger pilot Kelly McCague met everyone in the terminal office & walked us all down the tarmac to a long hanger building. Because of the heavy wind gusts & dust in the air this morning Kelly did not put the plane outside. At about 2,000 pounds the 180 horsepower Aviat Husky A-1 is light by aircraft standards.
KELLY McCAGUE MEETS US IN THE OFFICE & TAKES EVERYBODY OUTSIDE TO THE HANGER
Anza-Borrego State Park is the largest SP in California covering over a thousand acres so Kelly is a very busy Ranger with many duties. She prefers to fly her patrols in the quieter morning air but developing situations never play by the rules. She has had times where it took her 3 attempts in the 30mph crosswinds to finally get the plane down onto the runway in one piece. She has flown the canyons with headphones on listening to the tell tale signal from tagged Bighorn Sheep. Other times she's had to fly Park & civilian personnel in the tiny back seat to check out property markers & future Park real estate. She said that idea never really worked well because the back seat passengers often became sick in the light bouncy aircraft. She just ended up photographing the various properties herself & filling out the reports. Much easier & less messy that way. She also flies the Park's boundaries checking for encroachment.
IT'S A SMALL COCKPIT IN THERE PACKED WITH ALL KINDS OF INSTRUMENTS
Kelly flies searches for missing & injured hikers, stolen cars, & vehicle accidents of all kinds. She has to co-ordinate all the ground personel in directing Rangers up canyons & mountain sides to locations only visible from the air. Gun calls always make her nervous. Whenever a call comes in about firearms being fired somewhere in the Park she takes to the air in search of the location. She said she has never been shot at that she knows of but did have a gun pointed up at her one time & that is why she sits on her bullet proof vest rather than wares it. Most of the airplane is made of fabric so it is no deterrent to a bullet coming up from the ground. But, there is another danger in the air that she has no control over even though it could easily be prevented. She doesn't always see them until they rocket by her & at times underneath her even when she herself is under a thousand feet off the ground.
Fast flying American fighter jets train in this area & it is not unusual for those jets to be in the canyons flying only 50 feet off the ground. About 6 weeks ago a boy scout fell high up in one of the canyons & was badly injured. Two helicopters were brought in as the rescue began. Ground units & Rangers on foot made their way to the boy's site. Kelly was above flying a circle pattern round & round the scene co-ordinating the helicopters, the ground Rangers, & relaying messages between several radios back & forth to various departments on the ground. Her radio suddenly crackled with a Ranger's voice several miles away down the canyon telling her to watch out, two fighter jets had flown into the canyon. No sooner than that when she saw the first jet flash by beneath her followed closely by the second one. The California State Park officials have spoken to the military about the dangerous air space problem but the military's answer is, "There is a war on!!" So, basically speaking, the military fly's where it wants, when it wants, as fast as it wants, & as low as it wants.......period!!
HANDY DEVICE ENABLES KELLY TO MOVE HER OWN PLANE AROUND.....WING MOUNTED DIRECTIONAL ANTENNEAS FOR DETECTING TAGGED BIGHORN SHEEP.....AND A LITTLE BIT OF HOME AT THE HANGAR
It's a dangerous job she has but in her own words, "l love it." So, if you are in the Borrego Springs area be sure to drop into the Desert Nature Store on main street & pick up a monthly brochure of events & don't miss coming out to meet a dynamic little Mighty Mouse with a big personality, a big job, & a little airplane:))
I was back to the rig about 1:15 & headed inside because of the big winds going on & that reminded me of something Kelly had mentioned in her talk earlier that I didn't like. She said her hardest flying times are from mid February to mid June because of the bad winds. So, let me see now, we are only one week past mid February so I guess we can expect big winds for the duration of the time we are here.
BIG WINDS WERE KICKING UP THE DESERT DUST THIS AFTERNOON...THAT IS TOM'S RIG OVER THERE & HE IS THE ULTRA LITE GLIDER PILOT WE MET A COUPLE DAYS AGO. (not the one who had the wind gust problem)
It was about 2:45 this afternoon when our dog alarm went off. I was sitting in my chair with our new laptop on my (where else) lap & was somewhere between dozeville & typing when there came upon our door.......a knock!! Kelly opened the door & I heard, "Hellooooo, are you the Bayfield Bunch!!" It was RICK & PAULETTE http://rickpaulettervjournal.blogspot.com/ who had driven over via Julian from Desert Hot Springs on the other side of the mountains. Needless to say it was quite a pleasant surprise as we scrambled to set up some lawn chairs. I had just laid them all on the ground plus taken the flags down an hour before because of the heavy winds. Our motorhome is basically set up for 2 people & 3 dogs so whenever we get company (which isn't too often) we generally sit outside. ( in hindsight we should have all come inside out of the wind) It was great to finally meet Rick after all this time of blogging & emailing back & forth. We had us a good chuckle about some of our blog followers maybe being concerned about our different views of the RVing lifestyle when we kind of locked horns in a couple recent blogs.
HEY, THIS OLD DUSTY DESERT DOG GOT HIS ARM AROUND ME!!!!
The cool winds did not let up as we all chatted back & forth. Rick was wanting to catch the afternoons Olympic hockey game back home between Canada & the U.S. so they didn't stay too long. Rick & I grabbed our cameras & had us real quick shoot out & it wasn't until after Rick & Paulette left that I realized I had left my camera set on manual focus so was disappointed my pics were probably not going to be good. However, all may not yet be lost because WANDERING WILLY http://wanderingwillystravels.blogspot.com/ is probably heading for Borrego Springs next week & Rick said he would like to come back & meet WW so we may be having us another dust up in the desert very soon.
SANTA ROSA MOUNTAINS AT SUNSET
Oh ya, & we had to scramble our F16 Furry fighter squadron late this afternoon when an unknown truck & fifth wheel approached almost unseen very close from the southeast. The guys did their job well again & bounced the bogey in focused short bursts of battlefield barking. Last we saw of the intruder he was lost in a trail of dust heading back out to the road:))
GROANER'S CORNER:(( Did you know a shotgun wedding is sometimes thought of as a case of wife or death.
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The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of right now...... AL.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Not sure why the MARSHAL SOUTH & Ghost Mountain story captivated me so much, but it did. We were boondocked outside of Borrego Springs in the heart of California's ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK back in January of 2008 when we drove to the Park's nature center in Borrego Springs to check on day trip adventures in the area. A ranger behind the information desk told us of many sites to see & mentioned something about a family that had lived atop a mountain back in the 30's & 40's. Said the site was over in Blair valley, there were a few ruins of the old cabin left, & it was a wee bit of hike to get up to the homestead. That thought stuck with me & a week later we were on our way to Blair valley in search of Yaquitepec on GHOST MOUNTAIN.
THE LONG ROCK STREWN NARROW PATH LEADS UP THE SIDE OF GHOST MOUNTAIN FROM BLAIR VALLEY BEHIND ME
BLAIR valley is about a 40 minute scenic drive west of BORREGO SPRINGS through the Yaqui Pass. You can read about our first trip to Ghost Mountain HERE & see our photos HERE. A few days after that visit Kelly picked up the book, MARSHAL SOUTH & THE CHRONICLES OF GHOST MOUNTAIN. I immediately set about reading the book & finished it a few weeks later while we were boondocked over in Quartzite Arizona. I knew at that time I wanted to not only return to Ghost Mountain again but also wanted to see if I could find where Marshal South was buried. The book said his final resting place was in the little mountain town of JULIAN not far from Blair Valley. We also found out a documentary had been made by director John McDonald & a second more detailed documentary DVD by the same director was due to be released shortly but not until after we had already headed back to Canada. I definitely wanted to get a copy of that DVD somehow. Little did I know that less than a year later director John McDonald himself would actually contact us, meet us at the foot of Ghost Mountain, & give us a signed copy of his DVD documentary, ‘The Ghost Mountain Experiment.’
In January of this year we once again found ourselves boondocked near the CLARK DRY LAKE BED close to Borrego Springs at the foot of the Santa Rosa & San Ysidro mountains. I mentioned in a couple of my daily blogs that we were going to head over to BLAIR VALLEY for a second trek up to the Marshal South site on Ghost Mountain. And I also blogged about our day trip to the little mountain town of JULIAN in search of Marshal South's final resting place. That day's blog is HERE & the photos of our visit to Julian & the cemetery are HERE.
MARSHAL SOUTH’S STONE IS THE FLAT ONE IN CENTER FOREGROUND BELOW, WITH THE TOWN OF JULIAN IN THE BACKGROUND
About this time we received a surprise email from the documentary's director JOHN McDONALD. Said him & his wife Lydia were camping in the area & could meet us at Ghost Mountain if we liked. He said our BAYFIELD BUNCH site kept coming up on his computer & he had known of my interest in the Marshal South story for quite awhile. He has a program on his computer that alerts him whenever Marshal South or Ghost Mountain are entered into a search engine, so people clicking on our site kept bringing up the Bayfield Bunch on his computer. He began to wonder who this Bayfield Bunch was & decided to email us. Assuming that is how that search program works you may be reading this blog right now John, so a big 'Hello to you & Lydia from the Bayfield Bunch up here in Canada:))'
JOHN & LYDIA McDONALD WITH GHOST MOUNTAIN IN THE BACKGROUND. YAQUITEPEC IS JUST ATOP THAT RIDGE ABOVE THEIR HEADS
The blog for our second visit to Ghost Mountain & meeting John & Lydia McDonald can be found HERE & the photos from that day are HERE. We did pick up an autographed DOCUMENTARY DVD from John that day as well.
JOHN AUTOGRAPHS THE DVD JACKET
We will probably be back in the Borrego Springs area sometime in January of 2010 & if we are you can be assured I will once again strap on my hiking boots, throw a camera over my shoulder, & head on up the mile high old rocky trail leading to Marshal South's Yaquitepec atop Ghost Mountain. As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, I don't know what it is that captivates me about this spot but it's as if I sense something special when I am there. Being the totally logical person I am I certainly am at odds with my feelings about all that...........but, in a nice sort of way.
REST IN PEACE YAQUITEPEC
GROANER'S CORNER:(( If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.
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The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of right now...AL.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
I first saw mountains back in the very early 70's while driving west from Ontario Canada across the northern States heading for British Columbia. It wasn't until 1992 that I saw mountains again on a trip that took me through the Dakotas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, & Montana. I think it was on that trip that the hook was in. Saw my first prickly pear cactus growing along the roadside near the Colorado/Utah State line. Followed the Colorado River into Moab. The Arches, Castle Valley, Zion & Bryce Canyons, Monument Valley in Arizona, the deserts, the canyons, & the list goes on. I was definitely hooked on the American Southwest.
In 1994 Kelly & I flew to Las Vegas on a 4 day junket & as soon as we got off the plane & before we even had checked into our Hotel room, we rented a car & drove out into the desert for hours & hours. I still remember heading east out of the city & pulling over to the side of the road, getting out & scrambling up on top of a big pile of rocks. Little did I know that was to be the forerunner of many hikes & rock scrambles to come years later. Two days later we drove all the way over to California's Death Valley for the day taking in as many of the sights we could in the short period of time we had. It was 10 years before we got back to the Southwest again & since that time we have been coming as often as we can. Once the lure of the mountains & deserts gets in your blood, that's it......your hooked!! Like author Lawrence Hogue says, "the place has a hold on me that is hard to describe." THE CAMPFIRE CIRCLE
To-day was a total relaxation day. Spent most of it outside with my feet up reading my book. Kelly slipped into town this morning because it was half price day at The Frugal Coyote thrift store. The Frugal Kelly brought me home a superb "many pockets" photography vest that she paid $3.75 for. Now them's my kinda prices!!Many of the RV's that were here a week ago for the Christmas holidays have pulled up stakes & left. Only 5 of us now in this immediate area so Butch invited everyone over to his rig at 4 this afternoon for a campfire. We knew everyone except the couple parked closest to us. Like I said before, independent boondockers are a quiet bunch who keep to themselves & don't always do a lot of socializing. And so it was that we met Bob & Suzanna who are fulltimers from the State of Washington. Doug & JoAnn, Ken & Vicky made up the other 2 rigs. Nice campfire but once the sun dipped behind the mountains & the temperatures plummeted, everyone made a bee line for the warmth of their RV's.
Didn't take many pictures to-day & the ones I did I'll put in the blog, so no photo album to-night.............. HEY BUTCH, ARE YA GLAD YOU INVITED EVERYBODY OVER NOW
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Another fine morning in the heart of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The town of Borrego Springs is not part of the park but is totally surrounded by it & the park's headquarters & visitor information center are located here...... http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638
We picked Butch up at 8:30 & made the short 5 minute drive to Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs. Wasn't long before a few jeeps showed up & our leader for the tour, Deborah Sperberg stepped out of the gray lead jeep. She had been our jeep tour leader last year when we did the Grapevine Canyon run.......http://picasaweb.google.com/stargeezerguy/444WHEELINGINGRAPEVINECANYON
The roads through the desert can be very rough & treacherous & it's always advisable to only travel them with high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles. Jeeps are the popular choice in the southwest & this area around Borrego Springs has no shortage of them. We were paired up with a pleasant couple driving a Jeep Wrangler. Jack & Henrietta live right here in Borrego Springs so were familiar with the ways of the desert roads. Not a lot of extra room in the back of a Wrangler but we managed to get ourselves packed in alright.
THIS IS A RUGGED LAND
Four jeeps made up the convoy as we headed for Palo Verde Wash east of Borrego Springs. We turned south off the highway into the desert following a rough trail of sorts. Lots of bumps, twists, & turns. It soon became apparent why 4 wheel drive vehicles are a must. Luckily we had bars to hang onto in the back seat as Jack navigated the ruts, road washouts, & large rocks. Despite the small space, the seats were actually quite comfortable. It was the getting in & out of the jeep that presented us the most problems. The old joints & bones just aren't as flexible as they used to be:((
Deborah halted her jeep finally & we all disembarked the vehicles for a hike up a long & twisting wash between large banks of rock & clay. We reached a ridge & there before us lay the Borrego Badlands stretching for miles & miles. Distant mountains brought things into perspective as we gazed in wonderment at the impassable & totally rugged terrain stretched out before & below us. Just impossible to imagine how all this was ever formed millions of years ago. Dinosaur remains have been found in these badlands. Deborah said, "this is a great view but wait till we get to the next overlook, it's even better!!"
THE BORREGO BADLANDS
Back down the wash to the jeeps & off we went to the next overlook. Road seemed a little rougher but after 15 minutes we bumped to a stop & made the short walk to the edge of a ridge overlooking the Badlands once again. This time we were up higher & could see even further than we did before. Truly awe inspiring to look out over lands that have virtually remained unchanged for thousands of years. Butch pointed out that at the far side of the Badlands straight out from us lay the Slot Canyon he had taken us through a year before....http://picasaweb.google.com/stargeezerguy/41DEC23BORREGOSLOTCANYONHIKE
This is truly an amazing land we live in & we are soooooo fortunate to even be here & be a part of it.
ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER
The road from this last overlook was the roughest part of the journey & took us a good 20 minutes or more to navigate our way back to the highway. Deborah has been leading these volunteer, & free jeep tours since back in the 90's & truly loves the driving challenges it presents, & enjoys the many people she meets along the way. She handles her jeep with much experience & great gusto:))
We were back in the Springs by noon & bid farewell with many thanks to Jack & Henrietta, our cordial driver & narrator for the morning. Like ourselves, they are RV people so we had lots in common & lots to talk about.
JACK, HENRIETTA, KELLY & AL
Butch, sensing our robust appetites said, "lets head over to Jilbertos & I'll treat you guys to lunch." Well, no twisting of arms here so off we went. They had their Mexican whatever it was & I had my good old standard hamburger. I am not an adventurous eater at all so I stick with the stuff I know. And besides, why put something in my mouth that's going to set my whole head on fire!!!! JILBERTOS
We were back to the rig about 1:15 & the rest of the afternoon was spent just like all the other afternoons since we've been here. Catching up on computer stuff, siesta, soaking up some rays outside, playing sticks with the doggy guys, etc. After supper it was movie time. We picked up 5 DVD's at the Library a few days ago so each night now we watch a movie before I start the blog. Last night was a movie about singer Bobby Darin's life starring Kevin Spacey. To-night was a movie about Queen Elizabeth staring Helen Merrin. Both good movies.
Not sure where we are off to in the morning but for sure it will be somewhere interesting again. Anza-Borrego State Park has events going on almost daily. I know that to-morrow at noon people can gather at the small airport here & meet a Ranger who is also a pilot & will be giving a talk & showing the airplane the Rangers use in their duties. There are also more jeep tours going, canyon hikes, & talks & seminars at the Park's visitor center. And, most of this stuff is free:)) So, if your out there somewhere sitting around totally bored, come on over to Borrego Springs, put your happy face on, get your butt in gear, & enjoy yourself................................
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