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.
BLOGGER WEBSITE http://thebayfieldbunch.com/
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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
From the parking area it is a steady & gradual climb with each footstep a few inches higher than the one before. Within minutes we noticed the plant life changing around us & things becoming fresher looking. The nearby hillsides took on a slightly greener tone & we began seeing plants like, Beaver Tail cactus, Barrelhead cactus & Agaves plants. The Ocotillo were much larger & greener than on the desert floor behind us. Many kinds of shrubs with tiny buds ready to bloom in the spring. Some slightly flowering shrubs here & there with burgundy colored flowers. And a type of green ground cover in places. As we climbed higher the scenery just got better. Far ahead in the distant narrows of the canyon walls we could see more color so knew there were some kind of trees up there. We really didn't have a destination & what so often happens in the these kinds of hikes it that the canyon just keeps drawing you further & further in. The rocks became boulders & the shrubs became trees. And things just kept getting more interesting. And you just keep going & going & going. My kinda day:)) REST STOP ALONG THE TRAIL
Saw movement ahead on the trail & a minute later another couple coming down greeted us with a hearty hello, so we stopped for a chat. Said it was really pretty a little further up with some maple type trees & palm trees as well. Somewhere in the conversation the word, Canada came up. We said we were from near Goderich Ontario & with surprise, the fellow said his sister lived in a little town near there called Bayfield. We told him that was actually where we were from. Surprises all around. Small world huh!! So, Jennifer Smith from Bayfield Ontario Canada, if you ever happen to read this someday.....we met your brother on the Hell Hole Canyon trail in Borrego Springs in southern California to-day:)) Didn't get his name but he talked of being in British Columbia & I did get a distant picture of him as they were approaching us on the trail. You can find that pic in to-day's web album photos.....http://picasaweb.google.com/stargeezerguy/ The higher we climbed, the rougher the trail became & we were soon scrambling over some fair sized boulders. A dry & deep gulley wash ran down through the area & we found ourselves criss crossing it as the path wended it's way upwards. Ahead we could see palm trees so set that as our goal. Of course they were farther than they looked which is so often the case in these desert & mountain landscapes. We kept plugging away & finally reached 3 palm trees & a grove of colorful trees that looked a bit like our maple trees back in Ontario, but different. They were in their autumn colors of yellows, golds, & greens. There was a larger grove of palms further up the canyon about half a mile but the terrain looked very rugged & we decided we had gone far enough. Actually, beyond that grove of palms the map says there is a waterfall.Had ourselves a short rest near the palm trees & Kelly made Al stand still for a few posed photos. Pointed our toes down the hill & started for home. Sure was a lot easier going down than going up, & a lot faster too. We continued our descent out of the canyon & finally reached our car about an hour after leaving the area of palm trees. Felt sooooooooooooooo great once again to flop into the comfortable soft seats of the car. We could sure feel the hike in our legs & feet. First stop was going to be a coffee for sure. Al was well past his 2 o'clock fix!!
Another nice thing about Borrego Springs is it's little hidden gems here & there & to-day after our hike we found another one of them & it was called, Calicos. Located in the mall on Palm Canyon Drive, Calicos is a little coffee shop that does all it's own baking & makes home made pizza's to die for. We saw some scrumptious looking things called egg pockets so decided to take a chance & split one. "WOW & DOUBLE WOW!!" Tasted grrrrrreat & we decided right there & then on the spot that we are going to stay in Borrego Springs forever & make egg pockets the sole purpose of our remaining lives. Coffee was great too & so were all the free cookie samples we could stuff down. Our next trip to Calicos will be for a pizza & I suspect we'll eat till we explode!! Would I recommend Calicos?? You betcha:))
The couple we had met on the trail earlier had suggested a good book on the area so on our way home we stopped at the Nature Center & picked up, All The Wild & Lonely Places...Journeys in a Desert Landscape by Lawrence Hogue. Last winter I read Marshal South & the Chronicles of Ghost Mountain so this winter it will be about the remote & harsh landscape of the Anza-Borrego desert. Looking forward to quiet times with a good book again. THE AWESOME SCENERY NEVER ENDS IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
Back to the rig around 3 with sore feet & all. Fillmore came over to see Max, Checkers, & the Motormouse & even brought his Mom & Dad with him. JoAnn is really enjoying her stay here & has already signed up for one of the area tours of the Blair Valley area. Oh yes, & couple X has turned out to be Ken & Vicki from the Oklahoma/Arkansas area somewhere. I met Vicki this morning while she was out walking & was happy to hear she has taken a liking to the Borrego Springs area as well. Vicki & JoAnn were on the go this morning visiting the Anza-Borrego visitor center & the Nature Center downtown. I have a feeling they may also be visiting Calicos soon & loading up on egg pockets.............................................:)) CALICOS..... GREAT COFFEE & EGG POCKETS
And thanks to my Number 1 Son in Kitchener Ontario for spotting an error in last night's blog. The DVD we watched was, The Bucket List & not the Bucket Brigade. You can catch my Son Sean's band & website here..............http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Weak-Need/6503594559 You go guy:))
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