Nature’s History Lesson ~ Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

Carrizo Badlands

Carrizo Badlands

After an afternoon visit recently with friends Pam and John of Oh, The Places They Go, we decided hiking was in order, as they planned to spend time in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, just an hour away from where we are staying.

Anza Borrego is the largest desert park in America and California’s largest state park, a whopping 600,000+ acres.  It takes its name from the 18th-century Spanish explorer Juan Batista de Anza and borrego, Spanish word for bighorn sheep, of which there are between 250-300 in the park.  More than 500 miles of roads snake through the park, and 110 miles of hiking trails assure nature lovers ample opportunity to get their desert fix.

Pam and John decided on three combined short hikes in Blair Valley, familiar trails for them.  Our day was to be one of interesting finds, a day to revisit history.  The first leg of our hike was up Ghost Mountain to see the remains of Yaquitepec, the primitive, mountaintop home of poet, author, and artist Marshal South and family. For 17 years, Marshal, wife Tanya, and their three children lived a life of simplicity and isolation on the top of Ghost Mountain, a difficult life for even the hardiest of souls.  The rusted reflections of their time here are evidenced by the still-standing doorframe, dilapidated bed frame, and rain storage barrels.  For me, the 360º panorama from the mesa top was the best part of the hike.

From here we headed over to a trail where pictographs could be found, then into Smuggler’s Canyon, where a dry waterfall marks the end of the trail, with a spectacular view that slopes down to the valley below.  When walking back out, Pam spotted a sun halo, an atmospheric phenomenon introduced to us a few years ago by Nina of Wheeling It.

The last of our hiking for the day took us out to a canyon trail where a number of granite boulders contained morteros, grinding holes created by Native Americans as they ground their daily meals from the bounty nature provided them.

If we had ended our day here, it would have been a wonderful day reveling in nature, exploring with friends, but Pam and John wanted us to experience Font’s Point, gazing  out over the Carrizo Badlands, hopeful of ending the day with a breathtaking desert sunset.  We were not disappointed.

For a bit more history of the area,  check out John’s post here.  A former history teacher can say it much better than me. ;)

Little Gem in the Desert ~ Jojoba Hills RV Resort

Lovely clouds blanket the mountains and cast interesting shadows on the desert floor.

Lovely clouds blanket the mountains and cast interesting shadows on the desert floor.

We have been in our winter home at Jojoba Hills RV Resort near Temecula, CA for almost three months now and are enjoying it immensely.  I must confess to being a bit skeptical about the thought of spending so much time being stationary, at least the wheels on our home.  But this new lifestyle, a wonderful blending of community and travel, suits us just fine.  We have found an active group of caring, supportive folks that we bonded with immediately.  I am pleased to call Jojoba Hills our winter home and wanted to take a moment to share a little history of this beautiful resort.

Twenty-five years ago a small group from a local chapter of an Escapee’s RV Club had a vision, one that many might consider reckless or foolhardy.  Thank goodness for grandiose dreamers, those with a pioneering spirit, for this is what it took, along with a huge dose of tenacity, hard work, and synergy, to breathe life into Jojoba Hills RV Resort.  What was once barren desert is now a sparkling little gem overlooking Palomar Mountain and the Aguanga Valley.

This small band of visionaries, men and women with a median age of 67, began the arduous task of clearing 145 acres of rattlesnake-infested hills and canyons.  Although many tradesmen were represented, I learned that volunteers were transformed into whatever was needed – “salesmen became electricians or plumbers and hair dressers became welders”.  Women who had never wielded a hammer stood alongside the men building the sheds and setting the forms for concrete patios.  The “Rockettes”, most if not all women, painstakingly placed 25,000 feet of rocks into drains and culverts, securing the drainage system, all the while considering the aesthetics of the resort.

My new favorite sport – pickleball!

Over 292,500 volunteer hours moved 1.2 million cubic yards of dirt, 2700 tons of rock, built 5 miles of road, dug 35 miles of trenches, poured 119,000 square feet of concrete, etc., etc.  Except for a handful of professionals who were paid a fee, the remaining crew did this back-breaking work for nothing more than coffee and their daily ration of homemade cookies…an immense labor of love.

My sense of reluctance at finding enough to interest me and occupy my time has been transformed into wonderment at all this resort has to offer.  There are pickleball and tennis courts, a lap pool, hot tubs, saunas, a well-equipped fitness room, yoga class, photography club, art classes, sewing room, hiking club, book club, pottery classes, woodworking shop, and, be still my heart, a writers’ group.  The list of amenities is extensive, not to mention the countless opportunities to volunteer, which is highly encouraged, as this resort is maintained by the generous volunteering spirit of its members.

One of six lovely ponds grace the property.

One of six lovely ponds grace the property.

Many of the founding residents are now beginning to move on to the next phase in their lives, but those who remain have the most delightful stories to share.  I have found the most heartwarming sense of community here at Jojoba Hills, and have lived nowhere else where the support of neighbors is so pervasive.  You cannot walk or drive by anyone without receiving a warm smile and a wave – the Jojoba way.

A new day dawns at Jojoba Hills.

A new day dawns at Jojoba Hills.

Temecula is only 17 miles away and has a great farmers’ market and lots of opportunity for retail therapy, if that is your thing.  Jojoba Hills is surrounded by wine country and within an easy drive of San Diego, Anza Borrego, Palm Springs, and Joshua Tree National Park.  There are countless other adventures to be had across California. Death Valley is on our calendar for this winter, as is the Central Coast.

If you find yourself wandering around in the deserts of So. Cal, you might want to check out Jojoba Hills.  They’re an awfully friendly bunch here. :)

Happy New Year!

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”  ~  Lao Tzu

gratitude At this time of year I find that I seek silence, a yearning to retreat to the calm place deep within my being, that asylum where deep hope resides.  To dwell in this space allows time for reflecting upon that for which I am most grateful, and there is much.

We have all heard the expression “count your blessings”.   When we take time out of our busy lives and journey to that place inside, we are reminded of all our blessings, for this is the place where that little voice that speaks to us of all that is lacking in our lives cannot be heard.  My gratitude list is long – family, friends, a higher power to guide me, health, the gift of life, nature, hugs, laughter, sunrises and sunsets, volunteer opportunities, etc., etc.

Today I hope that you take a few moments to allow that little voice to speak to you, particularly if you are currently navigating troublesome terrain.  Practicing gratitude for all that is good around us can be life-changing.  When we embrace all that we have with an open, grateful heart, we bring more of what we want into our lives.

May 2015 be a time of abundance for us all.  Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Jojoba Hills_141220-1150923

I sit here at the keyboard reflecting upon how long I have been away from blogging , looking back at how life has changed since we arrived at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort in Southern California.  Although I have missed what has gone on in your lives, this quiet time has  given me the space to work on some personal issues, while embracing this new community we find ourselves in, a community where we feel supported and deeply connected with our neighbors.  Jojoba Hills, which I will write about in more detail after the holidays, is a rare gem, a place where we felt we were returning home, although our first visit to the resort.

I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a most blessed holiday, filled with the love of family and friends, quiet time to reflect upon the many gifts you have been given this year,  and more joy than you could ever imagine.  Wherever you find yourself this holiday and however you celebrate the season, be present with a grateful heart.  I am filled with much gratitude for the love and support I have been given this year and am looking forward to reconnecting with all of you in 2015.

Happy holidays!