Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bobcat Crisis

We love our bobcats. We've had several as frequent visitors who we recognize by sight. But we haven't seen them now for many months--and, by all accounts, our local population of bobcats has been deciminated by trappers. 

The issue came to a head in January, when a Joshua Tree resident found a bobcat trap on his private property, adjacent to the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. Turns out the trapper in question had 30 traps set around the basin and won't say how many cats he trapped this season--though he did admit to taking as many as five in one night.

At the present, bobcat trapping is legal and there are no limits on it. This week, a bill will go before the California State Legislature to ban bobcat trapping. Since the last population studies on bobcats in California were done in the 1970s, there is no current data available. The concern is that because prices for bobcat pelts are on the rise ($300-$600 apiece and up--their fur is used in clothing), trappers are gearing up and bobcats may truly be in peril.

We agree with the view expressed by Seth Shteir, California Desert Field Representative, National Parks Conservation Association: “We support the ban on bobcat trapping until the California Department of Fish and Game or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service provides data that irrefutably demonstrates that trapping is not endangering local and regional populations of this important predator.”

For more information, see today's front-page article in The Desert Sun or visit Project Bobcat.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Gallery of Photos by Bill Dahl

Happy Birthday, Bill! In honor of his birthday (which is today), here is a selection of his latest photos. All photos copyright 2013 Bill Dahl.

Above: Keys Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park. This photo won second place in the Chaparral Artists photography show, on exhibit during March at A Roadside Attraction in 29 Palms.

Mud Hills, Death Valley National Park. This view is located to the left of Manly Beacon at Zabriskie Point.

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley National Park. This and the photo above are from our October 2012 trip, where we were treated to spectacular clouds and a half-inch of rain. These Death Valley shots will be on exhibit at the 29 Palms Art Gallery during April.

Oracle, Joshua Tree National Park. This photo inspired a poem by me for our ongoing series of rock pictures and poems.


You will journey far and come to rest
in an unexpected place: outside
the temple ruins, protected by
your kin. You will bear the scars
of an old invasion, skin healed over
shrapnel, stoic when the old ache
starts up. Straddling broken earth,
you will foretell the future
from patterns of wind and rain
cast in the lines of your face.
Few will manage to find you,
fewer still divine your truth.
You will sit in the sun’s glow
as on a throne, content to be
unknown, taking nothing
for granted.

Cynthia Anderson

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Banner Year for Joshua Tree Blooms

We can't ever remember seeing as many Joshua trees in bloom as this year. The majority of trees are like this one, with multiple flower heads. Even the smallest are getting in on the act.

Here are some close-ups of the blooms. The last shot is not a Joshua tree bloom but another type of yucca. They're all one big happy family this year!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Around Tecopa

Back to our October 2012 trip--we stayed a couple of nights at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, relaxing in the hot springs and enjoying Chef John's ever-delectable cuisine at Pastel's Bistro. Above: an early morning view of Grimshaw Lake, just down the road from the resort. Below: the mud hills across from the lake, with the mountains beyond.


This trip, we took a drive outlined in the brochure "Motor Touring in the Eastern Sierra," which you can get for a donation at the ranger station in Lone Pine. The brochure has 18 routes recommended for 4WD SUVs, and it has led us to some interesting places. Just outside Tecopa, we were directed to an umarked dirt road with this scenic view of the Amargosa River. We couldn't see water, but presumably it's down there keeping those trees green and lush.

After the overlook, we took a little detour of our own and found this bizarre assemblage of items all by themselves in the desert. On the left: a fire pit in the foreground and a black door shot up with bullet holes in the background. On the right: a pair of black pants propped up and anchored to the ground, with the same black door in the background. We speculate that someone was making a video out here--on our way to the scenic overlook, a caravan of spiffy vehicles was leaving from this direction--which prompted us to head over and see what was up.

From here the route followed Mesquite Valley Road for about eight miles, returning to the Old Spanish Trail road and leading to this overlook. Can you see the squiggly dirt track on the right side of the picture, leading back towards a dark, isolated hill? That's the actual Old Spanish Trail. The wagon marks are still there. It was used by Spanish, Mexican, and American traders and was especially active from the 1830s to the 1850s. Of course, there's more to it than that: the trail followed what is described as "ancient Indian trade routes." That's the story I'm interested in.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Borrego Springs Rides Again

Yep, we were just in Borrego Springs in January. And yep, we just went back again this weekend--reason being that Bill received an award in the annual Anza Borrego Foundation Photography Contest for the above shot, "Daybreak, Font's Point." All of the photos were for sale in a silent auction to benefit the Foundation. We're happy to report that Bill's was one of the most popular in the Landscapes category, in terms of number of bids.

The show and reception were held at the Borrego Art Institute's brand new gallery on Christmas Circle. This is a beautiful, renovated mid-century modern building with vaulted ceilings and generous exhibition space. Next fall the Red Ocotillo Restaurant will open in the same building. The gallery has a strong focus on community service, including programs that involve local schoolchildren.

We also went to the Annual Plant Show and Sale sponsored by ABDNHA (Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association). Lots of interesting desert plants and happy, friendly Borregans, not to mention fresh grapefruit juice and homemade cookies. Our favorite plant was the Cinita Cactus, below--a native of Baja that has no spines! Elsewhere in Borrego we saw some large specimens of these--big, tall cactus columns. We didn't bring one home with us, though--not cold-tolerant enough for our high desert home. 

It was a gorgeous weekend, sunny and toasty with temperatures in the 80s. We stocked up on Seely Reds, oranges, and lemons, and soaked up the sunshine--it was the warmest we'd been in months!