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January 30, 2019

Hot Stars and Heavenly Bodies

Our (my) reason for our quick Borrego Springs trip was not the flowers of Arroyo Saldado it was for the Ocotillo Wells Hot Stars and Heavenly Bodies.  Their biggest Star Party of the year. 

For sure Ocotillo Wells is an off-road park.  Some folks spend many thousands of dollars on their sand rails, ATVs, UTVs, side-by-sides, motorcycles, etc.  We settled into a quiet empty spot below Blow Sand Hill.  Our son rolled down this hill with the 3-wheeler some years ago. I thought he was hurt – nope just laughing too hard to get up!

This is the same site we had that trip.  Nobody in sight on Quarry Road, it’ll pick up later on Friday.

And boy did it pickup, at least next door!  About midnight these 6 rigs rolled in, fired up the generator, set up lights and started setting up to loud CW music.  About 2AM they settled down, but left the generator running.

So this was the scene at 7AM right in front of our RV, surprised to see any of them already up!  In all I counted 12 kids, 14 adults, 6 trucks, 1 RV, 1 5th-wheel, 1 pop-up and 4 tents!  WOW!  Biggest group I’ve ever seen here, by far!

They got their wish, we moved to another site again no neighbors at 11 AM on Saturday.  Once we were settled we walked over to the Discovery Center, where Fran found a comfy horned lizard bench.   There are several of these along the paved Natural Trail.

After lunch we took the Jeep for a run along the Fish Creek Geology Trail.

A nice fault line

With an aster clinging to the side.  This aster has been greeting visitors for over a decade!

The Fish Creek Wash follows along the base of a fault, with walls over 100 feet

We came here for the sole purpose of checking out the Fish Creek Anticline.  Also known as a Drag Fold, it looks as if the rock wall folded back on itself.  So what’s the difference?  An anticline is formed slowly by geological processes.  A drag fold is formed by a fast moving landslide.

And to think all these layers were laid down horizontal until geologic processes, or a landslide created some really fun patterns

As I earlier mentioned, Ocotillo Wells is the premier off-road park, heck Fran and I ride here too.  And it's also my go-to spot to view the night sky.  Midweek we’re sometimes the only ones here and I can set up my little 4” Celestron and get the most out of it.

There were several speakers at the Discovery Center during the day.  I attended the intro to astrophotography.  What it boiled down to is Manual Setting, Lowest F-spot (nothing higher than 2.8), mid-range ISO of no more than 400, 20 second manual exposure. And PRACTICE!, nothing magic learned.

This weekend Woody is here with his ‘Sky Trek’ mobile observatory.  Take a peek inside- there’s no eyepiece on his 11” Celestron.

It’s totally self contained, the rear door flips up to gain access to the equipment, expose the control station and display screen.  With the roof slid back it’s ready to go.  About 10 minutes to set up and it self aligns too!

Here’s a few pictures taken with my ancient Canon G16 from Woody’s outdoor TV display.  The Orion Nebula is always fun even in binoculars.  But spectacular from an 11” Celestron!

Our neighboring spiral galaxy Andromeda

A Beetlejuice a red giant (I think- that’s what’s in my notes …)

The Horsehead Nebula a dark nebula (I had to edit this one, but you get the idea)

Woody sat here in the outdoor control room until 10 PM running everything using a Blue Tooth connection.  Pretty impressive!

Woody is the mobile face of the San Diego Astronomy Association, the only thing that could really have helped is if the SDAA had provided a ‘Spokesperson’.  Someone to handle the questions from the participants and chat a bit about what Woody had on the screen.

We headed home Sunday morning using S2 to avoid Banner Grade, it adds about 10 miles, but it’s lots easier to drive and the RV is a lot happier too!

We again take a break in the big lot behind Dudley's, this time for dessert.  My favorite an Apple Mountain Berry from the Julian Pie Company - still warm from the oven!

For sure No Bad Days on this trip!

January 27, 2019

Flowers of Arroyo Salado in Anza Borrego

When we head to Borrego Springs our first stop is often Dudley’s in Santa Ysabel.

Frequent readers of the blog know why, their deli sandwiches make two meals, or in this case THREE!  The Baja panini on the left is chicken breast, with chipotle mayo, pepper cheese on jalapeno bread.  And their traditional turkey.

I was out for the dedication of the Borrego Springs Library last month with my younger brother.  This is Fran’s first visit to the library, oh yeah she was impressed!

We do not carry a satellite dish, but use a decent antenna and rent movies.  With 4 racks of movies to select from!, we checked out a couple.

Behind the library is a public park.  It’s huge!, and I think it's needed (more so than a new library IMHO).

Libraries are sources of information and education.  Looking for the North Star?  (hint: it’s not the brightest)

There’s an exercise area for the older kids.  Fran is testing the elliptical.

And a separate area for the younger kids, or those young at heart.

We only wanted one night in Borrego Springs, for a one-night-stand Peg Leg Smith is our go-to spot.  With the reduction of space at Clark Lake there are more folks staying longer here now, and it is the week after Quartzite, well it’s as busy as I’ve ever seen it. Still lots of room for another.

The quick stop in Borrego Springs is only for a wildflower walk. The rain patterns are so unprecedented this year, creating pockets of bloom.  I’m trying to learn to recognize the common flowers and my brother and I did a wildflower walk in December! December!

This year is the first time EVER the ABDF has offered a wildflower walk in January.  Only 5 other folks joined up with Kathy, our docent for the walk, in Arroyo Salado Campground.


Kathy is showing us invasive mustard.  We're to uproot and remove the seed pods from this invasive plant

Random photo of Arroyo Salado, showing the variety of blooms.

The following pictures are from that walk. Please provide any corrections in the comments, I’m still learning!  You’ll notice I carry a magnifying glass in my day-pack. Really helps with viewing the flowers, some are kinda tiny or have tiny features.

Desert Lily

Sand Verbana

The leaves and stem are sticky, notice how the sand is sticking




Notice the gray beard of the sunflower?

Brown Eyed Primrose (the center looks more red than brown IMHO)

Spanish Needles  (each blossom is a single flower)

Lupine (the white spot = un-pollinated; red spot = pollinated)

Native Mustard


Creosote Bush (notice the leaves grow on the sun side of the bush)

Teddy Bear and Pencil Cholla

Cholla Leaves? Yup -the new growth is soft to the touch


If you’ve been to Borrego Springs I’m sure you’ve seen the sculptures of Golleta Meadows.  The valley floor used to be a meadow, covered in Golleta Grass.

Golleta Grass

Rock Daisy – it’s tiny! ... but cute

Dead Fingers

Mallow - Desert 5-spot ??? A couple weeks will tell, but Kathy says it is


Desert Star

Spanish Needles

Mustard (Native Mustard as opposed to the invasive mustard,we're not to destroy these)

Golden Poppy

Please help with any corrections!

We’re heading over to Ocotillo Wells for their ‘Hot Stars and Heavenly Bodies’ next.

Certainly No Bad Days this trip!