Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
On the 15th of February 2010, Walter and I took off for our annual trip south to escape the gray wet weather at home.

Our first stop was in Eugene OR where we usually spend our first night. We got there just before it started to rain that night but noticed as we pulled in that the field next door to the campground was full of sheep and 2 to 3 week-old lambs. As luck would have it the sun was out the next morning and the lambs were out posing for me.

Lamb in Eugene OR  Pair of lambs Eugene OR

Gamboling Lamb Eugene OR  Lamb and Ewe Eugene OR

We stopped off in the wine country to visit our friends Tom and Sally who recently moved from Amherst, MA to Santa Rosa but I forgot to take a picture of them in their new home there. Maybe next time! The next day we visited Walter's brother, Russ, and his family in Napa. This year I grabbed the camera as we were getting ready to leave and pointed it at Walter and Russ as they were standing out on the sidewalk.

Russ and Walter Cooke Napa CA

You'd think that with a combined age of nearly 150 years the two of them would know that when someone points a camera at you, you're supposed to smile! Russ turned 75 just before our visit and Walter is 15 months younger than he is.

We drove south from Napa and spent the night at Lopez Lake just outside of Arroyo Grande (in the central California coast area). It's a really nice regional park and they have deer and wild turkeys. In fact, we saw a flock of 19 turkeys as we were driving around looking for our campsite! Of course the camera was in the trailer and I was driving and when we came back they were gone.

The males were really a trip. There were three of them strutting around with their feathers all spread out behind them while the females were ignoring them and wandering off down the hill. When the females got far enough away, the males would carefully tuck all those feathers back into a normal tail shape, run after the females and then unfurl their feathers and begin to strut all over again.

After a long day of driving down the coast and across the LA valley we ended up the next night at Anza Borrego State Park, a wonderful desert park just east of San Diego. Borrego is known for it's spring wild flowers, big horn sheep, palm oases and as the site of the first road and stage route into southern California. It's also the largest state park in the US. Saturday night we got one of the last campsites in the Borrego Springs campground when we rolled in at dusk.

The next day we drove south in the park to the Blair Valley where you can camp for free by just pulling of the dirt track into the little cul de sacs that pass for campsites there. Here's Rosita at our campsite.

Rosita Casita in Blair Valley Anza-Borrego State Park CA

Here's the view of the valley from our trailer. You can tell that they've had rain in the desert this year. We saw lots of green but not many flowers.
Click on the photo to see a full size version.

Blair Valley Anza-Borrego State Park CA

After setting up camp and having lunch we drove the loop road through the valley out to the Pictograph Trail. It's a nice little hike to a rock covered with paintings by native people using natural pigments.

Pictograph Anza Borrego State Park CA  Pictograph Anza Borrego State Park CA

Along the way there was indigo in bloom and the cholla were clearly very happy with this past winter's rain.

Indigo Anza Borrego State Park CA  Cholla Anza Borrego State Park

The trail kept going so we followed it until we came to the top of a dry fall and a great view of Smugglers canyon.

Smugglers Canyon from Pictograph Trail Anza Borrego State Park CA

Here's the view looking back the way we'd come.

Walter Cooke at end of Pictograph Trail Anza Borrego State Park

The clouds had been blowing through as we hiked and by the time we got back to the pictographs it had totally clouded over and started to rain. We got to hike back into the wind with a light rain blowing straight into our faces! But it didn't last long and had stopped by the time we got back to our car. We drove the rest of the loop road looking for the historical marker pointing out Foot and Walker Pass, part of the old Butterfield Stage Route. No go, we couldn't find it.

Then the joke on us became totally clear. As we returned to our campsite we discovered the signs pointed to the parking area right next to where we were camped! Duh. So the next morning we hiked up the hill for a great view of Blair valley and the historical landmark sign.

Blair Valley from Foot and Walker Pass Historical Marker Anza Borrego State Park CA  Walter Cooke and Foot and Walker Pass Historical Marker Anza Borrego State Park CA

Here's the route the stagecoaches took. You can certainly understand why folks had to get out and walk to help the coach get over the hill! They say you can still see the wheel marks from the stagecoaches but it takes a lot of imagination to tell the difference between those marks and just the wear and tear of erosion!

Stagecoach route at Foot and Walker Pass Anza Borrego State Park CA

From here we drove further south in the park towards Agua Caliente a county park with hot springs! But first we stopped off at a view point labeled Box Canyon. Low and behold it was another historical marker--California loves these signs and you can't go anywhere with any history without seeing them. It turns out this canyon gives you a view of the first all-weather route into California and the first wagon road into the southern California interior AND the route of the Butterfield Stage.

Click on the photo to see a full size version.

Box Canyon Anza Borrego State Park CA

The upper path is the route of the first road built by the Mormon Battalion in 1847. The lower route is the Butterfield Stage route of 1858. Both are now used as hiking trails.

The Lieutenant Colonel who was in command of the Mormon Battalion's name was Philip St. G Cooke so we had to take a picture of Walter with the sign pointing at the name since his name is Cooke too.

Walter Cooke and Box Canyon Historical Landmark Anza Borrego State Park CA

There were lots of nice yuccas and chollas here.

Yuccas and chollas at Box Canyon Anza Borrego State Park CA

And the junipers were so full of berries from the wet winter they looked blue from the road.

Juniper Berries Anza Borrego State Park CA  Juniper Berries Anza Borrego State Park CA

In Part II, we'll continue on to Agua Caliente and hike the Mountain Palm Canyon trail.