Friday, March 21, 2008

Desert Camping

I've never really been a desert girl. I've always preferred trees and rain to sage and sun but I'm married to a man who loves the desert and I've been gradually developing an appreciation for the desert. This week we went camping as a family in the Anza Borrego desert. That's right camping as one friend exclaimed when we told them--"In a tent?" " With your kids?"

We camped in Bow Willow campground. I thought we had the perfect campsite with no next door neighbors and a setting taken straight out of Exodus. You have to look closely at the above photo but our campsite was filled tiny blue flowers. Below is a closer look. Actually, I think that's the secret to loving the desert: looking closer.

A ridge near our tent was covered with ocotillo many of which were in bloom. Their flowers look like red flames. We've been having a great wildflower season in San Diego and I heard the desert was as well. But we did not see masses and masses of colors. In fact from the freeway the desert looked just as dead as ever.

But as we hiked into canyons we found more flowers. There were lots of interesting little flowers but everyone complained about me taking pictures. Lizzy said cameras shouldn't even be allowed in a place like this. I knew what she meant some places are too peaceful to be disturbed by the click of a camera and really a photo never truly captures the moment. For one thing the desert smelled of sage and flowers. Still, I continued to disturb the peace and take photos--just not as many as I would have liked.

The kids in brittlebrush.

More flowers by our campsite.

Sunrise and sunset are the best time of day in the desert.

Eventually, Lizzy gave into the temptation to capture fleeting beauty and took this nice shot of a blooming cactus near our camp.

A smoke tree.

One reason we wanted to go to this corner of the desert was to visit the mud caves. First we checked out a little slot canyon. For those who haven't taken children to slot canyons, I highly recommend it, mainly because they are corralled in. We let Will walk through most of this one and he was in heaven.

Then we put on our headlamps and went into the caves. Some of these mud caves require ropes and have water in them but we went to two that were recommended for families. They were like slot canyons with a roof. Or as I told Zoey, who was a little nervous, now we know how it feels to be bunny in a rabbit hole. I can get claustrophobic but I didn't in these caves most of the time I could stand upright and most of the time the passages were at least 10 feet wide. Sometimes the roof was quite high and you could shine your flashlight on cathedral-like ceilings. Once when doing so I startled a bat. I thought this was cool. Zoey didn't like it. She didn't buy my argument that they were like flying bunnies.

Every once in a while we would come to a sky light. This may be why the caves felt so friendly to me.

They are called mud caves because all the rocks in this area look like dried mud. I felt like an ant exploring some 4-year-old's mud sculpture. Above is a close up of the walls. But we never saw any real mud, the caves would be much more aptly named dust caves.

This is how Will looked after going through his second cave. Those are blue jeans.

We only camped two nights because I believe in "leaving the beach while you're still having fun." We had a few minor setbacks--including running out of propane because John left it on all night and spraining my ankle because John dug a hole in the middle of our campground--but for some reason nothing seemed to get to me. The peace of the desert had sunk in.

Next we drove to Yuma to visit my grandparents. Would you believe they are 88. Actually my grandpa isn't yet. Like me, my grandma married a younger man. They made us feel so loved and welcomed. They served us lunch and dinner and offered to have us stay at their place. But we thought it best we leave most of our dust in a hotel. Another benefit to the hotel was the construction work right outside our room.

And now for our exciting finish

After having a fabulous brunch with my grandparents we said goodbye and started heading back to San Diego. Bill had a test he had to take for a clinical research course he is taking. We left at 1 p.m. His test was at 4. We seemed to have plenty of time. We've been reading Harry Potter book 5. Bill says that he just got so into the book that he forgot to get gas. By the time we realized this we were 60 miles past the nearest gas station and had about another 60 miles before we'd see civilization. We pressed on. Just as we made it over the summit the car ran out of gas. In an amazing moment of calm (Bill wasn't being quite as calm) I said, "Kids all we can do now is pray." We prayed and then we proceeded to go more than 8 miles coasting up and down hills. As we went down we stayed at highway speeds as we went up we slowed down to about 20. And then we saw a Chevron sign. I took the photo below when the car stopped moving. We were in my dad's Yukon so we couldn't very well push it. But it was close enough. We got our gas and got Bill to his test just 5 minutes late.

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SpyderDoc said...

Is a reference to a bunny the solution to all of Z's troubles?

I wish I could get lara and our kids out camping. well, really, I guess i wish i had time to get lara and the kids out camping.

Whose is the sonny bryant's bbq sweatshirt? I sometimes forget y'all lived here.

Finally, it is a girlie man who runs out of gas. And for Harry Potter, too!

lettieb said...

This post is awesome. (Nate said the same and said, "Ruthe is a really good writer. She makes it interesting to read.)
I love all the pictures and I have noted that Lizzy would not like hikes/camping with me. Too many pictures!
Your camping trip looked fun, especially the slots and caves. I said "oh no!" out loud when I saw will as a dust bunny. Nate and I both chuckled at John being the cause of some troubles and truly, the highlight was the running out of gas!
Great post, Ruth! :)

Brandan & Becky said...

Our friends have opened their own car repair shop and it's been a slow start for them. They say the trouble is that all our cars run on faith. Great stories and photos.

kim & co. said...

What an exciting trip! I wish we had made it out to hike in the desesrt while we lived in SD--never worked out, and here we are, about to leave UT without making it down to Moab or Arches while we lived here either.

I ran out of gas once on my way home from seminary--coasted right up to the pump. (all the other times I've run out I haven't been so lucky, and there have been a few--I am so easily distracted--Harry Potter would have done it to me too!)

TX Girl said...

Only Bill and Ruth could make running out of gas an adventure! I'm glad y'all made it to a gas station (more or less). I've run out of gas on I-215 and had to walk to the next exit. It is no fun.

I cannot believe how tall Lizzy has gotten. She is almost the same height as her dad.

Love the new haircut Ruth.

Hammy said...

Love it, love it, love it. I just wish we could be there to enjoy all the wonderful Mitchell Familyness. You look fantastic, by the way. Good looking and full of faith!

Michelle said...

I laughed out loud at your gas story Ruth because last summer we too were distracted by Harry Potter 5, missed the turnoff and prayed our way into the gas station in Hanksville.

Truly, Harry needs to come with a warning label.

You get the nicest comments from friends on your blog-- can I admit I'm jealous?


Gina said...

What a great trip! Ahh, the desert at dusk... Anza Borrego is a great secret of San Diego. Sorry we didn't get you any camping recommendations soon enough, but you clearly had a great time without them. You do look great, btw.

Debby said...

What a fun trip! We've been contemplating camping up in Yellowstone here in a tent. It's good to read that a family can survive in a tent!

Mitchell Family said...

My sister is right I get great comments from my friends on my blog, thank you. Blog compliments are doubly nice because they are in print and can be reread whenever one is feeling blue. It is a bittersweet blessing to have so many friends scattered across the country. Blogging is a sorry alternative to what I like best spending time with you guys and just talking but for now it will have to do. And as an added benefit it makes it less of a shock when we see each other again and see how much our kids have grown--yes, Lizzy has grown she is now 5 feet tall. Love y'all. Ruth

pacemaker said...

Hey Mitchell family, I came upon your blog, purely by coincidence, but certainly a pleasure to find you and see how your family has grown. I used to see you occasionally across the fence. Good to hear all is well with you and yours.
Gina Pace

Glazier5 said...

Hi Ruth,
It's your old neighbor Lori Tueller blog hopping off your sister's wonderful blog. Being that I am a "desert girl" now (AZ), I thought I'd let you now that I enjoyed reading your post and I too am trying to find beauty in the desert! It is still a difficult task for me - but I'm working on it! :-) Sounds like you had a good and faith promoting trip! Hope you and your family are doing well. Fun to see your family. Take Care, Lori