Monday, March 31, 2014

A Cockroach Imitating Horse

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

October 13, 2013:  I was driving north out of Mariposa, CA on CA-49; a drive I have done a couple of times. 

As I was zooming north, listening to Masters of Reality by Black Sabbath, I saw a couple of things I had never seen before. 

First, there was a beautiful white horse laying down in a field.  Have to admit as a city-slicker, I don't think I ever saw a horse laying down.  It actually worried me; was the horse sick or dead?

So, I got out and watched the horse lay there in the field.  I made some noises to try and get its attention so it would move and prove to me that it was not dead.

I caught its attention...

When the horse got up, it started rolling on its back in what, at least for dogs, we call the cockroach position.  That I certainly never saw before.

Content with the vibrant health of this horse, I got back into the car and continued north...What did I see next? (coming soon).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wildflowers 2014

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

We backroad explorers typically look forward to wildflower season (aka "spring"). When we had a wet winter and a continuing wet spring, our back roads (as well as main roads) become lined with the ROY G BIVs of the floral world.

In 2009, during our early years in southern California, there was an explosion of purple verbenas of various types along Henderson Canyon Road near Peg Leg Road, outside Borrego Springs.


2009 full ocotillo blooming.  Here, not only are the flowers blooming, but green is lining the branches.



Come 2014, wildflowers are not too widespread.  I was lucky enough to happen to see some ocotillos blooming on the S-2, between Ocotillo and Scissors Crossing.  However, all we get to see are the fierce thorns and the red flowers.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nows and Thens in the Bighorn Sheep World

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

The instinct of the members of the bighorn sheep herd is pretty consistent. 

Whether the herd is crossing the road in 1956:

Or the herd is crossing the road in 2014:

Or "Old Eighty" is looking down from her perch in 1956 (note broken horn):

Or, an anonymous queen of the desert looking for her king to mess around with:

Vintage photos from Mountain Sheep: A Study in Behavior and Evolution (V. Geist 1971).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Desert Center: Not Much the Center of Anywhere (Part 1 of 3)

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

Despite its name, Desert Center, California, is not much the center of anything.  Well, maybe it is the middle of the Colorado Desert, between Indio and Bylthe, CA; but that is about it.

Desert Center's 'downtown' area, located just off the I-10 at CA-177 (Exit 192), is almost completely deserted except for the post office, which as can be seen here, has limited hours.  There is also a quiet Caltrans maintenance station, not worthy of photography, a few steps away.

Besides the Caltrans station, there are basically three buildings remaining in the downtown area.  

First, there is the Desert Center Market, which despite the relatively fresh looking paint, is deserted and empty.

Next, there is the gas station at the intersection of CA-177 and Ragsdale Road, the main street through 'downtown'.  Truckers use this empty gas station and the huge empty lot across the street to take a break and maybe catch a nap.

Across the road from the deserted market, is the recently (2012 or so; more to come) closed Desert Center Cafe and an attached gas station that appears to be deserted far longer.  These adobe-style, poured concrete, buildings date back to 1921-27 (depending where you read; compare here (1921) with here (1927).  In any event, these buildings date back to the original founding of Desert Center by the Ragsdale family. 

Looking across the road from the area of the post office
Closer view
See here for an awesome view of this complex from 1953.

Looking east, the cafe sign is well weathered...

Looking west, however, the sign looks pretty fresh...

There is a totem pole next to the Cafe

The totem pole depicts different desert animals, with the king of the desert animals, the desert bighorn ram, at its peak.

The remains of the gas station are a mechanic's dream of sheet metal, worn paint, gears, springs, and wires...


Remember the days when gas pumps did not have a dollar indicator and the pump price had to be doubled?

There is also an abandoned caboose sitting near the cafe, across the road from the post office.


Town meeting at the post office?

Coming soon...inside the abandoned cafe?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Cast of Bighorn Sheep Characters

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

In 1961, The Bighorn of Death Valley, the results of a landmark study on the subject, was published by the Department of the Interior.  The report, over 240 pages long, was the culmination of almost 1700 hours of field observation of bighorns; primarily in the Black and Funeral Mountains of Death Valley, between 1954 and 1961.

The report, while dry at times, has some fun information and pictures for those fascinated with the desert bighorn.  From time to time, I intend to present tidbits from the report here on our blog.

Cover of the report

The report starts by listing the "identification names" of the 51 bighorns that were observed on a regular basis.

Some of the more amusing and creative names were:
  • Black and Tan (ram)
  • Kinky (ram; had kinks in both its horns)
  • Knocker (ram)
  • Rambunctious (ram; great pun)
  • The Stranger (ram)
  • Brokeoff (ewe; one horn broken off)
  • Old Mama's Lamb (lamb)
  • Badboy (lamb)

A complete list of the names of the 51 bighorns are shown below.