The Bone Yard

In the far back right corner of our property sits a grouping of trees and cactus and rocks. And a bone yard.

We bought this house and property from a lovely elderly couple. The bone yard is their work. I am no anthropologist but I’m saying its Dinosaur.

If I was my 8 year old self it would be. Guaranteed. Dinosaur.

Bones scattered as far as my 8 year old child’s eye and mind can imagine! Bones everywhere! Bones hiding under trees so there’s actually some shade and relief from the awful heat! Can it get any better?

My adult self is jealous.

Growing up I was told to go outside to play. Now people I want you to really think about that. If you have read my post “Desert Cred” you know part of my childhood was spent in Baker CA.” Gateway to Death Valley”. I’m living in the hottest, middle of nowhere desert and I’m told to “go outside and play.” That’s when I learned to catch lizards.

Thanks Mom.

Actually the 8 year old me had moved to a much larger desert town by comparison… Hesperia CA (This is 1976 and that was a joke)

Now, I had hoped, if I’m lucky, there is another child possibly my age living somewhere only miles away. But no, sadly my hour morning bus ride to school proved all ten or 12 of us desert children were separated by miles and miles of not much.

So I played outside alone. Don’t feel pity. I’m a desert kid. I’m desert strong. I can play outside in the heat alone. Please.

The shrubs and bushes and trees by my home in Hesperia did not have a hidden bone yard for me to uncover. Had it, I would have never come back inside the house.

I used to steal my mom’s spoons and go dig in the dirt, mostly believing I was digging a tunnel to my best friend’s house so we didn’t have to keep asking for rides to each other’s houses. 1976. No cell phones just one loud main phone ringing to announce that you want your friend to come over with her spoon to dig in the dirt with you. That means asking one of the Moms to drive you over in the station wagon, leave you there and then drive back a few hours later to pick you up. Oh and it’s 110 degrees outside.

So I would dig alone.

Eight year old me would have died and gone to heaven had I found ANYTHING let alone a whole bone! My little heart wouldn’t have been able to take a whole YARD of bones!

So yes, still after more than eight months living here I get twinges of jealousy when I glance over at the bone yard. I know I can’t just plop down there and dig with one of my spoons. It’s not the same. And I really don’t need to by secretly photographed doing that either.

The bone yard will stay as it is. No raking it up or clearing it away. This treasure is waiting for future generations to discover.

Intro to Wildlife Photography

By now I’m sure you have realized I don’t have many wildlife photos. Come to think of it I’m not sure if I have posted any animal pictures except one of a 17 year old sleeping Shiba Inu.

Not exactly wildlife.image

But if you have played along and read any of my posts you will already know I have never claimed to be a professional anything. All I claim to be is desert.

Oh I have tons of blurry nonsense. A grey blur I will happily tell you is a bunny. My blurry Javelina shots I took from way too far away. Yes, I have them. And because the reality is my odds so far have not been good with getting any quality shots when it comes to our furry friends, I’m going to show them to you. If you squint it sorta helps.


I don’t have a high powered camera. I use my iPad. Yes EVERY picture I have taken and everything I have posted has come from my iPad. When I started this blog a lot of the excitement and motivation came from the up close experience I get with the cactus and nature when I am outside in the yard. I want to be able to share all of this natural beauty with anyone who is interested. For those who can not ever get to the desert I want to share in a more personal up close way.image

The cactus are great at holding still while my amazing piece of technology that is an iPad does the focusing for me. I have some awesome pictures. I do and I am proud. It’s still my views and angles for sure but for a person like me who has little back ground with technology the iPad has made my life easy.

I stay with easy when it comes to most things computer related. I don’t want a bigger camera. I think there are plenty of amazing photographers out there who can take pictures of animals so crisp and clear it doesn’t even seem possible. They are rock stars. Anyone who has taken a picture of a living creature will tell you huge amounts of patience is required. Wild life in extreme heat that are the same color as their surroundings and can move as fast as lightning? You go with your big lens.

I think in my defense it’s pretty hard trying to capture images of Wile E Coyote ( Super Genius) and the roadrunner on my iPad while I am outside working in the yard.

This is me:

Wait…stop!… I see something moving!…let me take off my gloves and set down my lopers…grab my iPad and pray it hasn’t gotten too hot from being outside with me… turn it on… wait…where did the bunny go…?

Ok, so take my blurry shots with a good story and use some imagination!

Also in my defense, none of these creatures want to sit and pose for me. If I move when I’m INSIDE the house bunnies will scatter! Forget me trying to open the door to get closer when they are being cute. Quail? Forget it. They are on to me and just run faster hurrying their adorable fluffy babies along to get away from crazy me. I am just dumb enough to semi chase half inch fluffy baby quail to try to get a picture on an iPad. Go ahead and picture it.IMG_0371 (1)

The other night I am outside on the patio with a close friend who was in from out of town. It was her first visit here to our little house on the hill in Gold Canyon but she is not new to the desert. Armed with a camera and lens the length of my arm, she came already knowing the views here are pretty awesome and ready with high power.

So we sat staring off at the beauty that is the Superstition Mountain, laughing, catching up and just relaxing. It’s about 7:30 so it’s prime animal watching time. Even though it’s still over 100 degrees outside there we sit happily in the shade.

Then it happens! She spots a coyote! Just trotting along the way they do. It’s in the high traffic zone, the wash that is the acreage next to our driveway. We see the Javelinas over there quite often. Jack rabbit bounce through there all day long. Because we are up on a hill it gives us a great vantage point. The wash is not flat and I’m not sure just how deep some of the gullys go. I’m not about to go wandering through there to find out either and that is going to be about the only way I’m going to get a clear photo with my iPad.

Enjoy the blurry.

So there we are already excited for one coyote when a second coyote can be seen just a few yards back trotting as well! Coyote trot. I don’t know how else to say it. I’m sure they run and lay down that’s not what I mean. Any time I have ever seen a coyote they are not running or walking its always this trot. It’s a trot with attitude. Coyote have no shortage of swagger that’s for sure.

With this distance and trotting I have no chance of getting any usable photos. But honestly don’t really care because I had been blessed to get a recording of them howling just a few nights earlier. I will take that chilling sound over a blurry photo.


The mesquite trees are dropping pods everywhere. The bunnies and rabbits eat these. Last night I look over and under one of the trees two rabbits are eating. They are cute. One looks like a young jack rabbit with the longer legs and black on the ears. But I am inside the house so I already know I’m not going any closer to get a better shot or angle. Not with those ears! They KNOW I’m watching but the pods are too tasty to leave. I grab my iPad anyways. You never know. Then I see there are now three rabbits. Oh fun! Wait! Is that four rabbits? They are multiplying before my eyes but I can’t get a decent photo of it to save my life! NO seriously? FIVE of them now!?  So cute hopping around. Can I get at least ONE decent photo of this cuteness?image

The vultures are not quite sure what to make of me yet. I’m outside a lot. I’m on the ground a lot. And if I am taking pictures of a plastic yellow cowboy I am almost definitely lying face down on the rocks and dirt. A vulture took a couple of fly bys the other day. Good lower circling to see if I was road kill or what. A Turkey Vultures sense of smell is keen so I did feel better knowing that it had to come closer to investigate me because I was lying there, not my odor that had drawn its attention. I rolled over in hopes of photographing this big hovering bird but then it realized I was alive. I swear I saw a look of disappointment! It just turned its wing and glided off.

I got nothing. Blur.

Javelinas are unique. This is not a wild hog or boar though it looks like one, I guess. It is a collard peccary. I am told it is related to a hippo. I’m giving you a great description right now huh? I can’t. This one you will have to look up. Javelina. I will dedicate a whole post to them later.image

There is a small family  who wander through our property, climb into planters and eat their way through cactus. The first night they came for an up close visit was terrifying.

It’s the middle of the night, we have been in our new house just a few weeks if that. We put up temporary fencing out the back so our oldest dog Jethro could go pee at night without the risk of rolling down a hill into cactus. Nothing major just the roll out kind of fencing. This isn’t for security and we hadn’t made the commitment as to where and how and if fencing 2.5 acres of desert was needed. We can’t just leave the door open at night for him because around here who knows what will find it’s way inside.

This night my dog Cotton is acting strange. I’m getting the nose poke repeatedly and now it’s with a whimper. This is not normal. I’m half asleep and think he just needs to pee really bad so I open the sliding door turning on no lights. Cotton bolts out like he has been shot from a cannon and I hear growling barking snorting grunting mayhem erupt! My brain is now wide awake and aware that I have at least one startled Javelina on the other side of the flimsiest fencing possible with a white ball of unstable but well meaning fluff coming straight for it! I wear contacts so I see basically as blurry as most of my photos but can make out the shape of a Javelina running away and down our front hill.

IMG_1294Not too many days later my husband is in the living room and yells to me to come. Uh, the Javelina family is in our front planter! It’s still light out! There are three of them. Obviously mom, dad and child. I grab my phone and snap pictures. I’m not blogging at this point and have no idea how much trouble I would later have trying to get these blurry but close pictures on to my site. It’s just cool and scary and exciting. These are not animals you walk up to safely and snap photos of. This house and property sit in line with a natural wash. It is their home. My planter will never get to have flowers. The Javelina uprooted a whole cactus, flowers wouldn’t make it a day.image

So for my Intro to Wildlife Photography I give myself a C -. I think that’s fair. I don’t deserve an F. I haven’t failed. I continue daily to try. The effort and want is there. I believe the skill is too. I don’t deserve an A because of my trying or my effort though either. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe we all get a trophy at the end just because we showed up. Like I said earlier there are photographers out there who have pictures of individual strands of hair on a wolf four hundred feet away. They get the A.

I gave myself a C – knowing that I will get better. It’s a start. And you know what? It’s a really fun start.image

Superstition Mountain Museum

Wanna go someplace fun? Something other than some big budget movie or a mall? You should. Do it. Take a drive over to the Superstition Mountain Museum.

What a cool place!

Inside the Museum you get the honor of speaking with volunteers who are just amazing. Beyond the hospitality they show and the warmth, these individuals are a wealth of information.

We got the privilege to talk with Historian Jim Swanson while we were there and I hope to have many more visits with him. Though I am born and raised desert this man to me is the real deal. Riding horses into the Superstition for years now he has stories you can’t imagine. I felt like a city dweller next to him and I lived in Baker CA. so that says a lot! Think I saw a small twinkle in his eye, a moment of desert cred, when I told him that I had lived at the Gateway to Death Valley. But it PALES in comparison when you imagine him on horseback being shot at riding through the Superstition. I bow down not worthy. With really cool intense enthusiasm from a hardened desert veteran he shared routes to get some of THE best views. If you don’t go meet this man you’re truly missing out.


Right down from our house used to be an old movie studio that made westerns. The Apacheland Movie Ranch. Elvis starred in one called Charro! That movie studio burned down but what remained they moved to the museum.imageimage


imageimageSo not only can you get a tour inside of the museum itself but then you can wander around the old movie studio area and even head into the Elvis Memorial Chapel to get a picture with the King. imageThey show movies in there and keep the schedule in the gift shop. We met Doris volunteering in the chapel. She would be more than happy to take your photo with Elvis and hang out and talk. Her husband John volunteers in the gift shop. It is so nice to go somewhere that you are treated like you are welcome to be there and people talk to you never once looking at a phone. If that’s going back in time then yes, take me.

You need to go!


Desert Cred

I’m born and raised desert. Born in Las Vegas raised in the deserts of Southern California. I am one of a handful of people who can actually say they lived in Baker CA.

Not Bakersfield.

Baker. “The Gateway to Death Valley” is what the sign says if you stop there for soda or gas on your way to or from Las Vegas off the 15. Baker has a huge thermometer telling you it’s hot. Not much else to see. Death Valley is the obviously more famous attraction.

Our family lived there for a couple of years when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade. My father worked for the phone company. They housed roughly 30 families out in the middle of nowhere Baker so the workers could go to the different mountains and probably set up the stations and towers most of us use for phone services today. Or I could be entirely wrong and whatever they worked on 40 years ago has been replaced by a tiny machine. Truly no clue. None the less it was why I lived in Baker in the 70’s and was really the start of me being a desert kid. I remember catching lizards with some of the other kids and bringing them home to mom hoping to get to keep them as a pets.

From there work moved my father and everyone else in our Baker compound, ugh I probably forgot to mention, the houses where we were lived were all built in this community type style fenced in as a group. It became a minimum security prison later or so I was told! Any way they moved everyone to the High Desert. Victorville, Hesperia and Apple Valley. Dad built our house in Hesperia.

One of my chores growing up was weeding. Mostly tumble weeds but the usual prickly bad guys were there too. In oversized gloves dad had already used countless times that were full of thorns I would be sent to a section of fencing to clear along. Oh man my dad would get mad if I just broke the top of the weed off and didn’t try to get the root and all. I am not lying he would check. This is the same man who would say “Good afternoon.” to me at 9 am on a Saturday and scowl because I had slept in so late.

I lost part of my pinkie finger in an accident at the dump due to yard work. It’s a long story I will write at another time when safety becomes a topic.

What took me way too long to get at is I’m by no means a professional desert anything. I am not a plant/cactus expert, nature guru, whatever nor am I claiming to be or even in school to become any of that. No, I have just lived and done yard work in the desert a really long time so hopefully when I say it’s hot out or don’t touch that or you probably shouldn’t it’s with some old school desert credibility.

Here in AZ we have plants and animals that only live in this desert. I want to share some pretty awesome stuff with those of you who may never make it to this part of the world. Or maybe I can inspire you to come see it and experience it yourself.

In the roughly three weeks we have been in our new home I already have stories… and its with that I bring you this blog.