Ahhh . . . the sounds of silence.
It’s Sunday afternoon and Owl Canyon Campground in southern California (north of Barstow) is almost empty again. Quite a difference from yesterday! Last night I counted 53 tents (most sheltering two people), six or seven homes-on-wheels, and one yurt!
In addition to the group of university students and the “spiritual gathering” group, a troop of boy scouts set up camp for the weekend. Fortunately most campers were off exploring the area during the day, and in the evening it was cool enough that I could keep the windows closed, shutting out most of the noise.
The photos you see in this post are views around our new campsite, the best site here in my opinion. It’s away from where groups tend to camp, and, as you can see, the views are outstanding. As soon as the site was vacated this morning, the PTV scooted in!
The crew and I meet a couple of Californians, Randy and Karen, who come out to Owl Canyon on weekends.
When Bridget, Spike, and I first approach their campsite, three rat terriers come out to meet the crew! Oh what excitement!
Spike is thrilled to make pals with Pearl, Pixie, and Rattles.
He hops around, posturing “Let’s play!” Even Bridget joins in.
Later, at our campsite, while I’m showing Randy and Karen the crew’s fold-up pen, the BLM ranger comes by.
Owl Canyon Campground doesn’t have a camp host at this time, so Jim comes by to collect the money and check up on things.
He notices the university group, which is spread out over several campsites, does not have one pay ticket posted, as specified at the self-pay station. Jim also notes that the spiritual gathering group has five vehicles parked at one site with two tents on it, counting the yurt.
“The campground is designed for individual camping, not for groups,” Jim explains. He asks us if these groups have caused any problems or disturbances, and since they haven’t, other than what can’t be avoided when a lot of people get together, Jim doesn’t see the need to bother them.
Jim sits at the picnic table with us to chat and answer our questions.
Randy is curious about OHV rules in the area. Jim gives us district maps that show the very large area of the desert where OHVs are allowed. On these maps you can see another large area of mixed, private and public, land.
“They have all these trails over here,” he says, pointing to the map. “It would take you forever to go on all these trails, yet they go over into this other limited-use area, right into the private and restricted areas.” He sighs. The plight of the desert tortoises comes to my mind.
Then he tells me news I can use — a free campground!
Jim and his wife stay all year at Sawtooth Canyon Campground which is south of here, off of Highway 247. “It’s a small campground, only eleven sites, and it’s free.” My ears perk up. Jim invites me to the campground but warns, “It’s 3,600 feet so it’s cooler than here.” Hmm . . . It’s 3,000 feet here. How much cooler can it be?
Then he tells us about the little pool he made behind his camper. “I’ve seen a cougar, coyotes with babies, rabbits, chukars . . . All sorts of animals come up to my pool to drink.” It’s obvious that he loves the desert and its wildlife.
Jim shares an interesting point of view with us.
“I’m all for campgrounds. I tell people, if you want to protect the desert, get campgrounds set up. Because once you have a campground, rules are made. You can’t drive OHVs all over. It’s pack it in/pack it out. You can’t disturb the surrounding area. You can’t go burning up creosote bushes, for instance. That sort of thing.”
His theory makes a lot of sense. Then he adds proudly, “Sawtooth Canyon Campground is an example of that. Once we started enforcing camping rules, the plants and animals came back.”
Now that most of the people have cleared out, the crew and I can start exploring.
We’ll go over to climb around and photograph Rainbow Basin. Also the head of a two-mile trail is not far from our campsite. Some other campers we met told us it’s a great hike. It gets pretty warm by eleven o’clock, so the crew and I will set out bright and early. Fun!
Canine Corner: “Love the one you’re with” by Bridget and Spike
“It looks like our new friends have moved on to their next camp. It was nice meeting them, wasn’t it, Spike.”
“Yeah, that Rattles is a cool guy. And Pearl is so . . . I don’t know, laid back. But the one I really like is Pixie. What a doll! I could go for her in a big way.”
“Spike! What’s the matter with you! Pixie is too young for you. If you’re gonna’ go around making a fool of yourself, it should be over Pearl. At least she’s more your age.”
“Aw, Bridget. You’re jealous.”
“Well, get real, Spike. Anyway, you’ll never see that Pixie or any of them ever again. You know how the song goes . . . LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH!”
“Ya’ got me there, Bridge.”