Montana. Wisconsin. Oregon. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Just some of the license plates on the cars and motor homes in the private RV park where we stopped for a night in Yuma, AZ. These snow birds migrated for the winter to the warmer climes of the desert.
Snow birds crowded the Fry’s Wholesale Food, pushing carts down unfamiliar isles with bemused expressions.
Two hours west of the crowds and noise and busy-ness of an urban area and 4,000 feet in elevation gain, we tucked ourselves back among the Manzanita and Oak in Cuyamaca State Park.
This state park adjoins the Cuyamaca Wilderness Area, a California wilderness set-aside, which in turn adjoins the Cleveland National Forest. Miles and hectares of wildlands, some open to exploring by 4 wheels and much only open to 2 feet. Our campground was on the edge between wheels and feet.
For Thanksgiving week, when schools in San Diego Country are out, the campground was about half occupied. We almost had the place to ourselves. And in fact, our campsite, sited on the edge of the campground in a grove of Manzanita, was isolated enough that we were visited in the middle of one night by a mountain lion and a bobcat. I know because I found their fur-filled scat within 75 feet of our RV. Mentioned the evidence to a park ranger and he said they know of a juvenile lion hanging around the area. Given the cottontail bunny that visited us several times in camp, and the amount of fur in the scat, I’d say the lion, and the bobcat for that matter, have a full buffet without bothering us two-leggeds.
The hike up Pine Ridge trail offered great views into the Wilderness Area. Down in the valley, there was a water course lined with golden-leafed water-loving trees, paralleled by a fire road. The mountainsides were pine-covered with polka-dots of yellow where the occasional oak tree caught fire in the afternoon sun.
The pines are Coulter Pines, a relative of the Ponderosa Pines that cover the mountains of New Mexico.
I have no argument with the snow birds whose 40 foot motor homes crowd the plentiful RV resorts; that’s a lifestyle they choose and enjoy. Mine is of a different calling. Wildlands, mountain lions and their scat, pine trees, silence: that’s mine.
For folks like me, our public lands are critical to our health and well-being; public lands managed by local, state and federal agencies but belonging to all of us. These are sacred lands, deserving of our awe and protection. Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are – in your kitchen at home or camped under a Coulter Pine. #publiclandsworthprotecting .