This is the upcoming forecast for my area:


After a wet and dreary March, April is sending its showers. Some forecasts are predicting as much as 3 inches in our area for the storm. Given that the average annual rainfall is 12 inches, that’s a really big deal.

Today was my last shot at outdoor time for a while. I grabbed the dogs and drove up to an area called Quatal Canyon. Now, normally this area hardly sees any visitors at all. This time it was full of people. Mostly young guys in their 4WD trucks. I guess that’s what happens when school and work are both out for the near future.

This is Quatal Canyon. You can see the dirt road I’m on off to the right side.

Quatal Canyon is a little known area to most people. A dirt road turns off Cerro Noroeste Road a couple miles west of the tiny mountain community of Pine Mountain.

I made sure I didn’t stop anywhere inhabited so I couldn’t spread the virus if I had it and couldn’t catch it along the way. Small mountain communities don’t have any medical facilities. It would be a long drive to the nearest doctor. It is important not to risk contaminating them. I did have a surgical mask and gloves, spic and span spray and paper towels, just in case.

Doggy doo-doo bags make useful improvised disposable gloves as long as you don’t need finger separation for what you’re doing.

768DSCF2639 And this is the law of the land today. Even the smallest campsites are closed. The trails, however, are open. This is the sign at Toad Springs Campground which has a total of four fire rings, three picnic tables, and no outhouse. It is the trailhead for a trail that isn’t even marked on the map. We went for a hike.

Oliver (front) and Avery

When I let the dogs run loose, I usually leave the leash on them. Leave it to Oliver to find the one muddy, filthy cesspool of a water hole in the area (probably the Toad Springs the campsite was named for), jump into it and wallow around. He stank the stink of rotting vegetation.

While I watched the dogs amusing themselves, I sat on the grass. I put my right hand on the ground for support and it felt like I’d just impaled my middle finger on a thorn so I moved my hand slightly and something nailed my thumb. I’d looked before I put my hand down and didn’t see anything. I picked my hand up and looked closer and still didn’t see anything. It felt like I’d been stung. I looked at my finger and thumb closely and didn’t see any punctures or sting marks but it still hurt.

Oh well.

Quatal Canyon

About 2.5 miles west of Toad Springs the boundary of the Chumash Wilderness moves away from Quatal Canyon Road. Wedged between the road and the wilderness, there is a maze of 4WD tracks. That is where we went.


Further down the 4WD track, I encountered this vehicle. The first time there were two young guys riding on the roof rack. It got past too quickly to grab a photo. I followed, thinking one of those guys is going to fall off. When I finally caught up, there was just one guy hanging on. Presumably the other either fell off or simply quit.  There were several other vehicles camping together back here. All young people, obviously immune to impacting the ground at speed as well as any passing virus.

Away from it all.

I persevered and found my lonely corner of the scrub and loosed the hounds again.  This gave Oliver a chance to dry out. There were plenty of lizards to chase! This was a transition zone from a stunted pinyon pine forest and a desert scrub area. If you scrolled up to that map, you see green where the area is forested and white where it is scrub.


On the way back home, I stopped to look at the poppies near Gorman, a small town along I-5 famous for spectacular poppy displays on its hills. There weren’t many yet, mostly scattered clumps in the south-facing sides of hills at slightly lower elevations.

When the bloom peaks, you are driving in a valley surrounded by orange and blue and yellow hills and the display attracts thousands of people. Probably not a good thing this year.

Two hours later and my bites still tingled quite uncomfortably.  When I got home I took some antihistamines and rubbed on some hydrocortisone cream. Still could not see any entry wounds even with a magnifying glass. Four hours after that the thumb still hurts a bit when I stretch the skin by flexing it. Really strange because I can shake off a bee sting in a half hour.