A Little Local History

I never tire of exploring the Santa Ana River bed which passes just little over a mile from my house. Most of the time, it’s dry or at most damp. During protracted rain storms, which happen with less frequency with every passing year, there will be some surface water; but usually the river flows underground.

I’m old enough to remember the floods of ’68 when a month of steady rain turned my playground into a raging torrent of muddy water that swept bridges away and stripped a mile-wide swath of every bit of vegetation. One could hear boulders being rolled towards the sea from a half mile away.

Today it was warm and clear, a perfect day for an exploratory walk. IMG_8441

We followed the denuded strip where the water district buried their pipeline a few years ago, looking for the old Cone Camp trail which had been bisected by it. The trail wasn’t obvious anymore but there were numerous wildlife paths that meandered in the general direction we wanted to go.

IMG_8444We came to an unusually verdant drainage which appeared to have been designated a habitat conservation area though I never found any other boundary markers.

Eventually, we came to a remnant the old Cone Camp Road which was washed out in the aforementioned floods of 1968. Following the road we came to what had been the gate and the foundation of the administration building.


The camp had been built to house migrant works from Mexico who came to this country under the Las Braceros program. The program was established in 1942 when World War II created a labor shortage and immigrants were welcomed into this part of the country to tend the orange groves and other farming concerns.

By the time  I started exploring the remains of the camp (in the early seventies), there were only a few dilapidated buildings left standing. Today, there are only foundations, nails, and some remnants of plumbing which suggest the use of each pad.


This one, I believe, may have been a barracks. There are slabs that have drains and what were probably showers and others that appear to have been kitchen facilities and dining halls. Most interesting to me, are the little personal touches the builders added, like decorative stones set in the mortar of the steps. It makes me think that the camp may have been built by the laborers who ultimately lived in them.

The U.S. government withheld pension money from the paychecks of the laborers and dutifully remitted it to the Mexican government. When the workers applied for benefits some forty years later, their earnings had evaporated. More information about the camp can be found at http://www.highlandnews.net/news/article_538a31a6-44aa-540b-aa77-0f1befe28ec3.html


Building materials appear to have been local river rock.


A short stretch of the old pavement remains but ends where the flood ripped through.IMG_8477

Beyond the road, nature has reclaimed the wash. With every rain storm it recovers its pristine beauty.




A Family Affair

I often wonder how people actually select a pet for adoption. Except for my horses, I don’t think I’ve ever actively sought a new pet. Thank goodness people don’t let their horses run loose like they do their cats and dogs!

In order of age (to the best of my recollection):

Blackie aka Tank aka Meathead aka The Henchman – Came to us an intact tom, probably two or three years old. Now in his dotage, he can still snatch a gopher out of its hole and dispatch it with only one tooth.Lots & Cats 015*

The gray kitties, found dumped by the side of the highway as little guys – In keeping with our policy of not naming strays that we intend to give away, remain Gray Kitty and Other Gray Kitty (Other for short) fifteen years later.

009 (2)

Shola aka Peeps migrated from the neighbor’s house already in heat. A quick trip to the vet fixed the problem and she remains the queen of the realm.


Garfield was left behind when the next-door neighbors moved away. He had some behavior problems that made it impossible to re-home him. He has been restored to good mental health though he’s a quirky boy.


Eva Braun’s staff died and the heirs were going to have her put down. She found refuge with us.


And the most recent additions – two strays found on Christmas Eve. Thanks a lot, Santa. Perhaps the last thing we would have wished for and certainly the last thing our cats would have wanted.


B&W Dog

and Sadie



*Since I wrote this Blackie has gone on to the happy gopher hunting grounds, where (I hope) he has a full set of teeth.

Santa’s Dirty Trick

On Christmas Eve morning my husband and I noticed two dogs, a Border Collie and a shepherd, hanging around the neighborhood. They spent the entire day in the field across the street looking expectantly at every passing car. By dusk, we decided it was time to make a concerted effort to coax them into the safety of our fenced yard.

They were leery of us but hunger overcame their caution; and they followed us through the gate. “Clang”, the gate banged shut behind them and they were in protective custody.

A little background: We have historically rescued cats. “Rescued” may be too strong a word. Let’s put it this way: they move in and we spay/neuter and feed them. Soon, despite our best resolutions, they have names and are hogging the bed. We have six at present and have had as many as nine. A disclaimer: this does not make me the crazy cat lady in my neighborhood as my friend two houses down the street has SEVENTEEN!


Mike has built a lovely cat run on the back of the house that allows the indoor cats to go outside at their leisure without facing the inherent dangers that cats face; but it also means that they can’t do gopher patrol in my garden. So, we compromise and let them go out in the daytime to earn their keep.

Back to the “dog rescue”: The first night, they had me up every twenty minutes to hush their barking. (My pet peeve is people who allow their dogs to bark incessantly) Directly after breakfast, Christmas morning, one of my fearless cats hopped over the fence to see what we were up to.

I should explain that we recently bought the house next door to ours, a small fixer upper, with the intention of renovating it and using it as a guest house for relatives. It is there we are housing the canine guests.

When the cat showed them how easy it was to leap the four-foot fence, they became a menace to my cats; so…we moved them into the house. A week later we still had had no response to our numerous ads seeking their staff. So…


Mike built a large dog run next to the house and we have taken to walking them two to five miles a day. And worst of all, we’ve named them. Looks like we have dogs


An Introduction to Geriatric Extreme Mountain Biking

It was four weeks ago today that a rogue rock in the trail catapulted me over the bars and tossed me ribs-first into another boulder. The gory details of that crash are exaggerated…err, I mean elaborated in my Xanga post of December 6th (judyrutrider.xanga.com). So, after yet another lengthy convalescence, I felt ready to hit the trail again today.

Sally, my constant companion, brought her two nephews along, which always lends a bit of fun to the ride. There’s nothing like sharing a favorite trail with someone new. These young men, though very fit, were not familiar with our trails, which consist of little more than a narrow footpath winding around boulders, cactus, and dry stream beds.

This is my partner, Mike, making a technical section of trail look perfectly ridable. My success rate of clearing this section is only about 70%.Riding the Wash March 2008 (4)

One of the boys was a skilled bike handler but the other not so much. Young men almost always assume that they can outpace old women on a bike, especially after waiting for us on the climb. What they don’t understand is that thirty years of experience makes up for twenty year-old testosterone. I frequently caution them as they precede me down a technical descent, that age and treachery will win out over youth and skill every time; but in reality, age in this context means experience and treachery is more like skill.

Both young men followed Mike (that’s my husband who is crazy fast) down the trail with me, then Sally in pursuit. I quickly caught up with the less experienced boy, Robert, and as we approached a particularly intimidating section, I slowed down to allow him time to muddle through it.

The trail winds through a few good sized boulders and then drops steeply off the side of a levy that’s about ten feet high. The roll out at the bottom entails rolling over a rock ramp which, gives most novice riders pause.

As expected, Robert stopped at the top of the drop off and looked it over, while I slowly coasted up behind him expecting he would move on. By the time I realized he wasn’t moving, I’d lost all momentum and like a plane stalling, I plummeted, head first, over the side of the levy. (note to self: learn to track stand ASAP) Maybe a more appropriate adage in this case would be “Pride goeth before a fall”.

Poor Sally! For the second ride in a row, she was witness to my ineptitude and had to pull my bike off me. Her comment was, “THAT didn’t look good.”

I lay where I fell, head downhill from my feet, and took inventory of the damage. Luckily, my helmeted head took the brunt of the crash and my cracked rib suffered no additional damage. Once I decided that nothing seemed to be broken, I gingerly righted myself and climbed back up the embankment to where my bike waited, none the worse for the wear.

With my confidence thoroughly shaken, I continued down the trail, and when we regrouped, I made sure Robert was behind me. The good news is that I rode through the rock garden that threw me a few weeks ago with nary a second thought.

Here “the road less traveled” beckons to the seasoned cyclist.