Late Autumn to Early Winter

Journal No.4, 2023

Well! Watching the climate and biomes change once again. Northern California’s foggy coastline to our reentry into the desert skies has been a welcomed one. After journeying from Clear Lake, California to the City of Santa Cruz in November, we parked our tiny home in my parent’s even tiny-er driveway for a few weeks. We enjoyed staying with family, where I could cook everyone large meals and even have room in the fridge for the leftovers. It was the first time we were all together in a long time; My parents, Isaac, Artie and I, and my brother and his wonderful boyfriend Ori (who was visiting from Israel and experiencing his first time in the US!). We shared many meals together (a home cooked traditional Thanksgiving meal made by my brother, dad, and I, Dim Sum, a cheesecake for Isaac’s birthday, and much more). Everyone took a paticularly endearing liking to Artie, we celebrated a few Shabbats and the first night of Chanukah together, and we also took a trip down to San Clemente, CA to see our first cousins and grandparents to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary for the weekend during Thanksgiving. Back in Santa Cruz, I got a great deal of little building projects finished inside the trailer to improve our organization and functionality of our tiny home. Isaac went on a business trip to Mexico City for a week during this time, and our first serious mishap with the trailer occurred. An “atmospheric river” passed through the area one night, and I awoke sopping wet from water constantly streaming in through the back window next to the bed platform, soaking into the mattress, then flooding the floor below the bed platform where I had just built new storage shelves. The rain was relentless, and I had to move everything from underneath the bed, strip the mattress to air it out, get as many towels as I could find from my parent’s backyard shed to soak up the interior water. I adjusted the jack stands with the hand crank (there was too much rain to safely use the drill) so the trailer would tip forward to drain the water away from the back window, and raised the ladder to drape a tarp over the back window from the roof. All this at 2:30 AM in the darkness while lightning torn against the angry tropical storm. After two hours of trying to address immediate issues, Artie and I tried to get some rest on the tiny home couch, and the next morning I did countess laundry loads in the dryer, aired out the area under the bed, and tried to fix some of the leakage areas from the roof.

After 3 weeks in Santa Cruz, we were ready to return to the quiet adenture of off-grid life. We journeyed south to Sequoia National Forest, CA to reconvene with nature. Surrounded by sequoia, white fir, sugar pine, incense-cedar, red fir, and ponderosa pine, the misty mornings, short days, and freezing nights (25ºF) were quite a contrast from the temperate seaside climate of Santa Cruz. We stayed in a dispersed camping area far from society (an hour from gas/groceries) off a steep but well paved Forest Service road. We bird-watched with our new binoculars from my parents, I cooked a carrot curry on the fire, we listened to wolf howls at night, and hiked the Trail of a Hundred Giants and hiking below the centuries-old trees (iconic, breathtaking). It’s pretty cool to be at the very southern tip of the Sierra Nevadas. One morning I set out with Artie on a chilly walk along the forest’s dirt road, and a few miles in, I read a neon sign that warned of traps set in the area past the sign to catch wolves, mountain lions, and bears. Sensibly, we immediately turned around to return the way we came. About a quarter mile after the sign, on the way back, Artie caught whiff of a bone on the side of the road so we walked over to it (you already know where this is going, but I did not at the time)…and all the sudden Artie was caught in a blast of dirt, yelping along with me in fright. When I got a chance to see what it was (I thought it may have been an animal burrowed in the dirt), I saw he was caught in a leg-hold trap, his left paw squished in between the rusted jaws. Panic mode arose in me, and I tried calling on my phone and looking up how to release the trap (no service) and yelling for help. After what felt like forever calming down Artie and yelling into the forest, I decided to run back to the tiny home to get Isaac’s help and the truck. After returning and releasing Artie, we observed that his big paw sustained no major damages, no broken skin, and he was able to walk on it without a limp. Thankfully, cattle dogs are well built for durability. We drove back and had a trauma-induced nap, and had him take it easy the next few days while the swelling reduced. We got a visitor later that day asking if we were the folks who set the trap off, and we learned there’s a roaming pack of Grey Wolves from Oregon, and the traps are set by the Forest Service to tag the wolves. Apparently, the day before, they caught a wolf on the same road, so today they were going to remove all the traps. Overall, very grateful Artie is ok, but none of us will forget this experience.

Feeling ready to leave the forest, we headed further south east into the Mohave Desert, where we stayed on BLM Land across from the Kelso Dunes. Back in the desert just in time for Isaac’s birthday, we climbed the sandy dunes and explored the creosote blanketed landscape around us. We got great solar here, although the days are still short, and the evening temperatures were at a comfortable 40º F. In an area that gets up to 134ºF in the summer, I’d say we visited at the right time. For Isaac’s birthday, we drove to the closest town (Baker, an hour away), taking film photos of the Joshua trees on the drive, and eating delicious taqueria burritos along the dry salty lakebed. The mountains that surround the area are so interesting - cinder cones, volcanic rock, sedimentary streaking on cliffsides, incredibly soft golden sand dunes, granite and quarts scattered among the fields of yucca and creosote.

On our way to the next spot, we stopped to see my cousin Andrew in Boulder City, NV for a trade off for a highly valuble item in my life; a 12qt cast iron dutch oven. We also jammed the fridge and freezer with our first load of groceries since before Santa Cruz, and stopped at Love’s truckstop for a $17 private shower. Per my request, we drove parallel to the Hoover Dam (but the side walls of the bridge were too tall an we couldn’t see over them) and crossed through a number of mostly abandoned historic frontier towns until we hit the trademark of the Sonoran Desert…

Our next spot has been long awaited; returning to the Sonoran desert on BLM Land managed by the Kingman Field Office, close to the tiny town of Wikiup. Unexpectedly, we were once again among the saguaros! Arizona greeted us with spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and a pair of wild donkeys grass grazing right outside our kitchen window a few times. The weather is perfect (Snowbirds: we get it now!) and boy is it good to be back in this landscape. We hiked a canyon in a nearby cienaga wash towards a warm spring and met some nice old folks commited to conservation and who have been volunteering their time for 40 years in this canyon; cleaning up litter, maintaning the spring pools, and scouting for mountain lions. People like them are such inspirations to Isaac and I! We gave them many thanks. Returning to the saguaros signifies to us that Lady Loam has made a full circle around the western US in relatively good shape! This is a huge accomplishment for Isaac and I and we are so grateful and proud of it. More on the constructing and function of the tiny home to come…stay tuned in!

Big Takeaways: Learn how the most common animal traps work preemptively. Keep the hobby items you want to use most frequently accessible (binoculars, film camera, notebook). Don’t pass up a local taqueria (especially if the only other options are mega coorperation fast food). Lastly, shamelessly adopt snowbird ideology and just follow the good weather.


isabelle's painted sky ● Copywright 2023