Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Surviving In a Land Where Everything Either Sticks, Stings or Bites

©Bert Gildart: In a land where everything either sticks, stings or bites,  Bill (see previous post) and I decided we would return to the Moonlight Canyon trail and see if we could learn more about what — and how — sheep eat. Can they actually digest thorns?

MoonLight Canyon-4

Surviving in a land where everything sticks, stings or bites


Essentially because this area in Anza Borrego Desert State Park  is so rugged, it is, in fact, ideal sheep country, and that morning we’d watched as a band of about five desert bighorn sheep – all young rams – had munched on surrounding vegetation.  Food they consumed grew close to the ground and from our vantage we could not see what it was.  Everything here seemed covered with thorns, and we wondered how they managed.


The sheep had moved on so Bill and I decided to climb to the prominence on which they’d been watching the world around them. Here, we found much cholla, and every single one contained extraordinarily sharp thorns.

MoonLight Canyon-6 MoonLight Canyon-9

Sheep munch away the sharp thorns to exposure the underlying fruit of the cholla. Apparently, it is all palatable.

Mind you, these were brutally sharp thorns, and as we had climbed, several had lodged in the soft fabric of my jeans and then penetrated to jab me in a particularly painfully manner.  This was the food of our sheep, and as we examined the plants, we found no discarded thorns.  Apparently, they had consumed not only the fruit of the cacti, but also the thorns.


Bill and I returned to the trail and his attention turned to the various micro-climates contained along the Moonlight Canyon trail. He asked me if I’d noted the various rock pockets where temperatures fluctuated, and it was true.  Here in this twist-y canyon where the aspect changed markedly, we found not only pockets of cold, but also pockets of relative warmth. Apparently, the warm pockets provided conditions appropriate for the season’s last brave flowering species.

MoonLight Canyon-7 MoonLight Canyon-8

Bill said he believed the flower was a fuchsia. With its long red sepals and petals and very conspicuous stamen it was a colorful plant, necessary perhaps to attract insects for late season pollination.  It was a perfect photographic specimen so I attached a 105mm macro lens, set up a tripod, and then illuminated it with two strobes manually  (250sec, f32)  set to overwhelm ambient light, so producing the black background.

Janie and I left Agua Calienta late in the day, commenting over and over that we’d had a marvelous day, filled with good friends, flowers, birds, and wildlife. How could it get any better?



Channel Islands


2 Responses to “Surviving In a Land Where Everything Either Sticks, Stings or Bites”

  1. Bill D. Says:

    Great posts Bert… and yes, it was a marvelous day thanks to you and Janie!

  2. History Safari Express » Blog Archive » Catrina returns to the desert Says:

    [...] the heat of the day, Bert and I hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, where we had photographed Bighorn sheep last December.  In my next post I’ll show Bert [...]

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