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| Debbie Miller | Trip Reports

2020 - Trip Report - So, Just How Exactly Are We All Doing?

So, just how

exactly are we all doing?

By the members of the Desert Explorers

Clearly, this has been a very unusual period for our motley crew of explorers. It seemed like this might be a good time to touch base with folks just to say hi, count noses and make sure we’re still smiling.

Janet and Pete Austin

Pete and I are doing fine and sheltering-in-place at home in Diamond Bar. We haven’t even been in a store for four months now! Pete shook us both up at the beginning of the pandemic by having, twice, to be rushed to the ER with symptoms of stroke. Luckily, after keeping him overnight for tests, they decided that on both occasions it was a TIA - a sort of “small stroke” but a “big warning” that a stroke could happen. Each time the doctors adjusted his blood thinning medications and we hope they now have that under control. Pete is back to his normal self :-)

Otherwise, we have to make the best of the wildlife in our backyard:...and a few wildflowers from a packet of wildflower seeds I was given:

I am also enjoying making some of the recipes from the 1920’s that the Homestead Museum (where, in better times, I am a docent) is featuring occasionally in their blog. This shows prune whip and custard:

We look forward to better times when the Desert Explorers can resume trips. We miss you all and miss exploring the desert with you.  ~ Janet

Jerry and Dolly Dupree

Dear Desert Explorers,

We are fine and enduring the Covid-19 pandemic as well as we can. We are driving a lot less because there is no place to go. We are not eating out very often and it needs to be take out or eat on an outdoor patio or lawn with awnings and misters. We have adapted well except we haven’t seen our grandchildren and they would like to visit us and go swimming and see our cat. 

As most of you know I enjoy wildlife photography and am out in the desert or up in the mountains once a week depending on the time of the year and whether we are having a wildfire in our local mountains. I have some very interesting wildlife pictures of bobcats, coyotes, road runners, mother quail being followed by her brood, lizards, etc. I enjoy the outdoors and being able to enjoy the time spent hiking, exploring, scouting, and poking around. I place two trail cameras with dry dog food for bait, one camera on video and one on still. I like getting out and enjoy the solitude.  Dolly and I recently took a ride through Oak Glen and Yucaipa and stopped for some apple pie. 

Dolly is doing everything she has wanted to do when she retired. She is a member of a singing group who now has to have “virtual” get togethers online with Zoom and other more elaborate programs. They have a voice coach and an accompanist and they learn songs and sing them in front of each other and offer encouragement and then perform at local open mic nights. Dolly has had a wish to sing and perform all of her life and this has been her wish since she was a little kid. Like most of us, life gets in the way; college, kids, jobs, family needs, and other priorities. I like watching YouTube videos of desert and mountain explorations. is a young lady who explores mines, ghost towns, and abandoned houses all over Nevada and the eastern Sierras. I have also been watching Off Road Recovery about a towing company who specializes in rescuing stuck, wrecked, or non operational vehicles from sometimes impossible situations or being stuck in sand, mud, snow, or have fallen off of roads, etc. I watch it to learn some tricks about rescuing people and what kind of equipment is used by professionals, and most of all how not to get into those predicaments. I have rescued several vehicles in stuck positions in difficult areas and have come across serious accidents and have been able to assist or to call for professional help.  ~ Jerry

Marian Johns

My good news:

Today I passed my amateur radio Technician Class test; got 100% correct!!! We have a local net unofficially called News and Rumors here in Lytle Creek. This group was formed because Lytle Creek could become isolated if there is a serious disaster and we need to be able to communicate with the outside world. Next, Sunny Hansen has agreed to show me how to use a GPS.

Tomorrow is my birthday (July 28). I’ve made it to the Big Eight-O. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m that old. Son, David and grand kids are visiting for the occasion.

My bad news:

I had a terrifying experience last week when I took my dog, Wolfie down to the vet in Fontana (he had a foxtail in his nose). The vet is right next to a 99¢ Store and they share a parking lot. Well, I was turning in the driveway and another car was leaving. We passed one another slowly and carefully. But I could see through my window that the other driver was yelling at me as I went by him. Guess he didn’t like sharing the driveway with me, but I was definitely not on his side.

Anyway, I parked in front of the vet’s office and when I got out of the car, here comes this guy (and his girlfriend). He started yelling at me; then he got out of his car and came over and spit in my face! Yuck! Next, his girlfriend got out of their car and started pounding on me with her fist and knocked me down. They then jumped back in their car and took off. This thug, by the way, was young - probably in his twenties. He was a big guy - at least six feet tall. I’m five-one and almost 80 years old.

Thankfully there were plenty of concerned witnesses. I was surprised how many people asked me if I was OK. They helped me up and one had the presence of mind to take a photo of the guy’s license; someone also called the police. Three officers, in three vehicles, came almost immediately and insisted that the paramedics come and check me for injuries. They took my blood pressure and oxygen level and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital but I declined because I didn’t think I was seriously injured; I was just unnerved, shaken up, rattled – and very scared.

Although I wasn’t seriously injured – no blood at least, I did have a sore spot where I hit my head when I fell. Later, my left leg and left thumb really started to hurt, so now I’m hobbling around and trying not to use my left hand. Plus I have since been tested for Covid-19 because he spit in my face; no test results yet

I’ve been wondering if my assailants, who happened to be black (I know, I know - I’ll be called a racist now.) were perhaps emboldened by the recent BLM chaos. I am really worried about the recent anarchy that has plagued this country. I am also troubled by the verbal and physical attacks on the police. Despite the need to weed out rogue cops, I can’t see how defunding police departments is going to solve any problems. In fact, I imagine it will just create more lawlessness.

Well, maybe I got a little carried away with my opinions. I just wish things in this country were “normal” again. ~ Marian

Nancy Maclean

Dreaming of Croatia

For years, I had a dream that one day I will take a small group of my DE friends back to Croatia and show them the country and the culture where I grew up. This year turned out to be The Year to do it. So, I planned a land tour to visit the castles nestled among verdant rolling hills and to explore the area where one of our members family’s castle may have been centuries ago. I was going to take them on a walk along the streets and parks of my charming medieval home town where I walked many years ago.  Then on to the national park where 17 turquoise colored lakes flow from one to another, and to the village where I spent time with my grandparents. Then on to the Adriatic Sea, to board our small ship to cruise among the beautiful islands where I spent summer vacations, and explore others that I have not had a chance to visit yet. Yes, we were going to be cruising the blue Adriatic Seas, visiting the ancient archeological sites, swimming, snorkeling, eating ripe local fruit and fish caught in the area that day, and drinking wonderful zinfandels along the way.

Then in March, things changed, though I hoped that we would get through it, and make the trip as planned. I was carefully watching the developments in Croatia, talking to my relatives, and hoping that it would all work out. Then after a lot of agonizing (by mid June, as the situation with virus was not letting up), the memories of our trip to South India came to my mind. Several of our DE friends were with us on that unforgettable trip. The rules on multiple entry visa into India had changed during our trip, so we were stranded on a pre-trip in Sri Lanka, unable to return to India for the rest of our tour. I remembered the hours of filling out paperwork and dealing with local bureaucracy at the office of the Indian High Commission in Colombo, trying to get permission for re-entry. We finally got our passports stamped with a visa as a Humanitarian cause. Once in India, we felt as though our group of “refugees” was closely watched by the Indian government. And then again, before leaving the country, we had to attend in-person the Indian High Commission in Mysore, stand in front of the magistrate, and bribe the officials to give us our exit papers.

Even though I did not expect to repeat anything of that nature in Croatia, I did not want to expose my lifelong friends to a possibility of more campfire stories about getting stuck in Croatia during the pandemic. So, for now, my dream of touring Croatia is still a dream, and I hope that perhaps we luck out and get to make it a reality next year! ~ Nancy

Kenna and Allan Schoenherr

My wife and I are isolating ourselves at our cabin up on the South Fork of Bishop Creek.  ~ Allan

Diane and Ken Searer

Diane and I are doing well.

As some of you know I like to camp and frequent Hot Springs. One of my Retirement Jobs is checking out the Tattoos on Young Women at the springs.

It’s an unpaid position, but someone has to do it,so why not me! To that end Diane (to sew) and I have gone to Mammoth for a week in May, June

and July, taking our Ford with the camper and towing the Toyota. That’s camping!

In May there were very few people. In June toward the end of our week there, the Young Crowd started showing up.

In July more Young People mostly Bikers and Hikers, a very nice crowd. I expect there will be even more people in August.

Signing off now, but you know I could go on and on.

Take care All!  ~ Ken

Pat Nelson

Which desert is this? A new one in Southern California? Los Padres National Forest? Well it’s actually the Mercantour, a park in South Eastern France, where I’ve been... Working on my explorer van.  ~ Pat

Bob Pelzman

I’m getting out of the house by volunteering at the Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks and also the one in Oxnard. Plus meals on wheels and watching a lot of television and doing crossword puzzles.  ~ Bob

Ding and Allan Wicker

Greetings to all DE’ers,

We miss seeing and socializing with all of you, whether it is at a meeting or on a trip. We hope you are well and finding adventure or at least activities that keep you occupied, maybe even entertained.

Since mid-March, Ding has been working full-time at home, processing student applications to Claremont McKenna College 

and corresponding with prospective students. College this fall will not resemble what we remember as students, or even what it was like one year ago.

Allan has undertaken tasks that he has been postponing, but now has no excuse for not doing. One is cleaning out our garage, which has accumulated too much stuff over the past 33 years. At the present rate, the job may be done in October. Another task has been making available online some professional papers published over the years. In doing this I came across an account of my trials at collecting a package from Kyrgyz customs when we were both teaching in Kyrgyzstan in 2000-2001. You’re invited to take a look at it:  Back then, I sent to the DE Newsletter, periodic reports of our experiences during the academic year we were there.

For breaks we take short walks, do exercises, and Allan goes biking locally. Within its boundaries, our local botanical garden provides an opportunity to experience a variety of California landscapes and occasional wildlife. Mount Baldy road also provides easy access to the mountains.

Allan’s photographic opportunities have waned lately – or maybe it’s his lack of imagination or interest. A few examples of his and Ding’s recent photos follow.

Take care, all.  ~ Allan and Ding

Bob and Sue Jaussaud

Sue and I were on a trip in the Sierras and environs recently with a very small group. We were lucky to find boonie camps along streams every night. One camp was at a creek side cabin that kept us warm and dry during a thunderstorm. We even found a hot spring one afternoon. During the trip I enjoyed my 75th birthday. In my book, that is no cause for celebration but I am very thankful to have made it this far. Enjoying life with good friends, especially while camping in the boonies, was the best!  ~ Bob and Sue 

Sylvia and Jay Lawrence

Yep, life is very good. We’re keeping a low profile, but still having a good time despite the current restrictions and a broken toe. Sylvia is super busy with her preschool which is open at half-capacity (lots of precautions and regulations) and I’m busy doing the Lincoln Highway and OCTA magazines. Just have to be careful with travel due to being in the “high risk” category. I am starting a rehab on our pop-top camper soon in anticipation of a huge bunch of trips when all the bio-hazard madness is put to rest. Unfortunately, my go-to place, Baja California is in much worse shape COVID-wise than the U.S., so south-of-the-border trips will have to be postponed even longer than trips in the southwest.

Even in urban Long Beach, the wildlife provides a little entertainment. These two little bandits and their mom are in our tree next to our front porch. Guard dog Pippin is at the screen door losing his mind.  ~ Jay and Sylvia

Brett and Cristina Henrich

Honestly, my heart breaks for where we are as a country at the moment. I’m also tired of the choice between the left who just want to lock up the desert with massive national monuments and bills like the Desert Protection Act, and the current absolute insanity and dereliction to constitutional principles on the right. I’m tired of the corruption and the void of leadership on COVID. Everything has become so politicized, and as a result, I don’t know who to trust. I’m just tired, and a bit depressed, if I’m honest.

Hoping for brighter times ahead. ~ Brett

Dave Hess

Bored to tears in Bakersfield. Helped the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep fill the Vermin Guzzler south of Baker near Old Dad Mountain August 23-27. Wonder whether Desert Explorer trips couldn’t be done with appropriate social distancing; they are outdoors, hand sanitizer is cheap and masks could be used around campfires.  ~ Dave

Bob Jacoby

My Fun Time at Home

Like everybody else, I have spent the last four months or so mainly at home thanks to COVID-19.  I have some preexisting conditions so staying away from most other folks is definitely a good idea for me. I have surprised myself by filling up the time pretty easily. My reading has significantly increased particularly American History and the history of trails and roadways. (I am now an expert on US 36!) I have also streamed some very cool TV shows, including Bosch.

All this is good, but I also miss seeing my friends in the Desert Explorers and I particularly miss being in the desert and its environs on dirt roads. I hope that by the year end, things will have substantially improved and we will have a real DE meeting followed by many trips.

In any event, be safe and healthy and hopefully we can all get together soon.  ~ Bob

Steve and Debbie Miller Marschke

What have Debbie and Steve Miller Marschke been doing? Our jobs continued as usual. Steve works in the Defense Industry and works in laboratories, so wearing PPE and a mask was not an adjustment for him. Deb has been working at home for 20 years, so no change. The challenge, of course, was buying the goods we needed at the stores and all the frustrations that go along with that. We feel very lucky to be boondock campers now, because we have been enjoying our camping trips more than ever.

We’ve participated in numerous Bighorn Sheep projects in the desert, and also have spent time volunteering at The Goffs Schoolhouse property. It’s all good, even if it is just the two of us. Social distancing is easily managed when you have all your own gear, food, and vehicle. 

At home we ramped up our gardening efforts and experimenting with expanding our growing capacity with container pots. It’s been very fun, and we planted lots of things we have never tried before:  tomatoes, squash, peppers, corn, carrots, peas, carrots, asperagus, watermelon, cantaloupe, jicama, rhubarb, strawberries, bok choi, swiss chard, eggplant, radishes, lettuces, cucumbers, and brussells sprouts.  We also planted a lot of dahlias which have been a great reward ...did you know there is a variety called “cactus”? It’s gorgeous.

Essentially we created our own botanical garden which has been it’s own reward.  We also expanded our bird feeders. It’s amazing how one small change in feeder style or food offered will solicit an instant response. We have a family of Western bluebirds that nested by our back door and they’ve successfully fledged two clutches this year. Bluebirds do tolerate humans peeking into the nest, so we have a trap door that we use to check what’s happening. It’s like watching the miracle of life unfold before your eyes. We feel honored that the bluebirds have trusted us and this is their third year here. We are healthy and our families are too. We just miss our friends ! So take care of yourselves, it will be grand when we all are together again.  ~ Deb