Bogie, Bridget and Dino were already swimming blissfully, with their ears streaming out behind them, by the time we drove up in the trucks.
We were at Los Coyotes, a ranch on a high ridge of land belonging to my son, Tim, and his wife, Geri. The ranch is only about a six-minute drive from their house. Their house faces the Salton Sea. Tim and Geri keep the ranch as their personal park and swimming hole, picnic and barbecue retreat.
Los Coyotes is the highest point of land in the undulating desert. There is beauty in every direction. The Salton Sea looks as if it has been reflecting the blue sky since prehistoric times.
In fact, it has only been there since 1908 when the Colorado River overflowed into the Coachella Valley, filling a vast sand pit and making the inland sea. It's 30 miles long and 13 miles wide, according to a government brochure published in 1966. Even then, the booklet warned that the water in the sea may eventually become too salty to support game fish because of the irrigation water as well as the original salt deposits.
Right now, at day's end, the Salton Sea is beautiful to see and it would be a tragic loss to the inventory of pure beauty in California if it dries up from lack of clear water.
Looking east are the Chocolate Mountains and the Orocopias. Beyond these two ranges and dimmed by the distance are the Chuckawallas.
A fold in the mountain range to the east is the Bradshaw Trail. None of the guides I have seen in the area say who Bradshaw was. I like to think the trail is named for a wagon master or a wagon owner or one of those brave men and women who crossed the plains, the mountains, the desert and went north to the Oregon Trail or on to the edge of the Pacific.
Across the Salton Sea, the Superstition Mountains rear up like a herd of wild stallions. I love the geographic names of the desert. Indian, Spanish or cattle-drive English, the names are colorful and graphic.
From Tim and Geri's ranch we can see the San Andreas Fault, splitting the land from high up in the mountain range to the desert floor. It makes a streak of green in the brown earth. There is water deep in the fault, slaking the thirst of the desert vegetation.
The oasis we can see from Los Coyotes is Dos Palmas, a ranch named for the two tall palms which were the first to grow in what is now a grove of trees. It once belonged to a friend of mine named Ray Morgan, a bright, funny advertising man out of Stanford with whom I did several political campaigns. What goes around comes around. Ray used to tell me I would enjoy a weekend at his ranch, Dos Palmas, and 25 years later, I am standing with my son while he points out Ray's former ranch.
The dogs are standing at the edge of the pond, knee deep in the cool water. Bogie and Dino are neighbor dogs who run out and join our caravan as we go by their house. They are delightful dogs who love to swim. Bridget is Tim and Geri's big, gentle, black dog, half Labrador and half German shepherd. She's as big as a pony and lamb-gentle. Peaches ran at her and screamed several times and Bridget just quietly walked away.
Poor old Peaches had never seen so many dogs of any kind, let alone such big ones. Peaches did not choose to swim and she was fortunate that the big dogs were all even-tempered. They paid no more attention to Peaches than if she had been a butterfly, which frustrated her and hurt her feelings. It's hard to be a very small creature in the midst of gentle giants. On the way back, I found out why Tim and Geri had brought two trucks. They think it's fine for Bogie and Dino to run wildly along beside the trucks on the way, but after the swim and all that exercise, they think the dogs should ride back.
As the sun went down, and the mountains went from pink to purple, an airplane flew over us. Tim yelled, "It's Brad. He got the plane up."
Brad Bertling is a friend of Tim who has a flying school not far from Los Coyotes. He dipped his wings and flashed his lights as he flew over. Tim said getting the plane up was a great accomplishment and that Brad had been babying the balky airplane for days. It's now flying like a homesick angel, to quote that marvelous line known to all flyers.
My house is not yet finished. No one will even hazard a guess as to a completion date. Peaches and I are deeply grateful for my friend Jean Erck's hospitality, or else we might come sit on the curb in front of your house.