Arts & Crafts, Coffee, Food, Gardens, High Desert Living, People, Places

“Forever Wild Sanctuary” Unscathed from Blue Cut Wild Land Fire

From Out of the Ashes

If you sat spellbound watching the news as the devastating wildfire raced into the High Desert, you were most likely wondering how any thing could survive.

The good news is that many homes and ranches in the Oak Hills and Phelan areas were spared. And where fire encroached deeper into the neighborhoods, fire fighting units deployed men and equipment to stand fast against the blast furnace-like flames. One critical non-profit business that I wondered about was Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary  — their close proximity to the fire and ash.

Defending the Sanctuary

Ready to Defend, a unit of fire equipment is stationed in the neighborhood.

Where would they go?

Where would they take all of these large creatures, wild, and cared-for birds and reptiles? Although the staff didn’t say, they do have an extensive emergency plan. Fortunately, they didn’t need it.

Was the place okay? To answer that question my husband and I went there to celebrate his birthday and get a closer look. What we found was a scorched desert not more than 500 feet from the facility. So close that the acrid smell of scorched brush still lingers in the air. As we toured the grounds, we couldn’t help but notice the crates and portable carriers held in a side pen waiting for the inevitable.

It never happened. Firemen had battled the attack from destroying anything there and kept the neighborhood safe, which included the sanctuary.

I asked a few volunteers who work the facility whether they were ready to run. Most just nodded and agreed it would have been a big job, but they were ready. It’s hard to imagine how many volunteers it would take to move so many exotics. The smoke and ash alone had been making my lungs suffer over 40 miles away; it was hard to believe all the animals at the sanctuary had no lasting effects. Feeding time for daytime animals was in full swing and everyone had hardy appetites.

Exotic Animal Sanctuary

Retired tigers

The  Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary is alive and well, doors open, and ready for visitors. It’s a great little compound with gates and cross fencing, plenty of space to walk, and full-view cages.  The grounds are clear, the cages clean, and the weather is on a cooling trend — just right for a visit to the High Desert’s Forever Wild family of critters.

PLEASE NOTE: All hours are subject to change,  call ahead to confirm. (760) 490-3338.

Travel Phelan Road west past Tumbleweed Road and watch for signs heading south to 8545 Buttemere Rd, Phelan, CA 92371.  Open 10-5 seven days a week.

Rusty LaGrange

El Tropical Adds a Breeze of Latin Cuisine

A Nice Hide-Away Spot for Breakfast or Lunch

El Tropical sits in a hide-away spot near Nick’s Pizza and Stater Bros in Apple Valley on Bear Valley Road. You may not see it the first time around. Follow the strip of stores beginning with Nick’s and at the end you’ll find the cafe.

You can dine outside like a bistro or head inside to comfortable large booths.

Cafe in Apple Valley

El Tropical Coffee Shop and more

Shhh… Don’t tell Anyone

It’s not a big place, but rather cozy, clean, and bright. It smells so fruity when you walk in. They offer fruit blends and coffees as well as plate specials. It’s the type of place that my husband and I like to spend away from fast food and large noisy restaurants. We’ve only been there once, so we’re looking forward to returning.

Prices are moderate — Plenty on the Plate

Their menu is very large for a little place but the new owners — now in the cafe for a year and a half — have the passion to make good food that has the taste of Mexico and the Caribbean.

You’ll find El Tropical at 21520 Bear Valley Rd, Apple Valley, CA 92308. If you’re not sure of directions or their open hours call  (760) 810-0976. Open on Sundays from 8-3 and the rest of the week from 8-5.

Coffe Shop

El Tropical Cafe with outside seating

Rusty LaGrange

Scenic 247 Route Moving into Approval ?

News around the High Desert can arrive in little gentle gusts of wind or full-blown twisters. In this case, the news about Scenic 247  is subtle and growing in a ground swell of political emotion.

Scenic routes and corridors can be a very good thing for remote locations like Barstow, Lucerne Valley, Johnson Valley, Flamingo Heights, Landers, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Twentynine Palms. They bring attention to natural attributes that desert communities can extol. Getting the politicians to jump on board is exciting.

So when the news of the Rep to James Ramos, Bev Lowry, coming forward and joining Betty Munson’s campaign to place Hwy Route 247 in contention for a scenic designation, well, everyone in all these dusty, little towns rejoice.

Read the news first and I’ll  fill in some gaps at the end…

‘Scenic 247’ picks up Barstow mayor’s endorsement

(July 12, 2016 Reprinted with permission from Cactus Thorns web news site.)

By Peter Day, Staff Writer of the Lucerne Valley LEADER newspaper.

State Route 247 is one step closer to obtaining State Scenic Highway designation. The move is inching forward after Scenic 247 Committee Chairman Betty Munson received a personal letter from Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre. The mayor cced (copied) the letter to Beverly Lowry, Third District Supervisor James Ramos’ Barstow-based field representative.

“A scenic highway designation helps attract tourism, heightens awareness of natural, historical and recreational qualities and promotes the beauty and points of interest on the route,” Hackbarth-McIntyre wrote in her letter dated July 5.

The mayor took the opportunity to tout Barstow’s attributes. “As you are aware, the Barstow area has many natural wonders that attract many tourists throughout the year,” she wrote. “I look forward to the expected increased tourism in the future for our community from the scenic highway designation.”

Sunsets are assets

Driving through glorious vistas on Scenic Highway 247

Although not an official endorsement from the City of Barstow, Hackbarth-McIntyre’s letter is positive and an important step, Munson said.

Every Sponsor Counts

“The mayor and Bev Lowry deserve thanks,” Munson said Friday. “Every sponsor counts, and we have several Barstow people who are very tourism-conscious and understand the value of the State Scenic Highway designation.”

An appointed member of the Lucerne Valley-Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council, Munson has spearheaded the Scenic 247 project. She has given several presentations at meetings such as the Lucerne Valley-Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC) and promotes its merits to all interested.

vistas are what visitors crave

Scenic 247 offers visitors a vast stretch of pristine vistas

“Studies prove that people come to the desert from cities, other states, and countries around the world, not for industrialization, but for wide open spaces,” according to “The Case For Scenic 247,” which was prepared by Munson and Scenic 247 committee. “They seek these open spaces for relaxation, adventure, and an opportunity to reconnect with nature. Encouraging visitors will benefit the residents, exporting expensively-generated power will not.”

State Route 247 starts in Yucca Valley and travels 78 miles through a portion of Lucerne Valley and other desert areas to Barstow. According to Munson, Highway 247 is labeled by Caltrans as “eligible” for Scenic Highway status.

[end of article]

Now let me explain a bit more. The comment about “exporting expensively-generated power will not” is in reference to the barrage of utility companies [42 at last count] pouncing on the open desert lands to plant wind farms and solar collector grids from here to Yucca Valley. If they had their way nothing would be safe: no vistas, no wildlife, no trails to explore, in fact, more eye-sores than we can imagine. Consider the Palm Springs wind turbines that took over the hillsides and sand dunes off Interstate 10.

Lining up like Linebackers

The non-beneficial blight of utility power corridors bringing solar and wind generated power snaking back through the High Desert is such a crippling thought that the Scenic 247 campaign was about the most clever way to get the power mongers off our pristine desert’s back.

Is it working? We won’t know for awhile. In the meantime, small communities are banding together to fend back the “green energy movement” not because they’re eco projects but because they are lining up like linebackers to roll over us and take ground.

Our stretch of desert is the strongest and most defensible asset that keeps visitors returning and enjoying the quiet and severe rawness that we can offer. A Scenic Byway designation of Hwy 247 is exactly what we need.

Rusty LaGrange

Wish to keep in touch with the southern part of the Mojave Desert and all the way to 29Palms? Then check out Cactus Thorns that brought this highlight to us from their website:

Editorial content

News and views from Yucca Valley

Great Footpaths in the High Desert

High Desert Blogging publishes guest posts by High Desert residents and entrepreneurs. Interested in submitting your article? Contact us at

Guest Post by Beverly Prine

My family and I called Hesperia “home” for twenty-one years, but a little over one year ago we moved to Victorville. I loved our years there, nestled between the Church of the Nazarene and the new soccer fields.

California Aqueduct

There’s that old saying, “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” and it keeps ringing in my head because for twenty-one years I was able to bounce out my front door and reach the California Aqueduct trail in a quick ten-minute walk. Once I hit the Aqueduct trail, I could get lost in my mind and walk, run, or stroll along the waterway. I always headed toward Main Street and made it a point to touch the chain-link fence before turning around. The route from Maple Aqueduct to Main Street and back was approximately 3 miles. Many times my walk was paused to stop and admire the ducks in the water, or to take in the pink clouds as the sun dropped into the west, or to stop and stretch out the muscles.

California Aqueduct in the desert

An aqueduct runs through it

Once I interrupted my walk to yell at some teenagers who had thought it was a good idea to walk out onto the concrete crossing over the Aqueduct and then jump into the swift-flowing water. They only laughed at me, and thankfully no one drowned. But that was a scary thing for sure, but to the kids, they saw it as funny.

On one early morning winter walk with a friend, we only got about a half-mile when my friend spotted tracks in the dirt. Tracks of a bobcat and that was enough of a scare for us to turn around immediately! Most often I walked in the afternoon or early evening and usually with at least one other person, sometimes many more. It is true, that I did not appreciate this gem of a walking trail until I moved away.

While my family and I were transitioning from Hesperia to our current home, we lived “on the mesa” in Hesperia. This is the portion of Hesperia that is located east of the railroad tracks and south of Ranchero Road. There were a couple of paths nearby that I loved to walk or sometimes run on. The route from the corner of Ranchero and Seventh eastward is a favorite of mine, and also of many others who love to run hills. A group of women of many different levels of running or fast-walking would join me to run east on Ranchero Road to Ranchero Middle School. The feeling of running under the train tracks, especially when a train is passing overhead, is a memory I cherish!

The City of Hesperia has installed their logo in colored concrete on the side of the underpass…Kodak moment!  Once at the school, we would turn around and return to our starting point. There’s no cheating…you must go all the way to the end of the school parking lot before making your U-turn! This is approximately a five-mile route, and especially nice during the late summer and early fall months when the sunsets seem to increase in color intensity. Stopping to take a photo is always encouraged, as is hugging a Joshua tree! This was a great trail for me at this time of my life because my family and I were looking for a new home and there were many along this route that had the “for sale” sign out front.

Ultimately, we did not re-settle in Hesperia. Our new home found us in northwest Victorville, about one mile from the Adelanto city boundary line. I am beginning to love walking in our new neighborhood. I take our doggie for a walk every evening, and while the sunsets are not quite as colorful as the ones I remember along the Aqueduct, they are impressive, especially when there are clouds in the sky.

I have found a number of paths that I like, but my favorite is the city-maintained path along the flood channel. This is off of Hook Boulevard, near Brucite and Diamond, in the West Creek community. On the east side of the flood channel the path is dirt, but on the west side, the city recently covered it with black-top asphalt. The pathway goes all the way from Hook to Mojave Drive, and it is approximately 1.5 miles for the round-trip.

My doggie also likes to explore the open desert just south of Hook Boulevard, so we trek east down the sidewalk to the new stop-light at Hook and Amethyst, and then cross Hook and go out into the open desert. This is her favorite walk because she gets to use her sniffer and uncover so many great treasures…for a dog. This twenty-minute excursion is just what she needs at the end of the day, and it gets me moving, too!

Fun Events

I am embracing my new city and our new home, and I have discovered something that I absolutely love about Victorville…the Parks and Rec department! They organize fun events designed to get people outside and interact with the community. I have participated in one event nearly every month in 2016. They hosted “A Run in the Park” at Sunset Ridge back in January, which is in the neighborhood south of Bear Valley, off of Topaz. This is the newest park in Victorville, and it is near Hollyvale School.

In March there was a “Fun Run in the Park” at Hook Park, where many of the events are held, and it was a great way to start spring-time! Recently, I went back to Hook Park for another Fun Run, and the Victorville Parks and Rec offered free Fun Runs for life with the purchase of their “quick-dri” T-shirt…how could I say no to that?!

At each event, I have met some wonderful people– my neighbors and fellow community members, who are embracing an active lifestyle and showing up with a smile!

I encourage everyone to get outside and keep moving, to meet your neighbors, to say “Hi!” to a stranger, to give them a smile, look them in the eye and let them know…All lives matter.

Enjoy a High Desert Trail this Summer!

Ghosts in My Literature – Writing Novels

Guest post by high desert author

Roberta Smith, a Victor Valley author, reveals what influenced her to write novels about ghosts. She is a member of the high desert branch of California Writers Club. High Desert Blogging features articles by high desert authors about writing novels and nonfiction.

High desert author

Paranormal Novel Author, Roberta Smith

Recently I gave a talk at the Arts Council in Menifee and with only nine people present, including me and my husband, it was the most fun I ever had giving a presentation.  Why? Because the audience loved it.

Here’s the funny thing. Even though I had told the council six weeks earlier that I was going to talk about “Ghosts in Literature: How I Came to Write Paranormal Novels,” they were expecting me to talk about my Civil War Diary book. Surprise! But the people were there. They didn’t walk out. And now they may never look at ghosts the same way again. Maybe.

Things That Influenced Interest in Ghost Novels

I was born with an interest in ghosts. As a kid, if a story had a ghost in it, I wanted to hear it.  In putting my talk together, I realized four things influenced and developed this interest.

The first is a short story titled “Georgie.”  Georgie is the original friendly ghost. The tale was in my beloved childhood anthology, “The Tall Book of Make-Believe.”  I must have read that story a hundred times. I started naming pets Georgie, too.

Another influence is a poem titled “The Highwayman.”  In it, lovers are willing to die for each other and in doing so become ghosts who will be together for all eternity. To my young mind, ghosts were romantic.

In sixth grade, my class had to memorize the poem, “The House with Nobody in It.”  We had to punctuate it correctly, too. But that’s not the point. The second stanza of the poem laments that the house “wouldn’t be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.” Once again, ghosts are viewed as something positive.

And finally, as a thirteen-year-old, I read “Rebecca.” If you know the story, you know there is no ghost per se in the book. But Rebecca is such a force to be reckoned with, her memory haunts the living. The book haunted me. Maybe I love to be haunted and that’s what I try to do with my novels: write stories that will haunt the reader.

I’ve been asked to come back to Menifee and give my “Ghosts in Literature” talk in September. Of course, I said yes.

Roberta Smith has published five novels and has completed a draft of her first young adult novel, “Simone’s Ghosts.”  You can learn about her books on her website: .

Summer Frozen Treats by High Desert Community Food Bloggers’

Summer Frozen Recipes by High Desert Food Bloggers

July is the time for summer frozen treats! Popsicles have been “popping” up like crazy in blogs lately. And no wonder. Hot days call for cool refreshments for little kids and adults big kids. READ MORE »

How Does One Write Non-Fiction?

Guest Post by Ann Miner – Author and Freelance Writer

High Desert Author

Ann Miner

Some people tell me they have lived an uneventful life. I often think that would be like a dream for me.
My life may sound like fiction, but, as the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up. I write non-fiction because when I tell about my experiences, people say, “You should write a book.” What do they mean?
Let’s see, born in a farmhouse, neglected, adopted at one year. Lived the good life for eight years with two wonderful parents; lost Daddy when I was nine; new father, died when I was 14; mother died when I was 18.
In addition, I had my first and last names changed over the years. Let’s see, first and middle names changed twice, last name changed seven times. Good grief, no wonder I don’t know who I am!
Lived with manic depressive, abusive husband; lived with schizophrenic father-in-law, (loads of stories from both of these); divorced, ex-husband died a dramatic and tragic death (not suicide); went back to college at age 52, went bankrupt because I couldn’t get a job at age 56, 57, 58.
Then, after 22 years of single bliss, married again, lost that husband nearly ten years later, married again, lost that man a year later. Was a caregiver for my mother when I was 18, for my manic-depressive husband, and for my last two husbands. One had Parkinson’s disease for years. Never wanted to be a nurse, but God had plans he disclosed on a need-to-know basis.
Was despised and mistrusted by step-children of both husbands, and those stories alone would make a novel. But not a fun one.
Did I mention that I have moved more than twenty times?
So, what’s not to write about in the non-fiction genre? Just write what you know. Begin with a pencil on paper. Don’t stop the pencil until your brain stops. You can go back later and correct any spelling or grammar, or change phrases.  If you stop writing while you are thinking, you will forget the words that were flowing through your mind. Some of them never return, trust me.
An important thing that I have learned is to make an outline as your thoughts come. What stories do you want to share? I have remembered so many events after I have finished a chapter. Where do they fit in now? Why didn’t I write them down?
If you feel that your life has been uneventful, lacking drama, look at it again. How did you interact with family members? Brothers, sisters, cousins. Did you argue? Play pranks? How did those work out? What vacations did you take and what happened? Was there one that stood out because it was so wonderful or so fraught with disaster?
Everyone has a story to tell. In fact, you – yes, you – have many stories to tell. Just start making notes and then see how they fit together. You can make a complete story describing one vacation. I know I can. I have one about a trip to Acapulco when I was seven. Car trouble, high jacking by a truck full of Mexican marauders, that sort of thing. Not fiction.
My two children’s books are actually based on non-fiction. Polly Possum’s Wandering Path, and Buddy Finds a Home. Polly was actually a little possum that was wandering around my back yard, never looking up. Buddy was a cat that came to live with us. Everything in Buddy is true.
My adult inspirational books, I Lift My Eyes and Bugs in the Baptismal, are short vignettes of my life or someone else’s. The book I am working on now, A Cow is a Cow, (I’ve known that I was adopted since I’ve known that a cow is a cow), is autobiographical/memoir/documentary. It is filled with true stories about my life growing up adopted (twice), and the accounts others have shared with me about their experiences of being adopted, adopting a child, or surrendering one for adoption.
A caveat: even non-fiction may need some research. That can be frustrating or fun, interesting or intimidating. But you want your story to be as authentic as you remember it. Then you can go back and take a bit of license if it would be more complete. Or just add more true detail.
For instance: “My granddaddy taught me to play dominoes and also played the fiddle.”
Okay, but the reader may want to know more. How about:  “When we played dominoes I was fascinated by his big hands with long, slender fingers.  He could hold all his dominoes in his hand.” Actually, that is not embellished because it is true. But I could further describe what he usually wore at age 88, how his voice sounded, and so on. The audience wants to get acquainted with this man that you adored. Oh, did you say that you adored him and why? License could come into play here.
Then there was my grandmother who killed a chicken for fried chicken dinner. The chicken tasted good.
Or: When Grandmother planned to cook chicken for dinner, she went to the backyard in the afternoon and chased down a hen. She grasped it around the neck, and swung it in a short, tight circle until the body and head were separated. Then she let it hop around, headless, until it was still, after which she hung it on the clothesline to let the blood drain. After a good soaking in a bucket of boiling water, she held it by the legs, plucked the feathers, and singed the pinfeathers over open flames. Now it was time to take it into the house and finish the cleaning. A delicious fried chicken dinner followed.
The part I like best is this:
Her two daughters – Daddy’s only sisters out of the seven siblings – told the story, years later, of a time when their mother was ill and they wanted to fix her some chicken soup. So the young girls went out to the backyard and cornered a hen. One of the girls took the hen by the neck and started swinging it in wide circles, like a lasso, over her own head. Somehow the hen got loose and ran away. I can just picture that hen clucking loudly as she flew around in a circle at the end of the girl’s arm and then, literally, running for her life. Oh the trauma! Needless to say, there was no soup for dinner that night.
So, that’s how I do it.  Take notes, make an outline, write it down. Good things will happen!
Never at a loss for words.

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Organic Nutrition Inspired by Farmers Market

Need an idea of something to do in the high desert? Think healthy…nutrition. Think food. Organic food. Earthy. Aha! Farmers Market. Visit the local farmers market on a Thursday morning between 8:00 and 12:00. It’s the perfect place to take your children while they’re out of school for the summer.

Don’t worry about making coffee before you go. You’ll see a coffee vendor on the left as you walk in. Prefer organic coffee? READ MORE »

What is Memorial Day All About?

Fireworks with flagMemorial Day is being celebrated in the high desert by many at the San Bernardino County Fair. This weekend holiday is a time for barbecues and partying as people gear up early for the summer. But what is the real meaning of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day originated on May 30, 1868 as an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. Twenty years after that the name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

I wonder how many will unite in prayer tomorrow. A resolution  was passed by Congress on May 11, 1950 requesting a proclamation to be issued by the President for the people of the United States to unite in prayer during each Memorial Day.

Memorial Day, declared a federal holiday in 1971 by President Nixon, is now observed on the last Monday of May in honor of all who have died in wars.

Join with me in a moment of silence to honor men and women who died in wars so that you and I may be free and enjoy life.

Inspiration for a Poem

bird feeders

Inspired by a Bird Feeder and Bird Seed

How does poetry inspire you? What inspires you to write poetry?

Maybe you get inspired when you sit on a bench in a serene setting outdoors.

Poetry Inspiration

Serene Bench Setting

Or does a hummingbird stir your creativity?


Inspired by a hummingbird

High Desert Blogging occasionally hosts poetry contests and guest posts by writers. Recently hosted by our blog was an incredible writers’ retreat at a desert facility. It was inspiring and motivating. The retreat included mini-workshops to inspire writers by various fun exercises.

Currently, High Desert Blogging is hosting a poetry contest that ends May 25, 2016. Winners will be entered into an anthology published by JoyLife Press. If you are interested, read the contest guidelines on our Events Page. Tell your friends about it, too. You have a great big chance to win. It’s worth writing your poem and emailing it to us as directed in the contest details.

Need a little boost to get you writing? Here is an exercise for you. Go get a pen and notebook. Bring your cell phone with you so you can time yourself. Now read this then go outside (come back to this blog post after the exercise). Sit down and listen to the sounds around you. Observe. Notice colors, flowers, leaves, birds, lizards or whatever comes into your view. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Write until the timer goes off.

How did you do? Did you want to continue writing? I did this exercise today and had to keep writing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you set a timer. By doing this, you allow yourself the time to do things you think you don’t have time for. You also can use the timer to do those tasks you’ve been putting off.

If you love to write poetry, whether you consider yourself a beginner or advanced, enter our contest. Yes, the poems will be judged. But it’s fun to try. Who knows? You might win. Set the timer if you need to.

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