As I looked up, I saw one of the little ones jumped to a higher rock, slip — all gangly legs and feet — and slide down again from where it had started. It was a mistake of inexperience.

The lambs had been born in February, and now — only the beginning of April — there hadn’t been enough time yet for them to master the heights.

Through the spotter scope I watched three ewes and three lambs hop to another rock, stroll into a grassy spot to munch on the new grown green of spring, then scramble on up the high ridge. They stopped for a moment at the top, white bodies silhouetted against the bright blue California desert sky, and then disappeared.

To find these reclusive Bighorn Sheep, I had looked high, I had looked low, and I had looked  long, through the binoculars, and then –magically –they were present, like unicorns found when turning the page in a fairy tale. They were high in the rocks above me. When the rangers brought over the spotting scope, a small crowded gathered.

“Oh, I see them now. Ah, there are the little ones!”

We ogled and oohed for a while, a community of lookers, looking.

I loved the day in the Anza Borrego desert, the sheep, the fellow gawkers, all the wonders that we saw.

We hiked the cactus loop trail, clomping up the mountain between flaming magenta blooming beaver tail and hedgehog cactus. The chollas glowed all around us as if they had put on halos.  In a nearby wash we found a sand plant, growing by a cheese bush. It looked like a tiny pine cone with purple and white flowers popping from its dry, grey sides. It was small, and we had to kneel to focus in on its tiny flower-decorated sides.

Later we off-roaded back to a Kumeyaay Indian site where we scrambled through round boulders to find mortero after mortero in the rock tops, proof of family and community and lambs and ewes of a different kind previously thriving in the desert.

On the drive home, up the mountain and out of the desert, we switchbacked through the mountain lilac all purple and blue-flamed around us a wild turkey flushing in front of the car, sailing over the top of us to the road side, finely feathered and stately as it strutted down the bank and under the bright green trees.

We chatted as we swept up the fields and forests in our wake, trekking down from Julian and back to San Diego. I mentioned the very young homeless couple who I had found sleeping in one of the classrooms at the church last week. They broke into the church, ate up all the children’s snacks, smashed an unlocked storage cabinet, and when discovered in the morning, explained their behavior thus: “We were hungry.”

That gets it. These young broken ones, addicted to the meth, are very hungry, and I think they will be more and more.

And the mountain sheep and their lambs are hungry too, for the bright green grasses growing high on the ridges, and the Indians too, who lived here long ago, they were hungry, hunching over their morteros in the desert, grinding grain for bread and waiting to eat. And the sand plant hungry and thirsty too for more spring rain to sooth it’s drying sides, and the turkey crossing the road, headed somewhere to feed and drink in safety, and me and my friends too, headed back to our homes, from a day out —  all hungry.

I love the desert!

I need the desert.

It fills me up, just a bit, to live a little more, in a stunningly beautiful and hungry world.

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