Yosemite National Park and side trip to Convict Lake!

On June 20, 2016, Michael, Callie, a good friend, Fred and myself, drove to Yosemite Valley from Mammoth and spent the day exploring all the sights. Fred is an expert guide and his love and knowledge of waterfalls is especially delightful and informative.  Yosemite Valley was very crowded and I was dismayed to see that the pine-bore-beetle, is leaving its destructive mark on the pine trees. All in all though, there is nothing like Yosemite. Callie had a wonderful time and even got to see her first deer. When she sees something new and exciting, she has a funny way of leaning out the window and then pulling her head back in disbelief. Her body language is adorable, and it reminds me of a turtle. She also makes eye contact with me to see how I am handling the situation. If I appear excited and pleased with what I see, Callie follows my lead.  It is so rewarding to expose her to new adventures because of this lovely trait. She is trusting and curious and I would do anything to protect her. While in Mamouth, we also visited Convict Lake and Callie did her first 3 mile hike.  I had to carry her most of the way as I had yet to buy the front pack, but I will attest to the fact that she did her best to walk as much of the way as she could. We even had a 7 horse caravan clomping noisily past us, and she just looked on with amazement. It was also quite warm, and the trail was mostly in the sun, but when we reached the walkway that covers the glacier melt runoff, and we were surrounded by dancing birch trees, and a blast of fresh, cool, air…wow, what  an experience!  I seriously doubt that there has been another cat that has hiked around Convict Lake, but would love to hear from anyone who knows of such a thing!

Our good friend, Fred- best trail guide and waterfall hunter around!

Check out the deer!

August 16: South Lake Tahoe

Heading home was now our goal and staying in South Lake Tahoe for a few days was a nice way to end our trip. It was unseasonably warm and forest fires were burning in all directions. The Blue Ridge FIre was still out of control along the Cajon  Pass and Wrightwood had been evacuated and the skies even in Tahoe were dull with smoke. On the advice of our good friend, Fred, we chose to explore Fallen Leaf and Lily Lakes. The road to Fallen Leaf is narrow and it amazed me that there is a whole community of people that live around this charming and secluded lake. Neither Michael nor I had even heard of it. Fallen Leaf and the falls above the lake did not disappoint us. It turned out to be a fun day of exploration. The mature forest hid the smokey skies and it was cool and shaded and rich with the scent of evergreen. We saw a sign posted that read: Public Beach, but did not find it, so we headed further up to the falls. Fallen Leaf Falls was delightful. We hiked around and enjoyed the sights and sound of running water and the vast rock formations that prevent the water from eroding the hillside. Further up is Lily Lake and to my delight, I discovered a beaver lodge. Could beaver really be living at Lily Lake? I suppose I should do some research before assuming it, but I know a beaver lodge when I see one, and I would prefer to BELIEVE IT IS A BEAVER LODGE! What else could it possibly be? Below is a photograph and the Lodge is in the upper right hand corner.  We also visited beautiful Emerald Bay and Eagle Creek Falls above it. The hike to Eagle Creek Falls is short and sweet and you can wade into a cool and refreshing pool of water when you arrive.  Staying in South Tahoe was a fabulous experience,  but we had to think about heading back to our wonderful desert. Anza Borrego and the little town of Borrego Springs beckoned us to return! Michael, Callie and I had been gone for almost a month and needed to return to reality. We were able to drive south down the Cajon Pass just hours after it had been opened up again due to the wildfires. The fire had burned for miles and miles and we were shocked to see all the damage and destruction.  Our planet is warming up and the lush Washington and Oregon State rivers and lakes seemed far away. Living in a desert sure makes you appreciate the color green and the serene blue of water, and how precious and fragile our beautiful planet is. We had a fabulous time on the road with Callie and plan on heading out again soon. Thank you dear readers for taking the time to read this blog. I am not a skilled writer, but can only hope that my photographs describe what words cannot convey. Travels With Callie will be continued…

Travels with Callie!

Stairway to Eagle Creek Falls
Cute little beggar…
Beaver lodge on Lily Lake….

August 9: Yakima Valley, Washington (wine country)

We decided to pack up and leave Tacoma, Washington for Yakima Valley. As you enter the city center there is a sign that reads- The Palm Springs of Washington. It is a drier, more arid climate and peaches, apples, cherries and my favorite, grapes for table wine are abundant here. They brag about four distinct seasons and the summer climate was warm but due to the lack of humidity….quite lovely and tolerable.  Yakima was one of the cities that was impacted by Mount Saint Helen’s when it erupted in 1980, and they got quite a bit of ash that fell from the sky and covered the town and countryside. The fields are fertile and the crops, abundant. There are many roadside fruit and nut stands and we took advantage of the cherries that were at the tail end of the growing season. We stayed for 3 days and went wine tasting on one day and headed back to Mount Rainier the other. Yakima is wine country and tours are offered Thursday through Monday. Some wineries are open every day but it pays to check before heading out. My favorite winery is Bonair Winery and Vineyard. The Petite Verdot and Chardonnay some of the best wines I have ever tried. Gail and Shirley Puryear planted the vineyard in 1980 and harvested their first grapes in 1984. Michael and I had the honor of meeting both of them and were impressed with their knowledge of wine and wine country. Gail looks and acts just like Bill Murray and has a wicked sense of humor. We bought both the Chardonnay and the Petite Verdot. I also learned that a good bottle of Chardonay should be served at room temperature. We left Bonair Vineyards feeling happy and I was allowed to stroll through the grounds  and was able to take lovely photographs of the lush grapes and the friendly ducks in the pond.

Gail Puryear Bonair Vineyard

One Exausted cat!

After three weeks on the road, Callie became adept at figuring out whether we were going to sightsee for the day or pack up and head to another town. She was having so much fun but missed her days napping. In Yakima she actually crawled up into the box spring to prevent us from making her go along. We would pretend to leave and then come back five or ten minutes later and she would be parked on top of the bed and blinking innocently when the door was opened. She seemed to have some regret when we would get back late in the day, but nevertheless enjoyed some quiet time all to herself. This would definitely rejuvenate her and she would be ready for rough and tumble playtime afterwards. Some of our adventures were easier without her, but we didn’t let her know that. She can be pretty smug when she gets her own way.

Hiding under the bed…
Someone is very tired…

An invitation to play!

August 13: A return to Crater Lake and Kalamath Falls

It was time to start heading south again and we wanted to see Crater Lake one more time. The story about Crater Lake is about another cataclysmic event, but I won’t go into detail except to say that this time the volcano collapsed into itself and created a vast crater, or bowl, which then filled with snow and water over time. The lake is so blue and deep that it draws visitors from all around the world. It isn’t open during the winter months because 45 feet of snowfall in the winter months is a common event. I can’t even imagine what that would look like. You can drive around the lake and there are many beautiful lookouts with hiking and picnicking a great way to spend the day. The first time we went, Callie was under the motel bed, so this time she got to go and enjoyed checking out the squirrels whenever we would stop. One squirrel in particular darted right up to Callie before realizing its mistske and fleeing while chirping loudly as it dove under a rock. The squirrel was so intent on getting a treat from a group of people that it failed to see the danger. People were laughing and enjoying the drama. Callie stayed perfectly still except for her tail which jerked back and forth in anticipation of catching it. The park was crowded that day and many people came up to me and asked how I had trained a cat to walk on a leash… She loved all the attention and posed for many photographs. In one particular photo she wanted to take a nap on a sign post. People couldn’t believe how calm she was. I told them she was on Facebook but I can now proudly brag that she has her own BLOG too!


Callie is a wonderful assistant …

August 12: Mount Saint Helen’s

Mount Saint Helen’s erupted on May 18, 1980 approximately two weeks before I got married.  It was a cosmic event and ash and debris actually blew around the earth a total of three times. The destruction was massive and many lives were lost… The bleached and charred trunks of pine trees still lay where they were blown down and you can see the evidence of how powerful the force of the blast must have been. The eruption was the only significant  volcanic eruption to occur in the United States since Lassen Peak erupted in 1915. Spirit Lake was nestled at the base of the volcano and was a beautiful place to visit. Boy Scouts and travelers from all around the world would camp and enjoy the wonders of this pristine wilderness. Harry R. Truman was the owner and caretaker of the lodge at Spirit Lake and refused to leave when he was warned that the mountain was becoming active again. He chose to stay and his remains are buried under many feet of ash in the middle of the lake and the lake has filled in again with water. When Mount Saint Helen’s exploded, the entire side of the mountain and  all the charred remains of the forest poured into the lake. When viewing it even now, you get a sense of the power of the explosion and it leaves you feeling in awe of mother nature.  Spirit Lake is making a comeback now as well as the neighboring hillside. Lupines were the first flowers to grow and within two years, elk were returning to graze the tender young  grasses and geologists were surprised at how quickly life returned to the hillside. Hemlocks have taken hold recently and the hillside is healing. I have always wanted to visit this place because I felt a connection to it with my marriage. I have been married now for 36 years, the same amount of time as Mount Saint Helen’s has healed  and I too, am a survivor of the ups and downs of life. Viewing the destruction of Mount Saint Helen’s eruption and the life that has returned to the forest is a once in a life time opportunity. To visit this sacred place with my husband and Callie has made it even more special for me. I feel a kinship to this magnificent mountain and felt so inspired after I finally got to see it in person. Photos do not give it justice. You can hike the formidable stairway up to a lookout that provides a panoramic view of both the mountain and the remains of the lake and you will not be disappointed…Take a moment to breathe in the air and look all around you because you will need some time to still your pounding  heart and slow your rapid breathing down. The stairway is a workout and I wish I had counted how many stairs I had climbed, but the  view is like no other and you will not be disappointed.

August 11: Trout Lake and Goldendale, Washington

We reluctantly left Yakima on the 11th of August and headed to Trout Lake, Washington early in the morning. We wanted to check out Mount Adams, which is another gorgeous peak, but not as popular as Mount Rainier. We thought we could see it in one day and then head to Mount Saint Helen’s, but it took much longer to get there than we had expected. Mount Adam’s unfortunately, has experienced a fair amount of wildfires, so we didn’t actually hike to the peak, but instead  took photographs from Trout Lake.  Because of the amount of time it took to get there, we ended up spending the night at the Goldendale Lodge and had a private cabin called: The Wild Rose, all to ourselves. The proprietor was very excited about 550 women motorcyclists that were expected to arrive the next day for a retreat. No men allowed… I would have liked to have seen that, 550 women on Harley’s roaring into the serene campground, but we could only spend one night.  We had a great time at the lodge and it was clean and neat and I heard many coyotes yapping during the night. And except for the symphony of howling coyotes, it was very quiet and far enough off the road . Trout Lake is not a lake anymore but a wildlife sanctuary and grassy wetlands. Apparently, silt has blocked up and partially filled the lake, never the less, it is still a beautiful place to visit. I was able to walk out into the water in order to take photographs and the view of Mount Adam’s reflecting off the still water was ideal for taking a good picture. There is also a well maintained trail that has nice views of the mountain too.

Leaving Yakima- A great way to pack a cat!
View of Mount Adams
Trout Lake

Goldendale Lodge- Wild Rose Cabin

August 10: Mount Rainier National Park and Sunrise Lookout

Mount Rainier and Sunrise  Lookout, with a hike to Frozen Lake, took first prize for overall beauty. The wildflowers were just starting to bloom and the alpine meadows at the top of the loop were spectacular. We saw a bear foraging for grubs at the base of the hike and a white tailed deer was enthusiastically rubbing velvet off his antlers on a low hanging branch. The view of Mount Rainier that day was unecumbered by clouds and the majestic scenes took your breath away. The forest is healthy and there are no obvious burn areas. The hike was strenuous because of the high altitude, but very doable and the reward of Frozen Lake, dramatic vistas and colorful display of wildflowers, so worth the effort. Clouds were billowing and starting to close in on the peak when we got to the half way mark, which made for dramatic photographs. The trail is a loop and you can start from either direction, and was created with a view of Mount Rainier. Before we headed out for our hike, we let Callie play and explore at the base of the trailhead because pets were not allowed on the trails.  It was cool enough that day to make nap time enjoyable for her and when we returned, we found her sound asleep. The lodge offers decent food and we shared a sandwich, bowl of soup and an ice cream cone for dessert.

There is a bear in the distance… It appeared much closer in real time!
Frozen Lake was not frozen…

August 6: Point Defiance-Tacoma, Washington

Point Defiance Park and the walk out to the actual point along the shoreline was one of the highlights of our trip. It was a beautiful day and there were many families milling about and enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. The botanical gardens were filled with flowers, “and, as a photographer,” I was in my element. I love taking photographs of bees pollinating flowers and I had an abundance of subject matter. It was a lovely day and we spent most of the time smelling roses and taking pictures. When we were packing up to head out that morning, Callie  would not come out from under the bed and we had a good laugh over just how tired she was. It was a new form of expression and defiance for her. And it was  clearly a, “NO”… We repeatedly asked her if she wanted to go, but she stayed under the bed and refused to come out.  After we left I had to run back to the room because I had forgotten something and she was happily stretched out on the bed not five minutes after we had shut the door. This habit of crawling under the bed became the norm if we tired her out too much. She had a say in whether she wanted to go on an adventure, or sleep the day away and torture us that evening.

Point Defiance

Images of a Diva! 

Enough about me…. More on Callie. She is an awesome cat, curious and good natured.  She loves getting a tummy rub and an ear scratch and tolerates my camera lens aimed her way. Callie loves climbing trees,  driving in the car, road biking and going on adventures. What she doesn’t like is being left alone at home, or being checked into a cattery. She is happy and good natured as long as she is the center of attention.