The Move has Begun!

Well, I told you I would be taking a break from blogging while I helped my daughter move. But life is just so interesting now, and it is so much fun to record my experiences, that I have changed my mind. We are staying at the Mission RV Park in Redlands, California and finishing up one leg of the journey toward home-which is Anza Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. There is a record-breaking heat wave affecting most of California, and it will hit a high of 114 today- a great day to move. Just kidding- it will be hell but better than the people in Houston, Texas. Sending positive thoughts to the people, wildlife, and pets that are suffering during this epic hurricane and flooding. Maybe this will be a wake-up call to climate change deniers! On a positive note, I am so excited that our daughter will be living with us again for a short while. Callie loves the idea too! She has missed her big sister. We are renting a 10 ft truck and I will get to drive the RV back home. Thank goodness it is so easy to maneuver.

Part 2

We had a blow out right outside Cathedral City- near Palm Desert. The inner left- back tire this time. I must say that the RV handled well and that we are now having a new tire put on. It could have been so much worse. It blew with an explosion though and Lara was driving right behind me and had to dodge the debris as it flew by! She actually ran over some of it and dodged others. Our daughter laughed that this is still better than lab work! It is 115 out and we are melting but otherwise just fine. It makes for good blog posts as far as I am concerned!

Made it home safely to a high of 121 degrees and neither of our air conditioners is working. We have a swamp cooler but it is still 98 degrees inside the house. I wet Callie down with a washcloth and we jumped into the pool to try and cool off. Nothing like living in the desert. It is beautiful out though, in a harsh kind of way.

The End of the Trail (for now that is)

What a 7-week journey we have had. We left Anza Borrego Desert State Park and got as far as Tofino on Vancouver Island, BC. Michael, Callie and I had a fabulous time. I will be taking some time off to help our daughter move and we will then head somewhere next to the RV with her in tow!

Big Pine Creek Campground

After leaving beautiful Yosemite, we decided to head up to Big Pine Creek Campground for one more night before descending into the valley and its oppressive heat to help move our daughter move out of her apartment. Big Pine Creek Campground is located in the Inyo National Forest Wilderness Area right outside Bishop, California.

Carol and Brad Dial, the host couple for the campground, helped us find a spacious site #4, which has a fantastic view east toward the town of Big Pine. As we were talking, I happened to glance back to see Callie making a beeline for some cabins off the road. We had left both windows open, so she took the opportunity to go sightseeing. As I ran back to the RV, she quickly turned around and returned, meowing submissively! Freedom only tastes as good until the reality of the situation makes it less fun. I wish she could run free, but she just can’t. There are too many dangers out there and she is basically, oblivious. There is a family of mike deer, 3 does and a buck with 4 fawns that graze right in front of the RV. Bow and arrow season is upon us and it is so difficult to envision these lovely creatures being shot in the heart at the hands of hunters. I just don’t get the thrill they obviously feel killing one. I understand the desire to hunt for fresh game meat, I just don’t get it myself.

We had a campfire’ party last night, with Carol and Brad bringing tacos and we provided rum and cokes and beer. Pam and her dog, Bailey, who camped next to us, joined the party as it started to unfold soon after, and another camper from Australia, Chun, who works for Erikson’s, and is an engineer, also joined us. His family emigrated to Australia from Hong Kong and we shared stores about our lives over a roaring fire. Brad is a gifted storyteller and Native American who kept us doubled over with laughter over cat stories. He has published a few short stories, The Falcon Prince- a Sci-fi fantasy, a short story that I want my daughter to take a look at some time.

This campground has lovely Digger Pines that are very mature and Black Squirrels that eat the young green cones. The older ones are gigantic and if one of them hit you in the head, I bet it would knock you senseless,

Callie and I are enjoying a quiet morning filled with sunshine and the roar of the creek filling my ears with the sound of water tumbling down the ravine. We will be sure to come back here again someday. The bathrooms are immaculate and the grounds are lovely. The campsites either have views or are by the creek. The roads could use new paving but you can’t have everything.

A Tale too Tall to Tell

This tale is almost too tall to tell! I can hardly believe it happened myself. I was walking Callie yesterday morning, a beautiful Friday morning, when two young children by the name of Joaquin and Catalina came to join me. Joaquin, the older brother was 8 years old and Catalina, the younger sister was 7. They had witnessed Callie climbing a tree the day before and were hoping to see her do it again. It is really quite comical to watch because she is attached to my hand with the leash and halter. She can only go so far up the tree before she runs out of leash line and has to come to an abrupt halt. It takes us both by surprise and she is frequently stopped before she wants to be. The leash has a bungee cord, elastic texture to it, so it doesn’t hurt her, but it sure does the trick.

So Joaquin and Catalina decided to walk alongside me as we attempted to guess which tree Callie would choose to climb. She always stops at the base of a tree and looks it up and down before hesitating for a second or two before dashing swiftly up the trunk. We were having so much fun laughing together and joking about Callie, that I just had to ask them if they had a cat of their own? They responded with an emphatic “No, but they did have a Beta fish named Purple Fin that was a brilliant blue with shiny red fins!” “Red and blue make purple!” they exclaimed. I then asked them why they knew so much about cats? “Our cousin has a cat that lets us play with it!” both brother and sister chorused with enthusiasm.

We gave up on Callie ever picking out the right tree to climb because she had nestled down in a clump of grass and was doing her “wild jungle cat” routine, when a cheeky, brownish colored bird, sitting on a rock about 10 feet away caught our attention. I assured the two of them right away that I would not let Callie attack the bird. With Callie crouched down low in an attack, prey-model, style, I tugged on her leash as I said this, just to reinforce my control of the situation. The bird seemed to be staring at Callie and Callie had honed in on it too, because her tail was twitching spastically as the stare-down began.

After what seemed to be about 5 minutes or so, and while the 4 of us stood by quietly watching, it suddenly swooped down, and taking us all by surprise, tried to attack Callie right in the face. Callie defended herself by pouncing up with both front legs and claws extended in the air, she slapped at her attacker and flattening it to the ground. The pathetic thing started screaming and flapping its wings frantically while I was yanking on the leash and swatting at Callie’s head. It all happened in a blur but with a fluttering of wing feathers, the poor bird was finally able to make its escape and took flight with feathers slightly askew, and a little shaken for sure, but otherwise, unhurt.

The kids and I had all witnessed something really crazy and we were laughing hysterically and doubled over that a bird had just attacked a cat and not the other way around! We thought it was the funniest, most crazy thing we had ever seen! They then raced over to tell the wild story to their mother and father. This had more than made up for Callie not climbing a tree. As a matter of fact, this was better than Callie climbing a tree! After the kids ran off, I happened to look down at her by my feet and the poor thing was still in a crouched position, with eyes closed shut and in a state of shock. She wasn’t sure about what had just happened and seemed a little dazed and confused.

I picked her up right away, hugging her tightly to my chest, and while comforting her, headed to the RV to tell Michael all about it. She was chewing nervously like she sometimes does when she is frightened or hungry. Apparently, it was stressful for her too! (either that or she was really upset that she hadn’t killed the damn bird for having the nerve to attack her first!) She wanted to taste victory! Michael, of course, wanted to know if there was any proof in this outrageous story, and I had to tell him that there was simply no time to take a photograph. It had happened all too fast and I needed to rescue the bird in spite of it having attacked Callie first! I had 2 witnesses though! A brother and sister who would be sharing this tall tale with friends and family of their own for years to come. They too would be questioned about the truth of such an outlandish tale. I really wish I had taken a photograph!

Later that day, two rangers drove past in their truck while I was out walking Callie, and I flagged them down and asked them about what kind of bird it was and how it had attacked my cat! They both turned to each other and one of them thought that it might be a female starling. “Starlings are known for attacking dogs on leashes!” they replied with a laugh. Starlings have also been known to swoop down on people too if they are so inclined. They couldn’t believe a starling had attacked a cat though! The silly bird had probably never seen a cat on a leash before because neither of the Rangers had ever seen one either. “Is that really a cat on a leash?” they both asked incredulously while laughing loudly. They too were going to have to share this unbelievable story with their friends, and couldn’t wait to get back to share it.

A sweet footnote.

The next morning Catalina dropped by with her mother to check on Callie and to make sure I told the story all over again! Her mom had found it difficult to believe and had thought that just possibly her children had told a tall tale indeed! I quickly assured her that her children had told the truth! Catalina is also making a Callie Doll! She is learning to embroider and will stuff it and make a leash and collar too!

These drawings were created by another young artist that was camped next to us by the name of Tanya. She is only 5 years old and her favorite animal after ponies are cats!

Tioga Pass & Tuolumne Meadow Campground

Driving up Tioga Pass and heading to Yosemite with monsoon weather building up strength in the southeast, made for a dramatic day of intense weather. Callie loved being copilot on the dashboard and tolerated the windshield wipers sliding back and forth while raindrops plopped down noisily on the windshield. The further up Tioga Pass we went, the more intense the storm became. She used to make a run for the back of the RV whenever we needed to use the wipers at the beginning of our travels. It is now expected of her to be brave and to stay open and curious about each and every new adventure.

In 1889 John Muir and publisher, Robert Underwood Johnson, discussed ways in which to protect this wilderness area. Johnson published two articles written by Muir in his Century Magazine and a year later, Yosemite National Park was born. In 1892, John Muir started the Sierra Club in order to encourage people to appreciate and protect the park for years to come.

Tioga Pass has only been open for less than a month now, and you can see the damage that heavy snow from the past winter has done to the trees and buildings as you make your way up the road. Roofs are caved in and trees are crushed and laying on the ground, still green with the hope of making it through the next winter. Autumn is already in the air and a tree that is flattened on the ground has little chance of making it when the snows bury it again.

We didn’t have a reservation but kept our fingers crossed and our hopes high, that we would be able to nab one of the first come, first serve sites, midweek. There were so many people that had descended on Oregon for the solar eclipse, that I was pretty optimistic we would be able to get a campsite. Thank goodness we were in luck and on our first day and night, we spent watching the storm build up into a powerful force of lightning and thunder, with pounding rain and hail. It was very dramatic and a river of water passed right under our RV and out and over to the other side. It rushed down to the restrooms below, flooding and pooling up, right at the entranceway. I am so appreciative that we are in an RV and not a tent. The people in tents look forlorn, cold, wet and miserable.

The next morning Michael and I spotted an empty campsite and arranged to be moved to A-53. You can hear the roar of the river and can see it right across from where we are camped. It is much drier and a lot more private, making it a better place to stay 5 more days and nights.

On Wednesday, early afternoon, we biked over to the Soda Springs trailhead and then hiked up and behind the Parsons Memorial Lodge. (Mr. Parsons was an avid hiker who helped with trailblazing exhibitions during the founding days of Yosemite) and we ended our hike at the Tuolumne River, a distance of 6 miles round trip. Michael and I were able to cross a section of the river and sit on some boulders in the middle and watch the water race by. It was a beautiful day with clouds billowing and forming into marshmallow puffs in the distance. Every evening around 4:00, the monsoon weather builds up and finally, the heavy, saturated clouds spill forth, providing much-needed rainfall before the winter snows once again pound the region. Thank goodness the drought is somewhat over for most of California.

It was a day of intense photography and I was able to capture 2 mule deer bucks, frolicking in the meadow and drinking at one of the tributary streams feeding the river. There is an abundance of grass in the meadow and the summer has been kind to them. The moment was captured on camera and photographers don’t get these opportunities often. It left me feeling pleased as can be and because it was at the beginning of the hike, I pranced on tippy toes of delight the rest of the way.

Halfway to the river, a young woman rode past us with a young buckskin colt following behind. She was riding the mare and her 6-month-old colt was almost following behind dutifully, but with a desire to investigate every little thing in his path. He needed a drink of water and decided that the river was a fine place indeed in which to play in. It brought back memories of my little filly- Buffy Sainte Marie that I raised in my teen years with my sister’s mare- Regina Marie Anne.

Shortly after the colt finally bolted out of the stream and decided to finally follow its mother, a cowboy on a sorrel, quarter horse, that was leading 5 well-trained mules, trudged past us fully loaded down with gear. I told him to read Oregon Trail and asked him how long he had been out on the trail? He muttered “a long time” and ambled on in typical, cowboy gruffness. I bet he had a rough night, the night before, because of the rain, hail, thunder, and lightning! Horses are hit by lightning because of being shod with metal shoes and wild herds are frequently the target of such horrible deaths too! It couldn’t have been an easy night for him. His horse and mules were in fine form though and I checked out his gear as they passed by. Everything looked in good order and the mules were well behaved. Mules are much more intelligent than horses and if they don’t want to do something, they won’t. A horse can be intimidated into obeying, but not a mule! For the cowboy to have control of such a large string of mules left me feeling very impressed and I let his gruffness slide off my back. He deserved respect!

When taking pictures, photography provides me with a wonderful sense of energy, whereas painting takes it out of me. I may try to paint again someday, but for now, writing and photography will have to do. It is too difficult to set up art supplies and start a painting while on the road at this time in my life. I don’t stay in one place long enough. Maybe in the future, we will slow down. For now, it is Michael’s dream to see as much as he can before the aging process makes it too difficult to travel. I am good with that and Callie is even better. She loves the adventure of it all and wants new scenery every 3 days or so, herself. Our adventures with Callie are turning out to be a wonderful lifetime opportunity. Next week we pick up our daughter and help move her out of her apartment. She is going to take some much needed time off to reinvent herself and will join us on the next adventure in the RV.

Thursday morning, August 24th, I took Callie on a walk and she was able to choose which tree she wanted to climb up, what clump of grass she preferred to hide in, when to drink water out of the river and where to relax in the shade under my chair. Her confidence level has improved greatly, and she relishes all the attention she gets when she is with me. Several times she has bolted out of the RV door when it is being opened and I have had to yell at her to stay. She cowers down right away and lets me pick her back up and place her inside. There is just way too much danger out there for her to do it alone! Dogs alone pose a threat to her.

Early afternoon, Michael and I actually waded out in the cold water in our swimsuits to bathe, ( there are no showers in this campground) and we sat under the sun’s warming rays until noon.

After lunch, we biked over to the old fisherman’s trail that Michael and Fred had hiked last year, parked our bikes and walked to the river again. I was able to take a few nice photos of a red-shouldered hawk perched on a dead tree trunk, and on the return hike, a doe leading her fawn across the pathway and into the meadow. The clouds looked ominous when we hiked and biked back to our RV after 4, but they didn’t build up enough strength to warrant rain.

It is now dusk and I feel full after a glass of Chardonnay and a dinner of fresh ahi and salmon, rice and broccoli, with ice cream for dessert. I shall sleep well tonight, as shall Callie and Michael. You can’t beat camping like this. A large rig would not be able to park here. 24 feet is just the right size for two people and a cat!

Spending the Night at Washoe State Park

What a divine place in which to rest your weary bones after a long day of travel. The campground is situated in a high desert, upper Sonoran plateau that is filled with sage, juniper, and mesquite. The scent is intoxicatingly delicious. You can hear meadowlarks calling and quail and jackrabbits race through the underbrush as you walk along the trails.

Washoe Lake Campground is 18 miles south of Reno, Nevada off of the 395 and about 5 miles north of Carson City. The lake is very shallow and the water level varies greatly, depending on seasonal rainfall. We were fortunate in that it rained during the night, and it is sprinkling again this morning. Monsoon weather! I haven’t experienced warm, drenching rain, since I left Sedona, Arizona.

I highly recommend this campground. It is quiet and clean and the sites are very far apart. Quiet hours are from 7 am to 10:00 pm. People that use their generators must turn them off! That is a plus for me. I love to hear nature rather than campers! Callie slept through the night in a stupor and Michael and I did the same. Going to push on this morning for Yosemite. Tioga Pass, here we come!

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Washoe State Park Campground

As soon as the incredible solar eclipse went past the 98% and over to the other side at Crater Lake, we dashed for Klamath Falls and further on to Carson City, Nevada. We want to get to Yosemite next and needed to divide the drive up into 2 parts due to exhaustion. We couldn’t have done better than Washoe State Park Campground. Callie was co-pilot the whole way and is out to lunch now in the pilot’s seat. It has been way too much fun lately!

A Special Kind of Luck- Friday to Sunday

On Friday morning, when Michael, Callie and I pulled out of our Klamath Falls, Oregon campsite, we were all very exhausted from the day before. We had driven from Victoria, BC – a distance of over 500 miles nonstop and 15 hours in the RV to get to Klamath Falls. We had gotten up in the dark at 4 am to make it to the Black Ball Ferry Line. Callie couldn’t believe her good luck when we got up so early. That is the time that Callie has insomnia and every once in awhile she is fortunate enough to have me get up before the sun rises. So she was pleased as punch to get the show on the road and hung out on the dash of the RV as we pulled up to the ferry line and waited for U.S. Customs to wave us through.

Madras, Oregon has a solar eclipse totality of 100% and we watched as RV after RV pulled into farmland campsites, one after the other, while driving through town. Rock concerts are scheduled on some of the farms and it felt like we were gazing at a Woodstock in the making. In spite of feeling torn between staying or pressing on, Michael and I decided to honor our reservation at Klamath Falls. In hindsight, we should have canceled and tried to find a place to spend the night a lot sooner because our reservation wasn’t that big of a deal to the motel and I felt pretty disappointed in the accommodations. After setting up the RV, and before falling into bed totally wiped out, a decision was made to move on the next morning.

When we woke up, it was now 3 days before the eclipse. We drove into town to get diesel fuel and groceries at a local outlet store and started to drive to Diamond Lake, north/west of Klamath Falls. We didn’t believe that we had a chance in hell of finding anything but thought we would drive north until we did. Long lines were already gathering at gas stations and a buzz of excitement filled the air. Dropping by the bank, a teller joked that she was going to rent a room out for 100’s of dollars a night. Marquees posted on the side of the streets warned drivers of congested road conditions and heavy traffic due to the eclipse. Our drive took us past Crater Lake and with my suggestion to at least ask the ranger what she thought, we jokingly asked and she replied rather cheerfully “there just might indeed be a spot available!” We were advised to drive over to the park headquarters and find out for sure.

So we pulled up into the parking lot, parked the RV and walked up to the kiosk still assuming that we wouldn’t have any luck. Better to be realistic and not get let down! When Michael asked the girl at the check-in counter, she replied “yes there are sites available” and ‘that it was very unusual!” (Michael and I think it is because of the forest fires raging all around us) She also commented with a big, sincere smile “that we had a special kind of luck today!” She was young and pretty, with sparkly, glitter eye makeup on and was totally excited about the solar eclipse herself! We were given a yellow card filled out with a reservation of August 18 until August 21, and away we went to find a spot. There were at least 3 sites available and probably more. We couldn’t believe it!

After driving around for a short distance, we settled on a fabulous location, F-5, which was tucked into a grove of pine trees with grass for Callie, a picnic table, and a bear-proof garbage disposal bin. The skies are still smokey, but the campground is quiet and beautiful. We will be able to watch the solar eclipse over Crater Lake. There are hardly any campers here and it feels a little spooky! I am assuming a ranger will come driving through with megaphone blasting if we need to evacuate because the fire has burned its way up to our campground! The rainfall from last winter has made it a tough fire season for all of the forests in the area. There are at least 2’fires burning out of control as I write.

SATURDAY morning the sun is rising to clearer skies and I am truly appreciative of our good fortune and reminiscing about last year. Michael, Callie and I were here a year ago in the SUV, dreaming about someday doing this in an RV, and now we are here and our dreams have become a reality. Today we are going to drive around the lake to see where the best spot would be in which to view the eclipse.

After our late afternoon bike ride, lunch and a nap, the three of us headed up toward Crater Lake with the hope of picking out a good location in which to view the eclipse over the lake. On the west side of the lake there is a lot of construction going on and by the time we rounded the bend toward the east side, the visibility was almost gone and you could smell the smoke even inside the RV. It looks like dense fog billowing up and over the west side of the park and snaking it’s way onto the lake and obscuring Phantom Ship Island. There are two major fires burning out of control and every late afternoon for weeks now, the sky is darkened and the visibility reduced. There is no threat of evacuation that I know of, but the air quality is very poor and those suffering from asthma- (Michael and Callie) will experience shortness of breath and coughing. Callie hasn’t coughed now since we went up-Island on Vancouver Island, so I am keeping my fingers crossed she doesn’t relapse. Michael is also exhibiting some coughing spells, so two more days of this and then we are out of here.

It is now Sunday morning and Callie and I just finished going on a serene catwalk. She is going out farther and father and trusting that I will protect her if danger were to threaten us. The sky has cleared enough every morning and it is staying clear enough for a 10:00 start of the solar eclipse. We are going to take a run up to Crater Lake tomorrow morning and we hope to find a parking spot. It is difficult to tell how many people will be up there. The campground is not completely full and just possibly the fires have kept people away.

We are having a fantastic time in spite of the pollution and I am appreciative to be here and away from the crowds. Callie thinks that this is the best campsite of all times. She has a gigantic picnic table in which to lounge on, squirrels by the dozen that chatter and scold her, woodpeckers feeding their young with a stellar jay hoping to snatch a free meal, bears are in evidence but keep their distance and the neighboring campers are quiet and respectful.

Monday morning and the day of the eclipse is upon us. This has been a long post. Excuse we did not have phone or internet service for the entire time we were at Crater Lake Campground. We stayed at Crater Lake for 3 nights and went up to the lake at 7:00 Monday morning to watch the eclipse scheduled for 10:18. We met wonderful people and had a great view of the sun and lake. The solar eclipse was 98% and very eerie to witness. It got really cold and our shadows were odd to look at. It didn’t get as dark as I had thought but it was still really interesting to witness. Having the special viewing glasses made all the difference and we shared them with the group of six viewers that hung out with us. We turned it into a party! Heading to Yosemite this morning. We haven’t had internet service since Friday and am posting a rather long blog.

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Up in Smoke

We screwed up! The journey from Victoria BC to Klamath Falls, Oregon was a lengthy, arduous and smoke filled day. Michael drove over 500 miles non stop. The forests are on fire and the eclipse zone filled with smoke. It is a sad thing to see such beautiful countryside going up in flames.

Our campsite is a dump, and this is the first time I have written such a negative opinion, but there is no pride of ownership and most of the campers seem to be long term. We are heading out this morning in hopes of finding a first come/ first serve Campground that can accommodate our 24ft RV.

We are so fortunate to have our health and a cat that loves to travel- that is what is important. Heading out with a positive attitude that we will find a wonderful site in which to view the solar eclipse.

Black Ball Ferry Ride

How organized and clean the ferry boat is and the morale of the employees, high. Everyone is cheerful and helpful and laugh when they see Callie sitting on the dash and taking in the sights and sounds. She has to stay in the RV below but is now a seasoned traveler. United States- here we come!

We are heading to Klamath Falls, Oregon to see the solar eclipse. Yay!! Motel 8 and RV Park.