There’s Gold in them Hills

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has some of the best off-road biking (at least in my limited experience) that I have come across. I thought Morro Bay and Mammoth were incredible, but today’s biking takes the prize. It is really windy again and only in the 50’s because snow is expected on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop us from having a lot of fun. I am so tired of wind, at least here though, it is fresh and cool and it energizes you rather than makes you go insane like it does me in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park.

Michael and I took the Soapstone Grade Fire Road all the way up and over to the Anza-Borrego State Park boundary line and marveled at what a difference a higher altitude can make. Instead of sand and ocotillo, there were golden meadows filled with tidy tips, a petite, yellow flower that blankets the entire meadow in early springtime. Massive oaks lined the trails and evidence of past fires could be seen in the charred trunks of some of the older trees. Stonewall Mountain has some very powerful storms and it isn’t uncommon for trees and sometimes people to be struck by lightning.

Having biked for over 3 hours, we covered some pretty challenging terrain. I have learned the hard way to keep your weight way back and to look forward about 10 feet. It does you no good to stare down at the rocks directly below you while you worry about whether you are going to crash or not. My skills have improved already and I only tipped over once today when I hit a stationary rock. When we reached the top of the trail, we could see the storm building up as the clouds raced in from the southwest of Stonewall Mountain. The powerful gusts of wind would make the tiny tip flowers dance and sway, turning the meadow into a field of shimmering gold.

Since we discovered so many new trails, we can now hunker down in the RV and watch the storm build up. The RV is rocking and rolling and the clouds are sweeping past at an alarming speed. Most everyone has left and we have the campsite to ourselves again. I prefer it that way. Callie can’t walk around on her leash if there are dogs running loose. They take one look at her and then take another look and you can just see the thoughts churning around in their heads. “What the hell is a cat doing on a leash?” I have to be on constant alert just in case a dog wants to charge us. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am ready for it if it does.

The three of us may head to Agua Caliente tomorrow morning if it is too cold outside for us to play. Callie doesn’t like it when it is windy, and cold and windy it is. That is the wonder and joy of traveling in a small enough RV. We are so mobile, that we can pick up and leave at a moments notice. Callie in the meantime is buried under the covers high up in the loft. How fun is that?!

Cat Tails

Last night we were playing cards and Michael was teasing Callie by pulling and yanking on her tail because her tail was knocking the cards off of the table. I don’t know about you, but I think she is showing a certain type of intelligence by going after his toes that were propped up on the bench on the other side of the table. It shows an awareness that she didn’t just turn around and playfully swat at his hands. She took us both by surprise by swiping at his feet instead. Notice that she doesn’t have her claws extended. She is such a cool animal and an awesome RV companion. We couldn’t ask for a better cat! I am so glad that we adopted her as a stray 7 years ago when she came running across our front yard and pleading for help.

Callie had been abandoned by her first family because she was too difficult and demanding; they stopped by a year later to tell me when they were sure that I would keep her. I think it is because she is super curious and they didn’t understand her needs. She wants to be a part of it all and gets bored very easily. RVing is the perfect remedy for boredom. She gets to go on walks, sailing, bike rides, meet new people, their dogs, and live life as one, great, big adventure!

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

The wind that haunts us in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has followed us up the mountains and into Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. I have never experienced so much wind before I moved to the desert. It blows often and it blows hard, sending sand and debris everywhere. At least up in the mountains, it is cool and fresh and the ground has green stuff growing on it that prevents the soil from being swept away. A rainstorm is heading our way, and because Southern California still needs rain before the summer settles in, I shan’t complain.

We got up first thing Saturday morning and had a lovely breakfast and then hopped on our bikes and headed toward Stonewall Mountain Trailhead and the ranger station. As we biked along the roadside we stopped to watch 4 coyotes working in tandem in the meadow to flush out ground squirrels and mice. You could listen to their progress as the squirrels chirped out warning calls across the land. The coyotes would jump up in the air and pounce multiple times as they efficiently trotted along, but we didn’t see them catch one rodent.

When we made it to the trailhead we discovered that bikes and horses are not allowed and I stopped and talked with two equestrian volunteers that ride the numerous trails and keep an eye out for hikers and to make sure that the trails are in good condition. They showed us the Cold Stream Trail that we could bike on and I asked them if they wanted to exchange mounts? They said they did not!

Biking in the meadow along the back side of the lake, we watched several Red-Winged Blackbirds sing their hearts out and flash the beautiful red shoulder pads that make them so sexy to the females. I love the song they sing and the whole atmosphere of the tall dried grasses being rustled in the wind and the blue water rippled and patterened by the waves that then cast reflective flashes of light into your eyes.

We did a two-hour bike ride and Michael went down twice. I managed to do better this last time because I lowered my saddle and wasn’t as preoccupied with falling. Yesterday’s bike ride, my seat was too high and whenever I stepped off, I almost tipped over before my foot could touch the ground. It is one thing to bike on flat pavement and another to pedal furiously on steep, rutted trails.

Callie had zero separation anxiety when we left her and she didn’t even lift her head when I said goodbye. When we returned, I opened up the window for her to look out and gaze over the lake. It is too windy for her to take a walk and she knows it. She hates it when the wind rushes into her ears. If a breeze so much as hits her in the face, she flattens down and makes a dash for cover. She is far better off today in the safety of the RV where it is warm and cozy.

Cranking Up the Heat

I don’t know what it is about cats, their small body mass probably contributes to it, but Callie absolutely cannot handle the cold. She huddles under blankets when it drops below 80 and prefers basking in the sun behind curtains that are drawn to keep the sunshine from blasting inside when it is 99 degrees in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I would be baked alive if I did that, but Callie finds it ever so delightful.

This morning dawned brisk and windy with a temperature of 40 and I was glad I left Callie’s personal heater churning away all night. We sleep up in the loft above the cab and need to have a window cracked open so that it isn’t so hot for us, but Callie finds it barely tolerable. She delicately declines the offer of sleeping down below though, much preferring the warmth and company of our bodies during the night, but as soon as I get up, she pounces on the suggestion of lounging next to the heater.

I tried walking her this morning, but the winds have strengthened because of an upcoming rainstorm and she doesn’t like the wind either. So, huddling by the heater today and watching all the new campers from inside the RV will have to do. Surprisingly, Lonepine Campground has filled up and there are people in tents lined up along the shoreline. It can’t be super fun for them in the wind! It will be a beautiful day nevertheless and we will probably go on another bike ride. Stronger winds and a further drop in the temperature is predicted for tomorrow. On Tuesday, we are heading to Agua Caliente to ride out the storm.

DANGER- Hunting Occurs Wednesday & Sunday

Thank goodness it is Friday and not Wednesday or Sunday because we would have been in danger of being shot by hunters while off-road biking in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We did not see any deer grazing at all in the lush, golden meadows and sadly, they must not know that it is only Friday and have taken cover regardless. I did come across one lone tom turkey and the red-winged blackbirds were out in force. I could hear the meadowlarks calling their lovely warbled trill, but couldn’t see them in the tall bleached grasses. The Canadian Geese couple were proudly standing over their goslings on the shoreline, and coots and mallard ducks were enjoying the warm weather and ample sunshine. I can also hear the bald eagles screeching but can’t see them either. I learned to recognize their call when I was visiting Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. They are common there and so remarkable to watch as they catch fish in the ocean. They are making a comeback in the United States thanks to a ban on DDT.

Michael and I left Callie happily resting in the RV and biked over to the old Stonewall Goldmine. It is abandoned now but was once a thriving mining town. Nothing is left except for rusted mining parts and equipment that is fenced off and on display and one, single room, lone cabin that is maintained and left open for visitors to check out how the pioneers once lived. The bike ride was a tad bit difficult for me because of how narrow and grooved the trail was, and I actually knocked my back wheel loose hitting a rock. That was a first for me and I skinned up my shins with the pedal too. It was well worth it though and if I had a choice, I would do it all over again.

Today it is gorgeous out and we have neighbors. Michael, Callie and I have had the campground all to ourselves. It is supposed to fill up over the weekend. Callie is in love with the feel of grass under her paws and looks up at me with wonderment and a twinkle in her eye. Mountain lion warning signs are everywhere and raccoons, are nightly raiders. Callie is picking up new and interesting scents because she stops and sniffs and has a faraway look in her eyes. I am so happy for all three of us and for getting out of the desert heat.

A Walk in the Woods

We had an absolutely perfect first day here at Lake Cuyamaca and in the late afternoon, Michael and I took a walk in the woods to explore the partial island and view of Stonewall Mountain. Lake Cuyamaca is home to ancient oak trees and evergreens that border the woods and provide shelter for a pair of bald eagles, numerous turkey buzzards, and owls. I noticed two nest boxes hammered to a large pine tree but they were both empty.

On the lake, I witnessed a lot of Canadian Geese noisily honking and one pair, in particular, had 7 goslings with a mallard duck couple that seemed transfixed by them. The two geese allowed them access to the babies and it almost appeared like they were assisting with parenting the noisy children. The turkey buzzards were swooping and soaring and seemed to just be enjoying the thermals that they caught along the shoreline.

As you head toward Stonewall Mountain, you walk over the decreased water levels and shrinkage of the lake and the path takes you through grasslands that are usually submerged. Male, Red-Winged Blackbirds were singing their hearts out and arrogantly displaying the bright red shoulder pads on their jet, black wings and fisherman were catching trout that are stocked once a year.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we are planning to bike the same path today. The temperature is cooling down because a rainstorm is predicted after the weekend. We are the only campers at Lonepine Campground, but it is expected to fill up by Saturday. The showers which cost $1.00 in quarters every 3 minutes is a bit steep, but the bathrooms are brand new and the campground is still under some construction. We have an uninterrupted view of the lake on site number 38 and are very pleased with our experience as of yet. It is one of Callie’s favorite campsites of all time because of the peace and quiet and the numerous birds that keep her endlessly entertained.

The California Poppy

Michael and I left Callie sleeping in the RV and drove over to Julian to check out the wildflowers. It is springtime in the mountains and there are wildflowers everywhere. What a difference compared to the desert. The desert has its own stark beauty, but nothing compares to a field of California Poppies. It is illegal to pick them, they grow wild in meadows and alongside roadways and are also called- Cups of Gold. I can see why!

Where to put the Litter Box when RVing

Callie, Michael and I are traveling in a 24ft Icon Class C RV, and because Callie is a cat, the question of where to put the litter box loomed over us for a short while. You don’t want it too close to the kitchen area and you especially don’t want it near the bed. Actually, you don’t want it anywhere in the RV, but the advantage of traveling with a cat instead of a dog is that you can leave them unattended and you don’t have to take them out to go potty, and they don’t bark while you are away. A lot of RVers don’t realize that their beloved dogs are howling their separation anguish the whole time they are away!

I have seen some setups where a cabinet door has been removed for the litter box, or under the sofa or table, but in our case, because the RV is medium size, I was very concerned. I had a brainstorm though and measured the shower floor to see if possibly that would work. It did, and Callie not only uses the same space that we do for going potty, she also has a bench in the shower for her kibble and water to be placed on. It couldn’t be more perfect.

We are currently up at Lake Cuyamaca because our home in the desert is having a heat spell. It is difficult to imagine the heat at the moment because it is so fresh and cool at the lake. Callie and I went for a lovely walk first thing this morning until the Canadian Geese honked too loud at us. That was a little too much for her and we high-tailed it back to the RV lickety-split. I don’t download videos anymore because they take up too much storage space, and my daughter has failed to teach me well enough to do it on my own. I also have to set it up on YouTube and I don’t have my computer with me. You will just have to use your imagination to visualize Callie’s tail held high in the air and trotting quite briskly in front of me as we head for the safety of the RV.

Lake Cuyamaca

Oh, my goodness, we are just way too pleased with ourselves for choosing to head up to the mountains instead of staying in the desert. It feels so fresh and cool. We have a lovely campsite right on the lake and the breeze is blowing across the bright, blue, water like air-conditioning. Callie can’t believe her good fortune either and doesn’t yet realize that our daughter has left. She is too busy enjoying the intoxicating scent of wildlife and fresh, green grass under her paws.

Bon Voyage

Today is the day! We are leaving for Lake Cuyamaca because there is an early in the season heat wave descending on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with a high of possibly 100 degrees today. We can’t afford to invest in solar quite yet, and we definitely can’t afford the high utility bill that comes with air-conditioning, and because our daughter is heading out too, a celebratory exodus to the beautiful local mountains is one I am very much looking forward to.

Callie loves traveling in the RV, so as soon as the suitcases come out, I will put her in there while we pack up; that way she will know that the plan includes her and won’t be as stressed out.

Last night we had a beautiful sunset and the evenings are still cooling off. When summer hits with a vengeance, the air temperature stays warm all night and there is no relief. This morning Callie climbed her favorite olive tree and the sun rose and shone it’s beautiful, golden, rosy light on Mount Illuminous.