Are Cats getting Smarter!

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe that domesticated cats are getting much smarter than say, 62 years ago when I was a child. For instance, Callie taps me with her paw to get my undivided attention, meows and stares me in the eye before she starts chewing as if she is hungry. She is asking me to feed her. How obvious is that? It cracks me up every time she does it, and her actions are then positively reinforced. She doesn’t want leftovers and asks so sweetly for fresh food on demand. If she wasn’t so damn cute, it would quickly escalate to nightmare status.

At least for now, I have trained her to jump down from the bed at night, where I have placed a dainty glass bowl of fresh kibble on my nightstand. That is a huge improvement. At one time earlier in our relationship, I was a slave to getting up several times at night in order to feed her frozen kibble. I know it sounds like I am a pushover, but Callie sure does know how to lay down the law! I mean charm…

A Day Trip to Yosemite & Drive through Tioga Pass in a Snowstorm

Michael, Lara and I had an impulsive brainstorm that we could somehow find a way to camp overnight in Yosemite Valley without a reservation. We spent the morning making an effort to be put on a waiting list and then drove over to the one available spot to park in order to hike up to Mirror Lake.

Once we parked the RV and piled out, the three of us crossed the gorgeous meadow over the lovely boardwalk and headed to the lake. Callie stayed behind in the RV and took a much-needed nap. All the fun and excitement of travel takes it out of her, and the chance to get some sleep mid-morning is a treat for her.

Leaving her safely behind, we meandered along Tenaya Creek and I spent a couple of hours taking photographs and walking through the woods with Lara and Michael. It was a beautiful, crisp afternoon, and because Mirror Lake is no longer dredged and pillaged for its ice like it was in the past, it is more of a puddle than a lake. I was still able to capture incredible, reflective images in spite of the low water level, and felt that the hike was more than worth it.

The view was incredible, with light and shadow passing over the rock formations and changing dramatically with each minute. The leaves on the broadleaf trees were just starting to turn golden in color, and there was a hint of autumn in the air. The path is paved and cyclists can now bike up to a parking area before walking the rest of the way to the lake. Rental bikes are available and a lot of people took advantage of the opportunity.

Once we returned to the RV and made an effort to see more of the Valley, we were entangled in one traffic jam after another. Michael was never able to find a place to park after that, and we decided collectively to head over to Lee Vinning and find a camping site at Mono Lake. Little did I know that Tioga Pass was experiencing an early, fall blizzard and that Callie was going to be able to watch the snow blow past on the dash. She didn’t know whether to be excited or freaked out as the windshield wipers were activated.

In spite of the crowds in Yosemite, it is still a beautiful place to visit. I recommend taking the time to get a reservation though, and I don’t recommend driving an RV around. Take advantage of the numerous shuttles that are available and plan a long day of exploring. It was just too difficult this time to find a place to park, and maneuvering the RV from one spot to the next, became a chore! Fortunately, Michael, Callie had I had visited the valley last summer and didn’t feel too disappointed, and Lara was a good sport about it and didn’t complain.

The Crows in the Oak Trees

While camping at the Monterey Fairgrounds this summer, we would take Callie out for walks on her leash so that she could explore her surroundings. The oak trees were protected and couldn’t be cut down and had grown quite massive in size. The crows would fly in as a flock of 50 or more to feed on the trees in the late afternoon.

Dusk was just starting to fall and the light was fading. You could hear them long before you saw them. We would look up at the sky at the sound of caws in the distance and see specks of black dots moving toward us like a darkening cloud of locusts. Soon they would descend on the oak trees as a mob and peck at the bare branches and the plump acorns in a frenzy of feeding. The acorns would crash down noisily onto the aluminum roof of the livestock showing pens, and plop with a crunch on the dried up leaves at the base of the tree.

The sound was deafening and the birds would be screaming and shouting at one another the whole time they fed. It sounded like a version of happy hour for these birds, and it was really quite the sight to behold. The clicks and caws and screams could be heard all over the campground and there was a special alarm call when they spotted Callie! Three crows, in particular, stayed put and kept looking at us from up above in astonishment that a cat was down below. When we got too close, rather than fly away in alarm, they shouted obscenities at us and hurled insults like a gang of misbehaving children. As Callie passed underneath their particular tree, I swear they made an effort to bomb her with debris. Callie would have liked nothing better than to climb the oak tree and give them a piece of her mind.

At the end of the day, not having packed toys for Callie, she had to make do with a paper bag in which to work out her pent-up aggression!

Sailing on Alfresco

Last summer we took the RV through Washington and the ferry over to Vancouver Island to introduce Callie to sailing on my brother Tom, and his wife Frances’s, catamaran. Tom built this boat when he was in his twenties, and Alfresco is still seaworthy after 40 plus years. Callie took to sailing like a duck to water and my fear of her going overboard were never realized. She loved boating and being on the water. It was very exciting when we were under sail, but Callie showed little fear. When we dropped anchor, she explored every nook and cranny. Only once did she slip while heading to the stern and when that happened, she made sure to land on the deck and walked away with tail high in the air, as if nothing had happened and she had planned it all along.

Yakima Valley Wine Country- Washington State

Yakima, in the beautiful state of Washington, is known for having survived Mount Saint Helen’s eruption in 1980 and burying the region with nutrient ash. The positive consequence of this is that the soil is extremely fertile and anything that is planted, flourishes. Wineries have produced some of the best grapes for both red and white wines. The Columbia Gorge and Columbia Crest Chardonnay are one of my favorites, but I loved just about every wine I sampled. I am of the old school and love the taste of a bold, oak flavor. This only happens when the wine is stored in oak casks. The latest trend is to keep the wine in stainless steel, but I do not like the crisp taste that stainless steel produces. Fortunately for me, many Washington State wineries still favor the oak.

Heading Home!

We are heading back home to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park after a month of being on the road. We forgot to pack toys for Callie, so a thrift store bag and iPhone chord will have to do! The thrift stores in Monterey and Carmel are incredible. The Humane Society Thrift Store, The Yellow Brick Road and Joining Hands help the homeless and animals that need to find a home too. Callie loved playing in the bag after we finished shopping.

Burlington Campground X2

Michael, Callie and I stayed at the Burlington Grove Campground during the summer months, right before the disastrous drive over to Albee Creek. Albee Creek was a disaster because RV’s weren’t recommended on the pothole filled drive over to the campground, and the sign stating as such was spot on. We lost a hubcap and later had a flat tire and the cabinets in the RV came loose from the wall. This story is about Burlington though, and Burlington is a lovely campground.

We biked over to the Founder’s Grove yesterday and walked among the ancient redwoods. 98% of the redwoods were cut down before a group of environmentalists in 1932 stepped in and questioned the sanity of chopping down all these beautiful trees. Thank goodness for the foresight of these individuals.

Callie loves the big trees and keeps looking up in bewilderment at how to go about climbing one of these giants. She settled for hopping up on stumps instead. That just doesn’t seem so formidable to her. She also got to meet a lovely young boy by the name of Ocean who had to give up his kitten because his landlady was mean and he was very sad about it. Callie comforted him and I told Ocean when he grows up, he must remember Callie and rescue a cat just like Callie was rescued of his own. His whole face lit up at the idea and he walked away just a little happier than before. It kind of looked like his family had fallen on hard times and may have been living in their car. Ocean told me he had been very cold last night. What a sweet, smart and well mannered young boy he was.

The photo below shows a redwood that fell down in a storm and the inner rings date back to 920 AD.

The redwoods of today are ancestors to even more ancient redwoods that dominated the planet during the time of dinosaurs. We, humans, have only been around for a blink of an eye, but we have already destroyed over 98% of these majestic creatures. How is that possible? I love these trees and feel so honored to have had the opportunity to camp below them twice now in one year. Who knows when or if a fire will consume them before I have a chance again? I can only hope that our current political administration will come to their senses and find value in our natural resources too- before it is too late!

Fires Raging in Santa Rosa

We left South Lake Tahoe and innocently headed to Bodega Bay, oblivious to the fires that were raging in Northern California. About the time we came closer to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, we could see smoke billowing off to the right side and north of us. By the time we merged onto the 101 North, we received an evacuation notice that blasted over the phone and we took notice that most people on the highway were zipping by us and going in the opposite direction with their lights on. Soon, whole hillsides were engulfed in flames and smoke. Cattle were actually grazing in fields that had been recently charred and smoke was curling up gently all around them. It was so eerie to see the cattle walking around in burned fields with smoke and blackened grass. They weren’t even reacting, just ambling along quietly with young calves at their sides.

As we drove past Petaluma, the smoke became more and more densely thick and you could actually see flames! We also saw a sign that informed us that the freeway was closed up ahead and that we needed to find an alternate route. Because the smoke was so thick, we had made a joint decision earlier not to go to Bodega Bay, but to try and continue north to escape the pollution. By then, we were all coughing and our eyes were burning from all of the smoke. We were forced to get off though before we got to Santa Rosa and thought that maybe Salt Point State Campground would be clearer. When we drove through Bodega Bay, it was really dark with smoke and after another hour or so of driving north on the 1, we made it to our Campground.

It wasn’t any better at the campground though. Apparently, there are fires burning all over and the entire coastline is smokey and the sun is tinged a blood red. We spent one night there and woke up to smokey skies and took the 1 to Casper Beach RV Park and Campground which is north of Fort Bragg this morning. The skies are still smokey and because we dropped by and had lunch in Point Arena, near Irish Beach, we watched the news and were horrified at the extent of the fires and the sheer number of lives and structures lost. Horses and people and vineyards and a Hilton Hotel, and the list goes on and on. I am in shock and feel so bad for all of those that are affected. It is hard to imagine in this day and age, that fires can still swoop through whole neighborhoods and kill everything iI its path. It was apocalyptic though! We were just at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds not more than 2.5 months ago.

We will be staying tonight at the Casper Beach Campground in Westport and may decide to head back south again tomorrow. The skies will not be clearing up anytime soon and we are miserable. Certainly, it is nothing like what others have had to endure, but it is awful never the less.

I have a good friend, Catherine who I have written about concerning Anza Borrego Desert State Park and she lives in Petaluma and has been watching as rescue trucks have delivered animals out of the fire zone. Apparently, a lot of horses have perished. She dropped by the Red Cross today and delivered donated clothes. I am so sorry for the fire victims. What a horrible thing to endure.