Full Circle

I have finally arrived back home to my beloved Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but have moved up to Ram’s Hill Country Club. We are attempting to sell the beautiful house that I took all of the incredible sunrise photographs. Ram’s Hill has its own unique charm and as I write, I am listening to a chorus of coyotes howling and yipping off in the distance. I have a pond in the back of the house that attracts a lot of wildlife, so I am excited about the prospect of new photo opportunities.

Michael, Lara, Callie and I piled up most of our belongings into the SUV so that we could leave the RV in Encinitas and have the chance now to go back and forth to the beach and the desert. It can feel a little isolating in the desert and Callie can never run around free because of all the predators. I actually let her explore her surroundings at the beach with frequent checks from me so that she could feel a little more freedom. She loved it and stayed close to the RV.

Callie is doing very well and loved all the travel time. She has had so many experiences as a cat that it still amazes me how much she has learned about travel. She can watch the world go by as she rests on the dash, she walks with a leash along wilderness trails and will soon be put on a bike basket again to whiz along the roads and feel the wind in her fur.

Rise & Shine

Michael, Callie, and I made it to Zion River RV Park after a 12-hour drive at 7 pm and it was a long day for all of us. Callie loves being on the road though and helps navigate on the dash as if her life depends on it. Yesterday’s adventure was just a tad bit too long though and I could tell she was wondering when we would get there.

When we finally did set up camp, which now includes disconnecting the Tracker, Michael and I quickly changed into swimsuits and dashed over to the hot tub to soak our weary muscles and joints before it closed at 9. Sitting for so long when you are a senior citizen makes you stiff and achy! The wisdom of aging is that you aren’t as restless and a long day of travel is just part of the overall scheme of things. The three of us really had a fabulous day and are now reaping the rewards of reaching a lovely destination.

The hot tub was divine and a quick BBQ of veggie and salmon burgers were grilled with Callie being fed her favorite Science Diet nuggets, and off to bed, we went. I woke up with my usual rise and shine energy along with Callie and we took a fabulous walk before all of the dogs got up. It is bright and fresh outside with a fragrant breeze rustling the cottonwoods. A delicious breakfast shall be served as soon as my exhausted husband wakes up. Michael is going to try and find out if we can get into the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and if so, we may head out again. If not, we will stay here and take the bikes out for a trail ride. I vote we stay put for a couple of days and check out the local mountain trails and of course, Zion!

Creekside RV Park

Creekside RV Park is really next to a creek, a creek that roars like a river and is fed by beautiful, South Lake that has an elevation of 9,800 ft. Driving up from Bishop you make a jog to the left rather than head straight toward Lake Sabrina. When we left Virginia Lake on July 3rd, we were quite concerned about finding another campsite because of 4th of July, but Nick from Creekside, who also happens to be the owner’s son, had only one cancellation which he promptly gave to us, and we have been here ever since.

The campground is clean and spacious and because it is family owned, they make every attempt to accommodate most of your needs. We keep extending our stay due to the heat wave down below and so far they have managed to find a way to allow us to stay. There is a well-stocked store, small fishing pond for children and South Lake and Lake Sabrina are a draw for many fishermen. The wildflowers are also out, but so are the mosquitos, but if you remember to put repellant on, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Two days ago, we made the intense 5-mile bike ride up to South Lake and it took us 2 hours to get there and a roaring 20 minutes to return. It was steep with a 2,000 ft verticle grade that left us wheezing because of the high altitude and me cursing most of the way because we forgot to bring along mosquito repellent. Whenever we stopped to catch our breath, the mosquitos swarmed us and they were not deterred by simple swats of the hand. They would rather die than be forced to fly away and were incredibly persistent.

Once we made it to the top though, it was well worth it. The lake was surrounded by receding glaciers and evergreens and the fresh, brisk air, a reward after the grueling climb. Hikers come from all over to hook up with the Pacific Crest Trail and the series of lakes are supposed to be spectacular. The wildflowers, such as the apricot mallow, lined the roadside as we huffed and puffed up the hill, and the temperature couldn’t be better. Once we caught our breath, we walked around and I took photographs and we admired the view, and when it was time to head back down, Michael checked our brakes and away we went as fast as 45 mph. We were smoking and it was a thrill, to say the least. We went so fast that I was concerned when a blast of wind almost knocked me off of my bike; that and the ruts in the road were cause for alarm. Once we pulled into Creekside though, we laughed at the thrill of the experience. The rest of the day we spent totally relaxed.

Callie isn’t able to walk around as much at Creekside because of all the dogs; she misses Virginia Lakes. At Virginia Lakes, she had a large forest range to walk around in and one evening, a deer raced right past the front of the RV while she was hanging out on the dash and it made her jump up and stare at the passing creature. She is doing very well though and is happy as can be to be traveling in the RV. It is going to be a sizzling 114 degrees in Borrego Springs tomorrow. Thank goodness we made the great escape.

Baby Kestrel’s at Lake Washoe

I have shared that I, with the encouragement of Michael, am getting out my Nikon D70s camera more often now because it is better and I am able to use a telephoto lens on bird and wildlife. I also have a macro lens for flowers which is out of this world. When staying at Washoe Lake, there was a family of kestrels and the fledglings were just learning to fly. The parents would ask the babies to fly from one cottonwood tree to the next to strengthen their wings and force them to work before offering them the reward of a meal. They complained mightily about the injustice of it all, but the parents were persistent. As personalities go, one sibling was larger and more precocious than the other and the photograph of this baby should be compared to the one looking at me with an expression of, ” You want me to do what!”

After Washoe Lake, we went to beautiful Virginia Lakes and I took incredible wildflower photographs and a marmot that was hanging out by a waterfall. I will post them later. We are now at South Lake right outside of Bishop because of the fires in Mammoth. The smoke was so bad and so thick, all three of us were coughing and hacking. It is nice and clear and cool up at South Lake. We are staying at Creekside RV Park and did the 2000 ft vertical climb to the lake this morning. Wow!

Washoe Lake State Park

Washoe Lake State Park is a 3,375 acre recreation area on the southeast shore of the lake in the county of Washoe in Nevada. Crescent City is less than a 15 minute drive and we stocked up on groceries before we got to the lake. It is home to magpies, coyotes, scrub jays, meadowlarks, kestrels, white pelicans, bald eagles, hawks, ospreys, flickers, quail, deer, wild horses and more.

When we pulled in late yesterday, a family of quail dashed across the road and the chicks were the size of tear drops. A family of kestrels are noisily going about the business of life next to our campsite, and the parents are frantically attending to at least one fledgling. The baby is old enough to fly short distances and is screeching its demands to be fed constantly. One parent insists the baby fly to a neighboring tree and then the other parent asks the youngster to fly back again so that it strengthens its wings. This little guy has hearty vocal chords and is not at all happy about having to work for a meal. The magpies can be seen checking out vacated campsites and are gorgeous because of the white patches on the wings. This makes them much more attractive to me than the jet black of crows, starlings and ravens. The pesky scrub jay followed Callie on our walk this morning and scolded us nervously, but also kept an eye on her until we got back to the RV.

Michael and I went on a bike ride after breakfast and adjacent to the campground, there is an equestrian area. Guests can corral their horses and park the horse trailer and RV alongside of them. You can hear them neighing back and forth to each other and when we were on our bike ride, we met two women on their quarter horses and I asked them about the free roaming horses we had seen earlier grazing on tall grasses on the top of one of the sand dunes. They informed us that they are wild and come down from the surrounding mountains in search of ample grazing and fresh water. They were gorgeous, well fed and their coats were glossy. I was able to take photographs with my iPhone from a distance and was really impressed with how healthy they looked.

We flushed out lots of jack rabbits that were the size of dogs and one coyote let us get really close for a good look at his or her, much darker and redder coat and bushy tail. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is home to lots of coyotes, but they are much smaller, thinner, the color of sand and their tails are scrawny so they don’t get tangled up in the cactus quills. This coyote blended in well with the sage brush that flourishes here. The scent of sage by the way is intoxicating and fills the senses with the call of the wild and what the prairie must have looked and smelled like years ago.

The campground is clean and the spaces are far apart. Tall sage brush, pine trees and cottonwoods help give you a sense of privacy. The bathrooms have free use of water and the shower has a timer on it but you can press the nozzle for additional time. We got the last campsite available yesterday, but this afternoon, campers have pulled out and the place is a lot less crowded.

The lake is stocked and you can fish in the shallow waters, but consumption of your catch needs to be limited because of high levels of mercury. There were hang gliders soaring along the hills when we first arrived last night and high winds make it a popular destination site for windsurfers. There is hiking, ATV use, picnicking and boat launches too.

Callie is able to go on much longer walks at Washoe because of the wide open spaces and the dogs are kept contained. I am always a little worried about dogs in crowded campgrounds attacking her when she is on a leash. They look so appalled when they set eyes on her and it brings out a variety of reactions, not all of them friendly.

We are staying tonight and will decide whether we will hang around longer in the morning. It has been a little stressful finding campgrounds that are not full because of the 4th of July holiday coming up. We don’t want to be searching for a place to stay over the weekend and find ourselves stranded.

Biking at Silver Lake

Callie, Michael and I slept well last night, and in spite of the very smokey skies-(Devil’s Post Pile) in Mammoth is on fire, we decided to go on a bike ride. The sky is hazy with smoke that has drifted the 25 miles from Mammoth to here and it definitely interferes with the beauty of landscape photography, but I also feel terrible for the plants and animals that are in harm’s way. Last summer we had the same problem with forest fires in Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Our poor planet. The trees that are dead and dying are in the millions from one end of the country to the other, and this makes for perfect fire conditions.

It is still beautiful at Silver Lake though and you can bike north and south and the traffic is just slow enough and the RV’S, by and large, give you enough room as they pass you by, that you feel safe cycling on the road. We followed along the scenic river and beautiful, Silver Lake and as you pedal past the fairly flat terrain, you can hear the water roaring from the waterfall above Silver Lake Resort and RV Park. We headed toward the rest stop going north and then turned around and went into town going the other way.

Callie has a nice trail behind the property where I watched 5 White-Tailed Deer grazing earlier this morning. I try to keep her out of the grass because of ticks, but she sure loves to pretend that she is stalking chipmunks and starlings. This is a very nice, family oriented campground, and we couldn’t be happier with our decision to stay here for 4 days.

Free Shuttle Service at Mammoth Lakes

Michael, Callie and I are camped at Shady Rest Campground which is below the Village and 5 miles from all of the gorgeous lakes. Trying to bike from here to there would be daunting in 84-degree weather, high altitude, and because it is also quite a steep vertical climb. Fortunately, there is a free shuttle service that can take you and your bike all the way up to Horse Shoe Lake and you can then take the trails around Horse Shoe and Lake Mary and back down to Twin Lakes before heading to your campground.

The shuttle drivers are happy to help show you how to load your bike on the rack and are very gracious and informative along with a good dose of patience. There is a Motor-cross event taking place this weekend, so there are a lot of people out and about and more than is usual. We grabbed the shuttle right outside the campground and were dropped off at Horse Shoe Lake within 20 minutes. We biked around the lake and then continued down along well maintained and paved trails that offer a whole different vantage point than walking or hiking.

I was able to take some very nice photographs of the waterfall reflecting off the water at Upper Twin Lake and had a fabulous time. It is quite steep on the homeward stretch and I would not have been a happy camper if I had had to bike up the trails. It was enough of a workout going around the lakes and back down. Happy to be back home safe and sound in our wonderful Class C Icon RV once again.

Callie has enjoyed going on walks and climbing her favorite rocks and picnic tables. It is chilly at night but quite warm during the day. She loves Mammoth Lakes and seems to remember it from last summer. It is important to wear plenty of sunblock when playing outdoors in high altitude. So remember to put some on before you head out on an adventure! The sun doesn’t set until after 8 pm, so there is ample time to be outdoors under the sun and get a whopping sunburn.

We are going to try to get into Twin Lakes tomorrow and camp for a few more days at Mammoth. It is really beautiful out and the Swallowtail Butterflies are just starting to metamorphosis and you can see the huge caterpillars crawling along the ground everywhere.

Off-Road Biking at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

I finally took a mean spill yesterday on my bike at the Soapstone Fire Trail as I was climbing up and banking into a sharp right-hand turn. My front tire hit a rock and I ever so serenely and dreamlike, lost my balance and in slow motion, started to fall to the right and up and over my bike. I didn’t have much time to panic and I thought to myself, no big deal, but when I landed in the bushes, there was a pointed, jutting boulder hidden from view and my right thigh took a direct hit. It hurt and I gasped from the searing pain but after pushing the bike off of me, got back on and pedaled in search of Michael who was in front of me and oblivious to the accident. I casually let Michael know that I had fallen, but didn’t make a big deal of it until we got back. There were still many miles of trail to go, so I ignored the pain and fortunately, the adrenaline kept me going.

I will spare my dear readers the details and the photo my husband took of the bruise, but suffice it to say, it is by far the biggest bruise I have ever had the pleasure of wearing. It is larger than my hand when my fingers are spread out, is the color of a rich and dark, burgundy wine that has spilled across the side of my thigh, and very swollen today. I am icing it and did manage to ever so bravely get a bike ride in this morning, but I feel just a little more restrained and a lot more subdued today.

Every time we head out on the trails though, I am rewarded with glimpses of wildlife and that more than makes up for all the falls I have taken lately. The other day I ended up on my back in a large patch of prickly foxtails, and when I was finally able to stand up and brush myself off, I had foxtails piercing me everywhere. My shoes, socks, pants, and shirt, all had multiple foxtails buried in the fabric and ready to be transplanted in foreign soil. No wonder this particular grass flourishes so well, it hitchhikes on every unsuspecting creature that happens to cross its path!

Michael and I have spotted deer, hawks, bald eagles, turkeys, herons, red-winged blackbirds, Canadian Geese, coyotes, ducks, cormorants and much more. Swimming is not allowed, only boating and fishing, so maybe that is why the wildlife is so abundant here. Hunting is permitted on Sunday’s and Wednesday, but I haven’t seen any evidence of hunters as of yet.

Callie is having a fabulous time and appreciates the wide open space and cooler temperature. We are heading back to the desert tomorrow to get some work done, but are planning a trip to Mammoth as soon as possible.

Catwalk

I had the best day yesterday and it did so much for my well being. The bike ride and dinner last night at Wynola Pizza in Julian, where we were able to watch the Warrior’s win their 3rd game in Cleveland, topped off the night. We sat at the bar because of the TV and our waitress and bartender, Addie, who is 7 months pregnant, suggested the Caesar Salad. We chose the Vegetarian Pizza, which was wood-fired and topped with awesome cheese and delicious mushrooms and a variety of fresh vegetables. Aiedie insisted we order the chocolate torte for dessert, and it was out of this world. The salad dressing is home-made as was the pizza and torte. The dark chocolate torte was so rich and creamy and filled with walnuts and whipped cream, that I practically died and went to heaven. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever up in the quaint town of Julian.

This morning, Callie demanded her catwalk so we harnessed her up nice and early and headed for the lake. She has a passion for picnic tables because she can then hop up and make herself comfortable as she takes advantage of the elevated view. Once she is settled down, Callie closes her eyes and inhales all the delicious scents and revels in the tall grasses and flowers that are so abundant. There are still a lot of wildflowers blooming since we visited in spring and the climate is very mild with a steady cool breeze blowing. The cottonwoods shimmer and the dark purple ornamental plum trees offer color and shade. It is really paradise after the heat and dryness of the desert.

We are staying through the weekend and there will be a 100-mile endurance race special event along the Soapstone Trail that we biked on yesterday. We are taking it easy today because of yesterday’s fun-filled and packed day. The RV is so comfortable and we have an unobstructed view of the lake and Stonewall Mountain. No one is here yet but the crowds are expected tomorrow and throughout the weekend.

Blood Sweat and Tears

Today is my 38th wedding anniversary. I met Michael when I was only 21 years old and he was 31. It has been 40.5 years since our very first date. We have been through so much together, and have somehow managed to stay in love. People ask me what the secret is and I can honestly answer that respect, forgiveness, appreciation, gratitude and a good sex life is the key. We both feel a special connection and bond toward one another that somehow gets us through the difficult times. I am still astounded that my first pick for a husband was a winner. I have 6 sisters, and they too have managed to make their first and only marriages a success story. We had incredible parents that passed on the wisdom and strength it takes to keep a marriage alive and well. What it does take I now know, is blood, sweat, and tears, and in my case, the journey has been well worth it.

We got up at the crack of dawn, and after taking Callie for a lovely walk, we loaded up the Nikon D70s camera and three lenses into a backpack. Michael’s new contribution to my well being is to haul all the stuff around on his back when we bike and hike. It is heavy and burdensome and I have been lazy and relying on my iPhone camera in order to take photographs. Now that I have upped my game and joined 500px, I need to improve the quality, clarity, and focus of my subject-matter.

Biking rapidly, we didn’t even get past the partial island here at Rancho Cuyamaca Park before a flock of wild turkeys came into sight. Two toms and 7 hens were crossing the grasslands as they headed toward the lake, with the boys stopping and displaying their tail feathers periodically while they gobble gobbled noisily as they followed the hens. I chose to take a series of turkey photographs with my iPhone before I used the Nikon camera just in case they took off. Next, a Great Blue Heron was spotted fishing intently on the other side of the bridge and I was able to take a few photos of this handsome bird with his reflection in the water. We then headed into the wetlands and I captured Red-Winged Blackbirds singing melodically while clinging to tall reeds that swayed in the gentle breeze. I watched a coyote hunting for just a few seconds before it spotted me and took off at a quick lope, glancing back nervously as it ran toward the shelter of the forest. I was not able to get to my camera fast enough for the coyote.

But the grand finale’ of all, were the Bald Eagle pair, perched majestically and way high up in a pine tree at the edge of the lake directly above me. One of the eagles flew off when it was disturbed, but the other one hung around just long enough for us to get off of our bikes, grab the telephoto lens out of the backpack, quickly switch out the macro lens, and with hands trembling in excitement, take aim and shoot. I did not have a tripod with me and the lighting was poor, but I was able to take about 7 images. I can’t download these photos until I have internet service, but I am hoping that they turned out.

Once the second eagle flew away, we hopped back up on our off-road bikes and did the entire Soapstone Trail loop all the way back into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Sunrise Highway. We think it may have been a total of 20, rough and steep miles and it took us about 4 hours. Exhausted and happy, I feel really appreciative that Michael carried my camera equipment for me and that we saw so much wildlife on our very first attempt. With the iPhone, I would have only been able to take itty bitty images of faraway animals. The telephoto images may be grainy because of poor lighting, but you will at least be able to recognize and see the pair of famous Bald Eagles that have made Lake Cuyamaca their home. I will continue to improve with practice again and have already learned that you carry the camera with the telephoto lens already snapped on and ready to go. The macro lens isn’t as time sensitive because flowers won’t walk or fly away. As soon as it is possible, I shall upload the heron and eagle photos, so please stay tuned.