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.

Letting Go of Sorrow

It is time for me to let go of my sorrow and accept that Dolly and I will never text each other, talk on the phone, laugh, cry or hug again. What I can do though, is remember the good times we were able to spend together and to feel gratitude for what a fabulous friendship we did share. Dolly and I were soulmates, no doubt about it, and we always talked about growing old together. I guess that won’t happen now but I will think of you often and focus on the good times.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park will have a high today of 109 degrees. That is just way too hot for outdoor activity and we are packing up the RV and heading back up to Lake Cuyamaca. I am so excited about off-road biking again in cooler temperatures. It will only be a high of 77 degrees and that sounds marvelous to me.

Callie is more than ready to hit the road again too and loves hanging out in the RV. The fresh, cool air and outdoor wilderness will do my heart and soul a lot of good. I am looking forward to getting away.

The Return of Worm

It is such a beautiful morning here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. The winds have died down and the temperature is only 66 with a high of 81. A light rain is falling on the coast in San Diego and our mountain barrier has a thick layer of dark clouds that are trying to make it over the peak. This storm won’t provide rain for the parched desert; wind and cooler temps are all this storm will provide. If the winds don’t get too strong this morning, we will be able to go on a bike ride.

Last night I played with “worm” again and Callie absolutely loves this toy. I had to put it away for awhile because she became too obsessed with it and didn’t even want to go outside and climb her beloved olive trees. When she sat on the floor with the worm draped over her head and refused to move, I knew I had to do something. So I put it away for the day and only play with it in the evenings. When dawn arrives, she is more than happy to climb her trees again. The bucking bronco chair is her third choice of play activity, so we have all 3 bases covered and I have hit a home run!

Biking in Borrego

I am not sure if I would have become much of a cyclist if I hadn’t moved to Borrego Springs which is nestled alongside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. When I get on my bicycle and head out into the desert, I rarely come across any cars and viewing wildlife is an everyday occurrence. This morning a coyote dashed across the street but stopped along the tamarisk grove on Henderson Canyon to watch Michael and me intently. They don’t seem to recognize us as a threat as much as if you were walking or driving in an automobile.

I tried to whip out my iPhone in order to take a photo of this handsome guy who I have seen on numerous occasions, but the simple act of reaching for the camera made him skittish and he took off at a fast lope. It is a good thing that he is afraid, otherwise he may get shot. I happen to really value the predators in the desert and appreciate their role in keeping a healthy balance with the up and down population of rabbits and small rodents.

Yesterday morning I chanced upon another gorgeous cactus bloom and stopped to take photographs. These flowers only last 24 hours; when you pass them the next day, they are all shriveled up and having served their purpose, wilt and drop off from the main stalk. The brilliant white petals didn’t have a flaw on them and the wild desert honey bees hadn’t even discovered them yet. This morning when I biked past them again, you would never have known how beautiful they were just the day before. I also came across some brilliant red blooms and these flowers had attracted the bees.

We have decided not to go to Rancho Cuyamaca this week for various reasons and are enjoying some rather unexpected, lovely weather and the temperature won’t rise about 95 degrees. That is so wonderful that we have decided to hang out for a couple more weeks. Once the temperature soars, we will have to pack up and head out for most of the summer months.

Callie has been taking it easy and I am being much more protective of her when she is in the backyard ever since the bobcat made his appearance. This cat was so bold and lightening fast, it brought the wild right inside my backyard in a flash. She wouldn’t stand a chance if a cat like that decided to make a meal of her. I always leave the backyard door open too so that if she is startled, she can run back inside.