Lost Wages

The running joke about visiting Las Vegas is that it is called, “Lost Wages” because gamblers lose their life savings and wages to the casinos. In my case, if and when we do hit the gambling casinos, I would rather spend the money on chocolate.

We made it to The Oasis RV Resort, Saturday, late afternoon, after an uneventful drive of about 4.5 hours. A heat spell hung over the city the first couple of days and 109 degrees made the side of the RV that was facing the sun, super hot to the touch and I had to hang a quilt over the window to keep it cool enough inside. The air conditioner was working overtime, trying to keep the cabin comfortable. Fortunately, yesterday and today are cooler.

I have been going over to the pool where pine and palm trees are planted, and birds are resting in the shade of their branches during the heat of the day. I discovered an Inca Dove, American Robin, Great-tailed Grackles, and of course, Rock Doves which are commonly known as pigeons. They are all urban dwellers and somewhat accustomed to human contact, but aiming a camera lens at them, always seems to spook even the bravest bird to want to take flight. I have to talk and coo quietly to them and try to reassure the birds, that I am not a predator.

Callie is back to being walked on the leash and does quite well until she sees a pigeon. Then she squats down like a sphinx and stares at the potential meal with her tail swishing back and forth. The birds aren’t used to seeing cats on leashes and come over and just out of reach of her to get a closer look. This drives her absolutely crazy. A soft chatter emits from her chest and she can barely contain her excitement at the possibility of tasting pigeon. I have to shoo them away before disaster strikes.

Tomorrow we are getting up extra early and will be pulling out to make it to Twin Falls, Idaho Wednesday evening. Our friends, Fred and Becky will meet us in Jasper on Friday or Saturday, so we have some long days of travel ahead of us. Callie doesn’t mind at all, and is thrilled to be back on the dash watching the road whiz by for miles and miles. Canada, here we come.

Break Time

I have been pretty obsessed with photography since my cervical stenosis surgery because I thought I would be down for at least a month. It turns out, I have had a remarkable recovery and can handle going out in the field with a hand-held 200mm lens and a teleconverter attached to it. The teleconverter doubles my reach, so I have up to 400mm which is pretty good for holding a camera without the aid of a tripod.

While staying at the beach, I discovered a Say’s Phoebe, a Black Phoebe, and an Allen Hummingbird; the common House Finch was in abundance too. I have never heard of an Allen’s Hummer before and found out that they only live in a very small patch of coastal area in California. The male, Allen Hummingbird has a beautiful chestnut brown tummy with iridescent green back feathers. This little guy was so wary of me though, that I could barely get a shot in of him before he would fly away and hide. The Say’s Phoebe was much braver and allowed me to get quite close as it perched on top of an old TV antenna.

Because of all this passion toward photography and long hours of working and editing on the laptop, Callie decided to put an end to it by resting on the keyboard of my computer. She looked right at me and dared me to move her. I gave her a pat and reassured her that I would take a break but only after I took her portrait with the iPhone. She was compliant enough and appreciated that I was going to give her more attention.

A Taste for Quail

We are staying at Keough’s Hot Springs right outside Bishop on our return voyage south to Encinitas, and the Quail population is booming here. The RV is parked up against the granite and sage dappled hillside and it is home to dozens upon dozens of quail. The youngsters are old enough to take short distance flights and because it rained a couple of days ago, their food source is plentiful and they are brave enough to click and chirp their way right below Callie’s lookout window in search of a meal. The parents are a little more apprehensive and trying to round up their brood, but the going is just too good and as youngsters tend to do, they are misbehaving and having nothing to do with the usual rules and regulations. Callie can hardly contain her vision of the taste of quail on her tongue and she is making her own sounds of garbled delights and her tail is thwacking loudly against the window as she watches her next meal disappear under the camper directly below her. Too bad the window screen is preventing her from making her dream become a reality.

Lake Sabrina

Lake Sabrina is located above Bishop in the Eastern Sierras of California and has some of the most beautiful lakes that I have ever seen. We stayed at South Lake for almost a week and then moved over to Sabrina which is on the other side of the fork leading up to the campgrounds.

Lake Sabrina Campground was dry camping but the bathrooms were very clean and we had site number 16 that had a view of Bishop Creek and the snow-dusted mountains that cradled the lake. The mosquitos are bad but because we were there when a cold front had moved in and the first rain fell of the season, it wasn’t too bad for us at all. Not being right by the river helped too!

Michael hiked every day and I hung around because of an injured tailbone and I took Callie on walks and did a lot of photography. The rain came down hard several days with thunder and lightning, and the view was spectacular. White-tailed deer sauntered past our RV without a care in the world and Robins and Scrub Jays were everywhere. Callie loved it there because there were very few dogs and the fishermen were quiet and very respectful.

It only cost us $14.00 a night to stay there and it was one of the best places we have ever camped at. We have now moved over to the Keough hot springs right outside Bishop and can spend some time soaking in the mineral pools and relaxing before we have to go to Encinitas for eye surgery on the 18th. I am trying to get as much photography and writing done as possible before I am laid up. I am having a pterygium removed that has grown quite large and has now become a major surgery. I had one removed about 25 years ago and it was so traumatic, that I have held back on having the other eye done until it has now become absolutely necessary.

Nature

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This is a photographic compilation of some of my travels, not all with Callie, but with Michael for sure. He has been quite supportive all these years. He bought me a Polaroid camera when my daughter Lara was born 32 years ago, and I haven’t stopped since!

Working with my Nikon D70s

I have been so comfortable, and for so long now, with my iPhone camera, that it took quite a bit of persuasion and the offer of carrying the equipment around by my husband, for me to make the transition. I am so happy now that I did. The telephoto and macro with the wide angle make for a perfect set of lenses for most occasions. I would never have been able to photograph the Bald Eagles and Blue Heron and the flowers and landscapes have been much improved too! Thanks to my husband, I can now up my game and provide better images to go along with my stories.

The Marmot that I saw at Virginia Lake would have been a brown smudge in the distance. Check out the waterfall with the snow and search out the cheeky little guy and where he calls home. You would never have been able to spot him in the rocks. What a great place for him to live. He has all the fresh water he wants and there were abundant grasses and wildflowers all around. I think Marmots may hibernate in the winter, but I am not sure. I will have to check that out.

The Bald Eagles would have been too dark against the pine trees for anyone to see with the iPhone and the Blue Heron too, was way to wary to walk up close to me. I am very appreciative of Michael for firmly suggesting that I start using the camera again.

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.

Moonlight Canyon Trail- Agua Caliente

Michael, Callie, and I left Lake Cuyamaca because of a snowstorm that was moving into the area and packed up for the warmer climate and hot springs of Agua Caliente. The same late storm front was heading toward the desert too, but precious rainfall never materialized. The desert received storm clouds and powerful wind, but no precipitation.

It took less than a couple of hours for us to pull into the county park and we were able to nab campsite #68 which has a view of the east and no one in front of us. Apparently, the hot, mineral pools were filled to capacity over the weekend, but everyone had cleared out by the time we arrived on Monday, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I love it that way, and Callie does too! She can take long walks without worrying about children running up to pet her, or dogs barking at her.

Michael and I took the 1.4-mile hike behind the campground called Moonlight Canyon Trail and we watched as the clouds zipped by and the air cooled considerably. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and Agua Caliente both received very little rainfall this winter, and sadly, there were only the century plants, ocotillo, sage, and creosote bushes blooming this spring. There is some vertical climb before you reach the ridge, but very doable and the pathway is well marked.

Moonlight Canyon Trail is an easy hike that takes you past the natural spring on both ends of the loop that helps provide fresh water to plant life, sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, numerous birds such as quail, roadrunners, finches, desert wrens, and is a wonder to see the life-giving water bubbling up to the surface even during a drought. As you walk past the palm trees that are native to the area, listen to the buzz of the abundant wild, honeybees as they search for pollen and take a quick drink at the water’s edge.

It is springtime lambing season for the local herd of Bighorn Sheep and I was able to watch the mothers and their newborn lambs scramble down the mountainside to drink from the spring and nibble at the thorny acacia bushes. It looked like slim pickings to me, so I can only hope that the young survive throughout the intense summer heat. One mature collared ewe was followed by a very young lamb who was bleating and racing back and forth on the cliff side and too afraid to follow her into the campgrounds. She was a very experienced and calm mother and the lamb was forced to eventually dash down the rock cliff all by itself in order to be reunited with her as she chomped down on acacia leaves.

I chose not to take photographs of the young lamb once it was separated from the ewe and kept my distance because I didn’t want to add to the poor things stress. The older lamb, a female, I ended up taking close up shots of because she was super bold and curious, and a nightmare for the less experienced mother. This lamb would have marched right up to me if I had let her. I continued to back away from her ever so slowly as she advanced toward me, matching step for step with the mom watching intently from a distance.

We had a fabulous time soaking in the mineral pools, hiking, biking, BBQing and playing cards in the evening. Callie had a blast too! She took several long walks a day with me out into the desert and loved every minute of it. We are back home now in Borrego Springs and she immediately jumped up into her bed on the hutch in the master bedroom to take a nice, long, quiet, nap.

Bone Dry

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park received scant rainfall this year, but two years before that we experienced the super-bloom. It just amazes me to no end how the flora and fauna of desert life survive in such extremes. I hear the pack of coyotes most evenings and once again at dawn as they howl and yip their joy at being reunited once again after a long night, the big horn sheep that come down to the golf course to drink and graze on the grass have moved back up to higher ground, my cheeky roadrunner will stop and look Callie right in the eye if she happens to be outside while he is making his rounds, the Anna’s hummingbird dips and dives and attacks any other bird that comes into the yard, the mockingbird that Callie almost killed when we first moved here is still singing up quite a storm, and I could go on and on.

I biked today around the De Anza Golf Course and took photographs of every bloom I came across. The ocotillo have thrust out their bright orange/red blossoms even if there are only a few pathetic leaves on the stalks, the scrubby creosote have white, puffy blooms that look like cotton balls before they turn a pretty yellow, there is scarce purple desert verbena in small patches, cactus of all kind including a saguaro which is not native to this desert has gorgeous white blossoms on its tall, slender sides that bats, moths, and hummingbirds find irresistible, beaver tail, cholla and yucca throw everything they have left into desperate, ornate flowers, but the plant that gets first prize for putting on the most dramatic and dazzling display this season, is the hardy and thorny, acacia tree.

As I stepped up to each tree cautiously in order to take a photograph, the deafening buzz of thousands of wild, desert, honeybees filled the air as they covered the tree and left me in awe at just how much nature depends on these industrious pollinators. The hardy, wild bees that live in the desert year round are much smaller and darker than their European cousins, and I marvel at how they can survive in the long, hot, summer months? They are also much more aggressive and protective, so you do have to be careful when getting too close to them. So everywhere I looked today, I could see the bright, golden yellow blooms that completely covered the acacia trees dominating the arid landscape. It is a welcoming sight for an otherwise bone-dry desert, with little else that was native, even remotely green as far as the eye could see.

Oh, and did I mention the intoxicating scent of the acacia along with the well watered and pampered, grapefruit and orange blossoms of the farmers groves that are grown here locally? These farmers can tap into the ground water in Borrego Springs for free and use up all the water that they need! That is another story to be told, but the Ruby Red’s, Navels and Valencia’s, plus the seedless Cuties that everyone loves to eat are offered here at local stands and shipped out everywhere.

Callie has been very happy and healthy ever since she was diagnosed with asthma and is also on a special diet for her itchy ears. She loves dashing up the olive tree in the morning and then sleeping the day away, high up on her loft bed. The heat hasn’t arrived in all its vengeance yet, so it is still a hospitable place in which to live. In another month or so we will have to make our great escape with Pipsqueak, our 24 ft Class C RV, in search of cooler ground.