Earth Wind and Fire

It has been a difficult time for Southern California this past week. The fire up in Ventura, California is where my parents spent their retirement years. They are both gone now, but left the dream of a botanical garden a reality by donating funds toward its creation. They are founding benefactors and will some day have a plaque on the third tier of the trail leading up the hillside. On the plaque will be the words- BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED! lovingly embossed for all to see as they hike. I try to live by this motto and am applying it to my own life as I live in the middle of nowhere. It isn’t always easy to bloom in the desert! The plaque is still in storage and the gardens are far from finished. Earlier this week, fire consumed the infancy stages of this dream garden and destroyed much, much, more in its wake.

One of my parents rental houses succumbed to the flames and neighbors and friends fled for their lives in the middle of the night. The botanical gardens will hopefully some day be rebuilt, but the damage to Ventura and neighboring Santa Paula is horrific. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed and over 200 square miles scorched to the ground. The fire is far from contained and is now roaring toward Ojai and Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile south in Bonsall, the Lilac Fire is raging and bore down on San Louis Rey Downs, a thoroughbred horse training facility. It has killed many horses in its wake as it burned out of control yesterday afternoon. It started in the early afternoon and crossed over the 15 freeway and barreled down the 76 at a staggering pace. The horses that died were mostly trapped in barns and stalls and couldn’t escape. Hundreds of horses were let loose in hopes of surviving the horror, but because they are such pampered, sports animals that are frequently hand walked, many panicked, and stampeding occurred. As herd animals, some ran blindly towards the smoke and flames instead of away from them. Del Mar Fairgrounds has taken in over 1,000 animals and a day of mourning was scheduled for today at Santa Anita and the Del Mar Racetrack because of all the horses lost- possibly 47 or more!

The dry conditions of Southern California and the infamous Santa Ana winds contributed to the overall perfect storm. These fires are still burning out of control, but the winds have hopefully died down. The rains that came last year produced a bounty of foliage which has dried out and become fuel for the raging fire.

And to top it off, Borrego Springs has been experiencing a series of earthquakes that have rattled the house and my nerves when it shook 4 times in less than 24 hours. Is Mother Earth sending out a message that the “big one” is on its way?

When are we going to acknowledge climate change, and most importantly, that it is human induced!? What is it going to take as a country to recognize that we have a responsibility to this planet and to our children, and that we need to curb our gas house emissions? It is too late for those beautiful horses and to all the people that have lost their homes. But let us please try to find common ground and do something about climate change before it is too late for all of us!

Callie in the mean time is doing what cats do best, sleeping the day away and getting herself ready for another road trip. We are planning on taking off again some time next week. Be safe dear readers and take care of yourselves during this holiday season.

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 broad leaf 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 fine 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 Ravens 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. Ravens 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 ravens 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!

The Solar Eclipse at Crater Lake

At the tale end of our summer road trip, and having driven almost non stop from Vancouver Island, we settled into the Crater Lake National Park Campground to wait for the solar eclipse. There was going to be a 98% shadow in front of the sun and we thought the setting over the lake would be marvelous. Little did we know of the forest fire right outside Bend, Oregon and the fires that creeped up the mountain right below Crater Lake. The skies were polluted and very smokey, and as we made our way up to a look out area, we could see flames spreading slowly up the mountainside. The rangers didn’t appear nervous about the situation, so we felt it was safe to continue.

We parked alongside the lake and had an unobstructed view of the sun and ended up meeting 4 other people that had a similar mindset- we didn’t want to be a part of the vast crowds that would have descended along the roadside and farm fields in Bend, Oregon. Rock concerts were scheduled, and the locals were gearing up for millions of people to invade their town. Surprisingly, there were very few people at Crater Lake. I thought we were going to have to snake our way up the mountain with hundreds of other like minded people.

The eclipse was amazing regardless, and I wondered how many cats got to watch it in their owner’s lap? Wearing the protective glasses was a must, but you couldn’t see anything else when you had them on, and I had to keep taking them off to make sure Callie was ok. She didn’t register the cooling temperatures, nor the darkening of the sky, but she sure loved Crater Lake and listening to the caws of a raven in the distance. By the time the eclipse reached the 98% mark, it was cold enough to put a jacket on. The skies were eerily dim, but not as dark as I thought it would be.

What an experience to see the eclipse at Crater Lake! It made me feel a part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

Genoa Bay- Vancouver Island

Dear Reader,

I have discovered how you can turn your photographs into mini slide shows with music. I have the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. If you are an avid photographer like I am, just go to your photographs, pick an album, turn the group file into memories and select music to edit your photos. It is super easy and much more fun to look at than a plain old photograph! This is a movie short on our visit to Vancouver Island and a glimpse of my brother and sister in laws life on their houseboat and catamaran. We had such a wonderful time and were hosted by friends of theirs- David and Jo.

Happy Thanksgiving

I have been living in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park for a year and a half now with my husband and cat, Callie. I have learned to respect and value the plants and animals that call this place, their home. Big horn sheep, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, quail, bobcats, turkeys, coyotes and many more survive and sometimes thrive here. In the springtime, wildflowers are prolific if there has been enough rainfall. If not, the ocotillo still attempt to bloom, regardless of whether the leaves find enough moisture to fill out. Sometimes you see the ocotillo as thorny sticks, rising to the sky with one bright orange blossom balanced at the tip. It takes guts and determination to live and survive in such a harsh environment.

But it can also be a breathtakingly beautiful place to bike and hike in during the fall, winter and spring. I witnessed the “super bloom” this year and was able to go on an extended, RV road trip in order to escape the summer months of intense heat. I am so grateful for that! Living in the desert can be difficult and if not for my writing, biking, hiking and photography…. I would have fallen into despair.

I would like to wish a heartfelt and very Happy Thanksgiving to all of my valued readers. May this year be filled with health, personal growth, peace of mind and happiness. It means so much to me that I have people like you, taking the time to read my blog posts, and taking an interest in the life I am living out here in the middle of nowhere!