A Sequel to the Sacred Olive Trees

Today dawned golden and bright with a brisk temperature of only in the 50’s. This is the best time of year to be living in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. Exotic migratory birds like the oriole, tanager and flickers, return for the winter, packs of coyotes have raised their young and if all goes well, the pups will survive and add to the chorus of howls and yips by adding their own little squeaky voices to the early morning mix. The bighorn sheep once again move to higher ground with their springtime lambs and every one of us that made it through the harsh summer, can take a deep sigh of relief. The desert is where I call myself home now, and I am eternally grateful that the heat is once again behind us.

The summers are brutal here in Anza-Borrego, but because there is a constant source of water that is made available because of natural springs, big horn sheep, bobcat, mountain lions, badgers, desert foxes, quail, roadrunners, many species of birds, jack rabbits, cotton tails and so much more, are able to survive here year round.

Fortunately for us, we were able to travel in our 24ft Class C RV during most of the hot summer in order to escape the scorching months of July and August with our cat, Callie and only had to return last week to settle in for the fall and winter season. We will continue to take shorter trips for the fun if it, but the desperation of fleeing the heat of summer is behind us.

Callie has been on an antibiotic for 7 days now for acute bronchitis, which was triggered when we drove through the horrific fires of Santa Rosa, California. Due to the highway 101 closure, we were forced to dry camp at Salt Point Campground north of Bodega Bay in order to try and get away from the smoke. Fires had broken out all over the map and we were not successful in finding a campground which was smoke free. She started coughing soon after we spent the night there and it became progressively worse the second half of the 5 week trip. Fortunately, I have a good vet in Morro Bay who was able to call in a compound prescription for us and she is on the road to recovery.

This morning was the first day Callie dashed across the back yard in order to reach a fast enough momentum to climb high up on her beloved olive trees. She loves these trees and climbing them is a passion for her. The higher she climbs, the prouder she becomes! It is always a good sign when she throws herself on the trunk of the tree and then dashes straight up until she can climb no higher. It made me feel good too, to see her once again feeling better.

The Sacred Olive Tree

I know when Callie’s health has returned, only because she has the strength and energy to climb her beloved olive trees again. She has always loved climbing trees and I can remember when we lived in Redlands, California, and I adopted her as a stray, she would scurry up a eucalyptus tree and frolic joyfully on the roof of our rental house.

When I reluctantly decided to keep Callie, I had tried to leave her in the driveway of our landladies “grove house” in the middle of an orange grove and across the street from my house. Theresa’s family had long been farmers in the Redlands area and I thought Callie would be happier over there. So I raced across the street with Callie in my arms and left her in hopes that she would stay. I had only had her for a couple hours and was sure someone was looking for her. Such a cute little cat couldn’t possibly have been abandoned!

Well, Callie had other thoughts, and as soon as she noticed that I was missing, she started howling and looking frantically for me. My landlady opened the window of her upstairs bedroom and leaned out and yelled “Joanie, your cat is calling for you!” Theresa had watched me assist my Jack Russel during the last days of her life and had told me frequently that I had a way with animals. She wanted to see me keep this cat. I on the other hand didn’t want to adopt a cat after having only recently put “Addie” down. I was still in mourning and I wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of another pet. But Callie had other ideas, so I had to run back over and scoop her up in my arms and take her home with me to stay.

So fast forward three years later, we are now living in the desert and she can’t run free anymore. I have to supervise her playtime outdoors at all times because of all the predators that live wild in Anza Borrego Desert Stare Park. Our back yard is adjacent to this wilderness area and I can see foxes and coyotes hunting on the other side of the wall. They could easily scale the wall and attack her.

With supervision, climbing the olive trees is her favorite thing to do, but she can’t do it when she has bronchitis. It takes too much strength to climb and her cough stops her mid track! So today is a good day for Callie and an even better one for me. To see her joyously climbing the trees again makes my heart sing. Two more days of antibiotics and we should be finished dosing her. It has been a tough illness again for her. The Santa Rosa fires with all the smoke it produced, was just too much for Callie. The clean, dry, air of this beautiful wilderness area, is starting to do its magic and Callie is beginning to finally heal.

Home at Last

Having to leave Morro Bay and head home to the desert was a mixed bag of emotions. My daughter, husband and sweetest cat in the whole wide world, have been on a month long road trip in our 24ft Class C RV and we got as far north as the redwoods in Eureka. We had a fabulous time except for the smoke and devastation that broke our hearts in Santa Rosa and Callie’s bronchitis returning from inhaling all the smoke. We are so fortunate though and are reminded of how good we have it when others have lost their lives, loved ones, pets and homes.

The drive from Morro Bay to the desert takes about 7 hours, but you have to tack on all the errands you need to run before returning to the middle of nowhere. Food and supplies have to be purchased, and a thoughtful assessment of what one will need for about 3 weeks or so planned out. We are an hour and a half from any decent grocery store and it is necessary to prepare yourself as much as possible before crossing into the desert to get back home.

We managed to return to the house in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and Borrego Springs around 7:30 pm to winds that were blowing strong, with gusts that bent the palm trees and olive trees low to the ground. When there is a rainstorm inland, the desert usually pushes that storm along when the cold meets the hot temperatures. Today the winds are blowing again and I have heard that the coastal areas of Southern California received light rain. Maybe Northern California will get a drenching so that all the fires are put out once and for all.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is cooling off now and today the high is only 78 degrees. We got in an early afternoon bike ride and we have unloaded the RV, done all the laundry and put away all the groceries and supplies. Callie’s cough is improving and she actually climbed one of the olive trees this morning. That is a good sign that she is feeling better.

Being home at last and settled in the desert is a good thing after all. I love the solitude of and the wildness of this location as long as I have good food in the house and plans to get away in the near future! Anza Borrego is a beautiful place to live as long as you don’t have to tough it out during the hot, summer months!

My sister sent me this photo of when I was a young girl. The pigeon was my brother’s bird, but I have no recall of what I was doing with it. To this day, I love animals and riding on my Cannondale Bike!

A Rest Stop in Morro Bay

It feels wonderful to be parked at Cypress RV Park in Morro Bay after a month of being on the road with our grown up daughter and darling cat- Callie. We can look west to the rock and smoke stakes and can see a peak of the sunset if you dodge the buildings across the street. I saw the gentleman who fed the seagull and raven over the summer and we stopped by at Coast Veterinary to pick up an antibiotic and steroid for Callie.

Callie developed bronchitis last summer and it took 4 months for her to be properly diagnosed and treated and Dr Stephens in Morro Bay was the one to finally get her well. Callie made it up to BC Canada and sailed on my brother’s catamaran called: El Fresca, while enjoying a 7 week trip featuring one fantastic adventure after another. She has managed to stay well up until the fires in Santa Rosa, and the smoke became too much for her and she relapsed. We started her on the meds this evening, so I am hoping she will feel better by tomorrow. She is coughing and wheezing and feeling quite crummy, poor little thing.

We will stay here until we see that her health is improving and feel that it is safe to continue south to Anza Borrego Desert State Park where we live. If she doesn’t show improvement, we will take her back in to see the doctor.

But for now, it will be so nice to relax and bike, walk and rest in this idyllic beach town near San Luis Obispo, California.

*Callie is showing signs of improvement this morning.

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 Human 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.

The Sky is Falling- The Ravens are Calling

Callie has become quite the darling wherever and whenever she goes out on a walk with me and Lara! People are always fascinated that a cat can and will walk on a leash. She takes it all in stride though and tries to keep her cool in most situations.

Everyone walking a dog marvels at her calm disposition and the dogs cannot believe their eyes, ears and nose. The smaller ones always want to touch noses with her, and if they go about it in a smooth and controlled manner, she will allow it. Otherwise she lies in wait at the end of her leash, and I have to warn the owners that she will get the better of the dog if they get too close. Callie is wickedly fast with her claws and before she rakes the poor dog swiftly over the nose, she will let out a warning shriek that sends most dogs running in a blind panic!

But today we saw a different beast all together! This afternoon we had several ravens following us high up above in the oak trees and they would cackle and crow and make all kinds of clicking noises as they jumped from branch to branch. It was almost like they too could not believe that there was a cat walking on a leash below them. They both peered down at us intently and with keen curiosity, tried dropped acorns on our heads to see just how we would react to the taunting. I looked up at them in return and mimicked their sounds right back at them and that set them off even more. They flapped their wings and cawed even louder and flew off muttering to themselves about the impossibility of a cat walking around on a leash. This caused Callie to drop down into a fake crouch position, but because they were so much bigger than her, there was very little threat in her posture. I think the tables would have been turned if the ravens called her bluff and it would have sent her running in a blind panic.

We are having a lovely time staying at the Monterey Campgrounds again, and Callie has her favorite oak trees that she loves to rub up against. I wonder if every dog that has ever been walked on a leash in the area, has lifted its leg and peed on the trunks of these trees. She gets this weird look on her face and then drops and rolls at the base of the tree in total ecstasy and rubs her back and face along the base of the tree. And if owners neglect to pick up after their dog? Why she goes about burying all the exposed poop with dirt and dried leaves and you can tell that it bothers her that dogs are so sloppy and thoughtless. She is the most fastidious cat I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and can’t stand it when others are dirty and leave a mess!

So Callie and I will ignore the ravens that hop from branch to branch and taunt us high up in the oak tree. And I will let them wonder just how it was that I taught a cat to walk on a leash in the first place. It must be a first for these ravens to observe and for most people to witness too, but I believe that Callie has opened the eyes of everyone that sees her out walking to the distinct possibility that their cat too, could walk on a leash!

Words Cannot Describe

Yesterday morning, we headed south again for the Monterey County Fairgrounds in order to make the return trip home. We have been on this road trip for a month now with our daughter Lara and sweet cat, Callie, and for the most part, we have all had a wonderland time. The places we have visited and explored have been beautiful and the experience, priceless. Having our daughter join us this time has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will always be grateful to her for joining us. Hanging out with her parents can’t always have been easy for her. She is a joy to be around though.

And the truth has come out about Callie! Callie loves Lara! I think Lara just might be her favorite human of all time, even though she still has to depend on me for daily walks, brushing, cleaning up after her and food. But Lara has definitely become Callie’s desired bedtime companion and slave in the middle of the night on this trip! I sleep up in the loft and am way up against the wall and Michael sleeps on the edge of the loft which bars me from easy access to getting down on the ladder. So it is Lara that is below on the ground floor bed that has to cater to Callie’s nighttime desire for snacks, petting and playtime! Lucky for Lara! Smile.

Last night, due to the steroids that Callie is taking for her cough; her cough has returned because the smoke from the fires has irritated her lungs. She decided to play rough and tumble in the middle of the night, and she takes out her excess energy on the wool rug that rests along the couch. She drags the rug up into a tight embrace with her front paws and kicks and bites the hell out of it with her back paws. It is so funny to watch her try to destroy the rug by attempting to disembowel it! It also means that Callie is interrupting Lara’s sleep! Too bad! This also reminds me once again that I really must pack some toys along next time we take a trip, so that Callie has something to play with besides iPhone power chords and rugs!

But on a more somber note, and one that words cannot describe, we had to drive through Santa Rosa and Petaluma again and are further horrified at the shear devastation the fire has inflicted on this beautiful area of vineyards, oak trees, golden grasslands, people, wildlife, horses, pets and cattle. The fire actually jumped over the 101 freeway and guard rails were still smoking as we passed on through so somberly. Thank goodness the fires are moderately contained today, which is a Saturday, and because the winds did not pick up as was thought, my friend did not have to evacuate! Catherine, who lives in Petaluma, was told to pack up her essentials just in case the winds shifted and an evacuation order was put into place.

Fortunately, it looks like the winds have died down over the weekend. The fires may have been caused by downed PG&E power lines that weren’t able to withstand powerful winds- these winds, with gusts of upwards of 45-75 mph, were not hurricane force winds though, and this is a wind strength that PG&E claims their lines should have been able to endure. Weather reports indicate that they were not in fact hurricane force winds when the lines fell down! In their defense, they may use the old excuse of – ACT OF GOD and this may prevent them from being held accountable. I hate big businesses that are too big to fail and that are above the law and just plain, common, decency!

Reading the harrowing stories of people that jumped in their swimming pool to ward off the searing heat and flames that consumed their house, and the family whose 14 year old did not make it out alive is heartbreaking. We spent the night at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in July and have read that it is now an evacuation safe zone for evacuees with their pets, including horses, sheep, llamas, etc. What a tragedy and one that is difficult to wrap my head around. The hills are scorched and many buildings have been burned down to the ground. Some of the residents that we saw while passing through town were wearing masks and the skies are still filled with heavy, acrid, dark smoke. The stench of everything that was burned, fills the air and it is difficult to breathe!

It is one of the worst fires in California history, and with 17 fires burning out of control at one time, one of the largest. We are so appreciative that the fires are almost under control and that hopefully Santa Rosa can rebuild. California went through a 10 year plus drought and with heavy rains during the winter months, grass and brush proliferated and grew abundant during the spring. These were ripe conditions for a wildfire when the long, hot summer, dried them out! The entire coast looks like it could go up in flames too. I love California and can only hope for the best.

As we head back home to the desert, I will think fondly of this RV trip with my family. It was a once in a lifetime event and we had such a fabulous time together. I will count my blessings and I am so appreciative that I was able to write down my thoughts and take photographs of the places we visited and that I have readers like you who are taking the time to read my blog. Thank you all so much! It has been quite the experience and as I get older, my memory isn’t what it use to be. So keeping a diary of sorts of my travels with Callie will help me to remember what I did, and where I went, for many years to come. I am hoping to turn these musings into a book when all is said and done! So, once again- thank you all for taking the time to read my travels with Callie adventures. It certainly has been quite the adventure!

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 pot hole filled drive over to the campground, and the sign stating as such, was spot on. We lost a hub cap 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 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!

Good Morning California Quail

Callie and I woke up to a covey of quail clicking and squeaking their delight about some kind of food made available from our next door neighbor. I don’t think anything was deliberately left out, but they found something that struck their fancy. I counted at least 20 birds pecking away right below the drivers seat. Callie had a front row view and contributed to the overall mayhem by making little squeaky sounds of delight of her own.

We are going to attempt to drive up to Eureka and check out the redwoods in spite of the unhealthy air quality. We are being besieged by fires all up and down the California coast and Callie has started to cough again. There are at least 17 fires burning this morning. They were somewhat contained on Tuesday, but dry winds have picked up again and fanned the flames. The smoke and ash is everywhere. I feel so sorry for California and the people and animals affected by this tragedy. I must admit that the coastal trees and grasslands look dry and unhealthy. Perfect conditions for wildfires.

For now, enjoying the quail below the window will have to do. These birds look healthy and happy and are relishing a lovely morning before all the campers wake up.