Lake Cuyamaca

The temperature is really heating up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, so we decided to get away for the day and meet our RV travel partners, Fred, and Becky up at Lake Cuyamaca. It is less than an hour drive to the lake from our home, and the 110-acre reservoir provides natural air conditioning to the surrounding shoreline and kept the temperature at a comfortable 85 degrees. We sat around the table at the only restaurant that overlooks the water, and this eatery is famous for its chicken pot pies and fresh, fruit pies. You can be seated outdoors on a wooden balcony and hummingbird feeders hang from the eaves and Brewer’s Blackbirds wait patiently for you to finish eating before descending, somewhat mannerly, onto the leftover French fries when you get up to leave.

I pigged out on both the chicken pot pie and the Mountain Berry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with whip cream that was then generously sprinkled with cinnamon on it for dessert. Fred and Becky had the veggie burgers with coleslaw and fries, and that too was fresh and delicious. All of the meals were served in a timely manner and were very delicious. Our waitress was good-natured and accommodating, and even filled up the hummingbird feeders so that I could take photos with my camera. I highly recommend going there because it is also a fabulous place in which to camp overnight in an RV. I have written about Lake Cuyamaca in past posts, so I won’t get into a lot of detail, but just wanted to once again reiterate what a nice place it is to visit and camp at.

The lake provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Canadian Geese and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Red-winged blackbirds, and Great Blue and White herons can be seen fishing along the shore. There is also an elusive pair of Bald Eagles that nest there every year in the fall way up high in the branches of magnificent evergreens on the island. If you are so inclined, easy hiking and biking trails are also available and you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a great way to spend time outdoors and escape the summer heat. One can also rent a boat and go fishing or just enjoy bobbing on the surface of the water and checking out the wildlife.

On the way back home, just as we were heading down the hill at San Filipe Wash in Anza- Borrego, a handsome bighorn sheep ram, dashed across the street in front of the car and up and over the rocks. Michael slammed on the brakes so that I could take one photo of him before he disappeared. I was still in the passenger seat with my seat belt on and used Michael’s shoulder for a tripod. I was very lucky he stopped for just a brief moment in time to look around. What a magnificent beast. He was probably searching for water and looked very healthy.

We came back home to Callie sound asleep on her chair and it appeared that she didn’t miss us one bit. We are heading back to the beach tomorrow and had a very relaxing time in the desert.

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.

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.

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.

A Difficult Road Traveled

Grief is a difficult emotion to pocket. It spills out and pours over you when you least expect it. A memory flashes across your mind and floods you with feelings. Every morning at sunrise, I would text Dolly a rise and shine message and she in return would comment on Mount Illuminous or Callie. She always appreciated me reaching out and checking in on her. In hindsight, I am blindsided at how much suffering she felt and endured and kept it all to herself. Dolly committed suicide one afternoon when I was suppose to take her out for lunch. I won’t go into detail about it but I have come to accept her decision and appreciative that she isn’t suffering anymore. Having been laid off at the age of 65 and with little social security and the high cost of healthcare in the United States, she felt hopeless.

We made it up to Rancho Lake Cuyamaca yesterday before noon and escaped the grueling heat and arrived to temperatures in the high 70’s. What a difference compared to 109! I drive the RV with Callie at my side and Michael drove the SUV. It is only an hour and a half away so having another mobile vehicle will make the trip even better. Our friend, Fred may try and join us.

Callie and I walked to the lake shore this morning and she is so happy to be back. I can still hear Canadian Geese chatting amongst themselves and there are jet black Starlings and Blue-Jays and one nervous Golden Flicker. Red-winged Blackbirds are busy catching insects for their young and aren’t as busy singing as they were in the spring. The Bald Eagle pair have nested and can be seen hunting for fish on the opposite shore of where we are camped. Fisherman are catch and releasing the female Big Mouth Bass that are getting ready to lay eggs and they are flirting with the males to help fertilize them. These girls reach 16 plus pounds and are caught in shallow water. Once a photograph is taken, they are put back into the water with tails thrashing and gills gasping. It is unlawful to keep them at this time, so it is rather interesting to observe the patience and determination of the fisherman. They use rubber trout for bait that in and of themselves are 10 inches long.

After Callie’s photo opt, she and I walked slowly back to the RV with her taking alternate turns sniffing the flowers and grasses and rolling in the dirt. It is such a big change from the desert. Michael and I will go on a bike ride mid-morning and that should perk me up a little. I still feel flattened by Dolly’s death, but time should heal the pain.

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!