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.

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.

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.

A Crown Jewel

Michael and I biked close to 20 miles today! That means we probably biked 19, but 20 sounds more impressive and who’s counting! It is starting to heat up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, but if you get out the door around 7 am and return by 10:30, you will miss most of the intense heat.

We biked up to Di Giorgio and over to Coyote Canyon, took Henderson Canyon to the starting point of the state park, over to Seley Ranch- the ruby red grapefruit farm, back to Di Giorgio and south to the Locust and Scorpion sculptures, returning to the Dragon Sculpture and around the De Anza Country Club Golf Course.

During our bike ride we saw at least 3 different coyotes hunting, numerous cottontails, kestrels, roadrunners, a jackrabbit, common grackles, quail, and doves. It is the tail end of spring and everything is trying to eat or not be eaten before summer settles in with a vengeance. When I watch the cottontails enjoying a moments respite in the bright sunshine, all I can think of is being here and now; they are a good meal source for many of the predators. Watching a bobcat chase one down, only to abort the hunt because we came along on our bikes, this particular bunny was saved to appreciate one more day. As we rounded the bend on the last leg of our journey, I spotted these bright yellow cactus blooms, a crown jewel to me, and the desert willow, which smells just like fresh, clean soap and were covered with wild desert honey bees.

It was beautiful out and now I can start preparing for Lake Cuyamaca as we will try and leave first thing in the morning. There is a thunderstorm predicted for tomorrow and I love storms. It will be windy here, so I am really appreciative that we are heading up to the mountains. Reading about the mountain bikers that were attacked by a male cougar in Eastern Seattle was a little unsettling. I have seen evidence of mountain lions when we bike in Cuyamaca and know that if I were to come into contact with one of these majestic predators, I would not run. The friend that was killed, took off running when his friend was attacked. The man that was attacked watched as his friend was chased down by the 110-pound cat and was able to bike away himself to call 911.

They tracked the cat down and found him standing over the dead man’s body. The cougar was chased up a tree and then shot. You must make eye contact and do what it takes to fight back. Use your bike as a weapon and start swinging it around. Throw your helmet at it. Scream, shout, anything but run. They have more of a right to be there than we do and if they succeed in attacking someone, they are hunted down themselves and destroyed.

Looking forward to my next adventure, and Callie is more than ready to go. She gets bored hanging around the house and loves to travel. As soon as the motor starts up in the RV, she jumps up on the dash and is ready for action.

Ride ’em Cowgirl

I have been forced to hide Callie’s butt ugly worm toy because she became so addicted to it that she wouldn’t even go outside to climb her beloved olive trees. That was quite a startling revelation for me and I pondered over the thin line between seeking pleasure and it becoming an addiction. I have Bipolar Disorder, so I have to always be aware of being too attached to something, anything, everything. Balance and moderation with a good dose of routine, exercise and healthy eating habits is the key for me.

When Callie sat over her worm toy and only wanted me to play THAT game with her, I had to put it away and find other fun things for her to enjoy! Ride ’em cowgirl is her new fun and favorite thing, but it doesn’t consume her every waking hour like the worm did. She jumps up on my old leather reclining chair and sweetly looks up at me and invites me to get behind it and literally rock it back and forth aggressively so that she can ride her bucking bronco. She holds on for dear life as I tumble her back and forth. What a funny one she is. I have to make sure that there is balance in her life though. Climbing trees, going on walks, riding in her bike basket and being the queen of the RV dash is the variety that keeps her stimulated and engaged, but healthy and happy too!

We leave for Lake Cuyamaca on Monday and the fun will begin again for her and for us. We all go a little crazy out here in the middle of nowhere after a while, even if it is beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Off-road biking and hiking the beautiful trails of this gorgeous country park will be restorative and exciting. Callie hates being bored and hanging out in this house for too long drives her crazy. I can relate!

Where to put the Litter Box when RVing

Callie, Michael and I are traveling in a 24ft Icon Class C RV, and because Callie is a cat, the question of where to put the litter box loomed over us for a short while. You don’t want it too close to the kitchen area and you especially don’t want it near the bed. Actually, you don’t want it anywhere in the RV, but the advantage of traveling with a cat instead of a dog is that you can leave them unattended and you don’t have to take them out to go potty, and they don’t bark while you are away. A lot of RVers don’t realize that their beloved dogs are howling their separation anguish the whole time they are away!

I have seen some setups where a cabinet door has been removed for the litter box, or under the sofa or table, but in our case, because the RV is medium size, I was very concerned. I had a brainstorm though and measured the shower floor to see if possibly that would work. It did, and Callie not only uses the same space that we do for going potty, she also has a bench in the shower for her kibble and water to be placed on. It couldn’t be more perfect.

We are currently up at Lake Cuyamaca because our home in the desert is having a heat spell. It is difficult to imagine the heat at the moment because it is so fresh and cool at the lake. Callie and I went for a lovely walk first thing this morning until the Canadian Geese honked too loud at us. That was a little too much for her and we high-tailed it back to the RV lickety-split. I don’t download videos anymore because they take up too much storage space, and my daughter has failed to teach me well enough to do it on my own. I also have to set it up on YouTube and I don’t have my computer with me. You will just have to use your imagination to visualize Callie’s tail held high in the air and trotting quite briskly in front of me as we head for the safety of the RV.

My Morning Wake-Up Call

Being retired but young enough to hop out of bed with the knowledge that the wind that howled all night, sending sand spraying into the house, and outdoor furniture skittering across the patio, means that the sunrise will be dramatic and I had better get my ass into gear so that I can capture the moment by taking photographs.

I have to jump up onto a wall in order to level my iPhone7 camera lens at Mount Illuminous, (as I fondly call the San Ysidro Mountains and the foothills behind my house), and snap images of the scene unfolding. I hope that someday I don’t trip and land on my face, so I try to be mindful as the wind is whipping up all around me and the early morning chill leaves me stiff and somewhat clumsy. Staying active and biking and hiking have kept my aging joints limber, but still, being 62 years old is a lot different than 52.

This morning did not disappoint me and as the sun rose and peaked out from behind the clouds in the east, my west view lit up delicately with dramatic clouds that were ever changing from the wind and light.

Callie got in one quick climb up her favorite olive tree as I took photographs, and then we both scrambled back inside because it was so chilly outside. We aren’t used to the cold out here in the middle of nowhere at Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, and because I only had a tank top and leggings on, I felt it. Callie is such a wuss too that anything under 80 degrees makes her want to crawl under the blankets and stay there. Another day has dawned for me and for that, I am grateful.

The Bighorn Sheep Sculptures of Anza- Borrego Desert State Park

What a beautiful day it was for an off-road bike ride in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. The weather is peaceful and the wind has died down for now. Another windstorm is expected tomorrow so we took advantage of playing outdoors today. We biked over to the herd of bighorn sheep sculptures that aren’t far from my house.

Ricardo Breceda is a local sculptor that works primarily with metal and places his artwork, here in the desert, free of charge, for people to appreciate and admire from all over the world. I love the animals that are native to the region, but Breceda does have a dragon near my house that attracts a lot of attention and is one of his favorite pieces. The head and snake like body is situated on one side of the road, and the tail with a rattle like a rattlesnake sits on the other side of the road. It appears that a section of the dragon’s body has slid under the street. There are scorpions and locusts, saber-toothed tigers, horses, a raven, elephants, tortoises and many more.

Biking up to the bighorns is like sneaking up to a real herd of sheep with 2 rams butting heads and ewes nursing their lambs. They are very realistic from a distance and beautifully designed. You can also drive your car up to the herd if you are a visitor from out of town. The sculptures are situated right across from Indian Head Ranch in Borrego Springs, CA.

Now What!

It is an absolutely gorgeous morning in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the powder blue sky. The temperature is a lovely 65 and the high today will be 85 degrees. The winds won’t return until tomorrow, so a bike ride is in order.

Callie climbed her second favorite olive tree at dawn with Lara and I singing her praises and offering encouragement. The reason this is her second favorite tree is that the bark is stripped and the trunk is narrower. It is a difficult tree to climb up high in. That didn’t discourage Callie this beautiful morning though and she took to the challenge like a duck to water. The only problem with climbing so high was getting back down.