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!

Agua Caliente Regional Park

In 1775, Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza was the first European to pass through what is now called-Agua Caliente. Kumeyaay Indians had known of the thermal springs and abundant water source long before the explorers, and in more recent times, prospectors, soldiers, and pioneers benefited from this unique desert oasis.

The water source supports plant and animal both and as you hike the numerous trails, you will see mesquite, willow, Washington Palms, cat claw and acacia. Big horn sheep, mountain lions, foxes, bobcats and coyotes make this area their home along with a variety of birds that depend on the life giving water.

Agua Caliente spans 910 acres and has over 140 campsites with full or partial hook ups along with tent camping. There is a caravan area that can accommodate large parties and multiple picnic areas for day use. At this time, there is no phone or internet service and this adds to the overall sense that you are out in nature and away from the trials and tribulations of politics and world news.

There are 3 naturally fed pools and the indoor pool does not allow children so that you can soak your weary bones without worrying about being splashed and the noise level is kept to a low whisper. It is not unusual to see people soaking in the hot water and periodically dozing off. It is very relaxing and soothing to the joints.

The campground is located in the Anza- Borrego Desert, about 100 miles east of San Diego, California. The seismic activity shaped the Tierra Blanca Mountains and created the spur of the Elsinore Fault that runs underneath the park. While hiking the Moonlight Canyon Trail, you will notice vertical layering of decomposed granite that use to rest horizontally. It is a little unnerving seeing what vertical thrust can do to a flat service.

Michael and I biked both the Marsh Trail and Moonlight Canyon Trail. Neither hike was strenuous and well worth it. Both trails take you to the natural springs where you see the Washington Palms and acacia and desert willow flourish.

We are parked in site 100 which looks west and has a spectacular view. Sites- 64, 68, and 67 are coveted view sites and it is ironic that our first time we visited Agua Caliente, we were able to nab 64. When we asked this time whether we could have it and didn’t have a reservation, the ranger laughed. I think 99, 98 and 97 are great locations too. We are farthest away from the pool, and some campers may want to be closer, but I cherish the peace and quiet and a view of the sunrise and sunset.

I Brake for Tarantulas

Michael and I went on a bike ride this morning over to Borrego Palm Canyon to see what the status is on camping here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We are considering heading to Agua Caliente for a 40 year relationship anniversary and haven’t been able to get anyone on the phone to let us know if the campground is full or not. Borrego Palm Canyon is not full, so that is a good sign for Agua Caliente.

The bike ride to the campground is around 5 miles each way, and when we were pedaling past the headquarters, what should I see but a large, reddish brown and very furry tarantula, attempting to cross the road. I was afraid it would get run over by a car, so I got off of my bike and escorted it across the street. He was beautiful but didn’t have a clue to the possibility of danger, and was just sauntering along while minding his own business. When he got to the other side of the road, I blew on him gently to nudge him safely off of the shoulder and only then did he get all indignant and puffed himself right up and stuck his abdomen in the air while tucking his head and fangs down to the ground. He was a menacing sight to behold. I was very impressed and waited until he headed out into the desert before I got back on my bike.

I can’t help but think of tarantula wasps whenever I see a tarantula. These wasps are very large, sinister, jet black with bright red wings and search out tarantula’s to lay their eggs unsuspectingly on the tarantula so that the offspring can feed off of the living tarantula when they hatch! Isn’t that horrible? So I was glad to see this beautiful spider making its way across the wild desert and there wasn’t a flying insect anywhere in sight to bother it.

Borrego Palm Canyon suffered a lot of damage during the past winter rains, but it is open again and ready for the camping season. The campsites are spacious and for those willing to dry camp, some of them are incredible. The campground only had a few campers out and about and it was so quiet and peaceful. It made me very excited about the possibility of camping again soon myself!

If all goes as planned, I will be joining them in spirit as I camp at Agua Caliente. The advantage of this campground is that there are heated pools to swim in and to soak your weary bones. Trust me on this one, after you reach 60 years of age, your bones will be weary. It is hard to imagine when you are young and fit, but it happens to the best of us. Biking helps ward off the inevitable, but you can’t be in a relationship with someone for over 40 years in length and not be getting old and weary. Maybe the hot pools will revive my aching bones and rejuvenate my tired soul. How could it not? I will toast to that!

Bike Riding in Morro Bay

Bike riding in Morro Bay is one of my favorite things to do. Even Lara joined us on a ride to Caucus to look out over the RV Park that we stayed in at the beginning of our road trip a month ago. It is rather fitting that we end our trip precisely where we began. The trail starts out at Morro Bay Rock and extends all the way to Caucus by going through the local high school and along the neighborhood above Morro Strand State Beach. You then follow the west side of Highway 101 and through an upscale row of about 14 houses to get to another look-out where benches are waiting for you to sit on and admire the view.

When we headed back to Morro Rock, I watched an osprey eating a fish on a lamppost and listened to its piercing cry as it looked down over all of us below. He was a magnificent raptor and seemed totally relaxed around urban sprawl. When I lived in Encinitas, I watched a pair of osprey’s raise young successfully and they too had learned to eat their fish on telephone poles. That will be the future for some of these birds if they are going to succeed and raise young. Humans have made it their desired destination to live by the water and fish hunting birds will have to adapt if they are going to survive as a species.

We also watched the otters nursing their pups in the bay and I marvel at what good mother’s they are. As soon as a pup falls asleep and lets go, the mother jostles it awake and demands that it hold on tighter. Last summer while I watched the otters, one pup floated away and when the mother realized how far her pup had separated from her, she swam over and angrily shook it and bit it gently. The pup woke up startled and disoriented because it was half asleep and the poor thing wasn’t sure what was going on. She dragged it back to the safety of the group and then nursed it lovingly while making soft reassuring purrs. Fortunately, otters too seem to be making a comeback.

I love Morro Bay for the balance it seems to have achieved and for the cooperation it maintains for both wildlife and for people so that they can live together, side by side, and for the most part, harmoniously. Because of this, Morro Bay is one of my favorite places to hang out in, and I hope to come back again soon.

We are staying here until tomorrow so that Callie can recover from her bronchitis and we are convinced that recovery is on the way. Her cough was terrible last night but seems much better today. I am keeping my fingers crossed. I also bought Callie a pair of biking sunglasses at the humane society thrift store and am going to laugh if she accepts wearing them the next time I put her in the bike basket for a bike ride!

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.

Callie’s Awesome Catwalks!

When I first started Callie out on the leash and halter, she would always stop, drop and refuse to go forward. It took a little getting use to, but once she realized she would be able to explore new places and have me around to protect her, she picked it up with ease. Callie now goes on a minimum of 2 walks a day, at 30 minutes per walk. My daughter is helping me out too and taking her for a walk every once in awhile. When Michael walks her, she pulls out of the harness and makes a run for it.*She treats Michael with just a touch of disrespect. When he is resting on the sofa, she runs right over him. We are working on that little habit of hers. She also shouts at Michael as if he is hard of hearing. Such a funny little cat she is.

*Cats can pull out of the harness by going backwards and tucking their elbows and shoulders in. If they start to pull backwards, let go of the leash and don’t create resistance. Speak calmly and try to relax your cat enough to continue moving forward.

Fisherman’s Wharf

My daughter and I walked to Fisherman’s Wharf this afternoon from the fairgrounds- which is around 2.5 miles one way and meandered around the silly, touristy, trinket shops before deciding that we were in need of sustenance and decided that The Old Fisherman’s Grotto fit the bill.

We were seated right away, on a Sunday afternoon, and had a window seat over looking the west side of the bay. We watched kayakers taking lessons on how to roll completely under water and back up again, with pelicans, seals and jellyfish bobbing in the calm, blue, water. It was a lovely, cloudless day, and the temperature was only 67 degrees. I am still appreciative of the cooler days after having lived in the desert this past year and a half. Green is now my favorite color and I prefer anything to 110 degrees.

After we sat down, the waiter brought us delicious sourdough bread and water and we ordered lemon, chicken piccata, a poached pear salad and we shared a bowl of clam chowder. The food and ambience were delightful and we had a fabulous time.

I decided to take home more clam chowder soup for Michael, my husband, because it was so delicious. They stuffed half a loaf of bread in a bag for me too and I lugged it all the back to the RV and to the fairgrounds. I was pretty tired when I finally made it home! Nothing like working off a good lunch with a long, walk afterwards.

When we headed out this early afternoon, one of the F-14 Fighter Jets took off and 3 car alarms on the street started wailing simultaneously and on the return trip, a jet roared past us and then headed straight up vertically into the sky while twisting round and round like a rocket ship! What a show of technology and power! They are also really, really loud. It has scared Callie every time they have taken off. I won’t miss all of the noise!

Callie spent a lovely day resting in the RV after watching the sunrise from the sofa and taking a nice, long walk with me. Her walks on the leash have improved daily and the fairgrounds have been a perfect place for her to explore all the horse stables and climb the oak trees. We are leaving tomorrow for Mariposa and will head to Mammoth Lakes next. Monterey has been a great place to park for one whole week.

Willapa Bay

Willapa Bay is fairly shallow and the second largest estuary in the United States. It has 260 square miles of water surface in the intertidal range. In fact, half of the water enters and leaves the bay every day. Michael and I walked along the shore line several times and two days ago we watched the tide creep back in at a very slow pace. The water glitters with reflective light and gently fills the bay back in, like molten mercury, one small puddle at a time.

We are staying at the Bay Center KOA until tomorrow morning and then we are going to drive to Port Angeles and take the ferry over to Vancouver Island. Callie is going to Canada! We have her paperwork in order and her health has returned and her cough is gone. My brother and sister in law live on a house boat, so I am not sure what the living arrangements will be when we get to their place outside Duncan Bay. It will certainly be an adventure though! Maybe Callie will even go sailing on my brother's catamaran. We shall see!

Callie had a lovely day of practicing her hunting skills chasing after bugs. The temperature is a fabulous 75 and the sun is out and there isn't a cloud in the sky….





Tillamook, OR

Yesterday was a rather long and tiresome day trying to find a campsite. Our luck held out until Friday. Friday's are not a good day for searching for a campsite at the state parks. There are too many people enjoying the awesome Oregon weather and the road weary must either go inland or find a private RV Park.

We finally found one in Tillamook, OR and I won't name the place because of an interesting thing that happened when checking in. Our host burst into tears when she saw Callie happily sitting on the dash and came up to the RV, and while stroking Callie's ear, confided in us that she had just come back from visiting her sick and aging cat at a sanctuary. She couldn't afford the vet bills that had piled up because of a diagnosis of glaucoma and was forced to give her up in order for her cat to receive medical care. It reminds me of the AFFORDABLE CARE ACT or as the Republican Party would like to disparagingly call it- OBAMA CARE! I believe that health care is a right and society would benefit with people staying well and thriving with good health. It should not be a profit motivating system!

Well, Callie helped her feel better because she loves to be petted and we shared stories and photographs and told her that she was doing the right thing. The host has two other cats, one of which greeted Michael and that surprised the host because the cat is usually super shy.

So, here we are in Tillamook and will leave this morning. Callie received one more dose of antibiotic with dignity and has two more days to go. The chicken flavored compound is the way to go. I have also learned to keep her wrapped up really tight, with her head back, and I tickle her chin and open her mouth up for about 10 minutes afterwards so she doesn't froth and drool on everything. It has been traumatic to say the least to be administering antibiotics for 4 months. She is definitely on the mend though! We had a nice long walk and she managed to walk out to a boat launching dock as if she owned the place!

Excited about today and can't wait to get on the road. I am also going to track down some ice cream while I am here!


Shore Acres at Coos Bay, OR

It is another typical coastal Oregon morning, cool with a heavy drizzle. Yesterday we visited Shore Acres, about a half-mile up the road from our campsite at Sunset Bay.

The first home at Shore Acres was designed as a summer retreat, which Louie Simpson had built as a Christmas present for his first wife, Cassie. Built on a rocky headland, the gamble-roofed house sat seventy-five feet about the waves below. It was built in 1906, but the gardens that grew and thrived to this day are what bring visitors from all over the world.

There is a beautiful Japanese garden with a lily pond and 2 stately crane statues standing knee deep in the reflective water. The rocks that border the pond were hauled up from the beach below by horses. That must have been really difficult for the horses. They are very rough, ragged rocks and are very heavy. The rose gardens are spectacular though and one particular rose called: hot chocolate was as breathtaking in color and form as well as having a deep, rich, rose scent. You can walk down to the beach along a paved pathway and can then ascend back up into a forest dense with Monterey Cypress and pines.

The shoreline is rugged with finely ground sand and seals, sea lions and elephant seals bask among the jagged rocks. The fog had rolled in densely as we explored, so you could barely see the marine animals, but you could sure hear them barking away in the mist.

Back in the gardens, I of course took many photographs of the flowers and the lighting was perfect for photography- bright diffused light with little shadow. The garden was designed in the English style by David Masterton and visitors of the neighboring households of the time, were given cuttings and plants to beautify their gardens too!

Today we are heading back over to have the RV windshield either replaced or repaired and when finished, we will possibly meander toward Newport.

Callie is doing very well and her health is on the mend. The three of us are enjoying our travels with Callie adventure and looking forward to many more to come. I have to admit that I was becoming very concerned with Callie's health after 4 months of coughing and am so relieved that she is feeling better…..