Survival of the Fittest

Michael and I are starting to get up early again in order to fit in a bike ride before the sun heats up. Today we went over to Seley Ranch- an orange, date and grapefruit ranch that has been around for generations. The farmers here have water rights and use up much of the natural aquifer. Times are changing and now that water has become such a precious commodity, some growers are letting portions of their crops die. It is heartbreaking for me to watch a grove slowly succumb to the heat and lack of water. I wish they would hire a local worker to cut the grove down right away and dry the wood for later use. I believe that plants have their own form of consciousness, and to die slowly, is a form of suffering that isn’t necessary and I believe, cruel.

The bike ride was beautiful though and I love taking photographs of the desert in its natural state. It always continues to amaze me how each plant that does survive, stakes out a claim and there appears to be some form of cooperation. When you look at ocotillo, they are always spread out uniformly. I have a great deal of respect for the desert and admire the harsh, stark beauty of survival of the fittest.

The desert willow for example is flowering now, and it has been well over 115 degrees several times last week. How does such a delicate looking flower manage to bloom in such intense heat? The flower smells like scented soap, clean and fresh, with leaves that are long, dark green and slender. Soon it will be autumn and who knows what surprise will be in store for me next? I plan on being strong myself- survival of the fittest is the name of game.

Genoa Bay Marina

My brother Tom and his wife Frances, live in a float house on the outskirts of Genoa Bay Marina. They are buffeted by winter storms and live with the help of solar panels and all supplies, including water, must be hauled in by boat. It is quite the adventuresome life style and because they are both artists, conducive to creative expression.

In the winters months, they have flown to Mexico and continue creating beautiful sculptures and paintings while the weather is harsh and rainy on the island. Being an artist myself, I am impressed with how they have chosen to live.

Michael, Callie and I are parked on the shore next to the marina with a view of his catamaran- Alfresco and their adorable float house. British Columbia is experiencing unusually warm weather this week and the waters in the bay are calm and reflective.

We will be staying on Vancouver Island at least until Monday and maybe longer. Callie loves it here and has met our host's two cats, one of which is a calico just like her. Callie doesn't like cats though and hissed at them through the window. What a bratty guest she is!








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…..

Paradise Found

Today started out with a heavy drizzle and dense marine layer. Later in the afternoon, the sun peaked out and dazzled the waves with dapppled light that sparkled and glittered when the waves made contact with the shoreline. Michael and I did a 3 hour bike ride and once again we sat at our spot north of Morro Strand Beach. There are a series of benches dedicated to loved ones that have passed on, where you can sit and watch the pelicans go by~ 24 at a time. It was also warm enough for people to sun bathe on the sandy shore. Yesterday it was too cold!

Callie spent a quiet day in the RV but asked to go on a short walk so that she could find a place to sharpen her claws. She seems tired and weak but delighted to be out in the sunshine, so I let her hang out on our personal picnic table to  soak in the heat!

Biking in Morro Bay is a blast. It is a little difficult navigating the cars when you are biking in town, but once you get to the rock and head north, there is a lovely off road trail that meanders through and around Morro Bay High School. After the high school, you pass neighborhoods that border the protected sand dunes. It is really quite extraordinary and because of the mild climate, so much fun! 








Four Sisters Come Calling

When I headed out for my early morning bike ride before the inferno kicked in, ( it is suppose to reach 113 today) I happened to spot four hen turkeys getting ready to jump over my back wall in search of food… Turkeys in Anza Borrego Desert State Park? Amazing! I have yet to see a tom- turkey, but the four hens today all looked the same age and are probably sisters.

Wild turkeys are omnivorous and will eat both animal and vegetable products. They forage as they roam and when moving along, one behind the other in single file, they peck at seeds and insects, looking up and all around in a constant search for danger and possible predators. 

This is the first summer I have witnessed turkeys in the desert, I also saw two hens about a month ago along Henderson Canyon where I shoot all of my wildflower photographs. I wonder if there has been a big spike in their population growth due to ample rainfall and the lush vegetation that followed this spring? Neighboring Julian and Ramona, at much higher elevations, and up in the mountains, are known for wild turkeys, but in the desert? These four hens looked healthy and alert, and they were obviously enjoying the bright, early morning sunshine. It hadn’t warmed up yet, and birds were singing and insects buzzing. I left them alone as soon as I shot a few photographs, and they headed back out into the desert in a slow and meandering way, glancing back at me often in silent, calm, curiosity.

Joe Hutto in The Sun Magazine- May-2017, issue 497, gives a wonderful interview in which he shares his experience with living for a couple of years with mule deer and again with wild turkeys. He has the utmost respect for these beautiful creatures, and developed long lasting relationships with some of them. It was quite an honor to watch these four hens obviously thriving in the harshest of climates, and looking out for each other- as only good sisters will do.

This morning on my bike ride with Lara and Michael, we saw many cottontail bunnies, jackrabbits, roadrunners, a hawk soaking in a puddle, one lean coyote and common grackles. Hummingbirds are still braving it out, along with quail. It is amazing that anything can survive in the summer heat. It will be 117 on Friday and thunder strorms are expected on Sunday. We are going to try and pack up the RV and head to the beach for a few days. Hope we can find a camping site!








Back in the Saddle Again

Having returned to Borrego Springs and neighboring Anza Borrego Desert State Park, you have to find ways in which to endure and stay sane while living in the inferno! Temperatures are hovering in the triple digits, but less than the 122 of two weeks ago. Thank goodness we were up in Mammoth during that heat wave….

Getting up early and going for a bike ride while it is still cool enough is a treat. It is still cooling off around 3am and if we hit the road by 6:00, we can get in an hour and a half bike ride, before the sun intensifies and we have to seek shelter in the house. We can only use the swamp cooler because of the high cost of air conditioning, so finding ways to play before being a prisoner in your house the rest of the day, is the only way to avoid going stark, raving mad. Nothing moves outside in this kind of heat, and I have joked that birds drop from the sky fully roasted when the temperature is over 115. Sadly, we saw a young coyote pup hit and killed on the road this morning, and he or she looked like she was bringing up the rear in a pack and killed before she had a chance to grow up. I adore the coyotes out here in the desert, with their sing song howls and yips, fierce independence, and ability to survive in such a hostile climate. This spring brought a lot of rain, and the jack rabbits and cottontails are prolific too! Such is the life in the desert and the balance that must ensue. A bumper crop of flowers and greens produces more small mammals which in turn feed the coyotes. The pack is the largest I have heard howling at night, but it will also be a long, hot, dangerous, summer for all the living creatures of Anza Borrego.

Michael and I had a fabulous bike ride and rode out to S22… Henderson Canyon is still partially shaded early in the morning because of the foothills, and we biked along the road that I have shot all my desert, wildflower photographs. Compare the diffence from the spring this year, to the summer time now! Everything is burned to a crisp, and the sand dunes only show the prints of tiny mammals and the wave patterns of the wind.

We have a couple more weeks in the desert, and then we are heading to the coast.

We dropped the RV off to be serviced after our bike ride, and Michael and I picked up 2 gallons of Tillamook ice cream to make the day even better!:)

The Circle of Life

I have never seen so many swallowtail butterflies congregating in one place before. Convict Lake must be a major breeding ground for these magnificent butterflies, because they are literally everywhere. I saw about 15 fluttering along the lakeside by the boardwalk where wild iris blooms have proliferated. Swallowtails are surprisingly swift and aware of your presence. It is difficult to tiptoe up to one to take a photograph. If they notice you, they will fly away! The reason I believe I was able to capture so many of them with a photograph, was because they seemed intoxicated by the sheer abundance of flowers that this winter’s rain and snowfall have produced. Flowers and butterflies are everywhere; that and the mosquito. It is paradise for the trout too, except that they have to worry about the increase in the numbers of fisherman. The cycle of life is an interesting one. Survival of the fittest can mean many things. Strength, intelligence and the good fortune to be born at the right time and in the right place. For the swallowtails, this is a good year to be born!

When Michael and I reached the part of the boardwalk that was washed away, we turned around and low and behold, there were the swallowtails. I was able to sneak up on them by hiding behind the birch trees. I also found that if I stood really still- (a difficult task because of the mosquitoes) I could snap off a photograph before one would fly away. They have such a beautiful wingspan and are large for such adept fliers. It has got to be somewhat mind blowing to go from being a lowly, ground hugging caterpillar, and then become an airborne butterfly. They also fly with little regard to predators! I will have to do some research to see if they are poisonous to birds…..* Metamorphosis also seems miraculous and almost divine to me. I am not religious, but nature is as close as I can get to believing that there is something more and bigger then ourselves out there. Watching these magnificent butterflies is quite extraordinary and I am grateful for the opportunity to capture and record them with a camera, and to disturb them as little as possible.

So, to leave nothing behind but footsteps and to shoot photographs of nature’s animals with a camera instead of using a gun is my weapon of choice. I realize that because I am not a vegetarian, this is a bit of a double standard, but I am at least trying to eat less meat and animal products and I am appreciative of the sacrifice when I do decide to eat one. It has more to do with modern animal husbandry and the conditions in which most domestic animals that are raised for human consumption have to endure, that prompts me to eat less meat. And to be driving around in an RV that uses diesel fuel is an extravagance that I am aware of. At least we found the Fleetwood (Icon) to be energy efficient! It gets close to 15.80 mpg. That is pretty impressive for an RV. Some day there will be electric and hybrid RV’s too! The circle of life continues and I can only hope that swallowtail butterflies and nature in its “wild” state, will be there for generations of humans to witness and admire for years to come!

* from what I have read, some swallowtails practice mimicry in order to pretend that they are poisonous. I do not know if this is the case at Convict Lake but was very surprised they could fly about with so little concern about predation. 



A Return to Convict Lake

We returned to Convict Lake on Wednesday afternoon after attempting to once again head north toward Lee Vining and Tioga Pass. The Pass is still closed due to heavy snow and the snow melting, which is causing flooding throughout the campgrounds. They have no date planned in the near future for opening up the Pass. We decided to return to Convict Lake and are so thrilled that we did. It is only about 30 minutes past Mammoth Lakes and we were able to get a fabulous campsite by 1:00 pm. We came here last year with the SUV and fantasized about returning some day in an RV. We turned the dream into a reality and Callie, Michael and I were able to make it happen. Fred had to return home last week due to altitude sickness and a fractured ankle. He made it home safely the day before Father’s Day. He will have to make his own dreams come true after he recovers…..

The Paiute Indians call this Lake-
Watsunupa (“Lake in a dent in the ground”). The Lake received its current name after a dramatic shootout in September, 1871. A group of 29 men broke out of the Carson City, Nevada Penitentiary and 6 of them made it to the Lake which is 200 miles away. The county sheriff and a Paiute guide were both killed while trying to capture the escaped convicts. I prefer the name that the Paiutes gave the Lake!

Convict Lake is one of the deepest Eastern Sierra Nevada lakes and it is a gorgeous, silvery, blue-green. The runoff from snow melt is extraordinary and the river that we are camped alongside of is roaring right past the campsite. The boardwalk that I took Callie on with Fred and Michael last year, is partially swept away from fallen trees that have crashed into it. Heavy snowfall has broken some of the birch and aspen groves and the splintered trees have piled up against the boardwalk. The water is rushing over other parts of the boardwalk too, and I believe more damage will occur as the melt continues. We have had 5 days in a row of temperatures in the middle to high 80’s and every day the volume of water increases.

We saw a lot of mule deer, swallowtail butterflies, primroses, roses, wild Iris, robins, woodpeckers, seagulls, starlings, a pale white butterfly with beautiful black markings, deep orange/black moths that seek moisture along the damp shoreline and of course the pesky mosquito. You can’t have this kind of paradise with so much water all around and warm temperatures and not have mosquitoes. There are also many fisherman catching record size trout in boats and along the shoreline, and people are hiking the trail in spite of the heat and intense sunshine. Bicycles are not allowed out on the hiking trail, but it would have been too difficult anyway, so walking the trail is the only option. Last year when Callie and I were out on the trail, a string of pack horses rode past us with the sound of hooves hitting rocks and dirt being kicked up into the air. As they passed by, you could smell their sweat and saddle leather, and Callie gazed up at them in wonder. She was brave and curious while she watched them lumber along in a cloud of dust and flies, and when the last horse and rider walked past us, the rider turned around in astonishment at seeing a cat hiking the trail on a leash and harness.

We have decided to camp here through the weekend and may head toward Oregon next. I am writing this post on Friday with the help of NOTES and will upload the story when I have internet again.

We are having a fabulous time and Michael has been fishing and BBQing every evening and we have biked around the campground with Callie in her basket in the coolness of the early morning.









Day 2 of Silver Lake

The roar of the waterfalls lulled me to sleep last night while I fretted about the bag of trash that Michael refused to take to the dumpster! He doesn’t want to waste a half full trash bag and I agree, but I don’t want a bear ripping out a side window to get to the garbage either. There are bear postings everywhere. I woke up to the sound of the waterfall roaring and a bear did not come a scavenging during the night!

Callie coughed again last night and we think it was because of the air conditioner. If that is the case, it could very well be asthma again as the default diagnosis for her ongoing health problems. She is feeling fine today and we went on a morning walk and she got to hang out on the picnic table and watch the ground squirrels argue about their territorial disputes, and the deer tiptoe ever so elegantly in search of food.

Silver Lake Resort RV Park is wonderful and we are very pleased with our location. Due to the overwhelming amount of water flooding out a lot of the campsites, only those with reservations can stay. We are going to move a couple miles down the road to a day use facility called: Aerie Crag- an original founder of the Lake site camping in 1916, that will be allowing RV’s to camp overnight. There will not be any hookups and I would be surprised if I will have phone service. We can bike into town everyday and I will post photos and write if I so desire. If it isn’t too hot, we may try to stay for at least 5 days or through the weekend. Because of the flooding everywhere, including Yosemite, campgrounds are filled up and reservations that were made a year ago, honored first. There are no first come first serve availability at this time.

We went on a bike ride this morning and are amazed at all the water. Silver Lake is filled to capacity and the overflow has flooded out neighborhood cabins and driveways. The California drought is officially over in this area. I bet there will be a huge mosquito problem in a couple of weeks if the temperature stays warm. There is a lot of stagnant water lying around and they are already starting to buzz around when I stop to take photographs. Wild Iris blooms are everywhere and the scent of sage and pine fill the air with a wonderful outdoor scent.

It will be another warm day and I hear it will hit 101 in Oceanside, California where Fred lives. It will be 86 here….