Summertime in the Desert

Michael, Callie, and I decided to head to the desert for a few days in order to have a little more room in which to live and move around in. The RV, a 24ft Class C, does feel a little small after a while and our desert house in Borrego Springs, even if it is 110 degrees outside, is still a fun escape.

Callie is able to race up and down the stairs and can follow her passion for bat patrol and taking early morning walks with her leash and the vest that has cute little fish patterns on it and a bright blue bow-tie. I don’t walk her as much at the beach because she can roam free in a safe environment with no fear of dogs or coyotes. But in the desert, Callie can’t run loose because of all the predators searching for something to eat and has had to learn to walk alongside me like a dog.

This morning I walked across the street with the 200-500mm lens, camera and tripod in hand and took some photos of flowers, bees, butterflies, and an Anna’s Hummingbird. Yesterday, I saw a roadrunner, white pigeon, White Egret, and a Night Heron. It never ceases to amaze me that wildlife still abounds in the summertime heat. I guess for most of them, the desert is home and they make the best of it in spite of the soaring temperatures. At least they have free access to water because of the ponds at the Ram’s Hill Golf Course.

We have been swimming every day, as it is an approved form of exercise after my cervical surgery. The collar needs to be worn for 5 more weeks. I can hardly stand it in this heat, but I am being a good patient and want to get well. There is a certain percentage of failure with a 2 level fusion, which is what I had done 3 weeks ago, so I had better follow the doctor’s orders. I can still go out and shoot photographs though, and that is all I need to stay sane. That and to be able to write, read, and to walk Callie.

Lake Sabrina

Lake Sabrina is located above Bishop in the Eastern Sierras of California and has some of the most beautiful lakes that I have ever seen. We stayed at South Lake for almost a week and then moved over to Sabrina which is on the other side of the fork leading up to the campgrounds.

Lake Sabrina Campground was dry camping but the bathrooms were very clean and we had site number 16 that had a view of Bishop Creek and the snow-dusted mountains that cradled the lake. The mosquitos are bad but because we were there when a cold front had moved in and the first rain fell of the season, it wasn’t too bad for us at all. Not being right by the river helped too!

Michael hiked every day and I hung around because of an injured tailbone and I took Callie on walks and did a lot of photography. The rain came down hard several days with thunder and lightning, and the view was spectacular. White-tailed deer sauntered past our RV without a care in the world and Robins and Scrub Jays were everywhere. Callie loved it there because there were very few dogs and the fishermen were quiet and very respectful.

It only cost us $14.00 a night to stay there and it was one of the best places we have ever camped at. We have now moved over to the Keough hot springs right outside Bishop and can spend some time soaking in the mineral pools and relaxing before we have to go to Encinitas for eye surgery on the 18th. I am trying to get as much photography and writing done as possible before I am laid up. I am having a pterygium removed that has grown quite large and has now become a major surgery. I had one removed about 25 years ago and it was so traumatic, that I have held back on having the other eye done until it has now become absolutely necessary.

Nature

500px.com/7sistersjfd

This is a photographic compilation of some of my travels, not all with Callie, but with Michael for sure. He has been quite supportive all these years. He bought me a Polaroid camera when my daughter Lara was born 32 years ago, and I haven’t stopped since!

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.

Virginia Lakes

Virginia Lakes is actually a whole series of lakes that you can hike up to that are spectacular. The campground across from the cabins that are rented out on the lake side of the street are fabulous and as senior citizens, we were able to get a site for dry camping that was only $11.50 a night. The bathrooms were clean, even if they were very rustic, and our camp host, Kelly, loves her job and tries to be as helpful as possible. There is no phone or internet service, so you have to get off the grid.

We stayed for three nights and the second day we hiked to Frog Lake. Michael carried all of my camera equipment on his back, and I traded out the macro lens to the telephoto or the wide-angle lens at least a hundred times, and he was a good sport about it. The hike had some vertical climb to it but was well maintained and worth the effort.

We made it up into snow in July and came across an adorable, and very fat Marmot who looked to be having a fabulous day, basking in the ample sunshine next to a lovely waterfall. The wildflowers were blooming in a profusion of color and the mosquitos weren’t too bad. It was a beautiful hike and I was able to take lots of photographs.

Heading back down the hill the 3rd day, we had planned on trying to get into Tuolumne Meadows, but the smoke in Mammoth drove us away. It was the day before 4th of July, so we were fortunate to nab a spot at lovely South Lake right above Bishop.

Callie is having the time of her life and I created a nice bed for her up on the front driver’s seat. At night I cover her up with a blanket so that she stays nice and warm.

Baby Kestrel’s at Lake Washoe

I have shared that I, with the encouragement of Michael, am getting out my Nikon D70s camera more often now because it is better and I am able to use a telephoto lens on bird and wildlife. I also have a macro lens for flowers which is out of this world. When staying at Washoe Lake, there was a family of kestrels and the fledglings were just learning to fly. The parents would ask the babies to fly from one cottonwood tree to the next to strengthen their wings and force them to work before offering them the reward of a meal. They complained mightily about the injustice of it all, but the parents were persistent. As personalities go, one sibling was larger and more precocious than the other and the photograph of this baby should be compared to the one looking at me with an expression of, ” You want me to do what!”

After Washoe Lake, we went to beautiful Virginia Lakes and I took incredible wildflower photographs and a marmot that was hanging out by a waterfall. I will post them later. We are now at South Lake right outside of Bishop because of the fires in Mammoth. The smoke was so bad and so thick, all three of us were coughing and hacking. It is nice and clear and cool up at South Lake. We are staying at Creekside RV Park and did the 2000 ft vertical climb to the lake this morning. Wow!

Catwalk

I had the best day yesterday and it did so much for my well being. The bike ride and dinner last night at Wynola Pizza in Julian, where we were able to watch the Warrior’s win their 3rd game in Cleveland, topped off the night. We sat at the bar because of the TV and our waitress and bartender, Addie, who is 7 months pregnant, suggested the Caesar Salad. We chose the Vegetarian Pizza, which was wood-fired and topped with awesome cheese and delicious mushrooms and a variety of fresh vegetables. Aiedie insisted we order the chocolate torte for dessert, and it was out of this world. The salad dressing is home-made as was the pizza and torte. The dark chocolate torte was so rich and creamy and filled with walnuts and whipped cream, that I practically died and went to heaven. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever up in the quaint town of Julian.

This morning, Callie demanded her catwalk so we harnessed her up nice and early and headed for the lake. She has a passion for picnic tables because she can then hop up and make herself comfortable as she takes advantage of the elevated view. Once she is settled down, Callie closes her eyes and inhales all the delicious scents and revels in the tall grasses and flowers that are so abundant. There are still a lot of wildflowers blooming since we visited in spring and the climate is very mild with a steady cool breeze blowing. The cottonwoods shimmer and the dark purple ornamental plum trees offer color and shade. It is really paradise after the heat and dryness of the desert.

We are staying through the weekend and there will be a 100-mile endurance race special event along the Soapstone Trail that we biked on yesterday. We are taking it easy today because of yesterday’s fun-filled and packed day. The RV is so comfortable and we have an unobstructed view of the lake and Stonewall Mountain. No one is here yet but the crowds are expected tomorrow and throughout the weekend.

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.

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.

The Mohave Indigo Bush

On our bike ride this morning to Coyote Canyon, I did a double take and switched back in order to admire this lone bush filled with beautiful indigo colored blossoms. This is the Mojave Indigo Bush and it was absolutely loaded with flowers and the wild desert honey bees were swarming all over it and having the time of their lives. The buzz was deafening and I respectively took photographs while giving them enough space to do their work.

It is difficult to believe that this wild bush that had received so little rainfall could produce such an abundance of flowers. The color can range from pale blue to the deep, purple indigo blue that this bush sported. It made my bike ride extra special and because it was so windy out due to the thunderstorms in the surrounding mountains, I was a little surprised to capture some of the bees attempting to harvest pollen. When you look closely at wild bees, their pollen sacks are the color of whatever flower they have come into contact with. When I lived in Redlands, California, the bees would have brilliant, golden orange sacks laden with pollen because of the citrus trees.