Full Circle

I have finally arrived back home to my beloved Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but have moved up to Ram’s Hill Country Club. We are attempting to sell the beautiful house that I took all of the incredible sunrise photographs. Ram’s Hill has its own unique charm and as I write, I am listening to a chorus of coyotes howling and yipping off in the distance. I have a pond in the back of the house that attracts a lot of wildlife, so I am excited about the prospect of new photo opportunities.

Michael, Lara, Callie and I piled up most of our belongings into the SUV so that we could leave the RV in Encinitas and have the chance now to go back and forth to the beach and the desert. It can feel a little isolating in the desert and Callie can never run around free because of all the predators. I actually let her explore her surroundings at the beach with frequent checks from me so that she could feel a little more freedom. She loved it and stayed close to the RV.

Callie is doing very well and loved all the travel time. She has had so many experiences as a cat that it still amazes me how much she has learned about travel. She can watch the world go by as she rests on the dash, she walks with a leash along wilderness trails and will soon be put on a bike basket again to whiz along the roads and feel the wind in her fur.

A Taste for Quail

We are staying at Keough’s Hot Springs right outside Bishop on our return voyage south to Encinitas, and the Quail population is booming here. The RV is parked up against the granite and sage dappled hillside and it is home to dozens upon dozens of quail. The youngsters are old enough to take short distance flights and because it rained a couple of days ago, their food source is plentiful and they are brave enough to click and chirp their way right below Callie’s lookout window in search of a meal. The parents are a little more apprehensive and trying to round up their brood, but the going is just too good and as youngsters tend to do, they are misbehaving and having nothing to do with the usual rules and regulations. Callie can hardly contain her vision of the taste of quail on her tongue and she is making her own sounds of garbled delights and her tail is thwacking loudly against the window as she watches her next meal disappear under the camper directly below her. Too bad the window screen is preventing her from making her dream become a reality.

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!

Working with my Nikon D70s

I have been so comfortable, and for so long now, with my iPhone camera, that it took quite a bit of persuasion and the offer of carrying the equipment around by my husband, for me to make the transition. I am so happy now that I did. The telephoto and macro with the wide angle make for a perfect set of lenses for most occasions. I would never have been able to photograph the Bald Eagles and Blue Heron and the flowers and landscapes have been much improved too! Thanks to my husband, I can now up my game and provide better images to go along with my stories.

The Marmot that I saw at Virginia Lake would have been a brown smudge in the distance. Check out the waterfall with the snow and search out the cheeky little guy and where he calls home. You would never have been able to spot him in the rocks. What a great place for him to live. He has all the fresh water he wants and there were abundant grasses and wildflowers all around. I think Marmots may hibernate in the winter, but I am not sure. I will have to check that out.

The Bald Eagles would have been too dark against the pine trees for anyone to see with the iPhone and the Blue Heron too, was way to wary to walk up close to me. I am very appreciative of Michael for firmly suggesting that I start using the camera again.

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.

Callie and the Deer

Last evening when Callie and I were taking the trail up toward the waterfall that feeds Silver Lake, several Mule deer were startled by us as we rounded the bend, and in return, we were taken by surprise too. Callie actually jumped and let out a scream of fear and I had to pick her up and reassure her that the deer were probably more frightened of us and not the other way around. It was actually quite funny and when they bounded off into the sagebrush, Callie and I continued home much wiser for the experience.

Starlings swooped down on the two of us as we were meandering back and they were totally outraged that a cat was in their mist. One jet black male in his prime practically brushed past my ear as he flew at my head, making me actually duck. I hissed back at him when he landed on a nearby tree branch and he watched us intently, clucking loudly. He was making sure that we were leaving his territory because there were probably nests and young around. The nerve of that bird though!

When the deer calmed down enough to graze by the babbling Rush Creek, Callie and I made our way back home to our RV so that we could tell Michael about our exciting adventure with all these strange and new creatures. She sure is having the time of her life. I am on the constant lookout for danger though when I have her out on the leash, and so far it has been good. She actually begs to go on walks now by jumping on the table and staring at me. Once she makes eye contact, she meows loudly, and if I don’t get the hint, she flops down and shows me her tummy and continues ramping up the charm until I get up and retrieve the leash and take her for another adventure.

Turkey in the Desert

It seems almost unfathomable to me that turkeys can survive in the desert, but as harsh as it is, last spring I counted 5 turkey hens, and now there are only 2, trying to survive in the harsh desert. Still, that is pretty amazing and probably about right for any hatchlings survival. I believe they are the same turkeys that I spotted earlier and the two of them that are still alive, are sticking close together and appear to be in pretty good health. They were panting like most birds would do in the desert heat, but when they spotted me watching them, they sprang into action and trotted out into the wilderness. The five hens must have somehow traveled down from the higher elevations of our local mountains and learned to survive a very different environment than the grasslands and oak trees from where they came from. Turkeys have specified territories and maybe overcrowding was a factor and these birds sought out the wide open space of the Mohave Desert, but only as a last resort. I don’t think the desert would be their first choice of territory though.

There are a lot of insects out here, but very little grasses and green plants. They have learned to hang out at the De Anza Golf Course when they have to search out water, and that is probably the most important thing for them to learn. The grains and seeds that they would normally eat are far and few between, but maybe the sage offers sustenance. Turkeys are capable of short bursts of flight and this area has just enough trees for them to roost in and escape from predators. The first time I spotted the five sisters was over by Seley Ranch and that is where I also see a lot of coyotes and bobcats when I am out biking. These two girls seem to be pretty smart though and are fully mature. All they need now is for a tom turkey to discover them so that a family can be started and raised and a new species can call this vast desert their home.

Photographs of Rancho Cuyamaca Wildlife

I promised as soon as I returned home and had internet service again, that I would upload photographs I took with my Nikon D70s camera. Well, we returned home today and the first thing I accomplished was to download and edit my telephoto photos. I have a long way to go as far as quality of shots, but it is a start. The birds and deer are at least recognizable but the lighting is poor and the subject matter somewhat blurry. It wasn’t easy having Michael haul the camera equipment in a backpack on his back when we biked, and wildlife doesn’t stay still and pose for you, but it is a start and I shall improve.

We saw Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Tailed Deer, Canadian Geese Kildare, and wild turkeys. It was fun and exciting to off-road bike on all the trails, and my great big gigantic bruise from falling off of my bike and landing on a rock is a little less sore today, but growing in size. It was worth it though and I would do it all over again if I had the chance.

It is 110 in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and we will be packing up and heading toward Mammoth in about a week. Looking forward to a higher elevation, cooler temperatures, and green pine trees all around.

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.