Dinosaurs!!!! Hello to the Badlands of Alberta

It takes a while to get through the Canadian Rockies. Mountain after fabulous mountain, a delight. A geography lesson of heaving and formation right before your eyes, eye candy that is! As you wind through this deep valley past Castle Junction, well named, and Banff the trans Canada 1 follows the Bow river as it winds its way East slowly out of the mountains onto those long endless plains. Before you know it the massive snow-capped peaks are just small hills in your rear view mirror.

We passed to the South of Calgary, I just wanted to say “Yeehaw” but it didn’t look too much like cowboy country;) more like oil country. It became flatter and flatter as we made our way South East. It was hard to imagine where these Badlands could be out here in all this flat and rolling plain. But arrive it did. We veered off the Trans Canada to go North-East another 45 km to Dinosaur Provincial Park Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Red Deer River loops slowly through-out this amazing landscape. A glacial flood plain about 18,000 years ago eroded out a portion of this basin and apparently all or most of the scenic badlands bearing the dinosaur and other Cretaceous fossils. We descended a fairly steep hill at the entrance to the park to the bottom near the river. We’d made reservations, the sign out at the road had read campground full but someone must have forgotten to take that down awhile back, the park was mostly empty. Our site was a back in with a view of hoodoos out the window:)

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How it all happened:)

We wandered about the lovely Cottonwood trees and then up onto the many trails behind the campsite for a view to the river. Before sunset I drove to the top hoping to catch a nice sunset. Clouds were scheduled to roll in later so no night photography in this lovely dark place:(

The next day we were surprised to see the sun and took off on one of the many trails around the park in the morning. The ranger at the front, who doubles as the restaurant grilling chef as well said this was her favourite-The Badlands Trail.

Most of the park trails are quite short, less than a few kilometers and easy hiking, no giant elevation change. Amazing the life that can be found in these somewhat barren landscapes.

In the afternoon we followed the park loop around to several preserved dig sites and the cottonwoods down by the river.

There is a wonderful museum after descending into the park. We took a stroll and marveled at not only the diversity of the species found here but at how badass some of the little guys were;) from plants to the giants of the dinosaur world! This was my first time seeing some of these guys bones up so close. Probably a good thing we’ve lived in different ages;)

The fun paths right behind the trailer provided Groot and Gamora with some wonderful exploration, sand to dig in, they always like that, butterflies and birds to stalk, but never catch:)

There was a small secondary river running through the campground. Swallows were building their nests under a bridge and the trees were full of chatter. I wandered about trying to get a shot of an elusive Brown Thrasher that had been going from tree to tree when it stopped and became quite agitated. It kept flying to the ground and moving about in an odd manner. As I approached a bit more closely I saw what was bothering it. A beautiful 4 foot long Bull Snake that was coiled in the grass and the Thrasher was attacking it.

When I moved a bit closer to photograph the snake it rattled its tail at me like a rattlesnake, “Oh come on” I told him” I know better;)” you are no Praire Rattler…when he was distracted looking at me the Thrasher attacked him, pecking at him from behind. He was not having a good day, no birds eggs, a weird human taking his picture and an angry mother bird. A German lady tourist walked by and I pointed out the lovely snake and bird, she was not convinced it was not venomous and left quickly after a few cell phone shots, poor snakes, always getting the bad rap from Adam and Eve;)

The Cottonwoods and the campground were full of all kinds of life. The cats got quite excited by the very vocal Magpie family in a tree nearby. They had a chick out of the nest and bouncing from place to place learning to fly and the cats watched from the windows with great interest:) and the cactus! Opuntias-their furthest North range is here:)

This is a must see place for anyone traveling the Trans Canada thru Alberta. Next trip, yes there will be one, we will go North to Drumheller as well to explore this beautiful country, home to the dinosaurs and badlands.

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Alberta Badlands

It was a wonderful few days but we were longing to be back in Ontario dipping our feet into Otty Lake. Ready to make some more time, the flat praires, no winding mountain roads, Mike seemed very pleased at the thought of a few thousand kilometers of flat.

So, stay tuned for not the badlands, but the flatlands and grasslands! Coming up Saskatchewan and Manitoba:) Saludos amigos!

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Lake Moraine-A certain blue enters your soul

“A certain blue enters your soul”

Henri Matisse

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I was going to try to add Lake Moraine to the Lake Louise blog but I felt it needed its own. The beauty is soul-stirring. We headed up to the lake around noon, only to be turned away as the parking lot was full, the young men at the turn said to try back much later in the day, I was heartbroken, this was on my list of places I so wanted to see. We went back to the trailer after dieseling up to pass a few hours and made a return attempt at 3. Once again it was still closed…NOOOOO!!! We drove up the road to a small day use area to turn around and by the time we were headed back to the campground the barriers were being moved and we were motioned in, people were leaving for the day! YEAH!!! I was ecstatic, Mike was giving me the “I’m not going to be able to live with you” look as we were turning around;) Located some 14 km from Lake Louise hamlet the road twists and turns, past small waterfalls and rivers into the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

 

Hiking around at 6000 feet yesterday combined with all the driving we have been doing confined us to the lakeshore trail, no massive elevation changes just a saunter along 3 km of spectacular mother nature’s artistry. From what I’ve read this time in June gives the peak colour to the lake. The colour is due to the refraction of light off the rock flour /silt deposited in the lake on a continual basis. The colour changes with the light as well!

At the end of the Lakeshore trail a boardwalk takes you to the stream of rushing water that flows from the Wenkchemna Glacier. The lakeshore path is a non stop treat for the eyes. Dozens of small streams cascade down the sides of the mountains, the sound of trickling water comes from all directions. There are small beaches and piles of logs to sit and rest and contemplate this marvel….and loons, and ducks!

The Loon was spectacular beyond measure as we sat at the beach and he came and went, threatening a pair of Harlequin Ducks! I’ve never seen anything like them!They are a Northern species barely making it into the NW of the US. I was not expecting these beautiful birds in this stunning setting. Talk about a happy camper:)

On our way back I told Mike I was going to scramble up the rock pile for a few last shots, he said he’d wait at the bottom, something about heights, drop offs and dying so I left him to rest. I did not know there is actually a path around the back, instead, being a good half Canadian I scrambled across the piled up logs at the end of the bay like a lumberjack and proceeded to scale the rocks, hand over fist. I didn’t quite get to the top but found a spot to sit, and breath and just marvel. The higher you get, the deeper the colour seems.

Worth every little scrape and scratch:) I did put the camera away for the trip down in my backpack;) Why is going down always harder than going up at times?;)

So, many more hikes I want to do here. We will most certainly be back. This time of year seems ideal, maybe I’ll get some bear spray;) I would urge anyone who has the chance to visit this striking place do so and sit and take it in! Next time we’ll have our own canoe or Kayak as well to paddle out into this fabulous lake of blue!

Saludos y abrazos amigos-stay tuned as we visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site-Dinosaur Provincial Park-Coming soon

The Albert Badlands

The Albert Badlands

 

The Rockies-On the road to Lake Louise, Banff

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
― John Muir

It is hard to describe that feeling of immenseness, is that a word (?) if not, it is now;) that comes over you with peak after peak of snow-covered majesty. I feel small, not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me realize time and time again we are just a blink of an eye in these mountains lives:) I thought I might not see any of the tops with the clouds blowing in and periods of rain filled our day on the road to the Rockies. Provincial Park after Provincial Park, National Park after National Park, Revelstoke, Glacier and finally Yoho and Banff, where Lake Louise is located. Mind boggling scenery that requires quiet and awe, and lots of OMG’s…;) Ha! I was so excited the sun came out so we could see the peaks at times and also worried as there was not a single campsite available in Banff and Lake Louise Campground is first come, first serve so I thought it might be full too! I’d wanted to stay in Yoho National Park but every campground we passed had been closed due to the rains, snow melt and extreme flooding weeks before so we motored on fingers crossed. You could see the road damage as we wound our way up from the flooding.

We were also running out of diesel so Mike was stressing a bit, all that uphill pulling, Hagrid had been working hard;) We filled up in Lake Louise, whew, made it, and then went to wait in line at the campground…I was biting my nails…but we got a spot and I sighed with relief! The idea of passing this area by and not spending some time here would have been heartbreaking for me!

In the morning we hiked along the river before heading up to the Lake Louise parking area and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. Filled full of rental RV’s, along the trail up to the Fairview Lookout we heard German, Italian, Spanish and English being spoken , love that! That water colour…it just is so beautiful. The emerald colour of the water comes from rock flour carried into the lake by melt-water from the Lefroy Glacier that overlooks the lake. We decided to have lunch at the Chateau, at the Fairview Lounge, one of 7 restaurants in the hotel…0_0…a nice treat and we enjoyed the company of the fattest chipmunk I have ever seen, apparently he eats VERY well here, and a Clark’s Nutcracker who popped in for some crumbs:)

While the food took forever,  the view was spectacular, the visiting animals amusing and the Scottish waiter apologetic for the slow kitchen so I received a free glass of wine while we sat waiting, through a bit of a rain shower and then back to some sun! An enormous boom and rumble woke us up as it thundered in the distance for what seemed like an awfully long time for a thunder-clap, “Oh, that was an avalanche” our waiter proclaimed in his Scottish brogue” A large sounding one at that, they happen quite frequently this time of year when the sun hits the glaciers”…oh my! Isn’t that special!

We were so glad to just have had the opportunity to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Behind the campground the Bow River trails were full of wildflowers, so many new to me, I’ll figure them out little by little! No bears, Mike was worried as I headed off to try some long exposures,”I’ll keep my eyes open, don’t worry” as I set up my tripod in part of the dry riverbed, in the sand, large bear tracks…gulp….but other than a large squirrel I was perfectly safe;) Word on the campground, try and get a spot as close to the river as you can. All are large double pull throughs but that puts you the farthest from the railroad tracks, not horrible where we were but there are sites a stones through from them and I’m sure your trailer would shake as they passed;)

Mt. Sheol

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. John Lubbock

Stay tuned until tomorrow for Lake Moraine amigos, possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth!

“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.”  -John Muir

 

Monck Provincial Park-back to the quiet life:) and Salmon Arm, BC-more great friends!

The city had been grand-meeting with family and friends had been an amazing experience but we were craving the wind in the trees and the sounds of birds, no more than that. We left West Vancouver on a drizzling day and headed East on the Trans Canada 1 towards Chilliwack…gone, gone, gone she’s been gone so long, you know the song right?;) and then we went North on the 5. The trip past Chilliwack and Bridal Falls, visible from the road was gorgeous, even in the rain, big circle on the map, bookmark, coming back here! Everywhere you looked water cascaded down the sides of steep cliffs and mountains…sigh, a neutral density filter owners dream:)

The sun did finally break through the clouds after Merritt and we pulled into the lovely Monck Provincial Park. It’s a good 8km off the main road and it is a bit bumpy but worth the drive. Rolling hills and fields of flowers, then pines as you come into the park. No services, water at the front and a dump station but a beautiful view out to Nicola Lake ( I read there are 26 species of fish in it!) and quiet! Truly a Groot and Gamora approved park, although Groot lamented the fact we left the fishing rod at Otty Lake;)  There were paths down to the lake, everywhere you looked wild roses and wildflowers were blooming, the air was filled with rose scent…heavenly. We’d originally only scheduled one night here but in the morning we groaned and said to each other, do you want to go? NO!

Monck Campground map

The campground is set in loops either side of the entrance. Sites 1-25 are better set up for smaller units. Sites 26-120 for larger units. If you are really big stay in the 102-120 range making a turn left after site 49 halfway down the loop. If you continue all the way there are some tight turns, and large trees, evidenced by missing tree bark some have been assaulted by RV’s, Mike sailed through calmly but others may not;) many sites would support a big rig, lots of room for our Myrtle and truck:)

Walks along the lake-a trip into Merrit for diesel and lunch-an afternoon thunderstorm rolled by to the North and I saw my first Marmot, a Yellow-Bellied Marmot no less! Love them! These fellows were obviously used to humans, they went about their business as I sat at a picnic table and watched them scramble about, a bit of sunbathing was going on as well:)

All I could think of was “Allen, Allen, Allen….Steve?” I sat and watched them for a good half hour, grinning from ear to ear. Several youngsters and two adults…cutest large rodent yet!

There were plenty of birds and other wildlife that were not too hard to find:) A pair of deer were lying in the shade a stones through from the truck and trailer.

A few thunderstorms rattled past us to the North on our secound day. The lake looks like it could get quite rough, it was covered in serious whitecaps late in the afternoon. We saw few boats pulled up on the shore but no one was out fishing. This is beautiful country, rolling hills interspersed with forests of ponderosa pine, a bunch grass ecosystem and a volcanic rock cliff landscape. Worth a visit my friends if your route takes you close by this lovely place.

A perfect place to recharge. Could have stayed a week or more but on a mission to get East, we waved Good-bye and headed NE to Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

We thought the scenery arriving here was spectacular, it just kept getting better! We had some sun and a few thunderstorms as we passed Kamloops and headed back up into the mountains in a wide valley of grassland all along the South Thompson River fed by Little and Big Shuswap Lake, where we were heading. This fabulous lake is a multi armed collection of stunning landscapes. Our destination was Sandy Point Beach Campground. Our wonderful friends Nick and Ruby scouted the area for us and declared this one was, the furthest from the railroad tracks! I like their way of thinking! Water was very very high and it looked like the campground had just dried out, they took us to a long row of spaces and we were the only ones there, water, power and sewer-all is well.

Our reason for stopping here was to see them. They had visited us in Baja way back at the beggining and we did miss them so. Funny, smart and now we can say the ones who have given us a new addiction… “Cards Against Humanity” a party game for horrible people…we love you guys! Great meals, that was the best Butter Chicken and Samosas at the New Bombay Grill , I just started salivating thinking about it, and a wonderful salmon dinner-you guys rock! Thank you for the wine and brandy and wonderful, wonderful company! We have missed you so, next time it won’t be 8 years between visits!

The wildlife at the beach was lovely although cloudy and drizzling the day we were leaving I couldn’t resist walking about in the morning and enjoying it all. Another Groot and Gamora approved Park, they are giving it 5 stars because of this:

2018-06-13 010No Dogs. Seems they had a problem, lawsuit and solved the problem with this sign. First one for me at an RV park.  I think it is why there are so many beautiful birds on the beach, no dogs to chase them… and no barking! Lovely! I do love dogs, just not the barking we get at so many RV parks. The mosquitos were the size of hummingbirds though and they have a gate locked policy at 11pm which left us parked outside and we had to a wee walk back to the trailer but all in all it was a pleasant stay and a wonderful visit!

The beachfront sites are all filled with permanents, or seasonal residents, what there was of a beach. One resident said they were missing about 25′ of it with the flooding but as the waters receed the beach will come back:) Salmon Arm is only a hop and skip and it seemed like a wonderful small town. “Demilles Farm Market” on your way in is a fabulous little store for fresh food and downtown “Chicken Direct” has non GMO raised delicious chicken-Nick and Ruby pointed us in the right directions! So hard to leave but we have a large set of mountains still to get over and three more provinces to get through! So it’s hasta pronto friends and stay tuned for the amazing Canadian Rockies!

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“There goes the neighbourhood, the Mallards have moved in!”

Canada Geese humour;)

Oh Canada:) let us count our blessings in so many ways…family and friends:)

Fathers day

My brother, Father and me

My one intention in Vancouver was to visit my Dad and his beautiful wife Gloria. They remind me that care and compassion and working with your husband/wife on a daily basis can be one of the most rewarding ways to live your life. My husband is also my best friend, we have worked together for the last, geez, can’t remember, when were we married (?) years:) Time slips into time and all the wonderful memories and friends we have acquired along the way are priceless. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to hug my father and it felt so wonderful to embrace these two human beings I admire. My Father and Gloria deserve each other in such a wonderful way. And yes, you get that our visits were fabulous! Some tea, some cookies, several amazing breakfasts, and a delicious Italian dinner and even got my little brother up who was in Washington to surprise the heck out of him:) both his kids, together in one place with him, a major miracle in busy lives. It was a joy to see my father and brother together as well, so much the same in many ways yet very different. I haven’t seen my brother since last Fall so it was a double gift for me! Photos, no, we were too busy chatting and catching up, and reminiscing a bit as well. My father has a large heart and it seems he has let go the bad that passed so many decades ago when our Mother whisked us out of the country even though a restraining order was in place…she lived her life her way, always, almost up to the end. You have to let all that stuff go, the bad baggage, as best you can, otherwise it will make you sick. Life is too short:) I’m so glad my father found this amazing woman more than 45 years ago to share his life with her! She is a treasure, my Mom now-you rock Gloria, you are such a brat! Mike saw that in you right from the start:) We are lucky to embrace you and call you family:)

I was expecting a city RV park, ugh, and to say the least I was very pleasantly surprised to be surrounded by nature. The Capilano River RV park has the river right beside you and snow-covered mountains are visible in the background and the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge leading over to Stanley Park as well. Yes it is tight, not a lot of room, but after the early morning and late afternoon rush hour traffic to get on the bridge is done, it was quite serene. Lovely staff made for a more than pleasant visit here. The shops at Park Royal are all in walking distance, there is the amazing Black Forest Deli, Mike was in heaven, full of German and Dutch tourists.

The RV park has a small army of rental C class RV’s that the European tourists use to see BC and Alberta. Refreshing to have this diversity and to hear so many languages being spoken in one place:) It had me thinking about the Border Crossing and perhaps some helpful hints we could give our neighbours South of the border:

#1 Take the “this vehicle protected by Smith and Wesson” bumper stick off your truck, it is sure to make a Customs official gleeful about sending you to secondary, or whatever they call it in Canada, same goes for silly concealed carry badges that look like fake sheriffs badges I had as a kid when we played Wild Wild West,(I always did make my brother play Artemus Gordon), you will be looking for trouble:)

#2 Limit your alcohol to two bottles of wine, or 24 cans of beer. Vancouver has some great microbreweries and wine as well, you can get that awful American swill, Bud light or Millers here if you have to.

#3 Leave your guns at home, this is the big one. With a friend, with family, somewhere locked up where a toddler won’t be shooting his mother. You won’t need them here, get some bear spray once you get here if you’re in grizzly country but leave the bang-bang stuff back there. Canadians are mostly a very polite society who have a dim view of handguns;) We let people cross at cross walks and even let people merge onto freeways:) Isn’t that an interesting concept!

Ok, enough sarcasm, I needed that after reading about some poor lady lamenting why they never can go to Canada, she equated guns with golf clubs somehow saying they could take their golf clubs everywhere, why not their rifles…poor muffin…This IS a different country-Obey and respect the laws here, don’t whine;) or don’t come:) nuff said:) I feel much better now;)

Walking along the river the wildflowers were in bloom, the resident Great Blue Heron was fishing and seagulls gathered for long seagull chats:) An oasis in the city. I enjoyed sitting on the driftwood and watching the river run an amazing experience deep in the center of a city:)

We also made plans to visit with a very dear friend Joanne. We’d met in Rarotonga in the Pacific Ocean when we were kids and it seems about every decade we manage a meet up, she pointed that out astutely:) She had plans for us and before Mike knew it he was riding the gondola up Grouse Mountain…looking straight ahead…don’t look down! I’d joked about this and gotten the “No f%@&ing way” from him earlier but Joanne was far more convincing:)

The ride up had beautiful views, the lumberjack show was a lot of puns, and fun but the Birds of Prey Show and Grizzlies were the highlight, along with Joanne’s company! We sat at the lodge and savoured a few shots of fine scotch before the trip back down. The rain held off and we had a few sunny breaks. A lovely afternoon had by all, we’ll be back! Promise Joanne, we’ll find you wherever you are in the Province and meet your horses and Gene next time!

and time to move on…the East ward call was coming. visiting with family and friends has been so rewarding but…trying to get back to Otty Lake before Canada day was our goal, but there are more adventures to follow, stay tuned as we cross the Rockies and head out onto the open plains…♫♪♫♪..oh give me a home…♫♫♪….:)

Saludos amigos y abrazos mi familia!

 

 

Beachside State Park and then inland and North to Canada!

This was a Groot and Gamora approved park. The giant kitty litter outside their back door was astounding and it seemed Mike and Pamela loved it as well, as soon as we squeezed into our spot and set up our chairs.


We had checked it out on google earth and only three sites have those amazing ocean views. Beachside State Park, or recreation area, sites 63, 64 and 66 have oceanfront views, 63 being the best, we squeezed in 64 and let out a sigh of relief. We were expecting the gale force winds of Cape Blanco but it was quite quiet and civilized!

We’d expected some road noise from the US 101 right behind us but the sound of the waves and surf gently drowned it out. We needed this somewhat more peaceful stop away from howling winds and dark forested areas, my the trailer windows needed cleaning as well as the floors I couldn’t see a thing in Cape Blanco, maybe that wasn’t so bad;) ha! To the South of us was a small town called Yachats, (how do you pronounce that?) with a small grocery store to stock up, an average seafood restaurant, skip it, decor was the best thing about it and more state Parks to the South! Cape Perpetua and amazing tidal pools at Devils Churn.

We checked out the campground inland from the Cape but it was quite limited size wise for us, and we had a whole beach, at Beachside:). The path down to coast was alive with small wildflowers, the tidal pools were fascinating.

To the North of the state park lies Waldport. We explored and found an amazing bakery, Pacific Sourdough, that I’m sure it added pounds to both our middles. Amazing sourdough bread, the real deal, fantastic cakes and well, everything. We ate it all, no pictures;) Lucky us, we were there on a Thursday and they are only open then, and Saturdays, and often they have long lines down the street the grocery clerk at the Ray’s Food Place told us;)

We packed up sadly to leave the beach, the weekend was fully booked and it was time to make time and head North to Portland. Bye-bye beach-this is a place we’ll be back to!

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Sun pillar lighting up the sunset- sun pillars form when sunlight reflects off the surfaces of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds (like cirrostratus clouds).

We headed North along the 101, and then in Newport headed east on the #20 back to the freeway. Ugh, I hate freeways, traffic and bad mergers but hey, it was the quickest way to Portland, where everything came to a screeching halt at what looked like rush hour traffic at 1pm. We’ve since been told the traffic is almost always like that. Too many people moved in with too little infrastructure to keep it all moving. What we noticed the most was what seemed like a huge homeless population everywhere you looked, tent cities and shopping carts full of people’s lives.

We were in Portland to visit, and visit we did with our amazing friends Ian and Sarah. They took us on a tour and out for lunch at the Loading Dock Grill, McMenamins Edgefield-wonderful spot! Gardens to die for, amazingly restored older buildings and then onto Sauvie Island where we checked out an alternative RV park for our future returns, more up our alley with beautiful views of Mt. Saint Helens, not too close mind you;), and the Columbia River. We were cheek to jowl at the Columbia River RV Park right next to the airport fly over, both civil and military as well as right next to a busy street, not our cup of tea but we now know where we’ll go back to. Sauvie Island is a paradise of small farms and farmers markets, rivers, birds and views….and quiet! Even a nude beach we’ve been told, Mike could see some different birds there;)…I think I just heard “the Streak” playing;) Thank you Ian and Sarah for the amazing food and company, even a Mexican Market, also we had the privilege of meeting Dobby and he liked us:) Life can’t get any better:) You have a wonderful spot in a lovely town!

We stopped at a farmers stand at Sauvie Island and loaded up on strawberries, varieties that don’t travel well Sarah explained as she gave us a box earlier when they arrived, but taste out of this world…groovy they were! So wonderful to see our friends, and family even. My cousins two kids live in Portland with their fabulous significant others and spouses and they rock:) Enjoyed some great beer at ExNovo-an all profits to charity brew pub, we endured a rain shower and some friendly dogs, great to see pets allowed in public places of food and beverage:)

Portland is indeed a special town, as Arnie says” We’ll be back”…they may regret inviting us;) Ha!!

And North we went, clouds and light rain came and went as we passed beautiful mountain scenery and rivers as we made our way into Washington. We found a one night stop at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, wonderful friendly camp host, your choice of sites during the week but car racing on the weekends can get noisy and don’t back up to the factory, horrible chemical smells emanating from the building in the morning, acetone like, not pleasant to be breathing in:) It was the Lakeside of Seattle, our San Diego friends will know. American flags on the back of pickups and well, very very white…we were happy to move on in the morning early:)

We had the absolute fastest and most professional border crossing in our history-Followed the truck route off of the 5 for the border to the Canada 15 North to the Trans Canada 1. RV park email suggested we come in this way. One car in line in front of us, large easy to manoeuver border, two questions, where are you going? Do you have firearms?-Vancouver-No-90 secound crossing…I LOVE Canada! Crazy Bridge going over the Fraser river:) Good to be home guys! Stay tuned for our Vancouver escapades!

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Sky Bridge-Vancouver

Saludos amigos! Hasta Pronto!

Get ready to be blown away…literally;) Cape Blanco-Oregon

It was a short jump, only 66 miles to Cape Blanco State Park from Brookings. It was named in 1603 by the Spanish explorer Martin D’Aguilar because of the chalky appearance of the headland. This prominent headland is the Westernmost  point of Oregon and extends further west than any point of land in the contiguous United States (lower 48 states) that is:) At the tip of the cape is a U. S. Coast Guard lighthouse reservation including an 1870 lighthouse. The headland is 245 feet above the sea and the light is visible for 22 miles at sea. Because of many past shipwrecks at this point, a powerful radio beacon for navigators was placed at Cape Blanco. It is the southern most lighthouse in Oregon and it is windy…very windy. They have their own “wind forecast” how awesome is that!

 

The campground is first come first serve so we thought it might be full over the Memorial Day weekend so we held off until Monday to arrive, although the camp hosts said only Saturday had been completely booked. It is located a good 5 miles West of the US 101 so no traffic noise at all! It is very tree covered, we circled the 52 sites, many were free, once to check for the sunniest spot but even that was 90% shady-great separation from other sites though and beautiful moss-covered trees everywhere, great cat walking spots! Some partial sea views through dense trees on the Western side but incredibly dark. We opted for the Eastern side and backed in with a small view back to the horse camping area. We walked over to the self registration area then down a small paved road to the beach a fair way below.

 

A much-needed leg stretch, after my scramble down the coastline at Natural Bridges those legs were stiff;) then we needed to take the fur kids for a walk, they were very approving of the heavy cover and grasses as well as climbing trees close to the trailer:) There were berries everywhere. Some bushes were just blooming and there were these incredible orange raspberry-like ones called Salmon berries (rubus spectabilis) not particularly good to eat we read but such amazing colour!

 

We ventured out to the lighthouse but it is closed Monday and Tuesday so hiked around for it for a while instead being blown about was a better description! At least back at the campground under the trees there was some protection! Beautiful crashing waves and surf though!

Back at the park I took a walk in the late day looking for a path down to the beach on the Northern side. I wanted to try some long exposures but with the wind howling wasn’t sure if the tripod would even hold. Beautiful path down, walking on wildflowers and grass.

 

The roads in the park are sprinkled with wild azaleas as well as the mountains of berry bushes and so many other delicate small wildflowers. There was a bush that resembled a manzanita as well! Out on the grasslands I caught sight of a Savannah Sparrow being blown around by the wind. It was amazing it could even fly from flower to flower as I was having a hard time even holding the camera against the wind!

 

I followed the narrow path down to the beach, as small creek trickled beside it. It was overcast when I started photographing the waves breaking on the rocks, tripod anchored in the sand, sitting on a large piece of driftwood, but slowly the clouds parted and gave way to a beautiful blue sky.

 

This beautiful beach is covered in driftwood and rocks full of fossils. I sat there using my ND filter and trying some long exposures. The tripod was wiggling in the strong wind but it was a fun challenge none the less:) When the sun started to emerge it was even more beautiful.

 

I told Mike I was only going for a bit so I packed up and headed back to the campground. I took a path walking South that is part of the Oregon Trail that leads back to the campground. A deer was leap frogging over the tall grasses. Spectacular, I was so delighted I made Mike walk back out with me for the sunset and come back via that trail. We stopped to talk to a delightful woman, traveling with her 18-year-old ginger cat that we had run into as we walked about the park, sharing cat tales;) and oddly enough, two spaces down from us was a gentleman from NY traveling with his 18-year-old tuxedo kitty in a car. He was tethered out, not often you see a cat tied up outside, and I saw him as I walked by and smiled and commented on what a lovely cat it was, and friendly, happy for some scratches under the chin. Not often we run into folks travelling with geriatric kitties like our Beezil so delightful to make their acquaintances:) what a world full of wonder we live in:)

Cape Blanco Sunset

Cape Blanco sunset

After a few days under the forest canopy we were ready for some sunshine. I’d read about many coastal Oregon State Parks but one seemed to stand out as you could back right up onto the beach. Mike looked at some Google earth shots of Beachside State Park and read some reviews, and then I reserved a site that had a view-so excited to get into the light! I had no idea just how dirty the floor in Myrtle was;)….but that, is another tale.

Stay tuned as we go Beachside in Oregon! Saludos amigos

Beachside

Beautiful view, my those windows are dirty!;)

!

 

Wild winds and wildflowers-Oregon Coastline

Leaving the somewhat dark feel of the forest we headed up the 101, said goodbye to California and entered the beautiful state of Oregon. Our first stop for a night was in Brookings, we were hoping for a State Park but it was full so ended up at the At Rivers Edge RV park along the Chetco River. Beautiful drive to get there, folks complain about the steep grade to get down but not too bad, just one lane-look ahead;) geez, they need to drive Baja roads:) Typical tight side by side concrete pads in park, nothing available close to the river, but very friendly people and fine for just a night, nowhere to walk the cats really and the river I can’t say held any charm but the town and port are lovely. Fresh fish house at the port made Groot very happy, his first Sea Trout (lingcod I think) made for a happy trio of cats:) Yes they are spoiled rotten! We took a few hours in the morning to explore Harris Beach State Park and a few miles of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. Our next jump to Cape Blanco was only 65 miles so we had some time to drive the corridor. 12 miles of forested park with a rugged, steep coastline interrupted by small sand beaches…wowza! Spectacular.

Mike took a few looks but declined one hike I made down to a small point along the Oregon Trail after the Natural Bridges viewpoint. It was rough but stunningly beautiful with huge drop offs that tested my stomach and I have no fear of heights at all. I contemplated once or twice turning back but I HAD to see bottom of the trail;) The turquoise colour of the sea in the kelp beds was spectacular! I scooted out on my bottom as far as I dared go on a small root covered point, the wind was howling and blowing me about-I didn’t want to end up over the edge;) I made a short video, grasping the phone in the howling wind thinking, man, if I drop this it will not be good;)

Video of Natural Bridges

This is part of the 400 mile long Oregon trail that follows the coast. The fields and paths were covered with wildflowers. The path down to the small point consisted of tree root steps and plants I’ve never seen mixed with familiar ones as well. Perfect wildflower season. An older couple and I had a conversation as we stopped to catch our breath about how age and the realization of mortality sinks in…ha!

Iris dot the hillsides and foxtail in pale and bright pink flank the roadsides. The green is intoxicating! There are multiple pull outs along the small two lane US#101 that are perfect for a rest or just to sit and listen to the waves and wind. So glad we took part of the morning to see it:)

I could spend a few weeks here hiking the trails quite happily! We stopped by Harris Beach State Park for a drive through to check out the sites, a few we could fit in for future reference! I didn’t want to go back to the RV park:) I know they are convenient but sometimes so soul less. It’s like being in a city but you are not…hate it!

It was overwhelming so much beauty, the coastline combined with the wildflowers, eye candy everywhere you looked! We’ll be back to this area. The amazing thing was it is also a small micro climate. In Brookings, population around 6500, by the river it was over 80 degrees and on the coast a few minutes away the temperatures fell to 62 degrees flinstone scale;)…(farenheit) according to Wikipedia “Due to its location, Brookings is subject to winter (and less frequently summer) temperatures considered unusually warm for the Oregon coast. Temperatures can reach 70 to 100 °F (21.1 to 37.8 °C) throughout the year. This is due mostly to its situation at the foot of the Klamath Mountains, from which winds compress and warm the air flowing onto Brookings. This is called the Brookings effect or Chetco effect, similar to the warm dry Santa Ana winds of coastal Southern California. Daffodils and other bulbs generally bloom in February.” That is the explanation and elderly RVer gave for liking the town as well:) isn’t that special;)

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This is such a beautiful coast

So there you have it, our first stop in Oregon, won’t be our last here I can truthfully say!

Groot says we should eat more fish, he likes it here too;)

Saludos amigos and stay tuned for more coastlines, howling winds and lighthouses!

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Humboldt Redwoods-Avenue of the Giants-a humbling experience

It never gets old, that humbling feeling of standing in the presence of something so magnificent you are left speechless.

Located along the Eel River in Northern California, Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains some of the world’s most majestic ancient redwood groves. The park encompasses over 53,000 acres, including 17,000 acres of old-growth coast redwoods.The world-famous scenic drive, Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101, that parallels Freeway 101. It is by far the most outstanding display of these giant trees in the entire 500-mile redwood belt.

There are multiple pullouts and trails along this stretch, one not miss is the Founders Grove and the visitor center!

The State Park Campgrounds are lovely, but the sites are mostly too small for Myrtle and very dark so we have opted to stay at the Ancient Redwoods RV Park along the Avenue of the Giants, and also home to the Immortal Tree. The park is lovely and open, with both pull through and back-in sites to the woods. Possibly some of the friendliest RV Park owners we have ever encountered. They take reservations, no credit cards needed, when was the last time you ran into that! They have a wonderful store, local beer and wine, touristy trinkets and always a smile:) They delivered our mail to our door! Big rig friendly you DRV folk:)

Bonus, if you come in October the entire park is ringed with berries for breakfast! We just got to see all the blooms-and Banana slugs! No, not slimy, really cool to the touch and well, cool!!! They are awesome!

If you are driving up the US 101, it is not to be missed! There are several side trips worth doing, Ferndale is a beautiful Victorian town to the North, groceries can be had in Scotia, it is a company town founded by the Pacific Lumber Company, formerly known as Forestville until 1888, to house workers for the lumber industry. The town was entirely owned by PALCO until 2008, following the corporation’s declaration of bankruptcy. It has a sad air to it, somewhat depressed, the girl in the grocery store obviously did not want to be there, we won’t be looking for homes here:(

We decided to drive to Fortuna, why of course, there is a brewery there;) Eel River Brewery, we decided to give it a try after our visit to ACE hardware-needed screws for the loose trim on the front roof of Myrtle and now we were thirsty. While the beer was lovely, the food should be missed…very dissapointing, but we came for the beer:) The organic IPA was great! We had a rainy day, glad we caulked the front trim in place and held it down with a 10lb dumb bell;) ah, RV life…When it dried out the next morning climbed up on the roof and screwed it back down! Ready to roll…but that, is another story and I won’t let the cat out of the bag, or will I;) ha! She decided to let herself out;)

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Time to say Goodbye to California and HELLLOOO Oregon, we needed some sunshine after the dark woods and spot on the coast sounded grand! Stay tuned amigos and the adventure continues! Groot says he’ll back in the next blog, camera shy this week:)

Out of Southern California! Yeah! and North to San Francisco!

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Our goal was avoid LA and anything associated with a freeway for a while, it worked! After leaving Acton and the Californian RV Resort with its widely fluctuating voltage (no discount for no power for two nights! Voltage was pegged at over 134 and Myrtle II shut down to protect her systems-had fun writing that review! Concrete terraced parking lot with barely enough room to walk around your slides, more like crawling underneath them:(….we won’t be back) we headed North on the 14 through Palmdale and then West on a lovely state road, the 138 which eventually met up with the 5 part way up the grapevine. Rolling hills with the fog trying to spill over the tops was spectacular. Dotted with Joshua Trees and Live Oak it was beautiful, dry, but beautiful!

Forgot what a grade it is going down to Grapevine in the San Joaquin Valley-miles of almonds and fruit trees as far as the eye can see, it produces the majority of the 12.8% of the United States’ agricultural production (as measured by dollar value) that comes from California and the water is running out. In some places the valley has sunk by as much a 8″ as the groundwater levels drop…for every almond, you need a gallon of water, scary, perhaps not the crop that should be grown there. It was nice to get off the 5 North and take the 46 Westwards again. The big freeways hold no charm for me.

We passed the infamous spot where James Dean’s life came to an end, I had always thought it was along the coast but these winding roads through these hills would be quite the spot to open the throttle on a convertible Porsche:) Vroom vroom…look out for intersections:( Eventually the 46 comes out in Paso Robles, looks like a place we could come back and explore…wine wine and more wine…excellent! After the turn North on the 101 the vineyards continue all the way to King City interspersed with more rolling hills and live oaks. Beautiful countryside. We had stayed in King City several years ago on out trial “on the road adventure” and found the San Lorenzo County Park to be charming! Quiet, although the camp host told us we just missed the massive exodus from The Salinas Valley County Fair, good thing we arrived on a Monday, there were only two or three other trailers there. Lot’s of open space, beautiful trees and shade in the full hook up section and large grassy areas in the rest of the park with a wonderful old tractor/farm machinery display and museum, all in this lovely little park.

This is a cats kinda place:) trees to climb, there was even a Koi pond they found quite interesting:) The Salinas River runs behind the park and noise from the 101 is not bad. King City has several small markets, El Pueblo Market was wonderful, great fruit and vegetables as well as a large butchery and prices we are used to, not the inflated Supermarket ones:) besides, Groot needs his weekly chicharones now that we are out of fresh fish territory:)

We opted for two nights at San Lorenzo Park before a larger jump through San Fransisco. The traffic looked heavier going through Oakland so we opted to take the 101, to the 1 across the Golden Gate and North to Petaluma. A few narrower “streets of San Francisco” moments but in all reality we are no wider than the buses that ply those streets and about the same length, and Mike is an amazing driver combined with Northern California’s polite drivers it was a lovely trip throught the city, under a few tunnels, those had the cats stumped and across the Golden Gate Bridge and few miles North to Petaluma.

We opted for the Northern Petaluma KOA here as there is not much to choose from. Getting a hotel room would have been cheaper and why oh why do they manage to squeeze you into the smallest available spot they have when the park is half empty and there are dozens of other sites to choose from? Saving grace was getting to visit the goats and donkeys and ply them with carrots but yet another RV park we will not be back to. We had a lovely conversation with a Dutch woman and her family, she missed her cats and came out to pet Groot (unfazed, standoffish, such a snob) and Gamora (Hi! I love everyone) and they later gave us the remainder of their fresh groceries as they were flying back to Holland. Reminded me of Baja, why is it we have to rely on the foreigners for a friendly smile and gesture:) In regards to the KOA, I guess we are not “resort” people. We don’t need swimming pools and horseshoe pits. We like to wander the wild, not the tamed mowed areas, cats are starting to feel the same. We stop, they look out the door and there is either an air of excitement, or a look up at us as if to say “really? more concrete?” I know how they feel….but there was beer:) yes wonderful beer! Lagunitas Brewery across the road from us:) Sweet!

Stickly speaking Lagunitas is no longer a micro brewery as they have been bought out by Heinken, that was why we could find it at Oxxo’s (Mexican equivelant of a 7-11) in Baja but they continue with enough free rein to make an amazing sampling of wonderful beers! Their Lagunitas sucks, did not suck and the Born Again Yesterday was a hit, we’ll take a case of each:) skip the food, average but great brews and live music as well!

Saludos amigos and next stop-Avenue of the Giants! NO, not science fiction! The Redwoods!!! Wahoo! Stay tuned!

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We did not find the Gorn, but we did see Vasquez Rocks;)

600Yes we are Star Trek fans, both the original and the Next Generation…so this was a no brainer for us, as well as being fans of “Paul” I was amazed to find out so many films and TV shows have used this fantastic location! Not to mention the Big Bang Theory;) We locked the truck;) The only Gorn Mike found was a mask in the gift shop, he was tempted but it would have given Groot and Gamora heart failure;) a Metron mask and outfit would have been better:)

Did you knowThe prominent rock formation has been nicknamed “Kirk’s Rock” due to being featured in several Star Trek episodes, each time representing a different planet. wikipedia.org

These rock formations were formed about 25 million years ago by rapid erosion after an uplift along the San Andreas Fault. We didn’t find any diamonds, sulphur or potassium nitrate;) In 1873 and 1874, Tiburcio Vásquez, one of California’s most notorious bandits used these rocks to hide from law enforcement. His name has since been associated with this geologic feature. If it looks familiar, check out the list of Movies, televison series and music videos that have been made here!

Movies, TV and music videos made at Vasquez rocks

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We hiked along the paths and among the rocks and noticed how many similar plants there are here that we find at Conception, felt a bit at home:) The air here is brown though, the views to the hills are pretty but not clear. The Yucca Whipplei are blooming, fantastic flowers! Life in so many small places.

We looked at all the RV options for this area and ended up at The Californian RV Resort about 11 miles from the rocks. It is”highly illogical” as Spock would say. A terraced concrete parking lot, not our idea of nice. Sandwiched in like sardines with loose gravel footing once you get your slides out proved to be a bit of a dance to get everything hooked up. Space is short with the dually hanging out the back into the road as well:( worst, electricity started spiking at 11pm 133 volts until 7:30 this morning but it has been spiking off and on all day, the coach shuts off at that voltage to protect itself, poor beggars with no protection are frying their stove, microwave and water heaters if they stay here long. Scotty would NOT approve;) The monthly sites looked a bit larger but for over-nighters it is not a spot we’ll come back to. Sadly reading all the reviews this was the best rated in the area. Santee Lakes spoils us for so many other places:) at $42 a night with the Good Sam discount this seems a bit as we feel like we are dry camping with the electric shutting off and on all day, and off all night! But we got to see the rocks! Woohoo friends!

Live long and prosper! To boldly go where Groot has not gone before;) or as our favourite captain once said:

“Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.” 

Jean-Luc Picard, “Inner Light”

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Stay tuned as we head North to Vancouver!

Not just birds and beasts….Sierra de San Pedro Martír-Part 6

Ok. last part I promise before we head out to new horizons. Rancho la Concecion is not all birds and beasts, it has incredible views and amazing history. When I look at the 500-year-old oaks I try to imagine what they have seen, our lives are but a wink of theirs;) They line the arroyo, tall on the South side where the sun hits them the most, short and squatty on the northern portion where there is less light. Some trunks take 6 people with their arms linked to encircle them, such beauty. It’s not like a Northern forest with its damp smell of decaying leaves, here the leaves that fall form thick layers to help keep in the moisture of this dry high desert climate. It is wonderful air, so clean, so fresh.

I’ve never felt I’ve captured the majesty of these incredible trees. On either side of the arroyo is our Ent forest-it is alive in such a magical way. The acorns provide so much food for everything around. The woodpeckers stuff them into the old and dead trees in every nook and cranny to come back and eat during the lean times.

The Kiliwa indigenous tribe that wandered these lands used them as well, harvesting acorns and pine nuts from the higher-elevations of the sierra was a major activity. They were roasted and ground into a flour. An old metate, grinding stone sits at the front of the house. A reminder of those who lived here before us. The ranch has ancient trails where stone tools and arrowheads appear after rains, a tribute to the long history these people had here as hunter/gatherers. Later they settled, built stone houses and raised their food in the rich oak soil. Doña Chepa, Josefa Espinoza Cañedo, owned the ranch before the matriarch of the Melings, Aida purchased it from her. We had the delight of meeting three of Doña Chepa’s daughters and heard the family history firsthand. They were a treasure trove of information regarding the old stone homes as well as the burial area and the piedra de la suerte, o piedra encantada, the lucky or enchanted rock. I’ve attached a video where the ranch appears at various times, the Kiliwa burial site and the enchanted rock, on the road going North from the house. The below video is a wonderful look at some Kiliwa history with footage from the ranch every now and then.

Memoria y Paisaje Kiliwa

The smells, they are so wonderful as well. After a Summer rain the chemise (chaparral brush) smells like honey and when the Fall brisa flows in you can even smell the ocean. The first time I could not understand that smell, the ocean, seaweed…right at my mountain doorstep! Fog and its rich moist air! conveyor of scents!

It is an oasis in the high desert. The water flowing through this ranch is what creates the incredible diversity of flora and fauna. It is the life-giver to this landscape. It has created and molded this multi-layered landscape over millions of years. Such beauty, such fine work Mother Nature:)

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Sierra de San Pedro Martír, truly an enchanted land. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to know and walk the ancient trails, to sift through pieces of chipped arrowheads and hide scrapers, to meet the children, now great grandmothers, that were raised here, barefoot in the snow, in the stone and mud homes. If you find yourself driving down the 1 South, headed for a beach, think twice, the Sierra has so much to offer, so much beauty and history, so much life, don’t let that chance pass you by:)

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If you arrive in the Fall, you may even get to taste the most amazing apples I have ever eaten in my life. Planted by a German sailor/navigator that jumped ship to help build an aqueduct for the gold mines over a hundred years ago, they continue to thrive…..I’m beginning to feel like Eve now;)

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Saludos amigos-live long and proper-stay tuned as our next visit is to a Star Trek film site;) Woohoo!!!

“The journey not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot

The big and small of it- Sierra de San Pedro Martír-Baja Part 5

California Condor D

The big:) you tend to duck when you see their shadows pass over the ground, we must have been hunted at some point by giant birds, it’s simple instinct:) Glad these ones do not have contracting claws like birds of prey. They are North America’s largest land bird with just over a 9 foot wingspan. They are masters at soaring, riding thermals to reach where they are going with few wing beats. They eat carrion by tearing it apart with their beaks, not their claws, and do not have a good sense a smell, handy for a carrion eater;) They locate their food by sight, often following other smaller carrion eaters to a dead animal.

It has been a wonderful experience knowing the people who run the Condor Station here in the Sierra, our closest neighbours along with the Rangers at the park entrance. They are dedicated folk! It also means we get an occaisonal drop in Condor, generally newly released that has not yet learned to ride the thermals or are lacking fitness. These guys need to exercise to get stronger, no condor gym around…hahahaha! So we do get visitors every now and then. She seemed to like our truck:) Not all condors make it in the wild. Some become imprinted on humans perhaps during medical treatment (mostly for lead poisoning) or learn they can to beg sadly when humans feed them. #95 below currently lives at the Phoenix Zoo last I heard-he was a badly behaved boy;) pulling my clean clothes off the line was the last straw and flirting with my metal zopilote…really?;) They are possibly one of the most comical creatures on foot.

The mountain behind us goes up extremely steeply. The condors nest in the cliffs all about the Sierra, it has been a treat seeing a juvenile still not tagged-flying free-knowing they are rebounding has been wonderful to watch, now just to eliminate lead shot, their worst enemy:(

Somewhat smaller than their avian Condor relatives, the Red Tail Hawks are found in abundance around the sierra and at lower elevations as well. Their call is unmistakable. The kri kri kri can be heard for miles it seems. The youngsters always hang out in the live oaks looking for squirrels and gophers below them:) There are few different morphs of colour here as well as one time view of a Ferruginous Hawk. Wish I had a good picture of the Golden Eagle pair that visited but no, too far away and blurry but they were magnificent!

So, those are the big guys…the smallest, well, we have quite the variety! At peak migration sometimes over a hundred hummingbirds fill the air and are they loud! It sounds like an airport outside by the feeder:) with 4 feeders going they need to be filled twice a day!

Some stay and nest, other like the Rufous are long distance migrants travelling over 4000 miles from Mexico to Alaska! That is quite the trip no wonder they are the crankiest of the bunch;) The Rufous tend to arrive in early March, followed by the Allen’s. The Anna’s males stay all year-long weathering the snow and cold at times!

The Anna’s stay and raise their young as well as the Black-Chinned and Costa’s. I’ve heard there have been sightings of Calliope hummingbirds in the park but I have never seen one here:)

They are the little jewels that really got me focused on photography so I have them to thank for so many precious memories. As we plan our trip North I know I will miss these little birds and all the fabulous nature around us. It was as if everyone in the sierra (with the exception of the puma..thankfully) came to say hello and good-bye. We’re going to miss the quiet and those dark dark skies, but we’ll be back:)

Saludos amigos-I hope you enjoyed the tour of the ranch these last few weeks and enjoyed it as much as us! Stay tuned!

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Birds, but wait, there are flying bugs and butterflies?!! Things with wings! Sierra de San Pedro Martír-Baja Part 4

The American painted lady butterfly is found throughout North America. Vanessa virginiensis lives in flowery habitats, usually in mountains. They pass through mostly in December feeding on the Manzanita blooms but are common all year-long especially late summer when the Asters are blooming. Yes, they are one of my favourites:)

One of the most colorful butterflies that use species of oaks exclusively as food for caterpillars is the California sister (Adelpha californica). The California sister spends most of its time flying about in the high canopies of coast live oak (Quercus agricola), canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis), huckleberry oak (Quercus vaccinifolia) and other species. It can be seen laying its eggs on the oak foliage.

These are some favourites that can be seen all year-long. As long as there is something blooming you will see butterflies:)

Then there are the very cool moths! We see the caterpillars for the Sphinx Moths on a regular basis and then they appear-like tiny hummingbirds! The Ceanothus Silk moths pass through later in the year when temperatures have risen. They are incredibly beautiful with deep burgundy and red tones. They often land on the adobe walls of the house and spend the night there. at almost 5″ across they are huge!

There are so many things that fly:) after a week or two of warm temperatures the dragonflies start to emerge. In the arroyo at first, then staking claim to different ponds and bits of water as they wage battle for territories and over patches of the fields.

….and sometimes the everyday, can be extra ordinary here. We have Ladybugs, or Ladybirds as the commonwealth call them. These are California native ladybugs with an oval, rather than rounded, body.  They have 13 or fewer spots.  They take their name from the two converging white lines on the pronotum (the shield like part that covers my head).

All it takes is a little hanky panky and then you have this:

Harbringers of good luck, I shouldn’t run out for the rest of my life as I have had dozens crawling on me while photographing them;) In the winter you can find them in huge colonies in the arroyos. I’ll leave you with a few myths and legends of these lovely creatures:)

  • If a ladybug lands on you then that’s very lucky. In some cultures it is believed that whatever the ladybug touches will be improved.
  • If you see a ladybug that means good weather is near or that a person will soon have luck with love or money.
  • If you kill a ladybug you will have bad luck (DON’T do it!!!)
  • If you do get a hold of a ladybug make a wish. Whatever direction it flies away is where good luck will come from.
  • Ladybugs with seven or less spots are said to be a sign of a good harvest.
  • Norway folklore states that if a man and woman see a ladybug at the same time they will fall in love.

 

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Saludos amigos and here’s wishing you a week filled with good luck! I’ll finish up with the biggest, and smallest birds here coming soon:)

There will be more birds but what about the lizards and other winged things! Sierra de San Pedro Martír-Baja-Part 3

The lizards…Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma coronatum) are my favourites. These little miniature dinosaurs take my breath away. In the Spring as we start to water they get flushed out from the grass around the trees and sit on the edges of the watering rings with a look of indignation…how dare you wet me!

The babies are out of this world cute as well. You can watch them catching ants to eat if you sit quietly nearby. They can scurry away in a hurry if alarmed! What grumpy faces they have, well, if all I ate was ants I might not look too pleased either;)

The Common Side Blotch Lizard or are they Western Fence lizards(?) can be found all over the ranch. From the house courtyard to into the arroyo sunning on the rocks. Male side-blotched lizards exhibit distinct polymorphism in their throat colors and can be divided into three different categories. Each of these three different morphs varies in how it competes for mates, and variation within a breeding population. I learned everything I know from Wikipedia;) so I could be wrong ha!

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This handsome fellow is a Skink. He/she lives in the side garden and is often buried under the sand there. He comes out to warm up occasionally, or when I water, I’m not popular with the lizards;)

These guys we don’t get to see too often. Usually I get very excited-photo op for rattlesnakes! Our dog, Pepita, a Blue Healer usually lets me know they are around by barking at them, from a very safe distance. The Red Diamond Back we usually only see on the road out at slightly lower elevations but there was one once at the ranch. The beautiful Grey Pacific Rattlesnake (I think, I thought it was a veridus) is quite quiet compared to its angry red relative who is quick to rattle and strike, usually just moseying from one spot to another, often it never rattles even when approached. They are all part of our wonderful environment and fairly rare so always a wonder to see those distinct viper heads! There is a third small rattlesnake we have seen but not ever had a chance to photograph-Crotalus mitchellii-it has a lovely yellow underbelly. Those are the “keep your distance” guys around here as well as these amazing creatures:

Black Widows are pretty common across the SW, you just have to be smart and check under things before putting your hands down, garbage cans, baskets etc. They are quite striking to see! We had one ride down in the truck with us on the under side of a propane tank once, since then, we check the bottoms of the tanks;) The tarantulas are rare as well, photo op-photo-op-we may have seen 4 in 10 years so they are pretty special! But we do have ton of Tarantula Hawks, could be why we don’t see many of the those large furry spiders.  They are parasitic wasps, using their sting to paralyze their prey before dragging it to a brood nest as living food; a single egg is laid on the prey, hatching to a larva which eats the still-living prey….ugh…what a way to go! Tarantula hawk wasps are relatively docile and rarely sting without provocation. However, the sting is among the most painful of all insects, though the intense pain only lasts about five minutes. One researcher described the pain as “…immediate, excruciating, unrelenting pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except scream”. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations. In terms of scale, the wasp’s sting is rated near the top of the Schmidt Sting Pain index. Because of their extremely large stingers few animals are able to eat them; one of the few animals that can is the roadrunner I’ve read:) Beep Beep! I will keep my distance from the Tarantula Hawks;)

That’s about it for the painful and deadly creatures about unless you stand on a nest of Red Ants you’ll be Ok here;) want to see some more bugs? I love bugs!

 

I collected them as a child and put them in jars until I started to have horrific nightmares of them breaking out and getting me;) Since then I prefer to observe and photograph only;) I’ll leave you today with another one of our rodent controllers, not just Bobcats here:) This beautiful Two-Striped Garter Snake have obviously just taken care of a gopher or more likely a mouse:) These beautiful creatures are our friends:) He/she is SOOOO full! It curled up in the sun later for a wonderful nap:)

Just another day at the ranch. I forget just how much nature, living creatures, surround us here, and I still haven’t gotten to the butterflies and hummingbirds!! You will have to wait;) Stay tuned amigos and remember-this is our world, our wonderful and only world-It deserves our respect first and foremost, we are ALL a part of it:)

Hasta Pronto!

Birds and Bobcats! Sierra de San Pedro Martir-Part 2

2018-04-27 186AS

Located at 5000 feet in the Sierra de San Pedro Martír, Rancho la Concepción sits a good ways off the paved Observatory Road that leads up to the National Park and Picacho del Diablo at well over 10,000′ of elevation. The highest point in Baja California. 6km of dirt and rock track, 4×4 only really. Getting the big sled of the Dodge Diesel in is always a slow go but so worth it when you arrive. The quiet, no cars, no planes, no trains, ok, sometimes you see and can hear a faint plane travelling over the peninsula:) just birds and well, recently we’ve been graced with the presence of our resident Bobcat hunting the hordes of Spring gophers coming out of hibernation, and a few ground squirrels as well!

I’m pretty sure she is girl, haven’t seen any tackle when the tail is swishing but she is pretty furry;) She’s been around for many years if it still the same young, well maybe oldish lady now and it is always a pleasure to see her working the open bits of field and around the fruit trees where the highest concentration of gophers seem to be located. Groot and Gamora got quite the sight as she walked right past the back glass door without giving any of us a secound look;) Groot stops purring when he see’s his larger relative out the window. She has put on quite a show every morning and evening for the last few days. It is exhilarating watching a wild animal like this go about its life!

We have a wealth of wildlife here, not just the birds. Mule deer are occasionally seen as well as coyotes, gray foxes, jack rabbits (hares) and bunnies. Not every day mind you, but they are always there:) You can see the deer hoof prints down by the water where they come to drink and the rabbits and hares come out at dawn and dusk to feed on the grass in the orchards. The coyote no doubt stalks them:) although I think he eats many of the same small rodents the bobcat feed on as well. The coyotes feast on the fallen apples late in the Summer into the Fall. He/she stares at the chicken coop on a regular basis…:)

Having running water in the arroyo all year long as well as several ponds we keep full keeps the critters coming back, for safe places to drink, green grass to much on and oh the croaking off the frogs and toads-the Spring Symphony has started!

It is a glorious chorus that greets you as you open the doors or windows after dark! We say it is quiet here but actually it is a roar at times, but such natural pleasant sounds of birds and frogs. It washes over you like a fresh breeze calming your senses.

There are lot’s of other crawly things, some pleasant, some not, but mostly harmless and they help with the rodent and gopher populations as well. The Pacific Gopher Snake and the Two-Striped Garter snake are common neighbours spotted in the grass and going in and out of holes the rodents make as the temperatures warm. The Two-Striped Garter Snake also likes to go for a dip. I see him in the arroyo hunting frogs and tadpoles no doubt, absolutely fascinating watching it swim around!

There are also Racers and the softest snake I have ever felt in my life, a Rosy Boa. Stunning creatures both of them! looks like this is turning into another novel and I haven’t even gotten to the lizards and hummingbirds yet!

I get overwhelmed at times by the variety and beauty of the natural world we get to encounter here. The flora and fauna are so diverse and untouched here. It is a magical spot if you take the time to stop, look and listen. It’s not a Disney World ride where everything is thrown in your face, it is a place you need to walk into quietly with open eyes and ears and watch the drama of Mother Nature unfold before you…and I still haven’t gotten back to birds, how about tomorrow. I still have lizards and butterflies and other insects and from the smallest, hummingbirds, to the largest, California Condors I’ll try and finish up this week;)

Saludos amigos-stay tuned for more of Mother Nature’s finest!

Sunset Concepcion

Looking out towards the Pacific and the cliffs at Colonet from the solar observatory-Rancho la Concepción

Sierra de San Pedro Martír-Birds and blooms and WOW! Part 1

That’s a welcome back, a lot of yellow birds! I don’t think I’ve seen so many Orioles at the ranch at any given time before like this:) and I thought it was hummingbird heaven;) It has been an amazing few weeks here. Everything is blooming and the birds are wild! Glad we had a store of old oranges to offer up to the Orioles and a jar of cherry jelly! They have been a delight to watch from the kitchen window, cats have been loving it as well. The lawns are mown and the garden weeded, it looks like we’ve been living here all along now.

We sometimes forget just how wonderful this ranch is, and we are torn. We love living and traveling on our 5th wheel “Myrtle” sharing telescope views but it is so freaking amazing here…sigh, can’t have both, so with the ranch for sale again we will be heading off, but in the meantime….how about a few blooms! The wildflowers are crazy, from tiny flowers to Ceanothus (wild lilac) bushes!Those are just what I’ve seen on a walk to the water tank! There are lupines about to bloom in the arroyo further up that’ll I’ll share later as well:) and the other birds, just a few hanging about;)

A flock of 30 or more Lazuli Buntings are in the grass-eating the seeds. The Western Kingbirds are making their normal 5am racket and fighting for territories along with the Brewers Blackbirds, they both seem to arrive at the same time from lower elevations, they don’t stay the winter. Several pairs of Black Headed Grosbeaks are hanging about, being chased off the feeders by the local Mafia-California Scrub Jays. A lone Western Tanager has put in several appearances and the Cliff Swallows have arrived as well, collecting mud for their nests on the Western side of the house. The nests fall off every winter after we have a bit of rain or snow so time to rebuild! The Western Bluebirds are hunting insects in the orchard. There are literally hundreds of California Quail, a sea of quail early every morning, do I have any great shots..NO, they are so flighty! It is a wonderful, noisy, chatty world of birds right now! These are just around the house! Up in the arroyo, well….

That is a whole new crew, Owls hooting, Acorn woodpeckers excavating the old oaks, they are nesting right now. The Northern Flickers and Phainopeplas (that’s a mouthful isn’t it) love the oaks as well. So much life and chatter, so I guess it is not as quiet as we think;) And then there are the regular cast of birds…LBB’s LGB’s little brown birds, little gray birds;) some quite colourful little birds, but the common guys most folks don’t pay much mind to, some of these are my favourites:)