If not for the billboards, it would not be as much fun…Deep South and Texas

As the passenger I get to spend a lot of time looking out the window, the billboards, wow, I can only chuckle at times and wonder what they say about our society;) If aliens were to come to Earth and just read them…now, that would be a story worth listening to:) maybe they have, I want to believe;)

We had a gray day¬† leaving Tennessee, by the time we arrived in Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama the clouds followed us with drizzle as well. We opted for a few days here. The sites were a bit wonky but it turns out we were alone on either side for our stay and we had full hook ups as well. It was chilly! This was a Groot and Gamora approved park. Full of paths and soft leaves to dig in and very little traffic, Gamora is not fond of cars, Groot doesn’t like strange humans;)

We had a cold night, frost everywhere in the morning. We had to refill our propane tank at the local TSC store, seemed to have the best prices, but a grumpy staff, guy a head of us called the clerk a “horse’s pattootie”…hahahaha! Had me thinking of Colonel Potter, Sherman T, in M.A.S.H ūüėČ

Felt like the cold and rain were once again following us! We wanted, needed some sunshine! We headed out clear and cold towards Mississippi, our next stop, Yogi on the Lake, a RV park in Pelahatchie. We had sun, glorious sun and not so many crazy billboards;)

This is a lovely one night stop unless you are into closed water parks, or open water parks for that matter. We were the only trailer backed up onto the lake, for a few dollars more we had a premium view, a few trailers were scattered further in. Pelahatchie Lake looks like a reservoir, the RV park on one side and cottages and homes on the other. It was the first time we’ve been able to open our door! We were in for another cold night according to our weather app, that is why we opted for power over a Harvest Host location. Keeping Beezil’s electric blanket and the fireplace on high!

I knew as soon as I woke up I had to go outside. I sat at the picnic table drinking my coffee and watched Mother Nature’s light show unfold:) Spectacular mists and fog rising from the lake surface. It was nice to see life, Canada Geese and Mallards, a Great Blue Heron and Egrets fishing on the shoreline. It finally felt that we were leaving that cold zone. It seems like months since we left Perth, it is a mere 10 days. Wish we did not have to hurry along as we are…The staff was friendly there, the large statues of Yogi and Booboo a bit weird but hey, this is America;) I didn’t opt for the photo with them;)

Our next jump was under 4 hours, our limit for the old cat Beezil. I found a campground in the Kisatchie National Forest North of Minden, Alabama that came with rave reviews. The Beaverdam Campground. I prepaid my $15 a night, yes, $15, now THIS is affordable camping and our GPS’s, both of them, did take us an odd route through some very small back roads but we arrived in one piece and were astounded by how lovely it was. Take State Route #159 North from Minden and turn left onto the Caney Lake Road, it will avoid the back road we came in on, follow the campground signs:) We could see Caney Lake out our back window. The camp host stopped by and chatted for a while, he’s been there 5 years, I can see why:)

I have never seen so many different mushrooms in all one place! These are all a few hundred feet from the trailer. This was another Groot and Gamora approved park, it was warm enough to leave the door open! un milagro!

This must be a healthy forest to have such wonderful assortment of fungi! Check out this article by the forest service:¬†Interesting facts on Mushrooms¬†and a fabulous page by Paul Stamets¬†“Fungi Perfecti” and a Ted Talk: Six ways mushrooms can save the world.

I didn’t want to leave but time to move on. Make note that Minden is a dry Parish, yes Parish, not county. Religion at work here, but nearby Dixie Inn is not, a town made up of liquor stores I might add;) We did some grocery shopping, alligator nuggets anyone? Ate lunch out at a Sam’s crawfish-seafood shack, we had the grilled shrimp and passed on the deep-fried chicken livers and gizzards…nothing wasted here!

Love looking at local grocery stores for what’s cookin’;)

I wasn’t looking forward to our next stop, it was going to land us in Dallas/Fort Worth. Mike had found a county park with decent reviews so we sadly left the Kisatchie Forest behind and continued West on the I 20. Just about the worst bit of freeway we have hit so far, like riding a bronco going through Shreveport, yeehaw, even the cats looked green and were complaining the whole bouncy way through. Generally we find the freeways through cities to be the worst but this one took the grand prize! It was also a banner day for billboards! The 1-855-for-truth guys had all kinds of competition here!

Between Dallas and Fort Worth, Loyd Park Campground at Joe Pool Lake turned out to be better than I anticipated. It was not picture worthy but a good one night stop. The next morning we headed West to Lake Colorado City State Park, a few miles South of the I 20, now this was better! We were greeted by a beautiful young tabby girl, the camp hosts cat perhaps, we never saw the host. Groot was appalled at the competition, but Gamora was unfazed by the young lady;) We and the camp hosts were the only ones there when we arrived. This is a reservoir as well, 51% full it said at the campground office. Been very very dry.

This was a two-day stay for us, we were planning our next few jumps. Wonderful bird life and bunnies galore. Dragonflies were the cat’s favourite, games of chase and pounce;) There was even a fishing dock to wander around on. We had lunch in town at Mary’s Cafe, I felt brave enough to do a burger, nothing with white sauce on it thanks…0_0….this is another little town that looks prosperity has passed it by. It had a sad air to it, the refueling spot up on the highway had us standing and waiting at the counter for 5 minutes why they gossiped about a friend’s personal problems…not what one might call polite. We’ve found so far Texan drivers to rival Southern Californians in their rudeness on the freeway. Kind of odd, but this is another big “it’s all about me” state, bigger, bolder, brasher hyper individualistic perhaps? Sad after finding the other Southern states were extremely kind and civilized. Maybe it is just the transient working population. RV parks that include the bare minimum line the freeway. Cheap housing, not much personal pride at most of these stops:(

But a good spot to end for today. Tomorrow is sand dunes and then mountains! Stay tuned amigos, hope you don’t run into any old horse’s patooties;)

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Common Buckeye, not so common looking!

 

Guns, God and wineries, not in that order;)

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Bluestone Vineyard-Virginia

…and rain, it seems to be following us! Argh!!! After three days we heard temperatures were going to take a plunge so we opted for a RV park, Harrisburg East Campround, in Pennsylvania for two nights until the cold passed and we could do some laundry and rest from three days of driving. Friendly, clean easy in and easy out, it was an essential laundry and sewer dump stop and generator repair in the heart of the city, next to the interstate. Our trusty Honda had run then suddenly coughed a few times and stopped back in New York. We called around to a few spots seeing if someone could look at it on short notice, I was not holding my breath but a nice lady said “Sure, bring it in, if it’s something simple we can have a look” that was a lovely surprise! Shout out to Kerry’s Lawn and Garden, we didn’t even go to the location we had talked to, there are two, we didn’t know. The folks at the Northern office were just as kind. Turned out we had water in the gas, a bad load of gas no doubt, they cleaned it up and we were on our way! Delightful people! 5 star review! We are truly grateful to people who can help out someone driving through!

We finally drove out of the clouds the nest day and had a few hours of sun in the afternoon at the Bluestone Vineyard, it was delightful! We took a stroll through the vineyard and along the hedgerow, found a few flowers and much to Groot’s delight, wild catnip!

Parking was wonderful beside the grapevines with a view up the hill towards the tasting room. We paid a visit after settling in and taking the furry ones for a walk and sampled some wines. They had a water pump with real well water, sigh, so nice after a few days of chlorinated water, can’t drink that stuff, we could fill up our 3 gallon water container:)

Love these spots. I am truly not a fan of the normal RV park. My heart leans towards State and National Parks, birds and critters and room to move and breathe. Harvest Hosts has been the next best thing to the parks for me! Are there hook-ups, no, but we are pretty much self-sufficient for a few days at least:)

I sleep at night, no highway/freeway roar, no noise at all actually. Perfect. You are limited to a night at these spots unless the host invites you to stay longer.

We woke up to rain the next morning and moved on through some cloud and drizzle as we headed SW through Virginia on the Interstate 81. Our next stop, Whitebarrel Winery in Christiansburg suggested we get their early as they filled for Friday night live music and wine tasting. Scenic drive in off the 81 past horse farms and fields, some low branches bent our air vent back, again, not an uncommon occurrence for some of the out-of-the-way places we choose, nothing a trip onto the roof and bending it back couldn’t fix;) It was pouring rain when we arrived. Lovely lady in the tasting room motioned me where to park,¬†and we went about getting set up and then went for wine and lunch:)

The lady, Maggie I believe her name was, deserved a medal. She juggled 8 plus animated clients, doing wine tastings, did up the charcuterie platters in-between as well as telling us where to park. Give that woman a raise! Lovely spot, we parked in front of the garage where they make the wine, a large A class arrived later and took the other remaining spot. Thanks Whitebarrel, the wines were lovely, your discounts were more than generous including a free tasting! We will sing your and Maggie’s praises!

The morning was clear and cold! -4¬į celcius, chilly! We drove through with the sun, all the way to Tennessee! We’d stayed at this RV park before, Two Rivers Landings RV resort, (a pool makes you a resort BTW:) on the¬† Broad River in Sevierville, Tennessee. We had an appointment in Knoxville on Monday at RV’s for less to replace the awning motor and microwave that were under warranty and thought we’d weather out the cold front with full hook-ups. It is a very touristy area, Dollywood being the big draw I think. That is Dolly Parton, of the country music fame theme park for those of you who did not know, she has her own Disneyland;)Pamorama SiervervilleAsign

It is a lovely spot, not too noisy down by the river. The spots facing the river are saved for A-classes, sadly, but this time of year it was half empty and the cats enjoyed a nice walk along the shore doing their sniffy thing. This is an odd part of the country, billboards market not only God, but Moonshine, personal injury lawyers and the dangers of “lust” as well as machine gun rentals;)

Not sure if I can ever get used to this but it is what it is. Tennessee:)

We tried a BBQ joint we’d visited last year, not very good, sadly but found a Mexican market with a small restaurant and had lunch there the following day in Gatlinburg. Real gorditas and chiles relle√Īos! Quite the surprise!

In the morning we headed over to RV’s for Less North of Knoxville in the rain. They replaced the awning motor and the microwave I had sent there after a few calls back and forth to the Good Sam Warranty department we eventually got everything straightened out, authorized and done…by then it was fairly late and they invited us to spend the night, they have electric and water hook-ups so we graciously accepted after sitting waiting in the car for 5 hours while the repairs took place. We spent an hour or so talking hot rods and the in’s and out’s of the area with Ken and Butch, it was quite enlightning;) and maybe a bit scary…just a bit. I didn’t hand out an Astrogypsies card:) This has got to be the most over the top Christian paraphernalia spot I have ever seen, when you swear, you “Lose a little bit of Jesus” our salesman Ken claimed. That explains my complete loss of religion I guess;) I have never seen so many God stickers and placards in my entire life, it is a wonder we did not spontaneously combust in their presence. They were helpful, kind people but I would not have wanted to stop in wearing a burka. The alien fish on the back of the trailer was enough to send us to hell I’m sure;)

We will be back this way. So far the going has been great and the stops at the Harvest Hosts a new direction for us. Enjoying it, tomorrow we move on, time to head to the West as we’ve come as far South as we needed to get things done.

Saludos amigos and stay tuned! Alabama here we come-there are way more billboards as well;)

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View of the French Broad River-Tennessee

Heading South-here we go!

Hard to say goodbye to our spot on the lake, good friends, good times, great spots for cats to run around and frolic, but that cold is coming. After our first bout with 4″ of wet snow we waited for a sunny day to slip away after our goodbyes, au revoirs, hasta leugos, we’ll be back;) I’ll miss the people, the wildlife (which was sometimes the people;), the quiet times and fabulous views of the wind still lake but after 10 days of rain and clouds and howling winds my inner tropical self was very much alarmed;) ha! Such wusses we are!

We debated a few different routes South, mainly getting South as quickly as we could perhaps on a new route, we choose to cross the border going into Vermont, we skirted South of Montreal, great roads and South past Saint Jean sur Richelieu. Beautiful countryside, horrible border for trailers or RV’s. Tight turn at the last-minute showed the scraped paint of many trailers. Mike managed to swing right into the other lane with the help of some lovely motorists that gave him room to do so and then they “selected us for a random search”, yes, yes, humorless CBP, really humorless, you know when they don’t react to an orange tabby poking his head out the window you are in for a rough ride;) Sometimes you have to shake your head and wonder just how much time is wasted confiscating rice…seems we had illegal “basmati” rice, yes, you heard it folks, rice, basmati, that we had bought “in the USA” and took to Canada was confiscated on its way back in, why it could have picked up a serious disease while sitting in our pantry in Canada…I have never felt like such a criminal;) That’s it, we are marked for life as basmati rice smugglers;) I had to so bite my tongue…our tax dollars at work, confisgating rice. Didn’t know the US had such a burgeoning basmati rice production I was threatening. What do these people do when they go home at night????

Aren’t borders fun! NOT! Well, with that under our belt, we need more rice;) Our first stop was a Farm stand, Sam Mazza’s part of the amazing Harvest Hosts network www.harvesthosts.com. For $49.00 a year you join and have access to hundreds of farms, ranches, wineries and even antique stores and museums that let you spend a night for free, some even have electricity for a small fee. They are usually quiet and in the country and often offer stores for their products, or tasting rooms for their spirits and a flat place to park!

This lovely stop had stunning trees in glorious colour, goats and ponies and a wonderful store with their produce and even doughnuts! And we had sun, for a short time anyway! The cats were good their first time out, seems the¬†feliway cat pheromone plug in¬†worked miracles. Gamora hardly put out a peep, Groot fell asleep and Beezil snuggled in under many blankets by my feet, it’s the warmest he’s been in a week. I would certainly suggest this product to anyone traveling with a pet who fusses. We kept looking at each other going” wow, wow, wow” happy cats make for happy passengers and drivers;)

I was not expecting so many leaves, perhaps being close to Lake Champlain moderates the temperatures, it was truly beautiful! Groot and Gamora were not so sure on their first foreign outing, very open they said, hiding under the apple trees was better than getting near those scary goats!;)

Our good news was tempered with bad news as we found out our current housesitters, who are amazing, have to leave at the end of the month for health reasons:( So sad as they have been the best, we wish them well and hope everything turns out as they are wonderful people. So it’s back to adds and vetting people, working past the wackadoodles and people who don’t actually read the add, “Do you have a 4×4?”…”No?”…”Can you read?” and hoping we sell sooner than later…ranch for sale in Baja! Anyone? must let that sarcasm go;) Let’s all be nice now!

We left in the morning under cloudy skies headed to our next Harvest Host’s destination, an Apple and Cherry Farm in Gardiner, NY. It was a dreary drive but splotches of Fall colour came and went as we made our way South on winding roads until we hit the freeway. All the campgrounds I’d called in the area was already closed for the season so these Harvest Host locations were our only option, other than driving for a lengthy period of time, something the old cat doesn’t let us do;)

We arrived at Wright’s Apple and Cherry Farm and after a short wait the delightful owner motioned for us to follow her back up behind the store and out towards the fields behind on a small gravel road. She explained they had music festivals and other events up here. We were a bit worried about pulling off the road but she said the ground was hard so we moved the trailer to the side. After she left and we started to set up, a large hissing noise was coming from the back left tire, oh dear, a very large piece of screw was wedged in the tire…what to do, what to do…call a mobile tire repair service! Luckily there was one right down the road and as it started to rain two very pleasant guys came by, took the tire off after jacking Myrtle up, and decided to take it back to the shop after battling to get the gigantic screw out. End to the day, well, not really, the generator stopped running after a few hours so we decided to call it a night and climb under the covers. We’d filled the propane tank in town and dieseled up so just had to wait for the tire in the morning to go!

The morning wasn’t clear, but it wasn’t pouring rain, yet, the radar showed it was coming. Gamora spotted several deer behind the trailer passing by, that was exciting. We took them for a short walk around, they are still getting used to this not being at Otty Lake when they come out the door, the look of surprise on their faces is most amusing! The Wright Farm Stonehenge was a fun cat jungle gym.

Our repaired tire arrived at 9:30 and it was quickly installed by the younger of the two guys, he was in charge of the truck today, and we were ready to go just as the skies opened up again. Mike backed the trailer down the road before we could back it into y where another gravel road branched off. We didn’t want to risk turning around on the grass with all that weight and pouring rain all night, the idea of being stuck and finding a very large tow truck was not appealing so we erred on the side of caution. Bad things come in threes right?;) After backing down the lake road over 400 feet this was a piece of cake with no trees;) and we were on our way, South again…and did it rain…from fog to hard rain to bits of clearing it was a dreary day to drive.

These are the days you’d rather be bundled under a blanket reading a good book than traveling on the interstates. A large accident involving three semis slowed us down just before our destination in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Almost there but not quite. You need to find the beauty in the small things on days like this. Gamora spent the slowdown gazing out the window, I took pictures of raindrops…there is beauty everywhere, we just need to look. Our first world problems sometimes feel huge, but in all reality, we are so lucky. Period.

Saludos amigos, stay tuned as we continue to drive towards the heat;)

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Beauty in everything

 

Wait…it has snowed! We’re still here;)

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I can’t say I mind, it is so beautiful! It started falling and quickly covered the ground and trees. Wonderful wet snowball and snowmen snow! Gamora got to see snow for the first time, I think she is part snow leopard, Groot was not as amused and went from dry patch to dry patch, looking for rocks and stumps to stand on.

Glad I’d gotten a winter jacket the week before at the GT boutique, needed it, as well as out hats and mittens! It seemed a few days ago it was warm! You never know here. Halloween kids will be dressed as snow men this year:)

We’re holed up in the cottage keeping the wood stove going to keep the pipes from freezing. Night time temperatures have dropped below zero for a few nights and with the wind it has been chilly. Hopefully we can close up the cottage this coming week and help drain the lines and pump. In the meantime it has been odd being in a house with a kitchen! Woohoo, and a large sink! The cats are taking full advantage of the room to run and gleefully skid around the corners at top speed sliding on the wooden flooring with no traction at all:) Vacation time for cats! The old guy has his bed and the wood stove, he is quite content:)

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Last ride down the paths littered with leaves crunching under the hooves…:)

We went down to the barn at the end of the week anticipating leaving and to say goodbye to our four-legged family and their fabulous caretaker Jennifer. Had one last hack with her and Joanne, Boots, Maya and Phoenix, walking on a long rein between the bare trees, cold but beautiful going down these trails with the sound of crunching leaves under the horses hooves. Their coats are getting woolly and thick, soft to the touch like a plush toy.

Mike stayed and stuffed the cats and donkeys with treats. They are adorable, and they wanted in! and food! They have their winter coats and are ready for winter! It all seems to change so quickly, ten days ago we were at peak colour and now, not many leaves left on the trees, the snow and wind knocked down a new blanket of them to cover the ground.

By tomorrow this white stuff, it will be all gone, just a taste of what is yet to come for souls hardier than us. We will very soon be heading South! In the mean time though, this is glorious!

Saludos amigos, stay tuned!

Time to make like a Loon, and fly South…wait, we are already loony, aren’t we?

Heading South, always the question, when, where, what route. The winds are howling outside tonight and the temperatures will be dipping close to zero¬į…celcius that is. Myrtle is very comfortable in these temperatures, the DRV’s are known for their excellent insulation and RV values, it’s just getting…well, cold:( yup, we are wussses;)

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I don’t often photograph our wonderful trailer or its able companion Hagrid, the Dodge Ram 3500 that hauls her about, yes, a she, like the sailboats I was raised on;) and I should more often. I tend to veer away from man-made things and towards nature but it is good to share how, and why we choose to live this way! Being mobile, sometimes for months at a time, and sometimes stationaryth , as we love this lake near Mike’s home town of Perth. No there are no RV parks or campgrounds here but we have made do over the years, squatting is a great technique;) on our wonderful friends property, and next year, on a property we now co-own with them next door that includes a cottage and a bunkie! The sewer is set up, as well as a 30 amp service, a bit of gravel will even it out and presto, we have a spot to call home, or a base over the summer. Now this is the view…instant smile:)

The view

Right now we are waiting for parts covered under our Good Sam Warranty that are backordered. Four weeks they told me at the RV Store, I call every week, yes, we have not forgotten about you, no, still no parts…and now the microwave/convection oven gave up the ghost, just in time for Halloween…the old cat is looking at me with horror in his eyes..”How will you heat my food? I can’t eat it cold” says the soon to be 19-year-old Burmese..aka..Beezil…sigh…what to do, what to do, our first world problems;)

Makes me think just how comfortable we are and what my ancestors lived with, farmers and fishermen, not exactly upper crust. I was told my great-great grandmother’s family sold all they had in Indiana and made their way West, only to have her return, with nothing, farm and land had been sold, after the death of her husband on the way West. No running water, outhouses, if you were lucky;) and your transport was 4×4 hooves, horses and mules and carts;) We are so incredibly fortunate today, almost too much. Kids think food comes from a supermarket, not a farm. They view their steak and hamburgers and I think they might not be able to eat that if they had to kill and butcher it themselves. Things have changed, so quickly, we are too far removed from our roots at times. 45 years ago I scraped coconut meat from a coconut for cream, now I can buy it in a can. I miss sitting on the back deck of the boat rasping it out of its shell, then putting it in cheese cloth and wringing it out for Poisson Cru-check out the recipe, a Polynesian fish dish with lime and coconut, like ceviche, come to think of it, someone on the boat had caught the fish as well.¬† As a teenager I was shown how to roast coffee beans in a cast iron skillet, then they were ground, by hand in a wonderful little box that smelled like heaven. Everything today is so fast, we want it now, we become frustrated with waiting for the smallest thing. Is this evolution, or are we running in the opposite direction.

Time will tell. Our politicians and elected representatives line their pockets at the expense of those with less, disregarding the huge changes happening on our planet. The reefs I swam over and among as a child are starting to bleach and die, what will the dolphins eat that swum at the bow of the boat, our entertainment. Not a phone, or a device, but the real deal. Will todays kids ever really get to experience that? Sad isn’t it. Cold does that to me, a feeling of sadness perhaps as I know we can not stay, the cottage is not made to live in at -30¬į Celcius in January. Not going to happen. Heading South, I also feel a deep sense of melancholy, those states we go through, the beliefs, the religion, the racism, it makes me feel ill at ease. With the increase in massive hurricanes and coastal destruction will these people move to the cities? The ever overflowing cities…Blade Runner seems more real today, it was science fiction in 1982…

I like seeing the dirt on my food, the imperfect carrots I have to wash, it tells me they did come from the ground. Not the perfectly shaped ones for sale at the “farm market” stand¬† going into Perth. These came from a box bought at a wholesale Market in Toronto, it starts with all these little lies, or little omissions, this is not farm stand food, it is just made to look that way and so many will not question it, I guess they don’t like to wash the dirt off their food, how “inconvenient”, many prefer it comes in a bag pre-cooked, just reheat and eat…sigh…we had to catch ours as kids, with a hook and line, or more often with a speargun, gut it, fillet it and cook it, now I can buy it frozen in a bag. Doesn’t feel right.

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One of my favourite places

Are we a generation that will look back at what we gained, and or, what we have lost. I had the incredible opportunity to travel the world young, no outside influence from schools or indoctrination or religious beliefs. We went to many churches, usually just to hear the singing, it was so beautiful these other languages that caressed our ears. We believed we all were equal regardless of skin colour, language, religion or social status. Our church was the open sky, our playground the ocean. I’m sure words like Bohemian were tossed about by mother’s parents and friends, and worse;) We had no shower, we bathed in the ocean, we had no TV, we listened to the radio. I gave away most of my dolls and toys, or traded them for a cool dog’s teeth necklace and beads made from seeds and once a beautiful mola blouse in the San Blas that I still have:) My mother finally had to tell me stop giving stuff away. I had a few pairs of shorts and T-shirts, we had flip-flops for shoes, no pants for the longest time, we didn’t need them, a bathing suit was more highly treasured. And we were happy, with so little, as so many people are. Far from malls and shopping centers, far from the marketing on TV and social media. We didn’t “have to have” things based on what others had it seemed. I try to keep that in the forefront of my mind whenever I see a desirable shiny trinket or get stuck in the boxed cereal aisle at the supermarket;)

The space I live in now is not far from what I as raised on, a small space, but the world is our back yard, then and now…and I try every day to keep an open mind and respect others beliefs but it seems to be getting more difficult every day to do so. To see the ignorance and lack of education, the racism, misogyny and the hate. All that hate…people praising “The Lord” when their electricity comes back on after a hurricane, that their “Lord” theoretically created…gets me a bit confused, how about you? Maybe I think, read too much:) Did you know we are related to mushrooms?¬†Read about it;)

 

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We share a common ancestor from about 1.1 biliion years ago…wondering if Ancestry DNA will pick that up for me, I’d like to be related to¬†amanita muscaria please. I’ll leave more than a bad taste in your mouth! hahahahaha!

 

Time to go, I feel better, sometimes writing it all out helps. It doesn’t chnage the madness, but it makes me smile. I really would love to be related to amanita muscari;)

Stay tuned amigos:)

Clear skies and cold nights, but those colours!

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How can our world not simply take your breath away? The stunning beauty that surrounds us never ceases to amaze me. The cloud cover in the last few weeks has been extensive, wishing for a bit more sunshine as the reds and oranges and yellows start to explode around us and quickly fall to the ground:) Last new moon the lake was so calm you thought you might be able to walk on it as the stars and mars were reflected in the water.

The Fall colours are in full swing, the fields are still green and the corn and soy crops have yet to be harvested. There has been no frost at the lake but in some surrounding areas have been hit. The docks are starting to come in and boats parked in the old barns. this week the cottage dock will come in. The boards need to come out and we will lay it on its side out of the water. The shifting ice over the winter can destroy anything left in as the winds and currents move things about during freeze and thaw. Hard to imagine that today, it is warm, the warmest it has been in a few weeks,¬† but we shall not be tricked;) Yesterday a high of 9¬į celcius, today 28¬į….the wild roller coaster ride of temperatures is upon us! This scene of green and blue is quickly disappearing!

…and frankly, I don’t want to be wading in the lake at 9¬į degrees so it will be goodbye dock for this year! It seems the colours almost change overnight, we go from green to a rainbow of earth tones almost magically,¬†the result of chemical processes that take place in the tree as the seasons change. In the Fall,¬†because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall beauty.

This time of year always gives me pause to think. Everything changes, all the time, yet humans are so frightened of change. How can we overcome that, we must as we are constantly surrounded by change. Perhaps if we lived longer, to see what we have done, both good and bad and to truly learn from our mistakes, humanity as a whole seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes over, and over, over again. Will we ever learn? Perhaps that is why the constant change around us gives me hope for the future when the news about the state of the world is not good, there ARE good people, tolerant people, open-minded people, there are, I just wish they were the majority.

So, we live on, and try to be positive and amazed at the life and beauty around us. The latest rains and heat have caused an explosion in the mushroom population! What an incredible sight! They grow, and are gone in such a short time, the bracket fungus on the dead trees and stumps and roots will be here next year though:)

They also are getting eaten, by our small resident raccoon. I went to photograph a small grouping only to find them all gnawed upon:) The bird feeders have to come in every night or I can hear her swinging from them at all hours of the night. I had no idea she was such an acrobat, the other evening, before dark, she was out and climbing the clothes line that holds the feeders hand over hand upside down!

Fabulous Fall. Perhaps ask me in a week when the temperatures are supposed to dip below the freezing part how I feel but with the warm winds of yesterday still in my memory, this is perfect! The milk weed seeds were flying about in the field as the horses went from green patch to green patch of grass, enjoying their last bit of Summer food. As we rode through the bush the paths were littered with leaves creating a fabulous swishing sound as we walked down them, another week or so and most of the leaves will be gone…

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds flying about in the fields

But for now, what a glorious show of colour. The sun is shining the colours are exploding from every nook and cranny of woods and fence rows. The Perth farmers market is closed for the year but the local farm stand at Miller’s Bay Farm is full of Fall produce, brussel sprouts and cabbage and wonderful carrots, even tomatillos to Mike’s delight! Walking out this laneway every morning to catch a glimpse of a deer, or the bear perhaps is an amazing way to start and finish the day, so for now amigos, saludos and may your path be filled with colour!

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The colour orange-a time to be thankful

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These days when people say the colour orange we tend to think of a somewhat unpleasant looking president to the South, kind of ruins the colour orange for many sadly, this year I am going to put a positive spin on it. Tired of the news and lack of humanity in so many of our elected officials it’s time to focus on a bit of beauty on this Canadian Thanksgiving day. I can see both sides as my mother came from a IRA card-carrying Republican family (now wonderfully that has joined the dark side mostly;) isn’t that what the democrats and liberals are being portrayed as?) and a Canadian father who worked with his hands side by side with his lovely wife, knows what being a good fair busineman is and what an amazing thing universal health care can be…either way my grandparents on both sides would have been outraged at what has happened to what they thought was a political party. If they could come back today they would be flabbergasted at what was in front of them, the zoo, of news and accusations, truth and false, rage and sadness, the absurdity of corporate play in the political system and the overall greed that drives the machine…but let’s let that orange go…for now.

It is indeed gray and dull but we have had moments of fabulous light in the last few days and the trees are swinging into the most glorious outfits for the Fall dance of the leaves:)

I belong to a photography group that focuses on a different colour each month, October is orange and what glorious oranges we have around us. The harvest orange, the farm stands filled with squash and pumpkins, fresh carrots in multi colours and the mums, the last flowers to grace the porches as the Halloween decorations and cornstalks arrive to sit with giant pumpkins.

The forest floor with the addition of rain has produced an amazing array of mushrooms and fungus. I’ve learned to rush out and take the shots as I see them as the small raccoon hanging about seems to eat them as quickly as they pop up!

As the leaves slowly turn the usual groups of critters comes and goes, I missed a text about a young black bear sitting at the side of the cottage road…darn! The fawns have lost their spots I see as they come down to the lake to drink. Groot stalked a big doe ( from a very long ways away I might add)..she did stop, and look, what is that small mountain lion doing hiding behind that stump;)

The bird feeders have to come in at night, the local raccoon will pull them down and stuff her face, the squirrels are doing Cirque de Soleil acrobatics to get at them as well, storing up for the Winter no doubt. Birds are having a hard time getting in for a feed at times;) The woodpeckers, Hairy and Downy, still trying to get a shot of the two different species on the same tree, and the bluejays are quite bold. The Nuthatches and Chickadees squeeze in at every opportunity for a seed and the Goldfinches as well. The juveniles are changing colour and look like the adults now.

The Merlin has stayed about, usually in the tree tops chasing a band of pigeons from the nearby barns, you see them take off with a fighter like type bird/plane after them, I occasionally find a pile of feathers…The Pileated Woodpeckers have been quiet this week after a mad rampage of tree and bark pruning all around us, settling in for Fall perhaps. Baby boy is still following mother about:)

As the days seem to suddenly get shorter and the nights have a chill we feel our time here is coming to a close for this year, like the Mergansers, Geese and Loons who are still crying out, it is time to start thinking about packing up and heading South, soon….

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Mrs. Merganser still has all nine of her brood:)

Soon, we still have some colour to explore and yes, lot and lots more orange:) Stay tuned amigos. Saludos y abrazos! Think today what you are thankful for, and tell those you love:)

That Fall feeling…I can breathe

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It happens so suddenly, that first cool night and takes you by surprise. I can’t get enough! After the heat and humidity this Summer I love the first feel of Fall. The air is cool, but the lake water warm enough to keep swimming:) I’m waiting for the morning mists to hover above the lake. This evening here, the cloud reflections made the dock look like it was a pathway to the sky, absolutely gorgeous. Mother Nature is such a talented artist:)

Migration has started, the hummingbirds are few and far between, the ducks have been flying over and the honking of the geese is not far off I fear. The juvenile Ospreys are grown up, except for their eye colour, they will turn yellow as they get older, they still look orange now. They have practiced leaving the nest and coming back, one is braver than the other, checking out the tree branches near the locks where they live.

For two days a small flock of Pine Siskins invaded the American Goldfinch feeder much to their dismay but they shared, and then they were gone. South, to spend the Winter where it’s warm. It never ceases to amaze me the distances these small feathered creatures go. Thousands of miles at times!

The dead pines are taking a beating, from the Pileated Woodpecker pair, their call and constant hammering let’s you know where they have found bugs under the bark. You can see the bark flying as they chip it away! I can see where they have been by the bark chips on the ground. They are insect eaters and bore into the trunks of trees to get at the larva form of bark beetles and wood-borers. The birds are not indiscriminate and don’t start poking into the wood just anywhere. They have both exquisitely sensitive hearing and keen eyesight. They can hear larva under the bark and zoom in on that area for boring, just deeply enough to access the insects and then extract the worm-like critter with their long tongue. I sat for an hour and watched a female at work.

Many people think they kill trees but in all reality, they are boring holes into trees that have already been attacked by insects and are quite likely to suffer serious damage from the insects anyway, a sort of pest control you might say;)

The Hairy Woodpeckers are quite keen at the feeders, picking out a sunflower seed at a time and hammering on it against a tree until it is open and ready to eat.

The squirrels and chipmunks have been busy. I left a new bag of seed beside the trailer and within a few minutes a cheeky red squirrel had a small hole in the bag and was helping himself greedily! They are Groot’s antagonists, too fast for him and then they make a stand in the branches and gleefully yell at him, calling him names no doubt in squirrelease;) Groot has decided the black squirrels, although fun to chase, are perhaps bigger than he thought they were and simply puts on a show, Gamora is still hell-bent on capturing one, good thing neither have come too close, the leash usually pulls them up quickly;)

The days are getting shorter, the sun doesn’t linger as long over the pines and the night sky has started to pop once again as the humidity drops. Time to get the tripod out and point it at the Southern sky and Milky Way…or at a racoon;)

This little girl has been sifting through our recycling and rummaging around for left over bird seed, I caught her trying to do a high wire act as well as I sat and drank my coffee yesterday morning and watched her antics. Cuteness overload, the cats watched from the trailer window and later on the leash from a distance. Gamora was going to go right up and Ms. Racoon was having none of that, our big brave Groot, well, I had to carry him by to go back to the trailer…sometimes it’s good to have a human around;) Being brave is not always wise says Groot;) no photos he pleaded..he doesn’t want his fans to know;)

This is a magical spot. We ended yesterday with fabulous pizzas from Regan and Sheila’s wood fired portable pizza oven with friends and enjoyed a stunning sunset as a bonus. Today with the rain and gloom, temperatures haven’t gotten above 55¬į on the flintstone scale, about 12¬į celcius. I welcome the change but I think Summer is not quite done with us, forecast for the weekend we are back in the 80’s so this is just a subtle reminder of the changes of the seasons, a reminder that nothing is static, all things change, something we should not be afraid of, but perhaps welcome into our lives.

Saludos amigos, you can remind me about this if I start to whine about the cold;)

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Where did the Summer go?

It seems just yesterday it was the first of July, where did the Summer go? The kids are back at school and the temperatures hovering near 32¬įtoday it is hard to believe we are into the first week of September. A cool spell is coming! Yeah! The Perth Fair has come and gone, we had a lovely day through torrential rain showers and shine helping Kristyn and her family with the return of the Family Fun Show. I was thrilled to be the photographer:)

It reminded me of our days running the Hunter Show over a decade ago. Long hours but lots of prize money and goodies from the many sponsors.¬†Hoping for more local barn participation in the future so we’ll get the word out there next year! The kids were troopers as were the adults in the many classes, especially in the pouring rain!

The egg race is always a challenge when it is dry, but in a downpour!¬†Kristyn was kind and hard boiled them…hahahaha! From musical cones, to the cup race and relays¬†there were many smiles to be had! A bit of scrambling in the mud but when the sun did come back it was glorious!

There were Western and English classes, Equitation (judging the rider) and Flat classes (judging the horse). Alison and her mother Wendy did a wonderful job judging and announcing. We had a wonderful home cooked lunch of pulled pork, thanks Tommy and Trish!

Something for everyone! Wonderful way to spend the day watching these people and the horses they love and cherish.

Looking forward to next year and perhaps we’ll try to put in a word with the weatherman for sunny skies! At least the rain was warm! I’ll leave you with the future fair competitors and¬†participants, the lead line class:)

Saludos amigos and welcome to September!

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“Are we ready to go?”

Life beside the lake

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This is the place we stop and recharge. Continuous travel can be exhausting and while we said we would always slow down, sometimes getting from point A to point B means long distances, especially when your roots are in one country and the home your trying to sell in another, actually separated by another country and you just really want to be there! Over 7000 kilometers from Baja to Perth, Ontario. That’s quite a hike! Google maps tells me 7392 km and a 79 hour drive. We took from mid May to the first week of July-I would rather have taken 6 months but we were on a mission, always seems like that! One day we will be property free, more or less;) Ranch for sale in Baja in case anyone out there is looking!

We are fortunate to be able to follow our dream of travel and sharing the telescope views, if the clouds now would just go away;) In the mean time my bird feeders are up and it is wonderful to hear the whir of hummingbird wings again! The Grackle family, 5 chicks in all have flocked to the feeders and push out the smaller Chickadees and Nuthatches, both Red and White Breasted. They manage to sneak in and out quite quickly though as the grackles are trying to figure out the feeders, squirrel proof, sort of, they wait below for what the smaller birds pull out searching for the perfect seed it seems.

I was excited to see the first male Ruby Throated Hummingbird of the season here. The females and a few juveniles come and go but I rarely get graced with the presence of the Mr and his colourful throat. He looked a bit ragged, molting perhaps;) I seem to have quite a few more this year than last-Always makes me happy!

Down at the lake shore the Merganser Family is back patrolling the shoreline late in the day as well as a pair of Northern Water Snakes. They are large non-venomous creatures, beautifully patterned. They hunt among the rocks for frogs, small fish, worms and even small mammals and birds…Groot was taking no chances when he first encountered the larger one, since then he has become a bit braver, peeking among the reeds for movement but quick to jump back at anything big! Frogs are fine to pounce on but not that big snake thing! They can have quite a painful bite I’ve read. Odd swimming with them as they lift their heads to look at you, then dive, or swim along the surface.

Back in the forest the three species of Woodpeckers have all made their appearances. From the small Downy, to the Hairy and the majestic Pileated. The Pileated has been around with a juvenile as well, always late in the day, trying to talk her into gracing me with her presence in good light! She always seems to show up when I don’t have my camera! Only recently a juvenile male Hairy Woodpecker showed as well. Mother’s teaching them the ropes it seems! I can hear the Pileated Drumming on the pine trees around the trailer, my cue to run out, OK, creep slowly out as not to scare it away;)

The cats get their walks twice a day-Groot will hang about with Mike fishing and sitting on the boat but Gamora has been kept on the leash after she made a dash one day into the forest. They¬†sit and wait each day when they know it’s time, perhaps sitting isn’t the right word, frantically twirling about our feet as that time approaches is more appropriate, Gamora’s nickname is “whippy tail” as she whacks you with it when she wants something;)

Hard to believe the old Burmese Beezil is doing so well, almost 19 now and he still tears around like a kitten with Gamora, then flakes out for hours, and has a occaisonal jaunt outside to chase a chipmunk. We have a zero death rate on the chipmunks this year thankfully:) Several caught and released though;) Not the smartest of the furry guys here;)

They manage to clean up the old bread, tortillas and a lot of bird seed and provide great Cat TV for the furballs looking out the windows. It’s been a hot and steamy Summer. We didn’t use the AC at all last year but have had to resort to it a few afternoons to make things bearable, even in the shade under the pines. Great time for swimming and cooling off in the lake. There have been some spectacular clouds and thunderstorms but not much in the way of lightning, hoping for some shots but not yet!

..and you are reading this now as we have finally arranged internet! Wahoo! Bell put us on hold for three weeks but came through in the end with DSL to the cottage. The other providers Storm,”You need a 70′ tower” Xplornet “you need our extremely expensive and limited satellite internet, or pay a $149 site evaluation to tell us we need a 70′ tower as well, pooey to you;) we now are online;) So far the Google-Fi phone service here has been a bust here as well. Next year we will back to Verizon more than likely…it was worth a try but has not had sufficient coverage in Canada to make it worth our while. So we are back online and hopefully I can catch up on the blogs. I’m leaving it here today, time for a swim and to think about dinner! Saludos amigos and stay tuned for the barn racoons and our large 4 footed friends!

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Rocky Racoon-ready to raid the cat food;)

Ontario, my it is big!

When we hit the border of Ontario the prairies had already given way to the Canadian Shield. It was exciting to be back but we still had a few days of driving Mike said. Most of Texas can fit into Ontario with its one million square kilometers, 415,000 square miles. Looking for spots on the weekends can be tough and sadly West Hawk Lake, formed by a meteor just off the Trans-Canada 1 that we were interested in seeing was totally booked up so we headed deeper into Ontario to Clearwater Bay. We found a spot at a RV park called Pye’s Landing. We nearly drove past, a flag flapping in the wind off the side of the road was the only indication of the RV park, it said open and I’d called ahead to say we would be late and they told us what spot to take. Looking at the pictures you would have thought it was on a lake, but not so, across the highway in a field more or less but it was far enough off the road to be quiet and looked like a nice enough spot to spend the night, or two as it turned out. This is Lake of the Woods the shores are covered in cottages and this park is mostly seasonal. Not sure if I got the draw sitting in a field in your mobile home all summer but Groot and Gamora liked chasing the dragonflies and we loved watching the Killdeers protecting their nest, limping and flying away whenever we got too close:)

We left for Upsala after a trip into Kenora to resupply, it was a bigger jump, almost 400 kilometers but we were on a mission to get back to Perth;) I should have taken pictures of the trees, it was like driving through an eerily huge plantation of pines. Different sizes and shapes but planted in endless rows with no diversity at different times, all lined up in picture perfect rows. I found it slightly depressing and googled old growth forest looking for somewhere where it had not all been chopped down at one time or another. I came up with two areas in the entire province and I felt a bit ill….

Upsala is the make a buck tree planters domain. The small RV park we stopped at, CAN-OP/G&G Service Upsala Campground is base to a host of young, ambitious, willing to go into the bush and plant trees for small sums that can lead to large paychecks if they are good and fast. It is grueling work at 6.5 to 9 cents a tree! The campground sits right on a small lake and was quite lovely. Sadly the sites are set up so your windows face away from the lake but it was a nice stop, the tree planters were too tired by the time they were bused back to party, just eat, swim in the lake and go to sleep:) The campground management was jolly but too many loose dogs running here and there, 12 at one count. Mike had to smack one on the head that was headed for Gamora, not cool at all.

Next stop turned into a wee bit of a disaster. I’d made a reservation at Ney’s Provincial Park-famous for its rock outcroppings and beach scenery, it looked amazing, but…the spot they said we could fit into, in fact the entire three loops were all too small, absolutely no¬†room to back up or turn from the extremely narrow road! The Park website said RV’s 32′ and up were good for the spots….JEEZUS! NOT! Maybe a 22′ could find room to back in. Mike kept looking at me as we maneuvered around the loop¬† exclaiming he hoped it did not get any narrower, wiped out water spouts off the side of Myrtle and our air ventilator, luckily landed on the roof. The park supervisor was kind enough to drive me back around a 2nd time to pick up the pieces. He refunded our two nights, which was thoughtful, showed me several other sites but too narrow to turn to back in, or too many overhanging branches. We suggested a website update for the park. We could have gotten into their electrical site area, but it was fully booked for Canada Day but nowhere else had enough clearance and we didn’t want to wipe anything else off the top, across the road was something that called itself an RV park but that was a stretch, uneven sites and at the most maybe 15 amp service for a hefty price…not getting a good review;)…but it was late and we were not ready to keep moving. Flipped the breaker more than once and each time had to call the owner at the house in the front to get it back on, left early the next day hoping our next provincial park did not have the same web designer;) I did call, they told me they we would fit;) There were some beautiful flowers after the morning rain but we were happy to get the hell out!

Pancake Bay Provincial Park, what a great name! And yes we could have fit into more than one site. They were busy though, you were parked along the road and only a few feet off of it. The cats enjoyed the people and dog watching out the side windows. We wrote down a few choice spots when we come back this way that look out onto the lake and not right beside the Trans Canada-it was extremely noisy to say the least, not exactly a great park experience but now we know:)

We hiked all around the park, the beach was busy, fought off the mosquitos on a hike through the woods and a swamp boardwalk…what was I thinking;) The 3.5 kilometer trail leads through the forest and a fen, past the beach then inland. There is a boardwalk that crosses a marsh area with fabulous flowers, carnivorous plants as well as the carnivorous mosquitos…we kept up a brisk sweaty pace! Huge conglomerate rocks as well, a billion years old, one feels quite small next to these wonders Mother Nature has made.

We documented a few spots next to the lake we would come back to but were ready to move on, we were pining for the lake. We headed East again to a small RV park near Whitefish that had one vacancy left and it was broiling. A heat wave had descended upon Ontario! We’d planned to stop in Sudbury but they were full, summertime is upon us! Lot’s of “No Vacancy” signs! Centennial Park was off the Trans Canada-quiet as can be and right near the Vermillion River. The train did run to the North but we only heard it a few times. A lovely waterfall cascaded down under the railroad bridges and it was a quick hop into a small town to restock.

If it had not been 95 degrees I would have wandered about and looked for a path to the bridges and tracks but it was sweltering, even the cats were panting on their walks. We packed up early and headed East again to the Ottawa River, a shorter jump to Stonecliffe and Pine Valley Campground.

A nice shaded site under the pine trees and a view to the wide Ottawa River. Thunderstorms and lightning strikes on the other side of the river in Quebec dominated our afternoon. We did some laundry and prepared to head home, yes, home to Perth the next day!

Perth was only two and a half hours away. We were delighted to be driving back through this wonderful heritage town on our way out to Otty Lake. Waving at familiar faces, something about a small town:) We wondered if Groot would remember where he was…

Mike backed the monster back down Slack Way for 400 feet with me gesticulating wildly left and right, well, maybe not wildly;) it is quite narrow with a lot of trees…big trees…large if you hit them crunching trees, and right pretty much where it was last year…sigh…I have no idea how he does it, years of backing up tractors and hay wagons, he is amazing! Groot knew exactly where he was-and knew exactly what he wanted to do! Go fishing! I have never seen such a happy cat:) Gamora took one look at the water and scooted away quickly. She sat in the wonderful old cottage window watching…water is evil…cats melt;) Groot disagreed and was down on the dock in an instant:)

And this is our happy spot. After over 7500 km of traveling from Baja to here we were ready to not go ANYWHERE for a bit:) Time to rest, socialize, kill a few liver cells and catch up with friends and our 4 legged horse family. It’s good to be back. Stay tuned for more Perth Adventures;)…if you can get me to move;)

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Making the cover!

Alpinevalley

This is the Alpine Valley on the moon. It is 130 km long by 11 km wide with a 700 meter wide rill on the floor. It is a large fault. This is difficult to see visually.

Mike had wonderful news this week! He’s a cover guy! The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada had chosen his moon shot to be on their 2019 cover, a first, and he gets to be Mr. March as well! So proud of him. When the seeing is good, he can work magic with the moon! Mike does his photography with a 18″ Starstucture Dobsonian and an Asi174MM camera. I guess I can tease him about being a pin-up guy now;)

Mike and scope1A

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¬†¬įF (21.1 to 37.8¬†¬įC) 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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Not just birds and beasts….Sierra de San Pedro Mart√≠r-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. Do√Īa Chepa, Josefa Espinoza Ca√Īedo, owned the ranch before the matriarch of the Melings, Aida purchased it from her. We had the delight of meeting three of Do√Īa 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 Mart√≠r, 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!!!

‚ÄúThe journey not the arrival matters.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄďT.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‚Äôs 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: