That Fall feeling…I can breathe

2018-09-04 045AS

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;)

2018-09-09 287AS

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!

2018-09-02 483A

“Are we ready to go?”

Life beside the lake

2018-08-11 020_stitchB

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!

2018-08-03 039AS

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;)

2018-07-31 034AS

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;)

2018-05-27 154_stitchBS

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!

P7180130

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:)

ConcepAS

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:)

ConcepES

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;)

4-7-After the rain

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!

yuccaAS

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.

 

ladybugsAS

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!

LizardJ

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 Mart√≠r, Rancho la Concepci√≥n 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:)

I guess we have a lot of neighbours, the feathered variety anyway:) hahahaha! I’m beginning to think I prefer them over the humanoid species. Not saying they are not violent or trouble making. Just watch the hummingbirds for a bit and you can see some serious craziness there;) Yes, Hummingbirds, lots and lots of them too;)

We’ll save them for next week, before this turns into a novel;) Saludos amigos, here’s hoping Spring has sprung wherever you are:) Hasta pronto!

 

Lunar Photography-Keeping ourselves out of trouble;) hahahaha…not really:)

Photography, both Mike and I have a passion for what we do, his type of photography is far more difficult than mine. I can grab my camera and pop out to shoot a sunset or some amazing flowers, or sit quietly and wait for the hummingbirds (it is good for the soul, this patient waiting) Mike well, he has to set up his telescope, that is an effort in itself….

Set up telescope

Getting ready for a night of observing

First it, the telescope, I don’t think it has a name;) has to be rolled out of the pass through storage on finger pinching ramps, speaking from experience, provided it is even a clear cloudless day/night. Then assembled, not too much of a chore, he waits until dark and starts to check the conditions. It is an 18″ Starstructure aluminium Dobsonian telescope with a fabulous Zambuto mirror for inquiring minds. Earlier he would have been looking through his virtual moon atlas deciding what he might want to focus on, and what phase the moon is in decides that. Once it is dark, and he has checked that the atmospheric conditions are good, “whaaaat is that you ask?” well, steady non turbulent air, and what the heck does that mean. Just like ocean currents, air currents can be clear, or not really murky, but not steady. Mike’s good friend and fellow OAF (Ottawa Astronomy Friends) Attilla and Alan Rahill started¬†Clear Sky Charts.

Clear sky chart

This particular one is for the ranch in Baja but there are over 6000 worldwide! They are astronomer forecasts for “seeing” conditions. It predicts cloud cover, obviously a big deal;) no clouds good, cloudy…very very bad:) as well as transparency, as Attilla wrote:¬†‘transparency’ means just what astronomers mean by the word: the total transparency of the atmosphere from ground to space. It’s calculated from the total amount of water vapor in the air. It is somewhat independent of the cloud cover forecast in that there can be isolated clouds in a transparent air mass, and poor transparency can occur when there is very little cloud.

Then there is: Seeing, it forecasts astronomical seeing. (It’s an experimental forecast.) Excellent seeing means at high magnification you will see fine detail on planets. In bad seeing, planets might look like they are under a layer of rippling water and show little detail at any magnification, but the view of galaxies is probably undiminished. Bad seeing is caused by turbulence combined with temperature differences in the atmosphere. This forecast attempts to predict turbulence and temperature differences that affect seeing for all altitudes.

Bad seeing can occur during perfectly clear weather. Often good seeing occurs during poor transparency. It’s because seeing is not very related to the water vapor content of the air.

 

Then there is: Darkness, not the Darth Vader kind my geek friends but it shows when the sky will be dark, assuming no light pollution and a clear sky. Black is a dark sky. Deep blue shows interference from moonlight. Light blue is the full moon. Turquoise is twilight. Yellow is dusk and white is daylight. For those who prefer numbers, the scale is also calibrated. The numbers are the visual limiting magnitude at the zenith. (The brightness of the faintest star a standard observer can see straight up.

Then there is Wind-This forecasts wind speed at about tree-top level. The wind forecast won’t determine whether or not you can observe, but it may affect your comfort and the type observing you might be limited to. In particular, long-focal length astrophotography, or observing with large dobsonians require light wind conditions. High wind may be particularly dangerous for larger truss-tube dobsonians which must be disassembled in the vertical position.

and humidity-This forecasts ground-level relative humidity.

Humidity variations can indicate the likelihood of optics and eyepieces dewing.

But dewing is not simply correlated to relative humidity. Dewing tends to happen when the sky is clear, the temperature is dropping and there isn’t much wind. Being on a hilltop or in a small valley can make the difference between no dew and dripping telescopes. Unfortunately, the humidity forecast does not have the spatial resolution to know about small hills, valleys, or observatory walls. All of which can reduce dewing.A sudden spike in the humidity forecast, an hour or so after the cloud forecast predicts a sudden transition from cloudy to clear, when there is no wind, means that ground fog will form. Also, when the cloud forecast is opaque and the humidity forecast is 95%, rain is likely: a good time to cover the telescopes.

and then-temperatures-This forecasts temperatures near the ground. While temperature variations won’t determine if you can observe, the forecast can be handy choosing clothing for cold observing conditions. (In general, dress as if it were 20 degrees F or 10 degrees C¬†colder¬†than the forecast.) Observers with thick primary mirrors should take note of falling temperature conditions because their mirrors may require additional cooling to reach equilibrium and so prevent tube currents.

Cold temperatures also mean reduced battery capacity, stiffer lubricants, stiffer electrical cables and slower LCD displays. Camera sensors will have reduced noise. But, in general, electronics have a lowest temperature at which they will work.

Thank you Attilla for all this amazing information, all this before Mike even gets his camera out…I think I have it easy, I just put my camera under my shirt if it starts to rain:) As I’ve said, Mike’s work is an amazing undertaking. Everything has to be just right to capture the types of images he did above. I can tell when it is going to be a good night, lots of smiles and he is burning the candle well after I have slipped into bed, in the morning he is still processing his thousands of images, taken with a Asi 174mm ZW Optical astronomy video camera, picking out the clearest shots and stacking them with programs on his computer, I just have to open photoshop to crop something:) or get my cell phone out when he is setting up, usually before it is completely dark and start snapping, or clicking, well, my phone doesn’t even make a noise..Ha! This is fun:)

2018-02-24 007_stitchASs

Now this is too easy-through the eyepiece, taken with my cell phone:)

So, if you see this weirdness going on, don’t hesitate to walk on over and ask as many questions as you’d like and take a look for yourself through this amazing telescope, I’m really thinking it should have a name, the truck is Hagrid, the trailer Myrtle…I’ll put my imaginative name thinking cap on.

FYI, Mike is not an astrologer, nor can he read tea leaves or coffee grounds;)

Saludos amigos. May your skies be dark clear and steady

The challenge of full-time Rving-Part 2 of….?

My first thought when I asked my husband Mike what he found challenging about RVing was he might just say, “Well, you”…he has a wonderful dark sense of humour…I think;) Ha! We get along very well, never yell at each other when we are backing into hideous sardine like RV spots, or when branches nearly wipe out our AC units on the roof, or well, anytime, we’re not yellers;) He gave me some of what he considers challenges in Rving.

#1-Being led astray by your GPS, I think he was referring to one state park in particular in Missouri that we were led down what could only be called an extremely narrow and branch covered small road that DID not lead to the State Park, we were not certain we would be able to turn around let alone back all the way out! Luckily a small what I would call dirt path swung around and we manged to get going back the direction in which we came…I’m still buffing scratches out of the paint. “Yeah”, the lady at the park entrance said” it happens all the time”…”Could you not put A BETTER SIGN UP AS$%LE” was going through my mind as I checked in…so, double-check your routes and use google earth and other maps to check on where you are going, makes life easier especially after a long day driving…drivers get cranky;) Check out the many blogs as well as RV park review sites…it might save your marriage;)

#2-Rough roads with multiple dips that have you feel like you’re on a bronco ride for real, in a 9,500 lb truck pulling the 18,500 lb. trailer, once it gets going it can be scary, especially if there are no dip signs to warn you that you are about to be bounced about, the 405 through LA is like that…OMG, will never do that freeway again and parts of 52 in San Diego that were built on top of a garbage dump…crazy once that rig gets a bouncing, Hang on cowgirl!! YIKES!

…or roads so narrow your husband accuses you of trying to kill him, he doesn’t like heights or drop-offs, but hey, I’m a photographer…hahahahahahahaha! I like a view!

If you can’t guess by now, Mike does most of the driving:) yup, I navigate, mostly quite well but I do occasionally get him off on a road we should not be on..oops…we are used to really bad roads after living in Baja for 8 years but man, some states, Indiana and Illinois fix your toll roads, I have to pay for that crap and lose my fillings to boot!

Our fix for these sometimes small and at times wonderful little roads that take you to amazing places is scouting. We’ll find a place nearby and do a day trip out to see if can we get in, is the ground too soft, can we actually get over that dip…and frequently all of the above, hauling a 37′ trailer about makes you think twice sometimes about where to go but it can take you to magical places where your jaw drops and a perma smile comes over your face:) That is Playa Santispac above in Southern Baja…:)PR D

#3-Driving on windy days…don’t do it, as they say here in Baja-No vale la pena-not worth the pain… If you can’t stand against it, you shouldn’t drive in it:) and try to park parallel to it if you can, geez, and I didn’t think a trailer could move about like a boat, I was wrong:) Do they have spring lines for trailers?;)

#4-Unpalatable neighbours selling crystal meth and pit bull puppies right next door…yes, it does happen from time to time. Especially those county parks. I don’t have pictures of them;) The staff do their best to keep these places well stocked with friendly neighbours and honestly I have much admiration for the camp hosts that have to help the police chase people about in their parks…not something I am quite willing to do yet;)

So that was all the significant other could come up with, he scratched his head for quite a while. He has¬†a wealth of experience backing hay wagons up into small barn mows and into riding arenas so I think he was in pretraining for years for this, as well as parking large horse trailers in lots with very inexperienced folk learning how to do the same:) Isn’t life an adventure:) There have been a couple of times we have wanted to go over and offer to park a couples trailer but the mood surrounding their disastrous parking attempts made it feel quite dangerous;) Ah…the challenges of RV living:)

What makes you crazy in the rving world my friends? I’d love to hear!

Saludos amigos and stay tuned, perhaps time for the positive sides of RV living:) Here is one:) The ever changing view out our back window:)

Ensenada sunset

The view out the back window:)

The challenge of full-time Rving-Part 1 of….?

It was a great question. I just joined a group on Facebook called Full Time Freedom, it looked interesting and we’ve had so many helpful hints I thought we might be able to add a few things after doing this for almost two and a half years now, hard to believe we left from here in August 2015 on our maiden trip on Myrtle 1. Seems like such a distant memory. So what can be challenging….these views, nah….but….

12-12-Crescent moon sign

Borders.We love our voyages across North America but the border crossings can be a challenge, getting there, and figuring out how to get back without waiting in line for most of your day…getting into Mexico, always a relief, but heading back across and dealing with the Stazi at the US border..always intimidating, even when you have nothing to hide, or maybe, that extra bottle of mezcal…sigh…the cats FYI have never been an issue except at State Parks in New York where you have to fork over a copy of their rabies certificate or leave…at least you can eat well waiting at the Tijuana border:) It can be a challenge to negotiate the various food carts and umbrellas with a large trailer, we once wiped out a stop sign at the pedestrian cross walk in TJ just before the US stalls…oops, we go Tecate now on our way back;)

Moving too fast and too often, it is a waste of money and effort, there are often sizable reductions in weekly/monthly fees compared to a few nights. So, slow down, hopefully it will all be there tomorrow, well, you might want to visit Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Monument in Utah first, who know what the nasty orange mop will do next, what’s a few million acres less to see…

Finding people who think like you, feel like you and are passionate about some of the same things. We run into them in Canada and Baja more frequently but they are out there everywhere, somewhat more adventurous, less fearful and viewing the world with an open mind. We tend to avoid all talk of politics until we know if we will be lynched or not…”All RVers are Republican” an older gentleman told me last week…no….sorry Jim, they are not, the challenge can be finding them…we often feel like teenagers at many of the SW parks in winter, yeah, we’re just not quite that old yet and golf is not on our daily to do list.

Eating well…yes, a challenge we ran into running the midwest gauntlet of discount grocery stores that were entirely filled with frozen food aisles…0_0….

We love farmers markets and taco stands, small local grocers and bakeries and free range eggs, preferably from the farm. It takes an effort in many places to find these spots but it is extremely worthwhile. We love the Latin, Lebanese and Asian markets, the prices are right and so much less packaging, and you can learn how to cook that weird-looking green you picked up at Ranch 99:)

Letting go of all that stuff…now that is a hard one as we still have a 20′ x 8′ shipping containers at my brothers, we have been paring it down each visit, deciding what we really don’t need and why did I pack that and keep it? You may always want that storage unit, who knows, just saying, you don’t have to let everything go right away, or maybe never:) but, for those hoarders out there…well…you will be limited to post card and stamp collections perhaps;)

So that’s a start, challenge wise, I’m sure I will come up with a few more as we go and I’ll add-on in part 2, but for now, I need to go eat a shrimp coktel…oh dear…it can be a challenge for Vegans as well…

Stay tuned Amigos, that will be another story to share from our house to yours, whether it be large, small, on wheels or in the water. Saludos amigos!2016-12-24 131Asign

I bearly made it through the week, and other bad bear puns;)

Groot had quite the surprise yesterday morning, a new visitor to the trailer, not the usual Golden Lab, Lucas, that Regan and Sheila have but…a black one…wait a minute, Groot was pretty sure this was not one of those evil dog things but something completely different so he let us know…meow….!!!

Groot and bear

That is NOT a dog!

Come and take a look! He was jumping from window to window. Mike said “Bear”…I said, “yeah, right”, I’m not getting up before sunrise…”NO REALLY! BEAR!!!” that did get me up! Holy guacamole….a bear indeed.

 

He was feasting on the sunflower seeds in the “squirrel” but not bear proof bird feeder. I sent the feeder manufacturer a shot as well, they had a chuckle and hoped my feeder survived, it did! We watched him¬†for 15 minutes as he picked the seeds out of the feeder, finally shaking them out before licking them up off of the ground. He eventually wandered off to the other cottages along the lake, I’m sure he has his routine:)

2017-06-26 083AS

I think I will sit and eat

Another day at Otty Lake, life is an adventure isn’t it! So wonderful to be able to experience nature this close and marvel at the wonder of it.

So until next week amigos. We’re off to do some fishing from the canoe, perfect day. I’ll see if I can contain myself bearly ūüôā ¬†I’ll need to get my bearings, oops, after we bearicade the door, or yes, these puns are unbearable;)

P6250016AS

Wonderful day

 

Give me home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play;)

2018-06-19 040AS

Ok, so no buffalo, a few bison, and an occasional far away herd of Pronghorn antelope. The Trans Canada 1 and the via rail train tracks follow each other across the country, the two never seem far apart, the sound of train horns is ever present. After leaving Dinosaur Provincial Park we headed East, out of Alberta eventually into Saskatchewan. That is always a mouthful. We couldn’t find many RV parks per se, but all the small towns have these wonderful little municipal campgrounds. Small, usually pull through, some with 15amp power, water and sewer. We decided 400 km was enough and stopped in the small town of Morse.

What a lovely little town and municipal campground. Possibly the friendliest spot we have encountered in a very long time. From the man cleaning up the campground with the mower, who told us to head down to a very good butchery with locally smoked sausages, who sent us to the small general store where the owner shook our hands and introduced himself enthusiastically in his fairly good English to the local hotel and restaurant where we sat next to a round table of old farmers laughing about their aches and pains and discussing what an ass Trump was…fabulous! Here, you pump your gasoline before paying, such a nice change from the rest of a cynical world. There is no Banff scenery here, no fancy hotels or casinos but what a nice feeling to camp somewhere, though quite loud, cats nearly jumped out of their fur at the first train horn, where you feel leaving your door unlocked is a normal thing to do. This town looks like it has been brought back to life by new immigrants, what a wonderful thing!

Across the trans Canada and train¬†tracks a Willet foraged on the shore, I came thousands of kilometers to see my little Baja friend. The lakes here are home and resting areas for thousands, if not millions of migratory birds. The temperatures forecast for the next few days were blistering so we left early as the 15amp service at Morse would not run the AC. We headed to Oak Lake, Manitoba, 493 kilometers to the East. Past rolling fields of yellow blooms and hundreds of small lakes. Oak Lake Resort is about 10 km South of the Trans Canada on a small island, little did we know it would be a¬†long stopover. We passed the RV park entrance and had to make an awkward turn to get turned around to head back, love it when the GPS does that, but a delightful young lady said to go back to the office and she would show us what sites were available for the night. We picked one out, the furthest away with the most room around us, backed into a beautiful oak shaded spot and started to unhook when the hydraulic pump for the jacks started to make some very disturbing noises and then, nothing. Luckily we were off and 98% level but this elicited a groan from us…we were in BFE and well, at least we had water, power and sewer:)

2018-06-21 013AS.jpg

The young lady, Andrea, at the front was amazing, pay her more management(!) she called the local RV Store, actually the biggest in Manitoba in the small town of Verdin,¬†25 kilometers back on the Trans Canada and handed the phone over to us to arrange to have a mobile tech come out and look. This resort is a huge seasonal RV park with over 700 sites, lots of business for Four Seasons RV…and we were stuck, tech came out, pump was burned out. They asked we order it ( it would arrive faster) have it sent to them and they would come out when it arrived. So we waited-three day UPS to Canada turned into 8 days but it was not a horrible spot to be stuck. The lovely manager juggled spots so we could stay where we were, not much choice there and we enjoyed the oak forest’s shade in the heat:)

Did I tell you there were hummingbirds?;)

“It could have been Morse” I kept telling Mike-15 amp and trains;) and there was a lovely Mexican family that ran the Park Store and small grill. They even had tacos but the ice cream was the best in the heat and we had wonderful conversations in Spanish with Alma and Carlos from Queretaro, to the surprise of many passers-by;)…yeah, we’re Mexican…sort of;)

The Oak Forest at first seemed so homogenus, but the wildlfie was abundant. Groot and Gamora got to watch deer on their walks, a ton of ticks…ick, but we picked them off the cats and ourselves..0_0. Birds galore on the walk out to the lake and road in.

The best were the squirrels. Ground squirrels everywhere that Groot and Gamora darted after but never caught, and a brand new one for me-Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel, quite the impressive name, they got short-changed on ears but are they ever beautiful!

We got to go into Verdin a few times for diesel and food, another wonderful small friendly town with everything you might need, including the $18.99 watermelon, now that was a shock. I know these come from Mexico but really?

melons

Are these golden melons;) I had to do a double take at the grocery store…$18.99 a melon, at least it wasn’t per pound…ha! Manitoba Co-op grocery, you are just plain crazy! Remember folks, eat local, in season, support your local farmers, unlike this grocery store in Verdin, maybe the Trumps shop here;) So we went to the Farmers Market, I realize it is a bit early but nothing from farms, not even eggs, just a few tables of Mennonite ladies in smocks with baked goods and religious whackadoodles selling the latest God of the day, we bought butter tarts…is that what the locals live on;) ha! Mike was happy:)

As we were approaching Canada Day. The¬†lovely manager kept juggling sites to keep us where we were, we kept track of our very slow UPS package and it did finally arrive, perhaps by horse and cart from Indiana. Lippert did refund me some of the shipping as I’d paid for express (Max. three-day) not 7;) and all in all our Good Sam Warranty covered the labour and horrendous price ($852.00 US) for a small electrical motor, as it is used in the RV industry the price quadrupled, just like writing”horse” on something and not “cow”, funny how cow halters are so cheap;) We’ve kept the old one to be rebuilt, as our warranty has only 2 years left. The tech that installed it was a nice man, the first time before he left he handed us a small”Christian” phamphlet,¬†saying this was not from the RV store (thank goodness) but from him, and as Mike was desperatley trying to get us to go, we carried on a rather interesting conversation with this educated German immigrant who all but thought the Earth was flat, not that, but he believed the Bible was the literal truth, fascinating, yet somewhat alarming as I don’t believe¬†any of this except taken as metaphors, written 60 years after it happened and rewritten, by the winners to suit their purpose, and damn, that Yahweh God was not very nice.

But it absolved him of all responsibility, funny that, it was all God’s will. All the bad, was for a reason, God even had Trump elected in…for a reason, or so he said.¬†I agreed to disagree and he asked me what it would take to believe in God, and I said nothing, “but what happens when you meet him in heaven?” he asked, “Well, I’ll apologize and say my bad, don’t think the majority of my friends are going to be up there, I’ll take that warmer place”.¬†So, I respect his beliefs, but he did not respect mine. We are creatures made of energy and stardust, and to that we will return, perhaps there is an alien race who have set themselves up as God, if they have, that man is in for quite a shock:)

Mike was giving me withering looks…”Let’s get the hell out of here!” at least he and Mike could converse in German:) All in all an interesting conversation with someone who thinks so totally different from us that it is astounding human beings get along as well as they do;)..come to think of that, I guess they don’t;)

I was ready to leave as well. We were lucky to have been so close to 4 Seasons RV, the lady we dealt with was a gem, thank you Lana, and tech as well, however odd his beliefs are to us:) We were ready to get into Ontario!!! Which Mike did remind me was as long as all the praire crossing we had already done, but that much closer to Perth!

Stay tuned for Ontario West to East, unless I am struck down by an almighty force unhappy with my beliefs;) Saludos amigos!

2018-06-30 106BS

Ontario:)

Dinosaurs! Hello to the Badlands of Alberta

It takes a while to get through the Canadian Rockies. Mountain after spectacular 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 and grasslands. 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:)

2018-06-17 125A

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 ventured 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 large elevation changes. 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;)