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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Cape Blanco Sunset

Cape Blanco sunset

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

Stay tuned as we go Beachside in Oregon! Saludos amigos

Beachside

Beautiful view, my those windows are dirty!;)

!

 

Wild winds and wildflowers-Oregon Coastline

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

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

Video of Natural Bridges

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

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

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

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

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This is such a beautiful coast

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

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

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

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Humboldt Redwoods-Avenue of the Giants-a humbling experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movies, TV and music videos made at Vasquez rocks

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

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

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

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

Jean-Luc Picard, “Inner Light”

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Stay tuned as we head North to Vancouver!

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

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

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

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

Memoria y Paisaje Kiliwa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Condor D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Hasta Pronto!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunset Concepcion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:)

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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

Baja-so much beauty in the light

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It has to do with light doesn’t it, ask any photographer, amateur or professional and that will be the number one thing we think about, light, and its magical ways of transforming everything it touches. From shadows to illumination, I chase it, hunt it and try to capture the way it works. Now having a spectacular landscape set out in front of you doesn’t hurt does it. Our trip up the mountainside in the mid day light left me feeling disappointed, everything seemed flat, but as soon as the late day shadows started to arrive it was transformed. Layers upon layers appear in the distance as the low clouds reflect the last colour of the day…truly magical.

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And then what happens when we add water and reflections…oh my…a whole new dimension unfurls before us as colours dance across the beach and estuary and colours shimmer across the sky. Light, magical light! Baja is so diverse, you can go from the beach in Camalu to the top of the Sierra de San Pedro Martír to see Picacho del Diablo in an hour and a half…0 to 10,157 feet…remarkable.

This is an enchanted land, all this less than 200 miles South of San Diego. and the food, and the people, and those smiles in the street, genuine smiles. We can live with so little and be happy, it is a lesson many of us need to learn.

Playa Santa Maria

Playa Santa Maria

You can have your choice of beaches as well…this is Playa Santa Maria south of San Quintin at El Pabellon El Pabellon…the crowds are…missing;)

Lengueta arañosa

Lengueta arañosa

or, if you are looking for white sand beaches and…no crowds…Lengueta Arañosa opposite Estero Beach, you can walk for a few miles, sometimes you might meet someone:)

Bahia Camalu

Bahia Camalu

or maybe you want to sit on the cliff tops and watch the birds and surf and rainbows, Cueva del Pirata in Camalu would be your choice.

The long and winding road

The roads will be long, and curvy, most likely full of pot holes, you won’t be travelling too far, too fast but isn’t that the best way to go? Where you can have a California Condor wave good night to you as you head down the long and winding road:)

Saludos amigos-stay tuned.

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If you are interested in the flora and bird life at 5000′ in the Sierra de San Pedro Martír at Baja Dark Skies check out the below links:)

San Pedro Martir Wildflowers            Sierra de San Pedro Martír birds

A day fishing with the Great Egret

Sometimes pictures say so much more than words can:) Sitting on the stone seawall watching this Great Egret, Ardea albain the late day light was fascinating. So much work for such a small fish, tapas, must be better than a buffet:)

I see it!

I think I see a snack!

Splashdown

Splashdown!

Did we get it?

Did we get it?

 

It's a tiny minnow!

It’s a tiny minnow!

 

Just a tiny morsel

Hang on to it!

Down the hatch!

A flip and down the hatch….

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Now on to the next minnow….fishing with an Egret:)

Vive la différence

We met a lovely Canadian couple here camping and spent several evenings socializing and sharing camping stories and information over glasses of wine, and Pernod. I say Canadian because they are, Christine is from England, and Robert is from France, with Spanish origins…but they are Canadian. We discussed what separates Canadians from Americans at times and Robert hit in on the head when he said, you can be in a roomful of Canadians, and every one of them can be from another country, hardly ever is that the case in the US. Vive la différence he said, what a wonderful way of looking at Canadians. Perhaps that was truer to the point several generations ago in the US, but not so much now it seems, especially among RV’ers. They tend to be a homogenous crowd at times.

We cherish our times spent in National Parks, it gives us that “vive la différence” feeling, hearing other languages, sharing stories from other places and listening and learning about other cultures, something we should all spend time doing. It is delightful!

Baja is like that as well, it has attracted an international crowd of visitors and residents at times. Not many people are actually “from” Baja, yes of course, there are many born and raised here and unless your forefathers came over with the Jesuits or the Spanish soldiers in 1697 or if you are of indigenous origins you are probably a new comer to this peninsula, it is a fairly new state, entering into the Estados Unidos de Mexico in 1952 previously it was a territory. Maybe that is why we enjoy it so much.

The differences, the food is a fine example, from Japanese/Baja cuisine at SEKI, to delicious Greek dishes at Taberna Dimitri’s in Valle de la Guadalupe to the fusion of Mexican at Boules. Mexicans LOVE food, perhaps that is also why we enjoy being here so very very much:) With our friends the conversation always shifts to eating. Is there a bad taco? Perhaps, but hard to find here if you look for a crowd at a foodstand, chances are it is very good:) Damn…I’m getting hungry, always seem to want to go eat something delicious here or enjoy a glass of vino tinto, it’s 11am, maybe I’ll wait on the tinto, but lunch is coming up soon, how about a shrimp cocktail, or…ceviche de pulpo…

Pulpo ceviche

I’m off to eat lunch now-Saludos amigos and remember….Vive la différence!!!!

April 2039CSs

Spring…please…

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Those first daffodils and sweet peas send shivers up and down my spine, Spring-please…the latest bit of rain will let life explode as the temperatures warm during the day and the hummingbirds will be wild. So much bad news in our world, guns, death…I think I’ll simply try to focus on what is right with our world. Not that these guys are exactly peace mongers, they fight quite viciously for their territories and ladies.

 

…at least it is hand to hand, er, I mean beak to beak…so far I have not seen any gun-toting hummingbirds, that’s a relief;) I often wonder what is wrong with a society that feels the need to arm itself to the teeth, and does not think twice about taking lives over pocessions or material things. It’s all just stuff and these weird things we call beliefs, that we are somehow better than some other human being because of our race, or religion, or who the hell knows what…the current trend in Christianity seems to not exactly be following its own rules about brotherly love…or any of its sacred commandments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Christian, I don’t believe in any organized religion, if that is your thing, I respect that, but the only thing I can worship is this amazing world we live on…our pale blue dot…that amazing planet called Earth.

 

I saw a great cartoon last week, can’t find it now, of Darwinist’s going door to door, preaching evolution, at least it made me smile:) not much in our current world that does but I hope that the next generation gets to marvel at the same things we have…the animals, the wild, the moon and planets…

 

The fact we flew to the moon…gives me hope, not that we want to run away from this amazing planet we live on, just that we may find some hope in exploration, not wars, not greed, not in bipartisan politics but in curiosity and a longing for knowledge…a thirst that can be something bigger than us…there is still hope:) I hope:(

Saludos amigos, a bientot! We did go here:)

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Blue Moon, Red Moon, Super Moon, enough hype, let’s just all look at OUR moon:)

Total Eclipse, January 31 2018

Total Eclipse, January 31 2018-yes, the moon here is actually a reddish colour;)

So, we were all bombarded with the media hype about the eclipse, the blue moon, the red moon, the friggin’ super moon, geez, enough of all the hype and crap! Are we as a populous so blasé and laissez-faire that we need to ignore this event and not go out and look at one of Mother Natures amazing sights  ( it’s free, no charge, how often does that happen)…and if that is the case, wow, humanity, you are doomed…wake up folks! It is about our WORLD, an astounding place that so many people do not stop and even think about as they go about their daily lives, replenished by the air we breathe and the fresh water we drink, the less than healthy”comida chattara” or fast food you eat…are so many so asleep. I dare not even try to answer that question…

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Moonrise in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir-breath in that air!

So, a few rules here, if you have not watched Neil de Grasse Tyson rant about this, I’ll cover it again…Super Moon…if you have two pizzas on a table, one is 16″ and one is 17″, do you call the 17″ pizza a SUPER pizza, or is it just a slightly larger pizza, correct answer, it is just a slightly larger pizza, you would not be able to tell the difference in the sky between the two if your life depended on it, especially if I am having to explain this to you…read, be informed:) This particular full moon is closer to the Earth in its orbit, known as perigee. Since the lunar orbit around the Earth is elliptical there are times when full moon coincides with its nearest position to Earth….science 101…

Blue Moon, enough, leave that to Billie Holiday to sing about in her stupendous way, it IS NOT blue for the millionth time;) It is simply the 2nd full moon that happens in the same month. Since the 2nd of January was a full moon and the next was the 31st of January, the 2nd full moon of any month is known as the ‘Blue moon’. It’s nothing to do with Blue color…OK, got it!

Red Moon-Ok, here we do have a red moon, or blood moon, are we still cavemen? The reason why the “Blood Moon” takes on a reddish colour during totality of an eclipse is due to a phenomenon called “Rayleigh” scattering. The Blood Moon turns red because of the way the moon is illuminated by sunlight which has been filtered and refracted by the earth’s atmosphere as it lines up during a total lunar eclipse…OK, that is settled…

So, did you actually get your lazy ass up out of bed and go watch it? I’m sure some of you have circumstances in your life that did not allow you to get up and look out a window, maybe you were in prison, or trapped in a well, where is Lassie when we need her, or maybe it was cloudy, or not visible from where you are located, I’m truly sorry if that was the case for you, then disregard my rant.)  We live in a world dominated by our little devices, some relied on the pictures they saw there but they did not “experience” it, the darkening of the sky, the drop in temperature, the light slowly fading as a red hue overtook the moon, that is what it is all about, experiencing it, not just reading about it…

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These guys are up early:)

Next eclipse in North America…check out the link and try to experience this amazing phenomenon:) we only live once and it is a fleeting amount of time:)

Saludos amigos-get out there and try to breathe in some fresh night air and enjoy a sunrise or two:)

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Sunrise Ensenada-Baja California

“What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?

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Birds, it all started with my fascination with the hundreds of hummingbirds that passed in migration at the ranch in Baja, many stayed all year, in the snow and cold ( yes, it snows in Baja, our ranch was at an elevation of 5000′) it was fascinating to watch them, both the visitors and the residents. From that grew a love to just sit and watch these beautiful creatures and also a study of their everyday life, some are comical, some are quite serious, all have something to offer, be it a song, a dance, or as a clean up crew.

The Reddish Egret is the king of the dancers here at Estero Estuary. Watching it leap and prance, twist and twirl after a fish is remarkable, the agility is astounding and the comic relief, well, priceless:) Sometimes I can watch from the stone seawall, other times I don the reef shoes and venture out into the mud and sand flats where the Egrets are fishing. As the tide goes out schools of fish caught in the pools are easy prey.

I have a soft spot for the Egrets and Herons, they are so large some of them, perhaps easier to photograph than the tiny lbb’s, or lgb’s…little brown birds, or little grey birds;) They tend not to be too flighty, if you walk slowly and stop and just sit and watch they seem to stick about. Sometimes I bring my tripod along but mostly I just shoot handheld, could explain why my shoulder hurts here;) at over 5.5 lbs for the lens and Canon 6D it is heavy…I should use perhaps a monopod, I need to get into the practice of that. I have discovered I need to back away from the 400, it is soft, at 350, I get a sharper image with my older 100-400 L IS, one day I’ll spring for the newest lens,  a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens…sigh…pricey or an alternative are the Sigma or Tamron 150-600MM…you can lighten your pocket-book very quickly with all these amazing lens and cameras! Anyone want to buy me a new one? Just checking:) In the mean time, I make do with what I have, I’m still learning daily things I can change!

I’ve learned I can speed up, or decelerate the autofocus, the tracking sensitivity, will probably drive myself mad doing this as every time I change it I’m not sure if it really helps or not;) Especially useful when trying to focus on the hummingbirds:) They still are my favourites. I have only seen the Anna’s here at the estuary but I’m sure Allen’s and Rufous come through in the late Fall and early Spring.

Photographing birds and walking cats does not always go together but can produce some interesting results;) They are usually on the leash but here we can let them go to run in the sand and play, supervised. Gamora stalked the Great Blue Heron a few days ago but as she got closer realized just HOW big it was and sat and just watched. They are very quick to see what is flying overhead as well. The Long Billed Curlew puts up quite the squawk at a 100 feet away and the cats just watch. I do worry about the Northern Harrier female, she took a look at them the other day as she flew over…

Most people point out the Vermilion Flycatcher as they walk by. Such a colourful bird. They always want to know what it is:) There are several pairs about here and they are constantly landing very close on signs and the seawall. There are the regular cast of House Finches and White Crowned Finches as well as a few Warblers and Phoebes catching flies by the edge of the sand. I should spend more time walking inland, I’m sure I would see some new residents, it is just there is so much to see in the water!

Every year the estuary changes, last year it was full of deeper tide pools with anemones, more storms, more turbulence, this year all the deeper pools are gone, flatter shallow ones have taken over. The residents are still here, Long Billed Curlews and Whimbrels, I can finally tell the difference, that eye stripe! The flocks of Willets and Dowitchers and Sandpipers, Plovers and Killdeers. I still have trouble with all the yellow legged guys, keeping them separate;)

So, as you can see, there are a few birds here:) The question I get asked the most..is it safe. Over and over again. I have to tell you, I feel safer here in Ensenada than in San Diego so birders…be brave…drive South a few hours and experience this amazing place, not only is there a great restaurant here at Estero Beach, beautiful rooms, and many things for SOB’s (Spouses of birders) to do:) including a museum!

Did I mention the flocks? not of sunburned tourists but these;)

There is such an amazing variety of life here. Yes, over a few seasons, mostly we are here in December and January, but have spent parts of March here as well as a few weeks over the summer. Migration is always interesting as well as breeding season.

and…did I mention tacos? Mariscos? wonderful wine country, am I sounding like I work for the Ensenada tourism board? I should:) Are there dangerous creatures…why of course, if you are a fish for example;) or a small to medium-sized plump bird…

You might be in trouble if, lets say if you are mixed up with the drug trade…then these guys are here to clean up;)

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Vulture humour;) It’s not 85 degrees here I might add. The Pacific keeps the temperatures moderate, if you want heat you can go inland to wine country…salud…or stay out at the somewhat cooler coast. Either way you are in for a treat, friendly people, bring your phrase book, it never hurts to try, amazing food and wine and birds…lots and lots of birds, so you birders try something new…if you’re still apprehensive and want information on insurance, roads, hotels etc, send me an email…astrogypsies@gmail.com and I can help you with questions you might have…Happy New Year 2018 friends, let’s make it an adventurous one! Viva Baja!

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FYI, all these bird and landscape shots were taken here at Estero Beach Hotel and RV Park-Ensenada-Baja California Norte:)

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:)

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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….

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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:)

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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 🙂  I’ll need to get my bearings, oops, after we bearicade the door, or yes, these puns are unbearable;)

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Wonderful day