Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wedding in Monterey

Earlier this month, we took Little Billy to Monterey, where my niece was married.  We stayed in a hotel for 2 nights, because dressing up and celebrating with family frankly required more space and amenities than a tiny trailer can provide.  But when the wedding was over, we camped our way back down the coast.

The first night we spent at Plaskett Creek, a nice campground in the Big Sur area.  We were across the highway from the ocean, and a long steep climb down to the beach and back, but at least there is beach access there, and as luck would have it, a minus tide as well.  But we got there just before the tide turned to come back in, and it was a little cold and breezy, so we kept the beachcombing short.

The campground was spacious and grassy, with tall trees.  Water spigots were nearby, and we didn't need to use our 7 gallon water can. (In fact, all of the campgrounds we stayed in had water near enough that we didn't use our own water at all.) Due to the recent fire, and continued threat of fire in Big Sur, no fires, not even in the barbecue, were allowed.  I knew this in advance, so I planned a stovetop meal. 

The next morning started out sunny and bright.  We were headed to Pismo Beach, but not before I went back to look at the ocean once more in the sunshine.

We stopped briefly at the beach near San Simeon, where people come to hang out and watch the elephant seals hanging out.  We stood there in the chilly wind, watching and listening as the seals lounged, flung fins-full of sand on themselves, jostled and jousted around a little, all the while making noises that sounded like a lot of belching and farting (but I'm pretty sure it was neither).

In Pismo, we stayed at North Beach campground.  Not on the sand, but near enough.  And, on purpose of course, our campsite was just about as close to the Butterfly Grove as you can get.

The tide was going out when we arrived there in the late afternoon.  There were scattered shells, mostly clams and a few broken sand-dollars, and lots of piles of glorious, tangled kelp.

The setting "supermoon"

Dinner was another stovetop mish-mash.  Just a can of this, and a can of that, but easy and filling.  And this campground has both showers and a dish-washing area.  Nice.

In the morning while Jerry rested, I took a walk along the beach.  I found a few bugs in the dune plants.  I have a cousin who lives just minutes away from Pismo, and she came to the campground to visit us for breakfast.  That was a treat!

Our last stop for the night before we came home was Point Mugu.  Once again, I had booked in the campground that was not on the sand.  We stayed at Sycamore Canyon.  It was dry and breezy, and only sparsely populated with other campers. 

Really, the whole campground was an asphalt lot at the mouth of the canyon.  But it wasn't bad because there were very few people there.   I expected not to be able to use the firepit, but the ranger said we could, so we brought out the pie irons and made dinner and dessert in them.

sliced roast beef, green chiles, onion, cheese (somehow, I think I took this before I put the cheese on)

trimmed of excess tortilla, and cooked


and for dessert, banana bread, stuffed with...bananas!  and chocolate!

Sycamore canyon campground on a bright and shiny morning

Friday, October 28, 2016

At last, real camping!

Alas, this blog is turning out to be a bigger pain in the wazoo than I expected.  I have had trouble coordinating my pictures uploading them, and getting them on here.  I didn't even finish all the posts from our big trip in September.  And now it's almost November.  Maybe I will get to them sometime, But I don't want to let this latest trip get lost in the shuffle, so I'm posting it now.

We took a quick trip this week to Anza Borrego, And finally we were able to camp out in the space and solitude of the desert wilderness. We had only 2 nights, hoping for a window of perfect weather in between 2 SoCal storms.

The plan was to head to Fish Creek Wash. We've been there several times before, but always just for day trips, when we would stay at a rented casita(condo) in Borrego Springs. I always knew I would love to camp there. When we got there, Jerry was reluctant to go too far into the wash. This was Little Billy's first time off road, and he didn't want to get himself into a sticky situation. So we stayed the first night in the primitive Fish Creek campground. It has 3 things going for it: A pit toilet, fire rings, and elevation above the wash, so in the event of a flash flood, you're less likely to get washed away. (Notice that scenic beauty is not one of the perks of this campground, in my opinion.) But after we claimed a spot, (there was just one other person in the campground anyway) we took a walk up into the wash, and Jerry agreed that he thought we could tow Billy further up in the morning.

So on Day 2, we ended up right across the wash from the Wind Caves trailhead. But even so, very few people came by, and even fewer that stopped to hike the trail. So it was delightfully peaceful.

Once we set up camp, Jerry just hung out and I poked around looking for...whatever. That's what I love about the desert. There's always something to find. If there are no bugs (or not many bugs) I can look for rocks. If the rocks are boring, there's always the chance for human artifacts (trash, mostly). And yes, I pick up other peoples' trash. It's the least I can do.  Together, we took a few walks up a couple of side-washes that branch out from the main wash. My favorite thing to do there (or anywhere out in nature, really) is just to explore on foot. Getting out there is one thing, and the awesome scenery is another thing, but I'm all about the small stuff. The stuff you have to keep an eye out for. So our walks have a relatively slow pace that rewards us at every turn. And that's what I love about the desert. There's always something to find. If there are no bugs (or not many bugs) I can look at the rocks. If the rocks are boring, there's always the chance for human artifacts (trash, mostly). And yes, I pick up other peoples' trash. It's the least I can do.

 The weather was perfect. I mean it was still pretty hot, but not too hot, and not windy. The nights were comfortable, and we slept with Billy's doors open so we could see the stars.

  Borrego 10/16

If you click on the photo, it will either turn into a slide show, or take you to Flickr.  Either way, you will be able to see all the pictures.  That seems to be the only way I can make this blog happen right now.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Great Sand Dunes

Fortunately, even though we had decided to forfeit camping near the dunes to stay longer at the West Fork campground, Larry had decided to take us on a day trip to see them anyway! backseat photography It was a 2 hour ride to get to the dunes, but there was enough conversation and scenery to keep me entertained in the back seat. First look at the dunes And I think, at this point, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

  Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

a spot of bright color

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument

Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument Even when we were almost back to Larry's house, I still enjoyed the scenery.

Day 8-10, with Larry and Kathy in CO

Roadside sunflowers
I love the last few miles, driving on the country roads leading up to Larry and Kathy's house.

Country road
I can't help taking pictures right from the truck, even while we're moving.  I almost have to do it while we're moving, or I'd be asking Jerry to pull over every 50 feet!

Larry's front yard
Jerry (left) and Larry in his front yard.

Larry's back yard
In Larry's back yard.  They live on about 40 acres of forest.

Front yard rainbow
Billy enjoys a rainbow from the front yard.  And a good rinsing off, courtesy of mother nature.

Back yard deer
There is always wildlife to see at Larry & Kathy's.  A couple of times, deer came to the yard.

bloody antlers
This stag was shedding the velvet on his antlers.  It was kind of bloody and gross, but also interesting to see.  I had only seen it on nature shows on TV, so it was cool to see it in real life.

bloody antlers

Skunk in Larry's yard
A skunk came to the bird-feeding area.  I guess skunks like bird seeds, too.  Larry wasn't too happy about that.  He would prefer the birds.  And there are some birds he likes better than others.  He made gun-shooting noises out the window (with his mouth, you know, like a kid would do if he were pretending to shoot at something) to chase the skunk away.

Larry's pet fox
The highlight of the wildlife viewing was the daily visitation of the foxes.  This one fox in particular has been friends with Larry for many years.  She is definitely still wild, but she trusts him.  And she eats from his hand.

Here is a video of him feeding several foxes.  I think mostly they are the almost-grown pups from the fox in the preceding photo.

Run it through Tangled FX
I took a mediocre photo, retouched and tweaked it a little, and ran it through the Tangled app on my iPad.  And now it's art!  I don't know which of the foxes this is.  Larry can tell most of them apart, and has given them names, much like Jane Goodall named the chimps she studied for so many years.  But I'd like to think this is his favorite one, called "Pooper"

Day 8, Little Billy crosses the Continental Divide

Little Billy at the Continental Divide!

Little Billy is the perfect outdoor breakfast bar!
A little while later, we stopped for our "scenic breakfast".

Little Billy is the perfect outdoor breakfast bar!

Little Billy is the perfect outdoor breakfast bar! Billy makes the perfect breakfast bar!

Day 5-7, West Fork Campground, Pagosa Springs, CO

Pagosa springs seemed like a good stopping point.  I had been googling around for likely looking camping areas, and found the East Fork and West Fork campgrounds.  I was all set to try for East Fork until I learned it would be closed for the season by the time we got there.  But West Fork would be open for another week.  A further look at a video of the campground, and a review by another camper, and I decided to put West Fork on our itinerary, with the option of moving on after one night if we didn't love it,  and heading to San Luis near the Great Sand Dunes.
controlled burn
A controlled burn on the way up. At this point, we were not too far from the campground, and I worried that the smoke would bother my already irritated and road-weary eyeballs.
It turned out to be a truly lovely and smoke-free campground.   And in fact, we liked it so much, we have decided to forego San Luis altogether, then drive straight through to Beulah. (Larry had already suggested a day trip to the dunes one day while we are there, so we won't really be missing them.)

West Fork campground 
So we spent our 2 days and 3 nights not budging, after all the preceding days of driving.  Jerry rested and fiddled with the solar panel (a challenge between the tall trees and the shifting clouds). There were, the camp host assured us, no bears, despite what it said on the signs at the park entrance. Greatly relieved, I explored the fairy-like woods around the campsite.   mossy woods 



mossy mushroom 
There was moss and mushrooms everywhere.  
I had the urge to collect sticks and build a fairy cottage.  Turned out to be more like a hut.

nearby creek 

the creek near our campsite 
There was a creek just a short walk from camp.

busy squirrel There were lots of squirrels.  We watched as they nibbled fir cones from the tops of the trees, then gathered them after they fell to the ground, cleaned them up a bit, and carried them away, one by one, to save for later.

curious chipmunk There were also chipmunks.  They were very curious, but it seemed once they were able to determine that we weren't going to feed them anything, they wanted nothing to do with us.

Baby horned lizard
I was delighted to see several tiny baby horny toads near camp, during the brief periods of warmth and sunshine in the middle of the day. 
quarter sized
I obliged this one to pose for me next to a quarter.

The weather was pretty good.  It rained a little in the afternoons, and one day there was a thunderstorm with a crack of lightning so close, it made me scream!  But compared to what was to come, this was nothing we couldn't handle.  We made a fire every night, and we would spend the evenings warming ourselves by it, and wishing we had brought marshmallows.

By the way, our camp host was excellent. He was an older man who had been living in the campground since July, and was counting the hours until the park would be closing and he could return home to his ranch, some 6 hours drive away.  In the meantime, he made his daily rounds in his little cart, checking on us and the other 2 or 3 campsites that actually had people in them, and keeping the vault toilets clean.  He actually mopped the floors in them every day.  And after someone checked out, he would go right to their campsite, make sure it was clean, and he raked the dirt area around the firepit into zen-like orderliness.  I was amazed.  I told him we would love to return some day, and hoped to see him again, but he assured us that this was a one-time thing for him and he would not be coming back, at least not as a host.