Birding In My Backyard

It’s been an exciting Spring around my feeders.  Eastern Bluebirds have visited my yard in the beginning of Spring before, but never have I seen them so frequently as this year. They don’t land on the feeders, but they love to gather pine straw and such for their nest and also getting bugs and worms from the yard.  Next Spring I plan on putting up a house for them.

 

Painted Buntings are the most colorful of my backyard birds.  They frequent my feeders all summer long.  The males, as in all species of birds, are the colorful ones.

Carolina Wrens may not have striking colors, but its song is loud and beautiful for such a small bird.  They like to nest around our house and this year they chose to nest inside our workshop on top of my husband’s hiking shoes.  There were four eggs and at least three hatched.  Unfortunately, we left for a trip a couple of days after they hatched, so I did not get to see them grow and fly from the nest.

It is always a thrill to see hummingbirds.  I have two feeders and several hummingbirds feed pretty regularly.  One flew into my glass door and sat stunned on a chair.  Thankfully he was fine and flew away after a while.  My pictures are not the best, but you may still enjoy seeing them.

We always have Cardinals around.  This year I got a couple of nice shots of a male feeding it’s young.

There are a variety of other birds that frequent my yard.  They include Black-capped Chickadee, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch and the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

This Osprey landed in one of my trees just above the bird bath.  This is very unusual.

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It is nice to be able to go birding without leaving home.  Put up a feeder in your yard, you may be surprised what will show up.

Family

Family has always been a big part of my life.  Growing up in a small town, next door to my grandparents, whose eight of their nine children raised their families near by, allowed me to know my kin well.  My grandparent’s house was the gathering place for holidays, Sunday dinners, afternoon ice cream making and watermelon cuttings.  We were a close family, and I know growing up amist all that family defined who I am today.

I moved away from that familiarity forty-two years ago, but made at least several trips a year back.  My grandfather died the year that I married and my grandmother passed while my first child was very young.  After that it never did seem the same.  The big gatherings grew smaller and less frequent and no longer in my back yard.  My grandparent’s children remained very close, so I guess you could say the fault lies with my generation.  Some of us moved far away, others just a short distance away, and the town grew and grew.  It just isn’t the same small town, even though it is still considered small.  Our lives grew busier and busier, speeding along like a fast moving train.  Life seemed to be so slow back then, and I miss that.

My youngest son was here last week with his wife, two girls and our new grandson.  They live in California, far away from any of their family.  We get to see them several times a year, somethimes more.  Last year, we made a trip in the RV and spent six weeks in their area.  We plan to do the same this year.  Family is still important to me.

 

 

California Fun, Part 3 (the final chapter)

Our final destination in California was Joshua Tree National Park.  We camped at Indian Wells Carefree RV Resort in Indio.  It’s a beautiful RV park that offers a lot of amenities.  Snowbirds come there for the winter. Their rates were exceptionally low, $25!  That is the cheapest we stayed in California.

Since we arrived early in the day, we took a ride to Joshua Tree NP. Twentynine Palms is the closet town to one of the three entrances to Joshua Tree.  It is on the northern side of the park and does have a RV park.  We chose to stay on the southern side of the park, which meant a 45 minute drive to it’s entrance.  Most of it’s trails and sites are in the northern part of the park as well, so it meant a lot of driving for us.

We grabbed a map at the visitor center and talked with the park ranger about places to see.  He recommended a couple of good places to be around sunset. Cottonwood Springs was our first stop.  It is a little oasis you can drive to with a very short hike.  The palm trees looked weird as they had never been trimmed. They were tall with green tops and dead palm fronds hanging to the ground.

Next, we drove to Cholla Catus Garden.  It was amazing!  The area had a large concentration of Jumping Cholla cactus, also known as Teddy Bear Cholla, as far as you could see.  It looked beautiful with them all glistening in the sunlight.  I would like to have walked through the gardens, but there was another area we wanted to get to before sunset.

Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks are across the street from each other and offer some great sunset shots.  There are trails where you can walk around and over the rocks.  At Jumbo Rocks a couple was having a pre-wedding photo shoot. What a beautiful setting for wedding pictures.  The bride had to be freezing though.  The wind was blowing and the temperature was really dropping as the sun faded.  This area has Joshua trees.  They only grow in the northern part of the park.  The Joshua tree is neither a tree or cactus.  It is in the lilly family and looks like a yucca.

We got to the park early the next day, driving to one of the north entrances to go hiking to Fortynine Palms Oasis.  It was a moderate hike three miles long with an 300′ elevation gain both ways.  The weather was great for hiking – sunny and cool.  As we climbed the ridge the landscape was dotted with barrel catcus.  John stopped me on the trail and pointed out some Bighorn Sheep.  We watched them as they crossed the trail and went up the ridge where they stopped to graze.

Upon reaching the oasis, we saw charred palm trunks caused by an out-of-control campfire.  According to the park’s information, fire can be benficial to the palms by encouraging seed developement and killing off competing plants. However, campfires are illegal.  The oasis are formed from a crack in the Earth’s crust and groundwater rises to the surface.

After our hike, we went into town for lunch and then returned to the park.  We made the ride out to Keys View.  The elevation is over five thousand feet and you can overlook miles of valley, mountains, and desert.  It was very windy and cold. Since we were in shorts and the views were hazy that day, so we did not stay long.

It was much nicer in the lower elevations.  There were still two short hikes I wanted to do, Hidden Valley and Barker Dam.  Hidden Valley is a rock-enclosed valley said to been used by cattle rustlers.  It certainly was a well hidden place for cattle, but I wondered how they managed to get water to them.

Joshua Trees abound in this part of the park.  The landscape was just thick with them and some of them were huge.

Just before sunset we hiked to Barker Dam.  It was built around 1900 to hold water for cattle and mining use.  Sometimes you can see wildlife there, but not during our visit.

We really enjoyed our visit to Joshua Tree NP.  California is a great state to explore with so much to offer.  There was only two highlights for the trip back east after leaving California.  One was a stop in Arizona at Green Valley to visit with John’s brother, Eddie and his wife Judy.  We spent five days there doing some maintenance and repairs on the RV.  While there, we also visited the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Coronado National Forest.  Then our last stop was in NC to visit with my family.  It was a great ending to a wonderful trip.

 

California Fun, Part 2

After leaving Half Moon Bay we drove south to Monterey.  We drove on coastal Hwy 1, which is fairly RV friendly compared to the northern coast we had driven on a previous trip.  We chose an RV park (Carmel By The River) nestled against the mountains instead of one we could had stayed in right on the ocean.  Their advertisement said something about being lullabied to sleep with the sounds of a river and croaking frogs.  It sounded like a nice change from the ocean – Duh! California is in a severe drought.  The river was dried up and I never heard one frog, but John said he did.  Oh well, we went to sleep with the sound of silence.

Isn’t it always fun to go down roads with the uneasy feeling you shouldn’t be there.  The road that led to this campground was like that.  It narrow down to one lane and it would be impossible for another RV to get by if you met one.  There was no shoulder to pull over on, but there were a couple of pull outs so cars can get out of your way.  An RV would NOT fit in these pull outs.  Thank God we didn’t meet one going in or out.  There was a very steep hill we had to go down that ended at the campground.  On top of all that, there wasn’t good signage leading you in, which made you wonder if WAZE was taking you down the wrong road with no way in hell you could turn around.  Oh the joys of RVing.  All in all, the campground was nice.  The sites were not as spacious as we were hoping, but we did fit in.  The length was fine, but there are tall bushes between each site that just barely gave us enough room to put our slide out.

That afternoon, we took a nice drive down to Big Sur State Park.  Big Sur is the southern most boundary for the redwoods.  The southern redwoods are smaller and less numerous than the northern redwoods.  That is due to the warmer and drier air.  Also, scientists have learned from studying their growth rings that the coastal fog has decreased by 30% in the last 50 years.  The redwood’s survival is at risk.  There was plenty of coastal fog the day we drove to Big Sur.

The next day we drove into Monterey to go on a whale watching excursion.  The weather was as near perfect as it could get.  The winds were almost calm, which they said was very unusual for the bay.  We saw sea lions, seals, dolphins, orcas and humpback whales.  The humpbacks nor the orcas were close enough to us for great pictures.  The whales were feeding down deep, so they did not stay at the surface for long periods.  It was a bit of a disappointment in comparison to our whale watching excursion in Nova Scotia.

We had a late lunch on Fisherman Wharf, then explored around Monterey by car.  We liked Monterey.

Our next stop will be Joshua Tree Nation Park.  Stay tuned.

California Fun, Part One

Not only is California a big state, it is a very scenic state.  We have driven and explored many of it’s highways over the last eight years. There are still some parts that we have not covered.  All the roads we traveled on  have been scenic. There are some states that are just boring to drive through, at least in my eyes, but not California!

Our main goal this trip was to arrive at Half Moon Bay and set up camp for six weeks.  From there we would explore the San Francisco Bay Area and spend a lot of time with our son’s family, who are a mere thirty minute drive away.

There are many areas of California that have captured my heart, but I have to say the coast pulls at my heartstrings.  All of California’s coast is dramatic with it’s towering cliffs and jagged shoreline.  I enjoyed morning walks along coastal trails as well as bike rides with my husband.

We made a day trip to Santa Cruz, stopping along the way to admire the magnificent coast, stopping at Pigeon Point Lighthouse and even walking down to the beaches.  In Santa Cruz they have a boardwalk with shops and carnival rides, which didn’t appeal to us.  We really didn’t see a place to eat that interested us, so we set our sights on the Wharf.  There is parking on it and quite a few restaurants to choose from.  A local had recommended Stagnaro Bros. Restaurant and we were not disappointed with the view, service or food.  I had crab cakes and a cup of clam chowder, both were outstanding.  John had seared tuna on a bed of sea weed that was also outstanding.  It was pricey, but then everything in California is. On the way back to my son’s house, we stopped at one of the many roadside farm stands to buy chocolate covered strawberries.  My granddaughters loved that treat.

We have visited San Francisco before, did a tour there, visited Fisherman Wharf and China Town, so those things were not on our list to do this time.  Alcatraz was though!  It was a very interesting tour.  Did you know that Alcatraz was known to have the best food in our prison system?  They say there was not a successful escape, but five prisoners are listed as missing and presumed drowned.  Al Capone was their most famous prisoner.  The view of San Francisco from their recreational yard must had been a psychological punishment.

We discovered a lovely winery while driving along the scenic Skyland Blvd.  We drove through Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards, but did not have time to do the tour and wine tasting.  I really meant to get back to it on another day.  We have toured Nappa Valley on a previous trip and found it to be delightful.  I enjoy wine and find wineries alluring.  Driving Skland Blvd. allows you fantastic views of the valleys on both sides.

There are lots of hiking trails in the Bay Area, and we took advantage of this a few times.  We hiked a coastal trail, through a redwood trail and even a trail in our son’s neighborhood. There were always nice views and a chance for a little exercise.

We stayed at three campgrounds in Halfmoon Bay.  Half Moon Bay RV Park was the first one, where we spent five nights.  It is behind Cameron’s Pub.  We found it to be quiet and very friendly, but very dusty.  Then we moved to Pelican Point RV Park, just a little outside of town.  We spent four weeks there.  We had a view of a golf course in front and if nobody was camped in the sites to our right, we had a small view of the ocean.  There is a short trail to ocean access and the coastal trail where you can walk, jog or ride bikes.  Reservations for October need to be made in advance.  They really book up on weekends due to beautiful weather, pumpkin farms and a Pumpkin Festival.

After that point, we didn’t have reservations.  We wanted to stay a little longer and to also see how we would like Pillar Point RV Park.  Pillar Point is right on the ocean and is first come first serve.  Sunday and Monday are the best days of getting in.  They also have a website that they update several times a day telling you how many sites are available.  We moved in on a Tuesday to an ocean view site.  I think it helped that we were only 15 minutes away.  You can arrive as early as you want.  We stayed six nights. It is like a big parking lot, with sites that are a little tight, but the view can’t be beat.  You can watch the surfers to the left of the campground and there is a nice beach in front.  Several restaurants are within easy walking distance.  However, they don’t have laundry services.  The biggest drawback to us was the road noise.  There was road noise all the time, but we drowned it out at night with a portable fan.

We left Halfmoon Bay to start our trip home.  More on that in the next blog.

Family Time in California

What is more wonderful than spending time with family?  There are many things that top my list to make me happy, but family time, no matter how simple it may be, well, let’s just say I am at my happiest.  Being able to spend six weeks in California near my grandchildren just put me on top of the world!. I have so many memories to look back on.

We celebrated three birthdays and one anniversary while we were there.

All of us visited the tidal pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  The girls loved looking for creatures in the pools and then playing in the cold water.

Kayaking at Half Moon Bay was a blast!

We took the kids to Lemos Farms at Half Moon Bay to ride the ponies and get a pumpkin.  It was such a fun time.  Sadly, Kevin and Susie couldn’t go with us since it was a weekday.  The traffic and crowds on the weekend would had been impossible to bear.

The girls loved to help with the meals.  They were always pulling up a chair to stand on so they could just watch.

They can be the silliest girls, especially at bedtime.  You should just see their bedtime routine.  It is a hoot!

The Oatland Zoo was a big hit with the adults and kids!

The kids visited us at Half Moon Bay.  We all enjoyed the beach.

We enjoyed lots of meals outdoors, reading to the girls, playing games and most of all just enjoying being with them.

It was sad to say good-bye to them, but I am dreaming about the next trip to see them.  Oh my goodness!  I forgot to tell you, there will be a new arrival in March! Eliza says it is a sister, but we will be waiting for the birth to find out.

Just a Bump In The Road

We are westward bound to the west coast where we will spend five weeks just thirty minutes from our youngest son and his family.  His family includes his beautiful wife and two of the cutest and sweetest girls around – at least in my eyes.  I’ve been telling everyone that I was going to find out what it is really like being a grandparent, well, a grandparent who gets to see their grandchildren regularly.  Not only that, we will get to explore the San Francisco Bay Area!

We are allowing eleven days to our final destination, Half Moon Bay.  That way John won’t have to drive extremely long days and we can even spend two nights at a couple of spots.  One thing about RVing that all RVers know, you may hit bumps in the road………that is in your well laid plans.

It was a good start, traveling smoothly down the road, until we hit Memphis, TN.  John hates driving through Memphis.  There is not a great southern loop around the city and the roads are rough to say the least.  We made it to I 40 in West Memphis when a trucker was honking at us and his passenger was waving wildly at us.  At first we both wondered why he was honking at us.  We certainly couldn’t tell anything was wrong, but we knew something had to be up, so pull over on the shoulder we did.  John gets out to check things out and then returns with the words, “It’s bad.”  We had lost a wheel off our tow dolly and the dolly was dragging along the road.  Amazing that we didn’t even feel anything.  Even more amazing that it didn’t cause us to wreck or damage the car.

We don’t know how long we had been traveling that way, but surely not far.  John unloaded the car and went in search of lug nuts so he could put the spare on.  Luckily, he did not have to go far to get to an auto parts shop.  He even backtracked to see if he could locate the missing wheel with no luck.  With the spare on, we decided to camp in West Memphis in order to buy a new rim and tire.  We didn’t trust that spare for the distance we were going.  Oh, and all this happened with a light rain falling of course.

Now for the lucky part of the story, and we are very thankful that we had some luck too.  When we arrived at the campground, the bottom fell out of the sky.  Thank God it waited ’til we were off the road.

I explained our predicament while I was checking in and they gave me a business card of a tire shop very close by.   After the rain let up, John went to the shop and they said they could have a new rim and tire ready by 9:00 the next morning.  As luck had it, it was ready by 8:00 and we got back on the road by 10:00.  I’m so thankful we didn’t have to wait two or more days.

Bump number two happened in Oklahoma.  Rolling down I 40 and a beep beep starts sounding.  Now we are losing air pressure.  We just happened to be at an exit with a Loves, plus a mechanic.  If it had happened a little sooner, we would had lost all our air and the brakes would lock up, leaving us on the shoulder of the road again.  We just did make it to the parking lot.

John found a hose where a hole had rubbed in it.  Between him and the mechanic, they removed it, but of course they didn’t have a replacement part.  The mechanic located a part for it, but it required John driving a good ways to get it.  When he returned, the mechanic was busy and John replaced it himself.  The mechanic did not charge us, so it was a rather inexpensive fixed, but we lost a lot of time.  We are still on schedule though, but we did lose one of our two night stay to do something fun.

Then we hit scenic New Mexico along with it’s long grades of hills.  Now our RV does not have a big engine allowing us to go uphill at a fast rate, but the slowness we were going was bordering on ridiculousness.  I kept thinking we didn’t have this kind of trouble for these size of hills before and was wondering how the heck we would ever cross the mountains in California.

We stopped for lunch and John brought up the subject.  He had been wondering the same thing.  Something was definitely wrong and the only thing he came up with was a dirty fuel filter.  He had a new one with us, so he changed it at a truck stop.  What a difference it made!  It was just a short hang up and we were once again rolling smoothly along.

Now we are in Bakersville, CA, just one day from our final designation, and a day early!  Tomorrow, I get to see my son, Kevin, his wife, Susie, and their two daughters, Eliza and Hazel!  Yea, yea, yea!