Photo of the Day 4.1.20

Valley of Fire petraglyphs

While we were camped in the Mojave Preserve, we had a great conversation with some fellow Vermonters who were traveling in a vintage Airstream.  Upon their recommendation, when we left the Mojave Preserve, we decided to head to Valley of Fire State Park on the northeastern side of Las Vegas.  Part of the fun of traveling on the fly is being able to make these last minute decisions!   My next blog post will detail our stay in this incredibly unique area.

The best part of the decision to detour to Valley of Fire was discovering a hiking trail with the most amazing petroglyphs I have ever seen!  The Mouse Tank Trail is a short trail leading back to a hide-out used by a local renegade Southern Paiute in the late 1890’s.  On the way back to the terminus of the trail, the rock walls are teeming with petroglyphs.

Photo of the Day 3.31.20

Las Cienegas pond (1 of 1)
Cottonwood Pond with the Mt. Wrightson Wilderness peaks in the background

I walk to this pond in the conservation area daily.  It is a source of rejuvenation for me and reflection.  It brightens my spirit during this difficult time.  I love spending time watching the great egret who lives here – and find myself concerned that I have not seen him for a couple of days.  I am amazed by the Tree Swallows who inhabit this watershed – their flight patterns are so acrobatic as they dive, climb and circle in the air in search of insects to nab for a meal.  I delight at watching them as they periodically dip down to the water and literally pick insects off the surface!

Today, we took a late afternoon walk down to the pond.  We had some RV business to take care of – dumping our tanks, filling up with fresh water, and topping off our propane supply.  Those tasks encompassed most of the day and we returned to our camp site ready for some exercise.  We were treated to a greater variety of birds at the pond today – maybe it was the time of day.  We observed a Cedar Waxwing perched in a tree along the water’s edge, more Tree Swallows performing for us and several Vermillion Flycatchers hunting for food. I caught a glimpse of a small, mostly yellow bird darting between several trees – that I’m guessing may be a Wilson’s warbler.  The habitat certainly  fits and the time of year coincides with its presence here.  I’ll look for him again tomorrow and hopefully get a better look.

The Tree Swallows, in particular, are catching our fancy.  As we stand quietly, we are convinced that our presence brings them out in force to show off their agility for us!   And, they do not disappoint!

Photo of the Day 3.30.20

Las Cienegas hike 2 (1 of 5)

On my morning walk with coffee mug and stroopie in hand, this dead Mesquite tree caught my eye with its gnarled, twisting dead branches.  I’m a “bark” person – I love trees with interesting bark – dead or alive.  The monochromatic effect this photo imparts is calming and meditative.  The photo will always remind me of this unique place with its tangled landscape of Mesquite bosques.

While continuing down the road to the pond, I heard the distinctive screech of a what I think was a red-tailed hawk.  I scanned the sky in the direction of the noise and discovered these two hawks in the huge Fremont cottonwoods along the edge of the wash.  What do you think – red-tailed hawks??  That’s my guess.  I cropped the photographs significantly to get a better look at them.  I did not have my binodulars with me.  While not the best wildlife photography, I had fun watching them fly around the cottonwoods!  I noticed a substantial nest in the largest cottonwood the other day and now I’m wondering if it could belong to one of them.  The one hawk kept up a constant screech as if disturbed by something.  I’m not sure if he was irritated with me or something else – but I kept my distance and photographed from afar.  I was actually surprised at the clarity of the pictures given the distance and lack of a tripod.     

Las Cienegas Hawks (1 of 4)Las Cienegas Hawks (2 of 4)Las Cienegas Hawks (3 of 4)Las Cienegas Hawks (4 of 4)

 

 

 

Photo of the Day 3.29.20

Las Cienegasbike ride 2 (2 of 4)
Fremont Cottonwoods along the Cienega Creek

We took  an extended bike ride yesterday along yet another unexplored dirt road in search of the Cienega Creek.  We have noticed the sprawling line of green-topped cottonwoods from a distance.  As we were riding along, it would seem as though the road was leading to the creek but then it would always veer away from it just when we thought we were getting close!

After a while, we decided to turn back since it was getting late in the afternoon.  We stopped to quench our thirst and noticed a woman approaching from the opposite direction on a very eccentric, colorful electric bicycle with two flags flying above her.  One of the flags was displaying the Burning Man 10 Commandments!  The way the bike was decorated, it definitely resembled a bike someone would take to Burning Man!  She chatted with us for quite awhile. We are all getting a tad lonely trying to distance ourselves from human contact!  She explained that her husband has been a Burning Man participant for many years hence the flag and unusual bike.  She mentioned they are also founding members of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous group who have annual gatherings in and around Quartzsite, AZ each winter.  I have heard of this group but never met anyone who participated in the community gatherings.  

The best part about the encounter was her recommendation that we keep going another 2 miles, through two gates and, eventually, we would indeed reach the Cienega Creek!!  She had just come from there and mentioned there was actually water running in the creek.  It was serendipity that we happened upon her!  Her enthusiasm about the beautiful landscape up ahead and the creek infused us with the extra energy we needed to continue!!

The absolute best part of the ride happened on our return trip.  I was leading the way and saw movement up ahead.  I stopped and watched two coyotes cross the road in front of me and head off into the grass.  They stopped a distance away and looked back at us.  We noticed the cattle in the area huddling up around their calves as they had caught sight of the coyotes as well.  We stood by our bikes and enjoyed watching them several minutes before they scooted off across the land.  It was a glorious end to a perfect day.

Las Cienegasbike ride 2 (3 of 4)
Jim riding through the Sacaton grass flat near Cienega Creek
Las Cienegasbike ride 2 (1 of 4)
Lots of Vermillion Flycatchers in the area!
Las Cienegasbike ride 2 (4 of 4)
The contrast between the blue sky, the Fremont cottonwoods and the Sacaton grass caught my eye!!

 

Photo of the Day 3.28.20

Las Cienegas dirt road (3 of 3)
Dirt road in Las Cienegas NCA

Late  yesterday afternoon I needed to get out of the trailer and get some fresh air.  A cold front moved in here and there were storm clouds all around us interspersed with blue skies.  Very dramatic skyline!  Jim was not feeling up for a walk so I bundled up in my winter gear and headed out on my own.  I walked and walked along this dirt road heading out into the grassland and never did come to the end of the road.  This photograph is very representative of the topography here!

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” — Robert Frost

I was reminded of Robert Frost’s iconic poem “The Road Not Taken” as I walked.  Many interpretations of this poem exist.  I’ve always interpreted the poem to be a narrative about the choices we make in life.  More specifically, taking the unconventional approach – the road less traveled -can lead to a more fulfilling outcome.  The poem has certainly been wildly analysed over the years.  I read where Frost actually wrote this poem as a joke for his friend and fellow poet Edward Thomas.  Thomas apparently often would complain on their many walks together that perhaps they should have taken a different path when disappointed by the outcome of the path they chose.  Frost was supposedly mocking Thomas’ indecisive nature in the poem.  He mentions to Thomas that he was disappointed that the poem was being “taken pretty seriously” when he really just meant it as a joke.

As I read over the poem again, I’m now torn.  The title  – The Road Not Taken – suggests really two separate thoughts.  Which road is the title referring to?  Should the reader have taken the more traveled road – the road he did not walk?  Or is the title referring to the less traveled road?  Is the poem really just a conversation about indecision and not meant as an encouragement towards nonconformity?  It could be that it refers to either road being okay – just make the choice and don’t turn back or regret it!  What do you think?

This line suggests both roads are equally the same –

“Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same” – Robert Frost

This is what happens when you are on the road, hanging out in dispersed camping spots and waiting on word about your job!!  I journey from just posting a Photo of the Day  to an interpretation discussion on The Road Not Taken!  Well – that’s what the photo brought to mind! 

While I’m enjoying hiking, biking and being out in nature – I am ready to get back to the work I love!

Las Cienegas dirt road (2 of 3)Las Cienegas dirt road (1 of 3)  

Photo of the Day 3.27.20

 

Sunst Las Cienegas (5 of 7)

Last night around sunset, I was deep into listening to a detective murder mystery audio book when I noticed what was happening outside the trailer.  The sky was ablaze!!  No time to get my tripod out so I just grabbed my camera and shot these hand-held – so not the clearest photos – but you get the idea.  I think the one above was my favorite.  I included several others as the scene unfolded and the sky changed.

Sunst Las Cienegas (3 of 7)

Sunst Las Cienegas (2 of 7)

Sunst Las Cienegas (6 of 7)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos SNR (15 of 43)
This wave was a little too close for comfort!!  Had me scooting backwards in a hurry!!

Between late February and early March, we were mooch-docking at my son Luke’s house in Menlo Park, CA.  We took advantage of being near the California coast to do some exploring. During a conversation with a neighbor’s parents, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was mentioned. They live in Stockton but spend time with their grandson next door weekly and they suggested we make time for a visit to Point Lobos. They touted it as one of their favorite places. We always make it a point to get travel tips from locals!  So, I added it to my to-do list and checked the forecast for that area daily. Finally, a perfect weather day presented itself.

On March 2, we left Menlo Park and made our way to Point Lobos SNR. It sits off Highway 1 just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the drive along Rt. 17 and California 1 was scenic and uneventful – taking us about 1 ½ hour driving time. The park charges an entrance fee of $10.00 with a dollar off that price for seniors. They also limit the number of visitors who can enter the park by vehicle so that there is minimal impact on the area. It was off-season during our visit so the park was not full and we had no problem finding a parking space in a lot near the coast. It was an absolutely gorgeous day along the coast – warm and sunny. I marveled at how blue the ocean appeared here.

Point Lobos SNR (1 of 43)

A little history….

The area where Point Lobos sits has been used by various inhabitants since ancient times. The first to use the lands abundant resources were Native Americans who lived here seasonally when fresh water was available. With the European influx in the mid-1700’s, Point Lobos served many purposes. Settlers grazed livestock, operated a whaling station, built fisheries and canneries, quarried for granite and developed a shipping port.

A local inhabitant, A.M. Allan started purchasing large tracts of land here in the late 1800’s with the ultimate goal of preserving this unique coastline ecosystem. With encouragement and support from local conservation groups, the area was incorporated into the state park system in 1933. Eventually, an additional 775 acres of submerged acres were added that established the nation’s first underwater reserve.

Minimal intervention is done to the land – leaving it to absorb the natural processes of weather, time and environment – and keeping it as close as possible to its natural state. We chose to hike some of the headlands trails and the coastal trail while here. We walked the short Cypress Grove Loop which includes the Allan Memorial Grove – a Cypress grove honoring A.M. Allan and his wife for their foresight in preserving Point Lobos.

Point Lobos SNR (2 of 43)

We then hiked along the coastal trail – South Shore Trail – with short diversions onto the Sea Lion Point Trail and the Sand Hill Trail. I have to say the rocky coastline reminded me of Acadia in Maine – the cliffs and coves and waves!

Point Lobos SNR (3 of 43)Point Lobos SNR (4 of 43)Point Lobos SNR (6 of 43)

The abundance of aquatic wildlife was amazing!! We watched a sea otter playing among the kelp fields from the cliffs on the Sand Hill Trail.

Point Lobos SNR (33 of 43)
We were entertained watching this California Sea Otter  – they like to play in the kelp fields!

With binoculars, we could observe the sea lion colony occupying the rocky outcroppings off shore. I should note that Point Lobos was named by the Spanish settlers – a shortened version of “Punta de los Lobos Marinos” – or Point of the Sea Wolves.

Point Lobos SNR (5 of 43)
There really are sea lions out on those rocks!!  You can barely make out one of them with his head raised!

We were treated to a tranquil scene at Hidden Beach. This beach is inaccessible to the public and, viewing it from above on the South Shore Trail, we noticed a group of Harbor Seals sunbathing on the sand! Jim counted 23 seals in all! Apparently they are year-round residents here and, in April and May, pups are born on rock ledges and beaches.

Point Lobos SNR (34 of 43)
Harbor Seals basking in the sunshine 🙂

Much of the time, we wandered on the shoreline rocks watching the waves and exploring the tide pools. At Weston Beach, the tide pools were rich with aquatic life. In several places, there were masses of purple sea urchins! Their color inundated the water and gave it a lavender glow. One pool had colonies of Rough Limpets. Periwinkles and other limpet species were also abundant. I was most enthralled with the purple sea urchins though!!

Point Lobos SNR (13 of 43)

Point Lobos SNR (14 of 43)
Can you make out the purple sea urchins??  Cool, huh?
Point Lobos SNR (25 of 43)
The water in the tide pools glowed lavender with the color of the sea urchins 🙂
Point Lobos SNR (12 of 43)
Rough Limpets in a tide pool – they really are underwater!!

Towards the end of the day, we drove down to the southern most parking lot to access the Bird Island Trail. This trail leads to an overlook where you can observe colonies of Brandt’s Cormorants nesting on Bird Island. It was along this trail that Jim thought he spied an Orca whale off the coast. He saw a distinctive “blow” and then a black fin break the surface of the water. We weren’t sure what type of whale it was until we ran into a park staff employee and asked about it. She said it was quite possibly an Orca. How thrilling!! We kept vigilantly scanning the ocean for another glimpse but did not see him again.

Point Lobos SNR (38 of 43)
Brandt’s Cormorant colony on Bird Island

Around every bend in the trail was another mesmerizing scene!

Point Lobos SNR (11 of 43)Point Lobos SNR (18 of 43)Point Lobos SNR (22 of 43)

Point Lobos SNR (17 of 43)

There were masses of wildflowers blooming along the trails and shoreline….

Point Lobos SNR (7 of 43)
Eschscholzia californica  – California Poppy
Point Lobos SNR (10 of 43)
Castilleja latifolia – Seaside Painted Cup or Monterey Indian Paintbrush
Point Lobos SNR (36 of 43)
More California Poppy
Point Lobos SNR Bermuda Buttercup
A non-native – Bermuda Buttercup – Oxalis pes-caprae
Point Lobos SNR FRemonts Star Lily
Toxicoscordion fremontii – Fremont’s Star Lily
Point Lobos SNR Blue Blossum
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus – Blue Blossum

The Point Lobos website has some great informative information on its flora and fauna complete with pictures – worth checking out!

I fell in love with this beautiful, serene place – highly recommend a visit for anyone traveling along the California coast!

Point Lobos SNR (19 of 43)
Our lunchtime companion – luckily he was not aggressive like some gulls but just glared at us!!

Point Lobos SNR (31 of 43)

 

Point Lobos SNR (43 of 43)
Could not get enough of the wave action!!
Point Lobos SNR California Poppy (2)
One last California Poppy – they were just glowing the day we were there providing some beautiful back light and reflections!!  🙂

I hope you enjoyed this journey through Point Lobos!  What was your favorite photo??

Photo of the Day 3.26.20

Point Lobos SNR (32 of 43)
Castilleja latifolia – Seaside Painted Cup

It was a cool, windy and cloudy day in the Arizona desert so I spent some time processing photographs.  I have a backlog of pictures to edit since beginning our winter journey throughout the Southwest and California.   And, today seemed like a perfect time to put my feet up on the sofa and work in Lightroom!  I chose to upload and edit the photographs I captured at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  The setting could not be more different than where we are currently camped!  It was fun to review these seaside snapshots and reminisce about our beautiful day there walking along the high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

There were many flowers blooming at Point Lobos.  My next blog posting will explore our day trip there on March 2, 2020.  But for now, enjoy this precious little wildflower nodding towards the sun on the cliffs high above the roaring ocean.  The Seaside Painted Cup apparently grows along the California coast between Point Reyes and Big Sur.  It is found right on the coast often growing in sand dunes and coastal shrub communities.  When I first noticed it blooming, the flower reminded me of Indian Paintbrush.  In fact, it is indeed a species of this plant.  Another common name for the plant is Monterey Indian Paintbrush.

Photo of the Day 3.25.20

Photo of day 3.25.20 (4 of 4)
Looking through the Sacaton Flats towards the mountains to the east

On our bike ride today, we came upon an area with taller grass than what we have seen near our campsite.  An interpretive sign indicated we were in the Sacaton Flats.  The giant sacaton grass (Sporobolus wrightii) is an important native species in the area that helps this harsh ecosystem in several ways – it provides an absorption mechanism during flood flows, aids in erosion control and traps and holds soils in place.  Without this grass, wind and water erosion cause soil depletion, dust and increased silt in area streams.  The grass also contributes food and habitat for both native and introduced wildlife.  Efforts have been underway here in Las Cienegas NCA to replant sacaton grass in places where it has been lost or is threatened.  Who would have thought that this native grass could be so important for the local environment?   I love finding out about these obscure, yet vital pieces of our natural world.

The environment here at Las Cienegas NCA is so very different from the mountainous canyon lands to the north of Phoenix.  While there was so much in bloom along the Apache Trail, here at 5000′ in the southern high plains the land is still relatively dormant.  I’m enjoying the contrast but, at the same time, feel challenged with finding good photographic subjects!!  Some other interesting photos of the day:

Photo of day 3.25.20 (3 of 4)

Photo of day 3.25.20 (2 of 4)
Explored the remains of the old Hummel Ranch House on our bike ride – intrigued by the texture of the ancient fence posts.  Why do you suppose there is blue paint residue on this post??
Photo of day 3.25.20 (1 of 4)
I’ve been rising early – about 6 am – and caught this morning’s sunrise 🙂  It was a bit chilly out so I hurried a shot and scooted back inside!!

A fellow blogger and Vermonter shared with me the following quote after my last post.  I  am familiar with this verse and have fond memories of time spent at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve in the Tetons.   Thanks, Stewart, for reminding me of this quote – it is so very true and I’m sharing it here:

“In the midst of the complexities of modern life, with all its pressures, the spirit of man needs to refresh itself by communion with unspoiled nature. In such surroundings- occasional as our visits may be- we can achieve that kind of physical and spiritual renewal that comes alone from the wonder of the natural world.” 
― Laurance S. Rockefeller

In search of Dripping Springs….

 

 

Bike to Dripping Springs (7 of 8)
Calliandra eriophylla – Fairy Duster – I love the name of this desert shrub!

I‘m back to sharing the adventures we launched from our dispersed camping site at La Posa South BLM in Quartzsite, AZ!  On February 12, we decided to go on a road trip to visit the Dripping Springs site located high up in the hills to the east of us. I read about this area in the 2020 Quartzsite Visitor Guide. The description indicated there were hundreds of petroglyphs to be seen at Dripping Springs and that was all I needed to spark my curiosity!

Dripping Springs gets its name from a spring that originates in a cave here providing a year-round water source – and apparently if you enter the cave you can hear the water “dripping.” Remnants of an old stone cabin and arrastra can also be observed here.  I was not familiar with the term “arrastra” so I looked it up!  It’s a “primitive mill for grinding and pulverizing gold or silver ore.”  Well, that certainly fits with the mining history of the area.  

Most people access this area riding an ATV utilizing the various BLM dirt roads that criss-cross this vast land. I started asking around for information on the best way to approach the area via a 4-wheel drive truck. I received various responses ranging from “you cannot get there with a pick-up truck as the wheel base is not short enough” to “you can get within a mile on the dirt roads off Gold Nugget Mine Road.”

One thing was clear. We needed a map. I purchased a La Posa Travel Management Map published by the BLM that covered the area in question. It listed all the primitive roads by number and would serve as a guide for us. I also stopped in to the local Chamber of Commerce and verified the information we had received. Whether we could get to within a mile of Dripping Springs by vehicle was still questionable, but the woman at the Chamber of Commerce was very nice and printed off some maps from the Quartzsite Off-Road Atlas to supplement our BLM map.

Armed with our navigation aids, we set about to access Dripping Springs from the north. We traveled east on I-10, exited at Gold Nugget Mine Road and followed the directions to the primitive road # 0065 that we needed to start our ascent into Dripping Springs. We promptly got lost since the iron road signs were very confusing. We dead-ended at a working mine and had to backtrack to our starting point. It was at this time that we met the Quebecois who was traveling in his old Westfalia and had pulled over along the dirt road to camp for the night. We chatted with him for awhile since he is basically our “neighbor” to the north and then went on to find our route.

Hike to Dripping Springs (12 of 12)
Our Quebecois friend gave us a “tour” of his Westfalia – had a great set-up!!

We found road #0065 again and drove a short distance only to realize that it was going to be a little sketchy whether we could actually continue given the road conditions. We parked the truck and decided to hike into the spring estimating that it might not be that far.

Hike to Dripping Springs (1 of 12)
Found a shady spot to park the truck and started walking!!

As we started our hike, we heard a voice yelling to us. It was the Quebecois who we had met earlier. He ran up to us and asked if we minded if he joined us on the hike. He was alone and wanted to explore but was hesitant to do so without a map or a companion. We enthusiastically said “Yes!” and we enjoyed a nice walk and great conversation with our new friend. His English was excellent and he was impressed by my knowledge of the local plant material – so he was okay with me!  He had just retired, experienced a recent health scare and decided to travel before it was too late.  Driving straight through from Quebec to Arizona – his only goal was to see the desert.  His wife was to be joining him in a few days and he was going to rendezvous with her in Las Vegas.  

Hike to Dripping Springs (2 of 12)
We walked on the unimproved dirt roads navigating with the map.  Notice the stone marker in the lower left hand corner!
Hike to Dripping Springs (11 of 12)
The roads crisscrossed numerous times and I decided we needed to mark our turns with a stone piling – putting a “white” stone on top!

We never made it to Dripping Springs although we did make it to what I think was the Dos Picachos Mine just a mile before the steep ascent to the spring.

SOME OF THE MINE SHAFTS WE SAW

Hike to Dripping Springs (4 of 12)Hike to Dripping Springs (3 of 12)

Hike to Dripping Springs (6 of 12)

Hike to Dripping Springs (5 of 12)

DESERT ART

Hike to Dripping Springs (8 of 12)
I guess those miners ate a lot of beans!!

Hike to Dripping Springs (9 of 12)Hike to Dripping Springs (10 of 12)

It was getting late in the day and we needed to turn around. We parted company with our French friend once we reached our truck and wished him well.

Bike to Dripping Springs (2 of 8)

Our second attempt to reach Dripping Springs was the very next day, February 13. Reviewing the maps, it appeared that we could ride our bikes directly from La Posa South along several primitive roads to reach the spring. If we took road #0059 from the end of the dispersed camping area and then followed #0058 and 0058B, we would be within hiking distance again.  I would not be robbed of my chance to see these petroglyphs!!

Bike to Dripping Springs (6 of 8)
The roads were great for bike riding as long as you had good shocks!!  Poor Jim!!

PLANTS ARE STARTING TO BLOOM IN THE DESERT

Bike to Dripping Springs (3 of 8)
Mexican Gold Poppy, maybe??
Bike to Dripping Springs (5 of 8)
Always wondered what those Saguaro’s look like on the inside!!

Bike to Dripping Springs (4 of 8)Bike to Dripping Springs (8 of 8)

It was a great bike ride for me, however, since Jim’s old mountain bike has no front shocks , he was not comfortable. We managed to make it onto road #0058B before turning around and heading back. We rarely saw or heard any ATV’s during our jaunt and the scenery was beautiful.  I was disappointed that we never made it to Dripping Springs but the bike ride was awesome.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Its the not the Destination, It’s the Journey!”