Sunday, May 29, 2011

Up to Hart Mountain ~ May 22nd

Slept like logs last night, it's remarkable what a little exercise will do for the soul! We must bid adieux to Trisha, Leland and Annie the Wonder Dog this morning as they head home to Idaho. After breakfast and goodbyes we once again pile into Ken and Betty's trusty CRV and head out for the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (over 240,000 acres).

It's located on a massive fault block ridge that ascends nearly three quarters of a mile above the Warner Valley floor. We pull into the first scenic viewpoint on the way up Hart Mountain for a short walk and are absolutely stunned by the expansive views of the valley. This is one of those places when you say to yourself "What population problem?"

We're only part way up the mountain

The Warner Valley

The Rodster

The east side of Hart mountain is less precipitous and descends in a series of rolling hills and low ridges: a sagebrush sea, sprinkled with juniper and bunch grass, that is typical of SE Oregon and the Great Basin. Aspen and pine are also found in the canyons and on the steep rim. Below are a couple of locals, the beauty on the left is a meadowlark.

Since its creation in 1936 as a range for remnant herds of pronghorn antelope, the refuge has broadened to include conservation of all wildlife characteristic of this high desert habitat, more than 300 species. At the high point of the refuge is the visitors center. I'm totally smitten with the residential buildings. Though I've not been able to confirm it, my guess is they were built in 30's or 40's. What an incredible place to live and work. If you like solitude this would be heaven.

Ah, but here is what we came to see, the Pronghorn antelope. It took us bit of exploring but the wait was worth it. It's so amazing to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.

They are curious enough to watch us but wary enough to know when to go. It's quite a site to see them race across the landscape. A special thanks to Leland for trusting me with his telephoto lens!

After a long day on the range we take a different route home and discover more picturesque landscape, rivers and ranches. Absolutely toast by the time we get back to camp, we decide it's time for dinner and a nap. Another excellent adventure. We reluctantly head for home tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Day Off - Sorta - May 21st

After our birding adventure yesterday with Ken, Betty, Trisha and Leland we decide it might be good to take a day off and relax, we have another adventure planned for tomorrow.

Rod and I decide on a short walk. We've got a hand drawn map of the reservoir and ranch trails and take off about 9:30am. It's threatening rain, so along with binoculars, my camera, peanut butter sandwiches and water we bring light weight rain gear (smart move it turns out).

There are wildflowers everywhere. The leaves on this purple one look a little like our California lupine, but the flowers grow at the base (perhaps to protect blooms from extreme weather). There are bright yellow, pink, orange and white ones at every turn.

The ground is damp and cushions our footsteps. The aroma of pine is in the air and creek sounds and birdsong are all we hear. Very serene. The sky keeps changing, it's warm when the sun is out and cold when the wind shifts and comes right at you. Enchanted by our surroundings we keep on walking, making note of the land marks cited on the map. Then we come to a sign with an arrow that points in both directions. Back to the park is 2.7 miles and to continue the rest of the walk is 3.8 miles. 

Okay, we're game, the altitude isn't bothering us, the legs seem to be pretty happy, and we've just had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Life is good, westward ho!

We pass large outcroppings of white rock, a field of rock with bright orange lichen, ponds, small footbridges and several flumes directing water in different directions, no doubt for irrigation of the upper pastures we are traversing. We turn a corner and the valley begins to stretch out below us. The skies darken and we're suddenly being pelted with hail and burst out laughing as we scramble to get into our raincoats. It breaks in about 5 minutes and we're back in the sun. Rod calls it a freshet. Around the last turn before we reach the lakeside path back to camp we spy a welcome site.

Kidding! We're totally amazed at the distance we've travelled today, almost 7 miles. It was a great excursion, but now it's time to relax, we again join the camp chair brigade and do a little bird watching with our feet up while we contemplate dinner.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bird Watching 101 - May 20th

We know most of the birds that visit our property and the Sonoma County coast, but were never serious birders until two things happened: good binoculars and this trip to a spectacular stop on a North American migratory flyway.

After breakfast this morning we pile into the car and head for Lake Abert, the third-largest saline body of water in North America. It lies in a basin with no outlet and so the mineral salts that have dissolved over millenniums are highly concentrated. Millions of brine shrimp (sea monkeys) in the lake provide food for thousands of migrating birds.

Abert Scarp Rim

The Scarp Rim, however, is the striking focal point of the area. The formation extends for 19 miles along the lake edge. It rises 2,000 feet above the plateau with an 800 foot lava cap that ends in a sheer precipice. It is one of the highest fault scarps in the world. We didn't find too many birds here, so after a short stop we head west to Summer Lake.

Summer Lake

The arid lands around Summer Lake were once lush. During the Pleistocene Era, vast areas of this region were covered by lakes and wetlands. As the last ice age was ending, rain and runoff from melting snow filled the lowlands throughout this region of the Great Basin, creating an immense, freshwater lake called Chewaucan. It covered 461 sq. miles at depths of up to 375 feet.

Summer Lake and Abert Lake are now separated by twenty miles and are the only remnants of Lake Chewaucan. Summer Lake is approximately 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. It's only source of fresh water is the small spring-fed Ana River so it shrinks during summer and expands dramatically in spring time. The Basin supports more than 250 species of birds and the wildlife area has about 8 miles of gravel road that weaves through the refuge.

When you were a teenager do you every remember doing what we used to call a Chinese Fire Drill? The driver would stop the car, all doors would fly open and everyone would change seats. I guess our greybeard version could be called the Birder Shuffle. The weather was perfect today, sunny and in the mid sixties like us. There was no one out on the refuge roads, so when someone spotted a new species our intrepid driver would simply stop the car and we'd all jump out with binoculars, scopes and cameras at the ready. 

Our partial list includes ibis, sand hill crane, stilt, yellow headed blackbird, marsh wren, ruddy duck, cinnamon teal, tundra swan, horned lark, sage sparrow, chucker, red tail hawk, night heron, golden eagle, bald eagle and white pelican.  

White Pelican

An amazing day for veterans and rookies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Live From WJRR Cow Country Radio ~ May 19th

From Burney we head further east to Hwy 395 and turn north through a number of small towns. At the Oregon border we discover New Pine Creek. As we toddle through town we spy an old building with a peace symbol and Just Stuff painted on the front. Rod and I looked at each other and decided we had to turn around and check it out.

Just Stuff ~ New Pine Creek, OR

There was indeed "stuff" from floor to ceiling, every square inch of shelving sags under the weight of wondrous treasures. The owner came there 30 years ago and started collecting things at garage sales and soon people were coming to her. We spent at least an hour and kept retracing our steps to make sure we didn't miss anything. We purchased four vintage 1937 California made Poppytrail dinner plates in yellow, blue, green and rose (we were never big on matching sets). You've got to love a small town, the owner gave us a dozen fresh Araucana eggs from her neighbor as part of the deal.

Back on board we turn left off of Hwy 395 and head west on Hwy 140 about 10 miles to Juniper Reservoir RV Resort. This little slice of high desert paradise is at 4,800 feet in the middle of a working cattle ranch. Meet our welcome committee. The leader of the pack looks like he's part reindeer.

Curious George

Juniper Reservoir

This is the incredible view from our spot. We are here to meet up with Ken & Betty Rodgers and Trisha & Leland Nelson, their friends from Boise. We all got in late afternoon, parked our butts in camp chairs with binoculars and cameras and chatted until hunger set it. Between the six of us we came up with homemade tamales, green salad and Rod's stir fry polenta and garden veggies. Early to bed to read for awhile, road trip tomorrow to Summers Lake.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Off We Go - May 18th

I've reconsidered my dislike of Interstate 5, at least in the springtime. We traveled north through some of California's most beautiful orchards and farmland. How many of us take for granted the wonderful produce we find in our local stores? Hard working farmers around the country labor through good times and bad to bring us their best. Think about visiting your local farmer's market and spend your money locally.

Our adventure really begins when we turn right onto Hwy 299 at Redding and head East to McArthur-Burney Falls. Wild flowers abound, the Redbud is in full bloom, meadows are still green, and the rivers high.

 Redbud & Pit River

We find a great spot in the campground within walking distance of the falls. There is no one down there when we take our morning hike.

Burney Falls (129 feet)

I've been coming here since I was a kid and I am always awed at it's beauty. The volume of water never changes. Snowmelt and rainwater percolate through the porous surface of the lava rock and is trapped in huge subterranean rivers and reservoirs. One of these underground aquifers feeds Burney Creek, and in turn, Burney Falls. The falls flow all year even though a half mile above the falls, Burney Creek is often absolutely dry. One of nature's wonders to be sure. 

Happy Campers ~ May 23rd will be the 30th anniversary of the day we met at the Fort Ross Volunteer Fire Department Picnic ~ how time flies when you're having fun!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Diane ~ May 19th

I'll be on a road trip in SE Oregon and off the grid for a week, so I wanted to post an early birthday wish to a late friend who always made me laugh out loud. Oh the stories we could tell: the day that 6 foot diameter kelp balls rolled up on Wrights Beach with live abalone attached after a huge storm, our Thanksgiving trip to Ashland or the trip to Hawaii when we found out that our airline had folded after we got there. Oh darn, we're stuck here for a few extra days!

For many years we collaborated with our friend Rosie to make the wreath for the Blessing of the Fleet at the annual Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival, a labor of love we truly enjoyed. Can you tell?

Diane ~ Me ~ Rosie

Here's to you Minkie, Happy Birthday

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time for a Road Trip

The rig is packed and we head out early Wednesday for Lakeview, Oregon. We're meeting up with friends from Idaho to spend a few days camping near Goose Lake. The area is situated at the foot of the Warner Mountains on the edge of the Oregon high desert. I've never been there so it's going to be a grand adventure.

Pronghorn Antelope

Doing a little research I found that the Goose Lake Valley provides a number of unique animal habitats and the resident wildlife includes pronghorn, elk, deer, black bear, cougar, bobcat and coyote.


It is also on the western flyway from Mexico to bird breeding grounds in the Arctic. During the springtime geese, cranes and swans stop in the valley to feed and rest before continuing north. Numerous shorebirds migrate though the valley and nest in the areas around Goose Lake.

Tundra Swan

Sandhill Crane

This sounds like an idyllic place to learn about birdwatching and hone my photography skills with of a couple of experts and for Rod to do a little fishing. Stay tuned for reports and photos from the road.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fresh from the Garden

The "Vegan" road has been an easy one to stay on. It's become an adventure of discovery, experimentation and new tastes. We've unearthed local restaurants that support vegan and vegetarian choices, and re-discovered the local farmer's market for the vegetables we don't grow. We also allow ourselves the occasional digression: a bit of salmon, a hint of feta on a green salad or a shared dessert when dining out.

The Herb Garden
or What to do with a Old Leaky Stock Tank

A week or two of sunshine and the herb and vegetable gardens have kicked into overdrive. This morning's breakfast was harvested minutes before it prepared.  

Several of our vegetable beds
Rod sauteed pak choy, collard greens, beets, radishes, spinach, 3 different types of oregano, garlic chives, onions, tofu and sorrel in one teaspoon of sesame oil and served it over a reheated brown rice mix of black, wild and brown rice. The results were amazing.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lookin' Through Old Books

The title is borrowed from the poem "Lookin Through Old Books" from one of my favorite cowboy poets, the late Vince Pedroia. It begins:  

Lookin' through old books
You never know what you'll find
Maybe an old pressed Douglas iris
Your mother's favorite kind

Besides getting the garden in and planning summer adventures, one of my favorite spring activities is to LTL or Lighten the Load: clean out drawers, closets and storage areas and rearrange spaces. Move a few pieces of furniture and find more open space and comfortable seating. Change what's hanging on the walls create a new awareness. We found many things we no longer used and donated to local charities. Win-Win.

I moved a stored bookcase into the living room and decided to pull out a few of my books and move them out there. I looked through each one and found some interesting things: Old newspaper articles by my great grandfather was once the editor), a handwritten recipe for Tabouli I had been looking for for years) and a picture of me and my two bodacious friends. We had gotten together for lunch in 2007 when Laurie (on the left) was down in our neck of the woods from Washington, Jean is on the right.

We are all now certifiable, card-carrying senior citizens. We've known each other since Kindergarten, over 60 years. Holy Senior Discount Card, I'd say that's some perspective on life! I think we'd all agree that laughter and a good attitude is the key to longevity. When was the last time you spoke to one of your best buds? Take a note ~ Make the call!