Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Bull Whisperer ~ June 3, 2012

Junipers Reservoir RV Park is located on an 8,000 acre working cattle ranch in the southern Oregon Outback. Sagebrush and shrubs interspersed with evergreens and wildflowers, creeks, marshes, and wildlife. We wake up to bird song. There are only a few other campers in the park so it's quite peaceful.

After breakfast we suit up for our annual hike and take off about 9:30 with layers, sunhats, sandwiches, water, an apple, cameras and binoculars. The trail around the ranch is about 6.6 miles. We've been doing a lot of driving and sitting, so this is going to be a welcome challenge. It's warm and breezy, clouds are moving through with the possibility thunder showers this afternoon. About 1/2 mile into the walk we spot two Great Horned Owls. We can only watch with binoculars, they're too far away for a photo because I have the wrong lens ~ rookie! We follow a new track this time and do a little exploring.

We come up out of the meadows to an area of sage brush and walk along a dirt track through a stand of gnarly old moss covered junipers. We almost stepped on this little guy he was so well camouflaged. He didn't look to happy with us, but shortly after we took his picture we found a heart shaped rock and a hawk feather ~ gifts from the source.

About 3.5 miles into the walk, at the White Rocks, we come upon a very large herd of cattle milling about on the road and around the pond. When we were up in April of 2011 they were all down in the lower pastures. We stand our ground for a bit and think about our next move.

Some of the bulls have their heads down pawing the dirt, others are calling to their harems (the sound is like bull frog on steroids ~ echoing along the ridge), and a few are paying no attention to us at all. The cows and their offspring are watching us with great interest. Hmmmm what to do? We really want to finish the circuit and not turn back the way we came.

It appears my husband is a man of many talents ~ add Bull Whisperer to his resume. He leans over to me and says "Baby girl you may want to put your red fleece jacket in the pack while we're navigating this bovine traffic jam". I comply in a heartbeat. He starts talking to them in a low, soothing voice, assuring them we mean no harm and slowly walks forward at the same time. I'm tracking in his footsteps like a shadow. 

The cows and their young start to move off in small groups, trotting up the hill away from the road and the pond. The bulls have a few more conference calls and then slowly amble off in the same direction. Okay, cattle whispered, it's time for lunch, we find an old foundation to plop down on and dine with sun on our backs. The remaining 3 plus miles to camp is a gentle trail through pastures and along the reservoir.

Our little excursion was about 5 hours and once back in camp we hit the showers. Next we pull out the lawn chairs and flop in the shade to read and watch the afternoon and evening skies change. A day well spent, we're gonna sleep well tonight.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deja Voodoo Tires ~ June 1-2, 2012

6/1 ~ After breakfast we start the trek West on Hwy 20 towards Mountain Home, ID for the night. Tomorrow we'll head for Bend and turn south on Hwy 395 to Lakeview, OR for a couple of days.

We almost make it to Mountain Home and bang, thwapa, thwapa ~ the outside dually on the driver side loses it's tread. This time, at least, we're not on a major freeway and pull off onto a wide gravel verge with a view. We unhitch the Honda so I can set out to find some cell phone reception. I take one of the walkie-talkies since I don't know how far that'll be. We now have our road handles: Red Ryder and Little Beaver.

Joe's Towing to the rescue within an hour to change the tire. Good Sam Platinum Road Service has been worth it's weight in gold. In spite of the third installment of the Tire Trilogy, it's been a gorgeous day, sunny and breezy. Once the tire is changed we head for Mountain Home RV Park for a hot shower and dinner.

6/2 ~ First stop this morning is Les Schwab to get rig tires assessed. We have them check serial numbers on remaining tires and replaced only the ones in same batch as two tires that lost their tread. Wow we only needed 2 tires not 4.

Breakfast at RJ's truck stop and off we go, west on 20 then south at 395 to Lakeview. This will be our second stay at Juniper Lake Reservoir, a small park in the middle of a working cattle ranch and great place for hiking, photography and birdwatching. We came in from the south last visit, so this is new territory and a gorgeous drive.

Rod's determined to BBQ once we get settled and that sounds like a winner to me: chicken, corn and Shelley potatoes. We dine outside and enjoy the view and the weather. Against all odds we haven't yet lost our sense of humor about this and have decided to dub this trip the:

Re-TIRE-ment Tour
2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate
Les Schwab for being everywhere!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stair Master to the Sky ~ May 31, 2012

After breakfast we asked the park host for a suggestion on a good place to explore that's only a short drive, especially after yesterday's 200 mile jaunt. He told us to just turn right out of the park driveway and head for the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. It's about 25 miles north on a gravel road. Though we're camped in Idaho, somewhere along the way we cross into the Centennial Valley and Lakeview, Montana.  The drive is spectacular and we see only a couple of other cars on the road the entire journey ~ our kind of place!

Off to a promising start

Yellow Bellied Marmot  ~ Roadside Patrol

 Short pause for lunch

Just before we get to the Refuge we came upon what appears to be ghost town, like a movie set right out of an old Western. We find out it's the home base for the Center for Earth Concerns, headed by lifelong naturalists and philanthropists Melody and John Taft. The organization works around the world, dedicated to enhancing and expanding education for the protection of wildlife. You can find out more about their vision and work at

The historical buildings, which date back to the early settlers, are being restored and recreated. Also in development is a museum to showcase the history of the Centennial Valley. The facility hosts environmental researchers, artists, students and volunteers to study and fulfill common goals. "The heart of the Center is held by the people who continually dream a vision into being - the founders, directors, staff and volunteers who welcome and care for all who are fortunate enough to visit this oasis for the soul".

Our next stop is the small Visitor's Center at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge where we find more information on the area and local wildlife. We ask about the fire lookout tower on the property and find it's been retired for some time. We're delighted when the host hands us the keys and lets us to climb up and take a look. You want to talk Stairmaster ~ this was much more fun than the one at the gym and the view from the top was amazing!

Late afternoon we head back to camp to relax and fix some dinner. Starting to feel the thigh and calf muscles from our climb! Tomorrow we start the journey home and will hatch our game plan as we go.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Just a Thought Series ~ June 24, 1987

I'm following my creative muses into new territory ~ the paper arts of collage and altered books. Though I'm primarily self taught in all artistic pursuits, I've decided to take some classes, my first is next week. I've been collecting paper ephemera for years: calendars, cards, magazine and paper cutouts, small pieces of material, ribbon, etc. I was organizing some of the cards and looked on the back of this piece to find the following words.

"Happy Birthday Daddy, Wednesday is my day off and I will plant the climbing star jasmine in honor of your 77th birthday ~ plenty of southern exposure, spring water from Cazadero and Rod's magic compost. We're celebrating our 7th Fort Ross Volunteer Fire Department Picnic this weekend too ~ ever the newlyweds. Be well, be comfortable and stay curious. I love you to bits."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Three State Day ~ May 30, 2012

After breakfast we pack up the Honda with foul weather gear, cameras and snacks and head up to Yellowstone. The weather is acting up some, but the sky's constant changes create an incredible palette for the photographer in me. We've decided to spend the day exploring both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; a recon mission for the next trip.

I couldn't figure out why I saw "entering and leaving Montana" signs and had to look at a map to figure it out. There is a little pie wedge of Montana that slips in between Idaho and Wyoming when you enter Yellowstone. I mean really, we need to get out more! Did you know that Yellowstone National Park was established by the Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in March 1872?

When you're touring these magnificent parks you can't be impatient or in a hurry. Car's frequently pull over or stop in the middle of the road to see what's up. You just have to go with the flow and relax. This trip there are bison grazing along the roadside.

Ralph and the Boys

We've traveled along the Icefields Parkway, an amazing journey that takes you from Banff to Jasper, Alberta (put it on your Bucket List). We saw moose, elk, coyotes, bears, and deer along the wide grass verges next to the road. I always had this vision of the animal families orchestrating their roadside attractions in shifts. "Alice, me and the boys'll take the morning shift, then you and girls bring the kids up from the river for the afternoon shift." I can't help but create the same scenario here.  

Fountain Paint Pot

There are many pull outs along the way and we stop frequently to walk about. It's an incredibly rich, diverse and colorful environment.

After lunch we head south into the Grand Tetons National Park to do a little exploring before the weather turns bad. The Rockies never disappoint regardless of season.  

By the time we get back to camp we realize we've driven 200 miles within the parks. A great adventure but a long day. A simple dinner and we're curled up with books before nightfall. The weather is improving by the hour and the Sandhill Cranes once again wish us a good night.

Monday, June 18, 2012

From Craters to Crags ~ May 29, 2012

About 3 hours east of Boise on Hwy 20 we discover Craters of the Moon National Preserve. Time for a break and a picnic. 

Between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago, the Craters of the Moon Lava fields formed during eight major eruptive periods and grew to almost 620 square miles. The region experiences basin and range faulting, which stretches or pulls apart the crust. The Lost River Range north of the town of Arco provides good evidence that these forces are still active. In 1983 there was a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, during which Mount Borah rose about 1 foot and the Lost River Valley in that vicinity dropped about 8 feet. And we think things rock and roll around the San Francisco Bay Area!

There are cinder cones and lava fields all round us; wild flowers, lichens and a few tenacious trees bring spring color to the immense sea of black in the high desert sagebrush. After a bite to eat, we check out the visitors center and some of the local history, but we have another 4 hours to reach our destination, so we're soon back on the road. Next time we're here we'll plan on some hiking. Had to have this postcard to frame. The creator is author Ilan Shamir.

We reach our destination in late afternoon. Just south of the west entrance to Yellowstone there's a 6 mile dirt road that takes you out to Henry's Lake and the Red Rock RV Park. We're within walking distance of the lake and out in the middle of nowhere. These are our favorite kind of spots, quiet but for bird song and the wind in the trees. Another delightful place to anchor for a few days. We set up and head down to the lake.

Back to camp for a dinner of sauteed vegetables, boca burgers and potatoes and few games of cribbage. With sundown comes a serenade from the resident Sandhill Cranes and the promise of some weather.

Tomorrow we're headed to Yellowstone and the Tetons for a day trip in the Honda. In spite of our expensive learning curve, we're glad we brought it along. We have much more flexibility to explore now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thoughts of my Father ~ June 17, 2012

It didn't matter if we were
Paddling after ducks in Lake Shasta or 
Engineering runoff into fanciful creeks
Setting up camp with Mom every summer or
Building wooden boats for the pool
Digging in the garden or
Turning my VW bus into a camper
when I was in college 
I always was Daddy's Girl

November 1945

He was my hero
And at times my counterpoint
A quiet man
With a big heart
Happy Father's Day Daddy
Thanks for watching over me
Then and now

Friday, June 15, 2012

Boise Food Stars ~ May 27-28, 2012

5/27 ~ A reminder we're staying in a guest cottage at friends. We toddle into the house for coffee this morning and Linda has created yet another, blow your socks off breakfast: sauteed pears baked into a puff pastry ~ the recipe has been requested and will be posted.

Today's a lazy day by choice. We drove over to Betty and Ken's for a visit and then took a tour of Boise: historical buildings, homes and neighborhoods, old town, parks, the river and of course the blue turf of the Boise State Stadium. Love the color of this Clematis on their patio in late afternoon sun.

All 8 of us gather at Trisha and Leland's for dinner. It's our first chance to cross paths with them this trip and see Annie the Wonder Dog. Leland fixed us his renowned paella. We spent most of the prep time in the kitchen at rapt attention watching the master at work. Linda brought watermelon salad, and Betty baked strawberry/rhubarb and lemon meringue pies. Lots of wine, conversation and laughter between courses. This trip to Boise has been food lovers dream tour.

A cautionary tale about tax dollars at work. Their home borders the sage brush sea at the outskirts of Boise. Leland tells us that in early June a wrangler will be bringing in 700 goats for a few days to "mow" the steep hillsides to rid them of noxious weeds and reduce fire danger.



A great concept in theory from the city of Boise and the Fire Department. It will reduce fire danger, but the hillsides were pretty much denuded which brings up erosion concerns. Leland is philosophical about it at the moment and will wait and see what grows back in the next couple of months. Best laid plans 101!

5/28 ~ Our turn to provide sustenance. The crew has heard of Rod's designer pancakes. He was the chef at the Sonoma State Children's School for eight years and every Friday he'd fix pancakes by request for the kids. Their job was to stump him, but they never did. We all met a Ken and Betty's for breakfast. Left to right: Betty's tulip, Pancake Boy and Trisha's Phoenix

After breakfast we headed back to Steve and Linda's to start putting the rig back together, do a little laundry and get Little Towed (Honda) leashed up. We've got a bug in our bonnet to head for Yellowstone so in the morning we'll head East once again on Hwy 20.

The last supper in Boise: another four star meal with our hosts and Ken and Betty. There has been rain on and off during our stay, but the weather turns perfect again so we're able to eat on the back patio and enjoy the evening breeze: BBQ salmon, corn on cob, Steve's potato salad, Linda's apple/spice bundt cake and leftover Betty pies for desert. It has been an amazing four days: we discover a new town, get to know new friends better, share stories, and a common love of food, the arts and the outdoors.

Your next assignment: Get off you duff and go see some of the world, even if it's just the next county over. Life is short and unplugging from reality is good medicine!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eastward Ho ~ May 25th-26th, 2012

May 25th ~ Hwy 20 is a blue highway, a road less traveled with spectacular and sweeping views of the high deserts of Oregon and Idaho. Farms and ranches are patchworks of color in a sagebrush sea. Eastern Oregon is onion country so there are acres of a subtle blue green hue along the road.

Just west of the Idaho border is the small town of Vale, OR. It's time to gas up and get some lunch. We park the rig near a machine shop and ask the owner for a recommendation. He points us across the street to the Starlite Cafe. We place our order and the waitress delivers our sodas and then brings over the standard squeeze bottles of mustard, mayo and ketchup. As she goes to place them on the table she appears to fumble the bottles and "accidentally" squeezes the ketchup bottle at Rod. A stream of red heads right for his chest. After a moment of stunned silence we realize it's not ketchup, but a string of red yarn. We just dissolve in laughter along with our waitress and the locals sitting near us. The food is great, the staff delightful and the pies to die for. The Starlite is a triple threat if you're ever in Vale.

We get to Boise late in the afternoon. Our intent had been to stay in an nearby RV park over Memorial Day Weekend but our hosts Linda and Steve insist we park the rig in the driveway and use their guest quarters. They call it the Casita but read Honeymoon Suite, a delightful and comfortable spot to call home for a few days!

First night in Linda makes an incredible dish with cod, shrimp, salmon, prawns, and veggies (like paella without the rice). I need to preface this with the fact I've never been a seafood person, but this first meal in Idaho is the beginning of a new chapter in my gustatory digest. We were joined by friends Ken and Betty. In spite of the fact we hadn't seen each other since the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in February we call it an early night. We'll have four days to catch up and Saturday is going to start at o'dark thirty. We're headed to the Camas Prairie for a day of exploration, photography and birding. It's named for the Blue Flowering Camas ~ an important food source for all Native Americans in the interior Northwest. The Camas Prairie is also a traditional Nez Perce gathering place.

May 26th ~ Linda starts us off with smoothies for breakfast. No ordinary shakes these: almonds, walnuts, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, Greek yogurt, and orange and pomegranate juice ~ a total meal. We're going to introduce them into our breakfast menus at home. At 6:30am we're off (Linda, Rod and I) to meet up with Ken, Betty and their friend, artist Geoffrey Krueger ( He has a fascination with cloud laden landscapes and old farm buildings, and today would turn out to be a gold mine for all of us.

Yellow Headed Blackbird

Camas Prairie

Barn Diva and Truck

Soldier Mountains

Old School House

After the rain fog at an old corral

Ken was a great guide: we saw a kaleidoscope of wildlife, birds and waterfowl, wildflowers and mountains, farms and woodlands, old buildings and corrals. I might add that these back country gravel roads are in better shape than most of Sonoma County's paved roads! We're home by early evening, leftovers for dinner and straight to bed, exhausted and happy.

Anecdote: We stopped on an old farm road to watch two young pronghorn antelope watching a tuxedo kitty in hunting mode. She kept leaping into the air clapping her paws together. Our guess was maybe grasshoppers. Anyway we were as enthralled as the antelope and so no one got a picture. All I could think of to write down so I didn't forget was "Two antelope and a cat go into a bar."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Great Basin Spring ~ May 23-24, 2012

We head east over the Santiam Pass (a must see in the fall) on Hwy 20 to Burns then turn south onto Hwy 205, another of Oregon's Scenic Byways.

Our destination is the Narrows at Malheur and Harney Lakes in the northwestern corner of the Great Basin. Malheur Lake is freshwater, while Harney Lake is saline-alkaline. Both cycle between open water in wetter years and marshes in drier years. It is a wetlands oasis providing a habitat for many migratory bird species each year.

We stayed at The Narrows RV Park for two nights, the perfect base camp for exploring Harney County and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In the morning we went out to Visitors Center to get the scoop on the best places for birding. We got so much good information from staff and visiting birders we have to save some areas of exploration for our next trip. 

We took along a "sightings checklist" and head down Pilot Road (gravel)towards the town of French Glen with binoculars and camera at the ready. Spring in the high desert (about 4,100') does not disappoint: the colors, shadows and wildlife provide surprises at every turn. The road is virtually empty so we frequently just pull over, get out and walk. The weather is perfect, warm and partly cloudy.

American Avocets


White Faced Ibis

Buena Vista Overlook

After a full day of exploring we have an excellent dinner at the little cafe at the park. A storm rolls through after midnight and I wake up to the sound of dripping water. I just got up and threw a towel under it for the night. It turns out that one of the small ventilation skylights was cracked and the wind was forcing the rain in. No worries, Mr. Duct Tape to the rescue at sunrise.  

We just add it to the NWTF list with a smile. My mom and dad were on the road in their motorhome for a decade. They loved every minute of it, but Daddy did warn me "Honey, they are money pits". I now get that. We look at it as all part of the journey and we become a little more self sufficient and savvy as we go. After breakfast at the Cafe we head north to Burns, fill up and are on our way to Boise for a few days.