A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Rain & No Losses

I was really looking forward to a bike ride today and the day started out promising. The sun was shining and the weather report showed no rain till the afternoon. By 9 in the morning it was pouring. So I decided to run instead. I don't mind running in the rain but riding a bike in the rain is simply not fun. To be honest, running is not fun either, at least at this stage of my comeback. I know the day will come when running will once again be a joy but for now it sucks. I do feel really great afterwards though and if you are a runner, you know what I mean. The bicycling now is not as demanding so it has become my enjoyment form of exercise right alongside of hiking.

Way back when I used to run daily, my mindset was if I didn't run every day I would lose what I had and have to work at gaining back what was lost. In reality this is nonsense but to try to convince an addicted runner otherwise is futile. Now that I am coming back to some sort of program of fitness once again I have the same mentality going. Naturally I thought the two weeks away chasing wildflowers in the deserts doing nothing but hiking, I would come home and have to start all over.
My first mountain bike ride back home I felt it best to take it slow and easy in the lowest gear up the long hard pull at the beginning of my regular 13 mile loop. At the top I thought "That went well. Wasn't hard at all." It was then I noticed I wasn't in the lowest gear like I thought. This confused me.
My first run upon returning home I did my regular three mile loop thinking I'll take it easy. I was exhausted at the end reflecting back how hard it was. I was paying the price of not running any for two weeks. It wasn't till I sat down to log in my run did I realize that I had just ran that loop almost a minute faster than normal. This too confused me.
My first trail run was a couple days ago and I thought I was going to die during the last part wheezing and sucking wind as I was. I know trail running is harder and expected to feel awful. Back home I figured my distance and found out I screwed up and ran an extra half a mile further than 3 miles and at a pace faster than normal for trails.
I'm not confused anymore. I have accepted the fact that a long layoff of two weeks is not the end of the world and in fact may do more good than harm. Well, maybe I have not fully accepted this belief but I am working on it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dumpster Diving

It was the morning we were leaving for home. To leave the campground of Red Rock Canyon one must travel the entire loop for it is a one-way single track. It was probably the second to last dumpster that I remembered about our sack of trash we wanted to leave. I opened the large plastic flapper lid and there on top of the debris inside was a complete telescope and tripod. Without hesitation I rescued my find and put it inside the View and we drove away to our breakfast spot down the road. There after breakfast, I inspected my newly found treasure. It was all there except the eyepiece.
It appeared that someone had left it out all night, the wind blew it over maybe, broke the eyepiece, got sand inside on the lens or what, I wasn't sure. At any rate, I was interested in the tripod more than anything else. 

Once home I took time to inspect it more. Although the telescope was a cheaply constructed Made in China thing, it did come with an electronic tracking mechanism for viewing the stars. An adjusting knob for that was missing and the on and off button didn't work. Both batteries inside were good. The rotating focusing knob was stripped. Sand had got inside and prevented the two sleeves from sliding smoothly. At this point I could justify whoever threw it away for doing so but, had it not been left out in a sand storm there would be no cause to toss it. So I had intended a post about this was just another example of the throw away society we have become but that will have to wait for another day.

The tripod though was fine. I cleaned the sand and grit out, modified the head and mounted my spotting scope to it. This will work much better than before with its little table top tripod.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pure Dumb Luck

I took a hike today into the park on a trail I had not hiked on in a long time. Today I thought I would go the extra mile to explore an old quarry site. Two hours later at the trails end there wasn't much to see. I suppose I was expecting something along the line of the abandoned mines of the desert. Here though was simply some gouging into the hillside for blocks and flagstone slabs of rhyolite. Further on there appeared nothing more but dense woodland.

I thought I would press on but only as far as the ridge line in the photo. My latest misadventure in the desert searching for a mine is still fresh in my mind so I promised myself no further. Once there it was clear this was the end of the trail. To go further would take me down into a steep canyon where only deer would venture. I then looked down at the base of some small tress to my right and saw a small ammo can tucked away. Wow! My first thought was this was something left behind by the quarrymen 60 some years ago. I picked it up and read the label on the side "Official Geocache - please do not disturb". I am vaguely familiar with the concept of geocaching. I opened it up and inside were some items left behind by geocachers who had been here before (you are suppose to take something and leave behind something of equal or greater value) plus a notebook and pen inside a zip lock bag. The notebook contained accounts from those who had found the cache, most saying how difficult it was to locate, how much fun this was, thanks for taking us here, etc. The last entry was made one year ago. I added an entry of my own. "I'm just a hiker who stumbled upon this. I don't play the game or even own a GPS. Just pure dumb luck. Imagine that."

I would love to see the expression upon the next geocachers who come way out here, finally find the thing after hours of searching and read that a hiker had found it hidden away as it is.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ten Things I Learned on the Last Trip

1. Keep the camera by my side while driving. I should have had photos of freeway traffic jams, exploding tires, lap band & girly show billboards and more, to include along with the blog posts.

2. Always have the binoculars with me, including on the morning visit to the pit toilet. I missed seeing a Hooded Oriel up close after leaving the crapper.

3. When an earthquake strikes, get out of the motorhome and feel the experience.

4. Always replace knocked down trail markers. They will be your salvation.

5. Do not ever visit the California Poppy Reserve on a weekend day again. I did not make a post about that day for I would have had nothing nice to say about the people present, particularly those of a certain culture.

6. The Colonel has made big improvements with his chicken since the last time we visited him, something like 14 years ago. It was quite tasty or we were just tired and really hungry at the time.

7. A good hard rain while driving at 65 plus miles per hour removes 90% of the bug splats.

8. In seven more months I will be eligible to receive a senior discount at the state parks and save a whopping $3 off the $35 camping fee. Whoop-de-doo.

9. I am so glad we moved out of the L.A. area when we did 37 years ago. Okay, this I already learned long ago but a refresher lesson is always nice.

10. I know of only two people who read what I write here. Oops, now three.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Items of Note on the Interstate

 Grape Nuts are good wherever you are. Buy some today.

We left Red Rock Canyon State Park under promising skies after a midnight rain. I was torn between staying to get in one last hike or to go. To go seemed like the right choice for the further west we went the gloomier the skies became then finally...rain. There were pockets of rain all the way home some which did a good job cleaning the dead bugs away from the View. Along the way...

“Lap bands for weight loss”. There were a lot of these bill boards along the way, primarily around the Bakersfield area. I had never heard of them and wondered how wearing what seemed to me a girdle, could help you lose weight. It wasn’t till I was able to get online I discovered it involved surgery. Egads! I read no more. It must be a lucrative business in the central valley.

Another billboard promoted a girly joint where there were “100 Beautiful Girls and 3 Ugly Ones”. Now I have no desire in wasting time at a girly bar but this peaked my interest just for the fact of wanting to see what they considered ugly. “Oh God, I’m having a bad day. I started my period, my hair’s a mess and I don’t feel like putting on my make-up. You go ahead dear and I’ll be one of the ugly girls today.”

My friend drives a big rig truck back along the New England coast. He told me how to never drive alongside a big rig for any longer than to pass. “If a tire blows, it is like a stick of dynamite going off. I’ve seen small cars blown off the road with damaged side panels.” I've always heeded his advice and finally saw what he was talking about first hand. A big flatbed hauling bales of recycled cardboard was pulling away from a stop some 50 yards in front of us. A front inside trailer tire blew and it truly was like a stick of dynamite going off. We could feel the concussion all the way back to us. The white van next to the truck pulled off to the side and the car behind him pulled over too. Both drivers were shaken and the van had a few rubber skid marks along the side. Being it was an inside tire this shielded most of the potential damage. The flat bed crawled to a stop in the middle of the road with a small fire brewing underneath which was quickly extinguished. Seeing that really drove home the advice Glen gave me.

We stopped at the Anderson’s Pea Soup restaurant in Santa Nella. Their Travelers Special meal is a favorite – all the pea soup you can eat. I asked the waitress what the record was for one person. She said she didn’t witness it but has been told it stood at 17 bowls. “The guy never came back” whatever that was suppose to mean. She says there is one trucker who stops by regularly and has 5 bowls with crackers only. We can only manage 2 bowls and the effects of stay with you for a day or so. Perhaps that is why the 17 bowl man never returned.

We arrived at home eight hours and twenty minutes after our Grape Nuts breakfast. Total mileage in chasing wildflowers was 1657 miles. Now I am already thinking of the next venture out onto the road.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cat in a Case

Here is the latest and hottest item out on the pet scene market. A briefcase to carry your cat with you wherever you go. Our case is specially designed to be the most uncomfortable thing you could ever imagine to curl up in - the perfect bed for your cat. He will surely pass up a soft bed, folded blankets or a special padded pet bed just to be able to sleep in this rock-hard ridged case with strategically placed sharp edges and corners to poke into his body. Small, medium and large sizes are available. We suggest ordering a size smaller than you are inclined to. Cats think that way. Comes in two colors, light or dark. Be sure to order the color opposite of your cat or he may reject using the carrying case. Liner material is guaranteed to collect fur. Call now. We have operators standing by so be sure to order yours today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree did not present the abundance of flowers as did Anza Borrego. Perhaps it was a bit too early although nothing seen held very much promise. The first couple days were windy but it quieted down and was very nice afterward. We putzed along the road from one camp ground to the next each day and was able to get a spot every time...until Friday. By then we ran out of campgrounds and was forced to leave the park. The Ranger lady at Black Rock campground (which was reserved out) told us of Joshua Tree Lake RV campground north of Twenty-nine Palms. In dire need of showers we went there not knowing what to expect. The place is out in the middle of the desert, nothing around, only a half a dozen campers present and surprisingly not bad at all. It is very peaceful and quiet here. So it is sad to be leaving the deserts.

We looked long and hard for a Desert Tortoise while driving along the road at a road hazard pace, but never saw one. I did find a couple of their burrows on hikes so they are here.

Jane found a Chuckwalla (or he found her, I wasn't too sure how it all came to be) which was very photogenic allowing her to get quite close to photograph. I went by later and found a second which posed for me.

I was able to get in a few hikes and walkabouts at each camp. One of them was several miles into the desert to see an abandoned homestead and mine a couple told me about. I was able to locate the homestead or what was left of itthen proceeded to search out the mine. After about thirty minutes of scrambling around I was ready to give up when I finally discovered the hole in the ground with an iron grate covering it. Mission accomplished, now to head back...but where is the trail? I spent another 15 minutes searching before thoughts of "Missing Hiker in Desert Presumed Dead" began circulating my mind. I decided to follow the wash up the canyon for I knew once I got to the saddle of the ridge I could pick up the trail there...or so I thought. Fortunately I looked up the slope of the ravine to my right and I saw a 4x4 post standing upright half way up. This was a trail marker. Even more fortunately for me I had been replacing these posts in their upright position as I had walked along the trail for many had been knocked over by idiots. Had I not replaced this one I would have walked up into the wrong canyon. It would have been a very long day for me indeed.

A windy day for a walk in the park.
On Mastodon Peak
Good-bye for now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Onward to Joshua Tree National Park

Meanwhile Sinbad has a few photos to share...

He had to come up with an improvised beer can carrier while taking me out for a walk holding my leash and his camera both plus taking pictures of me.
The Desert Smoke Tree always makes for a nice picture against the clear blue sky of the desert.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Birds and Me

   The other day I was on a secluded trail looking at a bird.  I got called a "bird watcher" as a young family came walking up the trail. "Shhh...there's a bird watcher." I put my binoculars away. Today I went on another route into Palm Canyon, the hike we did the other day. This time it was even more fun as I had the trail all to myself since most of the Easter crowd have vacated. On the way back a couple stops me and asks if I've seen any Bullock's Orioles and then goes on to tell me where I can see some type of warbler. What is it with these people? Is it the miniature binoculars hanging around my neck? The clothing? Think I will have a shirt made up - "I am not a birder and don't know Jack about what I am looking at or what you want to see."

Maybe I need to be wearing a pink polo shirt, Bermuda shorts,
white tennis shoes, knee-high socks and hat that says Disneyland.

   So I bought a copy of Kenn Kaufman's Field Guide to Birds of North America at the Anza Borrego visitor center. I had to wait till they began the movie so the place cleared out enough that I could manage being in there. This guide looked to be much easier to use than the National Geographic version I've been using. I went outside, saw a hummer and figured it was a female but of which species? I looked in my new guide (easy to find) and discovered it was a young Costa's male. $20 well spent. But still, don't ask me.
Along this morning's hike.

   The other earth shaking news was the big 7.2 earthquake Easter Sunday afternoon centered around Mexicali. We were camped and inside the View which really got to rocking. This was the longest quake that I can recall experiencing. Quite fun, especially watching the lady run out of the restroom pulling her pants up. (Well not so much so if you lived in Mexicali. I read the news report after writing that and had we been there, I would not have wrote "quite fun") I now wish I would have gone outside and stood on the ground.

No blue sky today as it is overcast with a few drops but still a fine day in the desert. Tomorrow we move on to Joshua Tree.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday Post

Despite the hoards that are out for Easter Week – okay, it isn’t that bad – we were able to get a campsite at the developed campground in Anza Borrego. Staying here would make it convenient for our planned hike into Palm Canyon the next day. Also there is a shower here which is always nice. The flowers are abundant and the cacti are not too far behind. Overall the weather is very nice in the 70’s but the wind could tone itself down a bit.

The next camp is our usual dry camp at Yaqui Wells. At this point Jane has shot over 700 pictures but was able to weed them down to a manageable 300 thanks to her new Mac Book. Meanwhile I have taken 53 and could probably weed them down to 3 worth keeping. Our plan after here is to return back to the developed campground for in talking with people we have learned of another hiking route and a road with more flowers.

Hummingbird nest with two babies about the same size of their parents. The top of the nest is about the size of a quarter.

At the trails end in Palm Canyon moments before it was over-run by the Spring Break crowd. Photo taken by an older couple from Juneau Alaska.

Loggerhead Shrike nest with 3 naked babies. This was near our camp and the parents provided constant entertainment with their coming and going of feeding insects to their brood. The nest was deep within a thorny Mesquite which provided ample protection from any invader.

There are so many flowers about but this one caught my attention. It was all by itself in the middle of a sandy wash and was barely 2 inches tall.

A Coachwhip snake I found sunning himself in the middle of the road while bicycling about. I moved him off the road before he became a flat snake-skin belt.

Hedgehog Cactus
Pincushion Cactus
Hazards of the trail
An early bloomer of Yucca
A meal for the Shrike babies. If it makes it, this will be a Swallowtail butterfly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


The wind has stopped! Yesterday I took an hour hike to the nearby dry lake and was nearly beat to death by the wind. This morning the sky was overcast which led me to think that would be the receipe for the day, but by 10am the sky is clear and the sun shining brightly. This is what we're here for. Meanwhile back at home it is still raining and I'm here smiling. Now perhaps I get can some good picture taking but till then, these will have to do.