A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Making Tracks

We are going to hit the road tomorrow in search of warmer and drier weather down south. The Plan is the deserts in southern California, Arizona and New Mexico. After that we will see where we go from there. I will make posts about our adventures each time we get someplace where I can get online. Meanwhile I'll not be able to follow the blogs I normally do (will miss that) but will be back with them when we return home.

Sinbad will be able to once again sit in the sun...

roll in the dirt...


smell new smells...

but mostly do a lot of this...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Great Egret

As I mentioned in the previous post, I now have a new lens which hopefully will help me get better photos of birds. On that trip to Bodega Bay I put it to use. This egret was quite obliging in having his photo taken.

Then he had had enough and flew off. That's about a six foot wingspan.

I took quite a few pictures of Gulls who are always cooperative for a photo shoot. The shot I liked best out of the lot was this one. Looks like he has a swollen right ankle.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Images at 70 miles per hour

Yesterday we made what I call a Banzai Run south to the Los Angeles area and back home to the north bay area of San Francisco in one day. We left at 4:30 AM and was home at 10:30 PM. 840 miles. The reason was to visit my grand aunt (my grandmother's younger sister) one last time. She is 100 years old and had a medical issue this week which put her into the hospital.

As we motored down Interstate 5. I took several shots of the farm and ranch lands as the sun rose yesterday morning. I was using my new 70-300 vibration reduction lens. All shots were at 70mm. I like how it performed.

This shot here I can see the sheep are not as sharp. May have moved the camera some, hit a bump or it was a matter of them being closer to the road.

These are fruit trees in blossom. The trees are much closer to the highway and I simply shot directly at them.
Thought it looked interesting in a weird sort of way.

Sunset on the return ride home. My wife shot this across from the passenger seat so part of the door frame is in it. It was either the door frame or my fat head, and she chose the door frame.

Friends think we're nuts for doing this and not staying overnight in a motel. Well, LA is just plain nasty. We just want to get in and get out of there. And then once out of southern California, why stay in a skanky overpriced motel room, lying on a bed that who knows what has occurred on or in it, watching some mindless television program in the early evening hours still wide awake thinking about "I could be home in a few hours"? Road food, diners, refueling stops, coffee drinks, listening to This American Life pod casts, all part of the adventure. This wasn't the first Banzai Run I've done and probably will not be the last. Why stop?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bodega Bay

Sunday was a glorious clear and bright sunny day after all the rains, and I just knew the coast would be too.
This is from the southern end of Bodega Harbor along the tidal flats.

Swing your view to the right and you see the little town of Bodega Bay made famous
by Alfred Hitchcock's film "The Birds".

Looking right a bit further stands this house along the tidal flats.
It looks charming, romantic, or whatever your mind conjures up.
For me I would be shivering me timbers come the cold foggy days and nights.

Moving up to the north end of the bay along the road to Bodega Head, a point of land jutting out from the coastline. The sailboat is within the protected channel into Bodega Harbor itself. The waters and land beyond is below the harbor from where the previous shots were taken. The spit of land with the campground is man made. Not a nice place to camp. A fog horn is located there and bellows every 15 seconds, fog or no fog. It becomes maddening in a short time...at least for me. How those camping stand it is beyond me.

Looking to the right from the above shot you look out upon the Pacific Ocean. Every time I take in this view I try to imagine what it must have looked like back in 1775 when the first Spanish ship, the Sonora, sailed in and anchored here. What did the Miwok Indians think seeing that?

Welcome to California.
I drove a bit further and was greeted with this sign. It was blocking a turn-around spot with a pit toilet less than 100 yards away. That is all. Continuing up the road which led over the head and down the other side to its end at a small beach, every turnout or parking spot for hiking trails along the way was blocked off with similar signs. Only at the rocky point where there is a larger parking area and another pair of pit toilets, you were able to park your car and get out. Naturally this created quite a congestion of parked cars, people milling about, dogs running loose and those sitting in their cars waiting, with the engine running, for a parking spot to appear, I did a U-turn and got out of there.

California is in a bad way these days with many state parks and recreational sites now limited as to their use or even access. This summer season I am afraid there will be many disappointed tourists from out of state and other countries.

I slowly motored on up the coast leaving the mayhem of Bodega Bay State beach behind me.
All along this route are Sonoma County beaches and parks which are much less used and abused.

Finally, just before turning inland for home I saw this. Notice the difference in color of the ocean waters.
That off color to the right is the outflow of the Russian River from all the rain we've recently had.
You can understand how salmon and steelhead returning from the ocean can "smell" the fresh water
and know they are getting close to their home river.
This made me think of the Amazon river where the same thing can be observed
 50 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Monday, February 21, 2011


If it happens, this is about the extent of it for us near the inter coastal mountain range of the Pacific. This is a big deal and is the talk of the town until it melts away by the end of the day or next.

Here is my little patch on Sugarloaf Ridge behind my home. Elevation around 2000'

About 20 miles further north makes a big difference in the amount of white stuff. Elevation 2500'

Mt. St. Helena (not the volcano St. Helens, that's in Washington) is at 4344'.
This shot is just to the right of the above photo.

Here it is switched to black & white. Snow covered mountains are really dramatic in black & white I feel. Unfortunately these were taken later in the day when another front had moved in. Compare to the first shot when it was early in the day, clear and bright. Clouds too work well in black and white but these didn't seem to pop. Perhaps if I had used a filter it would be more interesting.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Eureka Sand Dunes

It has been raining all week which has hampered my getting out and looking for things to photograph such as mountain lions and the like. So I dug into some photos of the past. These are from the Eureka Sand Dunes which are located north of Death Valley.

It is a long dirt and sometimes washboard road to get to the dunes so not that many people go there. My kind of place. This was 5 years ago when I was still camping out of a car. I had gave up on my Land Rovers and switched to the Isuzu Trooper which was much easier to drive. I remember this shot well. I had camp all set up and had just sat down in the shade to enjoy a beer after the long days drive. A fly came and landed on the bottle. I went to shoo him off and hit the bottle spilling beer all over the table and myself. Grrrr!

Sunset at the dunes.  

The next day I came across this fellow who was doing his best rattlesnake impersonation trying to intimidate me. As Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter" would say "Ain't she a beauty?"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Butterflies, Mountain Lions & Valentines Day

These little fliers were seen on my Saturday hike. Butterflies in February?

   These photos are not as nice as they should be. I am tired of fighting with this 400mm lens. I had to get back 12 feet in order to get these shots. With my other lens well...they don't want me that close. So I'm getting a new long lens soon. What I am looking at has a close focus down to less than 5 feet. If that doesn't help, I'm taking up golf.

The park had an over abundance of people on the trails which forced me into going cross country. This turned out to be good for I discovered a water source that attracted the above butterflies. Not far from it I came across the remains of a mountain lion kill which was in the area where the scat had been seen from the earlier post. As I took the photo I was wondering "just where is he right now?"
The bones were well bleached out, dry and picked over by the Turkey Vultures so I suspect these are left-overs from a kill last year. But being I was off the beaten path no one had been by and disturbed the site.

Today is our anniversary and it has turned out to be a big mistake having got married on Valentines Day. Long ago we could go out for a nice quiet meal, but that was long ago. Now to go out for our anniversary dinner we must contend with Valentines Day crowds, reservations needed weeks in advance and "special Valentines Day menus" with highly inflated prices. So for the past ten or so years we go out for our anniversary dinner a day before or after V day.
Happy 43rd Anniversary to us!
(end of rant)

Friday, February 11, 2011

The end of the 1500's

Canada Goose
In their second year they find a mate and in most cases will stay as a couple all of thier lives. If one dies, the other usually will find another mate. No reason not to think they experience sadness when their mate dies.

 To conclude the 1500's... 
   Those with money had plates made with pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach out onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so tomatoes were considered poisonous. Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. After eating off wormy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth".
   Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top or the "upper crust".
   Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat, drink and wait and see if they would hold on for a "wake".
   England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins, remove the bones to a house and reuse the grave. When opening these coffins, one out of 25 were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people who were still alive. So they thought of tying a string to the wrist and lead it through the coffin, up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell, thus, someone could be "saved by the bell", or was considered a "dead ringer".

That's all folks. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Life in the 1500's continued

Double-crested Cormorant
   I was watching this guy for some time diving under the water then wondering where he would surface. Each time it was far from where I expected. This one time though, he was successful in catching a fish. He came up right in front of me and gulped the fish down. I wasn't ready and only pushed the shutter release after the big gulp. So imagine, there is a small fish in that neck right now.

Back to the 1500's...
   The floor of most homes were of dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor".
   The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter so they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entryway, hence a "threshold".
   They cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. They mostly ate vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner leaving the leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in there for quite awhile, hence the rhyme "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old".
   Sometimes they could obtain pork which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that the man "could bring home the bacon". They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat".

- more to come -

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life in the 1500's

Song Sparrow
I feel sparrows are the under appreciated of the bird world. Seems you never see pictures of a sparrow.
This little fellow was flitting around the water picking out little crawlies to eat. I got his photo only because the weather turned back into January weather, the wind was blowing, the air was cold, I wimped out on my planned hike and ended up sitting on a bench in the sun by the county park lake for an hour.

I was tossing out some papers when I came across one I have had for a long time and forgot about. I like this sort of stuff. Maybe you might also.

Facts about the 1500's  
   Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling fairly good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.
   Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then the other men and sons, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it, hence the saying "Don't throw the baby out in the bath water".
   Houses had thatched roofs (thick straw), piled high with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets (and bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained the straw became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof, hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs".
   There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. So a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That is how canopy beds came into existence.

-more to come-

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)

   Yesterday I was jogging along a trail in my personal playground (Annadel) when I came up behind a woman hiking. Plodding along as I was, I thought she would hear me but it wasn't till I got close to her did she suddenly turn around. I apologized for startling her and she said it was okay. "As long as you weren't a mountain lion". I went on for a few steps further then stopped to ask if she knew if there were in fact some here in the park. "I see these signs at each trailhead leading into the park and always wondered." She went on to tell me that just last week she was talking to a Park Ranger.
   "He told me there is one known to be in the North Burma trail area (which was where we were at the moment). I've seen the scat myself." She went on the describe it to me after I mentioned the scat I had seen. This lady knew her scat. "No it is much larger than that. More like a really really big dog." So I figure like Sinbad's poop but on a much larger scale. "The Ranger also said a lioness with two cubs were recently spotted over on the east side of the park."
   So that is really cool to know that they are here. I doubt I will ever see one. They lay low during the day and really do not want anything to do with us humans. The park has a healthy deer population plus an over abundance of turkey, so they are not deprived of a food source. To be honest, I am more concerned about an encounter with a deer while riding my mountain bike. Already I have had a couple close calls with them darting across in front of me while zipping along at speed. You know what kind of damage a deer can do to a car. The worst encounter so far was a buck with a three point rack just a few feet from me as I rounded a turn. There was no stopping and all I could do was hope he'd stay put. He did.
   I would be thrilled with a bobcat sighting. A photo of one, I cannot imagine. Anyway, that might happen long before I ever see a mountain lion. I just want to see it before it sees me, that's all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Wildflower of 2011

I saw this on my hike yesterday. Here it is the first week of February and the first flower has bloomed. Nature must surely be confused here in California.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Desert Springtime part 2

This shot of a smoke tree was with a polarizing filter, something that works well with the harsh light of the desert skies.
This was at another desert area much further north. It was an overcast day and the yellow color in this carpet of flowers is not as vibrant as it should be. I wanted to include it for it is amazing to see in real life. So many tiny little yellow flowers. It looked like an artist took a paint brush and colored the sands.

Even the little fishook cactus, not much larger than your thumb, produces a pretty little flower.

Of course there are the sunrises...

...and sunsets.

This is the same shot cropped which I kind of like better. What do you think?
The sunrise and sunset pictures are untouched, straight out of the camera. Why mess with Nature's perfection?