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Prairie Creek State Park, CA

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The stars seemed to have aligned in the correct position

You may remember that my time here volunteering for Oregon Islands NWR is supposed to end mid August.  I’ve been thinking about how I could extend my time here (with no birds to show visitors) or possibly move up to Bandon NWR until at least through the Labor Day weekend.  It’s still too danged hot to think about going to Jojoba in southern California in a little over two weeks.

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All of tonight’s photos are taken by either Avery or Phoebe on our hike last week on the Moorman Grove trail in the redwoods of Prairie Creek State Park.  Avery took the photos on the way in, and Phoebe on the hike out.  I gave them my little power shot camera to use on the hike.  It’s kind of interesting to see what a seven and five year old think is photo worthy.

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For some reason, I’ve been a little reluctant to email the volunteer coordinator about it.  I’ve enjoyed this assignment, but I’m beginning to feel it’s time to move on.  So on Sunday night I decided to check out the volunteer.gov website and look for anything that might be available in northern California.  I think California has the most listings of any state.  There was only one Fish and Wildlife Service listing though, and it was three or four pages in.  Back in February Tule Lake NWR was looking for a volunteer for the summer season.  There is only one RV site at this refuge complex, and what would be the chances that they were looking for someone in the middle of August?

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Well, I gave them a call yesterday morning, and, as you may have guessed, they were happy I called.  It turns out there is no one in the site, and the volunteer coordinator will be leaving August 20 for a new position in Wisconsin.  She was quite excited when I told her about my experience at 13 other refuges.

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Yes, there will be some work in the Visitors Center, but she then asked if I’d be interested in doing a weekly bird survey in two refuges in the complex.  I told her I’d have to think about that…NOT!  I’ll be there at least through September, and maybe into October.  Just in time for the fall waterfowl migration.  Yes, I think the stars were all in alignment yesterday, and I even got to see them last night.  That doesn’t happen too often along the coast.

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                                                                              THE END!!

                              That little Avery just might be a chip off the old Grandma Belt’s block. Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The visit

Thursday, after my stint at the overlook, I drove Robyn and the grandgirls back to Medford to a Holiday Inn.  They stayed there overnight before departing back to Chicago on a flight that left at 6:00 in the morning on Friday.  It takes a good two and a half hours to get to the airport from Harris Beach, so there was no way we were going to make that challenging drive on 199 in the middle of the night.  Their visit was kind of brief, but jam-packed with things to remember.

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When I picked them up at the airport last Sunday around noon, they had already had a long day what with leaving Chicago very early and traversing two time zones.  The trip back to the rig was to take us close to five hours since we made a couple of stops along the way.  First stop was for a late lunch at She-She’s Diner in Gasquet, CA.  It was just plain awful… way over priced, and the food and service was lacking.  Thankfully, that was the worst part of the day.

We also stopped at Jedediah Smith State Park to take a walk in the redwood forest.  That calmed everyone’s nerves, and we were even able to find the exact same tree that I had hugged when I visited there with Jack a couple of weeks ago.  I guess that means this tree has had a three generation hug from us.  Winking smile  Once we got back to the rig, the grandgirls picked their first ever wild blackberries, and of course had to share a couple with ‘Emma the Dog’.  By the time the sun set, the girls literally passed out in my bed.  How refreshing!

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Monday was reserved for a leisurely day at the beach so everyone could catch up on their jet lag.  It was a first time in the Pacific Ocean for Avery and Phoebe.  Just like every other youngster I’ve watched from the overlook, the girls immediately dove into the soft warm sand.  Robyn had lathered the girls with sunscreen before we got there, but never guessed that Avery would get two crescent moon shaped sunburn areas where her swimsuit rode up on her cheeks. 

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Tuesday, we packed a picnic lunch and headed down south into California to visit Prairie Creek State Park to spend another day with the giant, restful redwood trees.  At the picnic area, we let the girls pick where we would eat, and Phoebe found the best picnic bench in the whole area; right next to a magnificent redwood. (click on photo to enlarge so you can see it on the bottom left)

Then we went for a hike on one of the lesser used trails… Moorman Grove.  What a wonderful experience.  It was quiet with only the sound of a babbling brook, and we only ran into two other people.  We all saw our first banana slug.  The trail went up several switch backs and through a downed redwood.  I then chose to stop as there was a section of the trail that I thought was a bit too challenging for me with my walking problems.  I sat on a downed tree, and told them to go on.  I’d just wait as they continued on to find the pond and return. 

After a bit of waiting, I was getting thirsty, so I decided to take my time going back down to the car.  I didn’t want them to think I had just disappeared, so I made about a dozen arrows from fallen branches for them to follow.  I thought the grandgirls would get a kick out of that if they noticed them.  Well, eagle eye Avery spotted the first one, and they were then on their way down the hill looking for more arrows.  I think this was my favorite day of their visit.

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On Wednesday, we headed north to take the scenic byway to Port Orford.  US 101 along the Oregon Coast is surely a picturesque drive.  After lunch, which I’ve already posted about, we took a tour of the Point Blanco Lighthouse, and even found the crashed shrimp boat.  The Coast Guard had come out the day before to rescue four men from this downed boat.  When we got home, we packed up the sleeping bag and sheets and blankets so Robyn and the girls could spend their last night here in a yurt.  Phoebe took the top bunk, and Avery the bottom, and Robyn got to sleep by herself on the futon.  After a short girls only dance-a-thon, I headed back to the rig, and we all enjoyed a peaceful night of sleep.

Of course, in between all these day trips, both Avery and Phoebe earned their Junior Ranger Badges, made friends at the playground, attended several evening programs, visited, and the Apache Tear Stone escapade transpired.  As I’ve mentioned, it was five days filled with making many memories.  What a time we had!

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                                                                              THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A victorious birthday

Yes, I was thankful to be a year older when I awoke this morning.  Sure beats looking at the wrong side of the grass!  I even have a couple of firsts to report on the celebration of my birth day.  We all headed out this morning for a drive up the Oregon coast to view the spectacular scenery, and to end up in Port Orford to meet fellow fulltimers Gordon and Juanita for lunch at The Crazy Norwegian’s.  It’s been five years since our paths have crossed, and it was a good time catching up on our experiences.

Robyn treated me to lunch, so I ordered fish and chips with a bowl of clam chowder.  The clam chowder was a first for me, and I have to say that I enjoyed it.  I wasn’t sure I would.  I just couldn’t figure out one flavor that was in the chowder.  I know each place has their own special way of making chowder, so I may just have to try it again to figure out that distinctive taste.

It was late afternoon before we got back to the rig, and time for me to get the NY BBQ chicken ready for the grill.  It’s a favorite of mine, and I served it with Waldorf salad.  (I’m really not a foodie, but today was a delicious day.)  Then came the biggest and most appreciated birthday gift of the day; Robyn did the dishes.  What a treat for me.

However, the victorious part of the day came very early this morning before anyone else was awake.  I took Emma for her early outs, and after ‘piddling’ along the road as usual, we returned to the rig.  As is customary, she then really got down to business.  Yesterday, Robyn and I went through two piles looking for that elusive Apache Tear stone with no success.  Our investigative procedure was one of her thinking (she did attend nursing school, you know).  We used small sticks to mush through the evidence while holding our breath. 

This morning, I was more inclined to try the method suggested by a commenter on my last post.  “The Squish the Bag” approach.  Put the dump into a doggy poop bag, hold the top closed, and squish the contents to see if there is anything resembling a stone in it.  You don’t have to hold your breath with this method.  Confused smile  And as you may have guessed, out popped the Apache Tear at the top of the bag!

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After washing and disinfecting the stone, it was no worse for wear going through Emma’s insides.  I also checked out what another commenter taught me about how to test if it is an authentic Apache Tear.  I held it up to the sunlight, and sure enough, you could almost see through the stone, and the ‘tear’ appeared.

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The stone has been returned into its tiny little basket along with a small agate that Avery got from one of the rangers at an evening presentation.  I hope this necklace with its tiny precious gifts inside will give joy to Avery for a long time. 

I’m not sure I know of anyone else that thought the best part of their birthday celebration was a result of their sifting through scat…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An ‘Emma’ kind of day

My daughter Robyn and the grandgirls have arrived, and we’ve been busy, busy, busy.  Didn’t figure I’d post until they headed back to Chicago, but today was one of those days that I just couldn’t resist telling about.  Emma may be getting older, but today proved she still has a ‘wild child’ streak in her.  Of course, her escapades today involved both Phoebe and Avery (the grandgirls).

The day started out innocently enough with a hearty scrambled eggs and blueberry bread breakfast.  Then the girls headed over to the Junior Ranger yurt to have their first training session.  Avery, aged 7 1/2, is most interested in becoming a certified junior ranger.  Phoebe, almost 6, not so much. 

The plan was for them to come back, have lunch, and then we’d head for the beach for the afternoon.  We had lunch, they got their swimsuits on, and waited outside while I brought Emma back into the rig.  Then Phoebe came back in to ask me a question, and left the door open as she went out.  I couldn’t quite get to the door quick enough before Emma saw her portal to freedom.  Yep, she literally flew out the door and was on her way down the road. 

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                                               (All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth)

Then all of us, excluding Phoebe, were on a mad dash down the road to try to retrieve Emma.  Eventually we caught up to her, and Avery said, “Wow, that was sure a ‘quick’ walk for Emma!”  Ha!  Seemed like an eternity for me, but was probably only about three minutes.

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Earlier in the day, Avery had taken quite a liking to a hand crocheted necklace that I had hanging on my refrigerator.  It was given to me by some fellow volunteers about five years ago.  It has that little woven basket at the bottom, and contained a little black stone that I was told was an Indian Tear.  (It actually may have been called a Navaho Tear, but I can’t remember for sure.)  Avery was just thrilled as I told her she could have it.  She wore it all day, and told everyone she met about it.

Then this evening as we were having a ‘hang-out’ on Robyn’s phone with my oldest son, Daniel, Avery showed the necklace to him and took out the tiny Indian Tear stone that she was so proud of.  It somehow popped out of her hand and dropped to the ground.  At the time, we were making some melted chocolate and marshmallow treats over an open fire, and Emma’s nose was working overtime.  I’m sure she figured the little stone was a treat.  You’ve probably guessed, that as we all grabbed for the stone, Emma licked it up and swallowed it before our very eyes!  Avery was devastated, and was afraid I would be mad that she had lost that special stone.  Well, I could only look at the situation and just laugh out loud.  It was just so comical to watch as Emma innocently swallowed, and couldn’t figure out why we all had our hands in her mouth. 

Now, here’s my dilemma.  Do I try to sift through you know what to try to retrieve that precious stone for my grandgirl???  Surprised smileSmile with tongue out

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Contemplating the not too distant future

Well, I’ve been at Harris Beach a little over two months now, and the original plan was for me to leave in another month.  I’m thinking the middle of August just might be a little early in the year to be heading for southern California, although I’m more than anxious to see what my site at Jojoba Hills looks like in person.  I think I’ll see if the park here would mind if I stayed until after Labor Day. 

Being in between visitors, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my upcoming winter plans.  I’ve got lots of questions floating around in my brain.  For the last nine years I’ve done an awful lot of volunteering where all of my utilities are paid for.  In between volunteer stints, I generally stay at private parks or COE campgrounds where electricity is included in the nightly or weekly fee.  Now I have to think about having metered electricity.

I wonder what it will cost per month.  I’m a real newbie in that department.  The going rate at Jojoba is .21 cents per KWH.  I’m not sure if that means 21 cents per KWH or 21/100ths of a cent per KWH.  I’m not even sure what a KWH is and how amps used to power things relates to that.  I have figured out that running the air conditioner uses 14 amps while using the heat pump uses 20-24 amps.  I don’t know why they’re different since they use the same machine.  Does anyone know if budgeting $100/month for a 50 amp rig is reasonable?  I do like to be cool in hot weather, and warm in chilly weather these days, so I’m sure I’ll use more electricity than I would have say five years ago.

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I had an unusual avian visitor at the overlook the other day.  I think it was a racing pigeon that somehow got off course or tired out.  There is a band on its left leg.  It just sat there resting for the longest time until some kids climbed up the steep rock to scare it away.  Made me wonder where it came from, and where it was supposed to go.

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Then on another work day, I got the treat of seeing a male orange-crowned warbler singing away in the bushiness below my station. 

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What a surprise to have it pop out into the sunlight and pose for me.  They’re normally moving along so fast in the undergrowth that you only get fleeting glimpses, and never before have I actually seen the orange feathers that are usually hidden on its crown.  These warblers that live along the coast are also much more yellow than the populations found inland.

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I suppose he was just taking a moment to beautify himself for the ladies, and didn’t expect anyone to be watching him from above.  Winking smile

I’ve got two more days of work ahead of me before I hop in the car to drive to Medford, OR, to pick up Robyn and the grandgirls at the airport.  I’m excited about their visit.  It seems every time either of these two little whippersnappers come to visit some minor little thing in the rig gets broken.  I wonder what it will be this time…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Some thoughts on becoming crotchety

When I was a kid growing up on the northwest side of Chicago, our neighborhood had some older folks that as a kid I thought were downright crotchety.  Mrs. Bites on one side of us thought I shouldn’t play baseball because I was confirmed.  Mr. Krawl, on the other side of us, called my sister and I G. D. Hoodlums because we played Canasta in the evening before bed, and laughed a lot.  (our bedroom was on the second floor and we had the windows open on hot summer nights… no AC in those days)  Numerous neighbors including those two had fits if we even set foot on their precious grass blades.  They were definitely crotchety!

It’s been a long time since I’ve spent any extended time camping in a very popular state park, and I have to admit that at times it’s been a challenge for me here at Harris Beach.  This place is jam packed every night with barely an empty site anywhere.  That’s a lot of folks making noise and enjoying their vacations.  I’ve become accustomed to the quiet and peacefulness of our National Wildlife Refuges over the last nine years, and this is a bit of a rude awakening.

Last night was a real corker.  Picture this:  A large family moves into a site a ways down the road.  Out comes a big speaker and microphone, and every person in that group takes their turn belting out tunes that can be heard over the whole campground.  I’ll just say they weren’t exactly the Von Trapp Singers, by the way.  Ugh!  During the several hours that they carried on, I was trying to prepare for my evening program presentation at the amphitheater.  It was hard to concentrate.

As that group took a break to eat, the five sites across from me began to warm up for the evening.  They’ve been here all week, and every evening is loud.  Besides all the adults, there are about 42 kids and 15 yapping dogs, and I’m honestly not sure that’s an exaggeration.  First there was the ear splitting belly dancing music, and then the screaming shouting and dancing began.  To add to the chaos, the diesel rig directly across from me began blasting its horns along with the music. 

As I set up my stuff for the presentation, Ranger Angela went over to speak to the group and ask them to tone it down, and stop blowing the horn.  We were concerned that no one could hear the program with all the noise.  They did comply. 

A family with youngsters arrived a little early, but were happy to wait until one of the members of the noisy group came into the amphitheater to confront Angela and demand that she give him her full name so he could lodge a formal complaint.  This man was in such a fury, that the waiting family was scared into leaving.  He accused Angela of discriminating against far east music.  Angela handled it very well, and got that guy out of the area.  Eventually calm returned, more folks arrived and the program was a success.

I find my patience wearing thin very quickly with all the noise and carryings on, and wonder if I’m turning into one of those crotchety old folks I was so frustrated with as a kid.  At least I haven’t called anyone a G.D. Hoodlum…yet.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A trip to Port Orford, and the mystery solved

On Tuesday Jack and I headed up the Samuel Boardman Scenic Byway to check out the viewpoint waysides.

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First up for us heading north on US 101 was the Whalehead Trail viewpoint.  I had brought the scope along in hopes of seeing breeding birds on the islands along the way.  Perhaps Jack is a junior bird nerd in the making?

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Then we skipped up to Arch Rock Point.  Those white splotches on the ledges of the rock are indeed pelagic cormorant nesting sites. 

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These cormorants build their nests out of seaweed and guano on the slim ledges of the rock face.  Jack had brought his 400mm lens along, so he was able to get a shot of the nesting birds.  You really can’t tell these birds are there with the naked eye.

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Using the scope, I also spotted these three baby Western Gulls.  Can you see their grey fluffiness just to the right of center?  By this time, several other folks had arrived along the trail, and I went into USFWS interpreter mode.  Winking smile  All of these islands are part of Oregon Islands NWR, don’t you know.  They were all thrilled to take a look through the scope at the babies and the nesting cormorants.

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A few minutes later, I heard the screaming alarm calls of some Black Oystercatchers a bit further down the overlook trail.  I hot-footed it over there to see this view.  The gulls and oystercatchers were having a fit, so I scanned the area and found two peregrine falcons looking for lunch.  The gulls were chasing after the peregrines, and the peregrines were dive bombing the gull and oystercatcher nesting areas.  What a ruckus!  I called over the other visitors, and we all got the thrill of watching from above.  That sure made my day!

_MG_2183Eventually, we made it to Port Orford and had lunch at a place I had picked out from reading other bloggers comments about it.  It was pretty tasty.  I had the local shrimp patty melt sandwich.  If I ever get back here, next time I think I’d just order their fish and chips, and maybe some clam chowder.  I’ve never had clam chowder, and missed my chance to try some here.

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There were three historic places I wanted to visit while in Port Orford.  The first was the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

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We did get to see it from a distance.  The other two places were the historic Hughes House and the Lifeboat Station Museum, but wouldn’t you know it, all three were closed on Tuesdays.  Bummer!

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As we headed back to Brookings we did stop in Gold Beach so Jack could get a picture of their post office.  He collects pictures of post offices around the country.  We also walked a very short way down the Oregon Coast Trail to view the Natural Bridges Cove.  It was a pretty good day trip all in all, and the weather really cooperated for a change.

Yesterday I had Jack over for NY BBQ using Cornish game hens, and we said our farewells until the next time our paths cross.  I’m guessing it will be another couple of years before that happens again.  It was a good visit, and we had a lot of laughs.  Safe travels, Jack.

As for the mystery of where Lesa disappeared to, I found out at the volunteer breakfast yesterday that it seems she has PTSD, and was feeling terribly claustrophobic in site B6.  I guess she just moved to a more open site, and is still volunteering here.  I just haven’t seen her out and about.  That’s a better outcome than my mind was conjuring up.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy