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Painted Desert Trail, Imperial NWR, AZ

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quartzsite Blogger-Fest Observations

I had read on several other blogs the last couple of weeks that there was going to be a gathering of RV/travel bloggers in the desert around Quartzsite today.  After a rather emotional week for me, I decided it would be a good idea to make a trip up to Quartzsite for this gathering of like minded people and get the heck off of the refuge.  I’m sure glad I did.

I had some problems with an uncooperative GPS, so I had to just follow the written directions to the location of the gathering.  Sounded like a piece of cake; just follow US 95 to Plomosa Road and turn right.  It was about a 70 mile one way day trip for me so I left more than two hours before the meeting time of 1:30 just in case.  Good thing.  I followed US 95 and almost ended up in Blythe, CA.  I was lost.  Headed back to Quartzsite, and stopped at a LUV’s gas station to ask for directions.  It turned out that I should have taken AZ 95 in Q rather than US 95.  Oh well, I eventually got there and was only about 15 minutes late after close to 100 miles.

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There was quite a crowd of bloggers gathered in the middle of the desert around some yellow balloons.  Paul Weaver counted 52 of us.  I wish I had been able to get photos of everyone that attended, but that just wasn’t possible.  There were lots of folks I had met in the past, and lots of folks I had never met in person.  What a great idea this was.  It’s always nice to actually meet and put a face/faces to the blogs we read.

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After getting everyone to sit down in a circle for introductions (kind of like herding cats), introductions began.  We each took turns telling our names and what blogs we wrote.  I didn’t know everyone, but in this collage are Kevin and Ruth, Jerry, Nan, Betty, Marsha, and Barbara.  Sorry Marsha, I couldn’t figure out how to get your link in here.  As it was my time to get up, my glasses fell apart!  Nothing like going to a gathering where your vision isn’t 100%.

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I especially found it interesting to compare preconceived conceptions of people with actually meeting them in person.  In the bottom right photo above, is Gayle.  She is much taller than I expected.  Barbara also came without her dog which surprised me.  John (Heyduke) came to my rescue and fixed my glasses.  Thanks John!

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Sandie Dixon also surprised me by being one of the leaders of this get together.  I had the wrong impression that she was a shy and retiring IRS tax person.  Winking smile  Yah know, I kind of thought it was like what a high school reunion would be like, but without all the comparisons of how well people had done.  Everyone was their selves, and that was so refreshing.

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And then there was Bayfield Al, and Kelly and Pheebes.  My observation?  I wasn’t sure he would show up for this gathering with his and Kelly’s aversion to crowds, but I’m glad they did.  I love listening to people’s accents, and Al surprised me with his Canadian ‘twang’.  There will be a different voice now in my head as I read his postings, eh? 

Wish I could have spent more time chatting with him about his recent musings on solo travelers, but too little time, and too many folks to interact with.  Shortly after this photo, he asked someone if that was really my hair standing up, or did I have on one of those visors with stand up hair attached.  Thanks a lot Al!  Surprised smile  I did take my visor off to prove it really was my ‘stand at attention’ locks after a hair cut.

This gathering was the boost I needed this week, and I also didn’t get lost on the way home.  With such a great bunch of folks, it wasn’t hard to persuade them to pose for this greatest of shots…Thank you all!

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Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kicked to the curb!

Remember last week when I mentioned that I was waffling between returning to Imperial NWR or not for next winter?  Well, yesterday, I went in to talk to the refuge manager about returning.  I shouldn’t have wasted all that time weighing pros and cons.  As I entered his office, he got up to close the door.  Not a good sign.  He then told me he had decided not to invite me back for next year.  I have to say that I was shocked.  This is the first time I’ve been told I couldn’t return as a volunteer to a refuge.  I was speechless.  It kind of knocked the stuffing out of me.

His reasoning was that I was not a self starter.  What?  Once I learned what all the duties were in the VC, I think I did them all.  Up until the first of the new year, we did not have very many visitors so there was a lot of down time.  He said he wanted someone that could find things to do.  I don’t know what else I could have done.  You can only clean so much, etc.  I asked for more things to do, but was thwarted. 

When there were no visitors, and nothing left to clean, I resorted to playing solitaire on my I-Pad.  I guess that was a mistake.  I should have just read a book.  That seems to be more acceptable. 

I suppose I could have pointed out the extra things I have done, like the first ever bird tours, but what’s the use?  The man’s mind was made up.  Besides which, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.  Do I think there are other factors influencing this decision?  Yes, I do.  By what the manager said at the volunteer meeting last night, cuts will be made in visitor’s services and environmental education services to school children.  I feel he wants to cut his volunteer staff down to three couples next year even though there are seven RV sites.  I, of course, don’t have a spouse that can work maintenance…

I may be all wet in those assumptions.  Who knows?  I just needed to vent about this situation.  It sure has made me think about truly retiring and giving up this volunteer lifestyle.   I didn’t sleep very well last night, and today my stomach was still upset.

Luckily today I met Betty and Joe in Yuma for lunch today, and was able to lay some of my troubles on them.  Thanks you two for lunch and a friendly ear!  Guess I’ll just spend the next two months like a ‘lame duck’ working for a boss that thinks I’m under par…

On the way home from lunch, I stopped at the Gonzalez Farm Stand for some fresh broccoli after getting a hair cut.  Got a couple of heads for a buck.  As I handed over my dollar, Mr. Gonzalez said, “ Thank you sir.”

That seems to happen every time I get a hair cut.  I just chuckle.  Then he looked up from the money box, and said, “I’m so sorry, I see now that you are a Ma'am.”  Yep, I do have bazooms! Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, January 17, 2015

I’ve got a GPS question

With the fun and excitement of my visitors for the first half of the week, the last couple of days had to be devoted to chores.  Stuff like laundry, generator exercising, and checking several things off of a list I had created.  I tend to be a procrastinator where disliked chores are concerned, and a list  gets me  through them.  It helps me to check things off and move on to the next task.

Several of the items on the list involved phone calls, which is a challenge when you have no AT&T coverage.  That meant I had to do them on the land line in the VC.  I tried while I was working on Monday, but had no success.  Yesterday, I packed all my paperwork up and camped out in a back office of the VC to try again.

I closed the window to the VC and the door because I knew I was going to get a little hot under the collar.  Why is it that it takes forever to get to talk to a live person?  The Geek Squad at Best Buy was more than frustrating.  “Your call is important to us… please stay on the line.”  Yeah, right!  After a half an hour, I finally checked that off.  Then it was on to CVS Caremark.  My Medicare mail order prescription service had changed as of the first of the year.  Talk about having to jump through hoops.  I had talked to them several times over the last two weeks, and during my call yesterday they said they had no record of me.  Don’t you just wish you could reach through the phone lines some times and choke someone?  Ugh!  It went on and on, but after two hours, all was straightened out… I think… I hope.

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I’ve put out a couple of orange halves and stick them on the mesquite tree at the corner of my site.  Mostly they attract bees.  Sad smile  I’ve been hoping the verdin would come back to visit, but I haven’t seen it in a couple of weeks.

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The gila woodpeckers like the oranges though, as well as the mockingbirds.  The peckers aren’t intimidated at all by the bees, and chase them off.  I’m not sure, but I think they might even eat them.  That would be a good thing in my opinion if they do.

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After a frustrating afternoon getting a cauliflower ear on the phone, Emma and I planned to have a peaceful evening outside as the sun slowly set last night.  All was calm until the almost nightly serenade began.

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Yep, the coyotes were nearby, and Emma just can’t help joining in on their howls and yips.  What a performance it was!  ‘The Call of the Wild’, I guess.  What a hoot!

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The sunset wasn’t spectacular, but it was pretty.  My thoughts turned to possibly attending the Blogger Fest meeting in Quartzsite next Saturday.  I thought I might do a day trip up there for the two hour gathering of bloggers in the afternoon.  GPS coordinates of the location are going to be known on Jan. 20.  Here’s my problem, and my question.  I messed around with my Garmin Nuvi Trucker’s GPS, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to put in GPS coordinates to find the meeting place.  Can any of you readers tell me how I’m supposed to find the place?

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For ‘The End’ tonight, I leave you with this great egret heading to roost last night.  It’s a sunset over the Chocolate Mountains. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Now this is the way to enjoy a day off!

With Sue and Mo still visiting, I had a much more exciting day off yesterday than usual.  I picked them up at 9:00 and we headed out to hike the Painted Desert Trail on the refuge.

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It was a sunny day with temps in the upper 40’s when we started out.  This trail is 1.3 miles in length and includes some ups and downs.  The last time I did it, I needed a boost to get up one of the rustic steps along the way.  It was just too tall for me.  I guess it must have been fixed a little because I was slowly able to do the whole trail under my own power.

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The early morning light helped bring out the shadows and beautiful colors of this trail.  According to Sue, not much of anything has grown along this area for millions of years.  I can tell you that it was a thrill to have my own soil scientist explaining all this rock stuff to me along the way.  I can tell you about birds and such, but I don’t know squat about geology.

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As I’ve driven across this country, I’ve often wished that Sue was in my passenger’s seat to educate me on the wonders of the different terrains I was seeing.  For a brief time, my wish came true.  Smile Of course, before our paths crossed last year in Anahuac NWR, I expected her to be a rather bookish professor type person.  Ha!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I appreciate the joviality of her soul.

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I took advantage of the couple of cement benches along the trail to sit and enjoy the views.  Mo did the same before we headed down into the wash.  Since washes occasionally have water, that’s where you’ll find the Palo Verde and Ironwood trees.  It was an enjoyable hike, and we were shocked to see all the cars in the trail head parking lot when we finished.  We had the whole trail to ourselves for this hike, and considered ourselves lucky.

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Since Mo and Sue have a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle, they offered to make a short trip into Kofa NWR in the afternoon.  We had hoped to do some kayaking, but the wind was blowing two sixty both days.  We only had time to do a portion of the most southern road into the refuge, but it was a treat for me since it became obvious that I could never drive my little Ford Focus in there.

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This road takes you close to Castle Dome.  I also noticed that there were more saguaros here in this part of the desert.  It must get more rain each year than Imperial.

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We had packed a lunch to take along, and ended up just standing by the car to munch as a stream of jeeps made their way past us.  Not bad scenery for a picnic!

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Shortly after eating, we had to turn around as the road continued to deteriorate.  Jeeps are definitely needed in this area.  We were also running out of time as I had to get back to the rig to prepare for a hot dog cookout in honor of Sue and Mo’s visit.  All the other volunteers came with a dish to share, and as usual there was more than enough to eat.  We ate and chatted and laughed the evening away until the mosquitoes chased everyone back to their rigs.  Is there a refuge in this country that isn’t plagued by mosquitoes?  I don’t think so.

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Oh, I almost forgot.  Remember that road sign I showed you last month showing a tank crossing area?  Well, on our way back from Kofa a tank actually went across in front of us, and today the air was filled with the sounds of machine guns and other ordinance exploding on the Yuma Proving Grounds.  Such odd sounds to be hearing while living on a National Wildlife Refuge.  One of those black stealth type jets came thundering overhead this evening also.  First time that’s happened here.  All that noise didn’t seem to bother the birds any.  Guess I’m pretty safe here surrounded by our Army warriors.

I bid Sue and Mo a fond farewell this morning as they headed out for Joshua Tree and eventually home.  I’m looking forward to seeing both of them again this summer when I’m in their home state of Oregon.  Thanks for stopping by Sue and Mo!  You helped lift my spirits.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Special visitors

At the end of two days working in the VC this week, two ladies that I think are pretty special rolled into the refuge yesterday afternoon.  Sue and Mo had decided to spend a few days with me on the refuge.

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Since I was working, they even offered to provide a spaghetti dinner when I got off of work.  Hard to pass up an offer like that.  They brought all the fixings over to my site so we could enjoy my marvelous view as we ate and chatted.  If you don’t know them, that’s Sue perusing the ducks on the pond through my scope with Mo in the background. 

John and Sharon HeydukeThen this morning, John and Sharon (of heyduke50 blogger fame) joined us for a tour of the managed ponds and fields where I normally do the bird tours. 

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                     We saw the usual cast of characters like this snowy egret looking for breakfast.

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American coots were more than abundant, as usual, along with some redheads and canvasbacks.  Buffleheads, ruddy ducks, eared grebes, Canada geese, northern harriers, meadowlarks, and loggerhead shrikes were also spotted. 

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                                                               Mo, Sharon, Sue, and me.

John was kind enough to take a picture of the four ladies on the tour as we stopped at one of the ponds to view the beaver slide.  It was a gorgeous morning to be out and about.  It was kind of like a mini blogger-fest tour.

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The highlight, bird wise, for the tour was spotting this great horned owl who posed for us.  I had heard it hooting in the wee hours of the morning as Emma and I sat outside, but this is the first one I’ve actually seen on this refuge.

Later in the day, Sue and Mo and I did a tour of all of the overlooks along Red Cloud Mine Road.  I brought my scope along so we were able to look down on lots of wintering waterfowl in the lakes beside the Colorado river.  I often sit on my patio and observe visitors driving that road through my scope.  At the last stop, Smoke Tree Overlook, I was able to zero the scope in to find my rig which was three miles distant.  That was kind of cool.

I fixed dinner for us tonight, and had a bit of a problem keeping the Weber Q going in the very windy conditions long enough to cook NY BBQ chicken.  It’s best enjoyed hot off of the grill, so I really only fix it when I have company.  A whole chicken is just too much for one person, and it loses some of its zing if reheated… the crispy skin gets soggy and such.

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                                                Get a load of those talons!  Glad I’m not a rodent.

Tomorrow we’re going to do the Painted Desert Trail, and maybe a little kayaking.  It’s nice to spend a couple of days with special friends laughing, chatting, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A trip to a sister refuge

Imperial NWR is part of a complex of three refuges that also include Kofa NWR and Cibola NWR.  We get visitors in the VC from all over, and I felt I needed to know more about the other refuges within driving distance.  So, yesterday Emma and I headed out to visit Cibola.

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Even though it’s only about 25 miles north of the VC at Imperial, as the crow flies, I’m not a crow and the drive to get there is just short of 120 miles from my rig one way.  I had to drive up through Quartzite on US 95 to catch I-10 west to Blythe, CA, and then head south on the other side of the Colorado River to reach Cibola NWR. 

My first stop was the VC, of course, to introduce myself as a fellow volunteer and find out where to go and what to see.  Both of the volunteers there suggested the wildlife drive, but cautioned me numerous times that I was not allowed to get out of my car while on the drive.  All righty then.  I’m not much of a rule breaker, but apparently I appeared so. Who me?

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I also asked if I could drive through the volunteer village to take a look at the accommodations.  I was given permission to do that.  I always like to consider other volunteer opportunities, and seeing the RV sites is high on my list.  Shade covers were provided at all six sites.  Sounds nice, but I noted two problems with that for me.  First off, my DISH is mounted on top of my rig, so that wouldn’t work under the canopy as far as I know.  Secondly, there was only about ten feet between your rig and your neighbor’s rig on each side.  A little tight for my preferences.

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Then I was off on the wildlife drive.  There’s a large pond area with hundreds of Canada geese and snow geese near the beginning of the drive.  Some other waterfowl were mixed in as well.

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                                               Northern pintails were walking and floating about…

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Along with northern shovelers.  Cibola is touted as having the most waterfowl of the three refuges in the complex, but as far as what the general public can see, there’s not much more than what can be seen at Imperial in my opinion.

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The rest of the wildlife drive is around the managed crop fields on the refuge.  Along the irrigation canals, are more than a dozen of these unusual structures.  They are maintained for the use of burrowing owls.  Burrowing owls have their homes underground, and come up to hunt and loaf.  These man-made structures have what looks like sewer hoses leading to underground burrows.  The cross-like structures are for the owls to perch on.  My hopes of seeing one at high noon were not high.  You’ll have to take my word for it that a burrowing owl was sitting outside, but as I approached it ran down the pipe.  Sad smile

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                       Luckily, as I was nearing the end of the drive one owl was out soaking up some rays!

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These owls are pretty much nocturnal, and hunt small rodents.  I considered myself lucky that one was out taking a sun bath.  I didn’t intrude upon his slumber time for too long, and I definitely didn’t get out of the car. Winking smile

I’m glad I made this trip to Cibola.  Having been there, I feel better about what I can tell folks that visit here and ask about it.  In a little over a week, I’ll be heading out to familiarize myself with Kofa NWR.  Can’t do that this coming week, as I’ll be busy having fun with some folks many of you may know.  I’m trying to build a little suspense here… Open-mouthed smile

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                                                   Time to get some shut eye for now… THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Needed a little attitude adjustment

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps mentally.  Nothing drastic, but I did notice that my attitude was a little more negative than usual.  I had fallen into a rut of working the VC three days, doing laundry and grocery shopping on my first day off, and then spending the rest of my free days just sitting around the rig.  The cold dreary weather didn’t help much. 

I also got an email from the refuge manager the other day asking all volunteers to let him know in the next week or so if we intended to return next winter.  That got me to thinking.  That decision is not an instant yes or no for me.  I’ll probably go over my pros and cons to that question in another post, but for today the sun was shining when I awoke, and temps were above freezing.  I decided to give myself a kick in the kiester, and get out and do something.

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Even though I’ve been here over two months, I’ve never driven through the Big Gun entrance to the US Army Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG).  Emma hopped into the car, and we were off on a day trip drive.  First up was to look at all the tanks and howitzers that have been tested at the YPG since WWII.  I had tried to get a reservation on one of the five ‘Behind the Big Guns’ tours that are offered, but not a spot was available for this winter.

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The road through the YPG took me on a slightly longer route to reach Yuma today.  I had one stop to make a little west of Winterhaven, CA, so the scenic route rather than US 95 suited me just fine.  I always enjoy seeing lush farm fields, and today was a ‘green’ treat.  Lots of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and many date groves. 

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I’ve also always had a thing for hay bales.  It doesn’t matter if they are scattered about in the fields or stacked like this along the roadway.  They always grab my attention.  Guess I’m just a hayseed at heart.  I could feel my spirits rising as I drove along.

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The drive to Sidewinder Road to pick up my order was so pleasant that I decided to retrace my drive home rather than taking the more direct route.  I saw the sign for Senator’s Wash road, and decided to investigate this Long Term Visitor’s Center Area (LTVA) run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Lot’s of folks that enjoy boondocking use this LTVA to spend a part or all of the winter.  I can now understand why.  The views are wonderful.

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It’s still a surprise to me to see all this water in the desert.  If you click to enlarge this pic, you can maybe make out the white dots on the other side of the wash on the left.  Those are all RVs camped out here.  My rig isn’t equipped for extended boondocking, and I’m not sure I’d be up for it, but I was glad I came to see how others enjoy this lifestyle.

Today’s trip helped get my attitude back in adjustment.  Most all of the other volunteers have been in to talk to the manager, but I still need a few days to think about things.  In the meantime, I’ve got another outing planned for Friday and tonight I’ll be converting some of the fresh oranges I got at a little stand into juice for tomorrow’s breakfast. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy