Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rainy day questions.

Just as a precaution last night, I pulled in the slide-outs since there was a tornado watch that was to last until 5:00 in the morning.  Thankfully, the tornadoes did not materialize, but it was a pretty rainy day today.  I spent most of the day indoors doing chores, so it wasn’t exactly an exciting day.


Lila left a comment on last night’s post that posed four questions.  They are really some universal questions for RVers, so I thought I’d give my response to them tonight.  I’d be interested to hear what the rest of you think; especially about the first three questions.  (The few pictures I’ll post were taken over the past week or so.)


1.  DO YOU GET LONESOME?  I really can’t say that I do.  With all the technology available to us today, it is not difficult to stay in touch with family and friends.  That being said, there are times for me when communicating with Emma just doesn’t seem fulfilling enough.  Smile  If I’m volunteering, I go strike up a conversation with fellow volunteers.  I usually also spend some time working the visitor’s center, so have plenty of contact with other folks.  I guess I’m just a person that has been comfortable with alone time.  I’m happy in my own skin, and don’t need the constant interaction with other people.  That’s not to say that I don’t miss sharing some of my experiences with another special person.  I think that’s the biggest downer of traveling alone.  But, I’d rather have the experience alone than not have it at all!


(The non-mated “teenage” cranes find each other and hang out together during mating season.)

2.  DO YOU GET SCARED?  I must admit that I have been scared 3 times in the last five years.  The first time was in 2008 when the rig literally got blown off of the road with a huge wind gust in Arizona.  How I didn’t crap my pants, I’ll never know! Smile with tongue out  I did get off of the road as soon as possible, and checked into the ROOT 66 RV park before 11:00 a.m.  What a joint that was! 


The second time was last May when road debris caused a blowout on the toad in the middle of a bad section of Kansas City.  Thanks goodness for a good Samaritan that came to my rescue.  And the third time was last October when the alarms starting going off in the middle of nowhere of Eastern Oregon indicating my engine was in dire overheating straights.  I ended up spending my first night ever in a truck stop, and was towed the next morning 100 miles to Boise, Idaho.  All my scary situations had to do with driving the rig.  Normal day to day life and traveling has not been scary for me.  I don’t have a pair of men’s boots that I place outside the rig; Emma doesn’t intimidate anyone; and I know enough to head out of a place I’m not comfortable with.  I do not carry a gun.  I don’t think it’s necessary.  I’m careful, but do not live in fear.


(Eight youngsters are presently traveling together, and can be seen next to I-10!)


3.  DO THE HIGH GAS PRICES EFFECT YOUR TRAVEL?  So far, not really.  I don’t constantly travel, but rather spend about three months at a refuge before I move on.  I usually take about a month to get to another assignment.  My travel months are more expensive than my volunteer months, but it’s a schedule that’s good for me.  I enjoy visiting an area in depth, and you need time to do that.  My entertainment needs are geared more toward enjoying wildlife which is less expensive than other pursuits.  Thank goodness for digital cameras!  I couldn’t afford that hobby before digital.


4.  HOW DO YOU GET TO VOLUNTEER, AND DO YOU GET TO STAY FOR FREE?  I apply for volunteers jobs just like you would a paying job.  I have used Workamper News and Volunteer.gov too, along with state park websites to find positions.  As time has gone by, I have leaned toward picking an area I would like to visit, and then contacting National Wildlife Refuges in the area to see if they have RV volunteer positions available.  Since I’ve volunteered at eight NWRs, one National Monument, one state fish hatchery, and four state parks, I have somewhat of a network to fall back upon. 


I guess you could say that I get to stay at a location for free.  However, as a solo, I generally put in about 32hrs/week volunteering, so I don’t really think of it as being free.  Smile  I think this is about the longest post I’ve ever made, so I had better end it now!


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A return trip to Gulf Islands National Seashore


A week ago last Saturday was the grand opening of the Visitor’s Center for this National Park.  I was busy attending the air show at the Air Force Base, so I missed it.


Everything had to be rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, and I guess it took over five years!  The new VC has lots of educational displays, and the 20 minute or so video about the park is well worth the time to view. 


The first thing I noticed as I arrived was the profusion of blooming azaleas. 

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It was hard not to take a million pictures of them.  They were just glorious.


Emma tried to be patient while I hovered from bush to bush with my camera.  It never ceases to amaze me that if I say, “Time for a picture,” she stops pulling on her leash, and waits until I’m done.  She’s such a wild child in the rest of her life, why is this the only time she is calm?  Of course, if someone walked by, that calmness would be right out the window!

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Then we headed out to see how things had changed along the trail we did in February.  Things were beginning to bloom this time around.

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It looks like the Southern magnolias that are found along the trail are getting ready to bloom.


I found the work of this caterpillar along the way on some of the magnolia leaves.  It was resting along one of the buds of what I think will be a blossom.  Guess I’ll be taking this trail again in a week or two.  I really want to see the magnolias in bloom.

_MG_0125On the way back to the car, we encountered this 6’ long fellow out basking on the other side of the boardwalk.  Skies were overcast, but he didn’t seem to mind.

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It’s hard to see, but we also spent some time watching this river otter fishing the Davis Bayou.  All in all, a great outing today.  While at the Visitor’s Center, I spoke with the volunteer coordinator about opportunities here.  My thoughts are for next winter/spring.  Solo’s are required to put in 32hrs/week, and the park provides a site in the campground.  The red flag that went up for me was that the site included water and electric, but I’d have to move the rig every two weeks to dump the tanks.  Packing up every two weeks while volunteering that many hours is not something I’m willing to do at this point.  Too bad for them.  Smile with tongue out


The skies are beginning to rumble outside, and the forecast is for 2-3” of rain in the next 36 hours.  I’ve rolled in all the awnings, and packed away my rocker in preparation.  There’s a tornado watch on until 10:00 tonight, so I’ll be monitoring the weather radio, and am prepared to pull in the slides and get us to headquarters if necessary.  I hope you’re all in fair weather tonight.


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Be one with nature, Grasshopper.

Do you remember the TV show from the early 70’s named Kung Fu?  David Carradine starred, and in his flashbacks, his Kung Fu master would give him advice, and call him Grasshopper.  Well, today Emma and I took a hike down the Dees Nature Trail to be one with nature, and guess what we saw…


One honking big grasshopper!  This guy was about three inches long, and took flight as we approached and landed on one of the long leaf pine trees.  He really blended in quite nicely.  Maybe he’s a treehopper, not a grasshopper.  Smile


Finally, the cypress trees are coming back to life.  All of these trees looked dead to me, but in the last few days green spikes have been appearing along the branches.


The grey Spanish moss added to their dead look since I’ve been here.  For some reason, I thought cypress were green all year.  Obviously that’s not the case.  You learn something new every day.


I’m anxious for the cypress to fully leaf out and be draped with the Spanish moss.  That’s what my brain thinks of as a quintessential Southern swamp.  Next will be the Prothonotary warblers flitting about.  That should happen in the next couple of weeks.


That’s about all Emma and I accomplished today.  I’m practicing for spending this summer without a volunteer assignment.  Smile  I’m thinking I might be able to get used to just being retired with no agenda.  Time will tell.


Once I came inside this evening, I heard the Eastern towhees begin singing for the first time this spring.  They’ve been all around and using their call notes, but tonight the first male burst into song.  I guess it’s truly spring, and it turns a young man’s fancy.  Smile  I’ll have to keep a sharp eye to see if I can spot a nest or two.  The other day, a female pine warbler came within a couple feet of my foot to pick up some nesting material.  I also found an empty white eggshell along the entrance road.  My guess is that the local woodpeckers now have young to feed.  The biologist thinks it is just a matter of days before the first Mississippi sandhill crane will hatch.  Don’t you just love the rebirth that can be found all around us each year?  It gives one hope for the future. 


                                                       THE END!!  (blue-gray gnatcatcher style)


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fontainebleau Trail

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Friday morning dawned blue skied and glorious, so Emma and I headed out to walk the Fontainebleau Trail to hunt wildflowers.  The trail winds through the woods and along the Davis Bayou.  Doug, the volunteer coordinator, had told me that this was the time of year that the wild azaleas bloomed.

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What a visual and olfactory treat I was in for!  It was the perfect day to see the azaleas at their peak.


The bushes were just burgeoning with blossoms.  And the fragrance was intoxicating.

IMG_0011As you can probably imagine, I took a ton of photos.  What a fine walk it was!

59 FountainblueAzaleas weren’t the only things of interest.  In a quiet pool, I enjoyed the emerging fiddleheads of the ferns. 

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Of course, there were more than flowers to look at as we made our way down all the trails.


This morning, I picked up Fonda to take her to see the azaleas.  She had never walked this refuge trail.  Even though it had only been two days, many of the blooms had passed their peak.  We did find some bushes in the shade that were still looking good.  It’s amazing how quickly the blooms fade.  The fragrance was even more intense this morning.  My guess is because it was overcast and the humidity was skyrocketing without the slightest hint of a breeze.  You just have to be in the right place at the right time.

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Other plants, though, were just beginning their spring flowering.

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Looks like I’ll be needing to hike this trail pretty regularly to catch all the beauty each week.  If you’re ever in this area of Mississippi at the end of March, I heartily recommend taking a walk down these trails.  It’s only a couple of miles, but the scenery is memorable.  Smile


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, March 26, 2011

DISH dilemma

For those of you that travel with a portable satellite dish, I’m hoping you can understand the dilemma I faced today.  For the last two years, I’ve chosen to just have my major network stations come from Chicago.  I could change them to the local stations at each place I stay, but I quit doing that after a stint near Chicago.  I was able to access those stations no matter where I was in the country, until three days ago.  Suddenly, I had no access to NBC, CBS, and ABC.  My 119 satellite connection seemed to also be shaky.  I attributed that to the emergence of leaves on the oak trees surrounding my site.  So, today Denny volunteered to try to help me find a better signal location.  After over two hours of moving the DISH and trying to locate a signal, we gave  up.  I relaxed a bit, and then gave it another try on my own.  It only took me minutes to find a much stronger signal for both satellites.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?  Anyway, when I checked for the network stations, I still didn’t have any, so I called DISH and had them change my locals to Gautier, MS.  I’m back in business now, but still don’t understand why I suddenly lost the Chicago feed since I had it for six weeks down here.

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Meanwhile, today was a work day for me, and I spent the morning spraying all the sidewalk cracks with “7” to kill the weeds.  Of course, I took time out to enjoy the tiny carnivorous blossoming sundews. 

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These plants are only about the size of a quarter, and entice insects to get stuck on those sticky globules.  The plants then ingest nutrients from the insects for nourishment since the soil here can not provide enough to sustain them.  Those flowers are less than 1/4” across, and only come up about 2” above the plant.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to get both the flowers and their  blooms both in focus at the same time.

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Another, larger carnivorous plant found on the refuge is the Spoonleaf sundew.  They are about 3-4” across, but won’t bloom for a little while yet.  Unless you are really looking for these interesting plants, you’ll just walk right past them since they’re so small and low to the ground.  If you click on either of these pictures you can get a good view of the sticky spines that attract the insects.  I just think they are so cool!


This little beauty is a Candyroot/Dwarf Milkwort. The roots of this 6” plant smell just like peppermint.  Who figured these things out anyway?  Probably the native Americans, I’d guess.

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A few more fungi have cropped up as well.

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Fonda and I checked out the finished work on the Dees Trail overlook yesterday.  Since her husband, Denny, did quite a bit of work on this, we had to give our final approval!  Smile  Fonda found two of these not so wonderful wood ticks on her on our little hike.  Could it be that a bug likes someone else better than me??  Guess the season for tick checks is upon us.


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy