Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Made it to Jojoba Hills

But not without a lot of heartburn.  Things went fine along I-5 until last night when I pulled into Castaic Lake RV Park just north of Los Angeles.  It had mixed reviews on RV Park Reviews, but recent ones were very good.  Ha!  I have no idea why anyone would want to stay here.  Talk about feeling like a sardine, and at $42.50 with an Escapees 15% discount, my opinion is that it is overpriced by about $40!  Yes, it’s close to LA, but most of the residents are workers.  That in itself is not bad, but their cars and trucks made it impossible for me to get out of my site.  Luckily, I found someone who could ask folks to move their vehicles so I could maneuver out.  I was a nervous wreck, and the day had just started.

Holy Moses, what a drive it was around LA!  I’m surprised I have any teeth left in my mouth or that there are any screws or bolts that aren’t loose in the rig.  Like any major metropolitan area, the roads are just in horrible condition, and construction is never ending.  I can say that I’ll never take this route again with the rig.  I felt lucky to come out of it alive, and I grew up learning to drive in Chicago.

By the time I made it to Temecula, CA, with only about 15 more miles to go, I needed to fill the gas tank.  I had looked at a gas station on Google Earth that I thought I could get into and out of easily.  It didn’t turn out that way, so I’m now at Jojoba with a bit less than a half a tank.  That’s not the way I like things to be when I arrive at an extended stay site.

Even though my drive today was only about 140 miles, by the time I pulled into Jojoba Hills I was more than wilted.  I asked for an escort to my site, since I’ve never seen it, and got a real jewel to lead me in, and get me situated just perfectly.  What a relief!


After getting most of the basics set up for my stay, I only took a few pics.  I had to improvise how to put out Emma’s tie out.  I ended up wrapping the line around the front tire on the passenger’s side.  It will work for now until I figure out something more permanent.


This is the view from my patio as the sun is setting behind me.  I’m on one of the upper levels with some mountains/hills out in front of me.  It’s quiet and peaceful here, and my site overlooks the terraced sites below.


There isn’t any grass here, but Emma was having a good back scratch on the gravel.  I’m just relieved to be here.  I think I’ll sleep like a log tonight…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Finally left Tule Lake NWR

You know what they say about plans…  My plan had been to leave Tule Lake NWR last Thursday morning and head out south for Jojoba Hills.  I had also planned to stop not too far from Sacramento for a couple of days to visit with Gypsy and tour the capitol.  So much for plans.

Very early last Tuesday morning, I was again hit with another bout of illness caused by my intolerance to Amoxicillin.  I hadn’t taken any more pills, but it seems these reactions can start up again weeks or even months later.  Hard to believe, but obviously true.  I was knocked out of commission for another four plus days.  It was slightly less severe than the last occurrence a month and a half ago, but any activities like crawling under the rig to clean and silicone the leveling jacks was out of the question until yesterday afternoon.  I couldn’t even take the chance of driving into Klamath Falls to buy some ‘Depends’.  Sick smile

Even though the winds were stronger than I like for driving the rig this morning, I decided to chance an escape.  I just didn’t want to be stuck too long at Tule since I had to drive through the Cascade Range and over the pass by Mount Shasta.  The weather has been holding, but who knows how long it will last?


Thankfully the 175 mile drive to Red Bluff, CA, was uneventful overall.  I gave a sigh of relief as I descended out of the mountains.  I want to document my overnight stay here in case I return this same way next spring.  I like this RV park much better than the place I stayed on the way north last spring.


The good things about this park are that it’s an easy off and on from I-5, the sites are fairly level, it’s well taken care of, and at $35/night is somewhat cheaper than many other parks in CA.  Since I’m still recuperating, I have to be honest and say I really didn’t care what they charged. 

The sites are pretty dang close to each other, and I’m happy that no one is staying next to me on the passenger’s side of the rig.  The dog park is not fenced, and is just a gravel parking lot looking area.  At this time of the year, the office is closed on Sundays, but since I had made a reservation and had cancelled twice, I was pleased to see that my site location and directions were left taped to the office door when I arrived.  There are big trees at almost every site that provide great shade.  However, if your satellite dish is on top of your rig like mine, forget about getting a signal.  Cable TV with about a dozen stations is included, but I didn’t bother with that since I’m only here one night.

Tomorrow I’ll press on to Lodi, CA.  The drive is about the same amount of miles.  That’s the place I was going to stop at to visit Gypsy, but I’m just not up to doing touristy things right now, and I’m anxious to get to my destination.  I hope tomorrow goes as smoothly as today.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thoughts on my time at Tule Lake NWR

As I’ll be leaving Tule Lake and Lower Klamath NWRs in five days, I spent some time today reviewing my time volunteering here.  Overall it’s been a good experience.  Good enough, in fact, that I’m thinking of returning next year.  But, of course, nothing is perfect.


One of the assignments I was given here was to evaluate the six photo blinds that are available for public use.  I visited the last one on Thursday and took the above and below photos from that blind.


This one appeared to be a good loafing location for white pelicans.  All those little black dots in the background water are other waterfowl that almost cover Tule Lake.  I made notes on all of the blinds with my opinions of their needs and usefulness.  When I went to hand them in to my supervisor, I was told that wasn’t necessary.  Nothing was going to be done in the foreseeable future, so I could just keep them.  What??  Then why was I given this assignment?  Same thing happened about my assignment to evaluate the numbered Auto Tour pamphlet.  I got the impression that the time I spent on these endeavors was to keep me out of his hair.  I don’t think this guy knows what he’s doing.  I won’t go into his other short comings, but I’ll just say that had he been one of my employees back before I retired, he wouldn’t have lasted a school year.


Thankfully, I’ve also been able to make myself available to the biologists on the refuge.  That’s the work I’m most interested in.  Plenty of opportunities doing things for Stacy, the biologist in charge of the hunt, to work outside and test out my new lens.


                                                                    Wait for me, Oliver!


                                                                    Oh, alright Stanley…

This year, I’m doing the stats for how many birds of what species are taken on the blinds that are up for a lottery each morning.  Working with numbers is right up my alley, and I also get to chat with the hunters.  The biologists here have never had a volunteer (there have only been VC volunteers before), so Stacy and I have talked about my returning to help them.  She also agrees that improvements need to be made to the RV site.


For the first time since I’ve been here, it rained all morning.  One of the results was to find this frog outside the VC.  The rain also did a wonderful job of knocking down all the dust that has been in the air the last few weeks.  All creatures, human and other, were joyful for this respite from the drought. 


One of the young temporary employees moved this guy off of the rocks to a better location.  Fascinating toes.

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On my way to the hunter check station this afternoon, I found this dark morph red-tailed hawk trying to dry out from the rains.  (I’m loving this new lens)  This happened just as an alarm went off in the vehicle with that flat tire signal.  Nuts!  I had to drive back to the VC to exchange vehicles as I do a lot of driving on rough roads each day.  VC supervisor said he’d just drive it anyway and ignore the signal.  Yeah, well, not me.  I don’t want a flat out in the middle of nowhere on a weekend when no help is available…


When I returned, the hawk had moved to a different perch so I could get a front view.  Isn’t it a beauty?  I spent several hours doing the stats and collecting bag check tallies from hunters that go out in boats on Tule Lake.  I’ve got to drive quite a bit of the refuge to collect those tallies.  That’s when I get the chance to keep updated on what’s happening bird wise on the refuge.  I know it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.  Winking smile


Snow geese are the favorites of my friend Sue, so this and the following pic are for her.  The rain clouds provided a different view of the refuge for me from the seemingly perpetual blue skies.


I estimated the flock in the first pic at 500 geese, and more are on their way.  The scenery today kind of reminded me of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Like Sue, I have found that the Klamath Basin speaks to my soul.  If I can solidify volunteering for the biology department, I will surely return next year.

Well, this post is pretty long for me, but I wanted to put some closure on something I posted a while back.


I asked readers to guess what this was a photo of.  Some people guessed an irrigation system, and they were correct.IMG_1189This type of system is used for irrigating potatoes around here.  This is a close up of the heads.  The big pipes are put down in between rows of potatoes with these ‘heads’ sprouting up every twenty feet or so along the line spurting out water.  The red ones are located at the end of a row so that water isn’t wasted by watering the roads.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I bit the bullet during a busy week

Since last Thursday, I’ve been pretty busy helping with the waterfowl hunt on the refuge. 


It all started with having to clean the hunter check station.  It hasn’t been used since last year’s hunt, and you can imagine how dusty and grimy it was inside and out.  I’ll be working here until I leave next week, so I didn’t mind getting it in shape.  Each morning there’s a drawing for a whole bunch of spaced blinds at 4:30 in the morning.

That’s a little early for me, so I chose to work the afternoon shift.  Any hunter that gets a blind has to report their harvest, or lack of such, by 2:30 in the afternoon to the check station.  I then compute all the statistics on what was shot and where, and post it on the outside of the station so the next morning’s hunters can see where the birds are.

It was pretty crazy over the opening weekend.  Things slow down during the week though.  Hunting is allowed every day of the week until 1:00 in the afternoon until some time in February.  Every one tells me that it is unusual to be this warm here at this time in October.  That’s what they’re blaming the low take on anyway.  Winking smile


One evening last week, I looked out my door right around sunset and was a little concerned with the smoke in the air.  With all the fires that have happened in CA and OR, it was a bit unsettling.


As I drove to the check station a few days later, I figured out that the smoke was from the burning of the grain fields after harvest.  I’ve read that they then flood these fields.  I’ll see if that’s what happens.

Over the weekend I finally decided to bite the bullet and order a Sigma 150-600 mm zoom lens from Amazon.  It was delivered this afternoon, so after work and reading the directions (yes, I’m one of those direction readers) you know I had to take a drive on the refuge to try it out.


                                                                        Pied-billed grebe

The birds are a bit more skittish since the opening of hunting season, so most of these shots are at quite some distance.  The refuge lens I was using was a Tamron, and I noticed some small issues with the automatic focus buzzing in and out.  That resulted in some missed shots.  I didn’t seem to have that problem with the Sigma. 


                                                           Very young western (?) grebe

I was surprised to find this young grebe on the water.  Seems a little late in the year to find one still in fluffy feathers.  No adults were near by so I’m not sure if it’s a western or a Clark’s grebe.



Besides the big potato harvest that is winding down, another one of the crops that are harvested in the area is onions.  They’re white onions that I’m thinking you’ll never find in your grocery store.  I’ve been told they’re incredibly hot and are used for dehydrating.  I guess you’d find them in things like dried onions and onion salt.  I prefer Vidalia or sweet onions, so I won’t be picking up any of these onions that fall off of the huge trucks.  I do like to have my windows open on the vehicle when I’m driving down the road and passing one of these trucks though.  The aroma as they pass is like sweet chives.  I just like sniffing it in.  Can’t imagine what the workers smell like by the end of the day though.


                               Northern shoveler, aka: smiling mallard, spoonie, or Hollywood mallard.

IMG_1084                                                                            Choir practice??

I’ve got tomorrow off before heading back to the check station on Thursday.  It’s about time to slowly start packing things up.  I’ve been able to talk one of the young brown shirts into helping check the tire pressures on the rig next week.  Since my air compressor is broken, he assured me that he could use a refuge compressor if necessary.  One more worry off the list.


So, what do I think of my trial run with the new lens?  I’ve got a learning curve ahead of me for sure, but let’s just say I don’t think I’ll be sending it back!  Smile  If I return here next summer/fall, I just can’t wait to try to get some shots of the western grebes doing their mating dance…


                                                                             THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today reminded me…

…why I volunteer on our nation’s National Wildlife Refuges.  It was a spectacular day for me.


My assignment for today was to return to the Oregon Straits area of the Lower Klamath NWR to survey the eastern half.  Each of the squares on the right is about a half mile by a half mile.  I had to report which areas had their grains harvested, or were under water, or were both, or were fallow sections.  This is the hunt area that hunters registered for to win a lottery to see who would be allowed in there for the opening hunt weekend coming up in two days.  I scoured the area and also added a ‘*’ to those blocks that actually had ducks and geese in them. 


As you know, an assignment like this is so much better than sitting in the VC for me.  This area is also known as the place to see raptors.  It’s hard to believe the number of hawks that can be seen along these tracts.  Young red-tailed hawks were on almost every post and pillar.

Any time I go out on the refuge for work, I have borrowed the refuge’s 600mm lens, and I must admit that I’m just about ready to pull the trigger on ordering one of these lens’ from Amazon for myself.  They’re not cheap, and I’ve been waiting to find out how much the bill is going to be for my recent dental work.  But, you know what?  You can’t take it with you, and I’ve been thinking I would really enjoy not having to turn in the lens each afternoon.  What do you think?


At the end of my survey this morning, I was thrilled to find a golden eagle willing to pose for me.  It was sitting on one of the water structures, and I guess it figured it was authorized to do so.  Winking smile 

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Can you see those golden feathers on its head that give it its name?  Can you believe I said “Cool Beans!” as I clicked away?  Just one of those reasons I’m so enamored with our refuges.


I came back to the rig for lunch and to let Emma out before I headed over to the hunter check station to see if I could find Stacy, the refuge biologist in charge of the hunt.  On the way there, I finally got a good glimpse of a young pheasant.  Guess this guy’s going to be a gorgeous cock pretty soon.  I’m always amazed at the intricacy of the coloring of each feather of these birds.


Stacy wasn’t there, so I took the long way home, and came upon this buck.  There were actually two of them.  I took several photos, but neither of them blinked an eye or twitched or anything.  They were so still for so long that I began to think they were stuffed animals.  I even got out of the car and walked across the road towards them.  Still, no movement.  It was crazy.  I thought I might be on Candid Camera or something being suckered in by decoys.  I was there for ten minutes before one of them finally moved.


At first I thought it was a buck and a doe, but after looking at my photos I’m not so sure.  Maybe the smaller one is a button buck?  See that knob on the smaller one’s head?


The bigger buck still has some velvet on the far antler tine if you look closely, but his neck is sure swelling up.  I guess rutting season will be coming soon.  Watching them was one of those special moments; another reminder.  When they finally decided to move, they gingerly and slowly high stepped through the brush for a hundred feet before bounding away.


With experiences and scenes like these, I’m just not sure I can ever truly retire.  I know I’ll enjoy my five months off at my home base this winter, but I think I just may come back here for more volunteering…


                                                               I’m out of here for tonight!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Spud city

I don’t think I’m alone when I have always thought of Idaho as the nation’s potato producer.  I never thought of potatoes coming from California, but they sure do. 


Many of the fields that are leased by farmers on the refuge are planted with potatoes, and the potato harvest began a little over a week ago.  The road in front of my RV site has had all kinds of huge trucks full of spuds blasting past from morning until almost sunset.  I’ve been tempted to pick up some of the potatoes that fall out of the trucks along the roadways.


Yesterday, I spent the day giving new volunteers, Heather and Cliff, a tour of the refuge on their first day.  I mentioned about the potatoes, and Cliff got out of the car at one of our stops.  He went over to talk to the farmers in the tractor in the first pic to ask if he could pick a hill or two.  They said help yourself.  I now have enough fresh picked potatoes to last me several months.  I just had to have fresh hash browns for breakfast today.  Winking smile

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Today I went out to do the bird survey, and check water levels at Lower Klamath.  Some water has been released into the refuge, but contrary to recent hunter rumors, the hunt sections are still dry as a bone.

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In the Oregon Straits area of Lower Klamath Refuge, one of the fields that had water a couple of weeks ago doesn’t any more.  Instead, a big flock of sheep has been moved in to graze.  This is the first time I’ve seen sheep around here.

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This afternoon I did the Tule Lake NWR auto tour route to see how many more waterfowl have arrived from the north.  On the last aerial bird survey there were close to 200,000 ducks and geese on Tule Lake.  These two button buck mule deer probably know this is a safe place for them.


Lots of greater white-fronted geese have arrived.  Hunters down in Texas call them speckle bellies, and around here they’re just known as specs.  Can you see those spots on their bellies?


                                              And, yes, the snow geese have begun to arrive.


In three weeks or so, there will be three to four times the number of waterfowl than there are now.  Numbers over a million on the refuge are hard for me to wrap my mind around.  Not sure I’ll still be here to see that.  It all depends on the weather forecast.

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I leave you tonight with one of this year’s young eared grebes.  They’re divers, and lots of them were raised on the refuge this season.  By next year, those eyes will be a brilliant red.


                                                                             THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy