Well, this year has been a bit weird, eh? My big travel plans which included a trip to Yellowstone, Route 66 and the SABR Convention in Baltimore were canceled due to the virus. 2020 was supposed to be an epic travel year - oops! What's the expression? Man plans, God laughs?
As a result this years photographs - for the first time- are really slim pickings. A few years I've had trouble narrowing it down to ten - this year - I'm struggling to find ten. I do this each year because a fellow photographer, Jim Goldstein, puts together a compilation of top photos by many photographers and each year I participate. It's a cool project and here is the link to his website.
I'm sure, in time, we will all have much to say about this challenging time in our lives. Currently here in California the hospitals are overflowing and the death count marches on. It is, seemingly, a chaotic almost dystopian Hell. I was forced to visit the ER too a few weeks back after becoming short of breath in the middle of the night but, fortunately, it wasn't COVID. The doctor told me, "good thing you don't have to be admitted because we don't have room". That was over 2 weeks ago...I can't imagine what's happening right now.
So, yes, it is a terrible time for many. Recently, I was speaking to a fellow friend of Bill W. and we were discussing the importance of having, "an attitude of gratitude". We discussed our belief that those of us who luckily haven't lost family members and have avoided the virus or have not been terribly sickened by it have MUCH to be grateful for -in fact, probably more than other years in our lives.
I am grateful I was able to get out a tiny bit. I'm grateful for my family and their health and the new granddaughter on the way. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful that you are reading this. I am grateful for you. I hope these photos take your mind off our troubles for a brief moment.
About a year ago we moved and my daily walk takes me by the nearby high school. Valencia High was built in 1933 and many of the buildings, including the auditorium and cafeteria, were built during the depression by the WPA. It's a beautiful school.
The next four photos are from my annual trip to Gaviota State Park and nearby Los Osos. The fog rolled in and, well, I love the fog.
I was also able to get out to Anza Borrego for a few nights with my pal, Dell. By now you are probably aware of my affinity for that place.
I was also able to get out to Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park and the nearby wildlife refuges. It's a place that I just feel at home.
Lupe and I spent Thanksgiving at Pinnacles National Park. The photo below is of Bear Gulch Reservoir from a frigid (29F) morning hike.
My favorite trip for photography this year- although it too was cut short - not by COVID but rather electrical issues with my Casita - was to the McGee Creek area of the Sierra Nevada. The first photo is of a nearby aspen grove and the second of McGee Creek Pass.
So, there you have it. I am still planning trips for 2021 although all in California, Nevada and Arizona. I will also be spending much of my time planning for 2022. That year will mark my 65th on the planet and I want to celebrate in style. First, with a huge backyard fiesta and then with a 3 month cross country trip - similar to Travels with Charley and Blue Highways - well, my version, anyway. I am excited about it - it will be the "trip of a lifetime" from sea to shining sea. It will feature nature and plains and mountains and National Parks I haven't previously visited with lots of baseball including a visit to Cooperstown and music - lots of music - including much of the Mississippi Blues Trail. I hope to see you when I'm on the road!
Now, let's stay safe - let's get through 2021 in style and and may you all have the happiest of holiday seasons.
I retired several years ago. My long term and instant goal was to get "out there". WAY out there. Often. Included in that dream was time with my kids in wild and natural places. I've been able to largely accomplish that goal. Each of my three children have gone with me. But...I hadn't been able to accomplish the one thing I'd been thinking of very often - going with my two boys together. When they were younger we regularly camped at Pismo Beach and other places and they are some of the best memories of my life.
For many years as they were growing up we all lived together. However, to my great regret, I spent far too much time away from home while trying to "change the world" and never spent as much time as I wanted to spend with these two young men- who, along with their sister, are simply the greatest joys of my life.
What gave me solace was knowing that "some day" after I retired we could finally spend quality time together for an extended period of time. But, my friends, you know how that goes. They grow up and guess who's busy now?!
But, HEY! We finally made it happen. Our original plan was to camp at Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Park, but, thanks to the genius in the White house our reservations were canceled. We quickly made plan B - getting the LAST spot available in the Borrego Palm Canyon campground (the big one) in Anza-Borrego State Park.
Anza-Borrego is in the Colorado Desert which becomes the Sonoran Desert as one moves eastward and it changes into something much different. I love Anza-Borrego but it's rarely as green as the Sonoran and has different flora - no saguaros for example. It's more stark and barren. But, after the rain we've had this winter though Anza-Borrego was greener than I've ever seen it. I'm guessing the wildflowers will be spectacular in just a few weeks. It was gem-like.
The photo above is taken from the campground on a very windy late afternoon. My son Kevin arrived on Wednesday, on his motorcycle, after driving through some very frigid weather. Check out the sign at the higher elevations near Culp Valley.
After Kev arrived we went on the short walk to the Visitor Center.
Jordan arrived the next day and I decided to take them to Little Blair Valley and the pictograph trail. Except, well, except, er, I didn't drive to the pictograph trailhead. I took them to the Morteros trailhead. Oops! Dad screwed up. AGAIN! We did have a nice walk though but at some point the trail petered out and we were forced to scramble over and around and between rocks. The old man ripped his pants and knocked the eyepiece off his camera and finally - when we saw the end of the canyon - I knew we'd gone wrong. DUH! We did see ONE pictograph and the Kumeyaay Morteros are pretty cool.
This was the end of the line...
The next day Jordan and I drove out to the Peg Leg Smith monument and Clark Dry Lake to scout out some potential boon-docking spots. The day was spectacular.
We found an old abandoned building with graffiti indicating there was a, "DEAD BODY". I sent Jordan in to check it out.
Nope. No dead body. Thanks, Jordo for checking...
Here is a panorama of Clark Dry Lake
Other photos from our day:
I know I have many readers from out of California- if you do happen to make your way out to our overcrowded but wonderful state - please check out Anza-Borrego. You will not be disappointed. If you are from California, what are you waiting for? This spring will be sublime.
So, yep. We had a marvelous time. I don't mind saying that my kids, all 3 of them, are excellent campers. My theory that you learn a lot about a person in 24 hours of camping proves that I am one lucky father! Here's to many more years of camping together.
I'll sign off with a gallery of black and white photos, as is my way. Thanks for coming along. See you on the road!
Happy Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos. I recently returned from a fine little desert trip (it's that time of the year again- Hallelujah) and you will find the recap under Trip Reviews. I decided, a couple weeks ago, to stay close to home and be on "baby watch" as my twin grandchildren are due soon. This trip was close enough that I felt comfortable going. It's a little over two hours away from our home.
My travel will now be limited until the blessings of the new additions arrive. To celebrate their impending arrival I'll be heading to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in December. The wife and I are planning to scout some potential final retirement areas in which to live in the next several months in addition to my planned trips. Next year is starting to shape up quite well and I'm excited about that and my new grand-kids!
Now, I'm off to meditate and, later, to practice guitar with my fat fingers or, as we call them in Spanish, "dedos gordos".
I've been home almost a week and, funny enough, I'm itching to get back on the road. I know that the good weather months are dwindling and that soon it will be cold- my traveling and camping nemesis. I have a trip planned to Utah in less than two weeks and then the wait for the twins begins in earnest and I'll probably stay pretty close to home.
One of the most enjoyable activities of the winter months is planning the next year's travel. So far, I plan on two trips to Organ Pipe NM this winter. After 11 long years the monument is now fully open again which is exciting to say the least. I can now explore some places I've been itching to see for awhile but were closed due to the US Border Patrol's activities.
Have you read, "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Urrea? The setting is Organ Pipe- it's a tragic story and my views on immigration were only solidified by reading it. I know it's a complex issue but we MUST find a more humane way of dealing with those desperately poor people from Mexico who simply want a better life in the USA (as did all our relatives- except the indigenous). I have lots of deeply passionate thoughts about these issues and, perhaps, in future, I'll devote an entire blog to what I believe the problems are (and there are many - starting with the government of Mexico and US policy) and how we might go about creating a better world for our brothers and sisters from the south. If you have an interest in these matters please read Urrea, or "Border Patrol Nation" by Todd Miller. Or read anything that Charles Bowden has written on the Border problems.
If you know me, at all, you know I love all things Southwest- by extension- I love Mexico and the Mexican culture. It's everywhere you go in the Southwest and it's one of the major reasons I love it here.
Back to my plans for next year- so Organ Pipe is on big time. I'm also going to spend some time at Anza Borrego near Little Blair Valley doing some boondocking near a dry lake bed. Last year when I was there I was mesmerized by the solitude and stark beauty of the place. The problem was that it's at 3000 feet elevation, it was during a cold snap, and when I awoke it was 21 degrees F. WAY too cold. This fall/winter I'm hoping to go when it's a bit warmer. Of course, I'll also figure out a time to go to my beloved Joshua Tree NP.
In March I'm heading to Big Bend National Park in Southern Texas along the mighty Rio Grande. This is a trip that I've been wanting to do since my 20's and I'm finally going to make it happen. That trip will include stops in Arizona and New Mexico and may include a stop at Palo Duro Canyon and Guadalupe NP. April is a wonderful month to explore the coastal mountains near Santa Barbara and Big Sur and I'll backpack then. I love to travel in May because the weather is warming and the crowds are at a minimum. I will probably be in Taos and Santa Fe then. In June I'll head to the Sierras again. July is "Lupe and Lilly time" and we are still in the process of deciding. I'm considering two options for August - either Flathead Lake and Glacier NP in Montana or a Northern Cascades trip in Washington.
This last trip was really spectacular and I'm strongly considering heading back to the Four Corners in Utah and Colorado in September. I'm still, as I sit here at home, staggered by the scenery I saw in Colorado on this last trip.
My next trip, leaving on October 6, includes a visit with my very best friend from high school, Kevin D. , and still one of the best people I've ever known (or ever will know). He went to college in Utah and then got a job there and so our visits have been sporadic (at best) over the years. I'm hoping that changes in the next few years as we both move into the retirement phase of our lives. As I told him recently- one of us is still working (him) and one of us is a hobo (me) so his schedule will dictate things for awhile. Luckily he's free on the weekend of Oct. 11 and I get to hang with him on this trip. Knowing Kev he's explored most of that beautiful country up there and I'll be the beneficiary of his knowledge.
Here's my Utah tentative itinerary:
10/6 Navajo National Monument
10/7 Arches NP
10/8 Arches NP
10/9 Arches NP
10/10 Canyonlands NP
10/11 Visiting with Kevin near Vernal, UT
10/12 Goblin SP
10/13 Goblin SP
10/14 Capitol Reef NP
10/15 Kodachrome SP
Looks amazing doesn't it? Arches NP remains my favorite. Before I read Ed Abbey I visited it and had an OBE (out of body experience)- after I read, "Desert Solitaire" I understood why. I probably feel more "at home" in Arches than any other place on earth. There is no place like the Red Rock Country of the Colorado Plateau. Being there fulfills my heart's desire. I'll look forward to sharing pictures on my return as always.
Thanks for reading this. I hope all is well in your life and that you too are planning your next adventure. I'll look forward to writing again soon and sharing about another one of my new passions- playing guitar.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.