For several months my two pals, Steve and Marty, had planned on meeting in Big Sur in November at good old Plaskett Creek Campground. I surrounded that trip with short stays in Morro Bay and Allensworth State Park (my new favorite) for a pure California trip. Sadly, Marty got sick and couldn't make it. I hope he's reading this so he'll realize how much he was missed. I know he was bummed about not going so we'll just need to schedule another trip soon.
I share lots of photos of Morro Bay on this website so I will only share a few more. I am on a "health kick" these days ('bout time, don't ya think?) and I did go on a ten mile walk one day while I was here - from the State Park to the Rock and then all around town. This time of year things are quiet in this sleepy beach town - reminds me of California past...
The next photos are from the hike near the State Park and into the estuary. Posting the photo of the Turkey Vulture online got a lot of responses. It reminded me when I went to a "talk" on them at the Grand Canyon two summers ago the Park Ranger put a photo up on the large projector screen and a kid yelled, "Oh, GROSS!" Cracked us all up and you may see what he means...
Here are a few more photos from magnificent Morro Bay.
After two nice days I drove the short distance to Plaskett Creek Campground which is south of Big Sur and north of Ragged Point on the California coast. Nearby is Sand Dollar Beach. It is one of the few remaining places that has ZERO cell reception which at first is strange and then worrisome and finally - so relaxing. I think we all need an electronics break and it's hard to take one so I suggest camping at Plaskett Creek as soon as possible! The first photo is a view of the sun and the marine layer from a stop along the Coast Highway. It reminded me of my days, long ago, driving across the Rim of the World Highway near Lake Arrowhead...the good old days.
Here are some photos of and from Sand Dollar Beach.
A few more photos of the area near Plaskett Creek.
My dear friend Steve arrived for the weekend. Recently he and I lost someone who we both loved very much. We spent time together connecting in the way that only people who have shared a mutual loss can. We walked and talked and remembered. It was a poignant and meaningful time together.
Luckily Steve brought his guitar and so we serenaded our nearby neighbors with songs of Slaid Cleaves and Jason Isbell. We also loudly proclaimed our thoughts on the band, Queen. One of us is a fan and one of us is not (me).
I didn't focus much on photography. That will be for another time. I'm grateful that Steve and I had that time together.
Here are a few black and white photos from the area.
You may recall that last spring I visited a State Historic Park in Central California in which I fell in love. On this trip I returned and my love affair deepened. I do have a request though -this place is off the beaten track and I'm worried that I talked too much about it online. So, let's keep this a secret just for us?
When I arrived at Allensworth I was only the second camper. The Ranger came by and wanted to talk about my Casita - while we did that she shared more about how I might be able to support the Park. When I came home I joined the "Friends of Allensworth" and made a small donation. I don't necessarily believe in reincarnation but I certainly feel at home here in some strange and reminiscent way.
Each day out there was glorious and I did get out to the local Wildlife Refuges as well.
Here are some photos of the buildings at Allensworth which have been faithfully restored.
Trains roll by on the regular. I love the sound of horns and the hum of the clickety clack as the freight trains roll slowly by. It lulls me into a calm and contemplative state like nothing else. I breathe easier.
On one particularly fine day I got up early and walked 6 miles all around the Park - made a lunch to go, jumped in the truck and drove to the Kern Wildlife Refuge. After meeting with the Ranger I took a few photos and then headed to Pixley Wildlife Refuge which is close to Allensworth for sunset. It was one of the very best days. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them...
Many of my favorite photos of the last few years are of telephone poles and solitary roads. This place was heavenly in that regard.
I will leave you with a few photos of my last sunset in my Central Valley paradise. Thanks for coming along on my western journeys. I love to travel alone knowing I get to share with you on my return.
On Twitter it's apparent that reviewing one's photos for the year is all the rage. I consider myself a non-conformist but I kind of like the idea. This is true even if the exercise is nothing more than an oppportunity to review my travels and tribulations for the last 12 months. For me, it's easy to do that and one of the reasons that I started this website. I enjoy sharing the beauty of the West and looking at my photos will be an enjoyable activity. I am not, however, inclined to pick my "favorite" 12 photos. While ranking is cool I think that activity might make my head explode. Maybe next year...
This was my first year traveling with my little travel trailer, a fiberglass egg, called, "El Correcaminos". It is quite different than sleeping in a tent or the back of my truck. In fact, it's so dang convenient that the first few months I traveled with it I'd get in the cozy little space and just want to stay there. This rather defeats the idea of getting a trailer which is to enjoy the great outdoors. I suppose it's natural though, when in a safe cocoon, to want to stay there. However, get out we did!
Here are my some of my favorite photos from my trips this year. I started the year using JPEG and a Nikon D3300, editing using the Nikon software, and finished the year making RAW images with a Nikon D750 and editing them in Lightroom.
The first photos are from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument last January.
For my birthday, the last one of my FIFTIES, Lupe and I took Banjo to Point Mugu.
My next stop in the little trailer was Death Valley. I'd been there before but never during a "super bloom" or for so long. It was a good trip.
In March I visited my Bay Area family. The last 6 years have been challenging for me in many ways but Lisa, Kara and Steve have always been there for me. How I love them... The photo below is of Lisa, Kara and their Dad, Jack. Jack is maybe, just maybe, the coolest guy I've ever known.
In March Lupe and I went to Arizona. We spent time in the Superstitions and out at Organ Pipe. We had a wonderful time. Lupe is the perfect traveling partner.
In late March Banjo and I spent a few days at the other-worldly Red Rock Canyon north of Los Angeles. It's a really cool place and reminded me of Utah or Abiquiu, NM.
In April, I headed out to Utah. I was able to spend time at Zion, Bryce, Escalante State Park and Kodachrome State Park. Magnificent.
In May I spent some time in Joshua Tree and at San Onofre Beach.
In June I was able to visit the newest National Park, Pinnacles, with my remarkable daughter Lilly and her friend Kennedy. Pinnacles is becoming a favorite as it is (relatively) uncrowded and sits in the heart of the scenic part of Central California. I'll be back next March for some spring photography in "Steinbeck Country".
Lupe and I had to forego a planned trip to Glacier but we managed to spend a wonderful week in Lassen Volcanic National Park. When we returned we decided to establish an annual family and friends trip up there and 2017 will be our inaugural event.
In August my friend Marty and I spent a week at Gaviota State Beach and on the Central Coast of California north of Santa Barbara.
The next "big trip" I took was way up the Northern California coast to Redwoods National Park and then I spent another few days near Brookings, Oregon at Harris Beach State Park
In October I visited my thoughtful and smart and long lost friend Eric Flaherty and took a short trip to Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona.
In November I visited the wonderful Mojave. I love it out there...
In December I took a very short trip to a local campground, Casper's Wilderness Park, and my truck began to have mechanical problems. I had to cancel my Anza Borrego trip and deal with having the truck in the shop 3 times in a two week period. Since I was convinced that my troubles with the truck were only beginning we bought a new Toyota Tacoma which will bring less worry to my travels in the next couple of years.
This, then, wraps up my short review of the year's travels. I'm hard at work planning for 2017. I do hope each of you who read this have a magnificent holiday season and that next year is one of the best of your lives.
Some of the best and worst things about a life of travel are the people you encounter. I've always been a bit of a misanthrope and love my time alone. Occasionally, however, I get interested in engaging with people I meet on the road since I spend so much time in solitary thought.
On my last trip to the hills above Big Sur in the Los Padres National Forest I was open to meeting with people. I'd been a couple days out and hadn't really spoken to anyone. I didn't believe I would meet anyone, of course, I was just open to it.
I found a gorgeous, and I believed, private spot that had a view of the sea, some shade from a large Madrone, lots of trails around, and I arranged my camping gear perfectly for a couple of nights sans humanity.
It was 10:30 AM and the weather was already hot despite my proximity to the ocean. I have a small battery operated fan that would cool me off a bit but it needed fresh batteries. I couldn't find a damn tiny screwdriver to fit the battery compartment screw and so I pulled out my trusty Swiss Army knife.
While attempting to open the compartment I heard a voice say, "Hello!". At that instant the knife slipped and dug a deep cut into the tip of my index finger which proceeded, like Dan Aykroyd playing Julia Child, to form a small geyser of blood. It freaked me out at first- "OH SHIT- where's the nearest hospital?". I grabbed a wad of tissues and wrapped it up and a fellow walked right through my campsite and appeared to be inspecting it. Now, ordinarily this would draw an objection from me - something like, "What the Hell are you doing"? I was, however, preoccupied with seeing if I could get my finger to stop bleeding and not worry about going to the Emergency Room at a hospital miles away.
"You going to have a fire?" the guy asked.
"Uh, no, that would be illegal and stupid. You'll have to excuse me for a minute- I've lacerated myself".
"That's OK- I'll wait. You sure you're not going to have a fire?"
I didn't answer. Instead I opted for getting gauze and adhesive tape and I wrapped my oozing finger like a tiny mummy.
The guy's dog now ran in front of me and jumped into MY truck sending my medical supplies flying. To my relief he did call his dog out of my vehicle. The dog ran off into the woods...
I figured that my Jerry-rigged bandage might work. I did have a bloody wad of tissue to deal with and the stranger saw it and said, "Whoa, that's nasty!"
"How can I help you?"
"I live up here and want to make sure you aren't going to start a fire".
That made sense. The brush in this area was bone dry and would be perfect kindling to start a forest fire. I had been to the Ranger Station and was told no fires and that I needed a fire permit to even use a stove in the mountains. I got the permit while reassuring the Ranger that I certainly wouldn't start a fire during the worst drought in California in 500 years.
So, having satisfied his desire that I had no fire or plans to have a fire I presumed he would move on. He was a friendly sort though!
He sat down and opened a beer. He offered me me one but I told him I hadn't had a drink in 14 years.
"FOURTEEN YEARS? FOURTEEN FUCKING YEARS? I should do that too, I guess but I love it too much. Guess you loved it too much too, eh? HAHAHA!"
I realized at that moment giving him any personal information would be an error. I stopped that immediately.
He was adamant that I'd found the best spot on the Central Coast to camp, "No question, I've lived up here for 35 years, grew up on the Hearst Ranch, and I've been everywhere on this coast- you found the best spot".
"I've seen Orcas out there at Tit Rock from this very spot."
"I'm sorry, did you say Kit Rock"?
"NO- T I T. Tit rock- doesn't it look like a big old titty sticking out of the water?"
"Hadn't actually viewed it from that perspective, I guess".
"I don't think that's the name on the mariners map though. Mariners maps! Haha! Yep, saw them Orcas grab a sea lion and tear it apart with those big old teeth and toss it back and forth just the way a cat will play with its' prey- my God, there was blood and guts all over the water".
The good news, at this point, was it appeared as if the cut on my finger was no longer bleeding and MY blood was congealing.
"Yep, blackmailers stayed right here about a month ago".
"I'm sorry. Blackmailers?"
"Oh yeah, tried to blackmail me and everyone else up here".
I wasn't sure how to respond.
"They asked me for a joint. I gave them a joint but they wanted to pay for it."
"In fact, they insisted on paying for it and I had to tell them, NO. Then a week later they tell me they're having me busted for solicitation. Said they knew my name and my past and that I'd tried to sell them pot - they were gonna bust me. Had a phony badge and all. I hated those bastards. Y'know if this was the 1850's they'd be dead right now."
I was really glad it was the 2000's for a number of reasons. While he was getting wound up about the blackmailers another car stopped at my "wilderness" campsite. A guy gets out- dressed exactly like the guy who was talking to me - jeans, t-shirt, work boots. He wanders over and says, "You're not gonna build a fire, are you?".
"Nope. Just got a stove over there and have a permit for that".
"A stove? Hell, you don't need a permit for that!" (you do- but whatever).
He says hello to visitor #1 and asks if he has any beer.
"Sure I got a case in the back of my truck! Wanna buy a 6 pack?".
They both go over to the car and I think they're leaving now that their fire concerns have been addressed. Nah- they wandered back with a joint the size of your thumb and fired it up.
# 2 says, "You want some?"
#1 says "Nah, he don't get high or drunk"
#2: "WHAT? Ok- more for us!"
#1: "I was just telling him about the blackmailers. They are almost as bad as Gary Whiting".
#2: "I thought you was gonna kill Gary the other day"
#1: "That man is the devil hisself! He swung on me and tried to drop a rock on my head the other day when I was running the back hoe and all because he still owes me $300!".
#2: "Yep thought you were gonna kill him".
#1: "All these years growing dope up here and I was fine until him and the blackmailers showed up".
Wait. What? What did he just say? I guess I shouldn't have been surprised and I have no judgement about people who grow weed but it seemed, as they say, like a little TMI.
They went on for another 20 minutes about Gary Whiting and I learned far more than I ever wanted to about the people who lived in these mountains ("You know there's only 25 of us and half of us don't even own cars! HAHAHA!").
I was now seriously getting fatigued.
"Gentlemen", I said, "I think I'm gonna take a little nap in the back of my truck. Haven't been sleeping well".
No sooner did I say that when #3 arrived with beer and a dog and looking for pot.
It's true that I haven't had a drink in 14 years and rarely engage in other mind-altering substances but I was just about ready to give it all up.
#3 only stayed for about 15 minutes as he had to dump his week old garbage in one of the dumpsters at Sand Dollar Beach. He said he barbecued chicken about a week ago and it was "getting ripe". He told us that the way to fool the folks when dumping trash illegally is to never put anything with your name in the trash and make sure you used a blue trash bag so it "mingled better" with the trash that was already there.
Did I object to his practice? Uh no, would you have?
#3 left and I repeated my nap story.
They went on for another 20 minutes. I kid you not.
"Well, that's fine if you gotta sleep", #1 said finally. "I'm glad you enjoyed our company and wish you'd be here longer. You're a good person I can tell. I spent two years in prison and no one ever bothered me because I could read them. In fact, they were scared of me- Blacks, Mexican Mafia, nope, never bothered me at all. I can read you too- you're a good guy".
No, I didn't mention the blackmailers or Gary Whiting which seemed at odds with what he'd just told me. It didn't seem smart.
"We may come back. You never know!".
They left. They were drunk and high as kites and roared off down the dirt road.
Perceptions are a funny thing. If you'd asked me if I thought I'd run into any people in a place this isolated place I'd have said no. If you asked me what kind of people might live in the hills above the Big Sur Coast I might have told you they were probably artists...poets and musicians...maybe painters, actors, writers and photographers.
I always think about what new places will look like before I get to them. I'm always surprised. Occasionally, I think about the people I might meet on the road. I'm always surprised.
My finger is still healing.
I used to dread hearing those words- especially if they came from an ex or a parent and I'd been to my local or just up to no good. Now? Not so much....I don't find myself in too many places I don't want to be unless you count the dentist.
I have actually been "laying low" and saving a few pennies (and miles on the truck) for our little home away from home. I head out at the end of November to pick up the "Casita Suavecita" near Dallas, Texas. I'll be headed out to the desert (Mojave Preserve, Organ Pipe, Cabeza Prieta, Kofu Refuge, and Death Valley) a lot this winter and up to see bay area family too at Half Moon Bay. Lupe and I are in the throes of trip planning to go to Glacier National Park next summer. I'm also heading in June to the very northeast corner of California in Modoc County. Perhaps Oregon and my postponed trip to Devil's Tower will be in the list as well.
I did just have a fabulous week in Central California- I'll be sharing more in a future blog about that area but please check out my trip review when you get a chance.
Much love and peace to you...
It's gotten to the point that I get a little stir crazy if I don 't sleep outside and see beautiful sights often enough. I'm at that point now.
I was supposed to camp with my man Marty last week at Joshua Tree, but so very sadly, his brother and my old pal, Michael passed away unexpectedly. That, of course, put the kibosh on our trip and also started a period of mourning that some of us just can't seem to shake. We will miss Michael. He was a profoundly intelligent person who had great compassion for the poor and disenfranchised. He was a great potter. He also loved his family dearly as they loved him. I have so many stories about Michael- he was an original- no doubt about that. Rest in peace amigo.
I'm getting ready this week to head for the central coast on Thursday. First, I'm heading to the newest National Park in California- Pinnacles. I've never been there or traveled much in that area but it's busy. I was only able to secure camping for one night and then I'll be staying a night in the mountains just east of Big Sur and the Monterey Bay.
On Saturday, I'll drive down to windy Gaviota Campground which is north of Santa Barbara. It's a kooky and cramped campground. The wind blows so hard there the trees actually grow almost horizontally. However, the beach is stunning, there is a cool pier, and an old-fashioned riveted railroad trestle above the campground. Due to the wind- it's camping that's not for the faint of heart.
Then I'll head back north to the Central Coast and Big Sur area staying at Plaskett Creek and Limekiln State Park.
I'm looking forward to walking along the beach and meditating by the waves.
Two last things- Vote For Bernie Sanders and listen to Ry Cooder!
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.