My daughter Lilly, the very light of my life, went off to college this fall. She is my youngest child and my only daughter. Old sentimental sap that I am, I'm trying not to to cry as I write this.
I miss her.
I took the truck, with her belongings, to school in Corvallis, Oregon, and on the way home, to assuage my sadness, made a road trip out of it. I saw some places new and old and nature, as it always does, provided me with comfort and succor.
From Corvallis I headed east on magnificent Oregon Highway 20 through the Willamette National Forest. Over hills and through the mountains with water everywhere. Lost Lake, Foster Lake and the Santiam Creek were highlights.
The Highway 20 black and whites.
After driving through Bend to Burns I spent a day in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, this magnificent place may be more well known for the welfare rancher Ammon Bundy and his crazy, gun toting freaky followers and their month long occupation of the refuge back in January of 2016 than for being a natural splendor. It's too bad, of course, because Malheur is also renowned for the birds that visit and call it home as well as other wildlife and, of course, the Eastern Oregon scenic beauty. I found it stunning.
From Burns I took a leisurely drive down Highway 395 and went to visit a place I've seen on the map, all my life, and never visited - the very northeast corner of California. There are some huge lakes up there - Gigantic Goose Lake straddles the border and Lake Abert and Honey Lake are also near the highway. I'd been picturing it in my mind's eyes for a long time and it certainly was better than anything I could have imagined.
I drove to Virginia City in Nevada. My mom and grandmother took me there around 1967 and I hadn't been back since. It's a novel town that focuses on its history and, in 50 some odd years, it hasn't changed much at all. It's exactly as I remembered it and I think that's the idea.
Since I had no reason to rush I took my own sweet time to come home and was able to stop and make some photos that I think capture the everlasting Nevada of my youth.
Another trip and another chapter ending and a new one beginning. And the seasons go round and round... Thank you for coming along.
Lilly, my 16 year old daughter, her friend Kennedy and I visited the western slope of the Southern Sierra and Giant Sequoia National Monument this August. We had a fine trip. Sadly, the legacy, history and scenic splendor of this area is currently under attack by developers and the United States Department of Interior. Please keep that in mind as you enjoy the photos and short narrative.
We chose to stay at the Quaking Aspen Campground in the National Monument. Ironically, there are very few Aspens in the campground proper but they are found all around the area. The campground sits near a small alpine meadow (7200 feet), has Tule Creek running through it, and is quiet and beautiful. After a somewhat harrowing drive on Highway 190 - it's steep and narrow and crazy curvy - we arrived and Lilly and Kennedy went to the nearby meadow and found a nice spot by the creek.
That night the old man (me) made his notorious Frito Pie, we watched "Sing" on my iPad in the trailer (to the pleasure of all...including the old man) and fell asleep to the sound of the whispering pines.
The next day we explored and went on two wonderful walks. The first is known as the "Trail of 100 Giants". Kennedy had never seen a Sequoia before and it was a kick to watch her expressions as we came upon these majestic wonders. We had a delightful hike.
My daughter, a lifelong adherent to lunacy, crawled into the hollow of a burned out Giant Sequoia and I asked her to poke her head out so that I could take a picture. It was, evidently, a far reach, and the photo came, over several minutes, in the following stages:
After our leisurely jaunt among the Sequoias we drove on the short dirt road to "Dome Rock" a large granite outcropping that is a rock climbing favorite. The views were beautiful and the steady strong wind we faced was refreshing and invigorating. Since I was camp counselor and guide I didn't focus that much on photography but I was able to capture a tiny bit of this pretty Sierra afternoon. I particularly like this photo of a lone pine on a rock outcropping.
The girls enjoyed the view and Kennedy was able to get cell phone service via her Verizon plan. Lilly and I on AT&T? Not so much. We planted ourselves and simply enjoyed the wind and sun.
Our last day was spent with more exploring, driving, and going for another hike. Lilly needed to get back to SoCal for Cross Country time trials but we managed to have a brief but brilliant time anyway. Life is so damn short and every moment with her in the wild is a profound blessing. I'll just count the days until we get out there again.
Lastly, I need to provide a quick editorial comment - it appears as if Secretary Zinke and the Interior Department will be recommending shrinking some of the National Monuments in the country. I am, of course, horrified. So much of the West has already been destroyed. We must, absolutely must, preserve all that is left. If you haven't already, won't you consider joining the cause of preserving these magnificent places?
The month of June in California typically signals two things; the start of the glorious summertime and "June Gloom" when the marine layer hovers over Southern California. I happen to be a lover of both. While September may be the best month of the year at the beach for those of who are sun worshippers June offers morning fog and overcast that usually "burns off" in the afternoon. After a lifetime of living in SoCal I've grown to love both months but June has a certain charm and I scheduled three coast trips this year. We had originally planned a large family outing to Lassen but, as I write this, the highway through the Park still isn't open due to the massive snow California received last winter. The water is a blessing and, hey, despite missing family and friends, the beach ain't bad!
I started at a longtime favorite-Thornhill Broome Beach near Point Mugu. In the early 1980's I was living in Ventura, CA and attending UC Santa Barbara. On the weekends, to survive, I would work at my father's typesetting shop in Los Alamitos. While taking the 101 to the 405 was much faster I invariably found myself taking "the long way home" along Highway 1 through Santa Monica, Malibu and up to Ventura County. I'd drive by Thornhill Broome and see campers literally right on the beach and think- "one day I'm gonna go there". I have followed through on that thought - many, many times.
The stretch of coast from Port Hueneme to Neptune's Net in Northern Malibu is some of the best in Southern California. There are very few homes and the beach is often desolate and lonely despite its proximity to LA.
Lupe and Banjo joined me for the weekend. In addition, her cousin Mundo and his wife Jenn also joined us on Saturday night for a wonderful outdoor barbecue and bonfire. Prior to their arrival I hiked each day in Sycamore Canyon and near the wetlands just north of Mugu Rock.
After the weekend Lupe went back to finish off the school year and I drove north to windy Gaviota State Park. I like it there and there may be more photos of that place here on the blog than any other place. It is almost always ridiculously windy and this trip was no exception. At one point I looked out the window and saw a dome tent rolling, end over end, directly at me. It ended up hitting the side of the fiberglass trailer with a thud and then flew over the top and about 50 more yards away where it was finally stopped by a wooden fence. Those folks left pretty quickly afterward.
The wind is one of the reasons I like Gaviota so much. It's in a small bowl along the coast, Kerouac slept here in "The Dharma Bums" and a train trestle is just overhead. But, the wind howls down through Gaviota Pass and makes camping there, sans an RV, difficult (although I did it for years). It generally keeps the amateur campers away. After a few hours of contending with the wind they often, while loudly cursing, get in their car and go. Can't blame them and gives me a bit more solitude.
Rumors abound that it may be closed soon. I certainly hope not. It's a treasure.
Marty, famous Marty, joined me the last night of my stay in Gaviota. He and I decided to hoist our old carcasses up a nearby peak to see some wind caves that I'd recently heard about. While it's a short hike it is very steep in places. We labored up the hills, sweating and mumbling to ourselves, but the destination was worth it.
I returned home for a few days and then my 16 year old daughter, Lilly, and I drove up to an old favorite of ours Pismo Beach. Lilly and I have been going to Pismo since she was a tot and we know the drill. We shop, bowl and head for the pier. Unfortunately, this year the Pismo Pier is going through a much needed rehabilitation and so it was off limits.
I brought my camera but didn't really plan on taking any photos. I wanted to devote my time and energy to "The Lilster". However, on one of last days we were there Lilly asked if we could go to Margo Dodd park since she'd heard it was pretty cool. Well, despite the heavy marine layer, it was indeed, "pretty cool". The rocks were covered with pelicans and it was a joy to discover.
I know, with Lilly reaching the latter part of her teen years and me getting older, we may not have many more trips with just the two of us. It was a memorable trip and she is a wonderful traveling companion. Her old man couldn't love her more if he tried. Here are some photos of Lilly's day trip suggestion.
We sadly decided to trade in our failing Nissan Frontier Pro-4X in favor of a new Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Off Road TRD. Unfortunately, Toyota recommends a 500 mile break in period before towing anything. We had scheduled a camping trip to Joshua Tree (like everyone else apparently-record breaking crowds out there) and canceled that trip too. Since I'm headed to Death Valley next week I needed to put some quick miles on the new truck. We all love Pismo and thought a drive up there would do the trick. It's a four hour drive.
Wait? Did I say a four hour drive? In reality was a SIX hour drive sitting in traffic on the way to LA, in LA, in Carpenteria, and in Santa Barbara. If you're old enough you can remember when a trip up the coast was seldom "trafficky". California gets worse and worse...
We arrived at about 4:00 PM. We immediately stopped at Pancho's Surf Shop where Lilly had her eye on a cool sweatshirt. It was as busy as I've seen Pismo even during summer.
After the obligatory shopping we walked out to the Pier and I was able to make a few photos. The temperature was cool and the sunset mesmerizing.
My travel companions...
We woke up early the next morning and it only took four hours to get home! It felt like a miracle. This has been a joyous week having Lilly and her friend Kennedy with us. Since the truck is "broken in" next up is Death Valley with Marty and Steve.
One last photo of my enchanting daughter.
Happy New Year to all.
I was unprepared to retire when I did. While the circumstances might be unique for each "retiree" I don't think I'm alone in that feeling. Most of us go from being productive "members of society" to being a little lost with this new stage of our lives. That probably sounds strange to many of you still working who look forward to retiring- I know it was a foreign thought to me. But, like many things in life, you can't realize how different it feels until you're there.
I remember telling a friend I went from daily trying to make the world a better place to having little purpose. She asked me, "So, you wanted to change the world? You did all that academic work, got your doctorate, and worked in school districts to help kids and change the world, right?" "Yep", I replied. Her response?
"How'd that work out for you?".
Brilliant, even though it did sound a little like Dr. Phil. It was a painful truth. She said three things that resonated afterwards...
1. Trite as it may sound, maybe all any of us can do is be the best person we can be. Set that example and quit trying to "change anything" except yourself.
2. Do all the things that you've wanted to do. That's not selfish, that is leading a productive and meaningful existence and following your heart is an opportunity that many people never get.
3. Surrender to what is.
So, I took her excellent advice.
I have been a traveling fool since that conversation. I work at being the best husband, father and friend I can be. Two new lights of my life, Finley and Joaquin, have been born. I have found a new love- photography. I have embraced my love of music and literature. I have re-established some long lost relationships that are deeply meaningful to me. I have seen and been places I wanted to see my entire life. This year is no different. I'm getting into my "golden years" and I'm loving it. Turns out this next stage of my life is a powerfully poignant and beautiful time.
Here's where I'll be the next few months:
April - I'll head to Utah and the Colorado Plateau. Zion, Monument Valley, Canyonlands NP, Kodachrome Basin and the Valley of Fire in Nevada.
May - Arizona - Painted Rock Petroglyph CG, Kartchner Caverns, ghost towns, Chiricahua National Monument, Bisbee, Madera Canyon.
June - San Onofre, Pinnacles NP with Lilly.
July - Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Glacier NP in Montana with Lupe. Point Mugu with Lilly and Lupe.
Aug - High Sierra fishing with son Jordan (and maybe Kevin?). Sequoia NP with daughter Lilly.
September - Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Redwood NP, and Harris Beach in Oregon.
October - Arizona and a visit to Little House Customs for some improvements to my little trailer and camping along the Mogollon Rim.
November - Still not determined but that sounds like desert time, doesn't it?
Come on and join me!
See you on The Road...
It's that time of year when an old Cactus Man's fancy turns from the desert to the mountains and sea.
I have been trip planning for the last week while homebound. Lupe and I have had some domestic issues like painting and appliance repair to deal with (I swear it feels like these damn things are never done). As a result, I have nearly finished my trip plans for the next few months. In addition, Lupe and I are looking at the possible purchase of a very small, affordable, versatile, high ground clearance travel trailer. I need something that is homey enough for Lupe but I can take on my beloved dirt roads. While I love my current setup with just the camper shell I must admit it would be nice to have a place to hole up in bad weather. Anyway, we're not looking for something that resembles our home in any manner (why not just stay at home or in a motel then?). We want a tiny hideaway to take us away to private and secluded spots as well as the National Parks. The research continues...
In June- next week in fact, my son Kevin and I are headed to Boulder Basin in the San Jacinto mountains for a couple of days. I've been trying to get him to go camping with me for a few years now and I'm really looking forward to it. From there he'll go back to work (poor bastard) and I'll head to Nevada and Great Basin National Park. It's my first visit there and it is one of the lesser known National Parks- which is right up my misanthropic alley.
Then it's time for Lupe and Lilly! At the beginning of July Lupe and I are going to Point Mugu and camp right on the beach. Then, at the end of July she and Lilly and I are going to Jalama Beach and Pismo Beach. We'll spend a night in a motel in Morro Bay to wrap up (love that sleepy little town).
In August I'm headed back to the Southwest for a trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been to the south rim probably 10 times but I don't usually head there in summer when the north rim is free of snow and open. I will probably camp a night or two at nearby Jacob Lake and look for future boondocking spots. At the end of the month and just before Lilly starts high school (Good God!) I'm taking her to one of my favorite spots in this lifetime - Lassen Volcanic National Park. I know it so well I can show her around! As she grows older these chances will be come fewer and fewer (see Jordan and Kevin) and I will cherish this time together. It will be an unforgettable trip.
My next BIG trip is in my favorite month to travel - September. I'll be heading to Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming and the Little Big Horn Battlefield in Montana. You've probably figured out my appreciation of and fascination with the indigenous people of our continent and this trip will focus heavily on Native American history and culture.
In October I'm heading back to Big Sur area to stay at Kirk Creek Campground and boondock in the mountains that overlook the sea, I'm gonna squeeze in a weekend back at Pinnacles National Park with my dear Bay Area family.
November brings me back to the desert...
I'll look forward to showing my pictures and narrating the trips as I return from each one.
I am grumpy today about the oil spill off Refugio beach near Santa Barbara. I was just there and, you probably know, I find oil companies disgraceful (yes, I still drive- hypocrite that I am). Sometimes when I'm in these moods I find that thinking of my trips- and my wife, my children and grandchildren-put things in perspective and get me out of my funk. Today, I have posted the pics and narrative from my last trip up in central California under Trip Reviews (check them out- pretty cool). I enjoyed that but while going through those pictures I saw some I took the other day that make me a very happy man- my daughter. Perhaps you'll find these enjoyable too,. I can't begin to express how much I love that kid- she's beautiful, sweet, wise, clever, funny, interesting and calm. She is just a remarkable girl and the apple of her father's eye. I don't know how I managed to be so blessed. Here's Lilly...
Lupe and I returned from a Southwest sojourn last Saturday night. I've posted the pics from this fabulous trip under trip reviews- be sure and check them out.
As most of you know I travel solo quite a bit. This trip, a southwest desert excursion, was on my regular route. I was hoping that Lupe would enjoy it and did she ever! We also looked at various neighborhoods in Las Cruces for potential relocation upon Lupe's retirement and Lilly's graduation from High School.
Like many old men I've had my share of women's woes in my life (listen to Oooh La La by Faces for further info). When I reached my mid 40's I'd decided that I was done with long term relationships. I had sabotaged many of them and met a few, shall we kindly say, "slightly bonkers" women along the way. I was more than happy with being a solitary man (more musical allusions- see Neil Diamond). I looked at women a bit like drinking- I had done too much of that in my youth and maybe it was time to stop.
I guess I wasn't truly done because I met Lupe and the rest, as they say, is history. It's clear to me now that I did, in fact, want a partner. However, I wanted a SANE partner. I wanted no drama- complete relaxation and compatibility- who knew I'd find that in anyone?
This trip was a perfect example. Although I had a bit of trepidation about heading out to hard core desert country and camping with anyone who hadn't done that before- it was clear on the first day that my worries were misguided. We listened to music on the road, talked over the campfire, played cards, took pictures, hiked, saw the sights and had a fine time. Why couldn't I find that before?! Perhaps I wasn't ready or it wasn't my path or whatever but Lupe is the perfect travel companion.
Suffice it to say- I'm a happy man with a great wife, 3 fantastic children and two of the cutest grandkids the world has ever seen. My family, good books, and a bit of travel- I need little else.
Enjoy the pics.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.