This, as we all know, has been an odd year. While the virus appears to be surging again I have sincere gratitude for all the good things that have happened and are happening this year. To date no one in our family has become seriously ill from the virus. Sadly, I did have a former colleague - younger than I am - pass away from COVID a few months back. I think of him and his family and the families of so many others right now and it's clear that 2020 while challenging has not been an altogether bad year for me personally and we have much for which to be thankful. I have healthy and beautiful children and grandchildren and a new granddaughter is on the way! I sincerely hope things are tolerable for you and yours and may you all remain healthy and safe until this scourge is eradicated.
I've shared previously that many of my plans had to be altered this year. I'm guessing yours have, too. All of our lives have been disrupted. I decided some months back to cancel my "big" travel plans and look for more local opportunities to find peace and solitude. So... I went again to another couple of favorites.
Lately the weather has been quite warm and the summer feels like it might, finally, be ending here in Southern California but it's been brutally hot. The beach sounded nice and I was able to escape on my annual trip to Gaviota.
Each time I return to a place I know that it is different. It has changed and so have I. I've certainly learned that nothing stays the same in this life and all things are temporary. There are a few places that I return to - again and again -and they are always different - I get some comfort from the familiarity and joy from the changes. This year Gaviota was warm but not hot and had a few days of foggy weather.
Eugene O'Neill, my favorite playwright - of life - wrote eloquently about the fog in his remarkable play, "Long Day's Journey Into Night":
“The fog was where I wanted to be. Halfway down the path you can’t see this house. You’d never know it was here. Or any of the other places down the avenue. I couldn’t see but a few feet ahead. I didn’t meet a soul. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. Out beyond the harbor, where the road runs along the beach, I even lost the feeling of being on land. The fog and the sea seemed part of each other. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.”
Some of my favorite outdoor haunts of my youth are in the hills above Santa Barbara. I decided to take a drive up to Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Ynez Mountains. I wanted to check out the campgrounds and places I hadn't been to in awhile in those old oak covered sedimentary hills.
Unfortunately, when I got two miles from the campground the road was closed. The Los Padres, and many other National Forest lands in California, were closed to ALL visitors due to the extreme fire danger. I understand why and believe it was a good call but I wish it had been advertised a bit more and that I'd known they were extending the forest ban past the originally publicized dates. Regardless, I had an enjoyable drive.
When I returned to my campsite I realized I had a cold blooded visitor. I notified the camp host who called the cavalry and they moved my friend to a less populated spot.
Mr. Rattler wasn't a happy camper. After all, he'd been enjoying this view of the creek for at least a few days.
I got up early the next morning and made a series of photos of the sunrise. I hope you enjoy this gallery.
Before we travel inland to Allensworth I'll leave you with a few more photographs of Gaviota State Beach.
My little fiberglass trailer, "El Correcaminos" is now 5 years old and has gone on nearly FIFTY trips. It is starting to show a bit of wear. I had electrical problems in the Sierra Nevada and a propane leak at Gaviota. I fixed those things (hopefully), got new trailer tires, and then headed to Colonel Allensworth State Park.
I am in love with Allensworth. I even joined the Friends of Allensworth to support the Park. The story of the place is fascinating and I encourage you, if you don't know it, to revisit my previous posts or to read the Wikipedia page right here.
I believe that Allensworth, like my musician pal Ray Wylie Hubbard would say, is "an acquired taste." It's in the heart of the Great Central Valley. Most Californians would complain about the highway to get there - Highway 99. They would argue that Highway 1 and 395 and 101 are much prettier and, well, it's easy to see why they'd make that point but, life is short, so lets look for beauty everywhere - even in the desolate and dry farmlands of California. The sunset photo at the top of this blog post is an example of that beauty. Further, there are two National Wildlife refuges within a half hour drive of Allensworth near Highway 99.
I also decided to check out the Carrizo Plain National Monument to see if the roads had been improved over the years in order to perhaps camp there this spring. The Monument is 75 miles from Allensworth but closer than from home (about 200 miles). The place is famous for its spring display of wildflowers. This time of year it's hot and dry. I only saw a few other people (nice!) explored a bit and had a very nice day.
A friend and former colleague, Debbie, is a reader of this website and has mentioned, for several years now, that she'd like a barn photo - and while the light isn't at it's best it is a pretty cool old barn - so...to my pal Debbie...
After driving back to Allensworth I spent the evening over the barbecue and sitting outside and watching the sunset.
The following morning I got up at the crack of dawn and drove to the Kern National Wildlife Refuge. I saw no one. Unfortunately, most of the birds were a bit shy too.
That afternoon, to beat the heat, I decided to cruise around aimlessly with the AC on in the truck. I saw a crop duster and got out to take this photo. Within, no kidding, a minute, a truck pulled up and a guy yelled. "You gotta move!" Ok, ok... I'm moving. Settle down...I'm a bit slower than I used to be.
I found a place called, "China Alley" on the map in Hanford and went to take a few photos. It too has an interesting history.
The following day I drove out to the Pixley Wildlife Refuge at dusk. The mosquitoes were THICK but it was a lovely evening - not as much water as my last visit but still a calm, solitary and peaceful walk.
It started getting HOT the next day and I was (am?) so damn tired of the heat. I spent one last beautiful but sweltering day and then headed home. I had a fabulous time.
I couldn't leave you without, of course, a lonely road and old telephone poles...
Off to the desert in a few days... has autumn arrived in your world? Mask up! See ya soon.
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.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.