American River, California

American River, California
The beautiful American River in northern California.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The American River, California

 Over the 4th of July, I drove up to see my sister Judy and her husband Tom. Quite the drive. I started driving at midnight and 9 1/2 hours later, arrived at their house, dead tired. But I did avoid the traffic! While out on a walk the next day, we passed by this old school bus and had to get a picture.
Our 4th of July celebrations included a pancake breakfast at the Fire Station, a funky home town parade down the middle of Pollock Pines, several garage sales, and a late afternoon BBQ. By then I was too tired to go to the fireworks so Tom and Judy went without me. The next day Tom took us down to the American River for a swim. This is the view looking down from Hwy 50.

We jumped in the water and swam a little, waded and searched for rocks. Me and Judy tried to follow Tom down the river to see the wildflowers.  We did make it but found that it was very difficult to walk on water.
Pink, purple, red and blue wildflowers were growing everywhere.
Spotted this little crawfish, sunning himself underwater,
on a rock. Dinner anyone?
 My beautiful sister Judy wading in fairly deep water. Yes there is some water in California!
 Me and Judy, taking a break while Tom takes pictures. Tom found that Moses stick on the other side of the river and Judy grabbed that thing and wanted to be Mrs. Moses.  She was so very happy that day. It made me happy that she and Tom were so happy.
In my mind, it really doesn't get much better than this. I always feel happy to be in the Sierras, especially when I find such clear running water in the midst of our drought. Thank you Lord!
 Whenever I see such a scene as this, trees reflecting in the water, huge water worn boulders, colorful rocks rolling down the river, I know that God exists, and that He created this for our enjoyment.
 Years and years of water washing over the boulders makes them so very smooth. After I dunked in the cold water, I laid down on the warm rocks and felt the heat melt into my body.
Not that easy to walk in the river, I kept slipping, and sliding, especially on my way up to see the wildflowers. All I had was my mini Ipad to take pictures with, and fortunately I was able to keep it above water for the length of our trip.
 Here is Tom, my sisters husband, and my brother in law. I am so very fortunate to have two such wonderful, loving people in my life. Love you guys. Thank you for always taking care of me and helping me get back on my feet. I miss you already.
Tom and Judy took all of the pictures that don't have my name on them. Tom took this one of me sitting on the rock, before I jumped in the water.
Now I am happy to be home, watching this beautiful sunrise from my back yard, and taking care of all my plants. Love to one and all! May God bless and be with you. Susan Little

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pinnacles National Park, California

Over Easter I took off and drove up to Pinnacles--America's newest National Park. In 1908 President Teddy Roosevelt set aside 2500 acres as Pinnacles National Monument. The monument grew in bits and pieces until 2013, when President Obama redesignated the now 26,000 acres as Pinnacles National Park! Go Obama!
 The road up to the park was just as pretty as the park itself. Lots of open country, big ranches, mountains, grasslands and oak trees.
In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp in Pinnacles and for the next 9 years,  improved the old homestead trails, constructed the dam that formed the Bear Gulch reservoir, and improved access to the caves.  Thank you CCC!
The campground was almost full when I arrived at Pinnacles, but the good Lord up in heaven always finds it in His huge heart to save one site for me. The ranger at the desk said she had one site left so I grabbed it. Fortunately, it was a very private site, surrounded by trees, shrubs and wild roses that had not yet come into bloom.
My little campsite In Pinnacles National Park. For the most part, my stay at Pinnacles was warm, except during the night. Even though I slept in the back of my Subee, I was still cold.  On Easter Sunday, I woke up and found that it was only 33 degrees. I packed up to head down to Morro Bay and my hands were so darn cold they hurt. I drove out of the campground at 7:30 am, and saw many families hunched over their picnic tables in the freezing cold, not looking all that happy. 
Immediately after organizing my camp, I got out on the trails to explore and found such spectacular scenery. The pinnacles, like the ones above, are actually rocky spires that are left over from an ancient volcanic field. If you look carefully, you can see the guy at the top of the spire, looking like a tiny little tree! I waved at him, but he didn't see me.
Volcanic activity also formed the talus caves in Pinnacles, when boulders fell into deep, narrow gorges and lodged between rock walls. The caves move from dark to light, depending on how the rocks have lodged.  In the Bear Gulch cave, a stream of water flows through the cave and sounds so beautiful as you walk in the cool darkness.
I did not see any California Condors at Pinnacles National Park which is one of the nesting areas for the giant birds, but I did see one little lizard camouflaged against this rock, a huge lizard with a very long skinny tail  that walked like a giant iguana, some turkey vultures soaring in the sky, several deer browsing in the gorge behind my campsite, and many birds.
To walk through the Balconies Cave, I had to climb over  huge boulders, squeeze through skinny little spaces, walk in the pitch dark all by myself, and climb steep other words it was great fun! I encountered this guy after coming out of the cave, and tried to talk to him, but he didn't speak a word of English. At least he looks good in the picture!
As I stepped out of the Balconies Cave, I took a walk up through the hills, into the wild places. So pretty. No one else was up there, which made it even better.
I was taking a picture of these beautiful flowers and almost reached in and touched one, when I  saw the three leaves on the stem. "Leaves of three, let them be. I was so enthralled with the flowers, that I didn't even notice they were poison oak flowers. Pretty to look at, but deadly to run amok in.
One of the most beautiful things about Pinnacles was the trees; huge stately Blue Oak, fat Scrub Oak, Coast Live Oak, Manzanita and tall Gray Pine trees.
One of my favorite things to do is walk along dry creek beds. and find treasures like these golden poppies springing up out of the rocks.
The trail up to the Balconies Cave wandered along the dry creek bed and through a forest filled with noisy birds. It was late afternoon, and I was tired. I sat down in the middle of the trees and listened to the quail call out to one another. At first I didn't know what kind of bird it was, but I kept looking and listening until I saw a quail with a dark little topknot on top of his head, squatting on a tree branch and hollering for all he was worth.  
 Pinnacles National Park has such a diverse landscape, from tall rocky cliffs with spruce and pine trees, to low, scrub oak and manzanita covered chaparral.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray".... 
On the way out to the Bear Gulch Cave, I walked through a tunnel in the rock, turned around, and took this picture just as that guy and his family walked in.
 On the other side of the tunnel, I found this gorgeous collision of boulders and quickly asked a sweet young gal to take my picture, scrambled up on the rock and smiled for the camera.

Inside the Bear Gulch Cave, the trail led through a creek bed, up and around boulders, and finally it went pitch black. Of course I forgot my flashlight, and rather than turn around, I devised a way to use the flash on my camera to illuminate the area directly in front of me with a red glow. After a few seconds it turned off, so I had to start all over again. I made it through the cave, without even tripping or falling. A miracle in my case.
After the Bear Gulch Cave, I walked up to the Bear Gulch Reservoir and ate lunch overlooking the still water. Loved the reflection of the cliffs in the water.
A view of the rocky pinnacles from the reservoir.

On my way back from the reservoir, I spotted this rock climber scaling the cliff. Such amazing strength! I asked if I could take his picture and he said yes. Hope he sees this!
A view from the other direction of the rock climber and his friend, in between two steep cliffs.
I thought this was such a pretty thistle and stopped to take a picture. I kept trying different angles and different lighting to get the best possible shot.
Suddenly, a beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly landed on the thistle and I took its picture. Couldn't have planned it better.
At one point on the Moses Spring trail, I passed an area where water seeped out of the rock, just like it does in Zion National Park. In the middle of the dry, rocky cliffs, an oasis of fern had sprouted up. I found the unfurled frond to be a perfect picture of the potential each one of us has to become the person God created us to be. May God bless you with His goodness and His love, and may He give you the courage to bloom and grow, just like the wild fern.

Morro Bay, California

On my way home from Pinnacles National Park, I stopped to camp in Morro Bay at a beautiful, tree covered campground. Back in the late 70's, I used to live in Los Osos, which is only minutes from Morro Bay. From what I remember, it was nearly always cold and foggy there, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in Morro Bay on a clear, fairly warm day!
After I set up my gear, I drove down to the wharf and went exploring.
Elegant boats were sailing in and out of the harbor.
In the distance is Morro Rock, one of nine extinct volcano peaks  that stretch from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo. Morro Rock State Preserve protects the Peregrine Falcons, and is also the nesting ground for Cormorants and Seagulls.
I never have known the name of these huge purple flowers, but they line the wharf and make a pretty picture of the bay, as well as a major attraction for butterflies.

 After ordering Fish and Chips, I sat on the wharf overlooking the bay and watched the birds. The pigeons were especially feisty, and spent most of their time copulating with one another. Quite shocking.
That would be me, having the time of my life, talking with everyone, eating, laughing, and watching the amazing wildlife around me.
Out in the bay, several seals were loafing on a dock, barking up a storm if any of the kayaks got to close. In the bay right next to the shore, three sea otters were swimming, cavorting, eating and playing with each other. The sea otters dive down and pick up anything from sea urchins, abalone, clams or mussels and bring them up to the surface. Then they float on their backs to eat and use their bellies as a table. I did not realize how big their feet were, or I guess I should say flippers, until they flashed those babies while they were eating. The otter in front has a real baby on her tummy, and so sweetly petted her every now and then.

All I wonder if which seagull got in the last squawk! Farewell to one and all. Another adventure ended, a new one soon to begin.

Copyright©2009 Susan Little, All rights reserved. Use of photos requires written permission.