Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
You may wonder (and then again maybe you don't) what two certified eccentrics actually do when they take off in their trailer for a month to escape the winter grays in the Northwest. Well, for starters we go SOUTH.

We left home in the rain and drove for two more days through varying degrees of mist, rain and downpour. At the end of day two we were in Redding, CA and the creek in the campground where we were staying was overflowing one of its bridges. We were high and dry and the next morning we began a long series of beautiful sunny days with blue sky and white puffy clouds that chased us down through California to Barstow where we camped at the old Calico Ghost Town which is now a county park with RV hook ups along with the buildings restored by the Knotts Berry Farm folks.

Calico Ghost Town Sign

Both the campground and the Ghost Town itself had flocks of chukkars (partridges) wandering around.

Chukkars feeding

They make this lovely little chucking sound that gives them their name.

We had a few drops of rain in Kingman, AZ just over the border from Calif. And then we toodled into Phoenix where we visited Sara's sister and her family for a few days.

One day we hiked in Estrella Mountain Park just southwest of Phoenix proper. It's classic high desert--rocks and cactus mostly--though we did stumble across a lover's tryst and we got to watch folks setting up for a rodeo on the park grounds later that week.

Walter and Saguaro cactus

This old Saguaro cactus caught my eye and we added Walter to the picture to give you an idea of the size of the thing. BIG!

One day we spent the afternoon at the Heard Museum which is definitely worth the trip. They have a wonderful collection of Native American artifacts and lots of fun rotating displays including one of shoes--everything from antique moccasins to purple sequined cowboy boots and beaded tennis shoes to the skates and shoes of various Native American athletes and astronauts.

Another day we went to the Phoenix Zoo where we saw a one-year old Orangutan playing on the ropes.

Orangs at Phoenix Zoo

And a Sumatran Tiger in a TREE!

Sumatran Tiger in a tree

After our stay in Phoenix we drove east to the Superstition Mountains--home of the legendary Lost Dutchman's Mine. We camped at Canyon Lake on the old Apache Trail. We had a lakeside campsite where we watched sunset on a warm Sunday evening.

Sunset at Canyon Lake

The next day was cloudy and spitting rain but we went hiking anyway starting at the Lost Dutchman State Park and winding our way into the Tonto National Forest on the Treasure Loop Trail. The wind was blowing so hard that keeping your hat on was a lost cause. The rain was a fine sprinkle that would evaporate before it hit the ground and was just a bit of dampness on your skin.

Lost Dutchman's Mine Trail

After lunch we drove out to Tortilla Flat, population 6. It's the last remaining stagecoach stop in the west with hordes of tourists stopping to have lunch, buy ice cream cones and turn around since the pavement ends just a few miles on down the road and turns to a very twisty dirt road with steep canyons and no guard rails. We drove to the end of the pavement in our pickup, and having had enough of the twisty road already, turned around.

Walter at Tortilla Flat, AZ

Here's Walter in Tortilla Flat. And what Walter was looking at!

View from Tortilla Flat looking north

Shortly after we got back from our drive the skies opened up and we had a good gully-washer of a thunder storm, including a lightening strike on the hilltop just across the road from us. We laid down for a nap and when we awoke we looked out to discover we were parked in the lowest spot in the campground and the truck was surrounded by water!

Trailer surrounded by water

Everything may look sandy here but the soil doesn't drain well at all. That puddle had hardly shrunk by the next morning when Walter waded in to get the truck out so we could hook up and move on.

The next day we drove south to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the south side of the Superstitions. This is a WONDERFUL place and well worth the visit if you are ever in the area. They have a huge collection of desert plants from all over the world--succulents, cactus, Australian plants (including a wonderful grove of eucalyptus) and a trail that winds up into the hills and down back along a creek creating a great riparian area. Everything was freshly washed clean from the rain the day before and the place smelled wonderful.

Garden Trail at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

We hiked the Garden Trail and this photo was taken from the trail in the canyon area.

Casa Grande Arizona

We drove on south to Casa Grande, a national monument with ruins from the 1200-1400's. Casa Grande itself is a large adobe building built by a tribe that has since 'disappeared' though at this point anthropologists think they just dispersed to smaller groups when drought made the irrigation canal system they had build dysfunctional and large scale farming impractical. The building was not only a ceremonial center and grain silo it also appears to have been an astronomical observatory. Several windows line up with solstices and equinoxes.

From here we drove on to San Diego to visit with our daughter, Tracy.

Tracy and Walter at Scripps Aquarium

One day we went to the Birch Aquarium which is associated with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It's a great place--not huge and just the right scale to have a couple hour visit and not feel overwhelmed with fish. They have a kelp forest with local fish including sharks and Garibaldi (that look like giant gold fish).

Birch Aquarium Kelp Forest

They also have a large collection of sea horses and sea dragons. These guys are not sea weed, they are sea dragons and they swim around and hide in the kelp. Clever huh?

Sea Dragons at Birch Aquarium

The next day we went out and spent the day at the San Diego Wild Animal Park which just gets better and better over the years. Their breeding programs for endangered species have been wonderfully successful and the herds of antelopes, rhinos, giraffes, wild horses and other wonderful critters roam the huge open spaces that the tram circles through. They have a great elephant collection and we took a break in the afternoon and watched the elephant show. This big guy wasn't in the show but he did pose for me when we went by on the tram.

San Diego Wild Animal Park Elephant

They have several walk-through aviaries including one called Lorikeet Landing where you can buy a small cup of nectar to feed the birds. They land on your hand (or head or shoulder) and drink the nectar. This was a photographer's paradise because the birds actually stay still and are up close and very personal.

San Diego Wild Animal Park Lorikeet

This little girl not only had this bird on her head she had two on her arm and over time she got more and more concerned that they'd never leave her alone. Finally Tracy leaned over and helped her gently raise her arm and the birds took off much to her relief.

The next day we actually had a few clouds and a spit or two of rain. We took a hike around Miramar Lake and had a great day just hanging out with Tracy.

The forecast was better but there were clouds inland when we set out the next day to go hiking at Torrey Pines in La Jolla--equipped with sweaters and wind breakers to face cold damp wind. To our great surprise it was warm and clear at the beach. There's a skyport just south of Torrez Pines and there were paragliders out riding the thermals along the bluff just over our heads.

Torrey Pines Paragliders

We spotted a pod of dolphins from the point and generally had really great time followed by a picnic lunch down on the beach. Not a bad thing to be doing on the 26th of February when back home it was cold and they were predicting snow.

We took a day off before we headed north since it was raining and we saw no point in starting our trip up to Big Sur in the rain. It was good to have a day to get our larder restocked and not have any activities planned and to sit in the trailer and watch it rain while we surfed the internet on the free wifi provided by the RV park. The next morning we set off north under blue skies. The view across the San Fernando Valley from the top of I-405 just before you reached the 101 was gorgeous. Even better, when we reached the coast, you could see the Channel Islands. I grew up in southern California and got to see Catalina once or twice a year when it was really clear. But I never remember being up in Ventura or Santa Barbara and seeing the Channel Islands all out. This time they were out in all their glory so clear you wondered how in the world you could have not seen them before. We camped that night at Carpentaria State Beach just south of Santa Barbara and had a beach front campsite.

We took a walk on the beach after we arrived. As you can see it was a gorgeous afternoon and the mountains look like you can reach out and touch them.

Carpentaria Panorama

Snowy Egret Carpentaria, CA

This snowy egret let me get close enough to shoot his picture before he decided to take off down the beach.
Sunset at Carpentaria, CA

Sunset was gorgeous and I couldn't resist snapping a photo or two as the sun went down.

View from campsite at Carpentaria State Beach, CA

This was the view out our back window the next morning with the high tide bringing the surf way up the beach.

After another brief walk on the beach the next morning we drove up the coast towards Big Sur. We stopped at a view point to discover that the beach was entirely full of elephant seals and their babies.

Elephant Seals

They were packed like this in coves and up and down a long sandy beach. They come ashore in December to have their babies, nurse them for a month and then wean them. After weaning they mate again and return to sea leaving the weaners (as they're called) on the beach for a month more before they go out to sea themselves.

Elephant seals and baby "weaners"

Weaning was just about complete but the babies were still making efforts to get fed and would nudge their mothers and cry/bark/squawk. Mom responded by throwing sand on them with her flippers.

The Big Sur Coast is one of the most beautiful in the world. I took this photo from a vista point as we drove up the coast the first day.

Big Sur CA

The weather in Big Sur was truly remarkable. We found a campsite in a redwood grove and the folks there said they'd just had 6 days of solid rain and were amazed at how clear and warm it was.

The first morning we went hiking in Big Sur State Park. Many folks don't realize that Big Sur is not just gorgeous coastline but has redwood groves too.

Big Sur Woods

Our hike took us through a redwood grove along a creek and out to Pfeiffer Falls.

Pfeiffer Falls Big Sur CA

From there we hiked further up the hillside out of the redwoods and into a live oak forest and finally up into chaparral and a view across the valley to the ocean. There were wildflowers along the way and interesting people to stop and talk to. What more could you want?

Big Sur Valley

How about a view of a waterfall at a cove? To get there we drove down the coast (stopping to check our e-mail on the free wifi at the Henry Miller Library) to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here you take a tunnel under Hwy 1 and come out on a point overlooking the Pacific. There used to be a house on this point and all that's left is the foundation and some of the gardens--and the views! If you look closely you can see a waterfall on the face of the cliff here.

Julie Pfeiffer Cove

Here's a closer shot of the waterfall.

Julia Pfeiffer Cove Falls

On the other side of the point I saw a pair of sea otters playing in amongst the kelp by the rocks.

Julia Pfeiffer Cove northward view

See, I actually do get out from behind the camera sometimes!

Sara at Julia Pfeiffer Cove

Just north of Julie Pfeiffer Burns is Nepenthe, my favorite seaside restaurant in the world. We stopped and had a look in the Phoenix, their gallery, and then went upstairs and had a drink on the terrace. This was the view from our table. Is this heaven or what? And they are perfectly happy to let you sit there all afternoon if you want.

View from Nepenthe

On our way back to our campground we made our way down the steep rutted one-lane road to Pfeiffer Beach--one of the few places in the area you can actually get down off the bluff and onto the sand. The wind was blowing at gale force picking up the sand and moving it in waves across the beach--and there were locals with their beach bags and towels going to sun bathe in protected areas behind the rocks.

Pfeiffer Beach
If you get the chance it's well worth the crazy drive down the hill. There are huge sea-stacks with key holes in them that the surf crashes through and wonderful wind-swept cypresses too.

The next morning we decided to pack up and head further north. We stopped for a hike at Point Lobos State Reserve. They don't have much parking and don't let trailers in on the weekend but there was plenty of parking on the highway and it didn't add that much more to hike. Point Lobos is just south of Carmel and on a sunny warm Saturday there were lots of folks out scuba diving and hiking. There were seals/sea lions on the rocks here and in nearly every cove we visited.
Point Lobos State Park Point Lobos

There were wild flowers scattered here and there and just when you thought the views couldn't get any better you'd come around another bend and there'd be another to take your breath away.

That's Carmel across the bay in the background in the photo on the right.

For lunch we decided we wanted a better view than the one we had from the highway with the cars rushing by so we drove up to Pacific Grove and found a parking space big enough for the truck and trailer (!) at Lover's Point just down the street from the motel where we stayed on Thanksgiving in 1978, the first year we were together! We had lunch and then went for a walk along the water and saw more seals/sea lions, great flowers and of course the cypresses on the point

Pacfic Gove Cypresses.

The next day we spent with Walter's brother, Russ, and his wife Dorie. Then on Monday morning we decided we'd take our time going home and drive up through the Sonoma Valley and over to Hwy 101 and up the coast some more. Again we were incredibly lucky with the weather. The forecast wasn't great but the weather along the coast was wonderful. We camped at Trinidad (yes there's a Trinidad in California) just north of Eureka.

We got in early enough to go for a hike. We had instructions on how to find the trail that led into Patrick's Point State Park but somehow we got over-enthusiastic and headed off on a game trail (that we thought was the real thing) and ended up crashing around in the bushes and the swamps for a while before finding a decent trail.

Walter and Patrick's Point State Park Trail

Along the way we had to cross a creek--That's a pipe that Walter is standing on and the railing is a fallen tree. Fun, huh? The good news is that there was a great reward at the end of the hike. More ocean views.

Palmer Point, Patrick's Point State Park looking south

This is Palmer Point, the southernmost point in Patrick's Point State Park, looking south. Once again there were seal/sea lions basking on the rocks. It was in the 60's and with the sun on the rocks it was clearly warmer out of the water than in and the sea lions were enjoying making the most of it.

Palmer Point looking north

And here's the view from the north side of the point.

The next morning we drove up through the coast redwoods and decided we'd drive along part of the Oregon Coast rather than heading immediately back to I-5 and homeward. We had another beautiful day and saw four herds of elk--two in the redwoods and two along the Umpqua River north of Coos Bay. We turned inland at Reedsport and took the highway the winds along the Umpqua and takes you to I-5 not far south of Eugene, OR. It's a lovely drive and the great weather continued. When we got to Eugene it was still 66 degrees at 4:30 in the afternoon.

In the night the rain returned and we were welcomed home with rain from Eugene northward. We arrived home safe and sound to discover that there had been 10 inches of snow at our house the week before when we'd been walking barefoot in the sand at Carpentaria! So you see, we may be eccentric but we are NOT crazy. It's a good thing to be someplace warm and sunny when you might otherwise be out shoveling snow.