California Coast, Lake Jennings and the Seahawks’ gift to Dad

After four days of tent camping in Anza Borrego Desert while celebrating New Years with friends, I headed for the refreshing coast of California. Carlsbad to be exact. South Carlsbad State Beach to be even more exact. I camped here while in the area more than two years ago. It’s strictly dry camping now (no utilities) but I do understand they are working on a section where utilities will be offered. I love this stretch of coastline. I’d love it even more if dogs were allowed to put there toes in the sand. My walks with the girls were limited to the roadway that runs through the campground.

California

Sunset at Carlsbad Beach

Hiking the roadway between campsites gave me the opportunity to meet and visit with a few of the other campers, like this fun group of self proclaimed “glampers” enjoying a girls weekend. Several of them came and went throughout the weekend, so not all are captured in this image. I enjoyed wonderful conversation and several gourmet meals with these gals! The hostess/head glamper is Sandy… sitting next to me in the back of this shot.

Carlsbad Beach, CA

“The Glampers” (Rocket- the only male allowed, Barbara, Rosemary, Kathy and Dianne in front. In the back are Sandy- the ring leader and the newest member… ME!)

California

Carlsbad sunset

One morning, while watching dolphin cruising in the surf from the top of the bluff, I met two kids from New Zealand. We visited for a bit while they petted Jazzy and Sadie, and when they told me about the adventure they were on I asked to meet their folks. John, Bridget, Lucy and Hugh were at the tail end of a six month bicycle journey from Vancouver Canada all the way down the Pacific Coast to San Diego.

I met them as they were riding back north to LA where they would visit Disneyland and then catch a flight home! What an incredible experience for all of them! I know few people who have even driven this stunning coastline! Hats off to John and Bridget for planning such an epic adventure to share with their children. I don’t think the uniqueness of the experience was wasted on Lucy and Hugh! They blogged the trip here… One Wheel Each. (The girls and I got a mention on Jan 9. Clearly they’re better at keeping up with blogging than I am!)

Carlsbad CA

Lucy, Bridget, Hugh and John

While there I ventured south for a morning hike at Torrey Pines State Preserve, another gem I discovered here two years ago.

San Diego, CA

The coast at Torrey Pines

Footprints in the sand

Footprints in the sand

California

Torrey Pines

I also took a drive up to the LA area to reconnect with some friends… Mindy McKinney, a very dear friend from my years in the Bay Area and Diane Sassen, one of my best friends from high school. It was wonderful finding time to get caught up with both of these gals. Unfortunately I’d recently had a basil cell carcinoma removed from above my lip so no “selfies” to share of my time with them, but I did come across a cool doorway while walking the girls with Diane at Venice Beach! 🙂

Another friend from high school, Rachael Hokkanen-Yamasaki, drove out to see me while I was still camped on the coast. We had a good long walk with our dogs while catching up on each others lives. Always a joy to see old friends!

California

Door in Venice Beach

After a few days dry-camped at Carlsbad, and with no urgency to start heading north I searched the area surrounding San Diego for a nice, reasonably priced campground where I could sit tight a work for a few more weeks. California has a tremendous number of beautiful state parks, but unless you book months in advance its nearly impossible to get a reservation, and most of the RV parks are either horribly expensive or completely undesirable in my opinion. After hours of searching and taking the time go check out a few of my options I realized that the best deal to be had was a place I’d already become quite familiar with… Lake Jennings Campground in Lakeside.

Lakeside California

Lake Jennings

This time around the staff went above and beyond with some tree trimming to fit me into the best campsite in the park and I made good use of it! I worked and walked the dogs by day, and became a sunset junkie by night!

Lake Jennings, Lakeside CA

When the work fits… 🙂

Sunset from Lake Jennings

Sunset from Lake Jennings

A little fun with time lapse, clearly not my forte… yet. 🙂 (No clue as to the completely unrelated YouTube additions at the end)

California

Moonset over San Diego

My Dad celebrated his 80th birthday in January. As that day approached my brothers and I planned a surprise none of us will soon forget. When we were confident that our Seattle Seahawks were heading to the Superbowl our plans kicked into full gear. What you need to understand is that Nebraska Cornhusker blood courses deeply through the Reisner veins, which means we were literally weened on football. Big Red football in particular, but all my life… weekends and Monday nights during “the season” there was always a game on. What better way to celebrate a special day with Dad than watching our Seahawks in the Superbowl!

Dad’s birthday… on a Thursday… came and went with phone calls from all of us wishing him a happy day and apologies for not being able to spend it with him. On Superbowl Sunday morning, with the girls safe in the care of my friends Kathleen and Monte, I caught the first flight out of San Diego to Portland. Anyone watching might have thought it was my first time on an airplane. I’m sure I was visibly happy and excited… and took pictures along the way.

San Diego airport

Take-off from San Diego

High above the California coast

High above the California coast

Above the clouds in the northwest

Above the clouds in the northwest

Approaching Portland

Approaching Portland

Thirty five years after I left my “stompin’ grounds” of the northwest its still a thrill to see the mountains of the North Cascades popping majestically above the clouds… as if to welcome me home!

Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier from the air

Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier from the air

With a wheelchair accessible rental van I picked up my brother Topher and we headed north to our home town of Longview WA. My other brothers… Tom, Andrew and Eric (along with their families) made the trek down from the greater Seattle area and we all met in town so we could make the drive along the Columbia River together and arrive at Dad’s place at the same time.

Keep in mind he had no idea we’re coming. His lady-friend, Anne did though, and she was keeping us posted on his whereabouts. We managed to get into his driveway without being seen and with cake, football munchies, salad (thank God), and beverages in hand… decked out in our Seahawks garb… all fourteen of us walked through the front door singing Happy Birthday. I honestly don’t think Dad could have been more surprised. (I’d actually considered how many of us knew CPR just in case!)

with my brother Topher in Portland

with my brother Topher in Portland

This was the first time all of us had been together in the same place in many years. (I should note that the only two family members missing we Andrew’s daughter, Makenna… who lives in Missoula, and my daughter, Elissa… in Dallas.) Topher’s disability makes it much harder and more costly to get to town, and after my move to Texas one big trip home annually was usually the best I could do. Our family gatherings have long been limited to Longview, with Topher and some of the rest of the crew missing, or Portland, which often excluded Dad. THAT made the day particularly special to all of us.

The Seahawks topped it off nicely by pulling off a win for the record books! Sorry Denver fans. I know the mention of this game makes a lot of my friends hang their heads and want to vomit. Seattle took to the field to win the game, and win it they did… in a big way!

The only difficult part of the day was that it ended all to quickly, since everyone but me had to get back home that night. I got to stick around an extra day before flying back to San Diego. The reminiscing, however, continues! 🙂

Dad's clan (minus Elissa and Makenna)

Dad’s clan (minus Elissa and Makenna)

with my Dad and brothers- Topher, Tom, Eric and Andrew (photo bomber- Eric's oldest, Davis)

with my Dad and brothers- Topher, Tom, Eric and Andrew (photo bomber- Eric’s oldest, Davis)

Washington

View of the Columbia River from Dad’s house

Once back at my campsite on top of the hill at Lake Jennings I took to photographing the hummingbirds who frequented my feeder, in addition to the sunsets. One afternoon I was thrilled to spot a Golden Eagle flying high above me! I understand they are somewhat rare to this area these days.

I took my “office” outdoors and multi-tasked my days away!

Lake Jennings, Lakeside CA

“The office”

Hummingbird at my campsite, Lake Jennings

Hummingbird at my campsite, Lake Jennings

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Lakeside CA

Golden Eagle over Lake Jennings

Here’s a fun little video clip shot from my cell phone. Funny… anyone watching the scene as I was shooting this would have been amused. I leapt from table top where my camera was on tripod, to my perch about three feet from the feeder… iPhone aimed at the feeder and steadied between my knees… up and down, over and over… as long as there was color in the sky and hummers at my feeder. 🙂

While there my favorite park ranger/tree-trimmer told me about a hummingbird nest. I walked the dogs several times a day, making my way past this tree every time. For two days I saw no signs of a hummingbird there and assumed it may have been abandoned. On the third day, and the first time I checked it out without my camera in hand, I was surprised to find it occupied! Needless to say I hoofed it quickly back up the hill to my campsite to grab my gear. This little nest is not much larger than a chicken egg. And the hummer, although alert, did not feel the need to flee.

Hummingbird nesting

Hummingbird nesting

California

Sunset from Lake Jennings Campground

Lakeside CA

Sunset from Lake Jennings

Lakeside CA

Sunset art from Lake Jennings

My good friend Brandi joined her husband on a business trip to La Jolla and I drove out to spend the day with her. Several years ago, despite a substantial gap in age, we went from “budding photographer meets mentor” to best of friends very quickly. It has never mattered if we go weeks or months or much longer without seeing each other… every “gathering” is a fun and special time for us. This woman was by my side during the dramatic and heartbreaking conclusion to my last committed relationship. She flew to NYC with me three times during the shooting and launch of my book, The Dogs of Central Park. And she was the last one to see me off as I embarked on my journey two-and-a-half years ago. Brandi is the most precious of gems as friends go.

La Jolla Ca

With Brandi at La Jolla

California coast

The surf at La Jolla

Most of my hiking was close to “home” in the hills surrounding the Lake Jennings Campground. One day though, I took the girls to one of the few local trails they were allowed on, at El Capitan (not to be mistaken for THE El Capitan of Yosemite.) It was a hot day and Jazzy clearly struggled with the terrain. Worse yet she refused the water I offered which worried me even more. She’ll be nine in August, and her black coat soaks up a lot of heat. I’m thinking her days of long, steep hikes in the bright sunshine may be over. 🙁

CA

Hiking with Jazzy and Sadie at El Capitan near San Diego

As I mentioned in my last post, and in this one too, I enjoyed precious and memorable time with some special friends during the couple of months I hovered in the San Diego area. Most of my time though, was spent alone… with my girls… and my thoughts.

Lake Jennings, Ca

Selfie with the girls

My "roadies", Jazzy and Sadie

My “roadies”, Jazzy and Sadie

I spent much of the time catching up on projects, planning my upcoming route… and pondering my future. I have come pretty much full circle (sometimes around and around) in this country… missing only Arkansas, Alaska and Hawaii on my map. I’ve traveled more than 36,000 miles in my motorhome and nearly that many on side trips in my tow car in the two-and-a-half years since I started this journey. I’ve hiked the trails and taken in the vistas of twenty six of our National Parks, and many more of our National Forests, Nature Preserves and National Monuments. I’ve crossed the border into Ontario Canada three times, and intend to visit British Columbia and Alberta this summer. I have my sights set on Alaska, but need time for planning and funding what I imagine may be an epic “twist” to my journey.

I feel I may be nearing a cross-roads of sorts. Although there’s no sense of urgency, I am sensing a new purpose on my horizon. I have several wonderful ideas I’d love to pursue. Too many in fact, and I know I can’t tackle all of them. While it is not my nature, it is still my desire to travel with blind faith, trusting that life will take me where I am meant to be. That doesn’t mean though, that I must ignore the visions and inspirations I gather along the way. I feel strongly that continuing forward with an open heart, an open mind, a passion for life, inspired possibilities, and a heap-load of faith… the best is yet to come.

Self portrait

Self portrait

Thank you all for continuing with me on my journey! I greatly appreciate your notes of encouragement and your thoughts to my posts. Many of you have commented on my “bravery”, and thanked me for being such an inspiration, but what you may not understand is that it is you who inspire me!

Next stop is Joshua Tree, followed by Lake Havasu and my longest kayak voyage to date… solo on the Colorado River! I promise I will not leave this WiFi connection until that post is live! 🙂

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6 thoughts on “California Coast, Lake Jennings and the Seahawks’ gift to Dad

  1. Such beautiful photographs…. you continue to amaze me, but I guess I should just accept that you are AWESOME and not be amazed! 🙂

    I’m smiling that Arkansas is one of your “missing” states. But I’ll have to tell you, we did a Harley trip through all of northern Arkansas a few years ago and it is a beautiful state. I look forward to seeing the beauts you will capture when you are there. Although thinking about it, lots of the roads we enjoyed were definitely more “Harley friendly” than “beast friendly”. 🙂

    • I assure you, skipping Arkansas was not intentional, it just never worked into the path. I’ve been there, and know there are some beautiful areas I must see while on this trek.

      Thanks as always Susan!

  2. No dogs on the beach? What kind of totalitarian state are they running down there. Running on the beach is the birthright of every dog!

    • Seriously! 🙂 I understand their reasons actually, but it’s an unfortunate reality in my thinking. I’m sure it’s more about “liability” than the fear that someone might step in a pile of poop.

  3. Hi Fran…this is Barbara from the Carlsbad “glam ping” girls. I bought your book “dogs of central park” from you when we met. I sent it off to my niece and her husband who walk their dogs in Central Park. They just love it and although don’t know any of the dogs featured, know lots of the ‘spots’. Thank you again..it was so much fun meeting you…makes me think more seriously about …taking to the road!

    • How sweet of you to let me know Barbara! I so enjoyed meeting and spending time with all of you “glampers”! Hope to join you again one day! May have to convince you all to get farther from home though. 🙂

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