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.
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.
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!)
While there I ventured south for a morning hike at Torrey Pines State Preserve, another gem I discovered here two years ago.
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!
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.
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!
A little fun with time lapse, clearly not my forte… yet. (No clue as to the completely unrelated YouTube additions at the end)
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.
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!
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!)
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!