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America 2013 Page 1 -  January/February/March


 2nd - 6th January. Patagonia Lake State Park, Arizona.


Ash-throated Flycatcher Swamp Sparrow

Ruby Crowned Kinglet Grey Flycatcher

A birdwatchers paradise. Julie is in heaven. Within the park itself there is not really that much. One hiking trail for bird-watching, boat trips on the weekend etc. However, attached to this park is the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area which is a totally unspoilt wilderness. We have to cycle two miles to the start of our hike here and then do a three mile loop hike. We are not long into the hike when we are "buzzed" by a helicopter. Low enough for us to see the pilots eyes and his smile and wave (once he realised that we were not illegal immigrants from Mexico). We are only about ten miles from the border here. Back to the bird-watching - how could we get away from it. Julie does manage to get at least four "new" spots to add to her list.

While here a lady mentions the Desert Museum near Tucson to us and the fact that there is a campground nearby, and so.......

7th - 8th January. Gilbert Ray Campground, Tuscon (Sonora Desert)

Not all Saguaros grow straight up The Mineral Collection at the museum

We cycled a couple of miles up to the Sonora Desert Museum expecting it to be like the usual visitor centre but found that it was actually a botanical and zoological garden showing the local flora and fauna. A real living, breathing museum and not at all what we had expected. It was excellent and we spent quite a few hours there including a free raptor flight show with a Grey Hawk, Barn Owl and Harris Hawks. There was way too much here for us to put just a few pictures in as usual so we have done a separate page of pictures which can be found by clicking HERE.

9th - 14th January. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with Harvey next to a very large Saguaro The campsite from the nature trail

Back to another "old haunt" - the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Last here nearly three years ago when Linda and Seamus were with us. At that time Ron couldn't do any walking due to back problems so he was hoping to catch up this time. Unfortunately a chest infection limits the walking again - especially as it is VERY cold here - below freezing at night despite that fact we are not at any great altitude. Also this place is very quiet. Some bad publicity is felt to be at blame. We are only four miles from the Mexican border here and there are frequently illegals coming through the area. About ten years ago one of the Rangers was shot and killed here by drug couriers so everytime something happens in nearby Mexico the media raise it again. A shame because it is a unique area for the cactus and wildlife. Did we mention that a Coyote walked right through our site one of the days?

15th - 16th January. Painted Rock BLM Site.

After a visit to the doctors at Gila Bend to try and get a prescription for antibiotics to clear Ron's chest infection we move to what used to be an Arizona State Park. Unfortunately due to poor water conditions nearby the State gave it up and it is now a BLM site. The reason for this places fame is Indian Petroglyphs (rock paintings) going back some thousands of years. We spend a couple of nights here which are the coldest yet. We wake up the second morning and it is actually below freezing inside the RV. The forecast is apparently better though!!!

The Petroglyphs Anna's Hummingbird

17th - 20th January. Mittry Lake, Yuma.

Having come across this site in one of our books we decide to give it a go. 2400 acres of marshland seems too good to miss for Julie's bird-watching chances. Plus it is free!!  No facilities of course but park where there is a space and it is yours for up to 14 days. Julie is pretty much in heaven with Hummingbirds, Harriers, Red Tailed Hawks, Cinnamon Teals and thousands of Yellow Rumped Warblers, at least until the duck hunters came along and scared everything off!! And yes - it has got warmer. Very comfortable now.

Harvey at the edge of the lake... ...and Mittry Lake, near Yuma


 21st - 22nd January. Pilot Knob RV Park, Near Yuma, CA

While we were in the Walmart car park in Benson a guy gave us a flyer for two free nights in any of seven RV Resorts as long as we listened to a presentation about joining their "Scheme". So here we are at Pilot Knob, had the presentation and politely declined joining their "scheme". What we also got was 10 nights free camping at any of their resorts based on "pay for one - get one free" method. The problem with Pilot Knob is that it is right next to the I-8 Freeway and just a touch noisy. Still, we have power, swimming pool and spa, etc.

23rd - 24th January. Wista Unit, Sony Bono Wildlife Refuge

Snow Geese White-Tailed Kite

On to another old favourite - the Wista Unit. Very primitive camping among all the hunters who are there for the season. But it only costs us $5 per day. A bike ride to the shoreline rewards us with a close up with the White Tailed Kite.

25th - 26th January. Corvina Beach, Salton Sea

Our plans had been to go to another Salton Sea campground, Salt Creek, but the hosts advised us that they were watching the weather in case it rained as they would then have to evacuate the site. As the forecast showed an 80% chance of rain we decided to move to the next site, Corvina Beach. Apparently the problem is that when it rains the ground gets very soft and people get stuck in possibly for weeks. Unfortunately Corvina is not as good for the bird life as elsewhere so after a couple of days we move up the Headquarters area.

27th January. New Camp, Salton Sea HQ

Short-billed Dowitchers Black-necked Stilts

We arrive here and give the host an explanation of having paid for three days at Salt Creek could we get a credit for the more expensive price at HQ. No problem - no extra charge at all. Thank you to the Chief Ranger. Much nicer here for our last day at the Salton Sea. Maybe ever!!!!

28th - 30th January. Lake Cahuilla County Park, La Quinta.

Tree full of Cormorants Big Horn Sheep

Again, another old favourite. A county park located on the lake with power and water. We also tie up with old sailing friends Bill and Gary (Amadon Light) and are invited to lunch at their very nice designer house in La Quinta. We come away from their house with a bag full of oranges and grapefruit which grow in abundance locally, picked straight off the tree by Bill. Walks around the lake every day keep us active and even get Julie a glimpse of the elusive Big Horn Sheep.

31st January - 3rd February. Desert Pools RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs Costas Hummingbird

A first for us stopping at Desert Hot Springs, just outside Palm Springs. This is one of the places we are using our Pilot Knob "buy one get one free" specials. So 4 days here costs us for 2 days. It is real spring weather (summer in the UK) and despite being the type of place we don't really like, we actually enjoy it. Hot Spa pools, hot swimming pool, crazy golf, pool (as in similar to snooker) and a few nice walks outside the Resort. Again, power, water etc plus laundry and showers. Back to reality after this for a while.

4th/5th February. Black Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park

The Campground amongst the Joshuas Out on a hike

Well! This was all we expected and then some. Fantastic location with some great hiking. We did two major hikes one of about 5 miles and one of about 4 miles- took lunch with us for the second one. The only down side was that things started to get a little cold and snow was forecast in a couple of days time. We therefore cut this camp down by one day as we really wanted to go to Pioneertown which would be getting snow in two days time for sure.

6th February. Pioneertown, Near Yucca Valley

So, this place was built in the 1940's as a film set. People involved were Roy Rogers, Dale Evans etc of cowboy film fame. It then became a bit of a cult location when it developed into a real town and the bar/restaurant there started to get celebrity status with regulars being Mick Jagger, Alan Burden (Animals - 60's) and a few others. Unfortunately on the night we spent in the town the bar was closed!!!!! There is nothing else there - at all except a basic motel. Should have stayed at Black Rock.

7th - 10th February. Kern River County Park, Bakersfield

View from the Campground Evening by the River

Great Horned Owl Hooded Mergansers

Anyway, the weather forecast had not improved and even got worse so we decided to head down to Bakersfield which is off the mountains and had a much better forecast. We had found out about Kern River County Park and decided to give it a go. One of the nicest places we have been. Parked right along the river in a good site with some nice hikes along the river and around the attached Lake Ming. As can be seen from the above photos we managed to see the Great Horned Owl again. This time we actually saw three of them and knew that there was a fourth we couldn't find. We also got to see the next brood being made with two of them mating in full view. Maybe it should be the Great "Horny" Owl.

11th/12th February. River Run RV Park, Bakersfield

This is a place that Linda and Seamus had stayed at so we knew it would be OK. Although in the middle of Bakersfield (almost) it is a fairly nice private RV Park with a very nice Hot Tub!! It was also near all the shops we needed to get to such as Camping World, Lowes (a sort of B & Q) and Walmart. Had a successful time with lots of little jobs getting done and a new door lock ordered (and delivered) while we were here. Also managed our favourite brunch of a Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny's Diner - one of our favourites. Tomorrow on toward the coast.

13th -16th February. Cerro Alto Campground (near Morro Bay)

Harvey in the campsite Unusual plant with lantern-like flowers

Ron at the top... ...and view of the Pacific Ocean

When the GPS showed Cerro Alto Road leading to the campground we hadn't realised that the term "Road" was a bit of an overstatement. Harvey filled the road and there were no passing points for the first half a mile. Luckily we met no other traffic - no way we could have reversed!! Anyway, turned out to be a really nice, but small, campground. A lot of the sites were reserved as it was a holiday weekend but we found one of the very few RV sites vacant. Having gone out for a quick walk in the afternoon we met a local hiker who explained the Cerro Alto Trail. It went to "the summit"! So, the following day with lunch packed we headed for "the summit". A five mile round trip meant that after 2.5 miles there we were - a minimum of 2500 feet altitude change giving an average climb gradient of around 20%. This was probably our most strenuous walk yet. But - all downhill on the way back. Problem was it was so steep that it was just as bad on the muscles. The following day we are both in Pain with a capital "P". Tough hiking but all in all we had some stunning views as can be seen from the above photographs.

17th February. San Simeon State Park

Long Billed Curlew Whimbrel

A short drive puts us into Morro Bay where we manage to find a supermarket to top up on some essentials before heading a few miles up Highway 1 to our next stop. Highway 1 is also known as the PCH or Pacific Coast Highway or even the Cabrillo Highway. It is also known to have frequent landslides which close the road. We met none of those but the road is truly amazing. From hugging the beach to climbing up the mountains and having thousand foot drop-offs this is a road not for the feint hearted. San Simeon State Park was nothing special but is on land that used to belong to Randolph Hearst who built a castle nearby which is now a major tourist attraction (we didn't do it). He was also the father (or maybe grandfather) of Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by some cult in the '60's and became part of the "gang" robbing banks.

18th/19th February. Plaskett Creek Campground (south of Big Sur)

Our Campsite... ...and view from up the road

Maybe spring has arrived... ...with the lovely Flowers

This place is one of the National Forest Service sites and was fairly well empty after the holiday weekend. We managed a couple of nice easy walks down to the beach and along the cliff tops and also found a forest road to hike up. Unfortunately it was a bit of a rainy period so we had to manage to sneak out between showers - some quite heavy. Everything is now looking so green after our time in the desert. It really is a major change.

20th/21st February. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Julie inside a giant Redwood Camping in the carpark

Again a short drive up the coast road (which is still winding and twisting its way up and down mountains) brings us to another state park. This time we are a bit disappointed with the state of the place. Half the campsite is closed and the other half caters for smaller RV's so we are in a car park - albeit a quiet one. The maintenance in the park is fairly poor and the hiking maps bear no real resemblance to the actual trails (and for the first time ever the hiking maps have to be paid for). We do though find one nice hike which of course goes to "a summit" and is about a five mile round trip. Luckily this summit is not quite as difficult as the last one. A couple of days here sees us having done as much as is possible so we are moving on up the coast a bit more.

22nd - 24th February. Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Salinas

Saloon cars practicing on the track Car from the Racing school

Well; this is a bit different. We thought that the race track was nearby but not actually at the Campground. For anybody interested in motor racing they will know this place as both Formula 1 and Indie Car racing have both taken place here. Apart from the track we are in a really nice area with rolling hills and green meadows. Not really what we expected at all. From here we drive through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge on our meander northwards. We do get to some places!!!

25th - 28th February. Liberty Glen Campground, Lake Sonoma.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Fransisco Liberty Glen Campground, Sonoma Lake

A long drive (for us) of some 200 miles sees us right through San Francisco, over Golden Gate Bridge and into the wine country of California. Lake Sonoma is one of the US Corps of Engineers sites where they usually have a Dam and water processing. This place exceeds our expectations. There is virtually no one in the campground and we are high above the lake. There are hiking trails everywhere. The first day is an easy day after a long drive, shopping, internet etc. The second day is a short walk to check things out then on the third day we manage about a four mile hike followed on our last day by a five mile hike. These hikes are quite strenuous as we are quite a height over the lake and both days we go right down to the waters edge. All in all this is a beautifully remote place and we thoroughly enjoy it.

Varied Thrush Red-breasted Sapsucker Hermit Thrush

1st - 3rd March. Lake Mendocino.

View of the dam and bridge on Lake Mendocino Fern Flower

Another of those places we have previously been to  albeit 3 and a half years ago. And another US Corps of Engineers site with a Dam. Seems like we have done this before but the first day was a short hike along the beach. Second day was a four mile hike along the beach and back along a forest trail. Final day was a SEVEN mile hike all the way to the Dam (and back of course). The weather has been incredible for us and today after our mammoth hike we had a full Sunday Lunch sitting outside in the glorious sunshine. (Sorry all you folks back in the freezing UK - or elsewhere). About another ten days in California and we will be back into Oregon. Hopefully still with good weather.

4th March. Humboldt Redwood State Park.

The beautiful forest Ron by the roots of a fallen Redwood

We were not really supposed to be here but the park we were headed for, Benbow Lake State Park, was closed for the winter. So here we are right in the middle of the Redwoods. For those that don't know about them they are among the oldest living things on the planet. They get up to 2,000 years old and also get pretty tall and wide. The problem with camping right in the middle of them is that no sunlight gets through and we are in permanent semi darkness. The forecast for the next few days is heavy rain which we also know can bring down dying branches (these branches are the size of normal trees) so we decide that one day is enough and head for the coast.

Just to show the immensity of the trees - dwarfing Harvey

5th - 6th March. Clam Beach County Park, Arcata.

Although we did manage a couple of walks on the beach the forecast was accurate. We had some serious rain. Very heavy rain for a long time without a break. We certainly discovered a leak or two in the RV. This place is basically a car park that allows camping but better here than have trees rain down on us. (excuse the pun)!!

Back to the coast... ... and stormy weather

7th - 9th March. Big Lagoon County Park, Orick.

Another place we have previously visited. This time we are not only in the same campground but are in the same site. Right at the waters edge with our front window looking out onto the lagoon. Our first day here we not only see the usual array of birds including the Common Loon but also see Otters and a Seal within a hundred feet of us. Very special to see the Otters. After the rainstorm and although we are about five hundred meters from the ocean we can hear the surf pounding on the shoreline like an express train coming through. A little un-nerving bearing in mind that this is a posted Tsunami warning area.

 10th -13th March. Harris Beach State Park, Oregon  


California Sea Lions and Harbour Seals on the dock at Crescent City - our lunch stop Squirrel at our campsite at Harris Beach

We are back in Oregon and for some strange reason it feels like we have come home. Maybe it has to do with the continuous fog and grey days!! We have power, water, showers, laundry and are only just over a one mile walk into town. The beach is great with lots of rock-pools though we have to remember to keep an eye on the tide. Most of the State Parks in Oregon have power so we feel like we are going to be in the lap of luxury for the next month or so.

Harris Beach in the fog More beach in the fog

14th - 16th March. Alfred A. Loeb State Park, near Brookings

Harvey - Have we seen this picture before??

The Chetco River - Actually turquoise green for some reason.

We have moved a whole 10 miles and actually gone inland a bit to pass some time. This place is on the north bank of the River Chetco just upstream from Brookings. Very quiet and not many campers here as it is a bit off the main road. The claim to fame for this place is that it is a relatively short hike to the northernmost stand of Redwoods in the USA so of course - it has to be done. Not too bad and about a 3 mile hike along the river and then up into the forest.

17th - 20th March. Humbug Mountain State Park, near Port Orford

Bacardi Bottle in hand - could be anywhere!!

Looking from Cape Blanco to Humbug Mountain

Another Oregon State Park that we have not visited before. The brochure says that Humbug Mountain at 1758 feet high is a must to hike to the summit of. So yes - it has to be done. It is not only a third of a mile high it is a 6 mile hike in total there and back. Steep slopes mean that the old knees (Rons) are a touch achy in the morning  Our final evening and the campground host advises that 60+ mph winds are expected with heavy rain. Our site is a bit exposed to the wind from the west and the Ocean so we just move a little further up the campground and have a fairly pleasant night - except for the rain.

21st - 24th March. Cape Blanco State Park, near Port Orford

Cape Blanco Lighthouse - and the intrepid Julie.

Oops!!! Noticed the "Closed" sign on our way out.

Yet another new Oregon State Park. Such good value at $16 per night inclusive of electric and water. This place is fantastic and there are lots of hiking trails. Out to the "historic" Hughes House built in 1896 at the (then) princely sum of $3800. Then onto adjoining trails next to the Sixes River where Julie sees the Allens Hummingbird - a new one for her.  A good hike the next day through the forest trails and then down to the beach for the trek back. They used to mine gold from the beach here but now we just see one guy panning - and finding traces still. Again the weather is mixed with heavy showers and then beautiful sunshine. We also decide to spend an extra day here rather than move on a busy Saturday. "Busy" is fairly relative at this time of year though. A walk on the beach and we see a group of Brant Geese fly by heading north, another new spot and maybe the start of migration time.

Looking from the shower block  The beautiful Oregon Coastline

Allen's Hummingbird - female and male

24th/25th March. Bullards Beach State Park

Surfbird Pelagic Cormorant

And another Oregon State Park. Just outside the town of Bandon and at the northern end of the Coquille River estuary. Having done lots of hiking recently we decide against the six mile hike to the lighthouse and decide to cycle it instead. I think my backside prefers the hiking!!!! Just another nice easy comfortable stop.

26th - 28th March. William Tugman State Park

Rough Skinned Newt Beautiful flower on a berry bush

An Oregon State Park with a difference. This one is not on the beach but is slightly inland and on the banks of Eel Lake. We do our usual hiking bit around the lake but know in advance we cannot go all the way round. Apart from the fact it is 14 miles there is only a trail for part of the way. One thing we find lots of along the way are what we think are a type of Salamander (more on this later when we identify them) which actually look like a lizard variety of Gummi Worm. Dull brownish red on the top and bright orange underneath. This is also our 9th Wedding Anniversary and we have a really nice piece of steak for dinner. And get fairly slaughtered on a bottle of Champagne and a bottle of Chianti (plus a bit!!).



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