Early Spring California

San Francisco – Chris and I arose at some ungodly hour, packed the car and drove up to BWI.  There we drove to the lot of PreFlight where we park the car.  We love this company because they help us unload and load our bags and are promptly driven to the airport and/or picked up.  It is a minimum hassle service.  We got adjacent seats on SWA, which was amazing because we checked in late and were number B42 and B43.  We stopped briefly in Atlanta and were able to move up further to the front before leaving for SFO.  We even got there a little early, picked up our bags and took the train to the rental car facility.  Here was the first delay, where there was an extensive line at Budget.  But we got our car and, following the nice directions of Gertrude, found our B&B.  We found a parking spot right in front of the house!  The car remained there for three days.

While we were awaiting the arrival of Stephanie, our hostess drove up and we got to meet her.  Sue is a very nice woman who has lived in this house for 31 years and is a psycho-therapist.  Steph and her roommate Julie accompanied us to dinner at the Limon Rotisserie, a terrific Peruvian restaurant.  Following dinner we went to Steph’s home and got to see her images from her recent Morocco travel.  When we got back to our room in the B&B it was just about bedtime and the nearly full moon was setting.  It was quite a scene out our bedroom!Moonset

Saturday morning, we awoke and went down for breakfast.  Sue had stocked the refrigerator well with anything that a person would want.  While eating she came down and we had a very nice conversation.  We had noticed the most charming little garden behind her house and she took us out and showed us.  She claimed not to have a green thumb, but you coulda fooled us.  After breakfast we walked over the top of Bernal Hill to Steph’s home.  It was a nice walk with terrific views of the city…and lots of dogs.  This must be one of the favorite dog walking places in the city.  Steph soon drove us over to Golden Gate Park on a exquisite northern California morning.  We decided to spend most of our day in the deYoung museum, because there was a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit.  We were not disappointed.  It had far more attractive work of that famous artist than had been present when we visited the museum with her name in Santa Fe in 2012.

I found that no one was allowed to take photographs of her work, but there was no prohibition of making images of the posters that were all around the museum that depictedOKeefe her work.  I could not resist these.  We ate lunch in the outdoor section of the museum café and chatted while Brewer’s Blackbirds begged food among the tables.   After lunch we went back inside the museum and saw much of the permanent exhibits.  Unfortunately, we did not see the photographic section which I did not notice was present until we were out of the building.  We had another nice dinner with Steph at the Liberty Café a short walk from our B&B.

Sunday we again walked over Bernal Hill to Steph’s where we read the paper for a bit before heading out to Noe Valley to walk around and check out all the colorful, funky shops.  Chris had a great time looking over all the stuff, while I had my own good time photographing all manner of things.  I am not much of an urban guy, but I was fired up.  BeggerPerhaps the highlight of my efforts was finding a beggar sitting on the sidewalk.  He had an interesting, if tortured look on his face, so I asked him if I could take his photo in exchange for a dollar.  He readily consented.  After I dropped the money in his cup he told me that he was par6ticularly appreciative since he had had no breakfast that morning.

After lunch we returned to Steph’s for an hour or so and then headed out in the late afternoon to walk her tiny dog, Luna at Fort Funston Beach in the southwest corner of the city.  This is another dog-walkers paradise, as leash laws are not in effect and dozens of dogs were running all over when we arrived.  We learned that on a good weekend day there can be hundreds of dogs cavorting here!  It is also one of the best hang-gliding places in history because there is a cliff at the back of the beach that is a hundred or so feet high with continuous winds.  I don’t think I have the gonads to leap off that cliff in an act of faith but maybe I would have when I was fifty years younger.

The scene on the beach was fascinating.  Just about every surface that could accept paint had graffiti, some of which was quite artistic.  Down the beach a ways from the access path were some big pipes that we learned are sewage outflow pipes, which supposedly bring treated sewage water from the city and dump it in the Pacific.  These pipes were covered with paint.  While Chris and Steph had a few hours of mother-daughter time, I wandered around taking photos of the graffiti, beach detritus, and surf bubbles.  I was totally immersed in the scene, if not the surf!  As we were headed back to the path up to the top of the cliff and the parking lot, I made my favorite photo of the trip: two people walking their dogs right at the surf line.WolfPackCROilyFoamCRDogWalkersMonday morning we had a leisurely breakfast before packing up and driving out of San Francisco.  Once again we were thankful for Gertrude who efficiently lead us from the B&B onto 101 South.  We expected to arrive at the west entrance to Pinnacles National Park in just over two hours, according to MapQuest.  But the traffic was such that it required almost three hours.  101 is not a lightly traveled highway!

Pinnacles National Park – This park which was a National Monument until last year is famous for two things; rock climbing and California Condors.  The rock climbers flock here to test their skills on some steep rock formations that dot the landscape.  We were told that the height of visitation is in April when the weather is mild.  Lots of campers also congregate here.  We expected very few visitors on a Monday in March.  Were we surprised!  There were 80 middle-schoolers from Danville on a field trip, as well as dozens of campers.  And plenty of cars.  We were not alone.  We stopped briefly at the visitors center and then drove to the end of the park road.  It was only a few miles long.  At the end were some stunning rock formations where young climbers were (noisily) testing themselves on ropes.  We did not last long at this location!

We drove back to a Y in the road and took the other fork to the end.  Nothing much to grab our attention here.  As we were approaching the camping area, Chris spotted as couple of wild turkeys at the top of a small hill in the TurkeyCrossingsage brush.  We stopped the car and made a few photos as they made their way down a path to the road level.  One was particularly impressive in bright spring red, obviously a tom ready for mating.  Just a short ways further was a whole flock of turkeys within a few yards of the road.  We stopped again and made some photos.  As we were watching BigEarsthe turkeys cavort around as they fed, I noticed a Black-tailed Jackrabbit close by munching on grass.  That required more photos.  A few impatient drivers made these stops rather unpleasant, but we did manage to make a few good images.  The rabbit was unfortunately behind a barbed wire fence, so I had to get out of the car to shoot him over the fence.  He did not tolerate this for long and hopped off.  Not rapidly, because he had obviously seen thousands of tourists before us.

After these encounters, we went back to the vistiors center for information on where we could see the condors.  We were told that there was an overlook on the highway south of the east entrance where the birds could sometimes be seen flying over the mountains in the refuge.  But not close.  The ranger also advised that the west entrance was higher elevation and the birds roosted in the rocks that were more accessible there.  Being somewhat put off by all the people where we were, we decided to drive on over to the west side.  There is no through passage through the refuge, so one has to drive around the bottom or over the top.  The south route is a little shorter.  Another factor is that there are no motels within 20 miles of the east entrance while the west entrance is close to Soledad where there are a few motels where a normal person would stay.  So, off we went.

As we got to the T at the end of the entrance, we were surprised to see that the homeowner there was exercising his First Amendment rights by posting large signs on his fence, right in front of his house that were, to us, rather offensive.  Calling for the impeachment of President Obama among other distasteful things.   To this family, anything the president says is a “lie.”  Oh well, I don’t think this would be fertile ground for a Democratic fund raiser.

One of the birds that I had hoped to see and photograph on this trip was the Yellow-billed Magpie, and unusual bird in that it has never been seen outside the state of California.  There are only a few oYBMagpiether birds like this in the continental U.S.  The Himalayan Snowcock is one, but this bird that exists in a small area of the Ruby Mountains in Nevada is an introduced bird.  One could, I guess, assume this from the name!  In any case, the magpies were first seen in the “yard” of the “sign man.”   We did not see an opportunity to photograph them there so continued on.  Periodically we saw them out in the fields and tried making photos, but they were too far out for a decent image.  Finally we came across three that were hanging out on fence posts right next to the road.  They had found something to eat, although I think it was something in trash.  In any case, I was able to make some good shots of the birds.

We never did find the “overlook” where one could supposedly see condors and soon were in Soledad where we got a room at the Valley Harvest motel.  In mid-afternoon we headed up into Pinnacles from the west entrance, only nine miles out of town.  We were surprised to see…almost nothing in the way of wildlife.  Yes, we saw a pair of coyotes that bounded from an abandoned old house alongside the road, but this was outside the park.  Inside we only saw a few Scrub Jays and one chipmunk.  The visitors center was closed and there was no sign on the door indicating the open hours.  We drove to the end of the road and found seven or eight cars, but no people.  What a contrast from the WestsideRidgeCReast side!  The scenes from the parking lot, however, were spectacular, with fingers of rocks poking up to the sky.  We stayed around here for an hour or so, chatting up a few hikers who appeared periodically.  I searched the mountains with my binocs and finally found five specs that turned out to be the condors.  I watched as two came in to land on the rocks, presumably for the night.   Just before we left, two women hikers came off the mountain and reported being quite close to some condors among the high rocks.  We decided to walk that trail in the morning, before the updrafts provided the condors with the lift necessary to fly off.   On our way of the park we saw…nothing again!

We were up early the next morning and into the park in beautiful orange light.  I fully expected to see some deer or other wildlife as we drove in, but there was still nothing to be seen.  We had entered through the gate at the earliest legal time — 7:30 — so expected to see no one else present.  But there was one car in the parking lot at the end of the road.  We asked the driver how he got in early and he told us that the gate was open earlier, so he just drove in.  The temp was a brisk 37 degrees and we were not prepared to hike a long ways with multiple layers and then shed them as it warmed up.  We did not have a day pack, so carrying the extra clothes would have been a burden.  We decided not to hike up into the mountains.  We drove back to the visitors center that was now open and chatted up a ranger there.  He advised that he often sees coyotes, bobcats and other creatures on the drive in and told of one incident where a bobcat had caught a ground squirrel but was chased up a tree by a coyote.  The bobcat outwaited the coyote and got to enjoy its meal.  Where were these animals when we wanted to see them?

Seeing little in the way of wildlife, we decided to return to the East Side and work there again.  On the way over we came across a patch of a few California Poppies.  I photographed one and the results look to meOKeefePoppy like a Georgia O’Keefe painting.  It was a good thing we had photographed the magpies the previous day, because we spotted none close to the road on the return trip.  We got into the area around the visitors center, that is adjacent to the start of the camping area, and well, there were still a lot of people out and about.  We were amazed to see what was probably the same Jackrabbit in the exact same place as before.  He let me take a series of photos again, before ambling off a little further from the road.  We spotted a quail on the edge of the camping area and then the rest of a rather large covey.  I was amazed to see that the birds had not yet paired off for nesting, but I guess it must have been a little early for them.  Photographing them proved difficult because it was still early afternoon, without a cloud in the sky, and the sun really bright.

We decided to walk up one of trails at the end of the road, a trail that leads up into the rocks.  We did not know what to expect.  But as soon as we got out of the car, we heard a lot of people noise.  A short ways up the trail were eight or ten school kids,  some of whom were rock climbing on ropes and the others screaming encouragement.  It was clear that there was not going to be any wildlife around that area and indeed those assumptions held.  The trail wound its way very close to impressive rocks, with colors that looked like an abstract painting.Color3CRa

Some of the color looked like it was the rock itself.  Other was from lichens, but the rest?  I am not sure.  We little noticed the bright green deciduous leaves that were evident in many places…until another hiker told Chris that they were Poison Oak!  We were much more careful after that warning!  After perhaps 45 minutes I was done, although Chris still had a good deal of energy.  We turned and returned to the car.  We stopped briefly at one of the small parking lots to photograph a ground squirrel and while there an Acorn Woodpecker flew into a nearby snag.  He was busy with his work ramming acorns into previously dug holes.  Amazing critters who know how to bore a hold just big enough to accommodate the acorns and not allow the squirrels to remove them.  These birds live in large colonies, with plenty of assistance to each other in nesting and raising young.  We also spotted a pair of Oak Titmice in this area, a bird I seldom see.  They are only found in the West although their cousins the Tufted Titmous is common all over the east and Midwest and indeed we see them daily at our feeders.

We did not see the turkeys at all on this second day in the park.  I guess they have their own ideas of when to show.  We did find the quail covey again, — or another one — and spent a good deal of time photographing them.  quailThey seemed completely unafraid of the car and some approached within ten feet.  These were, of course, California Quail, the birds of the coast and western foothills.  I used to hunt them back when I participated in that sport and had a good dog.  Now I am content to just watch them, marveling at their antics and their attractive appearance.  GroundSquirrel

The California Ground Squirrels were everywhere.  There were holes throughout the picnic and camping areas, as well as almost every other flat location.  This indicates that their most common enemy –  rattlesnakes — have been eliminated from these areas.  Hawks and coyotes, of course, are other common enemies, but these critters cannot get down into their burrows like snakes can.  The population of ground squirrels is undoubtedly enhanced by tourists feeding them.  They are certainly aware of folks eating meals and come quite close hoping for a handout.

Late afternoon was arriving and we wanted to be within striking distance of San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in time for good light the next morning, so exited the park and headed north to Hollister.  No one would ever describe this large town as the “La Jolla of Central California”  Or, for that matter, the “Chevy Chase of the Central Valley!”  It is a cross roads of unattractive, flat farmland.  On our trip up there, however, there were some gorgeous rolling hills, just turning green and blessed by evening light.  I made one of my top photos of the trip on that drive, of three Coast Oaks silhouetted in that light.3OaksCR

We checked in to an inexpensive motel and took their recommendation for a place to eat dinner.  It was supposedly right down the street within walking distance, so off we went.  We kept looking and looking, but never found the place.  Maybe it had gone out of business.  We did find another place the motel had recommended, purely by chance.  I think it was named the Red Rooster and we ate a quick dinner there.  The following morning, fortified by McDonalds food, we headed north on route 156 and then 152 towards Los Banos.  Down in Ecuador this means “bathroom,” but I have a feeling the town was not named after the men’s room, but rather the baths.  In any case it turned out to be much farther  up there than we anticipated.  On the way we passed the San Luis Reservoir that was just off the road.  It was remarkable how low the water was, probably 30 or 40 feet from the high water mark.  All because of the nasty CA draught.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge   We arrived in the San Luis NWR parking lot and found it…empty!  We were the one and only visitor that morning.  Which was fine with us.  We looked over the grasses along the entrance walk to a modern, attractive HQbuilding that was opened less than two years ago.  It houses the headquarters of this refuge as well as the visitors center.  We also could not miss the many desert cottontails.bunny2  They were oblivious of us, having seen, I am sure, in their lifetimes thousands of benign people who posed no threat.  They were feeding and hopping through the sagebrush having a grand time.

After a short visit to the center, we headed out on the wildlife drive.  We very soon came to a large fence enclosed area that shielded some 85 Tule Elk, a subspecies of the American Elk.  When Europeans arrived in California, there were tens of thousands of Tule Elk present, but by 1895 only 28 remained.  There were translocated a number of times, with the most successful place the Owens Valley.  In the early seventies, a big conservation effort culminated in the protection of the species and the establishment of herds on federal property.  San Luis was chosen as one location and a herd begun here in 1974.  It has proven so successful that this year about half the herd will be moved elsewhere.  The fenced enclosure cannot support 85 animals, particularly in dry years.  Unfortunately, when we visited, all the bulls had lost their massive horns.

Continuing around the wildlife drive, I spotted a low flying Northern Harrier.  What was so unusual about this sighting was that it was an adult male that is pale grey in color.  For reasons that I do not understand. almost all the birds that are easily seen over marshes and fields in the East are either females or juveniles, all bHarrierrown in color.  I was able to make a half dozen or so photos of the bird right from the car.

Shortly thereafter, I heard the unmistakable hoot of a cock pheasant.   Once you have heard this, it will not be forgotten.  I stopped the car and scanned the brush, but could not see the bird.  But a mile or so further down the drive, there was another bird right along the road.  We drove up quickly as he scampered off into the brush, but he RNPprovided opportunities for photographs by pausing briefly several times.  What a beautiful bird!

Waterfowl hunting is permitted on this refuge in certain places and I guess this is why the ducks were so skittish.  But with few exceptions, as soon as we slowed the car, the birds either swam away rapidly or flushed and flew away.  It was very difficult to get an open, close shot.  We did spot a number of species, however: Shovelers (the most common duck), Mallard, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck and Wigeon.  We were rather surprised not to see any muskrats, beaver or turtles.  We later learned at   the visitors center that most of the ponds on this refuge dry up in the summer, so water dependent reptiles and animals just do not live there.

As the morning wore on, it got hot and the sun too bright for good photographs, so we returned to Los Banos for lunch and to check into a motel.  Later we returned to the refuge for the afternoon light.  TuleElk The elk were closer to the fence at this point, so easier to photograph.  One still had to get out of the car and come right up to the fence and aim the camera  at one of the holes so that the fence would not block the photo.

We saw pretty much the same ducks as we had seen in the morning, but at almost the exact spot we had seenRaccoon the pheasant in the morning, there was a raccoon sniffing around on the side of the road.  We stopped the car and waited.  He approached a bit further before noticing me poking my 400mm lens out the window and over the top of the rear view mirror.  At this point he decided that enough was enough and walked into thick cover.  We drove up adjacent to where he had disappeared, but he was invisible.

We wrapped up the day with a sighting we did not expect: a Double-crested Cormorant with a catfish in its mouth.  He was swimming in a canal and apparently this waterway does not go dry in the summer.  The light was awful, looking right at the setting sun, but I was able to make a few photosDCC

as he struggled to get the fish down.

The following morning, March 19, we returned to San Luis for another go around the wildlife drive.  The bunnies were back at the visitors center and the ducks just about Meadowlarkwhere they had been the previous day.  One difference was that there seemed to be Western Meadowlarks singing from every fencepost or high point in the grass.  They were not yet in full breeding plumage, but still wonderful to hear.  In many parts of the country, particularly the Great Plains, singing meadowlarks are one of the early signs of spring.

Another difference was the presence of four White-fronted Geese.  The previous day we had not seen a single goose of any species, notwithstanding that this is a major wintering ground for White Fronts and Snow Geese and the occasional Canada.  RND2WFGeese

A pair of Ring-necked ducks were right in the same spot as the day before and this time gave us an opportunity for a few photos.

We figured we had seen all this refuge had to offer, so decided to drive over to the Merced refuge and is administered by the same management as San Luis.  It is located about 20 miles further east, but in the same farming habitat.  One of the rangers at the visitors center had told us we “might”  see more geese at this refuge, so drove on over.  The surrounding farm country is about as boring and dull as any country can be.  I cannot imagine living there, but of course, people do.

We no sooner had entered the refuge through a grove of trees then we were startled to see a large flock of White Fronts, calling loudly, fly into the refuge and settle into one of the close in ponds. There must have been about two hundred birds in this flock.  Unfortunately, once settled in they were too far away from the road to photograph and one is not allowed to get out of your car and walk over to the impoundments.  So we drove on by.  We had stopped to photograph some Shovelers when another flock, even larger, flew overhead.  We could not see where they settled as it was over a bank, but probably within the refuge.  It was an amazing site and I was able toFlyingWFGphotograph them right from the car using my 600mm lens, hand held.  Why were there so many geese here in what appeared to be a very similar refuge to San Luis and practically none at the latter?  I cannot figure that one out!

We continued on around the wildlife drive, which I think was ten miles, and were surprised to see that the ducks here were much less skittish than at San Luis.  There were also many pairs of Cinnamon Teal.  We onlyCinnamonT saw one pair at San Luis, while we probably saw no fewer than twenty pairs at Merced.  This male was feeding and swimming very close to the road and saw no need for a hasty exit.  The sun was just right to capture him in all his glory.

We had read that American Avocets were common both here at Merced and at San Luis, but we saw absolutely none until we were close to the end of the wildlife drive. Here Avocet

was one asleep on one leg.  Despite making a number of strange noises to wake him up, he remained asleep until something got his attention and he came awake.  I got out of the car with my 600, hand held again, and photographed him while he did some stretching to get himself fully ready to return to feeding.

We finished the wildlife drive at about 3 and probably had time for another round, but Chris was anxious to get moving back towards San Francisco where she wanted  a motel near the airport.  So off we went, me reluctantly.  We stopped briefly in Gilroy, the “Garlic Capital of the World” where we visited the library and made motel reservations in San Bruno.  Afterwards, we ran into some heavy traffic around San Jose, so the trip took us longer than expected.  We had Gertrude, our GPS, on but still had trouble finding the motel.  We were right where it was supposed to be, but did not see it, so called.  It was behind a gas station, less than a block from where we were parked!  After checking in, we headed across the street to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.  The sign over the restaurant said, “Chinese Restaurant.”  No name like Peking or Hunan Pearl or anything, just Chinese Restaurant.  The clientele was, well, mostly Chinese, which we took as a good sign and we had a perfectly acceptable meal.

San Diego  Even though our flight was not until nine something, we left early because we had to return our rental car.  We had experienced problems getting to the large building on the SFO “campus” in the past because the road signs are confusing, people are racing and multiple roads come together at the exit from 101.  Even with Gertrude assisting, I still missed the proper lane and we ended up going through the entire terminal area before getting to the rental car return building.  It was very frustrating, but ultimately no big problem as we had plenty of time and had only wasted perhaps ten minutes.

Our flight was uneventful and we arrived in San Diego, rented another car and drove out to Collier Avenue where my son Jim lives.  We spent the afternoon catching up with Jim, relaxing and taking a walk in the neighborhood where I lived for many years.  It was fun to see where big changes had been made and other locations where nothing seemed to have changed since I moved from here in 1979.  One thing that has changed was the look and feel of El Cajon Boulevard, which is now pretty run down and seedy.  We went to a Chinese restaurant to pickup dinner there and I was struck by how bad the neighborhood now looked.

Saturday morning we arose early and were out of the house at 6:30 on our way to Anza-Borrego Desert, a state park.  On the way we picked up my granddaughter, Allie, who now lives in Alpine, along the way.  I remember well stopping in Alpine in 1966 when I first arrived in California.  It was a tiny spot in the mountains, an inconspicuous location on a two lane highway!  How that has changed!  Now it is a thriving exurban community astride the major highway into far southern CA, I8.

Along the way to the desert, we passed through Cuyamaca State Park, a favorite spot in the mountains where the family had camped, fished and picnicked back in the late sixties and mid seventies.  I was stunned to see the damage that the wildfire known as the Cedar Fire in 2004.  Practically every old oak tree is now a black snag.  The place looks like it has been firebombed.  Whole hillsides are bereft of live trees, with only some scrubby bushes growing back.  The campground is closed due to state budget problems, but there is still some wildlife around, like this Mule Deer and a very healthy looking Coyote who has ssen his share of visitors and wasCoyote2CoyoteBTDeer

completely unaffected by our presence. He gazed at us for a few moments and then went about his business of trying to find his breakfast!   There must be some food about for these critters, but it is not obvious from the bleak environment they live in.

We exited Cuyamaca close to the old town of Julian and then proceeded on the Banner Grade from the mountains down to the desert.  Along the way there were a few flowering shrubs like wild lilacs that present blue flowers every spring and Yucca.  Arriving at the town of Borrego Springs, weYuccaLilac

had to find the visitors center for the park.  It was on the west side of town, down a side street.  It was a rather unusual building, constructed mostly underground due to the extreme heat of the desert in the summer.  Once there we watched a 20 minutes video on the park, which was exceptionally well done.  However the scenes that were depicted in the video were not things we would see.  I had checked out a web site for the condition of wildflowers before we had departed and it claimed that there were barrel cactus, among other cactus, blooming around the visitors center.  I asked the volunteer there where I might see them and a blank look came on her face.  She asked a few other volunteers who were acting as information providers and none could say where blooming cactus might be found.  I heard what I have heard many times: “they may be around somewhere,” but there is no specific place I can recommend because the draught has limited blooming of all wildflowers.

We found exactly one cactus blooming and that was not a Barrel Cactus.  It was another species right at the visitors center where it probably had received some watering.  We drove some of the park roads that were actually highways and found nothing else blooming except Octotillo.  I guess this might be classified as a cactus too, although it does not look muchPInkCactusCRP

like one.  It is rather dramatic, however, with it bright scarlet blooms usually six to eight feet in the air!  At this point we gave up on wildflowers and decided to do somethineOctotilloCRP

else.  But what?  The consensus of our group of four was to go see the pictographs that are in the Blair Valley part of the park We found our way to Route S2 that goes to the desert at Octotillo and continued until we found the cutoff for the camping areas.  We drove into a sandy, very narrow road and were surprised to see so many camper vehicles parked in several locations.  Dozens.  We continued on for what seemed a very long drive until we came to the parking lot for the trail to the pictographs.

We left the car, got some gear, and proceeded up the one mile long trail up to the drawings.  Fortunately, the weather was not extreme, in fact, it was very pleasant, in the sixties.  The sandy trail lay between two hillsides covered in boulders and desert plants, altogether a rather interesting scene. TrailStartCRP

The rock with the drawing was less impressive, in fact, a lot less impressive.  There are perhaps a dozen drawings in a rather umber color of symbols and other such things.PictoCRP  Only the universal symbol for the sun seems obvious to someone other than an expert.  The drawing were reportedly made by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in this area several thousand years ago.  After the requisite photos, we made our way back down the trail stopping for a few minutes to listen to some professional “desertiers” talk about their adventures in the California deserts, including encounters with rattlesnakes, one of whom had been bitten.  After some large gulps of water, we started out the sand road, but almost immediately were stopped by a pickup that was spinning its wheels and having difficulty gaining any traction.  This “road” is so narrow that when such an event takes place, everyone in other cars must wait for the culprit to extract himself.  It probably took ten minutes for this to occur.  Once past that roadblock we proceeded rather well for the entire remainder of the five mile long road.  Going in it seemed a lot longer than this!  We took S2 south and east through some of the ugliest, most barren land one can imagine.  Finally we emerged at the tiny town of Ocotillo and joined up with I8.  Then it was a breeze back to San Diego.

We got cleaned up and went over to a friend of Jim’s, Terry, for dinner where we enjoyed a delicious entrée of fish stuffed with crab.  Sunday morning we read the newspaper and relaxed after over a week of packed days.  In the afternoon we joined up at Torrey Pines Park with my grandson, Ted, and his girlfriend, Kelsey, from UC Davis who were home for spring break.  There we took a nice walk about the coastal chaparral  to an overlook of the Pacific.  Later we all met up at the home of Sandy and Ray Fowler for another feast.  There I met up after a long interlude with friends Kathy Zacher and Don Priest. I think it had been a dozen years since last seeing them.  We went to bed rather early because reveille Monday morning was at 4:45 because our flight back to BWI departed at 6:30.  Fortunately, it was an uneventful flight, so we arrived home on time and were able to retrieve out car and motor back to Darnestown.    We were unable to tell whether the cats were glad to see us home or still unhappy that we had left!