Sunday, December 31, 2017

Whyte's Retreat

Yesterday morning we hiked to Whyte's Retreat.  This is a BLM Shoreline Campsite for boaters on Lake Havasu. Through a cooperative effort with BLM, volunteers from Cattail Cove State Park constructed a hiking trail out to this site.  In fact three different Cattail Cove trails lead to Whyte's Retreat, giving hikers lots of route options.  We used the Ted's Trail route. During our hike I felt like we were in paradise, lots of trails to hike right from our door step, and an abundance of sunshine everyday. And of course there are lots or birds and critters to hold our attention.

a pair of Greater Scaup

Harris' Antelope Squirrel 

Honey Bee on Creosote Bush blossom 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Learning the Trails of Cattail Cove

Jim & Buster with Lake Havasu in the background

Every day we are hiking a diffent trail here at Cattail Cove State Park in an effort to become familiar with the total trail system.  Yesterday afternoon we did the McKinney Loop trail and this morning we did the Wayne's Way trail. The trails we have to hike yet are, Ripley's Run, Ted's Trail, and Whyte's Retreat.   Because we have our RV set up right next to the trailhead, one of our responsibilities will be to answer any questions hikers might have. As you can see from the photos the terrain is not flat here, but climbs and descends numerous gulleys, washes and canyons, so we are getting in a nice cardio work out every day. We already feel we are starting to settle into a good rhythm of eat, sleep, and exercise.

Jeanette & Buster on the descent down into Boat Launch Wash

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Moving Day

Today was moving day at Cattail Cove State Park.  After six days in the campground in site 49, we moved to our new diggs for the season in the overflow lot.  It took some doing as we had to take into consideration levelness for the refrigerator, and the back of the RV needed to face the sun so that the air-conditioner didn't shade the solar panel. Because of the grade of the parking lot we needed eight inches of blocks unter the front wheels.  Ranger Keith was good enough to construct some blocks made out of 2x8 stacked four high to make us level enough for the refrigerator. Plus he rounded up a picnic table for us. Believe it or not it took all morning to move and get set up.  After lunch we took Buster for a hike on the McKinney Loop Trail.  You can see that we are conveniently locacted right next to the trailhead for the Cattail Coves trail system. The McKinney Loop is the shortest loop of several that make up the complete system.  We will be getting aquainted with them all in the days to come.
Jeanette points out a Double-crested Cormorant

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

This Morning's Birds

Here are photos of five of the twelve species I saw this morning along the shoreline of Lake Havasu while hiking the mile and a half McKinney Loop Trail.  Every day I am spending some time hiking and birding to familiarize myself with the trails and birds here at Cattail Cove State Park.  When I met with the head ranger Cindy Smith today, she said I wouldn't need to start working until after the first of the year.  So, in the meantime I will continue to enjoy myself  as I learn more about this location.    

 Great Blue Heron

 Pied-bill Grebe

 American Coot

 Ring-necked Duck

Lesser Scaup

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Greetings from Arizona

This is camping site #49 in Cattail Cove State Park where we have enjoyed Christmas Day. It's a perfect site, just the right direction of grade so that there is no need for leveling blocks, and a nice tree for afternoon shade, plus water and electricity. Our friend Glenn came out and we did a morning bird walk and then he joined us in a Christmas Potluck that the park puts on every year.  Cattail Cove State park is located on the shore line of Lake Havasu a mere 17 miles south of our previous camping site at Lake Havasu State Park in Lake Havasu City. We drove here Saturday arriving around noon and decided to to stay for three nights, but within a few hours we found ourselves with a commitment for the next two months!  We will be leading bird-walks and serving as campground hosts in the overflow parking lot. Our aimless wandering around this winter has come to an abrubt stop.  The wear and tear of looking for the next campground, and route planing was getting to be stressful, so staying put in this lakeside oasis for a couple of months doing what we love feels great.  We owe our good fortune to the wonderful head ranger Cindy Smith who we have worked for previously at two Arizona State Parks. Cindy has us staying here temporary until later this week when we will move to our volunteer site in the overflow lot.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Goodby Lake Havasu

This morning we left Lake Havasu State Park.  After camping and birding with Glenn Reuben for over a week, first at Davis Camp County Park for five days, and then at Lake Havasu State Park for three days, we said a temporary good-by and are heading in two different directions.  We are continuing on down the Colorado River, stopping at three more Arizona State Parks, Cattail Cove, River Island and Buckskin Mountain.  Glenn is spending one more day at Lake Havasu State Park and then off to boondock for a few days at Craggy Walsh.  We are both pretty sure we will meet again this winter some place.

Our time at Lake Havasu has been colored by unusually cold and windy weather, so leaving sort brings hope for nicer weather.  The other adverse effect has been that Buster has been sick for the last day or two.  In addition to a lack of energy he has had constant trembling, a feeling of a fever, and occasional panting.  We were worried enough to contact an animal clinic, but at 650 dollars to check him, plus what ever else they would do, we decided to hold off for a bit. This morning he appears some better, and Jeanette dressed him in his Christmas sweater to say good-by to Glenn. We have dumped our tanks in the RV, taken on fresh water, and Jeanette is stocking up on groceries at Bashas' as I write.      

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Three Amigos

Early this morning Glenn Reuben, John West and I went birding at Castle Rock Bay, just to the north of Lake Havasu City.  Glenn and John are shown in the photo scanning the marshy area of the Colorado River on this section the Mohave National Wildlife Refuge.  These beautiful water ways are in a way John's office.  This is were he paddles his kayak on almost a daily basis, and where he takes a lot of his amazing photos that find their way to his website: Glenn has spent a couple of weeks boon docking in nearby Craggy Wash, so consequently he has spent a fair number of hours here too. We had about as much fun as three elder adults can have scrambling up and down rocky mesas looking for better views of the water fowl in the many water ways. Click here to see our bird list with photos.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Lake Havasu State Park

Yesterday morning, together with Glenn Reuben, we left Davis Camp County Park and headed for Lake Havasu City.  In route we stopped to bird at Pintail Slough in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. Not the best choice because Waterfowl Hunting Season was in effect.  We settled for a short walk on the North Levy out of the hunting area and got in a few birds.  Traveling on we drove  to  Lake Havasu City where we stopped for groceries, miscellaneous hardware items, and a haircut for me. Next it was on to Lake Havasu State Park where we set up in the overflow for the dry camp rate of 25 dollars a night.  Just as we were stepping out the door to walk to Sonora Tacos Mariscos for One Dollar Taco Night, Glenn pointed out this beautiful male American Kestrel.

This morning our mutual friend John West joined us for a morning of birding here at Lake Havasu State Park. The park is blocked in the middle with a big renovation and installation of camping cabins, so John drove us around to the South Parking Lot to start, and we walked north along the shore line to the Cactus Gardens. My first photo of the day was this Great Blue Heron shown below.

It was a terrible day for birding with a fierce cold wind from the north, but all four of us were determined to get in a bird walk. Our combined efforts produced the bird list that can be seen here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Continuing to Bird at Davis Camp

Jeanette and Glenn working at identifying a bird

We were out early this morning to bird and continued all morning.  In fact this has been our theme here at Davis Camp since arriving on Friday.  Every morning Jeanette and I and Buster join with Glenn for a morning bird walk.    Afternoons are usually spend relaxing, working on photos and bird lists, and puttering with the RV.  Yesterday we put in a new USB port back by the bed to be able to charge our iPhones at night.  Our solar system, augmented by some generator use at meal time to power the micro-wave,  is keeping our batteries charged and allowing us to charge up or iPhones, iPad, laptop, and camera as well as provide the electricity for lights, and appliances.  Tomorrow will mark the 5th day at this location with out electrical hook-ups. We originally paid for two nights of camping here, but then added another three nights to match with Glenn. This morning was or largest bird count with a total of 40 different species identified.  You can see our list of birds and photos here. Tomorrow the plan is to bird on the other side of the river on the Laughlin Riverwalk Trail, then on Wedsday move on to Lake Havasu and camp at Craggy Wash.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Davis Camp County Park

Ever since our friend Glenn Reuben left Oregon in October to roam the sunny South-West for the winter, we have been itching to catch up with him. Glenn is one of the few people we know that is perfectly aligned with us in our love for RVing and birding.  At last we are now camped with him on the banks of the Colorado River here at Davis Camp County Park.  We are set-up together, he with his pick-up and 5th wheel, and us with our Serenity. Our wandering routes finally came together here on Friday and we have been birding our brains out for the past two days and will probably stay three more. We discovered this park last winter in January and made a second stop in March. This Mohave County Park is a left over from the construction days of Davis Dam, one of the many dams that control the Colorado River in an effort to harvest water and electricity for the demanding urban populations of Los Angeles and Phoenix and beyond.  The park and campground are spread out along the river for about two miles at the foot of Davis Dam, with a combination of full hook-ups, partial hook-ups and dry camping.  We are located in the North Beach dry camping section, and are both making do with solar and generator back-up for our electrical needs. With the river providing habitat for water fowl, and the riparian area with trees and shrubs providing cover and food for other birds,  a diverse population of birds makes for some outstanding birding.  Click here for out bird list with photos from yesterday.
House Finch harvesting dates

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Boulder Beach Campground - Lake Mead

relaxing in the afternoon sun
We arrived here at Boulder Beach Campground a little frazzled after the congestion of Las Vegas, Henderson, and Boulder City.  Makes me think I am getting too old to do this.  But this is a wonderful campground on the receding shore of Lake Mead, with lots of trees and shrubs at a bargain price of ten dollars a night.  A good variety of birds from noisy Great-tailed Grackles to colorful Red-naped Sapsuckers constantly draw our attention.  Several good walks and friendly folks have renewed our spirits. Tomorrow morning we will travel on to Davis Camp at Bullhead City to meet our friend Glenn and do some birding together.

flowering Brittle Bush

Monarch Butterfly

Monday, December 11, 2017

Seeking Birds in the Desert

Great Egret

This morning as we traveled east from the town of Tahachapi, we stopped to do some birding at California City, which is in the Mohave Desert.  For years as we have crossed the Mohave on Interstate 40 on our way to Arizona we would drive past a sign pointing across an endless view of Creosote Bush to an out of site California City. Last spring as we were traveling through we actually took the turn off to see what was California City.  Here amongst the dried out tumble weed was a town layed out, half empty, but with a city park with some ponds.  In the desert where there is water, there are birds to be found. Last year when we stopped we were deterred by a "No Dogs" sign at the park entrance.  But this year a friendly local informed us that it didn't really mater, and that lots of people walked their dogs in the park.  We were set, and off we went for our morning bird walk.  You can see our bird list here

Sunday, December 10, 2017

To Bakersfield And Beyond

We seemed to be dealing with catastrophes every couple of days during the last week and a half.  Yesterday's problem popped up in the evening when Jeanette went to set up the TV and the coaxial connection broke off  inside the TV!  It looks unrepairable.  Our route plan was to turn east and eventually get to the Colorado River, via passing through Bakersfield.  We did some calling and found a 12 volt TV to our liking at Camping World in Bakersfield.  That fit right in to our schedule of traveling through Bakersfield and stopping for the night in Tehachapi. We had originally toyed with the idea of traveling to San Luis Obispo, but with the fires raging in Los Angeles, that seemed like a bad idea, and a check of the weather showed poor air quality. As we drove south on Highway 101 this morning from King City the smoke in the air was quite noticeable at Paso Robles.  The air continued to be poor all the way to Bakersfield and it wasn't until we climbed up to Tehachapi that we found clear air.  When we reached Tehachapi we went directly to Meadowbrook Park, a good birding spot we found last Spring. Although we did not see many birds this afternoon, we did get in a good walk.  You can see our list and photos here. We are now parked for the night at the Tehachapi K-Mart.  We have had good experiences at a K-Mart before, so are looking forward to a good stop here.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

San Lorenzo County Park - King City

We actually did not arrive in King City by train yesterday as it may look from Jeanette's pose, we drove here in our Serenity after our two day stay at Mercedes-Benz of Santa Jose. The "check engine light" has remained off, but it will probably be awhile before we get our confidence back. After a stop at Safeway to stock up on groceries we checked into the campground.  We were the only campers, except for three sets of host. As the day closed out two more RV's rolled in.  This is a 100 site campground, so we are definitely not crowded.  San Lorenzo Park is one of our all time favorites.   An extensive collection of farm equipment and a excellent museums can keep a traveler occupied for days. We always come here to heal for a few days after dealing with all the congestion of the Bay Area.

With lots of trees and trails it is an ideal birding spot. We always get in some good walking and find lots of interesting birds.  Click here for yesterday afternoon's bird list.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lake Cunningham Regional Park

We birded at Lake Cunningham for the second day yesterday. It has been a real god-send to have this wonderful park just next door to Mercedes-Benz of San Jose while we have our RV worked on. We have enjoyed so much strolling through the park both mornings, and Buster has enjoyed the abundance of ground squirrels. Be sure and look at our bird list with lots of photos here.  The dealership finished the repairs yesterday afternoon, but we elected to stay the night in their back parking lot rather than starting out for King City and San Lorenzo Regional Park that late in the day.  After lots of diagnosis work the culprit was believed to be a poor connection between the oxygen sensor wire loom and a computer.  They installed some new pins and hopefully the check engine light will stay off.
Buster sniffing out squirrels

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mercedes-Benz of San Jose

Lake Cunningham Regional Park

Yesterday morning we drove from Pleasanton to San Jose for an appointment with Mercedes-Benz of San Jose.  We did this for several reasons.  They were able to squeeze us in to their busy schedule a couple of days earlier than the dealer in Pleasanton. Plus, San Jose was on our continuing route south. And as luck would have it, right beside Mercedes-Benz of San Jose was Lake Cunningham, an eBird Hot Spot! So while the Serenity was being worked on we spent our time strolling the 50 acre lake and city park looking and photographing birds. Check out the list and photos here. It's kind of hard to be in a bad mood when we are having so much fun. It appears the dealership may have fixed the problem.  They allowed us to park for the night in their lot, (one more free overnight), and they will be doing a driving test this morning.

Green Heron

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bernal Community Park

Yesterday morning we moved from Mary's drive- to the Fairgrounds RV Park to be able to dump our waste tanks.  We also took on fresh water, and charged up everything. It's 40 dollars for a back-in site or 60 for a pull thru.  Back-in was fine with us. In route we stoppped at Bernal Community Park, just accross Bernal Ave from the Fairgrounds. This is a huge new park of 318 acres with a sports complex, miles of walking paths, and most important to us, wetlands. This was a fantastic find. Birding exceeded all expectations, and is definitely a must stop for us in the future. It's a site that will just continue to improve for birds as all the recent planting of shrubs and trees mature and provide more cover, shade, and nesting opportunities. We identified 30 species and took lots of photos.  You can see our list and photos here

White-tailed Kite

This morning we will be traveling on the San Jose to the Mercedes-Benz dealership for our "check engine light" situation.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pleasanton Visit

This is Holly and Buster, with their Christmas sweaters heading out on the trail at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park yesterday. They love exploring together. Our stop in Pleasanton is to visit sister-in-law Mary Sites, and her miniature dachshund Holly. Going for a bird walk at Shadow Cliffs is becoming a tradition when ever we stop in Pleasanton. You can see our bird list here. We are parked in Mary's driveway as we usually do, but this time I did not hook-up to her electricity because of our solar. We have been gone a week now, and only one night have we been hooked up to AC, which was at Lake Solano.

In regards to the continuing saga of our "check engine light" in the Serenity, I spent most of yesterday getting an appointment with Mercedes-Benz of San Jose.  They are going to squeeze us in to their busy schedule on Wednesday morning.  Although there is a dealer here, Mercedes-Benz of Pleasanton, they could not get to us until Friday.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Pinole Visit

Jeanette & Tony
Yesterday morning we drove to Pinole for a visit with son Tony, his wife Maggie, and their son Bobby.  In the afternoon, Bobby had some friends over to play with, so Tony joined Jeanette and I and Buster on a nice walk on the Pinole Creek Trail.  The weather was perfect, the walk down and back up the hill was good exercise and of course we made up a bird list, which you can see here.

We are set up in the Serenity at the curb in front of Tony & Maggies house, as we have on past trips, but this trip because we now have a 180 watt solar panel we have not needed to plug in to their electricity.  Our system seems to be working great, each day the sun powers up the solar panel which charges up our batteries. From the batteries we are able to have lights, run the furnace, TV, and charge up my laptop, our cell phones and Jeanette's iPad.  We had good sunshine yesterday, so our system was on float for three and a half hours.  Float means, that the controller cuts back the power from the solar panel, because the batteries are full. Cloudy and rainy days the controller will stay on bulk charge with the batteries taking all the electricity the panel produces.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Lake Solano Campground

Indian Peafowl
We arrived at Lake Solano Campground yesterday afternoon more than just a little bit frazzled from the freeway congestion of Sacramento.  Lake Solano is a favorite of ours for the outstanding birding.  Peafowl, as in the photo above, are so common hanging around the campsite that you might assume you were in a barnyard or a zoo.  But beyond that, there is a great diversity of birds and water fowl in the riparian area and the lake itself.  Once we were set up in our site, we took a long bird walk and tried to regain our composure.  You can see our bird list here.

A couple of draw backs that we failed to remember about camping here, which I am writing about now to serve as a reminder, is that the TV and cell service is very poor.  So poor that we could not stream Netflix.  And the 30 amp electrical hook-up, at least in our site, was poor and probably only 15 amp which is a real drag when running the micro-wave. Will we be back?  Probably to bird, but just during the day with camping or parking for the night in area with better cell service at least.

This morning we drove on to Pinole where Gramma Jeanette gets to spend some one-on-one time with grandson Bobby.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Just Traveling Down The Freeway

Yesterday, which was Thursday, did not turn out as we were expecting.  We had a great time birding at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and enjoyed lunch in the Serenity.  Then later as we were blissfully motoring along on I-5 heading for the town of Winters and Lake Solano Park, I noticed our check engine light was on.  I pulled off at the next exit and lifted the hood and checked all the fluid levels, which were fine.  I checked the manual, and Jeanette searched for the closest Mercedes-Benz dealership, which was Mercedes-Benz of Sacramento.  I called and a very nice lady set us up with an appointment for Friday morning, as yes they would let us park at the dealership for the night. Next came a 70mph dash down the freeway and into the mass of congestion of Sacramento.  Thank goodness for Jeanette's skill with iPhone navigation we arrived at our destination before closing. A very helpful attendant found us space in the back lot and we were set.  This is our third night out on the road and we have not paid a camping fee yet!

back lot parking
 Before anyone starts to feel sorry for us, RV life is really pretty cushy.  We had a very comfortable evening, good TV reception and good cell service.  After breakfast and showers we drove around to the front of the dealership and joined in the line of cars for our morning appointment.  We spent our first hour in the customer lounge and then as the morning warmed we took a walk to Howe Community Park nearby for our daily morning bird walk.
We loved Howe Park and got in a short list and some photos.  Back at the dealership they were still working on our vehicle, but allowed us to wait inside the Serenity.  That worked good for us and I was able to work on the photos for the bird list which you can see here.  The technician replaced the oxygen sensor and then ran a series of tests and checks, the most interesting I thought was running our engine from his laptop.  He was able to set the engine speed and duration and then walk away.  We loved the dealership, they were so friendly, organized and professional.  After finishing up on the paper work, it was all covered by warranty, we were on our way by by noon.  Less than a half hour later as we were speeding down a congested freeway I noticed the check engine light was on again!  There was no point in trying to turn around on a congested freeway on a busy Friday afternoon, so we continued on to our objective, Lake Solano Campground.  I don't really fault the dealership, Mercedes has a problem with the exhaust emmission system.