Sunday, April 14, 2013

into the wilderness

we went camping. the weather, the wildlife, the outdoors were brilliant!
 our adventure began at pinnacles national park, our first time here.

'Rising out of the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, east of central California's Salinas Valley, are the spectacular remains of an ancient volcanic field.  Massive monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons and talus passages define millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement.

Pinnacles National Monument was established in 1908 by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Pinnacles National Park was created from the former Pinnacles National Monument by legislation passed by Congress in late 2012 and signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 10, 2013.

most of california's rolling green hills are shades of brown from lack of much needed rain

a view of the high peaks, and our second (big) hike, but first...

a warmup, a three mile out and back hike on the wildflower trail

fairy houses are found here too!

the next day, up early for the high peaks nine mile loop hike, high peaks pinnacles are in the background

 a hint of what was to come!

we took the park rangers advice to take the more difficult route, getting most of the elevation out of the way first. the trail was steep and narrow, well maintained and beautiful!

 we've reached the top, it's SO cold and windy up here! pinnacles is the site for the california condors re-establishment program, so hoping to see one was high on the list. we saw nine that we were sure of! (they are tagged). here at the top we were treated to the sight of several gliding on gusty thermal winds, circling and soaring, so incredible! impressive, with a wing span of almost nine feet. the small speck on the top left is a condor on the rock, we watched as he flew off

three condors resting 

 this one was waving goodbye i think

 at the top of pinnacles high peak trail it became even more narrow and steep. in the 1930's handrails were
installed, along with small steps in the rock

in many places it was best to not look down

  can you see the climber on the rock face?

 here he is

 heading back down, the wind calmed and the weather warmed

can you see the blue jay?

 at the end of the trail we were rewarded with a bouquet of california poppies!

leaving monterey county, on to our next destination
carrizo plain national monument

a place of peace and quiet and never ending wonder

 the plains were dryer than we'd ever seen them. blm (bureau of land management) keeps a few small trees at the campsite watered, a blessing for the wildlife. this bullock's oriole found a good place to be

 there is always much to discover here, driving slowly helps, most of the roads are unpaved a good thing i think

 soon after crossing into the monument, time slows, mobile phones turn off, binoculars and camera gear come out. chuck and i play the guessing game, what do you think we'll see first? this time we weren't even ready, at the boundary, was a herd of pronghorn antelope!

carrizo plain has been referred to as californias serengeti,  a very similar experiance to being on safari

at selby camp. we are alone. almost...this tree has a tiny spigot with a wee cup under it, it waters the tree as well as...

wild visitors. this snake slithered into our campsite, and went to the cup under the tree

 for a drink

 we watched him gulp down the cool water, his cheeks puffing in and out as he swallowed, until he was satisfied

 and then we followed him as he slithered away,

 i think this is why he is called a gopher snake

he was a beauty!

back out on the plain, there is a lot of this

 the best way to see

  birds on the fence

 we had a tip from our friends at the visitors center, that there was a kit fox den in this area. we looked everywhere, where are you little fox?

a western kingbird

can you see this little one basking in the sun?

then one night, chuck had gone to the bathroom and told me he'd seen a large toad near one of the trees. i put on my headlamp and went for a look too. having no luck i came back to our camp and prepared to turn in for the night. luckily i had left my water bottle on the table near our tree, the one with the small water cup (remember the snake?) and something nearby caught my eye...

the western toad! oh my gosh, he is taking a bath in the water cup. i am sure i embarrassed him because he turned around, looked at me laughing, and climbed out, hopping slowly away

 the only wildflowers here this season

 a horned lark

 house finch

 the sacred painted rock, where my spirit guide, the white owl, lives

 a clever raven's nest in an ancient piece of farm equipment

 another visitor to the water dish, this little towhee

 a western bluebird! this one flew up to one end of a bench

and it's companion flew up to the other, two bluebirds!

this is not snow

 it is salt

 this is soda lake, now completely dry, until next winter, or the next big rainfall

 we'd never seen it quite this dry and so challenged each other to walk out on the lake

 i am glad i am not falling in

this grass hopper was not so lucky

C + L

a western meadowlark, i am getting pretty good at imitating them. chuck calls me jack (from the big year, best movie!)

 i found this, chuck photographed it. a huge black widow covered it's poor victim. in minutes she had the scarab beetle wrapped, swirling it around in it's web, and finally when it was no longer recognizable, she pulled it down into her lair.

 unidentified raptor with a headless giant kangaroo rat (we think)

 american avocet

 morning of our last day

 the bench in front of our tent is a perfect place to view the rising sun

 and to knit

sleeves are done, joined to body! now to stitch the fair isle yoke 

 leaving the plains we saw pronghorn not once

but two times more! 

thank you for coming along, it is always a pleasure.
xxx lori


  1. And, as always, thank YOU for sharing! My son so enjoyed looking at all the pictures of the wildlife--he recognized many of the birds. I loved the wildflowers!

  2. I find that I hold my breath in awe when I look at your photos; each one taking me further along into places I can only imagine. I also laughed because I thought the same thing as Chuck...The Big Year! Thank you, dear friend for sharing your trek, XOXO

  3. ah, but can you say you slept in a Walmart parking lot? I think not :)

    Lori, I'm going to hysterically laugh my way thru this amazing (again...always) post as I compare our weekends

    you are awesome! Melissa

  4. Amazing is all i can say. Your photos and comments capture the beauty of the landscape and animals - thanks for sharing

  5. How beautiful and such glorious photography.And glad to see you got some knitting in!

  6. Thank you Lori, for taking us with you! I could see your photos again and again - they are all so amazing! I would like to say something for each photo but at the end I feel wordless - just thank you and your hb for sharing your most beautiful and unique photos! xxx Teje

  7. These pictures are amazing! I keep going back to check my favorites, but also keep changing my mind. I love the Pinnacles, did you know that their sister range is somewhere a long way away - but of course, they used to be together and one sister moved away. I'm sure there is a legend there somewhere The camping looks great and cozy.

    what a trip

  8. thank you for sharing your amazing trip and pictures!!!!
    xxxx Ale

  9. Oh what I wouldn't have given to be there with you, those photographs are beautiful! You are lucky to get to spend time in such beautiful surroundings.

  10. What a simply glorious, stunning, amazing place! Beautiful photos, wonderful wildlife and looks a whole heap warmer than it is here!! I love the toad taking a bath. And why wouldn't a toad take full advantage of a conveniently placed bath tub set down in the middle of nowhere! Glad you are enjoying Lilian Beckwith. I read them many years ago.

  11. Wow, I was so enthralled by your adventure and incredible photos early this morning it was brought to my attention by D that I was not paying attention to our cat who was "talking" to me about going downstairs for his breakfast! Your photos and words always are mesmerizing and amazing to me!

  12. you are absolutely the best (BEST!) travel/adventure guide. Stunning photos as always. And what an don't miss anything. I love the way that little water cup attracted so much life. Thanks for bringing us with you.

  13. Ahh, California dreaming... that's what I'll be doing all day today. Thank you SO much for taking us along on your wonderful adventures. They bring such joy to my grey morning.

  14. Wow! I love your posts like this. I've never been camping - never seen so many animals in the wild. I love the idea of it, but I don't think I'm likely cut out for it. That black widow would have sent me packing. Not to mention my terror of heights. It's nice to have an adventurer like you to live vicariously through. (:

  15. This is what I imagine Cali was like before all the buildings etc. what a beautiful and awe inspiring place this is. I love- love the landscape so varied. You're a tough chick with that snake though, I have to say ...gulp. Thank you for bringing us along- I always feel inspired after visiting your blog.

  16. I love the pine cone photo and the photo of the snake and of course the photo of you and your best friend!!! You seem to make your outings look so effortless and yet I know all that hiking is strenuous, I admire your "inshapeness" Thanks for the photos I feel like i was there.

  17. Besides for being a wonderful friend, you are also my National Geographic xo

    I'll have to look at this post a hundred times more but my not so little joy this morning is seeing that snake and that frog in that little human cup. Too too awesome!

    I loves you

  18. Lori, many thanks to you and Chuck for allowing me to see sights that would otherwise never have entered my consciousness. You all are such generous explorers and obviously also fabulously talented photographers.

    I cannot pick a favorite photo from this post. What I enjoyed was taking my time, scrolling along at a very gentle space and savoring each image and also your well chosen words.

    I would think that eventually some precipitation will grace this landscape and subtle changes will result?

    That open sky! xo

    1. dear frances, here is what a good year for wildflowers in the carrizo looks like, an epic year...

  19. again I tried to comment but was told I had a problem with cookies (haha, true!).

    What I said was something like, If you had posted only ONE of your photos, it would have satisfied my soul, each one, can`t say I had a best one, because each time I scrolled on, I sighed again. I loved the fairy hole, of course, and all the wild flowers and little birdies and big birds, and you knitting with your relaxed feet, and the scenery, wow… Oh, I forgot the beautiful thirsty snake, and also the bathing toad! If you made a coffee table book with just these pictures and your captions to them, you`d find a publisher TODAY!

  20. Lori, What a blessing those handrails are and the water cup! So much beauty here. Thank you for taking us along. Missed you.xoxo

  21. Oh Lori, your pictures are gorgeous!
    I have to show them to my photographing daughter who is just starting her "career" as a photographer:)
    Also I never imagined such beautiful scenery in the US, I always only visited the east coast as I have friends there...
    It is always like a treat when a new post from you pop up I really enjoy, looking and reading
    Take care
    ps we finally, finally have spring over here in Vienna!!

  22. Oh!
    Beautiful photos!!
    I wish we had nature like this here in Norway...

  23. Hi,

    I just read "ALL" of your African journal. Nicely done! What a glorious trip!!!
    Thanks for sharing...

    Btw, the bathing toad is precious. I bet it sighed in relief!

  24. i love your adventures and accompanying photos!
    and i love that you and c look to be absolutely smitten, deeply in love.
    this is good, so very good.

  25. Thank you for taking us to explore the beautiful nature in California with you! it's amazing :D

  26. Posts like this make me antsy for camping season! Thanks for sharing the amazing pictures. Who knew that a cup of water could be such a wildlife magnet!

  27. Wow Lori! Now that's a side of California I never knew existed. You take some amazing photos! Those pinecones look ginormous! So funny how the toad and the bird and the snake all went for water from that little cup. I never even thought about the fact that a snake would need to drink water. Such pretty wildflowers and birds. The sight of that raptor with his catch is incredible. Even close to home, you manage to go on some amazing adventures. Thanks for sharing! Best wishes, Tammy

  28. Ahhhhhh. Stopping in here to see you is always such a treat. Completely gorgeous, as always. :)

  29. Lori I just feel so proud and awed by our state as I looked thru this post. Its your interpretation that reveals how rich it is. The golden antelope picture near the end, the unusual snake postures bring the snake right in my living room! And that look of tenderness in the towhee's face. I think you are qualified in every way to do a nature book on the glories of California. Writing, pictures, unique perspective and genuine affection for the subject.......

  30. Lori if you ever run out of money to travel I think we will all chip in so you can travel every week so we can see all of your beautiful pictures and stories. Oh to be you and your husband. I gasped when I saw the picture of your husband's camera, I'll dare to dream of having one like that one day. Oh for just one day to tag along with you two on one of your trips. All of your pictures are dreamy I wish I could comment on each one individually. But there is one I want to buy from you. The one of the flower with the pink ontop. If all goes well the Cactus Flower Shawl I am putting in the dye pot will turn out that color. If it does I can say your picture was my inspiration.

  31. Everything is beautiful, but the snake drinking from the cup? My favourite shots. Just incredible. Such a gorgeous specimen! Thank you for bringing us along. I sighed contentedly and admiringly, every step of the way.

  32. Wow -- WOW! I peered intensely at each and every photo Lori and I feel as though I was along for the ride. You always have such an easy way of inviting your readers to follow you on your adventures, whatever and wherever they may be. Thank you my friend. The pics are simply beautiful!

    PS - Lori - would you consider dropping the CAPTCHA on your comments and moderating instead. These aging eyes are making it difficult for me to discern the characters. Just a thought. xxoo

  33. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing this adventure!

  34. Wow!!! What a wonderful trip and thank you for sharing it with us :)

  35. Another amazing set of pictures Lori! It must be so wonderful to see all that wildlife (and know the names of everything!!). Do you have to wait patiently for hours to get your pictures? I doubt it, I get the feeling that wildlife finds you!
    What a fantastic place to sit and knit, looking forward to seeing the finished sweater.

  36. What a beautifull pictures!

  37. Thank you for the photo vacation. What an inspiration you are! I especially enjoyed the 'log gymnast' and the 'giant' pinecones. Now I must take myself and my camera back outside. See you soon.

  38. WOW!..... (thank you for sharing Lori, I enjoyed your trip and all you saw so much).xxx

  39. I always enjoy coming along on your adventures! I've been to the Pinnacles when I lived there. I'm too claustrophobic to have done the caves, so I waited on the trail knowing mountain lions were watching. It's such raw nature...and hot!

    I love it when you go to the Carrizo plains. Such a peaceful place of wonder.

    Lots of great sightings! Love the shy toad bathing. Tee-hee :)


  40. Oh Lori,I love this post, so beautiful and such wonderful photos! Thank you, thank you my friend.
    xo xo

  41. Tout simplement "MERCI" pour ces magnifiques photos et ce beau voyage.

  42. Hello Lori Ann

    I do hope that when our children leave our home that Andrew and I will have adventurous hearts like yours. I have such a list planned of all the countries to visit and adventures to conquer. I love seeing you knitting in all types of scenes. I will be doing that too. Today I spent the morning in my orchard bonding and photographing 11 new baby turkey chicks. Nothing makes for a happier day than spending it with nature.

    Cant wait to see your Jersey
    Lots of love

  43. wow lori, bbeeaaautiful!
    love the visitors in your water cup.

  44. Thanks for taking me along on your trip with you, your photos really tell your story - beautiful. Before I started reading your blog I had no desire to visit America, you are definitely changing my mind, this is the America I'd love to see! Love the knitting too :)

  45. Lori,

    While I found my heart and mind being saddened by the events in Boston, I found myself wanting to go to a place of peace. I turned to your blog and like so often before, you took me to a place of peace and tranquility. Thank you for taking me away if even for just a little while.


  46. What a wonderful trip, Lori! I really loved seeing the wildflowers growing there, and the jack rabbit in mid leap! Such a richness of flora and fauna, and always you find special stories to tell us like the snake and the toad taking a drink! All your photos are amazing, so uplifting. I also loved seeing the ones of you....and I love how you knit in so many different places!
    Wishing you a happy week.
    Helen x

  47. Wow, absolutely gorgeous scenery! What a fun and peaceful way to camp and explore - I chuckled thinking of you as Jack from The Big Year - what a wonderful movie that was! Thanks so much for sharing your photos - always inspiring

  48. It's our pleasure! Absolutely glorious Lori ... the places and the pictures. Thank you so much for sharing :)

  49. oooh, such warmth. such california essence. that raptor with the kangaroo rat - wow! amazing... all of it. i especially love seeing you knit at your campsite. makes me want to do the same.

  50. what a beautiful beautiful post Lori!

  51. Oh my goodness, your photographs are always amazing, but these are breathtaking! Beautiful, especially the snake. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing peace and calm into what's been a horrible, heartbreaking morning.

  52. What breathtaking sights. I have really been enjoying your writing and of course the beautiful photographs since recently finding your lovely blog. Thank you for sharing.

  53. ahhhhhhh dear Lori Ann, you filled my soul with the beauty of nature. I don't know what to say except WOWOWOW. The gopher snake drinking, the condors, the toad in the cup, so much.

    Thank you, thank you for giving me a much needed respite.

    Sending love to you and Chuck,



xoxo lori