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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lazy as Elk

[Management: the charade continues]

We made it back from Crescent City on Monday. The trip back was via the Avenue of the Giants. We had unusually good luck in finding Roosevelt elk at nearly every possible venue where they are found. From Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to a marsh estuary where a herd grazed knee deep in the water - unfortunately I took no shots of the latter.

Elk enjoying the good life in the great meadow at Prairie Creek Redwoods

Elk cow enjoying a nice butt-licking at a small campground near Orick

Barbara decided to spend a few more days at my place. I dragged her out with me to see the local Vernal Pools - you tired of hearing about those yet? The season is almost over, so bear with me. The giant gold spreads of poppies are already gone, but this late season display is still pretty amazing to me. Barbara was just as surprised as I was that I should live so close to such a thing while not even knowing it existed.

Barbara enjoying the view at Pioneer Park, Fair Oaks

Pioneer Park

At Mather field, a vernal pool trails off into the distance

Aren't these Horned Dowiningia flowers pretty? They're eensie; no bigger across than your pinky nail.

Whatever pollenates these eensie flowers must be equally eensie

Oh well, it was lovely having company for so long, now I'm all alone.... until tomorrow morning!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lolling in Crescent City

[Management regrets the time warping rouse continues.]

Oooo how I love visiting the redwoods - I think those trees are to me the epitome of what a forest should be - green and overflowing with interesting flora and fauna.

Look Up!

Inez and Barbara, who shows off a heart shaped river rock

As a treat for us, Inez hosted us on Friday, driving us up hill and over dale in her pet car, 'Ivy'. That meant I didn't have to drive and Barbara and I could shout, 'STOP THE CAR!' as we saw some lovely sight we wanted to stare at or photograph.

Barb & Inez together is like Olympic level talk-a-thon. I sat lolling in the back of the car, diving in and out of their conversation as I felt inclined. I photographed loads of flowers with interesting names like Snow Queens, Red Fringe Cups, Vanilla Leaf, Western Lily of the Valley and on and on, one brilliant blossom after another.

White Trillium

I had thought the Trilliums, which happily balance their flowers atop 3-leaves, were several different species, but they start out white, like the flower above & aging, they fade into shades of lavender and then finally turn a deep wine color, like the beautiful flower below.

White Trillium turn to Cabernet Trillium before bowing out

How strange that so far this spring I seem to only have eyes for wildflowers. I could bore you with shot after shot of various well-petaled specimens, but I'm keeping it to a few here. The flowers were sometimes ensy weensie, like these Milk Maids, that Inez identified for me.

Milk Maids, mysteriously also known as 'Toothwort'

The largest of the flowers I found were the humongous yellow Skunk Cabbage. You should be able to guess how these w these fragrant giants got their name. Inez says she loves the scent, which can at times can fill the air under the redwoods. For myself, on this day at least, I couldn't smell a thing.

The flowers of the Skunk Cabbage are like Calla Lilies gone wild

Oh! Here's a droopy, white flower that I would love to find in my garden.

Fairy Lanterns, AKA Fairy Bells

We didn't spend all our time in the Redwoods. Barbara and I spent one afternoon checking out the views from the coast. From this overlook on a clear day all of Crescent City rides the horizon.
Barb checking out scenery details

On our last full day in Crescent City, Inez volunteered to take me out to the tide pools on Sunday morning. I was really in slub mode by then, and might have stayed in bed, but then, how often does a land locked lass get a chance to walk on the beach? I was glad I went, because once there - Auntie Barbara skipped the adventure all together - I had a great time. Inez and I no sooner rambled down the cliffs onto the sand than a surf-hunting Osprey twirled though the air overhead, looking for its breakfast.

I took an Osprey circling above my head as a good omen

One amazing thing about the walk was that I was able to get a better look at the 'saddleback' rocks just off shore in the distance. I thought they were empty, but closer examination showed they were literally covered with nesting Common Murres, Cormorants and other seabirds.

The tide pools to the foreground, Saddleback Rock in the distance

Inez enjoying Sunday Morning in the beachy church of her choice

A rather cute, fairy-pink anemone

A pile of high & dry Black Turban snails

Tomorrow, Barb and I have to head back to civilization - I think I'm bummed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

North Again

[And once agian, Ms Miller is passes off the past tense as the present tense - tsk, tsk, tsk]

Full of Spring and energy, I've decided it's high time to visit the redwoods. My buddy Barb decided to escape her place for a bit so she and I are once again travel buddies. We drove 3 hours north to Redding, stopping at the Sacramento Wildlife refuge for an hour's quick look-see.

The refuge wildflower display was so-so when compared to
Bear Valley or Vernal Pools, but it had its own panache

unassuming wildflower - Brass Buttons

Barbara was amazed that I liked Bindweed -
a noxious weed you don't want in your garden

From Redding we headed west to the coast, passing through BIGFOOT territory.

We were too late in the day to visit the Bigfoot Museum,
but I like to think they watched us as we passed through Trinity County

We were supposed to overnight in Redding, but we continued on the four hours through to Crescent City only just below the Oregon border on the coast.

It really is a hecka long drive up up there - sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get tired of going up there to relax, visit with my friend Inez and walk among the redwoods. Right - as if. The views, cool ocean breezes always make it worthwhile. I've made the pilgramage once, sometimes twice a year since 2001. It really does a soul good. I mean, just check out the view from the motel window.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SPRING! Can't Get Enough

Aw gee. The sunshine is working on me; lately I can't get enough of it but that came to a screeching halt today. During the week the weather was a lovely 60-ish, 70-ish but today the temps hit the 90s. GAK!

Oh well. I sucked up as much fresh air, sunshine - pollen - birds & flowers as I could up to now.

Have lived in Fair Oaks for 15 years and only this week discovered there is a park only a mile or so from my house that has an area set aside for Vernal Pools in Phoenix Field. The park is sandwiched between a Little League field, parking lots, and loads of residential homes. It is amazing the natural Vernal Pools there survived at all. Unlike Mather Field & its Vernal Pools, which is a bit further away, this Phoenix Park doesn't allow visitors to tromp on the pool areas so it looks so... pristine.

Only vandals tread on these yellow brick roads

Looks like a rainbow of sorts - I can't get in enough staring at flower rainbows

Mind, the rainbow doesn't last forever - in a couple of months these flowery fields will look dead as a doornail - all withered, brown and stark. That's part of the Vernal Pool ecology, so gotta see 'em while they're HOT - in a pretty flower sort of way.

Here's flowers I've been enjoying staring at this past month or so.

I looked forward to these for weeks knowing they'd pop up eventually: Checkerblooms

Close-ups of Vernal Pool Checkerblooms

These next few flowers I can still find out in pasture land. They're not necessarily associated with Vernal Pools. The first is Valley Tassel, or Slender Owl's Clover.

Can you see the owl's faces on this pinky sized tuft of white bloom?

Royal Larkspur - King of the wildflowers in my book

This next one I found growing all over rocks in a field. They're tiny suculents, and they cling to rocks like lichens. Close up they are rather pretty, like tiny golden starbursts.

Extreme close-up of Sierra Stonecrop.

Ooo! Check out the Stonecrop here... you see it growing on the rocks in the foreground, and all that yellow in the distance is more of it growing like a golden crust on rock outcroppings.

My mother would have LOVED this stuff! Here's yet another look at Sierra Stonecrop or it's other name, Dwarf Cliff Sedum.

My mother had quite the green thumb for succulents

So about now you're thinking I've forgotten about my feathered homies. As if!

Western Bluebird

These birdie pictures were taken with my tiny digital, not my big-arse SLR Canon, so no close-ups, just casual snap shots.

Poofed up Red-winged Blackbird, who knows he's the sharpest bird in the field

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Day After Easter

The day after Easter, I was off romping in search of fresh air, birdies & wildflowers and I discovered this about a mile from my house. I committed a daring drive by digital shooting. As there is such a thing as a pride of lions, a skulk of foxes, an exultation of larks, there is apparently, also a flush of toilets.

Oooo nooo, I couldn't 'go' there

I have no idea what the point of this sitting salute is. Maybe a celebration of the history of the toilet? Maybe the neighbors are just making do - no pun intended? Or perhaps they just appreciate the hell out of porcelain.

Oh, and as proof this all went down the day after Easter, did you notice the little bunny in both photos?

Perhaps Bun-bun is readying to Hop on the Pot

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Time in the Gulag Garden

Gently Patinaed Bunnies take garden Columbine, roses, and Fressias for a spin

It is the time of rebirth! Just last week I was stupidly stunned to see the Muscat Grape popping up with shiny maple-like leaves I had thought it was dead and hadn't gotten around to disposing of the carcase yet. And miracles of Spring continue - from a pot of dirt, last year's 'failed' garlic chives are sprouting; they featured in my morning omelet today. All spots of soil, abandoned pots and planters are coming back to life. The pink Lupine sprouted again, no help from me. Last year's Dahlia I thought dead has blushing tuber buds and the columbines have exploded into great clouds of purple and white blooms. Well, to put it plainly; Spring is busting out all over.

Claire... have you ever heard of 'perennials'? You know, the plants in all those lovely gardening books you've been collecting over the years? Well, guess what -the book's predictions are prooving true, the perennials are perenneling, the annuals are being annual! The Gulag Garden lives. Have a lovely, sunny Easter Sunday!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

They Swim Among Us

My niece Doris wrote to me this morning that today, in New York City, she saw a Humpback Whale today in the Hudson Harbor off the Beltway. Is that cool or what? I'm always thrilled when HUMONGOUS critters, find there way into waters that were too polluted for them to swim in when I was a kid. Honestly it really makes me all misty like.

Pair of Pacific Humpbacks

Flukes up; if Humpties could say 'weeee!' they would

but they can wave bye-bye

[Management can scarse believe that in a stunning error, Ms. Miller posted today as being her brother's Birthday. Today is not her brother's birthday, that date is November 9th. Today is however the postumous birthday of her father. Happy 101st B-day Daddy! ]