Sunday, July 31, 2016

Baby Chick!

A day or two ago I swore I heard peeping coming from the nesting box where our barred rock hen has been sitting, patiently, for three weeks.  But, I didn't see any chicks the next day so figured I was imagining things.

This afternoon, I went in to collect eggs and there was a little chick standing next to the hen, peeping away.  It didn't look stressed and the hen was cooing in a most matronly way.  Its very dark in the hen house, and even darker in the nesting box, so I don't have a picture to share.

I called to Brett and we crowded around the newborn, admiring and congratulating the hen.  There is plenty of feed that falls to the floor so the chick(s) will be fine for food.  Mama hen will teach them how to eat.  The chicken water is up high, in a tall tub sitting on a concrete block, outside the hen house.  The chick would never reach it so I hung a chick waterer low, within reach, in the hen house.  Brett is going to put a ramp of some sort from the nesting box to the floor of the hen house so the chicks can get down when mama gives the high sign.

I don't know if anymore will hatch, or even if this one will survive, but we are very excited nonetheless.  I promise to share pictures as soon as I am able and, in the meantime, I'll keep you posted on the progress.  This first chick hatched from a dark brown Cuckoo Maran egg.  Most of the eggs under the hen are either dark brown or green; it will be fun to see what we end up with.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Random Friday

1.  This week has been wicked hot.  This is what our forecast for the week looked like on Monday.  We are usually a few degrees warmer during the day, and a few degrees cooler at night, than indicated but nasty nonetheless.

2.  When the weather is this hot and miserable we bring the horses into the barn during the day and turn them out at night.  Additionally, Brett's friend Richard has been visiting all week and they have been working on replacing another section of fence in the girl's pasture.  So, at night, Lucy, Jackson, Pistol and the donkeys are all together in the donkey pasture.  Tex is getting lots of practice being haltered and led back and forth -- and he excels at this so is feeling pretty good about himself.  He was very good for the farrier, and soft and friendly with Brett who held him while he got his shiny new shoes.

3.  Monday night, after putting the horses back in the pasture and mucking out the stalls and run-outs, I apparently did not latch Tex's back gate.  I think I the latch was slid into its hole, but I didn't clip the chain closed.  I say I think the gate was latched because Tuesday morning I was in Tex's turnout combing his mane and I didn't notice the gate being open.  Of course, I also had not had any coffee yet so it is possible that I just didn't notice; not likely.  I left for work and Brett got busy setting things up in the pasture for the fence.  He looked up from his pile of lumber, and there was Tex, standing close by and watching him.  Brett didn't want to fuss with the halter -- he puts it on differently than I do and Tex worries when things are different -- so he got a bucket with some grain instead.  He let Tex take a sniff and then walked back into the stall with Tex following, willingly, behind.

4.  Tuffy had his little feet trimmed by the farrier as well.  The donkeys usually wear down their hooves enough that they don't require require regular trims.  Tuffy, who is a very active little donkey, only needs a trim once a year or so.  Finessa is quieter so she needs a trim more often.  She is very good for the farrier, standing quietly and eating treats while she gets her pedicure.  Maybe its a girl thing because Tuffy HATES getting his feet done.  He's the braver, more outgoing donkey, so we find this surprising.  True to form, he pulled Brett back and forth before being cornered in the run in shed.  When he couldn't run or kick, he tried laying down.  As soon as all four feet were done, he turned from Mr. Hyde back to Dr. Jeckyll -- accepting love and attention from the farrier like they were old friends.  Here he is with Camille a few weeks ago.  I can count on Camille to visit and take pictures of all the animals when she comes to visit.

5.  Brett and his friend, Richard, have made amazing progress on the fence in the oak pasture.  Brett's goal was to replace a section, measured by nine fence posts, extending the existing new fence further along the stream bed.  I made Brett promise to drink gallons of Gatorade while he worked in the 100 degree heat -- and to make sure that Richard did as well.  The two of them worked their tails off; setting 19 new posts.  Thursday, they took a break and went up to Wrights Lake with the kayaks for a well-deserved rest.  Brett can manage the cross-rails on his own once Richard returns home.  Honestly, I don't know how they did it.  I tied to help with the chores after work but couldn't handle the sun beating down and had to retreat to the house.  The boys didn't want to wait until sundown to do the chores (they were hungry and wanted dinner) so they powered through while I wilted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesdays With Tex

I spent most of the past week at a cabin in the mountains with my father, siblings, my kids, nieces and nephews.  It was a good, happy, chaotic time, with all those people crammed into a small space. There were twelve people (only one child), two bathrooms, one shower; sleeping bags lined up on the upstairs deck, empty bottles of wine and beer by the door, and baked goods piled on the counter.

I arrived back to the peace and quiet of our little ranch Sunday afternoon after dropping Camille off  at the airport.  Lucy was peeved.  During evening chores, she followed me around the pasture but she was very critical of my attempts to scratch her favorite spots.  After a few minutes, she walked off, in a disdainful huff.

Tex, on the other hand, came over to greet me and stayed.  I had suggested that Brett not mess with Tex's fly mask while I was gone and Brett readily agreed.  Initially, I wasn't sure if Tex was happy to see me for any reason other than that he knew I was going to remove his fly mask.  I'm sure the mask was hot and scratchy after four days of continuous wear.  He was good when I slipped it over his ears and off his face, although he resisted lowering his head.  Once it was off, I stood and asked him, again, to lower his head for me and he complied.  And then he hung around until I left.

Monday morning, we brought the horses into the barn.  Our farrier was coming later that day.  Its much easier to fetch the horses from their stalls than to traipse out to the pastures and snag a horse who is dozing under a tree in the far corner.  Tex is very relaxed about the halter and came with me to the barn willingly.  I'm hoping that some day he will be as relaxed about the fly mask as he is about halter.  On the way to the barn, a bug flew up my nose and I snorted in disgust.  Tex stopped and threw his head up  -- but as soon as I explained that it was just a bug, he was fine.  I explain everything to Tex.

I do wish that Tex could explain to me the reasons for some of his fears.  His fear of leather gloves, for instance.  I never wear gloves when I work with Tex.  If I have them on, he flinches, snorts and jumps backwards.  There is a story there, and I'm sure it has something to do with the cowboy who rode rodeo on him when Tex was young.  There is a mental picture, a video, that plays in my mind of a cowboy wearing thick leather ranching gloves.  The cowboy jerks on the lead rope and smacks Tex.  I don't know if Tex sent me the picture or if it is purely my imagination, but I use it anyway.  It helps me to understand and to have empathy for his fear.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Random Friday: the Garden

1.  As July creeps to its close and August waits in the wings, the garden is in transition.  My green beans are spent, but my peppers and eggplant are hitting their stride. Summer squash and rhubarb never quit.

2.   Figs and grapes are growing and plumping against the fence.

3.  Tomatoes are getting heavy on the vine and should be ripe soon.  The cherry tomatoes have already teased me with a taste or two.

4.  Squirrels picked every single plum and all the Honeycrisp apples.  I still have a few apples on a different tree but I have no expectation that they will last long enough to get ripe.  We do have wild blackberries though, a bumper crop this year, growing over and through the pasture fences.

5.  Lilies and sunflowers are dominating the flower bed while the daisies catch their breath before returning in the fall.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex: Eyes

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a link to an article.  The article, "Look Him in the Eye." was about horse's eyes; more specifically about determining personality type by the shape of the eye and the amount of wrinkles.  I'm not sure if I buy everything in the article, but it was interesting, nonetheless, and I did make a point of looking at the eyes of my three horses.  Based on the article definitions, their eyes do match their personalities.  Maybe it's like people wrinkles; the furrows on our foreheads or deep smile lines that permanently crease our face as we age.

Lucy is a worrier; a nervous Nellie.  Her eyelids have a multitude of lines.  In this picture, there are fewer than normal.  It must have been the massage I gave her before taking the picture.

Her normal look is exactly like the picture in the article for the horse type labeled "flight risk."  She is worried but talented and requires a strong leader.  We've got that worked out and get along great.

Jackson is an "open book" according to the article's definition.  He's open to trying anything, confident, and easy to be around.  Everyone loves him and if I had a dime for everyone who has referred to him as "Sweet Jackson," I could quit my day job.  He has a round, open eye with very few wrinkles.

Which brings us to Tex.  I think he falls in the category of "work horse'.  These horses are semi-confident, looking for secure leadership.  This horse can become a great working horse with a strong bond if paired with an experienced and fair rider.  Tex is confident and willing to try anything on the trail, but he's a flight risk on the ground.  I think his core personality is work horse -- with a bunch of layers of crap and misuse and abuse on top that has accentuated the worried component.  If I offer him a secure, safe place to be through my confident, yet soft and consistent, demeanor he relaxes and almost, almost snuggles with me.
Ignore the fly; 'tis the season...
He's done well with the fly mask this week.  A couple of times he's even kept his head low when I removed the mask, not taking a step back as it comes away from his face. I swear I can hear him saying "Look at me!  I did it!"  Before I can say "good boy," he's already looking at me all pleased and happy and proud.  Tex did have a difficult morning earlier this week, but even then he immediately returned to me after jumping away.  Embarrassed almost.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Random Friday

1.  One of our chickens has gone broody.  She has been sitting in the nesting box for a week now, fluffing her feathers in a matronly way, and settling in for the 21 day incubation period.  Initially, we tried convincing her to leave the eggs so we could collect them but she was rather violent in her defense of her nest.  We decided to leave her be and see if any of them hatch.  We value our fingers and our arms -- and baby chicks would be very cute.  This morning, she left the nest for a couple minutes to grab a quick meal and poop.  I ran into the hen house and counted the eggs -- six eggs, a mixture of white, brown and green eggs.

2.  Between the very hot days and the brooding chicken, our egg collection has dropped to one or two eggs per day -- and some days there are none.  I do not know if the other hens are adding to the pile under the Cuckoo Maran.  Today was the first day I happened to be in the area when she left the nest so I could count.  I put a couple wood eggs in the other nesting boxes to encourage the hens to lay there.  Since then, we've gotten two eggs -- and one of the wooden eggs has disappeared.  It isn't under the nursery nest and it isn't in the boxes.  Very odd.

3.  My dressage trainer, Sandy Savage, was in a riding accident about a week ago.  A horse she was training spooked and lost its footing coming out of the arena at Sandy's barn.  The horse fell on her, fracturing her leg, and she smashed her head on the ground.  Thank God she was wearing a helmet.  She suffered a severe concussion, and seizures, and spent some time in the trauma unit.  She is home now but her recovery is going to take awhile.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she heals and returns to teaching (from the ground initially, of course).  She is hopeful that she will be well enough to return to the barn and start lessons again in a week or so.  This was not a naughty horse, it was not going rodeo on her (and I've seen her stick like glue to horse doing that... ahem, Winston).  It was a simple spook, a slip and a horrible fall.  Please, please, PLEASE always wear a helmet when you ride.  If Sandy had not been wearing her helmet (and she always does), she would not have survived the fall.

4.  Camille flew up Wednesday afternoon so we could go to the Dixie Chicks concert together.  Back in the 90s, and early 2000s, we were hardcore fans.  Camille sang "Travelling Soldier" in the shower and begged me to hit repeat when we played my CDs in the car.  I named our goat, Cowboy, after the song "Cowboy Take Me Away" (its his registered name).  It was over 100F when we drove to the outdoor amphitheater north of Sacramento, but thankfully cooled off to 98F while we stood for an hour in line.  My foot, in its air-cast boot, was not impressed.  The concert was well worth the wait and the heat, though.  They played all of our favorites and we sang along at the top of our lungs.

5.  I took Thursday as a vacation day at work.  I knew that Camille and I wouldn't get back home Wednesday night, after the concert, until the wee-hours of the morning.  Thursday was another very hot day so we loaded up the kayaks and headed to Bear River Reservoir, one of the few lakes that rents kayaks on weekedays.  Our plan was for Brett and I to use our kayaks, and for us to rent one for Camille.  Unfortunately, all they had available was a two-person, tandem kayak.  So, we left my kayak sitting on top of the car and I joined Camille in the tandem.  It all started out okay...

But then the kayak started taking on water in the back, where I was sitting.  We tried sloshing it out the side but the top of the kayak side was sitting at water level so any shift in weight, or ripple on the water, brought more in.  A speed boat went by and we came very close to capsizing in the wake.  An hour of paddling down the lake, we found a sand bar.  Camille transferred her camera, my Fitbit, and my water bottle to Brett's kayak.  We dumped the water out of our kayak, and got back in.  We hadn't paddled more than a few feet and it was already full of water.  And then we did capsize.  Camille and I swam (my foot was not happy) to shore, pushing and pulling the half-submerged kayak.  Brett paddled back to the marina.  The little bit of beach we found on the steep, rocky shore, was at a campground.  Camille and I beached the kayak, grabbed the paddles, and started walking back to the marina.  Camille asked people in the campground if we were going the right way and they told us we were crazy to walk... the marina was three miles away.  And I didn't have my walking boot, just boat shoes.

Meanwhile, Brett paddled like mad, making it back to the marina in half the time it took us to get out to where we capsized.  He stashed his paddle in the car, prayed that no one would steal his kayak from where he left it near the dock, got directions to the campground from the office staff and set out to find us.  Thankfully, my foot wasn't hurting as Camille and I trudged up the dusty, hot dirt road.  We were thrilled to see Brett, coming to our rescue, after we had gone a mile or so.  Back at the marina, we gave staff directions to the crippled kayak, loaded up Brett's, and went off in search of ice cream.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex: Making Progress

After Tex's big meltdown last week, I started introducing a new skill to him.  A skill that he could master, and one that would make him feel both more confident and more comfortable.

I am teaching Tex to lower his head when I touch him between the ears.  When horses are worried, anxious and on alert their heads are held high; their necks taut and their nostrils flaring.  In contrast, when they are relaxed, their heads droop a bit and their necks have a soft arch.  Asking a horse to lower his head not only makes it easier to halter, or bridle - it sends a message: "relax."

Tex already lowers his head for the halter.  I hold it, hanging, in front and below his nose until he drops towards it and then I slide it over his muzzle.  It's a smooth, easy, relaxed transition.  But, with the fly mask his head is always high.

Since this is Tex, afterall, I started with baby steps.  After the halter was on, I rested my hand between his ears until he dropped his head.  At first it was just an inch, but he got a "good boy" and a cookie for the try.  Each time I worked with him, I asked, and each time he dropped his head a bit further.  Now, he is dropping it almost level to his chest and not jerking it back up immediately afterwards.

A few days ago, I added asking him to drop his head for the fly mask.  Initially, his head didn't stay low long enough to get the fly mask on but it was a start.  Monday morning, he kept it low while I slipped it over his ears.  The air was cool and he had been playing a few minutes earlier -- running, and striking at the air, hoping Flash would join him (he didn't).  I thought he might be too wound up to relax for me.

It just goes to show that you can't predict their behavior.  Tex was happy and frisky, but he wasn't worried.  He lowered his head and I slipped on the fly mask.

Later that day, Brett's daughter and her family stopped by for a visit on their way home to Washington.  Of course, the grandkids wanted to visit with all the animals.  After giving the goats some Cheerios, they wandered into the bigger pasture.  Flash came over to investigate Harrison.  Tex cam over to investigate the Cheerios.  Brett said Tex tried a few, and then stuck around for more -- even accepting Brett's stroking of his face.

I think grandchildren must be magic.  I know these ones are.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lobster Feed

Kyle and his girlfriend, Ana, came up Saturday.  We did a little wine tasting that afternoon and then went to a lobster feed at the neighboring winery in the evening.

It was like a clam bake; we sat at long tables while big pots full of shrimp, sausage, artichokes, potatoes, corn and lobster bubbled away.  Then we were directed to stand back and the contents of the pots were dumped down the middle of the table.

We dove in and got busy peeling shrimp, cracking lobster claws and chomping on the corn.  I lost track of how many ears of corn Kyle ate.  Kyle and Ana, who had not been to this event before, got right into the spirit of things.

We cleaned up everything.

This is my favorite winery event of the year.  Great food, fun, live music and a view of the sun setting over the vineyards.

This morning we took the kayaks up to Jenkinson Lake and paddled around for a few hours; ate a picnic lunch on the shore, then paddled around some more.

Maybe summer isn't so bad after all.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Random Friday

1.  We have had a wonderful reprieve from the heat of summer this past week.  The weather started cooling off, a degree or two each day, last weekend.  We spent the whole week in the 80s with wonderful cool nights; no house fan, no ceiling fan, no air conditioner.  I pulled a blanket up from the foot of the bed, where it was neatly folded,  over the sheets at night.

2.  Pistol has been coughing for a few weeks, first intermittent and now increasing a bit.  A few days ago she started up with a runny nose -- not thick nasty snotty stuff, but enough that the dust has covered her nose with black mud.  It's not very attractive.  Brett moved her to the barn where she can rest and recover without infecting Lucy or Jackson (if it is viral).  Her appetite has not abated one bit.  This is Pistol, after all.  Our local vet quit practicing and became a full-time professor, his replacement works part-time and has no availability for two weeks.  Our favorite vet, an hour away, is on vacation in Canada but responded to my text (she's awesome).  Pistol doesn't have a temperature and the runny nose seems to be clearing up.  We will watch her and when the coughing stops, we will move her to the donkey pasture where there is less dust. She has allergies, so the dust may be a contributing factor.

3.  After we moved into the house three years ago, and remodeled the kitchen, water started dripping from the ceiling onto the kitchen counter.  The master bathroom was directly above and the shower was leaking -- and had no doubt been leaking for years.  We remodeled the bathroom, putting in a new shower and new plumbing.  We haven't had any more leaks, but the ceiling paint in the breakfast nook started to bubble.  The bubbles grew until they merged and became one big pocket, a few feet long.  The house has settled over the years and is not level.  Shocking, I know.  The bubbled paint area was the lowest spot of the ceiling, so we are quite certain that water made its way down the ceiling beam and came to rest, and rot, in that spot.  Brett peeled off the paint and discovered damp, rotted wood.  Oh, joy.  Another project.

4.  A few months ago, I went to the local plant sale hosted by our local master gardeners at the college arboretum.  I bought a number of vegetable starters, including two sweet peppers.  The first one was labeled "Sweet Pickles" and it produced its first pepper a few weeks ago; a small, red shriveled thing.  I picked it, sniffed it, and put it to my lips to try but stopped when I felt the burn of a hot pepper.  I'm pretty sure it is a "ghost" pepper -- incredibly hot and very popular at the moment.  ...I've been feeding them to the chickens who don't mind the heat at all.  I love jalape├▒o's in guacamole and salsa but a ghost pepper is a bit too warm for me.
See that little red pepper behind the yellow squash?

5.  The events in Dallas have left me feeling discouraged and depressed.  My heart aches for the families of the slain officers.  Being the wife of a peace officer means you carry a little knot of fear and worry every time your husband goes to work; this event represents your worst fears realized.  The officers were serving and protecting their community during a peaceful demonstration.  It is almost incomprehensible; and is incredibly sad.  We need to heal this country; we need to work together to raise the bar; to earn and preserve trust -- which flows both ways; not break it down.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex: Meltdown

Last week, I helped Brett with morning chores before leaving for the airport to pick up Camille for our mother-daughter getaway.  Tex had been flighty about his fly mask for the past few days and it took some time to get it on.  He stepped back a few times, but never actually left me.  I suggested that Brett leave the mask on for the days that I was gone so he wouldn't have to deal with putting it on and taking it off.  He readily agreed.  Half the time, Tex won't let him him close enough to touch him - much less deal with the dreaded fly mask.

Saturday evening I was home in time for chores.  Tex was wary when I went into the pasture to take off his mask and he jumped backwards when I undid the Velcro.  Then he stood, on eggshells, while I took it off.

The next morning, I walked into the pasture with his fly mask and instead of coming to greet me, he turned and left.  Eventually, I was able to approach, give him a cookie and stand by his side -- but his head was high and his muscles were tense.  I gave him the cue for putting on the fly mask and he left.  At full speed.  And he didn't stop running, or start breathing, for what felt like an eternity.

I hung his fly mask on a fence post and got his halter.  While I waited for Tex to stop running, Brett cleaned all three pastures, put out hay, and walked down to the mailbox for the morning paper.

Flash seemed embarrassed by his pasture mate's behavior.  He came over to me, and stood by my shoulder, inviting me to stroke his face.  As I walked towards Tex, Flash followed me.  Tex watched me interacting with Flash but it didn't help his anxiety level.  Usually, when Tex has a meltdown he runs to the far end of the pasture and then watches me approach.  I walk slowly, but with clear purpose.  When I get to his bubble, he tenses, I pause, and he usually relaxes and let's me into his space.  Sunday, I couldn't even walk in his direction.  If I walked, he galloped, snorting and striking at the air.  If I stood still, he trotted in a wide circle around me and then slid to a stop behind Flash.

Flash had finished more than his share of the hay before Tex finally let me into his space.  He accepted the halter with no fuss, dropping his head for me while his sides heaved and sweat darkened his red coat.  I walked to the pasture gate and he followed on a loose lead.  Tex pulled back once when I put ear number one into the fly mask hole, but then tolerated the rest.

Sunday evening, he was still nervous.  I decided to leave the mask on him and just use the time to hang out; to take down his tension level.  With his tension high, we weren't going to accomplish anything as it was.  I ran my fingers from his poll, down his crest, across his back, and down his hind leg; stopping whenever his lips quivered so he could release.  By the time I finished he was relaxed.  I'm sure I could have removed the fly mask but I didn't.  Tex looked at me a few times in disbelief before wandering over to his hay.  Monday morning, he was better but not totally sure.  So, again, I did nothing more than say good morning and give him a friendly rub.

Monday evening, I went into the pasture with no agenda whatsoever.  I was going to let Tex tell me if he wanted his fly mask removed.  He and Flash were at the far corner of the pasture and, when he saw me, Tex walked halfway to me and then stopped.  I walked towards him and he turned and walked off.  Not yikes; not "help", not even "I'm not sure."  No, it was "I changed my mind."

I have one rule with Tex.  He isn't allowed to turn his butt to me.  He can leave and run away and be scared, but he cannot turn his back to me.  So, when he turned and walked away I clucked at him and raised my arm.  Nothing.  I went back to the pasture gate and got his halter and lead rope.  I had no intention of haltering him but I wanted the lead rope to swing.  If he was going to play games, I needed to be able to send him away when he turned his back on me.

Back in the pasture, Flash approached me with Tex following, his head on Flash's flank.  I gave Flash's face a rub and then walked up to Tex.  He stood still and didn't leave so I never did use the rope.  I left it looped over my shoulder.  I stroked Tex's neck and told him I appreciated him not running off.  He stood for a minute, then nudged my hand.  Okay, Buddy, I'll take off your fly mask and then you can have a cookie.

Since then, I've been putting on Tex's halter in the morning before the fly mask.  It's less worrisome to him, and with the halter on, he is much braver.  I want him to be successful and confident; not worried, with failure escalating to panic.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Big Sur: Hiking to the Falls

Big Sur is famous for its coastline and for some waterfalls up at the northern end, near Carmel, where the redwoods great the sea.  Friday, we headed up that direction with our list of hikes in hand.  My foot had tolerated the two short hikes we did the day before just fine, so we had an ambitious list.  I hadn't been to Big Sur in over 20 years and didn't know when I'd be back.  I didn't want to have any regrets about missed waterfalls.

The first hike was not well marked - "park past a big sweeping inland turn and take the trail by the green cattle gate."  We found it  and started down a steep dirt road.  We could see a tunnel below us, where the trail went through to a cove.

We followed a stream for awhile.  We hiked along many streams that day.

Then we went through the tunnel.

On the other side, the trail continued until it reached the end of the outcropping shoreline.

We watched the surf crash into a small secluded cove for awhile before heading back up the hill.  Again, my foot was fine.

We traveled further north to Julia Pfeiffer State Park which is located at the site of the most famous waterfall on the coast.  Water spills from the bluff onto the sand below.  It is impossible to get down the side of the cliff to the beach so it's beauty is unspoiled.

(We did think that the waterfall looked liked some giant was standing in the trees on the bluff and peeing onto the beach.)

We hiked two more trails after that, up to smaller waterfalls.

We had lunch overlooking the ocean and the fog started to burn off.

It was almost sunny for our afternoon hikes.
When we got back to our yurt, my foot was done, cooked, fini.  I flopped onto my bed, exhausted but proud that I had hiked four trails (okay, okay, one of them was less than a mile total) and a grand total of six miles.  Camille poured me a glass of champagne and we declared the trip a success.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Big Sur: Elephant Seals and Hiking

Camille and I decided to spend time south of our yurt on Thursday and go up to the northern end of the Big Sur coast on Friday.  We started with a short hike, about a mile in total.  There was a fairly steep climb and then it leveled out high above the ocean.  The view would have been spectacular, we are sure, but we couldn't see the ocean through the fog.  Camille was disappointed.  She loves a good view.  I figured it was payback for the steep climb.  I took it slowly and carefully with my injured foot and did just fine.  But I did have to tease her about it anyway.

The second hike was not as steep and followed a busy stream up to a waterfall cascading into a deep pool.
This was my view
I couldn't clamber over the rocks to see the pool, but Camille didn't have any trouble at all.

This was Camille's view (and photo) after climbing over the rock mountainside.

My foot was doing pretty well on a nice flat trail with a few small boulders scattered here and there; climbing over massive boulders was not going to happen.

We continued south to San Simeon.  Across the highway from Hearst Castle is a beach where elephant seals hang out.  These guys are huge.  The males weigh 5,000 lbs.

The seals rest on the beach to gather strength after their long journeys at sea.

They spend 90% of their time in the water, fishing, up the coast of California into Alaska.  Their main predator is white sharks and many of the seals had scars from close encounters with the Great Whites.

The beach was full of sound; the bull seals bellowing and slamming into each other, chest to chest.  The moms dozed; occasionally flipping warm sand over themselves while the youngsters slept nearby.  Occasionally, one would flop itself into the surf.

We finished off the morning with lunch at Moonstone beach at a little place my mom loved.  She used to love walking on the beach there and then having lunch at the cafe.  It was a nice way to include her on our mother-daughter trip; even if it was only in spirit.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Big Sur: Living it up in a Yurt

Camille and I drove to Big Sur Wednesday.  I picked her up at the Sacramento airport and we headed southwest, past San Francisco then San Jose and Gilroy (where the main crop is garlic so the aroma was very strong).  From there, we turned inland and picked up the Pacific Coast Highway, passing through Monterey and Carmel before emerging onto the craggy cliffs which make this 50 mile stretch of highway through Big Sur so famous.  All the turnouts were jammed with cars and people taking photos - on cell phones or using GoPros or big fancy cameras with huge lenses.

We passed through this tunnel - or is it a bridge -- we ended up calling it a brunnel.  It was beautiful at any rate.  The road closes often for rock slides and repair.  The new bridges are beautiful.

Our destination was towards the southern end of the Big Sur coastline.  I had reserved us a yurt because I've been intrigued by them for as long as I can remember.  Think of it as a big round tent, with a wood floor and a real bed.  We checked-in early in the evening, before dark, and carried in our bags.  Staying in a yurt is glamping - camping with a bit of glamour - so we had to hike in our luggage (and champagne).  It also meant that we used the bathroom/shower up at the lodge.  We opened the door to our yurt and squealed.

It was amazing.  It was better than I envisioned; better than the pictures on the website (Treebones resort); and certainly bigger than I expected.

There was no cell phone service anywhere on the Big Sur coast, including at our resort.  There was wi-fi in the lodge and in the bathroom so I was able to text Brett a couple times each day.  There were chairs on our front deck but it was cold and foggy, with an icy wind blowing across the bluff, so we never used them.

We were sure we had an awesome view beyond the fog.

After leaving the 95F heat of home, the 52F foggy weather didn't dampen our spirits one little bit.  We turned on the heater, wrapped ourselves in blankets, poured a glass of champagne and celebrated our arrival.  We finished off the evening at the sushi bar -- some of the best sushi I've ever had; incredibly fresh with a talented sushi chef.

It was an excellent start to our annual mother-daughter girly get-away.  (Most of the photos in this series on Big Sur were taken by Camille).