Monday, February 27, 2017

We Have Arrived!

San Juan Islands, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Olympic National Forest, Scoters, Auklets, Murrellets, Orcas.

Are these places/things you have heard about but didn’t know where they were or where to find them?  We’ve got them all!
We arrived at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Washington about noon on Saturday.
The Visitor Services Manager was the only staff working and since we already had the code to the entry gate, we let ourselves in and got set up.

We got our paperwork, hats, pins, t-shirts, and (new to us) sweatshirts.  After a quick tour of the refuge, we were told to just take it easy this week. 

So far, we have found this place amazing.  If we were going on vacation this is exactly the kind of place we would seek out.

There is only one “volunteer pad” so we are the only resident volunteers here.  There are about 70 active local volunteers.  We’re parked in the maintenance yard behind a locked gate overlooking a newly planted oak savannah, away from any public visitors.
Part of the maintenance yard.
Garry Oak Trees
We’re not sure what all we will be doing here, we’ll find out in the coming week.

Right now we are going to start exploring this very unusual refuge and beautiful surrounding area.
Black-tailed Deer
The end!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Birding the RV Park

We stayed at a very nice RV park outside of Portland. The park was nearly full and they had a long waiting list for monthly spaces!

For the most part the weather has been cold and dreary, but the sun popped out a few times and we were able to explore around the grounds here a bit. There is a small creek lined with blackberries and other shrubby brush, and we've found quite a few birds.

A tough little Ana's Hummingbird liked to perch at the top of a small tree. 

Some California Scrub-Jays have decided to switch states.

Golden-crowned Sparrows are a bird that I haven't seen since 2002, and that Teri has never seen. There are dozens of them here!

Another sparrow that we haven't seen in ten years is the Fox Sparrow.

Song Sparrows were living up to their name.

In addition to birds we've seen squirrels and chipmunks. 

Hopefully these rodents keep an eye out for the Red-tailed Hawks that soar overhead. 

We're off to our final destination in Washington!!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sun and Disc Golf - A Great Combination

After a morning of fog and rain, the sun finally broke through.  We didn’t waste any time getting in the truck and heading out to one of the local disc golf courses.

I think this is the nicest course we’ve ever been on.  I rarely play so Mark might think differently.  He’s the one that is trying to hit the basket!
The grounds are lush and green and the trees are huge!
This area obviously gets a lot of rain from the looks at all the moss growing on the trees.

There are 2 courses here.  An 18 hole and a 9 hole.  Mark played the 18 hole first.  It was nice to get out into the sun.  The air was cool and crisp.  Pretty much a perfect day.
We finished up the 18 hole course then drove a short distance to the 9 hole course.  During that time the clouds started rolling in and it was getting noticeably colder.
With only 3 more holes to go, it started to sprinkle.  By the last hole the rain had turned to sleet and was coming down a little harder. 

We made it home without any problems.  It was great to finally get outside for a while. 

Even though there are still predictions of snow and rain, we’ve decided to extend our stay here a couple more days.  We’re hoping to be able to explore some tomorrow.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Leaving California

With predictions of more bad weather (rain and snow) we once again hit the road.  We are ready to get out of California. 

We had lots of things planned to do in California but, unfortunately, the weather just didn’t cooperate.

I did get one magnet:
As we headed north the weather stayed the same for most of our drive:
Wet, dreary weather.
(Almost missed this sign!)  Unfortunately, we did not see any bears.
 We started seeing snow on the mountains:
 I believe this is Mt. Shasta.
We started seeing even more snow:
Lots of ups and downs!
 And then ------

S U N S H I N E !!!
Oregon State Line.

The sunshine didn’t last very long.  The rain started up again. 

We’re staying in a very nice RV park in Wilsonville, Oregon.  We were lucky that it quit raining long enough for us to set up.

This looks like a beautiful area and if it ever stops raining, we’ll find out!

We’re getting close to our destination.  I’m confident that it will quit raining sometime this summer!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trying to Leave California

After several days of rainy weather, we decided that we were ready to head north out of California. But California seemed to want us to stay!!

We started up IH-5 from Bakersfield, hoping to get well north of Sacramento. We wanted to make sure that we were north of the Oroville Dam, as there was concern about the dam collapsing and flooding the downstream area. The first part of the drive was up the San Joaquin Valley, which is the richest agricultural region in California.
We passed through miles and miles of flowering fruit trees, as well as vineyards and newly planted orchards.

 While driving conditions were pretty good, we started to notice some flooding in adjacent fields.

We even saw flocks of Snow Geese taking advantage of the wet fields.

As we left the valley we got into beautiful rolling hills. 

Before we left we'd heard that a section of IH-5 north of Sacramento was flooded and was causing delays. As we got into Sacramento the radio stations reported up to 10-mile long backups and delays of over an hour. Fun!!

We decided to keep heading north as we were really ready to be out of California!!
Sure enough, as we approached Williams, CA we came to the back of a long line of traffic. I started my stopwatch just to see how long this was going to take. Teri and I were ready for the delay. We had drinks and snacks in the truck, and were hauling our entire home behind us "just in case"!!  Slowly and not-so-surely we moved up a little bit, and then sat for a while.

Many folks decided to cross the median and head back the other direction, We saw several nearly get stuck, and later we saw a few that had gotten stuck either in the median or in the soft shoulder. Eventually the traffic was about 75% semi's and RV's.

As we got closer we crossed bridges that looked like this:
And this:

THREE HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES later, we arrived at the flooded area.

They were letting both lanes of the northbound traffic (us) cross, but only one lane of southbound.

The water was about 12" deep, and the flooded section was a couple of hundred yards long. I was frankly surprised that they kept it open as it was a little tricky to know where your lane was as you crossed.

We were all making some pretty good waves as we made our way across. We finally emerged onto dry pavement on the other side!

As we headed north we passed about 13 miles of stopped southbound vehicles. They had a few hours of waiting ahead of them.

Once we got rolling again we drove another 30 miles north to Orland, CA where we pulled into a campground after a very long day. It was raining and blowing when we arrived, and would continue to do so for another couple of days...

We'd really hoped to explore northern California on our way to Washington, but the weather just didn't cooperate. With continued storms and flooding forecast we just want to be somewhere else!!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kern National Wildlife Refuge

Due to weather predictions of 40 mph wind and heavy rainfall with possible flooding, we decided to extend our stay in Bakersfield for a couple of days.  This area had already been getting lots of rain as we were seeing flooding in the fields.

The Kern National Wildlife Refuge is about an hour from us and we thought we could get there and back before the bad weather rolled in.

There are 2 roads into the Refuge, we took the one closest to us.  Along the way we saw lots of agriculture.
Flowering fruit and nut trees.
 Grape vines.
Feed lots.

We were also starting to see birds in the flooded areas.
Long-billed Dowitchers
We passed a sign saying the road was closed.  We kept going.  About another mile we saw another sign saying the road was flooded and closed.  We still kept going.  The only other option was to backtrack many miles to get to the other road going into the Refuge.  The road seemed fine although the surrounding fields were flooded.

Sure enough, we finally got to the actual closure.
We turned around, reprogrammed the GPS, and headed to the other road.  By this time it was starting to sprinkle a little and the clouds were getting pretty dark but we finally made it to the refuge.
The Kern NWR is 1,249 acres in the southern portion of California’s San Joaquin Valley.  We went into the small headquarters building and were told that, even though the signs have blown down, one of the driving loops was closed but the other was open.

The brochure states “The refuge auto tour route is a 6-mile all weather gravel road open daily from sunrise to sunset.” 
Very good advice! 
All weather gravel tour loop.
The road might have been advertised as “all weather” but it probably should have been closed.  It was quite soft. We saw a couple of birds perched up on wires and fences.
Loggerhead Shrike

Savannah Sparrow
There were lots of birds but with the rain getting heavier, we weren’t able to roll the windows down to see much.
Bufflehead pair
Ruddy Duck male
We drove back to the RV and settled in for a long day of wind and rain. We seem to have arrived in California just in time to see the long drought broken!