Pismo Beach, California....view from the pier.

Pismo Beach, California....view from the pier.
A visit to Pismo Beach, California....view from the pier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pismo Beach, California

Last weekend I drove up to San Luis Obispo to see my son, Jon. Pismo Beach is right near San Luis Obispo, and has a great campground called the North Beach Campground where I stayed. My campsite wouldn't be ready until 2pm, so with several hours left to explore, I headed down to the beach.
In Pismo you can take your car right down onto the sand and drive for miles. It was such an incredible experience. So freeing in many ways. My Subaru had no trouble in the wet sand, and we drove along like professionals until reaching a suitable place to park.
I was very tired as my day had started rather early, 2am to be exact.  It is best for me to be driving when the air is cool and traffic is at a minimum, thus I often begin my trips at crazy early morning hours. By the time I rolled onto the beach, the wind was freezing cold, but in my excitement to be on the beach, it didn't even get to me. I immediately started collecting shells and rocks, but after my pockets were full, my hands were so cold, and my body so worn down, that I simply crawled into the back of the Subaru, covered myself in down quilts, opened the back gate and watched life go by.
As the day wore on, the beach got more crowded with people, horses, dogs, birds, huge trucks piled high with ATVs, and even a Shetland pony, all wandering or driving down the beach. At last it was time to head to my campsite.
There is a place in Pismo where you can camp on the beach for $10.00, if you drive three or four miles down the beach. I actually considered it, but when I found out there were nearly 1000 people camping there, I declined. Sounds like another Woodstock to me, only instead of music, there would be tons of ATVs, dune buggys, monster trucks and the like. I was happy to have made a last minute reservation at  the North Beach Campground, as when I arrived, it was completely full. 
After my campsite was organized, I drove into the little town of Pismo and walked up and down the streets, taking pictures, investigating interesting buildings, eating yummy clam chowder, drinking coffee, watching people, and munching down on walnut topped cinnamon rolls. The young lady in the picture above was making strawberry Nutella crepes, topped with whipped cream. The guys in the photo below, work at Old West Cinnamon Rolls, and make the best, I mean the very best cinnamon rolls. You can get them frosted or not, topped with walnuts or pecans, or raisins.

Pismo State Beach Campground is situated within a beautiful grove of Eucalyptus trees. It is only a short walk from the campground down to the beach.  In the winter, from October to February, thousands of monarch butterflies migrate to Pismo and take shelter in the trees. These monarchs are different in that they have a 6-month life span. To avoid freezing, they fly south to the warmer climates in the central coast. As many as 10.000 butterflies have been counted at Pismo in one season, and it is said they look like gold and orange and leaves, hanging from the trees.
It was beautiful walking along the beach which was covered in small shells, rocks and sand dollars. Scavenging seagulls lined the shore, ready and waiting to swoop down on any free handouts.  I felt like one of the seagulls, swooping down upon the treasures of the sea, and stuffing my pockets full.
The town is old fashioned in many ways, with the old buildings, neon signs, and funky atmosphere. But Pismo also has a very upbeat side to it, with art museums, beautiful store fronts, and windows like these below.

That would be me, with my oldest son Jon. We had a great visit, as always, but the time always goes by too quickly.
On my way home, I stopped back in Pismo and walked out on the pier. The ocean is so healing, so restorative for me. The sight and sound of the waves is so soothing. The fresh air so invigorating.
The waves keep rolling in, a constant motion that never ceases. Knowing that God is with me, and that His love is like that constant motion,  always pouring over me, eases my sorrow about being separated from my son.
 One last stop at Avilla Beach before heading home.  Such a picturesque seaside. Billions of people, but definitely picturesque. I am glad to be home at last, thankful for my family, my friends, my grandkids. May God bless you and ease any sorrow you carry inside.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

In early May, I followed my heart and drove up to the Eastern Sierras in California. Once I hit Lone Pine, the view from Route 395 was spectacular. The sky changed by the minute, with billowing clouds bouncing over the horizon.

Bishop Creek Recreation Area was my first stop, where I found a nice campsite overlooking the creek. The warbling sound of the river always soothes my soul.

A recent snowstorm from the night before had dusted the Sierras in white and left its mark on the trees, plants, ground and flowers. On my first day in Bishop Creek, I had just sat down to a warm campfire when it started to snow again. In the beginning, it seemed like dry snowflakes and I got my umbrella out and carried on. Then it got wet, and soon sleet and snow were pounding me. I gave up the campfire, folded the umbrella and crawled into my bed in the back of my Subee.
In spite of the rapidly changing weather in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, spring has a way of pushing through and showing off colorful blooms.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
My second campsite was off by itself and overlooked such gorgeous scenery. Simply breathtaking.
One day it rained almost all day. As soon as it somewhat cleared, I hopped in the Subee and drove up to Lake Sabrina. The dramatic landscape has massive rock slides, probably left behind by some glacier eons ago.

Lake Sabrina in the early evening shadows. So cold. So pretty. So sweet.
The following morning when I left Bishop Creek, the sky had cleared revealing orange wildflowers against the backdrop of the snow covered Sierras.
My next stop was at Convict Lake, just outside of Mammoth where this gorgeous campsite was waiting for me. What you cant see in the picture above, is the creek which is right behind the grassy area. I sat by the water for hours and did nothing but think.
This little bridge takes you over the creek which then leads to Convict Lake. On my early morning walk over to the lake, everything was very icy, and I took great care not to slip. I did find a nice hot cup of coffee at the Lodge, which made me happy, happy, happy.
It is possible to walk up and down the creek, hopping over puddles, jumping onto grassy hummocks, and ducking underneath dry branches. Great fun. 
At Convict Lake, there is a moderate 3 mile hike around the lake, that shows off the lake at every angle. One afternoon I ventured out and explored the full length of the hike. In places, the lake was so clear you could see through to the rocky bottom along the shore.
Convict Lake in the very early morning hours, when the wind was still and the fishermen had not yet descended upon the shore.
After leaving Convict Lake, I headed north on Route 395 and stopped to take a picture of Mono Lake. Both of the above pictures were taken from the same vantage point. The top picture was facing Mono Lake, the bottom picture is after I turned around and faced the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. You can see my little Subee parked in the pullout. 
Such spectacular scenery along Route 395 and Highway 89.  Whenever I am in the Sierras, my heart seems to expand and grow larger. Its a strange feeling, one that is difficult for me to describe.
I stopped at the Carson River and hiked around, before settling down at a Forest Service Campground in Markleeville. One last campfire before a stop in town with some old-timers for breakfast, then off to my sisters house.
Me and my sister Judy, at Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe. The water up there is absolutely freezing. Learned that from experience. On our way to Tahoe, we stopped at the American River, where I dunked my head into the river to relieve a headache.  I had to balance myself nearly upside down, with both my hands plunged into the icy water to keep from falling headlong into the river! Judy would have nothing to do with such nonsense, and simply stood on shore, waiting. Needless to say, I did not attempt a dunk into Lake Tahoe.
That would be me, one small speck on the vast horizon of Lake Tahoe. Wishing you and yours a blessed spring and summer. May God shine His face upon you and give you peace. Susan Little

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, Arizona

This last weekend, I drove up to Oak Creek Canyon just outside of Sedona, Arizona. I had been staying with Cara and my two grandsons for a week, and decided to go camping for the weekend. I had no camping gear, just my clothes and a few blankets Cara loaned me so I could sleep in my car. It really doesn't take much to make me happy.
My campsite was nice, overlooking the creek. I was able to gather enough wood for a fire and found a lighter in my glove box to set it aflame. I had brought some old tablecloths to use as packing material for some of Cara's things,  and was quite happy to use one of the cloths to cover my table. I had no plates, stove or cups. Just 2 gallons of water I bought at the market.
The creek is so sweet, and runs through Oak Creek Canyon for 13 miles from Flagstaff to Sedona, and then on into the Verde Valley. In the morning it is especially beautiful. This shot was taken very early one morning after I checked the temperature gauge in my car.....35 degrees outside! Thank you Cara for loaning me the blankets!
In the morning, the light illuminates the tips of the mountains and then slowly floods the canyon.
On Monday  I drove down to Sedona, thankful that the majority of tourists had gone home. Sedona has beautiful red rock cliffs, very similar to Zion National Park.  

On the way down to Sedona, I was so cold and so hungry, that I took a chance on Indian Gardens, Oak Creek restaurant and market. It was fabulous! Strong hot coffee, freshly baked blueberry muffins and scrambled eggs, all for under $10.00. An outside garden area is set up with tables and chairs, with Mexican blankets on each chair in case you get cold. The people were all really nice to me there. Thank you!
Sedona is a bit of a strange town. Yes its very pretty, rich, red rock and all, but it is definitely a little on the weird side and abounds with vortex finding, aura pictures, spiritual transcendence, psychic readings and new age crap galore. I tried to stay away from all that freaky stuff and actually found some fun places to explore.
This funky old antique, pottery, and what not store was one of those fun places.
And my favorite was a hike down by the Midgley Bridge. A lady was kind enough to take my picture on the trail.
This picture is taken from the bridge looking down over the wide expanse of Oak Creek Canyon. If you look carefully, you can see a blue ribbon of water snaking its way through the canyon.
About half way down to the water, I turned around and took this picture of the Midgley Bridge with the red rocks in the background.
Oak Creek is so beautiful, especially when it is reflecting the light,  mountains and trees.
A glimmer of light, a moment of serenity. Hope for the future. Peace for the present.
Love to you. Susan Little

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park is one of my favorite places in California. Last week I camped at the park with my friend, Celeste, a beautiful woman from Canada! Our first campsite, the one below, was bitterly cold and not sheltered from the wind. I am amazed I found a warm moment to play my guitar! Our second campsite, the one above, was more sheltered and also provided access back into the desert.

Celeste experimented with her camera and took this night shot of herself looking into the canyon behind our campsite. She kept at it until she got it just right. It is amazing.
Early one morning, I walked back into the desert before sunrise and had the whole place to myself. It was so beautiful to watch the sun bring life into the rocks and make them glow.
 From our table I watched this lone Joshua Tree slowly light up against the backdrop of shadowy rocks. One evening after the sun had set, an owl started hooting from back in that canyon. I jumped up and ran back there, and sure enough spotted him. It must have startled him as he flew overhead into the next canyon, where he continued his hooting until it was very dark.
 This is Celeste, totally full of raw energy and excitement, eager to explore life and see new things. You go girl!
One afternoon we hiked out to Arch Rock and had a wonderful time exploring the desert, however several times my hand got hooked by the cat claw acacia, an obnoxious desert plant filled with thorns. The barbed thorns caught in my skin, and because of my hurry to get loose, the thorns ripped several deep gashes in my hand. It still hurts. Celeste took this photo of me, yes that tiny little creature standing underneath the Arch is me!
The granite in this area is called White Tank Granite and is composed of quartz, feldspar and biolite. Even though it looks smooth from a distance, it has a rough surface that makes for great scrambling over the boulders. Wind, water and time have sculpted these rocks into various shapes and sizes, creating a very interesting landscape.

Celeste enjoyed stopping to take pictures even more than I did! Never thought I would meet someone like that. One evening we stopped to take pictures of "one more Joshua Tree" and came upon this enticing scene. Even though it looks like it would be fun to walk out into the desert, it grabs and pokes, and dumps sand into your shoes. It was still great fun.
Because of all the poky things in the desert, I always find it is best to stay on established trails. This one took us to Barker Dam.
Barker Dam was constructed in 1900 by early cattlemen in Joshua Tree. It was later enhanced by Bill Keys in the late 1940's.  The dam is a water storage facility for rain and does not have a river or creek feeding into it. Thus when the rain is low, the water level drops, and can dry up completely.
Over the last 100 years, the annual rainfall in Joshua Tree has changed from 10" per year to 2" per year. The picture above shows an area of the landscape that at one time had been covered in water, but now is dry.
On our way back, this cactus caught my eye.
In the nearby town of Yucca, this old building provided a picturesque glimpse into the past.
Joshua Tree is filled with art, all kinds of art. Noah Purifoy, an African American visual artist and sculptor, created art from salvaged material. Purifoy died in 2004, but left behind his unique outdoor museum that is filled with all kinds of bizarre pieces. I liked this locomotive made from old bicycle wheels and kegs, as well as the three crosses below. 

This artwork is the work of a landscape artist. Look at that fence behind the well placed cactus! Never seen anything like it. The cactus, like the one below, ranged from turquoise to purple and almost looked like animals or even people.

Throughout Joshua Tree, gigantic murals cover the walls of stores and office buildings.
On a hike out to Skull rock, we wandered through the desert, jumped up on the boulders, took pictures of everything and marveled at the fantastic shapes the rocks take on.
It was great fun wandering around on the rocks, exploring and finding treasure. The desert is full of treasure.....you just have to look for it.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

That would be me above, lounging on a boulder and Celeste below, walking in the desert.

One of my favorite hikes was a rigorous hike up to the 49 Palms Oasis. I never did find out if there were exactly 49 palm trees in the oasis, but I did see some pretty cool stuff along the way. Red Barrel Cactus stood out against the nearly monochromatic desert surrounding us.
I passed by a dry wash and immediately had to go off trail and hike down into the little arroyo. It was all so interesting. Celeste eventually followed me down, but insisted on turning around when the wash went over the mountainside and we would have had to scale the cliff to get to the oasis. Good call Celeste!
These tiny yellow daisies were about the only flowers I saw on our entire trip. Within several months the desert will come alive with blooms, especially since we have had so much rain.
That would be me, walking up the trail to the oasis.
It's high noon at the oasis.....and real pretty indeed.
That would be me, tired but happy to be able to sit down and enjoy the surroundings.
The following day we took a hike up the Lost Horse Mine Trail, a steep hike that passed through so many beautiful rocks. I fell in love with each one, and had to enjoy just looking as it is illegal to take anything from the National Parks.
Everything up there seemed so rugged, like it could endure the heat, snow, rain and wind with no trouble at all.
 A beautiful stone staircase led us up into the mine area.
Even though the  Lost Horse Mine has a history of gun slinging cowboys, cattle rustlers and  horse thieves, it produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver between 1894 and 1931! That would be worth approximately $5 million today. Hard to believe it was such a lively place when all we can see now are the remnants of rusting machinery, dry brush and lots of rocks.

The way back down the trail is always easier than huffing and puffing up the trail! So much gorgeous wilderness as far as the eye can see.
My friend Celeste fell in love with the Joshua trees and had to stop and take pictures of nearly each one! Well maybe not each one, but a lot of them. I took this picture in the late afternoon near Hidden Valley. The Joshua tree is not really a true tree but it belongs to the yucca plant species. It grows primarily in the Mojave desert between the elevations of 2000 and 6000 feet, and thrives profusely in the north western section of Joshua Tree National Park.  
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Strange shapes that remain in my memory long after I have returned home.
I love to crawl through these narrow little openings and pretend I am a real explorer!
At the end of the day, it is good to remember there is always a new tomorrow. This sunrise reminds me that each day God will give us the grace we need. May God's abundant grace overflow into your lives and encourage you. Susan Little

Copyright©2009 Susan Little, thecampingqueen72@yahoo.com. All rights reserved. Use of photos requires written permission.