Author Archives: Sally

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About Sally

A Studio Artist and painter trained at Stanford university, Sally has since then graduated from a long career as an Attorney with the Public Defender, and returned to painting. Living in Mexico with her son for a year, they adopted a feral dog, Lety. Sally's son left for college and their dog adopted her new best friend, Steven.

WE MAKE PLANS…THE GODS LAUGH: GOURMET MICE, A FRACTURED ELBOW & DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING

As committed travelers during 60% of any year, we spend a lot of time perusing travel articles, scoping out travel deals, and making reservations and plans for the next year. Most of the time, we proceed as planned, with minor adaptations for weather and RV repair; most of the time. Our plan for our predictable Oregon Coast Summer, and Autumn in British Columbia seemed unremarkable and easily achievable.

Massive wildfires in Oregon fowled the air everywhere except on the Coast. Our 2nd year as hosts in our Oregon Coast campground was welcome for the clean air and campfire time with our Portland Pals, Amy and Simon (woof!) and Rochelle and Chris (our BBQ chef extraordinaire).

Almost two year old Linus from the Netherlands and his mom (our Airbnb host from Jerusalem) joined us for the eclipse as we were 2% (30 miles) from the line of totality. Linus now has an expanded vocabulary, pronouncing it Eeeeeeeeeeeee-clipse with a huge grin!

We told our lovely City Hall staff that we would not be returning as campground hosts next year due to our peripatetic nature; we got a bad case of “itchy feet” way early this year. We left our RV at PDX to fly home to my niece Francesca’s wedding in San Francisco. After a huge Italian wedding mass and a joyous procession through North Beach, we celebrated at the San Francisco Art Institute on an outside terrace. Sally’s son Jacob and  girlfriend Shelley joined us on the windy ramparts for a family portrait (minus the bride and groom).

Upon our return by flight to the Pacific Northwest, we drove to Mt Baker outside Bellingham WA, camping on the banks of the Nooksak River under cloudless skies.

With no camp notice that there had been an unusual  summer infestation of field mice, we of course left our doors open in the evenings and ended up with 3 mice hiding in our rig until nightfall…when they came out and ate like giant beasts. Motorhomes have so many electric, plumbing, sewer, heating and lighting lines running behind the paneling that the inner walls are very “porous” leaving lots of hiding places for tiny critters! Sally caught two mice humanely with peanut butter in paper bags for outside release but the last one was too smart for Sal’s tricks. This one eluded us for days until we finally succeeded with a deadly mouse trap baited with a delicious casserole of bacon, cheese, peanut butter, and chocolate. Yummy!…and did the trick. Sorry little mouse; it was war, and we had to win it!

Although we didn’t sleep well at night until we cleared all mice, the daytime hiking was extraordinary with constant views of Mts. Baker and Shuksan, many lakes, and sweet plump mountain blueberries!

Mice free, we headed to British Columbia with our Bike Friday folding bikes hiding under the RV bed. Hot springs and hiking in rain forests were a great start to our relaxing plan for Autumn.

In Vancouver, which has numerous urban bike trails, Steven had a lovely ride through Stanley Park, Gastown and the West End of Vancouver…until the domino effect prevailed; a speedy cyclist clipped the two riders behind Steven who crashed, taking him down too. They were stretchered off with severe injuries and he was advised to get an elbow X-ray given the substantial swelling evident. His arm was loosely cast and placed in a sling to await a new cast after the swelling abated from his…fractured elbow. Unfortunately, the one winged man couldn’t help with driving and we were 17 hours from home (not including 7 hours of intense traffic in Vancouver BC, at the US Border Crossing, and from Seattle to Olympia….Grrr!)

However, heading home for future medical appointments, we enjoyed a sunset ferry ride on the last ferry that still crosses the mighty Columbia River, at Cathlamet, WA where we camped on the River. We found nearly empty campgrounds at lakes and rivers in Washington, Oregon and California on our way south. The only sour note was the enduring heavy smoke in Oregon due to new wildfires in the luscious Gorge on the Columbia River. Such a tragedy! Even though theatre season is still alive in Ashland, OR in late September, the streets were empty and the few headed out to activities sported face masks.

The great thing about taking a forced break from traveling is having more time with our friends at home. We timed it right for the 3 day Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco with our friends Julia and Keith. We camped near the park in our RV, enjoying up to 8 stages of music, all free and very eclectic. The Blue Angels, providing acrobatic jet and contrail shows (courtesy of your tax dollars), clearly enjoyed performing for the crowds at the Festival.

We kept returning to the “Silent Disco” enclosure, where two DJs spin music on two radio frequencies to the free headphones provided to the dancers. Lotsa people dancing their brains out…in complete silence so there is no disruption of acts on local stages. This guy won the “Best T-shirt” prize for his very topical version of, “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”, a phrase we love and embrace.

THE SOUTHERN AMAZON BASIN: TELE PIRES RIVER, BRAZIL III

We left the Pantanal (see Brazil blog 2) by flying due north to Alta Floresta in the Southern Amazon Basin. Bumpy driving on dusty back roads brought us to the Teles Pires River where we would stay for the week in an off-grid riverside eco-resort. Two sixteen story bird towers allow views over the top of the dense Amazonian canopy. Listening silently to the jungle awaken at dawn is one of the most lovely and moving experiences we had on this trip. One cannot stay at the top for long as the sway is significant enough for some of us to get motion sickness. The featured image, shot from the top, (apparently not available for viewing on your handheld device) shows Sally paused about halfway up the tower climb, like a person penciled into an Escher drawing.

We also walked under the canopy following troops of red-handed howler monkeys, including babies on parent backs…

…and amazing Sochi Monkeys with the best noses ever! The monkeys seemed to be curious about us too as they stayed in the trees over the trail, rather than moving off trail where we could not follow.

We stopped and rafted up with some Brazilian Fish Biologists mid-river who were collecting fish as part of their research on the effect of damming the river 30 miles downstream. They explained that these piranhas can shred almost anything in minutes but attack humans only when there is no other food source.
Macaws are of course everywhere, flying and squawking exuberantly in breeding pairs. We even caught two Red-Headed Manikin birds doing their Michael Jackson “Moon Walk” moves to entice breeding females. That is worth watching on You Tube videos.

We caught sight of the very rare Crested Eagle…of course, too elusive for a good photo! Butterflies live in abundance under the canopy, and stop long enough for a photos.

What’s better than butterflies and yellow spotted turtles enjoying the sun on the river?

With hundreds of bird sightings, and pages of notes, of course, some just don’t get captured in the brain, only in the camera. Anyone know what this gorgeous bird is? Come on Judith…we know you’ve got this!

 

WORLD’S LARGEST FRESHWATER WETLANDS: PANTANAL, BRAZIL PART II

Seasonally, 80% of the land is a flooded plain covering 75,000 sq. miles. 99% is privately owned land used as Fazendas (cattle ranches) many of which have become eco resorts with fast boats for touring the rivers year round, and by horseback in dry season. Rain drops 55 inches a year but the rivers and tributaries can make 15 foot rises in the wet season. Julia, Mary, and Sally took their protection from mosquitos and the Zika Virus seriously.

3500 known plant species, 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian critters, 480 reptiles, and 9000 invertebrates keep your eyes alight for new flora and fauna at every turn. With over 10 million Yacare Caiman in the Pantanal, they become road obstruction before long. They hang out peaceably with Capybaras…unless the food source gets too low.

Both are food for the numerous Jaguars that would be expanding if the local ranchers weren’t killing off 200-300 a year in retribution for livestock killings. At the Pouso Alegre cattle ranch we found 2 freshly killed cattle, the first ever on this ranch. However, the owner is committed to protecting the Jaguars, so these two we found again the following evening (mating, so making some noise in the dark) will remain safe. Three of us went horseback riding during the day without a thought until we realized how close and bold the big cats were!

Some of the rare finds were the Hyacinth Macaws…

Giant Tapirs…

…Giant River Otters…about 6 times the size of our Monterrey Sea Otters! This baby is captured looking pretty glum after minutes of loud demanding whining for a bite of catfish, that was ignored by the adult until he had eaten his fill.

…and Giant Anteaters, which we didn’t see but saw their cousins, arboreal anteaters called Southern Tananduas. We did not actually see this one below but include it because our cameras were incapable of capturing a meaningful image at night when we happened on one right next to the road. Cool looking beastie, no?

Only one road crosses the Pantanal. A dirt dike crossing 120 wooden bridges between Cuiaba and Port Jofre on the Cuiaba River, a tributary of the massive Paraguay River. The Military built this part first, realized the expense was enormous, and abandoned the project at this muddy bank, where Steven enjoys a brief rest waiting for our transportation up river to the houseboat. The fast boat in the background was our daily “ride” up the rivers for exploration.

Our stays on ranches and houseboats on the River, gave us access to over five separate, “up close and personal” jaguar viewings. This beefy male sipped for 5 minutes then swam the river 10 feet in front of our speed boat while we sidled below him swimming the river…and our biologist cried with joy at the unique viewing. The jaguar is the 3rd largest cat in the world. They are so powerful, they crush the skull of their prey with one massive bite rather than strangle them by the throat.

Immersion into the strangeness of a wetlands, accessible during the dry season, is something we cannot compare to any other safari, birding tour, or backcountry hike. This is the Big Mama of biological diversity using every exaggerated description you could apply. Truly mindblowing, over and over again. These Red-Legged Seriama gave us the strangest, loudest concert sounding like hyenas with a descending laughing call and response including harmonics…for 5 minutes! They almost swallow their necks like a compressed snake to generate that volume, choking out these drawn out calls.

The other oddity was watching humans standing in intensely hot sun waiting for some wild animal to leave its’ lair, then strolling by the ranch kitchen areas and seeing them up close getting fed leftovers from the kitchen staff. My only chance for great pictures on my I-phone as the animals were finally close enough,  I almost got creamed by two giant vultures who wanted the food in my hand for feeding the nine-banded armadillos. Unfortunately, without a thick armor, I had to throw the food and run!

Startling, awe-inspiring meetings with wild animals throughout the day and night, is really hard to describe. I have pages of names of fabulous birds, tons of photos, and I am overwhelmed looking at them; Karen Share, Jim and others on our trip have generously shared photos. From 5AM wake up calls by Howler Monkeys to Jaguar tracking late at night, the days have been full. Then there is the human cultural diversity, a traffic jam on the Pantaneira Highway as motorcyclists, horses, and cattle have to share the narrow road above the vast plain of wetlands extending out on both sides.

This Tegu Lizard is an example of a primitive beauty right at our feet at one of the ranches.

 

BIOSPHERE BRAZIL, PART 1: CERRADO

Birds, birds, birds. From the burrowing owl above, to the Jabiru Stork you’ll see as the featured image (if viewing on anything except a hand held device), our species list is exploding. Our i-phones were not up to bird photography, so we give buckets of photo credit to Karen Share, with gratitude for her telephoto lens and generous nature. Our guides had great scopes but pictures through them were less successful.

Pronounced, “sair-HA-doe”, this savanna covers between 20-25 % of Brazil; half of it has already been converted to agricultural use.  It is an area responsible for more than half of Brazil’s soybeans, 40% of its beef and 84% percent of its cotton; adding lime and phosphorus can make poor soil arable with sufficient water. So successful is production here, the Capital of Brazil was moved to Brazilia to accommodate agricultural needs. We flew about an hour from Sao Paulo to Cuiaba, and then drove two hours up into the highlands about 3,000 ft above to the Cerrado. At the horizon below, you can also see the Pantanal, the largest tropical wetlands in the world.

The Cerrado has an enormous diversity of plant life that offers pharmaceutical solutions we know of already (the Barbato plant here allegedly cures HPV), and endless untested possibilities. As a comparison, California has 6,000 species of flora and fauna, whereas this area of Brazil, including the Pantanal, boasts over 10,000 species!  We were fascinated by this plant that can self-imolate to start wildfires when the area needs to be refreshed…

…or this one where the fractured line at the bottom of the seed pod, drops away to dump a huge load of seeds, only in perfect conditions.

When the fires abate, this Pepalanto plant below is the first to come back. What a beauty!

There are also great escarpments of exposed granite, making sculpture gardens…

…and sheer cliffs for safe nesting for red and green macaw pairs. The waters that originate here flow either north into the Pantanal wetlands or south to the Atlantic. That means you can pee into the Amazon River here! Yippee!

What we noticed is that Brazilians will find and enjoy even the smallest tributaries…they love water!

We enjoyed the visual map of the early life of the Leaf Miner, who is laid as an egg on a leaf, embeds itself inside the leaf and eats its way around the leaf until it finally gets fat enough to pupate, and flies away.

So many beautiful floral displays that I fell for the biologist’s silly spiel on this delicate tropical flower…until I looked closely and realized he was teasing us, because it is a bundle of plastic fencing material! Ha! Got us!

NON DUCOR, DUCO!: SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

“I am not lead, I lead”. A pretty apt motto for the 11th most populous city on Earth. Sao Paulo is the financial center of Brazil, with the biggest GNP and population in the Southern Hemisphere, making us think of Tokyo, Mexico City and Delhi. It should. It is huge. A massive display of skyscrapers and urban sprawl as you fly over it, a sea of commuters as you traverse the city on the subways, a seedy, unappealing downtown, and frightening crime against the person statistics, one could easily forget that quirky neighborhoods hide out in every direction.  The abundance of pocket parks and trees make it more serene than other cities of this size.

We had only two days to explore the city before we joined our adventure travel group in  Cuiaba, so we stayed in Vila Madralena, a hip and arty neighborhood with a high degree of safety… at least in the daytime. Also it is a very walkable neighborhood. We learned the importance of this on our first Uber ride that took way longer than using the subway and walking the same distance. 183 miles of backed up traffic is the historic worst in Sao Paulo history.

Every blank wall, offered a mural. Every business with a blank wall had a mural themed to the business. A favorite was at the local veterinarian’s office featuring dogs enjoying a standing pee together.

Trees, power poles, traffic signs sprouted painted plastic bottles recycled as plant containers, and often were wrapped with fabric sheaths, ribbons, and friendly messages.

We had extended conversations with warm and chatty Paulistas, all of whom spoke several languages besides Portugese. The Portugese spoken here sounds just like Italian by cadence and inflection because the earliest immigrants were primarily Italian. 60% of the city residents claim some Italian heritage! Founded by Jesuit priests in 1554, there is little feel of the sacred now, as big business, (including the systematic destruction of the Brazilian rain forests to support cattle grazing), is the driving force here. The city’s GNP is 24th in the world compared with all countries. Due to a later influx of immigrants after the Italians, Sao Paulo has the largest Arab and Jewish population in the Americas, and the largest Japanese population anywhere in the world outside of Japan! Such a melting pot makes for a foodie paradise including excellent sushi (only 43 miles from the Atlantic Ocean), Brazilian meats cooked on skewers for slicing at the table, “Churrasco”, and over a million pizzas a day, produced by six thousand pizzerias. Ciao, bem-vindo!

 

FELIZ CUMPLEANOS: GUANAJUATO, JALISCO, Y NAYARIT: MEXICO

 

We celebrated an early birthday for Steven with a three week trip to Mexico, including La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, a dusty, cobblestone street fishing village where Sally, Jacob and Lety lived for a year.

We are grateful for family once again making their homes available to us in La Cruz and Guadalajara. Warm weather and tropical breezes, a beautiful pool and garden (above), with large green iguanas climbing up the vines, were welcome after spending the month of February in Seattle (that was one of the coldest and snowiest on record).

Staying a block from the Bay of Banderas meant the company of magnificent Frigate birds (above), that can stay aloft for two weeks at a time. Spanish Paella was fantastic due to that e large variety of fresh seafood available at the local fish market.

We took short jaunts to the local surf towns of Punta Mita and Sayulita, and one day in the Puerto Vallarta tourist zone. Sally got to hang out with her pals, Sunny and Marlene, from her year in La Cruz, and we had a wonderful night with our family in Guadalajara (the second biggest city in Mexico) with competing mariachi bands, and a night tour of the historic center, lit up with neon lights (featured image).

This was part of our one week road trip to visit some beautiful hill towns east of Guadalajara, and La Gruta (below), a gorgeous hot spring and garden. Through the white rock arch at the far end of the pool, we swam up a dark tunnel to the HOTTEST water, found in a dark rock grotto deep in the hillside.

San Miguel de Allende is a tribute to the birth place of one of the country’s leaders during the Mexican War of Independence, Allende’s birthplace, and the first municipality declared independent of Spanish rule. Although there are a lot of expats residing here, local traditions abound. The procession below was led by a pistolero with a huge sombrero, a donkey decorated with ribbons, followed by the newly affianced couple, a very tall paper mache bride and groom, and then a marching band, and celebrants dressed in white embroidered clothing, at the end.

It is now a foodie paradise due to the insurgence of artists, retired Canadians fleeing real Winter, and an international community. Classic Chile Rellenos are typically mild poblano chiles filled with cheese, battered with egg, and fried. So good! These San Miguel ones were filled with meat, nuts, raisins, and camino, and covered with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. Yumm!

We also loved Dolores Hidalgo (below), a small town north of San Miguel, where 50% of the town works in the world-famous Ceramics factories. The blooming Jacaranda trees waving beside the statue of Hidalgo in the town square reminded me of my favorite Mexican holiday, EL GRITO (“The Cry”) or Independence Day in September. Every cantina in Mexico pours free shots of Tequila so that everyone can listen to the Mexican President in D.F. (Distrito Federal/Mexico City) yell out at midnight, “VIVA HIDALGO! VIVA MEXICO!” …just like Hidalgo, calling for the start of the Revolution…and then the fireworks begin!

Our final hill town visit was to the World Heritage Site, Guanajuato (below). To preserve the historic downtown, there is a tortuous and narrow maze of roads cut out of rock under the city for a traffic bypass. That leaves the center city as a large pedestrian area filled with wedding parties, street-side cafes, strolling minstrels, and lots of relaxed people-watching from shady benches in the parks. We stayed near the top of a funicular tram rising from the center up to our hotel’s lofty view below.

Coming to Mexico almost yearly since I was five years old, I so love Mexico, and especially the warmth and generosity of her citizens. As expected, Steven fell in love with Mexico; we vow to return yearly to explore other regions like the Yucatan Peninsula with acres of Mayan ruins and fantastic scuba sites, Oaxaca and its hillside crafts oriented villages and nearby beaches, Baja del Sur and the Sea of Cortez, and San Cristobal de las Casas, with a dominant indiginous population and culture. Every part of Mexico offers colorful markets with beautiful produce, fabulous meals, kind people, and incredible geography and cultural artifacts. Mexico has more World Heritage Sites than any country in the world other than China, which is five times its’ size. Me encanto!

 

 

PACIFIC NORTHWEST WINTER: SEATTLE, WA

 

We come to the Pacific Northwest every summer and fall, and fantasize about living year round amid the wet ferns, moss covered boulders, rivers and trees. What’s a little extra rain and cloudiness? We’re from San Francisco after all. We like rain! Our son moved to Seattle last Autumn and warned us how surprisingly COLD it is in winter, and he spend 4 years in Upstate New York. We shoulda listened!

We put the dream to a test: we stayed for the month of February in Seattle. Three big snowstorms, two hail storms (making our neighborhood look like a snowy village), and most days with high temperatures around 39 degrees, were a big dose of icy reality.

Then we foolishly kept trying to bicycle in these conditions, adding wind chill factor and wet gloves to the mix. Brrrr! We stayed bundled up in coffeehouses and bars, trying to warm up.

It took a search on several floors of the very popular 7 story Central Public Library to secure an empty seat inside in the warmth. The cool architecture with neon green escalators is eclipsed by the glow of red walls and lights making you feel warm just walking through.

The Frye Museum is free and showcases their own collection, and contemporary works like this one below made by one huge ink pen almost as tall as the artist,  Jim Woodring.

The Botanical Garden has a warm tropical Greenhouse, and a beautiful Winter Garden, featured above. It specializes in plants that cannot attract pollinators with summer blooms, but instead have to entice with enhanced scents. The Hamamelis x intermedia “Winter Beauty”, seen below, exudes a strong smell of jasmine, even in the snow.

The restaurant, bakery and bar culture is thriving, but so are the high prices. It is so beautiful here, even in winter that over 100 new people move to these inviting Pacific Northwest cities every day…”Californicating” the real estate prices here and the cost of living.

In spite of the cold, there is always a crowd and a party atmosphere at Gas Works Park on Lake Union. There’s something about dogs chasing frisbees, sailboats catching the wind, and seaplanes taking off and landing in front of you, that makes for a warm and festive atmosphere regardless of the weather.

A frigid day on a Puget Sound beach, is more for the dogs, ducks and beavers, but you’ll feel very deserving of your next hot libation…indoors.

VIVA LA VULVA!: WOMEN’S MARCH FOR JUSTICE: LOS ANGELES, CA

POWER TO THE PUSSY!  We saw many of the pink pussy-eared hats that became popular in response to Trump’s continual woman bashing during the Presidential Campaign. My favorite protest signs were, “U.S. OUT OF MY UTERUS!” and “WOULD YOU STILL WANT TO REGULATE MY UTERUS IF IT WAS A CORPORATION?”

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The March on Washington to protest Trump’s inauguration is the largest political gathering in the U.S. with over a million participants. 600 marches occurred simultaneously all over the world. Los Angeles was the second largest with over 100,000 participants.

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Just getting there meant lots of time chatting with strangers as the trains to Downtown L.A. were packed. It took us two hours to get to the March which we could have driven in twenty minutes….but we would have missed the outstanding camaraderie of the protesters.The protesters were in good humor, call and response chanting, “What do we want?…Trains!”   “When do we want them?…Now!”

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Although racism, bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, and misogyny were all decried, the dominant sentiment is best expressed by this Angela Davis quote:

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Clearly we all need to come together as a country, even behind a president with a 35% approval rating and one who was not elected by popular vote. But like Obama said multiple times in his final remarks as POTUS, we are strong together and will continue to move our country in the right direction with our will, which has not been diminished. We stood today among Americans of all races and creeds, men and women, old and young, to work toward Justice, no matter who is at the helm or the number of Congressional seats.  Extraordinary times call for extraordinary effort. We felt hopeful and proud to be Americans today standing with so many Americans who made the effort to be heard, in peaceful protest. Below you see police officers protecting protesters blocking a street by the Federal Building by creating a line of cars and officers to block traffic. Power to the people!

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I have always respected and revered Hillary Clinton; her loss was devastating to me. We are so proud of President Obama and all he accomplished as our leader, especially the Affordable Care Act. We have felt so angry and depressed as Congress has already begun to dismantle the ACA with18 million Americans on the verge of losing their health care. Instead of this pain diminishing with time, it has increased as we learned that our democratic process was undermined by a foreign power that manipulated our election process, at the invitation of our new POTUS. It was a wonderful and moving day, that reminded us that we still have the ability to influence our legislators on both sides of the aisle, as we continue to work for Justice. Don’t let the bad guys get you down, their in the minority, after all!  Power to the people!

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BRISTLECONE PINE AND LEHMAN CAVES: GREAT BASIN NP, NEVADA

img_2063Heading home on the stretch of Hwy 50 named, “The Loneliest Road in America”, we still got to visit a National Park that was new to us. It is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and that is best celebrated with adding some new NP and NM sites to your life list. Because it’s the largest park in Nevada, I always thought that Big Basin National Park was one-of-a-kind in the high desert surrounded by mountains. This Park showcases just one basin…of the 16 that spread from Salt Lake City down to Las Vegas.

img_8425This basin is noteworthy for the anomalies in the mountain surround. Bristlecone Pines, the oldest living creatures on earth, are happy atop 12,000 ft. Mt. Wheeler. They are twisted and look desiccated and dead, except for one spindly living thread wending its way up each branch.

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This basin is a Dark Sky Reserve, meaning a minimal amount of ambient light interference, usually requiring a distance of at least 200 miles from major urban areas. It is never fully dark, however; the light cast by the stars in the ultra clean air is sufficient for walking around the campground. It is famous as the best viewing of the Milky Way anywhere in the U.S.

img_8503The Lehman Caves are many and exceptionally deep. A solutional cave is limestone (here, marble mixed in) creating halactites, stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, and pipes. Some of these rock chambers have formations large enough to contain the organ from the Mormon Tabernacle, and resembling it as well.

img_8484I watched mesmerized, waiting for the final drop of water to fall off the stalactite onto the almost touching stalagmite growing from the ground, to finally unite as a column. As it grows slowly due to its’ pace, a drop or two a day, I didn’t catch that final drop.

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A pretty rich place in the middle of a massive desert. We just hope that this cave and others can be protected as a home for native bat populations. White Nose Syndrome, caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, has killed more than 6.7 million hibernating bats since 2006. Bat bones and piles of dead bats with white fuzz around their muzzles litter the floor of many now empty caves; it kills 70-100% of bats in an affected hibernaculum. The fungus wakes them repeatedly during hibernation depleting their fat reserves, and thins and destroys their wings leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. It threatens even the most abundant bat species with extinction; it is considered the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American history. Because European and Chinese hibernating bats are not affected by the fungus, and bats do not migrate between the continents, it is a spelunker induced phenomenon. At Lehman Caves, there is no evidence yet of WNS, but one’s clothing and shoes are treated for contamination for cave visitors who have entered caves anywhere in the last 5 years.

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As the nights get icier and trees drop their Autumn leaves, the providers of free camping (National Forest Service, BLM, local Parks Districts) turn off water and close sewage disposal sites to avoid frozen pipes. Like bats and bears, it is time for us to hibernate at home in Albany CA…until sufficient snow accumulation sends us out in search of new areas to snowshoe. In the meantime, we wish our nation and our world, fair elections (GET OUT THERE AND VOTE…for a woman!), clean water, and peaceful holidays with family and friends. Abrazos, amigos!

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