Tuesday, August 08, 2017

They're Just Here For the Sex

Cue the Barry White
It was less than a month ago, mid-July, that Dave and I moved into our new home. We closed on Tuesday and began moving our stuff in the next day.  Apparently we weren't the only ones moving in.  As we emerged from the truck swarms of bugs flew up from the grass, down from the leaves, and out from under the eaves of our dream home.  They hadn't been there for the initial showing, the house inspection or the final walk-through just two days ago. Now they were everywhere.
The previous home owner also happened to be there as well,
Roadside Attraction
hauling away her last load. She wasn't the least concerned about the bugs, "they're just here for the sex" she told us. Then drove away.

Well, the sex at our place must be awesome because the bugs are still here. Dave discovered that they are called Klamath Midges, that they don't have mouths (something he's assured both me and the guys replacing the septic system numerous times), that they generally live at the bottom of shallow lakes and indeed, they only come out
Through it all, the septic guys prevailed
once a year, for the sex.

Every night, just before dusk the whine begins. We couldn't believe it was the bugs making the high pitched whirling noise.  Certainly there were a lot of them, but the noise was loud, really loud. Then we saw the giant, black, morphing, spiralling bug clouds and we knew that we were witnessing the infamous Klamath Midge Mid-Summers Night Orgy.

The nights here are beginning to calm down. It may have
Kinda cute after all 
something to do with the flock of magpies that now arrive every evening just before dusk and hungrily feed on the midges, or it could just be that all midges have done their business.  Dave and I, on the other hand have lots more to do. Last night the full moon rose after a quiet, midge-less dusk. Dave and I sipped our wine, looked out across the Klamath Basin and thought....those bugs certainly know how to pick a romantic spot.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Home From The Range

View from the Front Yard: Klamath Lake
and Mt McLoughlin
Two months ago, on May 18th in Colorado, we sold the trailer. The plan was to head up to Southern Oregon and spend the next year looking for a place to settle down.  It'd taken a little more than a year to find our last house in Beverly, MA. so we figured on the same time to find our next home.  While our criteria this time was extremely different this time too we suspected the hunt would be long.

May 26th we arrived in Klamath Falls, Oregon and went to look at our first....and last house.

The reason I haven't posted in over two months isn't because nothing has been happening. It's because something so awesome has been happening that I didn't want to jinx it by posting.

Today we closed on our new home, the photos (these photos are by a professional that the realtor had taken to sell the house) tell more of the story than I will ever
be able to, but I will say that this home is more than we had ever dreamed of. And that dream was a big one.

We wanted a home and land but we didn’t want to give up the “wildness” that we’d come to love.  In Ash Meadows, NV we'd grown to love the wide, dark night sky.  Tracking the progress of the month through the phases of the moon. Loving both the full moon nights where the sky and land are illuminated and the new moon nights of unimaginable depth.  In Alaska, at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, we grew to love and know the countless birds and ducks on Deadman Lake and never ceased to be amazed by the views of far off snow covered peaks.  In Jacksonville, Florida we lived less that 300 yards from an eagles nest and watched two young eagles as they hatched and grew. In Texas we hiked miles and miles into the National Park, loving the remoteness, the deer, elk, javalina, bears , mountain lions, and again, the darkness of the night sky.

View from the Living Room
Somehow we hoped we could find a home that would incorporate all this. We knew it was dream. How could there possibly be a place with all of that? A house that provided just not shelter but inclusion in nature. Expansive views of mountains and sky. Eagles, birds and wildlife for neighbors. Space for animals and southern exposure for gardens and trees.

Our new home has all this and more.  We'll certainly be posting more now that our new adventure is beginning but we wanted to share the good news and also invite all our friends to visit anytime.  There's a beautiful guest room, and or a place to park your RV, just waiting for you. Hope to see you soon!
The Kitchen!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cow or Car?

We're on the road again! Traveling from Guadalupe MNP to central Colorado where we'll sell the trailer, then on to Oregon.  On the way we plan to stop at a few more National Parks, some cute towns, some quirky roadside attractions and have a few more adventures.

For the first hour and a half of the adventure, however we played the uniquely western car game, "Cow or Car?".   Each participant has to guess whether the next thing in road will be a cow or a car.  The rules are simple.  The car has to be moving, the cow does not, but it does have to be within 20 feet.  Although they are usually in the road, which does make coming around a tight corner interesting. 

For the first round we both guessed cow and sure enough with 15 minutes there was a cow, actually a momma cow and her calf in the road.  For the next round I stuck with cow, S.D. went with car.  10 minutes passed and then a car passed and S.D. pulled into the lead.  For the next round I switched to car, S.D. to cow.  We were nearing the town of Queen (pop. 32), it was morning and the cafe (the only business in town) was open so I thought it was a safe bet. Nope.  We passed a cow just as we came into town.  None of the cars moved.  This excitement continued for another hour until S.D. was ahead by 6 points and I quit.  There should have been a car somewhere but it was all cows.  And "Longhorn Alley" was still 20 mintues away.

Yes, life on the road isn't just non-stop excitement. There are some truely boring moments, even hours. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Apex Predators and Their Lunches

There is a deer up there, on the left, I promise.
Meanwhile - back on the trail in Dog Canyon....

Less than five minutes after we watched the mule deer lay down under the only juniper tree on the mountainside across the canyon, a large brown shape moved in the bushes 50 feet above it. S.D. had been wanted to see a mountain lion ever since we arrived at Guadalupe Mountains.  I was not thrilled by the idea of running into one on the trail but seeing one on a far off mountain-side while we enjoyed our lunch, was an acceptable option.

The brown shape above the mule deer moved again. It lept out of the shrubs and onto a rocky ledge. We coud see clearly now that it was a mountain goat.  The mountain lion sighting would have to wait.
Turkeys (aka Mountain Lion Lunch)

We knew they were out there.  The Dog Canyon Ranger had a camera at the local (hidden) spring and he had lots of mountain lion photos.  Bears, deer, javalina and other animals came to the spring too, it was the only reliable water source for miles. But it was the abundance of mountain lions that was so impressive.

Apex predators are the top of their food chain. They're the animal upon which no other creatures prey. Man is the ultimate predator, provided he has a gun.  Without a gun, and they are illegall in most National Parks, man moves down the chain.  Here in Guadalupe Mountains National Park that puts mountain lions at the top, the apex predator.  It's also puts us humans, on the lunch menu.

For the last three weeks we've been working on the Tejas trail.  The trail passes within a quarter mile of that very popular spring and not wanting to be someone's lunch, I'd been hyper alert to mountain lion signs.  Working on that section I felt a little like the deer look.  Extremely nervous, always alert, skittish at every sound.  We saw deer, and turkeys, we saw a whole family of javilinas, and lots of ringtail prints, but we didn't see any lions. Not even a paw print. Feeling pretty safe, and also very curious, we decided to see if we could find the spring, and perhaps a mountain lion or two.

Still Watching (image from
Following a game trail, and then even an old wagon road, it only took 20 minutes or so to locate the spring. Considering it was the middle of the day, and we'd been crashing through brush to find it, there weren't any animals, let alone mountain lions.  We did even see prints. But there, at the bottom of the canyon, at the turn of a huge wash you could feel them watching us.

It's been a few weeks since we visited the spring, we still haven't see any mountain lions but something tells me they're still watching.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Next Step in the Adventure - The Trailer is For Sale!

Off to New Adventures
 After two years on the road, S.D. and I are ready for the next phase of the adventure.  Our original plan was to spend three years on the road, the last year of which we would spend focusing on the area(s) were we wanted to settle down again.  We've had a great time exploring but now it's time to start looking for a place where we can put all the cool things we've learned over the past years into practice.

Our first step - sell the trailer. The Outdoors RV Creekside 20 FG has benen perfect fortraveling. Well built, nicely layed out, and equiped with everything we need. What it didn't have, the solar panels, water pressure tank, etc. S.D. has added. It has been maintained to the highest standard and except for a few dings here and there is like new.  We're going to miss it but in order to really get to know an area well however, we feel it will be best to rent somewhere and get more of a feel for the town and area than we can do from a campsite and trailer situation.
We Cooked Up Alot in the 20FQ Kitchen

Which brings us to the second step. Picking the town/area. What we're looking for is a place where we can live sustainably, still have lots of outdoor adventures and be part of progressive community, and a local economy.

Specifically this is a place where we can garden, growing much of our foods, etc. One thing we've really missed on the road is gardening and our bees.  We'd love to get back to growing and eating our own food.  Maybe even add some hunting and fishing.

We'd also like to stay off the grid (if possible).  Living in the RV, especially after S.D. installed the solar panels has given us a taste for keeping a small footprint and we'd like to continue with that.

We're also looking for a place that's quiet and dark at night.  Where we can have either a lot of land or at least five acres and be out of town near state or federal land. We'd like to continue hiking, and get back to bicycling so this area shoud have those opportunities. 

Mountains, Lakes and Land!
At the same time this place should be within an hour or two of a nice town. Ideally this town would offer some cultural benefits, perhaps some employment opportunities and have a local economy.  Other folks that are making or growing stuff and supporting each other's efforts.

We'd also like it to be close to family.

Put all that together and right after we finish our gig here at Guadalupe in Mid May,  we'll be headed to Central, Southern Oregon in early June!

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Art of the Trail - 4.2 Miles to Guadalupe Peak

View From the Top - Texas and Mexico
The highest point in Texas is Guadalupe Peak.  Located on the far end of an ancient coral reef that became a mountain range.  Rising 3000 ft above the permian basin, Guadelupe Peak tops out at 8752 ft.

The hike to the peak is 8.4 miles round trip.  Climbers ascend the 3000 ft in 4 miles, making it a strenous hike that hundreds of people walk each year.  To some it's an easy day hike, to others it's the opportunity to hike the highest peak in their state, to some it's a religious pilgrimage. To S. D. and I, it was just one of the many trails we had to hike while volunteering at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  What it unexpectedly turned out to be also was a day of trail building appreciation.  I have never hiked a more artfully constructed trail. It is beautiful!

First off there is the design/route of the actual trail. This trail isn't used only by avid hikers. 
There's even a bridge - 3 miles up
Many of the folks we saw didn't look like they had ever walked 8.4 miles, let alone up a mountain. We assumed some were climbing for the bragging rights.  Then there was a very frail woman and her family that we met near the summit.  They, like others, climbed (or rather inched their way up ) Guadalupe as a religous pilgramage. The mountain is named after our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image can be seen in the mountain's profile. Climbing the mountain, it is believed, bestows blessings on the pilgrims. The shear numbes of hikers provides a challenge for the trail designers; how to construct a trail up and around the sides of a very steep mountain that is walkable, sustainable and able to stand up to the impacts of all those hikers. The answer - a two person-wide width trail with well constructed steps (when necessary), and lots of gentle switchbacks.

Trail Through the Forest
The second amazing thing about the trail are the views. This is one of those trails where every foot up (or down) is breathtaking, and every 1/2 mile or so, completely different. The trail seems designed to highlight each and every one of those views and ecosystems. On the way up you first rise up through Pine Canyon with ever expanding views to the East and over the Chihusha desert. By the beginning of the second mile the trail switchbacks through a wonderfully cool Pine Forest then through a small pass and meadow. Then it's up over a short rise and the views for the last mile are now to the West, out over El Capitan.  The Peak view is 360 degrees out over New Mexico, Mexico and Texas.

As S.D. likes to say "hiking up the mountain is hard on your lung, hiking down is hard on your knees." Not so much on this trail. Going down is just as gentle as a 3000 ft descent can possible be, and since we're weren't sucking wind, we had even more time to appreciate the views and the trail.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

24/7/365 - Tips for staying together when you work together and live in a 160 square foot box

24/7/365 - and loving it!
A few days ago we were out working on the trail and stopped to chat with some passing hikers. As usually happens in such conversations. Once folks learn that we live onsite, volunteer for fun and  are full time 'retirees' they ask 'how do you do it?' We launched into our usual explainations (covered in prevous blog posts), but they stopped us short. "No, How do you live and work together every single day, all day?"

We didn't have an answer for that. But I've been thinking.

First off, we're lucky, we do get along well. Somehow we're just generally in the same grove and there are few conflicts. So the bigger question is how do we handle problems, or what do we do when we're annoyed with each other?

Working together on the trail, when it was hot and dusty, gave me some time to think. I think it boils down to timing, an appreciation of possible consequences, and the ability to give the other person some leeway. In other words it is being together so much that allows us to get along so well. It's timing...and knowing...and using both of them together.

Take, for instance, S.D.'s habit of using the McLeod to push the rocks into a berm on the side
The McLeod -
Get one, they're great!
of the trail rather than completely off the trail and down the hill and thereby creating a trail trough. This annoys the bleep out of me.  At the beginning of the day, when we're fresh, cool, and full of energy I'll either casually mention it or let it 'ride', following him, and pushing the rocks off myself.  About the same time, I'll notice that he's casually clearing out the water bars that I 'overlooked'. He thinks I'm a little too lax in my water bar maintence. But we're in good moods, it's no big deal.

Later in the day, as our moods and tolerances lower, I'll make a comment, hoping it's a hint, about how the last trail crew piled the rocks on the side.  "Looks at this berm" I'll cleverly say, "that last crew just created an canal for the summer rains to run down and erode everything." Meanwhile S.D. wll offer to clean all the waterbars for me.  We're getting a little too tired to let it ride, but still thoughtful enough to kindly broach the subject of our annoyances.

By the time the sun is beating down and the wind is blowing dust up our noses we could be more annoyed than ever but know that ours moods might be too foul to bring up the subject in a constructive manner.  Now when I notice him clearing my water bars, it's hard not to comment, but hopefully I manage some restraint.

Also being together all the time means we don't have to ask that dreaded couple question "how was your day?".  We were together when he dropped a huge rock on his toe at 10:20, and then I wacked myself with the McLeod at 2:00.  That having happened, I know at 2:30, it's probably not a good time to mention the pile of rocks left in the middle of the trail.

Conversely, if it's been an especially bad day, we know without asking that it's a good day to say or do something nice for the other. Take for instance last Wednesday.  Sunny, 82 blistering degrees, 4% humidity and we were on the trail, chainsawing juniper, oaks, cholla cactus and sotol. Well, we were supposed to be. After lugging the chainsaw, and the gas half way down the trail (1.5 miles) the bleeping thing stopped working.  We had to lug the thing all the way back and....look forward to doing it again.  Oh and we ran out of water.  We went through 6 liters in 5 hours.  We both knew it was so bad, it was time to be especially good to each other. We cracked a few jokes and when we got home, brought each other big glasses of water, cool bottles of beer and made ourselves an especially nice dinner.

On the other hand, if it's been a beautiful day, we've watched a pair of red tail hawks ride the
Refreshing lunch-time spot
termals up Bear Canyon, seen a herd of mule deer grazing below, enjoyed lunch in a shady, cool wash; we know that now might just be the right time to talk about 'issues.' After a particularly nice day, say a hike up to Guadalupe Peak, it's a good time to forward S.D. the 2007 "Guide to Sustainable Mountain Trails" and facilitate a discussion on their recommendation of a 10 to 15 percent horizontal footbed slope. Then when he points out the section on waterbar maintaince, I can laugh and take the lesson in stride.

SD says:  She's lucky I'm so easy going.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Between a Sotol and a Cactus

All sorts of scratchy things in the desert
The rattlesnakes are starting to come out.  That's what they keep telling us when we head out to do trail work.  And every time I turn over a big rock, or starting reaching into a giant rock pile, I'm reminded of those words.  So far, however, no rattlesnake encounters. But not to worry, there are lots of other 'desert things' that are out to get us.

Take, for instance the nasty little scorpion that managed, in the second it takes for me to flip over his hidy rock, to sting me in through the one small hole in my glove before scampering back beneath another rock.

There are also lots and lots of biting ants. Rather than scurry away, they attack.  Running up your arms and legs, crawling into gloves and under cloths, and then biting.

Even the rocks here are sharp. Really sharp. We need leather gloves to move them, and we need to replace the gloves every six days.

And then there are the plants, especially the sotol and the cactus.  These are ubiquitous desert plants that aren't terrible bad on a one to one encounter but bad because they are everywhere they are so common that you forget about them, or in come cases so unavoidable...and then they get you.

Sotol is described as an "evergreen rosette plant, with long spine-clad leaves that attach in a series of circular tiers around a shortened, central stem." While native Americans found the sotol a useful food source, harvesting and eating the central stem, trail hikers and trail crews are more concerned with those 'long spine-clad leaves.'  The darn things are sharp! And they seem to especially thrive right next to, and occasionally in, the trail. At one spot in there are two growing on exact opposite side of the trail leaving a passage space between them of only one foot. It's impossible to get through without getting scratched or having your cloths snag.

The cactus also like growing in and beside the trail. This being the Chihuahua desert there are lots of cactus. Big barrel cactus and cute little hedgehog cactus are fine. It's the prickly pear and their little unique glochids that cause the real pain. Glochids are "clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines found just above the cluster of regular spines. glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from the pads. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin."

They only look soft and fuzzy
To me, it was pretty funny when S.D. lost his balance and reached out to steady himself on a prickly pear. He had his gloves on but spent the  next few days digging almost invisible, painful, little spines out of his glove and hand. A week later, S.D. had the last laugh as I actually laid down on a prickly pear pad. I had to sheepishly ask hm to find and remove what he could find of the two inch long line of glochids on the back of my arm.  The area is still tender and I swear there is still one of them in there.

This week we'll finish 'rocking' the Frejole Trail. The next step is cutting back plants.  Armed with long sleeves, gloves, loppers and a chain saw, I know of few spiny specimens that are going down!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Infrastructure or Life on the Trail Crew - The Common Ground Tour Continues

Breaking rocks in the hot sun!
Never again will I blithly hike along a trail watching the scenery, looking for birds and animals and not giving two thoughts for the trail under my feet.  Doing trail work at Gaudalupe has changed all that.  Now when we hike it's the trail width, tread condition, water bars, plant encroachment and overhang, switchback planning, and lots of other little details that also demand attention.

Like much of the U.S. infrastrucure, and trails here were expertly designed, built and maintained until about 20 or so years ago.  Then a series of budget cuts, two one hundred years flood, and hiring freezes began to take it's toll. This national park is well known and loved for it's 80+ miles of trails. Usage, both by humans and horses is constant. As I mentioned in my last post, folks love their national parks. They appreciate and use them more and more every year.  At the same time maintenance and trail crew budgets and staff have been more than halved. That's where S.D. and I fit at GUMO.

Our boss, Mark, is the Mule Packer and Trail Boss. Our first day at work was foggy, wet, and
Before "rocking"
 at one point hailing, but nevertheless we walked out along our two mile 'job site', the Frijole Trail.  Mark pointed out all the work that need to be done to bring the trail that climbed up through outwashes and along the top of the allevial plain into good condition.  Some of the work was significant and involved, some just pretty hard and tedious.  Being new to the job, the hard and tedious tasks naturally fell to us.
After "rocking"

Our second day at work was sunny, warm and clear. S.D. and I hiked out to the mid-point of the trail (the Bear Canyon trail intersection) dropped our packs, mattock, sledge hammer and McCloud, took a long drink of water and began clearing the millions of loose rocks off the trail and out of the hundreds of clogged water bars.

Since then our trail work has been much the same, but that trail sure is starting to look sweet! We still get tired and dirty but our muscles are getting used to the work but we've experienced many special moments, discovered some new things things and had and a few adventures. (Adventures worthy of their own posts.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Common Ground Tour - National Parks and Lands

Last Saturday, S.D. and I arrived at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We're early, but the weather forecast was calling for high winds, snow and sleet between Sunday and Tuesday so we thought it best to get here before all that excitement. As it is we arrived, driving from the east into a 50 mph headwind.

Despite the wind, and the remoteness  (the park is 35 miles from the nearest gas station, the nearest town, Carlsbad, New Mexico,  is 70) the visitor center parking lot and the campground were packed. Americans love their National Parks!
Hunter Line Cabin

It's been the same at every National Park, Monument, Memorial or Wildlife Refuge that we've visited. Car license plates are from all over the country, and the people, from all over the world. It's been said many times, but it's no less true, our Parks are our national treasure.  Each one striving to preserve and at the same time provide access to the special aspects of this country.

Guadalupe is no exception. The mountains, for which it is famous, are actually an ancient coral reef. Rising as they do now from the desert it holds countless canyons and hidden springs. Like most parks and monuments, the land here is recovering from past human made modifications, even as Park Rangers actively encourage leave-no-trace enjoyment for current visitors.  Guadalupe's Frijole Ranch is one of the remaining historic structures. Built from local limestone blocks in the late 1800's it sits next to the Frijole spring.  Past owners used that spring to irrigate crops and fruit trees. The ranchers relied on the nearby Manzanita and Smith Springs to water livestock. Today the cabin is maintained, but only a few fruit trees remain. Foot paths lead hikers on a 2 mile loop to the other springs, but hikers are to stay on the trail and let nature restore the land.

But wait there's more! Not only do American's love their National Parks, and the wild places it preserves, they also benefit the economy. According the Outdoor Recreation Association: "Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, each year generating $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs."

Americans also love a bargain and for those economically minded folks there is more good news, the parks are relatively cheap to run.  According to a dated 2005 NPS study, 137,000 volunteers, like S.D. and I, "donated 5.2 million hours to your national parks at a value of $91.2 million.." The employees also do not make the big bucks.

Almost every day since we arrived we've taken a hike.  On every one of those hikes we've meet other hikers, on the weekend it was lots of hikers. Everyone enjoying the many benefits of our great Parks.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Finding our way and/or the road not taken and/or all who wander are not lost

Guest content by SD.

We've been asked a number of times how we find out about the the places we go and how do we find our way there.  It's not always easy and I'm sure we miss many places that we would find enjoyable, but here's a quick run down on the resources we use.

There are two general catagories we are looking for, interesting places (parks, refuges, seafood, places to camp, etc.) and the roads to get there.  One of the first things we do upon entering any state is stop at the welcome center.  We usually prefer to stay off the interstates, so often we have to hit an interstate specifically to do this.  Here we always get the old fashioned paper road map.  These maps are a valuable resource because they differentate between road types, i.e. paved, dirt, four lane or two lane.  This is something that Google maps doesn't do as well as it should.  
Even Old, Old, Old maps can be useful.
Another resource at the welcome center is that information is available on attractions in the state.  Let it be said that we are horrible tourist, we admit it everytime we do a typical touristy thing.  But still we try.  The staff is generally very friendly and helpful. There is also often information on state and national parks, campgrounds, restaurants and anything else visitors to the state might want to do.

This first stop generally gives us the necessary information to begin our explorations.  Another resource we rely on is Google maps.  This gives us a pretty good map, plus you can find important things like grocery stores, campgrounds, coffee shops and reviews of these places.  The reviews require some experience to parse for our tastes, but we find them useful to at least miss the horible places.  We have also been known to stop at AAA offices to get maps, although the maps handed out by the state tend to be better.

These two resources, old school road maps and Google maps, are generally what we rely upon to find our way to places.

Google maps are useful, our route from Alaska to Florida.

The bigger trick is to find the places we would like to visit.  For this we rely upon multiple resources.  One way is to look at the maps and see if there are any interesting looking locations. Big green areas are often interesting.  To find campsites we also use multiple resources old and new.  AAA has Woodall's guide book to campgrounds.  This gives to the particulars of campgrounds, broken down by state and nearest town and has a rating system for various metrics.  We also use a smartphone app "RvParky" which also gives reviews of the campgrounds.  There's other smart phone apps we sometimes look at, but RvParky seems to be the most useful and most used.  We have also downloaded a book "Camping with the Corps" to find USArmy Corps of Engineers campgrounds.  These tend to be great campgrounds are are a really good deal, especially with my US Government Senior Pass. One of the few perks of being a senior.   Another book we downloaded is a guide to National Parks.  I have to admit as a casual visitor, not as a volunteer staying for a few months, we tend to stay away from National Parks.  They attract a lot of people who are not hikers and campers but are attracted to National Parks for some reason.  Some of our worst experiences have been in National Park campgrounds, and to be fair some our best experiences too.  Especially if you get into the back country.

An Army Corps of Engineer campsite.

Another resource is just old fashioned asking friends.  We're a nation of tourists and we almost always find one or two friends who have been there.  Additionally there are places we want to see.   We've also joined "Harvest Host."  For a small fee to get to contact local farms who have joined and alow one or two campers at a time to stay for free.  These are undeveloped, usually just a grassy spot with no utilities and you are expected to purchase some farm products.

A Harvest Host site at a farm in Florida.

Then there are a few very specific resources.  For our summer in Alaska Kelly's cousin (Thanks again!) gave us a copy of the "Milepost" which gives mile by mile descriptions of the roads to, from and in Alaska; including campgrounds, stores, gas, etc.  Additionally we bought a book about campgrounds in BC, Yukon and Alaska which was very useful.

As you can see a significant part of this wandering about the country is figuring out where to go and how to get there.  So far we've done pretty well and seen a lot of really great places and met some interesting people.  Only a few places have been a bit scary.  Let's hope we can continue the streak.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Common Ground Tour - Waterfront

Apalachacola View
On the second day of the tour we drove south from Monticello, FL down through the small town of Panacea to the Gulf Coast.  The state of Florida has nicknamed it's coastal regions. For instance the Jacksonville area is the First Coast, Palm Beach is the Gold Coast,  Pensacola is the Emerald Coast. The Florida shoreline we drove, from St Marks to Mexico City is called the Forgotten Coast.  It is SD's and my's favorite. As the name suggests, it's a relatively forgotten and ignored part of Florida and it's beautiful. White sandy beaches, pine and palm forests, salt marshes, birds, even black bears.

As we drove further west, back into more 'remembered' coasts, we were thinking about other coasts, Floridian, Atlantic, Pacific, even lakes and streams.  It it's clear that Americans love their coasts. They love it in different ways, and show that love differently but it's where American's go when they want to enjoy themselves.

One of S.D.'s oft repeated statistic is that "the population of the U.S. has doubled in his
Coastline - St. Joe's State Park, FL
lifetime and a higher percentage now live on the coastline. Which means the populaion has more than doubled on the coast."  Thus there are a lot of people living on the coast. There are a lot of people vacationing there too.  Any coastal area parking lot will have cars from multiple states. Here on the Gulf the majority of out of state plates are from the midwest.  In Florida there were from the northeast.  On the pacific coast they were from Nevada, Idaho and Arizona.

Contast that to recreation areas mid-country where unless you're on an interstate, it's only locals. It's the coastal areas that are the gathering spots. The places where American's from all over the country get together,  live, relax, have fun, and maybe, just maybe get out of their own bubbles and get to know one another a little better.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Common Ground Tour - Jelly

Lately the country has been focused on our differences; the political situation pulling folks further and further apart. Those differences are serious and real. But even as we explore those I believe it's important that we, as a common people of this country remember and stregthen our shared values and beliefs.  As S.D. and I are head west through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisana and Texas,  the focus is going to be on what we all share in common, i.e. The Common Ground Tour.

 With such a lofty goal, and such deep divisions, that common ground may be elusive, and even trival seeming at times. But we have to start somewhere! Monday it all started with jelly.

It seems that Americans, where ever they are, will take the fruit, and in some cases flower, of whatever grows locally, smash it up,
Fireweed (wikipedia)
cook it down, add sugar and make jelly.  In addition to the usual jelly contenders like blueberry, rasberry, strawberry etc., there are some pretty unusual ones. In Alaska it was fireweed (a flower) jelly, in the southwest they make jelly from prickly pear cactus fruit.  In Florida there's some type of palm fruit jelly and then there is Mayhaw jelly.

The Mayhaw trees at the Golden Acres Ranch, where we spent Monday night, were still dormant.  Thriving because they can live in boggy land where other trees can't, they will bloom and fruit by May (hence the name).  Once ripe  the ranch owner, Bobbie,  hosts a berry picking, jelly-making festival. She showed us some of the frozen berries which looked a lot like very large cranberries, and sold us some jelly.  Mayhaw jelly is a deep rich burgundy color and tastes most like a smoked cherry/chocolate blend. It's unusual and really good. 

Staying at the Golden Acres Ranch was one stop of what we hope will be many made possible by the Harvest Hosts program. For a small annual fee we are able to spend the nights at participating farms, wineries, museums and other attractions.  It's a pretty cool program, a great way to get a little deeper into the country than staying at RV parks and campgrounds allow.

 PS - The Golden Acres Ranch also grows and sells lamb and goat.  Our freezer is close to full!