Sunday, April 24, 2011

BACKROADS TRIP

The trip to the mountains did not work out for this weekend, as there was a high wind warning for all the local mountain areas (with gusts 40-50 mph).  But I needed to get outside, so my partner and I headed up to Santa Barbara for lunch and some backroad adventure.


We ate at our favorite spot, the Paradise Cafe. Been eating there for almost 20 years now! Great food on a street off the main drag, that has wonderful outdoor seating. Their oak grilled salmon is to die for.


View from our table

After lunch we prowled State Street for an hour, then hit the road. Outside of town, just past Santa Barbara Mission, is Route 192, which follows along the foothills and drops down again just before Carpinteria. It then jogs again south, and winds into the foothills towards Lake Casitas and on to Ojai.

(But before we left Santa Barbara, we were treated to the Easter Dog in someone's front yard! These folks do seasonal things with this bronze dog statue, decorating and dressing it for a variety of occasions. We've been enjoying it for years.)



Lake Casitas


Just past Ojai we ate again at Boccali's Pizza & Pasta, a cute little roadside joint that makes the best pizza ever. We split a small (4-slice) pepperoni & mushroom (the shingle the meat on--no skimping!). We wanted to save room for this spot's specialty: strawberry shortcake! It's served on a fresh, warm biscuit, heaped with luscious berries, and smothered in a Matterhorn of whipped cream. We ate on the patio, which warm sun and heavenly wafts of orange blossoms on the breeze.


Ojai Valley from scenic overlook


Full, we continued down the road. It was so incredibly beautiful: blue skies, big puffy white and gray clouds, green hills and fields. It was a perfect day.


We drove through oak-covered hills and green meadows dotted with wildflowers. I pulled off near one meadow so we could watch a Red-tailed Hawk being harassed by a Common Raven; it was quite an aerial dogfight.


Ultimately we arrived in Santa Paula, and took Route 150 east to the 5 and headed home. A glorious day, filled with beautiful weather, good smells, and unforgettable sights.

Friday, April 22, 2011

EARTH DAY BIRTHDAY


I thought it was cool that they made Earth Day on my birthday back in 1970. Still do. Since I have been a nature lover my whole life, it seems fitting.

Today I will be 61 and it is absolutely amazing on so many levels. I am grateful to be alive, quite frankly, after some wasted (literally) years in my 20s. I never thought I'd live to see 30 (though I think that's a common belief among most youngsters). When you're 20, you really do think you will live forever; yet you cannot conceive of living to 30, let alone 60.

So here I am, older and I do believe a lot wiser than I used to be. When they say youth is wasted on the young, they aren't kidding. I didn't really know squat when I was younger. But when you have enough life experiences under your belt, you tend to look at life in a new way, and the world becomes quite a different place.

I totally understand the cynicism of a lot of older people; I have become rather disenchanted with the way life has become in a lot of ways. And perhaps that's why older people no longer fear death. They've seen enough of the bad stuff go on to show them that life is NOT getting better as time goes on.

When I turned 60 last year something inside me changed. I suddenly felt old. And it was not a good feeling. I mean, for the first time I realized that I was getting on the back end of my life and time was short (especially the way time seems to fly by now). Watching my parents age over the years has not helped in this regard. But over the past few months I think I've made some kind of peace with it and have stopped thinking about it so much. My enthusiasm for getting outdoors, for bird watching, and for life in general has ramped way up.

So this weekend--tomorrow in fact--I plan to drive my new SUV (purchased a couple weeks ago--a 2000 Chevy Blazer) up to the mountains for the day. I've wanted an 'outdoor' vehicle for a few years now and even though gas is priced obscenely high and the Blazer gets low gas mileage, I am extremely happy to have it. I know, I know--not very eco-friendly, but that's my burden and karma to bear.

I have been wanting to get up to the mountains for a while now. There's still quite a bit of snow up in the higher elevations and it's not exactly warm yet, but I'd love to see some nuthatches and woodpeckers. And smell those piney woods!

Everyone have a wonderful Earth Day. Go out and enjoy nature wherever you can and rejoice that we still have some left to get out into!

My new truck--love it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WHITNEY CANYON - SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Oh my--I realized it's just been ages since I posted anything, so I thought I'd better get this up before too much more time passed. Actually it's been ages since I've really done anything. Caught up in life stuff, including replacing my aging car, which consumed a fair amount of a month or more.

Anyway, I did get a lovely hike in two weeks ago to Whitney Canyon near Saugus with friend Paula. Wow! Everything was so GREEN! All the rain we had this winter has resulted in gorgeous green carpeting on all the hills, along with a smattering of newly emerging wildflowers.

The first plants to bloom is always the non-native wild mustard, which covers some areas in a yellow blanket. Then there's the wild radish, with it delicate lavender and white blossoms. A few poppies here and there, too. Lupine can't be far behind.

We saw a lot of bird species that day:
Cedar Waxwing
Oak Titmouse
Yellow-rumped Warbler
House Wren (all singing beautifully--even saw one go into a tree cavity nest)
Red-tailed hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Merlin (2 flying together)
Northern Rough-winged Swallows
White-throated Swift
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Bewick's Wren
Song Sparrow
Common Raven (harassing the Red-tailed Hawk)
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker

Seasonal pond--complete with swallow and swift air force diving and gliding everywhere!