Author Archives: ramcquade

April 21-25, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Grey Ghost

Grey Ghost

I arrived at The Narrows RV Park and set up camp. Very nice, well maintained campground where I have stayed a few times before. About 20 miles south of Burns and only a couple of miles from the refuge headquarters, this is a convenient spot to stay.

My first day out I encountered nine different male Northern Harriers, the grey ghosts, and Malhuer is one of the few places I have ever found that these guys can be found in numbers. But for some strange reason, I never again encountered more than one or two of them again during the rest of my stay.

Meadowlark

Meadowlark

Meadowlarks were out singing for mates all throughout the refuge.

Meadowlark

Meadowlark

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

I almost always get some good chances at capturing the brilliantly colored male Ring-necked Pheasants here, but never quite like this sequence.

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

He was escorting two hens and not 30 feet from me started this “rooster crowing” display.

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Can’t say it really sounded anything like a “cookie-doodle-dooo”, but it must do something for the gals.

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

American Bittern

American Bittern

Another pleasant surprise was getting a chance at a couple of bitterns, this guy assuming his classic camouflage position, apparently not realizing he was surrounded with short green grass, not his usual hiding spot within the taller straw colored grasses.

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Curlews and white-faced ibis were plentiful throughout the refuge this spring…

Willet

Willet

… as were willets, this one perched high up on the smokestack of an incinerator, kind of an unusual spot to see one.

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April 20-21, 2017 California to Malheur NWR, Oregon

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

A Loooooong Detour to get out of California

I broke camp at Westport Union Beach and headed south down Route 1 to Branscom Road and up and over the coastal mountains to Route 101 North. My plan was to head up along the Oregon coast on 101 and pick one of the oceanfront State Parks to camp in for a few days before heading farther north. Just a relatively short drive today. Unfortunately, that is not how the trip unfolded.

The far northern section of Highway 1 has been closed for quite some time due to the heavy rains there this winter … that is why I headed back inland to Route 101 before heading north. However, after getting on 101 and going north to where Highways 1 and 101 meet, I was greeted by a flagman standing in the middle of 101 and turning traffic around, due to a rock slide that was covering the highway to a depth of 15 feet and more ( he said ).  To head north, I had to backtrack south down 101, pick up Route 20 east to I-5 north through Redding and past Mount Shasta, then hit the state of Oregon many miles east of the coast. In total this amounted to a 7 hour 240 mile unplanned detour over some lousy roads ( aren’t all the roads in California lousy? ).

As a result of this totally unplanned change in direction and delay, I changed my mind about my next destination and left I-5 at Weed to pick up Route 97 north to Oregon and headed for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Narrows RV Park.

Mount Shasta Through the Windshield

Mount Shasta Through the Windshield

The one nice thing about this detour was that the new route took me past Mount Shasta for the first time and the mountain at sunset was a pretty spectacular sight on this rare and beautiful blue sky day. I ended up spending the night at an Oregon Welcome Center Rest Stop instead of an Oregon State Park on the coast and made it to The Narrows the next day around noon.

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April 18, 2017 Westport Union State Beach, California

Westport Union State Beach

Westport Union State Beach

Last Few Days in Beautiful But Expensive California

Westport Union State Beach Campsite

Westport Union State Beach Campsite

After soaking in the rain for several days in gloomy Bodega Bay, I headed north up the coastal highway on a relatively nice sunny day through Mendocino and then Fort Bragg, to Westport Union State Beach.

Westport Union State Beach Campsite

Westport Union State Beach Campsite

I had found this spot a few years back when I camped inland and drove the Prius through the coastal mountains and then along the Coast Highway, at the time, a little leery of taking the motorhome over the challenging mountains to the coast. Back then I thought this would be a nice remote peaceful spot to spend a bit of time doing nothing …. but in a beautiful setting!

Back then there were many campsites right on the edge of the bluff above the beach, today there are only a few left. Wave erosion has forced the campground to close most of the sites along the bluff as the bluffs are rapidly being lost to the ocean. No Verizon signal here, no water, no electric, no dump station, and sites are $33/night. Wonderful view and absolutely great place for being lulled to sleep at night by the crashing surf below.

The drive over the mountains on Route 20 or farther north on Branscom Road to get back inland to Route 101 is really not that severe if one takes it easy and is prepared for some long 6% grades and some fairly sharp curves, but it was easily done in my motorhome with the Prius in tow.

Yet more rain while I was here and I guess I am about ready to leave beautiful, but expensive California and head for Oregon.

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April 13, 2017 Bodega Bay, California

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

Monday morning I left the Mariposa Fairground and made what I thought would be a 4 hour trip to Bodega Bay on the California Coast. My 4 hour trip ended up being closer to 7 hours when I made the mistake of heading north from Mariposa on Route 49, a road I had not driven before. Well, turns out there are a few 7% grades to climb and descend, as well as about a thousand sharp switchbacks and hairpin turns along that route, and, although it was nothing my rig couldn’t handle, I seldom found myself going much over 20 mph.

And then, when I finally reached route 101 and turned north to Petaluma, I encountered some of California’s infamous commuter traffic heading north to home after a work day spent in the San Francisco area ( I’m guessing ). Four lanes of northbound traffic were squeezed down to two lanes at a point where there was an on ramp with traffic backed up forever, and this resulted in a traffic jam of about seven miles moving at stop and go speed and taking around an hour to cover the those seven miles into Petaluma where I was finally able to get off the highway and head west to the coast on uncrowded secondary roads. I have no idea how these poor folks can handle this day after day. This backup was caused strictly by traffic volume and not by any kind of construction or an accident along the way … this would be a daily occurrence!

Without a doubt, this state has got to have the most dangerous aggressive drivers I have encountered. Couple that with the deplorable condition of most of the roads in the state and horrific traffic conditions and suffice it to say, this is not a fun state to travel in. Add in the higher cost of everything out here, gas  ( where does all the gas tax money actually go since it obviously isn’t showing up in highway maintenance ), camping fees ( my spot in Bodega Bay is $34/night for a primitive site and is much less than anything else around here ),  and food ( I was going to treat myself to a fresh seafood dinner in one of the local restaurants, but checking out menus and realizing that it would be over $50 for any sort of meal, I had a sandwich at home ). But then, there is an unbelievable amount of unique and gorgeous natural features in the state, so it pretty much is a must see state. Grin and bear it, I guess.

Westshore Camping Area on Bodega Bay

Westshore Camping Area on Bodega Bay

Anyhow, I finally made it to the Westshore Camping Area in Bodega Bay around 5 PM and was able to get into a site that had three midweek days that were unreserved. All the reservable sites in the campground were reserved for the weekend, so I hoped maybe someone would move out of the two first come, first served sites before my three days were up … and lo and behold, both sites opened up the next day and I was able to claim one of them and thus can stay here through the weekend now.

Weather continues to be very wet, rain every day so far with just one 6 hour window of sun and cloudy skies when I was able to zip up Route 1 for 30 miles and get these shots.

Campground Wildflowers

Campground Wildflowers

Some spots of nice wildflowers but no poppies in bloom yet, still a couple of weeks away.

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

Probably because of the weather, but traffic on Coastal Route 1 is pretty light right now, making it a very pleasant drive.

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

At the mouth of the Russian River, Route 1 climbs up to hundred feet or so above the beach and you get this view of a stretch of beach where the harbor seals haul out.

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

Wonder what the “sleep number” is on those rocks, these guys look like they are pretty comfortable.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

This Peregrine falcon was perched atop a sea stack only a few feet from the edge of the highway …

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

… keeping an eye on everything while doing his morning preening routine.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

I’ve never encountered one of these birds that was so unafraid of humans nearby. Of course there was no way you could get out to where it was sitting, but still quite unusual for a bird of prey to be this unconcerned with human activity so close by ( less than 100 feet ).

Hillside Grazers

Hillside Grazers

Along Route 1, you have some incredibly steep drop-offs to the cliffs and beach hundreds of feet below, with no guard rails, so most people probably don’t even notice the cattle grazing of the green hillsides on the other side of the highway. These animals have to be in some kind of shape to handle the steep grades of their pasture land.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

About 30 miles north of Bodega bay is the Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve, where rhodys grow wild up to 30 feet tall under second growth redwoods. Unfortunately, I was a little early to catch the rhodys in bloom, but it must be something to see in a month or so.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

The four mile drive ( single lane one way gravel road ) takes you through a dark, damp, coastal rain forest. Lots of moss and ferns to see in addition to the rhodys and redwoods.

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