Crystal Cove

Hi everyone,

It’s been a week since I’ve posted anything, but I’ve been busy all the same and I have a lot to report. I’m in Monterey this morning, heading north to Sonoma County today to the home of my brother Tim. But this isn’t yet the end of the Olsen Road. I have two or three posts from the last week in the works.

Reading: The Best of Connie Willis

For those of you who don’t know Connie Willis, you can learn about her here and here, and doubtless on many more sites too. This is a collection of her award winning short fiction. I’ve read many of these stories before, but there are some that are new to me.


October 11th

I leave San Clemente State Park early and stop in Newport Beach at Crystal Cove State Park. This turns out to be a most interesting place. As I’ve been focused on beach houses lately, I have to say that there are a few here that deserve attention, in more than one way…

1_Crystal Cove house_1

…all of them in the same state as the one above:

2_CC house_2 4_CC houses_4 5_CC house_5


But wait, there appears to be one, top left, that is still inhabitable:

3_CC houses_3


In fact, the Crystal Cove community is alive and well:

7_Crystal Cove community

Though now a part of the state park system, Crystal Cove is partially managed by an association that seeks to help preserve its traditions and character.


There are many beach bungalows available for short-term rent:

8_houses for rent

The village center of Crystal Cove has a visitor’s center, a restaurant, a bar (of course)…

10_village center

… and also a museum where there is a section devoted to beachware…

11_beachware museum 12_museum bis

13_museum poster

And these are the last photos I take with this camera. After nearly four years of good and loyal service, my very good little Canon gives up the ghost, doubtless from the wear and tear and sand and dust of recent months.

I continue up the coast  via Huntington Beach and Long Beach, somewhat contraried by the fate of my camera. I stop at two or three camera shops along the way  and learn that it will be less expensive to buy a new camera  than to repair this one.

It’s getting late in the day and there is the vast obstacle of Los Angeles just ahead of me, so I decide to drive on and get past it. I take Interstate Highway 410, also called the San Diego Freeway, and Venice Blvd. to make my way to the Pacific Coast Highway. And that is how I end up in a motel in Malibu for the night. It’s too dark for me to go on to the next state park, even though I know it’s not far. The days are much shorter now than when I first started out on the Olsen Road.

Up the coast

I’m in Malibu today, reporting on the last three days.  There are more pictures to come, but I’ve had a problem with my camera. I hope to get it taken care of tomorrow.


October 8th to 11th

I leave Jamul on the 8th and begin to slowly make my way up the coast of southern California, camping at Carlsbad the first night.

1_campsite at Carlsbad

This isn’t a very nice campground and it’s expensive. Many of the beach state parks in southern California are now managed as money-making operations by local municipalities or even private interests.

But there nice sunsets here…

2_sunset at Carlsbad

…and we’re right on the path of southern migration…

5_flying south

…which reminds me that I should be on my way north.


Early the next morning I’m on my way north along the Pacific Coast Highway. I stop at San Onofre State Park, but the campground is closed for the season. I use my pass from the campground in Carlsbad to spend a few hours there. It’s enormous and empty, whereas Carlsbad was crowded.

6_beach at San Onofre

San Onofre Beach is hard to get to. Everywhere there are signs warning us of the unstable cliffs and that we should keep back.

8_cliffs at San Onofre

This beach is isolated and empty, yet our State Park System must nevertheless try to impose prudish laws:

7_no nudity


Later in the day I finally arrive in San Clemente, the beach resort town that became famous in the early 1970s as the location of the Western White House, the California home of then president Richard Nixon. It’s quite near San Onofre State Park.

Fabienne and Wayne, you are right, San Clemente State Park is very nice. It’s the best I’ve seen, with good services and a pleasant personnel, even if they make me change campsites for the second night. This is my second campsite, not so nice as the first:

9_San Clemente campsite 1 10_San Clement campsite 2

(But I didn’t get a picture of the first one. I had a lot more trees there.)

I like San Clemente. The town center is nearby and has everything I need, especially a café with a good internet connection; so I get a lot of work done.  I’m now working on : Heritage materials and biofouling mitigation through UV-C irradiation in show caves: State-of-the-art and future challenges.

And they have nice sunsets too:

11_San Clemente-sunset

But there are beautiful sunsets all along this coast.


One afternoon I take a long walk south of the park to look at some of the expensive homes on the bluff above the beach.

18_houses full west_look fragile

17_houses up close


Speaking of unstable cliffs, all along the California coast, north and south, there are problems with houses sliding down the cliffs. I wonder if and when it may happen to some of these homes:

14_San Clemente houses 2

Some of them look very fragile:

19_very fragile 13_San Clement houses 1

Especially this one:

20_especially this one

I wonder if structures such as these can last another twenty years. Then again, I suppose that these are just another sort of cliff dwelling. They, too, may have to be abandoned.

In Jamul and San Diego

Hi everyone,

With this post it looks as though I may indeed catch up to today’s date.


October 3rd to 7th

I’m in the town of Jamul in southern California, in the San Diego area, with my friends Fabienne and Wayne.

We spend Saturday taking a grand tour of San Diego, starting in the north and heading southwards through the beach communities of Solana Beach, Del Mar, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, La Jolla Shores, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Coronado and more… Wayne must have been exhausted by the end of the day. Here are Fabienne and Wayne at the Torry Pines Glider Port with the Pacific Ocean in the background. Those of you back home in Besançon and at the CLA may recognize Fabienne. She’s a bisontine (that is to say, from Besançon) and was once one of our students.

a1_Fabienne & Wayne at Torrey Pines...


Later that day we have lunch at Loew’s, a harbor resort south of Coronado…

a2_later that day, lunch at Loew's

…with a very nice view northward:

a3_the view from Loew's

Our waitress accepts to take a picture of the three of us.  Too bad we have the sun in our eyes:

a4_our waitress took...sun in eyes


At Nahrain’s Fish and Chicken Grill

In the evening we go out to dinner and I meet some of their friends, a most wonderful group of people:

b1_a most wonderful group of people

From left to right we have Chris, Wayne, Will, Arwa, Jeff (standing), Fabienne and Dennis.

Here’s the group minus Dennis who’s taking the picture:

b2_the group minus Dennis

(photo by Dennis)


Here’s Dennis now, charming the ladies:

b3_Dennis charming the ladies

(photo by Jeff, I believe)


Arwa has now selected our fish.  There was a lengthy discussion with the proprietor as to whether we should have two small fish or just one big one.

b4_Arwa selects our fish

(photo by Dennis)

Arwa shows us our bread:

b6_Arwa show us our bread

(photo by Dennis)


Wayne and Arwa have just concluded a pact…

b7_Wayne and Arwa have just concluded a pact, but...a

(photo by Dennis)


Here Wayne suddenly understands that he has committed himself to a trip to Mexico with Will and Arwa…

b8_...Wayne has only just understood...

(photo by Dennis)

…to Fabienne’s great amusement:

b9_to Fabienne's great amusement

(photo by Dennis)

A great evening and a great meal in great company.


On San Diego Bay

The next day Wayne takes me out on his boat, the Tender Lady:

c3TenderLady 2


(photo by Wayne)

c2_Tender Lady (2)


Captain Wayne:

c4_boating_Captain Wayne


First mate Dennis:

c5_first mate Dennis


The crew:

c6_the crew


The sole passenger, John:

c7_passenger John

(photo by Wayne)


The first mate hard at work:

c8_first mate Dennis at work


Once out on the bay we encounter some seals sunbathing on this buoy:

c9_on the bay_seals


Downtown San Diego appears in the distance:

c10_downtown San Diego_distance


The view beyond Coronado Island:

c11_downtown_beyond Coronado


The Spirit of San Diego overtakes us:

c12_Spirit of San Diego overtakes us


As we approach an aircraft carrier a small Naval Security vessel comes to greet us:

c13_aircraft carrier & security


The same carrier a few moments later. Apparently we’ve convinced security that we’re no threat:

c14_carrier later


We approach downtown:

c15_downtown approaches


Another carrier, the Midway, now a museum:

c16_another carrier_museum


At the foot of downtown:

c17_at the foot of downtown


The Star of India moored near downtown:

c18_the Star of India


San Diego International Airport is quite near and the planes come in very near and very low:



Back in the harbor the crew puts the Tender Lady back in her slip:

c20_back in port c21_the crew puts the TL to rest


The Cabrillo Monument

Later in the day Wayne and I go up to Point Loma and the Cabrillo Monument:

d1_me at the Cabrillo Monument


Cabrillo was this guy…

d2_Cabrillo was this guy...

…briefly introduced by this sign:

d3...this guy here...

I remember studying him in California history at school. You can learn more about him here.


Here I am looking through binoculars at the panorama of San Diego Harbor and Coronado Island:

d4_me again at the monument


A few of the views:

d5_panorama1 d6_panorama2

d7_panorama3 d8_panorama4


Back at the house in Jamul

The entrance to the house:

e1_entrance ches F & W


Needless to say, Fabienne and Wayne have plants…

e2_interesting plants that...

…that you don’t find just anywhere:

e4_....just anywhere


Such as this pepper tree:

e5_like this pepper tree

e6_pepper... e7_...berries


Such familiar plants as agave and prickly pear…

e8_agave and prickly pear, but...

…but this prickly pear appears to have only rudimentary spines:

e9_...this prickly pear... e10_appears to have only rudimentary spines


And numerous flowers:

e11_red flower

e12_orange flower e13_orange flower bis


And something that we do indeed frequently find elsewhere:

e12_garden elf


I’ve had a wonderful time here in San Diego, as you can well see. I feel as though I’ve discovered one of the great cities of my home state, with wonderful people and its own way of life. And I’m very grateful to Fabienne and Wayne for their hospitality and their friendship.

And here I’ll stop. I’m leaving Jamul tomorrow to begin slowly moving up the California coast.

I’m in no hurry.

From Tucson to San Diego

Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego, or rather in Jamul (ha.ˈmu:l) in the southeastern suburbs, at the home of my friends Fabienne and Wayne. As you can see, I’m getting a lot of work done on the blog, but, I assure you, on some papers too.

The trip from Tucson to here was eventful.


September 30th to October 3rd

I leave Tucson early in the afternoon on September 30th, direction due west on Interstate 8.

I plan to stay at Picacho State Recreation Area in California, on the Colorado River. It’s a dirt road, however, some 18 miles long, that leads to the park from the small town of Winterhaven. I hesitate, but the website says that any low-clearence, 2 wheel-drive vehicle or RV can easily get there. I am really looking foward to spending a few days in an isolated and peaceful place near water, where I can swim and get some work done.  So I go for it. Unfortunately, I get a late start because I go shopping in Yuma. By the time I’m approaching the park it’s already dark and I can’t see the road very well any more. It’s a very sandy road and, of course, Van gets stuck.

Van, how could you do this to me? (But I know it’s my own fault.)

There’s only one thing to do, spend the night right here.  I manage to get Van over to the side of the road, to a level place where I can sleep. But wait, there is something else to do. Have a beer! I do so.

It’s only seven in the evening, but I’m exhaused, so I go to bed and read for a while. Needless to say, I don’t sleep very well.

I wake up early and as soon as it’s light I try to get Van unstuck which I manage to do quite easily. It’s a good road, in fact, just very sandy in some places. I imagine that if it hadn’t been dark, I wouldn’t have got stuck. I’m only two miles from the park now, but I don’t want to go any further, I don’t want to risk getting stuck again, especially since it’s downhill towards the beach and I might have difficulty getting back up. I’m disappointed, because I was looking forward to swimming. It’s very hot here. I turn around and head back to civilization, and to a good breakfast in a restaurant in Yuma.

But I do have a plan B. I head west again, stopping in the town of El Centro to wash Van. After that, it’s up into the coastal mountains to Laguna Mountain Recreation Area where I camp for two days.

I like it here. It’s an alpine area above 6,000 feet, so it’s cool; after the Arizona desert this is refreshing. The campground is nearly empty, though they’re expecting a lot of people for the weekend.

The campground is in Cleveland National Forest…

1_Cleveland National Forest

…in an area which, like Portal and Patagonia, is known for its varied bird population:

2_Voice of the forest_sign


The ritual photos of my campsite…

3_Campsite 1

…which may seem repetitive to you, but…

4_Campsite 2

…to me each campsite is unique. And when I move on I always feel a little sad.  This place has been my home for however long or short a time.


The Burnt Rancheria Campground (which is not burnt at all) is near this café where they have a wonderful coffee that has pine nut in it. They’re open for dinner in the evening and so I go there once for my evening meal.

5_Café & Tavern

And nearby there is also a post office, a sporting goods store and a general store with cabins to rent. Further along there are more campgrounds. We’re only little more than an hour from San Diego here, so the area is a popular mountain retreat.


Of course, some of the local wildlife can be dangerous:


I’ve been warned about rattlesnakes throughout my travels, even in the towns. Captain, Dirk and I nearly stumbled upon one near Gila Hot Springs. So I think it might be appropriate to say a few words about them.  You can learn more about rattlesnakes here, and see some pictures here. It’s reassuring to know that these snakes rarely bite and will do so only if provoked or surprised. If treated promptly, their bite is rarely fatal. More importantly, they are predators and help keep down the populations of many birds and rodents. They are also prey themselves to hawks, weasles and king snakes.

But if you see one on your doorstep one day, I’d understand a panicky reaction.


We’re in an alpine forest here…

8_Alpine forest

…with, as is frequent in the coastal regions of California, a fair amount of oak and other deciduous trees…

7_Green forest

…but, once again, the desrt is never far…

9_Desert is never far_Pacific Crest...


Just a short walk from the campground we are on the Desert View Trail where we once again find desert vegetation:

10_Prickly pear, again

For a short time, this trail is part of the well-known Pacific Crest Trail.


The presence of deciduous trees here leads me to discover something I haven’t yet seen on this trip, autumn colors:

11_Discovery here...

12_Autumn colors...

And I’m reminded that time is passing and that I’m now in the final month of my road trip.

I camp here for two nights and regroup after the stressful experience at Picacho.  But San Diego is waiting…


Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego. I’ll report on my activities here in a few days.

Reading: Mormon Country by Wallace  Stegner. Originally published in 1942, this essay is fascinating, if you’re interested in this type of thing. I am.

Article currently working on: Bivalve and barnacle larvae distribution driven by water temperature in a Mediterranean lagoon

Editing note added on October 14th: Captain has alerted me to the fact that I’d misnamed the saguaro cactus as organ pipe (which is yet another type of cactus). I’ve corrected the mistake here.


September 25th – 30th

Tucson is hot. Very hot, even this late in the season. In the high nineties F (36 to 38° C). And it doesn’t cool down very much at night.

I arrive around lunch time from Patagonia and find a motel. I plan to stay through the weekend as I have an appointment to get Van serviced tomorrow morning and to see a chiropractor myself on Monday. Yes, my back has been giving me trouble.

I spend the next several days visiting the area, getting my errands done, working on some papers and working on the blog. One day I drive up to Summerhaven, in the eastern mountains. It’s much cooler up there. Also, I visit some of the local restaurants. And early in the morning I ride my bike around the city center and on the university campus (which is very impressive, by the way).

I find some of the houses in Tucson to be really interesting, particularly in the northern hill area. Many of the houses in the city center look traditionally American, but with the predominating desert vegetation (of course). However, to the north of the city lie the Catalina Mountains, and below them many a posh and intriguing neighborhood. There, I have a hard time seeing the houses due to the heavy vegetation that surrounds them.

The Catalina Mountains in the late afternoon light:

Catalina Mts. 1

The mountains extend from west to east, the entire length of the city.


The area gives me my first photo of a saguaro cactus. I saw my first one driving into the city from the east. Apparently they’re a low altitude plant, so we don’t see them in Patagonia or Portal.

Catalina 3 + cactus


But the saguaro cacti are only a part of the local flora:

Cacti 1_organ pipe + vegetation

Cacti 2 + vegetation

The plant life here is, in fact, quite abundant and diverse.


The perfect saguaro, with a small prickly pear at its feet…

Cacti 4_perfect organ pipe

…but I recognize some other plants too.


Here we see an agave and my old friend the barrel cactus.

House 2 + agave + barrel + vegetation


And here are two barrel cacti, one of them with a red blossom on top. They have a cholla for a neighbor.

Barrel + cholla

The red blossom up close:

Barrel  + red blossom

Does it turn yellow when it fully opens?

Barrel + yellow blossom

Maybe Lois or Val can tell us?


Facing the east, as you can see, there are a good many houses here…

Catalina 5_many houses_east

…though sometimes they’re difficult to see:

House + cacti


They appear to be buried in the plant life, with only the roof visible:

Houses 3 bis...


Occasionally you get a good glimpse of a part of the house…

Catalina 2

…but not much more.


I like Tucson.


Patagonia, Arizona

Patagonia, Arizona, that is, in particular Patagonia State Park.

Still reading: Dominguez-Escalante Journal


September 24th & 25th

It’s time for me to relax and camp by myself for a day. So from Tombstone I drive to Patagonia State Park in southern Arizona, not far at all from the border at Nogales. The town of Patagonia itself is an interesting and rather pretty place with much greenery. To learn more, look here. And for pictures look here.

I arrive in the late morning and find a campsite. I have to pay for a full hookup to get the campsite I want, an isolated one near the lake, but it’s worth it:

1_Campsite 1

If you look hard, to the right, you can catch a glimpse of the lake.


More views of my campsite…

2_Campsite 2

…that evening…

3_Campsite 3

…and the next morning…

4_Campsite 4


A few views of the campground, from my campsite, as the sun comes up.

5_Campground 1_morning


I’m nearly alone here. The nearest neighbors are way over there…

6_Campground 2_nearest neighbors

…and in the morning light I take a picture of my silhouette:

8_Campground 4_me_shadow

I’m starting to take a real interest in photography.


Here’s a view from my campsite, towards the east, taken that evening…

10_View_evening 1_east

…and towards the west, taken the next morning:


Again, you get a glimpse of the lake down below.  I promise you I’m taking you there soon.


But first here’s a view of the evening sky, to the west…

12_Sky_evening 2_west

Desert sunsets are terrific…

…as are the sunrises:



Now, at last, down to the lake, and to my new swimming hole:

14_Lake 1_to shore & swimming hole


Swimming is allowed at most points on the lake.

15_Lake 2_evening_west


The view across the lake in the morning…

19_Lake 6_morning across

…and here’s my swimming hole again. I swim a lot while I’m here.

20_Lake 7_bank


Patagonia Park is rich in wildlife and is of particular interest to bird watchers. The trail you see here in the background is a nature trail leading to the far eastern end of the lake and is designed for birding. The cactus we see here is called a barrel cactus or a fish hook cactus. I’ve seen one before, at Dirk’s place. In this picture it looks as though another plant is growing out of the top…

26_Plants_barrel cactus 1

…but this picture gives you a better idea…

27_Plants_barrel cactus 2

…and this picture, taken at Dirk’s place, shows some of the spines that look like fish hooks, hence the name fish hook cactus:



If you follow the birdwatcher’s trail for a ways, you see a lot of plants typical in the region:

25_Plants_ with a tree


When I first arrive here, I take a long hike along the birdwatching trail and then through the rest of the campground area.  I don’t take any pictures, though, as the sun is directly over head.

Closer to my campsite, and in the morning, I find a lot of  interesting photo opportunities, such as this cholla…

30_Plants_cholla and tree 2

…and these berries…

32_Plants_red berries 1 33_Plants_redberries 2

…though I have no idea what they’re called…

34_Plants_orange berries


I find a few flowers too…

22_Flowers 1_white

…and some wild morning glories:

23_Flowers 2_morning glory 1 24_Flowers 2_morning glory 2

There are a lot of morning glories in the area and I take a lot of photos, but most of my photos don’t look very good. I experiment with the zoom a lot and I have a lot to learn.

I’m happy at this campsite and at this campground, and I figure it’s worthwhile to pay for a full hookup even though I can’t really use it with Van. When the sun goes down I can plug in the computer and work through the evening without fear of running down the battery too much, right? I’ll get all caught up with the blog, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! As soon as I try to turn on the computer hordes of inects descend upon both me and the screen.  And I do mean hordes.  By eight o’clock in the evening I give up and go to bed. The sun goes down early here, which is a good thing in this heat, but eight o’clock is early to go to bed. I don’t mind going to bed so early, but I do mind waking up so early, like 4 a.m. I can read in Van, but in this environment, even there, my light attracts a lot of bugs.

Otherwise, I’d like to stay here for another day or two. But Van has an appoimtent to be serviced, so I must be on my way after just one day.  The next stop is Tucson.

Douglas, Bisbee and Tombstone

Hi everyone,

I’m in San Diego now, trying to catch up on this blog, and I have a lot to report.


September 23rd & 24th, 2014

Reading: I finished Travels With Charlie long ago and am now reading The Dominguez-Escalante Journal: Their Expedition Through Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico in 1776.


I left Portal after breakfast at the Portal Café with Dirk and some of his friends and then headed for the town of Douglas, on the Mexican border.

Douglas is an interesting experience.  Here, at the south end of G Avenue, the town’s main street, we see something that many of us have heard of, the “fence”:

1-International Street

If you zoom in you can see the name of the street, “International”. It’s one thing to have heard of this fence or to simply know of its existence, but it’s something else to actually see it.


The view to the left…


…straight ahead…

3_straight ahead

…and to the right…


…with one of the now familiar (to me) Border Patrol vehicles.

I don’t want to make light of serious situation, nor to say anything demeaning or cynical. Illegal immigration is a serious problem, with vast consequences, but I can’t help remembering what a certain well-known person said in a now-famous speech, “…tear down this wall.”


Douglas is a town that makes you understand the cliché “sun-baked”.

Downtown Douglas, looking north…

6_downtown Douglas looking north

…and looking south, with Van in the foreground…

7_downtown Douglas south


In the middle there is the Hotel Gadsden that Dirk told me about:

5_the Gadsden Hotel

The name Gadsden is a reference to James Gadsden (US ambassador to Mexico) of the “Gadsden Purchase” (also known as the “Venta de la Mesilla”), the purchase by the US from Mexico of a vast territory south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande in 1854. You can read more about it here.

Inside, the Gadsden lobby looks like this…

9_inside Gadsden_lobby

…and this…

10_inside Gadsden_lobby bis

…and there is also this stained glass window:

11_inside Gadsden_stained glass


Above all, there is this painting:

8_inside the Gadsden_Portal Canyon

Dirk has told me about it.  Do you recognize where it is?

There are a lot more pictures of the Hotel Gadsden interior here.


I then headed northwest to Bisbee, a most interesting town near an enormous copper mine.  Dirk has told me a lot about Bisbee and I think I’ll have to go back one day.  I did take a few pictures, though. Here’s a shot of downtown Bisbee:

12_downtown Bisbee-1

The town appears to be nearly only this street…


…with houses piled up on top of each other…


…and many colorful restaurants and gift shops



And then I moved on, to the iconic town of Tombstone with its many legends.

Here’s the main street of Tombstone in the evening light…

17_downtown Tombstone evening

…and the following morning…

18_downtown, morning light

…with some well-known references…

19_and some well known references

…and the definite touristic side…

20_with its touristy side

…well-known and touristic…

21_well known and touristy

…well-designed for this day and age, a brewery…

22_in this day and age

…and a winery…

23_but nevertheless of interest

…showing the old and the new…

24_showing the old and the new

…and a significant mixture:

25_with its iconic mix_pharmacy


Of course, there is the famous Tombstone courthouse…

26_courthouse, of course,

…in the evening…

27_courthouse, evening...

…and in the morning…

28_courthouse, morning

…right next door to the idyllic Rose Cottage, a private residence:

30_right next door, Rose Garden


Another well-known reference, undoubtedly to Wyatt Earp, a town sheriff in the heyday of Tombstone:

31_Wyatt's Hotel

I looked around town for other references to historic characters. I found Doc Holladay, but no others.


Some Tombstone shops post poignant messages that are likely as valid now as they were then:

32_here and there, some poignant messages

Learn more about Tombstone here.

Portal, Arizona

September 20th to 23rd

The community of Portal, where my friend Dirk lives a good part of the year, is located in the extreme southeast of Arizona. It’s a small place, but it’s big on scenery. This is Portal Road, that leads from Highway 80 to the Chiricauhua Montains…

1_road to Chiricauhua Mts and Portal from Hiway 80

…where we find the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon:



I’ve mentioned that Cave Creek Canyon, Portal and its surrounding areas have been very hard hit by the recent heavy rains in the southwest. This is one of the National Forest Service buildings in the Portal area, just a short way up the canyon:

3_NFS building near Portal


And this is the view today just across the road, where the rains created a raging torrent a few days ago:

4_view of Cave Creek from road


A nearby road is closed…

4b_nearby road is out

…and doesn’t look like it’ll be open again soon, to the great concern of the community:

4c_and not likely to soon be repaired


Upstream and down, the same devastation…

4c_upstream 4d_and  down, the same devastation

…under continually menacing skies:

4e_under ever menacing skies


A ranger allows us to drive up to Sunny Flat Campground. I say “allows” because this road, too, will soon be closed to traffic…

5_Sunny Flat campground up canyon; will save the...

At first glance, things don’t look too bad. Notice the heavy vegetation below the rock formations, the tall trees in particular:

6_notice the heavy vegetation... 7_birding...

The vegetation here, and the shelter of the canyon, make this area one of the most attractive bird watching areas in the world. Indeed, “birding” brings people here from everywhere. Scientists too, come here to study the riparian habitat of this very unique canyon.


But let’s leave the devastation for further investigation tomorrow. Here’s the sunset from Dirk’s house:

9_sunset from Dirk's 10_sunset bis


The eastern sky this evening is nice too:

11_eastern sky in evening over vegetable garden


The same eastern sky the next morning:

12_eastern sky morning from Dirk's


Here’s the house Dirk is building. The morning light hasn’t quite reached it yet:

13_Dirk's house under construction and other house


A short distance way we see the house of Dirk’s neighbor. This house, though situated at some distance from the creek, was nevertheless flooded.

15_neighbor's house, flooded


The western sky this morning:

17_and rises further 18_mysterious canyon mouth

I have to admit that Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me.


This morning we decide to go for a hike to assess the damage. We park only a short way up the canyon…

20_we drive up the canyon for a hike...


…the view across the road is not encouraging:

21_view across the road


Dirk sets out on the trail:

22_Dirk sets out along the trail

We’re on the Cave Creek Nature Trail, that will take us up the canyon along the creek to Sunny Flat Campground and further:

In some places the trail and its surroundings seem to be untouched…

23_in some places the trail is untouched

23b_untouched trail

…and we see the normal vegetation…

24_an we see the normal vegetation

…like this cholla and this prickly pear…

25_this cholla

26_prickly pear

…these flowers…

26c_flowers2 26d_flowers3

…a prickly poppy…

26e_sacred datura

…and this wild morning glory. I told you I’d find one, didn’t I?

26f_told you I'd find a wild morning glory


But suddenly the flood damage becomes apparent…

27_then suddenly, the flood damage is there

…the creek has cut new channels…

28_the creek has cut new channels

…we see just how high the water level rose…

29b_water level

…and the extent of the damage across the canyon floor.

30_and now wide across the canyon floor


The grass has been flattened…

31_everywhere the grass has been...

…like this yucca…

31b_as has this yucca

The trail, too, became a channel in some places…

32_the trail itself became a channel

…much debris has been deposited…

35_and much debris deposited

…and this bench was under water…

36_this bench along the trail was under water


Above Sunny Flat Campground the rock formations remain serene…

38_ rock formations above are superb 38b_another rock formation


We follow the road back down the canyon towards Portal…

39_the road is covered with sand and silt

…silt and sand have been deposited all across the canyon floor.

40_as is the forest floor

This road has been partially washed out…

42_part of the road has been washed out

…and isn’t likely to be repaired soon.

43_and won't soon be repaired


Dirk wades through a still-flooded part of the road:

44_Dirk walks through a still-flooded part of the road


In some places the road is now part of the creek:

44b_in some place the water over the road is still deep


This camprgound was completely flooded…

45_one of the many campgrounds...

…and nearby a new spring has appeared…

46_nearby a new spring has appeared

…which continues to pour water onto the grounds.

47_and pours water into the campground


Later, back in Portal and on a lighter note, these javelinas, or peccaries, roam the village.

49_back in Portal...javalinas

They’re a wild new world pig and not related to swine. I say “on a lighter note”, but in fact javelinas can be real pests.

50_javalina bis

You can learn more about them here.

The people of Portal are understandably concerned about how and when the infrastructure on which they all depend will be repaired. They’re also concerned about the canyon itself. As one of Dirk’s friends said to us, “This canyon is why we’re here.”

Mother Nature will likely find a way to take care of the canyon, though it will take time.

As I said ealier, Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me. Here’s the canyon sky at the end of the day:

48_canyon sky at the end of the day


And in the evening of the following day…

55_evening sky

56_canyon sky evening, in fact...


The eastern sky at the same moment…

55b_evening sky


Early the next morning at Dirk’s house…

59_cars, house, trailer & mountain morning light

…both east…

58_eastern sky morning

…and west…


The Cave Creek Canyon area is, as they say, a hidden gem, or, one of the unknown ends of the earth.

Silver City…en fête

September 12th & 13th

Friday evening Pickamania begins. You can read more about it here and here.

It starts of with an Irish folk music group from Tucson called the Out of Kilters:

1_Pickamania kicks off with...


Captain learns some Irish folk dancing…

2_Captain learns Irish folk dancing

…while Star calls out the steps…

2b_while Star calls out...


The next day at the farmer’s market…

3_The next day at the farmer's market...

…the Loose Blues play music for us while we shop…

4...the Loose Blues play while we...


A little later, after a lunch of tacos in the park, we listen to another very good group called the Littlest Bird:

5_A little later The Littlest Birds...


And then another group comes on, the Higher Ground…

7_Higher Ground 2

6_...followed by Higher Ground... 8_Higher Ground 3

…really very, very good.


In the meantime Captain and I…


…have a beer in the nearby beer garden:

12_...have a beer...

You’ll notice that I’m wearing my jacket. It is a little cool today as tropical storm Odile moves into the area for several days of rain. I’ve mentioned these rains in some of my previous posts. They will have serious consequences for the little community of Portal, Arizona where Dirk is now and where I’m soon to be going.

Pickamania continues the rest of the day and tomorrow. Unfortunately I don’t see a whole lot of it. I have work to do on my computer. And tomorrow I’m off for Gila Hot Springs again, already reported in a previous post. The rain will drive me out of Gila, though, and send me back to Faywood, also recounted in a previous post. Sorry for the confusing chronology.

Gila River Hot Springs

September 10th & 11th, 2014

This morning Captain and I load up Van and head north into the Gila Mountains to camp overnight…

2_Gila forest...

…at Gila Hot Springs Ranch:

3_Gila Hot Springs Ranch

The Gila Hot Springs Ranch is located on one of the upper forks of the Gila River, where the water flows year round. Unfortunately, I seem to have neglected to take a photo of the river itself. The ranch is located below these rock formations:

4_below this rock formation

5_rock formation_different angle

In addition to its semi-developped hot springs and campground (a wonderful place to soak and camp), GHSR is a real working ranch of some importance, with horses, goats and probably other animals too.

6_is a working ranch 6b_of some importance

Horses go by from time to time:

6c_horses go by

Located on this meadow, …

7_near this meadow

…Gila is a veritable village, with some nearby houses…

8_is a veritable village 8b_house

…including this one, with a small secondary dwelling, which is for sale:

8c_this house is for sale 8d_including this small guest house

Gila is a place with a spirit, and humor…

9_a village with a spirit 9b_and a certain humor

…that we see espcially when we drive out:

10_especially on driving out

As said in the previous post about the cliff dwellings, we meet up with our friend Dirk. We find a campsite just next to his:

11_we find a camp site

Dirk has been here since the previous day and his camp is already set up…

12_next to Dirk's who's already here

…and he’s very well equipped for camping:

13_Dirk is well equipped, glimpse of river...

If you look hard, on the left side of the picture, you can catch a glimpse of the Gila River.

Of course, the best thing about a hot springs resort is the soaking pools…

14_...but the best part is the springs

…which, at Gila, are relatively natural…

15_...which are quite natural...

… for such a semi-developed facility…

16_...for a developed resort

…and are clean and well maintained…

17_...with water which is very hot...

Set under the many cottonwood trees that grow along the river, Gila is a wonderful place.  We talk and soak and get caught up. Dirk makes a terrific fish curry for dinner, and we soak and talk and drink beer and wine and tequila (all in moderation, of course).

The grounds at Gila are lovely and many flowers grow here. Some are wild, like these wild sunflowers that I first saw at Pott’s Ranch hot springs in Nevada…

19_...both wild...

…and these too whose name I don’t know (but I’m glad to see that the Occupy Movement has come this far)

21_...glad to see the occupy movement...

…and some not so wild…

18_Many flowers grow on the grounds... 18b_...bis...

22_...and not so wild... fact the proprietor told me...

In fact, the proprietor confirms that these morning glories are domestic. Wild morning glories can be found, though, in these desert regions.  I’ll try to take some pictures.

The following day, after a leisurely morning of soaking and talking and an early lunch of mushroom omelettes, we get ready to leave.

Captain washes the dishes:

25_Captain cleaning up

Dirk packs up his truck:

24_Dirk packs his truck

Dirk is leaving for the small community of Portal in southeastern Arizona where he has some land and is building a house.  We’ll meet up with him again there.

I decide that I’ll come back to Gila on my own in the coming days.  See the previous posts about that.

Right now, though, Captain and I are on our way back to Silver City, where the music festival Pickamania is about to begin.