If you have eaten any almonds, walnuts, pecans or pistachios lately, they were likely grown in a California valley like the one near us. When we travel half an hour south of here, we pass beautiful lush green pastures where Black Angus graze and tend their tiny calves at this time of year. The stands of nut trees are immaculately trimmed and waiting for the blossoms which will appear soon. It is winter here but it feels like an Ontario spring. Narcissus and Daffodils are blooming in the park. There are a variety of wild flowers on the hills and hedges of Rosemary line the streets, fragrant and buzzing with Humming Birds and Bees. We enjoy this landscape as our relatives in Boston battle one of their worst winters in many years and Ontario friends battle cold and snow and secretly keep their fingers crossed that the groundhog’s prediction of an early spring will come true.
The Sierra SKP Park near Coarsegold, California is paradise. Unlike most RV Parks that are rows of rigs lined up, the sites here are privately and scenically situated along winding roads at a variety of elevations on the hillsides. Our lot is situated atop a hill where we look out over foothills and mountains. There are many songbirds around and I encouraged them with a bird bell, suet and hummingbird feeder. As well, there are small flowering plants off our patio that attract the seed eaters. Living a vagabond lifestyle does not lend itself to backyard bird watching but our campsite here has been fruitful. Three Acorn Woodpeckers, so named for pecking large holes in trees to store acorns, regularly visit the pre-pecked myriad of holes on the trees outside our motor home. They are the boldest of the birds, coveting the bird bell away from the other species. One dominant woodpecker’s grating call and the Cooper’s Hawks’ screeches as soar across “our” valley are the only noises that break the peace.
As I have been closely observing ‘the peckers’, Chris has been enjoying the ‘pair of tits’ that frequent the feeder. Sorry, but I am my Father’s daughter and can’t resist using some elementary school humour now and then. The Tufted Titmouse is a cute tiny bird with a sweet song who select a seed and flit to a branch to crack it open and scoff it down.
The Scrub Jay’s sky-blue is as loud as his screeches. He clears away the finches when he arrives at the feeder. Gold Finches, still dressed in their olive-green winter outfits, arrive in bunches of ten to fifteen, land on the rosemary, nibble for a few minutes and suddenly zoom off together. Many Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds alternate drinking from my feeder and the Manzanita blossoms on the nearby hill.
A pair of White-breasted Nuthatches love the suet, upside down of course. Three varieties of Sparrows; Chipping, Song and White-throated have sampled the bell. The Rufus-sided Towhee is an elegant bird that a uses back and forth,bunny-hop dance steps to forage in the leave for seeds.
Walking Dixie in the park changes each day as we venture up the variety of roads and down into the valley. Some of the trails run along an old stagecoach trail. The camp purchased an authentic stagecoach that is displayed to honor the heritage of the property. A small river passes through the park and has been restored by recent rains. The water has carved beautiful holes and whorls in the granite. Dixie has taken a few dips in the ponds as we trek the “back forty” a mix of grasslands, wild flowers and various trees: many species of small-leafed Oaks, some Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines, various trees filled with invasive Mistletoe and many Manzanita filled with pink blossoms whose trunks and branches look like they have been created by fine woodworkers. Hearing the frogs and seeing many Robins, remind us of spring in Ontario. We “talk” to the Ravens who answer our ‘cluock- cluock’ calls and we are always keeping an eye over our shoulder for cougars. The signs in all the parks warn hikers to 1. Look large, 2. Make lots of noise, 3. DO NOT RUN from a cougar and 4. If attacked, fight back. Ok, sure.
screened in to keep out squirrels and woodpeckers
Reminds me of the Angry Apple Trees in The Wizard of Oz
Our closest towns, Coarsegold and Oakhurst were settled during the turn of the century Gold Rush. They now thrive on eco tourism. Driving around the foothills takes some getting used to. As all the roads are either going up or coming down a mountain and curving at the same time, blind spots are everywhere and passing slower vehicles is next to impossible. Luckily there are many turn outs and passing lanes although at night, they are not easy to see. When entering a highway its best just to hit the gas and go like stink. Because of the frequent fog conditions there are many three dimensional reflectors on both side of the centre-white lines plus yellow lights flash on signs warning of close intersections. The result is an alternating of pitch black, then reflecting lights that assault night vision with acuity.
Our lot faces northwest so we judge the merits of each sunset from our porch. A donkey brays loudly before the sun drops each evening. The hills remain a darker black than the sky so that their stark silhouettes are visible against the stars. We see a patchworks of small squares and rectangles of the lights in the homes and barns sprinkled there. Cows, horses, roosters and coyotes lend their voices to the silent nights.