As I was hiking the trail between Proctor Road and Madera Picnic Area in Madera Canyon, https://friendsofmaderacanyon.org, I realized “snowbirders, the people”, are coming and here in SE Arizona! It’s that time of year when many people escape their anticipated cold, long winters where they live and descend upon SE Arizona. Others choose this area because the birding possibilities are numerous. Whatever the reason … welcome!
But also know … I live here year-round and have observed when snowbirds arrive there are more vehicular accidents and traffic on the roads. (We have pedestrian walkways with lights where you must stop with traffic lights to be observed and followed.) The Rillito farmer’s market, our largest one, becomes unbelievably crowded with people, no dogs please, and recently I almost found no parking space. The market only opened 15 minutes earlier! Next time I will bike/walk to the market which is right off the Chuck Huckleberry Bike Loop. You know about that bike loop, right? (If not, check it out, http://tucson loop.org it is a gem in Tucson and beyond.)
I am not complaining … or maybe a bit … but please know it is a wonderful area to visit in the winter and I wish to see it remain safe on the roads and pleasant in the canyon. Some of you may want to observe the elegant trogon and others may wish to hike a trail with other pleasant people. I saw 8 people walk on a trail and totally miss the elegant trogon in the tree. Stop being distracted on the road or trail and take time to LOOK! I know snowbirders are here and we can co-exist, but take time to look on the road and trail!
Bicycling is fun and so is birding. Combine the two activities and there is a challenge at least while I ride my Trek bicycle. I can cycle along and hear the cactus wren at the cholla cactus, the curve-billed thrasher by the cactus or under a creosote bush, or a common raven cawing overhead. But as soon as I coast, stop pedaling, on my bicycle there is a buzzing sound flushing birds from the area! Very frustrating if I want a closer look at the bird or even a photograph!
Well my reality is I am not going to stop birding while bicycling. Instead I have realized I should just keep pedaling, even if it is slowly, when I want to take a closer look. Or pass by the area where a bird is or stop before where I think I am hearing the bird!
We have a wonderful bike loop here in Tucson, Arizona so many bicyclists are out cycling and maybe not as observant of some things that I may notice. At times I stop to observe, listen, and take in a moment. I’ll continue to bicycle and bird …
By the way, the clicking sound is like that of a ratchet wrench, if you know what that is. On a bicycle, the sub-component of a bike’s rear wheel is the free hub that allows the wheel to keep spinning even when I have stopped pedaling. The drivetrain is instantly disengaged until there is a transfer of power from me to the wheel when I pedal. There is more to this in the world of “pawls” to understand the creation of the clicking sound; I will not get into here. I just want to get outdoors to cycle and bird! Hope you are having a great day!
My campsite is near a bicycling trail, the Salado Creek Trail. It finally stopped raining so I hopped on my bicycle. This trail section is only 7 miles long through a wooded area paralleling a creek. There are some tricky intersections so having my app to check my location a couple of times did help. Anyway to my surprise, I caught up with 2 bicyclists, one from Minnesota and the other a city-employed “trail steward”. She works 3 – 4 days a week, 4 hours per day, and bicycles the path so people feel comfortable knowing where to go. I also suspect the city had a homeless problem in areas under bridges and with much of the wooded areas of the trail. I had a good ride and talk with them and cycled around the nearby lake before heading back. I extended my ride for about 1.5 miles beyond the campground. I noticed they are working on more bike path extensions. Yippee!
Here are a couple of photos from that ride:
San Antonio Botanical Garden
After my bicycle ride and a much-needed shower, I drove to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, I decided to eat lunch at their restaurant, Jardin, before walking the beautiful gardens. First let me say, my lunch of edamame falafel in a pita bread with mixed salad was absolutely delicious! (And I am very much appreciative of another camper having mentioned the restaurant to me.) While walking the garden I discover this place has rose gardens, a fern grotto, buildings for specific plants: palms and cycads, desert plants, tropical plants and very good signage at each location. There is a Family Adventure area where children can walk a maze, climb on rocks and are encouraged to touch things. A young bride was having her photo taken in various locations in the garden and others were setting up for an upcoming light show here. I have included some photos, but they’ll never do the place justice. If you love plants be sure to visit here …. and plan for lunch or dinner too.
Photos from the garden:
Children Can Learn in Many Environments
I want to take a moment and share an observation I made at a neighborhood park: John Jay Park in San Antonio. I thought this was a brilliant idea in helping parents and care givers of children enjoy time together at a park. This series of signs in English and Spanish lined the park pathway; I did not include them all. An adult encouraging a child to do these activities is wonderful. Check out the signs as I think there is nothing more for me to say.
Never been to Grand Junction, Colorado so all the more reason to add it to my travel plan! Isn’t that what travel is all about? Mix in favorite locations with new ones and your adventure continues! Thanks to conversations with two couples I met on the Riverfront Bicycling Trail, I learned about this area. I met them at different locations so I counted those moments as breathers on my bicycle ride.
This day was my non-driving day; I have them every so often to offset long driving days. So I bicycled the Riverfront Trail from my campground on the eastern side of Grand Junction to Fruita, a mountain biking town I always heard about, on the western side of Grand Junction. The bicycle path parallels the Colorado River. On one side, the path passes parks, a wildlife refuge, a disc golf area, a golf course, red rocks in the distant hills, and of course the river with some floating rafters. There are plenty of benches to sit and contemplate the world. On the other side, the path has an industrial look with businesses and future real estate being developed. One area had Airstreams as Air BNB’s. I also bird-watched as I cycled along.
I spoke with a “walking-on-the-trail” couple who grew up in Grand Junction, stayed 54 years. I walked with them while we talked. She is planting trees and supporting work for 9 more miles of bicycle trail. He is a city government employee. We talked about the new housing/condos to be built within the next 3 years on what I previously referred to as industrial. He agreed with my assessment of Grand Junction to become a road bicycling magnet and Fruita a mountain biking magnet. He said the snow plow was out only 6 times this past winter, it does stay cold, and they have many days of sunny, blue skies. This is high desert, 4500 feet elevation, and not as touristy and expensive as places like Glenwood Springs. Some inversions in winter, but 245 days of sunshine making it the sunniest city in Colorado. We talked about the homeless people; they are here as in many places I visited. There is a long way between this western city and any other place so I am not sure where homeless go in the winter.
Another “bike-riders-on-the-trail” couple were really fascinating. They are local realtors and been here for 20 years. He made a funny comment, not believing he would stay in what he thought was an ugly place. But he eventually found the downhill skiing and especially the cross-country skiing on the huge mesa here good. Plus the road & mountain bicycling opportunities and time on the Colorado River a surprise. We talked about housing. He pointed to the million dollar house locations, close to the foothills of the national monument; however; there is housing at all price tags. As in any town, finding what works is the challenge. Another interesting point was use of the local Walker airport. They go through TSA checks, onto the airplane quickly to fly to a hub. They catch their next plane with ease compared to going to the big city. Interesting!
In the closing miles of my bicycle ride, I stopped at a mountain biking course where young riders were competing. Wonderful seeing young people outdoors and active. At another location, I watched a quarterhorse competition. Many horse ranches are on this side of town. Tomorrow, I continue exploring.
This trip is not really all about birds. I must admit to being excited when seeing a new bird though. I checked in at my campground in Salinas. In past trips I have already seen the cannery and other Salinas history, so off I went to Point Pinos in Pacific Grove, California. Will I see a new bird?
I hope we all appreciate the agricultural work done here in California … so many fruits, vegetables, nuts, and there are the workers out in the many, many fields bringing in the food we shop for at our markets. While driving some back roads I discover Castroville is the “artichoke capital of the world”. Cherries and pluots are available now. And while we thank these workers, let’s not forget the truckers who are hauling these products all over the place! I see the trailer trucks here and on the interstates.
At Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, I see the usual birds: various gulls, brown pelicans, cormorants and then black turnstones! The thing about birding, I sometimes have an idea of what I am looking for and other times I discover a bird. I may not recognize the bird, so I photograph it, and later in the day identify it. The black turnstone is a new one for my life list.
Another day … another bird?
The next day another birding hotspot: Moss Landing State Beach and north jetty where many birds were reported and apparently sea otters. I did not know about the otters till a woman asked me where they were, as we looked out on harbor seals lying in the mud flats. This was the Pantano Marsh area so I decided to walk the state beach and jetty.
Sanderlings and marbled godwits are fun to watch as they run toward the ocean water going out, dig into the sand for food, and run back on the beach as the water flows in! At the jetty, people fish for whatever fish they can catch, or so they tell me.
The usual shorebirds were here too, but as I looked over the rocks on the jetty I saw a bird by itself. I knew what a common murre looks like swimming in water since all field guides have that picture; however, this one??? Hmmm… photo taken and later I identify it as a common murre! Another new bird!
I ate lunch in my van and worked at my laptop to download photos and identify some. By the time I finished the work, it was time for a bicycle ride. I take the Monterey Coastal bike path from Fort Ord State Park …plenty of sand dunes here … toward Monterey. I start my Garmin to track my ride and “gale warning” is displayed on the Garmin. Ok, let’s get a ride in before that is a major concern!
Sea otter in the area!
I met interesting people today: couple from Oakland, CA because I found the woman again and could direct her to where the sea otter was eating. The woman, her husband and I could comfortably talk about any topic we wished and did so for a half hour. I also directed them to where the sea otter was … yes, only one sea otter and great fun to watch. I eventually direct others to where I had seen the sea otter.
Another guy from Las Vegas, NV is across from my campsite. He and his wife are winding up 3 month travel pulling their 40 foot trailer. They head to Morro Bay, CA tomorrow for a 10 day stay. I am sure to leave earlier than them in the morning. I have a long ride tomorrow, but this was a great visit for birding and bicycling. Starting early each day with a gray, misty sky that does not burn off and reveal blue, sunny sky till 1:00pm is a bit of a challenge! Times like this I realize how important sunshine is for me. But tomorrow morning, I will be up and out early despite the lack of sunshine!
When I travel, bicycle riding an area new to me is simple joy. This is the main reason I built an area in my van for my bicycle and gear. Plus, cycling gets me from one place to another faster than walking. The downside to cycling, especially when birds are in the area, is to observe them while pedaling, especially those flying overhead. I often take time to slow down and observe them. So far, no bicycle accidents while birding!
(This reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing the other day, “Sorry I am late, I saw a dog”. A shirt appropriate for me, “Sorry I am late, I saw a bird”. I wonder if anyone makes that shirt?)
Recently I was bicycling around Mission Bay in San Diego, California. The eleven mile bike path winds through parks and passes nearby housing and resorts so an 8 mph bike speed is recommended. Many people were at the beaches, the playgrounds, on the water in all kinds of watercraft, and also pedaling various wheeled vehicles on the bike path.
Most of the bike path is not near the bay water’s edge; however, a short section parallels the San Diego River estuary. I saw 3 birds standing on a construction roll where bridge work was happening. The birds were the same type of bird but I could only say they were herons. I photographed them, identified them later in the day, and they were little blue herons! Another new bird for my life list!
Most funny moment on this bicycle ride: seeing a jogger with his dog wearing large, sport, mirrored sunglasses! Important to protect eyes! What a fun bicycle ride with a new bird observed and photographed!
The next day I bicycled from McBaine access point to New Franklin and back. I started earlier this day; it was hot and I really appreciated shady sections on the trail. I loved listening to the birds. The indigo bunting and northern cardinal were the two birds most often flying across the trail in front of me and impossible for me to capture in a photo. Since my bicycle makes noise as I slow it down, plus I have no kickstand or fast access to my camera, it is a wildlife photographer’s nightmare. As a result, I stop, get off my bicycle, spend 15 minutes at a location to view birds in the area, and maybe get a photo. Often I wished I had my zoom lens; these birds hid deep in the trees!
I did ride through a short tunnel on this trail. A sign: “Caution, falling rock, do not stop on the next .25 mile of the trail” were posted. Each time I saw these signs I’d look up the bluff’s wall and wonder, is this my day to be knocked dead by a rock? We take all kinds of risks in our lives, some more calculated than others. Sometimes a rock can come careening down a mountainside, as one did when my partner and I were in Colorado. Fortunately no one was hit. Other times you hear of a person enjoying lunch and being killed by a tree limb falling on her head. Wow! Life is like that … unpredictable, unexpected, keeps us on our toes! We can try to control what we can, but otherwise my philosophy is live in the moment and enjoy it while you can.
There are many historical signs along the trail, but I was intrigued by this gnome on a stump. The gnome is measuring the actual depth of flood waters that reached this spot in Rocheport in 1993 when there was a flood! The people of this town did not give in to the river. They rebuilt and the gnome is their mascot and part of a memorial to the McDermott family who had a home here.
I love meeting people when I travel. One couple and I talked about their bicycling adventures on the C&O and GAP …. future trails on my to-do list. They were planning to bike the entire Katy Trail trail and bike back to their starting point. However, between the heat, humidity and price gouging from places along the trail, they were contemplating a shuttle from the endpoint to their start. (I did pay $2.15 for a can of soda and from their info prices seemed to be high on everything.) Another woman was walking the trail; I passed her by with a “hi” and wave. We met again at my turn-around point which was where her car was parked. We got talking; she is a cancer survivor; moving from St George, Utah to Virginia with her partner whose family lives in Ohio. They felt Virginia would be closer to his family. I asked, how was it that she was here in Missouri on this day? She had a horse, found a place here for it to be cared for, and they allow her opportunities to stay at the place and visit the horse. Great! As I rode away I thought we really should not need reminders of how fortunate we are when we have good health, opportunities to travel, and supportive family and friends … but I did ride away thinking about all of that. Every person I meet has a story and I always want to hear it. Most often, there are lessons to be learned and/or reminded with moments of reflection and gratitude in my own life. Yes, life is good; I am grateful!
This day’s ride: 37.62 miles accomplished with no flat tire! I could have ridden an additional connector: the 8 mile MKT Trail from Columbia which connects with the Katy Trail, but I chose not to this time. There are future plans for another loop south of the Katy Trail to eventually connect with this one to create a loop. That would be an interesting trail too. Now time to truly head home.
2500 miles driven eastward; now continuing westward with bicycling time to be part of my agenda! Missouri’s roads allowed me time away from the highway interstates as I drove to bicycle trailheads. I built my van’s interior wrapped around the concept of storing my bicycle under my bed platform and yet no bicycle ride had happened thus far. I decided for my return drive across the USA to stop at a couple of trail segments along Missouri’s famous rail-to-trail, the Katy Trail. The Katy Trail stretches across most of the state. It is 237 miles with half of it paralleling Lewis and Clark’s path up the Missouri River. This trail is America’s longest “rail-to-trail” project and enjoyed by hikers and bicyclists, locals and visitors.
As I pulled my bicycle off the sliding drawer in the van, along with the front tire and gear, advantages and disadvantages of the set-up became clear and may be worth rethinking another time for my loading of it all. Anyway, I cycled down the trail from Hartsburg access point and at 1.13 miles from the van I had a FLAT tire! Darn it! Fortunately it was the front tire. I flipped the bicycle over and patched the hole since I did not want to use my spare inner tube so early in the ride. A couple stopped, asked if all was okay, and we continued to chat while I patched the tube. They were going the opposite direction from me and mentioned a detour ahead. Apparently water was flowing over the trail and cyclists were getting wet feet. Another guy rode by and asked if all was well … yes, and almost done!
I rode to the detour sign and decided I did not need wet feet. I turned around, rode 11 miles in the other direction. So many birds were chirping! There is nothing easy about birding while cycling. Beyond enjoying time to take a good photo of a bird, I sometimes need one to help me identify the bird. Despite the challenge, I think I identified 17 different species in the 3 hours I was riding. Most numerous bird was the northern cardinal!
Oh, did I mention it was 92 degrees! Freaking hot and humid! My body was not used to this temperature; it was in shock since this entire trip I usually had 55 degree weather and only the last couple of days 80 degrees. In this 90 plus degree weather, I worked at keeping my body fed, hydrated, and in shady areas while birding.
The mostly flat trail is hard-packed sand, crossing creeks on nicely built bridges, paralleling the Missouri River, passing conservation areas and agricultural lands, with benches to sit and relax, and overall a pleasant scenic ride. There are a few businesses on the trail, such as the Missouri River Relief and campgrounds, but overall this section of trail has few amenities. I cycled 23.3 miles this day.
Cooler air temperature draws me to the San Diego area a few times per year and sometimes the birding is excellent. This day I wandered by bicycle along San Diego Bay’s shoreline past areas I had not spent time before.
Leaving my Chula Vista campground, I bicycled parallel with the San Diego River, through an industrial area and naval entities. (San Diego is a naval city.) I’m riding a bike path at the start, then bike lanes past marinas and the Seaport Village which is touristy. I continued cycling along the shoreline. In the industrial area I saw hundreds of Dole containers arriving … with no doubt …. all forms of pineapples, and in the tourist area, many statues and some historical ships. I stood below these huge ships: “Star of India” and the “USS Midway”, both with history of their own. I read tributes at many statues recognizing military service from all armed forces. The “Cancer Survivor’s Park” provided excellent info which I’ll share in my next blog post.
Yes, I saw some birds: terns, pelicans, pigeons, sparrows… but today was my slow day and seeing people enjoy the outdoors in ways not particularly my interest. The huge cruise ships, solo paddle boarders and every watercraft in between reminded me of personal previous sea-sickness! They were not pleasant memories, but to see the sunlight bouncing off the water on this day, I was good! I continued cycling to a lunch stop at a shady picnic table. This will be my turn-around point even though I contemplate riding further to Point Loma, but that is not to happen today.
People here are wearing masks and socially distancing in the touristy areas, thanks to it being a requirement! All of us outdoors can enjoy the sea breeze with hopes the Covid viral numbers go down.
The airport is across the road from where I am eating my lunch of cheese, crackers and hot green tea. (The tea is my usual mid-morning snack break so I brought it along today.) As I watch these planes land and take-off, I hope my air travel returns by 2022. I still have so much of the world to see! In the meantime California here I come!
It is ridiculously hot here in Fort Collins, CO but I decided to get an early start on a bicycle ride. It was a wonderful ride on the Poudre Trail 12 miles one way and in adding some local roads it became a 33 mile ride.
The signage on the bike path was wonderful especially since there were many twists and turns. I also liked this sign:
I rode west from the campground on the bike path and saw 3 red-tailed hawks, Canada geese and some gulls. Many other cyclists were on the path, along with walkers and joggers. The area on this side of town was beautiful!
The bridges for this bike path are beautiful and as you would expect, built over the Poudre River. Another bridge I saw had chairs for people to sit on. Of course finding a good rock in a river to sit upon is available too.
I do want to mention I did not see many homeless people in this town. Maybe because I was not in the downtown area? I did see a few washing themselves at the river and then returning to their car. I never felt any anxiety while riding the paths or the local roads.
At one end of the bike path I took a turn to check out a fish hatchery and Lake Watson. I spoke with a birder who pointed out the American pelicans and I also saw a common merganser.
Once I completed the bike path in both directions I rode a local road because it had a bike lane. Many cyclists were there too! When I was back at the campground I took a shower and was hungry! I decided to try a widget for the JetBoil that allows me to cook with other pots or pans on it. I decided to make black bean, cheese and tomato tacos. Yum!
I took a very short drive through historic Fort Collins downtown and decided to keep driving to Greeley, CO. In the 45 minute drive I saw plenty of agricultural land, cows, sheep, goats, and derricks pumping something. One huge facility in this town is Greeley’s Beef Plant and trucks were lined up to bring in the animals. I stopped at a brewery since my original thought was to have dinner at one; however, it was to hot to think about food. I did buy a can of Weldwerks Brewing Company’s porter to have back at the campground. I am not a fan of it and enjoyed my Deschutes Black Butte Porter instead with nice cold cottage cheese! Now there’s a first on that meal! It hit the spot!