Whale Watching, Point Reyes (again) and Clear Lake

Monday, May 23
Today we visited the Cesar Chavez National Monument. It was a very educational self-guided tour. We learned how Cesar, his wife, Helen, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong worked together to improve the working conditions and pay of farm laborers. “During the 1970s the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) grew and expanded from its early roots as a union for farm workers to also become a national voice for the poor and disenfranchised. The enduring legacies of César E. Chávez and the farm worker movement include passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, the first law in the U.S. that recognized farm workers’ collective”. [NPS.gov]

The monument is located on the grounds near Chavez’s home where he worked, and eventually died at age 66. He is buried there with his wife.

Later in the evening, I tried to do a star trails shoot but messed it up by forgetting to set the ISO.

Holiday Inn, Simi Valley. 3.5 The beds were horrible, and the AC didn’t work properly.

Tuesday, May 24
This morning we went on a whale watching tour with Blue Ocean Whale Watching out of Moss Landing. Wow! We lost count of the number of humpback whales we saw! We mostly watched them feed and dive. Some did displays of pectoral fin slapping or tail slapping. We also saw two species of dolphins – the Pacific white-sided dolphin, and the Rissos dolphin. The white-sided dolphins were small with distinct markings and the traditional dolphins nose, or beak. The Rissos we’re blunt headed, whiteish with scaring, and larger than the white-sided. There were thousands of sea birds and we added a few birds to our life list. We knew it was going to be a good day when we spotted a sea otter only about 20 feet offshore in the harbor.

After the cruise we had lunch at The Whole Enchilada nearby, then headed to Moss Landing State Beach to look at birds. Then we drove north to gas up before heading to Santa Rosa and our next hotel.

Wednesday, May 25
Oh what a good bed can do for a good night’s sleep.

This morning we headed back to Point Reyes to repeat the tour route Daniel had take us on. We went all they way out toward the northern tip and parked. Alan walked off along a path while I took macro shots of wildflowers. As I was finishing up Daniel drove up with a carload of birders. I walked over and said hello and bragged about him to his clients. Alan returned from his short hike and we got in the truck and headed back down the road.

About a mile along Alan hit the brakes and told me to get out of the truck, then pointed out the bobcat that was sitting in the middle of the dirt road about a quarter mile away. We both got out and started shooting. The cat walked off into the shrub, so we got back in the truck and gradually made our way to where we last saw her. After a couple of minutes Alan spotted her again; she was hunting. She pounced, then came up with a mouthful of gopher. She walked along the fence with her prize, with us shooting the whole time, then she disappeared into the shrubbery. We high-fived each other and continued down the road.

After a few more miles we saw two mallards in the road ahead of us. They were very near a pond to the left, so we thought it odd that they were in the road. Alan pulled off and parked to see if the pharalopes we’re still in that pond. We walked up to the bank and took pictures of some. Another car stopped and the driver came up and pointed the bobcat out on the ridge to our left! It was quite a distance off, and we had a little trouble spotting him, but then he stood up and slowly ascended the ridge. At one point he turned his head and looked towards us. Two bobcats in one day!!! The gentleman who had pointed him out said he called this stretch of road, “bobcat alley”. We also guessed that the bobcat was the reason those mallards we’re not in their pond.

We left the pond and drove to the big oak tree, but didn’t see an owl. Then we drove out to the old farmstead to look around and have a picnic lunch.

As we drove out toward the Elephant Seal Overlook trailhead on the south end of the park, a heavy, cold fog rolled in. We spotted a northern harrier and stopped for a photo.

We weren’t sure we would be able to see the seals. We hiked out to the overlook anyway, seeing some scoters and western grebes in the water below us, and shot some pictures of these giant lazy mammals. (the fog was bad, but the wonder of post-processing software made the fog to away). Then we drove down to the visitor center for a look-see before heading back to our hotel.

In the evening we drove to the far side of the Golden Gate bridge so that I could take evening shots. Unfortunately, from several miles out, we saw that a heavy fog had socked in the bay. From that point we watched as the temperature dropped precipitously by 30°. With the bridge and bay socked in by the fog, we gave up, turned around, and went back towards the hotel, grabbing a bite for dinner on the way.
La Quinta, Santa Rosa. 4.9 parking could be way better.

Thursday, May 26
We were going to sleep in this morning, but we had a rude awakening by one of the hotel guests’ dogs (more than one small breed from the sound of it) going off at 6:20. ~sigh~

We got breakfast and headed up to Clear Lake on the off chance that we might see some western or Clark’s grebes doing their dance, aka “rushing”.

At Clear Lake we did see several grebes but we didn’t see any rushing. We hiked a few miles on a moderate trail and finally got a photo of a pacific-slope flycatcher. This little bird had been driving us crazy for days. We could hear it, but never spotted it until today. We also got a picture of a Nutall’s woodpecker and an oak titmouse.

Also at the lake we crossed a small foot bridge and watched cliff swallows fly under, over and all about, chasing their breakfast. We spent quite a bit of time working to get some shots of these speedy little birds.

Clear Lake State Park was a very pretty park that we could see ourselves camping at in the future.

Sometime after leaving Clear Lake my back started trying to seize up on me. I did my best to move slowly and carefully so as not to make it worse. We stopped at a Walmart where I asked a pharmacist what I could do or take to relieve the issue. She recommended Aleve 3 times a day, and IcyHot pads.

We had spent so much time at Clear Lake that we didn’t arrive at our cabin near the Redwoods until after 7:00 pm.

I stretched and moved carefully to work out the seized muscles and took another Aleve before going to bed. I awoke intermittently through the night and stretched slowly each time.

Friday, May 27
When I woke up I found I could move, albeit carefully, without too much pain, so I did some very slow exercise moves to warm up the muscles.

We drove through the old scenic 101 Redwoods highway and stopped to see the “Big Tree”, then stopped in at the visitor center. There, we hiked a short loop behind the center, then headed back to the Big Tree parking lot because I wanted to try and hike a longer trail. While in the parking lot we got a picture of a band-tailed pigeon.

Oops. We struck out on what we thought was a 2 mile moderate loop trail, but it wasn’t a loop, it connected to another trail which has us trek another 1.5 miles. Luckily that last bit was an easy trail. At the end, even Alan was hurting, but I think it benefited my back.

With lots of time to kill, we drove south and had elk burgers at EdeBees Snack Shack before visiting a couple of lagoons. We didn’t see anything there. We stopped at a known elk meadow and saw several of them. The day was dreary and overcast.

Tired from our hikes, we went back to our cabin and took a long nap before heading to Crescent City for dinner at Good Harvest Cafe.

After dinner we drove over to the docks and walked around. We got some really nice pictures of some scoters, a muir, and a guillemot. We admired the lighthouse off in the distance too.