Having backed away from the psycho black hole event horizon, I am feeling chipper and sound, though a little wary. Thank you for the many words of encouragement from family and friends. I guess I am not the only one who pays attention to little voices in my head ha ha.
Looking back over the last forty eight hours, it is clear that I was not behaving like I usually do at the start of a trip. Normally, if I was going to the eastern Sierra, I would be hightailing it to get over the passes asap. This time, I lollygagged, heading north a little bit in the central valley to check out the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Not that it was a bad decision. It's a cool place that I had never visited before and the waterfowl were amazing. I had never seen or heard so many geese in my life.
And the occasional bunny, as well. Don't forget the bunnies.
Arriving about noon, I missed the Lesser Sandhill Crane show which is real reason I came. I wanted to get one of those pictures you see on the internet of hundreds of biggo cranes flying, blotting out the sky. The Park Ranger on duty told me most of them have already moved on this year, but the best time to see them is sunrise and sunset anyway.
When I decided to turn around yesterday, I avoided the highways and took back roads through Firebaugh and Dos Palos. Firebaugh is a small town on the San Joaquin River. It is named after James Firebaugh, one of those early white mover-shaker settlers who helped to transform the region from a swampy outpost to a legendary, world-feeding hub of agri-business. A stage coach came through Firebaugh from St. Louis, crossing over the river on a ferry, replaced later by a then state of the art swing bridge. The town is kind of old-looking and dusty now, but they have paid homage to the old days with a gazebo and some signage along a nice riverside recreation trail.
Before heading home, I stopped at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge outside of Los Banos. They have a beautiful Visitor Center, an enclosed Tule Elk habitat encircled by a 5-mile auto tour route, a Nature Trail, and a longer Waterfowl Auto Tour Route . Once again, I showed up at a less than optimal time, but I managed to see a coyote, a variety of birds, some far-off elk, and a cute little bunny under a bridge.
Two of these elk (can you see the elk?) put on quite an x-rated show shortly after I took this picture. Shy and bull are two words that do not go together. That was fun, but my favorite place was the tranquil Nature Trail. And I really appreciated the bunny who tried his or her best to pose for an under-the-bridge silhouette. The coyote, naturally, would not cooperate at all.
I will probably sulk for a little while this morning, then re-group. No time to waste.
Peace, Love, and Wildlife,
P.S. The place to eat in Los Banos is Eddie's Famous Cafe. The waitress is cute as a bug.
P.P.S. Reminder to self.