December 29, 2009

Switching Gears


Today we saw our beloved Country Coach...affectionately known as "Hannah" motor down the road to destinations unknown...the deep throaty sound of her diesel offering a fond farewell. It was the first time...and the last, that we had the opportunity to view our coach as curbside aficionados. What a beautiful looking motorhome! Proud new owners will now have the same wondrous tasks of plotting out what roads and adventures this marvelous coach will travel to and what unique experiences they will be able to draw to themselves.

Although a sad day for both of us, we recognized how much richer our lives have become by the incredible memories that we now own, the beautiful and fascinating places we visited and the special individuals we met during our tenure in the "fulltimer" club. This collection of life long friends would probably have never been created so effortlessly without the aid of our "home on wheels" calling card.

What will be next for the BlaNics? Well...creating more memories of course! No doubt that we will again seek out those country roads, explore some of the myriad number of unique natural wonderlands and make time to wear down more tread on those hiking shoes. 
And hopefully along the way, the winds will again draw to us more of those unique vagabonds...the storytellers of life...our mentors, wizards and witches...who we will also embrace as members of our family.

As of this posting, we are again retracing the steps that eventually led us to acquiring our amazing motorhome. We plan on downsizing to a rig with the agility and size to seek out those hard to get to sites that in in our National and State Parks that tantalize us, but also possess the durability to travel the unpaved and isolated roads of the BLM Lands.

July 26, 2009

The Eastern Sierras

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”…John Muir



Driving north on California Hwy 395, we are again staggered at the sight of those Eastern Sierra pinnacles...a valley of craggy peaks plummeting to the forbidding desert floor below. And yet we know of few places that are more diverse, fascinating and beautiful than the Owens Valley. Although these stony mountains look so impenetrable, they offer hidden passages to canyons, valleys and pockets yielding luxuriant greenery and unparalleled scenery. One would never guess that west of those granite walls and silent sentinels lie the vast and beautiful forests of the John Muir Wilderness area. Primal creeks, pristine lakes and magnificent peaks are what await the backpacker, angler or casual day hiker. During the subsequent days and over 25 miles of hiking, we were able to see more of this wildernesses countless faces and magical sights. Some re-visited…many more new. And a new joy for us... seeing our cute new packmate...Sydney...a 1 1/2 year old Australian Cattle Dog, find just as much joy romping up those mountain trails with her own little pack...designed perfectly to hold a six-pack of "emergency energy drinks".

A brief stop at the Big Pine Creek North Fork trailhead was like smacking your lips in a candy store…we could not wait to explore more. As we hiked along cascading Big Pine Creek, the views brought back many fond memories of our 2002 backpacking trip with John, Diane, Bud and Meg. During that adventure, our destination were the lakes of the Palisades...one of the finest hiking and climbing areas in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This trail retraces the path of ancient glaciers all the way to the top of the Big Pine Creek drainage. Here you will be in the throne room of the mountain gods, close up to the Palisades, one of the highest and most jagged crests in the contiguous 48 states. These colorful 13,000-14,000 foot peaks also hold the largest glacier in the Sierras, Palisade Glacier. While walking through a forest of lodgepole pine, you will pass a cabin built by movie actor Lon Chaney. All the lakes in this valley are fed directly by the Palisade Glacier and the beautiful milky turquoise color of the water is from the glacial powder carried from the melting glacier. And above the lakes sits the imposing dark mountain…the mighty Temple Crag.

As we entered Bishop, CA. we felt a wave of comfort...like you have when you come home. The town has welcomed our backpacking group every trip and then celebrated our safe return. Here was our true "base camp". Traveling a few miles north of town, we located the “dirt road to nowhere”...leave it to Jackie & "Do It In The Dirt" Bill to find such a place. A dusty, red carpet landscape dotted with shrubs and boulders, the Volcanic Tablelands is a gnarled expanse of boulders, serpentine ravines and volcanic bluffs. But also found in this high desert setting is an oasis…Fish Slough, a unique desert wetland ecosystem featuring the only natural springs remaining on the floor of the Owens Valley…and we saw fish. Apparently this area is also quite renowned for it’s many Native American petroglyphs.


Now we began some serious walking. Beginning at the 9,800 ft. South Lake Trailhead we began our hike up to the beautiful land of the Treasure Lakes. As we climbed and skirted South Lake, we gazed down upon the lake, nestled in a volcanic bowl…shaped as if it were cupped in one's hand. Direct sunlight and rays bouncing off the granite walls offer a full spectrum of the color blue, changing shades as the shoreline descends toward the dark depths. Adding to the brilliance of this canyon are the rich colors of green meadows dotted with wildflowers and a forest of pines that accent the gray mountain sides…oh yeah…here lie some breathtaking views.


As we completed the last slog, we entered a basin surrounded by those high Sierra peaks and there welcoming our arrival was the first gem of the Treasure Lake family. This 6 mile round trip hike to 10,700 ft. was difficult to say the least, but well worth the heavy air sucking. For the effort, we were offered a wealth of dramatic beauty…brilliant colored wildflowers lining clear streams and fern meadows provided some wonderful rest stops along the way. When you live at sea level, no amount of conditioning prepares you for the elevation. And thankfully, the new arterial stent was installed properly! As we took in the serenity of this place and the majestic views, the mermaid of our group realized she could not resist the alluring clear, blue waters on this warm day...so a "very" short dip in this invigorating 56 degree pool proved to be in order.



With our legs still full of fuel, another short walk was in order. Our hike to Long Lake again began at the South Lake Trailhead, but split at the junction that marked the way towards Bishops Pass. Another short 6 mile hike at 10,760 feet, the trail provided us a moderate climb with a more than a few switchbacks…and for us climbing can be very spellbinding at best. This lake is perfectly named, as its length is so much greater in comparison with its width. As the trail skirted the shoreline, we gazed at the Golden trout surfacing to the surface, rippling the lake’s reflection of the surrounding granite crags.

Our experiences over the years have proven that the Eastern Sierra weather is incredibly unpredictable…and one should always be prepared for the inevitable. Wanting to sample one of those renowned Lake Sabrina Cafe cheeseburgers, we decided to drive up to the lake for a late lunch…hunger pangs driven by a long hike. We arrived under bright, warm sun and clear, blue skies…but finished our lunch in solitude under the lone deck umbrella under dark clouds, protecting ourselves from pea size hail and a down pour of rain. The lake looked like it was being peppered with bb's. Temperature stayed constant though…hiking shorts and tee were perfect attire for the day…you needed a rain parka only if you did not want look as if you have been swimming.


This day we chose one of our favorite destinations. Little Lakes Valley offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the Eastern Sierras and is one of the most photographed. The spectacular valley set in a glacier carved canyon is surrounded by some awesome peaks, while the valley floor is sprinkled with lush meadows and jeweled mountain lakes. A relatively easy hike begins at 10,300 feet and will take you over the Morgan Pass. This “Shangri-La” is a perfect introduction to all first timers to the Sierras. We chose a short 4 mile loop route along Rock Creek to a secluded picnic spot overlooking Box Lake.


Following up on another tip from Jackie & Bill, we headed up to the McGee Creek Canyon Trailhead. The single lane highway provided us fantastic views of the Owens Valley and Lake Crowley. Once into the depths of the canyon we saw it was far different from the other passes leading up into the mountains. It was like a giant slot canyon…walls close to you on each side. Once at the trailhead the canyon open up like a blooming flower to expose an alpine meadow leading up toward towering peaks.

The Sonora Pass was our chosen route over the Sierra’s. What a breathtaking ride. The road skirted the Walker River and climbed steeply through dense forests with stunning view points at each turn.


Sonora Pass Summit crested at 9,628 ft. At the summit was a PCT Trailhead marker…and another opportunity to explore. The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and runs from the US border with Mexico to its border with Canada. We have day hiked this legendary trail a mere three times…and only have 2,632 miles left. Until we find those "black holes" of time to bite off larger distances, we will continue to dream of days and live vicariously through the hikers that are doin it now…such as the three comrades we met at the summit who were continuing their trek to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.

Howard from Seattle, Jim from Maine and Rees from Arcata.…friends forever (yesterday, today & tomorrow) have been chewing up miles of the PCT over the last 28 years…finding those elusive windows around careers, family and commitments…etc…you know how it is…and then substantiating the time to do so. But what was so wonderful to hear and see was…they haven’t stopped…they are making tracks now, leaving their mark on us and all who meet them and all while they continue to plan their next adventures for the coming years. To our three champions…we wish you a safe trip to families and home...and we toast you now…with a few “ice cold beers”. Until we meet again!(8/19/09 update...after our brief rondevous, these three comrades reached Tuolumne Meadows after "110 miles of magnificent and at times challenging Pacific Trail Hiking)

The John Muir Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in California, has by far the most spectacular and highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada. Deep canyons, lofty peaks, brilliant meadows, pristine lakes and never ending alpine terrain await all that choose to see and experience. And with over 590 miles of maintained trails there is no lack of backpacking highways to stop anyone. It is no wonder that this saying exists..."you can take the man out of the mountains, but you can never take the mountains out of the man". May we meet you on the trail!

May 16, 2009

San Luis Obispo County

The County of San Luis Obispo...

With well over a decade of living permanently here in Cambria, there are moments we catch ourselves taking it for granted of just how beautiful, healthy and nourishing it is to experience our life in such a wonderful part of California. Our firm belief that we are truly special and deserve the highest amount of love, joy and happiness in this brief existence has everything to do with the "habitat", the individuals and the experiences we are drawn to. Sometimes, we have brain farts and forget. But we have noticed that individuals often seem to remember the "negative" experiences and take for granted the wonderful ones. We all must try to stay conscious of our daily joys, surprises and good fortune during these trying times...for us life definitely is not just about living in Cambria. So, you won't see us serving liver for dinner!
Now that we are again settled (per the paradigm of many), have put that "heart attack" experience behind us and because we have a number of friends inquiring about our unique "Camelot", we have decided to share some of the highlights we get to enjoy as a so called "local". These select treasures may include some awesome hikes featuring an abundance of scenic vistas and wildlife, local nature sanctuaries and parks, spa, retreats and healers unique to not only nourishing the body and mind, but also the inner self and then maybe a few of our local dining treasures that some people may find should be excluded from the "fine dining" column, but definitely drawing to our taste in food, service and ambiance...our two thumbs up category.

Check out the link...Cambria Wonderings, noted in our "About Us" section for some short highlights and photos of these "best bets" throughout our Central Coast communities (as well as some of our other adventures). You will agree with us, that Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, Los Osos, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Avila offer a multitude of outdoor activities, unique fare and recreation.
Fortune has indeed blessed us...for everyday we get to call this extension of "OZ" our home.

May 1, 2009

Never Say Never

On the evening of April 1st, Michael was rushed via ambulance to San Luis Obispo with an apparent heart attack. His thirty minutes of denial passed quickly and fortunately... (wasted minutes will damage the heart - "time is muscle"), he quickly determined it was not heartburn, nor indigestion from the delicious pasta dinner I had made for us that evening. This experience was quite real...and yes...a rude awakening that it can happen...to anybody, anytime, anywhere...regardless of the physical condition that is "created" by the mind and alas the ego. we can never again think or say "that won't happen to me". Calling 911 instead of doing our own emergency transport turned out to be the best decision. It took only 6 minutes for the "team" to arrive...in full force...with their two fire engines and paramedic van barreling down the street, lights and sirens ablaze. A wonderful wake up and welcome call to our new neighbors that the BlaNics are back in town!

My drive to the hospital was the longest and most surreal 36 miles I have ever driven...as I desperately kept looking ahead for the lights of the ambulance, so many thoughts, feelings and questions come through you. Thank God for John & Diane for providing some much needed reassurance and strength that night...I cannot fathom to what depths my emotions could have traveled without our dear friends. Their professional knowledge detailing what was happening, the procedure that was being performed, the safeguards that were in place and above all the comfort and courage you offered me, made that night bearable...It was with much reluctance, that I left Michael's side at 3:00 that morning with the realization that we have not spent the night apart since we've been married!!

Reinforcements arrived in the following days ...bringing delicious meals, joy and laughter, never ending support, endless love, and the strength offered by their presence. STUNNED...the word most used when the news reached out. This was as much of a shock to our family and friends as it was to both of us!!! And not a day has gone by that someone from our circle of loved ones has expressed encouragement, offered their aid and included us in prayer.

It has been one month since that frightening evening and all is as it should be. Michael has recovered extremely well with his new coronary stent system...cardio therapists say his heart is performing at "textbook levels"...and he is biting at the bit to be "off leash". A regime of regular cardiac therapy and cardiologist oversight, daily mouthfuls of long term medications and the "fresh curiosity" to explore healthier recipes as a way to satisfy his culinary passion are now a part of this latest life change. Long walks through our local nature sanctuaries have always provided our meditational ride...but now this activity is a daily requirement and already we are posting at least 20 miles per week.

Our moments in this realm are just that...compared to a snowflake or a raindrop from our heavens...these beautiful breaths of life are truly precious...and as we have come to realize, at times fragile and so fleeting. Shame on us if we dare to squander them on what is not important, not relevant and not nourishing to our happiness and being. Life is a game, a classroom and an adventure...fun, exciting, breathtaking...and with it come surprises that may be meant to change the ending (beginning)...whatever experience we have, is what is meant to be.

And through all this, it was so ever evident that we are indeed family...not just biological, inheritance or by accident...but a family created by our love for each other...we are all brothers and sisters. We honor all of you...for our crisis was the crisis of many, our fear was your fear, our hopes your hope and our ultimate joy and happiness...your joy and happiness.

To all our "family"...we love you, we thank you...we have created a covenant to do everything we can to dispense of this kind of entertainment in the future.

March 29, 2009

UFN

Until Furthur Notice...

With our "tree house" secured and the move of our stored belongings finally completed, we can now get to the very slow task of "nesting"...although anyone that knows us, is well aware that we are not nesters. We believe it will be a few weeks before all the boxes are emptied and every shelf, nook and cranny filled. Fortune is with us though...with the Spring Break Holiday upon us, we have some quality time for this "team" of lifedancers to work together. This "Suzanne" home is quite special though...forest views and starlit nights, while deer, squirrels, quail, wild turkeys and woodpeckers abound in their own communities right outside our walls. And with our windows and balcony decks providing close views of all their daily activities, we are rarely not entertained by nature's gatekeepers.

Seeing our beloved coach stored created sad moments...especially after 2 years and 3 months of living on wheels full time. There is something so tangible about having your daily living needs all within 20 steps of you...the compact/impact home and the simplicity of the lifestyle...all the while providing security and offering a true sense of freedom and independence...quite a contrast from the current paradigm we now have chosen to go back too. House payments, utilities, a high ceiling, a bathtub and added space seems foreign to us right now.

We are committed though to accept this change as a temporary "rest stop" (although we may re-define the meaning of temporary with this wonderful sanctuary)...no different than the many stops we had while living in the coach. We also are seriously contemplating summer plans to connect with fellow coachers and close friends and motor up, down and around any scenic byway that have a lure for adventure. Until then though, we plan on enjoying this little Alban house with some Weber grills, delectable wines and the company of our special family and friends.

January 26, 2009

The Year of the Ox

The Year of the Ox, year 4706 in the Chinese lunar calendar, is supposed to represent prosperity through perseverance and hard work. As this New Year begins with uncertainty to many, the cure may be on the next horizon with the vision, zest and strength of a new President. And although we are also impacted by economic doldrums, we have chosen to rise to the challenges and seek out those rays of sunshine and opportunities that do exist.


We closed 2008 with a special Christmas visit from Mom & Susie Blanco. We spent many an afternoon in search of rare sea glass and moonstones. The Pelican Cove not only provided excellent accommodations, but daily all you can eat and drink meals…full breakfast buffets, a happy hour offering wine & many cheese selections and decadent evening dessert samplings. And once again, as with all the Blanco Christmas mornings, we practiced the finely crafted art of “gift unwrapping”…in which skill levels are now reaching the mastery stage.

The year began with a wonderful visit from our dear friends Dick & Melinda. Plowing their way out of Oregon and avoiding the flooding, they managed to reach the temperate shores of Cambria and San Simeon State Park. With an offering of warm temps, clear skies and brilliant sunshine, our days and evenings were filled with strolls on our beautiful shoreline and beaches, a tour of Hearst Castle, Elephant Seal watching, good food and even tastier wines. As we bid farewell to them, our yearnings toward the full-time lifestyle again reared up it's beautiful head as we saw their own coach, with a stunning backdrop of our deep blue ocean, drive south down Pacific Coast Highway.
Next, we greeted Mom & Dad Nicolai who were enroute home after a week long vacation in Tucson, Arizona. It is always great to spend time them...but especially this visit since it was Dad's 75th birthday...a true milestone to a life set to add many more stories to an already storied legacy. We enjoyed Moonstone Beach, some fine local dining and the continued offerings of perfect weather.

Our plans now are to “hang loose” and enjoy San Simeon State Park for a few more weeks. Serendipity has drawn to us that special retreat in the woods…a home nestled in the trees...just right to ponder and plan our next path.