Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Path of the Padres, Part I

With my first year of retirement almost complete, I continue to savor this new gift of time that has fallen like a ripe plum into my lap.  I'm delighted by this luxury to be able to turn my attention to things other than all the teacher-related duties that encompassed most of my waking and sleeping life.    For instance, this year when February hit, instead of planning for the annual classroom Valentine's Day party, I was able to shift gears and plan for a valentine for my own Valentine -- my dear husband.
I made March 25th reservations for a boat ride and hike at Los Banos Creek Reservoir.  This hike is called "The Path of the Padres" because this is an area where Franciscan missionaries traveled over a century ago.  The wildflowers are supposed to be spectacular this year and the coordinator I spoke with assured me that there would be time given for photography and wildlife watching.  A perfect fit for Bruce.

But then came the on-again/off-again rains of the week before the big day.  When Friday came, I took no chances and called again to make sure that the hike was still on for the following day.  The woman who took my call wasn't sure, but assured me that all participants would be notified if it was cancelled.  We heard nothing, so the next morning left the house at dawn with lunches, backpacks, rain gear, photography equipment and anything else we thought we might need.

"Today's hike's been cancelled," the young man at the ranger kiosk told us when we arrived.  He went on to tell us that we could reschedule next week when the main office was open.  I had had a suspicion all along that this might happen, so wasn't terribly surprised.  But still.

Since we'd driven two hours to get there, we decided to take a look at the reservoir and perhaps take in something else that was in or near the park.  This proved to be more difficult for me to deal with than the cancellation of the planned trip because we spent the rest of the morning fruitlessly driving to the various places that the ranger had recommended.  No place managed to be good enough.

Our first pick was a long, looped trail through the hills.  When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot, there was only one other car.  However, within minutes, a long stream of cars holding a happy church group. They were very nice and even invited us to join them...

The next place we visited was the reservoir itself.  This initially looked promising, but there was nowhere to go other than the parking lot.  So we drank in the scenery (very ethereal and lovely), took pictures and left.

We then drove to another part of the reservoir where a ranger told us there was a walking trail along the shore.  This turned out to be true, but there was the matter of, once again, too many other people, along with power poles, solar panel farms, and encroaching civilization on all sides.  We stayed for a bit and tried to make the best of it, but it was no use.

I'll admit that as the day wore on, I had to work harder and harder not to succumb to a massive attack of the sulks.  Bruce, bless his sweet heart, was game to keep on trying but I was very much over this excursion and just wanted to go home.  I think that Bruce realized I'd hit the end my rope and we'd just decided to head back when we saw the sign for San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  We drove past that first turn-off where the sign was and didn't have the energy or will to turn around.  So we kept going.  But then, there was a second sign that said "Auto Tour Route and Nature Trails" and this time we turned in.                                                              

 And, just like that and almost by accident, we found that elusive "somewhere" that we'd been hoping to find.  The rutted road snaked through green and watery wetlands and birds were everywhere, both in flight and on the water.

I look at these pictures and realize that not a single duck, ibis, blackbird, or even pelican is to be seen.  My trusty little point-and-click camera has it's limitations -- the landscape is devoid of any birds and there is no sense of the whistling of the dozens (hundreds?) of blackbirds all singing and calling out at the same time.
However, Bruce got quick shots of some of the waterfowl among the reeds and the birds flying all around us.

My own spirits were so lifted by all of this beauty, that not even this sign at the end of the road could diminish my happiness:

Yes, the walking trail at the end of the road was closed.  Never mind -- just another reason to go back.

The bunny at the end of the road

And, we will be back.


  1. So sorry about your not quite right adventure. Hopefully things will be drying out enough for more trails to open so you can explore. We have had rain here (some hail and snow, too) - almost every day and the weeds are exploding in their glory. Every year we plan to stay ahead but Mother Nature is truly in control here - just like the places you visited!

  2. Yes, indeed -- Mother Nature is indeed in control. Everything here is still absolutely saturated with water. This is so very unusual that I still can't get used to the novelty of it, but it's supposed to warm up and become much drier next week. I believe that the weeds here are as ecstatic as the ones in your neck of the woods. Our sea of thistles is endless...