North Country San Diego

Escondido means “hidden” in Spanish but it’s no secret how beautiful Lake Dixon and Lake Hodges are in San Diego North Country.

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Beautiful San Diego Beaches

With 70 miles of pristine coastline, year-around sunshine and mild temperatures,  it is easy to enjoy the surf and sand almost any day of the year.  From expansive sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, reefs, tide pools and everything in between, the beaches in San Diego are as varied as the California beach towns that were built around them

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Crystal Pier

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Mission Beach

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Ocean Beach

Coronado

Coronado

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Bombay Beach: Resort to Apocalyptic Wasteland

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From Vibrant Resort to Post Apocalyptic Wasteland

The Salton Sea is the most mysterious and unusual place I have ever visited. And one of my favorite places to visit. It is a lake in a desolate desert located between Palm Springs and the Mexican border. It is only five feet higher than the lowest point in Death Valley.  Abandoned and partially destroyed mobile homes, a tire in the water,  desiccated fish bones, and a lone chair are just some of the objects lying around. It makes you wonder what happened here.

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 This former resort town reached its zenith during the early 1960’s, when it was jam-packed with weekend revelers from nearby L.A. and San Diego.  Today, the few people who remain are resilient iconoclastic, survivalist and loner types seeking seclusion and a low-cost abode to call home.

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In the 1920’s, the Salton Sea had become a popular vacation destination in California. But the sea was becoming contaminated and by the 1960’s, the smell alone was enough to warrant a mass exodus. Today, Bombay Beach is a sun-bleached, tarnished, abandoned wasteland.

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The Zenith. In 1905, the Colorado River swelled, breached its levees, and flooded the desert. The fish flourished and the Salton Sea quickly became a fisherman’s paradise. The sea also became a new stopover point for migratory birds.

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Once air-conditioning made the deserts livable to more people, it didn’t take long for entrepreneurs to discern the Salton Sea’s potential. Seeing the explosive growth of nearby Palm Springs, developers envisioned the Salton Sea as a “desert Lake Tahoe” and branded it the “Salton Riviera”. Hotels, million dollar yacht clubs, and homes sprung up over night.  How did the Salton Sea become a near ghost town? Why should we care?  Find out in Part II of the Bombay Beach – Salton Sea Series.

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Baby Animals

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Young mountain cottontail rabbit or Nuttall's Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii)

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Clark County Wetlands Park

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Road Runner
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Ghost of Greylock

 

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The Berkshire hills are laced with legends and ghost stories, so I ventured up to Greylock to explore this enigmatic region and hopefully encounter a few ghosts. My first stop was the Bellows Pipe Trail which is rumored to be haunted by a ghost called the “Old Coot.”  This ill-fated soul named William Saunders earned his living as a farmer before being called away to fight for the Union in 1861. About a year later, his wife, Belle, received a report that her husband had been gravely wounded and was in a military hospital. That was the last she heard of him. But Bill Saunders had survived, only to return home and find Belle remarried.

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In 1865, a bearded, ragged man, wearing a Union blue uniform, stepped off the train in North Adams. You can guess who had finally returned home. Saunders walked to his farm, and while standing outside he saw his wife and happy family, his children calling another man “daddy.”

Crushed, he turned on his heels and walked away, heading toward Mt. Greylock, where he built a ramshackle cabin in the remote Bellows Pipe. He lived the rest of his days there, almost a hermit, hiring himself out occasionally to farms, known to locals only as the “Old Coot.” War and time had ravaged his appearance and no one recognized him.

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People say the Old Coot was caused by the horrors of war and grief over losing his family. One cold winter’s day, hunters came upon the shack to find the Old Coot’s lifeless. They were the first to describe a sighting of the Old Coot’s spirit fleeing up the mountain, but he’s haunted the trail ever since.

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To this day, his disheveled spirit is sporadically seen on Mt. Greylock, always heading up the mountain, but never coming down. You might be skeptical about this tale but are you brave enough to walk the Bellows Pipe Trail after dark?

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Beautiful Birds of New England

The Eastern Bluebird is the only bluebird species found in New England. Mountain and Western Bluebirds are found west of the prairie states. The male Eastern Bluebird has a bright blue back and reddish-brown breast, sides, and flanks. The underparts are white. The coloration of the female is similar, although paler and more muted than that of the male. Juvenile bluebirds are grayish, with brown and white spots on the back and breast only the wings and tail show any blue.

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Eastern Blue Bird

It is one of the most loved and beneficial birds, declined in numbers from the late 1800s through the 1980s. One significant contributing factor to this decline was the lack of suitable nesting cavities needed by the bluebird to successfully raise young. This lack of nesting cavities resulted from changing land use patterns and increasing urbanization. Competition for nesting cavities from introduced European starlings and house sparrows, the loss of open field habitats, pesticide use, and severe weather conditions have also played a role in the decline of bluebird populations.

The construction of nest boxes and establishment of nest box “trails” in appropriate habitat is helping the bluebird make a comeback. Proper construction and placement of nest boxes will encourage bluebirds and not their alien competitors.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanagers are a beautifully colored bird. The male’s breeding plumage is red on the body and black on the wings and tail.Scarlet Tanagers are unusual among the 230 species of the Neotropical tanager family because they have seasonal changes in plumage.  Despite their bright coloring, sightings of this bird are a rarity. This is because they are found only in the upper canopy of trees where they spend their time moving slowly in search of food. Besides being rarely seen, they are also rarely heard. This is because of the similarity between the Scarlet Tanager and Robin or Rose-breasted Grosbeak calls and songs. Bird watchers with patience and perseverance will, however, find the Scarlet Tanager.

A typical summer sight is a male American Goldfinch flying over a meadow, flashing golden in the sun, calling perchickory as it bounds up and down in flight. In winter, when males and females alike are colored in subtler brown, flocks of goldfinches congregate in weedy fields and at feeders, making musical and plaintive calls.

Gold Finch

Gold Finch

During mating season the male goldfinch has a bright yellow body, black wings with white stripes, a black cap on its head, and a white rump. Females and winter males have duller feathers that are an olive-yellow color. The male’s black cap may disappear in the winter or turn a dull black. Females don’t have the black cap on their heads. Both males and females have a small cone-shaped bill.

Purple Marti

Purple Martin

Graceful in flight, musical in its pre-dawn singing, this big swallow is one of our most popular birds. Almost all Purple Martins in the east now nest in birdhouses put up especially for them. Martin housing has a long history: some Native American tribes reportedly hung up hollow gourds around their villages to attract these birds. Purple Martins migrate to South America for the winter, but before leaving, they may gather to roost in groups of thousands in late summer.

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Salvation Mountain: One Man’s Monument to Love

Salvation-mountain-and-sign-1024x682-1-2Salvation Mountain is an eye-popping burst of color in an otherwise desolate landscape two hours east of San Diego. As I visited Salvation Mountain, I stood in admiration of Leonard Knight’s unwavering faith and determination to single-handedly build this extraordinary monument over almost 30 years. He was just planning on staying in the area a few days but decided to stay eternally. It took endless buckets of adobe clay, 100,000+ gallons of paint, thousands of hay bales painting, and long 10 hours days to paint the Christian scriptures and Bible verses on a clay hill in scorching 118 degree weather.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

The crimson heart in the center of the mountain with a simple prayer: “Jesus I’m a sinner please come upon my body and into my heart,” stands as a true expression of devotion to people and to love itself. In Leonard’s own words: “This is a love story that is staggering to everybody in the whole world.”

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In 1994, the LA times wrote an article about the county’s attempts to turn Slab City into a fee-based campground but were unsuccessful because Salvation Mountain is a religious monument. The county claimed the yellow paint used on the design of the mountain was toxic. But Leonard hired his own soil engineers to test the soil which conclusively found nothing but clean soil.

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After the article was published, word of Salvation Mountain spread. It was featured in Sean Penn’s film “Into the Wild” his mountain and has earned the recognition of The Discovery Channel and National Geographic..”  California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as “a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives”.

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In 2010 Leonard Knight’s hearing and eyesight failed him, forcing him to leave his beloved Salvation Mountain. Leonard Knight died on February 10, 2014 at convalescent hospital in eastern San Diego County where he had been a resident for more than two years. He was 82 years old.

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Cute Baby Animals

Here are some cute baby animals for you to enjoy.  All of the photos were taken in or around Circle B Bar Preserve in Lakeland Florida and Pine craft Park in Sarasota. 

Baby Barred Owl

Baby Barred Owl

Gator Baby

Gator Baby

Great Blue Heron Baby

Great Blue Heron Baby

Baby Fawn

Baby Fawn

Anhinga and Chicks

Anhinga and Chicks

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Brilliant Indigo Buntings

Male Indigo Bunting

Male Indigo Bunting

Its brilliant blue color accompanied by its unique song make the Indigo Bunting a highly prized wild bird. Sometimes nicknamed “blue canaries,” these brilliantly colored yet common and widespread birds whistle their bouncy songs through the late spring and summer all over eastern North America.

bunch indio During breeding, indigo Buntings eat small spiders and insects such as grasshoppers, bugs, beetles and caterpillars. They also eat seeds of grasses, herbs and berries. In winter, Indigo Buntings eat small seeds, buds and some insects. Their main sustenance is small seeds of grasses. They can also be found at feeders and in rice fields consuming rice seeds. They do not drink often but obtain adequate water from the food they eat. They feed alone during breeding season and with flocks during winter.

sharper indioIndigo Buntings migrate at night, using the stars for guidance. Researchers demonstrated this process in the late 1960s by studying captive Indigo Buntings in a planetarium and then under the natural night sky. The birds possess an internal clock that enables them to continually adjust their angle of orientation to a star—even as that star moves through the night sky.

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