Tag Archives: birds

Stellar Jays, Bats, Sunsets, & a Rustic Ski Lodge at Mt. Pinos

IMG_8973My friend Katie and I headed up to the cabin in Mt. Pinos for the weekend and what an experience it was. Mt. Pinos is about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, in the Los Padres National Forest. It is off Route 5 past Pyramid Lake. In the summer it the average temperatures are in the 70’s and 80’s while in the winter it gets a lot of snow. Luckily, we were there in the spring, but it was still very hot.

We left late on a Saturday evening, stopping for a pizza as we got close. As the sunset and the last of the light left the sky the bats came out. It was my first experience seeing so many of them feed I was extremely excited. Walking up and into the pizza shop I kept spinning around trying to see them all and hoping I wouldn’t miss any. The following night I was in for a surprise and was able to watch them for at least half an hour as they had their lavish dinner. They flew sporadically through the sky zipping back and forth and up and down. It was so interesting to watch, I sat there completely captivated by their every move. As each one disappeared I found myself yearning for another to come swooshing past until the last of the light was gone and their feast was complete.

We got our pizza and some beer and finished our drive to the cabin. We arrived very late and struggled to find our way bringing in our stuff in the dark. We settled in and called it a night soon after, making sure to be well rested for our next morning.

We awoke the next morning and it was quite chilly. We headed upstairs, started a fire and put seeds in the bird feeder on the balcony. Soon there were so many Stellar Jays that it was hard to count them. They were gorgeous with their blue and black feathers and their pointy heads. I asked Katie if she ever let them feed from her hand and she said that she hadn’t, but her friend had. I decided to give it a try. I was so nervous the bird might miss and get my finger so I held real still with a peanut in the palm of my hand completely flat. I tried to watch out of the corner of my eye as the bird sized me up to see if I was a threat or going to trap it. It slowly got closer, keeping an eye on me and eventually decided to trust me enough to snatch the peanut. It was so quick I almost missed it as it swooped in and barely even touched me. I can’t tell if it was his wing or the air that I felt on my finger tips it was so fast. The next day I tried again and this time the bird was much slower and one of his friends also took one from my hand too. I can only imagine that if I could do this for a few months straight I could have that bird sitting calmly on my finger tips.

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We made french toast with cinnamon raisin bread that was delicious and topped it with blueberries. The following day we smashed bananas into the egg mix and covered the bread which made the french toast even better. I thought it was so delicious that when I got home I recommended all my friends try it sometime. So next time your home has eggs, milk, cinnamon raisin bread, and bananas in it make some.

We decided to go out for a drive so I could see the area. We checked out the country club and then drove over to Mt. Able where there’s an old ski lodge at a campground. The ski lodge is no longer open. It is all locked up and closed down, but it was interesting to explore the area a bit. With what looks like an old fire pit where people used to stand to get warm, the big lodge, a smaller building which might have been where they rented equipment and another smaller building where people might have changed there was a lot to explore. Oh, and the pine cones were huge! Like the size of my entire hand, all over the ground everywhere. While I was there I couldn’t help wonder what happened and why the ski lodge closed down. I tried to google it when I got home, but I couldn’t find anything about it on any relevant websites.

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We headed back to the cabin and stopped for a moment to take some pictures of one of the strangest things I’ve seen. The trees on the side of the road were standing with half of their root exposed due to the erosion of the dirt from underneath them and down the side of the mountain. Since we were stopped anyway we  hung around to watch the sunset as well. It was stunning as you can see in the pictures below. So beautiful full of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples. We headed to get something to eat but everything was closed so we went back to the cabin, came up with leftovers and then called it a night.

The following day we decided to go on a short hike on a trail not too far down the road from the cabin. We walked to the end of the road and reached the trailhead. The trail was a narrow dirt path with rocks lining the edges making it very distinguishable between the rest of the woods. The trail was surrounded with plant life which also helped and right along a creek. The water was moving extremely slow in the creek which is a great breeding ground for bugs but meant that if we stopped even for a few seconds they were all over us trying to get a taste. We quickly followed the creek until we came to a huge tree laying on it’s side. It looked like someone had been in the area and chopped a bunch of them down and just left them to rot. On our way back I found a huge walking stick with these really cool bug made grooves in it. My plan was to cut it down, remove the extra wood sticking out at the branch sites and paint it with something to make it even smoother. I carried the stick all the way back to the cabin and we tied it into the back of Katie’s truck. It was so big it stuck out the back. I can’t wait to see what the finished project is gonna look like.

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We got back to the cabin, cleaned up the place and then headed home. What a great weekend it was. So many new things to see and try. Who would have thought going to the cabin at Mt. Pinos would allow you to feed Stellar Jays, see bats feed in the night sky, explore an old ski lodge and hiking trail, have amazing french toast and see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

Rock Hill Trail at Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge

DSC08833Wandering down dirt roads I came across the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge and decided to check it out. Of course, the visitor’s section had recently closed at 3:30pm so I walked up the wooden overlook to see if I could see any birds out in the field. I put my eyes into their binoculars, but I couldn’t see any. I had heard that this was another spot to view birds but the information posted around the refuge was more about  the disappearing lake and the wildlife supported by it.

As I started my trek and followed their signs pointing the way to Rock Hill Trail, I took in the views and learned more about the Salton Sea. The trail started out down a long path next to bushes and an elevated dirt road. Reaching the end of the section the path opened up more and continued between the beach and grassy, a man-made area followed by what looked to be a man-made lake. There were birds scattered along both sides, grazing and moving along to their next meal.

IMG_8545The Salton Sea’s shores consist of barnacles, which are seldom found in lakes but were inadvertently deposited during WWII when sea planes practiced landing and taking off there. It is also currently 25% more salty than the ocean. Different species of fish have different tolerant levels to salinity, but if it’s levels continue to increase it might one day become too salty for any fish to inhabitant, throwing off the whole food chain that birds and other species depend on for survival.

DSC08830I reached the base of Rock Hill Trail and decided to power up it. I was on a mission. I zigzagged up and reached the ending point in only about 5 minutes. I was a little disappointed. I expected to be able to go all the way to the top, but there was a barrier preventing me proceeding any further. I guess they don’t want people falling off into the lake.

The view however was amazing. Surrounded on all sides by different and equally beautiful scenery. To one side was the beach with birds grazing and the sun growing closer to the lake, to another was a stark landscape completely bare, empty, dried, dead desert, to another was a small lake inhabited by birds on tiny green islands, and to the last side was bright green wetlands. I took a moment to take it all in. The short hike to an amazing viewpoint was worth it.











Salt Creek a Salton Sea State Recreation Area

IMG_8424I was searching for the main Salton Sea State Recreation Area and instead stumbled upon Salt Creek. It looked like such an alluring beach from the road. Birds covered the water’s edge and I couldn’t resist spending a little time exploring.

Unlike other state run facilities there is no person here to take your money. A $5 fee for day parking or I think it was $10 for camping is required based on the honor system (and maybe an occasional ranger?) I took an envelop, filled out the card and deposited my money into the slot. I was so giddy by feeling so unrestricted and free. This beach is too cute!

IMG_8395Salt Creek was pretty empty, with a scarce trailer or tent set up along the parking area and a few lone strangers walking the beach. As I walked closer to the water I was intrigued by the strange crumbling and crinkling sounds the ground made under my feet. It had gone from packed, dried, cracked dirt to brown sand to white crushed fish bones to little white circular bubbles all within about 20 feet. My footsteps sunk deep into the bubbles, which I can only believe were vertebrates and I stopped to see if my weight had crushed any as I passed. So odd, they seemed to just roll out of the way. I reached down to examine them further and realized they were quite fragile, able to be crushed by a simple squeeze between my thumb and forefinger. Baffled, I continued on toward the water.


As I got closer to the water’s edge and the many beautiful birds brown muck rose from beneath the bubbles in small patches. I accidentally stepped in it and it clung to my shoe like goo. It was quite gross and I tried to use some bubbles to partially wipe it away, even more off-putting. I continued onto the water’s edge and while I don’t bird watch or know the different names of the those that inhabited that stretch of beach it was still quite a sight which I greatly enjoyed.


I sat there watching the birds sit along the water’s edge and glide above the surface sometimes diving in with a subtle splash for a while and eventually headed back to my car. I remembered people saying that the smell of the Salton Sea was horrible, wretched, and the worse that had ever smelled. Maybe I went at a good time or maybe my nose isn’t as sensitive as theirs, but honestly while I was there it really smelled no worse than a day at low tide on the Old Saybrook docks where my childhood summers were spent. The whole time I was wondering, where is that awful smell everyone spoke of, but deep down  was extremely happy that I didn’t have to experience it. Score one for me!