I last left off when I was in Pine Mountain Club at the top of the Grapevine in southern California. LA County. It was an absolute treat to be able to spend a couple of days with my friends Scot and Kristin. I birded just a little bit in those couple of days. One morning I hiked through San Emigdio Canyon and encountered a couple of Black Bears. The first one I just scared off of the trail in order to keep hiking, but later I came across a bear cub and decided it was time to turn around. The birds were fairly quiet in the canyon, though I found my first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD of the year there.
Leaving the Transverse Range was interesting. The best birding in that area seems to be through Quatal Canyon, though that road is dirt. My other options were to head south to Ojai and then the coast which would have added about 100 miles to the trip, or ride through Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge then through the Cuyama Valley. The only problem is that there are no services (no water) beyond New Cuyama until you are almost to the coast. So camping wouldn't be an option. Despite that, I decided to go that way. It meant getting an early start and riding almost 100 miles to Santa Maria.
Most of that ride was downhill, so it turned out that it wasn't even the hardest day of the trip despite being the longest by about 20 miles. Plus, I found a couple of BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS while riding down the mountain. The other great thing about that ride was feeling the first cool breeze coming inland off of the coast. I was so happy to be getting back to the ocean.
A night in Santa Maria meant that in the morning I could ride out to the coast and look for LEAST TERNS, which I got to see at Oso Flaco Lake. Another real treat turned out to be thousands of SOOTY SHEARWATERS just passed the surf at the Oso Flaco Beach. I looked for an early Royal Tern, but found none among the Caspian and Elegants.
Up to Morro Bay, I camped out at the State Park. In the morning, I rode over to Turri Road to look for CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS. As the morning got later and later, I was about to count them as a miss. Finally, I heard a flock of Kingbirds working the open fields together. Five Westerns and two Cassin's! Yahoo, I made for the coast again.
The ride north was pleasant enough until about Cambria. At that point, with the late start that I got, the wind was fierce. Yup, another headwind. Seems my loop through California was planned backwards in terms of the wind, though I'm happy with the planning in terms of the birds I got to see.
Anyway, back in the wind, I also had a spring break in my rear brakes. Because of the headwind, I have no idea how long I rode with one breakpad touching the wheel! When I figured it out, I simply disengaged my rear brakes and kept going. Big Sur or bust!
Riding into the Big Sur was great. The wind actually died down in the mountains. Then there was the nice family who waited for me most of the way up one of the mountains to offer me a basket of strawberries. Those strawberries, that I ate on that cliff were the most delicious strawberries I have ever tasted. 70 miles that day.
One night in Plaskett Creek. Finally, I was on a route that had other bike touring folks. It was fun to find a culture of tourers and to be a part of that for a couple nights.
The next day was wild. Gorgeous views, so I took it slow. CALIFORNIA CONDORS were soaring about near the waterfall that drops down to the beach at Julia Pfeiffer.
I was really shocked to find a roadkill RINGTAIL on Hwy 1. I took pictures as it seemed important to document that it had once lived there.
Camped in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I was excited to get north towards Monterey, I thought I'd just stop briefly along the way to bird here and there. Turns out the biggest surprise of the trip occurred just north of the town of Big Sur. I heard a chatter that wasn't familiar that was coming from a meadow by the side of the road. 10 PURPLE MARTINS were flying about chasing bugs and each other and perching in a tree.
Now I did try to do my homework before starting the trip, but Purple Martin was just not on the radar. Apparently, they breed in Big Sur. Now I know
For the next 20 minutes, I was thinking how wonderful it was to see Purple Martins and scratching my head that I didn't know that I could see them there, when suddenly, a lone BLACK SWIFT flew overhead. Wow, two big shocks in 20 minutes. This was some good birding. I had never seen a Black Swift before, so I was absolutely elated by my luck.
I camped in a hotel room in Seaside that night. Luxurious.
The next night was Santa Cruz where I stayed with my friends Emily and Eric. Another night with a bed. Thanks yall.
The ride home the next day was bitter sweet of course. Well, mostly it was just sweet. It's good to be home.
And, now that I'm home, all the pictures will be going up soon. Right after one more nap on the couch...