Posts Tagged With: tours


hero_rio_2013--kia-480x-1Signal so weak, I couldn’t finish a blog on Monday.  I turned my Prius in for repair, FINALLY. It was another full day devoted to getting my car fixed after the accident of June 12th. I fought to have my Prius fixed instead of totaled, and after a long process, fraught with hang-ups, (as in the body shopped scheduled to fix it went out of business,) it was delivered to the capable hands of C&C Body Shop in Sonora. While there, we had to wait to pick up a rental car, a silver KIA that fits in my garage.

We went out to lunch in Sonora and when I got home I didn’t feel like cooking. We decided to veg in front of the television with some food and turned on a program called Swamp People. It was an old program series that played from 6:00 to 9:00 and most of it was about Cajun alligator hunters. Having visited that part of the country, having met a couple of alligator hunters, the memories flowed. Those were really exciting times.  We ate a lot of alligator meat in Southern Louisiana, mostly sausage, but we were never part of a hunt. After watching the Swamp People, I felt like I went alligator hunting.

I got so excited, I had to replay my alligator pictures. A different camera, no editing done, so I selected a few pics from the album.

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We took an alligator sighting tour boat into the swamps. The boats in the program and this one are flat bottomed affairs, built by Cajuns for alligator hunting.

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We spotted this big one.

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It was unafraid and the boat didn’t get too close.

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Then we saw this big bull, the guide called him. The broad head is a giveaway.

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I got a second shot of this big bull.  I took two shots of  small gators buried deep in the shallow swamp grasses, but  I had to look three times at my own photos to pick them out. They were well camouflaged, so I didn’t download the pictures. Alligators are fearless and fast. Basically the king predator of the swamps. Their only enemy is man.

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This is a better picture of the type of flat boats the hunters use, though the sides are a bit steeper. This group is fishing for something, but not alligators.

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A picture of a picture of “Mary”, feeding an alligator to demonstrate to the tour what they look like. She owned the company at one time and it is too dangerous to “chum” alligators and the company quit the practice. The picture didn’t say if this event was at an alligator farm or in the wild. Alligator skin is more valuable than the meat.

Dirty Miller cookin'

Near Little Chenier, we met a real alligator hunter who goes by the name of Dirty Miller. We were looking for the town of Little Chenier, or remnants of it. It was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. Up against a choice, where the pavement ended, with a gravel road in front of us, without knowing where it came out, we stopped. We turned around in Miller’s driveway and he hollered at us to “com’on, dinner will be ready in a half an hour.”  Miller is the epitome of Southern hospitality and a real character.

Wiped out by Katrina, Miller built a large shed on the spot where his house once stood. It was flooded by Rita and he showed us the water line on the walls of his shed.  In that pot was a big stew and we joined him and his friends for a Sunday afternoon dinner and listened raptly to alligator hunting stories and many other tales.  He had pictures of Donald Trump and some other notables, (I no longer remember the names,)  people he took alligator hunting. We ended up spending the night and Dirty Miller and his girl friend cooked us a giant omelet for breakfast the next morning with shrimp, crawfish, crab and alligator sausage. One of our favorite, memorable stops in Louisiana.


This is a picture of a picture of Dirty Miller’s grandson sitting on a gator he killed. I’m savoring the memories again through my pictures. My only regret is that I didn’t take more pictures of this fascinating guy and his friends.

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I mentioned previously that I took a drop of water on my lens. The drop of water came early in the cave. Be warned, it is  very wet at the traditional entrance. They have 27 entrances now, I cannot speak for the others.

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A flash photo looking up into a hole from above.

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In some pictures, I was able to crop the smudge.

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From a long distance and no flash, this is a cluster of bats. The ceiling in one place was bristling with those giant crickets but when the guide would shine the flashlight on them so you could see them, they would immediately scurry into a crack.

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This was a very dark area of the cave. Lighting is very subtle.

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This is a closer shot with the flash.  I took three flash pictures. I was amazed at what color came from the light when I unloaded my pictures.

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A hole in the ceiling worked through the heavy limestone cover above and water pours through this hole. You can’t see the water.  It is a thin but forceful steady stream.

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This particular tour is named for this formation called Frozen Niagara Falls. To the left you can see railings where those who can go down 49 steps and back up can look up at the falls.

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This is a view down into the “fall room” from the top of the steps.

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The falls is the end of this tour, then you can photograph what you missed on the way back. I didn’t miss much.

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These last two photos are repeats from a different angle.

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I enjoyed this cave. I don’t fear the dark or unknown or earthquakes or rocks falling  that others on the tour expressed. But there are some people who absolutely love them and can’t wait to get back under. They can easily spend weeks in a cave. I heard people say, all caves are alike, and I can certainly acknowledge their similarity. But, there is something unique about each one, too.

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When I got out of the cave, it was the strangest feeling, like this sunny world is unnatural  and less rich compared to what we had just seen. It only lasted for seconds. I guess the eyes couldn’t make the switch quickly enough. Fleetingly, it occurred to me, the feeling of let down people get when they come up, may be what inspires those to become addicted to caving.

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We lunched at their cafeteria. Great vegetarian choices made it tough to choose. I’m now hungering for the spicy black bean burger I didn’t choose over this spinach wrap humus and veggies with mango and passion fruit dressing.  Yum!

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On our three capes drive, we entered the town of Tillamook. Everyone knows this place is home to a huge cheese industry. I don’t remember how many people they employ nor the number of dairy farms in the area. We were hungry and asked at the local Eagles Club for a recommendation for a seafood restaurant. We were sent to this ramshackle, roadside, fish stand that sells  basic eats, fish & chips, fish burger, crab salad, fresh oysters, etc. about 10 different items. It’s located directly across the highway from the cheese factory.  On each of the four little tables were three or more choices of hot sauce. I tried three of them on my great cod burger but the Irazu, a volcanic hot sauce made from “ghost peppers” was stunningly good and, I do like it hot. I know there are hotter sauces available, because this place has almost every one made, except, one of our favorites, Marie Sharps Habanero.  Here is a sampling:

When the cook noticed I’d tried the Irazu, he said, ” We have ghost peppers here. We make jerky out of it.”  He brought over a jar of them and carefully offered me a sniff.

I took a light sniff being careful, then the ghost factor kicks in. You don’t smell them at first, then the heat hits your nose. Ghost pepper is just a nickname for some hot peppers that, as the sauce names hint, are potent as in  Death, Pecker Pucker, Hemorrhoid Cleaner, and other colorful names.  What a hoot!  I could kick myself for not picking up  some Irazu, but we have one unopened bottle of  Blitz we bought in Louisiana last year, and our Marie Sharps is 3/4 full yet.

Cheese at Tillamook is excellent stuff.  They allow you to sample it. They don’t go in for anything fancy, just basic cheeses, milk, yogurt, and ice cream.  My last visit to a cheese factory was in Pleasanton, CA. in the 50’s where you watched the curds and whey being hand paddled by a guy with huge muscles. The strong smell of sour milk was enough to make you temporarily give up cheese. Here everything is stainless steel, climate controlled, automated, super clean and fascinating to watch the assembly lines. First formed into 30 pound blocks, then cut to the various sizes. Any uneven bits of cheese, or mistakes in the packaging go into a bin for shredded cheese.

Four  separate lines on this floor cut medium cheddar, sharp cheddar into one and two-pound sizes.  Without stopping the new sized cheese runs into the automatic wrapping and vacuum packaging machines. Each line sends up one package per second. Now that’s a lot of cheese.  We stopped in their restaurant  for a dish of high quality ice cream.

Our last stop of the day, mainly just a drive by, was a look at one of the largest timbered structures in the world. It was used to house blimps in the days when blimps looked like the new mode of air travel.

We’ll return someday to do the air museum housed here.

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With my Sheriffs Department background, Soledad brings to mind the prison by that name. But, here, at Soledad Canyon Thousand Trails, is the true meaning of the Spanish word, solitude. It fits this quiet, peaceful site that meanders across the Santa Clara River with approximately 800 sites— without feeling crowded.

I spent time in the beautiful hot tub. Its cool here, and the pool is closed for repair work.

When we move to a new place, it is our habit to walk the park, see where everything is located, and just get a feel for the place. We noticed a lot of tree work going on in several sections of the park. Old giants, laid down for a final rest.

Beauty still, in its rot and decay.

Like all Thousand Trails, they have multiple activities for kids and adults. Tennis, basket ball, several “kiddie”  playgrounds and picnic areas, horseshoes, an arcade, miniature golf, a couple of outdoor amphitheaters. This is the first TT we’ve seen with an old tractor for kids to climb on.

We heard coyotes our first night, but literature warns hikers about cougars in the area. On our walk we saw the fattest crow and a few other birds. In Palm springs our walk around the site was 3 miles. Here, it felt like the same distance with just one circle around the perimeter.
Events here are bus trips into Los Angeles on Thursdays and Saturdays to visit Olivera Street,  the Getty Museum, the Queen Mary, a farmers market, Hollywood, Union Station, Sana Monica, Venice Beach and so on. A continually changing menu of things to see and do.  And, you don’t have to drive.
Planned events at the lodge vary with the time of year. We already see flyers for the up-coming St. Patricks Day Corned Beef and cabbage dinner for 99 cents. The big lodge has a huge dance floor and restaurant.
People come up out of the smog filled cities and can enjoy this restful, peaceful place at Soledad Canyon.

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