Friday, July 29, 2016

High Country high fliers: birds delight in the northern Rockies

A lazuli bunting graces us with his presence and a lovely song each morning at High Chaparral.

A wren feeds her young as we watch quietly. In a day or two, they'll be gone.

"Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he's gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable..."

-- Mary Oliver, "A Thousand Mornings"


A red tail hawk watches rabbits below, from a dying cottonwood tree.
I'M SITTING at our summertime desk, high in the Rocky Mountains, with the windows cracked and the doors half-open so I can watch the gold finches at the feeder. A lazuli bunting just had a snack.  I can hear a woodpecker pecking away at his favorite aspen tree -- the one with a few ant-infested branches!
Enroute to exercise class this morning, I saw a red tail hawk high in a cottonwood, already shed of its leaves. I was running late, but I stopped the car to watch him dive- bomb a small unlucky critter then whisk him away to feed the family.
This woodpecker likes sumac and aspen trees, especially
if they have insects, but here he tries his luck on a phone pole.
NOTHING makes me happier than watching and listening to the birds during our few weeks stay at our gorgeous High Chaparral high in the Montana Rockies.
The variety of sounds and songs from our feathered friends astonishes me.  Plaintive, flirting, melancholy, joyous -- I try to imitate the songs and sing them back.  So far, I've been answered several times, poor imposter though I am. That's always a thrill.
A ruby throated hummingbird  is poised midair near the feeder.
We know the birds won't always be here, that they are visitors, their presence temporary.  The only one I've seen all twelve months of the year is the faithful chickadee.  He can withstand Montana's bitterly cold winters, and he manages to liven up the winter woods with his pretty song. (He is one of my most faithful "responders" when I whistle my howdy-do back to him.)

THE HUMMINGBIRDS are the most exquisite of our visitors. The ruby-throated looks as if he's going out for the evening, in his scarlet red "cravat" and stylish white shirt and green suit. We have three kinds of hummers here -- the rufous with his rust-colored cape, and the tiny caliope, the smallest bird on the continent. Because they are various sizes, we have several feeders, lest the larger rufous hog the food source.
Wherever you are on the planet, remember what my grandmother told me many moons ago:  "Keep a song in your heart, listen for the birds. Feed them. When they are gone from Earth, we won't be far behind."

The Nevada City cabins in the Nevada City Hotel are rustic, nestled
against the mountains and near Virginia City. They are dog friendly.  

NEXT UP: It's a Montana road trip, and we're exploring Virginia City and Nevada City, with a train ride, fire truck history tour, a jaunt to the onetime rich gold fields and a stay in a rustic cabin where, yes, dogs are welcome! All that and more, including two lively performances: the racy Brewery Follies and the Virginia City Players, celebrating its 75th season! Remember to explore, learn and live. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dog's life with Cookie and Keller is a pretty dog-gone good gig

 Nick and Nora love huckelberry ice cream, a roadie treat in Julian, California which they visit twice a year.

"Charley is a mind-reading dog. There have been many trips in his lifetime.....he knows we are going long before the suitcase comes out, and he paces and worries and whines, and goes into a state of mild hysteria. -- John Steinbeck,'"Travels with Charley."


WE CAN'T imagine a road trip without Nick and Nora.
John Steinbeck's famous "Travels with Charley"
has inspired many journeys and many other travelogues.
Our smart, loving Yorkshire terriers are as much a part of the package as a picnic, a room with a view, a fun new hotel, a new restaurant and a play to cap the day.
Like John Steinbeck and his faithful poodle Charley, we find each journey enhanced by the Yorkies' company. The doggies introduce us to people.
They give us new perspective.  They make us laugh.
They're just plain good company.
If the airlines awarded miles for doggie travel, Nick and Nora would be flying even higher -- for they've logged over 65,000 miles each in their action-packed near 11 years.
Nick and Nora seem comfy in their regulation airline sherpa carrier.
MOSTLY, THEY go where we go, by plane or car. They're happy little road-trippers. Because we so often take them along, we've started keeping track of the best of the "dog friendly" hotels we've visited.
Savvy dog lovers also rely upon Eileen Barish's wonderful dog friendly books, including "Doin' California with your Pooch." (She features other states, too. And if you simple google pet-friendly travel, you can narrow your own field.)
You'll find that some hotels have designated areas and rooms for pups. In other properties, dogs have greater freedom. It is also common practice to walk your pup frequently and not leave him unattended in the room for long. Some hotels give  goodies
Sunburned Cookie holds Nick and 
Nora off the hot sand near Las Vegas. 
OUR DOGGIE carry-along bag includes their toys, treats, sweaters, food and water bowl. Nick and Nora have bedded down with us in at least 65 hotels, motels and inns, besides their relatives' homes in
California and Georgia.
Nick and Nora take to the beach of Lake Tahoe.
Here are some pup-friendly places we endorse and recommend, for their personality, charm, dog welcoming spirit and proximity to fun events, scenery and history. Nick and Nora give them paws up! At these diverse and pet-welcoming venues, it goes without saying to leash your pet while promenading, and bring a stash of "doggie bags" just in case.
*Western Heritage Inn of Bozeman, Montana.
Keller & Nora head for the Catalina Boat House.
*The Murray Hotel of Livingston, Montana.
* Vagabond's House Inn, Carmel by the Sea, Calif.
* Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland, Oregon.
*Catalina Boat House Hotel, Avalon, Calif.
* Omni Los Angeles Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif.
Cookie and Keller, with Nick and Nora, find that the Yorkies 
are a conduit for meeting new friends wherever they go. 
Here, they're having a boat ride on Hornblower Cruises out 
of San Diego, which has a special "Pet Day on the Bay."

*Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, Santa Barbara.
* Ocean Villa Inn, San Diego, Calif.
*Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.
*Beach House Inn, Santa Barbara,
*Inn By The Lake, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

The beautiful lazuli bunting is named for the gemstone, lapis lazuli.

NEXT UP: We pay homage to birds, their haunting and magical songs, their delicacy at the feeder, their strength in flight. Join us to celebrate the myriad delights they give us, especially here in the northern Rockies in summertime's prime. We'll be in Montana's Stillwater County for a photo essay on the pleasures of sharing the landscape with hawks, hummingbirds, wrens, woodpeckers and the stunning lazuli bunting. Remember to explore, learn and live and remember we post each Friday.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Flagship dinner cruise unfurls an evening for the memory book

Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller take to San Diego Bay and a Flagship dinner cruise, with spectacular views.

TAKE YOUR PICK OF FLAGSHIP'S FUN, FESTIVE OUTINGS -- from whale watching to elegant dining

Time to enjoy aquatic life, with 
a look over the ship's side.

IMAGINE YOURSELF at sea with a glass of champagne, a lovely meal, gorgeous scenery and the one you love.
After a stroll on deck and a leisurely meal, he asks you to dance.
It's your favorite Cole Porter tune.
What could be better?
Flagship Cruises has been at the entertainment business since 1915,
San Diego's USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier Museum, as viewed from Flagship. 
plying the waters of San Diego Bay and sharing the wonders of the beautiful southern California harbor and coastline. 
The Spirit of San Diego resembles a yacht or cruise ship, with daytime
nature watches and weekend champagne brunches, and evening dinner cruises.
WE RECENTLY enjoyed a Flagship dinner cruise -- a nicely presented and tasty meal, with fabulous scenery to complement our gastronomic indulgence. We'd boarded with a celebrating family, honoring a daughter who'd just earned her doctorate.  Together, we watched the harbor fade from view as Flagship's Spirit of San Diego traversed the big bay, winding under the Coronado Bridge and into Glorietta Bay Marina with a spectacular view of the famous Hotel Del Coronado.
As a bonus this summer, and into September, fans of fine dining and gorgeous views from the water may also enjoy fireworks over the bay. Flagship is offering dinner and dancing during the leisurely three-hour excursion, ending with fireworks over the bay.
CALL IT GILDING the lily -- the allure of San Diego's famous waterfront, kicked up a notch with fireworks. Dates are July 29-30, and Aug. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27. The fireworks-dinner combo continues through Sept. 3.
A celebrating family poses for the photographer, celebrating a graduation. 
WE THOUGHT of our a recent cruise ship adventure as we boarded the elegant double-decker Spirit.  We strolled the 2,700-square foot observation deck as we pulled out of the harbor, enjoying a glass of bubbly, wishing it were a week long venture, not just an evening! That night, the Flagship clientele ranged from couples enjoying a date night, to three-generations celebrating a doctoral degree, to newlyweds, a bar mitzvah party and retirement fete.
All were enjoying the impressive San Diego skyline from the lush outer decks and cozy cherry wood inner rooms.  Cocktails were
We left our pretty table for a stroll on deck.
available at several stations and a DJ circulated, schmoozing with guests and taking musical requests for dancing.
FLAGSHIP'S impressive nine-vessel fleet includes a new yacht, the California Spirit, the Princess, for fairytale weddings, the Marietta for whale watching, the Quiet Heart, and a pair of ferries. Glorietta, a small water taxi, is also under Flagship's purview. If you're feeling like treating 52 of your favorite people, the Spirit's VIP Captain’s Salon awaits, complete with tinted windows for privacy. It seats 52 guests and offers spectacular bay views.

UP NEXT:  It's a doggone good dog's life, when you're a canine traveling with Cookie and Keller.
Nick and Nora, the couple's Yorkshire terriers,   have logged over 60,000 airline miles (no frequent flier credit, darn!) and are always a part of the couple's road trips. Tips on making travel with pups easier for you -- and your four-footed pals. Remember to explore, learn and live. 
Keller takes a trip to Avalon, Catalina Islands, with Nora having a wee siesta while
Cookie and Nick take photos! Tips on making pet travel both fun and relaxing.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A bit of country in the midst of a city: Los Penasquitos recalls long-ago California

Nubian goats are part of the fun for school kids and families.   Egg-laying chickens entertain city kids and archaeological digs are ongoing, finding new information about the long history of human habitation at Los Penasquitos. 

Adobe ranch house, gardens, hiking trails, history await visitors to San Diego's treasured Los Penasquitos  

The ranch house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
as the Johnson-Taylor Adobe Ranch House.''
Thistle is abloom in glorious purple on a hiking trail.

NOT FAR from the bustle of city life, the sounds of airplanes taking off and the hum of traffic and commuter trainsa quiet and restful haven awaits in southern California.
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a wonderful place to spend a morning or afternoon -- hiking, biking, picnicking, learning about a historic part of southern California.
ITS ROOTS GO deep and way back. For as long as 12,000 years, the Kumeyaay people lived in beautiful Los Penasquitos Canyon, attracted to the artesian spring, plentiful food and  other abundant natural resources..
School outings are welcome to walk around the 1800s adobe house and grounds.
IN 1769 SAN DIEGO was founded by Spanish soldiers and priests and a mission was built nearby.  Fast forward to 1823, when Capt. Francisco Maria Ruiz was granted 4,000 acres by the first Mexican governor of California. From this land grant, two small adobe buildings rose up. The ranch remained in the family through battles and droughts. Even after changes of owners and bank foreclosures, the place survived, through incarnations as a cattle ranch and lemon farm. Thoroughbred horses galloped there for a time and the Alvarado, Johnson, Taylor and Mohnike families took turns at farming and other enterprises.  A wood barn and other buildings arose, surrounded by wild flowers and many birds and mammals .
The views along the hiking and biking trails are wonderful in "Little Cliffs."
WHERE IS THIS wonderful place? Most San Diegans know Interstate 15, which forms the eastern boundary of Rancho Peñasquitos, with Carmel Mountain Ranch on the far side. Los Penasquitos means "little cliffs" and one can imagine the thrill of early explorers looking upward to the screech of hawks.
We loaded up our bicycles, and headed out, picnic and Yorkshire terrier in tow.  Leashed dogs are allowed, but when we biked, we made sure Nick and Nora had plenty of water and were comfy in the shaded car with open windows. Then the four of us lunched under a massive oak tree 50 yards from the ranch house.
SCHOOL KIDS were also enjoying an outing, and sat attentively while a staffer explained the history of the home, and the rich variety of wildlife.  Snakes were shown to the students, with an explanation of which ones to watch out for, since rattlers inhabit the rocky terrain.
The city of San Diego operates Los Penasquitos, with gardens, hiking trails and historic home.
WE WERE delighted to discover that remains of the prehistoric culture can still be found, with artifacts and fossils in the ranch house named after those lovely "little cliffs" on the hills.
A plaque denotes Rancho Santa Maria de los
 Penasquitos, with parts of the original walls.
The ruins of stalwart structures of adobe are fascinating, and the splendid canyon and walking trails wind through 4,000 acres of the Penasquitos and Lopez canyons.  It's one of  the largest urban parks in the United States
THE PRESERVE has an exciting history. In 1823, when Ruiz was awarded his acreage -- it was as thanks for his service as Commandant of the San Diego residio. The land -- at the eastern part of the Canyon -- extended into Sabre Springs and up to Rancho Bernardo. Ruiz spent many years in loyal service to Mexico, and this splendid canyon was his reward. He built a one-room adobe casa there in 1824.  
THREE OF the walls of his revered home remain in the main ranch house conference room.  What a thrill to visit, and realize you're standing in the oldest remaining private structure in San Diego.
Community gardens and many other attractions await, including a waterfall cascading through
volcanic rock; a streamside forest of giant California live oaks; groves of majestic sycamore trees; a year-round stream populated by Pacific tree frogs, crayfish and large mouth bass;a freshwater marsh hosting many aquatic birds including great blue herons, egrets and mallard ducks and more; mule deer, bobcat, coyote and raccoon along with other mammals.
Flagship's boats are known for their elegance and spirit of fun.
NEXT UP: A toast, and a seaborne salute to Flagship Cruises. The operation has been entertaining people in southern California for decades, with elegant dinner cruises and fantastic whale watching treks. Sail the high seas with us, remembering to explore, learn and live. And don't miss Stillwater Protective Asociation's July 16 fundraiser, with a lively country band, fine food, drink and company, and an opportunity to support a grassroots organization that watches over the land for all of us. More next week at 
Check out last year's SPA event at:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tippet Rise: Magic arises from imagination, deep pockets and prime location

"Daydreams" by Patrick Dougherty, under construction last fall at Tippet Rise, is part of a glorious landscape merging
art and nature, with indoor and outdoor performance spaces, world known sculpture and a roster of international performers. 

Tippet Rise Olivier Barn concert hall going up in October.




TIPPET RISE spared no expense in hiring the best people available for each position.
And its designers and builders made certain it is environmentally correct in every way.
Tippet Rise completed Olivier Barn concert hall.
Peter Halstead, left foreground, opened the program, with Christopher O'Riley, in chair, director of programming. Above right, from left: Bruce Keller, Christene Meyers and Corby Skinner framed by an Alexander Calder sculpture. 
For music director of Tippet Rise, founders Cathy and Peter Halstead chose nationally known pianist Christopher O’Riley, host of National Public Radio’s “From the Top.”
Big Sky Journal features innovation at Tippet Rise 
O’Riley’s diverse music series features world premieres by prominent composers, and internationally renowned artists --“immersive concert experiences” in both the acoustically perfect Olivier Barn and the open-sided, moveable outdoor acoustical shell, Tiara.  Other performances will be staged at sculpture sites.  
Dozens of workers helped finish Tippet Rise's outdoor
concert space, Tiara, and the rest of the major
buildings between autumn and this summer.
HIRING ENTERPRISING Frenchman Alban Bassuet to champion their project was shrewd, for they found someone whose artistic sensibilities parallel theirs.  Their bold ambition – creating modern art in a rugged landscape -- works.  The sculptures look made for the place, rising against a backdrop of sagebrush and volcanic rock.
Bassuet is known internationally for his ability to "stretch" and break down boundaries.
He’s supervised projects in Greece, Switzerland, Iceland, Houston, Boston and Taipei.
Alban Bassuet, left, and sculptor Ricardo Sanz during
an early period of the design phase. A much larger
piece -- massive in size -- now dwarfs humans.
The Halsteads’ dream saw people “free to move about the land, appreciating it as an extension of their enjoyment of the arts,” Bassuet says.  “And they insisted each piece occupy its own space.”
WITH SCULPTURE commissions in the millions (a single work carries a $5 million price tag), the Halsteads determined that viewers concentrate on each piece individually. For that, a large expanse of land was a necessity. 
“Rise” is a suggestive title for the project, considered by many to be Montana’s most daring and expensive arts endeavor.
“What we are doing here is progressive,” says Bassuet. “We’re about renewable energy, sustainable farming, hiring local people, buying locally, making magnificent art."
Bassuet believes lovers of music, art and landscape will travel from far beyond to experience this new “land art” space. 
Peter Halstead explains to a full house how he and his wife, Cathy,
merged their various interests in creation of Tippet Rise.
TICKETS TO THE performances venues – outdoor and indoor -- cost only $10.  The first season sold out immediately, and in the tradition of chamber music soirees, the audience is only 100.  Music aficionados enhance their concert going with a tour of the sculptures created by internationally known artists.   Drivers shuttle people to nine large carefully positioned pieces.  More will be added.    
 "DAYDREAMS" is an installation by internationally praised environmental artist Patrick Dougherty.  The one-room prairie schoolhouse looks like a set piece for “Little House on the Prairie,” enticingly draped in woven saplings and sticks.  The building is new, but designed to appear old.  Nails have been pushed up to look as if they’d spent decades battling the elements. Dougherty’s woven willows bring the building to life.
Tippet Rise invites lovers of art, music and landscape to indulge their senses.
    A Mark di Suvero's six-story work has a metronome-like pendulum and A-frame supports.  It was moved from Dallas, one of 55 cities to host the artist’s work.
Another di Suvero piece, “Beethoven’s Quartet,” is a monumental musical sculpture.
 Ensamble Studios of Madrid artist Ricardo Sanz installed two vertical rocklike forms which lean toward one another.
Famed structural artist Stephen Talasnik’s “Pioneer” appears to float, drawing the eye up towards the “big sky” which stands sentinel above the rolling hills.   
THE INDOOR CONCERT space showcases designer Laura Viklund’s glorious wooden frame, in the guise of an “old barn.”  Complementing it are new-age, perfect acoustics, with green room, dressing room, piano storage room and lifts.  Water, electricity, insulation, heating and cooling, including solar panels, are all “planet friendly.”
Veteran rancher Ben Wynthein manages the property, insuring that it remain a working ranch, digging wells and monitoring grazing lands for sheep and cattle. Pete and Lindsey Hinmon direct logistics and operations, including working with teachers from surrounding towns.
The Halsteads hired Montana labor and contractors, recruited local landscapers, maintenance workers, marketing specialists, ushers, stagehands and drivers.  They signed on local caterers Wendy Reed and Nick Goldman, remembered for their inventive feasts at Big Yellow House in Absarokee. The artists -- from U.S. cities and Europe -- fell in love with Montana, Bassuet says, “and found themselves captivated by its spectacular settings.” (His own affinity for the project resulted in moving his family to Montana.)
 Exquisite craftsmanship is the byword at Tippet Rise. Utility lines are hidden.  Even the parking lot looks discreetly natural, “to entice the eye as one approaches,” says Bassuet.  The place is a metaphor for art’s transcendent quality, its ability to connect people and engage them in the landscape. 
    “Tippet Rise is the tip of the spear,” Bassuet says.  “We believe people will visit – almost as a pilgrimage. Tippet Rise will become a destination of itself.”

Rancho Penasquitos and the Canyon Preserve await. 

UP NEXT: Who knew that near the heart of busy San Diego, a piece of country awaits discovery by this native Montanan.  Las Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and Ranch is a lovely, rugged park with a historic adobe ranch house built in 1823. The place is now on the National Historic Register and offers hiking, biking, equestrian trails and more. It's near Carmel Mountain Ranch, and the I15, but you wouldn't know it's in the city. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend.