Monday, February 27
MercedAfter a leisurely load up over the weekend, Mary and I left Monday on a new 2 month road trip. Our first real stopover will be Death Valley for a week or so. Then we will make a quick crossing of Arizona so we can spend much of the rest of our time in New Mexico. The Bisti Wilderness, aka Bisti Badlands, has been of interest to us for some time, but we’ve never planned it into a trip until now. Located near Chaco Canyon, it will be a first look and we hope to spend an extended time there if weather permits. The rock formations there are quite different from anywhere else I’ve seen so I am hoping for some great days.Our good friends, Jeff & Betty invited us to spend the evening at their home in Merced before we got going in earnest. It’s just 100 miles from home, so we got there early enough to have a good visit. Our other close friends, Rick & Mary were also going to be staying the night at J & B’s place, so it was an especially nice evening for us all.We got to Merced by mid-afternoon and after a brief visit, J & B took us on a tour of the backroads of Merced. It is almost shocking how much water in laying around in vernal ponds and fields. Signs of flooding were everywhere in this flat valley – damaged and closed roads, with water in every low-lying depression. Everything is green in the extreme already. Winter? Not here. The almond, walnut and various fruit trees so in abundance here are well into their spring blooms.Riding out there took us to an emerald landscape punctuated by white and pink blossoms. I hadn’t seen this in many years. The rains let up this week, at least temporarily, and the bright light and cool air was a wonderful way to start a trip. It is a bit too early for abundant wildflowers, but conditions look good for a very good year. Wish we could hang here for a while, but we have an itinerary and want to keep on track. To top off the afternoon, we got a far away, but nice view of a couple of bald eagles.A little later, Mary & Rick arrived and we spent a great evening of food, drink and noisy conversation. After a seam busting breakfast in the morning, we said our goodbyes – Betty giving us an awesome lemon cake and Jeff, a bottle of his homemade lemoncello. I think an evening on the dunes with this combo might just be the trick. Thanks so much you guys. You’re the best!
We didn’t have far to go for our Tuesday drive. Just around 40 miles to Fresno so we could drive and photograph on the Blossom Trail that runs around the orchards all through the area. While there are no wildflowers to speak of yet, the orchards are a different story. Especially the almond trees. We got ourselves situated in a really crummy, but cheap, RV park and set out to drive the trail. We’re only here for the night, so accommodations are no big deal.The Central Valley area has for decades been home to these orchards. Mile after mile of walnut, almond, orange and plum trees are quite a striking impression of an altered landscape – a theme I am exploring. It is a huge cash crop for growers, but requires huge amounts of water to keep them in production.In drought years, the trees still must be watered. This is difficult or impossible when water allotments are cut. Farmers cannot just let the fields go fallow – the trees die. They believe they should get whatever amount they want no matter the water situation. Questions remain as to whether growing such water demanding crops is a sound idea in a time of dwindling supplies. Even with the aquifers that exist throughout the valley beginning to collapse due to over-pumping for irrigation, the orchards continue to be planted – even as others are left to die due to water cutbacks. The signs on the highways say it all. “Food grows where water flows.”