Visiting Sacramento

Last year this time, I had to go back home to help with my dad’s things and to attend his memorial service. This year, in a much different place emotionally, I returned to celebrate my dad’s 92 birthday in heaven.

I also was getting a little homesick and it’s so nice to be able to connect again with family and friends. Lots of visiting and a little sightseeing.

My mom is an avid gardener so she asked if I could drive her around William Land Park, a 200 acre park in Sacramento that features the city zoo, a children’s amusement venue, a golf course and an amphitheater.

One of the free exhibits is the WPA Rock Garden. A one acre sight that is mostly the contribution of a master gardener named Daisy Mah. Wander through the paths as you explore the abundance of plants, bees, butterflies, and even the occasional lizard. I visited in April which seems like it might be peak blooming season.

Lots of color in April
A selfie in the garden

My mom asked if I could take her to Green Acres, a large, popular nursery in Sacramento. I had fun wandering around while she bought some more vegetables for her garden. In the houseplants section, they have some interesting decorative displays and I couldn’t resist photographing.

A little magical village

The outside area of Green Acres is just as interesting.

Sacramento is known as the city of trees and, even though I don’t like cities, it was healing to walk among the plants. I really enjoy photography also and I got a chance to document some wonderful landscaping in the heart of the city.

Have You Ever Started Your Own Writing Group?

I’ve belonged to writing groups over the years, both online and in person. This year, I’m toying with the idea of starting a small group at the mobile home park where I moved last fall. It’s been hard joining things for the last couple of years for several reasons. Starting mid-2018, I was home-free and traveling in my motor home across the states. I never stayed in one place very long but I did stay in touch online with several writing groups.

Then I started re-assessing my nomad ways in March 2020 when we didn’t know what, across the country, would be open or available for RV parking. I was still living in my RV but I found a place I was able to stay for nine months. During 2020, I got on the waiting list for some long-term retirement type RV parks and was able to move to one in a new state a year ago. Now that most everyone here is vaccinated, we’re beginning to go back to the social activities of pre-COVID and I’m getting to know my neighbors and make friends.

On-line writing groups and critique forums can be useful but I was really starting to miss the in-person back and forth that can take place when you get together with others who share your hobby. From what I’ve been able to gather, there are at least four people that live here that would be interested in participating and that’s a good start.

In my ideal group, we would get together about two times a month. We would share a small excerpt on anything we are currently working on and receive feedback. We would also have one topic at each meeting that we would like to explore more and whoever has experience can share. These topics would include things like self-publishing, how to find an editor, designing covers, the best software for writing, and more.

Sometimes, throwing out a writing prompt and letting everyone work on it for fifteen minutes or so and then sharing is fun too. This can get the creative juices flowing when that particular project you’re working on seems stuck.

What I don’t like about writing groups is someone who feels they have to read whole chapters to the group at a time, taking up way too much of the meeting time. Or someone who just wants to share personal stories without letting up, thereby boring all other attendees. It seems there’s always one person like that in groups I’ve attended in the past but I think if the group leader sets the right tone at the beginning, those inconveniences can be avoided.

The scariest thing about in-person groups is sharing very personal writing pieces with people you see everyday or socialize with in other capacities. I feel like I might be editing myself a little bit and watching the TMI around my neighbors. The good thing is that I have plenty of writing pieces that aren’t too personal and still entertaining. That’s a good place to start until I feel more comfortable with the group.

Next task, pick a good name, pick a date to start, and then let the residents know and see what happens. What are your experiences with starting a writing group?

Guadalupe Mountains National Park — unexpected

My day trip to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park didn’t turn out as expected but the unexpected was worth the trip. I usually have two goals in mind when exploring new places on day trips — someplace my dog will enjoy and someplace where I can get some great photo ops. Studying my maps a few weeks ago, I noticed that, although in Texas and not my home state of New Mexico, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park was only 75 miles from me.

The unexpected included the spectacular scenery but also a few negatives so be prepared if you take the trip. There is a large visitor’s center but dogs are not allowed and I wasn’t willing to leave mine in the car so I passed on the visitor’s center. Sometimes if I carry him in his sling, people will let me slide but not this time. And since he has medical issues, I didn’t want to leave him tied up outside while waiting for me.

My biggest disappointment was that there are no driving tours through the park. The only way to access the park other than the camping area and the visitor’s center is by walk-in hiking. And no dogs are allowed on the trails! Bummer. We did spend some time exploring the campground area, checking out potential tent sites for future use and there is one paved walking trail by the visitor’s center that does allow canines.

From the website: Opportunities for pets are limited. Leashed pets may walk on the short Pine Springs Campground connector trail or along the Pinery Trail from the visitor center to the Butterfield Stage Station.

The morning in July when we were there we saw numerous hikers and backpackers getting ready to hit the trails from the parking lot. There was also a large bus full of teens and their chaperones. I’m not too fond of hiking with crowds but I’m sure if you go far enough, it starts to thin out. The tent camping areas were about half full and the parking lot with RVs was also about half full.

The park ranger standing outside the visitor’s center did tell me about some photography worthy scenery about four miles farther down the road but we decided to save that drive for another time. There are bathroom buildings that are accessible from the parking lots at the Pine Springs Visitor’s Center and campground. If you do decide to hike into the park, be sure to read all the information first and be prepared for changeable weather.

Roswell Beyond the UFOs — Nature Areas Near Roswell

Thousands upon thousands of fans and the curious descend upon Roswell every July for the Alienfest. You will also find the International UFO Museum and various trading posts busy with tourists throughout the year. But did you know that there are two large nature spots just a few miles outside of Roswell?

Bottomless Lakes State Park is 14 miles southeast of Roswell and has stayed open for camping and swimming throughout COVID restrictions. Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge, home of the annual Dragonfly Festival, is just 7 miles northeast of Roswell.

I visited Bottomless Lakes for a day trip in June 2021 and Bitter Lake in August 2021. There is a large visitor’s center at Bitter Lake that is currently closed but the hiking trails and driving tour are both open. Fall and winter is the time to see all the migrating birds, including thousands of Sandhill Cranes, but I was still fortunate to be able to photograph several species, including stilts and a heron.

At Bottomless Lakes, I drove through the campground, parked at the picnic area and walked down to the largest swimming lake, chatted with the workamper couple who mans the little visitor’s center, and took the scenic drive around the park. There are numerous smaller lakes along the route and several primitive camping spots (non-reservable).

Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge is free and is open during daylight hours. Bottomless Lakes State Park has a $5 fee for day use and a separate fee for camping. Annual passes are also available for purchase.

I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Bottomless Lakes State Park:

Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge: