Winter Journey – Percha Dam – December 2016

Traveling south toward Percha Dam State Park

Friday December 2nd, after spending last night at the Socorro Walmart, we arrive at Percha Dam State Park in southern New Mexico around noon. I am very happy that the site I was hoping for is available. It has a shelter with a rock wall windbreak, a campfire ring, and a big back yard, with woods beyond.

Campsite with stone windbreak and big back yard

After we get set up, it is still warm enough that I can play cello outside for awhile, serenading the trees and the birds.

Percha Dam cello in our big back yard

Lots of birds winter here, including Sandhill cranes, which we can hear not far away. After dinner, I read for bit before heading to bed. Clifford stays up late, working with his ham radio gear.

Saturday December 3rd, it was very windy and a bit of rain last the night.

A camp elf dances in the wind

We are grateful for Terry being dry and cozy, as it is chilly and windy all day – a good day for inside activities, including phone calls, emails, editing, writing and posting a blog, writing and posting a statement in favor of the Standing Rock people, and finishing the novel I started recently. The only outdoor activity is a bike ride down to the restroom at the other end of the campground. During my quiet time this morning, from the book “The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace” by Jack Kornfield, I read The past is over: Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past. That is very profound, knowing how hard it has been for me to accept certain aspects of my past.

Sunday December 4th, I walk down to the Rio Grande River at sunrise, hoping to spot the cranes that we hear and see overhead. No such luck and sadly, the Rio Grande River is exceeding low, the life nearly drained out of it with the dam and agriculture. Windy for much of the day, so spend time inside doing bookwork, editing for Ang, and working on CI email. In the afternoon, as the wind calms, I am able to play cello outdoors while there is still sunshine at the campsite.  The late afternoon sunlight lights up the mesa to the east and the trees at the campground.

Mesa to the east at sunset
Camp trees at sunset

Monday December 5th, 19 degrees this morning and the frost is really quite pretty – probably as close to snow as we are going to get on this trip.

Frost in the morning light

The day is sunny and calm with the temperature reaching to 65 degrees by afternoon. We go to the nearby little village of Arrey to mail a few items and set up our general delivery address. Back at camp I play cello outside, with an audience – the fellow from the neighboring campsite comes over to listen. The blog for today was my trip to Montana – kind of a hard one to write, as my mom’s passing has been sad for me. Clifford continues to work with his radios and with a portable visible-NIR spectrometer for CI research. We certainly keep busy!

Winter Journey – Cochiti Lake – November 2016

The mountain to the north as seen from our campsite

Friday November 25th, the morning is sunny and calm at Cochiti Lake. Today I start editing the next book in the Novels of Shannon series, an amazing epic fantasy series that happens to be written by my daughter, Angela MacDonald. In the afternoon, it is warm enough sitting on the sunny side of Terry to play my cello outside, even though the thermometer reads 54 degrees.

Warm enough to play the cello outdoors today

I search for the lost necklace I got from my mom and am sad that I can’t find it anywhere; the sadness is really more about losing my mom, and knowing that someday I will lose myself, at least in the way I know me now.

Saturday November 26th, I head down to the restroom at dawn.

Cochiti Lake at dawn

As the sun rises, the mountains to the north take on a pretty color.

First light on the mountains to the north

Today is windy, so no playing cello outside. Good day to be inside: write in the journal, edit a chapter for the Montana author, edit another 10 pages for Ang, send thank you emails to recent CI donors, post a blog/photos of Canyonlands NP on my website, and edit photos for the next blog. This evening a tooth is feeling very tender in spite of good dental care. Not a great way to end an otherwise very productive day.

Sunday November 27th – there was rain in the night and a dusting of snow can be seen on the mountains to the north this morning.

A dusting of snow

Our long-time Tesuque friend, John, comes out in spite of the very windy day. We get caught up on the news and I fix lunch for us. Then John, bless his heart, helps Clifford change Terry’s regulator. Hooray! No more leaking propane. In the later afternoon, Clifford has a business call, while I do another blog with photos for the website – Mesa Arch, which are some of my favorite photos on this trip so far. Edit several more pages for Ang. This evening, my jaw is a little swollen – not good.

Monday November 28th, a very pretty morning,

A very pretty morning

but we will not be here to enjoy it, as a trip to Urgent Care in Santa Fe is the priority for the day. See a good doctor at the Urgent Care; he prescribes an antibiotic for me and recommends his dentist, with whom I make an appointment for Thursday. On the way back to Cochiti Lake, we get groceries while picking up the prescription; not a happy shopping experience what with the pain and swollen jaw. Arriving at the campground, we find out that the campground is closing Wednesday, which makes for complications since I have a dentist appointment the following morning. Oh well, I am not up to figuring it out tonight. I make soup for myself for dinner and then go to bed, leaving the dishes for Clifford.

Tuesday November 29th, my jaw is more swollen than ever, but the Urgent Care doc warned me this could happen, so not to worry.

Dawn photos of Cochiti Lake – different day, different light, different color

Since the campground is closing, we will not be in the Santa Fe area as long as we had planned and what with this tooth issue, even the days that we have in the area will not be spent visiting friends. Bummer. Phone calls and texts give friends a heads-up that our plans have changed. With the weather being what it is, there is not really anywhere else near Santa Fe where we can go; we must head south instead. The dentist office calls; they can see me tomorrow instead of Thursday, which will work much better for us.

Morning view from our front door

Wednesday November 30th, we leave for Santa Fe as early as possible,  as one thing I had wanted to do in Santa Fe was shop at Natural Grocers, Trader Joe’s, and Hobby Lobby – stores that are not in the smaller towns that we go through. After the errands, we head to the dentist office for a consultation; the tooth is pulled and bone graft material added. With Care Credit I have several months to pay it off. We go back to camp, unload the groceries, and then Clifford heads back to Santa Fe to pick up mail that John has collected for us; I just wasn’t up for waiting around that long. I have sweet potato soup and tea for dinner, talk to my daughter, Becka, and then read in bed until Clifford returns.

Winter Journey – Big Bend – November 2016

Tuesday, November 15th, this morning I find a little yellow butterfly dead on the ground, but in perfect condition. Very special, as butterflies were Mom’s ‘thing’ and it is totally unexpected to find one here at this time of year.

A perfect butterfly

After breakfast, I make a thermos of tea and then walk down to the day use area where there is a gravel and sand beach. I sit there on a rock with the river right at my feet, drinking tea and writing in my journal.

Along the Colorado River

After a walkabout to gather abandoned firewood, I sit at a picnic table at a nearby campsite where I can see the river and write postcards to family.

View of the east mesa through the trees

Back at our campsite, I play my cello, sitting  in the sun, while Clifford sits on the shady side to study until after the sun goes behind the mesa.

Sitting in the sun, playing the cello
Sitting in the shade, Clifford studies

This was really quite a lovely outdoor day.

Wednesday, November 16th, I am up in time to get photos at sunrise.

Photos at before sunrise

I make a cup and tea and start reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which I am sure I read eons ago, but I want to read it again now. After breakfast we head to Moab for errands and to use the wifi at the Visitors’ Center. We take a break from catching up with emails and other internet business to go to the Moab Brewery for lunch, then return to the Visitors’ Center to finish up our business. On the way back to the campground, we stop at a spring outside of town – water coming right out of the side of the cliff – to fill up our gallon jugs. Back at camp, I take photos of the river just before sunset.

Colorado River near sunset
One minute later

I edit until the laptop battery goes dead and then finish reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull: seek your own highest level of perfection and don’t be limited by the flock mentality. Good advice for all of us.

Thursday, November 17th, we are up at 4:00 a.m. to secure anything that might be blown away and close the visor over the window at the end of the camper. Shortly after we go back to bed, the rain starts, light at first and then a real downpour. It is still raining when I get up; I go for a walk, taking photos in the rain. The rain has stopped by time Clifford gets up, but it is cloudy, windy, and chilly all day. Good day for inside activities: I reorganize some storage areas, write in my journal, and even play the cello inside. We are grateful for Terry’s sturdiness, as we stay comfortable and warm in our “tiny house.”

Friday, November 18th is another beautiful sunny day.

Sunny day along the Colorado River

Today we go to the Red Cliff Museum, about seven miles further out on Highway 128 from where we are camped.

Driving out Highway 128 to Red Cliff Museum

This museum features the movies that have been made in this area because of its scenic value. Starting in the early 1950’s and up to the present, about 60 movies have been made here, everything from old westerns to Thelma and Louise.

View of the the Colorado River and mesa from Red Cliff Ranch

Back at camp my laptop has been recharged via the solar panels and the hotspot is also working, so I check email and bank balances. I am glad that I was able to spend most of the day outdoors, and it is also nice to have the laptop and hotspot charged for evening activities.

Priest Lake – August 2016 – Part 4

Friday, August 26: Not quite as chilly this morning, so I make only a small campfire, as it will soon be warm enough to move to the sunshine.  Mel, the camp host, has told me that a neighboring camper, Nancy, plays piano and that he has invited her to come over to our camp so I can play a concert for the two of them! So, I go over and introduce myself to her, a woman younger than me, traveling and camping alone for her vacation. In the later morning Mel and Nancy do indeed come over and I play the cello for them, talking about each piece, everything from selections from “Lord of the Rings,” fiddle tunes, Bach suites, and a piece written by a dear cellist friend of mine. It is quite an informal and fun concert! Later Nancy and I drive down the road a couple miles to a little village to get a few basic groceries and great ice cream cones. After this little outing, she and I walk along the lake, chatting and enjoying the lovely setting.

Walking along Priest Lake with Nancy

In the evening, after dinner, as I go out to make a campfire, I see that Nancy has a good campfire already going, so I walk over to her campsite and visit with her until bedtime approaches for all of us.

Saturday August 27: I get up a little earlier this morning so I have time to have a campfire and say good-bye to Nancy, who will be leaving on the next leg of her journey. After breakfast, I walk around the campground and down to the lake; not nearly so crowded and noisy as last weekend, thank goodness.

Down to the lake

Perhaps it is because of the changing season: we notice the squirrels are busy as can be, first knocking cones out of the trees and then scurrying around, carrying them off to a den somewhere — AND the trees are dripping sap on us.

Picnic table at our campsite

The picnic table is especially susceptible, which makes it hard to sit there to write and work on projects, but even sitting by the campfire, I had sap drip on my head: talk about a hair product to create a tall mohawk!! I could make my hair stand straight up until I finally got the sap washed out. And I have to be careful where I sit to play cello. Do a little editing on Alex’s book, but laptop battery is low, so my time is limited. I call my mom, who is in the hospital (again). Luckily, my brothers and sisters who live close by keep a good eye on her and took her to the hospital before she got so sick as last time. She is feeling better and should be able to go home in a day or two. After dinner, Clifford and I sit outside in the dark to have a cup of tea, enjoying the mild evening temperatures.

Priest Lake – August 2016 – Part 3

Tuesday August 23: Chilly morning – 44 degrees – but I didn’t make a campfire because I thought we were going to drive up to the north end of the lake today. But Clifford doesn’t want to spend two days in a row driving – too much interruption of his studies and research. Better to stay at camp and take advantage of the sunshine on the panels, as we have to write an article for a health newsletter. I try unsuccessfully to get hold of the dentist in Wallace – not good, but I have started taking an antibiotic that I had for such a case as this. In the afternoon, when my daughter Becka calls, I walk along the lake as we chat and take photos of the light on the water and the foliage showing signs of autumn.

Light on the water

The campground is nearly empty, so it is a good day to play cello. In the afternoon, after the article is written, my laptop is still charged enough that I can download photos and pick a set to edit for blogs. I’ve been tending my infected tooth with tea tree oil and clove oil, and along with the antibiotic and ibuprofin, it is starting to stabilize.

A beautiful sunset this evening, but hard to see it for all the trees to the west of the campground.

Sunset hidden by trees

Wednesday August 24: It is 45 degrees this morning, and being August, my body thinks that is chilly, so I make a campfire and sit out with tea to write in the journal. After Clifford gets up, I make a picnic and we head out to explore the other campgrounds along the lake. Mostly they all have the same issue as Outlet Bay: not enough first-come first-serve sites and the sites too close to one another for my taste. Coming back we stop at the Ledgworth picnic area, which gives us the best views of the lake, as well as a sandy beach and a rocky outcropping.

Ledgeworth Picnic Area Sandy Beach

Ledgeworth Picnic Area Rocky Outcrop

Our picnic at Ledgeworth Picnic Area

We have our picnic and then while Clifford naps, I wade in the water and take photos of the lake.

Wading in the lake

Priest Lake

When he wakes up, we walk to the rocky outcropping and find a rock to sit on where we can admire the lake.

Clifford and I walk to the rocky outcrop

Sitting on a rock

A young man comes with his guitar and sits nearby; I’m sure he was playing for himself and the lake, but it felt like we were being serenaded by his lovely music.

It is too late for me to play cello when we get back to camp; dinner and cleanup wrap up the day for us.

Thursday, August 25: 43 degrees – the chilliest night so far, but I sleep in, so even though it is still brisk when I go out, I am comfortable sitting in a patch of sunlight. Texts, mostly business, take up a chunk of time today, as well as beginning editing Alex’s interesting book. His wife is an excellent proof-reader, but it is always a good idea to have a someone take a fresh look at one’s writing. Today is my son Matt’s birthday, so I give him a call and as we chat, I walk along the lake picking up bits of wood that can be added to my woodpile.

Trail by Priest Lake

Play cello in the afternoon; I’ve only skipped playing on the days when we have gone somewhere. And before I know it, it is time for dinner, followed soon by bedtime.


Priest Lake – August 2016 – Part 2

Friday August 19: I go for a walk along the lake first thing this morning, not as far as yesterday, but with more excursions down to the water’s edge.

Excursion to the water’s edge


Sitting on a rock

I sit on a rock, desiring to do a “lake meditation,” but am too easily distracted by sounds: birds, boats, whatever. Playing cello and reading Alex’s book are the main focus of my day. Very noisy here today: ski jets on the lake, a chainsaw, a dirt-blower (like a snow-blower) used by our fastidious host to clean around the campground, excited kids, crying babies, whining dogs. It’s almost as bad as being in town.

Saturday August 20: I am up at 6:00 a.m., in time for the sunrise.

Sunrise at Priest Lake

Since it is a cool 45 degrees out, I decide to have a campfire this morning. I use a couple pieces of the firewood I brought, but mostly gather twigs and small branches from around the campsite. Make a cup of yerba matte and sit by the fire to write in my journal. Nice and quiet this time of the day.

Campfire with yerba matte and journal

Later, as I’m playing the cello, a couple of girls are curious enough to engage in conversation and I talk them into coming over and trying out the cello. That was fun for them and for me. In the afternoon, Clifford and I walk along the lake trail past Osprey, the next campground up the road. I’m going to explore it a bit more another day.

Walking the trail to Osprey with Clifford

Sunday August 21: Another cool morning and I make a campfire with wood I gathered on our walk yesterday. I try the technique for quieting the mind, per Alex’s book, but too many distractions: Mel stopping by, Clifford getting up, the fire needing tending, and so on. Today is a quieter day, as many campers leave fairly early. I finish the book, briefly check email on the tablet, and have just enough power on the laptop to edit one chapter for the Montana author whose book I have been editing. Power has been inadequate here due to lots of trees and not much sunshine on the solar panels; we are grateful for the shade, which has kept us comfortable, but not being able to use my laptop puts a crimp in my editing and blogging. Glad I have the cello and play it a couple of times today.

Walking the trail to Osprey

In the afternoon, I walk along the lake trail to Osprey by myself and walk around its long loop, checking out possibilities for next year. After dinner, Clifford and I sit outside, as the temperature is quite mild, but it is past my bedtime, so I soon head to bed.

Monday August 22: In the night last night, my tooth problem flared up, which is not a good thing, but an ibuprofin helped. Today, since we are going to town, there is no time for a campfire, so I stay warm and cozy in bed until Clifford is ready to get up. Then we head off to Priest River, about a 25 mile drive, to mail some government forms that we finished filling out over the weekend. We get all the way there before I discover that the papers to be mailed at still at camp. I am super annoyed at the waste of time and gas to drive down here, but we make the best of it by going on to Newport and getting groceries at the Safeway there. We check out a couple of small campgrounds on our way back to Outlet Bay, including one near the little village of Coolin on the SE shore of Priest Lake. 

View of Priest Lake from Coolin

Even though we still have papers to mail, we have a nice little outing.

Priest Lake – August 2016 – Part 1

Our trip to Priest Lake in northwest Idaho begins with internet research to find out where the forest service camps are located, followed by a couple of phone calls.  Seems that more and more campgrounds require reservation, which is a drag for those of us who come and go depending on weather, health, and finances. I settle on the campground at Outlet Bay after a call to the camp host: other campgrounds either have no water, are over-crowded, or too far north for us.

Wednesday – August 17: Almost everything was packed yesterday, so this morning is just watering the little garden and the houseplants and getting the cold food into a cooler. Even so, we get a later start than hoped for, and almost as soon as we leave Wallace, we run into road construction, which further slows us down.

We make brief stops in Coeur d Alene for gas, propane, and a few groceries before we head north to Newport, WA. We encounter road construction much of the way, chatting with a flagger for several minutes at one stop. At Newport, we head east on highway 2 to the small town of Priest River and then north again, on highway 57. Finally we arrive at Outlet Campground, later in the afternoon than we had planned, but luckily several of the first-come sites are still available and we pick the one that suits us best.

Glimmers of Priest Lake

All the sites along the lake are reservation-only, but from our site, we can see little glimmers of the lake through the trees. Our site is roomy, though not as far off the road as I like. We are surrounded by cedars, Douglas fir, and a variety of shrubs, offering a fair amount of privacy. It takes us awhile to get set up because the parking pad is not level. Once things are in place inside and out, Clifford takes a nap while I walk down to Priest Lake, admiring its clear blue expanse of water.

Clear blue expanse of water

When it cools off, I take the cello out and play for awhile. Figure since I’ve hauled it all the way up here, I’d better make use of it! Once Clifford wakes up, we have nachos for a late dinner.  Before heading to bed, we admire the reflection of the rising moon on the lake, happy to be out of town.

Moon rising over Priest Lake

Thursday August 18: First thing this morning, I go for a walk on the trail along the lake shore that I noticed yesterday. The trail goes right next to the lake-side campsites, but once I am past the campground, the trail is pretty with some autumn colors and views of lake through the trees.

Lake through the trees
Autumn colors at Priest Lake


The Lakeshore Trail at Priest Lake

Back at camp, I talk to Mel, the 83-year-old camp host making his rounds, then make tea and write in my journal. After breakfast, I take out the cello and serenade the lake and the trees. 

In the afternoon, I begin reading the manuscript of a book written by very special and interesting friends of ours, Alex & Ardeth Merklinger.  I have to read on Clifford’s tablet, which is not the easiest way to read a book, but that is what I have. Later on, a strong wind comes up very suddenly and the calm lake is now white-capped with hefty waves rolling into the shore. Quite exciting, really.

Waves come rolling in


White caps on Priest Lake

We have chicken ‘n rice and veges for a tasty dinner. After clean-up, I take a shower before heading to bed, washing off the warmth of the day and the dust of the trail. 

Bass Creek Camping – October 2014 – Part 8

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Sunny autumn skies – camp tree

Mostly sunny this morning, but a very damp 35 degrees after yesterday’s rain.  The campfire is reluctant this morning, but after awhile a cheery blaze warms me as I sit with my cup of coffee and “A New Earth,” reading about the pain-body, the condition where one identifies with one’s pain so much as to lose touch with the real person.

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Keeping my coffee warm

After breakfast I walk across the meadow, irresistibly drawn to the aspens on the hillside.  This time I find a game trail that ascends at a comfortable angle and I am soon at the aspen grove.  I take lots of photos even though the angle of the sun is not ideal.  There is quite a breeze, causing the leaves to shimmer and sparkle as they dance about.  It is really quite marvelous and I thoroughly enjoy being there.

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Leaves shimmer and sparkle as they dance about

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I walk with trees

Back at camp, I have a long cello session broken by wood gathering in the deep woods behind the camp.  I realize there is so much more to explore.  I did not have the energy for it earlier in our stay, but I feel like I’m missing out on something important.  Well, next time….  The twigs and branches that I find are really quite wet, so I reluctantly leave the magical woods

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Magical woods

and walk across the meadow to gather twigs and branches that have had more time to dry in the sun and the wind. Back at camp I continue with playing cello until Becka calls.  Someone made her angry and she calls to talk about camping because it makes her feel better.  We plan a camping date for next summer, perhaps right here.  Clifford needs to use my cell phone for a business call, so I give him the phone and head on back to the aspens.

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The sun shines low from the west

The sun is now low in the west, shining through the gap between mountain peaks.  It is cloudier this afternoon, so I have to wait for sunnier and still moments to get shots with the glow of the leaves as the sun shines through them.  Back-lit leaves of plants and shrubs also get my attention.

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Even while I wait for these photo-opp moments, I am thrilled to be here on the mountain with these lovely trees.

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Lovely aspens dance for me

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Hard to say good-bye while the sun yet shines

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Still saying good-bye

I can’t bear to leave until the sun has settled low enough that no more sunlight illumines the grove. Finally I say “good-bye” and head down the  hill, picking up chunks of wood on my way.  Back at camp, it is time for another campfire, hot tea, and journal writing. Bass Creek has been good for me.  Every day I breathe in the fresh air; I am surrounded by mountains, tall ponderosa at the meadow’s parameters look down on me, dark mysterious woods invite me to explore, and golden aspen dance for me – they have all shared their strength with me.  I am feeling healthier and more peaceful being here at Bass Creek. There are even moments of joy.  I hope to carry this joy with me as I move forward to what lies ahead.

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Moments of joy

The Voice of the Cello

The Voice of the Cello

By Angela MacDonald

Photos by Carol Carnicom

Quiet Walk Photography

The Cello
The Cello

Like the deep vibrations of a Tibetan monk’s chant,

there is something sacred about the voice of a cello.

They say that infants feel the world in the way they did

before they were born.   They see sound, feel color, and do so

with closed eyes, their minds more expansive than the bodies they inhabit.

It is this very state of awareness so many seek to gain through meditation and prayer.

When there, it is the voice of the cello that vibrates

through the cords of the universe.

There is something that all will admit to about the cello.

A person needs only stand before a cello choir playing in unison,

and close his or her eyes.  The world you dwell in will vanish and the

realm of wizards, of magic and endless possibility will flood into you.

The mundane will take a step back, and dreams of space, of distant stars

and spinning galaxies, of deep mountains and shifting time,

of the depth of the earth, of gia, of gnomes and fairies, of the soul

will be carried to you on the rich tones of the cello.

The musician becomes a shaman, casting spells to open your mind and soul.

Creation does not recognize the instruments we hold as separate from us,

nor does it say “that is but a wooden box with strings”.  It recognizes vibration.

To the skilled musician who gives energy to the strings, the universe will say,

” Ah, there is the Great Hump Back Whale….

I sing back to you, Emerging Star….

I hear your slumbering soul  ….

Yes! We are one!!”

We are One
We are One

To all you musicians who become gods and goddesses by your creation

of the vision and by your transformation of the mundane,

“Thank You” from all who hear you,

and all those who don’t.

Author: Angela MacDonald – Daughter of a Cellist

The Cello's Voice
The Cello’s Voice