The Cactus Patch
Volume 16       August 2013      Number 8

Keeping Cool
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On 23 June we went to an organ concert at the 1st Presbyterian Church. Hector Olivera from Argentina gave a long recital that used every note on the organ there. (This was a pre-convention concert of the American Guild of Organists.) On the 26th we heard Robert Ampt and Amy Johansen at the Olive Drive Church. This Australian couple was easier on the ears as they didn’t try to give all the extremes of volume possible. Alice went with us on this one and enjoyed it tremendously.xz

On the 2nd of July we set off for the coast with John. Our first stop was Cholame for breakfast. We were pleased to note that they are busy widening “blood alley” (46) from there on west. Eventually we reached Cambria and Grow Gardens. We were pleased to find that in addition to the fantastic succulents, they sell unusual minerals. Polly bought an ammonite from Germany where the shell had been replaced by fool’s gold (iron pyrite). I bought a piece of Botswana agate to add to the collection I already have. John bought a red barrel cactus. xz

Nick was not there, so we proceeded up the coast to the elephant seals north of San Simeon. It is amazing to see so many of them so far south. (Years ago we had seen them at Ano Nuevo where we had to have an appointment.) Now they are visible from the parking lot with no waiting. Most of them were lined up on the edge of the wet sand just basking in the sun. Occasionally a couple of big bulls would commence burping and hitting each other, but in general it was quite peaceful.xz

I had spotted some Dudleyas just south of there, so we pulled off into another lot and I got some good pictures of the red flowers. A couple of women had scopes and an antenna aimed out at the water so John asked what they were doing. They were monitoring sea otters which are another endangered species making a comeback. There was also a woman feeding squirrels despite signs warning against them.xz

I had noted some tall dragon trees back at San Simeon so we made another stop to photograph them. It was lunch time and they were in front of a Mexican Restaurant called El Chorlito (shore birds), so we checked it out. It has a fantastic garden of succulents and we watched humming birds, other birds, butterflies and bees while we ate a rather good lunch. Our next stop was to photograph the zebra and cattle grazing together. (We did not go to Hearst’s Castle. Polly and I had been there on our honeymoon back in 1964.)xz

Our next stop was Morro Bay where we watched a giant chess match. We then wandered over to the docks and talked to a fisherman who was just bringing in a catch of eels which will go to Korea. He complained bitterly about reserves which have fish owned by “nobody”. I tried to explain that these reserves “feed” the fish supplies in surrounding waters, but he was not convinced, even though he admitted some areas had been over fished.xz

Polly insisted on driving out to Morro rock, which we found rather uninteresting. (Gone are the days when climbing was allowed. I remember my father going out on the seaward side where I later learned peregrine falcons were breeding.) The biggest surprise came as we started back. We found six sea otters with babies floating in the bay! (There was a lone one (male?) zipping around further out. John got a good video of the babies being groomed. (He only regretted that he hadn’t brought his best lens!)xz

Next we stopped at the San Luis Obispo botanic garden. They have laid out the garden with plants from all winter rainfall areas. The aloes in the South African section were blooming. There was also a Puya from Chile which had bright blue-green flowers and orange stamens. I was interested in this because there is a rumor on the internet that there is a sheep eating plant. It turns out this is the large pineapple relative Puya chilensis which has nasty thorns on the leaves which catch in wool. They do not eat the sheep.xz

We had dinner at the Quarterdeck Seafood Restaurant in Arroyo Grande. This is not a town noted for seafood, but it’s a lot cheaper than eating on the coast. They had a beautiful tank of sea creatures, including a sea cucumber. That night we stayed at the Arroyo Grande Village Inn which John had booked on the internet. A long, but satisfying day!xz

Next morning, the 3rd, we had breakfast at the Arroyo Grande Café and walked around the “Village”, a historic section of town. We then drove west on 41, stopping to pick up serpentine and observe yuccas. Returning to Cambria, we found Dudleyas in bloom at the south end of town. They looked more like the ones on the Feather River Canyon, rather than those of San Simeon. Nick had been to Grow, but had already left when we arrived. I bought a small Euphorbia pachypoidioides. I had seen one on display at the Huntington, but this was the first time I had seen them for sale.xz

Leaving Cambria we followed a pie shop sign hoping to find lunch. We ended up winding on a mountain road (Santa Rosa Creek) for miles and never found a pie shop. Instead we found flocks of turkeys and a deer. It’s good to see land animals are thriving too. We eventually had lunch at Jack in the Box in Paso Robles. After lunch we went to the pier at Point San Luis in Avila and watched sea lions, seals and red footed storm petrels. From there we made our way to San Luis Obispo and had dinner at the Thai Boat, a restaurant with good but very spicy food. We spent the night at the Super 8 Hotel which John had booked.xz

We had intended to go to Fresno on the 4th, but the annual potluck picnic was canceled due to the excess heat. Instead we had breakfast at the hotel and took 227 as the scenic route to Arroyo Grande. In Carpenter Canyon just north of AG we saw a series of potted plants hung zigzag on a pole with a label saying plants for sale. It was self serve. I bought a Calendula and John got a pencil-leaved Cotyledon.xz

In AG we found the swinging bridge across the arroyo which we had missed before. There were signs in the park warning against abandoning chickens, dogs and cats. Sure enough, there was a crowing rooster wandering around. Even the restrooms had roosters and hens on the entry signs. We continued south on 201 to Santa Maria, but found nothing of interest. We then went back via 166 where the powder-leaved Dudleyas and the yellow princes plumes were in bloom, and had lunch at the Burger Barn in New Cuyama. Eventually we reached Bakersfield and found it had not cooled off one bit.xz

On the 7th we headed south and had lunch at the Claim Jumper in Valencia. We then went to the Huntington and saw the new entrance and education center under construction. The temporary fencing has pictures of local high school kids holding up pictures of the various treasures there. They had an amazingly efficient temporary entrance cum gift shop and hope to open the new entrance etc. early next year. I’m glad to see someone still has money.xz

We toured the Chinese garden, noting the lotus plants and some water lilies now had metal fencing. Were the fish eating them? The Japanese garden was much as before, but it was full of kids making mobiles strung on bamboo branches. I’ve no idea what the occasion was. Next we toured the Australian garden which was hot and shade less (except for the bottle trees). Polly and John gave up and headed up through the “jungle” to the indoor science exhibit. I trudged on to the desert garden where some areas were closed off and I noted the tipped over tree Euphorbia was missing. By then it was time to leave, so we all got together at the entrance.xz

We drove over to LAX and had dinner at Denny’s. Then we checked into the Holiday Inn. Early next morning, John took a shuttle to catch a flight to begin a caving conference and adventure in Eastern Europe. We have been getting e-mails and all is well. Polly and I then returned to Bakersfield with breakfast at Carl’s Jr. in Stevenson Ranch.xz

Next day we met with the BCSS at Hodel’s and then heard Woody again with his excellent talk on the American south west. I have already commented on it in my report when he spoke in Fresno. I will only repeat my opinion that recent efforts to credit the Navajo with having connections to the ancient cliff dwellings don’t make sense to me. I have observed Hopi pot making at 2nd Mesa (and was struck by the resemblance of the sheep dung firing to the cow dung firing of Malawi). The patterns on Hopi pottery certainly seem to relate to those found in cliff dwellings. At any rate, I am not an expert on Hopi or Navajo (all I learned from the Navajo at Canyon de Chelly was plant use), so I’ll leave it to others to settle the argument.xz

Elephant Seals

Red Dudleya

Sea Otters

Grow Nursery Bruce & John

Woody selling plants

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