Road Trip: Lakes Basin area has enough to keep you busy for a few trips

My husband and I took a road trip up into the Sierra yesterday to meet our son and his girlfriend. We wanted a spot about halfway between Reno, where they attend college, and Chico, so we decided to show them an area we hadn’t been since our kids were very young.

We spent a lot of time rambling the Sierra Nevada when the kids were little. My husband was working a lot in towns like Chester, Quincy, even tiny towns like Portola and Graeagle, all along the Highway 32 and 70 corridors, right in the heart of the Gold Country.  We went with him, or met him after work, and headed to some motel or camp ground to spend the weekend.

One place we liked was the Lakes Basin Area in Sierra County – full of scenery, fishing spots, campgrounds, and a good trail about every hundred yards along the highway.  We spent a wonderful weekend at the Lakes Basin Campground, an old resort where you will find the ruins of an old motor lodge, with what’s left of the stone foundations from the little cabins now used as campsite boundaries. A creek runs through the camp, and they cemented a central section of it, I’ll guess back in the 1920’s, just like the city of Chico cemented that section of Chico Creek we call “One Mile” or “Sycamore Pond”.  You can walk right down into the creek on a set of old worn cement and granite steps.

There are trails and incredible features in every direction, my husband decided on one spot before we left so we wouldn’t whittle away the day trying to decide. We couldn’t remember if we’d been to Frasier Falls before, so we decided that would make a nice hike on a hot day, the trail following the creek through the shady woods most of the way.

The road was sketchy, very narrow and windy, like one guy said in an online review – just when you think you’re lost, you get there. The falls are just a short hike from the parking lot.


The trail is beautifully maintained, with rock work dating back to the 1920’s and 30’s in some places. This was one of the only paved trails we encountered, a short, shady hike to a magnificent spectacle.


There are nifty benches made of split logs and stumps around every corner. While there are steep spots on the trail, it’s one of the easiest climbs I’ve made, particularly compared to the road in.

It was Sunday and this is a popular area with people from all over the world, so we weren’t surprised to encounter quit a few people on the trail, a friendly crowd.  A quarter mile up the half-mile trail, we found the creek had dried up, and a bunch of garter snakes were lounging around a hole with wet mud in it. A pair of water ouzels, aka American Dippers, circled the little mud hole in dismay, and seemed to be asking us, “Where the hell is all the water?”

That, and some bear turds found near a woman’s tent earlier that morning, were the topics on everybody’s mind.

But who cares, I’m thinking, the scenery here is fabulous!  And the trail was so smooth I could actually look around instead of watching the ground for trip hazards. My feet are trip hazards, I’m about the clumsiest person you ever found yourself carrying out of the outback.

And get aload of the viewing platform – it’s so weird to drive gravel roads for-ev-er and find a place like this out in the middle of nowhere.


The trail led right up to this little fortress on the mountain side, from where we could view…


About the driest waterfall you have ever seen. But still, really, magnificent.

We stood on the platform unsurprised, and not even that disappointed.  We could look around at an incredible expanse of some of God’s best handiwork.

See the tree stump to the lower left – a sign on the viewing platform declares this is a lucky tree stump – about 30 feet tall, standing just off the platform from the side of the canyon –  and if you can pitch a tiny rock or a coin and land it on the flat top you will have good luck. We must have spent 10 minutes searching the ground – curiously empty of any small pebbles – for stuff to throw at that stump. It wasn’t as easy as it looked.

As hikers ascended to the platform we gave way and headed back down the trail. Back on the other side of Frasier Creek, we found a small, unimproved but well-worn trail to the top of the falls.  We saw a family frolicking out there, so we joined them.


My husband snapped this shot of me and my son’s girlfriend Jackie walking above the falls. See there in the upper left is the viewing platform with the lucky tree stump standing in front of it like a marble pillar.

Don’t you just feel like a gnat in a place like this?

We walked into the creek bed, still wet, with tiny puddles trapped in holes in the rock, buzzing with mosquitoes. It was noon, and about 100 degrees. As we walked back we heard a man complaining that he’d brought his dog for a swim, he’d have to go to the lake to find some water. We saw a lot of dogs on this trip, there are a lot of dog-friendly trails. We talked endlessly of bringing our dogs next time.

So we decided to head to one of the lakes surrounding this spot – the closest was Bear Lake.

The trail to Bear Lake is longer, riddled with loose rock and tree roots, but worth the work. There are stretches of hot, dry tramping, but a lot of the trail winds through low, wet woods, lined with lush greenery, including ripening thimble berries. I found a couple of ripe ones, they were so sweet.

And suddenly the lake appeared out of the woods.


The water was perfect, we were sorry we had not brought our swim suits.

We had been here when our kids were small, at  this exact spot near the trail head. The memories flooded over me through the entire trip, I felt like I’d forgotten half my life.

Something I remembered very vividly about camping in this area were the petroglyphs we found just outside the Lakes Basin campground, right on the road in. Now they are marked with fencing and a board walk and signs.


There are human scrawlings on this stone.

There is a sign that catalogs the markings made on this stone, I assume they used some sort of technology. It’s hard to see them with your naked eye, but once you’ve taken a look at the sign you can actually pick them out. I saw several of the pictures very clearly. 

These are right on the road, but apparently there are more along a trail with more signs, near Elwell Lodge, a private resort with “rustic” cabins available for rent by the night or week. 

In the midst of all this geological and human history, we found the time flew by. Suddenly it was 2 pm and we had to hit the trail home. It’s at least 2 and a half hours drive, and we’d left the dogs behind. In future we hope to include them.

We all made promises not to let another 20 years go by before we went back.



Best laid plans of mice and moms – squeakin’ by!

Wednesday my husband and I got the check for the sale of our old rental, and we spent the morning paying down various bills. My husband was gleeful as he phoned in a payoff of the credit card he’d taken out just for the repairs and other expenses for the house. It’s one of those cards that carries zero interest for six months, so we actually got a good deal out of it.

Just in time to pay our son’s college tuition., woo-eeeee, that was a close one. We were down to putting every day expenses on the card, we were so cash poor. 

Yesterday we went shopping for purchases we’d been putting off – for example, we needed to replace a toilet that’s been broken since about March. We’ve  been flushing it with a bucket of water so long I had got into the habit of setting the bucket in the shower to keep it full. 

We owed our son some money for work he’d done when we hadn’t any money to pay him. His girlfriend has a birthday coming up, aside from their household bills, he was getting anxious about having some money to spend.  He’s feeling pretty good about his new job, but won’t get paid for two more weeks.

And yeah, the other boy was working away at his part-time job, worried about being laid off when school started – his boss announced he would be kept on, no longer a “student” worker, but now a “permanent part-time” worker.  Out of a crew of three or four kids, he’s the only one they kept.  

You can’t see me right now, but I’m doing my Snoopy dance.

Yeah, life is a bumpy road. You better dance when you get a chance.

So we went out and stocked up on groceries. Our chest freezer was sitting dark and empty in the garage, long enough for us to notice, it hadn’t affected the PG&E bill very much, just sitting down there frozen. We turned it back  on and packed it full of meat. 

I’ve spent the summer having a giant anxiety attack. Even after the house sold, we had to wait for the money because we’d done a “tax exchange”. We bought a house for our older son with some of the proceeds of the sale, which saved us paying taxes on that amount. So the money had to go through a “stakeholder”, and that whole process seemed sketchy. For one thing, our title officer, who we are supposed to trust, was very confused, didn’t know anything about exchanges, and we and our realtor (who didn’t know much either) had to walk her through it.

And even while they treated us like a pest every time we contacted the exchange company, toward the end, we found out there were forms we were supposed to submit to get the money, and nobody had told us. We had to stay on top of the exchange company, e-mail them about once a week, ask if there was anything else we needed to do. “Oh, yeah, you guys again…”  We felt like we  were in a “Repo Man Grab”  situation, but we finally got our money.

I’ll say, buying and selling real estate these days is like a trip to the old carnival! Step right up!   We’ve bought and sold before, so we were somewhat ready, and we studied up about other stuff before we even talked to the realtors. We took our time choosing a realtor – I was shocked when the guy we chose immediately offered us a 5 percent commission instead of the standard 6.  

He turned out to be  worth the money – we had  a buyer at the Open House, it just took a while for them to work through the sale of their own house, get all the inspections, make needed repairs, etc.  He stuck with us through all the ups and downs, he urged us to be tough, and we got the money we wanted, and was happy with his share.

I will still feel anxious – I don’t ever not feel anxious about the future. My husband and I are moving out of our little apartment the next few months so we can rent it, pay off the mortgage on this property. We’re downsizing into a smaller house, with fewer conveniences, and I’m looking forward to simplifying my life. 

We’ll see.




Tax storm on the horizon

It’s Wednesday, school is in session for most people, so my husband and I decided to go camping. I’m coming to you from the cloud.

I’m not sure that’s right, I don’t know what “the cloud” is. But, I use my husband’s cell phone to connect my tiny “notebook” to the internet, and I sit here in the semi-darkness, sipping hot coffee and babbling while he and the dogs get some quality zzzz’s.

I get up early no matter where I am, the old bod has to move.  My legs kick me out of bed every morning.

There were so many stars when I woke up I had trouble spotting Orion and his dogs. But Venus is unmistakable, her round bottom glistening in the morning sun.

I’ve been frustrated lately, with all the work my family has been doing all Summer, I haven’t had time to hold much of a candle on the government backside. Our town is in heaps of trouble, and every agency from recreation to education is holding their hand out for more money.

I was watching the news Monday, and in a “first day of school” feature, the district finance manager, Kevin Bultema, was already bitching that the district is short of money. Here’s my prediction – get ready for another bond measure in 2018. They’ve had a bond on the last three ballots, and the last two have passed, just whets their appetites. Bultema admitted to me earlier this year that CalSTRS has raised their premiums and will continue to raise them in response to shortfalls in the stock market. He said if the district can’t find more revenues they will cut programs for the kids. 

So much for the moral caliber of public servants.  This guy makes over $160,000 in salary and we pay another $51,000 toward his pension and benefits. But he cuts programs for the kids. What a pig. 

Meanwhile, the Chico Area Recreation District is moving shamelessly toward putting another revenue bond on our homes – I’ve flaked on this, I haven’t attended the meetings, so I can’t figure out whether they will put it on the general election ballot or go  with a mailed ballot of property owners. 

My friend Bob told me about a popular book on the market – “Taxifornia”. I haven’t had time to read it but I think I get the general gist. 

The city is also pandering for a quarter cent sales tax increase. Really? On what ? They have been annexing car lots into the city, trying to cash in on high ticket sales tax, but I’m going to tell you what – they get the sales tax off any car purchased by a city resident, anywhere, they don’t need to annex half the county. Whenever they annex, they get costs, like streets and sewer and other stuff they can’t even keep fixed in long-standing parts of the city. 

We’ve got a city $taff whose main purpose in life is bringing in revenues, by hook or by crook, to pay down their $178 million pension deficit. 

We have to get ready for Tax Storm, 2018. But how do you get people’s attention? They flocked like lemmings after the much-hyped eclipse – I enjoyed it from my yard, using a piece of cardboard with a hole punched in it.  I saw people on the news who drove 19 hours, then jumped back in their cars to drive 19 more. But show up for a CARD meeting to voice concern over 30 employees racking up $1.7 million in pension deficit and only recently being asked to pay 2% of their premiums out of salaries over $100,000/year? “We have a life…”

We’ve got “peace advocates” shutting down legal rallies, attacking marchers who have a different viewpoint, censoring speakers from public campuses, but show up for a city council meeting to voice concern over salaries, benefits, the pension deficit? “We have a life…”

When will people see the direct connection between quality of life and public engagement?


Blogging is great!

Well, I’m glad I complained about my back injury here, I got the nicest note.

“Try ice.”

Yes, that’s the ticket, acute injuries respond to cold. I had been using a heating pad, and wondered why my back would go into spasms every time I took it off. It wasn’t helping – it felt better while it was on, and then as soon as I took it off, my back hurt again.

Ice – actually, a two pound bag of frozen peas – worked almost immediately. I put it on for about 15 minutes of every hour all day yesterday, and by late afternoon, I had a lot of flexibility back, and the pain was almost gone. 

Today I’m still stiff, rolling over in bed was slightly painful – the past few nights, it’s been awful, I’ve had to have my husband help me a few times.  Once I got caught in the sheets and almost got hysterical.

My arms had started to spasm and my hands kept going numb, I was really worried I’d have to go to the doctor. 


Life is wonderful again, thankyouverymuch!


Nothing like a back injury to bring life to a screeching halt!

I went on a cleaning binge in my tenant’s yard the other day. The sycamore trees are shedding so much, it looked as if her house was being buried.  Dead stuff around the yard needed to be whacked. While my husband blew the roof and cleaned the gutters, I went about raking the leaves onto a tarp and hauling them off to various places that needed the mulch, carrying a pair of loppers for all those overgrown branches and tiny little “weed” trees coming up around the edges of the lawn. It was a long morning of huffing and puffing, but I was happy with the results. 

Until about 2 am, when I woke up with painful back spasms. I haven’t had an injury like this for years – it hurts when I breathe! It hurts when I lay down, it hurts when I stand up. It hurts when I raise my arms. Sitting in my cushy office chair with my heating pad turned up to the key of G is about all I can take.

I have  tried to keep moving, cause I don’t think it’s good just to sit. I walk around the yard in circles coaxing the dogs to give me the ball.  I’ve tried to keep the housework moving along, including the laundry.  I used the vacuum because the pileup of dog hair in the apartment was driving me nuts.  Today may be the day I just give in to watching television all day. But I got a chicken to wash and get ready for dinner – I hope she’s cooperative.

Last time I went to Immediate Care, and that was just insulting. I was there for hours, paid about $290, for some x-rays that didn’t look real, and a lecture about being old.  Doc sold me a handful of painkillers that just about ate my stomach out.  And the place was FILTHY.  

So, I’m on my own. My husband is certainly being helpful, but I’m afraid he’ll overcompensate and end up in the chair next to me.

I’ll say, my tenant’s yard still looks very nice, that’s comforting.


Dirt plumes and smoke – it’s August in NorCal!


Chico is laying under a blanket of guck.

My husband and I took the dogs for a walk up Hwy 32 yesterday. The air is cooler just 15 minutes above town, and the dogs like a change of scenery. Me too.

Coming back into town, we saw the valley is covered with a thick layer of dirt and smoke.   We’ve had fires burning in every direction for the last couple of months – the Minerva fire near Quincy was only announced contained yesterday.  Now we are in harvest season.  If you look hard in the upper left corner of the picture you can see the dirt plumes – somebody is sweeping their orchard, getting ready to shake their nuts. Prune harvest is already in full swing, next nuts, then rice. 

Remember that old kids’ song –  Thank you dirt, thank you a bunch, cause Dirt, you made my lunch…

I know it’s cooler lately, but seeing that picture, I’m almost afraid to open the windows at night. We open them up after 9pm, and slam them shut again by 7am.

The air is still clear enough to enjoy the rise of The Giant, about 5 am. Right now Betelgeuese is burning red above my neighbor’s trees.

It’s still to hot to bake – again we’ve fallen onto store bread. I miss things like pizza and bread, so I’ve been experimenting around with my son’s old toaster oven. We bought it for him when he went to college but now his roommate has a better one, so he left his old cheapie with us. I realized, I could plug it in on the patio table and bake outside instead of heating up the house.  It worked like gang busters! I made three tiny pizzas the other day and yesterday I made three tiny loaves of bread.


It looks like a big hot dog bun, which reminds me – I could wrap some dough around a frankfurter from the meat locker and have a giant pig in a blanket! Next time!

Yes, they were so cute, we ate the first one before it was even cool. We loaded it full of leftover chicken and a nice tomato from the garden and that was the end of it. That’s a problem around here, trying to keep a fresh loaf of bread for more than a day. 

We did something new the other day – we made a trip over to Food Maxx. We don’t shop there very often, but saw an ad for whole chickens, two in the bag for 79 cents a pound. Can’t beat that. They also had 12 packs of Scott tissue for $3-something a pack, that’s crazy cheap. So we indulged in hoarding, it was like a run on an Argentinian super market.

I harvested my grapes last week – as usual I was surprised how many there were and how long it took me to process them.


This was the first basket, all picked off the stems and ready for the juicer.

Again we had a hard time keeping our hands off these. We ate a lot of the grapes while we were picking them and then we drank the pint of juice we got for breakfast. Luckily there were more left.


More and more.

I pick them off the stems while watching tv. Luckily there was a good Charles Bronson picture on the movies channel – Break Out! – and I was able to do the whole wad in one day.  I got three pints of juice!  I froze it and will be glad to see it in January.

I actually still have a nice bag of grapes in the fridge, they are wonderful in my morning smoothie, and I put them out on the counter in the morning so my husband will eat a mouthful.

The sun is just starting to light up the sky, time to go outside!


What’s a nice way to demand something of your neighbor?

The stove timer summoned me at 4:59 am. My husband and I had made a lot of brave talk last night about jumping out of bed to beat the heat. I’m tired of store bread, I wanted to get a loaf of bread in the oven by 6:30.  I remembered all that brave talk the night before, and I pushed my way out of the sack.  

At 5:30, after the dough was in the pot, I walked outside with my dogs. The sky was so overcast I couldn’t see any stars, but a sweet, cool breeze was ruffling my hair. As we returned to the house I could have sworn I felt a couple of raindrops on my shoulders.

At 5:50 I heard what I would call a “hard sprinkle” pattering in the treetops outside my windows. I hope it will clean some of the gunk out of the air, but I’m happy enough with the wet smell coming in the house.  When I looked outside I could see the little rain drop patterns in the dry dirt – I was surprised, I figured those drops would evaporate before they touched the ground.

Neighbors’ chickens are making their usual fuss. The flies are bad, we’ve got traps strung all along the fence between us and they are full and buzzing. One trap is about $5 so we add water when they’re getting dried out and try to make them last as long as possible. Meanwhile, neighbor has learned to clean her coop, but composts it in an open bin, right over the fence from my tenants’ windows. 

I approached her with a pamphlet from my vet last Summer – her response – “We don’t have flies!”

So, I read the city code, she’s in violation all over town, now I just have to work up the nerve to print a copy, hand it to her, and demand in a nice but firm way that she fence her birds and her open “organic composter” 20  feet off my property line. The other day I was looking out my living room window, and a chicken standing right next to my fence squirted at least a quarter cup of shit out of it’s butt. But my neighbor refuses to admit that chickens might cause flies. She’s actually brought in a half dozen more, and she’s trying to sell eggs from a stand in front of her house, which is also illegal.

I just need to work up the nerve to confront her without saying anything inflammatory. I’m all on board,  but my mouth is ready to nail her to the barn door.

I’m so sick of having flies crawl on me whenever I’m trying to use my yard. It really disgusts me when I find them “resting” on my laundry. I can’t sit in my pool with a drink because the flies are all over it. In fact, they’re all over us when we sit in our pool. They come on in force when I feed my dogs on the front porch. Oftentimes my husband stands over us with the fly swatter, the current count is 13 flies in 5 minutes.

The other day I had one in the kitchen, I got so mad I caught and mashed it with my bare hand. 

We have fly swatters hanging from posts all around the yard – next to the BBQ, next to the pool, next to the laundry line. But she doesn’t have so much as one fly trap, even though she’s responsible for the problem. 

How do you talk to a person like that? 

Anybody got any suggestions?