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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Bad air quality makes for pretty sunrise

We have a lot of fires burning in the North State, and you know, bad air quality makes for a magnificent sunrise.

Red sky at morning, everybody take warning.

We’ve been leaving the windows shut at night, with “lows” in the 70’s, it’s not worth taking in the crud too. 

In late Winter or early Spring I noticed some strange plants coming up along my driveway. They’re interesting looking, not the typical “weed”.

It grows a little every time I water the shrubs along the driveway.

I’ve asked my gardening guru, Belmont Rooster, to take a look, maybe he can tell me what these are.

Hey, we got another tomato!

No blossom rot!

We were so excited we rode our bikes to the store in 104 degrees to get a pack of bacon. We picked up an ear of corn for the side. 

Tried a different kind of bacon, this stuff is leaner than the old standard. And it fits the bread really good!

Nothing says Summertime! like a BLT.  

It’s 6:55 am and I already got sweaty eyebrows. It pays to get up early to beat more than the heat. Yesterday morning I went out to get some aloe vera for my smoothie and the GD squirrels had torn up several of my pots, looking for somewhere to hide their GD nuts! I had to act quick, they’ve been in them before, and they work fast – they throw the little plants and expensive potting soil everywhere.  My husband had some old 2×4’s, extra fencing and netting left over from the garden, so we went to work.

Look at this ginchee cage my husband built for my aloe vera plantation.

 

The net skirt folds up so I can get in there.

 

I pinch off a big leaf with my thumb nail.

 

I put two of these in my fruit smoothie every morning.

 

Quality, “hand filleted” organic aloe vera!

 

I use these plants not only for a dietary supplement but for dry skin, rashes, burns, etc. A couple of weeks ago, I was weeding my tenant’s yard and my gloves got so full of wild parsley stickers, I had to throw them away. A couple of hours later, my right hand, which of course is the chief weed puller, swelled up and turned red and itchy – I started putting aloe on immediately, but my hand continued to swell up so much my knuckles cracked and bled. This happens to me a lot – one day I was doing some scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar, and forgot to wear kitchen gloves, same result. Aloe vera is the only thing that soothes the pain and itching, I have to rub it on constantly. It soothes on contact, but with a rash like that, you have to put it on every time the rash starts to dry out, about every half an hour.  It helps if you can stop doing anything with your hand, let it rest – oh yeah, sure! Try to live without your dominant hand – my left hand was like “What?!”

It took over a week of constantly rubbing on aloe vera to get the swelling down enough to bend my fingers. I also took aspirin, but too much aspirin has it’s own consequences! The last huge crack on my index finger is just starting to scab over. When I saw the damage the squirrel did to my pots, I started wondering what squirrel meat tastes like.

But my husband saved the day, I can enjoy the squirrels running through the trees outside my windows without worrying what they’re up to.  

Peace Out! Juanita!

 

 

 

Go Outside! Venus very bright, Aldebaran chasing the Seven Sisters, Orion on the rise – it’s DOG DAYS!

At 4:47 this morning I woke up to the sounds of my new neighbor getting into her car and leaving. She’s an early bird. At that hour I can hear the crunch of her feet on the gravel driveway.  It’s actually better than waking to the sound of my stove timer – BEEP BEEP BEEP! 

After I pressed the button on the coffee pot I stumbled outside into the dark – there in the East I saw the Seven Sisters. This is the first constellation I remember identifying as a child.   I thought it was the Little Dipper, but my uncle Boo took me aside and told me the story of Atlas, forced to hold up the sky,  and his daughters, who all had various jobs. He took his finger and led my eyes down to the bright red star –  Aldebaran, the bull’s fiery eye.  He spread out his index and middle finger to show me the shape of the bull’s horns. He told me that in mythology the bull was alternately protecting the sisters and chasing them. 

According to Deborah Byrd of “EarthSky”,   “The star [Aldebaran] is so huge that, were it in our sun’s place, its surface would extend almost to the orbit of Mercury.”

When I was a kid in Glenn County the sky looked bigger.  You could see the entire sky from my grandparents’ big turnaround driveway. The Milky Way stretched out across our yard like a giant superhighway lit up for miles. 

This morning Venus looks like a preliminary sun. When I checked 5 minutes ago, she was shining so bright it threw a little halo around herself, like a Queen’s tiara. 

I watched for the giant Orion and his dogs, but they were behind the sun. Of course you realize, it’s Dog Days, and that’s when old ladies and dogs go crazy. 

5:33 and the sky is brightening outside, Venus is the only thing visible, very bright – you can see the sun shining on her round bottom!

Time to get to work!

 

July 28, and we’ve just got our first tomato

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At this point we’ll take anything.

As I told you previously, the only red tomatoes we’ve seen in the garden this year have had blossom rot. My husband applied some calcium to the soil and we’ve been waiting and watching.  This one grew out of the rot, pretty much, so we brought it in and cut it. The end was rotten, but most of the mater was still good!

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When I opened the container this morning, it smelled like SUMMER!

We cut off a thick slice and diced it over our salad. Today I will have a tomato sandwich. I wish I could say I had my own bread to eat it on, but it’s been too hot to take Bob out of the bucket, we’ve been subsisting on Alvarado Bread.

This weekend I am enjoying a “Staycation”.   I have finally got my husband to take some time and just sit around and enjoy.  We set up our tiny Intex pool on the patio, and put our old tv on the patio table, the antenna strung up on the umbrella.  

I can mix work with relaxation. This morning I watched “King of the Hill” while I mowed the lawn, when my eyebrows were heavy with sweat, I jumped in the pool! 

The other day they played the episode in which Mega lo Mart moves to town and forces Strickland Propane, where Hank works, out of business. Hank has  to go to work at Mega lo Mart. One day he’s trying to tell his co-worker, Buckley, to be more careful with the propane cans, when Buckley drops a can and blows up the entire store. Hank escapes but his niece Luann’s longtime annoying boyfriend Buckley is killed. 

At the funeral, Hank’s neighbor Kahn tells about his strange friendship with Buckley, explaining that Buckley taught him to “live in the moment” – a nice way of saying Buckley was completely careless and irresponsible, without any consideration for the future or those around him. 

Kahn tells a story to illustrate – a story about a man who is hunting a tiger, when the tiger charges and knocks him off a cliff. As he grasps at a root, pondering his fate, the hunter notices a strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. Instead of being hysterical, he reaches up and picks the strawberry, eats it, and declares, as he falls to his death, that it was the best strawberry he’d ever eaten. 

So, whenever I see a strawberry, I pick it and eat it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, I’ll admit it – the heat is starting to get to me! I’m having crazy ideas!

Yesterday afternoon as local weatherman Kris Kuyper was announcing Chico’s high at 108, I stepped out onto the patio to snap this pic of my KIST thermometer.

 

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Eeeee–eee–yew! 

 

Not that I don’t have the utmost respect for Kris, I’m sure it was 108 somewhere in town at that time, but on my patio, it was 112.

I tried to beat the heat the other day – literally – I got up at 4 am to get my bread going, get it in the oven by 6am. Sounded like a good idea. I love the morning, the temperature is cool and the breeze is friendly. But neither Sourdough Bob nor I were quite awake all the way. We wrestled around the bread board, Bob almost taking a dive off the counter at one point, desperately clinging to my arm. I threw him back in the pot to rise, went out to do some chores, and when I came in, he had “fallen.” That’s not good! As I put him in the oven, he spread out like a mother of 10.

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Sourdough Bob is not at his best at 4 am, but still quite a guy.

He huffed and puffed in the hot oven, his middle pushing itself up, trying to take on a proper shape, but he just couldn’t do it. I blame the heat – I think he rose up so fast, he just collapsed. I’ll have to watch that next time, get him in the oven a little sooner.

As you can see, he still turned out okay, just flat. Sourdough has a taste that improves as the days go by, we will eat him to the heel. Tonight we’ll roast a few cloves of garlic on the bbq, toast some thin slices of bread, good and crispy, and spread that garlic nice and thick. 

And here’s my other crazy idea – we’re going to sleep outside. It’s the funniest thing – we live upstairs, and it seems to get extra hot upstairs. The air starts to cool fast outside after the sun goes down, it feels great to relax and watch our old tv by our little inflatable swimming pool. We even burn rosemary in our old camp stove, it’s like camping out. 

But inside the apartment the air sits, even with windows open and fan running. The air inside our bedroom stays at 81, 82 degrees, which is very uncomfortable to sleep at. I can’t even stand that kind of heat in the Winter! It’s kind of suffocating.  So, we’ve been sleeping with the windows shut and the air conditioner on 81. It runs about once an hour, all night, for 10 or 20 minutes, just to stay at 81. 

I’ve tried setting our alarm for midnight – as soon as I opened the windows, I could feel warm air coming in. 

So, when the lows are only going down to high 60’s or low 70’s, we don’t open the windows until we get up at 5 am – or 4 am, whatever. Then we slam them shut again by 7 am, as the sun hits our eastern windows, the thermostat on our a/c is already at 79. 

So I’ve got this old cast iron day  bed. It sat in my grandparents’ room when we were little as a “sick bed”. It’s very plain, from the turn of the century, when “fevers” ran rampant, and people started to realize furniture needed to be sanitized – no more wood or upholstered beds for kids. It’s about 26 inches wide folded up, and when it’s folded out it’s about the same size as a double bed. 

My grandparents always kept it folded up, they only had a twin mattress for it.  It was moved to the enclosed front porch when my grandmother rearranged the bedroom. We used it like a couch when we watched the old tv, and my grandfather used to nap on it regularly, cause he didn’t have to take off his shoes to lay on it. My grandmother would just cluck her tongue and slide newspapers under his dirty boots.  

There the tiny mattress was got into by mice. We could never keep mice off that back porch. My mom and uncle finally realized the old mattress was a breeding sanctuary, and loaded it off to the dump. The bed frame went into the tank house where it sat for years.

It weighs like 100 tons, ‘scuse my rampant exaggeration. But that’s why I got it, cause my husband and a couple of our best friends were  willing to load it into our truck. I’m sure some of the other kids in my family wanted it, but yeah, they didn’t have my husband or his penchant for talking his friends into helping us move stuff. And then I guess they realized, what would they do with it?  I mean, after they hosed out all the owl shit? 

We cleaned it up and we’ve used it.  We’ve used it for our kids’ bed, we’ve used it as a couch. For a long time, we had it on our covered patio with a piece of plywood over the springs. We put carpeting and dog beds on it, and the dogs slept on it until Biscuit was too old and stiff to jump up and we had to make her a shorter bed.  

Now I am trying to convince my husband that we need to get it out of the garage and place it next to the old camp stove, in the shadows of my cactus garden. Folded out, it will fit our inflatable mattress, all we have to do is cover the springs with plywood and a moving blanket. 

I think he’s convinced. Today he helped me unload all these old boxes of stuff we had stacked on it. We just have to figure out how to get it out there, it may take some help from our kids. 

I’ll keep you posted!