Yesterday I drove to Winter and back

My husband and I drove over to Reno to follow our son back to Chico – his truck has been acting up and it’s some pretty rough country between here and there. We left our house at about 8am, birds tweet-tweeting and flowers blooming in the yard, and by noon we were standing in the freshly plowed parking lot at his apartment complex, admiring the complex artworks of melting snow that festooned the metal roofed parking shelters.

Highway 70 is always a swell ride, wherever you’re going. We left town on Hwy 99 and headed up past Butte College campus on Durham Pentz, cutting over to Hwy 70 just below Yankee Hill. It started to rain as we passed the campus, and we wondered what was ahead. Weatherman had assured us the worst was scheduled for Friday night, and that the skies would be clearing over Saturday. 

As we left Yankee Hill and hit the Feather River canyon, we could Winter rolling down the mountains in front of us.

But Winter and Spring continue their Seasonal SmackDown! As we rounded the bend below Pulga Road, we could see snow flying ahead. 

A few minutes later…

Winter flung her best at us – rain, snow, hail…

Here’s the famous railroad line that runs through the canyon – Feather River canyon is a favorite of miniature train enthusiasts.

I love Hwy 70 for it’s beauty, but one wrong move Babee, and you’re DEAD. The water is deep and fast and very, very cold this time of year.  The road runs right along the river for many miles – with no safety rail for many miles – and it’s narrow and twisting. On the other side of the road you have the rock wall – at one point my husband and I came across a motorist who had just swerved off the highway and caused a small rock slide. Rock slides are a constant threat – last year the road was closed for a couple of months when a giant boulder slid right through the road, leaving a big gap. They had to blast out the canyon wall to fix it. 

I  try not to think about it, and my husband reminds me – Hwy 80 is not only snowy and treacherous, there are a lot of other drivers. We’ve seen stupid animal behavior cause huge wrecks and shut-downs right in front of or behind us on Hwy 80, we don’t use that highway unless it’s the only way to get somewhere. 

So I hum a happy tune and enjoy the scenery on 70.

Here’s the abandoned mill just below Quincy. The big slash on the mountain side is for power lines. PG&E essentially owns the canyon and the river, with several power houses still generating a lot of electricity there.

Mining, logging and PG&E dominate this area. The old power houses are worth a look – I’m sorry I didn’t get photos of those, they are beautiful, built with rock from the surrounding area. There’s great camping in the canyon, and it’s a destination for kayak enthusiasts.


Here we are in Downtown Quincy California, there’s the court house to the left. Quincy has some neat restaurants and one of the best museums in the Gold Country.

There are half dozen or so little towns/resorts along the road, the biggest being Quincy and Portola. 

These were mill towns, and the old houses give their main streets a lot of character. Here’s a neat little house in Portola that stands out in the snow.

There’s a lot of history along this road – stop in Beckworth, you can see Jim Beckworth’s cabin. It’s closed his time of year, but you can look at it here:

But if you really want to know about Jim Beckwourth, read one of his autobiographies, he is our Daniel Boone. I think his life story inspired  parts of “Little Big Man” by Thomas Berger, but I’m just guessing. 

After Portola we hit the high plains, and the weather really started coming at us. 

This is neat little valley near the California border that is nothing but hay fields and cows in Summer. At some ranches the hay barns were full and cows milled around the barn. I wonder if their feet get cold.

The road turned very icy here, visibility shrunk, and in some spots fog moved over the road. 

And then the sun would come out and the snow would sparkle all around us.

It seemed within minutes we were bearing down on Reno, where the snow was stacked up in the parking lot at my son’s apartment complex. We had a quick meal of leftover chicken, loaded up his stuff, and hit the road. It stormed on and off all the way back down the canyon. There was a “moderate” rock slide just above Pulga – it only closed one lane. We could tell the CalTRANS guys had just arrived, and they were nervous – the road was really skinny at that point, of course, and the flag man was having trouble finding a safe spot to stand. I’m sorry I didn’t have the camera with me for the return trip – just keep that warning in mind if you ever plan to take this route. 

I’d say it’s worth the risk. 




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.


May is National Bike Month

May is National Bike Month.

I like to use my bike to get around.  I do not have a demanding schedule, and in the event of bad weather or the occasional flat tire, I can call my husband to come and get me in the F-150.  Or I can walk – Chico isn’t so big you can’t just walk.

I call my bike “Myrtle the Turtle” because she is green and slow but she always gets me where I want to go. She is a 1956 Raleigh Superbe, I picked her up at a Deseret Industries thrift store back in the 1980’s. She has been my commute bike ever since. 

I took Myrtle to work today.  The morning was bright and cheerful, I figured I’d be home before the rain set in. I didn’t count on the wind, which started to pick up about 11 am. 

Sheesh!  Did you ever notice, when you ride a bike on a windy day, the wind seems to be coming right into your face no matter what direction you’re traveling. When I got home I looked like Little Richard.  Wooooo-oooo-ooo Bay-beeee!

Cycling isn’t always the practical way, but I work it in whenever possible.  It’s free compared to the costs associated with a car, and it’s a good work out. The best thing is, there are routes available to bikes that are not available to cars.  I’ll say, Chico has a lot of nice bicycle amenities, bridges, trails, etc.

Frankly, you are the only one who can guarantee your own safety – be careful out there.

If you are new to cycling or new to Chico, Chico Velo is a good resource for route information. They have lots of socials where you can meet other riders and learn the ropes of getting around town.

Of course their big event is the Wildflower, coming up at the end of April.  My husband rode in the century as a high school kid, and we participated with our kids in the “Child Flower,” a shorter ride over to Durham Park, which I would recommend. You don’t need a fancy bike to do that route, just good brakes and tires, water and a snack. Child Flower registration is only $20 per rider and I believe you still get the official bandanna with the route map printed on it.….html

Get out there and enjoy your wheels! 

Mt Lassen – I haven’t been able to get up there yet this year, but here’s some pix from old trips

Someone has been searching posts about Mount Lassen so I searched a couple of my faves. 

Here’s one from June 2012 – we went snowboarding at Diamond Peak – it was  the last good snow before the drought.

Here’s a road trip from June 2015 – the snow was not good enough to board, but we had a fantastic day.

We can see the mountain from a spot on Hwy 32, and it’s covered with snow right now. 


Get out there and try something new – 395 vacation in a bag!

You can pick up a variety of baked goods at Erick Schat's bakery, or you can pick up a bag of bread mix and make your own.

You can pick up a variety of baked goods at Erick Schat’s bakery, or you can pick up a bag of bread mix and make your own.

It’s good to meet new people and try new  things. When my husband and  I moved our son into college housing, we met his girlfriends’ parents.  They live in Southern California.  You meet the nicest people through your kids.

What we have in common besides our kids is, we both enjoy a quick “395” vacation. Hwy 395 cuts across the “back” of California, hitting some of the most incredible natural wonders in the state.  No matter how many trips we make, we always find something new.  We look at the map and old tour books, and sometimes we just wander. We find stuff that has been lost down old roads, forgotten. We follow signs that sound interesting, like “Punch Bowl” (an abandoned open pit pumice mine) and “Obsidian Dome” (one in a chain of “modern” volcanic eruptions).  Once we pulled over to have lunch and found ourselves in an old dump – six Ford Model T’s stood in a row, their chassis rusting into the ground. 

Tracy and Jim like the fishing. Hwy 395 boasts some great fishing holes, right along the road. They also like to try something new every time they drive up, so they pulled over in Bishop  and checked out Schat’s Bakery. The menu is hard to resist. Besides sandwiches, they have a very nice selection of cookies and other baked goods. They sell mixes too.  Having heard I liked to make my own bread, Tracy picked me up a bag of Schat’s special sheepherder’s mix.  

I get into a rut sometimes. I been making my bread a specific way, having a routine that starts the day before with grinding wheat berries and feeding the starter. I try to bake a fresh loaf  about every three days – when my son was home, it  was every other day.  With the heat of Summer, I have been getting up about 5am to get the bread done by 9am – it has to sit for about an  hour and a half. Oftentimes I wake up with my hands in the dough, wondering if I did everything right. It always turns out okay, but some loaves turn out so much better than others I can’t help but wonder.

So this mix just seemed too good to be true – just add water?

I could not believe this would work, it just seemed too easy.

I could not believe this would work, it just seemed too easy.

But I trusted Schat, so I went for it. You will never get anywhere if you don’t try something new once in a while. The recipe was different in several ways, starting with, pour the warm water in the bowl and  then dump in the mix.  Usually I start with my wet starter “sponge”, adding flour and water in portions.  But I try to follow instructions the first time I do something. So, I took it slow, stirring in the flour – luckily the instructions said it would be a dry dough, it was really  hard to knead at first. “variable” is an important word – when I didn’t think I could get the dough together I started wetting my hands with warm water until it got sticky enough to stay together. It was a dry ball, but I could feel it was alive and rubbery, starting to fight back as I struggled to push it together. Within five minutes of kneading my arms were done and I laid it out for half an hour with a plastic bag over the top of the bowl.

It didn’t rise like my dough, but I could see it was pushing itself into a little dome. After half hour I formed it into a round loaf and set it aside again for an hour and a half. This time it pushed itself up into a little peak, raring to get into the oven. It was fun watching it take shape – it was definitely alive.

And here it is, a very authentic looking loaf of sheepherders bread!

And here it is, a very authentic looking loaf of sheepherders bread!

The outside was very hard, and the loaf was very heavy. That kind of worried me, but it looked  and smelled fantastic.  All we could do was let it cool and see what we got.

And here's what I got - look at this beautiful bread!

And here’s what we got – look at this beautiful bread!

The crust was chewy and delicious, the inside soft and rubbery, full of tiny holes. Perfect! I usually use some whole wheat in my bread, so this was different – I couldn’t wait to try peanut butter and jelly! It toasted perfect, the crust very crispy. We ate it down to the last heal, and today I’ll make croutons out of that.

And then I’ll feed my starter and get ready to do another loaf of my own bread. It’s nice to have a  routine, but it’s nice to bust out of it once in a while. 






Really Phil? Early Spring?

Every year I look forward to Groundhog Day, whether I am hoping for Early Spring or Extended Winter, I like the idea of a rodent predicting the weather. 

Groundhog Day apparently stems from German tradition. In America the natives made their predictions based on the behaviors of other rodents, primarily the muskrat. It’s true –  the old people predicted the length and harshness of the coming winter based on the size of their neighboring muskrat “push-ups” – the mud, stick and grass lodges muskrats build along marshes and streams, in which they can spend a frozen winter, even using the mound as food in the late months.  

Creatures who live close to the Earth must know – for one thing, they can feel the temperature and texture of the dirt. For another,  as humans observe them, they observe the insects. Each in turn.

This year I am disappointed with Phil’s prediction – early Spring. I was hoping for at least six more weeks of snow. My husband reminds me, – Spring can bring snow too. I hope so. 

Yesterday we took a day off to hit the slopes at Shasta.  As a child I went with my family to Shasta in the Summertime. We camped, hunted, fished there, and rode the Huff and Puff a couple of times before it was put out of operation in 1971.  But I had never snowboarded Shasta before yesterday.  

Sugar Bowl in Tahoe has more features, oftentimes more snow, earlier and later in the year, and they used to have a very affordable mid-week pass with lots of promotional deals like points to use for free food and other goodies. That all ended with the last couple years of poor snow. Sugar Bowl is under new management, they’ve raised prices, cut the deals, and for a while, they weren’t opening their main lodge during the week, meaning, no bathrooms.   By the time they wised up and re-opened the lodge, we had got disgusted with the mismanagement, and stopped buying our yearly passes after 20 years. 

We find, we had got into a rut. Now we can spend the same amount of money we spent on the pass, and although we can’t make as many trips, we can get out there and try new places, do new things. Last year we had a few good trips all the way down to Mammoth Mountain, in Southern California, and we’ll probably keep that tab open. But, Shasta finally got some snow, so we decided to see what we’d been missing.

I’ll tell you what we hadn’t been missing – Bay Area and LA people. Tahoe stinks of the Bay Area, that was something we’d just gotten used to – rude asshole city people, screaming at their kids, avoiding eye contact as they shoved ahead to grab a cafeteria chair right out of your hand, etc. 

At Mammoth we experienced the LA crowd – different, but still obnoxious. Where Bay Area people are always uptight, the LA crowd is more relaxed, but both are demanding and, wow, just plain GRABBY. They will shove ahead of you in line, they will butt their way onto your chair or your table in the lodge, they will have loud conversations across your face without so much as a “so where you from Hon?”

I had not thought for a long time how annoying those people were until yesterday.   Northern California people are nicer. You can talk to them and they don’t act like you just exposed yourself, that’s something right off the bat.  All day yesterday I was not cut off once, nobody “buzzed” me, not even a skier. 

At Shasta the runs were beautifully groomed – on a Monday, that’s worth noting. At Sugar Bowl they stopped grooming the runs on weekdays because they want to save them for the weekend crowds. At Mammoth they stopped grooming during the day after an inebriated woman ran into one of the groomers and the resulting lawsuit cost the resort a pretty penny. Grooming makes a lot of difference for a person like me who is not that skilled. 

The weather yesterday was almost perfect – sunny slopes and temperatures in the 30’s, no wind. There had been light rainthe previous night, so there was no powder, but the grooming was adequate to keep the deck nice. 

No, I didn’t take my camera, sorry about that. One thing that always strikes me about  Mt Shasta is how WHITE it is, just gleaming like toothpaste. The resort lies below the summit, so you are staring up at that face – it seems alive. 

And, from various points, you can see Mt. Lassen gleaming in the distance. Maybe that’s the next road trip, I’ll have to start wheedling my husband to take me up to Lassen again. 




Sierra snow pack in good shape – I think it will keep up in 2016

The Department of Water Resources has given the Sierra snow pack a good prognosis – that is, if this weather keeps up into Spring. 

I think it will.  “The Baby” is colicky this year, been throwing regular temper tantrums, a trend that is hard to stop if it rolls over January 1.

I sure hope so. My family taught me to snowboard, no small deal, and last year they replaced my crapped out snowboard – bought used, and then used and used again! It was an older model, short for speed, but an old crate when it came to powder.  As I’ve learned more every year, I find, it’s the powder, screw the groomed, that makes it all worth while. 

Ever been sank in a snow powder bank? Don’t panic, cause you’ll start to get hot in your snow clothes down there. It’s a good thing to have your cell phone in a high zipper pocket, so you can get to it. But sometimes it’s quicker and less humiliating to get yourself out.  Unstrap your paddle foot, start kicking the snow in front of you to get a good foot hold, and then slide that board up, straight up, not sideways. Yes you can do it!  Start crawling with two hands and one foot, and hold that board straight up with your other foot. Don’t slip cause you will likely get buried deeper the second time. As soon as you can get your face over that snow, start hollering, but keep crawling, cause chances are nobody is going to hear you.

Sure, you can unstrap both feet, but good luck ever getting your board out of there. 

After that happened to me twice, my family got me a new, longer board. The short “lunch tray” model we’d got at a garage sale is for ice boarding, pretty much, sinks like a rock in powder. Who woulda known? Last year I had to learn to use my new much longer board, and it was sketchy. It’s like driving an SUV after you had a VW bug.  Turning, sometimes I get the front end caught in the snow – I have taken quite a couple of tumbles.

The first time, I took a turn too fast, did this sideways helicopter crash, right at the bottom of the lift, where everybody stood watching in quiet amazement. When I flopped up and landed right on my butt, several people applauded. I looked at them, my head still spinning, snow driven into the vents on my helmet, and said, “I meant to do that.” And I got up and walked into the lodge and got myself a straight shot of Stolichnaya.

The second time was head over heels. Head over heels. Head over heels. I thought it would never stop. Again I landed perfectly on my butt, my husband sliding along in front of me, completely oblivious. All around me people blew by, as though they saw stuff like that everyday. I was shaken pretty good, but my neck didn’t really start to hurt until the next day.

What, you want to live forever? 

Screw me – I can’t wait to get back out there. Like the 60 year old Japanese woman I met at the top of the bunny hill one year. She had taken up snowboarding late in life, like me,  to follow the kids. The first trip she fell and broke her tailbone. Her husband, an engineer, had designed this comical but very practical looking “diaper” for her to wear, all padded in the ass, and there she was again. Go Babeeee! We had a very nice afternoon together, speaking pidgin English  and Japanese all day, gesturing, laughing.  I can’t remember her name, or any of the words she taught me, but I remember the way she threw her head back when she laughed, like she was taking a big mouthful of Life and chewing it up.