Week 285 September 14, 2019

Loren and I began this week picnicking with friends in Jackson, California, at Kennedy Gold Mine Amphitheater. With them and a friend of theirs, we watched the outdoor performance of a play called, Alone, Together.

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Then we followed our friends’ to their home in Valley Springs, where we spent the night. In the dark, wee hours I heard a screeching voice shriek “We’re back!” It continued, and faded out to “We’re ba” “e’re ba” “re ba” until finally I realized it was the sounds of one or both our friends’ two roosters crowing, and I could fall back asleep. It was fun in the morning to see how well they’ve settled into their ranch home environment, and to see the improvements in the gardens and livestock from when we visited a couple years ago. 

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Loren and I drove back to our cabin, where we were expecting a friend to arrive that evening. It turned out he had to work later than planned so he came early the next morning. We enjoyed serving him breakfast, then spending the day together at Pinecrest. We took the hike to Catfish Lake that Loren and I had missed taking last weekend, and, we enjoyed seeing a couple of osprey flying and diving for fish at Pinecrest Lake. Loren and our friend went for a swim, and, we enjoyed dinner at the Steam Donkey Restaurant — named for historic mining equipment. Our friend then had to return to the Bay Area.

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The next evening our AirBnB hosts treated us out to dinner. They showed us around Twain Harte and we enjoyed a nice evening. That is a tree we are sitting next to, we were told it originally was inside the restaurant. Loren and I had intended to go on a backpack starting this day, but fortunately we pushed it back a day to enjoy this date. Our decision was unwittingly provident because it turned out the temperature dropped to 37 degrees! 

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Loren and I considered going on our backpack the next day, but it was still chilly, so we enjoyed a day at the cabin. The next day we again opted to pass, instead going for a good long hike around the whole of Lyons Lake. It included removing our hiking boots to ford a wide creek. That evening we were treated to a beautiful moon rising.

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The next day — essentially our last chance to go for more than a one overnight backpack, we  bailed out again, instead choosing to take a good hike to Camp Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness, where Loren and I had planned to backpack, and, have previously camped.

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It has also been nice to spend more time at the cabin than we would have if we had gone backpacking. We have seen several varieties of wildlife in the backyard, including stellar jays, chipmunk, chickarees, a couple of deer, butterflies and more flora… just delightful.

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Now, we are working on packing up… It has been an incredible 6 weeks here, almost over, except we have tomorrow with a full day planned. I’ll post about it next week…

Week 284 September 7, 2019

This was an extra special week. Not only did we celebrate our anniversary in a memorable way, we also celebrated Loren’s *65th* birthday. He is now officially and irrevocably a Senior Citizen, and, he is a Medicare enrollee on reaching this milestone. First, though, we began the week attending a Spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Mi-Wuk/Sugar Pine Fire Department. Another couple joined us at the table and we had a nice conversation. Then all four of us headed to nearby Twain Harte — named for Mark Twain and Bret Harte, American authors who wrote tall tales about life in this northern California county — to attend a summer Concert in the Pines event. Loren and I thoroughly enjoyed dancing to many of their familiar tunes from our youth. 

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The next day was our wedding anniversary. We were married on 9/1/91, coincidentally this year the date fell on 9/1/19. We had intended to spend it at Pinecrest Lake, take a different day hike while there, swim, and splurge on dinner at the restaurant. But. It was Labor Day weekend and we were one car among too many arriving than the parking lots could handle. Fortunately, Loren had recently voiced his interest in visiting Kennedy Meadow sometime before we leave the Sierras, and I proposed that as Plan B. He agreed! It was an ideal way to spend our special day. The drive was gorgeous – except for the miles and miles that the 2013 Rim Fire had devastated. It was encouraging to notice the healthy ground cover that has arisen from ash. Interesting that a few of the volunteers at the Spaghetti Dinner had been wearing t-shirts that proclaimed “Rim Fire, Never Forget.”

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We stopped briefly at Eureka Valley, a campground that Loren remembers from his childhood. He reminisced as he pointed out the sites he recalled his family stayed. And, once we arrived at Kennedy Meadows, we enjoyed picking out which cabin with its picnic table we had once stayed in when Loren’s Mom and sister had joined us there.

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We made a dinner reservation at the lodge, then had our picnic lunch along the middle fork of the Stanislaus River. We toasted with a glass of Pink Moscato for the occasion. 

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Then we had a hike partway into the hills, remembering how we have hiked up in this mountain grandeur for a few backpacks to Relief Reservoir in years past.

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It was springlike here too. We didn’t see the same number of wildflowers as in Emigrant Wilderness, but we saw a lot of water running down from the mountains.

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I took this photo to give a sense of the trail. Can you make out Loren way ahead of me?

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Once back down, we took a refreshing step into the cold river before our dinner reservation.

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We spent Loren’s birthday having a special breakfast at “home” in our AirBnB and that evening took a pie to share with friends. Then we topped off the night with a brief but good visit with a dear friend, who gifted a portion of her tomato harvest bounty to enjoy.

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As the weather continues to turn, I will finish this week with Emily Dickinson’s, Autumn:

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

 

Week 283 August 31, 2019

Happy Labor Day Weekend! We are laying low at the AirBnB we have here in the Sierras. Its been fun to notice a lone sunflower pop up on our front deck and to hear and see a bevy of quail forage just outside our screen door.

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Loren and I had two fun highlights this week. We rented kayaks from the New Malones Lake Marina — they just barely fit in the back of our van, to be able to join a ranger led kayak excursion on the other side of the lake. We arrived with the kayaks early enough to poke around the ranger station before going on the lake, and learned a bit more about the lore of the gold rush years, making this area’s nickname “Mother Lode” come to life.

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The paddling itself was fun. We all had our picnic lunches to enjoy a respite along the edge of a canyon before fighting the stronger winds all the way back to our launch site.

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Our second highlight was seeing friends who rented a cabin nearby in Strawberry. They invited us to come stay overnight. Their most exciting news is their youngest daughter is engaged. I loved hearing the story our friends shared of him popping the question, and now the couple’s dog is involved in the fun. Can you make out the heart around his neck? It says, “My humans are getting married!”

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Loren and I and our one friend hiked both days. On one we went nearly all the way around Pinecrest Lake. Our friend took us to see a cabin he has been enamored of for years. This time the owner was present and we had a nice conversation. We learned his grandfather had carved the writing on the homemade bench, “Count not here the fleeting hours,” which also held special meaning for our friend. The hike culminated in crossing the river over a log bridge, with a rope that I wished had been a bit more taut… 

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The next day we three hiked to Cleo’s Bath. Well, Loren and our friend went all the way, I only made it partway, past the crooked pine. It is a strenuous hike and I was feeling a bit under the weather… 

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So, I rested at a most peaceful turn on the trail to await their return. 

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While I sat I drafted my latest poem:

     Flies, A Limerick
     by Claire Adalyn Wright

     Ugly is the simple fly.
     Next ugly: the dragonfly.
     I tell you no lie —
     I see through one eye —
     beauty in the butterfly.

Aside from the hikes, we all thoroughly enjoyed the sounds and enchanting, changing views of the river flowing from Pinecrest Lake. We enjoyed delicious meals, had fun over a jigsaw puzzle one night, and, challenged ourselves with a round of Trivial Pursuit the next evening before Loren and I returned to our cabin in Miwuk. 

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Now it’s the last day of August and we saw a sunset almost as spectacular as the one we witnessed in the Serengeti. Autumn is here. We are noticing days are shorter, mornings and evenings cooler, and last night, we saw the first leaves that have turned and begun falling off the dogwood trees. Already.

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Loren and I have just two more weeks here at “our” cabin before we pack up and move on down the road again. It seems fitting to finish this week’s post with the great John Muir quote I found printed in a local newspaper:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the
storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.
John Muir

Week 282 August 24, 2019

Loren’s and my week’s highlight was a backpack in the Emigrant Wilderness in the Stanislaus National Forest, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We started off at Crabtree Trailhead. From our AirBnB home base of 5,000 feet, we were hiking around at about 8,000-9,000 feet, yet still we felt the higher altitude’s effects.

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After a mainly uphill slog, we setup camp where we had a view of Chewing Gum Lake. 

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After that first day hike, we revisited sites where we have gone in years past. We had awesome views of flora,

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fauna — including a frog underwater, can you see it?

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and vistas — that’s Sonora Peak, an inviting mountain meadow, and, we had many opportunities to see aspects of the Dardanelles.

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We enjoyed some creature comforts — including Chef Lorenzo’s “snow cone” concoctions and learned from our newest friend about a device that reliably communicates home by satellite. We also found the alpine lake where Loren has had at least a couple of swims some years ago.

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We also delighted in a campfire one night, perhaps our best ever, with logs that took forever to burn before we retired for the night.

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We camped our last night at Powell Lake, and were enchanted with the reflection. 

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We hiked out through Gianelli Cabin Trailhead after stopping to admire Burst Rock, or, what I would have named “Rock Valley.” Then we comparatively quickly hiked the five miles on the road downhill to return to our car at the Crabtree Trailhead parking area. My calves are reminding me of that part of the trip, regardless, it was all well worth it.

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Week 281 August 17, 2019

This week we enjoyed having dear friends came up to “our” cabin for the day. We had a fun picnic lunch, a good long hike topped off by ice cream, and, a light supper before they had to return home. We did see the enormous tree our AirBnB hosts had suggested we would see on this hike, but, we shouldn’t have taken the shortcut because it either required returning up a steep incline or — our alternative choice — scooting beneath a fence, which punished us with lots of unwanted stickers…

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Then we — excuse me I, had a couple of wonderful days of hiking and boating around Pinecrest Lake with friends who are twins who have a cabin near us, and a couple of  their friends. An osprey posed for us as we drifted by…

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on the second day Loren joined us girls for a bit of a grueling hike.

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It was worth it for the wildflowers, 

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and the wilderness lake that was our destination.

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Even the return hike was worth it, then the girls and I had another short respite together at Pinecrest Lake.

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Loren’s and my big night out this week was going to see a Linda Ronstadt tribute concert at the local Repertory Theatre. The performance was outstanding. Loren had had the opportunity to see Ronstadt perform while in college so he especially enjoyed it.  

Those were the three highlights of our week. We have spent the rest of our time hanging around the cabin and taking walks around the neighborhood which comes complete with moose, bear, and other wildlife images.

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We usually eat our cereal breakfast on the backyard swing chair. And we have read some — a luxury, or driven to town for internet or supplies. Ahhh.

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Week 280 August 10, 2019

Loren and I are in Miwuk Village. I could say Me-Wuk, Mi Wok, Mi Wuk, Mi-Wuk, or Mi-Wuk-Village, I have seen it written these several different ways. Anyway, we are in a small populated region in the California Sierra mountains. Nearby, the community of Confidence boasts a settlement of just 50 people. At the start of the week, we drove nearby to stay overnight at the summer/winter home of dear friends. When we arrived, I was challenged by a friend of theirs who was teaching an informal pilates class. My muscles felt aftereffects for a couple of days, in a good way. We all then trekked the short distance to a memorial erected for our friends’ brother and nephew, who died in an avalanche on K2 in 2013, and who were renowned in trekking and in the local area. 

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Our friends’ community was also approaching the final days of a music festival. From our perspective no details were spared in excellence. We attended the Saturday dinner event, featuring a silent auction and a concert, then an auctioneer led a most vibrant bidding affair afterwards. The evening was staged in a medieval theme this year, and we were told that the most people ever participated in costume. Our friends gave me a special dress to play along. The next day, I was honored that my friend insisted I lead a Bikram yoga class. It might be the one I have had the most fun facilitating of the more than 250 classes I have taught, and I was impressed with how well they did with it. Afterwards we had a lovely lunch at a nearby lodge.

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Then we attended the final Music Festival offering – a Beethoven Fest. We were treated to an outstanding performance by a 22 year old virtuoso pianist for the last four numbers of the orchestral performance.

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From there, Loren and I were off for a backpack to a place we have been many times over the years. The first time we went it was a long Labor Day weekend, and we saw no one – not even one soul – the entire weekend, except two rangers on the morning we were leaving who were taking samples of the lake water. This time we were similarly treated to an experience of seeing not a single other person, except the several people who were out for a much shorter day hike on our way into our site as well as on our return hike out from the site. All along the way we were treated to an immense display of wildflowers. We named it our own “NorCal Superbloom.” Some of the varieties are:

     Mariposa Lily, Lupin and Indian Paint Brush, 

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     Pretty Face, Crimson Columbine, 

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     Yellow Monkey Flower, Shooting Star,

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     and Corn Lily. 

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We saw a rainbow around the sun on our way in, which I learned from another hiker is caused by very high, very thin clouds made from ice crystals. She thought it is called a Sundog, but afterwards I learned that is not what we saw. Actually known as a 22 Degree Halo or a Sun Halo, the ring is caused by sunlight passing through the ice crystals. There were also lots of butterflies, of white, yellow, orange and black, and, I managed to capture a photo of one of the rarer, small blue ones/

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Loren and I never tire of the beauty visible from where we once again setup our tent and campsite. It is so quiet here. And the scenery around the lake was more green than we had seen here before.

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We were treated to seeing a baker’s dozen of geese resting and feasting throughout our stay, and, hearing a cacophony of frogs croaking throughout each night. Loren noticed a deer and a fawn across the lake, and, we even saw the same toad near the same log each time we walked over that part of the trail.

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Of a less appealing nature, we encountered a scourge of mosquitos. We also bailed out a day early. There had been a ring around the moon on our last night and the thunderhead clouds we had seen in the distance each day looked more and more ominous. As we looked back from a high peak on our departure, we saw the clouds dumping an immense amount of moisture off in the distance, so we believe we made the right decision. We left the area in sunlight on the downhill side, almost a calling for us to return again someday.

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Week 279 August 3, 2019

Loren and I were finishing our visit at Clear Lake at the beginning of this week. The campground resort owner sent us his photos of our kayak ride from last week, and, Loren took a single kayak for a ride while I did laundry on our last day there.

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We had a lovely dinner with special friends at the Blue Wing Saloon and Cafe in Upper Lake too. The restaurant is connected with historic Tallman Hotel, famous for its role as a stage coach stop in the distant past.

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We then thought ourselves lucky to be leaving Clear Lake as the prediction was for weather in the triple digits. It turned out their weather did not reach that high and instead we spent the next several days cold at a coastal KOA campground in Manchester.

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Regardless of the weather we made the best of it. We visited the Point Arena lighthouse, which was barely visible from the fog, 

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then went for a hike on the Stornetta public lands. 

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We felt fortunate that the sun came out before we hiked down to Bowling Ball Beach later that afternoon. A friend had suggested we visit here and to be sure to go at low tide as the unusual formations are only visible at when the tide is out. The sight reminded us of the Moeraki Boulders we visited when we were traveling through New Zealand.

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This friend had also suggested we travel further South on US1 to Gualala, to stop in at Alinder Gallery of photographs which includes some of Ansel Adams’ work. It was fun to see Alinder’s photographs too. Loren then indulged me in a drive even further south, all the way to see Wright’s Beach. It was too exposed to enjoy our picnic dinner, but Loren soon noticed a wonderful shade tree with a great view not too far back up the coast. 

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We visited Point Arena lighthouse for a second time to see it when the sun was shining, then finished that day with a hike to the beach, finding a different view of the lighthouse.

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The next day was our last full day on the coast. Loren offered it to be my choice of what to do. We first partook of the Rock Painting event at the KOA — mine is reflective of seeing bass and several fishermen on Clear Lake last week, and Loren’s rock choice compelled him to fill in the lips and face he visualized that were prominent on his rock.

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Then we drove north on coastal US1, up to Fort Bragg. We had a delightful dinner at Cucina Verona. We were seated at a table for two in front of the accordion player for a most memorable evening. I just had to snap a photo of one of the storefronts in town as we returned to our car.

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The next day we drove to Castro Valley. We ran some errands, then enjoyed a themed social dinner with Loren’s sister, prepared by the United Methodist Women with about 80 other members and friends attending their summer BBQ. Afterwards we pitched in to help her with some fertilization and trimming in her back yard. Now Loren and I are in Fremont, preparing to spend the next few weeks in the California Sierra mountains… internet availability will be a challenge, so please visit again – I will post here when I can. 

Week 278 July 27, 2019

Last week, two dear friends were visiting Loren and me at our AirBnB on Clear Lake. After a day’s drive along the east side of the lake together, we finished the day having ice cream at a park with Mount Konocti in view, then taking a walk around town.

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This week started with the four of us taking another drive around the rest of the lake, along the west side. We began the day with a walk at Anderson Marsh,

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then drove by the Dome home that Loren and his Dad had built 40 years ago, past the stalled refurbishing of Konocti Resort, and through Buckingham Park. We also stopped to see Bell Haven, a resort property that some years ago was in run down condition that Loren and I had seriously considered buying and refurbishing. Now, from over the gated fence we jealously admired the renovations that have been made. However we believe the costs incurred far exceed the vision that our own efforts likely would have produced. 

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Then we dropped in to see the salesman for Loren’s Dome kit, who still lives with his wife in their own dome home. We had a nice catchup visit, and learned he has recently established a new business downtown for slot car racing. While it loses money, it offers  a place for kids of all ages to have fun. By the way, Clear Lake is the largest natural lake that is wholly in the state of California. It was fun over two days of meandering around to see some of the places that have been special in our friends’ lives over the years, showing them places here that are special to us, and making some new great memories.

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Our last full day at the lakeside AirBnB was gorgeous – no clouds in the sky, and featured us hosting a BBQ. We were delighted that a cousin of mine who lives a couple hours away, and a long time friend of Loren’s who lives locally, were able to join us too.  

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Before Loren and I left the AirBnB, I caught a photo of one of the hosts’ many curio cabinets full of old phones. This one holds similar models nostalgic from my parents and grandparents homes during my childhood, especially the pink princess phone, and, the red and the black rotary models.

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Then Loren and I were off for a lunch date with our friend who lives locally. His home was burned in one of the fires here a couple of years ago. He is just now having a garage built on his property, and, had tree trimmers come to shape up some badly burned trees.

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Loren and I then relocated to van camp at a marina further north on the lake. On our first morning we went for a four hour kayak ride across part of Clear Lake and all the way to the end of Rodman Slough and back. Last week I was sure I had seen a pair of water birds walk upright on the lake, but the event ended so quickly I couldn’t point it out to anyone. I was excited then on Loren’s and my kayak ride to see several pair of what we now know are grebes, doing their mating dances which is culminated by walking on water. It was so astounding to me that I must share a video: 


We must have seen at least a hundred grebes, dozens of great egrets and night herons, many great blue herons, lots of Canadian geese, a few North American geese, some ducks and cormorants, several raptors including osprey, a flock of pelicans, one bald eagle, and one black-plumed gray bird of some unknown-to-us sort, unless because it flitted out of sight perhaps it was another heron. There are a few noteworthy geese though that seem to be confused as to their “feather” –  one American goose consistently seems to believe that s/he is a Canadian goose, and,

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a trio of two American geese and a mallard who remain inseparable in the marina. Or, just maybe they all are teaching us that different cultures can live together in peace!

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Loren and I have been additionally naturally entertained by a variety of fishing boats – a feature of Clear Lake is that it is a bass fisherman’s haven.

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Another couple of highlights this week include going to the local cinema to see the new Lion King, which had me crying even more than the first version, and, driving to nearby Blue Lakes, where we had a refreshing dip followed by a picnic lunch in the shade.

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Week 277 July 20, 2019

At the start of this week Loren and I were still in Nebraska with Loren’s cousins. We enjoyed four educational days at the county fair with them this visit. We have always seen their many prized trophies earned over the years from 4H (Head, Heart, Hands and Health), and more recently FFA (Future Farmers of America), and this time we had the opportunity to experience firsthand what the trophy earning process is all about. We found it impressive! Loren’s cousin’s grandson earned not only first prize for showing one of his aunt’s goats, he also earned a coveted first place in a judging content. 

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You can see this aunt, who is Loren’s cousin’s daughter, being remembered by the local museum which had a booth at the fair. This is a photograph of her earning a prize for showing one of her chickens at the fair some years ago.

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Our cousin’s daughter also coached our five year old cousin, who is a potential future 4Her, to show another of her goats. She has already learned well to always look at the judge as she parades the goat around the arena, one of the aspects of showing that the judge looks for, and, she was well prepared to answer the judge’s questions about the animal. He told us he was amused when she told him the goat was “…a pain in the butt,” however, he also said he has heard worse.

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Other aspects of the fair included cheering for competing teams in such fun contests as bobbing for apples, searching for a toy chicken in a haystack, nailing nails into a board, and rolling enormous tractor tires end-to-end across a field. The evening concluded with a “Bohemian tractor pull” in which our cousin’s son-in-law took the lead on his team. He and his daughter had returned from Kansas City from a three day softball competition to participate in this brand new contest at the fair. Another first time event at the fair on a different evening was a team contest to catch a greased pig.

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Our cousin’s granddaughter did not show animals this year — the first time in her life to not do so since she joined 4H. Her softball team team won the tournament. Then she and her dad stopped by at Loren’s cousin’s farm for a short visit between a private pitching lesson in Omaha and the start of an upcoming softball camp at Wichita State University.

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Once the fair was over, it was back to farm work as usual for our cousins. I should clarify, the animal care chores were also accomplished on fair days, now the more time consuming work of checking and harvesting alfalfa could be attended to as well.

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I had to snap a photo of the enchanting view from Loren’s cousin’s house of a neighboring farmhouse, a view I never tire of seeing when we visit the farm.

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On our last evening in Nebraska, we enjoyed playing the card game, Pitch, with several members of the family. We went to bed with the weather report of “slight chance of thunderstorms” but we woke up to an ominous sky. As Loren’s cousin drove us to the airport, we encountered rain, which they do need for the crops, and which did not cause any delays or disturbance with our connecting flight through Denver to San Francisco.

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Once back in the Bay Area, we had a lovely evening and dinner visit with Loren’s sister. As I was checking the battery in our van for integrity after it had sat idle a few weeks in front of her house, Loren received a message from our AirBnB host to not lock our bedroom because the lock was malfunctioning. We were surprised at the late hour of notice as we had been due to check in at 3pm. We were then grateful to Loren’s sister who invited us to stay overnight. The next day the lock was in working order. We enjoyed a dinner out with another AirBnB guest who we had become friends with from our previous long stay. Her sister manages the restaurant where we ate and it was nice to see her again too.

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Then Loren and I were on the road again, this time heading for Clear Lake, northeast of Napa. It was nostalgic to see the blooming oleander along the more rural freeway. It struck me that all the freeways in the bay area had had roads similarly decorated when I first moved to California. That lasted until the increases in traffic necessitated removing them in the more densely populated areas, to make additional lanes for the people.

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We had invited friends to join us at our AirBnB and they arrived not long after we did. We four spent today driving around parts of the lake where we all have memories. Most notable are the houses and apartment complex that one of our friends’ father built in the 1970’s, which are still in excellent condition.

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We took along a picnic lunch and stopped at a roadside park to enjoy it. While there we had a different view of the most prominent feature of the lake – Mount Konocti. A few weeks ago I read something in the New York Times about spending 2 hours a week in nature… actually, I think we should spend 2 hours a day in nature when we can.

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Week 272 June 15, 2019

Hello from New York! And, Happy Father’s Day tomorrow to all our family and friends who are Fathers!

Before leaving California last Saturday night, and after packing up our belongings at our AirBnB, Loren and I enjoyed a delightful meal out with special friends who we made at the AirBnB where we stayed just 3 days shy of a full year. 

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While we were in the restaurant, we received a text message that our flight leaving San Francisco airport that evening was delayed. It was long enough to interfere with our connecting flight and to cause us to be late for our scheduled rental car pickup. We called the airline only to find it would be at least a two hour wait time to speak with an agent…

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A dear friend had offered to drive us to the airport, and we only pushed back our ride with him by half an hour to have enough time to speak with an airline representative at the airport. I am grateful we went early and had the delayed flight because, when we arrived at SFO, I discovered I had forgotten my ID. Loren was kind to me about all the effort it took for us with round-trip public transit and Uber rides to retrieve it. We were also able to rearrange our rental car pickup time. When we returned to the airport, our flight had been further delayed due to severe thunder storms in Georgia. We had actually needed most of that extra time. We ultimately left San Francisco 4 hours late, spent 4 extra hours in Atlanta, and arrived safe in New York 8 hours later than scheduled. I smiled on seeing an advertisement from the amusement park of my youth at the airport. 

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As Loren said, “It was a journey just trying to leave!”

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Fortunately Loren and I had both been able to sleep some on the overnight flight. We rented the car, and drove to Pennsylvania to arrive at my junior high school friend’s place where we had a lovely visit. We extended our stay an additional night, to make up for how late we had arrived. We played cards together and I put together an easy puzzle which nearly had me feeling like I had visited the Jersey shore.

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While in Pennsylvania one evening, we went to a local bar to watch the NBA Finals’ Warriors vs Raptors Game 5. This lounge had 10 televisions, with 8 of them showing the basketball game. Loren and I were thrilled when our team won!

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On returning to New York, Loren and I enjoyed a wonderful Mexican dinner with my brother, his wife and their younger daughter. The waiter prepared our guacamole to order at our table. Similarly he prepared a fiery table-side display for my niece’s desert.

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The next day I drove to the upstate village where my father had said his father was born. My brother and I have known little about my father’s side of the family because his parents both died young. I had driven my father to this town once in recent years before he died, but I had not learned much from that trip. This time I stopped at the Village Clerk’s office and was rewarded with seeing the handwritten record of my grandfather’s birth. Now I know the exact month and day of his birth – in addition to the year which I had previously learned from his headstone – as well as the names of my grandfather’s parents. Then I went to the village cemetery and was fortunate to find not only my great-grandfather’s and great-grandmothers’ tombstones, but also this great-grandmother’s parents tombstones. I was so touched to find these special ones’ graves.

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On leaving the area, I was treated to a great blue heron sitting on a rock in a pond on the side of the road, and just had to snap its’ photo. That evening Loren and I were sorry to see our Warriors lose the Finals to the Raptors in Game 6 of the series. Our team had suffered several injuries in the post season, and another key player had to leave that game due to an injury, dashing the team’s dreams of wining a three-peat championship.

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There have been other aspects of nature that also caused me to pause to snap a photo this week – from a colorful bush that reminds me of Australian eucalyptus, to the density of dogwood blossoms this season, to a cardinal and bluejay on adjacent tree branches.

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The next day Loren and I had an hours-long lunch date with another dear friend of mine. She brought photos of she and me from before I had moved to California. I was shocked to be reminded how I had looked thirty years ago when we had visited Cape Cod together one summer. That evening Loren and I went to see The Secret Life of Pets 2, which was as amusing as my recollection of the first Pets film that I had caught most of during a long flight some year or so ago.

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Today, we had another wonderful time with my brother, his wife and their younger daughter, in driving to and taking a guided tour of historic West Point. We learned its location was strategic at the time of the Revolutionary War to take advantage of a particular narrow passage of the Hudson River, preventing the British to pass between their ports in New York and Canada. It was a lovely day and we were grateful for the information imparted to us with the high caliber of our tour guide – might I even label her a guidess?

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Tomorrow we look forward to spending Father’s Day with my brother, who is a great Dad to two beautiful young women.