And so it goes... October 29, 2013

We all know nothing lasts forever, but sometimes it's a shock to see how fast things can change (naturally).  I think it's especially true at this time of year, deep into autumn.  One day a tree looks like a dream; a few days later, it looks forlorn.  One week you're hiking in 60+ degree weather on a gorgeous October day, and the next week there's a foot of snow on the trail where you were hiking.  Our first cold front of the season blew thru yesterday and dropped up to two feet of snow in the Sierras.  Great news for ski resorts... and a good beginning for snow pack.  Here in Nevada City we got a lot of clouds, a little rain, and a startling drop in temperature.  We've had our toasty gas fireplace on most of today, warding off that chilly 46 degree high temp -- really nice to have!  But even low temps won't last forever... tomorrow's forecast calls for a warm-up.  Cool!

Dogwood seen from our dining room window:  Sure looked pretty like this.

 Same tree:  Looked a lot different this morning!

 We picked some bay leaves while we were in Napa.  This stringer I made is three feet long!
Some things don't make it to their destination in time: They're either too slow or in a whale of a hurry.  Witness the jack-o-lantern below.  Jimmy carved it at a friend's pumpkin-carving party on October 20th.  Technically it was supposed to last to Halloween.  Technically....

 Da Puking Pumpkin!

On the 25th - Going, going...

...GONE on the 26th!

 But this rock, now -- this smiling, pumpkin-looking rock might last forever, or at least outlast me!

Ol' lopsided rock sez:  BOO!

Have a safe and Happy Halloweenie!


A little surprise for us at Sagehen Creek in Truckee, CA -- Thurs, 10/24

While our outstanding Indian Summer weather continues, Jimmy and I will be Out and About somewhere, relishing each day.  This morning we talked about possibilities and chose a drive up into the Sierras, with a hike along Sagehen Creek as a destination.  We hiked this relatively flat and easy 5-mile R/T trail back in Aug 2012.  This year we wondered if we'd see much fall color at this elevation -- 6100' -- and, sure enough, I'm happy to report we were treated to beautiful colors from our yard all the way into the high country!  Truckee is about an hour's drive, up and over Donner Pass, and to say it was a nice drive would be an understatement.

Sagehen Creek is supposedly a wildflower paradise in spring, but we've not been here in spring.  Maybe we'll catch it next year!  What we did see -- in autumn -- surprised the heck out of us....

The trail follows alongside the babbling creek for quite a ways and then veers off into the tall trees, and rejoins the creek in a wide meadow.  With temps in the low 60's, we set off....

Sagehen Creek is a tiny stream of water that drains into Stampede Reservoir.

And it's shallow...

As we rejoined the creek in the meadow, we spotted fish.  "Those look like salmon," I told Jimmy.  He peered into the water.  "They are salmon!" he exclaimed.

We learned that from late September through mid-October, mature kokanee salmon transform from a silver-blue color to a fiery vermilion and run into creeks to spawn.  As spawning season approaches the fish acquire a humpback and protuberant jaw -- and boy was that evident.  We also spotted lots of "belly up" salmon, who had finished the job and their carcasses were now food for bears, etc.  Yep, we saw bear scat.

Kokanee (Sockeye salmon) are completely landlocked, living and reproducing in lakes.  They're smaller than salmon that goes to sea, but I bet they're just as tasty!  See how shallow the water is?  Who would of guessed salmon would be fighting their way up dinky Sagehen Creek to spawn.  Now is not the time to catch these fish, but I guarantee ya, Jimmy and I will find out the right time and we'll buy fishing licenses!

This really is a fine place to spend an afternoon.

One arm of Stampede Reservoir in the distance.

Those salmon managed to swim upstream toward those trees and beyond in this ankle-deep water!

Mountain bluebirds were busy catching insects (and resting on this stump).

Truckee's already had one snowfall earlier this month.  Most of the Aspens at this elevation had already quaked off their pretty yellow leaves, but this little stand of Aspens stands out nicely, so to speak

After four hours, we were glad to get back to the car, tho we thoroughly enjoyed our hike.  We drove into Historic Truckee and scarfed down a delicious early dinner at Jax @ the Tracks, a diner we've visited before.  Really good food.  Just ask Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives fame.  We didn't make it down the mountain in time for the opening pitch of Game #2 of the World Series, but the Red Sox lost the game anyway.  Phooey:  The only fly in the ointment of an otherwise terrific day!


Autumn in California -- October 2013

It may not rival The Catskills or Connecticut, but that's all right.  This time of year, after a long hot summer with little or no rain, the grass on the hillsides is dun-colored, almost a silver or even golden in certain light, and it's handsome in it's own way.  When the winter rains begin, those hills will green again.

This is my time of year.  These Indian Summer days are the best nature has to offer.  Sunshine abounds in a marvelous big blue sky.  Spent leaves, painted gold and red, ease from branches and drift lazily to the ground, twirling slowly in the still air.  Daytime temperatures are that perfect balance between not too hot and not too cold, and nighttime temps are cool enough to warrant two blankets and comfortable snuggling.  The days feel still, relaxed, perfectly content.

After leaving Salt Point St Park, Jimmy and I drove to Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa.  We spent  two heavenly days there before going home on Saturday.  We were surprised when the manager told us the park was booked, but we could camp in their overflow area.  Well, that was fine with us.  We didn't have any hookups at Salt Point either.  Looks like we didn't need to bring that electric coffee maker!  

 We actually liked it better up on this rise close to the shedding walnut tree.  Great views.

This grapevine near Tergel offered a striking display.

Napa was a riot of colors:  Each vineyard seemed to post acres of yellows, reds, golds 'n greens. 

 Two fearless black-tailed deer, out for a morning saunter.

 Jimmy on the cool and shaded Bayleaf Trail in Skyline.  We gathered some bay leaves!

We've seen these small trees.  All around.  But, what are they?  We pulled one off a tree and smashed the hull with a rock.  Inside was a creamy seed, similar to a horse chestnut.  Strange-looking.

Just by chance, on facebook of all places, I found out the tree is the California Buckeye.  The tree sheds its leaves early and looks dead by the time these pear-sized fruit appear.  One of the websites says the California Buckeye is "as common as dirt."  Maybe we can grow one, too.

 Amazing changes took place during the week we were gone.  The native dogwood outside our dining room window changed into this beauty!

All the dogwoods in Nevada City are displaying brilliant or muted reds this year.  These are in our side yard.  We had a terrific week on the coast and in Napa, but coming home made us HAPPY!


One more day: Down by the Seashore! Oct 16, 2013

Loved it here.  Salt Point State Park, CA.

Outstanding coves to explore.  (Fun climbing required!!  I hopped around like a penguin with long legs.)

Camouflaged creatures to uncover.

 Yo, maybe wake up?  No, let sleeping, uh, guys lie.

 Better watch out for the rock wave!

 Starfish:  Who goes there?  Friend or anemone?

 More pastel-green anemones.  I saw lots.  Nice.

Crazy-mixed-up rock garden.

 Lizard heads?

 Either Italy's boot or Mexico/Central America?

 Tiny sea palm island... very tiny.

Another blubbery sleepy head.  How can harbor seals rest on sharp mussels?

Dinner-plate sized iridescent abalone shell.

Such shimmering colors in all the tide pools.

And the rocks?  Out of control!

Lunar landscape!

Ah, but in keeping with the season, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

An unforgettable sunset for our last evening.

The End.


Ahh, ah walk in the woods - Tuesday afternoon 10/15

A morning walk in Picturesque Salt Point State Park to Sentinel Point.

I was perched at least 50 feet above the breaking waves.

Dark spots in the water are bull kelp.  6,000 acre Salt Point includes one of CA's first underwater parks.

* * * * *

Yes, switch gears -- hiking in Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, across Hwy 1, adjoining Salt Point St Pk.  Naturally, the ideal time to visit would be in spring when brilliant pink Pacific Rhodies are madly blooming throughout the redwood forest.  October isn't bad; no blooms, of course, but the day was warm and sunny, altogether a delightful autumn day.

Didn't imagine we'd be hiking in a redwood forest, esp this far south, when we pulled into Salt Point.  All the old growth trees were taken out long ago, maybe by Russians from Fort Ross, or those who came after, but the grand old trees are gone.  We saw plenty of giant stumps.  Five miles of hiking trails are available in Kruse.  We picked a two-mile loop through this silent, pristine area, leading us up a series of ridges and down into ravines, crossing numerous wooden footbridges.  Ferns carpet the canyons.  No other people were Out and About today.  It was ours alone to enjoy.

 Lovely rosettes.  Hers on the left, his on the right.  Some kinda 'shrooms!  Didn't see any other "critters," but yesterday we saw several deer (deer are everywhere in the US, aren't they?) and wild turkey.

 They may be second growth, but these redwoods are no slouches, either.

Aerie top to the trees in photo above.

 The burned stump is hollow.  I believe the main tree was cut, and then it obviously burned.

Hobbit bench in the woods, surrounded by graceful ferns.

Ol' Mama redwood hatched lots o' babies!

 You can still see cuts where springboards were inserted.  Jimmy has his hand near one.  Cutters climbed on these springboards, enabling them to get up off the ground to fell these majestic trees.  They didn't slice 'em off at ground level as the trees were TOO big.

Classic redwood stump, with a fern at it's feet and a huckleberry growing out of its crown....

Dried leaves littered the trails and bridges, and our footfalls crunched as we trod along, announcing our progress.  We took our time.  Wandering among these regal trees:  Red firs, Douglas firs, Tanoaks and Redwoods, as well as the understory forest, has the peaceful atmosphere of being in a hushed cathedral, adorned with great works of art.  Maybe better, 'cause being outside is bigger!  The spirit soars!

Who can ask for more?