They're Baaaaaackkk! Sunday, 10/23/16

Looks like our rainy season has begun, and most, if not all, Californians would give a loud HUZZUH over this news!  More rain is in our forecast for the upcoming week, the off-on variety, and we'll take any rain we get.  Tomorrow the clouds roll in ... so, today looked like our best chance to get out for a nice walk.  I say, "nice," but today was one of those that can't be beat:  Sunny, breezy and warm (as in, neither hot nor cold), all just right.  We decided to walk on our canal trail, driving and parking this time to start where the trail begins.

I didn't take my camera, just my phone.  Above you see Jimmy on the trail beneath deciduous Big Leaf Maple (Oregon Maple) trees.  With the wind a-blowin', those oversized golden leaves were spiraling onto the path, but if they hit the water, they floated away downstream like miniature rafts.  I liked crunching the crispy ones under my shoes.  Some of those leaves are larger than the average dinner plate.

The wooden sign in the shadowy foreground sez:  Woodpecker Wildlife Preserve.  We can usually count on hearing a woodpecker out here.  As we looked across the valley to the hills beyond, we spotted Highway 20 before it ascends into the Tahoe Nat'l Forest -- the way we get to Donner Summit or Reno.

Which end is which on this Woolly Bear?  We dodged it and several Banana slugs, sparing lives right and left as we walked along.  Woolly Bears are soft, and if you pick one up, it'll curl into a ball in your hand.  Cool beans!

I wondered aloud if the ladybugs were back where we saw them last year, so we decided to walk to that area off the main trail.  By gum, they ARE back!  In droves.  Each winter, Convergent Ladybug Beetles hibernate in mountain valleys, far from their aphid food sources, forming huge masses to keep warm, and mate.  We are happy they chose this area to hole up!

This area has a large concentration of blackberry bushes ... and ladybugs!

Keeping warm or making babies?

Geez, look at the briars!

One section of a tree trunk (where the bark had split) was simply teeming with ladybugs.  We stood still for many minutes, watching the activity, like a beehive.  We were fair game, too -- before long ladybugs were crawling on our clothes, hands, etc.  Hard to not whack 'em if they land on the back of your neck!  They tickle.  We watched them soar into the tree tops; they can fly quite high.  We didn't see as many as last year, but it may be early for them to congregate.  Perhaps more are coming; in fact, I bet there are!  We'll check again in a couple of weeks.  


Looking back and ahead! Wednesday, 10/19/16

This past weekend (Fri-Mon) was awash with back-to-back rainstorms and here in the foothills our rainfall totaled somewhere around six inches, depending on what site you read.  (I don't have a rain gauge yet.)  Oh, you should see how every plant, every tree, has come alive in this drought-stricken state.  No longer looking forlorn with droopy leaves, they're all lovin' those buckets of water.  Light snow fell at higher elevations, including the passes we traveled on to get to the high country last week. Good timing, you betcha!

While we were at Woodfords on Wednesday, we twice ran into (not literally) a woman walking her dog as we were walking to breakfast. We visited for a bit the second time, as people do.  I mentioned it seemed a shame no one was picking the apples on the trees at Woodfords Station since we saw heaps of them lying on the ground.  Well, she lived next door to the Station!  Have at it, she said.  Pick all you want, plums, too; it was a banner year for fruit.  Music to my ears --I didn't need to be told again!  Lagniappe, doncha know!

They're small, but delicious.  No, not Delicious apples, more like a tasty Macintosh (my favorite), and very little waste.  I peeled and cored 'em all, although I kept some for eating.  Apples signify Autumn to me. The aroma of Apple Betty baking in our kitchen on cool October nights is one of my earliest and fondest childhood fall memories.

And, we netted eleven half pints of applesauce, eight showing, one eaten on the spot, one for the next day, and one shared.  I used honey as the sweetener, with a touch of cinnamon, so the house smelled like Christmas!  The sauce turned out -- um, delicious.  We'll enjoy this windfall all winter long; it's good on oatmeal, too.

This is half what we collected.  Tiny melt-in-your-mouth plums, 

Near Placerville on our way home, we came to Apple Hill, an area well-known for apples and apple goodies,  I was hoping for a warm apple donut, but they didn't have any.  Phooey.  Then, Jimmy piped up and said he'd like an apple pie, the kind already made. OK! When we pulled into the parking lot, we heard a lot of crunching ... walnuts!  Another bonus!  We picked up all the walnuts around our Prius. Jimmy cracked 'em on the workbench, and here's what we reaped.  California living is great! 


Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, who sits honorably on a stump at our back deck, seemed to weather the storms.  She probably enjoyed her "bath" after a particularly dusty summer. 

Autumn adornments on our still-wet driveway. 

Flashy Maple leaves from our dining room window.

Maple trees at Nevada County Fairgrounds look unreal with their
gaudy orange leaves, and horse stalls as a backdrop.

I love this time of year.  Autumn.  I love the gradual metamorphosis from summer's endless long, hot, dry days into autumn's cooler and shorter days, perfect for walking or working in the yard.  The sky looks different, stars in a cloudless night appear brighter, and that crispy air beckons us outdoors.  We can see such a difference every morning at our dining room table -- now the sun's slanting angle grabs our eyes and won't let go.  Soon the Dogwood leaves I admire from that window will be bare; then I'll see colorless, bald branches.  But, that, too, is part of the season -- a time of letting go.  I never tire of autumn's changing moods, especially since clouds and rain have returned.  Autumn doesn't disappoint ... and it's all good.

Next up?  Gearing up for a whopper of an overseas adventure!


Woodsfords, CA, and more -- Oct 10/11/12, 2016

We like to scout around when we land at a new-to-us place or site.  Don't want to miss anything, you know?  I don't believe we've ever set foot in Alpine County in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range (and on down its eastern slope) before, and it holds a lot of potential for visitors like us.  One of the brochures we were handed in the VC reports that Alpine County is a world of "uns" -- that is, untamed, uncommercialized, and nearly uninhabited.  It was officially founded at the height of the Civil War in 1864, and is now the smallest county by population in California.  And then there's this line:  "Crystal clear alpine lakes, endless mountain peaks and forests, stars that reach beyond the heavens, world class trout streams, two people per square mile ... and you."  Sounds like a place we could spend a ton o' time!

I packed coffee and lunch stuff for our brief stay, but figured we could find breakfast somewhere.  How convenient to find Woodfords Station on the Old Pony Express Road within walking distance from the Inn -- and where they served up delicious homemade blueberry scones!  We walked across the highway both mornings to take advantage of these treats.  While the original building (or buildings) burned to the ground, this latest version reminds me of how it may have looked if Kit Carson or John Fremont stopped in for a bite long, long ago.  I find the wording in the above dedication interesting:  Truth, Liberty, and Toleration.  Hmmm ....

I discovered a few wildflowers to admire.

Jimmy and I criss-crossed the lively West Fork of the Carson River any number of times since it follows Hwy 88 next to the Woodfords Inn.  I liked hearing it splash as it coursed along.  We decided there had to be some good trout fishing in the deeper holes.  We'd like to see for ourselves!  Maybe next year!!

A few miles further west (nearing Sorensen's) is a (closed for the season) Forest Service campground, mostly for smaller rigs or tents, but it's located right on the West Fork of the Carson River and would be a great place to park for a week.  Doubt that Tergel could fit, but we'll find a good fit somewhere else.  Wouldn't it be nice to stop here, listening to the river spill over the rocks?

I'm nosy.  When I saw these two red posts in the midst of natural yellows and greens in the campground, I hiked over to investigate. They're placer mining claim location notices!  Geez, who'd guess?  Probably improper (or illegal) to bring a gold pan with us whenever we return.  Ya think?

Carson Trail -- Crooked Trail.  Nope, we missed this one, but we want to see where it goes when we come back to these parts.  I know winter sports are big in the mountains, but that's not for us; we'll have to wait till winter is over.  See if you can read the words on the signpost.

Pesky critters!

* * * * *

I think this is a section of Caples Lake, still way up in Alpine County.

Between Woodfords Inn and Markleeville, we'd passed a sign that read:  Indian Creek Recreation Area, which piqued our interest.  So after checking out of the Woodfords Inn Wednesday morning, we drove the few extra miles to investigate.  We found a runway!  A mile-long runway, with tie-downs and a wind sock and nothing else.  "The Alpine County Airport is an unattended facility with no services or lighting. The airport is located in a mountainous region with occasional strong winds and turbulence." Otherwise, it appeared well maintained.  We walked it from one end to the other (it was another beauty of a day).  I walked near the pavement edge looking for badger holes, but I got skunked!

In the valley below the airport is Indian Creek Reservoir, with hiking trails and a campground, but I believe it, too, was closed for the season.  We drove past the reservoir, but didn't stop.  It was time to get on the road and head home.

And soaking up the wonderful autumn colors of Hope Valley as descended.

Whoever made Hwy 88 knew to make pull-offs because people are going to stop to take pictures.  They just are.  So did we.  Then we sat and watched the guy above throw the Frisbee to his dog over and over, and the pup caught it nearly every time!  The dog was watching the blue Frisbee (barely seen just above the larger of the two small pines above it).

Our route home took us down Hwy 88 (literally) to the Mormon Emigrant Trail, which stretches atop a ridgeline, with steep drop-offs on either side.  While there wasn't much autumn color to ooh and aah over, this road offered its own beauty as you see above.

Jimmy and I had hoped to make it up to the High Country one more time before winter's storms, and we're so happy we made it into Alpine County and Hope Valley.  We loved our very special hike with Laurie and Odel to Lake Winnemucca on Tuesday!  In these three days (Mon/Tues/Wed), I managed to put close to 46,000 steps on the ol' Fitbit, which equates to something like 19 miles.  Whoa, that's just plain crazy!  But, with such stellar weather and in such picture perfect surroundings, how could we resist being Out and About?

Now (Saturday evening) we're hunkered down listening to the wind howl and the rains fall hard ... our parched and dry NorCal is no longer either.  We've had a good soaking for two days, and so has the high country.  Well, we got to see it in its glory!


Grover Hot Springs State Park, CA -- Monday, 10/10/16

After checking into Woodfords Inn Monday afternoon, we decided to go exploring.  Nothing like hopping back in the car after a long drive! Six miles south of our Inn is the town of Markleeville, population under-200, elevation approx 5500'.  We were fortunate to find a visitor's center open and a knowledgeable lady inside ready to answer questions and offer suggestions.  Otherwise, it seemed Markleeville had closed up shop for the year.  Indeed, after leaving the VC, the first guy we spotted seemed fossilized (below, with Jimmy)!

Before leaving home, our friend, Cliff, mentioned going to Grover's Hot Springs St Pk, and advised us to take our bathing suits.  (That's the third item I'd forgotten ... sigh.)  The VC lady also mentioned the springs and hiking trails in the state park.  And, it was only four miles down the road from Hwy 89. That suited us just fine.  Oh, OK, off we went to Grover Hot Springs, sans suits (and hiking shoes).

After passing the campground (still open, no hookups), this fine golden meadow opened up before us.  The state park is situated at nearly 6,000' on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, at the edge of the Great Basin.  Markleeville itself is a mere stone's throw from the State of Nevada.  In fact, when we couldn't find a restaurant open for dinner, we drove down the mountain to Gardnerville, NV and enjoyed a tasty Mexican meal.

One of the hot springs owners, Charles Scossa, lived in this log cabin, built ??
Still standing, but it looks like it's seen better days! 

We started out walking on this peaceful trail, our footsteps softened by layers of pine needles.  This time of year, the crowds are gone, and we encountered no one else.  Very tranquil, and what we've come to truly appreciate when we're Out and About.  Of course there are other trails in the park, but this 2.5 mile R/T was all we wanted today.

When the trees opened up, mountain vistas could be seen.  Lots of rocky outcrops, too. 

We were loosely following tumbling Hot Springs Creek and here we successfully "jumped it."  In Birkenstock's, I had to keep shaking tiny pieces of crushed granite and bits of pine needles from each shoe bed, not the best footwear for trail hiking!  But, I kinda got used to it. (below)

Suddenly we heard water falling, and followed the sound to the waterfalls on the opposite side of a narrow canyon from where I'm standing.  We spotted several cascades, but this seemed to be the main one.  Judging from footsteps in the soft dirt, others had clambered over boulders and climbed down into the canyon and up the other side to the waterfalls, but seeing this "water feature" was cool enough and we didn't need to go further.  

We made our way back to the car, wondering about this set of wheels spotted in a meadow. 

Definitely not the same log cabin.

I climbed a short hill to read informational signs and watched a couple fill multiple (big and bigger) containers with the hot, somewhat sulphuric water that trickled out of a pipe.  Inside the fence is the hot springs pool and on the other side of the building is a cooler, temperature-wise, swimming pool.  Next time! 

Love autumn's mellow yellows ... the quaking Aspens and Cottonwoods prevalent in the high country.  So, we were well after dark returning to Woodfords Inn from our dinner in Nevada, and easily ready to hit the sack early.  We'd like to come back here after the winter snows and do some more exploring ... seems to be an awfully lot to do, not just in Grover Hot Springs, but everywhere in these Sierra Nevada Mountains!


The Best of the Best -- Mon/Tues/Wed, Oct 10/11/12, 2016

Sometimes timing is everything.  It was a now or never proposition.  Laurie and I had been talking about getting together for a hike in the high country area of Hope Valley for a couple of years.  Life has kept us from doing that, till now.  Neither Jimmy nor I really knew where Hope Valley was, so we studied the California map and discovered it's about twenty miles below South Lake Tahoe.  Turns out there's no easy way to get there from our place in Nevada City.  We either went around this way or that-a-way.  On Monday, we opted to head out "this way" to the east, and then follow Rt 89 south along the Lake Tahoe shore till we bumped into Hwy 88.  Easy-peasy, except for road construction, the bane of all travelers, tho it becomes a boon for all travelers when the construction is over!  Our two-and-a-half hour trip ended up taking four hours.  Well, we stopped to eat our picnic lunch in Sugar Pine St Pk, too.

Hope Valley is quite famous for its Fall Color.  Sorensen's Resort is smack dab in the middle and it's the go-to spot to stay.  When I called to check on availability, my eyebrows wobbled up and down à la Groucho Marx when she said something like $245/night, or some such amount like that.  I checked for other places, and found Woodfords Inn in Woodfords (cool, it reads the same frontwards and backwards) a few miles further east.  The Inn is unprepossessing, but comfortable and clean, nice folks behind the counter, and with a fair price I could live with.  We'd stay there again, no problem.  (Tergel stayed home on this trip.)

Laurie and Odel drove up from their home near Placerville on Tuesday and we met in Sorensen's parking lot. We were happy to see these two friends that we met via blogging years ago! And since then, we've all settled in NorCal, though our towns are roughly 60 miles apart. Not such a big deal, except there are mountains and river canyons in the way and it's a heckuva drive.  So, we get together when we can.  Many thanx to Laurie for being a superb tour guide!

We passed Red Lake at the base of Red Lake Peak (above) on the way to our hiking trail.  These two intrepid fisher-people, alone and preoccupied with catching dinner, didn't even seem to notice us pausing behind them. 

This is where our hike began:  Carson Pass, elevation 8574 ft above sea level.  Whew!

So, what did I forget to bring?  My binoculars, my day pack for carrying stuff, and one more thing I've already forgotten what.  My purse (mostly emptied for this) became my camera carrying case.  Not perfect, but it worked all right.  Jimmy hauled our waters and Gatorade, as well as our sandwiches.  I guess I need a checklist, but I'd probably forget to look at it before striking out on a trail!  This hike to Lake Winnemucca from Carson Pass is a popular one and is somewhere between four and five miles, depending on which site you look at.  I calculated it to be 4.5 miles R/T.

The first mile is uphill, according to Laurie, perched on an extinct root system, above.  Everyone agreed, the day could NOT have been better -- El sol shone brightly in a wide blue sky, with very kind 64/ish temperatures.  

When I saw this mountain, I stopped in my tracks ... and that was before I got this large view.  It just took my breath away.  No wonder the trail is so popular.  In summer, wildflower displays are over-the-top, but in autumn, wildflowers are gone, replaced by the season's mellow colors.

We had a great time!

I could scarcely take my eyes off the dramatic scenery that is Round Top Peak!  The contrast of dark rock and the brilliant white of snow held me spellbound.  I kept falling behind, ogling and taking pictures and occasionally stumbling over rocks.  Laurie, Odel and Jimmy are far ahead of me.  Just after we climbed a small ridge, we got our first view of Lake Winnemucca.  Oh my!

I didn't know we'd hike to Round Top Peak's base, or that Lake Winnemucca would be a glacial cirque, till we saw it.  It's a first-rate example of a high alpine lake, with those cliffs plunging directly into the water. The lake is snow-fed all year and never gets above heart-stopping cold -- I know, I stuck my finger in. I also grabbed a handful of snow.  We parked ourselves on a couple of the large rocks along the shore to rest and drink in the beauty and power of this Alp-like setting at 9,000 ft.  Wowzers!

The red was a standout.

Haha, are we confused?  Nah, everybody was just looking, admiring their surroundings, when I snapped a picture of the signpost.  The other side of the post read "Pacific Crest Trail" -- the PCT.

Art and Life imitating each other?

Eventually we left the spectacular alpine Lake Winnemucca and Round Top Peak, heading back down to the Carson Pass trailhead.  We stopped at Woods Lake (below) for a look-see on our way to Kirkland Inn.

Out of the photo, we spied two kayakers gliding through pristine Woods Lake.  Nice.  A paved walking path winds through the trees bordering a section of the lake, making it accessible to all, which is really nice!

Fabulous late lunch at Kirkwood Inn, burgers and sandwiches and fries and slaw.  We were hungry and we ate well!  Dunno if you can read the back of the menu (below), but the third paragraph caught my attention, so I enlarged it.  Enlarge it again so you can read it.  Hard to believe.  Hard to imagine!

So, timing is critical.  As I sit in my den working on this post, our first "Atmospheric River" bringing heavy rain, gusting winds, and snow above 8,000' is forecast to hit tomorrow (Saturday) morning.  The beauty of these trees and the fabulous colors they're wearing will be gone, knocked to the ground and/or covered in snow.  We were fortunate to be in the right place on the best day, to see the best of the best.  Ain't we lucky?  And we had a grand time with friends, to boot.  Woo-hoo, Laurie, you pegged it -- October 11th -- for an eye-popping knockout day!  ❤