Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lake Tahoe; Pacific Crest Trail; Through-Hikers; Winnemucca, Nevada; McCall, Idaho; A New Moose!

Our summer tour continued with a week long stay in Lake Tahoe. We celebrated our 23rd anniversary with dinner at Edgewood Resort, on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Fabulous food and wine and a lovely setting. And of course, beautiful company! (Am I lucky or what?) 

While on a day hike on the Pacific Crest Trail near Tahoe, My Lovely Bride (MLB) was happy to see snow up at higher elevations. We had been warned about snow on the PCT, and turned around just past this snowbank... we didn't have ice axes or crampons like the serious hikers carry up here. (Not much use for them in Florida or South Carolina!)

On another hike, we met two PCT through-hikers from Canada, Mary from Ottawa and Mary from Montreal. They had just started on their 2,650 mile hike that day, deciding because of heavy snowfall to hike south from Tahoe to the border with Mexico, then return north to do the Tahoe to Canada part after the record snowpack has melted. As they turned to continue their hike, MLB said, sotto voce, "Ty, they are headed south... we are headed north..."  She is such a comedienne...

That afternoon, we met another through-hiker on the PCT. Alex, who had already hiked from the Mexican border to Tahoe, about 1,200 miles, was meeting his girlfriend here for a few days of R&R. We gave him a lift into town, and learned that his trail name was "Lisa"... since hikers' trail names are usually assigned by other hikers, we asked, "Why 'Lisa'?" Alex laughed and said that for the first few weeks on the trail, he was accompanied by his dog, Mona. Alex/Lisa also showed us a photo of him and his girlfriend just before the start of his hike... He had made a vow to not cut his hair or shave until he finished the hike.  Is that the same guy???

Suzanne flew to Virginia to teach a weekend course at The Monroe Institute, so I stayed behind with Rudy and Gretchen, but I also got in more hiking on the PCT and other trails. This magnificent coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) was just off the trail in the Desolation Wilderness. It's hard to describe the majesty of these trees and the humility one feels up in these mountains...

The PCT runs through some of the wildest country in the US, and it indeed follows the crest of the Sierras and Cascades whenever possible. One of Alex/Lisa's regrets was that the trail doesn't pass through the Giant Sequoia groves in Sequoia National Park, which he wanted to visit. That's also why in heavy snow years like this one, through-hikers have to carry ice and snow equipment or wait until July for the snows to melt along the crest where they are traveling.

On Independence Day, we packed up our gear and headed northeast to Winnemucca, Nevada, where we spent two nights. A 4th of July festival was being held nearby, so we walked over and looked at the food booths and some local entertainment. An exercise instructor was demonstrating pole dancing, and I suggested to MLB that we could put in a pole for her at the house to work out on. (Husbands: when you get stony silence to a perfectly good suggestion to your bride, move on quickly....) 

... maybe to a non-controversial subject, like sheepdogs. Those competing in agility trials were on a break, but we still admired their obvious intelligence, enthusiasm and stylish appearance.

While on a hike in Winnemucca, we saw this White Admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis). They feed on the leaves of aspen, poplar, willow and birch, which are widely distributed here, but adults will also eat fruit and nectar from white flowers. These butterflies are in constant motion, almost always remaining within three feet of the ground. They also have an interesting mating process in which many females "double mate"... but this being a G-rated blog, we won't go into that behavior...

From Winnemucca, Nevada, we sped north through southeastern Oregon - if you haven't been here, the view out of the driver's window says it all... there's a whole lot of nuthin' for a hundred miles or so. This region is  part of the Great Basin Desert, marked by sagebrush flats, dry lakes and salt basins. This part of Oregon is virtually uninhabited. One feature of the basin is that all rivers flow inward, ending in salty lakes or salt pans... not a drop of water here reaches the sea. Good thing we had fueled up in Nevada, because there was only one place on the road that sold diesel.

Our next call was McCall, Idaho, one of our favorite destinations. McCall is a resort town on Payette Lake with lots of hiking, mountain biking and kayaking available. In the past we stayed at Ponderosa State Park, but it was all booked up, so we stayed in an RV resort that was quite comfortable, with lots of places to walk Rudy and Gretchen and bike trails from the campground. And, the beautiful Payette River was just below our campsite!

One of our hikes was along this beautiful stream. The creeks and rivers here in the mountains are mostly fed by snowmelt, and run fast and cold in Spring and early summer. By the end of August, they will be much smaller and tamer. Here is MLB next to a good-looking trout stream; but I didn't bring my fishing gear, so the trout are safe... 

Finally, a happy shopping story... Suzanne was in a shop in McCall looking for something, and the puppies and I were waiting outside. She stuck her head out the door and said, "Ty, this shop is dog friendly; come on in!" So we browse around looking at wood carvings and things while Suzanne checks out. As we pick up her package, our little Rudy grabs a stuffed moose off a shelf just below the register where customers pay. (What a great marketing ploy!) Anyway, what kind of Scrooge would take it from his mouth and deny such a gift to their 14 year old Dachshund? Here is our boy Rudy walking down the street with his new chew toy... Life is Good!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Why Am I Not Exalted? Jack London; Crawfish, Ducks and the Sarah Reed! Wine Country; Hiking; Serenity; Armstrong Redwoods; Dry Creek General Store; Lost Baggage Art?

We had set up camp in the Elks Campground in Petaluma, and while walking Rudy and Gretchen one day, I noticed the reserved parking sign for the head of this lodge... I told My Lovely Bride that I wanted a sign like this at our new house, and hoped that she would show me the respect and admiration that the Lodge's Exalted Ruler obviously deserved... she replied, a bit sassily, "Yeah, Ty, you see the meter? You'd better have a lot of quarters!" Like Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "I don't get no respect at all!"

Nearby our campground is Petaluma's 500 acre Shollenberger Park, where we went for several runs, walks and bike rides on their delightful trail system. On one ride, we encountered some local wildlife on the path... a signal crayfish (Pacifistacus leniusculus). It's actually an invasive species and crowding out native crayfish in California. The first photo is when we first met... he (she?) was walking across the path. When we got closer, the crawfish (the term us Cajuns use in Louisiana) went into self-defense mode... spunky little critter, I must say! Good thing for him I wasn't on a crawfishing expedition!

This mother duck with her nine little ducklings also caught my eye. I think the one out of formation guy is a dropout from the duck version of the Blue Angels...

The Petaluma River is adjacent to the trails, and I was happy to see this well-kept tugboat one day. Whoever owns and runs her is very attentive to her condition - we would say she is "shipshape and Bristol fashion", a tip of the hat to well-built and kept ships in the 18th and 19th Century built in Bristol, England, on the River Avon. 

We stayed in Petaluma in order to have a base for wine tastings in Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley. On our first wine tasting foray, we were accompanied by Holly Berkley, a friend from nearby Healdsburg. Here we are at Amapola Creek Vineyard in Sonoma https://www.amapolacreek.com/about/people/richard-arrowood .  This amazing vineyard is owned and operated by a good friend we have only met on-line (to date), but whom we will be meeting in person later this summer. Richard Arrowood (Proprietor and Winemaster) and his wife Alis have been in the wine business for five decades. Their experience and love of winemaking shows in their fabulous wines, all of which have been highly rated by Robert Parker and Wine Advocate magazine. (See the link above for more information on the Arrowoods and Amapola Creek Vineyard.)  

 We were hosted and given a tour of Amapola Creek by Alyssa Smith, who here is explaining that we cannot buy a complete vat of their outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon for our RV... thanks, Alyssa, it was an unforgettable experience!

We also got to spend some quality time with our friends Jerry Facciani and Karen Barrett from Las Vegas and Baltimore. Jerry is a real oenophile, and has an incredible wine cellar (see this blog of Nov 16, 2016 for more on his collection). We visited and had tastings at Martinelli Vineyards, Peter Michael Winery and Aubert Wines, shown here with the owner, Teresa Aubert. (And yes, the tastings were on three different days, thank goodness!) 

Here we are in the beautiful tasting room at Martinelli Vineyards and Winery in Windsor. The wines kept coming... and coming... and coming... 

We enjoyed three gourmet dinners with the owners of Roberts and Rogers, Bevan Cellars, and Morlet Family Vineyards. Jerry's vast experience in Napa and Sonoma gave us insights that we would never have been able to get on our own, and the experience of vineyard owners and winemasters bringing their own wines that the restaurant served was unique and a real delight! Here at Market in St. Helena with Russell Bevan and Victoria de Crescenzo of Bevan Cellars; their wines are phenomenal! 

And here with Luc and Jodie Morlet  of Morlet Family Vineyards at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville... fabulous Morlet wines and delicious authentic French cuisine! (Very appropriate since Luc is from France; his family has been making wine in Avenay-Val d'Or for five generations.)

One could get accustomed to wine tastings in beautiful Sonoma and Napa Valleys, but there are other things to see and do in the vicinity. We took a trip into San Francisco to drop Suzanne off at the airport so she could fly to Virginia to teach at The Monroe Institute. The Golden Gate Bridge and the harbor will always be impressive!

I also got to do some hiking - shown here at Shiloh Ranch State Park while MLB was back in Charlottesville. 

This trail was quite "rooty"! It wasn't too bad in hiking boots, but would have been challenging on a mountain bike. I usually don't do challenging trails while MLB is on travel because of my responsibility to take care of Rudy and Gretchen and the possibility of injury, since I am a bit of a klutz sometimes. Having gone over the handlebars and crashed twice in the past 6 years, I am getting a little bit more prudent in my old age...

My routine for several days was a morning hike at a state park and then a walk around Shollenberger Park in Petaluma at sunset... what a serene place... I may have to get into Zen...

I enjoyed another delightful hike at Jack London Historical State Park in Glen Ellen, which is the site of London's Beauty Ranch, located on the side of Sonoma Mountain. It was named for the natural beauty he found there. When I was young, he was one of my favorite authors. An avid sailor, he was on a circumnavigation aboard his ketch Snark when his health declined and he had to give up the voyage in Australia. He was truly a man's man. 

Two of his great quotes run like this... 
- "Get up; wake up; kick in; do something; deliver the goods; come across; arise or be forever damned."
- "I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."   

29 miles of trails wind through Jack London's Beauty Ranch, and this ancient redwood is just a small, but important part of it. Often referred to as The Grandmother Tree, it is about 1800-2000 years old, 14 feet in diameter, gnarled and not especially lofty, but it is a beautiful reminder of our close connection with the natural world. 

Our friend Holly was accepting packages for us, so one day I drove up to Healdsburg to collect mail. Holly took me for a drive around the area to Dry Creek Grocery, a famous and very busy 1880's bar, store and deli. The food was delicious.

Holly had recommended that I not skip one of her favorite hikes - at Armstrong Redwoods State Park. It was one of the most rigorous hikes of our trip so far, 7 miles with 1,300 feet elevation gain. I was really whooped at the end of the hike, but finished in this beautiful grove of coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). It is truly a sacred place. I am not a great meditator, but when I sit on a stump or a bench and look at these magnificent trees, I know that I am near God.

Well, our time in Petaluma, Sonoma and Napa was drawing to a close. Suzanne returned from The Monroe Institute, and took this photo of the baggage claim sculpture (really) at SFO... I'm guessing that the National Endowment of the Arts paid 2.3 million bucks for these... 

So we saddled up our wagon train and prepared to head for our next destination, Lake Tahoe. Neither of us had been there, and we were really looking forward to its natural beauty and cooler weather. As we prepared to leave, this unusual rig drove into our Elks Lodge campground, right in front of our bus... a dump truck pulling a small "A-Liner" camper! Whatever works....