Wisteria in full bloom, and the first lilacs in five years. This winter was cold and wet, which I guess is what it needs.
I brought some new equipment to this year’s annual SCPN campout at Doran Beach sites D & E. The Wind Warrior worked very well after Bruce enlarged the opening the plastic connectors and hammered in the “no tools” stakes.
The inside of the plastic connectors were convex when they should have been straight, so Bruce corrected them with his pocket knife. I had spent hours trying to resolve this with the manufacturer and am grateful to Bruce for his resourcefulness.
I also tried out my Big Agnes sleeping bag with integrated air mattress. It worked well in southern California last October, and in Loon Lake last month, but it is a summer bag and an air mattress is not insulation. I was so cold the first night I got very little sleep, and the second night the wind was even stronger. I could not tuck the sleeping bag close to me because the mattress held it away from my body. Finally, I moved to my car to at least get out of the wind. I forgot that it is always 40° at the coast and that the wind can make it feel like December in Alaska. I should have had some hot tea to warm up, maybe take the mattress out of the sleeve pocket in the sleeping bag. But it kept me awake enough that I got a chance to see the Perseids.
The food was delicious and the fire was roaring. The quinoa dish I brought to the potluck was not popular. This year we did not have the pleasure of the company of Helen, Jeannie, Gretchen, Lillith and others. Billy recently retired and invested in this Arctic Fox and will be letting go of his apartment in the area, so I wonder if I will see him again.
There were 33 of us, counting Bob’s Saturday Saunterers on the art walk. We visted some of the sculptures of Patrick Amiot, then visited the sculptor himself at his home and studio. We were told that he creates the scuptures for his neighbors based on the neighbors themselves. I don’t think I would like to see this one titled “Surrender Dorothy” as the choice for me!
The studio was better organized than most people realized. There was a lot of very good art by others on the wall, and I loved the statue of the Madonna with a sunburst clock supplying her halo. The drawers full of many small parts were all carefully labeled. The artist and his wife are from Montreal, and they met when they were young and she was on her way to being a lawyer. He knew he was dyslexic and she encouraged him to become a full-time artist.
We were fascinated by his process. He prefers to assemble the pieces and based on that, plan the artwork. My guess is that part of his brilliance is pattern-recognition. He can remember the vast range of items he has and his creativity assembles them into a unique assemblage of found-parts. He is now doing commissions and he sounded frustrated in trying to fit what he has into a vision that has been already been committed to by contract.
We also visited a Seed Farm where plants are not harvested at peak but are allowed to go to seed to be shared so that people can grow unique varieties that work well in Sebastopol’s sandy soil. The team, pictured here, works every Wednesday afternoon and alternate Saturdays. There were a few Master Gardeners on the walk, so there was a lively discussion. We also visited the outdoor sanctuary of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and the mosaic artist who created the waterfall backdrop of the altar told up about executing the non-denominational imagery.
We continued on to Ragle Park to see the mother-and-child carved in to a chestnut tree by a Japanese woodcarver. The hike was a long five and a half miles by the time we got back to the central plaza in Sebastopol where we started. Martha and I topped it off with a delicious lunch at Gaijin Ramen which was decorated in woodblock prints of comic book superheroes.
On May 22, 2018 I met with a divorce mediator and Howard to work out a property settlement. That night, I slept poorly and stepped outside in the early hours to discover skunks under the house. I could see their little faces through the vent near the camellia bush. Now that I had just started negotiations to make the house mine, I was going to have to deal with this on my own.
Here are the things I tried that didn’t drive away these nocturnal animals:
- squiring them with water
- floodlighting the crawl space under the house
- playing loud talk radio in the crawl space all day
- spreading bloodmeal where they walk
- liberally applying moth balls anywhere they might walk
- applying predator scat from Wildlife Rescue ($240)
- installing motion detector lights ($200) under the house
- spreading used cougar cage straw all around the deck
- sprinkling pepper pellets ($16) at their entry points
- shooting at them with plastic BBs ($20)
I paid $300 to have the tunnel entrance closed by a handyman who specializes in such work and who sealed my neighbor’s house a few years ago. By the end of June, the mama was taking the three juveniles out for nightly forays.
Using the motion lights, I partially blocked their return — the juveniles got in but mama did not. She dug two holes in the front garden under the picture window trying to get in (I squirted her with the hose to drive her off). She started three holes in the side rose garden and one hole under the kitchen picture window. All were unsuccessful.
The juveniles continued to return every night. I kept closing holes as I found them to limit them to a single entrance I could monitor. I kept trying to exclude them using Wildlife Rescue. The motion lights were installed before I went to Loon Lake, and when I came back, I thought my problem was solved when I discovered a dead juvenile in the concrete ditch by the creek path, just yards from my property line. Santa Rosa Public Works disposed of the carcass.
Convinced that my problem was over, I closed up the remaining entrance, but I was wrong. At 10 p.m. that night, the skunk smell was very strong. I discovered that the young adult I had inadvertently blocked in had dug his way out under the rocks I used to close the burrow by the spigot. He was pretty mad and I think he released his scent.
That may have been a mistake. About midnight there was a commotion in the area of the spigot but I was too tired to get out of bed to check. I had already resealed the newly-dug burrow. At about three a.m. I went outside to check and found his remains near the skunk mating area. Maybe he couldn’t defend himself because he had used up his ammo. At dawn, a few hours later, I found the remains had been dragged behind the bottle brush tree and I cleaned up the very little that was left.
I did everything I could to exclude them humanely. I wanted them out, but I was unwilling to kill them. I am glad they are gone and I will continue to varmint-proof the house to deter mating and nesting on my premises next Spring.
I spent another $250 with the handyman to have the foundation and bottom of the deck sealed. He came the day AFTER the skunk knocked out the newspaper plug I used to detect activity. The motion lights and cement activity drove him out so the handyman successfully sealed him out. I then covered all the soft dirt between the shed and the previously sealed fence with newspaper, then coated chicken wire, then I shoveled a yard of drain rocks over that.
I set up a motion-activated squirter. I cut back foliage so their mating boudoirs were gone, and yet the surviving juvenile is still showing up: last night at 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
I believe I have sealed all the sides of the shed to keep them out from under there and there tunnel to the crawl-space under the house.
My fake-dog motion-detector wakes me up and I go out with a flashlight and a plastic gun with plastic BBs. I yell at the skunk and pop a few BBs in its direction, but it is back every night. I move the squirter to different locations so it can continue to surprise night time varmints. It goes off a couple of times a night. Needless to say, I am not sleeping well.
Great paddle yesterday from Veterans Memorial Park in Healdsburg to Steelhead Beach. First time I have ever paddled past Wohler Bridge. Paddling through the section that is normally portaged was a little tricky, but we all got through well. Here is a photo at launch with the Headsburg bridge in the background. The first rapid which goes under the freeway bridge is the most challenging part of this trip. Two things to remember: take the central channel (not the tiny leftmost one), prepare to zag sharply left maybe using the bottom of the boat to pinball off the rocks to make a fast zig to the right. Splashy, so a skirt would have been good. We had 400 cfs in Healdsburg with an additional 100 cfs coming in at Dry Creek. Perfect conditions, a well-matched group, a beer afterwards at Stumptown in Guerneville.
That Was So Much Fun, We Did It Again Five Days Later
It’s not often that the weather is beautiful, there is enough water in the river, and the inflatable dam below Wohler Bridge is down, so we did it again Friday, just five days after the paddle above. I’m sorry I took the advice of a canoeist who told me to approach the first rapid, under the freeway bridge, to the left of the main channel. It put me in poor position for the “zag.” I would have been better to stay right in the main pillow of water and use it to do the zig-zag.
MANY more people on the Friday trip, and a much wider range of capabilities, including a first-time paddler who went over in a cross-current under Wohler Bridge and had to be lined through the tricky drop by the fish trap.
Afterwards, we had a fun time at a happy hour in Windsor.
It was a gray Sunday when we put in at Pappa’s Taverna on Lakeville Highway, aka Lakeville Landing. Paul was there at 9 a.m. to make sure we were on the water by 10 a.m. because the wetland is tidal and opens to San Pablo Bay. High winds were predicted for 1 p.m. so we made a beeline for the cottages that are “homesteaded” in the marsh. Marsh Mellow is at left.
We drew our boats up to the private cottage and sat on the deck as we enjoyed a quick lunch before returning back, just in time before the winds started howling.
Afterwards, we enjoyed some draft beer at the nearby dive bar at the crossroads of 116 and 37. We got a tall table to ourselves in the corner near the door and were delightfully surprised, as we tallied up at the end, to find that someone had already paid our tab. Paul said he didn’t do it — maybe it was Tom? Will we ever find out?
The King Tide (+7 feet) coincided with a spectacular full moon, flooding the salt water marsh just north of Monterey, CA. We were able to get much closer to wildlife than usual, and were surrounded by friendly sea otters and wary seals. Banks of kerlews lined the edges of the water and formations of pelicans punctuated the sky.
Photographer Trey Steinhart paddled with us both days. Because he takes the pictures, he rarely appears in them. I took this photo of him, but he took the next few following.
We got an early start on our first day, Monday, and it was quite chilly. The Petaluma Paddle Pushers set out in two waves: some about 30 minutes before us, and the rest about 15 minutes before us.
The King Tide flooded areas that were normally dry. Here Jane hugs a “State Patrolled Hunting Area” sign.
This submerged bridge is not passable, even in dry weather.
We had a great lunch at nearby Phil’s Fish Market. Luckily, Trey knew how to get there.
We were lucky enough to get a table right on the beach, with an admiring audience of hungry sea gulls.
Had a great two-day paddle, enjoyed our stay at the Lone Oak Lodge and our hunt for a Thai restaurant one night, and an Italian restaurant another. So much fun!
It was a real treat to meet Jane Richter who invited her O.B.N.D.Y. MeetUp group to her annual Black Friday camp-out at Wright’s Beach. It is halfway between Doran Beach and Jenner on the Kortum Trail, but I had never been before because it is part of Sonoma Coast State Park and reservations need to be made online six months in advance at www.parks.ca.gov. Lori P. and Jane were on the phone as they made the reservation for site 13 which is a pull-through at the end of the inside loop (about $10 cheaper than the oceanside sites) which was ideal for Jane’s cute fiberglass trailer. Lori’s van and Liam’s pickup all fit in the site behind Jane’s rig, and there was room for Liam’s tent, too.
I shared adjacent site 18 with Trey Steinhart and his wife Becky, also tent campers. I nestled my little green tent in the trees between the two campsites and decorated the gnarly trees with battery-operated string lights so that I would not clonk my head during the night. There was a campground-wide celebration of the wedding anniversary of someone in a family I surmise are regulars, but they were well-behaved and the night was quiet and dark. I slept well to the sound of pounding surf. Love it, and if I go back by myself, I will try to get campsite 11 which is slightly off the loop road in a little interior eddy and has the most cover. Jane pointed out the spot where she likes to stretch a hammock when her car has been relegated to overflow parking.
We enjoyed an informal dinner at the Tides restaurant in Bodega Bay.
Strong winds and high surf made kayak-crabbing inadvisable on Saturday morning, so we took a walk at the bird sanctuary with Nancy, one of Lori’s friends whom we met, along with body-surfer Kate, at the Doran Day Use area. Liam and I spent some time in the afternoon planning our Sicily trip in October 2018 while the others went to buy crab for Jane’s crab fest.
My phone rang at 1:30 a.m. It was barely Monday. The woman said, “This is Kim, your next-door neighbor. I’m in Dallas and I can’t reach my husband. There are fires in your area.” I had smelled wood smoke three hours earlier when I left the Roxy in downtown Santa Rosa, which would be an inch or so south on this map. I was leaving “Blade Runner” by the side door and felt like I was emerging into another scene of the long movie because the wind was gusting insanely and particulate matter was ricocheting through the air — mostly leaves on this October night.
“Mark West Springs Road is on fire,” (blue line at top of map) “and they are evacuating our homes. I can’t find my husband.” I asked if she wanted me to knock on his door, so she held on while I went outside. The wind was gusting violently and our garbage cans had been knocked over but the street was quiet, his car wasn’t there, there was a light on in the house but no answer to the doorbell. (red X at lower left)
“There’s an evacuation order for our neighborhood — did you receive it?” Kim sounded anxious. Well, there was one for an adjacent neighborhood but our street was silent.
“Wait,” I said. “Geez, all the doors on the street just opened and everyone is coming out. There is a new alert. The evacuation zone has been expanded to include us.”
“Get out now,” Kim said. “Go to Finley Center now. Round Barn is on fire.” The historic old barn is on the other side of the freeway so I took a few moments to grab the Trust Documents and my passport, my computer and the backup drives with my client info. People were driving crazy on my short 2 a.m. trip. I got one of the last parking spaces and went inside to something that looked like registration day for first grade. Lots of dazed kids clinging to parents trying to hold it together. I promptly crossed the courtyard to the Senior wing which the parents apparently did not know about. Emergency personnel were streaming into the Senior wing, but no civilians.
I picked a corner near a power outlet and plugged in my phone. It dinged again, a text from Kim. “Fire has crossed Freeway. Hopper evacuated. K-Mart on fire.” Now, this isn’t supposed to happen. I believed:
- Forest fires don’t happen in cities. We have nice, polite, one-structure-at-a-time fires that are near fire hydrants.
- Fires don’t cross the Freeway. It’s, like, a zoning regulation.
The two green circles show the 101 Freeway that separates the rich on the right side, from the poor, on the left (sinister in Latin, gauche in French). The strong diagonal line at the left edge of the yellow hashmarks is the SMART train track. My house is on the “other side of the tracks.” That was lucky, because the tracks became the main firebreak that everyone thought the freeway would be. We were shocked when the flames leapt over.
We have three hospitals in the area and two were evacuated at the same time I was. They are both in or close to the yellow area you see above — one up by Mark West Springs, and Kaiser Hospital which is just east of the square “492” exit sign for the freeway. The mobile home park adjacent to it, “Journey’s End,” was incinerated.
So were all the homes in the Coffey Park area which is the piece of the fire stretching down toward my house. They stopped it about a mile from my house. They stopped it 11 houses from my friend Alice’s house. My friend Joyce was not so lucky. Her house is now about six inches high (see photo below), and they had to leave behind her husband’s car because he cannot drive. He had been released from the hospital just a few days earlier after an eight-hour operation on his heart. As they fled, their neighbor’s house was already in flames. They couldn’t get to Finley center because of the gridlock on Piner Rd.
The Senior wing filled up quickly and soon I heard a familiar voice. Carolyn and Rich Gibbons were there, in their pajamas, because they left their Brush Creek home promptly. Kim found her husband, a city worker, had been called in at midnight to cope with wind damage. Later, he said, “The winds on Sunday night were breaking off big tree limbs and blocking Fountaingrove Parkway. I couldn’t stand up, the wind had to be 60 mph.” (PG&E measured winds of 75 mph.) “From the top of Fountaingrove I saw the fire come down from Calistoga, then JUMP to Mark West Springs Road. It didn’t burn through — it was like a torch being lit. It was a terrible sight.”
This is what daybreak looked like on Monday Oct 9.
A couple of hours after I took this picture, I walked a mile through the thick smoke to bypass the police barriers and found my house standing but the electricity and gas off. I shuttled back and forth for a couple of days as the fires continued, but the high winds forecast for Wednesday night sent me to Jill’s in Petaluma. Thursday evening, the electricity was restored. On Saturday afternoon, PG&E turned on the gas and re-lit the pilot lights on my furnace and water heater. The fires are not out yet, but many of us are feeling more hopeful.
NYTimes article with charts and graphic showing how and why this fire got so big so fast. My friend Janice lives a few blocks closer to the edge of the fire — her condo is only a half-mile from where the fire was stopped. She moved here to be closer to her daughter and two grandchildren who lived in Coffey Park. Here is their house now.
Update – Nine Months Later
Today I finally had the guts to go see Rincon Ridge, a Fountaingrove community that suffered the same level of devastation as Coffey Park. In Coffey Park, work has commenced on rebuilding my friend Joyce’s home. As you can see on the map below, the Hanley fire of 1964 burned Fountaingrove but not Coffey Park. Fountaingrove also burned in The Forgotten Fire of 1870. Trader Joe’s is still not open, but they have announced work on it so hope is in the air.
How Close Did It Get To My House?
This hike follows the north section, from Blind Beach to Shell Beach. The trail starts from the cliffs above Blind Beach, overlooking Goat Rock just to the north. The trail heads south along the exposed coastal bluffs to Shell Beach, a sandy pocket beach surrounded by jagged offshore rocks. En route to the beach are southward views that span all the way to Point Reyes.
We visited the big rocks where Martha says that the smooth spots, high on the rocks, were rubbed to that glossy finish by mastodons with itchy backs. They were also festooned with chalk in the cracks from boulderers. The sky was clear and the Pacific very calm, the way it is in late September.
We saw this tuft of pampas grass as we walked down to the black sand of Shell Beach. I suspect the black sand is not from shells, but from the black rocks that mark this sharp cliff. The walk back took a slightly different route which seemed even steeper. Kathy, hiking with us for the first time, got into some difficulty but old pals Rich and Richard made sure she got back to the cars safely.
I spent the walk back trying to find someone to go with me to Earlfest later that day. Jason and David already had tickets through Kaiser, and neither Marsha nor Frances wanted to go.
We drove down to Goat Rock beach and had a nice lunch on the logs and a chatty, fun ride back. Great day, until I got home and discovered my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket. Made some panicky calls to Rich and Richard and, whew! my phone was discovered and promptly returned. Completely blew Earlfest off my agenda. I sewed the pockets on those pants halfway closed before I went to bed that night. Hope I don’t make THAT mistake again!