Here I am with Dr. Dawn Kernagis, a member of Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, who spoke at SRJC today about doing biomedical research on the effects living underwater for eight days as part of NASA’s NEEMO 21 crew. Here is a video of her talk, “Dr Dawn Kernagis talks about life undersea during NASA s NEEMO 21 Mission.” So impressive! This was part of Women’s History Month.
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Here are two pictures I took last week along the creek around sunrise. Two skunks mating. They were very quiet. The area smelled interesting the next morning — not fear, but more like skunk love.
I was ready for the hike to end around noon, our usual stopping time, but it took until 1 p.m. to finish and we reached an altitude where the deciduous trees thinned out and we were seeing healthy conifers with cones so big Jason was marveling at their size and robustness. We thought Jason and Frances would join us afterwards at Midtown Cafe, but the 2 p.m. closing time was fast approaching, so they opted out. To give you an idea of how taxing the hike was, Jill ate the entire Duck Confit she ordered, and Ezra ate everything, too. He enjoyed the strenuous hike, but next time I will make sure that Wendy has actually hiked the trail previously before I follow her.
There were lots of pretty spring flowers in the cool, foggy weather, and we had a vigorous discussion about penstamen. Wendy finally opened up a flower and counted the stamens — five.
For our traditional Mothers Day Campout, Lori Parmalee selected Black Mountain, a boat-in only campground in Lake Sonoma which was full for the first time in several rain-sparse years. She booked all four of the campsites on the peninsula and we had six campers on Saturday night. Friday morning, Lori and I paddled in with Liam O’Flaherty and had the lake to ourselves. It was raining lightly when we launched but it stopped quickly and the water was smooth as we crossed the four miles to Black Mountain in about an hour.
The drizzle began again when Lori took this picture of Liam and me at the table in the distance. I am on the left in my green plastic poncho I bought 25 years ago when I started boating. This is the first time I have used it. I also purchased my tent at that time, and on this trip, the raccoons tore a three-corner hole in it to get to my sun-block lip-gloss. Grrr. But they greedily went after my headlamp first which got stuck in the hole, so they didn’t get the lip gloss.
The table in the foreground was probably moved from my campsite which is the farthest away. Liam theorized that it was moved when the water was low, last Autumn, then inundated by the Spring rains.
It was great having the entire campsite to ourselves. One of the reasons Lori likes Black Mountain campground is that this is the view from the latrine (left).
Even though it was raining lightly on Saturday morning, we were joined by Brent, Deb and Louie and had a great campfire on Saturday night. I left my little chair in my car because I was (unnecessarily) worried about a too-heavy boat, so I had to stand for the campfire. Won’t make that mistake again. We had fun sharing food and an excellent bottle of Gundlach Bundschu wine compliments of Liam. Louie shared some excellent craft stout. My massaged kale salad was not the show-stopper I hoped.
It rained briefly both Friday and Saturday nights, which served to keep the weekend very restful and meditative. I enjoyed the women’s magazines Lori brought to leaf through and use as kindling. They stayed dry while my cotton pants sopped up the condensation in my tent.
Lori and I paddled back on Sunday morning while the others explored farther up the water. I learned her trick to find her way back to the boat launch — stay to the left on return and always take the left choice. Many of the openings are hard to see until you are right upon them. Even though Sunday was Mothers Day, there were few speed boats on the water and our paddle back was uneventful.
I had been fretting about organizing and preparing for a two-night campout, but it was very successful. I am tired but happy. Here is my picture on Friday afternoon after the three of us arrived.
In 2000, I was looking at houses in Sea Ranch and discovered a steep road to a put-in on the Gualala River. This hard-to-find road leads to the fabled “hot spot” and I learned that the river is runnable when the water is high in January and February. At a planning meeting for North Bay Kayakers, we decided to plan a trip and I reserved Campsite 10 at Gualala Regional Park, the first time I have ever been able to get this prime site, and was delighted to discover it had a little beach. Paul Hutchinson and Louie Mattarelli had already arrived and taken an adjoining campsite. I shared my site with Lori, Liam and Howard. We all drove up in the rain on Friday went to dinner at the Gualala Hotel.
Vince Kreger, a great leader, and his cousin Andy grew up in the area and knew the water. The Gualala River separates Sonoma county from Mendocino county. We put in at twin bridges in Annapolis. There were 10 boats including our tandem.
The rain had been steady all winter and we had three days of good rain immediately prior to the Saturday paddle, so there was very little “paddle and drag.” Howard and I are in the tandem at the bottom of the photo below.
Even though our canoe was missing the whitewater flotation, we did fine and stayed dry. The boaters in the little kiwi boats did best, slipping lightly over the shallow sections and avoiding the boat-flipping elbows in the river. Kathy Turner and Amy (photo below) had good, small boats.
I want to buy a little kiwi and use that next time I paddle the Gualala which I am told is the cleanest river in California. It was beautiful, like the upper Russian River, but much cleaner water and riverbanks. A fine day.
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Last summer I didn’t get to go camping at all, and I got very little camping the summer before in 2012 because Howard complained that he didn’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. I still want to camp and I love sleeping on the ground, so for his birthday, I rented a Teardrop Trailer from Vacations-In-A-Can and made a reservation at Gualala for mid-September, the soonest I could get.
This is what the little rental trailer looked like in the campsite, and if you click on the image you will see how it is presented on the rental website. The L’il Bear model we chose expresses this motif mostly in the bedding, but the trailers are rented without linens, so I had to provide the appropriate masculine environment for Glamor Camping, or Glamping.
I used high-thread-count cotton bottom sheet and down comforter in gray glen plaid flannel duvet with coordinating red flannel pillow cases. The awning-style windows opened on both sides and there was a vent on top so the cabin could be as airy or cozy as desired. A very tall person would not be comfortable here, but Howard said the 79-inch long sleeping area was just right — especially for reading when the temperature drops, as it tends to around dinner time. It’s funny — it’s usually warmer at dawn than at sunset on the coast because of how the warm inland valleys draw the cool water ashore at the end of the day.
A galley kitchen is built-in to the back of the trailer but it was not very useful because the campground has all the amenities like a picnic table, flush toilets and a shower, but if I ever made a teardrop trailer for myself, I would make the back a desk where I could write or paint, and simply close the teardrop to keep my work in place and dry until I could pick it up the next day.
The rental was not exactly plug-and-play. Howard’s Toyota pickup has a trailer hitch (a requirement for rental) but the rental also requires a 4-pin flat connector so that the tail lights, brake lights and turn lights work on the trailer. Howard stopped by the rental place a couple of days before we were scheduled to pick up “L’il Bear” and discovered that the 4-pin connector he already had was obsolete and that he had to replace it with an updated model to for safety compliance. Although the rental guy told him it was a simple replacement, it took Howard a couple of hours of lying on his back under his truck to trace all the wires and connect them up under the bed of the truck so that everything worked properly. It also required hooking a power unit to the battery as well (photo at right). Howard said the trailer tracked well on the road and, at 700 lbs., was very easy for his 4-cylinder truck to pull up the twists and turns of Highway 1.
The Park Ranger told us to check out the Ceremonial Hitching Posts which had just been dedicated a few months earlier on the Summer Solstice, 2014 as part of the Sakha Cultural Festival. They were carved by the visiting master carvers from Yakutsk in Siberia, the Sakha people first came to the North Coast of Sonoma with the Russia American Company to work at the settlement at Fort Ross from 1812-1842. The “serge” (pronounced sayr-gay) honors these Yakuts. There was an interesting exhibit horse-centric Yakut culture in the nearby Visitor Center.
The installation included three totems with the serge. The ranger told us that the local artists had offered the visiting Russian carvers a superb redwood for the totems but that they rejected it in favor of Douglas fir. That might reflect their far-North culture that does not have redwoods.
The weekend before we went camping, we visited a Petaluma gathering of Teardrop enthusiasts that meet every year right after Labor Day. They invited us to come by next year during their “open house” hours because they love to show off their wheeled domiciles.
My sister Laurie’s friend Maureen left this book on the nightstand in the guest bedroom when we spent the night at her house before we set out on our drive from Colorado Springs to Portland, Oregon last Thanksgiving. I didn’t realize at the time that Maureen was offering it to us because she had finished it. At the send-off party that same evening, another friend of Laurie’s also recommended this book, but it would be nearly a year before I would be being able to “sport-read” again.
I started this book last weekend while we were camping in Gualala and really enjoyed it, especially the Acknowledgements on the last few pages which give a sense of why it took 15 years to write. It made me realize it can take a lifetime to write a novel, and why it is important to stay fully alive for your whole life. This is one of my favorite passages, page 258, where she reflects on her marriage that she tanked through infidelity:
What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck everyone of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?
I’m glad I read the book before the movie came out.
I like books that have me thinking about them afterwards. Even though his book was “first-person adventure,” the hike along the Pacific Coast Trail was just the engine that conceals the real content. As Cheryl hikes, she reflects on how she trashed her marriage, and other seriously-bad decisions she made. There are no comments or analysis from the 15-years-hence writer, just the ruminations of the hiking 27 year old on bad stuff she did — how she hurt someone she loved very much. The first-person ruminations gave me some insight into how people might feel when they behave badly in their own lives. I find myself using this book as fodder to consider what it would be like to not take the self-destructive behavior of others personally — but rather, to consider it as part of their own way of working out their rage or disconnection from Oneness-That-We-Are. Nothing like months on the trail to connect a person to the Divine!
Ludwigia, an aquatic plant that originates from South America, has become an invasive pest in the creeks and Laguna de Santa Rosa, a large seasonal wetland that is a nesting area for migrating birds. Sonoma County citizens work hard to protect the health of the Laguna and the creeks that supply it. Ludwigia was probably introduced by tropical fish fanciers who carelessly flushed this decorative plant into the creek. Like so many plants, it grows vigorously here, mainly along shallow areas of the Laguna’s main channel and tributary creeks.
Piner Creek, which runs behind our house, has an open, sunny spot where ducks raise their young and children like to throw bits of bread from the nearby bridge. Larger migratory birds like egrets sometimes fish here because there are lots of small fish.
Ludwigia anchors is roots in the mud at the waterline and grows large mats that cover the surface of the water, preventing the fish from getting insects and preventing birds from fishing. Ludwigia appeared for the first time this spring and by Labor Day had covered almost all of the surface of the creek behind our house. Saturday, Howard and I hauled out several sacks of it.
A about a half-mile farther down Piner Creek, it merges with Paulin Creek and this is a prime fishing area for birds. It is a beautiful spot and it was starting to become choked with Ludwigia also, so Sunday morning I went down there by myself to clean it up. I gathered up two bags of weeks but hurt my back and had to ask a passing jogger to help me haul the second bag up the creek. The next morning, Labor Day, it looked like much of the Ludwigia had grown back! (see photo left above)
Monday evening, Howard helped me haul up another four bags of weeds (see photo right above). Let’s see how long this cleanup lasts. We may have to resort to some targeted herbicide along the damp soil at the waterline.
Piner Creek is supposed to be part of the steelhead hatchery system, but Ludwigiacreates a barrier to migrating steelhead and other fish, and its bacterial decomposition threatens oxygen-dependent wildlife in the water. The Laguna Foundation is working with USDA-ARS researchers and local agencies to find a long-term solution to the problem.
Another great summer campout with SCPN, organized the the sensational Susan Small and Helen Hawk, who reserved Miwok Campground sites D and E for the best camping at Bodega Bay. Benn, in the turquoise tie-dye above, grilled marinated pork ribs and served up robust German potato salad and red cabbage. He even invited the motorcycling Germans at the next campsite to join us on Saturday night — they turned out to be a very engaging pair.
Helen Hawk wowed us with a fabulous apple cake on Friday night, and Artemesia serenaded us both nights, accompanying herself on the tin whistle and the melodica. A fun celebration of Mother Earth.
Earth-based religion connects members of this group and some resist new technology. Others embrace it and earn their livings through it. Billy Twonames is a technician in communications and he brought a Biolite, a tiny stove that folds up small enough for a backpacker, that burns wood and could charge his cell phone! You see him here on Saturday morning heating water in his kettle for morning tea. There were three kettles in this group! And three different people brought canned baked beans to the Friday night pot luck. So different from camping with other groups where I have the only kettle and I have never seen canned baked beans! Sunday morning three of us cooked bacon for the group.
These folks love meat, too! I don’t really feel like cooking after a drive (55 miles round trip) and setting up camp, so I thought salmon steaks would be quick to cook and easy to share, but it was a miss. Several people arrived after 6 p.m. and the grill wasn’t fired up until then, so it was dark when we ate. Fish with bones, in the dark, is not good.
Next time I will assemble brochette (with white meat for Helen Hawk) for a fast cook dish. And I will bring washed and ready to serve crudités with dipping sauce for hors-d’œuvre. There was nothing to snack on as people were arriving except the celery and pheasant pâté I brought. I would have enjoyed a salad on Saturday night, so next time I will have that prepped in advance. Benn made red cabbage, German potato salad and he grilled Thermal’s chickens, but dinner was so late again on Saturday I couldn’t wait. I sneaked over to Susan’s table and heated up some frozen Malibu chili as she cooked a separate meal of delicious-smelling lamb and vegetables. Helen had brought some large russet baking potatoes (which she doesn’t eat) which went unused. I traded a cauliflower for them and brought them home. Next time I will prepare small organic potatoes for the grill: wash, dry, and wrap in foil before I leave so they can be dropped on the coals without fuss. The big potatoes take too long to cook and are too large for a potluck.
Benn invited the neighboring Germans to taste his potato salad which was rich with bacon bits. He asked the man if it tasted like potato salad back in Germany. The man didn’t know, and the woman asked, “Why do you ask him? He has never made potato salad!” So Benn asked, and she replied, “In Germany, potato salad has more eggs and more pickles.”
Sunday morning I had the beach to myself for yoga and meditation, maybe because of the 6.0 earthquake in nearby Napa at 3:20 a.m. It woke me up, but I thought it was a strong wind shaking my tent and I went right back to sleep. This was the beach at about 11 a.m. I think our RV neighbors might have rushed home on Sunday morning to make sure all was well. I am looking forward to camping with these folks next year — it is so much fun to camp with people who love the earth.