It has been over 100° in Santa Rosa for a couple of days. To avoid cooking, I am enjoying my favorite camp fare: previously grilled chicken thigh, quinoa, and caponata (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, capers, olives, vinegar).
The sky would be as dark as possible after 2 a.m. on Sunday August 11 because that’s when the bright, three-quarters moon set. I rose from my tent and walked to the end of the pier (see below). Walking in the dark in the pre-dawn hours in an unfamiliar place, using red cellophane rubber-banded over my flashlight to retain my night vision, was a challenge. The lake pier was only about half a mile from my tent, but it required several turns. Distances seem so much longer in the dark. There were audio cues, like the water rushing over the dam, and roadway cues, like the bridge just below the dam. When I reached the cow catcher by the park entrance, I realized I had made a wrong turn and had to retrace my steps in the dark.
The meteor shower was beautiful. I saw about four in 30 minutes, sitting in my little green fold-up chair on the pier. While the vast sky was great, next time I will find a meadow to lie in with my sleeping bag. Our camp (site 60 in the RV area on the south side of the lake) was in the trees that ringed a meadow. Sites 61 and 62 were in the meadow in the center, just across the narrow paved road. Earlier in the day, we hiked toward Rockbound trailhead and Dark Lake and found this beautiful meadow. Trey took this photo using my cellphone.
The Rockbound trailhead is the gateway to many stunning vistas and is very near the tent campground on the west side of the lake. I would love to someday set foot in Desolation Wilderness.
Here is the map with notes for tent camping and kayaking. Note the rocky tent sites near the Rockbound Trailhead. These sites are have comfortable privacy but they are a long carry from the lake. Sites 1-3 are close to the small beach adjacent to the pier which is a good put-in, and they are well removed from the day use area which can get noisy. The RV area is called Meadow Loop on the south side of the lake. Trees rim the meadow, so the sites on the outer edges have more shade. The RVs use bright motion lights at night and the generators can be noisy in the afternoons as they provide air conditioning, so it is not ideal for tent camping. There are clean pit toilets and good-tasting cold water from the spigots. A very enjoyable campground when you choose your site wisely.
Dark Lake is just above the Rockbound Trailhead and has a nice, small, beach put-in right by the road. One would have to move the vehicle to the nearby parking. Notice the little squares on the map on the north side of Dark Lake. These are summer homes that have been grandfathered in by the Eldorade National Forest. There is a nice path around Dark Lake, pictured below.
The Wrights Lake campground did not open until after the Fourth of July because of the late May snow. About a week before it opened for camping, Trey and others camping at Ice House Reservoir had driven over to check it out. They were able to paddle the small lake and liked it so much we returned six weeks later. The campsites can be reserved through Recreation.gov until about mid-October, the Camp Host told us, and then it is walk-in (first come first served) until snow closes the camp.
My efforts to get to Utica Lake for the annual meteor display have failed for the last three years due to smoke from forest fires and insurmountable logistical difficulties. I was so happy to get a chance to join photographer Trey Steinhart and his wife Becky in this area named for the dairy farmer who worked the land until about 1950. The drive from Santa Rosa took four hours on a Sunday morning in mid-August. The tricky part is making a left turn on Highway 50 which is only a two-lane mountain road in this stretch just a little north of Kyburz. Thank the stars that a space opened up just as I needed to turn.
The sign above appears just about where the “31 min” indicator is on the map below. The six miles are to the turn onto Route 50, north of Kyburz.
This is notable because my library use had plunged over the past three years. I read Michael Pollan’s “How To Change Your Mind” for a Gnosis discussion. I couldn’t believe he spun nearly 500 pages on how hard it was for him to get high. I learned very little, except that he started about forty years late and had medical issues about trying things without a cadre of doctors and licenses. Sigh.
I just finished Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” Maybe she is charming and funny in person, but the book was a grind about how hard her life is. I am hoping it was deliberately written to the eight-grade level, the way the Early News is. How can a 40-year-old woman not know that the First Lady’s job is to plan state dinners, roughly once a month?
I’ll admit that growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, pretty much all the high schools girls knew this, regardless of race. And we all knew that the motorcade stops traffic, but not for long. I’m sure her post-9/11 security was way worse than it was during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years when I lived there. I realize now some of the qualities Barack saw in her were tenacity and stamina. Sometimes, being first lady is hard like coal mining is hard. The story of her first Inauguration Day, for example. The book ended with her sounding grateful to be getting out alive.
Fun paddle 11 a.m. – 1:30 on a Saturday with Marin Canoe and Kayak MeetUp let by Ken N. New solar panels cover some of the parking area for the Petaluma public launch by the Sheraton, so I could park in the shade. Yay!
Ken had selected a day with a five foot tide change, so there was plenty of water in the river and it seemed cleaner than the last time I paddled it. We continued to paddle until we entered Lynch Creek.
That’s Greer on the left and Kim from Vacaville on the right. It was fun chatting with them on such a beautiful summer day. We had a wet winter and four inches of rain in May, so there were lots of snags and fallen trees in the creek. Greer deftly steered her boat past this snag, and ducked under a large tree that had tumbled down.
We paddled as far as we could go, then we turned around about 12:30, about the time the tide changed. Ken, in blue boat below, did a great job of planning.
I was happy to see the railroad bridge that signaled what we were getting close to the takeout. Great, fun paddle.
A passer-by took the above photo on the classic Pinnacle Gulch hike. At the start of the hike (photo below) we were joined by Linda Johnston who usually leads this classic hike (third from left, with husband Gerry, second from left).
We start this hike at the ShortTail Gulch trailhead and descend the wide steps to the beach which is filled with beautiful tidepools. Then we clamber over the rocks which extend from the cliffs into the sea so that we can reach Pinnacle Beach. This hike is technical, and a specialty of Linda Johnston’s, because it can only be accomplished when a sufficiently low tide coincides with the time of the hike.
The tidepools are at the bottom of the ShortTail Gulch steps. There are more fisherman on Pinnacle beach.
Carolyn on Wide Steps to ShortTail Beach
The tidepools are rich with mussels who are hungry filter-feeders. Don’t these guys look healthy?
Below, we have a larger starfish. They eat the purple sea urchins that have been devastating the kelp by chewing off the “holdfast” that anchors them to the sea floor. We are so glad to see the return of the starfish that seemed to have disappeared for a few years, recently.
Joe Tenn took lots of pictures, too. This shows the crusty mussels on the rock outcropping.
About a year ago, Jane Richter reserved space in Silver Lakes for the four-night annual Old But Not Dead Yet (OBNDY) camp out. She kept following up with the Forest Service as the June 27 start date got closer, but on the morning of the 27th the Forest Service cancelled our reservations. Jane and others were already on the road, so we scrambled to find campsites on the weekend before the Fourth of July holiday.
Marin Canoe and Kayak club was camping at Ice House Reservoir and they found spots for Lori’s RV, Trey’s Trailer, and Jane. They captured the first-come sites on the main loop that were doubles and allowed the space to be shared. Deb Turner pitched her tent in next to Lori’s spiffy new Travato RV. Jane’s friends shared her double site.
The map at left shows the main loop with Units starting at 1. The yellow highlight marks where the car campers were. Liam and I found space in an adjacent loop on the other site of the Boat Ramp which is a tent-only area. These were not car camping sites like Jane’s in the first loop. We had to carry in our equipment about 1000 yards from Liam’s truck which was parked the boat-ramp parking lot, but we scored the beautiful site 39 right on the water which allowed us to tie up our kayaks near our picnic table.
The reservoir was beautiful and featured two dams, one of which seemed to drop off the edge of the earth.
Photographer Trey Steinhart was with us and captured this breathtaking image of dawn the next morning.
Just a few moment later, some Canada Geese swam into view, looking for breakfast.
The OBNDY paddlers joined the Marin Canoe and Kayak Club for a great, midday paddle. I am the third kayaker from the right, in the green boat.
Trey and the others paddled the next day at nearby Wright’s Lake. I plan to check it out soon because it looks great.
Had a great time at the Google Cloud Conference at Moscone Center. Learned about Kaggle from creator Ben Hamner, learned about Site Reliability Engineering from Ben Traynor Sloss, and learned how Megan Andsell, PhD astrophysicist from Cal-Berkeley uses Google computing power to find exoplanets (earth-like planets) in our galaxy.
Wow, are these people brilliant! So much fun to see.
Now there are more than 200 members of the MeetUp group “Finding Female Friends Over 50” which was started in January. Yesterday four members joined me for the final performance of the Sonoma County Philharmonic, and the reception afterwards for artists, volunteers, donors and sponsors. A wonderful day!
Yet another drizzly Friday April 5 did not stop 16 members of the “Finding Female Friends over 50” MeetUp group to meet near Spinster Sisters restaurant for the First Friday ArtWalk at South of A Street galleries. The rain washed out the expected live music and the food trucks, but we met artists Lorna and Linda and Carole Watanabe who gave me a copy of her book! Great fun!
Wisteria in full bloom, and the first lilacs in five years. This winter was cold and wet, which I guess is what it needs.