Tag Archives: outdoors

Perseid Meteor Shower – Wrights Lake

Perseid Meteor Shower – Wrights Lake

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.

Silhouetted At the End of the Pier – Wrights Lake

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.

Anet in Sierra flower meadow

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.

Rockbound Trailhead near Wrights Lake with Anet
Wrights on Bottom Left, Emerald Bay Top Right, Desolation in Center

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.

Map Wright's Lake Camping Facilities

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.

Dark Lake
Dark Lake
Wrights Lake Campground Sign

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.

Road Sign Ice House Reservoir

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.

Wrights Lake Road

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.

Ice House Reservoir Top Left, Wrights Lake Top Right, Kyburz Bottom Center

Petaluma River and Lynch Creek

Petaluma River and Lynch Creek

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!

Start of the Paddle in Petaluma River

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.

Hiking Pinnacle Gulch

Hiking Pinnacle Gulch
Hikers at ShortTail Gulch Bodega
The Saturday Saunterers led by Wendy while Bob is in Slovenia

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).

ShortTail Gulch Trailhead Bodega CA

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

Carolyn ShortTail Beach

The tidepools are rich with mussels who are hungry filter-feeders. Don’t these guys look healthy?

Bodega Bay tidepool small starfish

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.

Bodega Bay mussels
 

Joe Tenn took lots of pictures, too. This shows the crusty mussels on the rock outcropping.

Ice House Reservoir OBNDY

Ice House Reservoir OBNDY

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.

Ice House Resort Map

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.

Ice House Reservoir Dawn

Just a few moment later, some Canada Geese swam into view, looking for breakfast.

Ice House Reservior Canada Geese by Trey Steinhart

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.

Kayakers on Ice House Reservoir

Trey and the others paddled the next day at nearby Wright’s Lake. I plan to check it out soon because it looks great.


Doran Beach Perseids 2018

Doran Beach Perseids 2018

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.

Wind Warrior

Protection From Afternoon Wind

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.

The “no tools” claim is false

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.

Sebastopol Art Walk

Sebastopol Art Walk

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!

Robert Amiot
Robert Amiot StudioThe 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.

Skunks Under The House

Skunks Under The House

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.

There was a Hogan’s Heroes tunnel with the entrance in the neighbor’s yard. The tunnel went under the fence, under the shed, under the concrete path to get them under the house

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.

skunksUsing 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.

September Update

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.

skunk deterrence

Drain Rock over Coated Chicken Wire

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.

Healdsburg to Steelhead Beach

Healdsburg to Steelhead Beach

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.

Liam, Cyrus, Whitney, Deb

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.

Front row: Liam, Deb, Canoe Guy, Carl, Me

Afterwards, we had a fun time at a happy hour in Windsor.

Petaluma Marsh Paddle

Petaluma Marsh Paddle

Petaluma Marsh Cottage

Marsh Mellow Cottage

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.

Paul Led the Paddle

Lunch at Marsh Mellow

Kathy, Richard, Deb, Wayne, Paul


Tin Ernie's Speakeasy

Lucinda and Tom at Ernie’s

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?