Time for a new house

Time for a new house
Time for a new house

Thursday, March 23, 2017

03/20/2017 Demolition!

Current Location: Back to the apartments, Klamath Falls Oregon

There is an overlap going on, but it is only a partial one.  Many of my blogging friends and followers are also on Facebook.  Many are not.  Many of my Facebook friends never bother to look at the blog. Then, of course, there are those friends who do neither.  Lately it seems that category is dwindling, with most friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances choosing to plug into one form or the other of digital connection.  No, I don’t do Twitter, and yes, I have an Instagram account but haven’t put more than half a dozen photos on there in a year.  No time.  I have to pick and choose my personal version of internet communication.

I did a long blog post for the private blog I have been keeping about our “transitions”, sending the link to the few people who are close enough to care about the finer details of what is going on, but most of the time that one isn’t for public consumption.  Now and then I have copied a post from the “transitions” blog to this one, but a comment on Facebook made me realize that maybe I needed to try a bit harder to keep this blog a bit more updated. 

Bob McLean, of The Caretaker Chronicles, has been an internet friend for several years, not as up close as some others, and I have never met him, but he once kindly invited Melody and I to visit him and his TC at their home in Vienna when we were traveling Eastern Europe.  We have sorta followed each other along leap frog style since then, as our lives have shifted and changed.  Bob is a kick, with a great dry witty sense of humor that never fails to entertain me.  Bob blogs a bit more consistently than I do, but he isn’t a daily guy either.

Back to the Facebook comment.  When I posted a photo of our little cottage one day, saying it was the “last day”, nothing was mentioned.  Then the next day I posted the photo of the demolition of the little cottage and Bob showed up on Facebook, exclaiming (and I paraphrase)…”What did I miss?”

This is our crazy RV shed storage/getaway space for the few months of the build, we will sleep, cook, and shower in the MoHo

So I cruised back through the blog thinking, “Surely I have talked about this at least a little bit”, and to my surprise discovered that, no, I hadn’t really talked about it much.  A few comments here and there, lots of photos of the Cottage when we were in Grants Pass, but not much mention of the actual process of tearing it down.  Lots of detailed explanations on the “transitions” blog, and more than a few references to the moving process on Facebook, but who in the heck can manage to keep track of your own life much less someone else’s life?!

Which is why I haven’t blogged about it much.  This is a travel blog, mostly RV travel with some other kinds of travels thrown in, and of course, now and then, other pieces of life get in the mix.  After all, we are not full time RV’rs, and I find that when we are on the move I assume that what I have to say might be more interesting for someone to read.  I also usually don’t have to go back to the blog to figure out what we were doing when we are at home, but I surely use it a LOT for when we are on the move.

This is the google photo of the cottage before we bought it in 2012, with no RV shed, a bunch of chicken coops, old sheds and shelters, and the old pallet fence.

So, again, and a repeat for those up close friends who already know the drill.  We bought the .87 acre in Grants Pass in 2012, so we would have a place to store the MoHo in winter.  Mo wanted a big RV shed, and county regulations require that a dwelling be already on the property in order to add another building.  The acre was perfect, the cost was close to the cost of the land without a dwelling, so we always laughed and said the little 700 square foot cottage was basically free.

This might be the last time I put a photo of the Rocky Point house in the blog.  Ya’ll remember it I am sure

At the time we lived in Rocky Point.  Most longer term readers remember that lovely home in the forest, and possibly remember that we sold that property last year.  Reason for selling?  Time to leave the deep, heavy snows of winter and the 35 mile one way drive to the grocery store for life on the west side of the Cascades.  It took a bit for us to make that decision, and the first couple of years at the Cottage, we thought of improving it (which we did), adding to it, (which we decided wasn’t practical), or building a new home from scratch.  Which we are now doing.

So, Bob, to make a long story a bit shorter, that is where we are now.  We just had to wait for spring for the appropriate development and building permits, and the scheduling of the demolition of the little cottage to make way for the new house.

Yup, we tore it down.  The Cottage wasn’t fancy, but it had 90 years of history, and we managed to make it cute and livable for the times when we were in Grants Pass.  We knew there wouldn’t be much to salvage.  A few old beams weren’t really even paint grade.  The new bathtub that we put in 3 years ago was impossible to get back out without a ton of work. 

Daughter Deborah came the week before the scheduled demolition and helped us get all the furniture (mostly things from Mo’s cabin at the Rocky Point house) out of the cottage and into the big RV shed.  We moved the MoHo outside, where she will reside for the next few months during the build, and created a bit of living space inside the RV shed with our bits and pieces of furniture, a couple of comfy chairs, and the TV.  It will be a bit of a place to get away from the smaller space of the MoHo while we hang around during the house build.  Of course, we have spent months at a time in the MoHo, but it is a bit different when traveling than it will be sitting still in one place.

There goes the bathtub

We then removed a few antique doors, and Deborah took down the kitchen cupboard doors she had so carefully sanded and painted to hopefully create something wonderful with them.

By the end of the week, all the required permits came together at the right time, the gas company capped the gas line at the street and took away the gas meter.  The power company disconnected the existing power and immediately connected to the newly installed power pole and meter box. 

The new power pole gets power from the main pole across the street, but will deliver power to the house underground

We only spent one night without power, and on Saturday morning the electrician showed up at 8am to connect the power line that connected the shop and RV shed to the main pole, and to install a distribution box with a 30 amp plug for our RV and for the builders to use for power equipment during the build.

I had thought it might be an emotional thing to see the Cottage go, and it was, but only for a moment.  When that first wall went down, and the sunny little kitchen with the blue and yellow and white shelves were exposed to the world, I felt a bit of sadness, and tears popped up.  It only lasted a moment, though, and the fascination of watching a house disappear with a few bites of a monstrous machine made up for any sense of loss.

Early in the process, with the demolition of the first exterior wall, suddenly everything came to a screeching halt.  Ralph, the demo guy, thought he saw something that looked like it could contain asbestos.  Gary, the builder foreman, had removed and tested materials from several areas of the house and we were determined to be asbestos free, except for some old tiles in the kitchen.

Homeowners can remove the tiles and dispose of the asbestos, but a contractor is require to jump through myriad and expensive hoops to handle asbestos abatement.  Mo and I had dutifully removed the tiles the previous week, but this material was some sort of crazy composition siding that was completely hidden by other layers of siding sandwiched on the thin walls.

Terror.  I can’t even begin to explain the fear in that moment for all of us, especially Mo and Gary 

Asbestos would stop the job, and could cost so much to remove that we would have to completely abandon our house building plans because it would be so far outside the budget.  Time stood still, and with some sort of contractor magic, Gary managed to get a sample to a testing company in Medford, the sample was tested within an hour, and thank God it came up negative.  Within two hours the machine was backup and running. We all took a collective sigh of relief on that one.

The demolition continued for the rest of the afternoon, even in the rain, and by early evening, most of the cottage was lying in a small heap of sticks and twigs.  It was an old house, built from scratch from whatever materials were available at the time.  The pipes under the floors were wrapped in newspapers and roofing paper.  I hunted for dates, and discovered, January 29, 1949.  I couldn’t read much of the paper, because it was so stained.  It was truly amazing to see that such a simply built house, without even any framing of any kind, could actually stand for 91 years. 

On Tuesday morning the crew returned to finish the job of crunching up all the debris and hauling it away in the two huge dump trucks that they quickly filled.  Ralph also took down the three trees that were in the way of the new house footprint, using his giant bucket to simply push those trees right out of the ground, stumps and all.  It was fascinating to watch. 

On Wednesday morning, almost everything was down and hauled away, except for the last big tree that Ralph thought he should take down with the help of an arborist.  They took that last beautiful madrone down without a hitch, landing it right in between the big trees we wanted to keep uninjured, and the old cherry tree on the lower end of the property.  Gorgeous work, and by the way, gorgeous men as well, all of them.  What IS it about those construction guys with tool belts anyway?!?!

Gary and his helper Levi then started the process of staking out the footprint of the new house.  The final staking will come after the excavation is completed in the first week of April, but this one was basically for making sure the house was set exactly as we wanted it.  I spent much of the time gleefully dancing around the defined space, stepping through the “front door”, looking out the great room “windows”, and standing in my “big oval soaking tub: looking out the big window in the master bathroom.

It is an exciting process, and a slow one.  A custom home doesn’t go up quickly, and our schedule is six or seven months before completion.  We are really hoping that 7 months will get us actually moved in before winter snows once again take over the Klamath Basin. 

Erythronium hendersonii the precious trout lilies growing down in the lower pasture were unconcerned.

We won’t be traveling much this year, as it is important to be around to make decisions.  Our contractor is a great guy, with a wonderful reputation for building homes in Grants Pass for 3 decades, but we still wouldn't want to leave all those choices up to someone else, so we need to be around.  The plan is a week at the “cottage”…and a week back at the apartments where we will officially reside until we move into the new house. 

I gotta figure out what to call our place in Grants Pass now that the “cottage “ is no longer there.  The new house isn’t huge, but it is definitely NOT a cottage.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

03/12/2017 March Forward “The Big Week”

Current Location: Old Fort Road in Klamath Falls and the sun is shining!!!

I look at our calendar, I look at our life, I look at what is coming up, and I say to Mo, “Somehow I have to try to write about this!”  But I am not really sure how to go about it.  I finally decided that all the things I want to write about aren’t really for public consumption.  Stuff no one but our close friends care about anyway.  The Cottage, The Build, and of course, THE EPA PROJECT!

(March 25 Even though I decided to post this on the transitions blog, I thought that maybe it could still go up on the “main blog”, but dated far enough back that it won’t make it to all the blog rolls and such.  And of course, I don’t need to post it to facebook or plus it on google.  I am just putting it here so everything is in one place and I can find it again as we move forward.)

The Old Fort Road apartments  on a late fall day 2016

Old Fort Road apartments today, after EPA project beginning

I am not even sure if I have alluded to this part of our life anywhere previously.  It is an ongoing issue, something that Mo has been dealing with since the year 2000 or maybe it was 2002.  Mo’s apartment building was once part of the historic Marine Barracks from 1944 to 1946, a place where servicemen could rehabilitate from malaria. The property was later sold to Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), then later passed on through different developers until it became a rather nice development called North Ridge Estates.  What no one knew at the time, (and wasn’t known when Mo bought the apartments in the late 90’s), was that the developers simply buried the old asbestos materials that they found on the site.  As years passed, frost heave brought some of the asbestos to the surface, and that is when everything changed.

All the trees are gone now, the ones on our property on this side of the road and the ones across the street

Here is a bit of history:  (Don’t get discouraged if the site takes a long time to load, you know how things are going with the EPA at the moment)

North Ridge Estates Superfund Site

“The North Ridge Estates Superfund Site is a residential subdivision located approximately three miles north of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The site is contaminated with asbestos as a result of the improper demolition of approximately eighty 1940s-era military barracks buildings. North Ridge Estates was added to the National Priorities List in 2011 after annual efforts to remove contamination were not effective for long-term protection of human health. Asbestos-containing materials and soil will be removed from the old military barracks site during three seasons of cleanup”.

To be fair, the actual contamination here on Mo’s property is minimal, but the EPA is being very aggressive about the cleanup.  A few years ago, there was a smaller effort at soil cleanup where the soil was removed on the hill just west of the apartment building, but the trees were left standing.

Since that time, the entire site was declared an EPA Superfund Site, and listed for cleanup.  We are in the midst of that process right now.  Prior to the major excavation work, the EPA determined that all our huge pines had to come down.  They couldn’t be saved because of the steepness of the slope and the possibility that the asbestos has incorporated into the roots and lower bark of the trees.  They left us three legacy trees, but the rest are gone.  This is not all bad.  The old pines made a huge mess, and were a danger to the apartment building in high winds.  They will be replaced…with 6 foot trees. 

They took out the old apple, apricot, elm, and cherry trees that were in the front yard of Apartment A, and the place now looks incredibly naked.  We have worked with the landscape architect that is designing the replacement landscaping, and are convinced that things will look really nice once the project is completed, and we were given lots of choice in how we want plants replaced. 

The soil will be removed down to 2 feet, and if asbestos is discovered anywhere, it will be excavated to 4 feet and a protective barrier placed. During the the three month process, all the apartment dwellers will be relocated to local furnished rentals, for now that has been determined to be nice townhouses and condos at the Running Y Resort.  The dwellings are fully furnished, down to coffee pots and bedding, and we only have to take what we can’t do without for three months.  Think about that for a minute.  What would you take if you knew you couldn’t go back to your house for three months.  It is a bit like when we went on our three month MoHo excursion to Florida.

We will need the computers of course, important papers and documents, I want my sewing machine and some fabric, and enough clothes for summer and fall weather.  What about our food?  We will have to empty the fridge and the cupboards and hopefully whatever cookware is at the condo will suffice.

For daughter Melody and grandson Xavier, this is especially confusing, since in order to get the free relocation, renters are required to maintain their lease.  Xavier graduates high school in mid June, and the family decision is to move north to Eugene where we are hoping he will be accepted as a student at the University of Oregon.  Still not sure how all that is going to work. Melody won’t be ready to go in June, but hopefully can get relocated before September.

In the mean time, Mo and I will be right in the middle of the Grants Pass house build.  The cottage will be long gone, and our domicile in Grants Pass for the alternate weeks that we plan to be there will be the MoHo, so that we can keep an eye on the building process and be close by when needed for questions and decisions. (I think I am most excited about choosing our granite slab, whenever that happens.)

We are really looking forward to the alternate weeks at the Running Y.  There are beautiful bike trails and a nice private boat launch area on the lake.  We are looking forward to getting the kayaks out a lot more this summer, and hope to actually kayak to Bare Island, something we always said we wanted to do and never managed.  In fact, last summer, Melody and Robert actually paddled 21 miles round trip from Rocky Point to Bare Island!  It won’t be nearly as far from the Running Y, Melody.  Also, there is a beautiful piece of untouched land at the resort, a peninsula that juts out into the lake, called the Skillet Handle, famous as an excellent site for birding.

We are definitely seeing the silver lining of the 3 month vacation at the Running Y and looking forward to some down time, play time while we are there.

Back to the title of this post, however.  This is the week.  Today Mo and I are packing for the next 10 days in Grants Pass.  This is the final week for the little cottage, our home away from home for the last 4 1/2 years.  Tomorrow we will move the MoHo out of her big shed for the rest of the summer, and start moving the few things that are in the cottage into the shed for the duration of the build. 

The utilities will go down toward the end of this coming week.  Daughter Deborah is coming over for two days to help us with this project, especially with heavier things like the fridge.  Our big job tomorrow is to think about how we want to use the space in the RV shed.  We are hoping to set up the kitchen table, chairs, and our two rockers toward the front of the shed.  We will pull out the kayaks and the bikes, the mowers and store them where we now store the baby car in the temporary shelter.  Maybe the kayaks will end up on top of the baby car permanently as we travel back and forth between the condo and the cottage.  Oops….guess we are going to have to come up with a new name.  Can we still call it The Cottage if the cottage is gone?

The new house will be a much larger footprint where the cottage is now.  I can only try to imagine how it will look and feel when it is done. 

Tomorrow we meet again with the builder to view the final engineering drawings.  Still little things to worry about, of course.  The Development Permit holds up the Green Tag on the new Power Pole, and unless all that gets handled in the next few days, when the power goes off, it won’t go back on immediately.  If that is the case, we will be boondocking without power or water until the electricity for the build is restored.  We might just bail next weekend and head for hookups at the Valley of the Rogue State Park, just a few miles south.

I guess you can see why this was hard to write about.  It feels just about as discombobulated as I feel right now, waiting for all this to happen.  We have known this week was coming, we have been preparing for it, and I hope we are ready for the next big step forward. 

OK  I wrote it.  Time to go find some of the photos I have been taking as all this was happening.

Friday, February 3, 2017

02-03-2014 Home again, Gone again, and Shifting Weather

Current Location:  The Cottage in Grants Pass, Oregon at 51 F and raining

For those who pay attention to this kind of thing, Mo and I have been off the road for two weeks after traveling in the SoCal area for a month.  Our winter trips are usually longer than this last trip, but life is calling, things are shifting, decisions need to be made and once again, boxes packed.  I wonder when we will ever be fully finished with moving. 

Frost along Lakeshore Drive near Moore Park in Klamath Falls

Our 961 mile journey back to the apartments in Klamath Falls was accomplished without any major drama, in just 3 days, with an overnight at Orange Grove in Bakersfield, Flag City in Lodi, and a night at our very own Cottage in Grants Pass.  In spite of the major storms crashing into the Pacific Northwest during that time, we somehow slipped into perfect weather windows between storms, and sailed over all the passes between our desert respite and home. 

Trying to shoot into the light to capture those icy diamonds.  Almost got it, but not quite

Most of the time, we chose to travel I-5 between Bakersfield and Lodi, but after that last extremely bumpy and very crowded trip south, we decided to take Route 99 from Bakersfield back north.  When we left Bakersfield, on a quiet Monday morning, we had not a lick of traffic all the way north to Lodi.  Most of the highway was resurfaced and smooth, albeit a bit narrow in places.  Turned out to be a great choice.  Checking google maps shows a difference of less than 10 miles between the two routes.

Once back in Klamath Falls, We had a day to unload, an evening to enjoy my grandson’s opening night of “Superman, the Musical”, a weekend to catch up on laundry and get things put away, and it was time for me to head to the office for a week of soil survey work.  I have no idea where the days go.  As soon as I signed off on Friday afternoon and turned in my timesheet, we started loading up for another drive to Grants Pass. 

Mountain Lakes Wilderness and Harriman Peak on the far side of Klamath Lake

We knew we might be in for another storm over the mountains, but last Saturday morning when we left Klamath Falls we were treated to one of the delights of living in snow country.  The skies were crystal clear, the snow covered hills were sparkling with diamond dust, and the hoarfrost coated every tree and shrub along our route beside Klamath Lake.

Of course, I had to stop and take photos.   I knew from the weather forecasts that we were leaving behind the snow and ice and traveling west over the mountain into warmer but cloudy and foggy weather.  I need light, I need sunshine, but I also need to be able to walk, and ice isn’t my favorite thing.  I talked myself into being ready for the cold, wet fog that blankets the Rogue Valley during this time of year.  I soaked up that sunshine, running around shooting photos and trying to somehow capture that diamond dust sparkle.  I still have no idea how a photographer might do that.

From all that blue and crystal to this, but at least there isn’t snow on the ground in Grants Pass

During the week, we had a few more conversations with our builder and his foreman.  Little details were ironed out, and at last a price was agreed upon.  There was some touch and go for a bit, with Mo and I spending a few sleepless nights wondering if the project was going to actually happen, if we would have to start all over again from scratch, and how in the world that might look.  Thankfully, that isn’t going to happen, and the build is now officially on the schedule.

Still chilly at 37 F, but that didn’t keep these two from working long hours every day

March 20th is the big day, when the bulldozer and loader will arrive to knock down the sweet little cottage.  We still have quite a bit to do before that day, including Mo’s big project of getting the oldest part of her workshop down.  The people who lived on this place since the early 60’s believed in salvage building, and just added and added more and more stuff to the existing buildings.  Mo wanted the main part of the building, but not all those extra roofs and sheds and walls that were a crazy mess.

I wasn’t quick enough to catch the crash after they pulled the framing down with a rope

Mo did a lot of that demolition herself, with a bit a help from me, but I was incredibly grateful that her brother, Dan, once again offered to come and help with the hardest part, getting that roof off.  Dan showed up on Sunday, and spent 3 days here helping, and the two of them managed to get it all undone.  There was a bit of a scary moment, when Mo fell through the ladder, scraping up her legs and banging her chin, but thank goodness she was OK.  We all know ladders are scary things.  She knows better than to do ladder work with no one around, at least.

These two (Mo and Dan) are quite the team when they work together   FYI, we have no idea how we are going to get the debris off the top of the MoHo shed behind the little shop.  No ladder big enough around here

After Dan left, Mo and I spent a few more days hauling all the wood debris to the dump, and metal to the salvage yard.  Thank goodness once again for trailers and a truck to haul them.  In between rain storms, I even managed to get some of the fall leaves from the lower part of the acre raked into piles, ready to load into the trailers, once the debris was dumped.

I won’t say how old she is, but my oldest daughter Deborah was born in 1963

The weekend was also a time for me to catch up with my daughter Deborah, who had a birthday last week while I was working in Klamath.  Deb came over to the cottage and we spent the afternoon shopping for crafts, visiting, drinking coffee and talking some more before we picked up her son Matthew to join us for a birthday dinner at the Horny Goat.  Daughter Deb and Grandson Matthew

The food was fun, rather crazy pub food, with lots of creativity.  I couldn’t make up the sandwich the kids had, with some kind of mile high French toast smothered with cheese and ham, and drowned in maple syrup that was filled with bacon and serrano chilies. My Dragon Breath chicken was a bit more traditional, but incredibly tasty and also nice and spicy. 

During our first few days here at the cottage, the skies were cold, foggy, and gray.  The forecast called for 50 degree temperatures, but with the foggy inversion, the temps never got above 37.  I was very happy to be working inside the cottage, packing up the few things we have used here during the last four years. 

Then one afternoon, the skies opened up, and the sun burst forth in all her glory.  January was miserable, and on February 1st, it was like a huge shift.  The colors brightened, the grass seemed greener, and the 50 degree temperatures felt like tee shirt weather, at least for a couple of hours. 

That night it poured all night, and the morning dawned rainy and drizzly again, but the foggy inversion was gone.  I think those inversions are my least favorite kind of weather, but I keep reminding myself that it may be foggy, but I can walk without crashing on some icy walkway.  At home at the apartments I can’t even manage to get across the road to the mailbox! 

The skies can change in minutes from sunshine to rain this time of year

In between packing, raking and hauling, I have enjoyed some quiet moments reading my favorite blogs.  Erin is on a Round the World Tour, and it is a kick reading about her adventures without having to endure the wild seas of the Pacific Ocean.  It also has been great reading all about Nicki’s trip to Australia and New Zealand without having to get on 13 different flights.  Armchair travel leaves a lot to be desired, but on cold foggy days, it is pretty darn nice.

A mystery:  why haven’t the roses that I moved to Grants Pass from Klamath Falls not lost their leaves?

The primroses I moved from Rocky Point think it must be spring already

Our life is very focused right now.  I am working alternate weeks, and will be at the apartments while working. We will spend the alternate weeks at the cottage, finalizing the clearing out of the cottage, taking what we can salvage before the demolition, and making sure all is ready to go. So it will be a week at home, working soil survey, and a week at the cottage, working at whatever.  At least for the next few weeks.  After that….and on forward, it will be a week at home working and a week at the property, minus the Cottage, and staying in the MoHo, making sure the house build is progressing as planned!

If the daffodils are emerging, it must be spring, right?!

The MoHo will have to come out of her home in the big RV shed for a time, while we store all our “stuff” inside during the building process.  I am going to miss our cozy little cottage getaway, but it is all for a good purpose, and eventually our new home on a similar but larger footprint should still have some of that cozy cottage energy that we have enjoyed so much for the last 4 years. 


Sunday, January 15, 2017

01-15-2017 Wonders of the Coachella Valley

Current Location: Orange Grove RV Park, Bakersfield, California  46 F with a foggy overcast

We are parked this evening at Orange Grove, once again picking oranges to brighten winter days at home.  I am watching the big rigs roll in, up to 4 and 6 at a time, and once again the park is completely full tonight.  It is such an easy stop, after the long drive down the slopes of Tehachapi Pass.  Level pull-through sites, full hookups, nice people to check you in, quick and easy, and yes, the oranges.  It is always about the oranges.

Leaving the Coachella Valley today was bittersweet.  It was perhaps the most blue sky day since we arrived, with temperatures predicted to be in the mid 60’s.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I slipped into the pool at 6am to swim through the sunrise lighting up a few small, low clouds in the east and turning the snows on Mt San Jacinto to the west a brilliant pink. 

That sea of green are the tops of all the domestic palms planted in the landscape of Palm Springs

With a short goodbye to new friend Claudia, we were on the road a little after 9am, enjoying the gorgeous light.  We decided again to take the slightly longer and a little bit slower route  through Yucca Valley, north on Highway 247 to Barstow, before intersecting I-40 West.  As we drove through the wide open desert, through what Mo called “A whole lotta nothing”, I basked in that whole lotta nothing.  It is why we love the desert, and this last nostalgic drive north on 247 is a fitting leave-taking of Southern California.

We are timing the trip north to slip between storms, with good forecasts for the next two days as we travel home to Grants Pass.  We also decided to try something different this time, and we will take the old route 99 toward Lodi instead of the wide and incredibly bumpy Interstate 5.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

The title of this blog post is also the title of a great little book that I found at the Indian Canyons visitor center a few days ago when we hiked Palm Canyon.  Wonders of the Coachella Valley, by James W. Cornett, is a lovely small guide to ten of the best natural places to visit in the area.  After 7 annual visits to this area, we are still finding new places to explore.  Finally, after our hike yesterday, we have been to all ten written about in this great book about some of the local natural history. 

Taquitz Canyon is one more treasure, another beautiful canyon at the edge of Palm Springs.  It is owned by the Aqua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians, as are the Indian Canyons we visited previously.  This canyon, however, has a separate visitor center and a separate entrance.  The cost to hike the 2 mile trail is $12.50 per person and worth every penny.  There are no senior discounts, but it is free to folks with a military ID, either active or retired.

The history of the canyon goes back at least 2,000 years, with evidence of humans occupying the area at that time, traveling to the Ancient Lake Cahuilla for fish, and building materials for their homes, and returning to the lands near the canyon for other plant and animal food sources.  Included with the entrance fee is the opportunity to view the short film about the legend of Taquitz, and the reason that no Native Americans have chosen to live within the canyon itself.

More recent history of the canyon is interesting, with hippies living in caves during the 60’s, and vagrants and trespassers ignoring the no trespassing signs.  Even though it belonged to the tribe, they didn’t have the resources to maintain the trails and keep out the vagrants.  We read several newspaper articles displayed from the last few decades that document the problems in the canyon, and the eventual successful restoration of this magical place.  The tribal people have cleaned it up, kept it clean and free of scary squatters, and allow us to walk the beautifully maintained trails to one of the loveliest waterfalls I have seen in this part of the world. 

There are lots of stone steps leading up the canyon, and the small stone bridges crossing the active creek are works of art.  I love a loop trail, and this one follows both sides of the creek to the falls, so there are options to go in either direction.  I think we picked the best, staying toward the right as we left the visitor center.  I don’t mind climbing up all the steps, with a knee that likes ups much more than downs, and I think there were fewer steps on the other side of the creek on our route downhill.

Even on a sunny Saturday around 11 there weren’t so many people on the trail that it was uncomfortable.  It is a hike that can be completed by just about anyone willing to climb the steps and we saw families with kids, runners in bright shoes, and old people with walking sticks enjoying the trail. 

The falls is enclosed in shadow, and judging from the high walls surrounding the cascade, I would imagine that the sun never shines in that alcove.  The sound was beautiful, but even with only a few people on the trail, it felt as though it would be hogging the scene to hang around too long.  Everyone wanted their photo right in front of the falls, and it was only fair to take turns.

With the dark shadows and dim light it was difficult to capture the beauty of the white bark of the huge old sycamores that thrive in the moist soils of the canyon floor and at the base of the falls.  With the brilliant yellow brittlebush that covers the hillsides not yet blooming, our only spot of color was Justica californica, Chuparosa, with a salvia type flower that was brilliant red.  Chuparosa is a colloquial Spanish word for hummingbird bush, and I did see a hummingbird hanging around in the lower part of the canyon.

Our hike was a perfect finale to the 11 days we spent in the Coachella Valley, finally visiting a beautiful place that no one should miss when traveling to this area. We now have seen all ten places listed in the book, and yet there are many more trails to explore within each of those sites. 

I know we will come back.  Whether for a day or a few, this valley is on our way to whatever desert we chose to explore.  No matter the shifts and changes at Catalina Spa, I am reasonably certain we will park there again as well.  Who knows what we will find the next time we come.  I still miss the “lower” pool, and the bigger one in the upper park is a substitute.  But it worked, I still was able to swim in the middle of the night or at sunrise, and had the pool to myself.  That is still the best part of Catalina Spa for me.

For Mattie, I think the dog park is fun, but the best part for her is the open desert to the north of the park, filled with debris from park cleanups, but also filled with rabbit smells and open space where she can run off leash a bit.  Mo and I like walking out there as well, watching whatever lightshow appears for us on the distant mountains.

I do feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to escape to the deserts, no matter how long or how short the trip may be.  There was a time, as my daughter reminded me on the phone today, when February would put me in a dark place. I don’t take for granted the shifts in my life that allow me the freedom to roam, to wander, to swim at dawn or hike on a weekday, or sit in a fabulous movie theater on a rainy afternoon.  Retirement really is incredible.