Klamath Lake on a cold morning

Klamath Lake on a cold morning
Klamath Lake on a cold morning

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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

01-12-2017 Rain in the desert, and another canyon hike

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

Raining.  Yes, at the moment it has been raining for several hours.  I’m not complaining, the desert and the state of California needs rain in general.  I am not complaining, because even with the rain, we have escaped the deep snows and epic cold that have gripped both our home town of Klamath Falls and our new home town to be, Grants Pass. 

I am not complaining, because in the midst of the rain storms and chilly weather, we have had a few nice sun breaks, and temperatures in the high 60’s.  The photos from the last post when we hiked the Indian Canyons proved it.  Yet, somehow, when the rain is coming down, it is easy to forget all that lovely sunshine that lasted for a day here and there. 

A day or so after we arrived, Mo put out the patio rug and the chairs, and on one lovely day actually sat in the chairs and read while I worked on photos and the blog.  Nice day.  The winds started up after that, and the rains once again so the rug got staked down and the chairs folded up and put under the rig to stay dry and not blow away.  Winter in the desert.  Not always, but often enough that if you plan to escape your cold winter climate, you need to be prepared for times like this, when the wind blows, the rains come, and the skies are gray.  It happens.

Yesterday the predictions were for 20 percent chance of rain, holding off till late afternoon.  Taking advantage of that prediction, we headed east on Dillon Road all the way to Indio, and then toward Mecca and east to Box Canyon Road.  Al, of the Bayfield Bunch, has talked of Box Canyon Road many times on his blog, being their route of choice when they travel I-10 west from Quartzite heading for Anza Borrego.  In fact, I am sure that several of the bloggers that I follow have talked about Painted Canyon, with some of you actually squeezing between the slot canyon walls of Ladder Canyon. 

Maybe later I can look up your stories, but in the mean time, if you are reading, and you have hiked Ladder Canyon, pop a comment in here and let me know where to find your post about it?

The skies were gray as we turned onto the graded dirt/gravel road that leads to the entrance of the lovely canyons that are within the wilderness area boundaries.  We knew we could take Mattie on the main canyon, but also knew that she wouldn’t be able to climb the ladders on the side canyon, appropriately called “Ladder Canyon”.   We will save that one for another time, and maybe a time when I am a bit more narrow, so when I turn sideways I can still fit between the walls?

The main trail through Painted Canyon is wide and nearly level.  I found the narrow and steep trail that leads into Ladder Canyon, and was glad that Mattie was along to give me an excuse to not try it on this day.  Lots of rock climbing and scrambling involved in that one, and I needed to be in a different mood with a happier knee to do it.  Next time.

The trail to Ladder Canyon isn’t easily visible unless you are looking for it.

We walked the length of the main canyon, meeting a large hiking group and sharing the space with some young guys who somehow missed the Ladder Canyon trail.  We saw four young lovely girls taking off that direction and when we told the guys how to get there and told them about the cute girls, they burst into a trot to get back to the “right” trail.

At the end of the main canyon, there is a large rock pour-over, graced by a couple of metal ladders leading up to the next level.  Mattie, the rock climber, attempted to leap up those rocks, but couldn’t quite make it to the top.  Instead, I stayed behind with her while Mo explored the ladders, hollering down from the top to me, “It gets level again up here!”. Well, neither of us was about to carry Mattie up those ladders, so again, we will save that one for another time as well.  It is always nice to have something new to try for the next time, minus the dog, who thank goodness is willing to wait at home when we need her to do so.

The colors of Painted Canyon were somewhat muted and subtle, partially because of the muted daylight and cloudy skies, and partly because they are a bit muted and subtle anyway.  This canyon is not like the canyons in southern Utah, without the brilliant red orange sandstones of Navajo and Wingate. The drama comes in the contact zones, where the break between layered sediments and highly cooked metamorphic rock  is incredible. In this photo, that light zone at the top of the cliff is not a light difference, it is the contact between dark metamorphic and light sedimentary rocks.

Here, in the Mecca Hills, the graded dirt road crosses the San Andreas Fault, and the vertical uplift of sediments that were once old lake and sea beds is dramatic, as are the contact zones between all the different kinds of rock, jumbled, cooked, and twisted by the forces of faulting and uplift.  It is a geologist’s dream place to visit. 

Leaving the canyons, we drove back out to Box Canyon Road and turned north toward where it intersects with I-10 at the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.  We boondocked near the entrance a few years ago, read about Box Canyon Road, and it has been on my list of places to explore for some time now. 

The canyon is interesting, winding and full of eroded sediments and soft rock that make for complexity and lots of sandy washes.  There are boondocking sites all along the canyon, and interesting side 4 wheel drive trails to explore.  However the canyon walls enclose the views, and when in the desert, we prefer those long vistas that are such a part of boondocking in the desert.  We might not choose to camp here, although we did see several folks settled in to nice spots.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

01-11-2017 Treasure in the Desert

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

At the moment, we are under a wind advisory, nothing too serious, and nothing unusual for Desert Hot Springs at this time of year.  The skies are wild and gorgeous, with huge puffy white clouds rolling over the mountains and making shadows on the desert floor.  We are in shorts, with sun pouring in the windows of the rig, although it is hard to guess what the actual outside temperature might be if the wind weren’t blowing.

Currently I have my favorite  George Yates rib recipe on the Weber Q, packets of yams/apples/and onions ready for cooking when the ribs are done, and some cole slaw in the fridge.  We are having company for supper, just a way to say thank you for lunch yesterday, which Claudia so delightfully offered after our hike in the desert.

In all the years we have traveled to Desert Hot Springs, we haven’t managed to hike the Indian Canyons.  There is a fee to enter and there are no dogs allowed.  With so many places to hike, even some dog friendly ones, it didn't’ seem necessary.  Yesterday we decided it was time to make the effort, and oh what a place it is!

But first I have to share the other desert treasure we visited.  Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve lies several miles east of the RV park.  I first hiked here on Christmas Eve in 2010, where Laurie and Odel met me and shared the hike they loved.  We had a great day, and I was thrilled by the beautiful palms.  Mo and I have returned several times to hike here, sometimes simply walking around the groves, and other times wandering off into the desert, lost even with a GPS (and no phone signal).  That was 2 years ago, and we did manage to find our way back to the visitor center without mishap.

This year we decided on the shorter hike from the Visitor Center to Simone Pond, just a little over a mile, and an easy walk through the desert wash landscape.  The ponds are home to an amazing array of wildlife, including the desert pupfish, birds, frogs, snakes, rabbits, and other critters.  The docent at the Visitor Center reminded us that this area has been preserved in perpetuity for the sake of protecting the habitats, and if people abuse the area it is a simple matter to close the trails.  The Oasis is not for people, but for habitat management, so protecting that habitat is the priority.

The true treasure of Thousand Palms, however, are the palms.  California fan palms, majestic in their size and unique nature, are the only native palm in California.  They occur in a few oases throughout this part of California, and while there are actually maybe a few hundred rather than a thousand in  this particular oasis, the trails that meander through the wetlands are a wonderful way to experience the rich shadows and glorious light that fills the palm forest.

We took our time, enjoying the trails and delighting in the brilliant, warm desert afternoon light.  Being Sunday, there were quite a few people on the trail and the parking lot was nearly full.  But no matter.  Everyone was respectful, families were pleasant, with lots of laughter and welcome greetings along the trail.  It was a lovely day.

The predicted rains and winds showed up on Monday, and Mo and I decided to track down a  couple of my favorite quilt shops before finding the Mary Pickford Theater in the heart of Cathedral City.  Our destination was an afternoon matinee showing of “Manchester by the Sea”.  It was a bit surprising to find fairly long lines at 2 in the afternoon, but the Palm Spring International Film Festival is happening this week as well.  The ticket seller warned us that the only seats left in our chosen theater were the first two rows.

Ok then.  When we walked into the theater, those first two rows looked like something out of a United Emirates Airline commercial. There were huge recliners, with cupholders and lots of space between pairs of seats.  The movie was well done, definitely worth seeing, but the chairs very nearly overshadowed the movie experience with such comfort.  Haven’t seen that before in our small town movie theaters.

The next day, Tuesday, again had high wind predictions for Desert Hot Springs, with winds ranging from 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 55.  As is often the case, however, the winds across the valley in Palm Springs were less than 5 to 10 mph, and the day was nice enough to go hiking without jackets.  We debated shorts, but settled for long pants instead. Claudia isn’t familiar with the area, and when she found out we were going hiking, asked if she could tag along.

The Indian Canyons of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians are an incredible desert treasure.  Cahuilla Indians have lived in these canyons for at least three thousand years, where they established villages, and tended the palms to increase fruit production.  The canyons are an invaluable resource, providing year round fresh running water, palm fronds for building homes, fruits and seeds from palms, mesquite, and other plants to provide ample food, and protection from the harshness of the summer and winter climates. 

We first hiked up Andreas Canyon, enthralled by the light and shadow, and the sound of running water over huge granite boulders.  There are mortars worn into the bedrock, formed from the grinding of palm and mesquite fruits, some of them as much as ten inches deep.

After completing the Andreas Canyon loop, we continued south on the main road toward the visitor center and the trailhead for Palm Canyon.  Hidden away in the wild badlands of this dry part of California are more than a hundred wild palm groves, and this is the largest, with a recent count of more than 2500 palms thriving along the canyon ravine.  The stream is live with fresh water, the sounds of water and birds are the background to the rustling of palm fronds in the winds above us. 

The floor of the canyon narrows and widens at intervals, and the trail is mostly level, wide, and soft.  The fragrance of moist sand, decaying vegetation, and organic matter is pungent.  The ravine is 12 miles long, and separates the Santa Rosa from the San Jacinto mountains.  The trail climbs above the canyon in places and then meanders along old beaches and around huge boulders.

It was one of the loveliest hikes we have ever experienced in all our years visiting this area, and there are so many trails to explore, you can be sure we will return again and again. A nice benefit, the cost for seniors to enter the canyons is a mere $7.00, and with her military ID, Mo got in free.  Wonderful.

We only hiked a little over three miles, saving the six mile round trip hike to the Stone Pools for our next visit.  It was nice spending hiking time with Claudia as well, and she wanted to treat us to lunch to thank us for showing her around the area.  Of course, there is no better nor iconic Palm Springs lunch spot than Sherman’s Delicatessen.  With a nice outside table, warmed by the propane heaters placed strategically about, we had classic Ruebens and a magnificent burger for Mo.  Dessert is crazy at this place, not only famous for its Ruebens, but for its bakery. 

We left the restaurant with half our lunch in boxes, and more than half our desserts in other boxes.  What a great day.  Returning home to the rig found a happy little dog, who seemed to have spent the entire afternoon quietly chewing on her knuckle bone and waiting patiently.  Lucky us!