Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another beautiful day in paradise

Patricia's World

Look but do not enter

The Aspen were aglow

The weather has been too beautiful to stay inside lately, so today after church, we returned home to change clothes and pack a lunch, then drove up the mountain to explore. We parked the Subaru at the Silver Lake trailhead just above Lake Alpine.

It took about an hour of steady walking to go down to our destination, Duck Lake. It was/is truly a lovely trail... beauty all around us.
The trees and ground smelled sweet from the recent rain and snow. Sky so blue, sunshine glowing through the trees.

We passed two couples each with little children in tow, so I thought that probably I could make it in and out again. The last part was all down hill (so you know what that means, it was uphill to get back to the car! ).

This beautiful little lake is in a small meadow surrounded by Lodgepole Pine and bright yellow Aspen. In the meadow also were three abandoned log cabins, all decrepit, ancient, falling down (don't go inside). One even had an old white enamel woodburning kitchen stove and kitchen sink. I guess they packed those in years ago. Lots of recent cow paddies all over the meadow from summer mountain grazing....and assorted other scat....coyote, deer, jackrabbit, and maybe a bear (hope so anyway, or it was one HUGE dog...or maybe it was a horse...)

We stayed there long enough to look around and take some pix and take a little rest. The hike out wasn't so bad. though it was pretty hard for me, being so out of shape and all, but I did make it, and Sanders didn't need to break out the M&Ms this time. Well, he didn't have any, but I think we may need them for another time...

Dinner later at the Lube Room around 5 p.m..gourmet hot dog and cheeseburger.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just another day in the mountains

Today was a "found" day as we expected to be tied up with contractors, and then on the road to San Francisco Bay to deal with hauling out our sailboat s/v Good News so we can get the bottom painted, a routine and expensive maintenance chore.

We took care of the first business early.

The contractor who is going to build us a garage came by with the county building permits in hand; actually almost, nearly, possibly ready to start the project. We began this process in Spring, signed a contract in June, and have been messing around with ideas, the county permit folk and an engineer ever since.
So far, we are only about $800 over budget, thanks to surprises from the county permit people regarding the required engineering (about $600 worth) and me paying a totally unfair penalty for the fact the wood shed, 20 years old and built by someone else, apparently did not have a permit. I decided not to argue about it, or tear down the shed, which were options that took too much energy and emotion.
We need the garage as the cars take a real beating when the snow and ice come to stay.
Our plan was to have the garage built before the snow flies.
Well, the snow flew a week ago, though it did not last long.
We remain hopeful, based on today's discussions, that within a week a neighbor will show up with a backhoe and start shoving dirt and gravel around. It is a fairly simple design, so if we get reasonable weather for the next 30 days, we may see a garage before the serious snow begins. Last year we had the first snow in late November. This year it has snowed here once, and just up the road, three times, already.

So, just in case, we will make sure the buiding supplies can be stashed out of the weather in our woodshed if needed.
The second contractor, this one a person who install kitchen counters, showed up before the first one left. That discussion required much looking at colorful tiles of various materials, all horrifically expensive, and suggesting multiple options. We will get a bid in a few days, and probably get one or two more.
This became necessary whe our kitchen counter tile cracked one especially cold winter. I have repaired the damage with duct tape for several years, but we agree it is time for a fix.
But then we were done, as the boatyard where I want to get the haulout done is not available this week.
So we went to the park.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is our near neighbor, two miles down the road, and we almost never go there unless we have house guests.
But today we took off, found a bottle of water under the car seat, and went exploring and hiking.
We have visited the South Grove of Sequoiah (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees many times, but today we drove all the way down the river canyon to the other side, in the middle of a beautiful forest, and hiked into the seldom-visited North Grove.
It is a beautiful time of year to be outside. The weather was post card perfect; sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. Recent rains have dampened down the forest floor, and created a perfumed scent as a few eager plants have sprung back to hold their heads high.
Only four or five other vehicles were at the trailhead, and it was as if we had a magic place all to ourselves.
The drive down into the park and up the next ridge covered about ten miles of mixed conifer and oak forests, and elevation ranging from 5,000 feet down to 3,000 feet and back up again.
This part of the forest is full of small dogwoods under the larger cedars and pines and oaks, and they have all turned pink and yellow and gold and orange. Quite a sight. And we discovered a tree called a big leaf maple, plendid in yellows down alongside the creeks.
The squirrels are busy everywhere, getting ready for winter, and we even saw a few wooly worms getting ready for cold weather.
The big trees are stunning. They dominate everything nearby, and seem to lurk behind the merely magnificent Sugar Pines and White Cedars which reach upward over a hundred feet. The Stanislaus River and bear and Big Trees creeks were flowing happily.
The guide book says there are more than 1,000 living big trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the groves in our park. These are not Coastal redwoods, which actually grow taller, but the prehistoric giant trees that are the largest living things in our world today -- the few that are left.
We plan to vsit them all, and not worry about meeting contractors.
We're retired. We have time to do it all.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Cruisin' away from the rustic life

Traveling from Vancouver, B.C., to Los Angeles, CA, on a giant cruise ship was never my idea of a really good time.
Until we actually did it.
Yes, it is conspicuous consumption.
Yes, there are a lot of people of a certain age on board.
Yes, we spent a lot of time discussing or consuming food.
But, man, was it fun!

First, a few technical details.
We sailed on the Norwegian Cruise Lines' Pearl from Vancouver to Los Angeles, with a stop in San Francisco, in the company of Pat's cousins Kathy and Brenda, and their husbands Dennis and Jim. (I consider them all my cousins-in-law, and good friends).
The ship is about one year old, longer than the road between Camp Connell and Dorrington, and taller than most buildings. Just think HUGE. The pictures, which are not in any particular order, will give you an idea.

It was not terribly expensive, considering the food supply, so long as you kept your bar bill (that's extra) and casino visits under control.

Our cabins, called "mini-suites," were about the size of a hotel room, slightly narrower but with quality everything, a stocked mini-bar, sofa, desk, television, phones, and a balcony overlooking the ocean. Cheaper cabins are available, but we were living it up.
At one point in the cruise we all hung over the balcony rails and watched the whales spouting off.
We sang to them.
Sorry, but I was too excited to take pictures.

I can't recall how many restaurants there were on board, but I assure you we never found them all, despite our best efforts. The women did discover a cafeteria converted into a chocolate buffet around midnight one night.

We ate at a steak house one night, an Asian place the next, French the next and haute cuisine the next, with other meals on the rear deck or in other parts of the ship.

The guys bowled (they have four alleys), worked at the slot machines, drank beer by the pool, while other people swam or soaked in the hot tubs, used the running trck, played tennis or basketball on the top deck. A few people even tried the rock climbing wall, or shuffleboard. We all shopped, gambled, visited the art gallery, ate and gawked like everyone else.

We saw the Second City Comedy Show, an excellent magician (with attractive young wife in bikini who, unfortunately, kept disappearing). And Pat and I took a dance class to learn how to Line Dance. Picture us doing the "Boot Scootin' Boogie" with about 20 Japanese women tourists.

Mostly, we just stared at people and stuff. There were a few thousand peple on board but it never seemed really crowded except when getting on and off the boat. There were a lot of people over 50, but an equally interesting group of families and younger people, particularly Asian tourists.

The crew was led by tall distinguished Norwegian men named Lars or something similar, had a good representation of women officers, and the majority of the support crew came from the Phillipines and Romania, with a smattering from everywhere else including a nice man from Bali named Iwayan (ryhmes with lion).

When we stopped at San Francisco for the day I was the tour guide, no tips please, so we hopped a trolley car to the Cable Car stop, then took that to the top of Nob Hill for pictures and views. We caught another cable car down the hills to the waterfront, where the sea lions (even as loud and stinky as they are) were the hit of the show.

But it was the ship (don't call it a boat) that was the star of the cruise. It was really magnificant. A tour without leaving the dock would have been a treat.

The cost was about equal to a few nights in the Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, but we moved across the ocean and were treated to real luxury not faded glory.

Consider this: some day you may need to choose an Assisted Living Facility, but you could simply stay aboard a cruise ship and be housed, fed and cared for (they have a doctor on board) for less money.

I would do it again, just as soon as I get off my current diet. I look like Mister StayPuff and need to haul a few cords of wood before the snow gets deep.

But now it is nap time. And it is snowing outside.