Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Camp Connell, CA - Dec. 24, 2008 -- We've been blessed this year with health, family, and beautiful surroundings.
Can't ask for more.
Blessings on you this Christmas, and a wish for a Happy New Year.

Sanders & Pat

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow's here for Christmas

Calaveras Big Trees State Park -- Within two days of the recent blog showing us basking in a warm pool in the high Sierra, the snows arrived, just in time for Christmas.

Then early last week we attended a training session for docents at the state park two miles downhill from where we live. Chief Interpreter Wendy Harrison took the photo of our happy group along the trail through the grove of Sequoia trees.

The snow was perfect, the chief interpreter broke the trail, and the rest of us followed along on skis or snowshoes. The training was only moderately strenuous, and we saw lots of tracks: coyote, rabbit, squirrel, mice, birds, and maybe even a fox. The deer have moved downhill to avoid the snow, and the bears are sleeping.

We ended up in the warming hut having lunch together around the fire while the ranger gave a talk on survival skills for winter. This year, for the first time, the park will offer guided tours in the snow and Pat and I will be taking people through the park trails. Pretty good duty.

All in all, a lovely day.

I don't want anyone to think snow is always fun, fine or easy. Since that first good snow we have had snow, sleet, rain, and more snow. Now it is a bit crusty and hard to drive on. My shoulders are sore, and I could do without the needed shovel skills. But my new garage-sale snow blower works well.

And when the grandchildren came to visit this weekend, it was a really good time for sledding and snowball fights. More on that later.

Meanwhile, have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Sanders & Pat

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just before the snow

Camp Connell, CA -- Friday, Dec. 12, 2008 -- We returned tonight from a quick trip across the Sierra Nevada mountains to take a look at the high country mountains before the first big series of winter storms brings snow.
We started east across California's Highway 4, aka Ebbetts Pass Highway, on Thursday on a bright and sunny morning, cold and clear and beautiful. Fall color is gone, and the trees at high elevation are bare, sparkling, and ready for winter. The brush is ripe with buds and the stems are a red color, indicating they are dormant and just waiting for the Spring to come.
The streams and lakes we passed along the route are all partially frozen, particularly in the shady spots. The route we followed is also known as the old Immigrant Trail, or the Big Trees-to-Carson Pass route once followed by beaver trappers, families moving West, and gold miners in search of fortunes.
Our route took us through Markleeville, seat of California's least populated county, and by a wonderful state park. Grover Hot Springs Park has just what the name implies, steaming hot springs where you can soak at any time of year for a mere $5 fee to the state.
As soon as we had a quick lunch (the cook was sick at the hotel, but they served great soups left over from the night before) we took the plunge.

The springs are at 5,600 feet, and hoar frost was snuggled into the weeds alongside the trail, and small patches of snow in the trees on the north-facing slopes, but the air was comfortable and the springs terrific.
We drove on into Nevada to visit the home of one of our favorite historical characters, Snowshoe Thompson, a mailman who carried mail and packages across these mountains between 1950s and 1870s, on skis in winter.
He is considered the father of skiing, and local resorts pay him homage. It took him three days to ski across a route that took us about four hours of tough mountain driving. Mostly we admire his skill and strength. You can find out more about him at this website:

Then we went on to Carson City, the capitol of Nevada, with a quick drive through Virginia City, the heart of the Comstock Lode silver strike in the late 1800s.
Here's a look.
Of the two, Virginia City is more interesting, though little was open and we opted to spend the night at a casino hotel in Carson City. The Gold Dust West Casino, Hotel, Bowling Alley and RV Park, looked good but the food was bad and the casino pretty sad. (I was too, as I dropped $40 in the Wheel of Fortune Slot machines.)

Friday we drove west toward home by way of Carson Pass, a beautiful two-lane route that goes near Lake Tahoe (though you can't see it from Carson Pass). It is named for Kit Carson, who came this way 150 years ago.
We went by Kirkwood Ski Resort, and then through the gold rush towns of Jackson, San Andreas and Angels Camp before arriving home just at dark.
The rain started about 9 p.m., turned to sleet by 10.

P.S. We woke up to a light covering of snow this morning.
Much more is expected Sunday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Odetta, a force of nature

Camp Connell, Ca -- People sometimes think of folk music as a quaint experience, best left to children and old men.
But Odetta was one of those people who lifted spirits, drove societal change, and entertained us all at the same time. When you listened to her sing, you could hear the voices of people long dead, telling their stories and their hopes and fears.
History spoke in ever song.
I was a teenager living in Mobile, Alabama, when I first heard her sing on one of her early albums. She was almost too powerful to take, but also too wonderful to ignore.
She was one of the reasons I bought a guitar in 1956, and start listening and learning music that speaks of the hearts of people, their pains and their joys.
Music has been one of the great blessings in my life, and Odetta is one of the people who blessed a lot of us.
She died this week at 77. A well-done obit is at the link below, and be sure and take the time to listen to the video link, which includes an interview (only slightly marred by the intrusive interviewer) and some wonderful renditions of her songs.
One of the quotes I liked best: folk musicians don't steal one another's songs, they "pass the tradition along."
Check the obit:

Me, I'm heading for the basement to pull out my old 33 rpm recording of "I'm on my way..."