Thursday, March 31, 2011

Digging out at Bear Valley

Camp Connell, CA -- The big March storms have passed, and daffodils are actually appearing at the lower elevations.
The temperatures are up into the 50s and 60s, and the snow is melting fast -- except at the highest elevations.
Bear Valley is at 7,030 feet, and they have had a winter to remember. Longtime residents compare it to the big storm years of the early 1980s.
Our son Zack works at the ski resort, another thousand feet up the mountain, and he spent six days straight shoveling snow so the lifts could carry the skiers.
Today we went with friends Gary and Jeri to check out their cabin at the village at Bear Valley.
The pictures tell the story, even when I bounced the camera around a bit.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Camp Connell, Ca -- Mar. 25, 2011 -- As of yesterday a neighbor had measured approximately 27 feet of snowfall this winter. And it is still snowing.

Our average, we think, is around 15 feet, so this has been an unusual year.

Long-time locals recall a similar winter in the 1970s, or maybe early 1980s.

Several neighbors have found they have urgent business down the hill, usually in the Bay Area with family or friends. After a certain point snow just becomes, well, snow.

The snow plow operators are worn out, and deserve a break.

I admit I am ready for a real Spring, not one on the calendar only.

But it is still pretty.

The video is very amateurish, shot with my little Flip Video camera. The editing -- such as it is -- is all my fault.

I do hope you notice the music. It was as appropriate as I could find.

Come see us.

Bring a shovel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Break in the desert

Anza Borrego State Park, California -- Winter means lots of snow in our mountain home, and sand is what we spread on icy roads.,
The desert is not something I really know, despite a few visits over the years.
So when friends Gary and Jeri invited us to explore the desert country that bumps up against the Mexican border we jumped at the chance.It was an easy choice: they provided the giant RV, food, and friendship. We contributed our charming personalities and a few bucks for gas.
Our base in the desert was the giant Anza Borrego State Park, more than 600,000 acres of sand, mountains, hills, dry washes, oases, and lots of things that fly, crawl or run. Plus a lot of snowbirds in their RVs escaping winter, just as we were doing.
Campgrounds in the desert are not like the tree covered plots we know from the mountains or back east. Until you look closely the desert has a lot of sameness to it, and RV camping areas look a lot like RV sales lots. But the neighborhood is quieter, dominated at night by the yowls of coyote off in the brush,and the hoots of owls.
Definitely a lizard of some kind, maybe a Blue-tailed Skink?

At daybreak birds sing including the cooing of dove and western Quail calling their distinct “Chi-CA-go, Chi-CA-go,” sounds. (Seems like a western bird should be saying "Camp CON nel, Camp CON nel" or something more localized.)
Gary and Jeri have been coming to this spot for almost 40 years, and were our tour guides and enthusiastic encouragers when the trails got hot and dusty.
Among the highlights were spotting a group of Big Horn Sheep on the canyon wall and rim, and spotting a rare Red Diamondback Rattlesnake about four feet long who moved slow in the proper direction -- away from us.
The desert is full of life, waiting for you to visit.
The photos tell the story.

A landslide in the sandstone canyon blocked our four-wheel excursion after about 15 miles into the back country. But the tire tracks indicated someone got through!
Big Horn Sheep survive in this remote place. They keep their distance from hikers, and a watchful eye from the rim of the canyon wall.
Pat, Jeri and Gary take a close look at the complex geology. This used to be the bottom of the Salton sea when it was connected to what is now the Sea of Cortez.

The oases near the top of Palm Canyon was almost wiped out by a flash flood a few years ago, but is making a comeback.
Jeri takes a break in the shade, and a chance to dry her boots which were soaked crossing a creek.

Pat enjoying the warm weather and sunshine.
The start of the trail.
Toward the end of a perfect day, the perfect sunset.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Snowmobile excursion to Spicer, Union and Utica

Camp Connell, CA. -- Twenty years ago my friends Ralph Coley and Alan Christie would cross country ski from Highway 4, high in the mountains above where I live, into a trio of reservoirs miles off the highway.
Their annual adventure included hours of slogging along, often in bad weather, sub-freezing temperatures and camping in the cold wet snow. I was tempted, but declined, preferring the comfort of a lodge's roaring fire.

Today, courtesy of my neighbor Bill Minkel's snowmobiles, I retraced their trip in about 30 minutes in reasonable comfort. Our biggest hazard was sunburn.

Sorry Alan and Ralph, but it was a lot easier this way.
(Notice the stop sign which normally stands eight feet above the ground.)

Bill and I met at his house, had a cup of good coffee, hooked up the trailer for the trip up the mountain. The hardest work of the day, with one minor exception, was getting the trailer free from its bed of snow.

Bill managed to flip his machine on its side, but the snow was soft and it was not a big deal.

The forest roads into the reservoirs are not plowed, but they are groomed like a ski slope to make access easier for snowmobiles. We wandered around in the frozen wilderness all day and saw six other people, plus forest service folk digging out directional signs.

No cross country skiers were anywhere to be seen.

Lunch included a nice white wine from Indian Rock winery in Murphys, and a view to die for.