Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hiking in Pinnacles National Park

Feeling the need to get away and do some real camping and hiking, we headed south toward Gilroy, garlic capital of the known universe (and more repulsive than ever (aromatically)), and then further, through Hollister, to Pinnacles National Park, only about 100 miles from Menlo. Pinnacles is the nation's newest NP, authorized in 2013, although it began as a national monument in 1908. Among those supporting its founding then were President TR, Gifford Pinchot, and David Starr Jordan. Pinnacles is not all that spectacular--it's nice, but not spectacular at all, if you ask me--and one suspects the history and pedigree have much to do with its new, much-upgraded status as a NP. Anyhow, after holding our noses and stimulating Gilroy's economy, we spent a pleasant evening at Pinnacles NP campground, visiting with a Dutch couple doing in the Americas what we did in Europe, and then we went out hiking the next day.
On the trail again


Much of the rock is a sort of conglomerate, an upthrust smack
in the middle of the San Andreas Fault

You don't want to be standing under the overhang when the Big One comes

Out of the canyon and approaching a clump of pinnacles


Interesting tree near where we had lunch

Climbing is permitted in the Park; this kind probably not encouraged, however

Pinnacly ridge


A formation we dubbed "the castle"

Vicki in an arch; the CCC did much of the trail building and
improvement here; not pictured: some of the gorgeous stone
buildings they built, now used for Park staff residences

Interesting striation

View from the ridge crest


View from the ridge crest; apart from the view, another reason for hiking up 
to the crest was to get cell reception (the visitor center and campground are 
in a deep hole) and to learn more about the storm moving in the next day 
(later known as the Pineapple Express); assessing the forecasts, looking at 
the terrain and evidence of previous flooding and at all the fallen giant oaks 
in the campground, we decided to save the rest of  Pinnacles NP for another, 
drier day, and drove back to Menlo  to weather the storm there

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Outings With P

Our weeks in Middle California have been spent largely in work on the camper--ever more gadgets, appliances, alterations--and in a variety of outings with grand-daughter, P. Here are scenes from a few of them...
At P's school on Art Night

Self-portrait de style Africain

Anxiously awaiting arrival of the CalTrain Holiday Train 

Right on time...

And we're right in the front to speak

As the show goes on, characters emerge to interact with the

Santa bestows Christmas blessings

A California thing, apparently

Sudsy snow in Menlo Park

Happy little girl

At the American Girl store

With Santa at Stanford mall

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In the Depths of the Forest...

We took grand-daughter P on a camping trip over the long Thanksgiving weekend to the Little Basin State Park in the mountains north of Santa Cruz. (The week before we had driven from the north coast via Redding and Vallejo to Menlo Park, parking at Rebecca and Jeremy's). Little Basin was the only state campground nearby that had's a few miles south of Big Basin, California's oldest state park and home to some of the state's most majestic redwoods. Little Basin's redwoods were majestic enough, and the campsites are scattered in the woods around the central meadow/basin. The place was originally a retreat/conference center for H-P employees (remember H-P?). The basin is a hole in the mountains surrounding it, and the campsites are by and large quite dark, owing to the thick and immense trees. In late November, there's barely enough light to go around anyway. So there we were, with P, four days and three nights, in the depths of the forest (Siegfried, Act II), also without much phone signal nor wifi. Fortunately, P provides all the entertainment anyone (well, any grand-parent) could want.
Plenty of light up high, not so much on the

Typical site, adjacent to three different redwood fairy rings

Big stump and ring adjacent to our site


It's California, where we practice crumb-clean

But you can have campfires...and roasted hot dogs and
s'mores...(is this what they mean by paleo?)

The main playground; Little Basin really has a lot of features
and facilities, especially for groups (we shared it with half a
dozen other families and with a couple score of Bay area Muslim
men on a religious retreat); its one shortcoming is sanitary
facilities, of which it has two small blocks (apparently H-P
employees were thought to be above mortal needs; or, since
they were probably nearly all guys, it was expected they'd go
behind the bushes); but I digress; above, Vicki heads for the
swings, and P begins her customary granular inventory...

Grandma just does not understand about playgrounds and sand...

Somewhat later

And somewhat later still, tea party time in the camper; with
pie crust cookies from home (we did have pumpkin pie, our
one concession to tradition)

In a small rig, everyone has to find his or her
own space....

Snug in her bag

Another day, hiking on the Tan Bark Ridge trail

Dusk--3:30 PM or so--brought deer out onto the basin; P got
quite adept at spotting them

Looking up from the center of one of the big fairy rings

Saturday, the (torrential) rains began--it's monsoon season
in California, where, after three years of record drought, the
rain is welcome; and on Sunday we drove back to Menlo Park 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Best Chainsaw Sculpture Ever, So Far

Orick, CA, population 630 (??), is the gateway to the lower Redwood National Park and especially its Golden Bluffs Beach Campground. Historically dependent on the timber industry, I surmise, it is nowadays not all that prosperous-looking. It's a one-pump town--and since it's 60 or so miles on to Eureka, one is greatly relieved to see that one (cash only) pump. (NB: It's not at the defunct gas station; it's at the general (and chain-saw sculpture) store on the south-side outskirts.) But, as we have seen elsewhere, sometimes decline in one area leads to good things in another. In Orick's case, it is chain-saw sculpture. There are more chain-saw sculptures stores in Orick than any other town I have ever seen; and they are not part of a chain, either. (Nyuck, nyuck...). And, without a doubt, Orick has more chain-saw works of art per capita than any place I have ever seen. From all this, I conclude that Orick must have or have had more chain-saw sculptors, per capita, than any other town I have ever seen. Sort of like Amsterdam in the 17th century, when the painters out-numbered the bakers. Sort of. In any case, the piece de resistance, is a fairy-tale castle of gigantic proportions. As an art historian, I cannot decide whether its inspiration was Neuschwannstein or Hohenschwanngau; or possibly Disney. I only hope this artist is working now on his or her Apollo and Daphne.
After our day at Golden Bluffs, we drove on to
Eureka and thence, across the mountains on the
very lonely but beautiful CA 299, the Trinity
River appearing to us a very large Lochsa River,
and onto Redding and a visit at the Camping
World there

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Traveling the California Coast

We broke camp at Lat 42.3122460 Long 124.4144011 and continued our southerly course on US101, passing eventually out of Oregon and into California, heading for Redwood National Park and the remote seaside campground at Gold Bluffs Beach.
Maybe Oregon, maybe California...the coasts are equally


Now California

As soon as you cross the state line, the trees get much, much
larger--they haven't all been hacked down as in Oregon--and
other unmistakably Californian signs appear...the legendary
Trees of Mystery, which we did not visit (although we suspect
Rachel and Rebecca did on a road-trip some years ago)

At length, and passing our first off-pavement trial, 6 miles of
it, we arrived and set up camp at Gold Bluffs Beach
Campground, Redwood National Park

The Gold Bluffs, from which miners extracted gold from the
1850s to the 1920s, using largely the copper-plate method

And there we are, perhaps 100 yards from the roaring surf

The resident elk are not timid


And then, just before dinner, we were treated to a spectacular
Pacific sunset