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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Birds and more birds, at Mark and Trish’s in Yelm, WA. These critters drain both feeders in a matter of hours, then fly around complaining that there’s not any more seed. Ingrates all.

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East of Portland, along the original Lewis & Clark Highway, is Vista House, a way station for early 20th Century travelers. Claudia is a wonderful guide to the history and locations for the greater Portland area. Vista House lives up to its name, and the day was perfect for viewing the horizon. Bonneville Dam is barely visible in the distance.

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When I was a kid, our family camped at Prairie Creek. Two stand-out memories: a monster trout in the creek, and the elk grazing nearby. I think I found the general area of our campsite, and the elk were out by Fern Canyon.  It was a beautiful day, cool with bright sunshine, so I made a couple of sandwichs in a redwood grove, and ate one right then and there. I cruised the campground, then reacquainted myself with the narrow, rutted access road to the canyon, about four miles of 15 mph road. Judy and I found an elk antler on the beach road section, laying right there in the middle of track. No such luck this time, but the males were accommodating down by the canyon.

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I traveled out of “the Valley” (San Joaquin: breadbasket to the world) going north up Highway 99, the old one that parallels I-5. At Red Bluff I turned west on Highway 36 going west, going towards the coast, going to coolness. In Red bluff the temperature was 102F, and I was toasty enough. Highway 36 was a real E-ticket ride, twisting and turning, “Slow to 15 mph” kind of road. I got a Dr Pepper at Wildwoods Cafe & Store, then reached a summit at around 4,000 feet elevation. From there, I could look north and see the Trinity Alps. Getting cooler by the mile now. Ever vigilant for bicyclists, huffing and puffing alongside the road. don’t they know this is a petroleum based world? Geesh. Then I came to Swains Flat, expecting to see one person behind the counter of the store, selling some canned goods to a local. Much to my surprise, there was a party going on! Turns out, Sky Blue’s home was damaged in a fire, and the community was having a fundraiser to help her out. Count me in. Music, BBQ chicken and cole slaw, beer and sodas, and a couple of vendors selling crystals. I had a dinner plate and went back for more – napkins. The closest I got to finding out about Eric Johnson, my former boss, was a neighbor of his, who had moved into her house a year after I left. Oh well. Eric died in 1981 anyway, and so it goes. I was tired after the heat, the miles, and I needed to reset my eyeballs from all the focusing I did on 36. So I moteled up in Fortuna at a bare bones motel. A great Mexican restaurant on the other side of the road met my needs. From there I visited Arcata the next day, dropping by US Servas and Humboldt State University. (See yesterday’s entry.) Here’s some Highway 36 scenes.

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I spent several days in Fortuna, Eureka and Arcata. I attended a Center for Spiritual Living service Sunday, where I met a lot of friendly energetic folks. My hotel was definitely bare bones, so they dropped the price for me. I went to Humboldt State University, and asked around for my friend, Aman Mellow Blume to no avail. I did drive on the walkways though, following (or so I thought) the map Admissions Office provided me. Luckily, it was summer session, so just a few people had to get out of my way…joke. Later I visited with the good people at US Servas headquarters in Arcata. Amy, Shelly, and Laura were pleased to see a traveler drop by. Of course. I’m feeling a bit road weary, for lack of a better term. No melt down, but something to keep in mind. Then I stopped at a rest stop on my way to Crescent City, and it all cleared up. What has Nature wrought?

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I spent almost a week with Fred & Judy in their Penn Valley home. What a place and space! What wonderful friends. Kayo and Mira, two huge German shepards shared the grounds with Horace and Bing, the cats. Wildlife abounded, with special note of the African guineas that traipsed by the front deck daily. Wide, open decks surrounded the home, affording both sunshine and shade throughout the day. We ate well. The dogs provided a daily wake-up call, usually around 5:00 a.m., but that’s par for the countryfied course. Judy had to work (she’s a midwife) some days, and Fred continues to write in his office. We had wide ranging talks, took trips into town, and visited the Empire Mine State Park. This is, after all, gold country. I took a solo day trip to Shingle Springs in El Dorado County, wondering if I could find any clues about George Duke, my great, great grandfather. I expect to fill in more details about this week as time allows, but for now, pictures need to be uploaded.

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I’m sitting in the yurt, the guest house, up in the mountains above Boulder Creek. Getting here was a thrill, finding one hidden road – track really – after another. Tys directions were superb, and the skull-on-a-stick was the clincher. I wish I had mounted my camera on the roof rails, so you could see the narrowness, the rutted-ness, the twists and turns of the track. The Subie was so much fun, being in her real element (outside of the snow and ice mode) for the first time. I didn’t even need the skid plates as she did her version of goat-on-hillside. On indicator of the climb was my mileage: 10.4 mpg! I just made one wrong turn towards the end, and was lucky to find a neighbor who told me how to backtrack to the skull thingy. And then I was there, May 31. Melissa saw me first, waving and smiling. Correction, Jack, their dog saw/heard me first and gave me a good once over almost jumping into the car.

To say I was in another world is an understatement. After five years of constant work and effort and design choices, they had their housewarming party just two weeks before. Their house is almost finished. And what a house it is. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but adobe walls play a big part of keeping the house cool/warm as needed. It was in the high 80’s that day, and going inside was a palatable relief. And they are off the grid, using solar for their electrical needs. No big screen TV (no TV at all) and no microwave, but in this Eden of theirs, who needs them? I will fill in more of the details later, but for now, these people have created, and live, in the real deal.

‘Later” is now. July 6

The five years of home building goes like this:

  • The “Year of Stone”
  • The “Year of Wood”
  • The “Year of Mud”
  • The “Year of Inside Finishing”
  • …and The “Year (plus) that IS”
If you would like to see more details (photos with text) you can visit his wonderful blog at: http://ideamountain.com/

All our meals have included fruits and veggies from their gardens. Gray water drains to some of the veggies that can use it. Their well, 340′ deep is pumped to a water reservoir. The 3/4 ton diesel pickup runs on waste vegetable oil, which an on-prem machine converts. Tys does his work remotely, connecting to the web from his phone’s modem. My phone showed “no service” but my Kindle got five bars. Go figure. When Tys and I go into town, I’ll upload the text and show pictures, but in the meantime I am incommunicado.

Their ten acres is natures cathedral, redwoods reaching for the sky far above. Sun glinting through here and there, birds, lizards and other critters unseen sharing the habitat. Melissa and I took a walk to their neighbors and from there, the Pacific was visible to the west. This is my second host family for US Servas. I am so glad that this volunteer organization exists, and doubly so for the great people I have met, and their unconditional hospitality. I am blessed.

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