Thursday, October 31, 2013

King's Canyon ~ Sept 28-29, 2013

We take Hwy 41 south out of Yosemite and then 180 east to Kings Canyon. First stop is the Grants Grove Visitors Center to see if we can find a place to stay for a couple of days. The clerk told us there were no rooms available, then said "wait a minute maybe I do have a solution". He switched a few things around on paper and said "I found you a cabin for a couple of nights." Rod says its my puppy dog eyes that are working all this magic, I'm thinking some force in the cosmos has something to do with it.

First evening in we went up to Panoramic Point for the sunset. Talk about a world class view: from left to right (west to east), the high peaks visible are Spanish Mountain (10,051 feet), the Obelisk (9,700 feet), Mount McGee (12,969 feet), Mount Goddard (12,568 feet), Kettle Dome (9,446 feet), North Palisade (14,242 feet), and Eagle Peak (9645 feet). Hume Lake is in the foreground. We were going to stay up there after dark to do some star gazing, but there had been reports of bears in the area so we thought better of that idea and headed back to the Lodge for dinner and evening of reading.

John Muir made his first visit in 1873. At the time there were two theories on the canyon origins. Josiah Whitney's theory was that the valleys were formed by earthquake action. Muir's theory, that the valleys were carved by glaciers during the Ice Age, was later proved to be the correct one. The park was established in 1940 and incorporated General Grant National Park, established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of Giant Sequoias.  

Sunday morning we went to see General Grant. This magnificent tree is estimated to be 1,700 years old, stands at a little over 267 feet tall and has a diameter of almost 29 feet. It was recently ranked as the third tallest tree in the world.
"What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree?
The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse".
Edward Abbey 1927-1989
There is a lot of history here so we took a walk around the grove to learn more and take in the forest smells, visuals and sounds.

A number of ravens were dancing around in the tree tops and setting up quite the racket. We heard a couple of loud cracks and snapping above us and kind of froze in place. Two really large branches came crashing to the ground about 6 feet in front of us. We look at each other and just grinned, not today Josephine! Exit stage left and we're off on another adventure.

This time its Hwy 180 east to head down into Kings Canyon to find the end of the road at Cedar Grove. Down is an understatement, we drop from elevation 7,500 feet to 4,000. The landscape is non descript at first, but as we drop into the canyon multicolored walls of rock appear and the Kings River comes into view.

We couldn't get all the way to Cedar Grove due to a bridge washout (repaired and reopened October 23rd) but had lunch at a café on the river before turning around. Rod had his fishing gear with him (this boy scout is always prepared) so we stopped in a few places. He caught and released an 8" brook trout in one spot and a couple of little fellas in another.

While he fished I explored the river banks with my camera. I hopped down off a large rock up river from him and something caught my eye. I looked to the left and saw an Ermine already dressed in his winter whites. Perhaps he knew something about the coming winter we have yet to discover! He was too fast for me to get a photo, but this is what he looked like.  

Photo credit ~ Trailtender
This was quite a day. We hauled ourselves out of the canyon for dinner at the lodge and another quiet night of reading. Off to Sequoia National Park tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Over the Hill and Through the Woods ~ Sept 27, 2013

It's clear, sunny and 42 degrees. After breakfast we head over the Kingsbury Grade and down to the Carson Valley and Hwy 395. This is a road that needs to be experienced: quintessential high desert, open spaces, and few travelers. Spring and Fall provide magical miles of color. This corridor has been used since the California gold rush and was known by several names including El Camino Sierra and it provides access for the highest point in the in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley.
 Hwy 395 north of Lee Vining
It's about a 100 mile drive to Lee Vining, the doorway to Mono Lake and Yosemite. We're headed for Yosemite today, but next time we come this way we plan to check out Bodie, Mono and June Lakes. Just outside Lee Vining we pick up Hwy 120, the eastern route into Yosemite. There is more fall color as we begin the climb towards the Tioga Pass (elevation 9,943 feet).

Hwy. 120

Tenaya Lake Elevation 8,150 Feet

Part of the drive takes us along the south edge of the Rim Fire area. You can still smell smoke. The fire started August 17th and as of this writing is 95% contained. What is fascinating is the capricious nature of how wildfires move. Some areas are burned, some simply scorched from heat, and in other spots there are unscathed patchs of green. 

As we drop down into the valley some of the iconic landmarks come into view: Cathedral Rock, El Capitan and Lost Arrow Spire.


The Yosemite Valley is not the way I remember it. It's more closed in and shadowed; buses, cars and people dominate the landscape at eye level. What's wrong with this picture? Oh wait! My last visit was 55 years ago. Trees grow a lot in half a century. One of the rangers told me the valley has lost 80% of its meadows in last 100 years. This explains a lot. Regardless of changes, it is still a magical place.

As usual we hadn't made plans regarding lodging, so we're flying on a wing and a prayer. First stop Yosemite Lodge and no rooms available. But, as I chatted with the hostess, she said "OMG, wait a minute, someone just cancelled". Serendipity rules!

Once settled we took a walk along the trail that skirts Yosemite Falls, now dry as a bone with only a small seep showing down near the base. Next stop is an excellent dinner at the Mountain Room and early to bed, we're headed to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks tomorrow.

Breaking News: There will be a short delay in this adventure's blog updates. We have a chance to check something off the proverbial bucket list and are headed for Las Vegas, NV for the PBR (Professional Bull Riding) World Finals tomorrow through next Tuesday. The last time we were in Vegas was 27 years ago. We got married in Gold Hill, NV and the day after headed south to see my folks in Yuma. We spent a "honeymoon" night in Las Vegas at the dive of all dives, the Pink Elephant Motel. We were too dazzled by the lights on the Strip and too tired from the road to make any reasonable decisions. Rod always promised he'd take me back so now he's making good on his promise.




Monday, October 21, 2013

Off to Higher Ground ~ Sept 26, 2013

After breakfast in Jackson we continued east on Hwy 88 and then north on Hwy 89 to Lake Tahoe. It's an incredibly beautiful drive along the Kit Carson Trail: The quintessential blue highway peppered with historic towns, mines, lakes and hiking trails.

Red Lake, Kit Carson Pass
 Photo by Richard Thelen
Caples Lake, Kit Carson Pass
Photo by George Nejmantowicz
We hoped there might be a room at historic Richardson's Grove on South Shore. My parents and I had stayed there numerous times when I was a kid and I wanted to share it with Rod. Unfortunately there was a large sports event scheduled for the weekend and no rooms at the inn. Oh Well! We'll come back another time and camp for a few days.

Since we're only here for an overnight we booked a room at Stateline that put us in walking distance of a number of shops, restaurants, thrift stores and the lake. Our 15th floor room had an incredible view.

After lunch we took a 1.5 mile walk down to the lake and back. Double points for this one. We're Coastal stock and at an altitude 5,200 feet we were chuffing like a couple of retired war ponies. 
Majestic Horses 37 - Curly Hoses War Paint Native Feathers - ArT Prints or ACEO by Bihrle
Rod because of the altitude and me because of altitude and 5 months of being a total sloth while undergoing and recovering from 4 TACE treatments to wrangle an hepatocellular carcinoma into submission while I work my way up the liver transplant list at UCSF.

Sloth In a Cup - OOAK handmade needle felted sloth in teacup
Sloth in a Cup

I've lost all muscle tone. A visual aide: Think of hula hooping and instead of the hoop swinging around my body, it's all my free range muscles. Good thing they're attached. My homework assignment is to be in the best shape of my life when I get the call from UCSF (probably summer 2014). So it's back to the gym, for both of us, starting in November. This is the No Excuses Tour.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Great Adventure Begins Sort Of, Go Back Jack & Do It Again ~ Sept 25, 2013

We take off at 9:30 in the morning. The loose plan is to travel less and camp more, so we decide to stay in California: drive a day, camp a few days, drive a day, camp a few days. We've got the Redwood Empire, the Smith River and Burney Falls calling to us.

The trailer is towing beautifully. However, we get about 20 miles up Hwy 101 and notice the Explorer is not shifting into higher gears, the tach is pegged at 3,500 rpm at 55 mph. This is not good. We bought both vehicles in April, but due to my summer of TACE treatments at UCSF, this is the first time we've had them on the road as a team. Our understanding from the dealer was the that V6 would easily tow the trailer, but we discover that's not the case (more on this later).

Next tune on the radio is Steely Dan's "Go Back Jack and Do It Again". The irony of the moment is not lost on us, so we turn around and head back home. Exercise for the day: unpack the trailer and Explorer and repack the Explorer for a road trip of another kind.

The change in plans opens up new possibilities that aren't weather dependent, so we head for the Sierras. Neither one of us has seen Yosemite in decades and we've never been to King's Canyon or Sequoia National Parks. All Things Happen for a Reason 101: We find out it's raining cats and dogs to the north where we were originally headed.

It's 2pm by the time we've repacked. I suggest we leave early in the morning, but Rod's having none of it, he's ready to roll. Thinking Hwy 37 to Hwy 80 is going to be a mess we opt for the back way on Hwy 12. It's out our back door and will take us up into the Sierra Foothills. We had 50% chance of making the wrong choice and we did.
  Full Gallop (print)
Full Gallop
It's 5-10 mph for the 30 mile trek from just east of Petaluma to Hwy 80. Oh well, it's warm and breezy, the pace allows us to enjoy autumn wine country views and we've got Old Time Radio and the Blues on Sirius XM. To take liberties with the old Jerry Reed song East Bound and Down ~ We have a short way to go and a long time to get there.

Rod, uncharacteristically calm after the lengthy turtle crawl, turns to me with a smile and says " I'd rather be stuck in traffic with you honey than traveling anywhere else on the planet." What's a girl to do? 

We hit Interstate 80 and in a few miles pick up Hwy 12 again, there is little traffic heading into the foothills. We stop in Clements for dinner at La Strada 88, not because it's been recommended but because it's the only place open. Dinner, however, was excellent.

On a whim we decide to stay at the Jackson Rancheria Casino just up the road on Hwy 88. When we get there the only room left is a suite for $179. It's Rod's birthday so what the hey! It's beautiful, quiet and really comfortable.

I decide on a shower and when I closed the bathroom door I find a surprise. On the floor, behind the door, is a salmon colored negligée and a pair of G-string panties with bows on the hips (no accounting for taste). I gingerly pick them up and wrap in a hand towel. When we check out the next morning I politely mentioned to the desk clerk that for the price of the room we didn't expect what we found behind the bathroom door. I carefully unwrapped our little bombshell and she gasped and called for the manager.

They only charged us $100 for the suite. As we drove away Rod said maybe we should stop by a second hand store and pick up a few more negligées, laughing heartily we head for the Sierra's, first stop Lake Tahoe.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Album of the Heart ~ March 25, 1881

To Flora,
Remember me how few, how strong
These touching words, that little spell
What thoughts up rise, what visions swell
It wakened fancy's holiest cell
They tell of many a change to come
May every change bring joy to thee
In pleasures light or sorrows gloom
In bliss or woe, Remember me
Johnnie R. Sitchen
San Jose, CA

The words above were extracted from a longer poem entitled "Remember Me" by Prosper M. Wetmore (1798-1876). It was published in the Atlantic Souvenir, Philadelphia, October 1, 1831.
General Wetmore was a distinguished author and public servant, who worked in the New York legislature, the governor’s office, and the state militia. He was the first colonel of New York's crack Seventh Regiment.
Photo by Matthew Brady, 1857
I bring no chain of rarest worth,
No coral from the deep sea-cave,
Nor gem, long hid, within the earth,
To shine where now those tresses wave;
A gift more precious far is mine,
Than sparkling gem from earth or sea,
This treasury of thought ~ 'tis thine
The boon it asks ~ Remember me!
I may not here usurp the page,
To court the breath of fleeting fame;
Enough for me in after age,
If in thy memory dwells my name:
In after years, in distant climes,
Whate'er our future fate may be
A spell to call back by-gone times
Still dwelleth here ~ Remember me!
Remember me! How few ~ how strong
Those touching words, that little spell;
What thoughts uprise, what visions throng
In waken'd fancy's holiest cell!
They tell of many a change to come
May every change bring joy to thee!
In pleasure's light, or sorrow's gloom,
In bliss or woe ~ Remember me!