Monday, February 29, 2016

Looking For Wildflowers And Finding So Much More

Last week, Mary and I drove west down the mountain to a place called Caliente. This, of course, is Spanish for HOT and since it usually looks like this as you drive by:

it is, indeed, well-named. But now it's early spring, after a winter that gave us some much needed rain, and Caliente and the surrounding hills look more like Ireland than California. The patches of orange you see on the side of the mountain, both in my header photo and the top picture here, are California poppies. 

This is the prettiest landscape I have seen in a very long time. I inhaled the beauty of the green grass, and 

the orange poppies along the wayside. When we came to this fork in the road, I said to Mary, "let's take the left one." Something I soon came to regret. The road became more and more narrow as it climbed up the mountain, my stomach responding in kind. Janice, you are so right, no guard rails in California. At least not on back roads. Mary drove, which was good --  I could keep my eyes closed. 

We stopped for a while along the road and I took a few pictures. This one of the snow clad Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance and the sad sight of almost every oak tree infested with mistletoe.

While mistletoe may be cute for Christmas kisses, out here it's a pest that can kill oak trees. I'm sure the trees are weaker now, due to the drought, and thus more susceptible. It was a very sad sight, all the dying trees.

Mary drove like a champ and soon got me off the scary road down to a place called Walker's Basin. It is named after this guy:

Joseph R. Walker, a pioneer and most likely the first white man to lay eyes on Yosemite Valley, California, according to Wikipedia. I got a feeling that this place that bears his name hasn't changed all that much, 

with free-ranging cattle crossing the road, horses grazing, and ranches spread out across the fields. 

After a while, we arrived in Twin Oaks, a small community with this old-fashioned building, once a school house, now a general store and cafeteria. Mary and I took a break there and soaked up the country atmosphere. 

The road is circular, so, lucky me, I didn't have to cross that mountain again. As we drove back toward Caliente, it was getting late afternoon and we met cows heading home, many with tiny calves that looked no more than a few days old, if that. 

As we neared the end our road trip, the landscape changed drastically and became a deep canyon with sheer rock walls. 

It was a lovely day, spent with someone who is now a very good friend. I'm learning that good things do happen after difficult times. 

I know I haven't posted anything for a long time, but I haven't been blogger idle. I will post an update soon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


This little house where I live now was built in 1977 and has floorboard heaters, which Errol felt were not safe. Since I don't like them either, we made do with space heaters and the wood burning stove in the living room. I turn off all heaters at night and go to sleep under an enormous feather bed my friend Carol gave me when I first moved up here. So I didn't feel cold when I woke up this morning, even though it was 16F outside and 50 inside. 

But as soon as I got up, I realized how cold it was in the house. Since one of the two heaters in the living room conked out the other day, I knew it would be a while before the house got warm. I quickly turned on the other heater and built a fire, then went back to bed and had my breakfast. But the house would not heat up. We have had wind storms here for a long time it seems, the latest with gusts up to 70 mph; it has been unbelievable. I dressed in thermals and wool, but my feet were still so cold. No wonder, I slept in summer cotton socks. Then I remembered I had some very ancient raggsocks (a Scandinavian wool sock that really keeps you warm) stored somewhere. It has been so warm here in recent winters, I had to think to remember where they were. Once I found them and put them on, my feet were warm again. The raggsocks above are from Google Images. I know I complained about Google in my last post, but say what you will, you can find just about anything there.  

Last week, the CERT team from our canyon toured the Lehigh Cement Plant, located outside the city of Tehachapi. The lecture was interesting, but not sure about those filters to screen out mercury the tour guide reassured us about. A couple of years ago, they had a high emission rate of mercury, or so it said in articles at the time. 

But it was great to see everyone. Here I am to the left, holding on to my hat since the wind was strong. Our canyon CERT leader Dave, who with his wife Bernice arranged for the tour is to my right and the Tehachapi mountain range is behind us. And check out that magnificent cloud!

The cement plant employs around 110 people and has an interesting history going back to 1909, when limestone was first quarried and used to build the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Even though I drive by here all the time, I had not realized how huge the place is. The walking tour took a lot out of me, we stood around listening to our guide telling us about all the different buildings and processes; it was very windy, and when we went up (in an elevator) to the ninth floor of the tower, the wind was unbearable. Still, I'm glad I went, it was interesting, and I appreciate that our CERT leaders arranged the tour for us. At the same time though, I'm so happy I traveled when I was young. I think my touring days may be over......

Then these yellow clouds appeared the other day. You know I get the best clouds up here, but I've never seen any this bright yellow. Orange, yes, and these turned to orange after a while. They were so pretty, I wanted to share them.

And then the snow came and with it more severe winds. When I took the dogs out in the morning, one side of my road was clear of snow, then I stepped on to the other side and sank down in a snow drift way over my boots. But we love it, the dogs and I. 

This is Samson's tail after being out in a wet snowfall earlier this month. He just loves this time of the year. A true snow dog.

Only a few years ago, I know I liked cold and snow better than I do today. I still want it to snow and be cold, but I feel my age and I'm not as enthusiastic as I once was. Snuggling with Faith by the fire may just be more my thing now. 


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