To Bishop and Back

With our recent travels we haven’t had much opportunity to play grandparents so this past weekend we made our way to Bishop. Along with visiting family we had the task of delivering a Tigermoth camping trailer. Here’s the trailer ready to tow over to Bishop and a photo of my son’s family sitting inside. This should be a great camper for a family that loves to camp. Well designed and quite fun!

Our short trip and the fact that we were recovering from colds kept us close to home, although we did manage to get out to explore a bit. The Cottonwoods were showing color. And we took a short hike in Birchim Canyon just off of Highway 395.

On Sunday November 5, we made the return trip, stopping near the Groveland Ranger Station just off of Highway 120 to enjoy the display of the black oaks. A mix of green, yellow and red.

Back from the UK

On October 3 we boarded a plane from San Francisco to Heathrow. The purpose of our trip was to escort my aunt Sue back to England to visit family and friends. Sue came to the US in 1964 after graduating from a horticultural school. She and one of her classmates were hired to work for a wealthy estate owner in New York. She eventually married my uncle, hence becoming my aunt. She is now 87 and asked us to escort her back to England.

Once we were on the ground at Heathrow, Sue’s nephew Peter met us with his car and drove us around much of the south part of England.

One of our first stops was in Chelmsford, just northeast of London where we visited with Sues cousin Tricia. Tricia served us Elevenses, which is what the English call tea when served in the morning. Tricia is in the blue sweater, with her son-in-law pouring tea. Sue is on the right. From there we made our way to Witney where we visited with Margaret, with whom Sue had come to the US to work on the Greentree Estate in Manhasset, NY. The two of them eventually went on a yearlong road trip around North America after working the estate. Margaret served us a home cooked meal of venison stew. That’s Peter serving up a bowl of stew. Our trip included many stops in the south of England and Cornwall. The orange marks on the map indicate places I captured photos. I’m in the process of sorting through some 1400 photos, so there will be more stories to tell. Stay tuned.

We covered a little over 1000 miles by car and added a trip to Edinburgh where Sue had more friends to visit. Much of our traveling was on country roads over the rolling hills of Cornwall with green fields, quaint villages and hedgerows. We also managed to visit Oxford and Sherborne Abbey.

One of the highlights of the trips was visiting Mevagissey. Sue’s nephew Andrew did the driving stint to Mevagissey, where his singing group, Barrett’s Privateers were participating in a sea chanty festival. Andrew is the third person from the left. What fun!

And of course, while in Cornwall, I had to have a pasty, the national dish of Cornwall, a flakey pastry pocket filled with steak and potatoes. We did get out for a few walks in the countryside including a walk on the Camel Trail between Wadebridge and Padstow. Here’s a photo of the trail as it passes through a tunnel of trees.

Rock Creek

Our granddaughter’s fifth birthday was reason enough to join family at Rock Creek. So here we are at the East Fork Campground on Rock Creek in the Eastern Sierra, our granddaughter, her parents and two sets of grandparents.

We spent two nights here at 9000 feet of elevation, a cool retreat from the heat of the Owens Valley. For breakfast we fired up the Dutch Oven and cooked up a mushroom and brie breakfast strata, one of our favorite breakfast recipes. The hot coals provided heat to warm hands on the chilly morning. With two days to explore, our adventures included hiking around part of Rock Creek Lake and also paddling on the lake.

The trails were linked with wildflowers including Sulphur buckwheat, paintbrush, Lupine, and penstemon and a host of other flowers.

Between us we had three boats, two canoes and one kayak. We even managed to get our dog Carson into a canoe and were pleased to discover that he was a mellow pooch in the boat.

It’s such a lovely experience to paddle a boat on a quiet High Sierra Lake. It’s not a big lake. I logged 1.4 miles paddling around the perimeter. A peaceful and relaxing paddle. At one point we poked our boats up into the creek that feeds the lake and got a sense of white-water paddling. We were here mid-week arriving on Wednesday and leaving on Friday and we were surprised at how many people were here. This is a popular place for fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities. I would imagine the weekend would find the campgrounds full and parking for fishing and hiking scarce.

Dazzled by Yellow

After three days of chasing fall color I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I felt like I had to give my eyes a rest, and yet we’d find another grove of aspen in full splendor, I’d grab my camera and start snapping photos. And then I’d be asking myself how the image I’m capturing differs from the many thousands of photos I’ve captured over the past 50 years. In any event, every photo is another adventure and the magnificence of the changing seasons never gets old. I’m always looking for a way to create unique photos that celebrate the glory of God’s creation.

Fall color in the Eastern Sierra usually starts in mid to late September with the aspen at the higher evaluations changing color first, and the color progressing down the canyons over the course of several weeks. I usually start to watch the fall color reports in mid September. This year October 4 was the earliest date we could get away, so we stocked the camper with food for a week and hit the road.

From our home in Albany, CA, we decided to take California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass. After passing the summit we stopped briefly near a grove of aspen, admired the view, and then decided to head to our intended camping destination on Green Creek. We were hoping to camp at the Green Creek Campground. Why? Because we wanted to fire up our Dutch Oven to cook dinner; for that we needed a fire ring in an established campground. The campground was closed. There are plenty of places to boondock along Green Creek so we found a comfortable spot to park our rig. We implemented “plan B” for our menu which did not require a fire ring. I was a little annoyed, though, when campers not too far away from us lit a campfire, something that’s prohibited in the dry conditions. I was too shy to confront them. What would I say?

We were so impressed with the fall color along Green Creek, we decided to spend a second night although we moved our rig a mile down the road. The road into Green Creek is a dirt road. For the most part it is navigable by passenger car, although close to the campground it gets a little rocky.

From Green Creek we headed towards Bishop by way of Dunderberg Meadow Road. We admired the aspen along the way and set up camp at the Sabrina Campground in the afternoon. The fall color was about peak there. In the morning we drove to North Lake where I spent some time with my camera and tripod capturing fall color. We also gave our dog Carson the opportunity to hike with us off-leash.

From Bishop Creek we drove to Bishop where we spent the weekend with family. Then we headed home after a night camping on a ridge overlooking Convict Lake. We had intended to spend more time on the road but the furnace in our camper was not working; getting up in the morning with the temperature in the 30s was wearing on us.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Reunion in Bishop

In April 2017, my two brothers and I gathered together with our families to memorialize my father. We made a commitment to gather as a family on a regular basis. In 2020 we set our sights on Bishop in the Eastern Sierra and booked accommodations at the Eastside Guest House and Bivy. Then COVID-19 struck, and we scrapped our plans. With the pandemic easing up this year we decided to make another go at gathering. Family started arriving on Saturday evening, April 24, with people coming from Washington, Texas, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. My wife and I and our lovely Aunt Sue, being the hosts, arrived the day before to give us time to stock the larder with groceries. Eastside Guest House is an ideal location in the Eastern Sierra to set up a base camp for outdoor adventures. The facility has private rooms, a duck pond, a view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and a common room for cooking and meeting.

We had the barbeque going as guests arrived. Joann and Sue had prepared skewers of Shish kebab which we put on the grill as family joined us.

April 25. The Alabama Hills and Independence

The day started with Lemon Ricotta Waffles. I had arranged ahead of time to have a couple waffle irons available and, with plenty of family chipping in, we were serving waffles at 8 a.m. Waffles with whipped cream, butter, syrup, berries and lots of other goodies.

After breakfast we set up a sandwich station. Line up and make a lunch. Then we piled into cars for the drive to the Alabama Hills.

There is much to see on the drive south from Bishop. Some of our party made a visit to the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of the sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. A few of us stopped at the Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden and the Eastern California Museum in Independence. The museum has an amazing collection of native American basketry and the garden was looking very nice with many plants in bloom. We also took advantage of the delicious ice cream at the Eastern Sierra Ice Cream Company.

April 26. Big Pine Lakes

Monday morning everybody was on their own for breakfast. Take your pick of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, raisin bran, other packaged cereals, apples, oranges, and bananas. And if that isn’t enough you can walk next door to Schat’s Bakery for espresso and pastries. Then we again set up the sandwich station.

Several in our group were anxious to get into the High Sierra. Despite the fact that the trails are usually snowed in this time of year, it looked like we might be able to hike to one or two lakes in the Big Pine Lake Basin. We piled into our cars and drove to the trailhead at the end of Glacier Lodge Road.

My wife and I made it as far as First Lake at 10,000 feet. My two brothers and clan made it to Fourth Lake at 11,000 feet. We did find a few patches of snow on the trail, but nothing that required technical gear. First Lake still had some ice. The higher lakes were still frozen over. We logged 9.5 miles on our hike to and from First Lake. You can see a map on my GaiaGPS account. Those that went higher logged 12 miles or so.

April 27. Pleasant Valley Reservoir

With family members ranging in age from 3 1/2 to 84, we opted to do an outing close to Bishop to accommodate those not inclined to tackle a strenuous High Sierra hike. We found a level paved trail along Pleasant Valley Reservoir. This proved to be a lovely hike with opportunities to look for wildflowers and birds.

The more adventuresome drove up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and reported a lovely outing. Tuesday evening marked our last day together, and we had a birthday to celebrate.

The next morning we said our goodbyes and began our drive back over the mountains.

There is so much to see in the Eastern Sierra. I was sad to leave, but since we have family there, we manage to visit several times a year. The Eastside Guest House and Bivy was a delightful place to host our reunion. The large community room, while being shared with other guests, proved to be a great place to gather, chat, and look at family photos. And talking about photos, you can view more online.

Giving Thanks

This is a day when we stop and give thanks.

We have a tradition here in America of getting together with family for a feast we call Thanksgiving. More people travel at this time of year than any other time to be with family. This year, with the coronavirus wreaking havoc on our lives, traveling is a challenge.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. It is a time to give thanks and to share the blessings of the harvest, although for some it also signifies the conquest of Native Americans by colonists.

For our family, Thanksgiving is about family and counting our many blessings. This year we decided to celebrate early with a get-together on November 21, a few days ahead of the official holiday. With the challenges we faced this year there was much discussion about how we might manage the risks of COVID-19. We decided that an outdoor event in Aunt Sue’s backyard would be appropriate, taking precautions to wear masks when we weren’t eating, and to designate one person to be the server. We used a counter top roaster to cook the turkey; when it came time to transport it, we simply put the whole roaster in the trunk of the car for the drive to San Jose.

Our daughter and her family joined us with a homemade apple pie. Our son and his family had been staying with us the previous week, so we considered them to be in our social bubble. When it came time to carve the turkey, Sue pulled out a set of carving knives with elk antler handles that go back three generations.

Our spread of food included turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish (a recipe from my mother), kale and feta cheese salad, pomegranate and persimmon salad (from Sue’s garden), squash, rolls, and homemade apple pie for desert. Yum!

And, of course, Aunt Sue had to indulge the dogs with a bit of turkey.

After we had sufficiently stuffed ourselves on the delicious food, it was time for a walk. On our walk we passed a frog that seemed to wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving.

I wish you well on this day. And amidst the many challenges you may face, I hope that you can take a moment to find something for which you, too, can give thanks.

Taking Grandpa for a Walk

Here’s my grandson Micah taking me on a walk. June 4, despite the continuing stay-at-home order here in Alameda County, we left town and drove the 80 miles to Mount Hermon for a family visit. My last opportunity to visit with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson was at Christmas.

We’ve managed to keep our distance for a few months, and we were a bit anxious about how a visit would go, showing up with our face masks and keeping at a distance. One of our family pastimes is walking. I asked Micah if he wanted to go on a walk. On previous visits he was a bit shy about interacting with Grandpa. This time he came over to me, grabbed my finger, and led me out to the front gate. My heart melted when he touched me. Such a sweet encounter. There is nothing like the power of touch, and something that’s lost in our social distancing experiences. By lunch time the masks came off, and we were feeling like a family again.

Have Your Kayak and Eat It Too

Treve with cake to celebrate his 70th birthday.

On Saturday, March 14, we hosted a party to celebrate my 70th birthday. The cake was noteworthy. We commissioned the cake through our local Lavender Bakery & Café on Solano Avenue. They not only created a work of art but also delivered it to our door. Since kayaking is my go-to sport at the moment, I wanted to have a cake with a kayaking theme. Chocolate cake with layers of vanilla butter cream filling and fresh raspberries, not to mention the fondant frosting – a work of art.

We had about 30 people at our home, which was quite a turnout given the advice to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 health risk. We were quite ambivalent about hosting the party; now, as of March 17, we have a “Stay at Home” order in place so we’re staying close to home. The guidelines say that getting outdoors is an “essential” activity, so we’ll be getting out in our kayak, bicycling and walking the dog at a distance from others, but no group activities.

Take care of yourselves wherever you are; reach out to friends and stay connected.

Remnants of Fall Color

Willows and tree in Big Pine

We’re taking an extended weekend to play grandpa and grandma in Big Pine, a town of about 1800 people in the Eastern Sierra, elevation 4000 feet. Home to our son, his wife, and our granddaughter Annabelle. It’s a 310-mile drive and the shortest route takes us through Yosemite National Park on Highway 120. The highway closes in winter for snow but, this being a very dry year, the snow has yet to come. We arrived at 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 16, just as darkness was setting in. After the seven-hour drive we were happy to pull the truck into the driveway and pop up the top on our Four Wheel Camper. Then it was dinner time. We had a very pleasant meal and, following some family time, we turned in for a quiet and peaceful night’s sleep.

Sunday morning we awoke to a bright, sunny day and after breakfast we ventured out for a walk on the desert in shirt-sleeve weather. Five of us and two dogs. Our walk took us out the front door, down the street to open land managed by Los Angeles Water and Power; a great place to walk dogs off leash and to enjoy the view of the mountains to the east and west.

Talking about walking, our granddaughter Annabelle was a trooper at testing out her new skill of walking. She did manage to take a spill, planting her face on the trail, and getting her lip a bit bloody. It wasn’t long though before she was back in good spirits. After the walk it was time to check the chicken coop, and sure enough, we found four eggs.

I did not expect to see much fall color on this trip. We did see some color in the black oaks driving over the mountains, and in the willows and rabbit bush on the desert.

Birthday Weekend

So much has happened in the past few weeks that I’m going to have to back up to July 25. That’s the day we climbed in our truck-camper and headed to Markleeville for an extended weekend of camping and birthday celebration. The main event was our Granddaughter Annabelle’s first birthday.

Birthday Girl Annabelle is in the middle

We made it a five day weekend, leaving our place on July 25 and driving to Markleeville, a small town on the Eastern Sierra located at 5500 feet elevation. It’s about a 200 mile drive, taking us about four hours with a quick stop for a picnic lunch on the way. Our destination was the Markleevile Campground, a US Forest Service Campground with 10 sites. A lovely location with a stream running through it and a very attentive and helpful camp host.

Having settled into camp it was birthday time. July 25 is Joann’s birthday so we broke out the cake and celebrated.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday our campsites filled up. By Saturday evening we had 24 people, five dogs and one parrot. These folks are all seasoned campers and quite adept at entertaining and feeding a crowd.

We had pork shoulder cooked in a dutch oven on Friday evening. It’s a mystery to me what seasonings went into those ovens, but the resulting pulled pork was beyond compare and it made delicious tacos. Sunday morning was a Mushroom and Brie Breakfast Strada and Sunday evening was Chicken Cordon Bleu on Sunday evening.

And of course no camping experience is complete without Smores. So the evening found us toasting marshmallows on a campfire and making a sandwich of the hot toasty marshmallows with chocolate and graham crackers.

In addition to family fun in camp, we did manage to get in some hiking, take in a blue grass concert at an event in town and visit Grover Hotsprings. To see more photos click here.

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