Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dogs, Birds, Squirrels & Day Trip to Calaveras

Since we got back to my sister & brother-in-law's house, the dogs have been in heaven again.  They enjoy the backyard, which is full of grass, the dogs on the other side of the fences, and of course, the Squirrels.  They are on Squirrel patrol whenever they are outside.  Bubba does it much quieter than Skruffy...who has been reprimanded a few times for her sometimes constant barking.  She is starting to be a bit quieter about it, and that is good.  Otherwise, they have a ball out there.  Below is Bubba and the squirrel that has been named "Stumpy", because he will get the nuts, and sit on the closest stump on the tree limb and eat it.  Stumpy also controls the tree when he is other Squirrels are allowed to get nuts while he is around.
Not only is there Squirrel food in the tree, but also bird food, including a humming bird feeder.  The humming birds are quick, and hard to catch in a good picture.  Below is the best that I can do.

 Above and below is a greenish-red humming bird which is at the feeder.

Above, on the branch, is a black, grey and white humming bird, way up in the tree.  This humming bird has been seen going to the feeder, drinking very quickly, and then darting up into the tree.  This time I saw that he landed, and he stayed on the limb for a few minutes, and it chirped a few times while sitting there.  Eventually the bird will fly away.

The dogs seem to focus in on the Squirrels, and leave the birds alone.  They do seem to alarm the birds and the birds will, at times, fly away when the dogs are close by.  The Humming Birds just seem to come and go so quickly and quietly, they are not even noticed by the dogs.  The other birds, mainly doves, finches, blue birds and others, are watched by Bubba, but Skruffy does not seem to notice if it doesn't have a busy tail on it.  

Wednesday we decided to do another day trip with mom and dad.  This time the main focus was Calavaras Big Trees State Park.  Since we had the one day trip a few weeks ago along highway 49 from Auburn to Hangtown (Placerville), we decided to go up to Hangtown and continue down Highway 49 to Angels Camp to continue our tour of the Gold Country, then up to the Big Trees.

Highway 49 passes through many historic mining communities of the gold rush. The Highway is numbered after the "49ers", which is not only my favorite football team, but the year that many immigrants came to the area looking for gold.  Much of the highway is known as the Gold Country Highway, especially the part that we traveled on these two day trips.

Our first town outside of Hangtown was Diamond Springs, which was settled in 1848, and is named after a "crystal clear" water springs there.  During the gold rush, a 25 pound nugget was found, the largest found in the area.  1851 was the highpoint of the town. It currently has a population of 11,000, which is about 5,000 higher from the 2000 census.  I remember it as a town of just a few hundred the last time I passed through.
Above is a plaque about the city.  There are many of these historical markers along Highway 49, although some are too elusive to find.  Below is a typical old building found in the town.
We drove through the towns of El Dorado, Plymouth, Drytown, Amador City, and Jackson.  Some of these town I remember from a long bike ride when I rode from South Sacramento to around Amador City back in the summer of 1974.  It was a HOT day, and I got exhausted.  Mom and Dad came to pick me up since I just could not go any further when I called them.  However, I was in much better shape after they came and got me than I was when I called...but I was glad I did not have to ride all the way back.  We measured the distance at around 42 miles, 8 miles short of my goal where I was going to sleep overnight and return the next day.  I had picked the hottest day of the year to do such a trip!  That was a long time ago...

Here are a few more pictures of things we saw on our travels to Angles Camp. 

There were many old, historical buildings...many which are now tourist traps.  However, there are also some old, old buildings which are no longer used.
Above is what Butte Store looked like today....below is what it looked like in 1946.  It is all that is left of Butte City (not to be confused by the Butte City in Glenn County up north from this spot by a few hundred miles). 
Butte Store was originally built and operated by Enrico Bruni in 1857. The general store was operated by the Ginnochio family for over 50 years, finally closing its doors in the early 1900's.  As you drive along the highway, it just shows up along side the town, no other buildings...just out there in the middle of nowhere.  One wonders how many structures and towns have vanished over the years.

Eventually we got to the famous Angels Camp.  Angels Camp, the only incorporated city in Calaveras County. The population was just under 4,000 in 2010, and it is at an elevation of nearly 1,400 feet.  Mark Twain based his story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" on a story he heard at the hotel back in 1865. There is a Jumping Frog Jubilee each May at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, which took place about 10 days before we visited. 

After our visit to the Big Trees, we had lunch at Angles Camp on our return.  We ate at a nice little deli called "The Pickle Barrel".  It was a quiet lunch, and the food was good.  Here are a few pictures of this quaint little town.
Below is an example of the many sidewalk plaques which honor the winner of the annual frog jumping competition.  The current worlds record was set in 1986 by Rosie the Ribeter, who jumped 21 53/4.

The sign above shows that businesses in the town capitalize on the name of a famous writer who visited the town nearly 140 years ago and made the town famous. 

But our goal for the day was to visit the Calavaras Big Trees State Park, about 20 miles east of Angels Camp.  These Big Trees are not nearly as big as those at Sequoia National Park, but they were found years before Sequoia, and are more famous, due in part, to the fame of the Gold Country, and fame of Mark Twain and Angles Camp.

Here are a few pictures.
Way off in the distance (above) are the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  
Above is a picture of the many different type of trees.  Even the non-Redwood Trees seem taller than normal.
 Above is some massive damage to this Redwood which, as shown below, is still a giant tree.  How can that burnt, broken trunk hold such a massive amount of weight?

Occasionally we would see trees which looked dead, standing high among the other healthy trees.  Looks like they have been this way for years now.
In the north grove, there is a pathway, including some of which is wooden. Instead of moving fallen trees (above), they just cut them and have the path go right through them.
 The grove has many Giant Sequoia trees along a 1.7 mile pathway.
Above is the base of a fallen tree, which has been left for nature to take its due time to remove it from the landscape.
The above tree shows signs of carvings and pen marks as people ignore the "do not do" signs and they put their initials into the base of this tree which the path goes right through. 
And we end the tour with these three giants which have grown together for hundreds of years, and will probably continue to do so for hundreds more.

It was another enjoyable trip.  Not sure what we will do next...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back to the Sacramento Area, Another Lovely Surprise to End the Week

We got up around 7:00 with the goal to leave the RV Park by 8:30 or so.  We did good, I guess, since neither of us looked at the time when we did leave.  The plan was to either drive back towards Shasta if the weather was better in order to try and get a better shot of the mountain, and then catch I-5 there....or to drive south on 89, then west on highway 44, past the entrance to Lassen and on to Redding to catch I-5.  Well, the weather was not better....very overcast, so we chose the latter route.

As we headed south on highway 89 to catch 44, I turned a corner and said, "Oh oh!"  Marcia said, "What?"  "I said, look at those mountains over's SNOW!"  There was a very definitive line where the snow started....and another where the snow was deeper.  Soon, we started to see trees along the highway with snow on them, soon we saw snow just off the side of the road, and soon, there was a light snow falling.   Hmm...perhaps we should have gone the Shasta way....

But we were both awed by the wonderful look the freshly fallen snow made on the trees, the nearby hills, and the patches on ground and on buildings.  Here are a few shots we got.

The best pictures of the day were ones that we could not take.  Many times we saw such vivid contrast of the snow covered trees against the background of a rocky ledge, other trees, etc. But I just could not stop the motor home along the side of the road and shoot pictures.  Was not the first time in my life I did not stop for a picture to be taken...and I know it won't be the last either.  :)

As we went past the entrance to Lassen, there was still a lot of snow...some very close to the road, but nothing sticking to the road.  Then within a mile of the entrance or so, we went around another corner, and was all gone.  It was like we went from one world into another.  A little snow on the left side of the road, nothing on the right, as the picture below shows.  Very quickly there was no snow at all.

Marcia and I were in awe at what we just went through....and we thought, "What a way to end such a wonderful week...."  I have never seen such a vivid division between snow and no snow, and to have it happen entering into the snow, and exiting the snow all within 20 miles of each other...that was something.  One never knows what is around the next, we had another wonderful surprise.  We know that someday it could be a big disappointment.  In life, one has to remember the good times, which will help you get through the hard times.  And we know that there is ALWAYS one who will help us get through anything life asks us to face.  This past week, we were blessed to witness the glory and the power that is his.

We arrived in the Sacramento area around 3 pm.  It was a nice trip all around....topped off by a wonderful chicken & rice dinner that mom fixed....a recipe from my childhood days.  Marcia asked mom to email her the recipe....I guess my three helpings of rice and two pieces of chicken caught her eye that it was a dinner that I enjoyed.

We look forward to spending time with family again, perhaps link up with some old friends, and on Thursday we are planning another day are the hints....Big Trees, Jumping Frogs, & Mark Twain.  :)


Friday, May 25, 2012

Mt. Shasta Surprise

So with our last day in the area upon us, we were unsure what to do, where to go.  I suggested that we head north on highway 89 and get a few pictures of Mt. Shasta, then come back to Burney to eat, visit Burney Falls one last time, and that would be our day....  Well, that was the plan, but we had a wonderful surprise upon the way, and never did make it to Burney Falls due to some rain which had moved into the area.

It was a 50 mile drive to a vista area where we could see Shasta.  At around the 40 mile mark, it laid there in front of us on the highway...but we quickly saw that it was shrouded in clouds.  However, it is still a wonderful mountain to gaze upon.
 Above is a close up of Shasta along the highway, while below is a view from the vista point.
Well, with nature calling me...I decided to travel on to McCloud, which was just a few more miles down the road.  Here, I got this shot of Shasta.
Since I had entered onto a residential street to get the above shot, I figured we might as well look more into this quaint little town.  We quickly found the downtown area....
Above is the McCloud Hotel Bed & Breakfast.  It was originally build in the 1940's by the McCloud Lumber Company.  By the late 1980's it was not being used and fallen into disrepair.  In the late '90's it was bought, remodeled, and is now a four-star rated B&B, and a Nationally Registered Historical Landmark.
Above is a shot of the post office and some of the businesses in the main business district.  The McCloud River Lumber Company completely owned the town of McCloud at one time, and made sure it had everything it needed to survive.  It provided steam heat to all the buildings and homes, workers would fix leaks, broken windows, etc.  The lumber company took care of its workers.

This is a quote from the Chamber of Commerce website:  "In 1965, U.S. Plywood transferred town properties to John W. Galbreath and Co. whose job was to help company towns make the transition to privatization. The houses were then sold to the people living in them. The McCloud Community Services District was formed and the utilities, such as water, sewer and street lighting, were turned over to the district. They also assumed responsibilities for fire and police protection, library services and some road maintenance."
Of course, if you needed to move lumber, you needed to have a railroad, and the McCloud Railroad started in 1897 and ran until the 1990's.  It even had passenger service until the 1950's.  The above railroad cars are on display in the main business district.

We enjoyed the quick tour of McCloud, and headed back toward Burney Falls....and then I saw this sign about McCloud River and something about lower falls.  If there are lower falls, then there must be an upper falls too.  In this case, there was also a middle falls.

We went to the lower falls area, but the pathway was questionable for the scooter.  I thought I had seen a sign on the way towards McCloud which said something like "McCloud River Loop".  So we turned onto the loop road, and quickly found the parking lot for the Middle Falls.  It was paved, and the scooter would not have a problem with it.  And oh, we were surprised!  What a lovely area....I told Marcia as we parked that it was going to be a lovely sight....don't know why, but I could just feel it.
Above is the water coming to, and down the waterfall, which is hard to see since it runs parallel to where we were.  Below the river runs down the lovely, peaceful canyon.
Below is a better view of the falls, which drops 50 feet to the pool below.  It is the most splendid of the three.  We did not go to the lower falls because when I asked one of the few groups of people in the area, they said it was the least spectacular of the three, and harder to get to.
We loaded up Skruffy and Bubba and headed to the upper falls, which is less than a mile up the road.  It is probably a real nice water fall, but getting a view of the full length of the five falls which make up the water fall is hard to see.  However you can feel the power of it as it shoot out from the overlook, and speed of the water at this point is unreal.
Above is the best shot of the upper falls one can see from the safe pathway, and I was smartly forbidden from trying to lean over the rocks between the pathway and the river to try and get a better shot.  :)

The three pictures above show the water moving from left to right, with the last one being the where the water pours out over the upper falls and drops 25 feet to the river below.

Wow, what a surprise we had...a wonderful river, two water falls, and view of a majestic mountain, even if the top was hidden behind the clouds.  After our drive back to Burney to get a bite to eat (it was a good lunch two days ago, but tonight's dinner did not hit the mark), it was only the weather that stopped us from another quick visit to Burney Falls.  Later research showed that the McCloud railroad had a line that ran right to Burney, and the bridge over Brinton Lake which the Burney River runs into a short distance past Burney Falls.

It has been a nice week, and it will be nice to be back with family after our drive back to the Sacramento area on Friday....while we head down, many campers will be heading up into these wonderful mountains to enjoy nature.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lassen from the South Side

Woke up this morning and asked Marcia, "Why do we want to move the motor home over to the other side of Lassen?"  Yes, we would be along Lake Almanor, but we would have to go down to 30 amp, no sewer hook-up, no cable TV, but probably better Internet (yesterday’s Internet was fine, but Monday’s really sucked big time.)  And the cost would be the same there as we decided to stay where we were and just take a long day trip over to the other side of Lassen in the HHR.

We left around 10 am, and headed south on highway 89.  It was such a clear, blue sky, my focus was on Lassen...and I missed the turn onto highway 44 to go around the east side of Lassen around to the south side of Lassen.  Here is why.... 
I realized the mistake as we came to the turn to the entrance to the north side of Lassen Park, so I pulled in and asked them about the western route around.  She said that the first paved road that went around the west side is at headed west to Shingletown.  It was much longer, but now we can say that we saw every side there is to Lassen that one can see from a car on paved roads.  Here is Lassen and surrounding peaks, all of which formed ancient Mount Tehema that I talked about a few days ago.
It is hard to imagine that once many centuries ago that  one large mountain stood where this group of mountains is at today.
Eventually we made it to south entrance, and we immediately went to the visitor’s center where we viewed their displays, and saw a 15 minute video about Lassen, which helped put things together for us.  It is a lovely visitor’s center.  Here’s two pictures of the area from the outside.
That's the visitor's center just beyond the tree in the center foreground above.  Below is just a sample of the many trees that surround the area.
They told us that we could continue another 7 miles or so before the road is closed for the removal of snow, as we ran into a few days ago as we traveled south on highway 89 within the park and got stopped at destruction point.  Our first turn out was at the Sulphur Works area.  Here one can see steam mist raising up from the pools of bubbling mud.  There is a small spring creek which flows along here.  Due to snow around the parking area, Marcia could not use the scooter, and I decided to stay in the car too.
 You can see the steam above, below is a view of the area from afar.
The road is blocked off at Bumpass Hell, named after a guide named Bumpass who fell through the crust over the earth in the area into hot water severely burning his leg back in the 1800's (it must have burned like Hell, hence the name).   Here are some pictures of the ride up to Bumpass Hell.
Parked on a turnout along a curve, the picture above is pointed to the northeast, while the picture below is pointing the other way, hence the snow below while the mountain above is relatively free of snow.
The picture below is the first time that I put two pictures together to show a more panoramic view.  As we came around a very sharp curve (nearly 180 degrees), this is the view that we saw.  That is Lassen Peak (Mount Lassen) to the left.

At Bumpass Hell, you can see why the road is closed beyond this point.  Here is a picture of one of the snow banks, and another of the same snow bank with our car parked in front of it (yes, that is Skruffy’s head sticking out the driver’s window)

However, you get a great view of Lassen Peak.  The southern exposed area has much less snow on it. 
Here the trail around the Bumpass Hell area is totally snowed in, but I did walk out on the snow a bit and took the below picture.
After driving back down to the visitor’s center area for lunch, we headed out of the park and around the east side of Lassen.  This took us right by where we thought we were going to be camping for two days, by Lake Almanor.

And we finally hooked up with highway 44, where we got this nice last shot of Lassen’s snowy north-eastern side.

Not sure what we will do tomorrow...perhaps rest up, perhaps find some place new to go to, or perhaps go to Burney Falls again which Marcia told me today was one of her new favorite places.  Tune in and find thing for sure is that we have to pull out of here and head back to Sacramento on Friday morning.  This park, and many others around here, are going to busy for the Memorial Day Weekend.