The long, lazy days of summer stretch even longer and lazier with Covid reduced work hours. Awake before dawn, I lay wondering at the fact that my neighbor’s three little dogs had not awakened me all night, a rarity. Just moments later their sharp, hysterical yips pierced the stillness. And moments later, my own normally self-possessed dog barked a single warning. I went to the front door to see what had the canine neighborhood watch on high alert and saw one of my cats sitting on the front porch. A split second later, she bolted for the back yard and at that same instant I spotted a ghostly coyote in pursuit up the driveway.
My first thought was to turn my dogs loose on the hungry intruder but good sense prevailed and I stepped outside and yelled. He evaporated into the predawn ether.
Now fully awake, I resigned myself to beginning my day. The usual chores: make coffee; feed the dogs; tidy the house; then when daylight permits, harvest the garden and set sprinklers. Summer weather has finally settled in with temperatures well into the triple digits, so any outdoor activities are best done before mid morning. Any dog walking is best before the sun crests the mountains to the east.
By 8:00 we had our bikes loaded on the truck and hydration packs filled, ready to head up the mountains for a morning ride. Even with mountain temperatures being about twenty degrees cooler than the valley, we were motivated to hit the trail early. Mike wore the Go Pro camera to film the ride; he gets a kick out of following me on the singletrack. I think he secretly hopes I’ll go over the edge so he gets good footage.
We were home by lunch time and spent the heat of the day watching the video of our ride, napping, reading, and binge-watching Nurse Jackie.
Have you ever noticed how the less active you are, the more tired you feel? The more tired you feel, the less inclined you are to pry yourself away from your blog to get some endorphins flowing and the more blue goo settles in your brain.
With Sally gone for the summer, through-hiking the John Muir Trail, I was without my favorite hiking/biking companion. So, I pottered around in the garden, ruining my back with digging, weeding, and harvesting, telling myself that because I was exhausted at the end of the day, I was getting exercise. No! Exercise is when your heart pounds so hard you can hear it in your own ears and you’re breathing so hard that you’re sucking up small pebbles off the ground.
Well, my girlfriend’s back and I’m happy again! Sally’s return got me back on the bike and we rode our favorite trail, the Santa Ana River Trail. We’ve ridden it dozens of times and I’ve described its harrowing exposures, technical stream crossings, and wild descents here more often than most would care to read. So, suffice it to say, heart pounding and heavy breathing ensued. In fact, it dispelled the summer’s ennui so effectively that yesterday, I loaded up the dogs and headed for a mountain hike.
Vivian Creek Trail is often crowded at the trailhead because there’s a waterfall within a quarter of a mile of the picnic area. For some unknown reason, there were two porta-pots stationed in front of the permanent restrooms, perhaps due to the overflow crowds induced by Covid-19. Both were disgusting! Ignorant city folks had dumped all sorts of trash into the toilet along with their usual effluent. Pity the poor guy who has to pump that tank!
Thankfully, the trail itself is too steep for most of the day trippers so, a mile away from the parking lot, we had the trail to ourselves.
https://www.relive.cc/view/vwq1YdBxALq This is a link to a Relive video of my hike and ten of the photos taken along the route. I have the free version so it’s limited to ten still images. I love this app and may have to upgrade. It would be nice if the app would turn itself on automatically because I invariably forget to start it until I’m well into the hike.
The strenuous climb, the soothing sounds of the forest, the company of my dogs, all combined to wash away the concerns of a world gone awry. The few hikers we encountered politely donned masks before passing and greeted us cordially, all reminding me that “all will be well” as I walked in beauty.
What a joy it is to find blogs in my inbox inviting me to squander time! And even better, to find blogs that impel me to elaborate on a theme.
Today, Cupcakecache entertainingly meandered about, sharing banter, musing about her sunflower germination failures and plant shopping success, and generally reveling in the day’s tasks ahead, which prompted me to do the same.
Yesterday, I received a box, shipped from a friend in Oregon. She had some books that she didn’t want to send to the thrift store and thought I’d enjoy them. And while she was at it, she stuffed the box like a Christmas stocking. She has a quirky sense of humor, appreciated and shared by her family, and so she tossed in a collection of gag gifts that I presume she had received over the years, along with other random useful items. Perhaps the quirkiest of the collection was a rubber lip enhancer (size XL) and the most useful was a pair of socks. The books were primarily The Best American Science Writing (2000 – 2010) and The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2000 – 2008), of which I had read only one. She also sent three novels of which I had already read two, which illustrates why we remain friends even though we have lived in separate states for the past 35 years.
I bore you with these details for two reasons: One, a joy to be appreciated has to be shared, and what a joy her box of pleasures is! And two, perhaps it will inspire others to do something similar.
One of my other pleasures, is my garden.
In the foreground the garden is ringed by Teddy Bear Sunflowers, purported to be favored by birds and bees. I didn’t get very good germination but I kept replanting to fill in the gaps which will actually be a good thing as it will ensure a longer supply of blossoms for the bees and seeds for the birds.
Immediately behind the sunflowers are the beans, which I hate to pick but can’t resist planting anyway.
Behind the beans are cucumbers that I’m trying to train to climb the trellis. Like the butternut squash in the back ground, they are wayward and resist my gentle ministrations, preferring to choke the walkway between them and the apple tree and tomatoes.
I have three kinds of squash which are hemmed in by Marigolds that are three feet high. I kid you not! I never dreamed when I planted them for pest control, that they would present such an impediment to harvesting the squash. I fear the local fruit stand is suffering from my competition as I’m supplying all of my neighbors, my mail man, my sister, and my boss with squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Among the joys of gardening, are the feral pets that move in, various birds (who hopefully look for insects to eat), pollinators, horned tomato worms, and a Southern California Toad.
I would like this guy to settle down and raise a family here, so I plan to create a hospitable habitat for him/her. I think toads may be on my side in the organic gardening battle with the bugs.
Now, I must delve into my box of goodies. I think I’ll start with The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000, edited by one of my favorite authors, David Quammen.
Remember chanting the Pledge of Allegiance when you were a kid in grade school? We recited it every morning and it meant almost nothing to children who had no idea what liberty and justice really meant. Once committed to memory, it was just a ritual, like the Lord’s Prayer. Then there came a time when the words did stir something inside me when my history books told of my country making huge sacrifices to save the Jews from Hitler. And then, I read outside of the prescribed curriculum (thanks to a good teacher’s suggested reading list) and learned how, like the slavery issue in the Civil War, the welfare of the Jews was quite secondary to the true motives of this country’s participation and initial lack thereof.
So, having disabused myself of the notion that my country was the knight in shining armor, the cowboy in the white hat, the purveyor of liberty and justice for all, I read voraciously and indiscriminately, hoping to figure out how and why people sought great wealth and power, sometimes beyond all comprehension, and why they didn’t use those things for the good of their “neighbors”.
I wish I could tell you that I now have it dialed in. I read once that “No man is a villain in his own eyes”. If that is true, then the most ignorant, evil, self-absorbed person, comes from a place where his ends justify the means. And maybe the less introspective a person is, the easier it is to love oneself to the exclusion of others.
But I digress, as is the wont of bloggers like myself and cupcakecache (you must read her “Why We Read Bloggers”). What I started out to write is my discomfort over how the symbol of freedom and equality under the law (that would be the American flag) has been hijacked by the militant supporters of a regime who don’t recognize injustice and suppression of freedom when they see it. Pugnacious, white men drive down city streets with the symbol of freedom flapping from their behemoth pick-up trucks; bearded, pot-bellied white men roar down the highway, flags whipping on their “Big Twin” Harley; bumper stickers proudly display the flag along with slogans that bristle with hate.
I’m sad and fearful when I see what once meant pride in a civilized form of government, now is used to instill fear in people who think “peace, love, and understanding” are worthwhile objectives; when it’s purpose has been twisted from making a ten-year-old’s heart swell with pride to making a person of color cringe; when it bolsters the dubious courage of a bully.
Well, I’m just sick of it. I want to restore honor and dignity to not just the symbol of our country, but to the integrity of every citizen who believes in the principles of equality. To that end, I’m going to encourage everyone who believes that this country can be great without discrimination, hate, and with equal rights under the law, to display the flag tomorrow with the sentiments it should evoke in fair-minded folks.
I heard a pastor say, “Love looks like justice in public.” And that’s what the teachings of Christ mean by, “Love your enemies”. Be just in your dealings with every living thing…especially the powerless.
Forced to stay at home, I have reverted to my preferred life style. I had all but given up on vegetable gardening because, between defending my turf from gophers and trying to keep everything watered in 100 degree weather, well, it seemed to be a losing proposition what with being away from home five days a week.
Then along came Covid-19 putting into question the safety and reliability of our food supply. I needed no more motivation.
But…since we were discouraged from going to Home Depot or the nursery for seeds, I ordered from Seed Geeks online. Anticipated delivery: 4 – 6 weeks! Most of the things I plant should be planted early in the season (March/April) so they have a good root system by the time spring temperatures soar. So, I scrounged up some old seed packets that had been stored in the shed for a year, not exactly a cool, dry place as recommended, and planted them…all of them, a dozen squash seeds to a hill. A couple of weeks later, I was thinning, transplanting, and grieving over the intrepid little runts I had to throw on the compost pile. Cucumbers weren’t as hardy but I have one robust looking vine and none of the beans made it, or even broke the surface.
By the time the new seeds arrived I was almost ready to harvest what I’d sown six weeks ago.
One of the nectarine trees is quietly feeding the ants, earwigs, and bees but I get a bite or two from each of the fruits they profligately spoil. My neighbor and I swap nectarines and apricots…not a great combination during a toilet paper shortage. The neighbor to the south brings me eggs, grapefruits and limes. Now if I could just grow cheese and milk, I could make a proper meal.
MiL persuaded me to take her to a nursery after hearing that it was relatively safe to mingle with the great unwashed outside. She wanted flowers and I figured I could always find room in the garden for something edible. To my delight, I found they had just received a shipment of kumquat trees/bushes.
In case you haven’t been initiated into the fan club of kumquat lovers, I must extol their virtues. First, their sweet/sour contrasting flavors make for a surprising burst of saliva when added (chopped into small pieces) to salads or breakfast cereal. Sliced into little rings, they make a glass of ice-water absolutely irresistible. And, as if flavor isn’t enough, they contain enough vitamin C to stave off scurvy year round.
The charms of vegetable gardening may not be for everyone, what with the dirt, the back-breaking labor, the constant battle against competing bugs and rodents; but when you see the transformation of a patch of bare earth into a veritable garden of Eden…~sigh~ What a victory over the ennui of isolation!
The last two months of my life have been consumed by moving my mother-in-law (MiL) from her 3,200 square foot home into the 1,200 square foot house we had purchased next door. We had finally finished renovating it and it proved to be the perfect way for MiL to downsize. Her decision to move happened just when the restrictions of Covid-19 were put in place, which meant that moving companies were not available. As luck would have it, the church where I work shut down too, so I had time to move her 6,254 containers filled with a lifetime accumulation of memorabilia, plant food, bank statements, and the ordinary contents of the American home.
The moving took weeks as she sorted and re-sorted the stuff she wanted to take with her and the stuff she was going to leave behind. Her aging brain grew increasingly confused as she lost track of the thread of organization and I grew more and more frustrated as she repeated stories about the origin of each item.
At one point MiL asked me what she should do with her gun. I was nonplussed to think that an 86 year-old, deaf woman would HAVE a gun!
She explained that she kept it in case a burglar broke in. So, when Mike came to pick up a load of furniture, he asked her to show it to him. She went to the freezer in the hall at the garage end of the house, where she pulled out a yogurt container which contained the combination to the safe. She then tottered down the hall to the pantry, where she got down on her knees and laboriously dialed the combination. Without too much difficulty, she found the KEY to the drawer in the display case, at the end of the hall, at the opposite end of the 3200 square foot house, which held the gun.
About this time, the visual image of the poor burglar, who had somehow managed to get her attention over the sound of the TV blaring at top volume, and was now making himself a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly, because she doesn’t like jelly, which she no doubt told him because she has never liked jelly, even as a child, and her kids never ate jelly either) while he waited for her to retrieve the gun, which, terrifyingly was LOADED, so that he could take it away from her because, it was perhaps the ONLY thing in the house that had any resale value…unless he was into selling happy crap Christmas ornaments on EBay.
Of course a story ensued about the origin of the little pistol, which was still in its original box indicating it had been purchased at Western Auto for the price of $56, a tidy sum in 1965. Every indication was that it had never been fired THANK GOD! Back in the days when Mike’s dad (FiL) had been active in the union at Kaiser, things had gotten ugly, as union affairs sometimes do; and he felt threatened enough to feel he needed a gun for protection. MiL explained that FiL was not able to purchase a gun in his own name as he had a CRIMINAL RECORD, so he bought it in her name. I tried to sound casual when I asked what his crime had been and she answered mildly, “Domestic violence.”
“Do you know how to use it?” I squeaked.
“No, but how hard can it be?”, she replied. “You just point and pull the trigger.”
~sigh~ of relief. If she didn’t know how to manually cock it, she probably couldn’t pull the trigger hard enough to cock it, and if she did, would just blow a hole in the ceiling…before the burglar put down his peanut butter sandwich and took it away from her.
I’ve written several times about a trail near my house called Mountain Home Creek Trail. Decades ago it had been the road from the valley floor to Camp Angelus, and Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. But it was abandoned when a new road was carved into the side of the precipitous canyon to accommodate modern vehicles. Over time, the old road succumbed to rock slides, winter rains washed out bridges, and now, most of it is little more than a singletrack trail, kept marginally passable by dedicated mountain bikers. (The trail has been unofficially named the John Elliot Trail, a nod to its most dedicated trail maintainer, a retired physics professor.)
Recently, Frontier Communications decided that the 72 1/2 residents of Camp Angelus (now called Angelus Oaks) were in need of fiber optic cable and proceeded to run a bulldozer down the trail to allow the trucks needed for cable installation to access the poles that run the length of the rugged canyon. In doing so, they smashed the manzanita, Scotch Broom, flowering yuccas, and whatever else happened to line the trail. They pushed huge rocks that had provided interest to the mountain bike trail aside, creating a monotonous road where once a trail had been. The blade filled in ruts with loose sand, removed the water bars built to divert water from the trail, and turned one of the stream crossings into a muddy quagmire. We who have been riding, hiking, and maintaining the trail were heartsick at the desecration of one of the most scenic trails in California.
Having heard of the despoliation of our trail, Sally and I decided to see for ourselves, hoping against hope that reports had been exaggerated. The ruin had been halted about two miles from the bottom of the trail by a washed-out bridge, so the first two miles were still pristine. Rounding a turn we found two of our friends standing an appropriate social distance from a third, Greg, who was lying comfortably at the side of the trail. We soon learned that he was not resting comfortably. Descending the trail, Greg, a young sixtyish man, had caught his front wheel in one of the ruts, now invisible because of being filled with loose sand, and was thrown over the bars. He was hurled onto his hip by way of knee and followed by elbow and shoulder, onto a section of remaining asphalt. It soon became evident that the damage was not minor and he would not be able to ride, or even hobble down the trail. Being about three miles from the nearest motorized vehicle access point, we realized that he would have been in a real pickle but for the fact that the trail was now navigable for a rescue vehicle.
So, while we cursed the powers that had sabotaged our trail, we couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit grateful that their wanton destruction had facilitated a rescue.
Greg suffered a fractured hip and other bruises and scrapes. He is expected to be able to walk without the aid of crutches in about a month.
If pressed, or even wrinkled, I would have to admit that I had begun going feral before all this self-isolation thing made it acceptable. I think maybe when I became officially old, when I became eligible for Medicare, I felt entitled to some of the benefits of senior citizenry.
At some point I noticed that no matter how much effort I put into looking my best, the difference between the before and after just wasn’t that noticeable. I quit wearing makeup. Never having been any great beauty, and having rather enjoyed the nickname, “Butterface” because of its implication of other more favorable attributes, it didn’t take long to get comfortable with my aging face.
Hair removal, which has long been a cornerstone of societal standards of pulchritude, fell by the wayside for me. Why do we need to shave our armpits in the winter time when we don’t perspire much and nobody sees our arms above the elbow? Same goes for legs; I don’t EVER show my legs in public so why should I concern myself with incriminating dark hair below my knees? My husband, with his failing vision, thinks I’m beautiful with or without hair.
And speaking of keeping up the illusion that I am a blonde Dutch woman, I started going longer and longer between hair coloring, accepting the brown and enthusiastically embracing the gray. Gray IS the new blonde, you know!
Then came the widow’s friend, Covid-19. (Friend, only if you believe that once your husband is gone, only death awaits.) Woe to the woman who spent years at home because her husband didn’t want to travel and eagerly awaited his departure for greener pastures so she could take that world cruise!
Ah, but there is a silver lining. Silver hair is only one of the linings. A French braid is done up in a minute or two while the curling iron and blow dryer languish in the cabinet. Underwire bras, once so essential to lift and separate, and make us snappish by the end of the day, similarly disintegrate in the lingerie drawer. My record for going bra-less so far is six days. Floors that needed to be vacuumed on Saturday can now be done tomorrow…or sometime later. Besides, who knows when it’s Saturday? And best of all, the personnel committee that thought they couldn’t get by without me coming into the office FIVE days a week when I asked for four, now find that I can work quite nicely from home all but one day a week. Works for me!
Butterface Mountain biking in the age of Covid-19.
Most of my blog friends confess to having lost their mojo during this time of sequestration, as if their inspiration to write comes from the stimulation of interaction with others. Since my life has changed very little, I have no such excuse. I’ve just become a crotchety old lady, bereft of humor.
Like many, I’ve tackled long-procrastinated tasks, like divvying up Mum’s cremains. Each of her nieces have requested a piece of her, so it’s up to me to get a scoop of grandma shipped to them.
This is a selfie of Mum and me. I miss her every day but I’m grateful that she is not here to weather this crisis. She would have not been able to process the information she saw on Fox News (not that I can!) and she would have been in a constant turmoil.
This is her urn, a carved piece of juniper driftwood that I picked up in the San Juan Islands, several years ago. It’s cedar so it smells lovely.
Thankfully, mountain biking and hiking are still permitted in our neck of the woods, though the trails closest to parking lots are more populated than normal. Sadie and I don’t have any trouble escaping the madding crowd.
My sister Babs has been forced to take up cooking again which gives us something to commiserate about. Menu planning for “mates” who have polar opposite tastes to our own is challenging. I made this gorgeous lentil soup that included coriander seeds and cumin seeds which Mike immediately deemed too exotic for his taste. I ate it for a week and never tired of it.
The only excitement (if you can call it that) was a hike my favorite niece (MFN) Tara enticed me into doing one afternoon. She called around 3:00 to tell me she was going to hike up Morton Peak at 4:00, did I want to go? No-brainer! I loaded up my hydration pack, snapped ID on the dogs, and leapt at the chance to spend time with MFN. Morton Peak is a fire road (that’s a dirt road to those of you who live in more humid climates) that ascends about 2,000 feet to a now defunct fire lookout tower in about three miles.
Tara, 13 years my junior with long legs, scampered up the trail at a pace that had me unable to hold up my end of the conversation. Knowing that it was a short hike, I pushed the pace to keep up. At the top, Tara bemoaned the fact that we were too early to observe the sunset that promised to be spectacular in the stormy sky. In a moment of insanity, I suggested that we could descend via the single track that ended six miles below. We had two hours of daylight remaining, so we called my sister to arrange for a shuttle back to my car, and set off down the trail.
The trail had suffered some damage from the heavy rains. It was rutted, rocky, and badly overgrown, all of which slowed our descent. Still a couple of miles from the bottom, the shadows grew long and the light began to fade.
By the time we reached the dirt road at the end of the single track, it was all but dark and we still had a mile to go to reach the paved road where my sister waited. Coyotes began their evening chorus; we were serenaded from several directions so I leashed Sadie just to make sure she wasn’t tempted to go native. Eagerly, she preceded me down the final descent, a steep, gnarly motorcycle track, barely visible in the dark, as Tara called encouragement from below. I had to remind Sadie that her assistance on the downhill was NOT appreciated.
Then the real danger began…we, my sister, my niece and me, failed to practice good social distancing and all rode in the same car back to pick up my car, which, much to our relief had not been vandalized in the dark.
The previous trip only whetted my appetite for another Lone Pine adventure, so two weeks later I persuaded Sally and her daughter Jordan to join me in a four-day Girls Gone Mild adventure. I re-packed the trailer, replenishing my wine supply with TWO bottles this time.
The girls and I hit the road bright and early, feeling rather optimistic as the car was outfitted with new brakes and shocks and the trailer had new tires. Sally and Jordan would follow later in the day when they finished their work day. We encountered a detour, got stuck behind a slow-moving truck, and came upon an accident that required a change of course on a dirt road, but otherwise had clear sailing.
About an hour from our destination I saw a sign saying, “Fossil Falls” which piqued my interest. But being eager to find a good campsite in Lone Pine, I vowed to check it out on the return trip.
The Lone Pine Campground was technically closed for the season but there were a few first-come-first-served sites available and they were free of charge as all of the water faucets were shut off to prevent freezing. Thankfully the pit toilets were open. I selected a site and prepared to back the trailer in when the man camping in the next site walked over to greet me. He kindly offered to guide me into my spot which I gratefully accepted. I’m not exactly proficient at backing and it usually takes me a few tries to get the trailer exactly where I want it. Once I was where I wanted to be, he went back to his own site while I set up the Wanderlust.
Evening falls early in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and by the time I had the trailer level, the refrigerator turned on, and my camp set up, it was growing cool. My new neighbor (Jeff), seeing that I was unaccompanied (other than the dogs) came over and invited me to join him for dinner. He was making pork loin and grilled asparagus. I paused for the briefest moment before accepting his invitation. I offered to contribute salad and wine but he assured me he had it all covered. I had time to take the girls for a short walk before dinner would be served.
By the time we returned, Jeff had his picnic table set for two though I had offered to bring my own plate and flatware. Dishwashing isn’t my favorite task when camping so I didn’t expect him to provide the meal AND do the dishes but he explained that he was a sea kayaking guide by profession and was quite practiced at feeding groups from his camp stove. And sure enough, he effortlessly laid out a four course meal fit for royalty. I offered to do the dishes but he waved me off and by the time I’d gone to my trailer and slipped into something more comfortable (polar fleece pants, a down jacket, and hat), he had everything washed and stowed away in the bear box. He built a fire and offered me dessert, a pudding cup, but I declined.
By 7:30 we were in bed…he in his tent, me and my dogs in my trailer. I couldn’t help but wonder at how different things would have gone forty years ago when we would have lingered around the fire until we had finished a bottle of wine. But now even a man eight years younger than I was no temptation.
Sally and Jordy pulled in around 10:00 by which time the girls and I were ready to make a restroom run. They decided it was too much trouble to set up a tent in the dark, besides it was really COLD; so, they folded the back seat down in the SUV and slept in the car.
For the next two days we explored the area around our campground, beginning with breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a favorite with the locals and tourists alike.
We invited Jeff to join us for a dinner of spaghetti and salad which he accepted. We ate inside the trailer because the breeze was cold and the trailer was snug and almost warm.
The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail begins at the campground in scrub brush and ascends through several climate zones in just four miles.
By the end of the day the dogs were ready for bed.
As always, it was time to head home long before we were tired of exploring. It helped that we had one more place to stop on the way home. Fossil Falls is a former river bed that once flowed through the volcanic rock at the southern end of the Owens Valley. The river has long ago changed course but the channel carved by it remains.
I found this in my drafts file and figured I might as well post it as I just received a notice from Valley of Fire that my campsite reservation for next week has been cancelled due to the threat of Covid-19.