Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bodega Bay - January 2018

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

A Brewing Mystery

"I think it's trying to tell me something," the Lady said as she climbed into our camper. We were getting settled in a campsite in Sonoma County's Westside Campground.

"What was trying to tell you something?" I asked as I checked the burner operation on the stove.

"The bottle of beer in the bushes outside," the Lady said matter-of-factly as she adjusted our bedding in the cabover.

"What, a bottle of bud saying 'throw me in the trash'?"

"No, it's a full bottle of Pliny the Elder, that beer that's always around Ted," the Lady answered.

"What?" I exclaimed and popped out of the truck with the camera.

"It scurried off after I took a photo," I noted as I climbed back aboard. "What would a bottle of Pliny be  trying to tell you?"

"Maybe it wanted to seek 'safe harbor' with us non alcohol drinkers."  The Lady chatted as the last setup chore was completed. "It's a mystery! Let's go for a walk now. Chores are done!"

This trip was truly a spur of the moment adventure. On our early morning walk we talked about what we might do the next day, Saturday. We are eager to going skiing, especially with waking to a skiff of new snow on the deck. But the new snow was the talk on all the social media and news broadcasts. Our mountain roads would be a zoo with traffic. Trapped in the mess, it could take us hours to get home - been there, done that.

"How about this?" I offered. "Let's take off for the coast this afternoon, just a quick trip to get away."

We wandered about Bodega Bay in the late afternoon. We always enjoy the colorful marina at Spud Point.

"There it is again, or maybe another one!" The Lady pointed to a bench overlooking the bay.

"There has to be a reason for Plinys here," I offered. "Let's see, the brewery is in Santa Rosa. Maybe the Plinys are migrating down the Russian River to the Pacific and we are seeing an evolving sea run subspecies of Pliny the Elders! Maybe they will head up Salmon Creek and establish a brewery in Freestone or Occidental!"

"Stop it!" the Lady scoffed. "You are over thinking everything  and just trying to make a story out of this! Stop it! There's always a much simpler explanation."

The teacher had spoken.

We walked back along the edge of the bay. The winds were strong after the latest storm. We knew they were raging over on the Pacific side and a high surf warning was posted. But it was so good to get away.

Back at camp we put our towels and such together and walked down to the showers at the south end of the campground. Upon exiting the men's shower, this greeted me on the bench outside.

"Now what are you doing around here?" I asked the old gent. The bottle smiled and tilted a bit to the east. My eyes followed in that direction and the mystery was solved. The Lady was back in the camper when I returned. I opened the door and asked her to come with me.

"You aren't going to believe this one!" I said as we walked back to the south end of the campground.

Our friends the Teds were just setting up in a campsite.This was a surprise! The Teds were here.

"With all these Plinys about, Ted has to be around here somewhere! We should have known!" we both said with welcoming hugs all around.

We woke Saturday morning to wind against the camper. The Lady and I like the location of Westside Campground as we have discovered the system of trails that give access to areas that are relatively empty of other visitors.We were spending the whole day hiking from camp and exploring. The Teds were off on their own, exploring, and searching out fresh crab and kites.

The Bodega Dunes are an amazing place. The trails are not well marked but with the roar of the high surf, audible above the roaring wind, we knew what direction to head.

Salmon Creek  Beach was empty of people and all ours.

Large chunks of redwood burl dotted the beach.

A group on horseback approached from the north.

It looked like two young women had paid for a horseback ride on the beach.

The young dude wrangler - and definitely dressed for the role - tied his mount to attend to the women.

His horse was experienced and with an expert roll of its head and neck the hitch was undone.

"Hey partner," I called. "Your hitch is undone."

The young fellow ignored my observation. The Lady added more.

"When your horse is loose and untied," she asked. "Will it stay put or take off back to the barn?"

This wasn't helping his image but he quickly attended to his mount.

They got on with their picture taking and we continued our walk up the beach. It appeared the big boss man was coming out to check on how the ride was going. He looked like he had worked in the saddle many years.

We watched as the group moved into the distance surrounded by wind and salt spray, just like us.

We walked north and then turned inland, crossed through the dunes, and looped back to the south. We crossed through the Marine Reserve and looked down on Horseshoe Cove and the University of California Marine Laboratory.

We also had a nice view of Bodega Bay's entry into the Pacific.

We ended at Bodega Head and the busy parking area, even with the cold windy conditions.

It had been a wonderful day for us, hiking and wandering all day within sight of the ocean. We returned to the campground just as Ted and Donna were returning. Alas, no fresh crab for Ted. The wind and swells kept all the boats in port. And alas, the kite that Ted bought was a poor performer in the wind, refusing again and again to take to the sky.

After dark we wandered back over to the Teds and we all chatted into the evening.

The weather was much improved Sunday morning. The wind had calmed. A few boats headed out at dawn.

We wandered around the marina in the early morning light, a ritual with our mugs of coffee.

We stopped by the Teds' camp and said our goodbyes, still remarking about the coincidence of us ending up at the same campground on a quick visit to the coast.

We slowly made our way toward home, refreshed and happy after a very nice spur of the moment trip.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Death Valley - Winter Break 2017 - Part Three

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version


We had briefly met Richard and Ginny four years before - December 2013 - at the Eureka Dunes. I went back to my blog post on that trip to refresh my memory -

"Our chairs were out between our campers. We were enjoying snacks and drinks and discussing our upcoming adventure. We watched a white Jeep Wrangler work its way around the dunes toward us. “Why are they coming in here?” Barking asked as they turned into our spot. He was on his feet. The Jeep stopped. Both doors opened. The driver approached quickly and said, “Ski3pin and the Lady must be here!” I got up and introduced the Lady and myself. “I’m Missing Link on Wander the West,” the driver explained. His next question was delightful, “Are one of you Ted?”"

How fortuitous, on this chance meeting Missing Link got to meet Ted!

We stayed out under the moon and stars and chatted. Both Richard and Ginny are delightful and were a welcome addition to our group. They shared our enthusiasm for the strange lights that rose straight up above the Black Mountains to the east with a bright single light. Each time the light would suddenly go dark. Strange lights indeed, UFO's. This had been our night time entertainment until Ted set us straight with the clear, levelheaded thinking of an engineer.

"Those are the landing lights of jets leaving the airport in Las Vegas," Ted carefully explained. They are coming right at us while gaining altitude. That is why they look to be going straight up. The light disappears when the landing lights are turned off."

"Then why don't we see the usual blinking red and green lights?" I asked, almost pouting. I wanted to believe the big eyes wanted to pop on over and check out our campers. But, as I heard someone on TV say one time, "The truth is out there."

"That's because," Ted was kind and patient with me, "they are so far away!"

Later in evening, when Ted took a break from the group and a light was rising in the east, Donna ran over to the spotting scope and watched the light go out.

"What did you see?" we asked as she returned to her chair.

"Blinking red and green lights."

Ted, did we ever share that with you?

The morning of December 30th was spectacular. Missing Link's truck looked right at home in the penthouse suite.

The shovel brigade looked pretty darn good too.

Richard and Ginny fit right in.

Our plans were to walk up Johnson Canyon. Our goal was the fossil ripples in purple mudstone, a well known outcropping at the confluence with the South Fork Johnson Canyon.

Our first stop was at the remains of the famous 1934 Chrysler Airflow.

We all examined it closely. I believe I started this one.

"You know, I think we can get this running again. First thing we'd have to find is the top end for this big old straight eight cylinder motor."

The group's enthusiasm built. Heads were quickly nodding in the affirmative.

"We could get this running again!" echoed round and round the little alcove.

The clear, levelheaded thinking of an engineer brought us back to reality once again.

"No way," Ted said and shook his head. "It'll never happen. Let's go find ancient purple mud!"

Richard is a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, so we all enjoyed and appreciated his expertise on our journey up the canyon.

Ginny was a seasoned professional at spotting flakes from tool making.

The Lady disappeared as we were photographing the deep purple rock in the cold shade at the South Fork. She had climbed to the top of the cliffs on the north side in the sun. She was chuckling because she was sitting on layers upon layers of fossil ripples.

Shooting into the sun washes out the color a bit.

It was a truly pleasant day. So many stories were shared as we walked together.

The Teds and the Missing Links were leaving in the morning so the Lady and I wanted to celebrate as if this was New Years Eve - that meant we'd try real hard to stay up past eight.

We brought out the bubbly.

We toasted old friends and new friends and best wishes for a wonderful new year.

Ted really hit it off with Richard and Ginny. He shared his bottle of Pliny the Elder!

I was up early on New Year's Eve. I wanted to sneak a peek through the Teds' spotting scope before they left  at the layering over in the Land of the Tinajas. I saw an interesting area to explore. It would not be easy to reach.

We said goodbye to our friends as they started the slow crawl down the road and toward their respective homes.

We suited up, got the boots on, and hit the trail.

We climbed a new canyon. There was a much higher series of tinajas the Lady wanted to wander through. The layers of rock made in a wonderful stair step climb up the canyon.

We were in for a surprise. A big surprise. Suddenly the rock changed dramatically. We were standing right atop a fault in the earth's crust.

On the west side of the fault was basement limestones. On the east side was welded volcanic tuff. This was really getting complicated.

I looked high to the west and suddenly areas I had scanned before were now vivid examples of this faulted area. I had missed it before, just did not know what I was seeing.

High above us in the direction we wanted to climb, I could see where the fault ran through the ridge line.

The rocks on the right were different then the rocks on the left. There was no way the layering would match up in the area I had looked at through the spotting scope. Everything was offset an unknown amount. The search would be damn near impossible. But what a thrilling sight!

The canyon ahead was impassable with a high smooth pour over. We climbed the left hand side to find a bypass. We climbed higher and higher on crumbling welded tuff, akin to rough ball bearings on smooth steep rock underneath.

We reached a high point with a view.

With this view of the tinajas below, the Lady's enthusiasm for chasing layers of stone waned. There was a playground to be explored!

I started down a steep talus slope with chair sized jagged rock. The Lady did not like my route choice.

"We could die if anything goes wrong with loose rock. I don't like it!"

I respected her decision and followed her as she backtracked along the vertical edge of the gully below.

She did an amazing job of reading the steepness of the terrain, staying right at the edge of what our boot soles could stick to - a very careful balancing act - and walked us right into the bottom of the gully.

The Lady's playground.

We took a water and shack break and then forged ahead to climb up to the layers to see if, in this offset mess, I could spot those distinctive layers we had seen two days before.

What a challenge!


After climbing and down climbing and climbing and down climbing several times it was time to head back to camp. We'd try a different route back.

Our shadows were long as we crossed the bajada on the ancient indian trails.

It was the last night of 2017. In our way of thinking, the location, solitude, quiet, was perfect for a celebration of New Year's Eve.

We stayed up late. We watched the jets leaving the airport in Las Vegas. We waited for the near full moon to climb above the hazy clouds in the east.

I hope that every one of our future years can end like this.

We are now back at the beginning of this story - the first day of 2018.

We enjoyed the drive down Johnson Canyon Road after we broke camp after four nights.

It was our third try at finding what the Lady suggested -

"Well, I was wondering," the Lady said as she snuggled in close. "Do you think we'd have time to see if we can find..........................."

Yes we did. This petroglyph panel is hidden in plain sight.

I really liked this classic hunting scene.

As I photographed, I lost sight of the Lady. Of course, all I needed to do was look up.

We made a lazy drive toward home. After our days of relative solitude, we were shocked at the amount of traffic on 395. We were in a different world.

We found our often used overnight camp spot in the Volcanic Tablelands at dusk. It was colder than our nights in Death Valley. The wind was picking up. There was a layer of high clouds across the night sky. The first full moon of 2018 gently rose above the White Mountains. The songs of coyotes moved across the landscape.

The Search - I ought not leave you hanging any longer....but I'm going to. Please forgive me.

New Years Day we stopped by the Visitors Center in Furnace Creek and made a report about our find. Since returning home we have been contacted by a DVNP Research Associate. Our find is a new addition to the Park's scientific database. I am providing a report with photos and details on the location. Park staff will be making a site visit.

No Pliny the Elders were harmed during this adventure.