California 2008

Even though I was born and raised in Sacramento, California, I really saw very little outside of Sacramento. Being a good student had its price and while I don't regret the rewards of academic perseverance, it is sad that I saw so little of the real beauty in the golden state. The summer of 2008 was my chance to see some of what I missed.

Above is Norma and my mom kayaking across Tomales Bay on August 1, 2008.

 Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mount JudahOpen accordion icon
With almost two weeks of summer fun in California, Norma and I intended to see as much as we reasonably could of the golden state. We began at Lake Tahoe.

I picked her up at Cal Lodge in Truckee where she just finished a week of volunteer trail maintenance with the American Hiking Society. Our goal was to explore some of the Tahoe trails.

What I liked about her volunteer work was that she had a chance to talk to the locals and get recommendations for some good hikes. Our first would be parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Overland Emigrant Trail. She led me on a lollipop hike to Mount Judah at 8,243 feet elevation. The winds were extremely strong.
Rocky scene from the mountain

The trail was not blazed. There were a few signs but more would have been helpful.

We had several smoky views.
Smoky view of wilderness from up high

Unfortunately, several wildfires were burning out of control to the south and the smoke was blowing our way, making the view hazy. It reminded me of being in the Shenandoah area of Virginia.

There was very little in terms of animal life but the interesting and beautiful plants made up for this. The west coast flora is quite a bit different than back east. What I really liked was the way the pine trees showed new growth. The older needles were darker and drier, while the newer ones were lighter and softer.
Looking down on pine showing new growth

Despite the terrain generally being rocky, there were many flowers.
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Lots of small purple flowers on bush
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Not-so-colorful flowers on rocky terrain
Rocky terrain.
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Close-up of flower with white petals and yellow in center
Yellow and white.

A one-foot-high plant with several red flowers appeared rather alien.
Exotic plant covered in red flowers

Once we exited the highlands, the open terrain turned forested. Thick moss grew on many of the big trees which made the place appear even more green.
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Norma in open terrain on the side of a hill
In open terrain.
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Norma on a trail in the woods
Moss on big trees.

It had been awhile since I spent time in northern California during the summer but two things I distinctly remember are the heat and the sun. The temperatures often get over 100 degrees around midday. Even though it is dry heat, it is very intense and can dehydrate a person quickly. However, the Tahoe area remains much cooler than the Sacramento Valley so this was not yet a problem. Sun, however, was an issue. The intense sunlight makes wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses a must. The rocks in the highlands or the dry grass in Sacramento just reflect the rays making things even worse. I don't often wear sunglasses in Maryland but in California, I most definitely do.
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DonnerOpen accordion icon
After completing our six mile hike, we went to the Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner Memorial State Park on the east side of Donner Lake. Here, we learned about how the ill-fated Donner party was stranded trying to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the severe winter of 1846-47. As members of the 89-person party died, some of those remaining resorted to cannibalism; only 47 were rescued.

Outside of the museum, we saw a snake. Not sure what kind but it wasn't poisonous.

Next, we ventured to see the Donner Pass Petroglyphs. These are symbols that the Native American rubbed into the rocks.

A short hike from the petroglyphs took us to the railroad track on what I believe was Schallenberger Ridge. Here, snow coverings were built to ensure the railroad could function year round. We explored some of them which have since been rebuilt and covered with graffiti...some of it very nicely done.

The mountains in the Tahoe area are huge compared to those in Maryland. Just walking up some of them can be quite a challenge but we saw several who were biking up the steep roads. Needless to say, their downhill speeds differed little from some of the cars.
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Silver Creek CampgroundOpen accordion icon
We checked in for the evening at the Silver Creek Campground in Truckee. It wasn't our first choice but it was fine and we had to take what we could since so many of the other campgrounds were booked when we made our reservations. The campground did not have showers but we found that our entrance fee to Donner Memorial State Park allowed us to use their coin-operated showers.

We went to dinner in Truckee but found many of the restaurants very busy or pricey so we ate at Panda Express.

Truckee, named for Washoe Indian Chief Trokay, was once a lawless lumber and railroad town though you'd never know that if you saw it today.
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 Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kayaking at Lake TahoeOpen accordion icon
After packing up, Norma and I decided to rent kayaks. We headed out to Tahoe Paddle and Oar at Kings Beach on the north side of Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe was named "big water" by the Washoe Indians. It is said that the water in the lake is 97% pure, nearly the same as distilled water. Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide with an average depth of 989 feet. The deepest part is 1,645 feet, making Tahoe the third deepest lake in North America. The lake resides at an elevation of 6,229 feet in a valley between the main Sierra Nevada and an eastern offshoot, the Carson Range.

We rented an Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL plastic sit-on-top tandem. I found the half back rests much more comfortable than my full back rests which I suppose I'll now be cutting in half.

We paddled east in Agate Bay. The wind and water was fairly calm. Once again, the sky was smoky. However, the lake was crystal clear and so blue that it looked fake. Unlike the Chesapeake Bay which is very cloudly, we could see the bottom of the lake in fairly deep water. Also unlike the Chesapeake, Tahoe remains pretty cold all year round.

Our first stop was an area full of several large rounded boulders. We stopped to relax, look around, chat with other kayakers, and watch the standup paddleboarders. This sport seems to be very popular at the lake. In fact, on August 18, the Lake Tahoe Stand-up Paddle Classic will take place in that area.
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Norma sitting on a rock in the lake next to our kayak
Norma on rock.
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A yellow kayak with smoky skies
Yellow kayak.
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Red kayak with yellow behind
Red kayak.
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Paddleboarders and rocks

Norma and I heard there were hot springs in the area and we looked but did not find them. It sounds like the locals keep them hidden.

We paddled around Stateline Point into Nevada and observed the waterfront properties that lined the lake. Then we began heading back.

The wind picked up and the return trip was fairly rough. We were told that is typical at the lake.

One final stop at a different part of the boulder field gave us a chance to explore some more and climb on the rocks.
Me, high up on a rock

Another couple were also taking refuge in the area. Note the fellow preparing to dive in the pic below.
Numerous boulders in the water with a guy on a rock, ready to dive into the lake

We finished after paddling six miles. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to paddle while in Cali so I got in 80 miles on my surfski in July prior to arriving. But it is hard to spend too much time kayaking so it felt good to get on the water.
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DL Bliss State ParkOpen accordion icon
Next, we drove to DL Bliss State Park, where we would spend the next two nights.

Our first stop in the park was Lester Beach. Norma and I swam around a bit in the cold water then warmed ourselves by lying on the hot rocks. We explored some of the areas under the rocks and found several crayfish.

Our next stop was Balancing Rock. Notice how the upper rock looks like the profile of a turtle head. I was reminded of our October 8, 2006 hike to the similarly named Balanced Rock.
Me in precarious position at Balancing Rock

The closest town was a winding drive up and down a mountain to Emerald Bay. There, we found a great little burger shack with outdoor seating.

The rangers at DL Bliss are adamant about securing food in the steel bear bins to ensure bears to not become accustomed to human food. Ones that do are shot. We made sure to lock up our food properly. Unfortunately, the dumpster was not bear proof. A black bear was able to open the lid enough to pull out trash. This went on for some time. He was quite noisy.
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 Monday, July 28, 2008

Desolation Wilderness - Bayview TrailOpen accordion icon
After cleaning up the trash left behind by the bear, we drove out to Desolation Wilderness to hike on the Bayview Trail. This route took us from route 89 near Emerald Bay southwest past Granite Lake then by Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake. It then follows the Velma Lakes Trail past Middle Velma Lake and Upper Velma Lake. We returned to a different trailhead on Eagle Lake Trail past Eagle Lake and Eagle Falls.

There were some spectacular views on this hike which Norma planned and led. Fortunately, the smoke we encountered in the previous day now lifted.

Each of the lakes we saw were crystal clear. Here's Granite Lake.
Granite Lake

Below, Norma stands with Granite Lake behind her and Lake Tahoe off in the distance.
Norma high up with Granite Lake and Lake Tahoe below

Despite the late July warm temperatures, there were still patches of unmelted snow.
Me sitting on a rock with a rocky mountain behind.  It has some snow

Though we never found any frogs or turtles in the lakes, we did manage to find damselfly larva at the shallow end of a small body of water.
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Damselfly larva in water
Damselfly larva.
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Norma sitting by a small body of water
Norma by water.

Desolation Wilderness comprises a significant section of the land on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe. While desolation may imply something negative, I find it means vast open views. I love the dense forests of Maryland but I also enjoy being able to see several miles at random places on the trail...not just the vistas. For the latter, Desolation Wilderness is the perfect place.
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Norma with a clear view behind her
Open view.
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Me sitting by a lake
Lake view.

As with our previous hike, we saw an assortment of interesting plants but little animal life.
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Orange flowers
Pretty flowers.
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Norma by a moss-covered log
Moss-covered logs.
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Thick tree surrounded by rocky terrain
Trees with character.

The clear, cloudless skies meant we could see mountains behind mountains and beyond.
Water with mountains behind

Using our imagination, we could also see animal shapes in the boulders like this one rock resembling a walrus.
Rock in water shaped like walrus

Once we got a couple of miles from the trailheads, we rarely saw anyone. Then when we started seeing folks again, we knew we were near our destination. Eagle Falls is one popular area near the finish though the lack of water made it more of a trickle.

After reaching the trailhead (a different one than where we started), we had a one mile road walk back to the start. We spoke to a fellow who told us about a trolley that would take us back for a small fee. A trolley ride was much preferred over a traffic-filled road walk so we opted for that.

We finished our 12.7 mile hike which had a maximum elevation of 8,474 feet, 2,909 feet of total ascent, and 3,659 feet of total descent. The descent was much tougher as there were often big drops from one rock to another. Fortunately, my left knee (which has been having problems) complained little. Next to our August 10, 2007 Mount Washington hike, we agreed that this was our toughest day hike together.
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Bear visitOpen accordion icon
We caught dinner at an Irish pub and restaurant near Emerald Bay.

That night, a group of college-aged kids filled the campsite next to us. Despite all the warnings either posted or given verbally from the park rangers, they left their food out in a cooler instead of the bear bin. Sure enough, a few bears came to their campsite. There was a good bit of commotion as they tried to scare off the bears. Then they were chatty about the event afterwards. Fortunately, I bring earplugs for just such situations. Their carelessness may cost a few bears their lives.
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 Tuesday, July 29, 2008

VikingsholmOpen accordion icon
Norma and I went to the DL Bliss visitor center which doesn't seem to open at any specific time. They had a small but nice animal exhibit of local critters. I got to feel a beaver tail.

I reported the negligent campers next to our site to one of the rangers.

Our first stop was Vikingsholm, considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere. Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight purchased the property encompassing the head of Emerald Bay and Fannette Island in 1928 for $250,000.

It was a steep one-mile walk down to the house. We were both feeling stiff from yesterday's hike.

There were several geese in the small pond next to the house that mooned us (the geese, not the house).
Geese with their heads underwater

We received a tour of the house that seemed a little too short (the tour, not the house) considering the long walk to get there.
Vikingsholm with some people in front

Near the parking lot, we posed for a photo with Emerald Bay behind us.
Us with Emerald Bay behind us

Below, one can see Fannette Island, the only island in all of Lake Tahoe.
Fannette Island
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Eldorado National Forest - Twin BridgesOpen accordion icon
I'm not much into doing the same hike multiple times. There are too many new places I'd prefer to explore instead. But there is one exception...Twin Bridges. This town is the location of the Pyramid Creek Trailhead in Eldorado National Forest. I think when I first started hiking this area back in college, the trailhead didn't have a name. Now it has a sign, parking lot, restrooms, and even a few (but not many) blazes on the trail. I have many good memories of hiking in this area. I used to hike it with my martial art friends. This would be Norma's first time.

This scenic and rugged area was carved by glaciers. In Maryland, folks go to Old Rag if they want some good rock scrambling. Well, Old Rag has nothing on Twin Bridges. It may not be a long hike but the vertical portion is very vertical. If you have a fear of heights, then this is not the hike for you. What is interesting is that of all the times I've hiked in this area, I don't think I've ever used the same route twice. Only the Pyramid Creek Loop Trail is blazed (poorly). Once I leave this trail in Eldorado National Forest for Desolation Wilderness, and head up the mountain that Horsetail Falls flows down, there are a zillion and one ways to get to the top. None are easy and part of the challenge is finding the best route.

Norma and I were a bit sore from our long hike yesterday. But I really wanted to show her the hike I refer to as my "pilgrimage" and it was on our way to Sacramento. We got a late start but still had enough time to complete it.

The first part of the hike was fairly flat. There were many parts I did not remember. I think the last time I hiked Twin Bridges might have been four years ago...maybe six. But soon, we were seeing rocks that I remembered.

We came to a small swimming hole at the base of Horsetail Falls. The clean water was tempting but I suggested we wait until later. The sun was still strong and I didn't feel like letting my sunscreen wash off just yet.
Me at swimming hole at the base of Horsetail Falls

Once we started climbing, it seemed the whole route was a vista. Everytime we turned around, we saw the entire valley behind us (see photo at the bottom of the page) and the falls below.
Horsetail Falls flowing down the mountain

The rock scrambling was tough and it seemed to go on forever. One thing I tell people is to never think the top is just ahead. The mountain will make you think that only to show you later that the top is much further up.

We had to stop numerous times to catch our breath. Norma found the height disorienting. Still, we kept pushing onward. Along the way, we saw some interesting plants.
Plant growing between rocks resembling an ice plant

We finally reached our destination...a plateau at the top of our climb.
Norma and I on a rocky plateau with other mountains behind

Nearby was Avalanche Lake. In previous years, it was really just a large pond. Today it was a series of small ponds that drained into the falls.

After a short break, we began climbing down.

Unlike the lowlands, the rocky highlands have twisty trees that look like they've seen some hard times.
Me standing next to twisty tree

The nice thing about walking down is you can see all your options and choose a better route than the one you came up. Occassionally, there would be a spray-painted blaze but over time, I think many of them disappeared. At least there were some cairns.

Back at the base of the falls, we took a quick dip in the swimming hole. The water was so cold that I didn't want to stay in for more than a minute or two.

Exiting Desolation Wilderness, we finished the rest of the Pyramid Creek Loop Trail. Our 4.8 mile hike included 1,702 feet of total ascent (an overwhelming majority probably in a one mile stretch) and a maximum elevation of 7,704 feet.

We drove back to Sacramento that night with a strong sense of accomplishment.

Staying at my parents' house was nice. No bears.
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 Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BicyclingOpen accordion icon
After briefly socializing with my parents, Norma and I went to American River Bicycles. They rented us hybrid bicycles for $20.00 a day.

We rode on La Riviera Drive to Watt Avenue where we crossed the American River then biked on the American River Bike Trail (aka Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail). Our route took us first to William B. Pond Park (where I sometimes hung out), then across the Harold Richey Bicycle Bridge. This led us to River Bend Park, formerly C.M. Goethe Park. There we saw about nine turkeys. They weren't tame but they let us get remarkably close. I had never seen turkey in Sacramento before.
Two turkeys, one showing its beard

Venturing onward, we passed through other parks along the American River. At one rest stop, we saw a woodpecker at work.
Woodpecker in tree

I was surprised how much the bike trail changed for the better. There are lots of information signs and some areas that used to be dirt trails or parking lots are now paved. There are more restrooms and it seems more family-friendly.

After about 12.5 miles, we came to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I think I might have been on a field trip there back when I was in elementary school. After that, it was just a turnaround point for biking. But today we explored it. That too has improved. Now there is a very nice visitor center that shows an informative video about what the hatchery does and why.
Norma with bicycle helmet standing next to water full of fish

We began heading back. The bike trail was pretty busy for a Wednesday. There were LOTS of hardcore road bicyclists. Many of the ones we saw in the morning appeared to be in their 50s and 60s.

As I mentioned before, Sacramento summers are often over 100 degrees. However, the highs during our visit were in the low 90s which is generally pretty comfortable for me. But Norma found the temperature and sun a bit intense.

We returned the bikes after riding 25 miles.

That evening, we met my Aunt Trudy, Cousin Steve, and Cousin Cindy and her family for dinner with my parents.
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 Thursday, July 31, 2008

Point ReyesOpen accordion icon
My parents, Norma, and I left Sacramento for Point Reyes. We left in the morning, just after the rush hour traffic died down. As usual, Norma navigated and I drove. This works out pretty good as I am more prone to getting carsick if I have to read a map in a moving vehicle.

Our first stop was the Bear Valley Visitor Center. My traveling experience has shown me that I need to make the flight and lodging reservations early, acquire rough maps, then go to the visitor center first...without trying to plan out all the details before then. There are too many things about an area that books, magazines, and the Internet won't tell you. Nothing beats knowledge from the locals who specialize in knowing what there is to do.

The Point Reyes peninsula is a very special place to geologists. According to the visitor guide, the peninsula rides high on the eastern edge of the Pacific plate that creeps northwestward about two inches a year. The slower moving North American plate travels westward. In Olema Valley, near Bear Valley Visitor Center, the North American and the Pacific plates grind together along the San Andreas Fault Zone.

We checked out the exhibits at the visitor center and spoke to one of the employees. She told us about the Point Reyes Lighthouse, mentioning that there would be a talk going on at 1400. She also told us where and when to go to see critters in the tidepools. Though there would be a low tide later today, the one tomorrow morning at 0541 would be much lower. Lastly, we found out where to go to get something to eat.

With a good map in hand (picked up from the visitor center), we went to lunch at Point Reyes Station. Then we found our way to the Lighthouse Visitor Center. We passed numerous cow farms. It was extremely windy and fairly cold. Norma commented that her adventures in Cali were taking her from the heat of Sacramento one day to the cold of Point Reyes the next. Later, we learned that Point Reyes is one of the windiest places in North America. About the only place windier is Mount Washington, New Hampshire which, as I mentioned earlier, Norma and I also visited.

According to a postcard, the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse has guided mariners entering the San Francisco Bay since its construction in 1870. The lighthouse still houses its original first order Fresnel lense, comprised of 1,032 prisms.

The parking lot for the lighthouse was full so I parked on the side of the road. The four of us walked down 308 steps to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse with steps leading to it and ocean behind

We arrived just in time to hear the speaker. He explained that the turning mechanism for the light in the lighthouse works similarly to a clock that needs to be wound.

The view of the ocean below was most scenic. It was much different from the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. The latter doesn't have steep rocky cliffs and the water isn't so blue or cold.
Looking down on the ocean

We saw a California Gray Whale skull.
Mom next to whale skull

At other times of the year, folks go there for whale watching. We also saw a blooming ice plant and some red lichen growing on rocks.
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Hot pink flower
Blooming ice plant.
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Red lichen growing on the side of a boulder
Red lichen.

We posed for some group photos then made our way back up the steps.
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Mom, Dad, and Norma standing in front of the lighthouse
In front of lighthouse.
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The four of us at a fence with the ocean behind
Ocean behind.
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Norma on steps leading down to the lighthouse
Norma on steps.

The park service tried to make their vehicle as beautiful as the Point Reyes area.
Compact car painted with nature scene

Next, we headed back to the Bear Valley Visitor Center and walked on the quarter-mile Earthquake Trail. This trail runs along the San Andreas Fault. It was rather disappointing in that, except for some signs, there was nothing special about the trail.

The four of us checked in at Roundstone Farm Bed and Breakfast then went out to dinner at a place just down the street.

We turned in early to prepare for a busy day tomorrow.
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 Friday, August 1, 2008

TidepoolingOpen accordion icon
We woke up at 0430, intent on seeing life in the tidepools. Taking the park ranger's advice, we headed to the southern end of the Point Reyes area. We figured this area must be good since the locals take down their street signs to discourage tourists from entering. But that didn't stop us. We made our way to Duxbury Point in the Duxbury Reef Reserve. Here, we found a large parking lot and a short trail that led to the tidepools. There was enough light to walk around but not enough to see much in the tidepools. I should have brought my headlamp.

As the sun rose, we saw several starfish.
Large, dark starfish on a rock

A few were very small and I thought they were babies but it turns out they were six-armed stars. Some of them moved at the pace of a snail.
Light-colored six-armed starfish

The seaweed we saw differed quite a bit from that in the Maryland area. Point Reyes and San Francisco Bay seaweed is often long and tubular with a bulbous head and long leafy strands. Growing up, I remember my cousins and I hitting them together like clubs, only to have them break and splash water that was filled in their hollow insides.
Long seaweed on rocks

We saw several sea anemones.
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Anemones, golden around the edges
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Partially closed anemones
Lots of anemones.

I saw two heart-like objects which I could not identify. I photographed them and asked several people to identify them. Later, Ed (Stacy's boyfriend) thought they might be sea anemones that were closed due to being on dry ground. I did a Google image search and sure enough, he was correct. Mystery solved.
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Bright red anemone
Bright red.
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Longer, red anemone
Red and long.

There were also some interesting rocks in the area.
Beige rock with lots of dimples
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Kayaking in Tomales BayOpen accordion icon
We drove back to the bed and breakfast to partake in an early meal with several other couples.

After packing up, we headed out to the boat launch on the northeast side of Tomales Bay. There, we met Steve of Point Reyes Outdoors. He brought a kayak for himself plus two tandems for the four of us. He began with an introductory class. He kept everyone comfortable with his calm, slow demeanor. Then Mom paired up with Norma (see photo at the top of this page) and Dad with me. Steve led us across the bay. The weather was sunny and comfortable. Not too windy.

Steve found some white seaweed that looked like a fishing lure.
Steve holding a small, white thing will a ball on top

He took us to an oyster breeding area.
Pier with lots of stuff on it and cages in the water containing oysters

On the west side of the bay, we stopped in a lagoon by White Gulch. There we ate lunch, provided by Steve.
On the shore eating lunch by kayaks

When we launched again, the fog started to roll in. We paddled to the Tule Elk Reserve and saw several tule elk.
Three elks

Steve provided binoculars so we could get a closer look.
Mom looking through binocular next to Steve

We also saw a seal in the water. A little later, the fog started to lift.

Next, we paddled out by Hog Island. We didn't see any hogs but we saw numerous nesting birds.

Just before the end, we posed for a group shot, then finished after having paddled about four miles. We had a great time!
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Muir Beach OverlookOpen accordion icon
The four of us headed southwest on route 1 then up the winding Panoramic Highway to the Pantoll Ranger Station. There were a multitude of trails but nobody staffing the station could recommend anything. We decided that more scenic views were closer to the water so we drove back to route 1.

We stopped at Muir Beach Overlook for some fantastic views of the ocean below. The view to the north was a bit hazy and glaring but to the south, things were clear.
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Trail leading to small rocky peak above the ocean
Trail to overlook.
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Ocean view with steep slopes
Looking north.
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Steep, rugged cliffs by water with wooded area in front
Looking south.

We posed for photos, then headed home.
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Norma and I smiling with the ocean behind
Norma and I.
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Mom and Dad smiling with the ocean behind
Mom and Dad.

Driving home, we encountered slow traffic around Fairfield so we found a nice Indian Restaurant called Bombay Palace Cuisine Of India. Dad really liked it. That was his first time eating Indian food.

After more than a full day of activities, we arrived back in Sacramento, safe and sound.

Oh, and did I say this was Dad's 80th birthday? We gave him plenty of fond memories to remember that day.
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 Saturday, August 2, 2008

Downtown-ishOpen accordion icon
After a heavy day of driving yesterday, Norma and I decided to see things closer to home.

I took her to see my alma mater, California State University Sacramento (CSUS). We saw some wild turkey walking around. When I was a student at CSUS, there were chickens.

Next, we went to Sutter's Fort, closer to downtown Sacramento, though not officially downtown. Like the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, this was a place I visited on a field trip back in elementary school but I remembered little. It was nice seeing it again. This time, I actually learned something I might remember.
Wood and brick well at the fort

Norma wanted to see Old Sacramento despite my warnings that it was highly commercial. We went there, ate a quick and mediocre lunch, then bought local wine at one of the stores. Old Sacramento was packed to the gills and some of the parking lots were full.
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GatheringOpen accordion icon
We ended the day back home, spending time with friends and family. Cousin Scott, Cousin David and family, Ken, Aunt Kiyo, Aunt Kay, and Uncle Ed visited and ate Round Table Pizza with Norma and me. I mentioned the wild turkey at River Bend Park and CSUS. Others told me they have wild turkey in their neighborhoods. My, how Sacramento has changed!
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Cousin David, his wife, and two kids
Cousin David and family.
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Ken sitting in orange chair
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Mom and Aunt Kay sitting on couch
Mom and Aunt Kay.
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Norma sitting on my lap
Norma and I.
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 Sunday, August 3, 2008

University of California Davis ArboretumOpen accordion icon
The Crocker Art Museum sometimes has free entrance days and this was one of them. I'm sure I've been there before back on an elementary school field trip but I remember nothing about it. Now was my chance to see it again and maybe remember something this time.

I'm not much of an art person so the Crocker didn't hold my attention very well. But I do like history so I enjoyed the Wells Fargo Museum much more. I saw a 1903 map of Sacramento and was able to find my neighborhood and high school. It was interesting how Wells Fargo was so instrumental in the gold rush economy.

Our next stop was the University of California Davis Arboretum. We walked along a paved trail next to a man-made waterway. All sorts of well-maintained plants flourished on either side of the waterway.
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Three white flowers
White flowers.
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Four petal yellow flower
Yellow flower.

We stopped for lunch in the downtown area of Davis. This town is known as being very bicycle-friendly and the numerous bicycles parked was evidence of this.

I spotted a praying mantis above a door.
Praying mantis

Walking back on the paved trail in the arboretum on the opposite side of the waterway, I saw a didgeridoo player, some large spiders, and possibly the biggest cactus I've ever seen.
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Man blowing into didgeridoo
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Dark spider in web
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Standing next to cactus that might be three times taller than me
Cactus and I.

I also saw what I call "east coast bunnies." The rabbits I've seen on my grandparents' farm in Sacramento were big, lean, fast jackrabbits. Norma and I saw a couple of them when we were hiking last week. But these "east coast bunnies" are slower and cuter. I don't remember seeing any while I was growing up. I wonder if they were brought in from outside of Cali.

Back at home, my parents, Norma, and I watched part of my "Life of Mammals: Volume 3" DVD.
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 Monday, August 4, 2008

RaftingOpen accordion icon
Norma and I headed out to the town of Lotus for more water sports. As if two days of kayaking wasn't enough, we were now going to try whitewater rafting. I've done this before but Norma hasn't.

We had reservations for a guided trip with Gold Rush Whitewater Rafting. I spoke to the manager, Kevin, who looked like a California stereotype with his long blonde hair, sunglasses, and tan. After a safety briefing, Norma and I were put on a raft with a guide.

Our guide's rafting was a little too adventurous for Norma's taste so we swapped and got on a raft led by Steve. Based on our kayak trip at Point Reyes, we've been having good luck with Steves and this turned out to be the case today. Steve is an older gentleman who has been paddling the South Fork of the American River since the 1980s. He knew the river well and ensured we had a fun but not too much of an adrenaline-filled trip. I liked the way he pointed out features on the river that looked like other things, such as a rock that resembled the head of Frankenstein.

Norma felt comfortable with Steve and even rode at the front of the raft down one set of rapids. I also talked her into swimming in a deep area...we wore our personal floatation devices.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of our rafting adventure. At $95 per compact disc, we opted to pass on the pics.

Since we were in the area, we drove out to the John Marshall Mill which is where gold was first discovered. There was quite a bit to see and much to our surprise, the museum buildings were open. Wild blackberries lined parts of the trail. We saw numerous lizards.

Lastly, we stopped at the site of the only tea and silk farm established in California. This was the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony. This farm marked the beginning of Japanese influence on the agricultural economy of California. I think I might have been to this location with my parents when I was a child. If memory serves, there is also a tombstone at a nearby hill which is now closed to visitors.
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 Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Six Flags Discovery KingdomOpen accordion icon
I'm not much into amusement parks because I don't care much for most of the rides...did I mention I get motion sickness? So Marine World in Vallejo was always my favorite. It is an amusement park but it has more of an emphasis on showing animals than other theme parks. Growing up, I remember being in awe of the tropical birds that would ride small bicycles across tightropes.

The last time I was at Marine World (~five years ago), it was called Six Flags Marine World. Six Flags acquired the park and to my disappointment, they put in more rollercoasters. Now (2008), it is called Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. With the Marine World name now gone, would it be the park I once loved?

That morning I read in the Wall Street Journal that Six Flags was having declining profits due to fewer patrons. They were boosting in advertising, like Toyota and Geico, while trying to make the place more family-friendly. This meant enforcing a dress code that would prevent women from wearing bikini tops in the park. Few patrons was good for me but the ban of bikini tops was not my humble opinion.

The park was about 50 minutes from home. It was easy to get to but fairly expensive: $40 per person plus $12 for parking. Upon entering the park, we saw a porcupine. This was a good sign.
Large porcupine on the ground

We grabbed a park map and brochure then spent the next few hours watching animal shows.

Our first stop was the sea lion show. Their playful nature reminds me at times of sea otters.
Trainer with sea lion

Next, we saw a killer whale show. There was a dolphin which did tricks too but I think he was mainly there so folks would know just how big the killer whale was.

Then we caught a bird show. I think I liked this the best. I especially liked seeing a large black bird with red markings run around on stage frantically then attack a rubber snake.
Large black bird with red on its face and neck picking something up with its beak

I also enjoyed hearing the kookaburra laugh. They crack me up. I remember singing the kookaburra song in elementary school but nobody knew what a kookaburra was and nobody bothered to ask. I don't know how old I was when I learned it was a bird.
Woman with Kookaburra on her arm

There was a South American vulture with very colorful head markings.
Woman with South American vulture with orange beak

A European great horned owl made an appearance. It was bigger than the American great horned owl.
Woman with European great horned owl on her arm

Last was the bald eagle.
Woman with large bald eagle perched on her arm

Norma and I caught the tiger show where we saw a Siberian tiger and a white Bengal tiger. The Bengal was quite fond of the water.
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Man standing, feeding Siberian tiger
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White Bengal tiger swimming at bottom of pool

Next was a show with an assortment of small critters. We saw a serval all pimped-out with necklaces.
Serval cat wearing necklaces

A fruit bat walked upside down under a tightrope.
Fruit bat walked upside down under a tightrope

There were a couple of animals I had never seen whose names I don't remember. A little girl was brought on stage to pet one of them but when she saw it, she quickly ran off stage. Hilarious!
Four-legged mammal with pointy nose, about as tall as a medium-sized dog

There was an anteater...but not a giant anteater. He demonstrated how he uses his long tongue by eating ants from a test tube.
Anteater eating ants from a test tube

Norma got to pet an opossum.

We saw a walrus show. Though obviously intelligent, he wasn't was as agile as the smaller sea lion. Still, it was impressive how he got his massive body on a plastic iceberg.
Trainer with walrus lying on its back

The dolphin show is always impressive because these graceful mammals are so powerful. I never cease to be amazed at how far they can jump out of the water.
One dolphin in the air with another diving into the water

One pair of dolphin were even able to propel a trainer several feet into the air!
Trainer several feet in the air above the water and above a dolphin

After seeing the animal shows, Norma and I rode one of the water rides. I always like them. Water is both a lubricant and a friction reducer so water rides can't get as wild as the rollercoasters.

We walked through a very impressive butterfly room and saw all types of colorful butterflies. Some were mating.
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Colorful butterflies mating
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Shiny white-ish butterfly
Shiny white.
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Black and white butterfly on flower
On flower.
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Butterfly with an 'eye' pattern on its wing
Eye wing.

In another space, we saw some African penguins.
Four penguins standing on land

We ended with one of the more tame (but not kiddie) rollercoasters. I can't say I enjoyed it but it didn't make me feel sick either. Norma had her sunglasses at the start of the ride but not at the end. We guess the park personnel must find all sorts of personal items under these rides.

After leaving the park (which I still love), we drove back to Sacramento and I showed Norma my old church and the location where my grandparents' farm used to be.

We ate a really good dinner at Korea House.

Lastly, we had a long visit with my original martial art instructor, Arnie. One can't help but like Arnie.
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 Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Railroad MuseumOpen accordion icon
On our final day in Sacramento, Norma and I decided to spend it with my parents. We took them to the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. With Dad having worked for Southern Pacific Railroad, I thought he might appreciate what the museum had to offer.

We got a very informative tour from Art. This fellow was in his mid-80s and sharp as a tack. This former civil engineer could explain mechanical operations on the railroad with good clarity.

The 100,000-square-foot main exhibit facility houses more than 20 restored locomotives.
Old train locomotive

Though the trains were interesting, what impressed me the most was the lost golden spike. According to a museum sign, in 1869, San Francisco land developer David Hewes had two identical golden spikes cast at the same time. The first traveled to Promontory; the second or Lost Spike remained with the Hewes family for well over 100 years. In 2005, the Lost Spike was made known and acquired by the museum. Very few people, historians included, were even aware that the Lost Spike existed until then.
The Lost Spike

After a most interesting visit to the Railroad Museum, we had a less interesting visit to the Port Discovery Museum next door.

Lastly, we stopped by the Sacramento Old Schoolhouse Museum where we hoped to find a photo of Mom's old one room schoolhouse, the Edward Kelly School. We found no such picture. But we did find snapshots of my old middle school and high school. I learned that Sacramento High School was originally founded in 1856.
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FarewellOpen accordion icon
We headed back home where Norma and I began packing.

The two of us bid farewell to my parents as the shuttle took us to the airport.

The first part of the flight home was rough. High winds made me airsick as the plane circled the Las Vegas airport. I bought and took some Dramamine during our layover which knocked me out before we were in the air for the second flight.

Norma and I landed safe and sound with no lost luggage.

Though I love California, I also love Maryland. Each has its strengths. I like the big mountains, clean water, extensive bike trails, and low humidity of Cali. But I also enjoy the less intense sun, warmer water, Chesapeake Bay, abundant wildlife, and the extensive greenery of Maryland. I wish I could merge the strengths of each but since I cannot, I'll continue to make regular visits to my place of origin.
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View from up high on Twin Bridges hike
Twin Bridges, Eldorado National Forest, July 29, 2008