Waterfall with Train and a Dipper

Over the weekend Husband and I enjoyed a trip together to visit Pippin and her family; this time it was a short vacation, not the grandma-only working visit. Though I must say I prefer not to split life into such categories; I like the attitude that we tried to take as homeschoolers: Always on vacation, always in school. When traveling, I always learn things, whatever you call it.

We were in too much of a hurry on the drive up for me to take pictures, but I have to at least mention that my eyes were sated with lupines, great spreading fields and banks and roadsides full of them, on and on for two hours. The farmland, once we got toward the center of the state, was impressive with plantations of tiny tomato plants, onions in rows, and clouds of wild yellow mustard filling the ditches and anywhere the fields hadn’t been plowed.

A smudge on my camera lens turned into a glaring spot on most of the photos I took (and yes, it was the real reason, I know now, for the mysterious brightness of that calendula I posted a while back), but we will just have to overlook this imperfection when it shows up, as in this shot showing how my socks happened to match the tiny violets that have sprung up all over Pippin’s back yard.

Four cats still co-exist in the household, where they line up for meals twice a day. The big eyes belong to Little Cat.

A highlight of the weekend was seeing some waterfalls that flow year-round. Near the parking area from which one sets off for the falls, we had to wait for a train to pass over the crossing, before we could get to the other side and leave our car.

Everyone thought that someone else had put the diaper bag and the baby backpack in the car, but no one had. We did without, and took turns carrying Baby Scout.

We had to walk close beside the railroad track for a mile to get to the scenic spot. As soon as we began hobbling over the rocky slope next to the rails, the train that had just passed reversed direction and slowly came back alongside us hikers. If I had any hobo blood in me, I’d have wanted to pull myself right up and go somewhere, anywhere, just for the romance of it.

The train was remarkably quiet, rocking gently on its tracks. Our boots made more noise crunching on the largest gravel I’ve ever seen. After five minutes or so of this unreal intimacy with the looming cars, they had rolled away behind us, and we could see the Sacramento River, down the mountain where the train had blocked our view. We looked back to see this image of the locomotive backing away behind us.

The falls come right out of the hillside, not from a specific creek or spring, and fall into the river, which bends into a curve at that spot, so that it’s not possible to catch the whole span of water falling. It’s even hard when you stand in the middle of the river downstream, as we learned from one who has done it. So my photo shows about 1/4 of the total waterfall.

Pippin notices birds. She pointed this one out to me after she’d been watching him for a while.

She’d also seen his kind before at this falls, and was pretty sure she’d seen it go under the water. When we got home she looked him up in the Peterson Guide and found out he is an American Dipper or Water Ouzel. And they do walk on the bottom of streams! My picture didn’t come out as clear, so I give credit to my daughter for this one.

On second thought, my photo is so different, I think I will show it to you, too. But it’s hard to see my guy in all the glitter of the water spray.


John Muir called this bird the Waterfall Hummingbird, and wrote a lot about it. The illustration below comes from his writings, and I assume is by his hand.


I never know what I will learn when I’m with my “Nature Girl” daughter. We looked at the cedars growing around the falls, and she showed me that some of them were Port Orford Cedars, which love shade and water. Their needles are softer and finer than the incense cedars that are more common.

The contented Grandma and Grandpa are walking back along the tracks
in the westering sun.

I learned the name of a brilliant bush that startled me several times on my journey earlier this spring driving this route, it was so dramatic popping out of the grey-green hillsides. Pippin told me it is Redbud.

Frequent sightings of Redbud cheered our way home again yesterday, and we weren’t too hurried to stop and capture it in one dimension.

It was a very full weekend. I haven’t told half of what I saw and heard–but writing this fraction in a blog I hope will help at least some of it stick with me a while.

5 thoughts on “Waterfall with Train and a Dipper

  1. I have an affinity for trains and traintracks. At our previous house we were about a mile from the tracks and when I had nurslings it was quite comforting to hear the train rumbling by as I was doing a night-time feeding. We still visit those tracks every year because it is also a great raspberry picking spot. Loved the photos – especially the birds and the redbud.


  2. Well you are my N.N.G. Northern Nature Gretchen. Thank you for the journey. Let me apply one of your concepts: I am always on vacation, always working…ahhh. It's interesting how how often we have to bat away the threat of compartmentalization in our lives, isn't it? It's always wanting to rise up…
    Whatever we do it is to be heartily unto the Lord…therein lies the potential to end compartmental fragmentation.


  3. I learned on Wikipedia that there is a Mexican Redbud and also a Western or California Redbud, so the one we have here is probably the latter. Emily was right–the Eastern Redbud doesn't grow this far west.


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