Tag Archives: cabin

Lots of mountain wildflowers and a little work.

Indian Paintbrush with Mountain Pride Penstemon

Last weekend I spent a few days in the High Sierra at my family’s cabin, where the winters bring such deep snow, the village by the lake is only accessible for four months of the year – or if we’re so unlucky as to have a year of little snow, four and a half months.

Sticky Cinquefoil – Potentilla glandulosa
Larkspur – Delphinium
Enjoying the nectar of Arrow-Leaf Senecio.

Every year there is an annual meeting of the village property owners, and two or three community work days. I have never before participated, because I live far away. In the past I have let my sister and brother take care of these things, and count myself blessed to even get myself to the cabin once or twice a summer. But last week I was able to go up for the group effort, to work and attend the meeting!

Not a flower, but a puffball fungus, Calvatia Sculpta. It was 5″ in diameter.
Leopard Lily- Lilium pardalinum

The most fun for me was seeing the high country in July rather than my usual September, and the many wildflowers. I took hundreds of photos, and have been trying to learn the names of new species.

Even when I was cleaning out a culvert as part of the community work, I discovered some columbines and was glad I had my phone in my pocket, even if there was no cell reception.

Crimson Columbine – Aquilegia formosa
Stream Hosackia – Lotus oblongifolius

Some flowers are tiny tiny, about a half centimeter in diameter, but even so, scattered like confetti below showier blooms, they make a nice backdrop. Those are my fingertips in the second photo down.

I haven’t figured out very many species, and some will no doubt remain a mystery for the foreseeable future, but Pippin helped me identify some right away via text messages. ๐Ÿ™‚ The one below I found at a lower elevation and it is still unnamed. UPDATE: Thanks to Mary’s helpful prodding (see in comments), I have researched what these puffy things might be, and decided that they are probably Grand Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris grandiflora.

These I am sharing are just a few of the many I saw; there were also lupines, Pearly Everlasting, other penstemons, yarrow…. On a gravelly turnout Pussypaws (Calyptridium umbellatum) had bravely erupted heedless of cars that might soon crush them.

Yellow Monkeyflower – Mimulus, with Shooting Star

The Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon) were in wet areas. From my perusing of wildflower guides I’m guessing that the bright pink one is Jeffrey’s Shooting Star and the pale pink is Bog Shooting Star.

My plan is to return to the mountains a month from now. It will be interesting to see if I find any new species that bloomed a little later. Or do most of them pop out as soon as the snow has melted? I’m just glad that I arrived in time to meet them!

Pretty Face or Golden Brodiaea

In the glorious elements.

gl P1040981 huge dome & lakeWhen we were up in the mountains last week, my granddaughter Maggie often played a game on her phone, which involved creating things from earth, fire, water and air…ย  Just now I realized that our experiences during our vacation were centered around a similar thematic group, consisting of Rock, Water, and Stars, with a little Fire and Trees in the mix, too.

A wildfire was burning close to our route up the mountain (Fire+Trees=Wildfire+Smoke), which may account for the hazy look of this top photo, which nevertheless combines in grandeur several mountain elements. (Rock + Trees + Water + Evening Light = Wow)

gl P1040946




We stopped at the redwood grove on our way, because it never hurts to get a dose of the stately and patient mood the giant trees maintain, and Maggie had never met these particular specimens before. She read a sign and reminded us that some of them have been here since the time of Christ. (Trees + Time = Giant Sequoias)


IMG_2885gl P1040957


Here you can see how tidy is the bundle on top of my car, which early that morning Pearl had helped me wrap envelope-style, before I did my knot work. ๐Ÿ™‚













The bundle remained tight and noiseless at freeway speeds (on the way up the mountain, at least), so we were relieved.

As soon as we pulled up to the cabin, Maggie was running, flying down the hill as the bird flies, to “explore.” Just below our place she had to cross this large slab of granite sloping down toward the lake.

gl P1040975 slab below cabin CR

Her mother and grandmother (me) did not attempt to go anywhere on foot that evening, because we were feeling the altitude. It really slows a person down, to be eight thousand feet higher in elevation than your lungs are used to. Maggie also noticed that she was out of breath more quickly, but it didn’t seem to slow her down much! (Activity – Air = Sluggishness)

So that night after dinner we curled up and listened to me read Farley Mowat’s The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, a very funny story that we had also read at the cabin about fifteen years ago. I later saw in The Cabin Log Kate’s account of that previous reading, “We laughed until we cried (seriously!)”

gl P1050083 kayaks

The next afternoon we went canoeing, which we could all three do together, after hauling the canoe down to the water. It was lovely while we were out there, but we only did that once, because the canoe is really too heavy for us little women. After seeing women paddling solo around the lake in kayaks, I have started thinking that I should invest in one of those little boats I could manage by myself, so that I could enjoy exploring the lake when I am up there on my own. If any of my readers has knowledge of this subject, I’d appreciate your input.

The photo above also shows Maggie with one of the friends she made, in the water near the rock that looks like a cracked egg, from which they would leap into the water. Having an almost 13-yr-old with me was part of why this stay at the lake was unusual. She was eager to do everything that could possibly be done, from lying in her hammock under the deck to swimming in the lake that the rest of us had always considered too cold.gl P1050100 CR Fi leap

gl P1040982 M build fire

The days we were there were leading up to a work day and potluck for the members of the owners’ association, which brought many more people up to the lake than I’ve ever seen at one time. This is why tgl P1050006 M w marshmallowhere were children Maggie’s age to play with, and how it happened that on two nights we shared three different campfires with new friends. It was a strangely social time, though not overly so. We all had time each day to be quiet and alone as well. And I really do want to know the families who have cabins at our lake, some of whom have been coming for over 50 years and passing their property down through the generations.gl P1050123


We had two campfires at our own cabin, which Maggie built herself. We made s’mores and popped popcorn over the fires, for the popcorn using this venerable device that can also be used in a fireplace. But the weather was so mild, we didn’t build a fire indoors.

One day I took Pearl and Maggie over to Gumdrop Dome which we always have to climb partially or to the top. The views and the photography from up there are unbeatable, but for the last many years it has only been partially to the top for me. I showed them the way that everyone seems to go, and saw them off with a cheery “See you on the other side!”, confident that they would have no trouble getting to the top, young and strong as they are.

But it was not to be. They came down the way they had started up, and eventually came around the dome to find me above them, partway up. I hadย  been hollering “Hel-looo!” every so often for 45 minutes, and praying that they hadn’t both fallen and hit their heads. This is what it looked like, where I was expecting to see them come over the top:

gl P1050050  O's dome not this steep

In real life it feels steeper than it looks, but I think the angle of this photo conveys the feeling pretty well. And then, there is that lack of oxygen.

gl P1050048 succulent O dome


While I was waiting, on the lower sides of the dome, I still had lots of beauty to keep me enthralled. Everything from succulents at my feet to the famous Ant Island across the lake.


Water + Sky + Rock = Mountain Beauty

gl P1050038 ant island crp

At night before bed we all liked to lie on the deck and look up at the stars for a half hour or more. What can I say about them? No words are adequate. Each one is energized, is what it is, by God’s Holy Spirit, and there are gazillions of them making an incredibly showy and captivating display that is completely silent. Perhaps it is the silence that helps us become receptive, so that they are able to convey to us some of their spirit. God uses them to thrill our souls, I know that at least. Maggie said she could never get tired of looking at them, and I must agree.

But eventually we had to go to bed. I will leave you with a view of the lake at evening, when we see that Water + Evening = silver glass.

Good-bye, Dear Mountain Air, Rock and Stars, Lake and Trees — all you Mountain Elements — until next summer!

gl P1050070 lake silver pink rocks


Doing the prep work for being utterly useless.

our lake

I’m going to the mountains next week. My daughter Pearl and granddaughter Maggie and I are driving up to our cabin at the lake, where we will have multi-generational Girl Time and Mountain Time. We’re off the grid up there in the High Sierra, and away from stores, so we have to bring everything we need…

I have never been the one to load a car rack before, and now I need to know how. So I’ve been watching YouTube videos and practicing tying knots, both on a contraption I rigged up with chairs and boxes next to the computer, and on my car itself. I think I am prepared… I know I am pleased with myself that I could learn this knot, because beyond knowing my right from my left pretty well, I am not gifted or intuitive when it comes to visualizing and remembering spatial arrangements.

gl cabin 13
guys using knots at the cabin in 2013

gl knot practice

One thing that added to the fun aspect of my project was running across this music video that doesn’t purport to teach the knot that the singer and I both required, but does capture the emotional tone of my own efforts and made me laugh out loud — and want to dance.

The other fun thing was that after my practice sessions with the old rope, my hands smelled as though I had been camping. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have so much to do to get ready, I don’t really have the time to write a blog post about it, but I can’t help myself – and now you know why I’ll be away from Blogland, gone to a place where time will be in abundance. I will probably write, but on paper in notebooks. And we will all sit on the deck reading, I’m sure of that. So I’ll just leave you with a nice quote from Philip Connors, and hope to see you here again next week.

โ€œThe greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble — to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.โ€


The rain blesses.

My sister joined me at the cabin on Saturday afternoon (This was almost two weeks ago now – I have been writing these reports from home); it was the first time juP1000828st the two of us had spent any time together as long as we can remember – maybe since our younger sister was born! We didn’t have any real adventures, but we had a lovely time.

Unless you count losing our power as an adventure, but we are used to that. The cabin is off the power grid, but we have a solar collector and batteries that usually provide enough electricity for lights.

We were brushing our teeth, getting ready for bed, when the lights went out on Saturday night, and we never got the system going again. We think the batteries may need replacing. So we used lanterns and flashlights, and two dim gas wall lamps. The refrigerator runs on gas.

We read on the decP1000818k, until we got too hot, or too cold, or too sleepy. We cooked lots of vegetables, and Sister barbequed enough steak to make me happy for days to come. We talked about our favorite trees around the cabin, two of which I show here.

Storm clouds gathered all day Sunday, and we watched them eagerly, hoping some moisture would fall out, and in the late afternoon it finally did. Immediately the fragrance of the conifers and the duffy earth rose up and all around us and we felt better about everything. The trees were happy and able to exhale and share their essence again.P1000846

Monday I spent the whole day combing through the Sunset Western Garden Book and some books from the library, picking out the most flowery drought-tolerant plants that would attract bees, birds and butterflies, and making lists to prepare myself for an upcoming meeting with a landscape designer. She will help me with my garden at home, once the pool is gone and I am left with a vast dirt canvas on which to paint my garden art.

I know, that was a little odd —ย  you’d think I should have been focused instead on nature’s glorious garden all around me. But it helped me greatly to invest some time in that landscaping project so that my mind would not feel as chaotic and overwhelmed as my yard looks right now. The mountains were a restful place where I would not be distracted by any environmental mess.


P1000826 cabin fire crop

My sister anP1000823d I collected firewood from the stash under the cabin deck, and pushed and pulled it up the hill in a cart, to build our magnificent fires. She built one, and I built the next.

We read, and talked about our reading, and planned our next sisters cabin retreat, which will include all three of us at a different cabin in October. This place will be closed down by then, to protect it from the snows, which we pray will be heavy this year. Sometimes the cabin is completely covered in snow, just a bump showing under the white blanket.

Sierra or Whorled Penstemon - Penstemon heterodoxus 7-15 CR
Penstemon heterodoxus – Sierra Penstemon

The storm clouds had gathered again that day, and serious rain began to fall in the early afternoon, and continued all day and night. We were gleeful, as if our own skins haP1000849d been shriveled and were now plumping up again. We tried to take pictures of the wet skies. On our way to the firewood pile between showers I took a picture of the most common wildflower at the cabin right now, a tiny drenched penstemon.

Too soon it was the morning of our departure. It was certainly nice to have someone to work with, turning off the water valve and getting the cabin tidied up for the next family members who visit.

Once again, I departed late, but I didn’t expect to feel the need to take pictures on the way down, as I had done so much of that on the way up. I was really surprised therefore when the one-hour drive from 8,000 ft to 5,000 ft elevation took almost double that amount of time.

Meadow Goldenrod Sierras CLRd 7-15
Meadow Goldenrod

Now that I’m back home, I’m very glad I did stop a lot on that curvy road flanked by layers of wildflowers. Using my several wildflower guides I have identified three new flowers that I didn’t know before, or that I had wrongly named in the past, just from that morning.

The Meadow Goldenrod was popular with the bees. I had seen it in the meadow with the cattle on the way up, but here it was growing along the roadside.

Another plentiful flower along my course was milkweed. Like the goldenrod, it has a hundred miniature flowers making up its clusters, and the insects were feasting on nectar there, too. I think this one is Indian Milkweed, asclepias eriocarpa.

Indian Milkweed
P1000906 sneezeweed
Bigelow’s Sneezeweed

Years ago I had mistaken this next flower for something else. It is Bigelow’s Sneezeweed, which is an ominous name; one can imagine how it got that title. The blooms I saw were pretty far spent, but easily recognizable — and I actually was set straight on this one while perusing a guide from the cabin library.

So…the rain is blessing the forest, and the bees are blessing the flowers, and the flowers are blessing the insects with nectar.

It is comforting to remind myself of these things that were going on under my nose. At the time, I was hurrying down the mountain, to Pearl’s house, to get a granddaughter to take home with me. That will be the next chapter of my summer story collection.