Tag Archives: Nevada

Love and Adventure

P1030560ed I walked behind my car across the shoulder of the highway, and crunched closer to the whitened meadow to snap a picture. Immediately snow and dirt fell into my shoes as I dropped a foot down through the crust. I didn’t even get a good picture for all that, but I didn’t regret making the effort and taking a chance.

Just breathing in the cold mountain air was making me giddy, and the wet places in my socks soon faded from my consciousness. I love the excitement of being in the mountains in the winter. Even if I do have to take pictures from inside my vehicle.

In telling the story of my trip to western Nevada last week, I’ve exclaimed to many people, “I was in the cloud the whole way — there was not one minute in the whole five hours when I didn’t have to use my wipers, usually at full speed!” But now I realize that that wasn’t exactly true: I had forgotten this two minutes at least, when I was actually able to get out of the car with my camera and not get it wet.

(I wish I could paint some clouds into these first few photos so that the white sky wouldn’t blend seamlessly into the white screen here on my blog!)gl P1030548ed

No accidents happened on the freeway in spite of the drenching that slowed traffic for hours; I didn’t see anyone driving recklessly fast. Probably they were all thinking like me: “This is glorious! Think of all the reservoirs filling up! We love the rain, so let’s just enjoy being slowed down a bit because of nature’s gifts.”

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Long before I got close to Nevada, though, my route took me through wine country, whose colors were extra vibrant with the rain falling on them. Every year I try to take pictures of the mustard in the vineyards or pastures, and every year I pretty much fail. The solution to my problem must be a helicopter, hovering at the perfect height above the bloom, from which to view my mustard fields from the most revealing angle.

Or, I need to learn to paint, and then try to find the few minutes between March rainshowers when I could sit near a soggy display and catch the essence on my canvas. I love springtime in the wine country, so in the future I will probably repeat my same old lazy way of engaging with its brilliant contrasts.

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While enjoying the scenery I listened to classical music for as long as the station came through. They played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which in my youth was the first classical piece I paid much attention to, because we studied it in Music Appreciation class when I was a college freshman. Now it is so familiar to me that hearing it for those few minutes roused me as though I were listening from the balcony at the symphony. I love Beethoven’s Fifth.

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Eventually I did ascend into the forest, where what I think are willows show more color than they will later on when they leaf out. Maybe there are several species of bushes that make these orangey splashes against the snow, or against the desert brownness where they grow in rows along creeks.  Anyway, I love how they decorate the landscape.

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I was headed east, and eventually crossed into Nevada. I’ve written about this part of the arid West before, in 2011 and in 2014. You might like to look at that more recent post to see how beautiful it is in early summer; I was able to stay a few days that time and take lots of pictures. I love the Carson Valley, every season I have been there.

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The reason for my foray into the storm was to visit my friends Jacob and Rosemary upon the occasion of their chrismation into the Orthodox Church, and to be Rosemary’s sponsor, or godmother. That was a wondrous thing, but that is not really my story to tell. I love being at their house, full of books and food and comfortable friendship. I love them.P1030598

I loved being part of this momentous day, a participant in the sacrament by which they were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, being anointed on cheeks, forehead, hands… Now I am related to Rosemary in a deeper way even than our already sisterly friendship.

After the chrismation service and Divine Liturgy, we came back to the house with more friends and enjoyed the many delicious things that Rosemary had been preparing for a week in advance, including “Gyroll,” and a lemon tart.

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I had planned to return home on Monday, but because I’d have had to drive in snow and ice, and take more pictures from my car, I put off my departure one more day. We were all happy to have a few more hours together of relaxing and talking and reading. Jacob makes the best popcorn. I love popcorn.

I even took a walk in a nearly freezing rain, and admired the xeriscapes at that elevation of 5,000 ft. Everyone uses some rock, because it is natural and doesn’t require irrigation, and so many rocks are beautiful. It helps control erosion from the torrents that can flow down through the neighborhood from the higher heights. I love rocks.

I slept incredibly well in my guest quarters, which was interesting because I was in the middle of reading 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. It’s about how we are being robbed of our sleep by society’s demands to perform and be constantly responsible. But I was with sensible people and we all affirmed that sleep is good, even while one of us sent an email at 2:00 a.m. and another one checked his (or her?) phone an hour later, thus demonstrating the reality of what the author laments. The Bible commands, “Love not sleep,” but it also says that “He gives His people sleep,” so I feel it is okay to admit that I love sleep, as a gift from the Lord.

Finally the morning came when I would set off on the last leg of my adventure. Truly, anytime you get out of bed in the morning you have to be ready for adventure, but driving alone on strange roads, which may be icy, is upping the suspense of Anything Could Happen.

Jacob and Rosemary live on the east side of Carson Valley, so as I set off down the slope from their house, this was my view, looking across the valley to the range of mountains I would cross on my way back to California. It is the Carson Range, considered a spur of the Sierra Nevada that lie mostly to the west. And this was also the most blue sky I saw in five days:P1030601 across Carson Vly to west

I was fearless, it seemed, eager to climb higher again. I was going home a slightly different way, and interested to see the sights on the Kingsbury Grade, a route I wasn’t familiar with. The weather was supposed to be partly cloudy, with no rain until the afternoon. But plenty of snow had fallen in the night, and I wanted to see it from the freshly plowed highway.

The pastures are green even now, from all the rain, making the high-elevation farms beautiful against the hills. The Carson Range doesn’t get nearly as much rain and snow as the primary ranges of the Sierra Nevada to the west of Lake Tahoe, but recently it got more than a sprinkling.

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As I looked back from the mountain slope, this was my view of the Carson Valley looking east to the Pine Nut Mountains:

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But when I got closer to the top, the valley is barely visible in the distance (my trusty all-wheel-drive Subaru in the foreground.)

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I don’t often experience snow. The last time, I had been with my husband in mountains very near here, and I briefly and bittersweetly remembered that day. But this day I was consumed with loving God’s creation, being thankful for the strange stuff that is snow, delighting in being there. I hadn’t been thinking about this, just doing it. He was my companion on my journey, and that must have been why I wasn’t feeling lonely or having anxiety about traveling solo.

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It’s a steep grade, so before long I was at Daggett Summit, elevation 7,334 feet. The trees were loaded with snow up there, much of it having fallen just the day before. Clumps were falling in showers of wet flakes and splashing on my windshield. The temperature was just above freezing.

In another two hours I was out of the mountains and in the Central Valley. I visited with Pearl for an hour, and got home  before dark.

It had been such a satisfying expedition. Not the kind of excitement that some people associate with adventure, but plenty of the sort of newness that is a reminder and an expression of Him Who changes not, but whose Life fills every moment.

The unexpected aspect of adventure came in the form of weather developments that made me change my plans. It was kind of my Father to arrange for such a mild and pleasant happening for me to deal with, at this season of my life; He knows I’m not really the adventurous type. It seems that love for my family and friends makes me go forth and travel, and then His love and companionship and the beauty of this world He gave us thrill my soul, more than any wild and perilous sort of adventure could. I love Him.

Views of Carson Valley

P1100336I remember the first time I saw the Carson Valley in the state of Nevada, and my amazement at seeing lush green hay growing in the shade of the Sierra Nevada peaks, on the edge of the desert. That was at least 30 years ago, and on every visit since then, usually just driving through on the way to somewhere else, I have feasted my eyes and heart on those scenes of quietly grazing cattle, and sagebrush lining the roadways.

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Meadow on Luther Pass

My friend “Rosemary” and her family have recently moved back to the West, and to visit them where they live a little south of the capital Carson City, I drove east through California and over the Luther Pass at 7740 ft. on Hwy 89 south of Lake Tahoe. The pass is named for Ira M. Luther who traveCarsonrivermaprsed the mountains by wagon train in 1854.

 

 

This map shows a much larger area north and east of where I visited, including the whole of Carson Sink as it extends into Nevada and California.

 

 

 

 

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I arrived late at Rosemary’s place because I just had to stop and take pictures of the new-mown hay.

P1100286 Carson Vly hay

And on my layover day my friends took me on a hike up the slope west of the valley, toward Job’s Peak. The skies were black or grey, and we heard threatening thunder, but no rain fell.P1100317 Job's Peak Trail

In just over a mile we had reached the California border. I thought it was very exciting to be standing on that boundary line. Not that we could see the edge exactly…

 

 

P1100331 from state line

This is what we saw looking down from the state line. We had ever-changing cloud shows that afternoon, which made for varying light conditions, too.

The lupines wP1100294 flower crpere finished and had already made thick pods from their flower spikes, but small flowers nestled into the granite gravel, and big bushes of wild roses grew close to the little creek we jumped over.

 

 

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The air was so dry, my hair hung limply. Though the sun stayed mostly behind the clouds, it still managed to burn my face and lips. But I felt really good, standing on the side of the mountain with the breeze blowing my blouse.

It was a very happyP1100369 few days, being together with my dear Nevada Family friends. We sat outdoors in the clean and dry, just-warm-enough air for hours catching up on all the concerns of our hearts and minds  — well, as many of them as possible in this short visit. I’m looking forward to another trip over to that lovely Carson River Valley. P1100368

The mule’s ears are still babies.

I’ve been up in the mountains, at Mr. and Mrs. C’s cabin. Several times I’ve written about our cabin stays at Lake Tahoe, and the previous posts had more interesting photos and reports. They are from May 2013, May 2012, and Sept 2011. This time I couldn’t seem to focus my documentarist skills, but I did have some noteworthy experiences.

This was the first time to have snow! As we reached Echo Summit on Highway 50 (7382 ft.) the snow began to fall, while clumps of older snow were at the same time dropping from the trees because of the recent rain.

Echo summit snow trees rocks 5-6-14

We couldn’t hear the clumps fall, though – Everything was too soft and fluffy to make an impression on our ears.

We two couples drove to the Nevada side of the lake to Virginia City, as we had done in 2011. It’s not very photogenic, because the interesting old buildings are full of too many shops full of junk. But if you used to enjoy the “Bonanza” TV show, you might remember that Virginia City was the closest town to the fictional Ponderosa Ranch. This map that I photographed in the cabin is confusing in that North is not at the top of the image.Ponderosa E of Tahoe

We didn’t come up completely short as we strolled through town, because we all found some treasures in a rock shop: bracelets, bookends and an onyx box made from stones that came from all over the world. We drove around the residential area down the hill from the rickety old boardwalk and the most beautiful things were the many lilac bushes in full bloom of every possible color.

Back down in the forest by the lake, the wooly mule's ears Tahoe 5-7-14squaw carpet is in bloom, and most of the mule’s ears are still babies. I thought their little fuzzy leaves were very dear.

I liked walking around the neighborhood of the cabin, where tall Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines have dropped big cones all over the yards and streets. In every place that squaw carpet was blooming, spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) was right there trying to steal the show.

spreading phlox and squaw carpet
(purple) squaw carpet and (white) spreading phlox

Many of the public beaches on the lake are still closed, but one day we parked on the highway and walked through the forest on to this beach so that we could throw sticks – or actually, small logs — to the dog Cali.

Kiva Beach 2014

The mountains above still have their frosting of snow, but spring is here, and the weather is warming up. Soon the tourists will arrive, but we are gone….and home again.

I praise Modoc, and question Jefferson.

Surprise Valley, California

It looks to me like some cowboy lost a piece of his shirt on this barbed wire. I took the picture when we were poking around in Modoc County, “where the West still lives.”

Ten years ago our family met a cowboy who looked like The Marlboro Man himself, as we stood on a hillside watching him lead a string of horses through the sagebrush and across a creek, with pastel layers of aspens and mountains behind him.


This remote and rugged land is one of the areas that has perpetually been found within the proposed boundaries of The State of Jefferson, a longed-for 51st state that would include several counties in northern California and southern Oregon.

The modern Jefferson includes more counties.

Just last month the supervisors of Modoc and also those of its neighboring Siskiyou County voted to secede from the State of California, as the historic movement revs up again.

The Sacramento Bee reported:

[Mark Baird, one of the prominent activists] insists the State of Jefferson is the answer to revive logging, protect ranching and lure new businesses. He bristles at suggestions that these counties need to subsist on social services.

“It’s absolutely infuriating to people up here, this idea that we’re little children and we must have our hands held out,” Baird said. “Well, we would make our own way. We are intelligent, creative, hardworking people, and without the morass of failed social engineering experiments here, we would do fine.”

Barn in Yreka, in Siskiyou County, California

The Modoc county seat is Alturas, a word that means “valley on top of a mountain.” Much of this country is considered High Sage Plateau, with evidently enough water for many cattle ranches and hay fields.

If I hadn’t had a traveling companion to restrict my stoppings, I’d never have made it home for trying and trying again to get the perfect picture of black steers grazing on varying shades of green and yellow-green, with dark mountains behind them.

Nothing close to the perfect shot was to be mine. Either I was not high enough above the grassland to get the sweeping view, or the steers clumped up close to see if I were bringing their dinner, or, in the case of those next to our our motel in Alturas, they ran away when I was still 50 yards from the fence.

Many of these fine scenes were in Surprise Valley, which is even farther east than Alturas, east of Hwy 395, on the other side of the Warner Mountains. This valley’s elevation, if you drive up and down Surprise Valley Road as we did, is above 4,000 feet.

The photo below looks still farther east, toward a band of tan that might be an alkali lake, and up into the Hays Canyon range of mountains that lie mostly in Nevada.

Looking east from Surprise Valley to the Hays Range in Nevada

Besides your typical mountains, you can find the Glass Mountain Lava Flow on the western edge of Modoc County, though it lies mostly in Siskiyou County. On our previous visit we climbed on parts of that “mountain” and brought home huge pieces of obsidian and pumice. Everyone’s shoes no doubt suffered a month’s worth of wear on that terrain.

 

 

Glad kids scramble on Glass Mountain.

Murals on several buildings in downtown Alturas express aspects of the region that the residents appreciate. Modoc County has mule deer, herds of wild horses, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, and birds galore. We didn’t make it up to Goose Lake, but the bird mural makes me think of Goose Lake Valley, rich in all kinds of bird life. The painted fowl look as though they could fly right off into the real sky.

At the bottom of the mural you can see landscape such as we also noticed on our way up to Alturas, when the rich farmland gives way in places to slopes on which the soil is evidently too rocky and poor to support anything more than the occasional juniper tree. But the existence of fencing makes me think that in the springtime they might run livestock on the greened-up grass.

juniper trees
Fisherman
Pronghorn

more murals

We ate breakfast at the Hotel Niles in Alturas.

I don’t know about the Jefferson thing. It’s a nice idea….can you believe we have a lot of family who reside in Jefferson counties both in Oregon and California? Probably none of our kin would be found at either of the cultural extremes within the succession movement, but at least one sports a license plate frame on her car declaring “State of Jefferson.”

Nowadays there is a public radio station that claims the name, and people can attend the Jefferson State Hemp Expo, “…founded on the belief that through awareness, education, and the cooperation and coordination of citizens and public officials, many complex social issues can be solved.” Note the emphasis on cooperation, not separation. Separation was formerly the goal of all Jefferson adherents, and a big part of the content of Jefferson as in its nickname “State of Mind.” Currently it does seem that many of the people who use the name don’t really expect anything to come of it. To at least a few it is probably just a brand they use to sell something.

another Surprise Valley view

At the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, are the hunters and most of the ranchers, and the politically conservative. This segment of the populace might include the woman who was noted in the police report column in the Alturas newspaper, which I perused while sitting on the bed in our motel room. She called the sheriff and said that if someone didn’t speedily do something about the dog that was threatening her alpacas, she herself would “dispatch” the dog. I doubt that was the word she used.

Maybe the serious secessionists would include the people who shoot at Belding Squirrels during the Annual Squirrel Roundup. These are a type of ground squirrel that looks like a prairie dog, and their large populations damage the cultivated fields (I’m guessing it’s by their holes and tunnels?), so once a year the residents hold a big fundraiser/pest-control event.

The giggling squirrel-shooter in this video I ran across is embarrassing, but you could turn off the sound, try to ignore the squirrels flying into the air, and see some nice footage of Surprise Valley in the background. The Roundup is held in March, so you will see less yellow and brown than in my pictures. If you make it to the very end you’ll be rewarded with a view of Mount Shasta, something that would not be possible from down in Surprise Valley. The moviemaker must have driven back over the pass to the west at the close of day.

The likelihood of all these diverse Jefferson people agreeing to secede seems slight to begin with, and that’s not the only challenging aspect of the project. Perhaps the nickname The Mythical State of Jefferson is the most appropriate. Whatever you call it, I do love this country.

On Cedar Pass, between Alturas and Surprise Valley