Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Okay, So I Lied

Roger isn't doing Wednesday's post. He got sidetracked by a surfeit of information on the history of gold and the irrigation ditches. It's pretty interesting stuff. In the meantime, my back is mending slowly. For each day I do something stupid, I extend my recovery period. Today we hiked over three miles on one of the ditch trails. It's just too hard not to head outside. The fall weather is so beautiful, and the hummingbirds are making quiet clicking sounds in the manzanitas. How would we know, if we didn't head out and take a look and listen?

Monday, October 26, 2009


I thought Roger was going to do this post for Monday. It was supposed to be all about the Nevada Irrigation District. But he got sidetracked by making me some dinner. I hurt my back pretty bad last Tuesday and have been down on the couch since with my ice pack and my blues. We've ventured out twice to hike the irrigation ditch, because I am a lousy and impatient patient. The ditch is an amazing thing, with miles and miles of trails and water.
So here's a sneak preview of what we saw, and what is truly more precious than gold. If all goes well, Roger will tell you more about it on Wednesday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Covered Bridge, and LadyBugs!

I suppose experiencing this 18-month home-search odyssey has its perks, like exploring new places in an attempt to get to know an area. Truth be told, though, walks that provide us with views like this are what's keeping us sane (or at least as sane as we claim to be).
Otherwise, there's really no way of knowing how wacky we'd already be. Even a view of at least a million ladybugs made us happy.
What does that tell you about our sanity? We ask you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Trails; Old Fears

I've noticed something whenever we set out on new hiking trails: I experience a sense of dread and fear. It's an interesting sensation. It could have something to do with the trailhead signage. We know that there really are plenty of mountain lions and rattlers in this neck of the woods, but that's not what sets my heart thumping. It more likely has something to do with my own personal history. My fear is almost always about other humans, and getting lost.
The trails along the south fork of the Yuba River are really quite beautiful. There is a wild, quintessential western ruggedness about this terrain. Although, this land has yielded itself to the greatest assaults in search of gold, it still demands careful attention for almost every footstep along its ore-rich paths. Every now and then when I do chance a glance upward at a towering granite boulder, the perfect launch for a hunting mountain lion, the dizzying drop off to the river below can literally spin my head around.

But the thing that keeps me most alert are the fellow hikers. The few we've encountered have all been as cheerful and friendly as any other place we've ever wandered. But, some nagging part of me conflates the unknown trail with an unknown entity that I am sure is there only to hurt us. Is that not sad? I think it's very sad. I haven't told this to Roger yet, but half the time when I'm hiking along, I'm wishing he'd carry a giant walking stick, big enough to club some mountain stranger who lurks behind every tree like a storybook ogre, that old boogeyman.
Yet, despite this fear, and my ongoing rant about trails not being properly marked (and signs that show up in the middle of nowhere with no worthwhile information, or signs that announce we are leaving the park boundary without any indication of what the obvious continuing trail actually becomes or where it goes...) I still have enough free attention to spot the wildlife flying, sauntering, and crawling by. Even this pretty well-camouflaged gopher snake (doing a good imitation of a rattler) sunning itself on a south-facing rock catches my eye. I almost always have a great time out on the trails, but most especially when we're hiking back, and I've exhaled a crazy sigh of relief.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


On some planes of public discourse (real estate, tourism, Craigslist) the area where we live now is referred to as gold country. Well, there was a huge, deep ( a mile down at the deepest) goldmine here that operated from 1850 to 1956.

this mine shaft goes down 1800 feet on a 45 degree slope.

miners going down into the mine to work.

this is where the mine manager lived.

Enormous chunks of land have been hosed through giant sluice boxes by way oversized streams of water. here are some illustrative pictures.

Miles of canals or ditchbanks, leaping over canyons and side creeks with flumes were built to supply hydraulic mines.

We hiked on the Independence Trail, which is an abandoned canal converted to a wheelchair accessible path above the south fork of the Yuba River. This was called the Excelsior Canal. It ran, nearly level, from the south fork of the yube river to Smartville, 25 miles away. there it was sprayed on hillsides to wash out gold bearing gravel from earlier, higher river beds.

not the easiest place to work.

wheelchair access. a new use for an old canal.

Another area of major hydraulic mining nearby is Malakoff Diggins State Park (yes, that is the official spelling).

You can search for "Nevada City, CA" on Google Maps. Zoom out a bit till you see a whitish blob just north and slightly east of nevada city. that's Malakoff Diggins. in 1884 a federal judge banned hydraulic mining as nuisance because the silt runoff inundated large areas of farmland in the central valley and silted in San Francisco bay at an alarming rate.

Isn't it amazing what humans will do following the lure of riches? I see that gold is getting very expensive again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Looking East; Looking West...

We've been exploring the beautiful green Yuba River State Park (thank you Ahnold for not closing our parks yet). Looking east towards the rising Sierra Mountain range, the granite walls narrow at a place called Hoyts Crossing. A nice hike on a sunny day.
Several species of butterflies are still very active, this late in the season. I kept thinking I was seeing Lorquin's Admirals, but it turns out it was an Adelpha Californica. They were everywhere on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

These small California Crescents also caught our eye. The last few flowers springing wildly from between granite rocks attracted them to where we were sitting. These butterflies now match the oak leaves with their yellows and oranges against the clear mountain skies.
It's easy to dismiss gray squirrels, but there was something about this one that caught our attention. Its tail wasn't bushy, and it had wonderfully mottled fur. A little research told us that we were seeing California Ground Squirrels. A rather charming and inventive little creature. If you get a chance, check out how they defend against their most ardent predator: the Rattlesnake.
Then, we looked west. Soon the Yuba will be rushing over all of these rocks. We plan to make this a regular hike, to watch the rising river in the coming winter. Our first rains are supposed to start on Tuesday. We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Old Friend

We finally had some time to take a walk in our new neighborhood, and were lucky enough to run into this old friend:We immediately recognized the shine on its wings, while walking on the shadow side of the road...
...and its familiar brilliance in the full sun, under cloudless mountain skies.

dragonflies will be gone
there will be snow
by the time we learn these roads

We're acclimating. You can't believe the time it takes.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Here and Now

I haven't downloaded any photos in over a week (except for this one of Bonsai checking out the young buck in the yard). There's been no time to take long looks at anything. Life moves quickly, drawing everything in blurred lines like an impressionist painting of life, and not life itself. Two 17 ft U-Haul truck moves, and everything we have ever collected and didn't finally discard in a fit of moving fatigue is now with us. All under one roof. We have our big cushy couch and wide recliner. We even have cable TV. My heart broke a little when I saw The O'Reilly Factor on our TV listings. We haven't had cable or satellite for over year, I had forgotten such crap is really broadcast over the wires. We haven't been paying any attention to the online news sites for weeks. We have even given up on our favorite political bloggers. The emails keep coming, though. Call Congress for the Public Option. Don't give up on Health Care. The battle is not yet over.

I think we have come to the mountains because we suspect the biggest battles really are over. We have come to where there is enough sunlight to generate solar power, where there is enough collectible rainfall in winter to grow a life-sustaining garden in summer, and where there is enough of a community to maintain a social structure while the larger society falls apart.

It's hot here for many months of the year. We're going to learn to live where it's relatively inhospitable (for a wuss like me). It's something we're all going to have to face in the future, whether you accept the climate is changing, or not. We're just taking it on now.

Life is serious at the moment.

(Don't forget to click on the pic of Bonsai. He's definitely in his kitty cat element.)