Archive | July, 2014

The Storm of the Decade (according to locals who have been here longer than I) 7/20/14

22 Jul

July 19 was a pretty day with a few raindrops and thunder off in the distance. But no big deal. The sunset that night was gorgeous. I know that you must be getting tired of sunsets and clouds, but they are SOOOO pretty here.

Looking west toward the Sierras  (Don't forget to click on the photo to enlarge it)

A pretty sunset on July 19

The clouds above the mountains were sort of wispy with undefined edges. I didn’t see it, but Jerri told me there was quite a light show over the Sierras/Tahoe area that night, thus foreshadowing what was to come the next day.

About 1:30 PM on the 20th, I could hear rumblings out to the east and soon saw rain over the area that Jerri and I had ridden our quad just a week ago.  There was a lot of lightning accompanying the rain and I hoped that no fires would start because of it. I counted about 30 seconds before I heard the boom and wasn’t particularly concerned. Then I realized the time between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunderclaps was getting shorter and that I ought to move inside. I had just read a while ago that one should not be outside if the interval is 30 seconds or less. Pretty soon, the rain intensified and it was pouring. More than an inch fell in less than an hour. Pretty good for a desert…and consequently, an excellent chance for flash flood(s). Yep, they happened not far from my house.

My sunken firepit is getting flooding and also telling me that drainage is not good from my patio area

My sunken fire pit is getting flooding and also telling me that drainage is not good from my patio area

This picture is the beginning of the deluge and looks out on my sunken fire pit. The stick you see is for baby quail to climb out if they happen to fall into the pit as they did last year. Other wood was also in there for when we have our first marshmallow roast in the back yard.  You can see water beginning to flood the area and there are puddles in the Back 40 beyond the near bushes. The next picture is how the pit looked just about a half hour later.  You folks who get regular storms are not amazed at this but it is a great topic of conversation for us.

The wood is floating and it's now at flood stage in the pit

The wood is floating and it’s now at flood stage in the pit.  Today, there is about an inch of mud/silt in that pit along with the wood.

The lightning was quite a show and as the storm passed over me, the claps were very loud and close. I counted no duration between many of the strikes and the claps. A bit scary but there is not much one can do. Everyone has stories to tell since this was an epic storm. My good buddy, Diana, told me about a lady (who she knows) who was sitting in the bathroom when a bolt struck that very room creating a hole in the roof.   I’ll bet she didn’t stay in there very long.

Looking east from the mailboxes and the next picture is looking west toward the Sierras.

Looking east from the mailboxes and the next picture is looking west toward the Sierras.

Looking west at some erosion and the same mud laden ditch

Looking west at some erosion and the same mud laden ditch

This is the type of storm that causes flash floods and quite a bit of damage. For example, a large 15’ wide and probably 10’ deep ditch runs under the main street into my tract (and under a large stand of mail boxes) and people have not seen any water in it for 20 years. Yesterday, it was full of raging water and overflowed by the mailboxes, making a mess of the street and leaving debris all over the area.  Today, that ditch is about half full of mud and junk.  There are many of these collector ditches stemming from the Pine Nuts in the east going west toward the Sierras. This ditch happens to peter out about a mile or so west of me. The flow was powerful enough and there was enough water that it might have had enough force to join the Carson River just a bit further west. Going back to the damage, there were pictures on the news tonight showing people with 6’ of sand and mud in their house. Jerri’s neighbor lost a few thousand dollars worth of stuff for his job when his garage flooded. Jerri’s house (across the street) is fine with zero damage. I guess it’s the luck of the draw.

This has been an interesting experience for me as this is probably the most severe thunderstorm that I’ve seen. I would say it was a spectacular show and I surely do wish I had been able to get pictures of some of the strikes. The best thing about the storm was how the air smelled afterward. It was so clean, pure and fresh! That smell remained until this morning when I was coming home from the gym. It was exhilarating! Actually, the air still smells good. I’m loving it!

Today has been a wonderful, splendid day and I just want to share a couple more pictures.  The first is some of those sunflowers I’ve been talking about.. They survived the storm in fine fettle and are looking great. There are no blossoms yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing some soon. You can see some clouds in the background. We were supposed to have a bit more precipitation today but I only felt a few drops.

Cheerful sunflowers with peppers, tomatoes and lettuce in the background

Cheerful sunflowers with peppers, tomatoes and lettuce in the background

 

Wispy clouds on a pretty day

Wispy clouds following the storm

Well, the weather is supposed to turn hot once again but it has been nice to experience this change and see wild weather.  Jerri and I are very much like our dad.  We really enjoy WEATHER and what it brings us daily.

 

The Long Awaited Inaugural Quad Adventure – July 7, 2014

9 Jul

Almost as soon as I decided to move to Carson Valley, Jerri and I began talking about getting a quad to zoom around the Pine Nuts and other off road places to play. It seems like so much fun! Our friend, Dick Schmidt, even gave us pictures of what we’d look like after we described what we wanted to get.

It doesn't get any better than this.  Right?

It doesn’t get any better than this. Right?

Well, after doing some shopping and deciding that we couldn’t afford what we really wanted – a side by side quad (that means two can sit side by side while one drives. It’s a lot safer…roll bars, a roof for shade, a little trunk to carry our gear and a very spiffy red color). It seemed like a ton of money for something we weren’t sure we’d use a lot.

So we got very practical and bought a used khaki green quad from Jerri’s next-door neighbor. Doug used his quad only in the back yard to knock down weeds, etc. It was kind of like the “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” who only used her car on Colorado Blvd.   It took a while to get our NV off road permit and then our helmets and finally, we were ready for the inaugural ride! YEA!!!

Somehow our first picture doesn’t compare to Dick’s original photo. Heels in the desert don’t work very well and one sweats a lot, so one needs longer skirts to sit on the hot seat.  Then, it’s mandatory to have helmets (Allan wouldn’t let us out of the house without helmets…rightfully so). So, we don’t look quite as sexy as the above picture.

Not as sexy, but practical

Not as sexy, but practical

I think Allan was filled with trepidation when he waved goodbye to us as we took off down the street to get to the off road area. There are possibilities of having an accident, running out of gas, falling off the darn thing and/or getting lost in the multitude of roads, paths, and tiny trails in the Pine Nuts Range. We, on the other hand, were filled with confidence as we took off. After all, we had a full tank of gas, a phone (that didn’t have reception in the outback), water and snacks, a borrowed GPS that had the capability of showing us how to get back using the same route we went in on and even some maps of the area. BUT, nothing bad happened. It was a good ride!

The off road area is just a couple of miles from where we live and we can use side roads to get to the jumping off spot. So theoretically, we wouldn’t have any hassle from the cops for using an OHV (off highway vehicle) on a public road.

Re-create responsibly?   We would never do otherwise!

Re-create responsibly? We would never do otherwise!

Luckily, this sign hadn't been shot up yet

Luckily, this sign hadn’t been shot up yet

It was exciting to zoom along the road and then get onto the unpaved, rocky road. We took the Sunrise Pass road, primarily because it was marked… for the first couple of miles. At least we had an idea of what was to come with this signpost. Our first decision was at third big fork in the road with no marking. We chose the right one (literally and figuratively) and zoomed on.

Our first stop was at the Painted Rock where we did Scott’s Pose in honor of him and his firefighting efforts in California this week. This rock is like a giant piece of graffiti with all colors of the rainbow on it. I have no idea why this particular rock was chosen, but it has become a landmark in the area.

Jerri really doesn't have her finger up her nose

Jerri really doesn’t have her finger up her nose

The area is tinder dry, as we all know, from the drought and probably would be a lot prettier had it been a good winter. But we find our desert/mountains to have their own distinct brand of beauty. Subtle colors, faint and sharp smells, sparse to thick vegetation and often cloud formations that tickle one’s imagination.

When we used to play or swim in the ocean, the water temperature would vary and we would enjoy a warm streak now and then. The same type of sensation occurred yesterday as we zoomed through differing air currents. This time, we enjoyed the cool currents embracing our arms and faces.

We began our journey at 4660’ and rose to 6827’ according to the GPS. We are not sure if that was Sunrise Summit or not as we elected to turn around and go home shortly after what was our summit. (We did this so as to get home before Allan went to work so that he wouldn’t worry about us). We do know that the road goes on for many miles and that someday we would like to do that when we have more experience and time.

The elevation change causes a change in vegetation as you can see in the following pictures.

A hazy day looking toward the Sierras from the Pine Nuts

A hazy day looking toward the Sierras from the Pine Nuts

Pine Nut trees alongside the trail

Pine Nut trees alongside the trail

The first picture is looking west to the Sierras across a high plain of sagebrush and other desert plants. No cactus though. The second picture is more than a 1000’ feet higher. This terrain sports many piñon pines as well as some sagebrush and other plants. I don’t know enough about these plants to give you names. Anyway, the local Indian tribes would travel to the mountains in the fall to harvest the nuts from these trees. The nuts (which we call pine nuts, amazing name, huh?) are very nutritious and have been used for centuries for sustenance.   The Paiute, Western Shoshone and the Washoe tribes all consumed the piñones in great quantity in various manners…raw, roasted, soup and probably a lot more. Interestingly, the tribes did not go to the same area of trees every year because, apparently, the trees don’t yield a good crop every single year. So the Indians let the trees “rest” for a couple of years before returning to a specific area. As far as I know, it would have been the Washoe who would have been in the area we were in. Except for the trails and some mines, the area is virtually the same as it was when the Washoe were living there. I find that kind of exciting to be on historical land and imagining what those folks might have done there.

This is the view when you are the back seat driver. Note the beginning of the wispy clouds. They got prettier as they day wore on.

Back seat view of the trail

Back seat view of the trail

Wispy clouds above pinon pines

Wispy clouds above pinon pines

We didn’t see any big animals but saw a lot of chipmunks, and ground squirrels and heard a lot of birds. Not much different from our backyards, but it was fun to see these little critters. We know there are deer up there, wild horses and perhaps some bears. Someday we hope to see at least the deer and horses.

Of course, we had to fool around a bit with some pictures. After we got home, I wished that we had taken a picture of us jumping for joy with our quad (Beside it, not on it! We’re not that silly…yet)

It's ours!!!

It’s ours!!!

I suppose that in the future, we will be saying that this adventure was so-so without many thrills and no close calls. It was a pretty straightforward ride and we were happy for that.  Everyone we talked to had warned us about  hazards that could befall us, especially getting lost.  I think I might have listened a bit too much and made us be a bit too extra cautious.  Yes, I know that “an ounce of prevention” and all that.  I don’t know what we would have done, but perhaps next time we’ll add a thrill or two.  Again, I don’t know what that would be.

We learned a few things on the road, too.  We learned to ride together and to ride fairly smoothly despite many rocks in the road. We also learned that the seat gets pretty hot and we sweat a lot on it. Next time we’ll be taking a towel to sit on. We need to be more thorough in using bug repellant. Jerri was bitten by a horsefly right through her pants! Those flies are real pests! We call them tsetse horseflies because the bites itch like crazy, sometimes raise a blister and take forever to go away. We don’t like them!  We also need to get our own GPS soon, too, as we want to be more adventurous and will need that tool.  I also learned that the quad doesn’t have power steering (I actually knew that, I’m being silly) and am quite sore today from steering it.  Jerri isn’t.  She’s in better shape than I am from working out with her Kaia group.

Jerri is expressing our feeling at having completed our first ride successfully while having a lot of fun doing it. I can see why folks get hooked on off-roading. It was fun and we’re glad we have our quad.

A happy camper

A happy camper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallen Leaf Lake Hike – June 27, 2014

7 Jul

Lots of people hike around here, both in the Carson Valley and in the Sierras. Last week, Jerri and I decided we wanted to hike in the Emerald Bay area of Lake Tahoe to visit Viking’s Home described as follows (from the website)

      “Vikingsholm is located at the head of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California. This magnificent “castle” is a unique blend of Nature’s spectacular beauty and man’s architectural ingenuity.  Vikingsholm, situated majestically among towering pines and cedars, was built as a summer home by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight in 1929.”

Vikingsholm

Vikingsholm

We were excited about doing this hike as it would be our workout for the day and it looked so beautiful in pictures! Alas and alack! We couldn’t even find a parking space remotely close to the trailhead. True bummer! One should not try hikes in a popular area near the Fourth of July on a beautiful day!

We decided to check out Fallen Leaf Lake that is a bit east of Emerald Bay, back toward the Taylor Creek area (famous for the Kokanee Salmon run in the fall). Neither one of us had been there, so this was a novel adventure for both of us. One can see Fallen Leak far below the road as one drives back toward South Lake Tahoe, but if one hasn’t been paying attention to signs; one doesn’t know how to find the road to get to said lake. After some trial and error, driving on terribly skinny side roads and talking to locals, we finally found a road that got us close to Fallen Leaf. (However, it wasn’t THE road to get close to the lake).  That was ok. We hiked just a short distance and found the little dam that marks the beginning of Taylor Creek.

A family checking out what is below them from the Fallen Leaf Dam

A family looking at the headwaters of Taylor Creek just below Fallen Leaf Dam (Don’t forget to click the pictures to enlarge them if you wish)

The headwaters of Taylor Creek

A view from the dam

Fallen Leaf Lake has quite a geologic history and, since I’m kinda lazy today, I thought I’d throw in a bit of a quote from Wikipedia.

            “Fallen Leaf Lake is located within the National Forest System lands managed by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management UnitFallen Leaf is approximately 415 feet deep at its deepest point. The average depth of the lake is around 240 feet. Due to the action of the glaciers that carved the lake, the northern end of the lake has a much more gradual depth change, and the bottom can be seen from the surface for a quarter-mile offshore…The water quality is good and visibility runs around 40–50 feet under most conditions. The surface elevation of the lake is 152 feet above Lake Tahoe.”

Jerri and I cannot attest to the clarity of the water, but it looked nice as we walked along the edge and it was as cool as Tahoe when we tested the water’s edge. We saw kayakers paddling and kids frolicking in the water even though a pretty stiff wind was blowing. It looked like fun!

We ate lunch beside the hiking path and were soon accosted by a saucy Steller’s jay, which soon got what he thought he was entitled to.

This is our Steller being stellar with his pretzel that Jerri gave him

This is our Steller being stellar with his pretzel that Jerri gave him

 

I’ve mentioned that it was a beautiful day and here are a few pictures attesting to that.

Mount Tallac (9,735 ft) is familiar to anyone who was a fan of the television series Bonanza as it appeared with its characteristic cross of snow behind the Cartwright family as they rode towards the camera. Fallen Leaf Lake is in the foreground

Trees and clouds attesting the the beautiful day!

Trees and clouds attesting to the beautiful day!

We saw several flowers in bloom such as columbine, lupine and Indian paintbrush. They were all beautiful in the sunlight and shade. We were pleasantly surprised at wild flowers still being in bloom as they are pooped out in our valley. I guess it’s just too hot for them right now at home (My columbines are kaput)

Columbines in the pines

Columbines in the pines

Lupine in a tiny meadow

Lupine in a tiny meadow

As we drove out of the skinny road where we’d turned in to soon, we finally found the correct road into Fallen Leaf campground…just a hop and a skip from Highway 89.  The funny thing is that, apparently, both of us are always either driving or looking to the right in hopes of seeing a bear trying to catch some salmon for lunch (the Kokanee) in Taylor Creek.  Next time, we’ll know where to turn and be able to park in the right spot so that we can get started much quicker.

It was a great day and we had a lot of fun laughing at each other as we tried to get to our adventure that was awaiting..