What can I say? It's been a while. And it hasn't been all Sunday swims at China Camp, but who really wants to see the tear-streaked automotive bills and lunches cobbled together from the kindness of co-workers and the reality of cat ownership which involves a dusting of fur on every single thing I own? Oh, you do? I'll get right on it. Until then, let's get some selective memory up in here.
Took advantage of the lovely fall weather (and being locked out of the office during the government shutdown) to make a short mid-week trip down the coast. Left the city in the late afternoon and decided to stop for dinner at the fabled Alice's Restaurant instead of attempting a too-hungry-to-think-straight camp dinner in the dark. For no particular reason I opted for a chicken sandwich instead of sampling from the myriad of burgers, but you know what? It was great. Franklin's burger was also pretty great, as was the big wooden deck and small-town-in-the-woods vibe, so I'm thinking a return trip will definitely ensue. The pre-camp dinner did the trick in keeping us from snarling at each other while looking for a site among all the unclaimed "Reserved" signs in Butano State Park (sometimes I want to shake my fist at Reserve America) and constructing our tent in total darkness. But once we settled in it was fantastic, so unseasonably warm I sat by the fire in a sweater and shorts and the moon played peek-a-boo through crazy tall trees while we drank wine and made fancy-pants s'mores with grilled peaches and ginger snaps.
Lit out in the morning and stopped through the town of Pescadero for coffee and provisions. Made the usual run into Arcangeli's Bakery for their fresh-baked artichoke bread then noticed Downtown Local, an awesome little coffee shop I don't remember seeing the last time we came through. Sightglass coffee, rad decor with lots of motorbike memorobilia and vintage touches, and a little side shop selling local/bay area goodies (honey, soaps and apothecary stuff, candles, etc). A perfect stop to tide us over til we got down to the Pie Ranch and were able to gorge ourselves on berry baskets and a miniature apple pie.
Made a detour off the highway so Franklin could skate a ditch hidden back behind a bunch of bushes. It never ceases to amaze me how dudes (and ladies) can sniff these spots out and then find them again.
While he shredded, I got to admire the view.
In keeping with our "fancy coastal camping" vibe (ie. there's a heated mattress in that tent) we grilled up lamburgers with minted yogurt sauce and lots of pea sprouts, plus a minty peach salad for good measure. Sometimes pre-planning camp meals makes life both easier and extra delicious.
And a nearly-full moon just makes everything magical.
Going coastal? If you're in the bay area, you've probably cruised down the 1 and hit most of these spots already, and you can do pretty much everything in a day if you don't have the time to stay overnight. But if you do, Butano State Park's got some lovely walk-in sites (as well as some pretty secluded drive-up ones) and Costanoa's a spot worth checking out. I imagine it's a zoo there during the summer, but mid-week off-season it was fairly empty and with tent cabins starting at $80/night (which includes use of the "comfort stations" with saunas, heated bathrooms and outdoor showers) it's a pretty good deal. They also have AAA rates and full moon specials worth looking into. You can roll straight down Highway 1 from the city, or take 280 south to Woodside then swerve your way through the redwoods past Alice's and La Honda on the 84, just depends on your mood. And if you do go, make time to stop into Duarte's in dowtnown Pescadero for a libation or a bowl of soup, it's a favorite spot with old-time ambiance and an excellent juke box.
Don't call it Hornsilver? Gold Point, Nevada is no ordinary ghost town, with structures made uninhabitable by wind and rain and only the hardiest of desert rats and tumbleweeds passing through. Oh, no. Gold Point has at least seven full time desert rats residing in its collection of wooden shacks and there's electricity to boot. A couple times a year that number may even multiply into the hundreds as people roll in from all over the state (and it's neighboring territories) to a to spend a weekend whooping it up in one of the last "living" ghost towns in the west. Sometimes there's a staged gunfight, sometimes a chili cook off. But even on a normal weekend Gold Point is open for business and if the saloon appears shuttered, Sheriff Stone will happily open 'er up and set the resident bartender Walt to fixing you a drink. Of course, you'd have to have detoured off Highway 95 somewhere between Goldfield and Beatty to find Gold Point in the first place, but stranger things have happened. Like defending Libertarianism to a Constitutionalist over a game of shuffleboard.
(Mamiya 645, Portra film)
September is a funny time. It always seems to signal the end of summer and all it's glorious good times, and yet the sun continues to shine so there's the impetuous feeling that you could get one last warm weekend in before autumn truly starts, one last dive off a hot granite rock into a cool blue river, one last sleep under a cloudless sky. So sometimes you push it and make one final dash just to make sure that it's really the end. Or catch that last summer day if it's not.
This particular weekend, we left the city in a deluge of rain and climbed up Highway 49 past Nevada City hoping the Lakes Basin might carry some sunshine. But as the road stretched on, the fog got denser and the rain wouldn't abate. With a coin-flip chance of spending the night in a soggy tent, we turned back around near Sierra City and took our chances on one of the cabins at Malakoff Diggins State Park. Rolled up just after dark and snagged the only empty cabin, then awoke the next morning to glorious sunshine.
A table, a sink, two bunks and a woodstove, pretty much all you need.
Harvested apples and experimented with eggs in the Toast-Tite, making for a damn fine breakfast. Thus fortified with snacks, we left North Bloomfield (née Humbug) and set out to explore the diggins.
A short history lesson: In the early 1850s miners weren't finding as much gold in the mountain streams and decided to go straight to the source (ie. the hills). Since carrying large loads of earth to existing water sources in order to sift through them wasn't optimal, they devised a way to bring the water to the possible ore-source instead: dam up the rivers, build miles of wooden canals (called flumes) to carry the water down to the diggins, and channel all the power of it's journey through canvas hoses and cannon-like nozzles called "monitors" to blast away the hillsides. By the 1860s nearby towns were buried under dozens of feet of mud, and thousands of acres of farmland had been destroyed by tailings carried down through the Sacramento Delta. Malakoff Diggins remained California's largest hydraulic mine, with 7 giant monitors firing water around the clock and it's estimated that by 1883 San Francisco Bay was filling with silt at a rate of one foot per year. Whoah. Pretty heavy to think about. The extensive damage wasn't going unnoticed, however, and in January of 1884 the case of Woodruff v. North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company ruled hydraulic mining illegal. As far as I can tell, it still is.
The Hiller Tunnel was used as drainage for mining debris, but even at a length of 557 ft it proved not quite big enough and a much larger tunnel was burrowed underneath it. Currently it's utilized as an excellent way to creep out your lady friend and/or ditch her in total darkness.
With daylight still pouring down, we headed to Mineral Bar campground in the Auburn State Recreation Area. I'd been wanting to go ever since I developed a theory that our hike from Iowa Hill down to the river back in June had landed us not far from the campground. While I think the campground is a little further downstream than I'd calculated, I was more surprised to recognize that we'd actually been there 5 or 6 years before. Here's to being fortuitously forgetful.
The campground sits quite literally on the banks of the North Fork of the American River, with sites so close you can practically roll out of your tent and splash your face as a wake up call (or at least avoid talking to anyone in between). You can't reserve them so it's usually packed during the summer (which is probably why it had been so many years since we'd returned) but it would be well worth taking a mid-week trip just to snag one.
Woke once again to sunshine and a blast of clear, sunny heat. It being a Monday we had the place to ourselves, with a sandy bar to lay on and icy water to cool down in and I couldn't have asked for a better way to end a summer. Wish granted.
Last ups? Both Mineral Bar campground and the cabins at Malakoff Diggins can be reached by hopping on I-80 east for a few hours so you've no excuse not to go. Unless you've been a million times already, in which case you can save it for the rest of us, totally fine. Either way, Mineral Bar is near the town of Colfax, while Malakoff requires veering north on Hwy 49 and following directions to the "town" of North Bloomfield within Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Reservations can be made for the cabins but they're currently only open May-September, a bit of a shame as the area is really beautiful later in the fall (who can forget the Pioneer Thanksgiving?) so my hope is that someday the State Parks system will be given boundless resources to maintain the things we love. I'm holding my breath til then. If you do make the trip during the warm season, the magical Yuba's right close by, but do yourself a favor and head to Mineral Bar at some point---even if it's just for a day swim, it's a spot well worth checking out.
"The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them---words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it." Stephen King, The Body
The city slogan of Dunsmuir, California is "Home of the Best Water on Earth" but it's unnofficial tagline is "the small-town home you wished you had grown up in". And you know what? They're not so far off on either count. With bubblers around town pouring out the clearest Shasta water and train tracks leading to swimming holes in the pines, it evokes a nostalgia for simpler times while allowing a person to believe that they might actually exist right then, right there. Of course all things summertime have a magic quality to them, and this adventure particularly so as it intertwined both the 4th of July and the novella that would make my summer. You guys want to go see a dead body?
And so it begins. Up the tracks to Mossbrae Falls.
Nothing like walking over a trestle bridge, joking about Vern Tessio and Gordie Lachance, and hearing a whistle blow around the bend. Back in the day, Dunsmuir was home to one of the most famous hobo jungles in the country.
The cabins at Cave Springs Resort were built in 1923 and I can't imagine they've changed much since (and they haven't changed a lick since our first visit 6 or so years ago). Two-burner gas rings for cooking, clawfoot tub for soaking and a fridge out back for keeping the meats and bottles cool.
In honor of the holiday, some words of wisdom from Will Rogers.
4th of July celebrations. More night shots here.
Spent a day at nearby Castle Lake, swimming out to the floating dock and avoiding the crowds by hiking to the end of the trail.
A man and his poncho, never the two shall part.
Ventured into the town of McCloud for a huge and tasty (albeit slow-moving) lunch at the White Mountain Cafe, a recommendation of folks we'd met the day before. Both town and restaurant were totally charming without being tourist-kitschy and there's square dancing at the Dance Hall that we'll have to come back for.
The icy McCloud River couldn't feel better on a hot day.
Nor the post-swim shade of a blackberry thicket for Eleanor the dog.
Frankie and Eli tacked the middle falls of the McCloud onto their respective jumping resumes, a feat that was likely as sketchy as it looked (though the jump was from the height of the waterfall, not the top of the cliff, thank God).
Ended things with a cold beer and a small exploration of the Sacramento River running below our cabins (where Cave Springs' namesake lies). Four days gone so fast.
Maybe it's something in the water? They say the waters that flow out of Shasta have magical powers that I'm not apt to deny. Or maybe it's just hard not to feel good when surrounded by happy friends, warm sun and a place that evokes the charm of a less frenetic time. The only thing missing was a game of baseball and I have a feeling that's not too far out of question (perhaps on the field where Babe Ruth played an exhibition game in 1922?) As expressed by thethe Sultan of Swat himself: "We don't know yet how to tell you what a wonderful time we had in Dunsmuir. We have been treated royally in little towns and big cities, but when it comes to beautiful girls, wonderfully fine fellows and the real two-fisted spirit of California - little old Dunsmuir gave us more laughs, more hospitality, more thrills and more things to remember than any place between Broadway & Shasta. We didn't expect to visit Dunsmuir, but believe us, we will positively be back (in person)!" As will we, swimming in those cold, refreshing waters and listening to the melancholy wail of locomotives in the night.
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time... And just like that, summer is over. I know, I know, there's this whole Indian Summer thing, but I'm talking about the true summer of a Bradbury childhood when school ends and hasn't a chance of starting for months to come. A summer of blazing sunshine and not a raincloud in sight unless one of those exciting thunder-and-lightning kinds suddenly rolls out of a darkening horizon and pelts you with hot, fat drops. A summer that's pretty much non-existent in San Francisco, but can be found just a few hours in any direction. That was my summer and it's almost impossible to believe how fast it went. Is it because each year that we get older, time goes exponentially faster? Or is it because this summer was filled with more awesome adventures than ever before? Whatever the case, this summer flew by like no other. Its start was officially marked by a trip to Sugar Pine Reservoir in mid-June, with camping, rope-swinging, fireside grilling and a crazy-steep hike to a secret swim spot on the American River. An auspicious beginning to any season.
To hear the softly spoken magic spell...So much Floyd out of context, I know. But maybe it's one and the same, its just that instead of worrying about how little time we have and how much we have yet to do, the feeling that life is quickening should be the impetus towards focusing on what we really care about, what we find to be good and true and just honing in on those things while all the other shiny objects fade into the background. It's a nice practice to live by and one I hope to work on more and more each day. And so, places like Sugar Pine become annual favorites, new favorites are found and planning to return to places of happiness just makes the future even brighter. And you can be damn sure we're starting next summer as soon as the mountain temps hit 77 degrees. Though this particular trip was shorter than I'd like, it was the perfect way to start a season of sunshine and swimming and only left us with a tiny itch of poison oak to remind us of our good time.
And then there suddenly appeared before me? It’s a common misconception (but one that’s generally accepted) that a Blue Moon is the second full moon in a single month. But truly, this is not the case. In reality, a Blue Moon is the 3rd full moon in a season when that season has 4 full moons instead of the usual 3, seasons being specifically marked by equal 3 month intervals between solstices and equinoxes, rather than just calendar quarters. Scientifically speaking, an average lunar cycle is 29.53 days long and one solar year has approximately 365.25 days. If we divide 365.25 days by 29.53 days we come out with 12.37 lunations, which doesn’t quite fit with our tidy Gregorian Calendar of precisely 12 months in a year (the word “month” being derived from the word “moon” somewhere or other). Thus, each calendar year will be approximately 11 days longer than the number of days in 12 lunar cycles. While we throw in a Leap Year here and there, the extra days continue to accumulate and so, every two or three years (7 times in the 19-year-long Metonic Cycle), there will be an extra full moon falling within the 12 month calendar. Since the year is divided into four seasons, that extra moon will necessarily fall into one of them, creating a season of 4 moons rather than 3. “Now”, one might ask, “why is it the 3rd moon and not the last moon in that season considered to be the extra or “Blue” moon? And why the term Blue?” (I should add that if you’re not asking those questions, there’s not much point in reading the rest of this.) The answer to both begins with the early Christian church defining Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox (a mouthful, I know, and not even an original one if you take Passover into consideration). Therefore, it became incredibly important to correctly predict the equinox, especially when there was a full moon close to it, as an incorrect prediction would lead to an incorrect assignation of date and the damnation of entire villages if Lent was ended early (this was not a kind and generous God in those days). We now know that the spring equinox (the day when day and night are of equal length and the sun rises exactly in the East and sets exactly in the West) is going to occur on or around March 21st and a remarkable amount of our modern mathematics and astronomy was derived from this early quest to accurately predict that date. And so we get to the origins of the term “Blue Moon”: with the God referred to not being one to take Lenten vows lightly, clergymen needed to tell their flock which moon was the one signifying the coming of Easter and warn them in the case of a false full moon, which would have them accidentally ending Lent a month early---this false full moon was then named a “Belewe” (translating to “Betrayer”) Moon, and you can guess what happened from there. The particular Blue Moon picture above occurred on August 20th, 2013 and the next of its kind won’t come around til May 21st, 2016. Of definite note is the fact that the next time a Blue Moon falls on New Year’s Eve will be Dec. 31st, 2028, which will end one Metonic Cycle. It’ll also be a total lunar eclipse. Get ready.
(Mamiya 645, Portra film)
Like the moon and the stars and the sun? Spent the 4th of July at Cave Springs Resort in the town of Dunsmuir, where fireworks lit the sky (though luckily not the low hanging pines and electrical wires) and stars took over when those died out. A full travel log to come, but these came from the acquisition of a Mamiya 645 (on loan) and some Portra 160 and I'm smitten with both the camera and its subjects. That was a damn fine holiday.
Back in May we took a short trip to the desert to celebrate the marriage of two awesome friends and while there got to visit a site I've long been fascinated by: The Integratron in Landers, California. I first came across the Integratron in an amazing book The Visionary State, a book which (along with pretty much everything written by Mike Davis) inspired a great many adventures and the creation of The Landlubber (which of course has digressed a bit from its original intent, but I digress as well). If you're not familiar with the Integratron's reputation, you're in for a treat. What you're looking at is a 38-foot high, 55-foot wide, domed structure built entirely without metal, the only all-wood, acoustically perfect sound chamber in the United States. It's the creation of George Van Tassel, an aeronautical engineer and test pilot for Lockheed, Douglas and Hughes Aviation (where my maternal grandfather also worked) who designed it for rejuvenation and time travel, incorporating the writings of Nikola Tesla, Moses' Tabernacle and instructions from extraterrestrials with whom he had been in contact. All of this began in 1947 when Van Tassel moved his family to the Mojave desert near Landers, Ca. and set up residence next to the world's largest (7 stories high) free-standing boulder, aptly named Giant Rock. The Van Tassels leased 4 square miles from the U.S. government and opened up the Giant Rock airport and Come On Inn cafe. In the early 1950s Van Tassel began holding weekly meditation sessions in rooms underneath Giant Rock (excavated by a prospector named Frank Critzer who lived in the rooms until he blew himself up) which he claimed put him in touch with extraterrestrials. In August of 1953, Van Tassel was visited by a spacecraft from the planet Venus and invited onboard, where he was given the key to rejuvenating living cells. Thus began the building of the Integratron, which Van Tassel described as "a machine, a high voltage electrostatic generator that would supply a broad range of frequencies to recharge cell structure." According to Van Tassel's theory, the site chosen for the Integratron is an intersection of geomagnetic forces and the structure's unique shape allows those forces to amplify, focusing their rejuvenating and healing powers onto those inside. (While you may not believe in the healing aspect of said forces, a geophysicist measured a 15-mile radius around the Integratron back in 2005 and found that there is in fact an unexplainable spike of magnetic energy at the structure's center.) Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Van Tassel hosted widely attended Interplanetary Spacecraft Conventions, using the money to fund the Integratron project (which, interestingly, was built by shipwrights using 16 glued and laminated spines held together by one ton of concrete at its apex). Another interesting (but not terribly surprising) fact is that Howard Hughes was a significant financial supporter (Hughes being a bit of an eccentric himself, if I may say so). In 1978, Van Tassel suddenly passed away, leaving behind the epitaph "Birth through induction, death through short circuit" and that chapter of the Integratron closed. But it certainly didn't end things for good and after a rough couple decades, the Integratron found a solid foundation in the Karl Sisters who've opened it up for tours and "sound baths" that continue to utilize the space for alternative health and spiritual healing through neuroacoustics, while allowing those not looking quite as far as the stars to enjoy its architecture on the ground. In 2005, a historical monument was erected by the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, making it's existence official.
Magnetic Fields? The Integratron is about 2 hours from L.A. or 25 minutes from Joshua Tree and wll worth a day trip (or weekend adventure). Getting there is pretty straightforward from the L.A. area, take whichever freeway you like to the 10 east, then take that to Hwy 62 towards Twentynine Palms. Turn north onto Old Woman Springs Rd (Hwy 247) and after about 10 miles up, take a right onto Reche Rd then a left onto Belfield. Keep an eye out for a sign on the right and head through the gate when you see it, there's a parking area and the Integratron's behind a wooden fence you can walk through. If you want to actually go inside the structure, either for a tour or a sound bath, you should definitely call in advance and make a reservation as there's a steady stream of visitors all year round (and not just the interplanetary kind).
(Mamiya 645, Portra film)
Got invited to a wedding reception some time ago at the iconic "Launch For Hire" boathouse in Inverness, Ca. I'd always wondered what it was like in there and the answer is that it's as old and and awesome as one would hope, especially when filled with oysters and cheeses and handfuls of lovely people.
But I imagine it'd be just as neat without all that as well.
I think I could be perfectly happy living in a boathouse over the water. Padding around on sun-soaked wood in the afternoons then sleeping with the doors wide open to watch the moon shine at night. Winter might be a different story, but that's what wood-burning stoves are for, no?
To the boathouse? If you've ever driven through Inverness, you've probably wondered at this spot as well. Built around 1913 (the wharf a few years earlier in 1908), it stands as one of the only remaining boathouses along that side of Tomales Bay and was apparently quite a hub of activity in its day. In the early 20th century it was known simply as the Brock Schreiber boathouse after its owner (Brock Schreiber, of course) who kept two launches he used to carry passengers from the train stop in Millerton (north of Pt. Reyes Station across the bay) over to Inverness. Launches also took passengers to secluded beaches along Tomales' shore for picnicking and swimming and Schreiber kept a fleet of small sailboats for rent as well. In 1978 the boathouse was added to the National Register of Historic places and while there we got the story on who currently owns it, but of course I've since forgotten. I do know it can be rented out for events and I think they hold classes there from time to time, so ask around the next time you're up that way and maybe you'll be hiring your own launch soon enough.
Not so hard to guess why. It's a pretty damn magical place, perched on the bluffs overlooking the sea, with rustic cabins and woodstoves and tide pools. Wait for the tide to go out and you have a beach the size of a football field with pebbles to stack, driftwood to toss and tide pools to sift through. Play your cards (and tides) right and you might get water low enough to encounter some natural hot springs (and accompanying hippies). Even if it's not a minus tide you can find pockets of warmth along the shore and dig out little foot baths while bright orange and purple starfish cling to the rocks. Meanwhile, tadpoles push their way through the inland pond and Calla Lilies are currently blooming on the hills.
And where did all this magic come from? Historically speaking, it's kind of a fascinating story, mostly because it's ridiculously hard to find facts that all fit together (seriously, you'd think there'd be a succinct history somewhere, but no, it's like another Mullholland-land-shenanigan). From what I could gather, it all started when congressman and conservationist William Kent willed 200 acres of his Marin property (including Steep Ravine Canyon) to help create the Mount Tamalpais State Park upon his death in 1928. (For reference, Kent is the same gentleman who nearly 21 years earlier donated another large piece of property which became Muir Woods.) Prior to his death, the land had been privately owned by Kent and either the parcel at the base of Steep Ravine had special rights still left to the Kent family or they retained ownership of that bit, because in the mid-1940s (or late 1930's depending on the source) one of Kent's sons, William Kent Jr. built the cabins and started leasing them to local families. (It appears Kent, Jr. was a bit of a family outcast due to his parcelling up of various Kent estates.) One of these lessees was Dorothea Lange, who spent a great deal of time there communing with (and photographing) her family from the mid-1950's until her death in 1965. Somewhere in there the cabins must've become State Park property because in the 70's a San Francisco newspaper ran a scandal story about how friends with friends in higher places were getting first dibs on staying at the cabins. The California State Parks Department decided to avert the crisis by simply tearing the cabins down and returning the area to it's natural state---lucky for us there was a public outcry and the cabins remained. Of course while everyone was deciding what to do with them, the structures fell into various states of disrepair and by the time it was deemed they should be restored and made fully public 3 (or 4, again depending on the source) were so far gone they had to be demolished. Finally, on April 1, 1984, 10 of the original cabins (each with a new roof, woodstove, table and sleeping platform) were included in the state environmental campground system (for a whopping $12 a night). These days, reserving the cabins is no small feat, but if you're flexible you'll almost always find something. And sometimes you can catch the moon and tides just right and really dig your toes in.
I've just returned from a magical place. A place where vines tangle around telephone poles, housepaint fades from indigo to aquamarine and the sound of waves never ceases. Or maybe I've just been reading too much Garcia Marquez. In either case, I give you small a glimpse of the incredibly good time that was, and is, Isla Bastimentos, Panama.
From a big plane to a small plane to a water taxi to an island with only a concrete walkway from one end to the other and a host of muddy paths to everywhere else.
While the island is about 20 square miles, the town of Bastimentos takes up only a tiny fraction at the western tip and the rest makes up part of the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park.
I am smitten by the Balboas, which replaced the Columbian peso as currency when Panama became independent in 1904 (with a little help from the U.S. who desired the building of a small canal).
To the right of the house we were staying at lay this concrete shell, abandoned at some point in the past and now sprouting 4-foot palm trees in roofless rooms where coconuts had fallen and taken root.
View from our deck of the fisherwomen and their handlines, mastering the art of throwing a rock tied to a fishing line with two cockle-baited hooks and a chunk of wood for a handle. Feel a bite and you pull that line up as fast as you can.
Success (with the help of a boat and a couple other fishermen) and the makings of a damn fine dinner.
Warm nights and jetlag always make for interesting antics.
Morning walks through the jungle.
Giant fire ants and incredible flora.
Especially as the path winds higher in elevation, in this case culminating with a visit to Up in the Hill, an incredible little hideout with coffee, the best egg salad sandwich ever (no joke, I'm now a lover of Katuk leaves) and an assortment of coconut oils they press themselves.
They also rent out a beautiful little cabin remniscent of a ship's quarters.
With this for a view.
Back down by the sea and through the cemetery.
The occasional lazing afternoon of arts and crafts.
And guitar playing. And book reading. And all that good stuff.
Found ourselves a real dead pufferfish floating in the sea and lured him to shore, whereupon we named him Spike and gave him a true Central American burial.
For some reason this kid kept waking up looking like a slot machine. Which, oddly, wasn't too far off as we found the island's "casino" one night and lost a cumulative $3.
A wise man once said "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains."
And sometimes you you contemplate your good fortune with rum and pineapple on the deck of the Caribbean View Hotel while winning a few hands of Cruddy Slippa' (hint: it's a card game).
Made a new friend with a boat and went out for a few hours of fishing.
And swimming. The water must've been warmer than the air here in the city.
Satya dropped anchor, Vera dropped a line and immediately this guy was hooked. A breakdown in communication left Heidi and I staring blindly as she tried to pull the hook out of it's manically flipping body until I attempted to brain it with a flip-flop. Which of course didn't work, but probably stunned it into an indignant stupor.
I want to go everywhere by boat.
Another day trip to the other side of the island.
Red Frog Beach, a place of white sand and ridiculously clear water (and riptides).
Harvesting the local bounty.
Back on the dock in time for some dusky fishing.
Into the night with more rum, dinner at Roots, boat rides under the stars and some very drunk Nebraskans at Aqua Lounge in Bocas. The latter was everything you'd imagine with a spring break on spring break vibe and plenty of terrible jams, but somehow all of that seems more amusing than offensive when the air is 72 degrees at 10pm. Still, I'd take the The Point on our side over Aqua any day, with its basketball-court-by-day-and-ridiculously-big-sound-system-and-even-bigger-ladies-setup-by-night. I love it when you realize the lady giving you a $1 rum and coke is the same lady who helped you play the leprechaun game at the casino two nights ago and you're right smack in the middle of a small town good time.
Spent our last day on an expedition further afield, snorkeling at Coral Cay, where we found Pina Coladas to be excellent fish bait.
Matt, our fearless leader for the day (far left), moments before he sped us through the mangroves in his boat and barely dodged a manta ray leaping out of the water and trying to land in his lap. No joke.
Walked back along Red Frog so Relish could hit his favorite jumping log one more time, then hiked through the jungle back to our side of the island.
Our gang. Best last day ever.
So long, Panama. As that other wise man said "In Dreams, in dreams, in dreams".
Fantasy Island? It may not be for everyone, but it's near to heaven in my heart (and I think I'm not alone in that sentiment). It was 6 years ago that I first went to Panama and there's no way I'm waiting that long to return. In fact if those ladies never come home I may be there sooner than you think. Til then there's a coconut ring on my finger to remind me and a new year to look forward to.
We did it. Again. Not only did we win the pennant and make it to the Series, we won it all in a sweep over the Tigers. Pretty damn good if you ask me. (And if you needed to ask me, you'd have found me glued to the same spot , drinking the same damn thing, every single game. That's superstition for you.)
And then we got a little crazy.
And then the sky rained black and orange and Halloween came just in time.
What, me worry? Never the overconfident here, but something this year felt different. Perhaps it was simply the unbelievability of our making it again so soon. Whereas 2010 had so much at stake, 2012 was just that added amazement that makes life so unpredictably fantastic. It kind of felt like just getting to the Series again was an incredible accomplishment and we'd be happy whatever the outcome, so much so that there was a sense of relaxed glee watching what came next and even the post-win chaos didn't have quite the same aggression as the first time around. Of course I'm neglecting all the games of silent nail-biting and tears leading up to all that, so maybe I'm just full of sentiment. Either way, we burned it down, cleaned it up and played a damn fine game.
You are a stranger here but once... ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Welcome to North Bend, Wa.
And on to George. Washington, that is.
Rural Quincy to follow. 4th of July fireworks and warm summer air.
Greetings from Twin Peaks? If you know me, you know this should have happened nearly 20 years ago. My mother hardly ever let me watch television growing up, but she must've sensed something in Lynch's masterpiece (or at least had a wicked sense of cinema, which in fact she does) because after a similarly bizarre beginning---watching them place Laura Palmer's body in the ground the summer before my first year of middle school, bundled in blankets with my great aunt Betsy while on a trip to our homestead in New Holstein, Wisconsin---she kindly brought the portable 8-inch TV out of the closet every week so that I could follow Agent Cooper et al. in their quest for Laura's killer and beyond. She even indulged my newfound penchant for plaid skirts, sweater sets and moody jazz. Sound familiar? It's strange then, to remind oneself that a place that seemed so real is actually just barely there in reality---there's no checked tile in the "RR" diner nor is that even its name, there's construction at Snoqualmie Falls and the Great Northern plainly isn't. But it's still a thrill, hunting down that which doesn't really exist, I mean why else would we do it? So keep doing it. And if you do, there's an amazing place in North Bend, Wa. called the Log Cabin Bed and Breakfast where you can stay in a teepee for the night, build a fire inside and cook breakfast by a river. From there, Snoqaulmie Falls is just up the road a ways and continues falling, falling, falling. Don't forget to stop by Twede's for pie, while the interior may rate nothing special the pie is still damn fine. Our trip continued east from Lynch-land through George, Washington and on to Quincy, home to industrial agriculture and a wonderful hill that overlooked the town and its celebratory explosions of light for miles around. Who knows what yours will bring.
Back in May we took the adventure that started it all this summer: 3 days and 2 nights on the Colorado River, hot springs and camping and the birth of the Tough Canyon Crew. It was one of those trips that happens only once or twice in your life---friendships cemented, people falling in love, endless laughter and an amazing sense of camaraderie that only really occurs when you're isolated from the rest of the world. And when it ends there's this empty, bus-home-from-summer-camp feeling where you know life will go on and you'll see those people again and you'll still have laughter and more adventures to come, but somehow that one just hit the spot unlike anything else. And then you're home and nothing is quite the same again and you wish with all your might that it wasn't just a memory, but a feeling you could hold onto, a life you could keep living. Maybe someday I'll write about it, tell the stories and share the jokes, but right now it still kind of aches even to think about. It was just that good. If I could go back and put my boat in under the bridge another time, start that adventure again and keep returning to the beginning to do it all over time after time, I think I'd be in heaven. And maybe I'm not the only one.
A River Runs Through It? Ask me and I'll tell you all about it. Just not tonight.
A few weeks after Sugar Pine, summer fever continued with an impromptu trip to the Yuba River---or more accurately it continued with someone else's trip to the Yuba that I managed to weasel my way into, thus it was impromptu for me. And how lucky I was, as not only was the weather amazing and the swimming spot fantastic, but you know that moment at the end of an epic day when everyone gets a little hangdog and says "Man, I wish we didn't have to go back to work tomorrow"? But you all climb into the car and head for home because being the responsible adults that you are, you do have to go to work tomorrow? Well, what if you just said to hell with work and went to Nevada City instead and got a giant room at The National Hotel and ran into your old roommate at Cirino's and didn't make it to that rock show across the street because you were sitting on your veranda in shirtsleeves til 2 a.m. watching people spill out of The Mine Shaft (where you'd already dropped back a few earlier in the evening) and woke up the next day and went right back to that river again? Well then, you would know what this trip was like.
Like every good trip, there were teacups involved. This time it's a little homemade Ponderosa Limoncello, a birthday gift courtesy of that Tucker kid.
Speaking of kids, this one wasn't too bummed about the swimming conditions.
Krista managed to lose her straps, yet keep her top on through sheer willpower (her willpower that is, I was voting for a different outcome).
Josh never stopped moving long enough for me to get a decent photo. It being his birthday, I don't blame him, I mean who wants to sit still for pictures when you could be perfecting your Smurf Dive or yodeling at wildlife? I don't know what I'll be doing for my own birthday next year, but if I can reciprocate this dude will definitely be invited.
Speaking of dives, here we have Nate Murray demonstrating the art of The Flying Squirrel.
Happy days are ours.
Start with a teacup and end with a teacup. Or three, depending on how much tequila you imbibed the night before. Either way, it's nothing a little river time can't fix. But really, is there anything a little river time can't fix?
Birds fly high, you know how I feel? Call in sick, run away, forget all the things you were going to do and go jump in a river. I promise it'll change everything. Hop on I-80 and when you hit Hwy 49, head north towards Nevada City. Find North Bloomfield Road and wind your way down to the bottom of the canyon. When you hit the old wooden bridge, stop. That's all I'm allowed to say lest I get reprimanded for blowing up everyone's favorite spot, but there will probably be a handful of cars parked by the side of the road so you'll know you're in the right area. Of course, you'll have to come back sometime, but why not cross that antiquated trestle bridge when you come to it?
Last month we returned to one of my favorite camp spots, Sugar Pine Reservoir. Tucked up in the mountains near Foresthill it's got everything a summer heart could desire: warm piney air, water to swim in and a thousand stars to try and peek behind. It's also a great place to stage a 3-day tin can massacre if you happen to have an arsenal of Red Ryders...
(This summer brought to you by the advice of Will Rogers.)
Said advice is also being helped along by a golden jambox emitting the perfect sounds for fleeing the city with the windows down, drinking micheladas around a campfire and pontificating suicide vs. Suicide (and it's impact on Springsteen's Nebraska). In accordance with Camp Rules, there was most definitely no fucking (comma) complaining.
There was, however, a great deal of this throughout the weekend.
And a not insubstantial amount of this as well.
Sugar Pine even has a little island you can swim out to. It's like heaven for the simple pleasures.
One of those pleasures being a campsite remote enough that you can have 3 Red Ryders, a handgun and pump action rifle all throwing BBs at the same time.
By the second night our set up was amazing. Shatterblast disks, tin can pyramids, water bottles in the trees and a camp skillet way off on a branch. There is no sound quite so rewarding as the glorious metallic "ping" of a BB hitting its target.
BB guns may have consumed most of our energy, but no good trip is complete without a bit of knife or hatchet action.
Lest we should forget, there was also a crazy huge fire raging in the area. Every time the wind would shift, a haze of smoke would cross the sky and give everything an unreal amber sort of filter. Coupled with the incredible lack of people for a summer weekend (much of the area having been evacuated) and the occasional chopper grabbing water from the reservoir, it was a bit like our own personal Apocalypse Now. Not to mention that we arrived on Friday the 13th and probably only staved off a full scale Zombie Apocalypse Now through our continuous shooting and a healthy dose of chair flinging.
We also consistently killed it at dinner making. Somewhere in there I bet Alanna's got the pictures to prove it. She's also got photos showing that there were in fact women on this trip, something I managed not to document. Go figure.
Then all of a sudden it's time to pack it all up and head for the city. The trip home is never without a tinge of sadness but a sandwich at Worton's in Foresthill helps ease the suffering.
Their parking lot also claims one of the best views in Northern California, hands down.
Even when viewed through a lens of wildfire smoke.
There's also a secret spot I keep tucked away for just those times when the traffic starts to grind and you wish all that golden daylight wasn't being wasted on a return to civilization.
A few more beers, another hour of bare feet on grass and crickets singing in the air.
Just don't let your heart burst while the sun goes down and the warm breeze plays over your face and you can't help but think if things ended right then and there, it'd be kind of perfect. Or maybe you just have on keep on running til you catch that feeling one more time.
Gotta get out while we're young? Its been a summer of yearning for perpetual adventure and this gem only made it worse, in the best way possible. One of these days we'll get back up there but in the meantime, you should go see for yourself what I'm always rambling about. It's a 3 hour drive to Giant Gap campground but with good company and ample tunes the pavement flies right on by and if the going gets really rough you can take a detour off to Plainfield Station. All I'll say about that particular roadhouse is that it's on County Road 98 in Woodland and if you make the effort to find it, you deserve every magical moment you spend there.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Jesse Pollock
Running on empty? Sometimes instead of dodging bullets it's best to get out of Dodge altogether. See you in a few weeks...