Now that 2011 is tucked safely away behind us, its time to remember that it wasn't all so terrible. In fact, in the spirit of magnanimity one might find there were even quite wonderful times during that otherwise piss-poor year. One of these was definitely a trip up to the Middletown area, where we spent Thanksgiving and the following weekend feasting, drinking and hamming it up board-game-wise in a cabin in Anderson Springs. Oh, and there was a bit of naked new age Harbin action as well...
Took the scenic route up from the city, through Napa and along the Silverado Trail. Picked up a copy of R.L. Stevenson's book "The Silverado Squatters" and marveled at what it must've been like to follow that same trail over 100 years ago, only by train and horse-drawn carriage.
Back in the late 1800's Anderson Springs was established as resort community surrounding the nearby hot springs. A beautiful hotel and bathhouse were built by Dr. Aleck Anderson (hence the name) and his brother-in-law, along with a steam bath and access to 9 different mineral pools. The resort was maintained up into the 1900's by Anderson's daughters before eventually being sold and parcelled out to individual cabin owners. A dammed up pool area still remains for summer fun alongside a grassy area for barbecues and some weather-beaten fooseball. In the off-season the place had a somewhat eerie stillness to it---or perhaps that was due to it's much touted role as host to vortexes and all sorts of other interesting phenomena...
Before falling into our own black holes, Tucker manned the grill and made us a Thanksgiving feast of loaves and fishes.
Our home away from home, Uncle Lou's.
Took off exploring, trying to find some abandoned mercury mines.
Didn't find our ore, but Franklin made some friends with the local amphibians.
We also overturned a rock and found an insanely magical crystal, probably the biggest geyode I've ever seen. Left it where it was and hoped for some seriously good karma (ie. the rednecks peeling out down in the valley weren't also breaking into my car?)
Such lovely greenery.
Stumbled upon this weird Wicker Man/Lord of the Flies hybrid. Didn't stick around long enough to find out which age group it represented.
Pulled an evening run to Harbin Hot Springs. If you've heard things about it...the answer is yes. Plenty of nakedness, plenty of weird sex vibes, but you know what? Still totally awesome. Maybe it was the fact that we rolled in 5 deep, but I can't honestly complain. Hot water soaking, silent pools (and not-so-silent pools) and a whole lot to talk about on the ride home.
And then before we could launch into another game of charades-style "Who am I this time?" James and Valerie found a scorpion under their bed.
Luckily it wasn't so lively. It now resides in a nice bed of tequila.
At some point the power went out for almost 24 hours and the grill did double duty as a breakfast station.
Walked around the Middletown cemetery one afternoon. Dates like this always makes me wonder.
Everywhere the advent of fall and its loveliness.
Continued on to Anderson Marsh State Park. Another park slated to close this year, so mind-boggling.
Walked along the marsh and picnicked on pickled peppers and peanut butter (best snack ever), then headed back down the trail to White Rock Vineyards where Julia showed us the caves and fixed us up with a lovely drunken lunch before setting us out picking late harvest fruit. All in all, a damn pleasant four days shacking up.
Silverado trail-ers? There's a slow way to get anywhere and while most eschew this factor in order to "get where we're going", sometimes the to and fro is half the fun. This was definitely one of those trips and the times spent in the car cruising along winding valley roads, stopping to purchase beef jerky, whiskey and sour-cream-and-onion flavored crickets were some of the best. As were the bizarro post-Harbin night drives with 6 people steaming up the Wagon beyond all recognition. Should you choose to follow our meandering rout, bypass all freeways if you can help it and take the 101 north to Hwy 37 east and turn north onto Lakeville rd (remember Papa's and the Tin Bar?). Stop for a libation at either or curse them for never being open during normal hours. Head northeast on the 116/12/121 path til you get close to Napa then do some fancy jogging along Old Sonoma rd into town and grab a coffee at Oxbow before hitting the Silverado Trail. That'll get you all the way to Calistoga and the 29 north, which will deposit you in Middletown---an ample starting point for any adventure.