Fifteen Minutes

IMG_7219Perhaps it was because we didn’t have the opportunity to go snowshoeing last year because of the drought, or even much the year before, but to celebrate New Year’s Day we had planned to go. Without checking to see just how low the temperatures where we were headed would be, we excitedly dusted off and packed up our snowshoeing gear, layered ourselves up and headed to Hope Valley for a day in the snow. Well, we knew it would be cold. We just didn’t know how cold.IMG_7215As we approached Tahoe, the temperature gage in the car was reading fifteen degrees. We acknowledged the temperature dropping to each other as we were driving on Luther Pass to Hope Valley in Alpine county. Thirteen degrees. Twelve degrees. “Um… are we gonna be alright?” Now nine degrees. Pulling in the parking lot, eight degrees. Uh huh…eight. We sat in the car watching ice crystals whipping around, blown by the wind. “What are we doing?” “Are we out of our minds?” “We’re here. Let’s try it, even for a short time.” Out of the car, we put on our boots, hooked on our snowshoes, added more layering, and grabbed our poles. Hands were already numb. “Okay, we’re doing this, but only for fifteen minutes!”IMG_7184IMG_7185IMG_7190IMG_7216Our faces were stung by the freezing winds, noses were running from the cold, my hands were numb (I was the one taking pictures), but it was exhilarating and worth the drive! We’ll be back when it’s not quite as cold!

On to the cafe at Sorensen’s Resort, we warmed ourselves with hot drinks and vegetable beef soup, and then braved the cold once again just to trudge through the grounds ever so quickly, before getting back to the car and blasting the heater to head home.IMG_7212IMG_7220IMG_7217IMG_7238So much winter beauty to behold!

Empire Mine State Park

“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.”  ~Author UnknownIMG_6719If these old trees could talk they’d have many a tale to whisper about. They’d tell stories of life in the mid 1800s, and mining in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Grass Valley during the gold rush and the years following.

Empire Mine is one of the oldest, largest and most prosperous gold mines in North American history. Mining started here in 1850 and continued until 1956. On the grounds are the various mines, machine shop, refinery room, warehouses, offices and blacksmith shop. A distance away from all the mining structures sits the stately English manor cottage that the Bourne family lived in during the summer months (their main residence was a mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights) and the formal gardens. A clubhouse for entertaining and for housing visiting guests is also nearby, as is the gardener’s house and greenhouse. All of this sits on 856 acres of beautifully forested foothills. Woodland hiking trails wind through much of the property.IMG_6734Last Friday, on a beautiful autumn day we visited the park for their Christmas event. We enjoyed the old fashioned decorations, live music, and festive atmosphere as we toured the cottage and wandered the lovely grounds and trails. Costumed docents greeted us and shared park history, and Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand for the little ones.IMG_6741IMG_6726IMG_6730Special arrangements were made to have the cottage (which is currently closed while roof repairs are being made) open for tours on this weekend. Yes indeed, they call this a cottage!IMG_6727Inside the cottage is quite dark, but have a look at the lovely old fashioned holiday decorations and the gorgeous windows in each room! Just charming!IMG_6723IMG_6721IMG_6720It was in 1975 that the state of California purchased the property and it became the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Check the website for tours, hours, and a wealth of information about the history of this impressive park.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

“To the free mountaineer all the woods are accessible alike from the firs that girdle Shasta to the giant forests of the Tule; but the…timebound must follow ways and means, and I know of none better than those of Calaveras… a flowery glade in the very heart of the woods, forming a fine center for the student, and a delicious resting place for the weary.”

~John Muir

Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4 stands the grandeur of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This is the place where in the early 1850s the world first came to know about the Giant Sequoias, the largest trees on earth and native only to the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.IMG_6556There are many trails to hike within the park, but on this beautiful but chilly day in mid November, we took the North Grove Trail, only about 1.5 miles long. We found the trail was covered with a blanket of snow and was even iced over in some locations.IMG_6489The largest trees here could be anywhere from 800 to 3,000 years old and can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet. It truly is amazing to think of all that these trees have experienced in their years!IMG_6482IMG_6522 In addition to the Giant Sequoias in the park, Sugar Pine, White Fir, Incense Cedar and Ponderosa Pines exist alongside each other in the splendor of this mixed conifer forest.IMG_6517IMG_6477IMG_6479

Inspired by REI’s decision to close on Black Friday, Save the Redwoods League is sponsoring free admission to 49 participating California redwood state parks on November 27th. They invite everyone to experience the joy, renewal and inspiration found among the natural wonders of the ancient giant redwoods. To find out which state parks are participating and to download a free pass, check out the website above.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and happy hiking on Friday.

 

Saturday Morning Birding

I consider myself a novice bird watcher, having long enjoyed watching birds in our yard and identifying them using a field guide. When I’m not able to identify a species on my own, I contact my brother, Jim and send him a photo text. Nine times out of ten, he knows what the mystery bird is immediately. I love watching the antics of our Hummingbirds, Robins, Towhees, Juncos, Bluejays, Finches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and others. On our property is an old snag that my husband would like to take down for aesthetic reasons, but I rally to keep it because of all the wonderful bird action happening in and around  it.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a birding class through Cameron Park Community Service District. Our knowledgeable instructor was Joseph Munizich, who has been a bird watcher for 40 years. The instructor and all of us participating met and chatted about identifying birds through listening, watching, and observing flight and colors. Then, armed with our field guides and binoculars, we set out on our walk around the lake, noticing all of the Mallards, American Coots, Drakes, Canadian Geese, and White Geese along the way. IMG_6411My ADD kicked in and an intricate spider web caught my eye on this bridge.IMG_6400And this nest in the tree. The instructor thought perhaps it was a Crow’s nest.IMG_6403 I am the first to admit that my trusty iPhone 6 camera is not ideal for bird watching photos, but it’s all I had. It’s hard to tell that there is a snowy egret in the next photo. I wish the photo showed its small gold feet!IMG_6409This was a sweet bird condo we admired in a backyard along the way. IMG_6410Right about here, we identified a Killdeer, a Black Phoebe, Crows, California Towhees, Pie billed Grebe, and both Ladder back and Acorn Woodpeckers.
IMG_6413Shown here are two white swans. And not pictured, were a Brewer’s Blackbird, a Nuthatch, a Northern Flicker, Red shouldered Hawks, Red tailed Hawks, a Turkey Vulture, White crown Sparrows, and European Starlings all in this vicinity.IMG_6419It’s hard to see that on this floating log are two turtles sunning themselves!
IMG_6414More birds for our viewing pleasure included Western Bluebirds, Red winged Blackbirds, a Belted Kingfisher, Western Finch, Lesser Finch and both male and female Anna’s Hummingbirds. Now I can differentiate between the males and females on my feeders at home.

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I greatly enjoyed this experience and can honestly share that I’ve caught the birding bug. Come say hello if you see me out with my binoculars along the local nature trails, parks and preserves!

Secret Cove

On a cool November morning, just hours before a storm, we discovered Secret Cove. It’s a secluded off-the-beaten-path stretch of beach several miles south of Incline Village, in Nevada. Steep trails took us down to a well marked winding path which then led us to views that took our breath away.IMG_6281IMG_6323IMG_6322Under dark, dramatic skies, the pristine beach felt peaceful and had a sacred quality to it.IMG_6288IMG_6294IMG_6292IMG_6296Aside from one other hiker high above us on a trail, we had the entire beach to ourselves.IMG_6299Just Hubby, our dog, Gemma and me. Exploring. Soaking up the sights.
IMG_6298IMG_6300IMG_6319IMG_6316IMG_6320And marveling all the while at the sheer resplendence of Mother Nature.

Good Morning

Morning walk.

Cool air.

Fresh new day.

Meditative.

Through neighborhood, woods, trail, downtown, mountains, or beach.

Often, with a stroller. More often, with a dog on a leash.
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IMG_5777On this particular day, with my beloved.IMG_5786Gentle rhythm of the waves.

Soft sand between my toes.

A heart rock.IMG_5843A tiny treasure.IMG_5784And then another.IMG_5785Souvenirs.

Centered. Grounded. Ready for the day ahead.

Nourishment for the soul.

Day Hike at Echo Lake

Ten miles south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies one of our favorite destinations for local hiking and snowshoeing. This jewel is Echo LakeIMG_5191IMG_5198Just look at this view of every shade of green. Isn’t it breathtaking?IMG_5206Nestled in between granite peaks and towering trees, this glacial lake in the Desolation Wilderness sits at an elevation of 7414 feet.
IMG_5220Surrounded by nature’s infinite beauty, we easily found tranquility from a stressful world, hiking the 2.5 mile trail that runs parallel to Echo Lake and then back again.
IMG_5218IMG_5214And if things couldn’t get any better, we came upon this surprise!IMG_5230Then this!IMG_5223So many gifts in front of us.IMG_5226 I put this little heart treasure in my pocket to take home with me! A lovely souvenir of this wonderful September day.

Scenes From a Day in Tahoe

Sometimes it’s best to set aside the to-do lists and the usual busyness, just let it all go, and head out for an adventure. Yesterday we loaded up the dog and a picnic lunch into the car to do just that and drove up to breathtakingly beautiful Tahoe.

Greeting us upon our arrival were cool refreshing temperatures, and spectacular scenery everywhere we looked. Majestic mountains, the truest blue skies, and towering pines surrounded us. We played with our sweet Gemma in the lake, took walks on the beach and on trails, drove to some of our favorite spots, but mostly just relaxed and soaked up all of this beauty Mother Nature gifted us with. Well, it was just the tonic we needed and we’re now planning our next visit back.
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