Saturday, October 29, 2016

Beer, Ranch Packing Facility, Sand Hill Cranes!

So, as the title suggests, we've had a bit of variety lately! Moving on from Ukiah we arrived at Calistoga RV Park with lots of rain in the forecast. We basically holed up in the RV for two days with a couple of brief walks in light rain through the lovely little wine town of Calistoga.

We took advantage of our one dry day to meet up with fellow RV friends, Rusty and Tony, who live down in the Bay area. On the way we stopped for a hike at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa. Lots of folks were out enjoying this beautiful morning, happy to be outside after all the recent rain.

Spring Lake, Santa Rosa, CA

Refreshed and ready to party we continued on to Petaluma for our meet up with Rusty and Tony. We met these two happy souls during our first year of travel, their first year of part time RVing as well. This time we enjoyed lunch at Pub Republic and a tour of Lagunitas Brewing.

We've long been fans of Lagunitas' Little Sumpin' Ale and had the pleasure of trying their limited release Born Yesterday Fresh Hop Ale during our recent stay in Ukiah. The tour was super casual with tasters served first at the bar while employees tell the company story, followed by a short stroll around the grounds.

Hans, Rusty and Tony enjoy Lagunitas samples.

Lagunitas had the largest barrels I've ever seen!

With more rain on the way we cut out of Calistoga a day early because our site was getting pretty messy. For our next stop we returned to Lodi, CA and Flag City RV Park, one of the stops we had made back in June with my dad as we headed North.

This time we made a special visit to one of Hans' boyhood homes. Well the house no longer exists but the people from his past life do! From about age four to eight Hans' family lived in an old farmhouse in Linden, CA. The rancher who owned the land grew almonds, walnuts, and cherries and Hans often got to spend the day riding around with him while he attended to ranch business.

Today Lawrence Sambado's companies, A. Sambado & Son, Prima Frutta Packing, and Primavera Marketing, grow, pack and distribute walnuts, apples and cherries all over the world. Lawrence took us on a grand tour of his state-of-the-art packing facilities and we enjoyed a delicious lunch with the family.

Sambado's decades of experience in the field have led to the creation of innovative processing technology and it was fascinating to see the inner workings of this complex business. Thank you Lawrence and Beverly, Tim and Richard for your hospitality and generosity...we'll be thinking of you as we enjoy the apples and walnuts!!!

Lawrence and Hans and a whole lot of granny smith apples!

Clean apples are dried and sorted.

Lawrence describes how the walnut shell bits are separated from the walnut meat.

A portion of the walnut processing system.

Walnut sorting is labor intensive! 

Woodbridge Ecological Reserve (AKA Isenberg Crane Reserve) is just five miles from Flag City RV Park so of course we had to visit it. Sandhill cranes spend the fall and winter in the Delta and Central Valley and every evening thousands of them fly in to the area surrounding the Reserve.

Lovely evening light colors the clouds above Woodbridge Nature Reserve.

These last couple of weeks have been the wettest we've experienced since we went on the road in 2012 and we've discovered a slide leak (wet carpet in a small closet in a slide), and water may have gotten into our satellite dish rendering it inoperable. It's time to make tracks to the desert so we can dry out!

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Few Days in Ukiah, CA

It was a curvy 130 mile drive from Fortuna, CA to Ukiah, CA...sorry Rosie...poor cat has a hard time with winding roads. We spent four nights at the Redwood Empire Fair RV Park, a no frills park with gravel roads and sites and a fair amount of road noise, no real redeeming factors, just a convenient place to stay when in Ukiah.

The RV park is on the fairgrounds and happened to have stock car races during our stay so rather than just endure the noise we went to the races on Saturday night. We also enjoyed a couple of dinners with an old friend from San Diego, Titi and her mother Amanda, who happen to live nearby.

We've had a dramatic change of scenery now that we've moved south of the redwoods. Ukiah sits at the north end of the Northern California wine growing region and any land that isn't covered in grapes is now rolling hills of golden grasses dotted with giant old oaks and madrone forests.

Mendocino Lake sits just north of Ukiah and has disc golf courses at both ends of the lake as well as several miles of hiking trails. We played the South Mendocino Lake disc golf course and found it to be a very challenging course. Lots of steep hills and a few drop offs where it was easy to lose a disc...and the trees! There were a LOT of trees!

Lots and lots of trees on this disc golf course!

Nice views from this hillside basket.
After disc golf we took a nice four mile hike along Mendocino Lake. The Shakota Trail wanders up and down along the contours of the lake through mixed forest with occasional views of the lake.

Great views of Mendocino Lake from the Shakota Trail.

Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve lies about 15 steep, curvy miles west of Ukiah...thank goodness we did not bring Rosie on this drive! In fact, you would not want to drive any kind of RV on this road.

The Reserve protects five groves of redwoods that have never been logged and is far from any major roads or development so is a very peaceful setting. It is just down the road from Orr Hot Springs Resort so it is pretty popular despite it's distance from any towns. There are only a couple of miles of trails but we were able to extend our walk further into the canyon for a total of about four miles.

It is so hard to photograph these magnificent trees,
but I think the base of this one gives a pretty good idea of the grand scale of this giant!

We happened upon a group of about half a dozen rough-skinned newts!

Don't touch! The orange underbelly is a warning of the toxin they secrete.

Gorgeous views from the road to Montgomery Woods.

On our last day we hiked a few miles in nearby Low Gap Park, where we saw a large flock of turkeys sauntering up the mountainside.

Turkey on the trail in Low Gap Park.

With more rain in our future, today we've moved on down to Calistoga for a few nights...another curvy drive that was hard on our girl. Rosie will be really happy when we finally get out of Northern California...

Friday, October 21, 2016

Avoiding the Bulk of the Rain in Fortuna, CA

We beat a hasty retreat out of Brookings, OR just ahead of several days and several inches of rain, bypassing some stops we'd been considering in the redwoods. Riverwalk RV Park in Fortuna, CA was nothing special, but it had paved roads and sites and was in an area where we'd be able to get decent internet if we were stuck inside for several days.

We ended up with a couple of inches of rain off and on over four days...much less rain (and wind) than we'd have experienced in Brookings or other points north of Fortuna. Once free of rain we did some exploring...

The "Victorian Village of Ferndale, CA" sits just five miles west of Fortuna and is a fun place to stroll and admire some wonderfully preserved old buildings. In the late 1800's Ferndale was an agricultural and transportation hub, today it is a sweet tourist destination and an historic landmark.

The Old Steeple/Music Store in Ferndale is owned by Paul and Sherry, friends of Hans.
We'll return later in the week for a concert in this wonderful old venue.
Let's take a stroll down main street Ferndale...

The cemetery on the edge of town was as interesting as the buildings.

We found the hiking around Fortuna to be pretty mild, but interesting enough to get us outside. Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge lies a few miles north of Fortuna and is an Important Bird Area, though the prime birding season is November through May. There are several Refuge units located around this huge bay and we visited two: Hookton Slough and Salmon Creek.

Lovely fall foliage covered Hookton Slough.

We watched several large flocks of Marbled Godwits fly past...the sound of hundreds of birds wings was mesmerizing!

Egret in Salmon Creek.

A fresh water pond at Salmon Creek Unit.

Many flocks of a hundred or more Canada Geese flew overhead during our three mile walk at Salmon Creek Unit.

Headwaters Forest Reserve, located just south of Eureka, CA, protects the headwaters of the Elk River and an intact, old-growth redwood forest. We hiked the first three miles of the 5.5 mile Elk River Trail.

The first mile is paved and signs along the way describe the turn of the century mining town. Falk, that used to thrive here. Beyond the pavement the gravel trail continues through lush second growth redwood forest along the babbling Elk River, which was more of a stream in mid October. Had we continued to the end of the trail we would have seen the old-growth forest the Reserve is protecting.

Morning dew enhances a spiderweb in deep, dark, damp redwood forest.

A large leaf maple is fully engulfed in moss along the Elk River.

Banana slugs.

Hans played pickleball several times at Fortuna's Rohner Park, meeting some lovely folks who invited us to dinner...thanks Karen and Joe for your wonderful hospitality! Rohner Park also has a couple of miles of trails that we walked one afternoon.

An old-growth redwood stump towers over Hans in Rohner Park.

Karen and Joe gifted us some beautiful leeks and shallots from their garden.

We stayed an extra night in order to see Sierra Hull in concert at the Old Steeple in Ferndale. Thanks to Paul for introducing us to his lovely venue...a magical, intimate setting for live music!

Stained glass windows in the Old Steeple, Ferndale, CA.

On Thursday we continued our slow meander towards San Diego, with a curvy drive (that was hard on Rosie) through redwood country. Lets see what kind of fun we can find in Ukiah, CA...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Enjoying Our Last Few Days in Brookings, OR

As I mentioned in my last post we were fortunate to have excellent weather during our week in Brookings, OR. Excellent to us being temps in the low to mid 60's and sunny most afternoons. Knowing that several days of wet and windy were on the way we got outside as much as possible.

One day we took a short drive into California and the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We'd hiked a couple of short trails at the north end of this park in October 2013 and ever since I'd had my eye on the Boy Scout Tree trail, known for being a showcase of redwood scenery.

This 5.6 mile out and back trail is accessed from Howland Hill Rd, an amazing drive in itself as the road wound us intimately through the forest with enormous redwoods almost close enough to touch on both sides.

Even if you don't hike the drive on Howland Hill Rd is worth the trip!

I'll let the photos tell the tale of the Boy Scout Tree Trail...

Mid morning sunlight breaks through the dense forest canopy.

I am captivated by the variety of bark found on redwood trees.
Some are very smooth, some very rough, all beautiful.

By the end of the hike our necks were getting tired of looking, up, up, up!

Notice the bark on these redwoods is very light and smooth.

Hans blends in as he walks among giants.

These burls were easily 100 feet up and were even sporting some growth.


Boy Scout Tree, so named because it V's, looking like the boy scout sign...
couldn't get a good angle to show that though.
This beauty is 40 feet in diameter.

This bark almost looks like feathers!

Some sections of the trail have root hazards.

Large portions of the forest floor are covered in ferns...while one burl wears its own fern bouquet.

Hans helps a solo hiker get a tree hugging selfie.

Watch out for the low overpass covered in plants!

We have to duck to continue beyond this fallen giant.

One last walk on Lone Ranch Beach on a foggy morning. We found by walking south on the beach from the picnic area we could enjoy some very secluded beaches, often all by ourselves. There were tidepools to explore even at midtide and seals cavorted in the small bay near a rock where they'd gather to sun themselves.

The dots in the water on the right are seals that were very curious about us.
We spent a long time watching each other.

The seals swam along the shore watching us intently.

An old V6 engine was the only sign of man along the shore.

As our week drew to a close Hans watched the weather reports constantly, monitoring a big series of storms coming our way. This atmospheric river created by typhoon Songda was scheduled to hit the coast on Thursday (today) dumping many inches of rain and strong winds.

We decided to abandon our tentative plans to hop through tiny northern California towns visiting more redwoods and made a beeline for Fortuna, CA yesterday and a RV park with paved sites and the proximity of a large town (Eureka) while we wait out the next five or so days of rain.

As of this morning we have evaded the bulk of the first round of storms by being in Fortuna. We'll see what the next few days brings us. It's not so bad to hole up through a few days of rain considering we'll be in dry Southern California deserts soon!