Tag Archives: Mono Lake

Pair of unexpected packages brightens rainy day

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.

The foggy, rainy prelude to an even bigger late-fall storm was brightened considerable on Friday when I received two unexpected packages in the mail.

One was a lovely Christmas card from dear long-time friends Rick and Michele of Vacaville, Calif. I have known the two since August 1990 when I joined the staff of The Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif. Rick was the photo editor and Michele was a sales representative for the newspaper. I have spent holidays and vacations with them over the years, and I was the best man at their wedding.

The front of the Christmas card showed a lake with snowy mountains and snow-covered rock outcroppings and their reflection in the water. It is a lovely image. On the inside Michele had written “Recognize this lake?” and a smiley face.

Lake? What? I know this lake? What lake is this?

I had to look on the back of the card to learn that it was Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. I had not recognized the lake even though I have been to its shores and visitor center countless times! What threw me off were the formations in the water; they looked like typical rocks, not the tufa formations for which the lake is known.

Mono Lakes does not have natural outlet and is two or three times saltier than the ocean. It is a natural nesting area for California’s seagulls. Brine shrimp, brine flies and tufa are pretty much all that grow there. The iconic tufa image – very similar to the wallpaper I have on my cell phone screen so I should have recognized the lake in the first place – are more like cylindrical shafts shooting out of the water. The lake was much deeper before Southern California water districts diverted water from the lake decades ago. The briny water caused each of the tufa formations to build onto itself until each reached the surface. The water diversions lowered the lake levels, exposing the tufa. They remain exposed even now even though the diversions have ceased.

In my defense, the photo, which was taken by Roy R. Goodall of Seattle, Wash., seems to have been taken along the east shore of the lake, a section I have not explored as much as the south and southeast shores. And it has been a while since I have seen Mono Lake in snow.

No matter what, it was still a very pleasant surprise. Rick and Michele, I thank you both.

The second package was a bit more of a surprise than the Christmas card. It was from a childhood acquaintance now living in Presque Isle, Maine. Penny is the daughter of pals of my parents and they owned the cottage next to the one where my mother lives now. Penny was a class or two before me in high school and I’m guessing every guy in my class had a crush on her – girl-next-door looks and long blond hair.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.

She and I reconnected over the summer via Facebook and not very long later she sent me an email that she had come across a few photos of my father, who died in July 1991. She offered to send the photos, but deep down I really did not think I would ever see them. Do not get me wrong – I’m sure Penny’s intensions then were to send them, but I also know the realities of life. We all are pulled in so many directions that it becomes difficult to find time for family and ourselves, let alone mailing photos to childhood acquaintances.

The second package I received was not just a photo or two of my father, but a stack more than an inch thick! Nearly none of the photos have dates on them, but I am guessing they have to be from the late-1970s to mid-1980s. They show my father, mother, Penny’s parents and others from my childhood. Nearly all of the photos were taken during “down-time” – weekends at the lake or at North Woods cabins, vacations to Florida, on camping trips, and even one taken of my father coming out of an establishment called “Dirty Old Man’s Shop” with additional signage of “Adults Only.” I’m guessing they were seeking out, um, a public restroom or directions. Yeah, that has to be it.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.

There are shots of my father paddling a canoe and poling a log raft that I have little doubt he probably nailed together on a whim shortly before the photos was taken. He is sitting on a folding lawn chair perched on the log raft, a boat seat pad/flotation device at his feet, and a plastic red cup balanced on the bow in which I’m assuming was a chilled adult beverage.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.

There are photos of my Dad and Mom together in happier times; they both are flashing genuine smiles. It is nice to see that just before Christmas.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.

There are other photos, too. There are a few photos of my sister – wearing glasses that are far too large for her face, but were the fashion at the time. One of my Mom in a Christmas sweater; I will not comment on the fashion sense involved. There is a photo of a childhood friend, Todd, and what I believe is the back of my head watching a small black-and-white television while on a camping trip, although I cannot recall the location. It might have been at a campsite near Sebago Lake. There is a photo of Penny standing next to my family’s Caprice Classic parked near the family’s tent camper during the same camping trip. And there are several of my Dad and Penny’s Dad, Dana.

It was heartwarming to see some of the photos from my youth. It was a reminder of much happier time.

It was very nice of Penny to send the photos. It was a nice early Christmas gift. Thank you, Penny, and Merry Christmas.

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Keith’s ride, Part 8: So far, the road ends with a Honda CRV

[This is the eighth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. So far. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

Isn’t it always the way. You start a project and something gets in the way – job search, reading, laundry, and just plain distraction and procrastination.

I’ve been trying to finish off this series of blogs on the vehicles that I’ve driven over the years and there seems to be something in the way each time I sit down to write. I do want to finish off the series, especially since I’m so close to the end. So far, anyway.

But, frankly, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Despite that, here it is in all its glory.

* * *

I was disappointed when I lost the Rodeo in the crash. I liked it well enough, it was dependable, it provided some presence and power on the road compared to my previous rides, and I hadn’t been forced to spend that much time and money on maintenance and repair.

Granted, the gas mileage was not great with the Rodeo and over the years I had become more concerned with what the Rodeo and vehicles like it were doing to the environment. I was feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed that I was contributing to a problem that we can no longer ignore. Every little bit done to reduce those emissions will help.

Despite that guilt and embarrassment, I had planned to drive the Rodeo for at least another year before looking for a new ride. I had been trying to pay down some credit card bills and I wanted to direct my money toward that and not toward a new vehicle just yet.

But, alas, it was not meant to be.

Stockton’s mass transit system got me around for a couple of weeks after I lost the Rodeo, but that got old pretty quickly.

* * *

A friend in Vacaville who works with several auto dealerships there tracked down a deal for me on a lease of a 2008 Honda CRV. She had been driving an older version of the model and loved it.

I had always liked the looks of the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but I could never afford the popular vehicles. They are fairly compact, yet the driver and passengers sit fairly high for better visibility. They were both stylish and dependable, notwithstanding Toyota’s most recent cataclysmic problems.

Honda always seems to hold one of the stop spots in customer satisfaction surveys so I figured I would not be disappointed. And to this point I have not been.

Picking up the CRV was a bit bothersome, I suppose, because the dealership had limited color selection in the model I could afford. Remember, this was before the ugly economy came crashing down around all our heads. People were buying cars, especially brands like Honda, so I knew that getting the color I wanted was going to be hit-and-miss.

I waited at the dealership three hours or so after signing the paperwork, because a dealership employee had to drive to Sacramento to trade a CRV with one at a dealership there for one that was the proper color, sort of a metallic blue. The wait was worth it to get my first ever “new” vehicle. Each of my previous rides had been used vehicles.

On the good side, the dealership took care of returning my rental car, which was nice of them. And the deal was and is pretty good.

After finally getting the CRV, I drove it to my friend’s home in central Vacaville so she and her husband could give it a lookover. They liked it enough to offer me dinner. Well, they probably would have offered me dinner even if they hadn’t liked it.

I believe it was the following day that I first drove it to work and parked under the Crosstown Freeway parking structure across the street from The Record building. I was a touch nervous leaving it out there since The Record is not in the best neighborhood, but it was going to be daylight soon enough and the guard shack for The Record was just across the street.

Later that day or within in a few days – the memory fades soo quickly – we heard scanner traffic in the newsroom that the van belonging to an accused child molester had been spotted on a levy road pullout west of north Stockton, a place where local police are called often because of dumped stolen vehicles. I drove the CRV out to check out the report. It was nice to be driving my own vehicle again after having been forced to drive The Record’s fleet vehicles.

It was a nice day for a ride – sunny, but not too hot, which are rare days in California’s Central Valley in the spring, summer and fall months. Typically, the sun bakes the valley floor and those who dare to tread on it.

The reason for the ride was not so great – chasing down an accused child molester.

Every law enforcement officer and half the reporters in the county were looking for the guy. I seem to recall that someone at a nearby restaurant or a passing boater had reported the van, thinking it had been abandoned. So, it wasn’t a surprise that when I arrived there were at least a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy or two and an equal number of California Highway Patrol officers.

It didn’t take long to learn that the accused child molester had killed himself in his van parked in a turnout at the end of the levy road. Of course, we couldn’t see that from where the police kept the media, but that is just as well. I’m never in the hurry to see brain matter splattered all over the inside of a van.

* * *

There have been far, far more trips in the CRV that were positive and pleasant, trust me. It must have been a few weeks later that trip to the levy road that I took my first real roadtrip in the CRV. Friends and I have been going to this same campground in the Sierra Nevada for the past 20 years or so for long Memorial Day weekends. Actually, the friend who helped me get the deal on the CRV has family living in the area so she’s been going up there all her life.

For some reason, one lost from my porous memory, I was unable to make the extended part of the trip. But I figured I could drive up for at least part of a day.

I took off from Stockton much later than I had planned, which was a bit of a miscalculation since I decided to use a loop that I had mostly not driven before.

I headed out of Stockton on Highway 4, a mostly two-lane ribbon of asphalt – sorry for the cliché description of a plain, old road – and into the Sierra Nevada. Up in to the mountains and through towns such as Cooperopolis, Murphys, Arnold and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Dorrington, Lake Alpine, and over Ebbets Pass. It is a truly beautiful winding road through some very scenic trees, mountains and valleys.

After going along the East Fork of the Carson River for a while, I turned onto state Highway 89 and up and over Monitor Pass. It is another beautiful and scenic stretch of road that goes up and over Monitor Pass into a valley where the West Walker River flows. I then took U.S. Highway 395 south – through or near places such as Coleville, Walker, Topaz Lake – to Bridgeport, a lovely and historic ranching community.

I turned onto Twin Lakes Road and to Annette’s Mono Village. The place is set back on the eastern short of the upper of two lakes. In many ways, it fits what I imagine a ’50s-style camping resort looked like, with a log cabin for a restaurant and bar, regular barbecues for guests and other family friendly events, and a place to buy bait and beer. There are areas for tent campers and various areas for campers with travel trailers and RVs, and there are lodges and motel-style rooms.

From the campsite you can hike into the Hoover Wilderness located in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. Trailheads located in Virginia Creek, Green Creek, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, and the Little Walker River provide access to trails within the Hoover Wilderness.

This is the U.S. Forest Service’s rather conserve description of the Hoover Wilderness:

“Bordering Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest and falling away to the Great Basin to the east, the Hoover Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Sierras. Soaring peaks, glistening lakes and lush meadows are just some of its awesome spectacles. The headwaters of the East Walker River can also be found in the creeks of the Hoover Wilderness.”

It is much, much more beautiful than that.

Bodie State Historical Park, Mono Lake, and Mammoth Lakes are within easy driving from Bridgeport, as are other scenic areas.

But this roadtrip did not include hiking, visiting ghost towns, or visiting lakes, briny or otherwise. I was here for a very quick visit, but it was the trip itself that was the goal.

With a touch of envy, I hiked from the parking lot of Annette’s Mono Village to the “usual spot.” For years, we had selected the same spot to camp, one slightly uphill from restrooms and shower facilities – yeah, I know it isn’t exactly roughin’ it – in the shadows of jagged mountains and a huge dead sugar pine. That’s where I found the usual suspects and I hung out for a while visiting with friends that I usually see only on this annual trip.

But I didn’t stay too long, despite every effort by my friends to persuade me to stay overnight. I wanted to complete the loop and get back to my own bed. I had taken off from Stockton much later than I had wanted and the trip up into the Sierra had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I needed to get back on the road.

For the return portion of the trip I turned off just shy of an old California Department of Transportation yard onto state Highway 108, also known as the Sonora Pass Highway, which took me near the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I have a feeling the men and women assigned to the facility were getting a much needed and much appreciated holiday weekend barbecue – I could see the smoke and smell what had to be delicious burgers and dogs. And long lines of marines lining up for chow.

Soon after passing the base, I began the steep, winding incline. It is an incredibly beautiful, scenic and dangerous road, made more hazardous when drivers of oncoming vehicles attempt to take their half of the road from the middle, which happened several times.

But the trip through the Sierra was well worth it. There are few places quite like the Sierra Nevada for raw scenic beauty.

This leg of the trip took me through the Sonora Pass and down into or near the Sierra and Mother Lode communities of Dardanell, Wagner, Cow Creek, Bumblebee, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Long Barn, Sylvan Lodge, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Twain Harte, and Sonora. Then it was onto state Highway 49 – yep, Highway 49, as in 49ers, in Mother Lode gold country – to Angels Camp and then state Highway 4 through Cooperopolis and back into Stockton. It was a long day.

* * *

I took several shorter roadtrips after that, usually involving meeting a friend for golf or simply to stretch my legs, as it were.

Those trips ended about a year ago, unfortunately. I could no longer justify the cost of such trips after I was laid off. I do so very much look forward to more trips in the future once I find a new job and get back on my feet financially.

OK, the bottom line is that the Honda CRV is not a particularly sexy ride. But it is practical, gets great gas mileage, is an ultra-low fuel emissions vehicle, and is, well, a Honda. I am happy with the CRV, at least for now.

See you on the road.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

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