Category Archives: United States

Rafting – Gates of Lodore

August 20-25, 2021

I’m still savoring the memory of the rafting trip I took a couple months ago with seven friends, and friends of friends. It was my first post-covid plane ride and my first multi-day rafting trip. We were all fully vaccinated and I wore an N95 mask in the airport and on the plane. We traveled with 14 others, plus six guides, down the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles Colorado and Utah. We traveled through five canyons, each with its unique red rock formations. It was an awesome trip; I loved almost every minute of it. When I got home, I became consumed with packing and preparing to sell my home of 40 years, hence the delay in this post.


August 20 – Getting There

Beth gave Ginny and me a ride to the airport, and we flew to Salt Lake City where we were picked up by Lynn and Sue who were already there, having spent a couple days visiting friends. The five us crammed into a Jeep Cherokee; our gear barely fit and it was crowded in the back seat. It took about three hours to reach the Microtel Inn in Naples, right next to Vernal in the northeast quadrant of Utah. There we connected with our East Bay contingency: Amy, Brenda, Sheila, and Glenne. They took two days to drive out in Glenne’s spacious van. We collected dry bags from our guide, Miles, then headed out to dinner. The only place in town with outside dining was booked, so we got take-out food and ate in a park, Mexican food for some of us, pizza for the rest. We also made a stop at a liquor store after learning that there would be an ice chest for our use on the river. 

Aug 21 (Day 1) – Canyon of Lodore

When we went to bed, Beth was worried because her pet sitter had not been able to get Bella, one of her cats inside. By morning, Bella was still missing, so Beth cancelled her trip and found a ride back to the Salt Lake airport. The rest of us boarded a van and road about two and a half hours to the put in, above the Gates of Lodore. They put the eight of us onto two rafts; I road with Sheila, Amy, and Brenda. It was uncomfortable sitting four abreast in a raft filled with gear. 

The Green River was brown and cooler than anticipated, but I was comfortable in my lightweight sunblock attire. We floated through several Class II rapids, Whinny, Unnamed, Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, named by Powell when one of his long wooden boat crashed at this spot in 1869. I got splashed and was ready for more. Along the way we stopped for lunch – Caesar salad warp with hummus. “Special” meals served first (gluten and nightshade-free for me, vegetarian for Ginny and a couple others). We reached Pot Camp around 4:00 and set up tents – mine was the tallest and hard to put up, especially with no stakes. Miles gave us an intro to the “groovers”, the portable toilets we used in camp, named for an earlier version the left grooves in rearends. 

We took a walk up to a ridge with a view of the river, then had our own happy hour circle. Lynn and I had vodka tonics. Ginny, Sue, and I all sketched a bit while enjoying avocado toast with mango salsa. Dinner finally ready around 8:00 – yummy salmon, my favorite meal of the trip. I was one of first to bed. There was a storm during the night with waves of rain, wind, thunder, and lightening. The crickets quieted before each rainfall, then returneds in full force afterwards. Some people had leaks, but my floppy tent kept me dry.

Aug 22 (Day 2) 

We came on this trip expecting to actually be paddling, but instead the rafts were all equipped with large oars that enabled them to be controlled by one guide. (I’ve since learned that there are paddle, oar, and hybrid trips, so confirm ahead of time which type you are getting). When we complained to Miles that we were too crowed on the first day, and expressed an interest in paddling, he moved all the gear out of his raft, gave us paddles, and let all eight of us ride in his boat. We didn’t paddle all that much but is was much more fun. I rode up front with Amy and got splashed regularly. I tried to take a video during our biggest rapid, officially a class IV, but more like 3.5. The video didn’t work, so you won’t get to hear Amy’s screams. 

We had another­­ late lunch at 1:30. I skipped the bread and rolled up pieces of deli meat and cheese. After lunch, we took a hike to Rippling Brook, where many took turns standing under a trickling tall waterfall. After another hour or so on the river, we reached Limestone Camp around 4:00 pm, set up tents, then went on another hike. It was quite steep with loose gravel, so I turned back about half way up. 

Glenne was not feeling well; she slept through happy hour and missed the best appetizer: caprese on tasty gluten-free crackers; I skipped the tomatoes. I enjoyed watching the light changing on the cliffs and did another sketch. We carried our chairs back and rejoined the main group for dinner (pasta w/chicken, salad, strawberries for dessert). I asked Miles if we could go around the circle and hear everyone’s name, so he promptly asked me to start. It was interesting to learn a bit about everyone, from experienced rafters to newbies. It’s a good thing we were on an adults only trip because one camper told some pretty risqué stories. 

Aug 23 (Day 3) 

I was one of the first up as usual, around 5:45 a.m. We road in the paddle boat again and had an awesome day, exiting Lodore Canyon, passing through appropriately named Echo Canyon, into Whirlpool Canyon. There were jaw dropping red stone vistas at every bend. Clouds threatened rain a few times, but the drops only fell at our lunch stop when we sheltered under an overhang on a tall cliff. Amy and I took a turn in one of the duckies, rubber kayaks that flex and bend over rapids. We floated past bighorn sheep and eagles. 

Our hike of the day, after reaching Jones Hole camp, took us to two waterfalls and pictograms. A few people had fun sitting in the stream and blocking the flow to Elk Creek Falls, then releasing it in a burst onto whoever stood below. Once again, we formed our own happy hour circle near our tents. Another camper stopped by to let us know we could use their solar shower; Amy and I both jumped at the chance. It felt great; I’ll have to bring one on my next rafting trip. We finished just in time for dinner, undercooked steak (I took mine back for extra grilling). I enjoyed a bit of after dinner chat, took a final trip to the groover, and retired to my tent. The moon was close to full and I considered getting out my tripod and heading down to the river, but I was too tired to venture back out. The crickets seemed louder and more hurried than previous nights. I slept through the night, missing the skunks that wandered through camp. 

Aug 24 (Day 4) 

We covered 19 miles today, our longest day on the river. It was gorgeous at every turn. Once again, we road in the paddle boat, occasionally using our paddles. When I asked Miles if the others minded our using this boat again, he assured me they were happy because it gave them more room in the other rafts. The first several miles were quite calm and our guides got a good workout with their oars. Lynn and Sue got tired of paddling in their kayak during this section and hitched a ride on another raft, rejoining us at lunch. After that there were quite a few class II rapids. 

We ate lunch on a tiny beach in direct sun. The surprise receipt of a cold Le Croix was most welcome. We continued down river, getting out near the end of Split Mountain Canyon. From there it was a short van ride to the Dinosaur National Monument. We arrived just in time to catch the last shuttle to Quarry Exhibit Hall where more a thousand dinosaur bones are embedded in the rock wall.  A few more minutes in the van and we were back at the Microtel, and relived to receive notice that Beth’s cat came home shortly after she returned. We took quick showers and went to dinner at Vernal Tavern, the only place in town that serves outdoors. (I made reservations before we got on the river). 

Aug 25 – Getting home

Lynn, Sue, Ginny, and I headed to Salt Lake City for our flight back to SFO, while the other four headed south for a couple days in Moab before beginning their long drive home. With only two in the back seat, it was a more comfortable ride than when we arrived. Not wanting to eat indoors at an airport restaurant, Ginny and I picked up Vietnamese veggie spring rolls; I ate mine in the car. We found a sparsely populated section of the airport to wait in, and were rewarded with wonderful piano music, provided by an airline employee on a layover. We clapped and a woman near us asked “Am I at an airport or a concert hall?”.  Our flight home was uneventful. Since Ginny and I were neighbors, before I moved, we shared a cab ride back to city. 

I’m now beginning to research other rafting trips, since all of us want to go again. When we asked Miles what he would recommend next, he said it was a challenge to come up with one since we started with the best. 

Central Sierra Mountains

July 2021

Sage and I enjoyed five days exploring Calaveras and Alpine counties in the Sierra Nevada, from the foothills to a mountain pass. I traveled with Lynn, Sue, and Monica, plus Laika, Monica’s English Cocker. Dogs and humans got along great. The highlight of most days was swimming, especially at Lake Alpine. The highs ranged from 80o (27oC) to over 100F (38oC), depending on our elevation each day (a welcome escape from this year’s relentlessly foggy summer in San Francisco). Unlike at home, we did not see a single mask. We are all vaccinated, and our activities were outdoors, so I didn’t worry about Covid.

Monday, July 5 – Getting There, Leisurely

I picked up Monica shortly after 9:00, and we introduced Sage and Laika. They are both good travelers and got along fine. We stopped for lunch next to a cute small lake in White Pines Park, in Arnold. There was a logging museum nearby so we took a stroll through rusting equipment afterwards. Less than 150 years ago this was state of the art machinery, sadly used to destroy ancient forests. We stopped at a couple stores looking for swim noodles, but they were sold out everywhere, thanks to recent heat wave. I bought an inflatable ring instead. We drove up to Lake Alpine, took the dogs for a short walk, and scouted locations for the next day. 

We met Lynn and Sue in the late afternoon at our rented A-frame cabin in Camp Connell, a tiny community at 4760’ (1450 meters) in Calaveras County. I fixed dinner – salmon, mashed sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts – which took twice as long to cook as at home. While waiting we enjoyed gin and tonics on the deck. After dinner, we moved indoors to get away from mosquitos and started a jigsaw puzzle. 

Tuesday, July 6 – Big Trees

We are each on our own for breakfast. I ate a piece of leftover salmon with goat cheese on a toasted slice of homemade sourdough, a tasty combo. Afterwards, we headed to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, arriving shortly before 10:00. I took the popular North Grove Loop, while the others, along with the dogs, took a longer loop on fire roads. At 1.7 miles, it’s the longest “hike” I’ve done since I pulled a hamstring a month ago. I went slowly and took lots of pictures of the remaining large sequoias (the biggest were logged more than a century ago).

After a stop at Big Trees grocery store in Arnold, we returned to our cabin for lunch, eating a variety of what Alex in his youth called “rabbit food” and what I might call “nibblies” – crackers, hummus, egg salad, olive, carrot sticks, fruit, etc.  We then packed up our swim gear and headed back to Lake Alpine. Sage rode on the front floor and Laika on Lynn’s lap. 

We went swimming just past the Marmot Day Use Area (more floating than swimming in my colorful ring which attracted fluorescent dragonflies). The water felt chilly at first but it didn’t take me long to get adjusted. Sage was very tempted by sticks but would not go deep enough to get her paws off the bottom.

Our challenge of the day was finding dinner. First, we headed to a restaurant in Arnold whose website and voice mail stated they were open. It was closed due to a plumbing problem or something. We drove by several other restaurants, all closed on Tuesdays. We lowered our sights and headed to a brew pub, only to find out they weren’t serving food that day. We finally settled on the Lube Room Saloon, which was only serving pizza that day, one fixed size, cheese or pepperoni, that’s it. I enjoyed my beer more than the couple small slices I consumed. Still hungry, we headed back to Big Trees, the store not the park, where the deli section was closed. I found a pack of frozen mini pot-stickers which I nuked back at the cabin.  After the kitchen was clean, Lynn, Sue, and I enjoyed a soak in the hot tub.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021 – A Cave, A Hammock, and Community Train

After breakfast, we headed down mountain to a trailhead leading to a cave along the river (more like a stream during this summer of a drought year); we left the dogs at the cabin. I slowly walked the mile or so each way. A nice woman from Guatemala greeted us with fresh herbs she’d just harvested; she was picnicking with her family on the rocks next to us. I used a trekking pole to carefully enter the water, the wet rocks were extra slippery thanks to bits of green slime. The water was a tad colder than Lake Alpine. We got on rafts and half floated, half paddled through a short cave. What fun! After lunch, I dunked my whole body, clothes and all, except hiking boots, in the water to provide portable air conditioning for the walk back to the car. 

Lynn and Sue were ready for another adventure so they headed off to explore a swimming spot near Boards Crossing Bridge (later reported to be a beautiful spot, but with water moving too rapid to swim much). Monica and I stayed at the cabin. I played fetch with Sage and dozed in a hammock. 

When the swimmers returned, Lynn fixed vodka tonics which we enjoyed with my avocado dip. Lynn and Sue cooked ribs, squash, and mashed cauliflower for dinner. We wrapped up the evening with several rounds of Community Train (a.k.a. Mexican Train, a variation of dominos). 

Thursday, July 8 – Hwy 4 (Ebbetts Pass to Murphys)

We headed up Highway 4, stopping here and there along the way. Our first stop being a fifteen minute wait for road pavers; we had a pleasant chat with the flag holder. Rather than leave his cats and wife behind each week, he drives two hours each way to the job site. Next up was the Bear Valley ski area where Sue worked in her ski enthusiast (a.k.a. ski bum) days. Even without snow, it’s a pretty location. We then winded our way up to Ebbetts Pass (8730’, 2660 meters) where we took a short walk to stretch our legs. On our way back down, we stopped for lunch at the picnic table we spotted on our way up. A few miles east of Lake Alpine, it offered a beautiful wide view of the mountains and puffy white clouds. 

We stopped at the lodge for ice cream, then headed to the Marmot Day Use area on the west shore of Lake Alpine, where we once again relished swimming and floating. Sage enjoyed fetching sticks along the shore, until a mean dog nipped her. Fortunately, she was fine and got to play again later when he departed. I was sitting on a stool, sketching, when I felt an earthquake, followed by a couple aftershocks. The women floating in the water also felt it. We later learned that the epicenter was only 35 miles east of us; it measured 6.0. 

We got back to our cabin later than planned, so I took a super quick shower before we headed down to Murphys, with the biggest selection of restaurants in the area. We enjoyed our meals and sangria at Rob’s Place. It was still in the 90’s when we completed our after-dinner stroll through this cute town and headed up the mountain. Back at the cabin, we finished the jigsaw puzzle we started a couple days back.

Friday, July 9 – Home 

Check-out time was 10:00, we almost made it. (That seems awfully early given that we couldn’t check in until 4:00). We headed in two different directions after cleaning up and packing. Lynn and Sue returned to Lake Alpine for a final swim, while Monica and I went to breakfast at Murphys Hotel. It was 101F (38oC) at 11:00 am; and we worried about the dogs’ paws crossing the asphalt. Fortunately, the shade and misters kept us comfortable. We split a delicious veggie omelet. We were back in the city by 3:00. Fortunately, it was sunny and relatively warm so I didn’t freeze in my sandals and capris. 

San Luis Obispo

For only the second time since shutdown, I traveled out of town, this time for three nights in Pismo Beach. Kate and I both got covid tests ahead of time so we felt comfortable driving down together and sharing a hotel room. I especially liked tide-pooling, outdoor dining, and watching the pelicans. It was foggy every morning and evening, so we saw no sunsets. But we found sun every day a mile of so inland.

Sunday (9/20/20) – Scenic Drive to Pismo Beach

I picked up Kate at 8:00 and we drove about four hours to San Luis Obispo County. We had a picnic lunch in Morro Bay, took a short stroll in Los Osos, then visited Spooner’s Cove in Montaña del Oro State Park. Shortly after we left the beach, I realized that my phone was missing and figured it fell out of my pocket when we sat to put on shoes. We drove back and after a few frantic minutes of searching, I found it partially covered with sand. Whew! 

We checked into our Pismo Beach hotel, wiped down the room with Lysol wipes, and plugged in an air purifier. Our room overlooked a foggy cliff filled with pelicans. We got take out from Mo’s BBQ, the chicken was dry and the corn muffin tasteless. 

Monday (9/21/20) – San Luis Obispo and beaches

We ate a boring take-out breakfast at the hotel, then drove into warm, sunny San Luis Obispo. We explored downtown, took a pleasant walk along SLO Creek, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Novo – we split lettuce wraps, brussels sprouts, and vanilla bean crème brûlée. Yum.

Back on the coast, I took a short nap on foggy Morro Strand State Beach, sleepy after drinking an Arrogant Bastard Ale at lunch. We then strolled the beach collecting sand dollars and watching the shorebirds. 

It was sunny by the time we reached Avila Beach, in the late afternoon. We got ice creams and took another beach stroll. Then we headed Ada’s Fish House in Pismo Beach for dinner where the parking lot had been converted into a dining room for socially distanced dining. We split another tasty meal – crab cakes, salmon with broccolini, and sweet potatoes fries.

Tuesday (9/22/20) – Montaña de Oro State Park

Seeking tidepools, we parked at Sandpit Beach and walked to Hazard Canyon Reef. In hindsight, we could have found a more direct route, but this way we were able to collect clam shells. The reef has fascinating sedimentary rock formations, spoiled here and there by black spots from an oil spill. We drove further into the park and took a walk along the Bluff Trail just as the sun was finally coming out – beautiful views of the coastline!

We headed back to SLO for a late lunch/early dinner at Novo – BLTA and a mixed salad with salmon. The desserts weren’t as good as the crème brûlée. Back at our hotel, I photographed pelicans while Kate went in search of water dogs (a.k.a. water shoes) to replace the ones left on the roof of the car. (She did not find any and went barefoot for our last beach exploration). 

Wednesday (9/23/20) – Margo Dodd Park

We visited one last beach before heading home. It was more rock outcropping than beach and required a bit of scrambling. I enjoyed the sea caves. The sun came out while we were there, and based on the forecast it might have remained clear all day. But alas, we were headed home. We stopped for a picnic lunch in King City, and afterwards listened to the Spotify playlist I will eventually play at a dance party to celebrate the end of the pandemic (instead of the special birthday party that would have taken place six months ago). 

Tahoe Donner

I got out of town a couple weeks ago for the first time since shutdown, for a short camping trip with Anne, Amy, and Ginny. We took four cars and stayed in four tents. It felt great to get out of the fog and into the warm Sierra near Donner Lake. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

It took just over three hours for me to reach our destination, Alder Creek Campground, so I needed no stops on the way. Anne arrived at about the same time, and the other two were closely behind. We set up our tents in the shade and went for a short hike on a nearby trail. Pine trees, a small meadow, and wildflowers here and there. It was in the 80’s so we were content to spend the rest of the afternoon at our campsite, sketching. Anne and I split take-out Mediterranean food, while Amy and Ginny hydrated a bag of backpacking food. 

Wednesday, July 15

A pump house next to our site made noise all night, otherwise this is a terrific camping spot. After much debate, we settled on a hike at Donner Pass, and headed out in two cars, masks on, windows open. Google neglected to inform us that the final section of Donner Pass Highway was closed, so we started hiking three miles earlier than planned, heading up to through Donner Pass Canyon. We stopped for lunch near where we had planned to start. It was a great hike with a variety of trails, views of Donner Lake, and wildflowers.

We stopped for ice on our way back to camp. I skipped a shower, to minimize my chance of virus exposure, and cleaned up with wet wipes. (Though I was tempted when I saw how refreshed Amy and Anne were when they returned). We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our campsite, drawing pictures, chatting, eating dinner, and playing Pictionary. 

Thursday, July 16

After breakfast and packing, I took a short walk on the nearby trail and then headed home, arriving in time to shower before my afternoon painting class. 

Lighthouse Road Trip

As I shelter in place, I’m slowly catching up on a backlog of photo projects. I hope you are staying healthy, physically and emotionally, and I look forward to reconnecting with many of you in person, someday. 

I took this trip two years ago, in 2018, with Susan and Sage, my then six-month old Border Collie.  Our goal was to see all of the lighthouses between San Francisco and the Oregon border.


4/13/18 – Drive to Arcata

We left town mid-morning, stopped for a short picnic lunch along a river, and when we reached Rockefeller Grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, took turns taking short hikes since dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. The quietness was wonderful.  We reached our dog-friendly Airbnb around 6:00 p.m. and snacked in the room – hummus, veggies, chips, and a great bottle of wine – and then soaked in the hot tub.

4/14/18 – A Day in the Sun

After playing fetch with Sage in the large back yard, we headed over to the Trinidad Head Memorial Lighthouse, a replica of the original lighthouse and a memorial for those lost at sea. We stopped at a Farmer Market, strolled at Trinidad Head – lots of seagulls, fishermen, boats, and stinging nettle – took a scenic drive, and ended up at Clam Beach for a light, late lunch. An orchid show in Eureka, a walk in Sequoia Park, and we were reach for a siesta with Sage flat out on her side. (A tired Border Collie is a rare thing). A good salad and heavy pizza for dinner, followed by another hot tub soak. Relaxing.

4/15/18 – Drizzly

We ate breakfast at a cafe in town, then took a two-mill loop in the Acrada Community Forest. The drizzle wasn’t letting up so we headed to the theater and enjoyed a movie, Isle of the Dogs. We ate dinner at the Plaza Grill, great crab cakes and salad, followed by dessert at Arcata Scoop.

4/16/18 – Drive to Crescent City

It was a chilly day, in the 40’s, but the projected rain didn’t materialize so we were happy. We made many stops along the way, and took turns with short hikes in Lady Bird Johnson Grove. We saw elk in Prairie Creek State Park, on way to our next Airbnb across the street from Pebble Beach. The Battery Point Lighthouse was closed, but it was low tide and we were able to walk around it. After a beach walk, we ate dinner in our spacious lodging. I returned to the beach for sunset pictures while Susan watched the Warriors game.

4/17/18 – Trees of Mystery

I woke up with a mild cold. Rande, our Airbnb hostess gave us a tour of her art studio, I was especially inspired by her art quilts. Sage enjoyed a bit of fetch and then we headed out to a hokey tourist attraction I last visited decades ago with my sons, Trees of Mystery. There we strolled through big trees and large wood carvings of animals. Sage was not happy about the tram ride, and we were under impressed with the view at the top. The day was overcast, but we enjoyed a stroll at Crescent Beach, watched more elk, and enjoyed another sunset at Pebble Beach right across from our lodging. I like this place.

 4/18/18 – Drive to Fort Bragg

After packing, I had a pleasant chat with Samuel, our other gracious host while playing fetch with Sage in the puppy park, a parcel of land across the street that they purchased primarily for their dogs to enjoy.

We spent most of the day on the road. I drove to Eureka where we had a picnic lunch on a lawn at the marina, after stopping at the Wildberries Marketplace in Arcata. Susan drove the rest of the way. We spent much of that time listening to “Nickel and Dimed” for our political book club, not our favorite selection. I napped briefly still fighting off the cold that Susan is hoping to avoid.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at our remote Airbnb lodging, a spacious one-bedroom apartment above a garage surrounded by trees. I took Sage, who is an awesome traveller, to play fetch in the large adjacent yard.

We had a very pleasant dinner – fish tacos for dinner on an outside patio at Silver’s at the Wharf, at Noyo Harbor. They had a dog menu, so I ordered a bone for Sage which kept her occupied for the whole meal. We finished just in time to catch the end of sunset in the Noyo Headlands.

4/19/18 – Mendocino

After visiting the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, we admired wildflowers along the Mendocino bluffs and ate a late lunch on the outdoor patio at Mendocino Café, Sage was perfect. We did a bit of shopping, Susan bought a couple items.  We were going to walk along the perimeter of the Mendocino Headlands but turned back shortly after we started due to wind. Instead we visited a couple galleries, and Mendocino Art Center where I’d like to take a class someday (and did so in July 2019).

4/20/18 – Point Arena

We climbed 145 steps to the top of Point Arena Lighthouse, tied with Pigeon Point as the tallest on the west coast – great views! The original was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and rebuild two years later. It looks to me like the point around it is eroding away. We skipped our planned hike on the Stornetta trail, due to incoming fog and wind, and after a late lunch in Elk, headed inland into sunshine. We took a hike in Hendy Woods State Park, on the Big Hendy loop which allowed dogs. I love hiking amongst old growth Redwoods. We started another jigsaw puzzle before sunset.

4/21/18 – Drive Home

After fetch with Sage, we finished our jigsaw puzzle and packed the car. I drove the first half, a beautiful route down coast then Hwy 128 to 101, lined with Redwoods and later lush green on oak trees still standing around the vineyards that are sadly replacing native grasslands and woodlands around California.




After leaving Colorado, I drove to Jackson to pick up Anne, who flew there to join me for the remainder of my almost-three-week road trip. We spent several days in Grand Tetons National Park, which exceeded my expectations, in terms of both hiking and sheer beauty, then drove through Yellowstone and headed home.

August 16 – Drive to Jackson

Sage and I were on the road by 7:00 a.m., her first car ride since we arrived in Fort Collins. During the first couple hours, I finished listening to “Slavery by Another Name”, the book I’m “reading” for my political book club. While sometimes painfully repetitive, this book opened my eyes to the fact that slavery in America didn’t fully end until WW II. This is the history that should be taught in school.

Taking Nancy’s advice, I drove the slightly longer, scenic route up Highway 287 through Wyoming. An excellent choice, especially along the Wind River. Making my typical stops – gas, bathroom, fetch with Sage, snacks, and a few quick photos – I would have reached Jackson around 4:00. Instead I drove through that tourist-filled town an hour later, after stopping at multiple viewpoints overlooking the craggy peaks of the Tetons. I had to drag myself away so I could get to Victor, Idaho by 5:00 to drop off Sage at the Hairball Hotel, where she is being boarded for the first time with a stranger. I nervously left her there for two nights so we can hike inside the national park. I had enough time for a quick stop at the Visitor Center in Jackson before picking Anne up from the airport shortly after 6:00.

We ate a mediocre dinner, including a shared buffalo burger, at the Mangy Moose next door to our mediocre lodging, the hostel in Teton Village. The salad with grilled watermelon was flooded with so much dressing that it was inedible. Fortunately, our waitress replaced it with one with dressing on the side, a big improvement, though still odd.

August 17 – Jenny Lake

After an uncomfortable night on a worn-out mattress, we drive north to Jenny Lake and took a boat shuttle to the opposite shore. There we took a beautiful hike up past a spot called Inspiration Point (I think every park has one of them) into appropriately named Cascade Canyon. Given the altitude, above 7000‘, we didn’t go too far, keeping our hike to 6-7 miles round trip. 

Back in Teton Village, we took the Bridger Gondola (free after 5:00 pm) up to the top. The Deck was closing when we arrived, so we ate indoors at the pricier Piste Mountain Bistro. We enjoyed a small meal, especially the wine and the view. 

August 18 – Sunrise and Hiking

We left our room at 5:30 am so we could reach the historic Moulton Barn before sunrise. This structure, all that remains of a homestead built in the early 1900’, provides a nice foreground for the mountain range behind. On our way, in the dim pre-dawn light, we saw an elk with the largest rack of antlers I’ve ever seen. And while we waited for the sun to reach the peaks we were entertained by buffalo blocking cars on the road. 

Afterwards, we ate a chilly outdoor breakfast at Dornans, then took another perfect hike selected by Anne: the Bradly and Taggart Lakes loop. With an early start we initially had the trail to ourselves, keeping one hand on our bear spray just in case we surprised one. The nice dirt trail, with gentle inclines and declines, provided great views of the jagged peaks and took us to the shore of two lakes. 

We were done before noon and drove up to Coulter Bay for a bit of souvenir shopping and lunch at Jackson Lodge. My trout was good. Afterwards we drove over the Teton Pass to pick up Sage. She was playing fetch when we arrived and seemed happy. We ate dinner in Teton Village at the Alpenhof Bistro; the apple strudel we split for dessert was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

Aug 19 – Red Hills

We got a leisurely start this morning, sleeping in and going out to breakfast; we split a yummy crepe at Alpenhof. We ate on the deck so Sage could join us, almost staying warm at the only sunny table. We needed to hike outside the park since dogs aren’t allowed on trails in National Parks, so we searched online and found a short hike in the Red Hills, east of the park. After a dozen miles on a dirt road, we came up empty handed.  There were red hills, but no trailheads. Another couple came along looking for the same trail and they couldn’t find it either. We ended up taking a short walk along the base of the hills and heading back to the park. 

We got disappointing takeout food from Signal Lodge, intending to eat overlooking Jackson Lake. However, the only picnic tables were in the direct sun so we ate on a bench in the shade with trash cans blocking our view. Anne had a headache, so we headed back to the hostel. She rested in our dark room while I hung out at a picnic table near the hostel sorting photos with Sage loungeing beside me on the lawn. Several people stopped by to pet her and compliment her good behavior.

Aug 20 – Yellowstone

Another early rising, this time to catch sunrise at Oxbow Bend on our way to Yellowstone. It was not as colorful as we’d hoped, but peaceful with a bit of mist rising and the sound of unseen cranes whooping. In the distance I could see dots of buffalo, or perhaps elk.

We essentially spent the rest of the day driving through Yellowstone, a park too big to fully see in a day. We had originally planned to spend more time here, but the dog sitter I had booked through Rover cancelled and I was unable to find another with short notice. 

Old Faithful was erupting high in the sky as we drove up, so I missed photographing a geyser. The bright blue Grand Prismatic Spring was amazing. I first saw it from above, after walking a fairly long distance to a viewpoint south of it. We then waited for a turn in the parking lot near the spring and examined it up close from a boardwalk. It was other worldly. A slight overcast was keeping the temperature reasonable, so we could leave Sage in the car for short periods of time. 

We ate a picnic lunch at Canyon Village then visited Artist Point with a lovely view of the Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Anne’s headache was increasing so she skipped the next couple stops and we made calls to shorten our trip, cutting out the two days we had planned for Sun Valley, Idaho. 

We made two more stops on our way through the park: Tower Falls, which I found disappointing after the beauty of Lower Falls, and the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, another unearthly spot. By the time we reached our hotel in West Yellowstone, a huge improvement over the hostel in the Tetons, Anne’s headache had abated. We played fetch with Sage, losing a ball to a tree, enjoyed a glass, or two, of red wine, and had a pleasant outdoor meal on a deck next to a singer/guitarist. An enjoyable ending to a long day.

Aug 21 – Drive to Winnemucca

It was a long car day with a stop in Twin Falls, for a nice lunch on a deck overlooking the gorge cut by the same Snake River that runs through the Tetons. We nearly finished a long audio book: The Perfect Storm. The author did an impressive job tying together a compelling story with great information about weather, deep sea fishing, maritime rescue and other topics. Though I dozed briefly through one stretch of technical detail, overall the book was fascinating.  As with every leg of my trip, we encountered road work delays along the way.

Once a supply center for the Central Pacific Railroad, Winnemucca, is now a stopping point on I-80, hours from anywhere. It was in the high 90’s when we arrived so I kept Sage’s fetch time short, after which I had the worst meal of my trip at a place called the Toasted Tavern.

Aug 22 – Drive Home with a Hiking Break

We had breakfast at a casino then drove half-way home, to Truckee. There we drove up through Tahoe Donner to the Glacier Way Trailhead and enjoyed a short, four-mile hike along the Donner Lake Rim Trail overlooking Donner Lake and the neighboring mountains. We picnicked at the car, with the usual for this trip – gluten-free crackers, hummus, cheese, and olives – then continued on our way encountering more traffic than I’ve seen in weeks. Fortunately, we were going opposite the commute. After putting more than 3000 miles on my car, I’m sad to say that California has the worst roads. The temperature reached 101oF (38oC) as we drove through the Sacramento Valley, the hottest spot on my trip 

I dropped Anne in Marin and reached home in late afternoon. My older son, Alex, came by with groceries and fixed me dinner. A nice surprise. 

Return to Colorado

Annie and I arrived in Colorado after five days on the road, mostly in Utah. We spent three days visiting Lynne and exploring the Rocky Mountains, and then she flew home and I continued to Fort Collins to visit my friend Nancy and her family.

August 7 – A Long Day

We left our hotel in Utah at 7:00 a.m. and met Lynne at the Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser at 6:30 pm. (See Southern Utah entry for what we saw along the way). It was benefit night with a portion of the proceeds going to the library where Lynne volunteers. We ate dinner on the outside deck and listened to a band.

August 8 – Fraser

For our first day at 8500’ (2600 meters) we took a short hike, 3-4 miles, along a ridge south towards Winter Park and back along the river. Spending the last four days above 5000’ made it easier than it would have been for us sea-level dwellers. There are patches of snow on Byers Peak and some of the other nearby mountain tops. 

Afterwards, Lynne took us on a driving tour of Fraser and Winter Park, including a stop at the cemetery where her father was recently buried. We ate lunch on the patio at The Peak, a brew pub which I’ve frequented on each visit. After a couple samples, I settled on Elk Bugle ESB as my favorite beer. Annie and Lynne enjoyed their IPA’s, and we all liked our salads. Sage is becoming a very mellow restaurant dog; she lay down and slept. 

We stopped at the grocery store on our way back and then watched a thunderstorm come through. Annie decided to take an introvert’s break and stayed in, while Lynne and I took a bottle of red wine and container of sushi to the Rendezvous Event Center in Winter Park for a free outdoor concert, by a rock & roll revival band called Wyatt Lowe and the Mayhem Kings.  Canvas chairs kept us off the wet lawn, but it was chilly after the sun dropped. 

August 9 – Columbine Lake

We picked up Lynne’s friend Jill and drove on a bumpy dirt road for about an hour to the Junco Lake trailhead. From there we took the seven mile out-and-back trail, eight according to our phones, to Columbine Lake. The skies were mostly blue and we had a grand time. Sage smiled as she ran free, except when I leashed her along the meadows where we spotted a moose. (Another hiker told us there was a youngster too, but we didn’t see it). I enjoyed conversing with wonderful women, taking pictures of cascades along the trail, and eating lunch overlooking the lake. It’s a good thing I sprayed on herbal insect repellent, both Lynne and Annie came back with mosquito bites. 

Back at the condo, we showered and rested before heading out for cocktails at a new distillery in Fraser, Mexican food, and more outdoor music, a couple singer guitarists at Cooper Creek Square.

August 10 – Rocky Mountain National Park

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve driven along Trail Ridge Road and I never tire of the views. Lynne had to work today, so Annie and I got an early start and headed up into the park. Shortly after we entered, once again enjoying my lifetime pass, we spotted cars at the side of the road. Sure enough, there were moose in the meadow, a male and female. They were the most active moose I’ve ever seen and at one point the male headed in our direction. I was debating whether running behind a tree would help if he got any closer. 

After that, we stopped at a half dozen vista points, taking pictures under grey skies with occasional rain drops. We saw two herds of elk, one near the Alpine Visitor center, at the top of the stairs and another near the Rock Cut pullover. One marmot was licking the rocks at Forest View. We stopped at a dispensary in Tabernash to look at growing marijuana plants on our way back to Fraser, which we reached shortly after noon. We ate leftovers for lunch, stopped by to visit Lynne, and lingered around the condo all afternoon watching the weather switch from sun to hail and back.

August 11 – Goodbye to Annie and Lynne

We gave Lynne goodbye hugs and drove to the Denver airport where I dropped Annie off to fly home, wrapping up a rich, fun-filled week. I continued north to Fort Collins to visit my longest friend, Nancy, her husband Steve, and son Zach. Sage loves the large lawn in back of their home and quickly tired out Bella, the resident boxer. 

August 12-15 – Fort Collins

I spent a relaxing four days hanging out in Fort Collins. On the first day, I posted my Utah blog entry, paddle boarded with Zach, and enjoyed a steak salad – Steve’s barbeque with Zach’s Caesar salad. Nancy returned from the Bay Area later that evening; she’s been there helping take care of her father’s estate. The next couple days were primarily spent shopping, sewing, eating, and watching a bit of television (rare for me). I heard about a group of teenage boys who climbed all 58 of Colorado’s 14er’s (peaks over 14,000’, 427 meters), and a state record-breaking softball-sized hail that fell that week. On my last day, Nancy and I took a day trip. We went for a scenic drive though Gold Hill to Nederland where we had lunch, then a detour to Boulder, since Boulder Canyon Drive was closed for road improvements following past floods and rock slides. We were one of the first on the road when it reopened at 2:00 so we could visit Boulder Falls. Afterwards, we stopped at the DushanbeTeahouse for a refreshing ice tea and snack – the “Summer Peach Bruschetta” was delicious! Back in Fort Collins, we joined Steve and Zach for a sushi dinner, and I packed up, ready for the third leg of my three-week road 

Southern Utah

I’m on the road again, heading to Colorado with Sage, my almost two-year-old Border Collie, and my friend Annie. After driving though Yosemite and Nevada, we reached Utah, where we spent a few days enjoying red rock country. Annie and I are both early birds who like to hike and take pictures, so we traveled well together.

August 3 – Drive to Tonopah

I picked Annie up from an East Bay BART station around 7:30 am and we essentially spent the whole day driving to Tonopah Nevada, stopping along the way to take pictures, eat a picnic lunch, and play fetch with Sage. The car temp reached 99oF (37oC) so we were grateful for air conditioning.

August 4 – Drive to Escalante, Utah

We drove most of the day, with a few scenic stops along the way. In Rachel, a town of 50, they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of thousands of visitors seeking to get into Area 51, a gathering promoted as a hoax which they hope will not materialize. 

It started to rain a bit after we drove through Red Canyon, and on the way from Bryce to Escalante we saw many lightning bolts. My tire air pressure warning came on shortly before we reached Escalante. I was worried after experiencing a flat tire in Iceland, but it turned out to be low pressure in one tire. 

We checked into our tiny cabin with bunk beds – the only place available by the time Annie and I set dates for our trip. Fortunately, we didn’t see the grumpy women who checked us in after that evening; everyone else we encountered was friendly, especially the young women at the café with more energy than a Border Collie. She gave us great sightseeing tips. We went across the street and ate dinner at an outside patio; the rain and wind stayed away.

August 5 – Devils Garden

We ate breakfast at the tiny café adjacent to our cabins, then headed down Hole-in-the-Rock road within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This dirt road was in good shape considering the recent rains. It was 13 miles to Devils Garden. We had a whole hour to explore this awesome collection of sculpted rocks before anyone else arrived, and Annie earned the nickname “Panorama Queen”. On our way back, we considered a detour to Cedar Wash Arch, but the road wasn’t passable. 

Back on Highway 12, an incredible scenic road, we headed north to the Escalante Trailhead, stopping at numerous overlooks to ooh and ahh. We hiked/scrambled up to see petroglyphs, but skipped hiking to a rock bridge since it would have involved multiple crossings of a very muddy river, still dropping from the flood that came through yesterday.

As we were leaving, a young backpacker, April, emerged from the trail. We gave her a ride back to town. She had spent two nights out, including a whole day watching the river rise and fall.  We ate a late lunch at the café, where I enjoyed a tasty beer: Kiitos Brewing Amber Ale. (I later tried one called Juicy IPA which I enjoyed in spite of the fact that I don’t tike IPAs). We rested a bit at our cabinette, then drove to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park for a very refreshing swim in the reservoir. Sage chased balls and sticks into the lake and stopped when her belly touched the water. I carried her in a couple times just to confirm she could swim. She immediately headed to shore, grabbing her ball along the way.

August 6 – Hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. 

It’s a good thing we got an early start on this scenic hike along the Escalante River; it was 90oF (33oC) by the time we returned to the trailhead shortly after noon. The official brochure says this hike is six miles, but according to our phones it was over seven. The trail was red sand and rock with nice views of red cliffs. The falls were beautiful. The chilly water felt great on my feet and Sage found several willing stick throwers. Along the way we saw a variety of lizards, including one chased by a snake – it got away. Between the heat and all her running back and forth, Sage was exhausted by the time we were done; I have never seen her this tired. The iced beverages that awaited us in the car helped revive us.

Next we drove to Torrey, along the way the temperature dropped twenty-five degrees, the skies darkened, and rain started. We checked into our hotel early, using a remote entry system. It was very basic, but clean and spacious compared to the cabin. We ate a late lunch at local burger joint and retired to our room early. I spent most of my leisure time downloading and organizing photos. 

August 7 – Capitol Reef

We got an early start so we could take a short tour of Capitol Reef National Park on our way to Colorado. Even under overcast skies it was beautiful. I could easily spend days exploring this colorful landscape, filled with red-hued striated mountains. On our way out we stopped at the Gifford Farmhouse for fresh pies, filled with fruit from nearby orchards; they were still warm.

After a few more scenic stops, we spent the rest of the day driving, mostly on I-70. Our conversations covered many topics. The skies remained cloudy with periods of rain. The speed limit dropped from 80 to 75 when we crossed the state line. Goodbye Utah, Hello Colorado.

Colorado Road Trip

I’m about to head off on another road trip to Colorado, so I figure I should post a few pictures from last year’s trip first. 

July 2018

I usually fly when I go to Colorado to visit friends, but drove this time so I could bring Sage, my then nine-month old Border Collie. Susan joined me for the first half of my two-week trip, to Fraser where we visited Lynne and enjoyed short hikes and beautiful views. I continued on to Fort Collins where Nancy taught me how to make quilt.

July 12 – Dive to Tonopah, Nevada

It was an overcast day as we drove through Yosemite and by the time we got through the mountains it was raining, so we skipped stopping at Mono Lake and drove through heavy rain with thunder in the distance.

July 13 – Drive to Escalante, Utah

A long drive with various scenic stops. At one point we were so low on gas in the middle of nowhere that we turned off the air conditioner. We made with a fraction of a gallon to spare.

July 14 – Scenic Drive into Colorado

We took a short hike in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, followed by a gorgeous drive on Hwy 12 up past Boulder and through Capital Reef National Park. The rain followed us, but we stayed dry. We spent the night in New Castle.

July 15–18  

We drove to Fraser, CO where we visited Lynne and her family, and took several hikes in the beautiful Rockies.

July 19 – Drive to Fort Collins  

Susan and I took a final hike, a short round trip to a waterfall. Then, after leaving a few things behind for Lynne to bring home for us, we crammed four people and luggage into my small car, a Subaru Cross Trek. I took Lynne and her dad, Jim, to a hotel near the Denver airport, they were heading out on a trip the next day, and then dropped off Susan for her flight home.

July 20-23 – Sewing, Sewing, Sewing

My friend, Nancy, an awesome quilter, taught me how to make one. I bought everything I needed, including a sewing machine, and nearly finished making one for a queen-size bed, not a small project for a new quilter.  

July 24-26 – Drive from Fort Collins to Home

After a final walk along the canal, now a bit muddy from last night’s rain, I packed up the car and headed home. Google estimated six hours to Vernal; it took me about seven and a half with a handful of brief stops, including a grassy park in Rock Springs, Wyoming for a bit of fetch with Sage. The final segment of our first day, south on 191, was the most scenic. After checking into the Sage Motel, we took a hot walk around Vernal, it was about 98oF (37oC) and I ate dinner at the outdoor patio of a brew pub. 

The next day, I drove to Elko. Listening to books on tape kept me entertained, including Call the Midwife. I headed out early the next morning and reached home in the afternoon of the third day.

Art Camp

June 9-16, 2019

I recently returned from my third year at Feather River Art Camp, rooming with Chris again. It’s great fun to spend a week in the mountains creating art with fellow campers. I started each day with Thai Chi exercises, spent the mornings in my core class (encaustics this year, mosaics last), then explored various workshops and hikes in the afternoons and evenings. The dining hall food was much improved, and I learned to play Mexican Train and Rummikub so I’m ready for game nights.