CA – A Month of Seasons, Far NorCal Style (April 2022)

The month started with temperatures feeling more like summer, but thankfully Mother Nature decided to shake up the forecasters by sending us on a rollercoaster ride. From freeze and wind gust warnings, to low elevation snow, and finally to measurable rain.

When Whiskeytown National Recreation Area announced an April 1st opening of trails after a nearly 4-year closure, it was easy to wonder if this was an April Fool’s Day joke. But alas, it was true and I was first legal steps on the Papoose Trail. It was worth a dedicated post (link). A few days later my friend Rebecca and I took the main Boulder Creek Trail to Boulder Creek Falls. This view of the creek brings back memories of days before the 2018 Carr Fire.

The Park was a little tardy in removing their closure signs. The snowdrop bushes were loaded. Indian Rhubarb (top right) likes to grow in creeks, and I believe I initially learned about these beauties at Whiskeytown. Star Tulip and Hosackia stipularis var. ottleyi (bottom right).

I was ecstatic to join my friend Cathy for a jaunt in Trinity County where I was introduced to the Fritillaria purdyi lily. It’s a tiny little thing. My friend Bino Bob is about 1.25″ tall for reference.

I was treated to displays of Lemon Fawn Lilies and Lady Slipper Orchids, hidden in the leaf littered oak forests.

When the local forecast called for 90+ degree temperatures, I grabbed Poppy Pack and headed for higher ground. With no goal in mind except to turnaround at snowline. We found plentiful sights, smells and sounds of spring.

When I reached snowline, I was happy to soak in this grand view and dream of further exploration.

Home sweet home. Lulled to sleep by a nearby creek. Temp dropped to 44 my first night and 34 the second. I added this one pound tent to my quiver in 2021 (Zpacks Plexamid) and finally replaced my quilt with one from Enlightened Equipment (10 degree 950 fill). With my aging body I’m motivated to drop pack weight while maintaining safety and comfort.

Finding this display of Western Pasqueflowers was a highlight of this trip. I used this photo as a headline in my recent post about individual responsibility when it comes to caring for public lands (link).

This sunrise view was a reward for sore muscles after climbing 3,800 feet. My mantra was you need to do hard things if you want to do harder things.

One week later the trail was buried again (not my photo). I was giddy to delay spring!

Locally rain finally arrived! We are still far behind normal levels but more rain fell in April than in the previous three months combined.

When the storms cleared, I couldn’t resist a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I was ecstatic to find the first of the season snow plants.

A ranger pointed out this goose sitting on her nest. She expected a hatch any day.

Since we were cheated out of winter, I need another snowshoe adventure and Mt Shasta offered the perfect opportunity.

I found icicle goodness and moody skies.

Nature’s decorations are better than anything we can mimic.

This storm made for a wonderful reason to delay my spring jaunt departure.

I might be feeling a little prickly after focusing on trip prep rather than enjoying daily adventures. Happily I still got out for daily walks where I could find roadside surprises like these yellow cactus blooms.

I’m super excited to get back into jaunting mode. If all goes according to plan, soon I’ll be frolicking among these beauties.

It’s going to be a challenging season as I work to avoid fires and smoke. My motto will be get out now, enjoy every day and hope for good air tomorrows. There are already big fires in New Mexico and Arizona.

Dino and Bino Bob are ready for adventure and nagging Jan to hurry with her final chores. Where oh where shall we go? Oh how I love the unknown with many opportunities awaiting exploration. Curiosity is a good thing!

2022 – Jaunting Preparation, I’d rather be hiking but . . .

Departing for months means a long list of things on the “don’t want to do” calendar. For me this falls into the following categories.

  • Vehicle Preventative Maintenance and Readiness
  • Home Prep for Long-Term Closure
  • Financial and Emergency Preparedness
  • Picking and Packing

Vehicle Preventative Maintenance and Readiness

There’s nothing worse than having a breakdown that could have been prevented. Besides having my vehicle serviced, here are a few other things I verify are in good condition:

  • Tires and brakes
  • Battery
  • Windshield wipers

I carry these items to help with self rescue and independence:

  • Tire chains
  • Battery jump starter (Amazon link)
  • Extra wiper blades and inside light bulbs
  • Folding shovel (Amazon link)
  • Tire sealant (Amazon link) (would like a small compressor)

I also have an emergency roadside membership. When I started traveling I added benefits for longer distance towing etc.

Home Prep for Long-Term Closure

As a solo home owner, I have the added responsibility of ensuring basic readiness. Thankfully I have great neighbors and friends who are my traveling enablers. But a few things on my list:

  • Irrigation (I have my drip system on battery operated timers) – I documented a timer schedule based on temperatures so my helpers can easily adjust. I use lithium AA or AAA which seem to last longer but I also have extra batteries available. When I notice weather changes I alert my helpers.
  • Mail – I switched my curbside box to a lockable more secure option which gives me a bit of peace of mind and gives the neighbors more flexibility in retrieval timing. Having the USPS hold mail is problematic as it’s not always consistent and they can’t open or forward an unexpected delivery. I also signed up for the free USPS Informed Delivery daily email which shows expected mail.
  • Inside Lighting – I use light-sensor nightlights to keep my house a bit more secure. (Amazon link)
  • Outside Lighting – My external yards and patios are lit with solar light-sensor lights.
  • Energy Savings – I unplug most everything from outlets and turn my hot water heater to pilot light.
  • Inside Plumbing – I turn off the water to my sinks and toilets to hopefully prevent leaks.
  • Pest Control – I put out ant bait stations in the house and leave extras.
  • Perishables – It’s time to share with friends and neighbors anything that might spoil should you lose power.
  • Evacuation Boxes – Since I live in a fire prone area, I have plastic tubs filled with irreplaceable memorabilia and labeled so my helpers can quickly remove should the situation arise.

Financial and Emergency Preparedness

The digital revolution has made traveling so much easier when it comes to bills. Everything that can be sent and paid by electronic means is my preference. I have notifications set on phone apps to monitor charges and payments, as well as use my calendar for deadlines. Keeping this process as simple as possible is key to stress-free traveling.

Since I live in a somewhat high-risk wildfire area and worry about theft as well, I have a safe deposit box at my bank where I keep everything others might need should an emergency occur. It also frees my mind of worrying if I lost everything. For example I keep all my digital photos and files on an external drive that lives in the safe deposit box, as well as all legal paperwork and emergency information.

Preparing for an emergency is always the one I’d prefer to ignore, but it’s essential for people like me who choose accountability and responsibility. Here are a few things I have prioritized:

  • Creating a video of my home and car contents.
  • Taking care of legal documents such as Power of Attorney, Will/Trust and Healthcare Directive.
  • Making information available to family/friends instructing them what to do should I go missing or worse case die. Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . .

Picking and Packing

When you live out of your Honda CR-V, space is at a premium. Thankfully I’ve learned best practices since I’ve been doing this since 2015. I also keep resupplies, replacements and just-in-case stuff organized at home for helpers to mail to me along the way.

Food – What I choose to bring has changed a lot over the years. Most things I can buy along the way but some things are easier to prepare in advance. I’ve created a hardy breakfast cereal I like so I make large batches to bring. Previously I dehydrated most of my backpacking meals but over the years I’ve chosen to simplify but I still love my homemade pasta sauce so that always makes the cut as does any meals left in the freezer like homemade turkey soup. This year I’m working on reducing my LDL cholesterol so I cooked and dehydrated legumes, barley and quinoa as those are really hard to cook along the way.

Gear – I try to replace and repair my hiking and backpacking gear when I return home from a trip but it always seems to take time as it’s easy to procrastinate and move toward bottom of list. As I pack I take photos and add to my ICE (In Case of Emergency) files. Since I’m limited on space I always have to decide whether to bring snowshoes, a bear canister, boots, etc.

Miscellaneous:

  • Maps/Books – I try to have a loose itinerary so I know what maps to bring. I primarily rely on digital maps for traveling which makes planning on the fly much easier.
  • Clothing – I use the keep-it-simple philosophy. I tend to primarily bring merino wool as it can be worn multiple times between washings and dries quickly. I plan to do laundry every 7-14 days. I limit myself to one duffel bag for travel clothes and one for hiking clothes.
  • Practicalities – While I could purchase locally, I find it makes more sense to travel with what I already own or prefer.
    • Laundry soap and change
    • First aid, basic illness aids and medication replacements
    • Repair and replacement items
    • Backpacking resupply items
    • Charge cords
    • Back-up items like old glasses
    • Cash (while most places accept credit, a few places like remote campgrounds require cash).

Before I leave I make sure all my electronics are charged, synced and updated. I’m on a limited cell plan so I rely on Wi-Fi along the way. Syncing my older model inReach is the most problematic while traveling as it relies on a computer (not Chromebook which I carry). The newer models can be synced via your phone. Deciding when to replace my phone is also challenging as it’s much easier to take care of all the information transfer etc from home. It’s on my list but we’ll see if it gets done before this jaunt.

Command Central

Soon the dreaded I don’t want to do’s will be done . . . or not. Eventually you just have to say good enough especially without a hard deadline.

But first . . . where oh where shall I go? With gas prices on the rise, I’ll be more focused than ever on my hike more, drive less philosophy. I always feel a bit like Goldilocks as I try to find that sweet spot between too wet/snowy, too dry, too hot, too cold. It’s nice to have a lot of tools to help guide those decisions, especially as I try to avoid fires, smoke and poor air quality.

More posts about traveling and living out of my car (link).

Disclosure: I participate in Amazon Affiliate Marketing. If you purchase a product via a provided link, I get a tiny kickback to support this blog. It doesn’t affect item pricing.

2022 – Sharing and Caring For Public Lands

Many of us are quite spoiled. We’ve been lucky enough to experience our backyard wilderness areas devoid of crowds and we like it that way. I love having alpine lakes to myself and frequently say MINE, MINE, MINE!

The truth of course is that these are public lands, to be protected, preserved and shared.

Information Tug of War

I’ve watched the pendulum swing. Digital imaging and the internet, with it’s social media options, invited sharing. Conflicts were inevitable between those sharing and those determined to limit awareness of their special areas. I personally walk the tightrope. I share via my blog posts and yet cringe when I see a favorite backyard trail the focus of an article in an outdoor magazine, included in a top ten favorites list, or shared by an influencer on social media.

Stewardship and Gatekeeping

While public lands agencies have been tasked with leadership and oversight, we all play a role. Some individuals have assigned themselves Gatekeeper, and that’s what prompted this article.

What is gatekeeping? This Urban Dictionary definition seems fitting. “When someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to something.”

These are some examples I’ve witnessed.

  • The Silent Protestors: Individuals who discontinue sharing on public forums.
  • The Obscurers: Individuals who post teaser information but skip the details.
  • The Misleaders: Individuals who steer others toward areas deemed Sacrificial Lambs and away from Sacred Cows.
  • The Confronters: Individuals who are on a personal mission to change the trajectory of social media based decisions.

A common theme by the confronters is the definition of research, specifically regarding general questions asked about trail recommendations. There seems to be a consensus among this group that a question on social media is not the same as asking at a visitor center. While I agree it’s not the most effective method, for many it’s a place to begin research. It’s not a one and done.

Turning the Tide

How can we be better stewards? How can we protect and preserve the lands we love? How can we positively contribute to social media queries?

My blog posts have evolved with more emphasis on trail conditions and overall experiences rather than just pretty pictures. In online communities, I try to provide resource links and encourage more detailed questions. For example when someone asks for a recommendation, it can be followed up with questions such as those that might be asked by someone at a visitor center:

  • When are you planning to go?
  • Will you be bringing children or dogs?
  • What type of mileage, terrain, elevation gain, etc. do you desire?
  • Are you looking for views, lakes, fishing, birding, peak bagging, etc.?
  • Do you have navigation skills or prefer a well-marked trail?

Funding to staff visitor centers and maintain trails is never sufficient especially with the growing demands, which have escalated with high utilization and degraded forest conditions from fire and pest damage. Their websites are woefully inadequate and frequently those answering the phones haven’t hiked the trails. We can share this burden by responsibly educating those less familiar with an area.

No Easy Answers

The easiest solution seems to be quota permits. While most of us don’t like this option, it’s becoming standard practice. Additional fees have been implemented in high-use areas, which are intended to help fund maintenance. Both understandably complicate access and frustrate long-time spontaneous users. Local and regional users would love to have special privilege access, which leads us back to the MINE, MINE, MINE attitude.

There are positives to a larger population learning to love public lands. We need voters to protect and fund these lands. With the bulk of these lands in more rural areas west of the Continental Divide, the large population centers determine the fate of our trails.

We should all be wearing the stewardship hat, “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” I think that the Washington Trails Association has provided a model other areas should consider adopting. “Washington Trails Association mobilizes hikers and everyone who loves the outdoors to explore, steward and champion trails and public lands.” They make it easy to find trails, learn about trail conditions and experiences, report on same while encouraging volunteerism and activism. This solution is proof you don’t have to wait for a public agency to intervene. It also removes thoughts of gatekeeping with transparency and a well-designed website.

Your Turn!

What are your experiences?

Have you made changes in your social media relationships?

What do you see for the future?

More representative of my types of posts on social media. BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools)!

CA – Whiskeytown NRA, The Reopening of Trails (April 2022)

“It’ll come back.” That seems to be a common phrase after huge wildfires. My response is it won’t return to what it was for many decades, if not longer. Where and how do you even start when 97% of a Park has burned? There are financial and environmental issues, there are priorities and resources to be considered. After four long years, several of the longer trails were opened. With expectations in check, I was excited to be the first legal footsteps on the Papoose to Boulder Creek Falls trail.

From the fire overlay on Gaia, with the red representing fire boundaries, it’s easy to see why the 2018 Carr Fire created a huge problem and restoration project.

The Papoose Pass Trail was one of the more recently constructed before the fire and had quickly become a favorite due to the shady canopy and feeling of being in a forest. It was also a great trail for fitness gaining 1,000′ feet in less than 3 miles. I was pleased to find this first stretch looking reminiscent of it’s past.

It quickly became a little less enticing but the grass tread was an indicator of the time given for the understory to recover. This is what four years looks like, and more along the lines I was expecting; after all, I’d spent this time hiking local trails opened earlier but just as burned.

Living with wildfire scars has taught me to focus on the ground level activity where I can find blooms, bugs and butterflies. The Woodland Stars were a great distraction.

The Mountain chaparral lotus, Acmispon grandiflorus var. macranthus, provided lots of color and were one of the most dominant blooming plants on this day.

My one hope for this particular day was that some Dogwoods survived and would be blooming. I was rewarded and also found several new tree starts. These will brighten the forest over the coming years.

Snowdrop Bush and Yerba Santa

Yellow False-Lupine (pea family)

These Kellogg Monkeyflowers (Diplacus kelloggii) made my day!

The ladybugs don’t seem to be bothered by the plentiful poison oak. With all the recent trail clearing, there isn’t any encroaching the trail, a huge win for many sensitive to this evil plant.

This was a new plant for me. It’s in the rockcress family, Lithospermum californicum.

This was perhaps the largest patch of wild ginger I’ve seen.

A benefit of hiking this as an out and back trail was finding these Bleeding Hearts I missed on my way to the falls.

Boulder Creek Falls still flowing, albeit a bit lower than normal due to lack of rain and snow.

Trail infrastructure like these bridges required replacement.

Trail crews are my heroes! When I found these loppers hiding in the shadows of recently cleared trail, I was happy to carry them out.

A friend recently shared her thoughts, “I see beauty in new growth from a fire ravaged area. It’s a testament to how resilient and insistent Mother Nature is.” These new trees speak volumes.

Date Hiked: April 1, 2022

Stats: 11.5 miles 2,400′ elevation gain/loss

Trail: Papoose Trail to Boulder Creek Falls (out and back)

Tips:

  • Plan for lack of shade
  • Avoid on windy days
  • Expect down trees
  • Adjust expectations, sadly this seems to be the new normal in fire susceptible forests
  • Pack a headnet. Whiskeytown is notorious for swarms of gnats.
  • There are three trails leading to Boulder Creek Falls
    • The shortest at 1 mile (one way) from Mill Creek Road Trailhead
    • Next shortest 2.6 miles (one way) from South Shore Drive Trailhead
    • Longest at 5.75 miles (one way) from Papoose/Sheep Camp Trailhead

Resources:

CA – Marching through March, Far NorCal Style (March 2022)

Drought brought a very early spring and no mass displays like I enjoyed last year.

One day I got super excited to take a walk in the rain. I used my windshield wipers for a few minutes to get to my walking trail. But the joke was on me as that was all we got, just a big tease.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies provided plenty of reasons to smile along the local trails.

Last year I learned about the pipevine plant and blooms, so when I stumbled upon a pop-up interpretative display I knew it must be time to see what I could find.

Sure enough I found vines, blooms, old seed pods, and coolest of all eggs! I learned they have a 3-5 day incubation period which means soon I should find lots of caterpillars.

With our county finally reaching low risk COVID status, the local Native Plant Society resumed their field trip hikes. It was great fun socializing again. Besides the usual spring suspects, we also found Yellow Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) and Cardinal Catchfly (Silene laciniata).

It was impossible not to smile with trails like this threading through green grasses and oak tree forests.

This wouldn’t be a year of the super bloom, although I don’t think the Warrior’s Plume got the message. “This plant likes to form a symbiotic relationship with moderate to high acid plants, shrubs and trees. It forms this relationship by searching for the root ball or root mass, then it entwines itself roots to roots, feeding off the roots to supply the plants needs.

It seemed I was always able to find something new and different to photograph. Since I can’t control weather and conditions, I decided to embrace it. Cheers to celebrating spring blooms! Speaking of symbiotic relationships, Broomrape is another. When I found the first of season Death Camas and was reminded of foraging, I was happy to offset with the Red Maids which indeed are edible.

With an acceptable weather window, I decided to test my fitness and gear on a small section of the PCT. There was a little snow on the ground, plentiful water, and I stayed entertained watching the moon, sunrises, sunsets and beautiful clouds. Yes it was chilly and I was reminded of how condensation can accumulate on your bag/quilt. My body rebelled at too many miles with pack weight and I admitted I needed to work on realistic expectations of my still rehabbing body.

This was the most beautiful snowmelt stream. The water was the best of the trip!

This seasonal pond not only provided reflections but also one night it gifted me a frog orchestra.

With the early spring I was able to visit Trinity Alps where I found a few blooms including Warrior’s Plume, Toothwort, Viola and Shooting Stars. It was so nice being back in the forest.

I continued to be delighted by local blooms. There are several types of Euphorbia at our local arboretum. I was thrilled to find a new seedpod of the pipevine plant. I wasn’t able to identify the two flowers, most likely non natives. The pink dogwoods were a welcome sight along the river trail. Bonuses included first ladybug sighting and busy bees on the lavender.

March has been the month to observe the lifecycle of pipevine plants and butterflies. On the last day of the month I finally found caterpillars, albeit babies, who will soon litter the trails but for now they are safely munching on the pipevine leaves. Blooming iris were a signal the calendar was about to turn to April.

When phlox is more than phlox. This particular species is the Yreka Phlox, near my hometown. It was fun to go in search of this beauty. Bonus was views of Mt Shasta. “The Yreka phlox (phlox hirsuta) dots the landscape of Yreka’s hillsides and valley from March to June. The Yreka phlox is both a pride of Yreka and conservation concern. The recorded history of the Yreka phlox dates back to 1876 when Edward L. Greene described and collected specimens of the phlox hirsuta from the local area. However, the flower has since been placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State endangered species list. Efforts to conserve the Yreka phlox originally began in 1975 when, in a report to Congress, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution included it on a list of endangered plants. In 1984, The Nature Conservancy dictated that China Hill and Soap Creek Ridge warranted protection as part of their Element Preservation Plan. The City then became involved alongside The Nature Conservancy in 1986. In 2000, phlox hirsuta was placed on the Federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and an official Recovery Plan for Yreka phlox was released by the agency in 2006. Multiple organizations have come together to support recovery efforts, but the flower’s biggest conservation proponent was the late city attorney Larry G. Bacon, who died in 2004.”

While the bright pink Yreka Phlox stole the show, other finds included Popcorn flowers, Astragalus and Allium.

As the temperatures increased my computer screen was on refresh to watch snowline. Where oh where can I go without slogging through snow? GAIA maps have been a great resource. The darker the blue and pink the deeper the snow. We are officially in extreme drought. I’m fearful of the fire season.

I also spent time studying the 2021 fire boundaries to avoid early season trail problems. The darker and brighter the red, the more recent the fire. Sadly about 70% of the trails in the Trinity Alps have been affected, as well similar in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a large swatch of the PCT.

Photos are from hikes and walks in Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tehama Counties including,

  • Sacramento Bend Area Trails
  • Sacramento River Trails
  • Swasey and Muletown Recreation Areas
  • Trinity Alps Wilderness
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

2022 – Spring Jaunt . . . Delayed Departure

Since I started traveling in 2015, the end of February has my deadline to be on the road. Having this arbitrary drop dead date kept me focused on my “don’t want to do” list. But sometimes, I don’t get to call the shots. In 2021 I had skip my spring jaunt due to my knee rehab. This year stuff outside my control doesn’t care about my calendar. Hopefully I’ll just be a few weeks behind schedule. Here’s a fun recap of first day jaunts.

March 1, 2016 Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

2015

With an early January date in Moab, this was my earliest departure.

2016

I left “home” on February 20th and found myself on a 3-month jaunt which included experiencing a superbloom in Death Valley.

2017

February 27th marked my departure date. It was a year to learn that spring in Northern California is not the same in the mountain states, but I quickly adapted and found joy and beauty along with flexible options.

2018

Typically my spring jaunt begins with a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park and on down Highway 395 as I head toward early spring locations. In 2018 I mixed things up by beginning on the west side of the Sierra.

2019

This was my first year I didn’t leave until March, even if it was the first. It was my first spring to spend in the deserts of Southern California.

2020

It’s hard to forget the innocence of this first of the season jaunt in Death Valley. This was the shortest spring jaunt in my history due to COVID sending me home within a few weeks of my departure.

2021

While my knee rehab kept me home, I refound the beauty of what I call green spring right here in my backyard.

2022

Although I’m off to a late start I’m confident my year will exceed expectations. Why? because I’ve learned not to have expectations. I try not to make plans although I might have a loose itinerary. This spring I’ve already experienced “green spring” so I have less drive to chase blooms. Maybe since I was cheated out of winter I’ll find myself chasing snow but more likely I’ll be in search of places where I can enjoy early season backpacking.

March 1, 2017 Great Basin National Park Nevada

CA – Early Spring Jaunting, Far NorCal Style (Feb 2022)

No precipitation since January 5th combined with warmer than normal temperatures has led to spring in February. According to my photo archives blooms are 3-6 weeks early. The good news is it gave me plenty of opportunity to race to find new blooms along a variety of nearby trails.

I continued to see blooms I’d already photographed and shared from my January jaunts, so instead I focused on the new hit parade. First up was Milkmaids. “Cardamine californica, or milkmaids, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae, native to western North America from Washington to California and Baja California. It is common in a variety of habitats including shady slopes, open woodlands, chaparral and grasslands in the winter and early spring.”

Nature’s color wheel gifted me purples. Top and bottom left is Blue Water Speedwell found in Whiskeytown Lake where water receded during the winter. Top right is a nightshade, middle right is Tolmie’s Pussy Ears or Star Tulip, with lupine in the bottom right.

February 10th brought me my first poppy.

It was easy to appreciate these non-native Cape Marigolds rather than the sad barren burned canyon. I also found a new friend I’m calling Bino (binoculars) Bob. “Dimorphotheca sinuata, the glandular Cape marigold, Namaqualand daisy, or orange Namaqualand daisy; syn. Dimorphotheca aurantiaca hort. is an African species of plants native to southern Africa.”

The early spring parade continued with bush poppy in upper left, which I first found last year at the end of April in peak bloom. This year the plants still look to be in winter hibernation stage but I found a few buds and blooms. It’ll be interesting to see if the bushes come back to life this year. Bottom left is phlox and sage is one the right. The details on the phlox leaves was a wonderful surprise.

One day when I didn’t find any new blooms I found these new leaves. The top row are oak leaves, I’m in love with the one on the left which is black oak. The bottom row is those nasty leaves of three . . . let them be, otherwise known as poison oak.

One day my color wheel was red, with the winner being Scarlet Fritillary.

It took two trips to get these amazing photos of the purple larkspur (Delphinium). February was a breezy month making photography extra challenging like with these red larkspur. It seemed longer than expected to see my first paintbrush.

It’s fun to find surprises like these white Blue Dips and white Hound’s Tongue. The photo in the top right is poison oak flowers, which I had no idea existed until a couple years ago. Bottom right is Hound’s Tongue nutlets (seed pods).

Chasing the blooms kept me mixing up my trails and interested. Top left, Redbud; bottom left, Violet. Top right is Wild Cucumber, followed by Sulfur Pea and Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill.

I was excited to find the small bloom in upper left of below photo, only to be disappointed to learn it wasn’t a native. Oh well, it’s a beauty regardless, Henbit Deadnettle. The blue are Scutellaria tuberosa, Skullcaps, ones I first learned about last spring. You can see size comparison with my new friend Bino Bob who’s about 1.25″ tall.

Finding blooming Fritillaria affinis aka Checker Lily became a game of too late, too early, marginal and finally just right.

I ended my month of wandering the nearby trails with these finds. Top left, Fringe Pods. Top right, Nemophila heterophylla (Small Baby Blue Eyes) and Claytonia parviflora (Miners Lettuce). Bottom left, Mountain Phacelia. Middle, Cream Sacs. Bottom right, Clematis.

I also continued my quest to find unique photographic subjects like this algae.

Acorn woodpecker granary. “With their sharp, powerful beaks, Acorn Woodpeckers excavate custom holes into trees that are the perfect size to hold an unusual food—acorns. Each Acorn Woodpecker group works together to maintain and defend its acorn collection. The same tree, called a “granary”, is reused over generations to store the winter food supply.”

Often it felt more like March with numerous high wind warning days. On those days I had to be a bit more strategic about my choice of trails in order to avoid crashing burned trees. Thankfully I had options. After a few months of closure (due to winter light festival) at the McConnell Gardens, I was off to see the early blooms. As if on cue Summer Snowflakes and Lenten-roses were awaiting my visit.

Neighborhood walks during these wind events had me finding first fiddleneck blooms. I pulled this photo from my archives as they were impossible to photograph on the day of my walk. “Amsinckia is a genus of flowering plants commonly known as fiddlenecks. The common name is derived from the flower stems, bearing many small flowers, which curl over at the top in a manner reminiscent of the head of a fiddle. Fiddlenecks are in the family Boraginaceae, along with borage and forget-me-nots.”

Winter finally returned toward the end of the month, but the lupine didn’t get the message. In my search for interesting things, I found this colorful weed. “A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation; a plant in the wrong place.” Well this one happened to be in the right place. Not only does it add a little beauty along a powerline dirt track, but it also helps stabilize highly eroded post-fire soil.

I found this interesting bud on some neighborhood trees. It looked tropical and out of place. However as the week progressed and I studied further I realized it was developing gumballs and before I knew it out popped some leaves of the Liquid Amber (Sweetgum) tree.

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case a perfect depiction of our lack of precipitation. Mt Shasta has bare spots in February and Lake Shasta has a very large bathtub ring (140 feet below maximum mid month). My apologies for this crappy quality phone photo.

Although I’d rather be traveling, I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue rebuilding my base conditioning while enjoying a blooming early spring. My body knows I need to keep climbing these hills if I want to enjoy the bigger mountains I plan to hike this summer.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the Redding area including,

  • Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
  • Keswick/299W Area
  • Mule Mountain Area
  • Sacramento River Trails
  • Swasey Recreation Area
  • Westside Trails
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Yes there’s a lot of ugly in a burn, but views are open and when you look closely you find beauty in nature’s smaller gifts.

CA – Early Winter Jaunting, Far NorCal Style (Dec 2021 – Jan 2022)

The week before the calendar officially declared winter, a big snowstorm arrived in far Northern California. I-5 was closed for about 36 hours delaying distribution of all those holiday goodies. Meanwhile the nearby hills were turning white and I finally had an opportunity to go snowshoeing and test my post-surgery knee. I’m happy to report it was 100%. As for the rest of my body . . . it needs some work.

Lunch with a view at Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park. My favorite snowshoeing lunch is piping hot homemade turkey soup.

On my third snowshoe outing of the season I found myself ascending Diamond Peak at Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was a great cardio challenge and improved my confidence.

Sadly it also gave me my first look of the burned trees from the 2021 Dixie Fire.

I found myself back on Mt Shasta for my fourth outing. By now it had been a couple weeks since our last storms and the wind swept the ridges bare making it obvious more snow is desperately needed.

With hard pack snow conditions I couldn’t resist the temptation to try summiting Brokeoff Mountain at Lassen. I turned around before the top as my legs said not today. I wasn’t disappointed as I was beyond thrilled to be outside climbing mountains again.

On each walk/hike I challenged myself to find something worth photographing and sharing. It’s been a fun game and just when I think I’m going to be skunked I find a gem like the bark of this sycamore tree.

After the frost, comes the dew.

With many of my local trails impacted by wildfire, I’m happy to celebrate the areas that have escaped damage.

I also cheer on the new trees working hard to replace their burned ancestors.

I found the first bloom on January 4th, Wild Radish. I was interested to learn “the entire wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) plant is edible, from the veined purple, white, or yellow flowers to the leaves and roots. Wild radish pods are crisp and peppery, much like the root of a true radish, and can be eaten raw or cooked.”

We have a lot of pretty rock in the area.

The nearby creeks make for nice lunchtime lounging.

Manzanita dominates the landscape, but often when you look closer you find nature’s gifts.

I found a variety of tree lichen or fungus.

And other fungus as well.

This bark caught my eye.

We had crazy warm temperatures for a couple of weeks in the middle of the month and soon enough the landscape began to look like spring. Oh how I love green!

And then it happened, WILDFLOWERS in January! I checked my photo library and blooms are about three weeks earlier than I’ve previously documented. Buttercups appeared first, followed by Shooting Stars, Warrior’s Plume and Pacific Hounds Tongue. Interesting factoid shared by a friend, “The genus name Cynoglossum comes from greek Kynos- meaning dog and -glossum meaning tongue, while the specific epithet creticum is a reference to the island of Crete, where this plant can indeed be found.” 

Glue-Seed, Night Shade, Saxifraga and Redmaids.

Butter ‘n’ eggs, Lupine, Padre’s Shooting Stars, and Blue Dips

When a friend was looking for a backpacking opportunity, I volunteered to join him. We went to the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area in Tehama County near Red Bluff where the elevation is around 500′. While daytime highs were in the 60’s, we experienced an overnight low of 27F. We camped with this sunset view of Lassen peak. What a great way to end the month!

While the lack of precipitation for the last three weeks of January is bad for the earth, it’s been really good for my spirit. Spending most days under sunshine filled blue skies encouraged daily hikes and sent my typical SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) symptoms into hibernation. This is my best January since 2015 when it comes to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, and that’s saying a lot when so many are suffering from pandemic issues.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.

  • Redding Area
    • Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
      • Horsetown/Piety/Cloverdale Loops
    • Keswick/299W Area
      • French Fry Trail
      • Hornbeck/Waterfall/Lower Ditch Trails
      • Lower Salt Creek Trail
      • Shasta Dam/Upper Ditch Trail
    • Mule Mountain Area
      • Princess Ditch Trail
    • Sacramento River Trails
    • Swasey Recreation Area
      • Wintu/Mule Mountain Trails
      • Meiners Loop Trail
    • Westside Trails
    • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
      • Mt Shasta Mine Loop Trail
      • Oak Bottom Ditch Trail
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
    • Manzanita Creek
    • Manzanita Lake
    • Brokeoff Mountain
    • Diamond Peak
  • Mt Shasta Area
    • Bunny Flat/Horse Camp Cabin
  • Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area
    • Yana Trail/Massacre Flat

On this 27F degree morning, nothing is quite as welcome as the sun hitting my tent.

Me and My CRV – Minimal Prep, Healthy Affordable Eats (2022)

I call this the simple, healthy, and budget-friendly approach to eating while living out of my car.

Kitchen:

Sticking to the simple theme, my “kitchen” consists of the following:

  • MSR Pocket Rocket stove
  • Stansport Black Granite Solo II cook pot (30 ounce capacity, 5.75″ x 2.5″)
  • Scooper Spatula

Shopping List:

I store perishables in a cooler and have found block ice to have the best longevity.

Fruits

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Citrus (Tangerines, Mandarins, Oranges, etc)
  • Avocados (fresh or in individual serving cups)
  • Berries, Cherries, Grapes
  • Raisins/Craisins
  • Fruit and Applesauce cups

Vegetables

  • Bagged Salad, Slaw or Spinach
  • Miniature Bell Peppers, Baby Carrots, Tiny Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Packaged Sugar Peas, Edamame, Broccoli Florets, etc.

Proteins

  • Cheese (sliced, string or block)
  • Precooked Frozen Chicken Pieces/Strips (lasts a few days on ice)
  • Eggs (Raw/Hard Boiled)
  • Yogurt (drinkable or eatable)
  • Packaged Tuna/Chicken/Salmon
  • Deli Meat/Cheese
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Peanut/Almond Butter

Breads/Grains

  • Tortillas/Flat Bread/Pita Bread (for wraps)
  • Sandwich Thins/Regular Bread
  • Crackers
  • Muesli/Granola
  • Quick Cook Grains (i.e. Couscous, Instant Rice, etc.)

Prepared Foods

  • Frozen Stir Fry Vegetables (with pasta or grains)
  • Hummus
  • Deli Salads
  • Avocado/Guacamole Cups

Meal/Snack Options:

Breakfast

  • Hot muesli with fruit
  • Soft/hard boiled eggs on tortilla
  • Yogurt with fruit and granola

Lunch

  • Bagged salad with protein (hard boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, cheese, etc), raw vegetables, plus fruit
  • Wrap/sandwich or crackers with hummus or avocado, greens, protein (hard boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, cheese, etc) plus a side of fruits and/or raw vegetables
  • Snack options

Dinner

  • Lunch options
  • Stir fry with protein
  • Deli salad with protein

Snacks

  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Protein (i.e. string cheese, hard boiled eggs, deli meat, nuts, etc.) with fruit or raw vegetables

Tips:

  • Add a little water to pan before heating prepared meals
  • IMO items purchased from freezer don’t have to stay frozen to stay safe (i.e. precooked chicken)
  • Single serve items (i.e. avocado, hummus, PB and fruit cups) are easier to manage
  • I don’t carry a cutting board so I prefer bite size vegetables such as mini carrots, mini peppers, small tomatoes, etc.
  • Making my own hard boiled eggs has been a game changer. The prepacked ones have an odd odor and flavor.
  • When I’m craving melons I usually buy ready-to-eat packages. The price is worth avoiding a huge mess and storage or waste issues, plus I don’t carry a large knife.
  • Fruit stands and local farmer’s market are a great way to get produce however keep in mind you might not have a way to clean it, thus the reason I usually avoid most unpackaged produce in stores when traveling.
  • I tend to avoid trail food such as dehydrated meals, bars and jerky when I have access to better quality fresh or “real” food.
  • I avoid items that require long boil times like pasta since I’m relying on fuel canisters.

Examples:

These images might give you a few more ideas.

It might feel overwhelming, but by sticking to the basics, and adding a little variety, you might be less tempted to choose empty calories filled with excessive amounts of salt and preservatives.

While traveling this year I’ll add some photos from my shopping cart and will update this post with more meal ideas. Until then, if you have suggestions please comment below.

DIY/MYOG – I made an Ultralight Backpack! (2022)

Why?

Fit and customization. Our bodies are not uniform and just like finding the right fit clothes, generic sizes don’t work for everyone. Shoulder strap width, shape and placement tends to be problematic. There are lots of options when purchasing or making a pack. First and foremost is capacity needed and weight you plan to carry. I’ll address some of the customization choices and decisions I made.

How?

Step 1 – Pattern

There are several UL backpack designers. You can also make your own by taking dimensions off of a pack that currently fits. I chose Stitchback Gear as reviews indicated the step-by-step instructions were excellent. Given this would be my first DIY backpack I was motivated to shorten the learning curve. I used my 2015 Gossamer Gear Mariposa as a guideline since it fits well and carries up to 30 pounds fairly comfortably.

The Stitchback pattern is sold as a PDF file which needs to be printed (TIP: find a page with the measurement guide and print first to see if you need to adjust page format). From there I spent a few hours with scissors and tape, highlighters, measuring tapes while figuring out what goes where. Note: you can print on oversize paper to save some assembly time.

Step 2 – Supplies

I’m a fan of Ripstop by the Roll and chose them as the supplier for fabric and notions. Best practice is to make a prototype out of less expensive fabric. I decided to throw caution to the wind and make what I hoped would be the perfect pack. But first I had to research options. Plan to invest some time going down this rabbit hole. Then it’s time to place your order and wait for delivery. Note: you can order samples, which again is best practice but one I elected to forego due to impatience.

  • Blaze Orange HyperD 300
  • Foliage HyperD 300
  • Foliage ROBIC 420D
  • Pocket Mesh (3.4 oz)
  • Grosgrain Ribbon (1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″)
  • Webbing (3/4″ and 1″)
  • Elastic and Line Cord
  • Hardware (3/4″ buckles, 3/4″ ladder locks, and cord locks)
  • Closed cell foam (1/8″)

Step 3 – Measure Twice (or 10x), Cut Once

That first cut was full of anxiety.

Step 4 – Test Machine

You might need to adjust thread and/or bobbin tension. I used a #14 regular point needle for most of the project but switched to a #16 for stitching over webbing or multiple layers. I also purchased premium thread (Gutermann MARA 70) from Ripstop By the Roll. Note: I had a hard time maintaining tension on my machine I believe due to the sticky fabric coating. I found changing and cleaning needles helped.

Step 5 – Customizations to Stitchback Pattern

Modifications take a lot of brain power and trial and error. I was glad to have extra supplies and a seam ripper. Eventually I had to admit this would be my beta pack as I had to add a little extra weight due to “fixes.” Below are my primary customizations.

  • Pockets – One side is tall for tent and umbrella, the other shorter for water bladder
  • Shoulder Straps – I traced a pattern from a pack I owned
  • Back Panel – I used my Gossamer Gear frame and sleep foam pad
  • Compression and Closure Straps – revised to match my preferences

Step 6 – Trial and Error

I found myself making lots of changes along the way. Often it resulted in wasted fabric or supplies and time but ultimately I created a mostly perfect pack.

Challenges and Lessons Learned:

Shoulder Straps

Placement was challenging as expected. The Stitchback instructions were helpful; having a friend help measure is essential. I found the recommended placement of the lower attachment point too low for optimal fit. I initially thought making the straps would be challenging but using the 1/8″ 3D Spacer Mesh with 1/8″ closed-cell foam proved to be the easiest part of this project. My machine didn’t have any trouble stitching the webbing onto the straps. Tip: I don’t see the benefit of having the back panel divided into three pattern pieces. I’d make it out of a continuous piece in the future.

Pockets

The lower part of my Mariposa shows plenty of abrasion damage on the lower sections, so I used the more durable 420D for the base and bottom 3″ of the pockets. The pattern didn’t include drains so I added with the V vents. Note: I wondered how the bottom piece would work out and was thrilled it caused no issues.

I initially tried to use shock cord for the closures but sewing over that made my machine very angry so I switched to cord locks. I might try regular elastic in the future. Since the pockets were already completed when I realized shock cord wasn’t going to work, I added Grosgrain Ribbon for the cord channel which added a little weight. I also added a channeled ribbon on the mesh pocket for hanging my socks to dry.

Initial design is on the left, revised design is on right

Frame

I initially created the back panel in a fashion similar to my Gossamer Gear but after fitting the shoulder straps I realized the frame was too tall. So I made a new back panel eliminating that option. But once I finished the pack I realized I could add the frame back using a different method. I could probably go without the frame but I didn’t want to take that chance for those times I need to carry a heavier load. The frame might not be as effective at transferring weight without threading through the belt. If I find that to be true I can make another revision.

Initial design is on the left, revised design is on right

Main Body and Rolltop Closure

The pattern divided the back panel into three pieces. When I decided the frame wasn’t going to work I remade into two sections (in the future I’d make the entire back panel out of one continuous piece, allowing for a fold for load lifter strap connection). I messed up several times on the length. I had to add an extra seam to get the length right. The pattern called for the rolltop ends to be connected; I put male ends on both sides so I could use as a compression strap connected to the side compression straps.

Accessories

  • Shoulder Strap Pouches – I used repurposed Anker battery bags to create pouches for my camera and inReach.
  • Hydration Hose – Since I prefer to drink out of a hose, I added a ring and magnetic clasp which mirrors my previous set up.
  • Umbrella Holder – I used a Camelbak hydration tube clasp for the umbrella shaft to make it a hands-free option, then will add a bungie at the bottom to keep the umbrella in position.

Belt

Since I had a new Gossamer Gear belt, I decided to forego making my own. I’ll save that challenge for another day.

Specifications

The pack has 50-60 liter capacity and weighs under 2 pounds. I’m going to guess I made it for around $75-$100.

The Pack was Christened Poppy

The Creative Process

This is when I’m glad I save and collect bits and pieces. I took time to organize them. I’ll continue to use items off my older packs rather than toss. My house looked a bit like a crafter’s tornado for a few weeks!

The Waste/Learning Curve

We won’t even talk about the hours and hours I put into this project. I made the first cut on 12/29/21 and considered it complete on 1/19/22. I’m going to be remodeling a day pack and most likely will be able to use some of this “waste.”

The Tools

The sewing clips are my new favorite tool. This was my first time using them and I’m sold (Amazon link). Sadly the ripper got used way more than I would have liked, but I’d rather suffer now than regret later. I also used an old Singer 1425. It doesn’t have a bobbin tension adjustment but it’s been a workhouse for many decades.

Purpose?

If you made it this far, congratulations and thank you. And now for a game. Any guesses on where some of this old Sawyer Bag might live in this pack?

Link to more of my DIY/MYOG posts.