Bodie, CA Picture Post: buildings that would really prefer to be lying down

Bodie, CA is a National Historic Landmark, and a honest-to-goodness ghost town, just an hour north of us.  JJ and I visited when we first drove on 395 two years ago, but Mary had never been, so we kind of considered it our duty to show her this amazing spot.  Bodie is great for photography, with her structures in a state of arrested decay, and many open for perusing on the inside as well.  The vast majority of the buildings look rather like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, at a jaunty angle, and are only erect by means of the huge wooden support beams outside.  Bodie may be a bust as a gold town, but it’s a fascinating place to visit!

Phone fun

I’m not a complete Luddite, but I’m hardly the first to be up on hot new technologies. I was perfectly happy with my couple-year-old smart phone until the last few months, when it really started to misbehave. At totally random times, it would start to act up, and generally be a giant PITA. I was starting to get seriously annoyed when it would decide to shut down in the middle of whatever I was doing, and then take a half hour to reboot to life again. My plan was to just deal with it until it completely died, but JJ had another idea: how about considering a new phone now, before the old one gave up the ghost entirely?

And that is how I find myself to be the owner of a brand new Moto X Pure Edition, which is approximately the size of the graphing calculators I had in high school, but definitely has a few more handy features. I’m loving the increase in storage, all the better for holding podcasts and audiobooks to listen to in the middle of the night. The very best part is the amazing camera, which is making picture taking even more fun. It captures light just the way you actually see a vista, and even adds a little something extra that makes my shots sparkle. The only downside is that big screen; it doesn’t fit easily in my pocket, or in the little phone pocket in my purse, and it just barely fits in the place I usually tuck my phone in my daypack. Still, I’m extremely happy with my purchase, and it’s great to have a phone that doesn’t die at inopportune times.

Here’s a photo essay of scenes from around the Resort, through my new lens:

Did you happen to notice anything in that last photo? Yep, the leaves on a few aspen are starting to change, barely 2 months after they first came out for the season. Summer is a fleeting season up here, and in the last week, it has started its retreat. It will soon be sweater season, and we’ll need the furnace on overnight. I love the fall colors, but I also love the fact that we will then be on our way to the land of winter sun, rather than many months of dreary cold!

The colder temps inspired Mary to make a Thanksgiving-flavored dinner the other night!

Speaking of warmth, we recently talked with our friends, Ann and Nathan, who just moved to Tucson from Chicago. They are loving the city, and hearing their excitement makes us all the more stoked about our decision to spend the winter there, too. JJ and I have been discussing our options for the winter, and I realize that I have inadvertently locked myself into the very kind of thinking that I’ve been working so hard to avoid. We planned to leave California, make our way quickly to Arizona, and then find work right away. It’s the schedule we’ve had the last two years, but it’s by no means the only option. I’ve been having some strong “hitch-itch”, really wanting to have some time off and travel. And there’s no reason that we can’t combine the two plans! We might travel in November, move to Tucson for a few months of work, and then travel a few months again in the spring. Nothing is settled, but it was helpful to recognize the sensation of plans being stifling rather than constructive. Even in the midst of a very unconventional life, I need to be aware of times that I’m falling into old patterns of “the way things are done”, and examine them to see if they are what I actually want. It’s continually liberating to remember that we all have options, all the time!

Mary’s days recently changed, and we now share Tuesdays off. We decided to form the Tuesday Morning Hiking Club, and take an inaugural hike this morning. We got more than a bit lost, but found a stunning overlook of our whole canyon. I’m looking forward to lots more fun on these outings!

Panoramic of the whole view!

Crazy time, quiet time

I remember getting ready for school each year, buying new Trapper Keepers, pens, and the required box of Kleenex for the classroom, psyching myself up that this year was going to be different. In the late summer, after a couple months to forget, I would plan that this year would be the one where I always worked on assignments well before they were due and generally be a completely different person than the one I was the year before. I guess that some things never change, because I thought that this year at the Resort would be a whole new ballgame in comparison to last year, even though I knew what was coming. I planned to continue my exercise routines, get in lots of hiking, and some sunbathing, too. I was going to “DO IT ALL!” (Spoiler: your heroine has a revelation, and does not, in fact, do it all, or even most of “it”.)

This past week, I finally surrendered to the fact that this job is really hard, both mentally and physically, and I was just starting to feel completely beat. August seems to be a tough month when you work in the hospitality industry, with a totally different crowd that requires a lot of energy to handle. Tourists seem much more frazzled right now, perhaps because the kids have been out of school for a couple months, and the whole family is trying to cram in those last minute trips before they return. I’ve been continuing to do a lot of personal reflection, and I finally came to grasp with the reality that I just can’t continue to provide the same level of service under those stresses, and also fit in all the other “shoulds” that I think I should be doing. Even though the extra things I’d like to be doing are technically good for me, nothing is beneficial when you hate doing it, or just feel too tired to do it.

So, this week, I gave myself permission to drop everything that didn’t sound good, and just focus on relaxing activities that restore me. I took a lot of walks, did yoga, and put away my phone after about 7pm, relying on my body to tell me when it was time to go to bed. The week was still crazy, but I felt a lot better at the end of the day. The biggest revelation was how much relaxation I get from nature photography. I have a ton of trouble being still enough to meditate, but I think I get the same effects from a slow walk in beauty, capturing the scenes that speak to me. I read that you don’t need any books or tutorials to take good pictures; just stop when you notice something that catches your eye, and capture the part that makes it interesting. Right around the Resort are a couple short trails that follow the lake shoreline and the stream that flows out of it, and I never fail to see something new and gorgeous. When I’m in the moment of taking a picture of what speaks to me, the loud parts of my brain go still, and I feel a lot of peace.

Here’s the highlight reel from the views that fed my soul this week.

Frosty morning:

Same lake, two days:

Our friends from our first year of Amazon, Buddy and Judy, came up for a quick getaway last week. The point of the visit was much more about conversation than any specific activity, so we just enjoyed each others company while taking a long walk, dining at the Resort cafe, and cooling off our piggies in the lake. These two are soon headed off to Spain to hike the Camino, and I can’t wait to hear about their adventures!

A word on the hot new drink around these parts: tintos de verano as they are known in Spain, or wine coolers as it was called by the customer who introduced them to us. Here’s how you make it—first, a glass all filled with ice, then a good splash of red wine. Finish it off with a generous pour of clear soda (Sprite, 7Up) until it’s the perfect mix of sweet and earthy. I’ve decided that I’m mostly an opportunistic drinker, and since a box of red wine was left behind in a cabin this week, and crew gets one soda each day, it’s been my drink of choice after work. After the box runs out, I probably won’t have one again for a while, but it’s been just the thing after a long day of work.

Bad News Bears

Sunday night was an awfully rough one around the Resort, as a marauding band of bears wreaked all sorts of havoc. (And the craziest part? We had our noise machine on, and didn’t hear a single bit of it!)

Mary was very late getting home from a visit to her mom’s house, and first found a bear getting into Kevin’s car by breaking a window. She pulled up right beside it in her own car, honking her horn to scare it away. It did take off, but headed for the employee trailers. She woke up Steve and Amy, who came out with a shotgun of blanks to put some fear into it. While Steve was inspecting the damage to Kevin’s car, he realized that a second bear was inside the car, sprawled out on the back seat! Steve quickly backed off to let the bear get away without feeling trapped. The next couple hours were a wild chase, with the bears popping up around the Resort, tipping over recycling cans and messing with the dogs. Everyone finally headed inside in the very early morning, and it all seemed to be over. KK and Oriol heard what sounded like another empty trash can tipping over around 4:30, but that was it.

Except, it wasn’t a trash can tipping over, but the bears breaking one of *our* car windows. We feel like Kevin probably brought the damage onto his car by leaving smelly fishing gear inside, but we had absolutely nothing in our car of interest or with a scent. However, we were parked right next to him, and the bears probably thought other cars in that area might have other goodies. Thankfully, nothing was damaged besides the window, and the repair shouldn’t be too expensive. Just to be sure, we took everything out of the car, even the blankets that were in there, so that it looks completely empty and uninteresting! This bear situation is really abnormal and not the sort of activity we usually see..these animals were habituated to human food, and knew just how to get it. This sort of behavior is not easy to change once it starts, and these bears have learned that human spaces are easy targets. It’s sad to say, but they will probably have to be shot at some point, all because people have let their spaces become feeding zones.

(I’m just happy that I’m not the idiot in a campground down the road, who left his trailer door open while cooking, and came back in to find a bear inside and angry. Note: should you find yourself in an enclosed space with an ursine, egress immediately—do not engage! Luckily, the guy got away with just a scratched tummy from a paw swipe, and nothing worse.)

It was definitely a week of exciting natural events, but at least not all of them were scary! Wednesday night, we were up about a half hour later than normal, and walking back from the bathroom. We suddenly saw our shadows in front of us, and turned, expecting to see a car pulling up behind us. Except, the light was coming from the sky, from the largest meteor I’ve ever seen. It looked like a huge firework, brighter than the moon, streaking across the sky with a long, long tail, with sparks flying off from the main ball of light. It looked like it was directly above us, just a couple thousand feet in the air. Our shouts roused a couple co-workers to watch it for about 45 seconds, until it disappeared beyond the far mountain range to the east. We stood there, agog, talking about what we had seen, and speculating on just what it was. A few minutes later, we heard a loud “BOOM” in the direction we had last seen the meteor, and we worried that we had just heard the end of some civilization. The next day, we were able to check online, and learned that it was either Chinese space junk or natural space debris, depending on who you ask, and that it did not hit anywhere. Videos of the event do not do it justice, probably because most folks who saw it were 10,000 feet lower than us. It was probably the most amazing sight I ever saw in the sky!

To end, please enjoy some pictures of our outing to June Lake last week, and the beauty that is our backyard. It made me happy to look at these pictures–hopefully the scenery will do you good, too!  Here’s to the start of (for us) a whole new week!

End of summer

There’s no place like home, eh? While I’ve always appreciated the beauty of Rock Creek, we were truly thrilled to be back home, out of the craziness of Los Angeles. As we drove up from the high desert valley, the temperatures dropped from over 100 to the 70s, and the air got clearer and clearer as we gained elevation. I almost cried when I saw the mountains of our canyon, so happy to be back to where I feel I belong.

It’s not even the end of July, but the summer is starting to end as some of the crew returns to school. Casey, the best damn grill cook in the world, is the first to go. JJ and I will miss the gluten-free versions of Quesadillas that she would make for us, a variant encased in corn rather than flour tortillas. “Casey-dillas,” we called them. Casey’s husband eats gluten-free, like us, and she also made lots of tasty baked goods like pizza crust and pastries. We’re sad to lose her big smile and amazing competency of cooking 20 items all at once, but we know that she’s looking forward to the change. Her husband has been at an internship in Indiana for the summer, and they are finally reuniting.

To celebrate Casey’s last day this week, Michelle and I joined her for a plunge into the lake. Because of the toasty temperatures lately, it didn’t even have ice cubes floating in it!  The water was fairly pleasant, and someone had the bright idea to try to swim across the lake. Casey wisely hugged the shore, and took breaks as needed.  Michelle and I took the most direct route, straight across.  Considering I never, ever swim, I did pretty good, but about 80% of the way across, I could feel my arms starting to seriously fail.  I decided fleeting glory was not worth the risk of drowning, so I steered to shore.  Michelle alone made it all the way across and we were so impressed!

Before:

That far, far away shore? Yep, that’s where Michelle swam!

After:

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All the snow and rain that we got in the spring has fueled a huge explosion of Tiger Lilies on the path that runs along Rock Creek. I’ve enjoyed the walks through them, but they are such ethereal things. My camera refuses to focus on their delicate beauty when I try to take a close up, and only a few shots turned out. Their fragrance is delightful, even if you do end up with an orange nose if you get too close!

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Peach season has arrived, and the pastry ladies used the first of the season to make a Peach Cobbler this week. For us, the best part was the bruised ones, which we got to enjoy out of hand. They were luscious and juicy and summery and just fantastic!

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Although we never get really warm at our elevation, the past couple weeks are way hotter than last year. We normally get down into the 40s at night, and we’ve instead had to run our fan at night to stay cool. While the daytime is just fine in the shade and with a breeze, the kitchen has been a brutal place to work. The ovens run for the whole morning and most of the afternoon to crank out the homemade baked goods we are known for, and the only AC is our open windows. JJ is having an even harder time than me, because he’s training to be a grill cook. (Someone has to fill in for Casey!) We have an outside barbeque for burgers and dogs, but many other sandwiches are cooked on the inside grill, which is right next to those aforementioned ovens. When JJ works inside, he literally roasts all day long, and he can’t drink enough water.

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We are having a blast living and working with our friend, Mary. The best word I have for her is “whimsical”, and she brings so much fun to our lives. She has taken up a new hobby of fishing, with the goal of catching enough to can for the winter. One night this week, she got off work mid-afternoon, went fishing, caught a couple trout, and then cooked them up for crew dinner! She’s still trying to hook “the big one”, but in the meantime, she posed with a monster zucchini that a friend gifted to the Resort. If it were a fish instead, it would be in the Rock Creek Lake top 5 catches of the year!

Til next week! (The dogs will still be on the golf cart, waiting for a ride!)

L.A.Travelogue: Boy, am I glad we don’t live there!

I’m not saying that the 15 million people who live in the greater L.A. area are straight-up crazy, but can we all concede that you might be a little touched in the head to live somewhere so busy and crowded?!  JJ and I knew that our visit to the truly huge city would be a little trying, but I really underestimated the beast that is “The Greater Los Angeles Area”. Nevertheless, we did some sightseeing, the RV is fixed, and we’re headed back to my version of civilization, the mountains!

We left the resort Sunday morning, quickly dropping down into the real world of summer.  Our drive was awfully hot, because we had to cross the Mojave Desert before we reached the mountains north of L.A. It was in the low 100s, and to protect our engine, we turned on the heat in the cab.  We successfully summited Cajon Pass, thoroughly cooked, and descended into the city. In order to be super close for our early Monday morning appointment, we stayed at a regional park, on the shores of (I am not making this up) Lake Puddingstone.

After we dropped off the RV, it was time for some fun!  Or, at least it was time to *try* to have some fun…if we could get through traffic. We headed west, towards the seemingly close Highway 1 and the Pacific Coast.  About a year later, we finally dropped into Topanga Canyon, last bastion of California hippies, and could see the ocean!  Leo Carillo State Park was bustling, but mostly busy just near the parking lot.  We walked far down the beach, enjoying the tide pools and rocky coastline, and yes, solitude!

We headed inland to the land of cheaper hotel rooms, and found an awesome Restaurant and Creamery in Thousand Oaks, CA. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check out Little Calf, and get the No. 25 sundae. We got two.

Tuesday, we got on the road early to head into downtown L.A. to meet our friend, Melissa. The whole trip was about 45 miles, and I budgeted 2 hours of driving time, which was barely enough. I had a giant, stalling meltdown after an hour and a half of stop and go traffic, a cacophony of honking and engine revving. (The traffic was so thick that I think I got more shifting practice in that one session than I did in the whole trip back from Ohio with the new car!) We finally got into the city, a half hour later that I planned.

But then we had a fabulous visit with Melissa, and her baby, June. We met at Grand Central Market, full of vendors with delicious foods and funky things to buy. Melissa got a handmade bagel from a traditional deli, and we got the world’s largest tacos. Then we walked to Little Tokyo, to enjoy some mochi ice cream. The best part was when June did her killer whale impression, and came leaping up from Melissa’s lap to gnaw on the mochi balls.

And the absolute highlight of the trip: the RV verdict! I was so worried about the final bill, because if the shop found underlying damage, our cost could have been astronomical. But, in the end, we were actually a couple hundred dollars under the lowest cost I was expecting! Our body repair looks amazing, and we got a plethora of little things fixed as well. The technician even noticed a broken latch on our closet, something that has been awry since the very beginning. He saw the bungee cord and figured out the problem, without even being asked! Such a relief to have that all done!

We thought we’d try to start for home last night, but decided that 4:30pm was not the time to engage in the traffic again. We returned to the regional park for one more night of camping and relaxing before we make the journey back. Today will be another scorcher, but at least we have the mountains to look forward to!

 

 

 

 

 

Eating, hiking, and Pie-nt in the sky

I’m finally sleeping a little better (averaging a solid 6 hours most nights, which is a vast improvement) and I really wanted to get out for a hike. I chose Ruby Lake, a 5 mile round trip from the trailhead at the end of our road. The trail starts off with Little Lakes Valley Trail, one of the most popular and crowded trails in this area, but then branches off and climbs up the valley’s walls. You can take it all the way to Mono Pass and multiple entry points into the backcountry, but I just wanted a easy outing. As you quickly gain elevation, you are able to see the chain of lakes that make up our canyon, framed by the gorgeous headwall in back. Just about the time that you lose the views, Ruby Lake appears. The best part was the abundant wildflowers, riots of colors all over. I had a fabulous time, and when I was about half-way tired (a little above Ruby Lake, but not yet at the pass) I savored the quiet and a protein bar, and then headed back down. There’s so many good hikes near us; I hope this sleeping thing keeps up, and I will get out more often!

Ruby Lake:

In honor of our second wedding anniversary (7/14), we had a big dinner for the crew this weekend. We made bacon-wrapped hot dogs, tater tots, coleslaw, fruit salad, and both gluten-free and gluten-full brownies, which we turned into brownie sundaes. We were so touched when the crew presented us with a card that everyone had signed, with anniversary congratulations. Although, with an awesome husband like JJ, it hasn’t been any sort of hardship to stay happily together. Even after 11 years together, he still continues to make my life so much better! (As does the fact that we enjoyed a couple rounds of ice cream this week!)

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The behemoth of our area is Mount Morgan, towering over us at 13,748. While the ultra-runner of the crew, Oriol, can make it up and back in just a few hours, it’s an all-day event for the rest of us. This week, Mary and Kevin attempted the summit, and we had high hopes for their success, since both have hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Alas, a faulty water filter meant that they couldn’t replenish their drinking supply, and they wisely chose to turn back before they ran dry. They got high enough to get amazing views across the rest of the Sierras, and got enough exercise that Kevin was in bed by 6pm!

Hiking patches:

Camino pin:

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And an update on the no-pie situation in the cafe: things are going great! Amy and Steve, the managers, are trying some new things out, like emphasizing our house-smoked meats, and a happy hour on Friday and Saturday afternoons with local beer on tap. Customers are loving all of it! We’re running out of meats constantly, and will probably be adding more smokers to keep up with demand. The draft beers have been enormously popular, with 5 gallon kegs selling out in a day. The most amazing part is the profits. The resort makes the same amount of profit off of one little keg as it would after selling *35* pies, but with about 98% less effort. And when people order those beers, they tend to linger and then order from our happy hour menu as well. I’ve been particularly amazed with the tips that people leave when they’re drinking…I guess those beers make them really happy! The only hard part is that I’m just not a beer drinker, so it’s hard for me to talk it up the way that I can do with the ice cream. I had to learn to pour from the keg, and get just the right amount of foam. For the sake of science, I tried a couple varieties, like an IPA and a Porter, but they just tasted like light pee and dark pee to me! Yick! I do, however, want to point out that rather than our former name of Pie in the Sky, couldn’t we just switch to Pie-nt in the Sky?!

JJ and I have a sort-of vacation coming up, to take our RV to L.A. to have some body work done. Our rear corning moldings are coming loose, because the adhesive only lasts about 10 years on average. Starting Monday morning, we will visit the mothership, the factory where our baby was born, to get them removed and reattached. Hopefully, it will just be a 2 day project, and we can enjoy those famous SoCal beaches and also get a few chores done, too, while only missing out on 2 days of work. Soupy will stay at the Resort in Mary’s trailer, and probably get spoiled rotten! We’re not very excited about driving through the city, but it will be nice to have these repairs all done!