Humbled By Nature, WOW

Golden K road trip.

Last week Holly and I ventured beyond the fences of the Golden K to do a little exploring in the Gold Country.   There is so much beauty, recreation, and history in the California Gold Country and we’re fortunate enough to be living right dab in the middle of it on five acres covered by pines, oaks, cedars and a plethora of wild life.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area both Holly and I vacationed with our families in many areas of the Gold Country.  Especially Holly whose family  explored most of Northern camping almost year round.  So maybe that’s why we hadn’t felt compelled to venture very far from the GK since we moved here in May of 2016.   Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a homebody who prefers to stay close to home and close to my routine.

Last week we took a day trip that took us 250 feet in the sky and 165 feet under the earth.    And wow, both experiences were truly humbling.

Our first destination was Calaveras Big Trees State Park.   Located just about an hour north of The Golden K, Big Trees is famous for it’s grove of Giant Sycamore trees.   Growing to  heights of 275 feet with diameters ranging from 20 to 25 feet Giant Sycamores are some of the largest living things on earth and some of the oldest too with many trees living to over 3000 years.

We took a guided tour that began standing on the base of what is known as the “Discovery Tree”.  This is the tree “discovered” in 1852 by a hunter who happened across it by chance in what is now called the North Grove of Big Trees State Park..  Sadly, a year later the tree was felled in an effort to make a profit over it’s magnificence.   It took several men several days to take this 250 foot tree down.  It was estimated to be 1,300 years old at the time.  More information about the Discovery Tree and history of the Giant Sequoias can be found here.

Fortunately there were and still are dozens of other Giant Sequoias in what is now a California State Park.  It was a humbling and powerful experience as we walked the North Grove with our guide viewing and learning about these incredible living giants.   Standing in this natural beauty I took several pictures but pictures can not capture the beauty or the emotion of standing at the base of something so tall and beautiful that has been alive on earth since biblical times.  Wow.

After a morning above ground staring straight up in the air we were ready to go deep underground. So after a stop in the town of Arnold for lunch we drove to the Moaning Caverns located in a small town called Vallecito.   The Moaning Caverns is the lagerst vertical publicly accessible cavern in California.  The cavern was discovered by gold miners in 1851. It is now known that it was a geological feature of great interest to prehistoric peoples.   The cavern has also been an archaeological site where some of the oldest human remains in America have been found.  The cave has a depth of 400 feet and the public can tour it’s 165 foot shaft descending down a spiral staircase.

Early minors would repel down the shaft with only small candles for light.  As a way to make a profit the 1891 discoverers devised a rope and pulley system to lower people down the shaft for a cost of five cents.  Presumably they also hauled them back up…. probably for an additional cost.

Today there are lamps placed along the shaft to provide enough light for safety and to enable tourists to see the incredible formations carved over thousands of years from water and minerals.   Standing on the bottom of the 165 foot shaft and looking up was another humbling and powerful experience.   Thinking about how long – test of thousands of years – it took for these formations to be created drip by drip was mind boggling.  It served to remind me that the length of a human life is but a blip in the fabric of the earth’s history.   It was also humbling to think that the Giant Sequoias we peered straight up at earlier in the day were almost twice as tall as this giant shaft.  When the tour guide turned out all the lights in the shaft (he warned us first) we were in pure and total blackness.  Wow.

Arriving back at the Golden K from wherever we go is always a wonderful experience.  But on this day our trees looked a little smaller and our well seemed a little more shallow.

But my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet was as grand as ever.

Calaveras Big Tree State Park – a humbling look of about 250 up at a Giant Sequoia

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Moaning Cavern – the spiral staircase that took us down 165 feet

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My six inch “Giant Sequoia – purchased at the park’s visitor center. Visitors to the Golden K in several hundred years may discover this little guy has grown to a couple of hundred feet.  Wow…

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GOLD  COUNTY AND THE GOLDEN K

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Emergency Alert

All of a sudden our mobile devices emitted that classic emergency alert sound that used to come on the radio or television when there was a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System.   It was a familiar sound when I was younger.  A voice would come on and say something like “This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  If this had been a real emergency…”.   And then normal programming would resume.

So there we were just getting ready to settle down with a glass of wine after a long warm day of working around The Golden K and we hear that familiar sound.  Holly and I both grab our phones and see an message on the screen that says, “Emergency Alert – fire evacuation notice”.  We’ve signed up for emergency alerts via a local service that tracks things like extreme weather, fires, and other disasters.   We frequently get alerts about extreme weather conditions and lightening storms but we’ve never received one about a fire or one that announces that evacuations are in progress.

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We both ran outside to see if we could see smoke or flames.    It’s been less than a week since the Detwiler fire,  about 20 miles south of The Golden K, caused thousands to be evacuated,  burned 75,000 acres, and destroyed over 60 homes.

This was one of those times that intellectual fear becomes emotional fear.  That moment when thoughts about bad things quickly move down from the brain to the stomach.  When one realizes that “they” could be “me”.

I quickly found information on the CalFire website that told us that the fire was burning about 12 miles south west of us near Jamestown, a historic gold rush town.  We learned that there were road closures and that homes and businesses along those roads were being evacuated.   But there were few other details about how quickly the fire was spreading and how wide spread the evacuation might be.  I looked out onto the back of The Golden K and it was like any other peaceful and quiet Saturday afternoon.   I thought to myself, “What will we do if the fire get’s any closer to us and evacuations are recommended or mandatory”.   A few moments later Holly says, “I’m not leaving”.

Practicality quickly prevailed and we decided to “get some things” together just in case.   Not surprisingly the first thing Holly does is pack dog food in sm all meal-sized plastic bags and put them in a larger paper bag to throw in the car if necessary.  That’s how much Holly and I love Kali and Kloe.  Their comfort and safety are paramount to just about anything else and the first place Holly went emotionally was to take care of the Girls.

I gathered up my mobile devices and charging cords.  I plugged them all in just in case we had to leave they would be fully charged.  I went to my office to gather the two external hard drives I use to back up my devices.  I put them all in my back pack and set it by the bag of dog food.

OK – dog food and computers by the door.  I guess were ready if the time comes.

We continued to monitor the fire with updates from website.  It was spreading quickly with no word about containment yet.  We decided that if it got much later with no updates or signs that things were coming under control we would pack cloths and other items.  And then we did the next most logical thing.   I opened a bottle of wine and Holly ordered pizza.

Within a few hours, a couple of glasses of wine, and two thirds of a pizza later we learned that the fire was 30% contained and evacuations had mostly been lifted.   We also learned that the system that sends out these emergency alerts for the County should not have sent the evacuation alert to the entire county.  The alert should have been much more localized and had it been it’s likely it would not have been sent to us.  So although there was never any immediate threat to The Golden K we didn’t know that until several hours after the alerts first sounded on our phones.

It’s been over a year since we moved to the mountains but I feel like last night was the official “welcome to mountain living in the summer” announcement.

Living in the Bay Area for years Holly and I always talked about putting together an earthquake preparedness kit.  We never did.  Now living in the mountains for a year there is a different and very real threat we must prepare for.  Wildfire.

So, we will create our evacuation kit with plenty of dog food and other necessary supplies should we ever have to bug our of The Golden K due to fire.  Intellectually, I’ll be prepared to leave The Golden K behind and pray that the day will never come.

Emotionally though, I will never leave behind my romantic perspective of life at 3100.

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Fire

I experienced major sticker shock when I first began shopping for homeowners insurance for The Golden K.  My long term insurance agent quoted a premium that was about three times what I would have expected for a home the size and value of The Golden K.

But I was basing my expectations on a home in the Bay Area, not one that is located in the middle of a rural area that is high risk for fire.

When you live in the Bay Area, under most circumstances, you don’t worry that a raging fire will take out entire neighborhoods or small towns.  When you live in the mountains one worries about fire all summer long.  Especially when that summer and the high temps that come with it follow a record setting winter for rain.  Add millions of dead pine trees killed by the bark beetle during the proceeding five years of drought and it’s a recipe for disaster.

So yeah, insurers either won’t offer coverage in areas prone to wildfires or the cost of the coverage is very high.  After a little more shopping and research we were fortunate to find reasonably priced coverage that offered us the security we needed.

As I sit here within the beauty and peace of The Golden K there are many wildfires burning throughout the state.  The closest is approximately 20 miles from The Golden K as the crow flies and is being referred to as the Detwiler fire.  It’s located just southwest of Yosemite near the famous gold rush town of Mariposa.  The fire has scorched 75,000 acres (100 square miles), destroyed about 60 homes, and has caused mandatory evacuations for hundreds in surrounding areas.

If I was still living in the Bay Area I could connect intellectually with the natural disaster and threat of this fire.   But now, after living in the foothills for over a year, I am emotionally connected to this Dewiler fire and all the others.   Emotionally connected to this fire that that continues to rage but thankfully as of today is about 40% contained.  I’m emotionally connected to the tragedy for so many families who lost everything in this fire, some without homeowners insurance because they either couldn’t get coverage or couldn’t afford it.

It’s been a week since the Detwiler fire began and it will be many more days, if not weeks, before it is totally contained.   The Golden K was never in danger but that doesn’t change the emotional connection I now feel.  I feel a small tinge of fear in the pit my stomach when I think about having to bug out with only a moments notice as so many have had to in the middle of the night when CalFire comes knocking on their doors. I can only imagine the internal conflict of loading up pets, grabbing important papers, maybe a computer and driving away from the fire – and away from home.

Earlier this week at The Golden K around 3:00 in the afternoon.  Smoke from the nearby Detwiler fire practically hid the sun.

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So as these fires burn throughout the state I am reminded to never, ever, take The Golden K for granted and to always appreciate the beauty and power of mother nature.

And above all I am reminded to never lose my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

 

 

The Golden K is Back!

As many followers of The Golden K know from blogs of their own writing is not a science and neither is the organization of ones thoughts.  The lines between my other blog site called Golden Kali and this one, called The Golden K, often blur.  Golden Kali is about my two Golden Retrievers who live with my wife and I at the Golden K located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California.  The Golden K is about my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.  Part of that romance is my two dogs, my wife and I living our dream in the mountains.

Because of the blur, a couple of months ago I decided to merge the two blog sites.  I thought by doing so I would be able to post more often, be more concise, entertaining, and able to leverage the combined beauty of my Golden Kali and her baby sister Kloe with the beauty of the Golden K.  I was wrong.  I ended up posting less and struggling with capturing the two main themes of my life within a single blog.

So, The Golden K is back with a promise to posts one to two times a week.  If you began following Golden Kali during the failed merge I hope you will also continue to check in there to see what she and her sister Kloe are up to, which often times is shenanigans.

You can find us all here:

You can also follow us on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/thegoldenkali/

Warm regards from the Golden K.

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Merging The K’s

Some followers of The Golden K blog may know that I have another blog called Golden Kali.  The Golden Kali blog began the day after Kali, a rescue from Taiwan and joined our pack.  The Golden K blog started shortly after relocating to the mountains a year ago.

The lines between the two blog sites have blurred because we wouldn’t have The Golden K without our Golden Kali and her sister Kloe.  The tag line for the Golden Kali blog used to be “Kali’s new life in America”.  When we moved to the mountains the tag line changed to, “Kali’s new life in the mountains.  The tag line (I’m a big fan of tag lines) for The Golden K is, “A romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet”.

I can’t think of Kali and Kloe without thinking about how lucky they are, we all are, to be living on five acres of paradise in the mountains.  And I can’t think of the Golden K without thinking about Kali and Kloe and how the Golden K would not be so Golden without them and it certainly would not be called the Golden K.  Maybe the Iron Ranch, or Silver Spurs, but not the Golden K.

So I now succumb to the obvious and will merge the two blogs because they are really the same.  I hope followers of The Golden K will get to know Kali and Kloe, the inspiration for the Golden K. And, I hope regular followers of Golden Kali will enjoy an occasional post about The Golden K located in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country town called Tuolumne.  And

I hope followers of The Golden K will continue to read about my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet at the Golden Kali blog here:  https://goldenkali.com

Golden Kali on the right and “little” sister Kloe on the left.

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Return of the Black Tailed Deer

Spring is in the air and the deer seem to know it.

We got to know “our” black tailed deer during the past year.  We enjoyed their visits each morning and evening as we became accustomed to mountain life and our new surroundings.  We got to know the regulars – three bucks we named Scratcher, Kicker, and Chester – and the occasional doe who would follow behind in an appropriate amount of distance based on pecking order.

In early summer we gushed when a spotted fawn accompanied a doe and the three bucks down for breakfast.  We watched in awe as the bucks antlers grew and made these mature males look all the more powerful and glorious.  We mourned the loss of Gimpy, the buck with a broken leg, who we found him dead on our property in early Fall not far from our driveway.  He was an older buck who hobbled along on a three legs for at least a few years (per the previous property owners) and apparently died of old age and not because of his injury that he seemed to manage relatively well given the circumstances.

In Fall hunting season is followed by rutting which drive the deer away from the Golden K with only an occasional visit by a stray buck.  The mostly absence of deer throughout Winter was striking and I missed them.  I wondered where they went, how they were doing, and if they would return back to the Golden K.

And then they did. Last weekend our black tailed beauties returned home in full force.

There were antler-less bucks with foreheads sporting only sockets where their magnificent antlers once were but fell off in the last month or so.  There were does, skinny and hungry and presumably preparing for birth later this spring or early summer.  And there were the yearlings.  Small and skinny but healthy “kids” who survived the winter when the majority of their peers have perished.  Fawn mortality rate runs between 50% and 70%.

So as Spring begins friends of the Golden K have returned much to our joy and anticipation.  Anticipation of more fawns, more grand buck antlers, and continued health and prosperity that all  creatures- man or beast – hope to experience and be blessed upon by Mother Nature.

It’s been almost a year since we arrived at the Golden K.  The return of the black Tailed have Deer reinforced the circle of life and most notably my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

 

Solitude

I’ve never been very good at giving the one word answer or the ‘in a single sentence describe the..”  I tend to be a little wordy.  Holly will laugh when she reads the last sentence and think to herself (or say out loud), “A little?!?”.  Often when I’m asked an important or provocative question, rather than take a thoughtful pause, I usually start talking to fill the space while my mind is thinking and formulating the right answer.  The succinct and meaningful answer.  The answer I wish I had  given after a moment or two of silence while I thought it out rather than vamping on gibberish until I “got there”.

And so it was last weekend at a friends house.  After a wonderful meal the six of us were enjoying after dinner banter and Jenny, our host, asked a great question.  A provocative question.  One of “those” questions.  Jenny and her husband Greg have lived in the mountains for many years; Greg his entire life.  Holly and I moved to the Golden K, thanks in a big way to Jenny, less than a year ago.  Jenny was lock step with us the entire way helping us to navigate the life changing journey from Suburbia to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  And she’s still there for us and interested in “how we’re doing”.

“So what do you like most about living in the mountains?”

There it was.  Jenny asked one of those questions.  My brain started going where I make lists, prioritize the list, organize it into categories, rationalize the motivation for the items on the list, and then put it all into a spreadsheet for the beginning of an executional plan.  Yikes – I was doing it.  But this was a great question.  It meant a lot to me that Jenny asked and then I could almost hear the ringside announcer saying, “Let the rambling begin….”.

I went on to describe the people, the slower pace of life, the laid back vibe, the blah blah blabadee blah blah blah.

I woke up the next morning thinking about this question and the answer was perfectly clear:  solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  Not solitude as defined in the dictionary (the state of being alone) but the solitude of being in the middle of a piece of our planet that Mother Nature has shown great favor to.  A  habitat shared (mostly) peacefully by man, beast, and plants.  The solitude of the fresh air.  The solitude of the sound of the wind blown pine trees.  The walks with dogs in the middle of a dirt or gravel road.  The silence of night.  The sunlight filtered through the pines and oaks sneaking into my bedroom at first light.  The solitude of a sustained stare with a five point buck outside my kitchen patio.  The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.  The solitude of walking out on a cold morning, closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath.  The solitude of sitting under the summer stars with my bride of 34 years and our two Golden Retrievers, all three whom I love desperately.

So yeah, solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  It’s solitude that fortifies my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.

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