Evolution of a suburbanite

It’s that time of year.   Damp and cold…and beautiful.

I’ve never been a fan of winter, or rain, or cold, or wind.    But somehow up here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills it’s much less of an annoyance and burden and so much more the wonderful fabric of life in the foothills.

The ground is still wet from the rain a couple of days ago and the wind is blowing the final dead oak leaves and pine needles from the trees.  The air is bitingly crisp in the mornings only warming  up in the late afternoon, just in time for the sun to go down to repeat that daily cycle.

Once an opponent and vocal critic of cold, wet, and winter  in suburbia I’ve turned into a lover of winter here at the Golden K.  It’s interesting. but not surprising, how a major life change (like packing up 25 years of suburbia and moving to the mountains) can alter  one’s perspective.   Over the past two years I’ve learned to appreciate all the seasons as I sit back in awe of  Mother Nature and all the artistry she so willingly and boldly displays.

I’ve come to know that life is too short to waste six months waiting for Summer to return as I once did as a suburbanite.

So I embrace this season as I will the next, and the next after that.  At a point in life one becomes retrospective more often than when younger.  Perhaps now is one of those times for me.   I want to appreciate all the days, all the hours, and all the minutes.  Many will be far from perfect, some will be sad, and some will be glorious.  One thing that can be said for all of those minutes is they will pass by in just 60 seconds and then the next will come and go, and so on and so on.   If I sit through all those hundreds of thousands of minutes just waiting for the one’s I perceive as ideal I will wish my life away, not to mention missing so many wonderful things.

The Golden K has helped me to evolve personally and to appreciate even the smallest things that life has to offer.  Like 120 foot pines swaying in the wind.  Or seeing the joy and excitement in my oldest Golden Retriever’s eyes when I start up the tractor.  Or a family of turkeys walking nearby.  And other things like my dogs going out to do their business first thing in the morning and watching them with their noses pointed high and low to smell where all the nocturnal critters were the previous night.  Hearing my neighbors horses whinny, looking out to the night sky and full moon with my bride of 35 years in the freezing cold.  Waiting for the return of the black tail deer.

It’s times like these that I recall what Jonathan Larson pointed out so insightfully in the lyrics of a song from Rent, the iconic musical from the nineties:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life
So yeah – at this moment in time this is my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.
A moment at the Golden K
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The Golden K Shines

The Golden K is named in honor of our two Golden Retrievers Kali and Kloe.  But today the Golden K stood alone in it’s own “goldeness”.   On this beautiful fall the day changing of seasons was strikingly evident.  The Pines and Cedars willingly gave way to the majestic Oaks who stole the day with their version of the Mother Lode. Gold in them thar’ hills?   You bet!

So today, as a spectator, I sit back and enjoy the golden beauty around me.  And this is one of the of the oh so many reasons I have  a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

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Leaves

The hot summer days only left us a few weeks ago.   Winter rain and snow is on the way soon.  Today, sandwiched between those two extremes of hot and cold, we sat in awe.  In awe of Mother Nature who, with occasional whisks of her breath, sent colored leaves falling from the majestic and plentiful oak trees around the Golden K.

And how easy it is, on a day like today, to have a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

 

Falling

Fall could be my favorite season if it wasn’t that Winter came right after. I’ve never been much of a fan of rain and cold which forces me to put on shoes and long pants.  Although I must say that last winter, our first at The Golden K, was magical with all the snow we received that transformed the red clay and mud into a winter wonderland.   So this Fall, as I walk around and enjoy this fabulous Indian Summer Northern California is getting,  I am truly enjoying Mother Nature’s display of the the Fall season.

So yes I’m learning to enjoy Fall.  The still and cooler air is a welcome change from  the hot dry summer air.  I smell the occasional waft of a wood fire in the early evenings when we are still outside.   The occasional sighting of a fawn venturing down from the hill with it’s mother doe onto our property puts a smile on my face. As I look about I have the satisfaction that my sweat during the Spring and Summer made the GK safe while maintaining it’s beauty.

But above all I have my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

The Golden K in early Fall

Sixteen

As I sit here under the pines and oaks in relative peace with my Golden Kali by my side it’s easy to block out the world, the water, the wind, and the hardships imposed by both natural and human means.   It would be easy, given the beauty and harmony at the Golden K.  But it would be wrong.

Wrong because the Golden K is not an island, as is no man.  The Golden K is a blessing not to be taken for granted.   And the Golden K is part of the earth’s fabric, the political landscape’s fabric, and indeed the fabric of life.   So as I sit here with the canine love of my life I also remember.  I remember 16 years ago.  I remember 16 days ago.  And I remember 16 hours ago.   I think of all the first responders who didn’t make their way out of the rubble.   I think of the families and elderly who may have seen their lives literraly washed away.  I think of the domestic animals who had to be left behind or those wild ones who had no time or means to find safety.

Many have been saying that the worst brings out the best in “us”.  It has been wonderful, under these circumstances, to see unity and the collective human spirit rise above the elements that divided us just weeks ago slightly north of Irma.  The 24 hour news cycle has been about humanity instead of political profanity.  About saving lives instead of tearing them apart with hate.  About life boats instead of walls.   Talk about a kick in the teeth and wake up from mother nature.  Is it coincidence that after the beating mother nature has given us over the past few weeks that the memory of 911 presents itself?

I philosophize here on the deck of the Golden K while so many are “practicalizing”  on the porch of a flooded home or at ground zero in NYC with only the memories of someone dear who was lost.   What else is there to do?   Pack a bag and head into the “eye of the storm”?

What do we do?  What can we do?  When can we do it?

Prayers to all the 16’s.  16 years, 16 days, and 16 hours ago.

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Tree Mortality

If it’s big enough it shakes the ground with the sound of tearing and crunching.   Then comes the thump.  The bigger ones may bounce once before coming to a full rest.  It’s a site to see these once living giants fall, seemingly in slow motion, finally hitting the ground sending a dust cloud into the surrounding air.

Earlier this year 33 dead trees were removed from The Golden K.   It’s a sad reality of living in the mountains after five years of drought and the dreaded Bark Beetles who take advantage of the water starved pines.  The beetles bore into the trees and the trees are unable to generate the necessary sap to push them out.  The beetles reproduce in the inner bark of the tree and this eventually kills the tree from the inside out.

The Golden K is not worse off for losing that many trees.  There are still 110 pine trees, dozens of majestic Oaks, and a plethora of Cedars and Manzanita.  In the long run the thinning of the pines will be better for the surviving trees.

So over a period of five days we watched our 33 dead soldiers fall and hit the ground.  It was interesting to say the least as we watched the expert crew plan and prepare for each tree falling leading up to the chain saw cuts that send the tree to the ground.

Our 33 pines are only a blip on the map of the tens of millions of trees that have died and must be taken down.  It’s a sad situation for those of us who are connected with the beauty of the mountains.  Only time will tell what the impact will be to that mountain landscape.

Thankfully, the landscape of The Golden K is much the same.  The thrash (all the limbs and branches) was all taken away but we were left with all the “wood” which was stacked up in “decks”.  We’ll need to do something with them eventually but for now they remain as a symbol of the fragile balance of life and death and as a reminder of my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

Holly balancing life on one of the tree decks

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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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