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

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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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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