Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rain, Rain

After having sat in the truck for almost 300 miles yesterday, we wanted to stretch our legs a bit today and get some exercise.  What we didn’t want to do was drive a long way to a trail.  We decided to go back to Spooner Lake trailhead and hike for a hour out then turn around.  That was just enough (about 4 miles) and we got to enjoy all those special views again.

There have been late afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast for several days.  Until yesterday, we had only gotten a sprinkle or two.  Really, there were so few drops that you could almost count them.  Yesterday, coming home from Sacramento, we got into a real thunderstorm as we crossed the mountain.  We had driven out of it in about 10 minutes.  Once we got to Carson City, there was no more rain, but the street was still wet.  I even had a nice size puddle in the seat of my lawn chair which was sitting on our patio.

We went for the hike not expecting to see any rain until late afternoon, however, shortly after lunch it was raining.  It didn’t last long, but it was enough for me to be glad I wasn’t still on the mountain.

We have been thrilled to see some rain.  This is the first rain we have had since San Antonio in February.  I’m not counting that little snow shower we had in Albuquerque during the Rally.  Snow doesn’t count as rain.  I went out with the camera for a few shots of the dark sky, but they didn’t turn out too well.

We have enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and look forward to more of the same this evening.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sacramento, California Capitol

After a day around the old home place yesterday, we were ready for an adventure today.  Up early with a quick breakfast of cereal an toast, we were in the truck by 7:15 for the 130 mile drive to Sacramento.

We took US 50, winding up and over the mountain.  It was definitely scenic, but there were too many curves and too much traffic to really let your eyes wander from the road.  The road was in good condition and the mountains beautiful, so it was a pleasant drive.  Pleasant, at least, until we got to Sacramento County.  It is a big city, after all, and there were all the big city issues--lots of lanes, lots of traffic, lots of merging, and lots of folks driving far faster than the posted speed limit who know exactly where they are going and we seemed to be in their way.  By the time we got off at our exit downtown (US 50 turns into a limited access freeway in Sacramento), we were pretty stressed, especially Gene since he was driving.  This was the most traffic we’ve seen since San Antonio.

We had discussed how to spend our day, finally settling on just touring the Capitol Building.  With the long drive over there and back, we didn’t want to overdo it like we so often do.  We always get irritable and grumpy when we try to do too much.  We had also checked to be sure the capitol building would be open today.  We like visiting state capitols on Saturday, because the downtown traffic and parking are so much easier to deal with.  We found a parking spot on the street right in front of the capitol.
Very ornate interior

Sacramento was not the first capitol city of California (or even the second or third), but it has been the capitol since 1854.  This building has served as the seat of government since 1874.  It has been added on to a few times with a 6-story annex building extending from the back and a new Supreme Court building across the street.  The original building was restored in the late 1960s so it looks almost like new.  Today the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, and a Museum occupy this building.
Arnold's office

Assembly chamber
While we waited for our tour to begin, we walked around the museum area.  The first floor offices of the original Capitol Building have been restored to the way they looked in the early 1900s.  Our tour included the Senate, Assembly, Rotunda, and Governor’s Office.  Actually, all we got to do at the Governor’s Office was stand outside the door.
Looking through the rotunda on the second level

Senate chamber
We decided to take I-80 back to Reno rather than wind along US 50 again.  It was 30 miles farther, but a faster drive.  We were still going over the mountains (the highest point be Donner Pass at 7200 feet) so the scenery was nice, but the road surface was awful.  They are working on it and there was all the road construction equipment, narrow lanes, and concrete barriers that are the signs of tax dollars at work, but it looked like most of the work had been done on the westbound lanes.  Our eastbound lanes were almost dangerous to drive on.

We have no plan as yet for tomorrow, but I bet it won’t involve heavy traffic.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Genoa, Nevada

Instead of staying at home today as a rest day between hikes, we decided to go for a drive to check out the neighborhood.  Quite to our surprise, we found a Target just 2 blocks from the campground.  That is good to know.  I like Target better than Wal-Mart.

As we left the city limits of Carson City, we drove highway 207 which skirts the base of the Carson Range.  We found rather expensive gated communities interspersed with cattle ranches.  With the Carson River running through the area and the spring snow melt, a stretch of lush green bordered the brown desert beyond.

We parked the truck and got out to walk around in the tiny community of Genoa.  Genoa  claims to be Nevada’s first settlement.  There seems to be some controversy over which came first--Genoa or Dayton.  There are two main attractions in Genoa.  First, is the Mormon Station State Park.  In 1850 a couple of Mormon guys came from Salt Lake City to set up a trading post in Genoa which was a stopping point for those seeking gold in California.  The community grew from that humble beginning.  Today, Genoa has about 300 residents and a few small businesses.  Most of the “town” consists of the park which is a very well maintained green space about two blocks long and a block wide with picnic tables, restrooms, and a small “museum” of wagons, farm tools, and other relics from the mid-1800s.
The old courthouse is now a museum
Our second stop in Genoa was at the Genoa Bar--Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor.  What a place!  It was mid-morning when we stopped in--the only patrons at the time.  We asked for coffee and the bartender was happy to make a pot for us.  As we bellied up to the bar and sipped our brew, several others found their way to this watering hole.  (as it turned out, we were the only ones drinking coffee.)  The furnishings and wall decorations had obviously been there for years.  One of the gentlemen sharing the bar with us said he had been coming there for 20 years.  Back in that day, he claimed, even the cobwebs were original.  There were plenty of cobwebs and dust there today, but our new friend assured us these were new within the last 20 years.  I wish I had read the brochure while I was there instead of waiting until I got home.  I would have known that Raquel Welch’s bra was hanging on the antler’s.  However, even the brochure says that it is so dusty you can’t hardly tell what it is.
The museum at the state park
From Genoa, we made a big loop including the towns of Minden and Gardnerville.  We didn’t stop in Gardnerville, but by the time we got to Minden, we were hungry so found the city park for our picnic lunch.  After lunch we walked a couple blocks in all directions to check out the old town.  Minden was established in the early 1900s and it seems to have been a small community with a warehouse, mill, bank, merchantile, and not much more.
A great "watering hole"
We enjoyed our little tour of the area.  Our next city to check out will be Sacramento.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Becoming Apple Literate

I consider this to have been a very productive day.

After breakfast and the morning stuff, I got the laundry going.  Here, like many places, there is a sign requesting you not to leave your laundry unattended.  I can get so much more stuff done if I can come back to the house.  However, I understand why they make the request and it gives me time to read or knit.  These are two things which are generally neglected during the everyday routine.  So I took my book and the laundry and had some quiet time to myself.  That’s never a bad thing.

Next, I turned my attention to learning about the photo software which came on my Apple--iPhoto.  I watched a few on-line tutorials then tried to tackle applying what I thought I had learned to a few photos which I had downloaded from my camera.  After a false start or two and a few bumps along the way, I managed to make some progress with the organizational features of the software.  At least, I think I can find what’s there.

I took a break to fix us a sandwich for lunch then Gene and I went to the grocery for a few items.  After I got those few groceries put away, it was back to the computer again.

The afternoon session was much more productive and rewarding.  I transfer a few pictures from a CD and without much difficulty got them labeled and sorted.  I even added locations to all the photos now on the Mac.

The day is almost gone and I am real tired of sitting in this chair.  I going to fix dinner (grilled salmon on cold pasta salad) and do the rest of my chores on today’s list.  I’d rather be up doing chores than sitting at this point.

Gene rubbed on the Everest much of the day.  He’s anxious to be inside sitting down for a change.

We have no plan for tomorrow, but we won’t stay at home all day.  That’s for sure.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Five Lakes Trail

It was such a beautiful day, we just couldn’t resist getting out on the trail.  Today we went to the western side of Lake Tahoe to the Alpine Meadows area which is near Tahoe City.  This trail has been on our list for several days, but highway 28 is undergoing major construction and is closed weekdays.  Going around the lake from the south side adds several miles to an already 30 mile trip.  We took advantage of the road being open this weekend.  We were not disappointed.

It was a beautiful trail even though we did not have views of Lake Tahoe.  The trail stayed within the Granite Cliffs Wilderness except for one small piece which was on private land.  There are 5 (maybe even 6) small alpine lakes 2.5 miles from the trailhead after a 1000 feet elevation gain.  At the area of the lakes we were within a half mile of the Pacific Crest Trail.

We stopped for lunch at the first lake.  Still mostly covered in snow, it was an inviting setting for lunch.  We found a log in a sunny spot just a few feet from the lake.  The warm sun had melted the snow around the log so we had a relatively dry place to sit.

View from our lunch spot
We had walked through some pretty deep snow to get to this first lake and were not much interested in wadding any farther.  However, so many people passed us while we had lunch that we decided to trudge on.  After all, the prettiest lake may be just over that 8 foot drift.  After following what looked like the most footprints for about 10 minutes to the top of the slope, we expected to find the next lake, but it wasn’t there.  We weren’t real thrilled with hiking in the snow, so we headed back down the mountain.

With the hike and the long drive to and from the trailhead, I didn’t have any time today to work with my photos on the Apple.  That is my number one priority for tomorrow.  Well, right after a couple loads of laundry and a quick trip to the grocery.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Lazy Day

This has been a beautiful day for almost anything anyone wanted to do, but we chose to stay close to home and take is easy.  I just love days like this every now and again.

Gene did a few little chores around the Everest, including running the vacuum for me.  That was nice. After lunch he fell asleep in the recliner.  I guess that wasn’t as comfortable as he would have liked, because I found him in the bed a little later.   Peanut was doing his share of napping on the sofa.

I was determined to get my document files transferred from the Dell to my new Apple today.  The sales representatives at both Apple Stores we visited assured me there would be no problems transferring MS Word documents to the MacIntosh platform.  Basically, that is true.  However, I had several documents, mostly journal stuff, which I had created in Word rather than in desktop publishing.  I had forced Word to take the photos which it doesn’t like to do.  The text of those documents transferred, but the photos did not.  It is not really a heartbreak.  I still have the original photos, of course, but disappointing none-the-less.  I should have taken the time to create those documents in publishing software to start with.  Anyway, I worked pretty steadily at it most of the morning and I have all my documents on the new computer.  Tomorrow, I’ll start on the photos.  That is going to be a challenge, I think.

Last evening, we had a wonderful dinner with friends we met in Santa Fe.  They were also at the Rally in Albuquerque.  After that, they went north to Colorado while we headed west.  They are on their way home to California and stopped for the night in Carson City.  It was so good to get to see them again.

Besides working on the computer most of today, I also fixed a new recipe for our dinner tonight.  In a Weight-Watchers cookbook I found a recipe for stuffed cabbage using ground turkey instead of beef.  To the ground turkey I added sauteed onions and fresh mushrooms, cooked rice, and an egg.  The recipe instructions were to bake the stuffed cabbage smothered in marinara sauce.  I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t put it in the slow cooker.  It is about ready now and it smells great.

After being at home all day today, we will want to get out some tomorrow.  Perhaps there will be a parade in Carson City.  That would be fun.  If we have a parade or not, we certainly will take time to reflect on our freedoms and contemplate the sacrifices made by so many to protect the rights and privileges we have as Americans.

Have a great Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Another Hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail

This is another glorious day in Nevada and we took advantage of the beautiful sunshine and big blue sky to do a little hiking.  Being a holiday weekend, we wanted to get an early start to get ahead of the crowds.  We chose a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail which  was easy and quick to get to.  Just 15 minutes after getting in the truck we were at the trailhead.

Today, we parked on the opposite side of US 50 at the Spooner Summit trailhead which we have hiked a couple times.  Instead of heading north along the trail, we went south.  It was a steeper climb, the trail was more narrow, and less sandy.  However, the views were every bit as stunning.

Like we expected, there were lots of folks out enjoying the great outdoors today.  We got on the trail about 9 am and did not see anyone until about 10:30.  Once we saw one other person it was like the flood gates were opened.  Bikers are also allowed on this section of trail and we saw a few somehow peddling uphill.
Mule's ear, I think

The spring wildflowers are blooming and we saw several, especially mule’s ear.  In the wildlife category, we saw 3 or 4 lizards, a few ground squirrels, and I saw a coyote.
Thunderhead brewing

Friends we met in Santa Fe are passing through on their way to California.  We have dinner scheduled with them tonight.  It is always exciting getting together with friends and we are really looking forward to that visit.

Tomorrow will be a non-hiking day, but so far we have no plan.
Wildlife sighting

Continue to enjoy your holiday weekend and, if you get a chance, hug a vet.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A New Computer

I had one task in mind for today--get a new computer.  Several months ago, one of the hinges holding the monitor onto the keyboard of my Dell came apart.  Since then, I have handled it with kid gloves and it has managed to stay together.  A couple weeks ago, the CD drive decided not to work.  Since then, I have coaxed it to write documents and photos I have made recently, but I don’t trust it not to destroy a CD that has any data on it.  I have also been getting error messages when I try to shut down.  These have been like flashing lights telling me it’s time for a new computer.

When we were in Las Vegas, we happened across an Apple Store.  Being a retired middle school teacher, I spent years with Apple computers.  We found one in that store that I liked and I have had it on my mind ever since.  It was easy to find the Apple Store in Reno and that is where we headed this morning.

We had a long Q and A session with Brian and after Gene handed over the credit card, we came away with a new computer. Mission accomplished!

I have spent the better part of the afternoon reacquainting myself with the Apple software.  What fun.  Over the next few days, of course, will be the task of moving documents from the Dell.

Tomorrow will be another hike, probably along the Tahoe Rim Trail.  That will mean a very early start in an attempt to avoid the holiday crowds in the parking lots.  We’ll see how the new computer handles the photos I take tomorrow.

If you are traveling this weekend, please be safe and have loads of fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lake Tahoe

Having stayed close to home yesterday, we were anxious to get out and stretch our legs a bit today.  Being the day before the beginning of the holiday weekend, we thought it in our best interest to find a trail we could get to early before the parking lots began to fill up.  We ended up going back to the trailhead at Spooner summit.  Today, however, we did not hike around the lake, but took the Tahoe Rim Trail north for about 2.5 miles.  This was approximately a mile farther than we had gone before.  This is a beautiful hike with several superb views, both of Carson Valley and of Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe, by the way, is a freshwater, alpine lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains straddling the California Nevada border.  It is the largest alpine lake in the country measuring 22 miles long and 12 miles wide.  It is the second deepest alpine lake, second only to Crater Lake in Oregon.  (We’ll go there from here).  

When we got to the trailhead, there were two cars in the parking lot, but we did not see anyone until we were on our way back.  We saw several people on the return trip and the parking lot was full when we got there.  It was good we got an early start.

We have enjoyed these short 3, 4 or 5 mile hikes we have been doing.  We can get an early start, take our time and enjoy the scenery, have an early lunch from a breath-taking vista, and be home in the early afternoon with time to relax before dinner.  Relaxing is what’s next on our agenda.

Tomorrow we are planning a trip to Reno to the Apple Store.  The time has come for a new computer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Comstock Country RV Resort

Today has been a little cooler than the past several with temperatures around 80.  There is also a nice breeze, so our windows are open instead of the AC running.

Gene was up and out early this morning taking the truck for its 60,000 mile checkup and scheduled service.  The downside for diesel engines is the expensive service.  The upside is their longevity.  We are hoping to get 300,000 miles out of this engine and we are very pleased with its performance.  Still, Gene barely escaped having a stroke when he learned the charge for today’s work would be nearly a $1000.  The dealership was good enough to bring him home and will come get him (and his checkbook) when the work is done.

I got out the vacuum cleaner—one of Peanut’s favorite pieces of equipment.  It’s funny about that cat.  With the Montana, I had an upright Hoover Wind Tunnel.  It was big and bad and made a tremendous noise.  Peanut, being deaf, never paid much attention to it.  If he was asleep on the chair, I could vacuum all around and he never woke up.  If he was awake, he would often follow me around thinking it was some sort of game we were playing.  Now, I have central vacuum and the only thing he sees is the hose and sweeper attachment.  He seems to be scared to death and runs to some hiding place where he will be safe.  All I can figure is that it must vibrate the floor more than the wind tunnel did.

We have pretty much settled in at this campground so I guess it is time I offered an opinion.  Comstock Country RV Resort is located on US 395 (Carson Street) about 3 miles south of the “downtown” area.  It is only a half mile from US 50 as it makes its turn westward toward California.  US 395 is a busy, 4-lane highway at this point so there is some traffic noise, but not as much as with an interstate.  There is only an open field between the campground and US 50.  Certainly no noise from that direction.  The entrance to the campground is from a dead end side street.  Although, this street is a dead end, after passing the campground the street leads up to Sam’s Club before turning to dirt and petering out in about a quarter mile.  In the next block along US 395 after the Casino is a strip mall with Wal-Mart, Borders Books, several boutiques, and several restaurants.  We feel like the campground is in a convenient location for a long term stay.
View from the Campground
There are about 130 campsites, mostly pull-thrus.  All interior roads are paved.  The sites are all gravel with no grass.  This is the desert, after all, and it would be incredibly expensive to keep grass growing.  I much prefer gravel to dirt which is easily picked up and deposited inside my home when it is windy.  Every site has a tree or two and that makes up for no grass.  Every site also has a picnic table and a concrete patio area.  The sites are wide enough so that you don’t feel crowded in on your neighbor.

We have free cable TV and free WiFi which is adequate for surfing and posting photos.  The laundry is about the best I’ve seen.  There are 10 washers; plenty for the number of sites.  There are only 8 dryers and 2 of those do not get real hot.  However, those 2 are clearly marked so you know to only put in a light load or delicate fabrics.  It is very clean.  I have not been in the bath house.  I suspect is it as clean as the laundry facility.  There is a nice pool which won’t be open until this weekend, and a nice hot tub.

There are several rigs set up in a more permanent fashion around the campground, but all are well maintained and don’t have a lot of junk littering the site.  Many actually look very nice with their patios decorated with pots of flowers.  We have not seen any attached wooden decks.

The rates are about average for this area--$35 plus tax/night.  The monthly rate, however, dropped down to $15/night plus electricity.  We are very happy with our service here and will come again if in the area.

If we get the truck back today, we will find something more exciting to do tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vikingsholm and Emerald Point

I think we could save some time and energy and not plan hikes—just go with the flow.  Today, the hike we intended to do was near Tahoe City on the North Western shore of the lake.  As we were driving there, we came to a beautiful spot along the road and stopped to investigate.  Not only did we find gorgeous overlooks, but we also found the very popular trail to Vikingsholm, another summertime retreat for the rich and famous.  We couldn’t resist.

The half mile trail led down 400 feet from the parking lot to Vikingsholm which is situated at the back of Emerald Cove.  It was a beautiful 2-story stone and wood mansion overlooking a white sand beach and emerald-colored water of the cove.  Today, it is owned and maintained by the California State Parks and is open for tours (in season).  Since this is not the season, we just peeked in the windows.
Rubicon trail followed the shoreline

Boat camp about a mile from the house

If you continue on around the beach past the boat dock area, you come to the Rubicon Trail which leads along the shoreline past Emerald Point and on to the next state park—D.L. Bliss.  We followed the trail as far as Emerald Point (about 2 miles) and stopped there for a lunch break before heading back to the truck.
Emerald Point, our destination

Everything about today was fabulous—the weather, the hike, the views.  I have a feeling every hiking day here will be just as rewarding.

Emerald Bay, house is to the right in the trees

Tomorrow will be chore day for me and Gene is taking the truck for regular scheduled service.  It’s hard to say who will have more fun.
The only island in Lake Tahoe is in Emerald Bay

Monday, May 18, 2009

Historic Tallac Estate

Much more rested this morning, I think I can tackle yesterday’s hiking adventure.  Although our total hiking miles only amounted to 3, with the intention of 4, it took the better portion of the day.
Along Taylor Creek Trail

Mt Tallac, 9735 feet

We left early for the 25 mile drive to South Lake Tahoe.  We stopped only once and that was at the overlook where I took several photos.  It is a beautiful spot—one that warrants a thermos of coffee and Danish some morning.  We spent several minutes there then were on our way again.
Baldwin Estate main house
Hellar Estate, Vahalla
Gene had picked out 3 short hikes, all in the same area, from the hiking guide he picked up at the bookstore Saturday.  All these hikes were on National Forest Service land.  The directions to the trailhead for the first 2 hikes were very clear and we had no difficulty finding the spot.  What we found, however, was a closed gate with a very large “closed” sign.  Apparently, they don’t open until Memorial Day weekend.  It was a beautiful day and unseasonably warm.  Everybody who didn’t have something else to do wanted to be on the beach on the other side of the closed gate.  Like the rest of the folks, we parked on the shoulder of the road and walked around the gated (properly ignoring the closed sign).  By the time we left there, the number of cars parked along the shoulder on both sides of the road stretched for maybe a half mile.  It was truly incredible.  Most were carrying coolers, blankets, and even a few umbrellas past the gate to the beach, about a half mile walk.  The gate was not the only thing closed; so were the restrooms.  But other than that, we (and all the rest) enjoyed our day at Taylor Creek and the Historic Tallac Estate.
Taylor Creek

Our first hike was the Taylor Creek nature trail.  Taylor Creek empties into Lake Tahoe just a few feet from the trail.  This was a typical nature trail with benches for resting (or meditating), interpretative panels, and a wide, paved footpath.  There was a boardwalk built over the marshy areas and at one point it was underwater.  Taylor Creek was a raging torrent of melted snow from the high peaks making its way to the lake.  This short 1-mile hike took a considerable amount of time.  I stopped to take several photos, we stopped to read the interpretative panels, and we stopped just to enjoy the beauty of the creation.
Pope Estate main house

Our second trail started across the parking lot from Taylor Creek Visitor Center and led to the Historic Tallac Estate.  In the late 1890s and early 1900s this 150-acre plot of land on the south end of Lake Tahoe became a summer retreat for rich and famous families (and their guests) from San Francisco. Today, volunteers and the National Park Service maintain 3 estates which are open to the public (in season).  We were able to tour the grounds and peak in the windows, but the homes and guest houses were still closed.  There were several volunteers out (even on Sunday afternoon) trying to get things in shape to open next weekend.  Each estate consists of the main home, several guest cottages, servants’ quarters, boathouses, and in the case of Valhalla, a theater.  The Pope Estate was like its own little community with a blacksmith shop and separate quarters for the tutor.  They all, of course, had grand views of Lake Tahoe.

Although, the walk through this historic site was only 2 miles, it took a couple hours.  We had to read every sign and peek in the windows.
Each estate had a great view of Lake Tahoe

After our late picnic lunch, we headed across the street to the next trailhead.  It was far enough away that we had to drive.  I was also in desperate need of restroom facilities.  After about a mile we came to an open campground.  They always have restrooms, so we pulled in.  Besides taking advantage of their facilities, we drove around with an eye for a future camping adventure and Gene went in the “camp store” to ask a few questions.  By the time we had finished exploring, talking, and eating our ice cream, it was pretty late in the afternoon.  We decided to leave the last hike for another day.

Today is a rest and chore day with maybe a trip to the bookstore this afternoon.  Tomorrow—who knows!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Photos of Lake Tahoe

We went for another hike today.  Actually it was 2 hikes—a short one-mile nature loop and a longer loop through the Tallac Historic Site.  However, it is now late in the afternoon and I am far too tired to shuffle through the many, many pictures, compress them for the internet, do the research on the Tallac community, write and post the story.  So you will have to forgive me for my laziness today.  I will post some of the pictures I took of Lake Tahoe.

On our way to the trailhead in South Lake Tahoe, we stopped at an overlook along US 50.  I made most of these photos there.  The other two were made along the trail.  This is the million dollar view in an absolutely gorgeous area.  You can see why we wanted to hang around for a while.