April 2013

It was a good year for them to come; a handful of sorrowful homicides, continual challenges of the homeless population, drug users, and the overall chaos of the world challenged us in our beachside town.? They arrived and brought us together unexpectedly with wholesome fun, high production value and professional atheleticism that inspired and encouraged us.

I didn’t get a pic of us at the opening night of this inaugural season, but I do have a t-shirt.? I had a blast working with Matt DeNesnera, their Community Relations guy during NBA green week and rallying the EA crew for a rowdy Monday night nationally televised game in the stands (above) in late March.? I caught the last home game of the seasons with Holly and Beau (big Oakland Warriors fans) during this week’s finals (Idaho Vipers) which they lost in a heartbreak of a final 89 seconds.

Thanks Warriors for making good on your promise to be a part of what we are about here in Santa Cruz. You may not have won the finals, but you definitely won our hearts.

Been with her since the start, well her start in Santa Cruz anyway. Mike was just picking up the pedal steel. He rocked it tonight and so did she, her confidence level up to 11 since those early days in that Seacliff beach bar, now belting it out without reserve. She reminds us ‘grace is hell to keep’ but she does it oh so sweetly. So glad I can be your groupie Amee Chapman. Keep rockin it. And your boys too.

Amee Chapman and the Velvet Tumbleweeds, Moe’s Alley 14 April 2013

Second backpack trip of the year, this time with Linda and Holly. Bumped our way up past the summit on Tassajara’s dirt road our of Carmel Valley and parked at China Camp on a Friday, half dozen other cars (or should I say high clearance 4WD trucks?) at the trailhead. After checking the car a few times to ensure we weren’t leaking fluids and hadn’t lost any underparts to the rocks on the way up, we headed out on Pine Ridge trail for the 5.2 mostly downhill miles to camp.? Up top the meadows were crazy with lupine and owls clover, scenting the air so heavy I almost didn’t need to eat lunch it was so rich.

Stopped for a rest at the Church Creek Divide, where years earlier I’d met Calipidder and Paige and their crew headed right to where we were going today. That day I headed east instead, with Robert, down through Church Creek drainage thicker with wildflowers than any place I’d ever seen, it being a wet February and just two years post fire.?? Today just a few lupine remained in the divide meadow under the live oaks leafing out chartreuse and we headed west, walking until the first trickle of the Carmel River headwaters appeared and led us fully into Pine Valley. Lovely.

Love Rock

Pine Valley opened up all sweetness and meadow and rock walled scrambly goodness.? Linda and I met Richard, a wanderer back in there 16 days so far, wildharvesting nettles.? We heard a kids group up valley past Jack’s cabin so we set up camp east of there, with a lovely meadow view, under a sweet pine right next to the creek-like River.

We set up camp and ambled around a bit. As we finished up dinner Richard showed up in a ruffled polkadotted button down shirt and took us up a side drainage to perch for sunset and fascinating conversation. We watched a Great Horned Owl swoop in for some who-who who who perch calls as the stars came out. As the evening went on I could feel my breath slowing down, my shoulders dropping, and a sweet relaxation replacing a stress level I hadn’t been aware I carried in.? No fire that night for us, just to bed in the cold. Despite being up a lot with my not-warm-enough sleeping situation, I awoke rested. Linda too, having slept out under the stars. Hot breakfast to birdsong and then we headed out or shall we say up-up-up? toward and around Bear Basin (center of the recent fires) on the Pine Ridge trail (thank you trail builders!).

Fantastic views west to Ventana Cone, Double Cone, Mount Carmel, Uncle Sam Mountain and northwest to civilization and the ocean from Bear Basin’s rim. The trail pulled over a saddle and down into dry brushy south facing Ventana slopes. Pushed our way through brush to Pine Ridge camp where we found the miracle of water in the desert.? Crossing the creek met the confounding False Lupin and ate lunch with her overlooking the wild and scenic Big Sur River drainage and over it to Cone Peak.? Met a Ring Necked Snake, a Blue Tailed Skink and many other wildflower friends that day on our 9.2 mile route. I flushed a bobcat drinking from the headwaters of the Carmel on the way back too. Sweet gifts.

Baby Blue Eyes

Holly and her pooch Jud were waiting for us at camp when we got back.

Too cold to hike down and jump into the falls pool we shivered our way into a sit-dunk near camp then sunned naked in the meadow til toasty.? Linda cooked a fab meal of Thai peanut sauce, couscous and veggies and we blanched some wildharvested nettles ourselves to round out the meal.

That evening Holly and I went and explored the main valley where I clambered up, heart thumping, to the top rocks above the valley and Jack’s cabin. I tracked the Great Horned that evening and saw him calling from a bare branch, the evening still young enough to see his coloration, the white breast feathers, and how he stretched himself out in the calling. Next time I must bring binocs – there were so many birds in Pine Valley to see! We came back to a fire in camp and sweet conversation as the night fell, the beauty of the shimmering coals as we broke apart the fire at the end.

Before we left the next day Richard made a surprise visit and took us to the rocks again, Linda had not been, and we softly scrambled up into the north facing cave with grinding holes in the wind sculpted ledge. Easy to imagine the valley’s past guests gathering the live oak acorns and gathering themselves here in the cool shade, looking out over the sweet pocket meadow of shooting stars and shooting the shit while they ground the poison out, working their harvest into edible acorn mash.

Hiking out we said farewell to our interesting Pine Valley companion Richard and moseyed our way toward home.? Resting at Church Creek Divide some kids pulled up and I recognized one from our Camp Tequilla Mockingbird crew. Turned out it was a Gateway school group and Dave (our fiddle player) was there too with travel guitar on his pack – too bad we did not visit their camp earlier in our trip! The hike up and out was hot and long but offered amazing views of Church Creek Divide. Linda was ahead, me having chatted up the gents for a bit, and she wisely stopped again in our wildflowered meadow for lunch.

We never did get a pic of the three of us.? :)? Full set of pics here.

Thanks for a great trip ladies.

Warm weather, longer days and I’ve been out playing too much to blog!? Two weeks ago I enjoyed a lovely wonderful fantastic gratitude inducing laughter filled event……. SPRINGBERRY – Because May is just too far away!

I gathered 50 of the usual Camp Tequila Mockingbird suspects together, this time at the Green Oaks Farm for a weekend of camping, music, wiffle ball and wildlife.? As camp organizer, I was the first one there and got to watch the farmhands pull the stuck porta potty truck out of the meadow with a teeny tractor.

I then set up camp overlooking the wooded hillside and farm. Time for a nap!

I awoke to the squealy sounds of 4 new baby pigs arriving on the farm. They also had two goats and a box of baby chicks in the greenhouse to keep kids of all ages entertained, especially when the pigs escaped the electric wire fence in the night and headed for the new raspberry plants.

As the evening approached, the crew arrived. We feasted on a BBQ potluck, including a chicken stew coal-cooked in Dave’s jealousy-inducing 16″ Dutch oven tucked into the fire.? Music of course, and a sweet jam ended the evening in the event barn.

Day 2 was Friday and before the rest of the crew arrived I hiked up Chalk Mountain bushwhacking up an overgrown trail – the last of the 4 mapped routes up there I’ve now hiked. Checked out the view to Ano Nuevo from the best picnic table spot ever and texted a few folks last minute logistics (you have to work hard for cell service on the coast!)

Friday afternoon was a rare bout of sunshine and badmitton with beer in hand.? Friday evening was homemade Italian feastiness and an unexpected visit from Dona and the Bean (who proceeded without prompting to figure out how to feed her zipper in all by herself!).

S’Mores, tequila, light up hoolahoops and glow sticks saw the sun down and we headed into the barn for late night music.? The almost-teens led their first camp jams while their proud parents tried to keep from grinning uncooly while they did.

We’re all lined up for Spring Strawb now, which itself has a great lineup this year. The festival gates open in? 32 days 10 hours 52 minutes and 4 seconds………

I rode home tonight late, the last light marking the curve of the levee. Crickets and angels trumpet celebrated the end of the bitter cold. The color was poignant looking back west; there is no time of day that is bluer than dusk on the river.

Arriving home I went right upstairs to visit my new/old quilt.? I have long longed for one, and felt the time was right when I met this one at the Blue Goose antique store in Benicia where we stopped en route to Healdsburg. This one has faded soft colors, sweet hand stitching and more than a few squares that are worn through in need of repair.

Last night, and again today, I sat with it looking and looking, running my fingers along the frayed edges.? My worrying fingers wondering what stories it holds: first kisses and tooth fairy visits, fiery fights and long cold hearted nights, sweet lovemaking and milk-drunk baby cuddling, death and marriage, friends visiting from afar, toddlers testing the bed springs and the light slanting in through the paned windows different each season.? What homes has it lived in? Where has it traveled? Who made it and whose old dresses and curtains and sheets has it carried forward through the decades? Who passed it down to who? Who cherished it along the way?

Last night I started to add my stories to it and am in love already.

It was a sweet weekend in Healdsburg: Art galleries, jewelry and fabric, amazing eats in great company (Mick, Lise, Kath, Kel) at the Flying Goat, Woodhouse Chocolates, Barndiva and The Cheese Shop (of course). Canopied king bed at the Irish Rose Inn with a bathroom and spa tub bigger than a New York apartment. Morning run over the rusty Lambert Bridge trestle, and later a rambling Sunday drive along West Dry Creek Road amidst ancient head prunes just budding out. Visits to old vines and old friends. Greenly field gray sky showery drives through Alexander Valley and home. They had some hard winter weeks this year and the lilacs are glorious.? The innkeeper sent me home with a bunch that are perfuming my whole place.

A few pics from the trip are here.