San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Friday, May 7, 2010

BETWEEN 2000 AND 3000...

feet elevation, the sights and smells in California's natural world are unique, especially in the Spring.
Leaving my secret camping spot in high clover...
I headed back across the Eel River to the outside world of scary highways and scarier logging trucks...
...and headed East on CA 299 from Arcata to places along the Trinity River not visited for over thirty years. While waiting for a construction worker to flag me forward, this delicate little Saxifrage, hanging in dripping seep on a rock wall right outside my window, caught my eye. Trigger finger always at the ready!
Most campgrounds along 299 were still closed for the season. Except Hayden Flat. Not built to accommodate large RVs, I found it little changed since my frequent visits in the late 70's -- then in a tent of course!
A mixture of Oak and this tree is what used to keep my home warm in the Winter: Oak for a long burn, Madrone for a hot burn. I still chuckle when I recall overhearing visitors to Santa Cruz wondering if those "red trees" were those famous Redwoods! Nope; just pedestrian ol' Pacific Madrones.
Little white Dogwood puffs teased my peripheral vision -- eyes on the road and no place to pull over. What's a flower freak to do? Yup! Stop the rig in the middle of the road, turn on flashers, "roll down" window, shoot and run. Now that's the ticket!!
As a kid, I called this the "puzzle tree." Actually it's either a Ponderosa Pine or its closely-related Jeffrey Pine. I'm inclined to think it's a Ponderosa because of its orange bark. Have you ever stuck your nose into a crevice in the bark of either species? It smells like vanilla to some, to others, like baking cookies or pineapple! It's said the defining way to distinguish between a Jeffrey and a Ponderosa is the smell from fresh-cut wood: one smells sweet, the other like turpentine!
Paused in Weaverville, I admired the snowclad Klamath Mtns. and hoped that sky stayed blue through tomorrow!
Turning North on Highway 3, I could catch glimpses through the trees of Trinity Lake, renamed Clare Engle Lake, and finally re-renamed its original Trinity Lake. My large-print "American Atlas" is way behind the times, and the lake still honors the dead senator Engle. Trinity Lake is fed by the Trinity River and several creeks, here gushing snow melt into the north end ...
...with lots more gushing snow melt to go before one can launch a boat...
...and maybe not until August before the skis won't tangle with gravel bars or tree snags.
Up and up I drive, in rain, shifting down to first gear -- smack dab in the middle of the Trinity Alps, waaaay above that comfortable 3,000-foot elevation, I met up with four, count 'em, f-o-u-r snow plows. Oh oh! But no worries, rain stayed rainy not snowy!
I eventually crossed the Pacific Crest Trail and started down. Whew -- that was a bit of a white knuckle drive for yours truly.
Leveling out at the bottom of that wild ride, the little town of Etna in the Scott River Valley greeted me at a nice, comfortable 2,900' elevation.

This mural was on the side of the firehouse...
...note the all-girl bucket brigade! Can't help but wonder if the town's fire department employs any firewomen?!

I love coming across these towns that aren't surrounded by mega-malls where consuming and acquiring is the focus; where businesses are still owned by locals, and where there's an honest-to-goodness soda fountain - drugstore!

Leaving this sweet little burg, I wondered what it would take to live there. Well, I discovered Etna isn't immune to California's obscene home prices: $125,00. for a 750 sq.ft, two-bedroom "fixer-upper" for example. So, OK, housing costs are high, but worth visiting? Hmmmm, it hosts the annual Scott Valley Bluegrass Festival every July, and I hear it boasts a stellar band lineup from across the country. You decide!