Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where Heaven and Earth Meet

A Little More Shasta......
Where Heaven and Earth Meet.
Just as Mt Shasta is grand and austere, the town of Shasta is charming and quaint, adored with colorful flower gardens and welcoming front doors. And if you are wondering where the 60's flower-power-crystal-magic people went, it's here in Shasta.


Come on in....through the not so Secret Garden

Lots of organic produce and whole food restaurants.

This was our favorite Mexican Jewish street stand. Great Carnitas Quesadillas.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"White as a Winter Moon"

"As lone as God, white as a winter moon."  Joaquin Miller

 "When I first saw it, all my blood turned to wine."  John Muir

"Shit, that's beautiful!"  Darrell Erickson

"I'm going to climb that mountain again!" Darrell Erickson on his 62nd Birthday

"We ain't climbing that thing!" Me and Spark

"Muy Tranquila!"  Tranquila

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Cattle Whisperer of Hat Creek

Our afternoon swimming pond at Hat Creek
Darrell contemplates life, and Spark wonders when is mealtime?
There were so many things we liked about Hat Creek Hereford Ranch RV Resort - the peaceful setting, well-manicured grounds, a great swimming hole, nice folks, fantastc views, and friendly cows! Never thought I’d be hanging out with a bunch of cattle and loving it - and I especially never thought Darrell would bond so quickly with herefords, but it happened right here at Hat Creek. Maybe it was our recent decision to seriously limit our red meat intake.

Peaceful surroundings and quiet neighbors
Darrell makes a couple of new friends, while Spark curiously watches 
Within no time Darrell had a new calling, CATTLE WHISPERER

Who could resist their Doe Eyes, and how could they resist Darrell's Charm?

Our favorite Hereford.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

ET........Phone Hat Creek?

Hat Creek Observatory, home to SETI

When we started planning our glamping adventure north I had an overwhelming desire to stand in the middle of Lassen Peak and Mt Shasta. How fitting that the only spot I found to accomplish my goal was at the Hat Creek Observatory, home to the nonprofit Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, for short. Just 290 miles northeast of San Francisco at an elevation of 4200 feet, surrounded by pine forests and cattle ranches, the setting is strikingly beautiful and peaceful, albeit a bit spooky.

If the surreal setting above looks familiar to you, perhaps you remember it from Jody Foster’s movie, “Contact”, based on Carl Sagan’s novel. Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, was inspired by Jill Tarter, the head astronomer-researcher at SETI. “Contact” was about an astronomer who finds a signal from outer space, has the equivalent of a mystical orgasm, and consequently redefines her spiritual beliefs. An entertaining story, but thus far, it remains a Hollywood fairytale. 

Despite of the billions of NASA dollars spent probing space, there has not been a single peep anywhere in the galaxy that confirms DNA-based life beyond Earth. As humans, that leaves us cosmically alone in our struggle to answer “Does other life exist in the universe”?

Scientists know that there are as many planets - each with the possibility of life-  as there are stars. Called the “Cosmic Haystack”, there are 100 billion stars to search and 9 billion narrowband radio channels listening for aliens to call Earth. That’s a lot of cosmic real estate. Jill Tarter told reporters that “The number two is the all important number. We count one, two, infinity. We’re all looking for number two.”

Lassen Peak with 2 of the 42 Allen Telescope Array listening for extraterrestrials

Picture me right here in the middle of Lassen and Shasta!

ATA facing north toward Mt Shasta

The Allen Telescope Array, pictured above, is designed to search the stars in order to find the alien in the Cosmic Haystack. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), consisting of 42 antennas have been in place since 2007. The 42 dishes are named after Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, Paul G. Allen, who gave $25 million to get the project rolling. The project was to consist of 350 antennas, 20 feet in diameter, and mass produced to look like satellite dishes. It seems Mr. Allen’s money was only enough for the existing 42. No one has stepped up to offer the additional $55 million required to complete the entire number. And that’s only the beginning of SETI'S financial difficulties. 

When the recession struck, money for searching for alien life dried up.  With recent budget problems and cutbacks, SETI’S partner, the University of California, Berkeley was forced to withdraw from the program. Since then, the radio dishes have been left standing dormant since April 2011. However, hope is on the horizon. 

Low and behold, it turns out that the Allen Telescope Array, is just the thing that the US Air Force could use to track satellites and space junk!  An infusion of a relatively small amount of money - $2.5 mil - will help get the antenna’s up and running, as well as pay the astronomers salary, for a few months. There has also been $220,000 worth of funding from private citizens from Silicon Valley, as well as, a contribution from Jody Foster!

ET, Better phone home, with your credit card!

In April 2012, SRI International came on aboard to oversee management at Hat Creek Observatory, and the ATA’s are due to be fired up this September. For the time being, it seems the Allen Telescope Array will once again be scanning the heavens for “technosignatures” or electromagnetic signals that could detect intelligent alien civilization. 

Whoaaa, is it possible? Have Aliens landed at Hat Creek?

These friendly creatures aren't talking.

These folks have not landed from outer space, they are the wild creations of a local welder, who greet travelers on the road between Hat Creek and Cassel.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

C H I L L A X I N in Plumas Eureka

A cool swim was our reward after a hike to Grass Lake

Darrell and Spark Chillaxin
A few miles up the road from Graeagle is the Plumas Eureka State Park Campground, that many believe to be California’s finest. No argument from us, surrounded by stands of tall pines, Tranquila was precariously perched overlooking Jamison Creek. At night we were lulled to sleep by the music of the babbling stream, and in the morning, coffee was sipped lying in bed starring out our window at the heavily forested landscape listening to the sounds of warblers, crows, and woodpeckers. Our days were spent exploring and hiking some of the many trails referenced in “Feather River Country Adventure Trails”. One of my favorites is the trail departing from the old Jamison Gold Mine (one of the most profitable in the Sierra) to Grass Lake. Next year we want to backpack past Grass Lake above the tree line to Wade, Rock, and Jamison Lakes for an overnight stay. 

At the entrance to the state park campground is a compound of historical buildings that once comprised the Plumas-Eureka Mine from California’s Gold Rush days, not so long ago. Today, young and old alike, can be seen dressed in waist-high waders panning for gold along Jamison Creek. Hobby or fever, who can say, but I prefer to send Darrell out with a fishing pole. 

 Panning for gold, fishing, or swimming, everyone loves Jamison Creek 

Whether you fish or not, there is no avoiding the historical significance of the area. The hydraulic Plumas-Eureka Mine was incredible labyrinth of 65 miles of tunnels twisting and winding their way deep into the earth. It is believed that 25 million dollars worth of gold was mined here. The campground registration office is housed in the old sleeping quarters for the miners, and contains a museum documenting the colorful Sierra history. They have an excellent assortment of tools and machinery used in mining the gold, models of the mines, the paymaster’s records, and a good display of men's and women’s clothing worn in the era. There is also a taxidermal exhibition (surprisingly, it fascinated me more than it creeped me out) of the region's creatures from bears to owls. For those who want to delve deeper into the wonders of Plumas County (me) the park’s bookstore offers a wealth of sources, including information about the early inhabitants. 

Originally, the Northern Maidu, a group of hunter and gathers, lived among the forested ridges, high lakes, and green valleys of the Northern Sierra. With the advent of the gold rush, their ecosystem was heavily tread upon by white men seeking their fortunes. This quest for riches had devastating consequences for the Maidu, within 50 years 90% of the tribe lost their lives to disease and starvation. Members of the Maidu tribe, strong and resilient, number nearly 2,000 today. 

Johnsville, quiet and serene
When gold was found at Eureka Peak (Gold Mountain) young men and women from across America and around the world poured into the area in pursuit of their dreams of wealth. In 1876, Johns, the headman of the Plumas-Eureka Mine, built a community for the miners and their familes. Known as Johnsville, the population reached 7,000 in its heyday. The new community flourished with two hotels, a school, a church, a couple of general stores, and of course, several salons. When the Plumas-Eureka mine played out, the boom was over, and all that was left of Johnsville was a ghost town. 

Today, Johnsville is a sleepy hamlet with a year round population of twenty, far out numbered by the permanent residents of the historical cemetery. There is also a small number of summer dwellers who have started building charming farmhouses with shaded porches overlooking well-manicured lawns dotted with wild flowers. A favorite pastime of residents seems to be reading under the canopy of Aspens and pines offering shelter from the hot summer days. After all, no real services exist up here; cell phone reception is sketchy at best, so you can forget the internet, there is no market, no gas station, no stores of any kind. Nada. Just perfection, beauty, and abundance of peaceful solitude. Nothing but all the time in the world to finish that great book that’s been waiting patiently on the shelf. There is however, as the sun starts to lower on the horizon, an old time restaurant, The Iron Door.

The Iron Door, a local favorite (and only) restaurant 

We came to Johnsville neither in pursuit of gold or lobster, but rather to follow the trail leading from the old cemetery down the steep slippery rock strewn path to Jamison Creek Lower Falls.  Our big time payoff as adventurers was that the icy green swimming holes did not disappoint. When the summer temperatures reach the 90's, the snow fed swimming holes become a popular spot for locals and tourists of all ages.

Spark of Life, Sparky to us, always enjoys a brisk dip in mountain streams.

Happy Campers
The trick to reaching the refreshing pools is scrambling down the rocks without
 skinning your knees or landing on your rear-end! The effort is well worth it.