Last week’s images featuring water droplets displayed my yearning for cool temperatures, less heat, and an end to smokey skies caused by wildfires. This time of year in Northern California is very dry, usually through mid-November. Most people’s lawns are dry, a choice many make to save water.
In this image below, taken during our drought in 2015, even the public parks were rarely watered. Parks crews did make sure that trees got some water due to the need to maintain the Sacramento area’s urban forest.
The surrounding mountain ranges including the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada Range are also notoriously dry in summer and Fall. The excessive dry underbrush acts as dry tinder to fuel wildfires.
In the mountain and foothill areas, the wildfires tend to spark due to dry lightning from stray thunderstorms that form from monsoon moisture coming from the south and southwest.
Now that you have had a dry lecture on geography and weather, let’s get started with my images depicting our dry area.
Many of the plants in my backyard have withered in their natural cycle. My once glorious sunflowers have gone to seed from this stunner…
…to this withering bloom…
…to this bounty of seeds…
…and finally, to this…completely dry, but starkly beautiful.
The birds love those sunflower seeds. I harvested loads of seeds to be used for planting next year and to send some to my daughter for her garden.
Speaking of birds, Lisa’s bird weekly challenge is macro or close-up birds. This close-up of one of my loyal backyard hummingbirds is seen perched on a dry twig of our California Redwoods.
In another close-up, this fella seems to be yearning for liquid refreshment in the dry bird feeder. Oops!
As I said, Northern California is dry everywhere. The last of these dry grapes in nearby Apple Hill will not yield any wine. Raisins, anyone?
Further south in Mammoth Lakes located in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, the desert shows its dry heart along the shores of salty Mono Lake.
With dry weather, comes dust! We quickly raised our car windows when we slowed down for a sheep migration on highway 395 returning from the Mammoth Lakes area.
I’m sure you are dying to hear what I accomplished on my break. Aside from new inspiration for blogging and photos of new places, the month of August and the first weeks of September were a towering cluster of life events.
This week’s theme is “towering.” What towers over you, literally, like walls, mountains, or actual towers? Or is it figuratively, like huge goals or tasks set before you, that feel like mountains of stress, for example?
This week, I will share my journey over the last few weeks while on my blogging break. While I managed to sneak a peek at several blogs during this time, I was struck by just how busy I was.
Hang on while I summarize and tame the towering whirlwind.
A Tower of Boxes
From March to present, I have been packing…endlessly packing. In June-July-August, I packed at least one box a day. Our 10×10 storage unit is almost full of boxes and half of our furniture. This will be moved in mid-October.
In case you haven’t heard, we bought a property in Washington State north of Spokane, and are working on having a home built. The house should be ready by mid-December.
Towering Tufas and Mammoth Lakes
In late July, I took my second solo road trip to Mammoth Lakes, California, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. I hadn’t seen my family since March, so it was a welcome reunion, meeting up with my daughter and boyfriend, and my brothers. In Mammoth Lakes, one popular attraction is the Devil’s Postpile (from another visit) that towers over us.
While staying in Mammoth Lakes, we drove an hour north to Mono Lake, which marks the entrance to Hwy 120 leading to the Tioga Pass entrance of Yosemite.
We visited the area of the tufa towers, made of limestone and calcium deposits fed by ancient underwater springs, some towering as high as 30 feet, show the lakebed of Mono Lake.
In this next view, you can see how tall these tufa towers are. Hard to believe we walked on the exposed ancient lakebed.
Before LA’s department of water and power began diverting water from the nearby tributaries from 1941-1990, the saline lake was full. Years of dropping lake levels nearly destroyed the lake and fragile surrounding ecosphere.
Though nothing but brine shrimp live in the lake’s waters, it feeds the millions of migratory birds. Due to the tireless efforts of the Mono Lake Committee, Mono Lake and the surrounding area are now protected as a California State natural reserve.
We finished our last day enjoying a few hours at one of the Mammoth Lakes where we took turns on my inflatable SUP…
…then a drive back to the Hwy 120 amidst the towering peaks to the Tioga Pass entrance of Yosemite.
Due to COVID, the NPS restricted automobile entry with permits reserved two months in advance. Though few people spend time in nearby Tuolumne Meadows, most people visit the popular tourist destination in Yosemite Valley. We had originally intended to spread my mom’s ashes in this area with the family under ordinary circumstances. We were able to get out of the car and walk around the meadows for a bit.
While in Mammoth, hubby calls to tell me he is scheduled for eye-surgery on August 6 to correct a detaching retina. Although it was outpatient laser surgery, I needed to stay home with him and was unable to take my pending week-long trip to San Diego to attend my mother’s delayed memorial service.
Due to fears of COVID, only my daughter, her boyfriend, and my brothers attended the service. Even though they sent me pictures and some video, the overwhelming guilt of this choice was hard to bear, but my family understood. I stayed home and packed.
Needless to say, August was the month of stress. My brother and his partner decided in late June they wanted to buy a home in Scottsdale, Arizona. They have been living in our family home off and on for several years. Once Mom passed, we considered selling the house, later, not sooner.
While this is going on, my hubby and I restructured our property loan to include the construction and the home itself. Have you ever bought or sold real estate? Have you ever done both in one month? Buying OR selling is stressful enough, let alone doing both. Between signing disclosures online, understanding inspection reports for Mom’s older home and everything in between, I lost sleep!
Let me put it this way…we signed papers with the mobile notary for our Spokane construction loan on August 10th and received the wire transfer for the sale of the family home later that afternoon.
Adding to the mix were hot temps, orange sunlight from wildfires (see next) and unending stress brought out the worst in me. I continually worry about what still must be packed and moved. I have lived here 32 years, so you know I have a LOT of things to pack. Hubby comes home every day after working outside in the heat and smoke only to spend 2-4 more hours working inside and outside our house. He’s painted, fixed floors and ceilings, rebuilt the backyard deck, installed appliances, cleaned up the backyard, etc.
Well, I still had a meltdown. This happened after the week we closed on the properties and the weekend of my Mom’s service. Thinking I was OK with everything, poor hubby comes home from work and I started in about how we need to hire some help to get the house ready for pre-inspection, we are running out of time, yada yada…I ranted and raved while he said nothing. How do men do that?
Turned out that I was NOT OK with missing my mom’s service and saying goodbye to my family home. Once I recognized why I was so angry and stressed, I grieved again and let it go. How will I deal with saying goodbye to my current home of almost 33 years in a few months? Sigh…
Towering Billows of Smoke
To make matters worse, August was not only the hottest month here in Northern California, but as many as 320+ wildfires broke out statewide. We were quite far away from them, but we were surrounded by smoke and falling ash, leaving us with days of unhealthy and hazardous air (as in “don’t go outside”) and temperatures topping 110 degrees. Another reason to wear a mask!
On a positive note, we finally made it to the delta to enjoy some fresher air at the end of August and celebrate our 7-year wedding anniversary!
A Monumental Academic Task
In August I finalized my online university classes for Fall. The classes began the first week in September. The bridge across the river to campus is all but abandoned as students stay home this Fall.
My course is easy to teach online because I have pre-recorded content from previous semesters. But what I love about teaching is engaging in the classroom, face-to-face. I don’t teach this class virtually using Zoom, but I could if needed. I recorded myself using a campus-approved video service…it is so weird to talk to a computer monitor staring at the corresponding slideshow. It’s confusing to know where to look!! I had some other trouble with some of the content and had to Zoom with IT to help me. As much as I enjoy and embrace technology, there are reasons I don’t utilize video.
The semester got off to a good start, however, and students seem enthusiastic so far.
Labor Day Weekend’s Overpowering Heat
What was essentially our last weekend at the delta was some of the worst heat we have experienced. Try camping in your trailer with no hookups (read no electrical to power a fan) over night. This was necessary to be able to break down our structure which serves as a “garage” for our windsurf and paddle gear and equipment.
The AQI (air quality index) showed a ridiculous 200+, unhealthy for all. We endured, then gratefully drove home in our air-conditioned vehicles. The next week we pulled the trailer home under better circumstances.
Towering Travails on the Road Trip
I’m finishing this post as we take another road trip to pull the trailer to its new home in Spokane. Driving northbound on highway 5 through the Shasta and Dunsmuir mountain passes is an adventure in good weather. There would be no way to safely move the trailer in the winter.
However, driving the trailer home from our delta campground along the Hwy 5 proved to be a problem. We had noticed metal liner on the front of the trailer had pulled away slightly. Not worried too much we hooked up and headed the 60 miles home.
Hubby looked in the rear view mirror and noticed something odd so we pulled over to find the bottom half of the trailer exposed! That metal piece was hanging by a thread and would have torn off had he not stopped. He managed to manually screw in 5 screws to hold it together as vehicles flew by us at 80 mph shaking the trailer. It was beyond scary!
First thing Sunday morning, as hubby was hoisting the SUP and kayak onto the top of the truck, the darn kayak slipped and slid down the lumber rack and lopped off the side mirror of hubby’s truck! I held a flashlight while he (this time with his electric screw gun) cobbled the mirror housing back to the truck. Luckily the mirrors weren’t broken, and we were able to head out safely. We left the kayak home this time.
Several more deadly wildfires broke out in Oregon as we began our trip. There were no fires along the Hwy 97 through central Oregon, but the unbelievably smokey air from wildfires obscured the sun. The first leg to Bend, Oregon pulling the trailer took only 8 1/2 hours, instead of the usual 8. We camped in our other nephew’s driveway overnight and headed out early the next morning to Spokane to stay with hubby’s brother.
Aside from this, all seemed well until…
Our trailer got a flat tire! Another driver motioned us over frantically pointing to our trailer. We got out to see a shredded tire spinning uselessly next to the other tire. A trailer this size has dual tires, thankfully. Hubby fixed the flat and off we went looking for a tire store in which to buy another tire to use as a spare.
We finally made it to our destination in Spokane after another 8-hour drive. During the week, we dealt with a variety of items related to our home and property, including putting some things in storage and storing the trailer at our nephew’s home on his 10 acres in Spokane until we move there. He told my hubby that it would cost him a tri-tip a week!
Of note, both nephews are firefighters. Yes, they’ve been busy! My heartfelt thanks to those heroes who risk their lives every day under disastrous conditions.
It was fun to see the property although it was covered with towering weeds!
We met with our contractor and he outlined what he will be doing over the next two months. Despite all the towering troubles and uncertainty, these sure are exciting times!
For Sunday Stills this week, think about “towering” and its vast synonyms. For hints, I used a few in my headings. I am happy to be back to the blog and can’t wait to see what you do with this “towering” theme! Now you understand why I needed this break!