Road Trip

“Road Trip”!

That’s all the girls (Kali and Kloe) had to hear.   They ran to the rack where there leashes are hung, strung them in their mouths, and headed off to the garage ready to spryly jump into the back of the Subaru Outback.  Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration…  In the spirit of full transparency I have to tell you that Kloe has acquired car-ride anxiety and has to be coaxed (usually) lifted into the car against her will.  And Kali’s old and dysplasia-ridden hips don’t allow her to make the leap, although the desire is there…

Kennedy Meadows, located in the Northern CA Sierra mountains is only an hour from the Golden K and that was our destination this past Friday.  We packed a lunch for us and snacks for the girls and were ready to head out to the high Sierra’s, away from the heat and smoke from the Ferguson fire that has been blowing our way for the past several days.  Holly tried to convince Kloe that jumping into the back of the car would yield her many high value treats but she wasn’t having any of it.   In frustration, I picked up 80 pounds of an uncooperative Golden Retriever (which is more like a 100 pounds when she is in that state of mind) and threw her gently lifted her into the car.   One down…

I then instructed Kali, as I always do, with an “up” pointing to the back of the car.   On queue Kali lifts one paw onto the bumper with shaky hips.  Her eagerness and willingness says yes, but her body says no.  She looks at me and I help her complete the task and give her a assist and lift her into the car.  The girls sit and face us as the hatchback  closes.  Time travelers on their way to Kennedy Meadows.

We’ve been meaning to address Kloe’s newfound anxiety of car-rids, so a we made a detour in town to Dusty’s Den.  Dusty’s is a local pet store and emporium owned by our friends Deborah and George.  So we make a quick stop to pick up some CBD oil in the hopes that this will be the elixir Kloe needs to help take the edge off of her car-ride anxiety.  We’re in and out within minutes with “the stuff” 🙂 and head on up the hill to Kennedy Meadows.

As Golden Kali readers may be aware California is on fire.  Sad and scary for all our rural communities is the fact that the forest is overgrown, global warming is a fact, and our resources are over taxed and understaffed.  One of the newest fires to break out is the Donnel fire, about 10 minutes south of Kennedy Meadows.  This fire started Thursday, the day before our road trip, and we passed by as it was about 350 acres. The smoke was in view from the ridge of Highway 108 as we passed by without threat to the road or various campgrounds and US forest land cabins.  [As of this post the fire has grown to 8000 acres, and destroyed many historical buildings.]

Kennedy Meadows is a special place.  Nestled high in the Sierras it’s the place so many of us Bay Area natives would go to when we were young adults to get away from the “city” and experience nature.  The Stanislaus river, the Sonora pass who’s summit tops 9000 feet and leads into the real high country of Bridgeport and beyond, and the majesty of Mother Nature is magnificent.  And there we were.

We unloaded the girls and started off on a short hike to the river where the girls could cool off and wade in the river.  We passed a few other hikers, some with dogs, and we were so proud of our girls who were interested, polite, and well behaved even when other dogs barked at them.  Kali has come such a long way from the Taiwanese rescue who was so anxious around other dogs when she first arrived in America four years ago.  And Kloe, now two and half, has learned not to pull when we encounter another person or dog, but instead postures herself  to greet them and engage.   We are very proud of our girls…

While at the river Kali got her leg caught in some rocks and came up limping.  The unfounded worries that I am prone to immediately assessed that Kali would not be able to walk the half mile back to car and that I would have to carry her 60+ pounds the entire way on by shoulders.  Holly quickly spoke up and said, “if you try to carry her the whole way who will carry you?”.  It was a good point.  As Kali limped I encouraged bribed her with high value treats to keep her walking all the way inspire of my worry that her leg was hurt and walking was making it worse.  [Update:  her leg was fine and  she was faking in order to get the HVT’s].

We made it back to the car, my pocket now empty of treats, and had lunch.  Kloe eagerly jumped out of the car and settled next to Holly’s sandwich chair.  Kali elected to remain in the car in an effort to perpetuate the injured leg drama.  We ate our lunch, drank a beer, fed the girls some of our watermelon (they love watermelon!) and sat in the quiet of the forest in awe of the beauty of the high country.

As we reloaded and headed back down the hill to the Golden K we were feeling blessed to live within the beautiful Stanislaus Forest,  worried about climate change and how fire season in California is almost year round, appreciative of the herculean fire fighters, and feeling blessed to have been rescued by our girls Kali and Kloe.

My Golden Therapy

When I turn into the driveway of the Golden K, my body tingles with anticipation of seeing “my girls” who will greet me at the gate or inside the house.

If they’re outside Kali and Kloe will trot to the rod iron gate at the first sound of my truck rolling up the Golden K driveway.  They watch me pull into the car port with their tails wagging and anticipating our physical and verbal greeting ritual.

If they’re inside the house I can usually see them through the windows of the doors.  Kali is usually sleeping right by the door and Kloe somewhere near Holly. As the door to the kitchen opens Kali springs to her feet and Kloe runs in to join us.  Kloe’s a little pushy and will always come to the front of the greeting line while Kali hangs back and patiently waits for her turn.The anticipation and intensity of the ritual increases the longer the time I’ve been away.

Lately I’ve been away a lot and for longer than usual periods…

Recently, both my mother and sister have been very sick.  It’s been a difficult few weeks and the seven hour round trip to and from the SF Bay Area to help with their care during this period took me away from my girls for several long days and a few over nighters.  The worry took an emotional tole and the hours driving, often in heavy traffic getting into or out of the West Bay, has been fatiguing.

But when I arrive back home and pull into the driveway the tingling begins and it slowly becomes better because of the healing powers of dogs.   In my case two very special, sweet, and tender dogs that in many ways define the Golden K.

Kali and Kloe.  My girls, my medicine, and my therapy.  My Golden therapy.

The driveway leading to The Golden K and my Golden Therapy

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The Girls chilling’ in the back of my truck

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Merging The K’s

As some followers of Golden Kali know I have another blog called The Golden K.  The Golden Kali blog began the day after Kali arrived from Taiwan and joined our pack.  The Golden K blog started shortly after relocating to the mountains a year ago.

The lines between the two blog sites have blurred because we wouldn’t have The Golden K without our Golden Kali and her sister Kloe.  The tag line for the Golden Kali blog used to be “Kali’s new life in America”.  When we moved to the mountains the tag line changed to, “Kali’s new life in the mountains.  The tag line (I’m a big fan of tag lines) for The Golden K is, “A romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet”.

I can’t think of Kali and Kloe without thinking about how lucky they are, we all are, to be living on five acres of paradise in the mountains.  And I can’t think of the Golden K without thinking about Kali and Kloe and how the Golden K would not be so Golden without them and it certainly would not be called the Golden K.  Maybe the Iron Ranch, or Silver Spurs, but not the Golden K.

So I now succumb to the obvious and will merge the two blogs because they are really the same.  I hope regular followers of Golden Kali will enjoy an occasional post about The Golden K located in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country town called Tuolumne.  And I hope followers of The Golden K will get to know Kali and Kloe, the inspiration for the Golden K.

Followers of Golden Kali can read the first post from a year ago for more context about The Golden K here:   https://goldenk.net/2016/06/22/the-golden-k-begins-now/.

Welcome to The Golden K

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Solitude

I’ve never been very good at giving the one word answer or the ‘in a single sentence describe the..”  I tend to be a little wordy.  Holly will laugh when she reads the last sentence and think to herself (or say out loud), “A little?!?”.  Often when I’m asked an important or provocative question, rather than take a thoughtful pause, I usually start talking to fill the space while my mind is thinking and formulating the right answer.  The succinct and meaningful answer.  The answer I wish I had  given after a moment or two of silence while I thought it out rather than vamping on gibberish until I “got there”.

And so it was last weekend at a friends house.  After a wonderful meal the six of us were enjoying after dinner banter and Jenny, our host, asked a great question.  A provocative question.  One of “those” questions.  Jenny and her husband Greg have lived in the mountains for many years; Greg his entire life.  Holly and I moved to the Golden K, thanks in a big way to Jenny, less than a year ago.  Jenny was lock step with us the entire way helping us to navigate the life changing journey from Suburbia to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  And she’s still there for us and interested in “how we’re doing”.

“So what do you like most about living in the mountains?”

There it was.  Jenny asked one of those questions.  My brain started going where I make lists, prioritize the list, organize it into categories, rationalize the motivation for the items on the list, and then put it all into a spreadsheet for the beginning of an executional plan.  Yikes – I was doing it.  But this was a great question.  It meant a lot to me that Jenny asked and then I could almost hear the ringside announcer saying, “Let the rambling begin….”.

I went on to describe the people, the slower pace of life, the laid back vibe, the blah blah blabadee blah blah blah.

I woke up the next morning thinking about this question and the answer was perfectly clear:  solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  Not solitude as defined in the dictionary (the state of being alone) but the solitude of being in the middle of a piece of our planet that Mother Nature has shown great favor to.  A  habitat shared (mostly) peacefully by man, beast, and plants.  The solitude of the fresh air.  The solitude of the sound of the wind blown pine trees.  The walks with dogs in the middle of a dirt or gravel road.  The silence of night.  The sunlight filtered through the pines and oaks sneaking into my bedroom at first light.  The solitude of a sustained stare with a five point buck outside my kitchen patio.  The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.  The solitude of walking out on a cold morning, closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath.  The solitude of sitting under the summer stars with my bride of 34 years and our two Golden Retrievers, all three whom I love desperately.

So yeah, solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  It’s solitude that fortifies my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.

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A few days of sunshine…

We interrupt this weather system to bring you a few days of sunshine….

The Golden K is thawing out.   It’s a relief that our reservoirs are finally filling up and the snow pack is at or above average both after five plus years of drought.   But I’m looking forward to thawing and drying out for the next few days before the next storm system arrives in a few days.

We have no choice but to take what Mother Nature gives us.  Here at the Golden K we’re ok with that as she continues to fuel my  romantic perspective of life at 31oo feet.

This was Monday.  The Golden K frozen in time.

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This was Saturday.  The pines look happier and healthier already!

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This is Kloe burning off a little energy while sister Kali watches from the deck.

The Golden K Dressed In White

I imagine that snow and ice is especially unwelcome when one has to dig out, drive to work, and cover every inch of their body including their face as a regular part of their daily routine.  I can only imagine because I have never lived in such a place.  Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and having lived their all my life until earlier this year, I didn’t experience any extreme weather elements.  The temperature was rarely below freezing, there was no real humidity to speak of, and never snow.

I realize that much of this country and others in the Northern Hemisphere get plenty to a lot of snow and that it’s not always a welcome element.   I’ve seen pictures of Syracuse, NY in the winter.  I’ve heard about Duluth MN in January.  Mother Nature is probably not any kinder in Grand Rapids MI and Quebec City in Canada during the winter months.  I would probably perish after a winter week in any of these cities.

So when the Golden K gets an inch or two of snow and it all melts by mid-afternoon can I really say, with a  straight face, to anyone who lives or has lived where snowfall is 60 or 70 inches per year, that it “snowed”?

We’ve had three days of snow this year which I understand is about average for our area up to this point in the season.  I feel very blessed to be living at the Golden K in the middle of a forest covered by pines, oaks, and cedar trees.  With each change of season so far (Summer, Fall, and now Winter) I appreciate a different type of beauty on display that I once only dreamed of waking up to each day.  This morning after several days of rain and one day of snow the sky is blue, the air is crisp, and leaves and pine needles are shimmering.

The snow day we had this past Thursday was magical to wake up to.  I didn’t have to dig out.  I didn’t have to bundle up. And I didn’t have to drive anywhere because I work mostly from home.  I know I am blessed because instead of digging out I was free to take a walk (OK I did bundle up a bit…) about the Golden K and explore the beauty with a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

Mother Nature was very kind to us on this morning!

 

Just a dusting

Over the years we’ve vacationed in the snow many times.  I have fond memories of spending long winter weekends in Lake Tahoe with friends who had small children like our’s were at the time.  Three families comprised of six adults and nine children.  The first year of what became an annual event for ten years the youngest child  was an infant and the oldest, one of my sons, was nine.  No snow parks needed for this band of suburban families. There was a fantastic area right outside the house to build our sled run.  There was always plenty of snow and fun to go around.

There were plenty of other times and events in the snow.  One scary and memorable event was a drive to Lake Tahoe with our daughter in what turned out to be a white out.  On top of almost zero visibility from the snow storm and darkness of night our car’s windsheild wipers were badly worn which negated any help from the defroster.  I couldn’t see any road; only white. Thankfully we didn’t fall off the edge of a cliff and we made it over the pass and into the Lake Tahoe Basin area safely and had a wonderful time snowmobiling and sight seeing.

At 3,100 feet elevation The Golden K is just the lower edge of the snow line for normal years in the Sierras.  But with the drought and evolving climate change who knows what normal is anymore. Still, we hoped we would get some dustings from time to time and yesterday was one of those times.  I had driven down to the Bay Area in the morning and was heading back home around 3:00 pm when Holly text me to say it was snowing.  As I got up the hill closer to the GK the rain turned to flurries and I felt my lips spontaneously turn to a smile.  For a moment I felt like a little kid experiencing something special for the first time. Maybe like my daughter felt when she fist saw snow during that first annual trip with our friends.  But I’ve been in the snow plenty of times.  Heck I drove through that white out with nothing but snow all around us. So why do a few snow flurries make me feel happy?   But then at that moment I realized that experiencing something familiar can still feel new when the context changes.

This new context is the Golden K.

By the time I arrived home the flurries had turned to rain and there wasn’t much evidence of snow on the ground or trees because it melted as soon as it landed.  So much to my delight when I woke up this morning to see new evidence of a light snowfall from over night.  I felt my lips smile again as I looked through the windows to see patches of snow on the ground and traces of snow on tree branches.   I quickly fed the dogs and took a brief walk around the house’s immediate surroundings to enjoy the sights.

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I realize that it’s easy for me to selfishly want it to snow for the pure beauty and experience of it in this new context.  And I realize that at the end of the storm (s0 to speak) I don’t have to deal with it.  I’m sure anyone reading this who lives or has lived where real snowfall is a real part of life throughout the winter and has to shovel it, drive in it, work in it, and clean up after it will chuckle and say, “Be careful what you wish for Mike – a winter living in the snow is not all sled runs and hot cocoa Hot Totties by the fire”.

It was only a dusting and that’s fine.  Because when your lips spontaneously turn up into a smile, you feel like a three year old seeing something for the first time, and you are for that moment in time at total peace, you just might be at The Golden K experiencing a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

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Golden Blessings

The Golden K has been truly golden this past week.  The change in seasons is increasingly evident in the cool mornings and evenings, the early setting sun, and strikingly in the color of the leaves.  Especially those leaves from the Black Oaks that periodically rain yellow and orange leaves from the sky and onto, well, onto everything.

Each season this first year at the GK is new for us.  Summer was wonderful, and now Autumn is simply beautiful.  The warm temps in the mid seventies this past week is to some degree guilt free since we’ve had a considerable amount of rain – much higher than normal – at this point in the season.  We continue to pray for a very wet winter but meanwhile are truly loving the goldeness of the Golden K.

During an early afternoon walk around the property I was taken back by the beauty of this day and season and stopped to take a few photos while feeling truly grateful for the golden blessings we have up here on the hill.

You kind of had to be there…

They laid on their backs looking straight up at the night sky.  It had been a very hot day and now a warm summer evening and the stars were emerging and plentiful.

They could have been teenagers at summer camp laying on a dock they had been diving off earlier on the day.  Summer love with a boy doing back flips – literally – to impress the cute young girl he had developed a major crush on.  They could have been newlyweds in Puerto Vallarta at the poolside or on the Captain’s Level of a Mediterranean  cruise ship laying on comfy sofas with their eyes alternating between the stars and each other.

Or they could have been aging baby boomers, still wildly in love with each other after 30 plus years of marriage laying their creaky old backs on the sprawling deck of their new mountain home.  The pines, oaks, and cedar trees that provide much welcomed shade during the hot summer days also present obstruction to star gazing.  So they positioned themselves in such a way that they had a clear view of the stars while laying on their backs, in the dark, with each other and their two Golden Retriever’s laying nearby.

That was us, Holly and I laying on our creaky old backs and staring straight up at the night sky in wonder at the calmness and quiet of the forest and the glitter of the emerging stars.  The view was so much clearer on this night.  After all it should be because we’re closer to the stars up in the mountains than back in the SF Bay Area from which we came.  Right?

Then and now, reflecting on those moments of star gazing, I know that the young refreshingly good looking teenage couple on the dock, and the thirty-something newlywed professionals floating on the Mediterranean Sea will be blessed to have what we had on that night, after 33 years of marriage, laying on our backs, with our dogs, on our deck, looking up at the stars between our trees at 3100 feet.

There is usually a picture here at the end of my posts but you can’t do the sky justice or capture the beauty of the night.l  You kind of had to be there…

 

Maybe Hooterville

Three of my favorite television shows growing up had rural settings.  These 1960’s sitcoms, The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction,  each portrayed a simpler time with down home folksy characters that reflected much of middle America at the time.  Story lines were thin, the humor was corny (and sometimes hilarious), but the characters endeared themselves to viewers with their humble and good natured demeanor.

Tuolumne City is not a Mayberry (Andy Griffith), a Pixley (Petticoat Junction) , or even Hooterville (Green Acres).  Ok maybe a Hooterville… and that’s a good thing.

In those fictitious towns when townsfolk asked how you were doing they were sincere.  There wasn’t a rush to get anywhere, strangers were made to feel welcome, and the general store was where you went to buy “supplies”.  Dinner was called supper, your nice clothes were your “Sunday go to meetings”, and tomorrow was always at least a day away.  Parents worked hard, kids had chores, and everyone felt safe walking home in the dark from an ice cream social at the town hall.

Were these towns from my favorite shows real life in the sixties or just fond memories of the screen writers and producers?  Every American generation looks back at some point and longs for the times when they were younger, America was better, and life wasn’t so complicated.  The sixties had it’s share of turbulence and angst, especially late in the decade.  Rock and Roll had emerged as a powerful force both musically and politically.  Civil rights was at the forefront of our day to day lives and the Cold War impacted our economy and threatened our security emotionally if not physically.  Our lives were rocked  when a popular president was shot and killed in Dallas and the world watched as we grieved.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area the complexities and struggles of the times were a daily reminder to me that I wasn’t in Pixley.  I wasn’t in Mayberry.  I was in the “big city” and even then, as a young child, I longed for a simpler life.  As a young boy I was anxious to grow up so I could fall in love, marry, and raise a family.

As I sit here at the Golden K at 3100 feet I’m humbled by the beauty around me.  The beauty of my five acres, my neighbors five acres, and the neighbor up the road’s five acres. Nestled in between all the pines and oak trees I can almost see Andy sitting on the porch across the road with Aunt Bee.  Down the road I think I hear Oliver Douglas yelling to his farm hand Abe to hitch a wagon.  And in the distance I hear the Cannonball’s whistle blow as it slows to a stop in front of the Shady Rest.

The Golden K transcends fictitious towns, turbulent times, and life’s complexities.  Up here on the hill the earth spins just a little slower.  I know Tuolumne is not a Pixley, not a Mayberry, and not a Hooterville.  OK, maybe Hooterville and how awesome is is that…

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The Cannonball on a run between Pixley and Hooterville

GK Landscape

Front “yard” of the Golden K facing North