Learn Something New Every Day!

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I visited Crater Lake National Park in Oregon several times, years and years ago.  So I know how gorgeous that lake can be: very, very blue. Especially on a nice sunny day.

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In August 2017, I decided I would visit the national park again.  I did not really pay attention to the news that was saying that one of the many wildfires burning that summer had actually come close to the national park. My trip was set, and I kept to my travel plans, even though there were fires burning in the general area.

Overall, I have to say that it was a good trip.  I did not see any fire, and the smoke from the fires was not overwhelming.  The smoke’s haze was pervasive enough, however, that I did not really see the lake on my visit. Oh, the lake was there, but it was so cloaked in smoke that it was hard to distinguish from its banks.  And it was definitely not blue.  Also, the Rim Drive was not fully open, so I only made it partially around the lake.

Smokey Views of the Lake and Other Vistas along the Rim View Drive


I cannot say that I was not disappointed about what I did not see on this trip.   But it was rather special. How often will climate conditions be such that you cannot really even see the lake when standing on its rim?  Rather like the time I was visiting the Grand Canyon and could not see it—down or across—because it was filled with fog.  Rather cool when you get over the initial disappointment.  Besides, on this trip, the wildflowers were plentiful.

Gorgeous Wildflowers along the Road





My hope is to visit Crater Lake again soon so I can really see the lake!

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is part of the California State Park System.  Well, it was.  Several years ago, in a cost saving move, several parks were dropped from funding.  The park is now run by Team Sugarloaf, a group of five non-profit organizations. There is a nominal day-use fee.

The park is under 10 miles from Santa Rosa is about an hour from San Francisco. Nestled in the Mayacamas Mountains where Napa and Sonoma Counties merge, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park contains the headwaters of Sonoma Creek.  The creek runs through the park’s gorge and canyon, through a meadow and beneath scenic rock outcroppings.  There are 25 miles of hiking trails as well as some camping spots.  It is a great little hidden treasure!

I first visited Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in late April, hunting wildflowers.  An article had noted that the wildflowers were impressive this spring, somehow in response to the wildfires that permeated the area in late 2017.  The article was right.  In fact, the area leading to the park was pretty as well, passing through some vineyards, open fields and even neighborhoods where flowers were also in bloom.  I also stopped at Trione-Annadel State Park, a few miles further down the road.

The drive to the park offered some pretty views and flowers.

Inside Sugarloaf Ridge State Park:

Inside Trione-Annadel State Park, there were no wildflowers along the road, but the greens were delightful, peaceful, cool.

If you have not yet visited these wonderful state parks, add them to your To-Do List.  Next spring would be a good time for a visit.

Last year, the Super Bloom was gorgeous, especially in areas such as the Carizzo Plain National Monument and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

This year, given the rains were not very extensive at the end of last year, Spring was a bit slow in coming to my area. But some color did pop up along various hills, roads and neighborhoods.

Here is some color from local neighborhoods:

I enjoyed a nice afternoon drive on Highway 138, heading out towards Arvin:

Late in March, I took a lovely drive through the Wind Wolves Preserve. The drive was as calm and peaceful as always, but the wildflowers were not fully evident.  The hills showed only a few splashes of yellow, but the grasses were green and graceful in the breeze.

I waved hello to a park ranger but saw very few other people out and about.  Still, I did have some company on this delightful little afternoon drive.

Anyone who lives in Central California can readily enjoy the fruit and nut orchards that are prevalent in the area.  Driving up and down the area along I-5 or Highway 99, the trees line the road.  Early each year, the white and pink colors seem to stretch for miles.  However, racing down the roadway makes it hard to stop and snap a photo or two.

This year in February 2018, I decided to seek out the Fresno Blossom Trail.  It is a marked route through Fresno County in and about various orchards on local roads, where it is much easier to stop and take a photo.  It would be ideal, if all the trees were in bloom at once.  But, of course, that is not the case.

During my afternoon drive, no orange blossoms were evident, but there was some fruit.

The nut orchards—white blossoms—were the most evident on the day I was out.

But the fruit orchards—pink blossoms—were getting started as well.


All in all, it was a productive and enjoyable afternoon!

I have been saying, “Happy New Year!” for weeks now.  But every time I watch the evening news or think back to all the problems and violence from 2017, my sense of good cheer evaporates.

Somehow, I need to—not ignore the ongoing national problems and disasters—but keep them in perspective.  For my own sanity, I need to stay positive.  I need to reach out to friends and neighbors, work with others, enjoy daily adventures, appreciate nature, and share prayers and gratitude with those around me.  Like individual drops filling a bucket, I need to focus on the good and work to make everything better, one little drop at a time.

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.”  Winnie the Pooh

“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”  Winnie the Pooh

But it sure is hard to stay so positive all the time!  

Still, if Winnie the Pooh can do it, so can I.  And he’s been doing it since 1926, when he was first created by A. A. Milne as part of a story for his son Christopher. This lovely little creature was based on a black bear at the London Zoo that his son enjoyed visiting. J. H. Shepard provided the original illustrations for this whimsical little guy and his friends.

In the 1960s, Disney took over sharing Pooh with the world, providing new illustrations as well as movies that are probably more widely known than the originals.

Of course, what Pooh looks like does not really matter.  It is his delightful attitude that makes him special.  He loves his friends and enjoys adventures.  He looks for the good in everyone. He has an ability to see the truth of situations, not being tricked by showy appearances and big words.  And he is always willing to take a nap!

Makes sense to me that today (18 January) is National Winnie the Pooh Day. 

The world would be a better place if we were all a little more like Pooh. 

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Here are a few quotes from Pooh that show his delightful, positive attitude. 

“Promise me you’ll always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.”

“Some people care too much. . . .I think it’s called love.”

“Let’s begin by taking a smallish nap or two.”

“We didn’t realise we were making a memory.  We just knew we were having fun.”

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”

“Did you ever stop to think, and then forget to start again?”

“It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’”

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

“Rivers know this: There is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.”

“Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them and to share a hug.”

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

“’What day is it?’    ‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.    ‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”

The thing that makes me different is the thing that makes me ME.”

“To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.”

“You can’t help respecting someone who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything.  There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”

“If a statement is untrue, it is not more respectable because it has been said in Latin.”

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience—well, that comes from poor judgment.”

How have you been celebrating National Winnie the Pooh Day?

I am eager to see Goodbye Christopher Robin, a film released last November that presents Milne’s development of Pooh in the aftermath of WWI.  It is coming to Amazon Prime next week, so I will watch it then.   Any favorite stories, movies, or quotes?

“Don’t under estimate the value of doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”  Winnie the Pooh

“These kings of the forest, the noblest of the mighty race, rightly belong to the world. . . we cannot escape the responsibility as their guardians.”  John Muir

The groves were God’s first temples.”  William Cullen Bryant

“How dear the woods are!  You beautiful trees!  I love every one of you as a friend.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

Sequoia National Park—the country’s second national park—was created by President Harrison in 1890.  Within a week, its size grew to incorporate the newly formed General Grant National Park.  The park’s goal—then and now—was to protect and showcase the Sequoias, those wondrous big trees the park was named for.  Sequoias, of course, are some of the largest and oldest trees in the world.  Redwoods are also evident in the park.

In 1903 the first paved road was completed, increasing access to the park’s wonderfully big trees, but the access was still rather limited.  Generals Highway opened in 1926, expanding visitation to the Giant Forest. This drive through the Giant Forest is one of my favorites—the grandeur and majesty of the trees is overwhelming.

In 1940, Kings Canyon National Park was created by President Roosevelt.  This new park is situated right next to Sequoia National Park.  Since World War II, the two parks have been jointly administered.  The two parks really do work together as one big protected area, encompassing 1,353 square miles.  The majority of this land (97%) is designated as wilderness.  Each year, almost two million people visit the trees and surrounding area.

I feel lucky that these two national parks—Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park—are basically in my backyard.  They are situated only about 120 miles away via a fun twisty-turny-steep road, so it takes about four hours to get to one of the various entry points.  My most recent visit was a few weeks ago, specifically to look for some early fall colors.  That trip was a success, but—regardless of the fall colors—the drive through the parks is always stupendous.

A Quick Glimpse into Kings Canyon National Park

Hume Lake

A Short Terrific Drive through Sequoia National Park

Fallen Tunnel Tree

Some Short Drives through the Trees

If you have not visited these parks—or any of the other Redwood Parks in California—do so.  As John Muir says, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”  Trust me, you will be impressed.

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“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.  Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”  Hal Borland

“But there is one tree that for the footer of the mountain trails is voiceless; it speaks, no doubt, but it speaks only to the austere mountain heads, to the mindful wind and the watching stars.  It speaks as men speak to one another and are not heard by the little ants crawling over their boots.  This is the Big Tree, the Sequoia.”  Mary Austin

“When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity?”  Seneca

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow enduring force straining to win the sky.”  Antoine de Saint Exupery

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

“For in the nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”  Martin Luther

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  Minnie Aumonier

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they live than other things do.”  Willa Cather

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer.  But it he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”  Henry David Thoreau

“You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck in the still of the night.”  Denise Levertov

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Old growth forests are not a renewable resource.”  Anonymous


“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”  Karle Wilson Butler

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“A nation that destroys its souls destroys itself.  Forests are the wings of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“Fancy cutting down all these beautiful trees. . .  to make pulp for these bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.”  Winston Churchill

“It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time.”  Anonymous

Looking for Fall Colors

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”  John Burroughs

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

I love hitting the road this time of year! 

Yosemite 2016

One of my favorite places to watch the fall color transformation is Yosemite National Park.  This year, however, I decided I would visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, figuring they would have some yellows and reds hidden away among the big trees and raging river.  I traveled in late October, but the weather—even at the higher elevations of these two parks—was in the 90s.

I did find some color, hidden along the roads and out in the fields.  The colors were a bit muted, but they were there.

It was clear the transformation from green to golds and yellows and oranges and reds was just starting.  Some trees even had leaves that were green and yellow and dried-up brown all on the same branch.

Although the fall colors were not overwhelming like is often shown in photos from Maine or Vermont, I loved being out in nature here in California, finding the start of autumn.  These colorful leaves suggest that even in this year of high temperatures, terrible violence and tragedies, and raging wildfires, Nature is still moving forward.  Change is coming—as it does every year.  Fall. Winter. Spring.  We can only hope that 2018 will be a bit better, in every way.

I always look for beauty in the changes in Nature.  Maybe later this month I will head to the Eastern Sierras to see what fall transformation is going on there.  Even if I do not find extensive fall colors, being out in Nature is so rejuvenating.

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“Look deep into the eyes of nature and everything will make sense.”  Albert Einstein

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”  E. B. White

“Nature and Books belong to the eyes that see them.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  Lao Tzu

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”  Claude Monet

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  John Muir

“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.”  William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let us permit nature to have her own way.  She understands her business better than we do.”  Michel de Montaigne

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite along with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.  As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.  And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”  Anne Frank

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  Rachel Carson

“Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  Walt Whitman

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