Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Betty's Birthday Trip
7 October is Betty's birthday. We often stay in a bed and breakfast for her birthday present, and since her birthday often falls during the peak fall color in the Sierra Nevada, we frequently to go there on her birthday. This year we reserved a room at the Feather Bed in Quincy, but before I tell you about the B&B I'll tell the story about our trip there. We drove our 2003 Toyota Prius since we didn't expect any snow or even rain, and did not plan to drive any dirt roads. We headed east on US highway 80. We began to see what appeared to be groves of quaking aspens near the high ridges after we passed Emigrant Gap, but none were bright yellow. They were only a yellow green color. We continued east to Norden where we turned off the interstate to collect snow, and drive the old highway to enjoy the views, revisit the site of a couple of oil spills I helped clean up about ten years ago, and take some photos. We drove along the north shore of Donner Lake, and into Truckee where we had long, leisurely lunch on the warm, sunny, south facing, second story deck at the Dragonfly.

We left Truckee about 1500 and drove north on highway 89, The willows, cottonwoods, and aspens along the creeks were a mixture of yellow and brown. We stopped in a campground along a north flowing creek to take a few photos and a short nap. We found the Feather Bed Bed and Breakfast Inn. Bob Janowski, the proprietor, showed us around. We rested and read in our room for an hour or so before driving around town to see what might be open.

We finally went into the Moon's Restaurant, one of the few places in town open on a Sunday night. It is a very cosy, warm feeling place with rustic wood walls, ceiling, and furniture. We waited nearly half an hour for a table. Betty was ready to walk out the door when the hostess told us our table was ready. We ordered garlic bread, onion soup, an antipasto plate, and draft beer. The garlic bread is fresh baked, warm, soft, white bread with a wonderful flavor and texture. The onion soup, was delicious with lots of cheese and croƻtons on top. The antipasto plate had mild Swiss cheese, Italian salami, black olives, carrot sticks, pickled cauliflower, celery, and pepperonis. Betty and I would have preferred green olives and a stronger flavored cheese, but understand that we are probably in the minority with those preferences. We returned to the room. I read a while and drank a glass of port before falling asleep.

Monday morning we packed and went down to the living room where there was a gas flame on in the fireplace. I made a cup of tea, and ate two chocolate chip cookies to mix with the vitamins I had taken with water before coming down to the living room. I chose to sit on the large couch because the light was good there. I had brought the book I had found in our room, and began reading before I went to sleep last night. It was a large collection of writings. The piece I chosen to read was written by Dylan Thomas about the interaction between European lecturers and their American audiences.

However, I didn't have an opportunity to read much in it. A large, long haired, black cat with striking white whiskers was sitting on the other end of the couch. He was sitting on the corner where the arm and back of the couch came together facing the back of the couch where he could see the front door, into the dining room, the hall to the kitchen, and therefore, observe the comings and goings of everyone. Betty sat on the other end of the couch and petted the cat briefly before the cat decided to walk down the back of he couch to check me out. I petted the cat for a long while until he decided to check Betty out again. I was able to read for a short while, but the cat soon returned to me.

Another guest from San Diego, whose son is the Quincy football coach, came in to tell Connie, a cook and housekeeper at the inn, that his son and his wife would be joining them for breakfast. He stayed to visit with us for quite a while. He had been the president of Pop Warner Football league in San Diego when his boys were young. We had a lot to discuss given our experience with AYSO and high school soccer coaching and administration, as well as what we have learned from my nephew, Scott Edwards' experience coaching football at colleges and high school.

As the manager, Noreen Lee, was leaving to go to the health fair before going home, the other guest engaged her in conversation. We visited with her for a long while. She grew up in east Los Angeles, and knew the San Gabriel Valley, where my father grew up, when it was all orange groves. Her husband was an artist and a descendant of Robert E Lee. He had died several years ago. We also visited with Connie. She expressed an interest in rafting. I told her I would contact her when the upper middle Feather River became runnable and take her rafting. Connie grew up in Fairfield in the 1960s, and knew Vacaville when downtown and the Nut Tree were the only business districts.

About 0900 Connie served strong coffee, peach smoothies, baked apples, Ortega chili egg puff, hickory smoked Italian sausage, and finished with a lemon cake. I ate all of my food and some of Betty's. Most of the guests diluted their coffee with hot water. Connie said she made a mistake, and used twice as much coffee as she should have. I told her they would consider her coffee quite weak in Spain or Turkey. The peach smoothie was made with peaches she had picked on the grounds of the Feather Bed. Connie offered a mild salsa with the ortega chili puff. I enthusiastically accepted the salsa, but used little of it as I found that it overwhelmed the delicate but exquisite flavor of the puff.

Betty and I checked out of the Featherbed at 1000. We had planned to return home via La Porte, or Bucks Lake, but views of the mountains and valleys in those directions were obscured by dense smoke. In hopes of escaping the smoke, probably from control burns, we quickly escaped the smoke by driving north on state highway 89 going down Spanish Creek to the North Fork of the Feather River, and then up Indian Creek.

There were some bright yellow maples along Indian Creek. The creek was quite low and looked like it would be an interesting kayak run at twice the flow. We turned off highway 89 to drive to Taylorsville where we hoped to visit The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment. We didn't find it, probably because we didn't drive far enough, but we did see lots of deer near the cemetery. Two were three point bucks, there were several spikes, and lots of does for a total of about 15 that we could easily see. Every time I moved the car a bit, we saw more, so I suspect that there were more than the 15 we counted.

We returned to highway 89, and drove north and west through Crescent Mills and Greenville. We picked some apples just west of Greenville. They were quite good in spite of probably being from a seedling tree that grew from an apple core tossed out of a car window and not cared for.

We drove across Canyon Dam that backs up the waters of the north fork of the north fork of the Feather River creating a very large shallow lake in what was once a very large meadow, marsh, and much smaller lake. The straight road along the south side of Lake Almanor presents some clear views of Mt Lassen, the southernmost volcano in the Cascade mountains.

We drove into Chester on the northwest side of lake Almanor to get fuel for our 2003 Prius. It took only 9 gallons. We briefly resumed our westward journey on state highway 36/89 before turning south on highway 32, Deer Creek Canyon Highway. Here we unexpectedly saw the brightest fall colors of the trip. We had expected to see the brightest colors at high elevation, above 1800 meters (6000 feet), and here we found vibrant color at less than 1000 meters (3000 feet).

The Indian rhubarb growing in the creek was bright red, and the alders, willows, and maples on the creek banks a bright yellow. The dogwood growing along the road and in the mixed evergreen forest varied from green to pink and deep red. There are several US Forest Service campgrounds along this road. The creek looks like it is runnable by kayak at higher flows. I will definitely return to this beautiful creek. (Plumas County used one of the photos I took at Deer Creek in their fall colors web site. This area burned in June/July 2008.)

About ten or fifteen miles down the creek the road climbs the ridge to the east of the creek. The top of the ridge is a table top mountain. Although table top mountains are common in the Sierra Nevada foothills, roads seldom follow their tops, because they usually end abruptly, making descent into the great central valley difficult. This ridge is an exception, sloping gently down to Chico.

I can imagine beautiful views from this ridge, but today the valley was filled with smoke, and there was one great mushroom shaped cloud of smoke rising from somewhere south west of Chico. We decided to avoid Interstate 5 where the densest smoke appeared to be, and drive south from Chico on highway 99. We stopped to stretch our legs and get a bite to eat in Yuba City, and arrived in Vacaville about 1745. We drove directly to the park where our daughter, Elaine was just about to start soccer practice for our granddaughter's team. We presented them with an ice chest full of snow that we had collected at Norden mid day on Sunday. More than half of it had melted, but the girls still had great fun throwing slushy snowballs and putting it down one another's backs.