This entry is past due. The trip took place on the weekend of the 15th, but with all of the fires raging, the painful damage done to some of our favorite parks, thoughts of evacuation, and the launch of a distant school year, I just was not feeling it. Plus, our current status is grounded for a while (I’ll explain), so it has been hard to muster the enthusiasm for blogging. However, I found myself looking back through pictures and posts from Big Basin, Butano, Lake Solano, and Lake Berryessa and was grateful to have a capture of the memories. So in that spirit, I will memorialize what was a joyful weekend against a turbulent backdrop.
Do not enter the solar light zone
This private campground is tough to reserve and pretty crowded. I must have spotted a cancellation in a nice shady site when I reserved the weekend. We later came to realize that our site was part of a massive multi-family gathering, and that made for some awkward moments. Right off the bat, the number of people in the campground was pushing the edge of our Covid comfort zone. But there was adequate space between sites to at least maintain distance from our neighbors. That is, until they started walking through our site, like really close to us, to go visit their cousins on the other side. I am personally improving in my ability to assert myself when people enter my distancing bubble. I stated politely when a couple of adults and four children were about to cross right in front of us, that we didn’t feel comfortable being so close. No “I’m sorry” or phrasing in the form of a question. Just a direct statement made calmly. They responded totally politely in return and said they would go around. Really, we would have offered to switch with them if we’d realized the situation when we arrived. As it was, they were all set up and it wasn’t likely any of us would want to tear everything down to move. After that, I got out a new set of solar string lights, purchased intentionally as a way to delineate territory lines. It’s a passive aggressive way of “decorating” while communicating visible boundaries and it seemed to work.
This is my new favorite thing
We knew the weekend was going to be a scorcher, with sustained temps above 100. We had hookups, shade trees, and a river, so we were set. Richard got in an early ride on Saturday and I spent the afternoon taking kitchen pictures for an Altoiste looking for ideas, and floating down the icy American River. There is a place to put in right from the campground and you can float for about 3 miles to a take out point at Henningsen Lotus Park. This was one of the funnest things I have ever done. In addition to being a total solution to the misery of a heat wave, it was peaceful and at times exhilarating to float the tiny rapids. I had utterly no control over the floatie, but that didn’t stop me from trying. In fact, the nonstop and largely pointless paddling I did with my arms left me with impressive bruises by the end of the two hour ride. In this case, I was glad of the company of other people because I kept reassuring myself that if they could float the rapids with beers in their hands, I would probably be ok. There were two spots where I got completely covered by water coming down a rapid, but I was never in danger of flipping over. Life jackets are required and I was glad I had in my old pair of hearing aides because that could have been an expensive casualty. OMG so much fun! I would absolutely do that again.
Heading into the evening on Saturday, we started noticing Dory’s AC was not keeping up. Richard was more convinced than I that something was amiss, but he turned out to be right. Sunday morning we were getting no cold air coming out so we packed up and got rolling before it got too hot. Randy is on speed dial on Richard’s phone, so that was obviously the first thing we did. Richard then started to do some research about the possible fixes. One thing was pretty certain though: we were not likely to go out the next weekend if the forecast held steady. So we ordered a capacitor and cancelled reservations. Meanwhile CA started to burn down at a ferocious pace from lightning storms Saturday night.
From then to now, we have still not gotten the AC fixed, but Randy has diagnosed it as deceased. So we will be grounded until after Labor Day at least. But then, we’d already decided not to go out on holiday weekends to avoid the crowds, so it’s not a total loss.
Raise the roof!
On a happier note, we have now completed the project of modding the garage so that Dory can open her roof completely INSIDE. This was a big deal for us. Randy put us in contact with people he trusts to do the work of engineering the rafters so there is space in the middle. We needed to also replace the door and get a side mounted door opener. The timing of this all sort of came together to coincide with taking Dory in for a diagnostic on the AC. It also got her out of the house during the weekend when more lightning storms were predicted and we had to be ready to evacuate if any of the open space behind our house started going up in flames. Thankfully, that storm did not prove to be as bad and it gave firefighters the chance to get some of the huge ones under control.
It has been a rough couple of weeks for California. I can’t think about Big Basin and not cry. I take heart in the articles coming out that assure us that most of the huge redwoods will be ok. Not all of them, but most are expected to recover. Of course, it won’t look the same. And the historic visitor center, along with all of the campground structures, is all gone. And Lake Berryessa… there are so many people who have lost homes and farms. I can’t even imagine the devastation there. This one hurts bad. We had only just begun to get to know that area. Putah Canyon Campground is close to my heart because that was the place where we first sheltered in place from Covid back in March. It represented peace, and safety, and calm when I was afraid. I think about all of the lush vegetation, the otters and ospreys, and cry thinking of it all engulfed in apocalyptic fury. I hope the animals found shelter. I hope the vegetation can heal and return some day. We won’t be able to see it, but maybe some day it will come back. As of this writing, I do not know if the campground survived, but photos of the area show massive flames all around the lake. If it did, what a different view there would be now. Butano got scorched as well, but the campground and structures were spared. Other places that had me worried survived: Costanoa, Fort Ross, Limekiln, McWay Falls, Memorial Park, New Horizons 5th grade camp … just squeaked by. Lake Solano campground appears to be gone, and I hope those peacocks found shelter. It’s all so much and my heart is heavy.
So shiny! Just like new!
But then here comes Randy to cheer me right back up. We went to pick Dory up Saturday. The AC will have to wait until a new unit comes in. But in the meantime, we planned to bring her home and I was going to give her a long overdue bath. But what should I find on arrival? A beautiful, sparkly shiny Dory, with wheels and windows looking like new and a ceramic coating all over! Randy had a detailer in and asked Richard if that would be a nice surprise for me. Yes, Randy. That was a very nice surprise. He even put in a replacement for the CM dust cover that looks like it belongs there. We pulled her in and figured out how to position her so she can raise her roof. This will make it tons easier to get to things under the benches, pull out bedding to wash, and do maintenance jobs. Plus, the next time we have to shelter in place, Dory can revert to Emergency Learning Center without having to violate any ordinances. We celebrated by watching movies indoory in Dory Saturday night.
I think a lot about the Marbled Murrelet. When you camp in Big Basin, Butano, or any of the places in the Santa Cruz mountains, you are told in big bold signs and flyers that these are “crumb clean” campgrounds. That means you can be fined if you leave food out or leave remnants on the ground. This is to prevent predators, like raccoons and squirrels from moving into the area. You see, this silly little endangered bird only lays one egg per year per pair, and they often nest on the ground, up to 15 miles inland. The visitor centers show movies about protecting the little guys and we were always very conscientious about it. So my first thought on seeing the fire map cover the entire region was, “Well that damn bird is definitely extinct now.” I feel like that bird. Part of a species living in a way that is not at all sustainable. There are some who are making frantic efforts to save us all, and some not. And you try, and you clean up what you can, and you hope to keep hanging on, by a thread. Then lightning strikes and wipes everything out with a fire inferno. But I don’t know. Maybe they’re still ok out there. Be strong Marbled Murrelet! Everyone’s house is burning, so I feel you. Hang in there!
Total miles: 120.2, 16.0, 3 hours 10 min. Site 46. Nicer sites: 63*-67, 58-60, 56*, 41*-45*. Hate the dump. Ok cell, LTE in and out for both. Hookups.
Here are some “before” photos of Lake Berryessa, Lake Solano, & Big Basin. May there be healing in those scorched places.