Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Its one of those things I don't tell anyone from Calaveras County, especially anyone I know from Angels Camp, the frog jumping capitol of the world. If the Chamber of Commerce finds out about my past, I'll be run out of town on a rail.
As kids, we all caught frogs in the creek that ran by our place, and butchered them for their tasty legs. Pat's mother wouldn't cook them, but my mother would. Was it serendipity that I found frog legs for sale in Angels Camp? I couldn't resist. We had a farewell dinner of frog legs, and they were just as delicious as we remembered them.
We toasted this gathering of childhood friends, after 60 years of no contact, and marveled at our good fortune to have found each other. We shared treasured memories, made joyful new memories and will never again let the years pile up before we see each other again.
Our visit ended, but some friendships, we discovered, are forever.

Monday, September 28, 2009


We drove Highway 88 to Tahoe on Saturday with jewel like lakes and plenty of mountain vistas for our flatlander visitors. This is yesterday's blog after the signal at our hotel gave out: Local Access Only.

Sunset over Lake Tahoe isn't as spectacular as we thought it would be, but the air is clean, the visuals spectacular, the sand and the shopping fun. We found lots of kitschy stuff.
None of us gamble, but we watched the horse and dog races in the sports bar at Lakeside Inn and Casino. Dinner at Latin Soul and the $3 drinks at the bar...well, we stayed until 11 p.m. happy as toads.

On Sunday, restaurants were packed. We got a late start. we attempted to drive to Virginia City but a huge accident had traffic in both directions stopped. Like others, we turned around and headed back to Tahoe. Pat and Richard took the tram up to the top of the mountain for beautiful views while the rest of us cruised the shops around town.

On the way home we drove the narrow, winding Ebbetts Pass for beautiful scenery. There aren't many stopping points for pictures. We managed one stop at Mosquito Lake, and home.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


What does a roast platter, hubcap, cake pan, and bucket lid have in common? When you have gold fever, they can serve as gold pans. Between my place and Jan's, my gold hunting companion, we misplaced the gold pans?
I can misplace my car, so it iwasn't entirely surprising.
We had "lifted" three buckets of dirt from a construction site in Murphys a couple of nights earlier and decided to wash it in the creek.

Richard was the lucky one, with a nice nugget. And, he got it with the roasting platter. Hey, whatever works.

The nugget was a good inch long. Now when he tells his friends at home about panning for gold, they'll believe there really is gold in them thar hills.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Some may figure I have an unhealthy fascination for toilets since I've blogged about toilets and toilet paper and toilets... again. In my defense, our erstwhile visitors were fascinated by the French street toilets. I figured I may as well take a picture of it. Canadians from a cruise ship asked many questions about it and turned down the ordinary toilet in the Coit Tower, where this one is located, to use it. Who would have thought a toilet is a tourist attraction?

Bernice, Marie, Pat, Dawn, my sister, and Richard posed in the parking lot. It was a cool day and the Golden Gate Bridge was fog covered. Only the Bay Bridge was visible from the tower.
For me, it was a treat to see the now famous Coit murals once more.
We drove up the heart stopping hills to the crookedest part of Lombard Street. Michigan was scraped flat by a glacier and my guests were holding onto anything they could as we cruised the famous hills of San Francisco. It tickled me that simple things can still thrill since we take our own terrain for granted.
The segues, the street dancers, mimes and musicians are a very different culture to them. I was reminded of Peru as I listened to the hauntingly beautiful tones of the mouth harp and guitar.
Sea lions gave us a show.
Pat raises birds and of course, she found one that sat on her shoulder. The owner than stuck his hand out for money after the picture was taken.

The REAL cable cars are personally important to me since my father-in-law was once a cable car conductor. We took it to China Town and bought leechee nuts and candied ginger. We gaped at curious looking dried fishes, shark fins, unknown fruits and greens.
On the wharf, the sights and smells of crab salad, shrimp and crabs steaming in the sidewalk stalls; churros beckoning from a stand all bring back fun memories. Begging pigeons, the liberty ship, Alcatraz, huckster joints and souvenier stands draw we tourists in. Then lobster dinner on fisherman's wharf before heading home. We fit in as much as possible in one day. With our souveniers and memories we headed back to our hotel in Sonoma.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Marie Cousineau chummed with my sister, Dawn, when we were kids. So off we trekked for Sonoma to visit. On the way, a coffee stop brought us to St. Helena and this beautiful building (above) caught my eye. Lovely town, with interesting shops. My Michiganders were amazed at shops offering olive oil tastings.
The adobe oven above is on the grounds of the Mission San Francisco Solano, the northernmost Franciscan Mission of the 12 California Missions founded by Father Junipera Serra. Having lived in California for 55 years, this was one Mission I had never seen. The Missions are a part of California History unknown to them, that and our close connection to our Indian/ Mexican/Spanish state before the 49ers arrived.

This Mission is well preserved and it was quite elaborate as visible in the chapel picture above.

Our next stop, General Vallejo's wonderful home and ranch. Bernice and Marie posed under an orange tree, something they had never seen before, oranges growing on the tree.
The rancho stored grain, olive oil, and other dry goods in the beautiful building above. The Vallejo house is furnished with artifacts from the family, including family portraits. Vallejo became wealthy and was the beneficiary of a 66,000 acre Spanish land grant. When the Americanos came in without their families and a blood lust for gold, life changed dramatically for the Spanish settlers. Vallejo had no interest in gold. He believed in the land, its productivity, as the real wealth of California. That has proven to be true.
A peek inside the house, a piano, harp and wonderful Spanish guitars. They left us with great music, dances, food and adobes. They knew how to live large in this hot, dry country.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I've heard it said that the Vista Outlook named Hells Kitchen on Highway 4 above Dorrington is called that because it is a fire chimney. If fire hits that canyon, so the story goes, it will burn clear into Nevada. The canyon sides are steep and machinery has no access. We escaped the 97* heat by traveling to higher elevations and into Hells Kitchen.
At Bear Valley Lodge, in front of the fireplace, we stopped a moment. The lodge has a museum and many interesting photos, one of Monte Wolf near his cabin, and some of the Blood family that first settled there and had a toll station. Mt. Reba is named for Blood's daughter, Reba.
The ski runs have an entirely different beauty in summer.
Our destination was the cooling waters of Lake Alpine. The water level was down- the result of another drought, but the pristine waters and beautiful granite rocks did not disappoint. Richard and Bernice, both managed a hike. The ducks were tame so we knew they were used to being fed. Pat is a bird person and, she raises exotic birds, and they seem to sense that she would feed them. She did!

We arrived at the Logging Museum in Arnold/White Pines in time for me to connect with an old friend, John Hoffstetter who gave us a tour of this wonderful facility with many details and insights of the trade. My guests from Michigan with logging in their background could identify with the Michigan California alliance, a company formed by a Michigander named Stephenson and a California counterpart. The old equipment brings back memories for all of us. My dad logged as well.
Our last stop was Quyle Kilns where Delores Quyle-Mast gave us a tour of the clay making process.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Apple picking time waits for no one.
When I returned home, the apple trees were overburdened. Richard is tall and every morning he helped me pick by holding the basket up to the tree for me. From the basket we fill boxes. This tree is Gala. The Graven steins rotted on the tree before I got to them. The rest of them are still holding, Fuji, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Pippins and Arkansas Blacks. Seven apple trees and not enough neighbors willing to take them.
One store keeper took a box of apples to give to customers, and one friend took a box to the senior center.
Where are the apple eaters when you need them?
Normally, I dry apples, freeze some for pies and make applesauce. One year I made apple juice and kept it from going bad by lacing it with brandy. Good stuff!
I hate to waste. The deer and skunks are enjoying the bounty as well as myself and guests.

Monday, September 21, 2009


In Michigan, people have snowmobile parties. In the Motherlode we have flumming parties.
New to my guests, they fought the spiders, the poison oak, blackberry vines, reeds, rocks and rapids and were baptized "Flumming Christians. The guys helped the women up the steep sides.

Thumbs up for a successful ride.

Afterward, Chef Doug served some wonderful tri-tip, ribs and chicken.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We were headed for Tuolumne County for a grape stomp and car show. On the way we stopped at a yard sale in Columbia and had to laugh at the sign: Caution Suicidal Deer! It is a busy section of Highway 49 and someone's sense of humor tickled us all.

Not a car person, but even so the looks and shapes reminded me of bygone years along with the 50's music they were playing.
The grape stomp, a huge event in Murphys, was a bust in the parking lot at the Junction Shopping Center in Sonora.
We enjoyed, instead, perusing second hand stores and yard sales for those hard to find older items that come in handy. For me, a small crock pot for the motorhome and some glass vials for our nuggets.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Not everyone has a Jan Stewart in their life. Lucky me that my neighbor is a gold aficionado and loves to take people out digging for gold. My crew had a taste of panning at Columbia Park and decided they'd like to try the real thing.

We toured an old hard rock mine. Then we dug dirt from an old dry creek bed and hauled it to Murphys Creek were we washed the dirt for nuggets.

We got small nuggets but tossed the many gold flakes since we didn't figure to sell our gold anyway. It was fun. Even so, my guests learned what the old timer's learned long ago. Finding gold, digging and panning, is hard work. No one regretted the experience, even if the temperature reached 97.
Earlier in the day, we visited Big Trees State Park. A phenomenal, not to be missed, experience for anybody who visits Calaveras County.
This tree is the Old Bachelor, one of my favorites.
Marie and Bernice stood in the root hollow of this fallen giant. You hear about them, you see pictures of them, but to actually stand beside the giants is an awesome experience. To be a sightseer in Calaveras County is as valuable as our gold.

Friday, September 18, 2009


If you are planning on flying through the air with no control, hundreds of feet above the ground, strapped in a harness, zipping down a cable, its best to lubricate the zippers first. We did, at Chatom's tasting room on highway 4 before we arrived at Moaning Cave to ride the zipline.
Do we look brave? The Chardonay and Port were big hits along with the lavender chocolate to help us on our way.
I think Bernice and I are quite handsome "in harness."
It was fun and way too easy. Except for the price, we could have gone a dozen more times.
Richard obviously enjoyed the experience. Pat and Marie stayed behind because someone had to take the pictures.

This is wine country, and the girls decided this is what we will look like in a few years if we keep on wine tasting. She looks like a healthy ole' dame. Okay by me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Calaveras County has a series of underground venues-Mercer Cavern, Moaning Cavern and Cave City. Since Mercer is near Stevenot Vineyards, that was our first choice.
Mercer is a big cave and dates from 1865. The guided tour history is well done and fascinating when you review how Mercer and his friends went in on ropes with a candle for light, all of which is demonstrated.
Now stairs, (152 of them), platforms, and electric lighting, reveal the beauty of the formations. Mercer Cavern contains a rare formation that has a specimen housed in the Smithsonian. The place, in a word, gorgeous. Don't miss it if you travel to Murphys. Its only one of the reasons to love the motherlode

It was serendipity to meet Mike, the friendly, knowledgeable tasting room concierge. I've been here 31 years and still learned something new about wine. I love the Chardonnay and 2004 Cabernet. Mike found out about my friends, and our finding each other after sixty years. They found out it was his birthday, and serenaded him. So, of course we had to have a picture.
Can you tell we are having fun?

The lady at Upscale Resale in Murphys suggested we come to her store AFTER we went wine tasting. Love her sense of humor. And we did.