Trek in Upper Bidwell Park a loop through constant beauty

Trek in Upper Bidwell Park a loop through constant beauty

Fog adds an unexpected beauty to Upper Bidwell Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Ascending from the foggy parking lot, it didn’t take long before we were above the grayness. Remarkably, though, it was that layer of fog that created some of the most stunning scenery.

While thick in the canyon within Upper Bidwell Park in Chico, the fog became wispier at the sun burned through that watery mist. The filtered sunlight, the backlit oak trees—it all added to the delightful mid-November hike.

The rocky North Rim Trail is wide enough for two people. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In some places it was like a moonscape with the basalt rock scattered about the landscape. Only the rocks were strewn about on fresh green grass from the early November rains instead of barren ground.

The route we took under the guidance of a Chico Orville Outdoor Adventurers leader is not one I would have done on my own. This is because to me it looked like the North Rim Trail ended and we were going to have to retrace our steps.

Not so.

Big Chico Creek spills forth along the Yahi Trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Over the edge we went. Yes, there really was a trail there that was not well traversed. All the better to feel like we were exploring a bit.

Before we got to that point we had some fantastic views of the park, into the lush city-owned Sycamore Canyon, and way beyond to the snow covered Trinity Alps.

Much of the North Rim Trail is wide enough to walk two abreast. Remnants of last summer’s fire are still visible.

Along the circuitous route we saw buckeye, live oak, pines, and wispy pipestem clematis.

A single-track trail meanders through oak trees. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We did bushwhack a bit between North Rim and B trails, but not much. Then we hooked up with Middle Trail, before finishing the trek back to the Horseshoe Lake parking area via Yahi Trail, which parallels Big Chico Creek.

It was a glorious day to be hiking in our “back yard” with some fall color still apparent and the winter greening just beginning.

By the end of the day we had logged 8.51 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,156 feet. Our lowest point was 304 feet and highest was 1,350 feet.

Child care chaos talking toll on working moms

Child care chaos talking toll on working moms

It’s being called the “she-session,” the “mom penalty” and the “mom-demic.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of women in the workplace has dropped by 1.8 million since the start of the pandemic, with the number of women working hitting its lowest level since 1988.

The reasons include a lack of child care, including changes in policies at those facilities, and increased fees.

Back in 2020, when school was supposed to start in September, 863,000 women left the workforce. Men did, too, but only 168,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The choice to walk away because of child care needs and the disproportionate loss of jobs was more predominately female than male,” Robert Eyler, an economist at Sonoma State University, said of decisions being made in the wake of the pandemic.

Melissa Parker, 27, of San Rafael didn’t have the choice to stay unemployed. The single mother was determined to work in order to care for her 3-year-old daughter, Katalina Jaraillo.

Pre-COVID Parker was a self-described entry level worker at an accounting firm. Even though she had been there two years, the company laid off everyone except the higher ups.

She said she was suddenly out of work and without day care because it temporarily closed at the onset of the pandemic. When the center first reopened only children of essential workers were accepted; Parker didn’t qualify.

She adapted, but said it was awkward at times having to interview for jobs virtually when her toddler could be seen standing behind her.

Parker now works for a plumbing company. However, in October she used up all of her sick time to stay home when Katalina was ill. Even though she is at the same day care facility in her hometown, it changed the rules by not accepting any sick kids, even if it’s just a cold.

Even with vaccines for more children expected to soon, it’s anyone’s guess if the “no sick child” rule will be permanent or if infants and toddlers will be allowed to be inoculated against this virus. More rigid rules have consequences. It means parents unable to go to work. It means employers coping with fewer workers on any given day.

Parker’s job requires her to be at the office and she can’t leave a toddler home alone.

Working part time isn’t an option for most people. Besides the loss of income, it can mean losing an employer’s health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid time off, as well at the potential of not advancing in their career.

“Women with children under age 6, who made up 10% of the pre-pandemic workforce, account for almost a quarter of the unanticipated employment loss related to COVID-19,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Policy Hub reported in September. “This research, along with supporting evidence, suggests that day care limitations, rather than school closings, appear to be a constraining factor on the availability of workers to fill open positions in the current economy.”

Marin County, where Parker lives, has some of the highest costs of day care in the Bay Area, according to Aideen Gaidmore, executive director of Marin Child Care Council based in San Rafael. The average price for full-time infant care in the county is $2,000 a month, with $3,600 the highest. It costs about $2,600 for preschoolers, and $700 a month for after school care.

Pre-pandemic the organization had 5,588 child care slots. In March this year that number was 3,327.

Parents may pay a hefty price for child care, but statistics show the workers, mostly women, don’t make much money.

“Our community really needs more (child care) teachers. Unfortunately, more people are leaving the field than coming in. A lot of it is wages. They don’t make enough money for a community where it’s expensive to live like Napa,” said Erika Lubensky, executive director of Community Resources for Children in Napa.

The most recent data the organization has reveals that as of January this year 11 small child care sites in Napa County which cared for 120 children had permanently closed since the government mandated shutdowns started in March 2020.

“As of January 2021, while the state of California was experiencing a closure rate of 30% for child care centers, Napa County’s closure rate was closer to 25%, thanks to government support and private philanthropy,” Lubensky said.

Melanie Dodson, executive director of Community Child Care Council, said Sonoma County lost 62% of its child care slots since the pandemic started. She knows some will come back, but no one knows if they all will.

“With child care we’ve seen increases in costs because of cleaning and staffing is hard to find. Even the providers who are open have not been able to go back up to their full capacity so they are having to charge parents more because of the few spots they have,” Dodson said.

While child care in the United States has been a fractured system for decades, the pandemic exposed the cracks in the foundation.

The Council for a Strong America released a report in January 2019 — so pre-pandemic — titled “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis.”

That study states, “Examining the economic impacts of the nation’s child care crisis on working parents, employers, and taxpayers describe the consequences. The verdict: an annual economic cost of $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.”

With care for youngsters being such a huge problem, the Biden administration is considering human infrastructure such as child care in its overall infrastructure bill. In this last legislative session California lawmakers earmarked more money for early childhood schooling—classes before traditional kindergarten.

According to the U.S. Treasury, “The United States invests fewer public dollars in early childhood education and care relative to gross domestic product than almost all developed countries; ranking 35th out of 37 countries tracked by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.”

Lubensky with the Napa County child care nonprofit likes the prospect of additional pre-kindergarten programs. But when they are only for a few hours a day, that doesn’t solve the child care needs of workers. Most can’t leave work to take their child somewhere else.

“What our families need is full-day care and appropriate care for the age,” Lubensky said. “(Child care) was a system that was broken before the pandemic.”

Higher wages, mental health counseling, and flexibility for parents are all things that Professor Sarah Lee believes needs to be incorporated into the workplace.

“In some ways the pandemic has really disrupted the status quo, which is a great opportunity to look at what we define as the standards for work and reset some of our norms,” said Lee, of the Barowsky School of Business at Dominican University of California in San Rafael. “I think there are a host of different policies and programs that could be put in place to help employees. These issues are not new, it’s just that the pandemic is amplifying some of these issues that have been underlying for a very long time.”

People are using the upheaval of the pandemic to hit the “re-do” button on their work lives. Some are leaving their jobs permanently, many are changing careers, while some are furthering their education.

This time period is being called “the great resignation” because of the number of people quitting their jobs. In early October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said 4.3 million people, or 2.9% of the workforce, quit their jobs in August. This was a record.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported 309,000 women age 20 or older voluntarily left the workplace in September. This means they quit their job or are no longer looking for one.

Hello Alice, a firm that helps entrepreneurs launch a company or build on what they have, has experienced a substantial uptick in business since the pandemic started.

“We are seeing the dynamics of the women joining the platform change. What we have seen this year is they haven’t started a business yet, but have a really good idea or are in the launch stage. That dynamic is more present with females than males,” Megan MacDonald, vice president of marketing, said

“As it relates to industry level data, we see more women in beauty and self-care on a percentage basis in the launch phase than last year, and similar with arts-entertainment-recreation,” MacDonald said. “Our owner growth from 2019 to 2020 was up 1,100%.”

As of the second quarter this year, more than half of the women using Hello Alice were at least 40 years old, with three-quarters of the women with a small business being mothers.

“We heard loud and clear early on that people used the destruction of COVID to do lot of self-reflection to decide if what they were doing for work was what they wanted to do for work in the future,” MacDonald said.

Women more than men have a history of having jobs that don’t pay well. Brookings Institution found that in 2018 46% of all working women and 37% of men work in low-wage professions, with the median hourly wage being $10.93.

Employment recruitment platform ZipRecruiter reports people want out of retail and hospitality and into work that can be remote.

Housekeeping at lodging properties are jobs often filled by women. While travel came to a screeching halt for much of the world and hotels laid off staff, the return of tourists and business travelers doesn’t mean the jobs have returned as well. Chains like Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt are offering daily room cleaning for additional fee. Guests are saying no, and that means fewer housekeepers are needed.

Then there are those with the means to retire sooner than expected.

Goldman Sachs estimates nearly1.5 million people retired since the pandemic hit. In large part they were able to because of the skyrocketing stock market. In August, the S&P 500 doubled in value from its pandemic low of 2,237 in March 2020.

A version of this story first appeared in the North Bay Business Journal.

Renewed appreciation for road bike riding

Renewed appreciation for road bike riding

The road seemed to go forever with a headwind that made it feel like I was sitting still instead of pedaling forward.

I was afraid it would never end.

Sue and Kae cycling through the orchards on the outskirts of Chico on Nov. 7. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Amazing what a difference a 90-degree turn can make. Suddenly I was moving. A smile crept across my face. It also helped that the rest stop was in sight so I could refuel for the final push.

In November, Sue and I participated in a fund-raising ride for Chico Velo, the local road bike group. It had been years, probably well more than a decade, since I last rode more than 30 miles.

Incredibly, I wasn’t sore afterward. A flat 32.5-mile course at sea level had a lot to do that. Hills and elevation might have done me in.

I own two bikes, but don’t profess to be much of a cyclist. This made me want to get out on my bike more. We’ll see if that actually happens.

I have visions of doing the Wildflower ride next spring in Chico. There are 120- and 100-mile routes, along with shorter ones.

I’ve done one century in my life—the 2008 Mammoth ride. That was a killer. It started at about 7,900 feet and only went up from there. People in the know say if you can finish the Mammoth century, you can do the annual Death Ride in the Sierra. My ego likes thinking that is the case. In other words, I’m never going to do the Death Ride. I’m just going to assume at one point in my life I could have based on having done the Mammoth century.

For those who don’t cycle, a century ride is 100 miles.

This local ride was to raise money so the club will be able to put on the Wildflower ride. It’s a 40-year tradition in Chico that has been knocked off kilter because of the pandemic. Bicycling magazine has name the ride one of the top 10 centuries.

I need to get back in the saddle and start finding some hills so I’m ready to do more than smell the wildflowers next April.

Book Review: Learning to belong in ‘Braving the Wilderness’

Book Review: Learning to belong in ‘Braving the Wilderness’

Belonging. There can so much wrapped up in that one word. With how divided our society has become, it seems like belonging can be even harder today.

Brené Brown tackles this concept in her book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (Random House, 2017).

Brown is a professor, best-selling author, lecturer and podcast host.

The main sentiment was, “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Being who we are can be difficult when what we want is to belong. But as Brown points out, there is a huge difference between belonging and fitting in. We belong when people accept us for who we are; we fit in when we adapt to someone else’s norms or to what a group finds acceptable.

Much of what is in the book is practical information that isn’t necessarily earth shaking. What she has done, though, is pull research together, give real life examples, and present a case for the importance of belonging.

First you have to be belong to yourself. That is what can be so challenging.

I listened to the book, which seemed to be more powerful than if I had read it. I think this is because Brown did the reading, so it was as though she was talking to me. It also afforded me the opportunity to rewind if I wanted to hear it again. Of course reading something you can reread it. For me, though, hearing her words proved to be powerful.

Caldor Fire’s scar a reminder of nature’s fragility

Caldor Fire’s scar a reminder of nature’s fragility

Tell me granite can’t burn and I’ll show you the remnants of the Caldor Fire.

So many people, people much more knowledgeable about fire than me, had said the granite in the Sierra Nevada mountains would act as a natural fire break.

They were wrong. So, very wrong.

The Caldor Fire scar goes on for miles. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It was the second fire in history to cross the Sierra Nevada range. It did so Aug. 30. The first time this occurred was just days earlier, on Aug. 18, when the Dixie Fire that wiped out half of Lassen Volcanic National Park crested the Sierra.

It is startling to see areas along Highway 50 where the land and rocks are black. While granite is one of the hardest rocks on the planet and can’t actually burn, it is not immune to being scarred by the wrath of a wildfire.

The trees behind Holiday Market in Meyers are now blackened. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In Meyers the fire’s path is easy to see. The same is not true from the heart of South Lake Tahoe. Behind the Holiday Market (the former Lira’s) the hillside is more black than green.

So many hiking/biking trails will be forever changed. Yet, at the same time, Tahoe Rim Trail Association and TAMBA officials have been assessing their assets, and are eager to make them accessible again. As with any destruction that includes the loss of vegetation and infrastructure, rebuilding, regeneration and renewal are immediate as well as time consuming. Dealing with the aftermath of the Caldor Fire will be no different.

A fire hose near the Mount Ralston trailhead. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In the end, the Caldor Fire consumed 221,835 acres. Only a fraction of that was in the Lake Tahoe Basin—9,885 acres. Of those, the soil burn severity in the basin was categorized as:

  • 271 acres severe
  • 4,193 acres moderate
  • 3,903 acres low
  • 1,512 acres unburned/very low.

Black granite stands out while heading down Echo Summit. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A few chimneys are visible when driving, but nothing to the extent that was first described by some news outlets. That doesn’t make the loss of someone’s home any less sad or the experience any less harrowing just because I could not see the damage.

Most of the houses reduced to ash were farther off the main highway. The fire destroyed 1,003 structures, and damaged another 81.

An army of firefighters, winds blowing in the correct direction and a bit of luck prevented the Tahoe basin from losing any structures.

The sun is a reminder life goes on after a fire. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Five people were injured in the fire that started Aug. 14. No cause has been released. It was fully contained Oct. 21. The Caldor Fire got its name from the old logging town of the same name and a road with that name.

Lookie loos are not allowed at Sierra-at-Tahoe. Only those with a delivery or an appointment are allowed to drive up the road to the ski resort. Too much damage to the ski area’s infrastructure and precarious trees are preventing it from opening in 2021, but officials aren’t ready to write-off off this entire season.

In so many locations stacks of trees are piled not far off the highway, looking as though the forest had been clear cut. Perhaps they can be salvaged and turned into something other than mulch.

Thousands more trees will need to be felled. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

At the Mount Ralston trailhead on Highway 50 the devastation is immediate for hikers. About 100 feet from the parking area numerous granite boulders are now black instead of gray.

Traffic is slow going through American River Canyon, at least it was on the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. It’s one-way in multiple locations. In some ways it felt like a funeral procession. I was mourning the loss of the forest, the destroyed habitat, the demolished homes, the lives forever changed. Vehicles were not passing each other even when they could. Most of us drove below the posted speed limit. This pace allowed for reflection, sorrow and tears.

Caldor Fire aftermath

Highway 50 is forever changed by the Caldor Fire that ripped through the American River Canyon, crested the Sierra and dropped into the Lake Tahoe Basin in late summer 2021. (Video: Kathryn Reed)

It’s time to put the kibosh on material gifts at the holidays

It’s time to put the kibosh on material gifts at the holidays

Gift giving at the holidays is a wasteful, crazy sham.

What is the point of gifts at Christmas and Hanukkah?

Some consider the Christmas ritual tied to the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus. What that has to do with today’s hoopla is beyond me. Let’s be honest, giving me a gift or me giving you one at Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. This holiday gift giving is a bizarre custom.

How much stuff do people really need? (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Another reason I’ve been told there is all this holiday gift giving is to show the recipient you like them, care for them, love them, they mean something to you, blah, blah, blah. If the only way you know someone cares about you is through some material item wrapped in colorful paper, that isn’t much of a relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to give and receive gifts. I just prefer to give a gift on someone’s birthday—to make it all about them. Though what I hear about children’s birthday parties these days makes even those occasions seem steeped in materialism and the parents trying to outdo each other. Sad.

I love gift giving at some random time because I saw something that made me think of that person.

The expectations of what one hopes will be under the tree, in a stocking or at the daily candle lighting is off the charts. The problem is when we expect a gift. And to think we indoctrinate children into these rituals in their infancy, then perpetuate the nonsense each year until perhaps one day some adult realizes the fallacy in this gift giving.

According to the National Retail Federation, the amount of money people spend on Christmas gifts has been increasing, with 2020 being an exception. The annual average expenditures were:

  • 2016 … $589
  • 2017 … $608
  • 2018 … $638
  • 2019 … $659
  • 2020 … $650.

That isn’t where the spending stops. It goes on with decorations, specialty foods and cards.

Financial services company Tally Technology reports, “In 2020, a MagnifyMoney survey found the average shopper took on $1,381 in holiday-related credit card debt. Just five years earlier, they took on just $986 in holiday debt. That’s a 40 percent increase, despite spending only $45.22 more on average in 2020—$952.57 in 2015 versus $997.79 in 2020.”

When people go into debt to buy gifts for any occasion, well, something is terribly wrong with our priorities.

The number of gifts given or received should not be an indication of how much someone cares about you or you about them. Stop the gift giving—even for children.

I realize numerous businesses of all sizes make a substantial percentage of their annual revenues in the fourth quarter. This means if the buying frenzy were to abruptly stop, it would have serious economic consequences. But what if we dispersed that spending throughout the year?

What if we spent some of that money on doing things with people instead of buying things for people? I know I have more life lifelong memories of experiences than I do of material objects.

A true gift this holiday season would be to say no to material gift giving. Give your family and friends, even your community, your time. It’s much more valuable and meaningful than anything you could ever wrap.

Chico store hosting book signings by Tahoe outdoor author

Chico store hosting book signings by Tahoe outdoor author

Chico Sports LTD will be hosting outdoor book author Kathryn Reed on Nov. 27, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. She will be there starting at 10am this Saturday, and at 11am on the two Saturdays in December.

Come out and say hello, then grab a copy of The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks, or Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks. The latter is a combination of the first two books. All books will be signed and can be personalized by the author.

These guidebooks are different than most others because they are written in narrative form, so each hike/snowshoe is a story unto itself. Every trek is rated for scenic quality and difficulty. The author has done every snowshoe and hike.

Chico Sports LTD is located at 698 Mangrove Ave. in the Safeway shopping center.

If you can’t make it out to one of the signings, the books are available at the store now or contact Reed at to get a copy or two or three.

Pin It on Pinterest