Sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach create dramatic scene

Sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach create dramatic scene


The cliffs at Drakes Beach in Marin County are breathtaking. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hundreds of feet tall, the sandstone cliffs at Drakes Bay rise in dramatic fashion from the beach.

Looking at the ocean it’s easy to feel small. Turn around to face the cliffs and your stature is further diminished.

In many ways it felt like there was no way out. It seemed impossible to scale the cliffs without equipment. Even then, the sandstone was sure to crumble. The Pacific Ocean, while rather placid on this particular day, is still often an uninviting mass of water.

The tide was out, so we had plenty of beach to meander along. No worry about being trapped and not getting back to the vehicle. But this ruggedness had me imagining what it might have been like way back when before a paved road led me here.

Sue looks rather small standing near the sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The beauty is captivating—all 360 degrees. We could have walked for miles in either direction. We sauntered, appreciating the debris deposited onto the sand—whole crab shells, evidence a pelican lost a fight with some predator, kelp that resembled art.

History proves this is not where you would want to be marooned in a storm. Today, though, this stretch of land in Marin County is part of Point Reyes National Seashore.

“The sands of the Drakes Bay cliffs were deposited in a shallow sea 10–13 million years ago, compacted, then uplifted. Erosion has revealed the striations of this story in the cliff faces,” according to the National Park Service.

At the visitors center a slew of panels touch on the history of Francis Drake, the namesake of the Pacific Ocean bay.

A stranded crab at Drakes Beach. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Englishman accumulated his wealth by attacking Spanish ships and stealing their gold. Signage says, “Spanish witnesses reluctantly admitted that Drake treated his captives well and often released them with gifts—unusual practices for his time.”

Less controversial is the fact Drake was the first person from his country to circle the globe.

He entered what is now known as Drakes Bay to repair damaged ships. They spent 36 days there.

Drake called the bay Nova Albion, or New England, “because the cliffs reminded the homesick sailors of the white, chalk cliffs along the English Channel.”

Drake and his men were the first Europeans to visit this part of California.

“This Bay of Francis Drake and the land of Nova Albion were marked on the world’s maps, and led John Smith to name New England after Drake’s claim on the other side of the continent,” according to the Park Service. “Nova Albion was not erased from maps and charts until 1846, when Great Britain agreed to the present boundary between the United States and Canada.”

Mylo the dog and all of his ‘other ladies’

Mylo the dog and all of his ‘other ladies’

Mylo takes over the driver’s seat of the Jeep. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When mom and I moved in together last year we each came with four-legged creatures. Mine lived with us full time, while hers is a part-timer.

Mylo is a 14-year-old Shih Tzu who my mom and sister Jann share custody of. So, Mylo has two moms. They are referred to as “the other lady”—as in it’s time to go to the other lady’s house.

By default, this makes me the “other other lady.” I like to think of myself as the fun one, but don’t tell my mom or sister. It’s a little secret between me and Mylo.

You see, I have dog treats. And Mylo knows where they are. It means I need to keep the pantry door shut so he doesn’t help himself.

Mylo never turns down the opportunity to go on a walk. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I also take him to Bidwell Park when it’s hot out. This gives him a chance to walk in the shade and drink from the creek. On walks anywhere I let him sniff butts with other dogs. I’m also way more lenient about where he does his business, but don’t tell my mom because I told her I would follow her rules when she’s not around.

At home I get down on the floor and play-wrestle with Mylo. The other ladies don’t do this.

If he were up for it, he could sleep in my bed when he’s here with me alone. For now, he’s content to be in his bed. When AJ was still here and it was the three of us for a few days Mylo refused to sleep in my room. To him, AJ at 35 pounds seemed like a big dog. Plus, dogs understand territorial boundaries, and just coming into my room was verboten per AJ’s authority. Now, though, Mylo is perfectly content to sleep in his bed in my room when it’s the two of us. When it’s the three of us, he is in the other lady’s bedroom.

This is one spoiled/high maintenance dog. He’s a dog that requires grooming. And boy does it make a difference. I’ve never had a dog that required this type of care.

The other ladies have started to moisten his food, which gets him to eat it more rapidly. Oddly, or not, he never has a problem wolfing down the hard treats he gets from me, or the occasional piece of carrot that finds its way to the floor accidentally or purposefully.

Then he gets fed four times a day. And each one of those is divided in half to slow the ingestion process to ensure it all stays down.

Big Chico Creek is a great place for Mylo to cool off in the summer. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Each morning he has to be walked in order to poop. Mom has softened in the last year to the point she is OK with his initial pee and last pee of the night being out back—even on her plants. If he were my dog, he’d get walked on my schedule, which could be any time of day. He’s not my dog, so he gets his morning walk. Then I usually take him out later in the day with me to pick up the mail, which is a short walk to the cluster of boxes, or we might go somewhere else depending on my work day. It’s a good break for me, and gets us both some fresh air. He really isn’t much of an outdoor dog; he tends to stay indoors even when the back door is open all day.

He likes to be with his people. When mom is here Mylo is usually at her side. When it’s just me, well, his second bed is in my office. Yep, just like Bailey and AJ, Mylo has become my office-mate. There is something comforting about this. It feels good to be the other other lady.

This is what the American Kennel Club says about Shih Tzus, “As a small dog bred to spend most of their day inside royal palaces, they make a great pet if you live in an apartment or lack a big backyard. Some dogs live to dig holes and chase cats, but a Shih Tzu’s idea of fun is sitting in your lap acting adorable as you try to watch TV.”

Well, we don’t have a royal palace, but the fact Mylo has multiple dwellings to call home, several vehicles to ferry him about, and all these “other ladies,” well, perhaps he is the royalty and not any of his other ladies.

Abundance of beauty on trek to fish ladder

Abundance of beauty on trek to fish ladder

A hint of fall along Deer Creek in Lassen National Forest. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In less than 2 miles we arrived at a man-made contraption in the middle of the forest that is saving the lives of countless fish.

“The project is truly an engineering marvel: located in a deep canyon, with no road access, approximately 500 tons of rock were excavated out of the old fishway area while a new one was built, using pre-cast concrete panels roughly 7 feet deep, 10 feet long, and almost 7 feet wide, to form a series of 14 pools and 15 weirs that help fish get upstream of the waterfall,” according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The fish ladder, at a cost of $2.5 million, was completed in December 2017, replacing a steeper less elaborate one built in the 1940s.

The fish ladder at Lower Deer Creek Falls doubles as a human viewing platform. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Fish ladders are built to help fish around culverts, dams and waterfalls. In the case of Deer Creek there is about a 15-foot waterfall impeding their migration. (Salmon swim upstream to spawn, with the little ones going downstream to the river.) The ladders allow them to jump into a pool where they can rest before jumping into the next one until they bypass the obstruction.

We only saw one salmon in the pool (outside the ladder) before the waterfall.

Lower Deer Creek Waterfall remains impressive even in early fall. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Deer Creek, Mill Creek and Butte Creek are the remaining tributaries of the Sacramento River with native runs of the Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon. There used to be more than 2,000 miles of stream habitat for these fish; now there are only a few hundred miles.

Lower Deer Creek Falls is about 35 miles upstream from the Sacramento River.

We started off Highway 32 in the Lassen National Forest. Though the trek is fairly easy, the beauty was incredible along the entire route.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has this to say about woolly bear caterpillars: “If their rusty band is wide, then it will be a mild winter. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.” (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is a mixed conifer zone, so the landscape seemed to be changing as we headed downstream from our starting point. Douglas fir were the predominant trees in the low dry zone, though oaks were interspersed. Ponderosa pines were closer to the starting point.

Spires of volcanic rock rose from both sides of the creek.

The path was compact dirt most of the way, with some embedded rocks that made looking down a necessity. One spot required a bit of limbo with the fallen tree.

Deer Creek will eventually flow into the Sacramento River. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We could hear and see Deer Creek most of the hike. What was most surprising was how much water was flowing on the first Saturday of October. At times the water was tranquil, other times it was rushing. This was especially true at the fish ladder where the water roared through the canyon.

This would clearly be a completely different hike in spring/early summer with the runoff. A few times we passed what would have been areas to cross with water on the trail during the wet season.

Not much fall color was to be seen, but still there was a distinct sense the seasons are changing.

While no bears were visible, their scat was. The only interesting wildlife was a woolly bear caterpillar. The folklore in Tahoe was that seeing one means winter is on its way.

We started at 3,323 feet, with the lowest point being 3,131 feet. We logged 3.96 miles. The 19 of us on this hike were part of this Chico Oroville Outdoor Adventurers.

Baja wine country fighting to retain its rural character

Baja wine country fighting to retain its rural character

Many wineries offer outstanding views of the Valle de Guadalupe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Those who live and work in the Valle de Guadalupe are fighting to protect their land, their way of life and the future.

On Oct. 9, more than 300 people connected to this wine region in Baja California marched in the streets to protest the building of a concert venue that would be able to hold 25,000 people.

The nonprofit Por un Valle de Verdad (For a Valley of Truth) organized the event.

While the region is a tourist destination mostly for Mexicans and those from the United States, the people who call it home don’t want it to be totally transformed into something that is not sustainable or that does not complement the rural nature of the land.

This was posted on the group’s Facebook page that day, “On the basis of public complaints, the federal authorities inspected and closed down a site where a forum for mass concerts is intended to be installed. It was also determined that the predio is located in a forest land that was affected by the removal of its natural vegetation (thicket or Chaparral) characteristic of semi-arid areas. According to INEGI, Chaparral’s vegetation covers part of the yard, and according to inspection, vegetation covers almost the entirety of the prediction. As a result, and because the inspector did not submit authorization for land use change in forest land, the federal authority closed the predio and secured the machinery.”

On Oct. 11, the group posted this on Facebook, “We demand that the Citizen’s Commission be established where villagers, academy and productive sectors of the Guadalupe Valley are represented to monitor the implementation of the regulation of the sectoral program.”

The valley is home to about 9,000 people. Some of the their complaints are not having the basic needs to deal with such a large venue—adequate roads, garbage, fire-police, medical care.

Then there are all the environmental concerns like the lack of water, the need to rezone land for the new use, destruction of land for construction, and the negative impacts concert after concert could have on the area.

This region just 90 minutes south of the U.S. border continues to grow in popularity. That is a reason to build the event center.

For those in the know, Mexico is already a player in the world of wine. Many of the wineries and wines will have people thinking they are in Napa or Sonoma counties in California, not in a Third World country. After all, bottles of Bruma can be found on the wine list at the French Laundry.

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