Lassen park’s visitor center worthy of a stop
There’s a good reason the word “volcanic” is part of Lassen Volcanic National Park’s name.
This park in Northern California is home to all four types of volcanoes that can be found throughout the world. Lassen Peak is a plug dome, Brokeoff is a composite, Prospect Peak is a shield, and Cinder Cone is, well, a cinder cone volcano.
While I’m an advocate for getting out in nature in all seasons, I’m also one who likes to learn a bit about what she is seeing.
Hiking friends had told me to take the time to peruse the visitor center. I finally found the time this fall on a drive with mom. It was definitely worth it.
A few times a day the visitor center shows an incredibly informative 20-minute movie called “The Story Behind the Landscape.” (The visitor center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.)
Enjoying all that the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center has to offer is time well spent. When the building opened in 2008 it was heralded as the park’s first year-round visitor center. It is located about one mile from the southwest entrance.
The name comes from what the Mountain Maidu call Lassen Peak, which means Snow Mountain.
While Lassen Peak hasn’t erupted since 1921, it could again.
The National Park Service website says, “The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a National Volcanic Threat Assessment that considers the relative threats posed by U.S. volcanoes and identifies which volcanoes warrant the greatest risk-mitigation efforts by the USGS and its partners. The Lassen Volcanic Center (is) one of 18 volcanoes assessed as very high threat.”
Lassen became the 13th national park in August 1916.
Besides the film being educational, the visitor center has displays that captivate. Some are interactive—good for youngsters and the not so young. After all, the entire park is a geological wonder. Bumpass Hell “is the largest boiling springs area west of Yellowstone,” according to information at the center.
One sign talks about how the location of the park is where “four significant biological regions overlap—the Cascade Range, the Sierra Nevada, the California Central Valley and the Great Basin of Nevada.”
If you don’t have the time or desire to snowshoe or hike in Lassen, take the time to be enthralled by the visitor center.
Spooner Lake evolves with visitor center, amphitheater
While the natural beauty of the 13,000 acre Spooner Lake backcountry is captivating in all seasons, a man-made structure has actually enhanced what this Nevada oasis has to offer.
On Nov. 17 the $8 million visitors center and amphitheater was unveiled.
“Our focus is on environmental education and sustainable recreation,” Bob Mergell, administrator for Nevada State Parks, told the assembled crowd.
The amphitheater from which he was speaking is expected to be the center of outdoor programs. Four rows of granite benches, so to speak, form a semi-circle facing the podium. Each is broken into sections for ease of seating, and coming and going.
Mergell acknowledged a project of this size is a group effort, which he pointed out included prison inmates building all the cabinetry inside
The building houses a shop to buy souvenirs, resource guides and the opportunity to talk to someone to obtain more information. Also onsite are indoor rooms for classes or meetings, as well as a warming hut. What might excite many recreationists are the nice restrooms.
With 150,000 visitors to Spooner Lake each year using the 60 miles of trails, the built infrastructure was beyond outdated. Limited parking and a few port-a-potties are all that greeted people. What was there was 35 years old. Even the old kiosk to pay one’s entrance fee looked like a dilapidated hut.
Prior to the festivities, Mergell in an interview said planning for phase three of the project is under way.
“We are going to put in a kayak launch to make the lake more usable,” he said. A fishing platform is also in the works. A start and end date can’t be set until designs, permitting, and funding are secured.
It’s possible to fish at this late that sits at 6,983 feet, but it’s hard to get on the lake unless it’s frozen. That’s when ice skaters show off their skills. It’s about 23 feet deep.
A price tag for this next phase has not been set, but one of the key donors was at the dedication.
Linda Pascotto, who has a house nearby, has been re-creating in the area since her parents bought a place at Lake Tahoe in the 1970s. Later she and her husband bought their own place.
Pascotto is a philanthropist who has donated to many causes in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Haldan Art Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College is in honor of her parents, Jim and Ethel May Haldan.
She is one of seven donors to the Tahoe Fund that accounts for that nonprofit’s $300,000 contribution to the current Spooner project. Pascotto and the others have metal bears scattered near the amphitheater with their names on them as a sign of thanks.
Pascotto’s next contribution of $250,000 is for phase three, which she wants to pay for the wildlife viewing platform at Spooner Lake.
“My dad was into wildlife,” she explained after all the presentations were over. “I wanted to do something for my parents.” After all, they are the ones who introduced her to the Spooner Lake area.
Huntsman World Senior Games brings amateur athletes together
Peace, health and friendship are the principles of the Huntsman World Senior Games.
This month marked the 35th year for the multi-sport event for athletes who are at least 50 years old. It’s billed as the largest such event in the world. People from more than 86 countries have competed. Some years more than 11,000 people participate.
Daisy and John H. Morgan Jr. founded the southern Utah event in 1987 with the goal of turning the St. George area into a senior resort. He died Jan. 14, 2022, at the age of 98. He was still playing tennis in his 90s.
“In 1989 Jon M. Huntsman, chairman of the Huntsman Corporation, became the games’ principal sponsor after recognizing that the games not only fostered lifetime fitness, but also expanded Utah’s economic vitality. A proud supporter of the games, the Huntsman family continues to open the games personally,” the event’s website says.
It was tennis that drew me to this two-week competition. I was there for one week as I only competed in the singles event based on my age/ability level. Others in my circle played women’s doubles, mixed doubles, volleyball, archery, shuffleboard, and indoor rowing.
People could also participate in:
- Cowboy action shooting
- Lawn bowls
- Mountain biking
- Power walking
- Race walking
- Road races
- Shooting benchrest
- Shooting handgun
- Shotgun sports
- Square dance
- Table tennis
- Track and field
- Trail running
- Walking tours.
Other activities are part of the games, like an opening ceremonies (I didn’t see this), a bike tour (we did our own that was a bit more challenging), a friendship festival (we had each other), and the health screenings.
This is definitely something I would go back to. The vibe was great. The competition good. The moto of peace, health and friendship was definitely more than just words.
A Wonderland of musical theater
Usually my mantra is the book is always better. The movie, the television show, the play—none of them will do the printed version justice.
Boy, was I ever wrong with Wonderland.
When I reviewed the book several years ago I wondered what all the hoopla was about.
I would never have guessed this could be made into an entertaining, captivating musical. The play used to be called Wonderland: Alice’s New Musical Adventure as well as Wonderland: A New Alice. It was written by Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd, with lyrics by Murphy, and music by Frank Wildhorn.
There is actually an Alice in Wonderland musical. This debuted in England in 1886. It, too, was based on Lewis Carroll’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871).
The adaption I saw this month builds on the original works, taking the concept to a deeper level that makes it much more enjoyable. Plus, it was not convoluted like the book I read. The play was easy to understand, enjoyable and memorable in a good way. The music was enjoyable, the acting outstanding, set design creative, and costumes fun.
Considering most of the audience was adults, this clearly was not a children’s production. While kids may not understand the adult nuances, I think they would be entertained.
Adding to the experience was the setting. If you are ever in southern Utah, check out Tuacahn Amphitheatre. This outdoor theater set among the red rocks is impressive.
Friends I was with have been to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, and while that is larger than the Utah venue, they prefer this one for the overall beauty.
At Tuachan it is possible to see multiple productions in one visit. Also playing while I was there last week were Mary Poppins and Joseph: The Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat.
Sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach create dramatic scene
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.
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.
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.”
Feds Remove S-Word From Locations Throughout The U.S.
We all know the N-word. Now there is the S-word.
Earlier this month the federal Board of Geographic Names removed more than 650 instances nationwide where the word “squaw” was part of the name. This includes 80 locations in California and 34 in Nevada.
“The term has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women,” the Interior Department said last year after Secretary Deb Haaland declared “squaw” a derogatory term.
A task force has been studying what locations should be changed.
In Placer County, Squaw Creek is now Washeshu Creek and Squaw Valley is Olympic Valley.
I grew up skiing at Squaw Valley. Still call it my favorite Tahoe area resort. But it’s not Squaw anymore. It’s Palisades Tahoe. That change came last year. I still think a better name could have been found, but that’s irrelevant to this story. The ski resort was one of many entities throughout the country that has proactively changed its name.
I completely understand and agree with removing the S-word. I do wonder when one references the 1960 Winter Olympics what it will be called. I wonder if one has hiking and snowshoe books with the S-word if those should be changed.
This is not the first time names have been replaced en masse. The federal government replaced a slew of slurs for Black and Japanese people in the 1960s and 1970s.
Here is the list of S-words that have been removed, the new name, and where it is located. Locations with new names include valleys, streams, reservoirs, ridges, flats, summits, pillars, gaps, springs, bays, islands, slopes, lakes, basins, cliffs, areas, bars (not the drinking kind), guts, capes, canals, bends, benches, and crossings.
Point Reyes Lighthouse a beacon of history
While California is known for its pristine beaches, plenty of boat captains can speak to the rugged, treacherous coastline.
Today the Point Reyes Lighthouse is a standing reminder of navigational tools erected in the 1800s to help steer ships clear of the rocky, foggy and potentially fatal land mass north of San Francisco in Marin County.
More than 70 marine wrecks have occurred at this stretch of coast, with 37 being total losses, according to the National Park Service.
The lighthouse, which began operating Dec. 1, 1870, is now owned by the National Park Service and is part of the larger Point Reyes National Seashore. It is a historic landmark. The lighthouse stopped operating in 1975.
Today those navigating the waters of the Pacific Ocean rely on an automated beacon located on a structure below the original lighthouse. A horn bellows at regular intervals and light flashes to alert those at the helm of a boat of the land mass.
While the rest of the California was sweltering on Labor Day weekend, those at the lighthouse were bundled up. The wind was howling, though nothing like what it can be. Spring is the worst when winds can be hurricane force—exceeding 130 mph.
One thing that makes the Point Reyes Lighthouse special is the Fresnel lens is still intact. A handful of people at a time are allowed to enter the lighthouse where a docent gives a super short talk about the significance of the lens. It’s worth the wait.
“The 6,000-pound lens sits on a clockworks mechanism that rotates the lens using gears and counterweight. One complete rotation takes two minutes. As the lens rotates the beams sweep over the ocean like spokes on a wagon wheel, creating the signature Point Reyes Lighthouse pattern of one flash every five seconds,” according to the Park Service.
On a clear night it could be seen 24 miles away.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse has what is called a first-order lens. It is comprised of 1,032 pieces of hand-ground crystal.
This is the only lighthouse in the United States with its original first-order Fresnel lens, clockwork and tower that is still operational.
It was hard work to keep that light shining and the fog horn echoing.
“Once the (oil) lamp was lit, the keeper wound the clockwork every two hours and 20 minutes to rotate the lens and create the flash. Throughout the night, he kept the lamp wicks trimmed so that the light would burn efficiently,” the Park Service said.
On foggy nights it took 140 pounds of coal every hour to ensure the foghorn—which was really whistles and sirens—would blare.
To get to the lighthouse requires descending 313 steps. They are wider and shorter than normal stairs, so it makes it easier, but the width of them is narrow so it’s a tight squeeze when people are climbing up at the same time.
If you aren’t up to this, the viewing platform is 0.4 miles from the main parking area. However, those with handicap stickers can park closer. The viewing area is outstanding. The lighthouse and rugged coastline are spectacular from there. On super clear days the Farallon Islands can be seen.
The stairs are open Friday-Sunday, 10am-4pm. No cost to visit.
Church of One Tree illustrates the power of single redwood
Even from the back—which is what faces the street—this former church seems special.
Known as Church of One Tree, this structure is now owned by the city of Santa Rosa. Since 2011 it has been available to be rented for weddings and other special events.
The front looks out onto Juilliard Park near the Luther Burbank Gardens. Appropriately a small grove of redwoods separates the park and the building.
This is appropriate because of what makes the building so unique. It was built in 1873 from a single 275-foot-tall, 18-foot-diameter redwood harvested in nearby Guerneville. It produced 78,000 board feet of lumber.
This was originally the home of First Baptist Church on Ross and B streets before it was relocated to its current home on Sonoma Avenue.
Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not Fame featured the structure for being built from a single tree. In 1970, the Santa Rosa native turned the building into the Ripley Memorial Museum. After a couple decades the museum closed and the building became neglected.
Through the efforts of a city parks employee who initiated a campaign to refurbish and preserve Church of One Tree, donations came in and volunteers worked to turn it into something residents could be proud of.
Just looking at it from the outside, without being able to enjoy the multiple stained glass windows from the inside, is worth stopping by when in the area.
Bridges tell a story at Lake Oroville
Two bridges, the same name, and a whole lot of history.
Both Bidwell Bar Bridges involve Lake Oroville.
When the first Bidwell Bar Bridge was installed across the Feather River in 1856 it was California’s first suspension bridge. The 372-foot-long steel span was built in New York for $34,922. It got shipped around the Cape Horn—the southern tip of South America—to San Francisco. From there it made its way north via the Sacramento and Feather rivers to Marysville. Then an oxen team took it to the location to be installed.
“Four heavy wire cables were used on the suspension bridge. Two main cables were strung on each side of the bridge, each containing 205 lengths of number 10 gauge wire,” a sign at the bridge states. “The total weight capacity the bridge could carry at one time was approximately 40 tons.”
In 1856, this weight would be equal to nearly 62 empty covered wagons. This compares to a typical 18-wheeler loaded truck that weighs 40 tons. In other words, it wouldn’t hold up to today’s traffic.
Modern travel, though, isn’t what doomed this bridge or the adjacent tollhouse. Both operated until 1954. The tollhouse was also a post office, store and residence for the bridge tender.
What rendered them no longer usable was the construction of Oroville Dam, which started in 1961. It dammed the Feather River and created Lake Oroville. The initial location is under water.
The original bridge and tollhouse were relocated in 1977 to State Parks land to what is now called Bidwell Canyon, a sector of the greater Lake Oroville State Recreation Area. Today the bridge is open to foot traffic. The bridge is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a California Historical Landmark.
A short walking trail brings one to an area where the second Bidwell Bar Bridge can be seen.
It is 1½ miles upstream from where the original one was built. It was built 600 feet higher up on the hillside to accommodate the reservoir. It is now part of Highway 162, also known as Oroville-Quincy Highway.
This new suspension bridge was built in 1965. At 627 feet above the original stream bed it was one of the highest such bridges at the time. When the lake is full it’s like you can touch the water from the bridge.
Luther Burbank Gardens continues horticulturalist’s legacy
Luther Burbank was such a force in the horticulture world that in California his birthday (March 7) is celebrated as Arbor Day.
Burbank is credited with creating nearly 1,000 varieties of plants, including more than 200 fruit species. One of his goals was to increase the food supply in the world.
Burbank’s aptitude for cross-cultivating plants led to the creation of the Russet Burbank potato. His goal was to create a potato that would resist blight, and therefore help other countries like Ireland that were enduring a famine because of potato blight.
This potato is still the No. 1 spud used in food processing—think McDonald’s French fries and the like.
Burbank is also the creator of the plumcot, a combo of apricot and plum.
A sign on the property states, “The thousands of experiments conducted on this site and on his nearby Sebastopol farm were largely responsible for turning plant breeding into a modern science. His work with plums was influential in making them a major industry throughout the world.”
Many plants that we take for granted were the creation of Burbank’s at his 4-acre home in Santa Rosa. Today the property is 1.6 acres, with a garden that is free to roam. The old carriage house is now a museum. Docent led tours are available seasonally, which provide access to buildings and information not granted to non-paying visitors.
Here is a snippet from the Luther Burbank Gardens’ website about a flower that is rather ubiquitous today, “2001 marked the 100th anniversary of Luther Burbank’s introduction of the Shasta daisy, one of America’s most beloved garden flowers. Burbank spent 17 years developing this quadruple hybrid which he named after Mt. Shasta. Others have continued Burbank’s work and many new varieties of the Shasta daisy have been introduced since Burbank completed his work more than 100 years ago.”
Roses were Burbank’s favorite flower, with a section of his garden dedicated to them. Prior to Burbank’s death in 1926 plants could not be patented. Posthumously the Blushing Beauty and Apple Blossom rose varietals were patented in his name.
Today his Santa Rosa home is a registered landmark at the national, state and city levels. It also has been designated a horticultural landmark by the American Society for Horticultural Science.