Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm home ahead of schedule.

This morning, while accompanying the dog outside, I saw the most charming sight: double blossoms of the palest pink in a dormant apple tree. I looked closely, to see whether I had inadvertently planted an apple tree that sports double blooms, but saw that it was a rose, the Stanwell Perpetual, which had thrown some delicate branches into the apple tree. Lovely.

That, of course was after I had seen the full spring display my yard puts out: a wall of fragrance from orange and lime trees near the house (the lemons and grapefruits are farther away), and, of course, the jasmine. The climbing Cecil Brunners, pale pink roses not quite as full as the Stanwell Perpetual, were in glorious bridal-bower mode. I love this time of year.

The trip: I started out by heading east into the desert, and then north through Death Valley. I had no idea what to expect; what I found was concentrated essence of California desert. All the features I had grown up seeing, salt flats, tilted strata of multi-colored stone, arid mountains, boulder fields, vast plains of creosote bush, were on display over a few tens of miles of badly rutted road.

Rather than double back to the 395, I continued east and north through the high desert in Nevada. I drove through cold, dry regions where I saw herds of wild horses and tame bison, sapphire lakes set in sand, resurrected mining towns fitted out for the tourist trade, and a mysterious, strangely-sited naval submarine warfare base. I spent the first night in Fallon.

I only got a little lost on the second morning, looking for the 80 west, from which I would catch the 395 north of Reno. On that highway, I saw a coyote stalking a herd of camellids (sorry, I don't know whether they were llamas or alpacas), and wondered whether one coyote could bring down such a large animal by itself, or whether the camellid could defend itself. I looked for guard dogs, but didn't see any. I was just regretting that I wouldn't see Mount Shasta on this trip, when a snow-covered triangle appeared on the horizon, near a sign indicating a left turn, with the caption "Mount Shasta, 89 miles." I looked over my shoulder after entering Oregon, and found that I could still see Shasta.It really does dominate the horizon for a hundred miles around!

I don't remember whether it was in Oregon or California (and I'm too lazy to look at a map) that I saw a pair of juvenile bald eagles sitting on the side of a lake, and moments later saw a sign reading "Eagle Lake Wildlife Viewing Area." Good timing. I kept going northward through Klamath Falls, skirting Crater Lake to the east on the 197. I turned left on the 57 across the Cascades, oohing and aahing at the mountains, forests, and lakes along the way. As with the high desert, winter was on the way out, but spring hadn't quite arrived yet. Spring had arrived in Eugene. There, I met the 5, and zoomed the rest of the way to Astoria at freeway speeds. Uncharacteristically for Oregon at this time of year, it was so clear I could see Mt. Hood from the freeway, and Mt. St. Helens from the 26. Characteristically, the fields were very green, and the sheep were accompanied by new lambs.

The next day continued glorious. Since the TV and radio forecasts both agreed that this would be the only dry day for the duration of my trip, I forced myself to finish painting the patio. While I was finishing that up, I spotted 6 deer in the vacant lot next to my yard.

I don't remember the exact timing and order of the events of the rest of the week, but somehow I found the time to finish the cabled socks I had started for Tom in January, make curtains for the rest of the house, fertilize the lawn, plant wildflowers, weed the gravel terrace and driveway, visit with the neighbors on all sides, eat a lot of fish, shop locally, and spot 8 deer in my own back yard.

I had finished everything I meant to accomplish by Saturday night, so I packed the car and told Tom to expect me home in two or three days. I got out by first light, in order to have time to visit the aquarium in Newport on the way home. Since we're members, admittance is free. Since the gift shop is first rate, it was the most expensive stop of the trip. Much of the indoor space was closed to change exhibits, but enough was open to make the stop well worthwhile. Meanwhile, the view of the ocean was spectacular. It wasn't raining hard, but there was enough wind to make the surf crash in a most decorative manner.

Spring was more well-advanced in California, where I drove home past blooming fruit orchards, emerald hills, and vast swaths of lupine. Other flowers were in evidence, too: poppies and several kinds of sunflowers, most notably. I enjoyed dawn in Richardson Grove, a stand of old-growth redwoods I consider the center of the universe, and reached home by dinnertime.

It occurred to me that I had spent most of my time in our "vacation" home working, while the hard drive (12 hours/day, on average) in both directions was, for me, pure fun. Nothing beats a long drive in open country.


Blogger Jeff Muskrat said...

Save Richardson Grove!

1:32 AM  

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