February 15, 2013

I know yesterday was Valentines Day, but it doesn’t seem to resonate when you are parked next to a swamp.IMG_9223 (Copy)

On the 13th, we did some cleaning, and packing stuff away. Our bedroom windows were hung with beads from Mardi Gras 2010, New Orleans. Some of them had become faded and the curtains needed washing.

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So, we said our last goodbye to Mardi Gras by taking most of the old beads to the park laundry  for anyone to take if they like. That is a common practice in parks we live in. The new beads aren’t as colorful as those we had, but, we had way too many, anyway.

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Jim worked on a leak in the Bronco’s sun window and we got ready to leave. Late in the afternoon, we went for  swamp walk. The late sun makes shadows on the swamp weeds.

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It is so beautiful in this swamp, with reflections in the water.

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Everywhere you aim, is beauty. You can’t take a bad picture here.

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Of course, lurking under all this beauty are alligators. We talked to a woman who saw four of them.  Her family is camped right next to the swamp.

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I was quite content to spot turtles balancing on a half sunken log. These were a long distance away.DSC02813 (Copy)

Look at the size of his powerful hind feet.

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An uncrossable bridge if you don’t want wet shoes. We went around to the other side where it was just as wet.

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A tree with knobby growths covering it. DSC02822 (Copy)

Probably not healthy for the tree, but certainly interesting.DSC02826 (Copy)

These small metal boats are used by the rangers. We saw a fisherman on the river using this type of boat for fishing, as well. He said he likes to fish, but only uses barb less hooks and releases everything he catches.

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More turtles. A bit closer to the camera.Stretching to catch those last rays.DSC02841 (Copy)

It’s cold,and we’ve had more cold and foggy days than sunny ones.

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Jim spotted something moving in the water. We watched this turtle munching weeds just popping up and down in the water.

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I spotted a snake. He is so fat, I thought at first it was a piece of rubber someone had thrown in the swamp. But the lens proved it to be a big black snake.

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I didn’t have my glasses on, but I showed the picture to the local fisherman we talked to and he said it is a water moccasin. A very poisonous snake.

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I know I’m going overboard here on the turtles, but they are so darned cute. A little turtle confab on a log. The one has green moss growing on his shell. Sitting in the sun with their reflections in the water. Nice.

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Lake Charles Mayor, Randy Roach, listens to Jim explain what he liked or didn’t like about Lake Charles and/or Louisiana.  What we knew about Mayor Roach  before we met was that everyone likes the guy. He is very much a people person and really gets involved in the community. We talked for 45 minutes about our life-style and impressions, and his philosophy of governing. He likes to see money put into infrastructure of the city that benefits families, not any fancy buildings or glittering trappings of office. He is very proud of the city parks. Located in neighborhoods so they are very available to everyone because he believes they  invite wholesome activities for children. The Mardi Gras itself, involves families and children. We notice that theme over and over in Lake Charles. He gave us a great overview of Lake Charles’  strategic location in Southern Louisiana. All roads lead to Lake Charles for jobs,arts, business and quality of life.  In fact, we met two couples who came to visit and decided to move here. That speaks volumes.  Mayor Roach served two terms in the State Legislature before his 12 years as Mayor. (He didn’t tell us that.)  We left with the keys to the city.

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We attended the Royal Regalia with Renola Simon. Each Krewe has their own ball,  by invitation only,  to see the marvelous costumes.  The regalia is a promenade for the community to see the beauty of the Royals.  The young royals were introduced first and seated to witness the adult Kings and Queens promenade . Leading the first Queen was none other than Mayor Roach. I think she has a title  other than the Krewe be- knighting of their royals, but it is a learning process and I’m not sure how everything is done.

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This is an overview of this huge building and the promenade. The young royals are seated to the stage on the left to watch each Krewe promenade. They have attendants who quickly roll up their long trains so they do not get stepped on as the promenaders exit on both sides of the stage. Then they roll the trains back out again. It was mind boggling. Queens Elizabeth and Beatrice have nothing on Louisiana’s royalty, aye! In fact, when Queen Elizabeth attended Mardi Gras, she was invited to a private ball. She with others  paraded before the Krewe Queen. She stood, used to having people bow in her presence. She quickly bowed to the Krewe Queen, who then got up and bowed to her.

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The hall has rotating spot lights making  picture-taking very difficult. If you get a decent shot, the timing, the movement, the distance for us, high in the bleachers, it is mostly  luck. So, you are going to see some blurry photos.

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This was the clearest photo I took all night. With about 50 Krewes, they move very quickly on to the next Krewe in line. Renola’s Cajun Krewe did not enter the regalia this year. Their queen is chosen by whomever gets the slice of King Cake with the baby in it. Most Krewes vote for their King and Queen. Renola explained that each of those feathers costs $35 each.

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Not all of the Kings and queens have elaborate feather head dresses, but most of them do. Just look at their head gear. You have to have a special closet to store these costumes.

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Another beautiful head dress.

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The kings and queens for 2014 will be chosen right after Mardi Gras so they can budget for their costume, design, and chose it. Most of them are now professionally designed and made. Renola, who is  80 years old, has been Queen for her Krewe twice. She made her own costumes.

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There is much color to the promenade, but I noticed most of the Kings and Queens wore white. Aren’t they gorgeous?

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Equally gorgeous are the 12 to 15 foot long trains.

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Not all Krewes are big. Some new Krewes are small and are made up of family members only.

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For many couples, their  social life revolves around their Krewe.

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The Krewe chooses their music for their promenade and some is jazzy, some is rock and some is krazy. All fun.

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Several Krewes concentrate on the Chicken Run part of Mardi Gras.

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New this year, to many oohs and ahhs was a lighted costume. Quite the feat.

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This King and Queen costume is once again as tall as the person wearing them. Fantasy in bloom.

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Then there are the gargantuan costumes that are 8 to 12 feet tall.  These are not king and queen regalia. They  put them on the promenade to show these magnificent costumes for our enjoyment.

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These are very challenging to carry, as well as build. Some take 4500 hours, according to Renola.

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These speak for themselves. Such a deal!

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December 11, 2012

Julia Shelby, a San Francisco transplant, started Mountain Melody Womens Chorus in 2005. A bright star in our mountain communities is this all volunteer group of about 18 women, singers all, with two piano players and a flutist.   Shelby chooses  innovative music, with intricate, lively and echoing harmonies. What a treat.

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Also a treat, is Casa Terra Cotta, this beautiful mountaintop estate, loaned to the Calaveras Arts Council for the event. I was  grateful for the sun, but the time of day was brutal for photos.

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I ran smack dab into my neighbor Judith, and friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, David and JoEllen Gano. A stranger grabbed my camera and offered to take a picture.

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What makes the estate so enchanting, is the marvelous windows surrounding you from every direction, providing the best views from the mountain top, at  the same time making picture-taking difficult.

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I concentrated on faces and the wonderful music. Dobru’ Noc, a Slovakian Folk Song

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This Little Light Of Mine.

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The Seal Lullaby

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Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet.

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After the concert, we enjoyed desserts and wine punch and mingled with guests and members of the chorus. Michael VonErich sung the solo Mary Did You Know? Her deep resonant voice, and the words brought me to tears. I had to meet her, only to discover she is moving away from Mountain Ranch. She told me she grew up singing as a child with Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, the guys who wrote the words and music to the song. What a talent she is. And what a loss to our community.

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Maddie and I walked the grounds and enjoyed the views.

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Some people stayed close to the outdoor fireplace.

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We all got to sing for Marta Johnson’s birthday, another old friend I hadn’t seen in years.

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On the drive home, Maddie and I oohed and ahhed at another birthday, these little newborn lambs on wobbly legs. We both wondered  why are these young lambs born in the cold month of December? We hope it isn’t from climate change, but in my yard I’ve seen a late fawn all through November. A strange year in so many ways.


October 5, 2012

Since our accident on May 27th, I swear, I have never had so many doctors in my life. If it isn’t one thing it is another. Poke and probe and test. Since the accident I feel like I have sand in one eye and it keeps swelling.  After a round yesterday with my eye doctor and picking up records from one place to deliver to another place, I stopped at the Arts Council for an art fix. Jim has taken gallery pictures for me that I appreciate, but it isn’t the same as being able to view your own choices of things you admire. I am ever impressed by the talent in my community.

My favorite piece in the exhibit was this triptych in the photo above.  I’ve done a close up of each piece.


Simple lines, bold colors. Beautifully matched.

Many nice pieces, so if you have a chance to visit the Arts Council Gallery in San Andreas, do it. I’m working on a piece of my own, but it is not for sale. Maybe, since I’m home for an extended period, I’ll get a piece finished for the affordable arts exhibit they do before Christmas.

I don’t know why I like old, rusty, derelict cars. This worked on a ceramic piece. Tough to execute.

Homer as a pretty jolly sculpture is appealing

Trees, another favorite theme. Who doesn’t love a tree?

Bead work is making an impact in the arts/crafts world. This little bird is something to hang on the Christmas tree or not. It works anywhere.

If I have errands, I like to seize the day, and art makes me smile and eases the burdens we sometimes carry.



August 15, 2012

It is our last morning in China. We are up early. Business people all over town line up in their suits and ties at street steamers to buy buns and dumplings for breakfast.  (Picture by Nicolas Delerue) China is vast but it’s cities are huge and crowded. The Chinese seek peace in their gardens.

In the center of this snarling city is the UR Garden. The designers took great pains and cost to turn this former government employees home into a centerpiece of Chinese garden architecture. A walled garden shuts out the troubles of life and brings peace and quiet to the soul. It allows you to contemplate a higher plane and renew the spirit.

The Chinese people strive for perfection in everything they do. A perfect garden must have a hill, water, rock, plants, bamboo, a building and trees. The plants placement and position in the garden, and shapes of everything  have special meanings. A rock must not overshadow water. All gates, walkways, windows and doors must suggest nurture, peace and serenity to soothe the soul. A tea house provides refreshment and joy.

A cut out in the wall has pleasing lines and picturesquely  frames and enhances a particular view of the garden.

A beautifully designed window does the same.

Each rock, each plant is chosen for its sense of balance and rest. Lotus for purity. Bamboo for strength and resilience.  Flowering plum represents rebirth. If you plant a pine tree, you must have both a male and female tree. If one dies, the partner tree is removed.

Proper dragons guard the roof and walls.

The roof is enhanced with bamboo at the top to make music as the wind passes over the hollow tubes.  The poetic aspects of a garden are taken very seriously.

When a contingent of Chinese Garden Architects from Vancouver came to see the garden, they politely said it was beautiful. Not perfect?  They judged it imperfect because modern condominium visible in a little corner of the garden.  Tsk, tsk!

We leave the garden to visit Shanghai Cultural Museum.  On the freeway we see a huge cement column  about 12 feet in diameter  supporting an over crossing. It was beautifully decorated with writhing dragons. I asked why the need for such a heavy support column? Our city guide explained that it allows the dragons to get out. When they were building, the workmen had trouble in that spot. They insisted there was a dragon there and it would be bad luck to cover it up. The government architects came up with a solution. It is partially hollow and has an exit window.  Now knowing what we do of Chinese culture and centuries of superstition embedded in their character, we understand.

The museum too, is a quiet place that gives a sense of peace…

and beauty.

Late in the afternoon we have free time and several of us take tea at a lovely tea house and then off to the Hip Hop Market to pick up any last minute souvenirs. This is not a souvenir market.  We gawk at ultra modern merchandise. Shoes like I’ve never seen in my life with price tags to match.  Baby items and clothing  for the children or grandchildren of the very wealthy. Teens swarm the place with their phones and wrist band radios. They buy see-through blouses, painted skirts and bathing suits that would fit in a cigarette box. We are running from store to store like unruly kids were we see every kind of goods,  rich leathers, golden threaded bags and scarves; canes, sunglasses, jewelry to dazzle an empress, plastic neon bracelets, fancy suits and ballgowns, jeans and top branded merchandise from all over the world.  A city of such contrasts is Shanghai.

We enjoy a fabulous farewell dinner with a flaming dish of some sort. We  fondly embrace our new friends and  trade addresses and know we’ll probably never see them again. Unforgettable China.



July 31, 2012

This little doe comes to visit me each morning. She seems to know when I have the camera aimed at her and hides from me. My yard is Certified Wildlife Habitat, and between Karen and I, we’ve  seen every animal except a possum and a bear come to drink water. Cougars, bobcats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, dogs, cats, birds. Even bats and lizards. This low water year, the water in my pond, and other vessels,  needs to be replenished every other day, which Karen does.

I’m coming at my subject a bit sideways, here, but Jim brought this beautiful hammock all the way from Central America. It has hung between a couple of trees for the last two summers and a squirrel came down the tree and chewed part of the threads. Sorry, Jim. I was pretty amazed at that. She  chewed some of the support strings as well. I don’t blame the squirrel. I’m sure she is nest-building.  Red tail hawks decimated my squirrel population a while back and this one has moved in to begin a new generation.

I’m always bragging about Murphys being such a nice place to live, with its beautiful park with a creek running through it. But, San Andreas has a beautiful Turner Park too, with multiple entrances and areas to enjoy because it runs along a small creek. I met friends yesterday, with whom I worked at the Calaveras Enterprise in the 1980′s  and was reminded of the wholesome community we share. Dedicated park volunteers were blowing debris and picking up stuff people leave behind when I got there. How cool is that?

This cute elephant bridge leads to a playground for the kids. Part of why this is such a great place to live is the huge body of volunteerism that makes places  like this possible for everyone.

Sue Walker has a new last name since we met at this same spot last year. I was surprised my friends knew about my accident on May 27th.  We spent an hour playing catch-up while we ate our bag lunch.

We manage our visit in an hour since Deborah Mullen comes from work during her lunch time.  I heard that our former editor, Sandy Lema died while I was on the road, and I forgot to ask them if that was correct?

That hour went by way too fast!  I’m going to make an effort to get home earlier next year to attend the main event. We grabbed one of the friendly park volunteers to take our picture before we parted.

This is a group photo of Enterprise staffers from Reunion 2011.

After leaving the park, I had some blood work done and then went to the beauty shop to get my hair cut. I reminded Sue, who was cutting my hair, that the purpose of a beauty salon is make people beautiful.

I thought she did a pretty good job, don’t you?

Then I stopped in Angels Camp to visit my friend Linda Foster. She is painting her house and needs help deciding what color to choose.

The picture doesn’t show all of her possible choices.  But, I think it was more than nine.  Decisions, decisions. And you know?  She didn’t even notice my beautiful new look? The older we get, the harder it is to get beautiful.


June 4, 2012

Its been hot in the park.  We are both feeling much better, but not exactly up to par.  We decided to try the South Rim overlooks figuring getting out and about will hasten healing and leave us with the canyons beauty as our last memory.

The White House  of the ancients, sits among sandstone colored buildings. The Anasazi left no clues  why this building should be white. Maybe it is special, like our own White House.  We had planned to take the two-mile hike in to where ever it leads,  but we weren’t up to that, yesterday.

The South Rim Canyons are deep and for those who feel any vertigo, it is probably not the place to visit.

As I looked, I wished I was down on the canyon floor finishing that tour we started in that marvelous truck where you had 360 degree views. It was a wonderful sight-seeing vehicle and I’d do it again if  I could, despite the accident.

I love the monolithic rocks that just seem to rise from the canyon floor like sentinels.

And, these strange purple tufts that sit like caps on pudding.  It is obvious that this rock was at one time liquid some unknown millions of years ago.

The South Rim had rock climbing areas before you get to the edge of the canyon.  Normally I’d be all over them, enjoying views from every point. They are beautiful in their own right.

The trail at one overlook was marked with cairn rocks. I added a couple rocks to increase the height, as others have done.  Not this particular one, though.

This rock was defaced by grafitti, but the colors are breathtaking.

The famous Spider Rock is so named because in Navajo culture, the Spider Woman is the God of weaving.  To them it must have resembled a weaving. It is  a beautiful twin structure in a very busy and colorful valley.

On a closer view it is possible to see the lines resembling  a woven rug, perhaps.

These lichen covered rocks on the edge have an unbelievable number of colors.

We received a note (posted) from Anita, the woman I spoke about who drove the two hundred miles to Flagstaff the day after the accident to be there for her friend Margaret. She is healing as we all are. And, for the sake of accuracy, we reported to the Sheriff’s Department and the Special Investigator that the nut from the tie rod bolt had been turned in to them. Frank Shearer informed us that the women from his party found the nut, but he advised them to leave it where they found it so the Sheriff’s Department could investigate without them having disturbed its location. Again, it is easy to “mis-hear” and spread inaccuracies.  Thank you for that correction, Frank.   None of us will forget this horrible accident, but I hope everyone will also remember the beauty of Canyon de Chelly and walk in beauty.

I took many beautiful pictures on the way into the  canyon.  It seems to take longer to do anything these days. I find I need a nap in the afternoon,  so  most of them are raw and un-cropped.  We are healing and feeling better each day. But Megan’s note about how rumors fly in a community prompted me to also give this information.  The nut that dropped from the tie rod bolt was found on the road above the accident and turned into the Sheriff’s Department.

Jim considered driving into the canyon for this tour with his four-wheel drive Bronco.  Very soon, looking at the  deep sands to navigate, he was glad we decided to take the tour.

Majestic solitary pinnacles sit on the canyon floor.

Our guide showed us fascinating petroglyphs drawn by the ancient Anasazi.

These photos can be double clicked to get a better look at them.

Explanations not needed. As Sara Dailey from the Chinle Clinic told me, “Walk in beauty.”





On the road, there were places where the canyon walls are over your head.

I enjoyed sitting behind the driver and looking through his window as we bounced along.

He stopped for the horses to cross in front of us.

This rock edifice reminded me of a man leaning up against a rock.

Where I sat, I could peer over the edge of the truck and see the wheels churning through a muddy low spot.

Majestic. I was stunned to learn that some locals have never been in the canyon.



Sometimes the rocks are caramel color.

The awesome big picture.

Our guide explained the color variations come from the various minerals that are in the rock.

Coming from a more populated state, it is delicious to watch these horses running free and wild.

Though I took several pictures of the Mummy Cave, this is the last photo I took. The tour stops here for a lunch break  before starting our return trip.  (This album does not have the accident photos.)   To see the rest of my pictures in a full screen slide show, click on the link below:


Huge rock faces surround you in this beautiful campground at Red Rock Park. Located on Navajo land, it was once a state park and is now run by the city of Gallup.

The park’s most famous feature is Church Rock, clearly visible from the park and the road as you drive to Gallup on Route 66/interstate 40.

We drove around the park to admire its grandeur. This edifice demarcates the Rodeo grounds.

The world championship roping  competition is held here in June with rodeo events every weekend in June and and on into July.

Smaller rock faces, and the huge bluffs, all red, are beautiful. On our drive in, we noticed the unusual topography nearby. Once unhooked,  we jumped in the Bronco and  back tracked about a mile or two to take pictures of the roadside cliffs and bluffs.

What formations and colors. It put me in mind of ice cream.

Layers of creamy white.

Rocky spires.

The formations  make up a relatively small area, but well worth the drive to see them.

We drove on into old town Gallup to look around. Gallup is credited with having the most number of old Route 66 buildings and signs still intact within 10 miles on either side of the city and in town as well.

In the old days, crossing Indian lands through  New Mexico brought you to a string of Trading Posts. There are over 100 of them left in New Mexico, one called the Outlaws dating from 1883 right here in the park. And several in town and nearby Gallup. This turquoise covered cattle skull was in Richardsons, one of the posts well know for turquoise jewelry.

The Navajo are famous for their jewelry. This piece was about the size of half a dinner plate. We don’t know what it would be used for.

The one piece I thought I’d buy was this beautiful squash blossom necklace. I thought it was the most beautiful piece in the store. The clerk took it out of the case and said you have good taste. I tried it on and fell in love. The price?  $150,000.  It is Navajo made and old. The piece under it, with the smaller pieces is Zuni. The Navajo are famous for their large pieces, the Zuni for their fine, small work.  We didn’t stay long. Richardsons Trading Post was overpriced. We found nice stuff, cheaper on the back streets, but nothing like that wonderful antique squash blossom (drool) necklace.

I took a picture of this boot for my daughter, Stanne since she collects shoes.

To see the rest of my pictures, click the link.



April 15, 2012

I crossed over  the Stanislaus river to sign my taxes  for e-filing, and to pick up my paperwork, an especially beautiful drive at this time of year. No traffic to speak of.  I could stop in the middle of the road and take pictures.  After descending into the canyon, the bridge is in front of me.

Here I got out and aimed for that bright patch of green on the opposite bank.

The rain has given the wild flowers a boost.

Roadside lupines taller than I’ve ever seen them.

Mosses thick and lush.

Redbud blooming everywhere.

A bit of bright orange caught my eye.  Though I couldn’t identify it, I admire its tenacity as it seems to choose inhospitable rocky places to grow and show off some color.

The weather was supposed to be sunny yesterday. Instead it was drear, but it didn’t affect my pleasure in my trip across the river. The foothills of Calaveras and Tuolumne County are beautiful in the spring. (You can click on these photos to make them bigger.)


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