After shopping in misty rain for organic vegetables and fruit at the Santa Rosa Farm Market the Saturday before Thanksgiving, we set off for the Eastern Sierras in our Subaru Outback equipped with four wheel drive and all weather tires. The weather pundits gave scary reports on the radio so we departed with some trepidation. The rain stopped, started, drizzled and we essentially sailed along stopping for a picnic lunch at our regular stop, the Placerville city park. Rose ran around and did her business, jumping back into the car. Thirty minutes or so outside of Placerville we noticed snow laden trees, maples and others still with their Fall leaves.
Soon the snow started to fall. Just short of the summit, Echo, on Highway 50 traffic slowed to a crawl then stop. Chain control and CHP to advise on travel. Drivers seemed either very cautious, driving at 10 mph or zooming past, veering out into the oncoming lane at well over 50 mph. Whew! were we glad to reach Highway 89 where we could leave the less than sane drivers headed for Lake Tahoe. As we neared Hope Valley the snow stopped falling, the roads were clear into Minden and Gardnerville, through the Walker River Canyon into Bridgeport.
Later we read in the Mammoth Times that the snowfall the week of Thanksgiving was the most in 25 years so everyone traveling for our Celebration aka Wedding dealt with snow and all its ramifications. And just a day or so ago I heard that Mammoth Mountain has received more snow than ever recorded. Do we really question that global climate change is here and accelerating?
Leaving Seattle was met with snow and deicing of the planes so arrival at the Reno Airport both Sunday and Monday was late.
Anne, aka Auntie Fang to Rose, who left Seattle Sunday and is an experienced snow driver BE-ing from the Midwest, was guided through the treacherous Carson Valley and windy Walker River Canyon with the Full Moon to the Walker River Lodge.
Each year over Thanksgiving we rent the downstairs apartment. Two windows face East and two windows face the South to afford the viewing of the spectacular landscape which is depicted below. We continue to stay here not for the luxurious accommodations but rather the spectacular views and the wild creatures who show themselves to us.
I am drawn to Bridgeport for not only the beautiful nature surrounding the town of 500 or so inhabitants but for the familiar feel. My only home, other than MuRefuge, where I was rooted was in a small town, Corwith, in North/mid Iowa with about this number of inhabitants. My heart was broken leaving there, thus closing me to being rooted until my conscious decision to BE rooted here at MuRefuge.
There is also the energetic feel of the area for me. Bridgeport and the huge expanses of native grasses are surrounded by mountains. This reminds me of BE-ing cradled in hands of the Divine. I return to MuRefuge feeling cherished and rested as experienced returning from no other place.
Another draw to this small community in the Eastern Sierras is the lack of evidence of our fast paced culture with the ensuing progress. Dwight always comments upon our return to Sonoma County about the poor air quality here. Even though wood burning is prevalent in the Eastern Sierras there is little else to pollute the air. Of course, there is traffic on Highway 395 but even that is sparse compared to the traffic here in Sonoma County.
This Belted Kingfisher we saw almost everyday some place along the Walker River near us. We observed the bird catching fish from the river as well as hunkered down in the bush during the inclement weather. From this same window that we view this stunning bird fishing above the bridge, last year we observed a Bohemian Waxwing who is extremely rare according to the Birds of the Mono Basincompiled by the Mono Lake Committee and . We felt ever so fortunate to have seen this spectacular bird. Huge flocks of Black-billed Magpies are easily sighted. These are gorgeous, gregarious birds and I love watching them.
Most winter days we can see the mink scurrying along the icy banks of the Walker River. This year was no exception. Dwight even got the above photograph after watching the mink move along the East bank of the river and meander East. Rose watched Dwight go out and take the picture, then when she went for her walk not long after, she pulled to the spot she had seen Dwight stop. You could see her thinking, "is this what he was taking a picture of?" as she sniffed the tracks.
Anne and I were finishing up breakfast one morning and she said, "I think there's a bird out there eating another bird." Sure enough! as I turned toward the South window, I could see this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk munching on a small bird. The hawk watched us through the window. I imagined the bird was mulling over whether to stay for an audience watching or leave for privacy of its meal enjoyment?
Most late mornings we would walk out the Twin Lakes' road with Rose. Looking across the expanse of new snow covering what is lush native grasses in warmer weather, we can enjoy the above view of the Sawtooth Mountains. Certainly a cause for celebration!
On the snowy morning the day after Thanksgiving, we bundled in the car to drive further out Twin Lakes road for a hike in the snow. We turn off at Doc and Al’s and just over the bridge park along the road that goes up to Buckeye Canyon. The snow flakes are getting wetter, bigger but we all laugh thinking this is one great adventure. The snow comes up to Rose’s belly so she leaps along seemingly enjoying herself as much as we are.
In the past returning from just such an outing, we have been fortunate to see both Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk and Ferruginous Hawk sitting on fence posts or skimming the expansive meadow for food. This year was no exception; we saw juvenile Bald Eagle and several Red-tailed Hawks.
When identifying the hawks and eagles, each year we refresh our identification skills. This year armed with a page torn out of our Birds World: A Guide to Hawks seen in North America - Know Your Silhouettes we had an easier time identifying these magnificent birds.
All of the above photographs were culled from the 500+ taken by four digital cameras: Anne's, Leigh and Steven's, Katie and Mike's, as well as Dwight's that I also used. More photos will follow in Precious Water and in Celebration aka Wedding.