The Cactus Patch
Volume 16       October 2013      Number 10

Mountains and Desert
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 16th of August, John, Polly and I drove up to Greenville. Next morning we drove out to an area near Taylorsville to watch Emily and James come in on a 10 km run. It was part of a three part run called running with the bears. The longest stretch was a qualifying run for the Boston marathon. As an in-between run there was also a half marathon. At the end there was a flyover by military jets.

That evening we drove over to Quincy to watch a production of Annie with Emily and her brother David as various bit parts. It was quite political with lots of mention of Coolidge and a very tall actor as F.D.R.

On Sunday we went to the Plumas -Sierra County Fair in Quincy. Michael and James had wrist bands which allowed for an infinite number of rides, and I think they over did it. The rest of us watched Alaskan pig racing and toured various exhibits. I kept looking for the horticulture exhibit because the local paper had an article about an 87 year old woman who had a mysterious succulent on display. I asked, but no-one seemed to know where it was.

Finally we all went to a little circus for the last show of the day. There behind it was the horticulture display! The mysterious succulent was Ullucus tuberosus, a twining plant with somewhat succulent leaves and red edible tubers. They used to be quite common, but I hadnít seen one lately. There were three entries in the cactus section, one of which was a euphorbia! Back at the circus, Zippy the clown had all the kids join him and then pulled me out of the audience to wear a Santa hat. (I thought I was incognito!) Michael got a prize can of spam for his dancing.

That evening we had a thunderstorm as we headed back to Greenville. We saw smoke and it was announced on the news that over a dozen fires had been ignited! Itís a good thing it didnít happen on Friday as it was in the mountains around Taylorsville and the smoke would have ruined the Marathon.

Next day John, Polly and I set off toward home. Instead of the usual valley run we headed off toward the desert. Our first discovery was at a rest stop just outside Beckwourth. A flock of turkey buzzards was resting on the ground waiting for the sun to heat things up. At the rest stop there was a model representing the hundreds of rock lined pits which had been used by Native Americans to roast the tubers of camas lilies and brodieas for food. The display showed the area with a meadow of wild flowers in spring.

Next stop was in Reno where we had breakfast at the Bonanza Casino. As with most casinos, the quality was good and the price low. We filled up with gas at Carson City before heading back into California. (Nevada taxes are much lower.) We had lunch at the historic Bridgeport Inn. John insisted on visiting the ghost town of Bodie, so we headed east on 270. Just as we got to the end of the paved road we saw billows of smoke and met traffic coming at us. We finally flagged down a car and learned that there was a fire nearby and Bodie was closed.

From there we went back west and then south to Mono Lake. I had not seen the lake since the 50s when our family drove over Tioga Pass from Yosemite. The tufa towers were not visible then and I was amazed to see how much L.A. has drained the lake. The visit ended with a freezing rain. We ended the day in Bishop where we stayed at the Vagabond Inn. Be warned, prices are higher there!

Next morning we got an early start and drove east on 168 and then north on White Mountain Road. We finally reached the brstlecone pines at 10,000 feet in the Schulman Grove. I had intended to take the one mile hike to a lesser grove, but John led me down the Methuselah Walk as that grove has the oldest known tree. Unfortunately it was a 4.5 mile hike with a vertical change of 800 feet. It was quite exhausting at that altitude, but ultimately worth it. Polly wisely waited back at the information center.

We had lunch at the Country Kitchen in Big Pine and then drove on south to Manzanar, the site of a WWII internment camp for Americans of Japanese ancestry. I was astounded at the scale of the place. Despite the ugliness of the internment, there were positive signs. Baseball fields, a school and gardens had been organized by the residents. We visited the rocks remaining from one such garden. Among many restorations underway, this will be returned to its former glory.

As if that wasnít enough, we then made a stop at Fossil Falls, a volcanic fall frozen in time. It is just north of Little Lake on 395. I had been by it many times but didnít know it was there. I suggested going over Walker Pass, but fortunately this was vetoed as, unknown to us, the Kern Canyon Road was closed for quite a while! Just north of Mojave we were treated to a sunset which included bright pink clouds resembling flying saucers. (Had they escaped from the now officially recognized area 51 in Nevada?) We had a quick stop for food and gas in Tehachapi and arrived late and exhausted in Bakersfield.

On the 27th I began jury duty. It was a boring case involving a fight in the prison at Wasco. The only good part was the long weekend. (We got both Friday and Monday off!) Next time Iíll plead physical hardship. Iím too old to sit there all day.

xOn the 1st of September we drove up to Fresno for the annual membersí plant sale. The best offer was three 2-foot trees of Pachypodium rutenbergianum for $10 each. (I bought one.) Of course we were back in Bakersfield for the meeting on the 10th. I hope we can get a good calendar out of the pictures we saw. In my defense, the sedum picture with all the grass was a habitat shot. Thatís the way they were growing in the Feather River Canyon. Those of us who were outside just before the meeting were treated to a magnificent sunset with pink and blue rays. (There was a picture in the Californian the next day for those who missed it.) It reminded me of sunsets we saw in Malawi where they still practiced slash and burn agriculture.

While all this was going on, Anne visited Daniel in Show Low, Arizona where he is working with Apaches. They then flew to Maine and took a four day schooner trip. They ate lots of lobster. Lora and Angela went to Hawaii for a short reunion with Island friends and then Lora flew to South Dakota where Joshua is living in Danielís old house. It was Joshuaís 21st birthday on 1 September.

John welcoming James & Emily at end of 10 k run

Emily as cook in Annie

Santa and Zippy

Polly and John with tufa

John & Bristlecones

Former garden @ Manzanar

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER