Tucked away on a local county road to seemingly nowhere, we came across quite a mesmerizing playground of imaginative creatures.

The skeleton of a VW underpins this bit of whimsy. Even the local finches approve.

Lacking only snow, steel eyed sportsmen stood frozen but ready.

12' tall penguins, dragonflies the size of small helicopters, nightmarishly long wiener dogs, giant inchworms, oversized crickets, pastel dinosaurs and so much more.

What held my eye the longest? This old 1949 Ford Ready-Mixed Concrete truck, which was very close in year to the first mixers that our family owned. The story behind all this creative iron is a rock, sand and concrete manufacturer called Packway Materials and a man that spends his slow winters creating great folk art. If you thought some of the other places mentioned in the blog have been out of the way, go see where this place is on the adjoining map link on the sidebar.



An All American Place

Even this far corner of McArthur, California recognized the grief from the Boston terror bombing. 

Life goes on though. First to stir are the horses.

Then cowboys begin to warm up their stock for some practice roping.

Later in the day little leaguers slug it out.

Only the distraction of an out of town photographer broke this man's concentration on the game.

Late afternoon sun softens the lines of this old steam-driven workhorse.

At the end of the day, man and beast take a break and enjoy some quiet time.



Why Folks Live Here

The breathtaking silence of a Mt. Shasta sunset.

A heavenly Lassen sunrise.

Bountiful farmlands.

Appreciation of history.

Last but not least for visitors: classic guest lodging and good eats.



Fall River Valley

From one valley (the Pit) you see a little more of Mt. Lassen. 
In the more verdant Fall River Valley, Shasta is seldom out of sight as seen in the above image.

This pano gives you a small sense of the scope and flavor of the Fall River Valley. With Shasta anchoring on the right and Lassen on the left, you have a whole lot of beautiful in between. Fall River has more farm land than timber and seems to have plenty of water for irrigation.

In places there is enough water to grow rice. This dredge sat adjacent to some wild rice growing fields. I never did find out what purpose it served. Besides rice, there are broad fields of alfalfa and hay and beef cattle everywhere. And of course all this water draws a multitude of waterfowl. Those are Canadian Geese in the shot above.

The Fall and Pit Rivers come together near the boundary of the two valleys. Perhaps not at showy as Burney Falls, Pit River Falls still has its own beauty. The bridge in view used to be the main road into the area until realignment of California Hwy 299 bypassed it.

Still remote by today's standards, the former Fort Crook was extremely isolated in the 1850s & 60s. It was at least a 10 day ride to the Presidio in San Francisco, assuming the weather cooperated. After the Civil War the Fort was abandoned. One marker commemorates the fort site, the other an early guide who accompanied the first soldiers into the area. The man who founded the fort later became better known as General George Crook who became a decorated hero of the Civil War.



The Pit River Valley

Though we'd been through a portion of this far northeast corner of California before, it turns out we really hadn't seen more than what driving on a through highway allowed. Until now. Two big valleys, several spectacular waterfalls and a host of natural and man made wonders were waiting be discovered. Above is the first of two large valleys - the Pit River Valley. The basin is a blend of farming and timber, with logging being the bigger industry. The valley sits within sight of both Lassen (to the south) and Shasta (to the northwest).

 Above is Burney Falls. Beginning as a spring that percolates up through the lava, Burney Creek delivers 10,000,000 gallons every day, all year long. The water eventually reaches the Pit River. The Pit accounts for 80% of the flow of the Sacramento River.

Like so many public places that were developed during the Depression era, the Civilian Conservation Corp was charged with dressing up many State and Federal park lands. This was originally built to house the earliest McArthur-Burney Falls State Park custodian.

Goldfish? No, Albino Rainbow Trout. However genetics happen, fish like these, when found, are kept from breeding. There were a half dozen of these unique trout at the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery.

Though Crystal Lake has been around since 1927, it isn't considered an old timer. Not far away was the Hat Creek Fish Hatchery built in 1887 to originally raise salmon. In 1915 the eruption of Mt. Lassen threw enough mud and debris that it knocked out the remaining run of salmon and for years greatly diminished the trout population. 

The unusually colored horse (near black and pure white) caught my eye first. Then mama moved and the little colt came into view. The big hand of time seems to move a bit slower in this charmingly rural part of California.



Walking The Dog

Young Cory here is a yo-yo master. Winner of a number of national competitions, he is also an employee at the National Yo-Yo Museum. 

Who knew this almost hidden delight existed in Chico, California, as part of a larger toy store.

Home to thousands of varieties of yo-yos including the worlds largest (and working) yo-yo, which weighs in at 265 lbs. 

Surrounding this monster are cabinets full of yo-yo's, some dating back to the first yo-yo made in the 1920s. 

In the 1950's the name found on most yo-yos was Duncan. Today, practitioners apparently go for the Kuhn brand. Colorfully named models now proliferate: No-Jive Rainbow, Tom Cat, Flying Camels, Quetzal Mandala and Sleep Machine. Some of them can be found on this clever takeoff on the traditional periodic table of elements. This would have been much easier to memorize in high school.

Backstopping some of the yo-yo trophies kept in this nationally recognized museum are some of the basic tricks that many of us learned (or tried to learn) as kids, including "Walking The Dog." I was pretty proficient in most of them (except "Around The World"- the yo-yo usually beaned me when I tried it) but the tricks that can be performed today are nothing short of amazing. 

Here Cory demonstrates a new type of yo-yo, the aptly named "Off String". This 7 second clip is the first video I've used in the blog and am not sure how well it will work. Please et me know.



The Abbey of New Clairvaux

Though "out of bounds" for the general public, wildlife, like the monks of this Catholic order, get full run of the grounds. 
The Monastery is located in Vina, California. So small of a town, the odds are that you'll have to hit the link to find out where this is.

A portion of the land that the monastery occupies once belonged to Leland Stanford, founder of the university of that same name. Though many of the buildings (above) that Stanford erected are on the monastery grounds, it isn't Stanford that is more connected to the Monastery. It is William Randolph Hearst.

Years ago, as Hearst was building his empire and his legacy structures, he came across a decrepit 13th century Spanish Chapter House (another former Cistercian monastery). In 1931 he dismantled it and brought the stones to California, intending it for a grand estate near Shasta. The Depression overtook Hearst's ambition and the stones were used instead to pay the City of San Francisco in lieu of taxes owed. For 60 years they sat in Golden Gate park. In 1994 they were given to the Abbey of Clairvaux. It has been a long struggle by the Monastery to use the stones as intended (above).

Though Hearst made detailed notes when the buildings were taken apart, the instructions and the stones were in deteriorated condition when reclaimed. The stones are around 900 years old and there are few masons today that have the kind of knowledge of the masonry methods used in the Middle Ages. There is also the issue of money. Since I was here last, they have instituted a new program "Sacred Stones", which they hope will provide the energy and money to move the project along.

All around the grounds are a wide variety of flowers. It is a place of great natural beauty.

 In the year 2,000 the monks returned to Leland Stanford first use of the land: they planted their own vineyard and are working to produce several varieties of red and white wines. As Benjamin Franklin said: "Wine is constant proof that God loves and and wants to see us happy." Perhaps the good Cistercian monks of Clairvaux would say to that: "Amen!"



The Wild Kingdom Owns It

A bit off the beaten track, Woodson Bridge is a favorite campsite.

Along the Sacramento River (east of Corning) you can choose your viewing site in a State Park, three or four private campgrounds and watch a multitude of animals and birds, including this turkey vulture.

No need of air traffic control, these swallows swarm the newer Woodson Bridge adding their own brand of bird condos.

In the dusk a river otter quietly glides towards home. We saw him about the same time each evening. So much to see, so little time.



.....And Then There Are Olives

It started about 110 years ago when the first two varieties of olives (Mission and Sevillanos) were planted in Corning, California. Now the Chamber of Commerce proclaims Corning as the "Olive Capital of the World", with nearly 100 varieties.

Farmers still produce the staples of cocktail and canned olives but new markets call for new products. The Lucero brand of Extra Virgin olive oils comes from one such grower. Dewey Lucero is the third generation of his family to grow and the first to step them into the relatively new market (for the US) of specialty olive oils.

To get an idea of the size of this growing market, their website lists not just 8 varieties of Extra Virgin oil but a nearly identical number of flavored oils, nine kinds of balsamic vinegars and yet more with tapenades (dips/spreads), new line of mustards and, hold me back, a "Chocolate Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil".

The manufacture of Extra Virgin seems simple on the face of it as it is the first press of olives that yields that kind of oil. However the Lucero family has been successful in blending the science with enough art that they have scored numerous gold medals in exhibitions around the globe. Last month they earned two golds from an international competition in Japan. Lucero already has a thriving mail order business (above), now they have expanded into the the retail side with their first store in Portland, Oregon. 

We speak of "Ancient Forests" and think of redwood but there are olive trees in the Old World that have been producing an annual crop for over 3,000 years! Here in Northern California trees from plantings made over 100 years ago are still producing premium olives. 

Science has kept up with the growing of the crop as well. As the demand for more olives has increased, the shape and nature of the groves has changed. Above is a young but producing grove. Note trees are trained to grow upright (no canopy) and in closer proximity.  No longer do trees and olives have to be hand pruned or picked, mechanical groomers and pickers have taken over. 

So next time you think olives, don't assume most are meant for your martini. Far more varieties of them want to be counted as your gourmet olive.