Moonstone Beach, a Humboldt County Gem

moonstone beach 5

Growing up in California, I was always equally drawn to the mountains and the ocean. A trip to the beach from our house in the San Francisco Bay Area had me anxiously peering out the window of our Buick station wagon, waiting for that first glimpse of dunes along the coast, and the smell of the salt breeze. An excursion into the Sierra foothills brought excitement of a different kind. The tall pines waited for me as we wound our way up from the San Joaquin Valley into the conifer forest.

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Now that we live in the Sierra foothills, surrounded by oak woodlands and pine forests, I still get excited about a trip to the coast. This week we headed for Humboldt County, and spent a morning visiting the beaches between Arcata and Trinidad.

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My favorite has always been Moonstone Beach. When our kids were little, we lived in Arcata, and I remember outings punctuated by collections of shells and a sand-filled car.

little river at moonstone beach

When the tide is low, the Little River winds along the beach and you can cross the sand to several caves that scoop into the side of a cliff dressed with hanging gardens.

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Last Thursday morning we had a perfect visit.

moonstone beach 1

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Point Defiance Trail

Yesterday we took a short hike on the Point Defiance Trail that starts along the north bank of the South Yuba River, near the covered bridge at Bridgeport. The area is accessed by Pleasant Valley Road, from either Highway 20 at Penn Valley, California or Highway 49 north of Nevada City, California. It was already mid-afternoon when we arrived, so there were a few people around sunbathing and loading up kayaks from running the river. I left my camera in the car, and didn’t take any photos. The wild iris and other flowers along the trail were beautiful, but looking a bit limp in the sun. We will have to go back earlier in the day to do some serious wildflower picture-taking, and check out the loop trail that takes you along the shore of the main branch of the Yuba River before it enters Englebright Lake from New Bullards Bar Reservoir.

Bridgeport area

Bridgeport area

Photo courtesy of Dennis Olivarez.


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Turtle Paradise

red-eared slider closeup one

The Red-eared Sliders that live in and around the pond where we take our daily walks provide me with an endless supply of entertainment.

red-eared slider closeup two

They were swimming around like crazy today, and are typically seen basking along the edge of the pond, resting on a portion of a log or the edge of a bank. These reptiles seem perfectly content to share their habitat with a variety of ducks and geese. This area appears to be a niche for cast-off pets, which provides a variety of attractions for visitors with and without children in tow, carrying pieces of stale bread to feed whomever is interested.

red-eared slider closeup three t


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Exploring the Foresthill Divide

Well, I’m patting myself on the back for getting out into the lovely early spring weather over the weekend. Now it is pouring much-needed rain, and the thermometer has plunged thirty degrees. Back to turtleneck weather.

Sierra Crest from Foresthill Road

Sam and I drove out the Foresthill Road from Auburn on Saturday, and ended up at Sugar Pine Reservoir. This is an area that I have had my eye on for many years, and never  got around to investigating.

Sugar Pine Reservoir

Sugar Pine Reservoir

The Foresthill Divide is a long ridge between the North Fork and Middle Fork of the American River, surrounded by the Tahoe National Forest in Placer County, California. I had been nearby in the past, and looked up at the ginormous (an engineering term) bridge that spans the North Fork. It looked scary. But we discovered that you can cross the river near the confluence of the forks at a less intimidating elevation.

Foresthill Bridge sign When we reached Sugar Pine Reservoir, we had a picnic near the boat dock and then we took a short hike along the trail around the lake. Part of it was under construction, but it was dry and we had no trouble. If we had more time we could have walked the 3.5 miles around the lake easily. It was very peaceful so early in the season.

Foresthill Bridge from trail

Foresthill Bridge from trail

We came back to Auburn by way of the higher bridge. I took these photos from the top, and part way down on a trail. Ironically, I have no photos of the river. Next time, I’ll have to take a photo of the view looking up at the bridge. There were dozens of cars along the sides of the road at the confluence-it was a perfect day for river bathing.

Pipevine Swallowtail on lupine

Pipevine Swallowtail on lupine

These swallowtail butterflies were all over the lupine along the side of the road near the bridge. It was a perfect day for every creature.

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In Search of the Elusive, Healthy Cookie

I haven’t posted any recipes on this site in quite a long time. Those of you who follow my antics know about my obsession with oatmeal cookies. What is an obsession, really, but an attempt to find/create/enjoy a memorable experience? My celebration of the first day of Spring is yet another cookie recipe.

This one has no eggs, no added sugar or salt, and no added fat. The sweetness comes from fresh fruit (apples), cinnamon, and a bit of sugar in the minuscule amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Also, there are golden raisins. The fat comes from chopped walnuts, and a bit of vegetable oil added to the glass baking dish. They are chewy and flavorful, not too gooey and not too dry. Here is my recipe:

Joan’s Oatmeal Bars

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly oil  9″ x 13″ glass baking dish.

Mix together 3 large, grated apples with peel (I used Golden Delicious and Fuji, about 2 cups) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

oatmeal bars 1

Add 1 1/2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda and blend.

Add 3 cups Quick Oats, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 3/4 cup golden raisins, and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.

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Press dough into baking dish using a sheet of waxed paper.

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Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Do not over bake.

Cool and cut int 32 bars.

oatmeal bars 4


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The Great Tulip Experiment

The deer haven’t been around much this winter. It’s been so dry. Now that some late winter rain has greened things up, however, I’ve seen a couple here and there, and heard them outside the cabin at night.

March tulips 5

When the daffodils came up in great abundance, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I missed my tulips. So I bought some red and yellow ones with buds on them, which I transplanted into large flower pots. I spaced the pots out among the daffodils (apparently poisonous), and waited to see what the deer would do.

March tulips 1

March tulips 3

Three of the pots have both red and yellow tulips, and two have a single color only. Soon after they bloomed, none of the yellow tulips had been tasted. Was this because they blended in with the color of the daffodils, or because they looked like poisonous flowers? The red tulips that were alone in one pot had their blooms completely removed. This pot was a bit separate from the clumps of daffodils, in the front. One of the pots with both colors in it had one red tulip with a bite out of the bloom.

March tulips 2

Now that the daffodils are fizzling out (I think that is a horticultural term), we’ll see what happens to the tulips without their “protection.” In the meantime, I am enjoying my spring color.

March tulips 4

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A Wonderland of Moss

mossy oaks 1

Now that California is finally getting some rain, Spring has officially arrived ahead of schedule. Our latest quick storm brought thunder, lightning, and an overnight deluge to the northern part of the state on Thursday night. The Sierra Nevada mountains, while still under-snowed, looked a lot whiter today after the clouds had blown through the area.

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Here are some photos I took between storms. The lush moss has created a fairyland around a rock outcrop on the hill below our cabin. We live in a spot where the pines give way to oaks, with seasonal ponds and plenty of grass.

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Before long it will be dry and brown again, but until then I will enjoy all this greenery. In another ten days we may be searching for leprechauns.

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