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Sick puppy

Dretti came down with some sudden abdominal pain tonite that got us concerned enough to rush him down to the emergency vet. He had a fever and seemed pretty distressed – barfed up his dinner and was looking pretty out of it. After some xrays and ultrasound, it doesn’t look at first glance that he was having bloat which is what Lisa was most worried about. But he’s going to spend the nite at the clinic being watched and on fluids, etc. Keeping our fingers crossed that he’s all better by morning.

Summer is flying by

The summer seems to be flying by this year. We’ve been pretty busy with some trips, work and the usual ranch/yard work. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather this year – it was a good wet spring, so in spite of all the other problems California has lately, water shortages isn’t one of them this year. It has meant lots of weed growth tho, so that has been annoying. Surprisingly, fire season has been pretty quiet (so far – keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t flare up this fall).

We visited Arizona back at the end of May for our 5th wedding anniversary. Nice little ghost town of Jerome – its got a population of maybe 400 now, so its not a real ‘ghost’ town, but lots of neat stuff there. Pictures coming…

Last weekend, Lisa headed down to Lompoc for a dog show with all 4 of the pups. Guess it didn’t turn out all that successful in general but our dogs got their picture in the local paper:

We boarded the horses with our trainer and that gave me the chance to go on the Jeep Jamboree up on the Rubicon Trail. What a kick ass trip. Went with Jeff Arabia from Arabia’s Overkill (the Jeep fabrication shop that did most all the build up on both of our Jeeps over the past year). Jeff has been on the Rubicon for the past 15-20 yrs, so it was good to hook up with him and his buddies who know the trail well. Its around 12+ miles of some really hardcore rock crawling. Unlike most of the desert stuff I’ve done, this was all up in the high Sierra, so lots of trees, lakes, wild blueberries (unfortunately not ripe yet) and just all around great scenery. Its at least a 2 day trip – we spent 3 days, since we had a whole day of rest in the middle.

These folks didn’t listen to the spotter and ended up on their side as a result. No big deal really, but the driver kinda freaked…

We camped in Rubicon Springs from Friday afternoon-Sunday morning. Great high Sierra creek/river, lots of swimming holes, etc.

Climbing up Cadillac Hill on the way to Lake Tahoe. It looked really intimidating, but so long as you didn’t break down, it was just a good long slow craw. This picture doesn’t quite capture the steep pitch, nor the drop off the right side 🙂 l:

Ok, time to get some sleep and get packed for a quick trip to Boston tomorrow.

Nice July weekend, again

We’re having surprisingly nice weather for July – the heat has mostly stayed to the central valley/deserts here in CA and around by us, its maybe gotten to the mid-90s a few times and thats it.

I was kinda shocked to see Dretti has upped the ante in scrounging for Lisa’s eggs this morning and was quietly laying down on the table on the porch. Hmmm.. there is just a hint of a halo over his head, but I’m not buying into it. I kept my breakfast far away.

I finally knuckled down and got the first run of the electric fence strung up and energized. Jack was very huffy about the whole thing. But maybe it will keep him from pawing at the wire fence and getting his foot stuck or worse yet, cut up again. He was pretty cautious about the whole thing, having experienced electric fences when he was boarding over at the trainer’s stable a couple years back. I’ll keep expanding it in the coming weeks so it covers most of pasture where he typically pokes at the fence (which could mean “the whole thing”, dunno).

Sears at-home service

We started off Saturday morning with an early call from Sears At-Home service. It was expected, since they were supposed to come fix the brakes on the tractor. What I wasn’t expecting was him to tell me he couldn’t get up the road because a tree was down. Its June – weather is clear/sunny, no wind. Trees are just randomly falling now… hmmm

Anyway, went down the road with the chainsaw and after some bit of work, got enough of it cleared so he could get up the road. The Sears guy (and some other folks who were coming up to cut a neighbors grass), helped by pulling branches out of the road as I cut stuff up.

I can’t say the same of the handful of neighbors that were either coming up or down the road while it was blocked – they just wanted to know when I’d have it clear but otherwise didn’t really offer to help – hmpf… not impressed.

Normally I wouldn’t tromp thru the park (“regional wilderness”) harvesting firewood, but if I’m clearing it off the road, its payment for services rendered 🙂

As for the tractor, no dice on the repair. The stupid automatic/hydrostatic transmission isn’t playing nice with the brakes and now it doesn’t work too well in reverse. So, Sears ordered $1200 more in parts and made an appt to come back in a couple weeks. Sure am glad that we decided to pay a couple hundred $ for that ‘extended protection plan’. Its really paying for itself now.

5 years

We’ve been married 5 years now as of last weekend – time flies when yer having fun. Lisa’s sister Laura and her boyfriend Jeff planned a trip this year down to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and invited us along. Lisa and I boarded the horses at a nearby stable, packed up the dogs and gear and set out in separate vehicles with the goal to meet up in Chaco. I took a side trip thru Death Valley & Nevada for a couple days and Lisa left the next day to explore some of Arizona before getting into Chaco to secure campsites for the weekend (Chaco doesn’t have many sites and it was also Memorial Day weekend so I was surprised we managed to get sites for all of us).

I’ve not been to much of New Mexico before this, so it was a new area to explore for me. Lisa got to spend some time in New Mexico earlier this year on the way back from a dog show in Texas and really liked it alot.

Lisa got to Chaco on Thursday, and did an amazing job of getting a new REI 6 person tent setup in the dark with a pretty stiff wind blowing thru camp. Kudos to REI for making a tent that doesn’t suck. The dogs really liked having all the space to stretch out in.

I spent Thursday in Kingman AZ – on the road there from Vegas, I saw a couple rattlesnakes on or next to the road every mile for the last 30 miles or so into Kingman. If it weren’t for all the rodents I also saw crossing the road, I would have to conclude that Kingman is some Mecca for rattlers.

Friday Lisa took the pups for a walk in Chaco – it was a tad warm and they got tired pretty quick. After getting thru several sandstorms thru the Navajo Nation, I rolled into Chaco just in time for Lisa taking a burger off the grill 🙂 – nice timing.

I had read a little about Chaco before going, but was really amazed at the scope of the ruins there. It was much more extensive than I thought.

There was a good trail going up thru a crack in the face of the cliffs that gets you on top of the mesa overlooking the largest structure – its the only way to really appreciate the scale of the construction.

This is but one small example of the graffiti, er, artwork on the walls around Chaco:

Lots of fossilized remains at the top of the mesa:

I thought this looked like a dino print, but if it were, it will be depressed into the rock, not the other way. Its more of the fossilized sea life that was in this ancient sea floor that is now up at 6000 ft.

This rock looks like a huge skull (well, to me anyway):

My half-hearted attempt at trick photography. I saw these arches under a ledge on the mesa. They look big, but the image of Lisa and Laura in the background give it away. The arches were really only 8 inches or so high 🙂

Time to hit the road. More posts to come.

Death Valley/Panamint Valley, Part 2


Kitty litter mine on western side of Panamint Valley. The sign was more interesting than the pile of kitty litter itself:

Reilly ghost town/Anthony Mill. This place was an early “planned community”, complete with nice stone lined sidewalks, solidly made stone foundations on its buildings, etc. Never made much money and was abandoned after a short time:

Nadeau “Shotgun” road. This road pretty much parallels the main road thru Panamint Valley. It was built to be the shortest path across the valley, so its verrryyy straight (mostly):

In spite of really good road engineering, Remi Nadeau seems to have forgotten to put culverts in the overpasses he built across the deep washes and as a result, the next flash flood tends to do this:

which made driving around “interesting” – almost tipped my Jeep on its nose going down the detour around this washout. Which would have sucked immensely since I was out there alone…

The next day, I checked out the Big Four Mine trail which Paul and I missed when we were here back in November. Not much of the mining operation left, but the last couple miles of the trail made it an interesting drive.

Heading over to Death Valley later in the day, I checked out Echo Canyon and the old Inyo Mine.

After the mining operation, I explored further up the trail to find the dry waterfalls (for a future trip – didn’t want go up/down it alone since its a long walk out if something goes wrong). On the way up, I came across this little guy:

A rather annoyed Mohave Rattlesnake… I was driving slowly with the windows down and I heard him very clearly… I thought I was getting a flat tire.

Anyway, found the waterfalls and it looked fun:

The other notable thing along this trail was a small natural arch called Eye of the Needle:

By the weekend, I checked out a few more interesting sites. This is the Minetta Mine in the western hills of Panamint Valley.

Not sure what was up with the noose – a bit creepy…

This place seemed like it could have been the set of The Hills Have Eyes… lots of mine shafts that were wide open. Had to be careful where ya drive/step – one of the angled shafts was collapsed and created a large sinkhole in the middle of the area in front of the other shafts.

The main cabin at the Minetta Mine looked very well maintained. So much so that I didn’t go explore it since I thought someone might be home.

I’ll finish uploading the rest of the pictures to the picture gallery since there are so many others. All in all, a great trip.

Death Valley/Panamint Valley Trip Part 1

Its been a pretty wet spring out here in California and the forecast for the desert wildflowers has been very promising, so in the middle of April, Paul and I loaded up the Jeeps and headed down to Death Valley and Panamint Valley for a few days of camping, off-roading, and general sightseeing. The weather was great most of the time – a little bit of rain/wind the first day we headed down but it cleared up pretty well for the rest of the trip. We made Panamint Springs Resort our base camp. They are in the north end of the Panamint Valley, which is pretty devoid of any services/civilization in general. They have no phone service, electric is provided by a diesel generator that runs 24×7, but they do have Internet access thanks to a satellite uplink and some nice folks who helped them set up some Cisco WiFi gear to provide a connection to the rest of the world.

We met up with our buddy from Cisco, Craig, who drove up from LA for a couple days. Our timing worked out well, as Craig showed up about 20 mins after we arrived in Panamint Springs. We left the pickup/trailer at camp and took both Jeeps over to Death Valley for the afternoon to check out some sights. I figured this trip I’d check out some places I haven’t seen before, in spite of my numerous trips down here. We went up Artists Drive near Furnace Creek – its a really colourful drive along the eastern side. The wind was really ripping thru the valley the whole time we were there which made things interesting for all those folks in their RVs.

Some colorful formations along the road:

A hint of the color starting to bloom in the desert:

The next day we headed over to Beatty NV on the eastern side of Death Valley to see the ghost town of Rhyolite and then drive thru Titus Canyon past the mining town of Leadville. The weather got weird as we approached Nevada – got cold and stormy. We got rain, wind, hail & snow all within a few miles of the border. I’ve driven past Rhyolite many times, but never stopped. Its only a couple miles off the highway outside of Beatty. Its a pretty large ghost town with many remaining structures.

The Bottle House in Rhyolite is a pretty neat place – many old towns in the mining districts around here had a few of ’em.

Just outside of Rhyolite is the former home of an artist who has some ‘odd’ stuff out here. Its all part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum:

We came across this ballsy guy taking his rental RV thru the canyon – he managed to not get stuck, but it was mostly luck on his part that the road had just been cleared the week before.

Down at the mining town of Leadfield, we checked out the mine shaft I explored 20 yrs ago on a trip here with my brother and some friends from Clarkson. The Park Service has been busy putting barriers across all the open mines around the park to keep curious folks out – probably a good plan since most of these mines are really very unsafe:

Further down the canyon, it gets a bit tighter. The scale of the erosion is pretty awesome:

After getting thru Titus Canyon, we still had plenty of the day left so we headed over to another mining town that I’ve never gotten to see before – Chloride City/Chloride Cliffs. It was a somewhat long ride thru the eastern hills of Death Valley but not too challenging (tho we came across some folks in a Subaru Outback that were really struggling with the rocky road. We passed them and never saw them again, so I assume they bailed when they got to a smoother exit from the area. Chloride City is mostly just a few foundations and many mine shafts now. Most of the wooden structures have long collapsed or been dismantled. We finished up with dinner in Furnace Creek and then headed back to camp.

Oddly enough, most of these mining camps don’t have many graves. Most folks who passed away seem to have been taken elsewhere to be buried.

Big spider webs over these mine entrances. Hope no spiders show up 😉

The next morning Craig packed up and headed back to LA. Paul and I grabbed some breakfast and headed down to the Goler Wash road to check out the old Barker Ranch (where Charles Manson was arrested along with the rest of his ‘family’).

The first site up Goler Wash is the remains of the Keystone Mine:

Now this is funky – a swimming pool out here in the middle of this mining camp in the canyon:

Up at Barker Ranch (which was mostly burned down by accident last year), there is a bunch of creepy Manson related stuff in the bunkhouse:

I guess our public skools don’t teach spelling any longer:

On our way back down the canyon, we ran across these folks on their way up. Turns out its the owners of the Myers Ranch which is near the old Barker Ranch. We gave them a hand getting their truck/trailer up this small waterfall and headed on our way.

After getting back to the main road, Paul packed up and headed back to San Jose. I headed back to camp for the rest of the week on my own. More pics in part 2 coming shortly.

Small quake

Had a small quake here Saturday nite – it was only 3.2 on the richter scale, but surprisingly, it shook the house. I was watching TV with the dogs and Dretti woke up, growled and then 5 secs later – boom – house rattled briefly. Then he went back to sleep. Tho an hour later then I went to bed, he was all antsy and clingy.

Scenes of March

March here in CA has been pretty nice. Decent amount of rain this year, which is yielding a pretty good crop of wildflowers (and unfortunately also a nice crop of weeds and lots of grass to mow).

We seem to be infested by gophers this year. A few years ago, it was voles, this time its gophers. The cats are pulling their weight and helping whenever possible:

Speaking of cats, we have a new indoor cat. His name is Hef. Not so much because he’s a playboy, but more because that is what is meow sounds like. A breathy noise that sounds like “heeffff”.

He got out last week and wouldn’t come back for days. Turns out he was hanging out with the barn cats and hiding amongst the poison oak behind the barn. I finally managed to get him back inside and he went into the sink for a bath with Technu to get any oils off him before we all ended up with a nasty case of poison oak. He is the easiest cat to bathe I’ve ever seen. He actually seems to like the scrubbing and warm water. Weirdo cat.

I’m getting some hints to get back to work soon. Like mail from AARP and the Scooter Store. Geez. Take a few months off and everyone thinks its forever. Wonder how I got on their mailing list.

I took the dogs for a trip around the reservoir nearby and checked out all the wildflowers and greenery. Its pretty nice right now with all the orange poppies and wild mustard up and down the hillsides.


I have something in common with Bill Murray – no, its not grey hair… its pesky gophers. We seem to have a bumper crop of ’em in the fields this year.

I didn’t have much luck with the water hose down the hole trick in the past few months, plus its hard to do far out in the fields. But the gophers are now causing problems for the horses due to the large/deep holes. So, the tools I have at hand are:


The pups show great enthusiasm about getting the gophers:

They are more like inefficient badgers in terms of the dirt flingin’ around (but far friendlier than your average badgers).

For now, I’m sticking with the traps since they are starting to be successful. I need to get some help from a neighbor to get some gopher poison pellets (the type that won’t be harmful to the horses, cats, birds, etc).