Head for the Hills.

How to Hide from Horrendous Heat?

The Sequel -  Head for the Hills  

Spectacular Sunset View of Edison Lake from Vermillion Campground, Sierra National Forest.

Spectacular Sunset View of Edison Lake from Vermillion Campground, Sierra National Forest.

Some memories stay with you for a lifetime. Some memories fade fast under an oppressive heat of the moment. When it is 105 degrees it is hard to recall the comfort of a cool breeze, or a misty early morning. When it is 70 degrees at 7 AM, and 80 degrees at 8 AM, and over 90 degrees at 9 AM, it is time to head for the hills. To be more precise, I headed to Vermilion Campground on Edison Lake in the Sierra National Forest.

Eggburt on his way to Edison Lake. 

Eggburt on his way to Edison Lake. 

Vermillion Campground is an excellent base for exploring the Ansel Adams or John Muir Wilderness Areas. It is located on the northwest shore of Edison Lake, in a shady stand of Ponderosa pine and lodgepole trees.  

You can purchase a hankie with a map of the Vermillion Valley Resort on Edison Lake.

You can purchase a hankie with a map of the Vermillion Valley Resort on Edison Lake.

The campground is located on the lake, and it is ideal for tents, small RVs and trailers like Eggburt. Visitors can enjoy mountain views of the surrounding John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness areas.  Canoeing and kayaking near the shoreline are popular activities. Anglers can fish for rainbow, brown or brook trout. Sandy beaches within the campground provide lake access for swimming. 

Campsites include a picnic table, campfire ring and a bear-proof food storage locker -which was too small for our ice chest.  Some sites are sloped and not suitable for tent camping but there are a couple of absolutely beautiful tent sites overlooking the lake. Vault toilets and water spigots are on-site, but boiling the water is recommended.  I drank the water and I didn't get sick. 

Edison Lake is more to me than just a beautiful place to escape the heat.  In 1991, I made a career change from working on the Sequoia National Forest to being the Wilderness and Recreation Officer for the Pineridge Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest.  I remember my first drive over Kaiser Pass Road.   The District Ranger and I went for a ride in a green Forest Service blazer up to see the “High Sierra.” We drove, and drove, and drove forever through the wilderness! I was quite convinced that we were driving up and through the John Muir Wilderness and we would soon run over the crest and into the Owens Valley. We could see Banner Peak and Ritter Peak on the horizon in Yosemite National Park and we could identify the backside of Mammoth Mountain.

All that wonderful wild forest stretched on forever.

Edison Lake, Sierra National Forest. 

Edison Lake, Sierra National Forest. 

I promoted past the Wilderness Officer job and came to represent the people of the United States of America in the process to determine how  Southern California Edison’s (SCE) would manage their Big Creek Hydroelectric project. Edison Lake is really a hydroelectric reservoir, and SCE brags that the Big Creek Project is “The hardest working water in the world.” Maybe so, because it was a personal and professional challenge to represent the public interest in the project negotiations. I learned a lot, and it was a high point in my 33-year career with the Forest Service. I loved working on that project. 

 Vermilion Campground serves as a benchmark for my career.  Campground toilets were an important negotiation item. 

 Vermilion Campground serves as a benchmark for my career.  Campground toilets were an important negotiation item. 

Memory has a strange relationship with reality.  I remember my first trip up to the High Sierra. I remember meeting Katy and Toby Horst, owners of Vermillion Valley Resort and I was very afraid of their long lectures on what the Forest Service needed to do for them. I remember the stories about the famous pies of the resort. I recall when they retired, and Butch Wiggs bought the resort and he added a workshop and wanted to put up commercial beer advertising signs that would be visible from the road. And I recall numerous work related trips over the slow, bumpy, pot hole filled, narrow, windy, single lane road over Kaiser Pass. Looking back at my experice with the area, I thought, "It was only a few years ago that I attended the Celebration of Life Services for the two previous owners of the Vermillion Valley Resort."

But was I surprised when I learned that those memories - although clear - were not five years past, but nearly twenty years ago! 

Another beautiful  stormy sunset over the Ansel Adams Wilderness. 

Another beautiful  stormy sunset over the Ansel Adams Wilderness. 

Lodgepole Pine Campground Cones. 

Lodgepole Pine Campground Cones. 

Now I get to create new memories, sitting in Vermilion campground, reading my book, drinking a beer, and listening to the wind softly roar through the tops of the trees.  The temperatures were comfortably in the 70’s and I could relax and listen to the white-breasted nuthatches gurgle “whit-whit-whit-whit” and watch them hang upside-down looking for bugs to eat on the Ponderosa pine tree trunks.

Keith checking out the bird life in Vermillion campground. Eggburt sits in the background. 

Keith checking out the bird life in Vermillion campground. Eggburt sits in the background. 

Mariposa Lilly in bloom on the trail. 

Mariposa Lilly in bloom on the trail. 

I have faith that the work I did on that project will keep the campground running for years to come.   One day the campground toilets will be replaced with newer designed facilities that should smell better and be easier to keep clean.

Trails in the area will be engineered, not pioneered, and they will gently meander through the forest into the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses.

And families will come to the lakes and streams and find water flowing through healthy ecosystems with birds, fish, and flourishing fauna.

We're gonna need a bigger bear box. Our ice chest doesn't fit. 

We're gonna need a bigger bear box. Our ice chest doesn't fit. 

Fifty years from now, the documents that bear my name will be digitally archived in some corner of a remote server, but the megawatts of electricity generated in these hills won’t suck the land dry. There will be wonderful campgrounds, trails, and a sustainable ecosystem at Edison Lake. 

I wonder, "Maybe Whelan on Walkabout will not endure. Maybe it will become short lived and out dated." Vermillion Valley Resort had a blog. The first entry is dated March 2013 but the last entry was only May 10, 2014. http://www.edisonlake.com/blog1 . We will come and go. Our memories will come and go, but the forest will continue. I may have changed, but Vermilion and Edison Lake hasn’t changed a bit.

Some memories will burn out and be lost, some will last forever.

#vermillionvalley, #hiking, #camping, #highsierra, #outdoor, #forest, #sierra, #sierraforest, 

How to Hide from Horrendous Heat?

Living in the San Joaquin Valley is sometimes challenging. The air quality isn’t always healthful and in the summer it gets blazingly sizzling, oppressively hot. The kind of hot that gives you cabin fever and you long for a cool breeze that isn’t pushed through vibrating, oscillating, rotating machinery.

An all too typical screen shot for Clovis, CA.

An all too typical screen shot for Clovis, CA.

Yesterday is was over 100 degrees in Clovis. Tomorrow,  it is again going to be over 100 degrees and the weather forecast for the next 10 days has the thermometer over 100 degrees. Too hot to handle has a different meaning when you live in the Central Valley. We take it literally. So, I do what our fellow Fresnonian’s do, hide from the heat by heading to the coast. Walkabout is my way to manage those moments of not loving what's up. On walkabout,  I can remember how fortunate I am to have the flexibility of mobility.  

Montaña de Oro State Park. 

Montaña de Oro State Park. 

How do you hide from horendus heat? Take a hike on the headlands.  Head to the coast for a hike on the bluffs of Montaña de Oro State Park.

But first, we need food.  We take the two hour and 45-minute drive directly to downtown Morro Bay and Shine Café.

This place is worth the drive. 

From their website: “Established in 1998, Shine Cafe is known for serving fresh vegan cuisine featuring local and organic ingredients for its loyal customers and the countless tourists that cross Highway 1 looking for vegetarian-friendly alternatives. With a generous selection of breakfast items, entrees, soups, salads and smoothies, our cafe is perfect for a quick bite or a full meal that will genuinely satisfy you.”

Sacramento Vegan, (http://sacramentovegan.blogspot.com ) you would be proud of us and you simply must go here and have not one, but several of their vegan items! Everything is vegan, and unapologetically, wonderfully, beautifully executed. We arrived before they opened and there were already three people in line ahead of us. You could smell all the vegan goodness in the air as we waited for our turn. The vegan tostada and the tempeh tacos were astonishing, and we never missed the meat or cheese. The juice line was slow, but you know it is good when the wait is longer than the meal. We loved sitting and people watching while enjoying a healthy guilt-free lunch.

One of our favorite hikes is near Morro Bay and in Montaña de Oro State Park. The Bluff Trail is a hike on the California headlands allowing coastal views north to Morro Bay and south along the shoreline. The path is wide, easy, well maintained and you can stay far from the dreaded poison oak. Sunscreen is a must even in the fog because you are out in the open ocean air.  To add a little distance and a change of view, we added on Coon Creek Trail, a five mile out and back that follows a creek up the coastal canyon to meet with the Rattlesnake trail. Some people run, but today we chose to stroll and enjoy the view. 

I feared that there would be hundreds, thousands of Valley residents lingering after the long Fourth of July holiday, but it seemed to be the normal summer crowds. Los Osos was buzzing, the State campground was full, and we needed to squeeze into a busy parking area.

But once on the trail, all was right with the world. The sky was that wonderful coastal moist mixture of blue and patches of residual marine layer overcast. It felt like naked freedom to be outside and not sweat from the overbearing heat. There were people crowed on the main beach, but after a while, the crowd thinned and we found ourselves alone with the cormorants, dark-eyed-juncos, western gulls, and California quail. The Bluff Trail was in bloom with native plants and invasive weeds side-by-side. California poppies made it a complete California coastal postcard picture ready for a Sunset Magazine cover.

We are so fortunate to live in Central California! It's hot, but we can drive a few hours, sometimes only a few minutes and be in an entirely different climate and biotic environment. Don’t like the grasslands? Drive to the forest. Don’t like the city? Drive to the wilderness. Don’t like your neighborhood? Drive to the coast.

While hiking on the Bluff trail in Montaña de Oro State Park, I was so thankful for the vision and wisdom of the rich person (or people) who made the donation to keep this part our California Coast un-developed and open for public use. There are still wild stretches where you can hear the crashing of waves, watch the pelicans fly in formation, and not see or hear human development, all within a short drive. You can smell the ocean, get sand in your toes, and you can feel the moisture in the air, all without commercial development. 

Tomorrow it is going to be again heartbreaking hot. I can’t drive to the coast every day and I can’t live on the beach, but I can recall how proud I was to live in California where there is still an opportunity to walkabout to the coast and breath in the clean Pacific Ocean air. 

The campground was full, so Eggburt had to stay home this trip. 

The campground was full, so Eggburt had to stay home this trip. 


A coastal cone for my "Cone Collection" exhibit in September at Fresno City Hall. 

A coastal cone for my "Cone Collection" exhibit in September at Fresno City Hall. 


Tasty Bits of Ocean Goodness

ARCATA MAIN STREET'S OYSTER FESTIVAL, June 17, 2017

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said, 
“Is what we chiefly need: pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed-
Now if you're ready, oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”  

And feed we did, at the Arcata Main Street's Oyster Festival. Our Walkabout took us back to Arcata where we met over 35 years ago. A lot has changed, but the area still holds plenty of nostalgia for us; abundant clean air, flowing rivers, green pastures, empty beaches, foggy cool mornings, windswept sunny afternoons, and the coast redwoods. 

The Whelan’s on walkabout at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

The Whelan’s on walkabout at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

The “Redwood Curtain” is real. We started our trip driving up the Redwood Highway US 101 and stopped in Southern Humboldt County along the Avenue of the Giants. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Albee Campground should be declared “the Redwood Experience.” There is a very real curtain of the tallest redwoods including “Tall Tree” and “Big Tree” both registered with the American Forestry Association. A wall of second growth and old growth coast redwoods surrounds the campground and a lovely mat of fallen redwood leaves cover the ground and deadens the sound in the area.

Coast Redwood cone in Albee Creek State Park Campground.

Coast Redwood cone in Albee Creek State Park Campground.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
— The Walrus and the Carpenter BY LEWIS CARROLL

The Arcata Main Street’s Oyster Festival is now the largest one-day event in Humboldt County. Every year, more than 13,000 ecstatic festival goers and community gather on the Arcata Plaza to celebrate and showcase our local aquaculture and savor the delicacies that have earned us the reputation as the Oyster Capital of California.

Arcata Bay’s Oyster Festival is the prized pearl of summer festivals, where food lovers have the opportunity to tantalize their taste buds with fabulous oysters and other local food. Attendees drink our local beer and wine, and dance the day away to local music. Many other activities entertain the festival goers, like the quirky Oyster Calling, and Shuck-n-Swallow contests. Local chefs compete for the best raw and cooked oyster.

The Arcata Plaza was filled with venders; BBQ’s smoking, cooks shucking, music playing, and oysters for the buying. Our friends Tom and Mary joined us. “People just don’t understand how wonderful oysters are when they are properly prepared,” they shared. Represented here were some of the best presentations of local oysters. Pacing ourselves, we feasted: Hog Island Oysters – raw with only fresh squeezed lemon, and sizzling grilled bourbon BBQ was our favorite. Humboldt Bay – served cold and raw with a cucumber chutney, and Arcata's Folie Douce - oysters raw with a lemon sorbet and another chilled with wasabi.

Hog Island Oysters – Sizzling Grilled Bourbon BBQ.

Hog Island Oysters – Sizzling Grilled Bourbon BBQ.

Humboldt Bay – with a cucumber chutney

Humboldt Bay – with a cucumber chutney

 Folie Douce – raw with a lemon sorbet, and another chilled with wasabi.

 Folie Douce – raw with a lemon sorbet, and another chilled with wasabi.

As the day progressed the lines got longer. 

As the day progressed the lines got longer. 

During the oyster calling contest we savored a delightful selection of local beer: Sharkinator from North Coast Brewery, Redwood Curtain IGA, and Mad River Pale Ale. After a few glasses you could almost hear the oysters calling back. 

How do you call an oyster?   

How do you call an oyster?   

The next day, we drove to Trinidad State Beach to look for oyster catchers, the bright red billed sea bird, but we saw none. So, we headed back to Eureka for a final display of oyster artwork at Brick and Fire.

Brick and Fire, Eureka. Local, fresh, Humboldt Bay kumamotos with a roasted onion, lemon and smoked chili beurre blanc.

Brick and Fire, Eureka. Local, fresh, Humboldt Bay kumamotos with a roasted onion, lemon and smoked chili beurre blanc.

I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out 
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

As much as we enjoyed the beer and oysters, life behind the Redwood Curtain is not the Arcata of 35 year ago. The drug culture has become hard to disregard. 

"Oyster Festival Guide INSIDE." Cannabis outside and in color. 

"Oyster Festival Guide INSIDE." Cannabis outside and in color. 

"Come this fall, tourists and curious locals may be able to hop in a van, visit local cannabis farms, purchase primo bud and soak up Humboldt County's multi-generational marijuana culture during day-long tours," reports the Mad River Union.

Is this the future of economic development in Humboldt County? Thirty-five years ago, then and now, I have no interest in touring a cannabis grow site or sampling buds.

We stayed in Mad River Rapids RV park, eating in town and sleeping in Eggburt. Under what circumstances does someone smoke pot at 3:00 AM in a RV Park women’s restroom? On our urban hike through Arcata, the Pacific Union Elementary School gutter was littered with used vials of NO2, nitrous oxide sold for whipped cream dispensers, but used as a cheap high. Grade school recreational whip-it? Not cool. 

We counted four used vials in the Janes Road gutter.

We counted four used vials in the Janes Road gutter.

Departing Humboldt County, Keith and I have revised our life plans to "move up to Northern California".  Now we are on walkabout and there is no telling where we will land.  That's the beauty of being on walkabout!  Our future home is uncertain, but we do know thatwe will return to reminisce about “the good old days” and enjoy the beauty of an empty beach and the lovely little tasty bits of ocean goodness.

Sunset at Mad River Beach. 

Sunset at Mad River Beach. 

"The world is my oyster."  What does that mean? I plan to find out while on walkabout. 

"The world is my oyster."  What does that mean? I plan to find out while on walkabout. 

Tasty Bits of Ocean Goodness - Arcata Main Street's Oyster Festival 2017

#arcata, #oysters, @arcatamainstreetoysterfestival, #oysterfestival, #humboldt, #northcoast, #walkabout

“That’s Not a Knife…” San Francisco Cooking School

“This is a knife”, and I learned how to use it while on walkabout in San Francisco.

This is my new knife with the unsuspecting veggies. Little do they know what lies ahead. 

This is my new knife with the unsuspecting veggies. Little do they know what lies ahead. 

In 1986, America was introduced to the idea of walkabout by the movie Crocodile Dundee. Thirty years ago, all you needed was a hunky man, a beautiful woman, a big city, and a big knife. 

Dundee is threatened by a mugger with a switchblade:
Sue Charlton: Mick, give him your wallet. 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: What for? 
Sue Charlton: He's got a knife. 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: [chuckling] That's not a knife. 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: [Dundee draws a large Bowie knife] 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: *That's* a knife. 
[Dundee slashes the teen mugger's jacket. He and his friends run away] 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: Just kids having fun. You alright? 
Sue Charlton: I’m always all right when I'm with you Dundee. "

This is all you needed for walkabout... 30 year ago!

This is all you needed for walkabout... 30 year ago!

The world has changed a lot since then. Can you imagine a foreigner taking that knife anywhere without being hog tied and detained for suspicion of being a terrorist? Ok, I don’t need or even want a knife to scare off the bad guys.  What I need is the skill to chop a veggie without getting hurt. Nice clean cuts of even-sized tasty food pieces.

When we travel, we like to experience the environment, art, and food.  Food is one of the reasons I walkabout, and San Francisco is all about food. San Francisco is a city that LOVES it’s food. Bagdad by the Bay, is the perfect place for an urban hike: walk, eat, drink, walk, eat, walk, drink, walk, sober up on BART, and then head for home.  

Last weekend, I traveled to San Francisco to hike, eat, and take a knife skills class at the San Francisco Cooking School in the heart of the Civic Center. My daughter gave me a gift certificate to the San Francisco Cooking School because she knows that “travel far and wide, cook and eat good food” are on my list of life goals.

The San Francisco Cooking School on Van Ness, downtown and easily accessible. 

The San Francisco Cooking School on Van Ness, downtown and easily accessible. 

We start with a ride on BART and a stroll through the Sunday Farmer’s market at the UN Plaza. Then a hike to Hayes Valley for lunch.

Beautiful Berries at the UN Plaza Farmers Market.

Beautiful Berries at the UN Plaza Farmers Market.

While enjoying my vegetarian Greek salad at Soulva in Hayes Valley, I couldn’t resist peeking into the kitchen. I eagerly anticipated my culinary skills building class as the kitchen staff buzzed around under the words “make it nice & be nice.” Words to live by, “Opa!”

Words to live by. 

Words to live by. 

Part of the adventure of food is also cooking. There is an international challenge in finding recognizable food elements and preparing it in a new location with limited and often unusual utensils in a kitchen that isn’t our own.  In the travel world it is known as self- catering. Learn how to cook with local food while traveling, meet people, eat food, and save money.   “The less we spend the more we travel” is one of our motto’s.

A knife skills class where I can learn proper knife handing and food cleaning processes in THE San Francisco, is a walkabout travel and food experience. Learning cooking skills is preparing for the next big trip where we can cook, eat, and have an amazing food and culinary experience.

The lesson is basic and challenging: learn how to use a chef knife; be safe and efficiently make properly sized pieces of food for a tasty experience.

It was like Food Network live! 

It was like Food Network live! 

Our instructor Dario, and the teaching kitchen were right out of Food Network. I was so excited I washed my hands three times!  We suit up with an apron and hand towel to face a beautiful bunch of onions, celery, carrots, leeks, potatoes and half a cabbage. Innocent veggies, ready for slaughter.

We are taught proper cutting grip and stance. Keep your cutting space clear and organized. We learn the chop cut and the rock n' roll cut to first clean, and stabilize. Next we make planks, batons and the final cubes. Trim goes in the bin. Which knife is for you? Sharpening, mincing, cross-cutting, supreme, chiffonade and roll chop. What is dicing, slicing and julienning any way? Then we take it all out on those poor veggies.

I’m not as fast as Dario, but cooking is a journey, not a destination.

Dario chops, he slices, he dices, and he minces like a pro at the San Francisco Cooking School

In the end, there is just this big bag of smelly goodness ready for the stovetop. I stuff my diced veggies in my bag and I’m afoot again, into the City for more urban hiking. I can’t afford to eat at San Francisco’s 100 Best Eats of 2017, but I can cook a yummy bowl of minestrone soup.

I'm going to need a bigger bag. 

I'm going to need a bigger bag. 

Now I’m ready for walkabout. If a veggie pulls a knife on me… well, it is not going to be pretty. It’s going to be soup! Dinner is served.

All cooked up. Delicious and nutritious.  

All cooked up. Delicious and nutritious.  

www.cynthiawhelan.com Whelan on Walkabout "That's Not a Knife..." 

#sanfrancisco, #sanfranciscocookingschool, #cookingschool, #cooking, #knife, #walkabout