Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A real Santa and a Chinese Christmas

Veda and I travelled to the city to have Christmas dinner at Martha and Ernie’s house. Rita and Hamish were there at the door to greet us when we arrived. Martha was in the kitchen on her laptop chatting away with my brother John in Chicago on Skype. Veda leaned over and said hello and was probably taken back when she realized that my brother was Santa Claus. I mean, his beard and snow white hair are all very real. The picture above will attest to the Chicagoland Santa's authenticity. I am still not sure what she made of him.My brother-in-law Ernie was busy preparing the clay pot and sautéed veggies along with some sweet and sour pork. We all sat around chatting about different things throughout dinner which didn’t get through until around 11:30 PM ! We had a mango custard for dessert that was absolutely delicious. Then it was time to head back across the Golden Gate. Veda suggested coffee, so we stopped at a café on Church street that was still open. I was ready for the ride back so we crossed the bridge and I bid her a fond ado as I continued on to Calistoga. Nice time!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Winter Solstice

It is another beautiful day here in Calistoga. The sun has been shining here every day for the past three weeks! The high pressure is sending all inclement weather either north or south but not in and around the bay area. The Forty Niners are doing well and have a good chance at making it to the Super Bowl this year after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers monday evening. Today I am going to a store called “Mr. Moon “ downtown. I will propose that they sell my Spirit Rocks, some of which I have fashioned into a crescent moon that looks like a perfect fit for their store. I also have the idea of doing refrigerator magnets that would be the exact same rock with a magnet glued to the back. I want to give them exclusive rights to and hope to make them the sole distributor of my work. This way I will have a retail outlet that can show my work year round ( I am keeping my fingers crossed that perhaps they will sell it as a "Mister Moon Rock “) I will keep you posted.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Progress, not perfection

Today is Sunday and I’ve intentionally missed the Republican debates on TV. I have no interest in the Republican Agenda. I painted rocks, I ate Quinoa, I went to a meeting and I went to mass. All in all, it was a good day because I accomplished a few things and intend to accomplish more tomorrow. Every day, I do something to further my desire for financial independence. I made a pendant and a beautiful rock that looks like it’s going to be a big seller. Tuesday is my birthday. I will be 61 and... MY SPIRIT ROCKS !

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Fun filled weekend

Just when I thought that I would not be participating in the Calistoga Christmas fair, I got a table set up at just the last minute ! The event coordinator let me display my Spirit Rocks and I had the best time ever. I connected with old friends and made some new ones. It was a lot of work and I was bushwhacked by the end of the day. I took a short nap because I knew the tractor parade was happening on Lincoln avenue as night fell. I shot the picture above just as the parade was ending ( doggone it ). I thought that the festivities were to start at 8PM and found out too late that they began at 7, so I caught the tail end of it. I spent a little time chatting it up with my friend Eleanor who kept me company and recalled her days events as she enjoyed a cup of Pumpkin Chai. I had a pomegranate juice before heading home and settling in for the evening.

All in all, a very satisfying day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking care of Business

I finally got my things together for the Christmas Bazaar at the Carnagie Building last weekend. Everything went pretty well as I sat with the other vendors on the second floor of the building. We had some waves of people come through, but it could not quite compare with what was happening downstairs ( or so I thought ). I was able to sell enough rocks to pay for the entry fee after the first day. Meeting the other vendors was a positive experience as they all had some great tips to offer me. Right now I am looking at building my Spirit Rock website and having a shopping cart available so people will be able to purchase rocks online. That is the game plan for December.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Comforting words…

A Prayer to Slow Down

Slow me down, Lord.

Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with the vision of eternal reach of time.
Give me, amidst the confusion of my day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the smoothing music of singing streams.Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art of taking one-minute vacations...
Slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and the tortoise that I may know the race is not always to the swift;that there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look up into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down Lord, and inspire me to send my roots into the soil for life's enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

Slow me down, Lord; slow me down!

By: Cardinal Richard Cushing

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Silly me

Yesterday, I finished up painting a weeks worth of rocks. Actually, I was sorting out those rocks that needed to be categorized and others that needed a little touching up. By 3PM I had already packed up all the materials I would need to bring to the Carnagie building in St. Helena for the big Christmas Fair weekend. The plan was to set up our vendor’s booth the night before to prepare for the show which would begin at 10am the next morning. This showroom would be locked so that no one would have to be concerned about their “stuff”. Well I drove down there only to discover an exercise class going on, and no one having any clue about a “Christmas Fair”. I got on my Iphone to call the coordinator of this event, only to find out that I was a week early!


Well, at least now I have a whole extra week to put together some rocks with more Christmas-like themes. I think I will paint some snowflakes or Christmas trees probably. The fun never ceases!

Monday, November 07, 2011

My new Focus

The White Potato has gone to the Polly Klass foundation. It was a great vehicle while it lasted, but now I have a beautiful, sleek, "Frankenstien green" Ford Focus. This car rocks ! It has a plug in jack for my iPhone, so that when someone calls it will interrupt my iTunes playlist to receive the call which comes in through my car speakers ! It also has electric windows, locks and cruise control. This is a dream come true.

Now, about the color. It actually is rather interesting looking. It sort of reminds me of the luminescent paint I use on my Spirit rocks to make them glow in the dark. Hmmm… I was sure I wanted a white car, but this is too perfect! Perhaps I should get personalized plates too, but I doubt this will happen.

It definitely feels like I am creating a new persona.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Season of the Witch

I was reading an article online about Salem, Massachusetts. This was the place in American History where witches were burned at the stake over allegations of people casting spells and the like. So much suspicion has risen up in recent history where the country is practically polarized as people express or choose to hide their individual politics and beliefs.This reminds me of what it must have been like living in Salem in the sixteen hundreds. As a Freedom loving country, I think we forget that we have in the past, and will certainly again in the future,continue to pay a dear price to enjoy such freedoms.

The social and political climate of today kind of reminds me of the TV Show “Survivor” . This begins where everyone is trying to form alliances in the hopes of winning favor with their particular brand of leadership. This is all done in order to be the last one left on the island, thus “WINNING" as Charlie Sheen would say, the illusive title of being a sole survivor.

These are trying times, and at times I feel like the wolf in the image above, howling at the moon. This would probably be a very therapeutic practice if a group of people went up into the hills during a full moon, just to howl for awhile . Halloween is just around the corner so perhaps that evening would be a great time to just go out and howl.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Larry returns !

I didn’t recognize him at first, but Larry J. Nowlan is someone who I had given a tour of the Greystone Campus well over a year ago. Larry is a world famous sculpture who was responsible for all the relief sculptures of all the luminaries of the wine industry in the Napa Valley, which is showcased in the barrel room at the CIA. It was so great being recognized by him. He and his wife, Heather stopped by and purchased a few Spirit Rocks for their kids. He was in good spirits and we both discovered that we have more in common than just the fact that we are both practicing artists. We have a mutual friend named Bill, who has helped us both live much fuller lives today. Heather took this picture of us on Saturday afternoon. They were both in town to attend a function being held at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone that evening. It was wonderful seeing them. He will be returning again in February of 2012. I look forward to hanging out with them at that time.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

What a week

It’s Sunday and I just got back from Tucker Farm. My day began with mass at the St. Helena Catholic Church. Then I go to the N.V. Coffee Roastery for a cup of joe and a Jalapeño bagel with cream cheese and butter. I know, cholesterol and fat for breakfast. This is my comfort food treat for the week. Then I hit the 10:30am meeting at Tucker Farm.

This week has been momentous with the passing of Al Davis and Steve Jobs. I was most taken by the passing of Jobs. I felt as if I knew him personally and that he was instrumental in my staying up with the technology and all things Apple. I drank the Kool-aid and am proud of it. Steve was a visionary and innovator. I was truly inspired by the lengths this guy would go to; to get his products launched.Being a Mac guy from 1996 to the present, their are not a few things I haven’t drooled over when it comes to I-anything.Thanks for everything you have made available for us, Steve. As I type this, the IPhone 4S is about to come out with a new operating system which interacts with the ICloud. Another reason to save my shekels.

Speaking of shekels, I had a great day at the Farmer’s Market yesterday. I came home with the grand sum of $370. ( nothing to sneeze at) after selling a number of beautiful Spirit Rocks. I even had a few Lady bug rocks that I made for a lady after a special request. She showed up, and probably was surprised that I had listened to her and took action. One of them sold ( not to her ) which pleased me, and reminded me to make more of them. I am beginning to see peoples partiality about certain animals, birds and symbols. I sold a few “Recovery Rocks” to a lady from Reno who was in town to share at a local meeting. You never know who will be touched by these things.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

a Work in Progress

Somewhere between Gratitude and Acceptance do I find a semblance of sanity and serenity in my daily life. If I don’t have Gratitude, I’m hurting. It is that simple for me. It is so easy to forget when I am struggling to force my will in a situation. Somehow I find myself trying to change the things I can’t accept, as if this time it will be different. Surrender does not come easy. I am a “Yes but” person. I am always trying to find an angle or a way to assert my will. The irony is that sometimes I get away with shit and I am left with the idea that I have power. Lack of power was the dilemma. Just when I think I am on easy street, my Higher Power pulls the rug out from underneath me and I am flat on my butt again. Acceptance is the only tool that gets me through during those times, because nothing else will suffice.

The Spirit Rock shown above is a work in Progress, like myself.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer’s end

A friend and fellow seeker, Fred Pothoff died over a week ago. We had his memorial service yesterday at the Catholic Church in St. Helena. Fred was a great guy. He came to visit me on more than one occasion when I was still working at the CIA. He clued me in on several aspects about Greystone that really brought the building to life for me. He and his work crew were instrumental in the remodeling construction that took place between 1995 and 2001. When you walk in to the building and look up, you will be struck by the beauty that brings the light from the third floor down to the first. Their would be no Atrium if his crew hadn't cut away the floors and ceilings that enclosed the former Christian Brothers Sparkling wine and brandy cellars. Fred’s crew also secured and sealed the caves that went way back into the hillside behind the Culinary Institute of America.  Many suspect that the Chinese laborers that originally built Greystone had a network of tunnels that extended beyond the property. To date, no one has really determined how far back they go. Historical record says 300 feet. A series of pylons were driven into the hillside during the retrofit that anchored the building from the back. Fred also explained how epoxy was injected into the cement floors throughout the Barrell room to solidify them. Otherwise, they would surely crumble in an earthquake.After our visit, Fred gave me a “Christian Brothers Greystone” sweatshirt that had been given to him by Brother Timothy who was the cellar master. It is a collector’s item that I will keep until the day I leave this world.

R.I.P Fred Pothoff.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eating Weird

The picture you see below is of some pretty healthy stuff. Cale, Tomatoes, Garlic and the like. This is not my regular diet, but it is a direction I am heading. I eat weird, but healthy. Lately, Quinoa is my staple. I cook it like rice and add stuff to it after I take it off the stove. I add cranberries, dates, chopped carrots, celery and a large dollop of tahini for good measure. I may even add a few crushed almonds to boot. What do you think? Is this normal ? This morning I took a rice cake and slathered it with Sunflower seed butter, bee pollen, Organic blackstrap molasses, cayenne, ginger and cinnamon. Oh yum ! Actually, I have no set diet, but I can tell you that I eat weird. My favorite is something I concocted that I call a “Chipoltelini” which consists of melted sharp cheddar on a rice cake, a layer of tahini and Chipolte sauce from Trader Joe’s, then topped with a slice of heirloom tomato. Don’t knock it until you have tried it ! Anyway, I would be curious to know about your favorite weird snack that you are reluctant to let anyone know.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Fun

I went for a nice hike with my pal, Dave and his girlfriend, Kathy. We started at 9:30 AM and got back around 1 PM. It was a gorgeous day ( not too hot, not too cool ). The creek had water running and the view from Coyote Peak was awesome. We thought we heard a mountain lion growling and it turned out to be a crying kid who was about 50 yards back. The picture above is of me inside this stump that was hollowed out a long time ago. I thought that it was the perfect photo op. I Hope that your Labor day was fun for you too.

Friday, September 02, 2011

New Poster

This poster contains rocks that I have painted, photographed, scanned and have modified in Photoshop. I inverted some of the images for that ghosting effect. I only imported one image with the glow-in-the-dark effect to illustrate that particular feature.
Right now the entire image is around 8X10", but I plan to output it to poster size 18 X 24 ".

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting for the BLING

Today was cool as I sauntered out the door at 6:30 AM to set up my stand at the Saturday Farmer’s Market. I stopped into a bakery downtown and bought a cup of coffee and paid for it with a twenty. Now I had some one’s to make change for the rocks I planned to sell. The sun finally broke through around eleven, and the foot traffic picked up a bit. My neighbor’s umbrella kept me shaded, but it also blocked the sun when it finally came out. It wasn’t until 11:30 AM until it began to shine on my display which really makes the Spirit Rocks BLING ! I sold a few rocks to some regular customers but it wasn’t a big day for sales. Thankfully, I got everything up and down with ease and came back to my apartment around 1 PM to nap for a few hours. I enjoy napping since it is rare that I get a full night’s sleep anymore. I hear that is pretty common for people my age.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Poster Project

This picture is a prototype of a poster I am in the process of creating. I have used color inverted copies of pictures I have taken of my Spirit Rocks to form this checkerboard pattern which is visually pleasing. I have stretched some of the .jpg files to fit the Square as I saw fit. Many of you who have used Photoshop can spot the filters I have employed to create the background effects. The poster I hope to create will be approx. 18"X24" . If i comes out according to spec. I will have a glow rock instead of an inverted color rock image which will not be modified in the final product. I will probably have six squares across and down instead of the four you see here.This stuff is fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rocks galore

Every weekday now, I have been painting more and more rocks to replenish my inventory. I have been selling between 20 to 30 rocks every Saturday for some time now. I have to remember to take pictures of the ones that are the most attractive and the big sellers. I honestly cannot say that I have been at all bored doing this. The only thing I find challenging is coming up with different ideas to paint. The picture above is of a 45rpm symbol from the days when people played 45 records on their turntables. It harkens back to the days of rock and roll. I think this symbol is cool and looks visually pleasing on the surface of a round rock. I bejeweled it a little just to add the bling factor to it. I would be surprised if this one does not sell this weekend. If it doesn’t, it will be a display rock because I really dig this one.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hot Day

Today it felt like summer. The sun is out and I am inside to protect my sensitive Irish skin as I update this blog. The image above are the hills of Sonoma looking west from a view at a turnout on Skaggs road going towards Healdsburg. This was taken durning a day trip with my friend Reid Bennett about a month ago.

Today is Sunday (appropriately named ) in the middle of August and I went to mass at the St. Helena Catholic Church this morning. I usually have a morning coffee at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company along with a Jalapeno bagel with cream cheese and butter. This is my end of the week indulgence and I usually work it off physically in the next day or two.

Lately, I have been leaning towards being a vegan and I won’t eat meat unless I am put in an awkward situation to do so. Eliminating it from my diet is a progressive thing and I applaud anyone who keeps pushing forward in their attempts to affirm a long life.

Saturday was another good day at the Farmer’s Market in Calistoga. The Spirit Rocks are a hit and they keep selling. Nevertheless, I have to replenish my inventory every week. Sell thirty rocks… Paint thirty rocks. That is just the way it is. Tuesday is my get-away day, when I drive up to my favorite spot in Lake County for rest and relaxation.
I hope that your summer is turning out to be everything you wanted.

So far, mine has. Love and hugs…

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The return of Television


The above picture was taken at my niece Marian’s house after we arrived there for the Grand Fallon over a week ago. Since that time, I have been on the computer and rearranging furniture since I’ve been back in Calistoga.That trip was just what I needed to realize what I’ve been needing more of in my life.

I swung a deal with Comcast on Friday and got a reduced rate on my internet connection along with Cable TV after signing a two year contract. Oh joy! As if I don’t enough information flowing through my brain these days.I moved my computer from my bedroom to the living room and put my TV in the bedroom so that I don’t have to run a coaxial cable all the way from the bedroom to the living room. I don’t want to pay extra to have the Comcast guy come out and install another cable. I have an Airport Extreme network on all 3 of my Apple computers so I am fine sitting on the futon typing away without tripping over wires and such.

Now with the local stations back, I will be able to understand references to commercials, shows and other things that have made me feel “ out of the loop “ for around ten years now. It’s funny, when I had a TV I thought that everyone else in my social circles had a TV. Today I know that in many households, TV and Computers are not only optional… but avoided unless absolutely necessary. I think that this is a good thing.The video of Marian on her computer below made me think about how tethered I have been to the whole digital world,

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Grand Faloon

It has been a few days since I’ve returned from Oregon to Calistoga. The trip went well and it was great seeing my family. It was heart warming to connect with Grand nephews and nieces as well as the next generation of family members. We played horseshoes, barbequed, swam, petted goats and horses. went for a bike ride, and stuffed our faces with food. The ride up there and back was a bit long ( 10 hours ) , but passing by Mt. Shasta is always a wonderful site. The video is of my grandniece Cooper who is as cute as a button. She and the others were so much fun to watch.

My sister Tara had suggested this gathering and my niece Marian and her Zany husband Colby hosted ( Colby was non-stop entertainment ). Everyone seemed to pitch in with whatever was required to pull this thing off. Initially, Tara wanted to meet with everyone to pass along her collection of Children’s Books which she has used as reference materials for many years doing her work as an illustrator. The kids loved this, because they all got a great collection of books which they can later trade when they are finished with them. Most of the days were spent catching up or reminiscing about past family events. My only regret is that is went by too quickly and I wished that more of my family members could have been there.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Potato turns 200,000

I woke up thinking it was Monday, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. I got up around 9:00 and suddenly remembered that it was Sunday. I already missed mass so I made a pot of coffee and started painting rocks. Around 10am I still hadn’t accomplished much so I thought I would get dressed and go to the meeting at Tucker Farm. Scratch that idea, as it is now 10:30 am. It seemed that I could not get my Mojo working today. I downloaded some old 60’s songs like Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and Kind of a drag by the Buckinghams which described this day aptly.

Next thing I know it’s past five and even a hike is out of the question. I took a second nap and my body was still recouping all the energy I had expended on Saturday was a great day both financially and Spiritually… however draining

6:30pm rolled around so I forced myself to make the meeting in St. Helena. Then in a moment of Spiritual enthusiasm, i took off for Berkeley to make the 10pm student mass at Newman Chapel. I drove south for an hour and a half and arrived in Berkeley just around 9:00pm and went to Bongo Burger on Euclid for a Hummus plate and a “Lassie” ( a cold yogurt soda ). They had never heard of it and corrected me calling it a “dook" or something like that. I said that I had ordered a Lassie there for years and the clerk looked at me with some suspicion. I think Bongo Burger changed management from Indian to Pakistani Vegetarian and didn’t switch the menu… only the NAMES of things like their stupid yogurt soda.

I drove from north Berkeley to mass, after which I spotted an old friend Tina who was surprised to see me there. She said that I was the reason for her attending the student mass at Neuman initially. We both still wanted to get home early enough after services, but agreed to meet each other on Wednesday at 2:30pm in San Raphael at Cafe Gratitude. I look forward to catching up.

Lastly, driving through American Canyon I got pulled over because the CHP said that I was going in and out of my lane. He ran a check on my license and then asked me if I had been drinking. I said that my car was out of alignment which was true and he let me go. I drove ten miles further and pulled off the road in Yountville. The Potato’s mileage had just turned 200,000 ! Good job, and great way to end the day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trip to Gualala

My friend Reid and I drove from Santa Rosa out to the coast for a five-hour trip to Gualala. I have never been there before and the route we took was great. I was especially impressed with the emergency access route on the return trip. We went through Redwood forests, small depressed areas, scenic vistas and long winding downhills.

Skaggs road in particular, took us back towards Healdsburg and close to the Dry Creek Winery district of Sonoma. The reason for the trip was to deliver a famous picture to a gallery that specializes in Ansel Adams photography. Reid had won the picture in an auction a long time ago and was now ready to sell it. The gallery owner knew what he wanted and so did Reid, so they agreed on a fair price and the picture of the “Sonoma Hills” which will be displayed and hopefully sold sometime between now and December. If not, it will be returned to Reid.

This was a time when we could have a long conversation about many things, to get current with each other. Now that he is a dad with three boys, he hardly has any time to himself. It was fun just to cruise and talk.

The picture above is of the coast as it looked just outside of Gualala looking south.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ceasar and Monica

Here are my neighbors children, Ceasar and Monica Ayala. This is a picture taken of them after their First Holy Communion at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. Their mother, Sylvia invited me to attend the reception afterwards which lasted from 3pm to 10pm in the evening. I am certain that if I drank Coronas and spoke fluent Spanish I would have been entertained the whole time. For better of for worse, I left around 4:30pm. I had given Monica and Caesar an envelope each with cash. I put ten bucks in Caesar’s envelope and only nine bucks in Monica’s envelope. I told her that I owed her a dollar because I used the twenty to buy a pack of Juicy Fruit and could not divide the money evenly after that. She held me to my promise to provide another dollar when I got home. I folded one up into a “Dollar Ring” and surprised her by putting it on her finger in front of her entire family. Then in a moment of ridiculous abandon, I asked her to marry me...Quite naturally, she refused.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Friendly Fourth

My neighbors, Dick and Carol Uschyk hosted a lovely BBQ in their backyard over the fourth. They served ribs, chicken, frittatas, potato salad, beans, rice and assorted plates that the guests brought. Now that I am foregoing meat, I satisfied my appetite with frittatas and smiled pleasantly as others devoured flesh ( no judgement, mind you ).I also provided Dick with a bottle of Alacante Bouche from the grapes harvested atop the entrance to Greystone. I can’t and won’t be able to tell you what the wine is like because I never sampled it. A Chef by the name of Lars Kronmark gave it to me after an event at the Culinary Institute one year.Since my memories of the CIA are bittersweet at this point, I am passing along all those items that I have collected over the years.

I spoke with Dick’s friend, Peter as we discussed some of the history of the Napa Valley. I did not know for instance, that many people had snubbed Francis Ford Coppola’s opening party at the former Inglenook Winery ( I have learned that they are now planning on restoring the name, and abandoning the name Rubicon Estates ). Over 200 guests were invited, and only the Mondavi’s showed up. Robert Mondavi inspired Francis to start processing some of the classic grapes of that area.

After dinner, we gathered across the street to watch the annual fireworks display after sunset. It turned out to be an enjoyable evening. Earlier in the day I had spent three hours swimming at Bothe State Park ( which has been slated to close at some point ) and received a righteous sunburn on my face,neck, back and arms. The image above is of a thistle that was discovered during my hike with Don Freeland.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Getting out of Dodge

Not me, not yet. I will be traveling to Oregon sometime before the end of July and perhaps to Mineral King for four days in the middle of July. We shall see. My friend Raphael, who you read about in the last post is now with his mother in Mexico. The family here in Calistoga is here indefinitely. Sylvia, Caesar, Monica and Jessica are living next door with no daddy to support them. I am making myself available for rides, groceries, etc. but right now they are taking matters “One day at a time”.

I went for a hike up to Sugarloaf Ridge yesterday with my friend, Don. The hike started at 1:30 PM and ended at 5:30 PM. It was an intense scaling hike that was uphill from the start. Luckily, the temperature was not unbearable and I found a way to stay cool and comfortable. We reached the summit or saddle of the mountain around 4PM. We ate a simple lunch and made are way down the hill after that. It was a first for me in this area, and I hope to visit it again in the future. The picture above is of the view looking west from the summit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Everything is okay…

Today I got up early and heard some crying outside my window. My next door neighbor Rapahel was being deported for not showing up to court for a minor traffic infraction which was not even his fault. His two daughters, his wife and son were all sobbing as he was handcuffed and brought to a police vehicle parked out on Lake street. I immediately went to talk with Sylvia his wife. We held hands and prayed quietly to Our Lady of Guadalupe for guidance and direction. Sylvia explained the situation through her tears and it was clear she was very distraught but had faith that everything would be okay. The children were the ones took it hard.We called Father Manuel from our local Catholic church to see if anything could be done on the short term. He is a strong influence in the Spanish Community here in Calistoga.

Because I don’t speak Spanish very well, I was only capable of picking out certain words as the phone was passed onto Sylvia as she was consoled in her grief. It was Tuesday and I went to bag up groceries at our local Food Bank. Thankfully I was able to get a few bags for the Ayala family. When Wednesday arrived, I learned that Raphael was transported to a San Diego Immigration office where he awaited extradition.He spoke with the family and explained that he was being treated fairly, and that he was fed during his trip south. This was the month where Immigration sweeps usually take place in the Napa Valley, according to the secretary at the Catholic Church in St. Helena.

When the weekend came we learned that Raphael had made it safely to his mother’s house in Michoacan, Mexico. The family is now seeking legal help to get him back with his family here. If not, they may all return to Mexico.

Father Brinkle who is another pastor around here who has dedicated most of his life as an advocate for the Hispanic Community ever since the days of Ceasar Chavez. He is a good resource for these type of situations I have learned. Since this happened, I have been invited to attend a meeting with all the parties concerned to be held at the church on the 28th of this month.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Short Sleeves, Shorts and Sandals

The Sea Turtle painted on this blue Spirit Rock is something I saw on my friends t-shirt, and thought it would be a nice addition to my summer collection. I would like a shirt with a whole assortment of these turtles on it. I would like this idea on a aloha shirt, however.This would be part of my ensemble for the summer months. Here it is June 14th and the good weather is now coming in. My neighbor Raphael is barbecuing the carne asada which is always delicious.

Today I bought some Chia seeds to add to my Quinoa. When I eat, I like to mix it up. One day healthy, the next day the emphasis is on comfort. I still feel driven to find some gainful employment. I applied for work at the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce for a Concierge position. It turns out that they want someone with more “Web” experience. This is fine. I felt compelled to apply for this position based on my experience alone, which is vast. It is not a surprise that I knew two members who are on the board of trustees. One of which was my former boss for whom a lot of unfinished business still exists between us. Be that as it is, I am still glad that I applied for the position. It tells me that I haven’t given up.

The above is the latest design motif I have for my Spirit Rocks. You like? You buy? Twenty Dolla .

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Wild and Wacky Weekend

Last Saturday I was up early and over to my sister’s house in S.F. to see if she was going to be attending Cliff’s Variety 75th Anniversary Celebration. She was, only she would be showing up later. We had a cup of coffee and talked for while and around 9:15 am I got into my car and drove over the hill to Castro Street. I parked in a lot close by that was to be used for vendors who were unloading their goods to be sold, etc. The rain was coming down so I had to unload my display promptly.Then I drove to the top of the hill to my sister Martha’s house to park my little car in her garage so that I would not be ticketed during the day. She then drove me down the hill to the store where I gathered up my display and began setting it up out in front of the store. It was a good thing that my niece Terry was so organized because the entertainment that was to be outside could have been a total wash if it were to continue to go as planned. The Castro Theater was commemorating the days event by showing “The Love Bug”, a Disney movie for 75cents. A lot of adults and children began to gather outside the theater as noon approached.

The rain finally ceased and slowly but surely, I had a few customers stop to purchase some of my Spirit Rocks. Inside the store, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence put on a great show and presented my niece Terry with a certificate of CANONIZATION ! Now she is officially a Saint in the eyes of the all the nuns that roller skate and collect donations for AIDS relief throughout the Castro district.You really can’t beat having a Saint in your own family. The day ended when most of the present and past employees of Cliffs showed up at my sister Martha’s house for food, drink and camaraderie. A special cake was made that was passed around as each person talked about their adventures working at the greatest family owned store in San Francisco.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Winter in June

This is the view from my bedroom window.

I told my friend Reid that I was going outside to get some exercise. I lied. I went outside to check my mail and went right back inside and made lunch. If you are reading this and want to motivate me to go for a hike, PLEASE… give me a call. I will take you up on it. Left to my own devices, I am would not get out of bed on a day like today. Luckily, I have things to do. Namely, rock painting and pendant making. The weather is around fifty degrees and it is supposed to rain the next couple of days. Great. I am planning on going down to S.F. for the 75th Anniversary of Cliff’s Variety Store. Outside their should be music and dancing, come rain or shine. Keep your fingers crossed for some decent weather this weekend.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Thursday was a wonderful day. I picked Veda up at the Santa Rosa bus station around noon and drove from there through the Russian River Resort area and then to the coast. All the way to Russian Gulch to be specific. The sun was out, with a whole assortment of puffy clouds and a very light wind. We got to the beach around 1pm and proceed to look for rocks that we could collect to add to the Spirit Rock inventory.She had packed a very nice lunch with stuffed olives, salad fixings, biscotti biscuits, candy box tomatoes and the like. I had brought some lemon tea and dried fruit and nuts to share. We walked around the beach and met up again at the opposite end after filling a blue bag with a whole quarry of beautifully smooth, round rocks.We then walked back to the other end of the beach to discover our picnic lunch STREWN all over the place. It turned out that the seagulls swooped down and had a feast of our food ! Veda was disappointed, but did not react too badly. We salvaged what we could ( I guess the didn’t care for the stuffed olives ) and made our way back to the car. When we drove back through Guerneville we stopped and had lunch at a nice little Cafe which made up for the little glitch in our plans.After lunch, we found a little Spiritual storefront that had some workshops offered in yoga, breath work and healing. We walked in and talked to the woman there who was very enthusiastic about the history of the place which was founded by 13 grandmothers from different nations and tribes. I was very surprised to find some of my sister’s art work for sale in the gift shop! Talk about Providence ! Veda and I were invited to stay for the Kundalini yoga class which lasted about an hour. We both benefitted greatly from this practice and came away energized and serene at the same time. All in all, it turned out to be a very adventuresome day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dora the Explorer

It seems that the only thing worth talking about is Dora. She is the parakeet of my neighbor, Cindy. Cindy is four and her little bird is kept outside under the eaves of the laundry room. Early last Monday evening we had a big storm blow through which left a few trees down and numerous puddles to drive around. Later on in the week around Thursday, the sun was back out and Cindy was playing outside as I went to my car. She always says hello, and I try to find something to talk about with her. Naturally it is fun to tease a four year old who is given to believe most anything you say.

I told her that Dora was upset and was crying because she was left outside during the storm and that Cindy had forgotten her. Cindy immediately looked me straight in the eye and said, “ SHE DID NOT SAY THAT !” Dora is a bird !

Anyway, I thought I would share that with you.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Farmer’s Market

Saturday was the kickoff for the Calistoga Farmer’s Market. I got up early after a long Friday which involved gathering all my resources in order to have a successful first attempt at selling the “Spirit Rocks”. It went pretty good actually. I met lots of locals and tourists alike and made enough to pay for the space and buy some lunch ( whoopee ! ). A Car Show was going on, which took up most of Lincoln Avenue. The foot traffic spilled nicely onto the side street where the Farmer’s Market was being staged.

I had an area that was near a coffee stand, so a lot of people stood around, drank coffee and talked while they checked out my merchandise. It’s odd to think of these rocks as merchandise, because I would rather have people think of them as personal talismans which they are gravitated towards and would naturally make a "suggested donation.” ( yea, right ) Of course, this scheme would not work for teenagers and others who probably just walk off with them. People liked the Glow-in-the-dark aspect of the Spirit Rocks, and I pitched the idea that it helped youngsters who were scared of the dark to get to sleep easier. My friend Veda was there and she helped out a lot by providing me with much needed moral support.

Later on in the day we went to my nephew Edward’s house for an early Mother’s day celebration. A lot of food and conversation ensued as many close relatives were present. Ed’s brother in law Nevin, announced his engagement to Jo, his fiance. She proudly displayed her engagement ring as we all helped ourselves to the Lumpia they brought for us to feast on.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Venturing out

Just in case you haven’t checked it out, I strongly recommend a blog called “ Smart-Ass Cripple “. This guy knows how to write !
His most recent submission is hilarious… real dark humor.

Today was another warm and sultry day in Calistoga. My friend Don and I decided to hike to China Camp which is just beyond the Palisades cliffs, just north of Calistoga. I recall the hike being about 3 hours… how it ended up taking six hours I will never know. Initially we had prepared a modest backpack filled with two water bottles each ( we needed three ) Two apples, Two tortillas with turkey wrapped inside (no lettuce or filler), A couple of Clif bars and a bar of chocolate. Later on, it occurred to us both that a few more Clif bars each would have been appropriate, and perhaps a few oranges. We started at 11am and completed the hike at 5pm and we were both spent.Don has been out of commission most of the winter because of a ruptured disk. He felt confident enough at the beginning, but by the time we reached our destination it was starting to bug him a little. I’m a little sunburned and my muscles are cramping. I have taken some supplements and an aspirin to ease the pain. All in all, it was worth it. Kind of like banging your head against a wall… it feels so good when you stop.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Sunshine Galore

Spring has sprung. The weather has been just gorgeous. The birds are chirping in the morning, the plants are almost growing as fast as we watch them. This Saturday morning is a day I’ve been planning for a long time. I will be selling Spirit Rocks and Chefs Toques at the Calistoga Farmer’s Market. I hope this is going to be as simple as it sounds. I will be setting up a table under a large umbrella in an area designated for craftspeople. I will have a few chairs, a table cloth and some small display tables on top of the large table. As I write this, I am trying to remember all the little details of other items I will need to bring. A receipt book, change, Sunscreen, hat, etc., etc. My brother and I have talked via Skype about things to expect. He has been in the Flea Market business for some time now, and knows the ropes, so to speak.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Messing with the mail

It seems that just when everything is hunky dory with my electronic devices something goes buggy. I reset my password for my gmail account and brought on a whole boatload of crap.I had prepared an email to send to my friend Eric who is one of the five or six readers of this blog, and it didn’t send ! So after calling tech support at Apple and reading all the online tech support material in the online forums I ended up deleting my account. Great. When I re-established my account, I could receive gmail, but it still would not send any. Damn. To this day, when something goes wrong I always assume that it is my fault somehow. As it turned out, it was Google’s fault ! ( No wonder they don’t have a call-in system ). So if you had trouble with your gmail Thursday morning, Google reported technical difficulties online. Well, that is just great. Anyway, it is up and running as far as I know. It’s a good thing I was able to send a conciliatory gmail to Eric before I went off to bed, because I was dog tired after a day of bashing away at this. The movie I am featuring is what it looks like in my room upon rising. Enjoy !

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

A lot of birthdays are happening this week. Best wishes to my sister Rita, my nephew Edward and a few friends I know. The weather is still rather gloomy but that is to be expected this time of the year. Yesterday was earth day and I drove down to Napa for a meeting and noticed that their were some blocks sealed off. A lot of people were milling about and checking out the vendors booths. Mostly, it was a host of environmental groups showing people how to recycle and plant sustainable vegetables and stuff. I saw my ex-girlfriend there, and went to sit down to ponder what to do. Then after careful reflection, I decided to leave.

Later, I went to view my High School’s history and statistics on Wikipedia and read some interesting information.My friend Eric Swenson will appreciate the following…

For a school with an enrollment of less than 700 students, the recent athletic history of St. Mary’s is rather impressive.

St. Mary’s continues to have outstanding success in track & field under the guidance of head coach Jay Lawson '81. Known for the 1600 meter relay, the 1992 version of the team AKA the 4 Horsemen ran a time of 3:11 and was one of the best teams in the country. The 1998 version of the team was arguably the most rounded team, anchored by a great boy’s 1600 meter relay squad which was ranked 9th in the U.S. and had a best time of 3:13.79. The relay traveled to the famed Penn Relay’s where they finished top 10 in an international field of 500 teams. The boy’s hurdles and jumps were also strong with Jerrod Mack jumping a best of 51 feet in the triple jump, earning him 3rd in the U.S. that year. The deep boy’s squad also had 6 members running sub 50 second 400 meters, led by Jafar Williams who went on to play football at the University of Washington. The boy’s team had continued success through the turn of the century in sprints and jumps helmed by Lawson, and jumps coach and Cal Berkeley jump legend Jeff Rodgers. In 2010 Maurice Spikes, current high school state champion in the high jump, reached an impressive 6'8. Another quite astonishing record is that of current hurdles champion, Trinity Wilson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Saturday was a gorgeous, sunny day here in the Napa Valley. I went to Mt. La Salle to attend a “Retreat for busy people”. This is the third one I have attended. Brother Richard Moratto conducted the retreat. It was about the Resurrection, just in time for Holy Week. I took lots of pictures and felt very good about my time spent there. A lot of memories about that place harken me back to a less complicated period of my life. It seems to be an anchor spot for me. It is a place I have returned to at various times in my life. I have resided there for over a year on two seperate occasions. The brothers have alway treated me with love and respect. I feel the same way about them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Walker Ridge

I was prepared to go on a long hike Saturday, for at least five miles. It didn’t happen. Dieter drove Harrison and I all the way past Lower Lake to Walker Ridge. This place is really out in the Boonies. We parked in an area where dirt bikers and ATV’s were buzzing around kicking up rocks and dirt. Gathered were a group of naturalists who looked somewhat like a chapter of the Sierra Club ( I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them were members ). After “ gearing up” with our backpacks and poles we sauntered across the street to where the meeting was taking place. As it turned out, our little hike was going to be more like a politically motivated nature walk in an area that had been set afire by an arsonist back in 2009. The group leader launched into an explanation of the serpentine soils that were just beginning to support new growth and that the government had slated the area for an expansion of a windmill project that (according to the group leader) was going to be environmentally devastating to the area.This talk went on for a good twenty minutes. Finally we got “ungeared”, hopped back into Dieter’s Toyota Avalon and proceeded to follow a bunch of SUV’s up the mountain road to the summit. After parking, we had decided it was no point in throwing on our backpacks because this walk was only going to be a quarter mile at most. We learned about larkspur flowers and golden fields and a host of other succulents and wildflowers that were just beginning to sprout in an area peppered with shotgun shells, beer cans and broken clay pigeons. The trash left in this area was equally depressing. I found a fairly good sleeping bag mat made out of EVA styrofoam that I took back with me. We stayed until just after lunchtime. Then we hopped back into the car and drove towards Middletown where we stopped for coffee at a place called Mugshots.Eventually we got back to Calistoga around 3PM. We even took in an Estate sale on the way back. I picked up a ball peen-hammer, wire snips and shoe laces all for 3 bucks! Woo hoo !

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Meet Mitch

This guy looks like a composite of all the bosses I ever worked for; or more accurately, Mitch looks like the owners of the companies I worked for throughout my career in Hospitality. Perhaps a Union Rep, who later became a slum lord, who later bought a hotel or resort, who later would hire a General manager who would be inept, so then they would eventually try to run the place themselves. This is a classic recipe for dysfunction and unhappiness in a work environment. The owner who wants to manage the boss.Classic. It’s all about control, suspicion and more control. Fuck. Today I got up, took a shower, cooked a nice healthy breakfast and got out the door to go to a job fair today. I went to Solage, which is a nice resort here in Calistoga just on the outskirts of town. It is owned by a French Company called Auberge ( they have a few resorts here in the Napa Valley ). I had applied for a Concierge position when the CIA showed me the door. I didn’t hear back from them, so I saw that their was an opening for a bellman on Craig’s list so I applied for that. I have done most every job their is to do around a Hotel, Spa or Country Club. I have been a Bellman, Concierge,Lounge Host, Server, Cocktail Server, Front Desk Attendant, Reservationist, Tour Guide, Massage Practitioner, Room service waiter and Banquet Captain. These are all fun jobs if you don’t get too involved with management and keep a low profile. The best job of all of these by far, has been the Concierge position. I will be forever grateful for the work I did in this position, the people I met and the good times I had.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A Day at the Beach

When I get cabin fever, I head out to the coast. The Ocean represents freedom from worry. I drive out River Road through Guerneville and then to Jenner. I collect lots of flat, round rocks to bring home to paint, and I also pick up a few interesting pieces of driftwood. Yesterday I found out that my unemployment insurance has run out. Now I have to rely on my savings to stay afloat here. I went to Mass today ( April 1st ) to say a few prayers. I am looking for a a sign. I am looking for guidance and direction from my Higher Power and it hasn’t been forthcoming. I am lost at this point. I suspect something will be revealed to me, so I will wait.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Season Missed

This winter has been unusual. For the first time in a long time I am a bit anxious to see what the future will bring. The weather has been generous and mostly moderate up until now.The rest of the country has been buried in snow, Napa has experienced what might be considered an El Nina year. Santa Ana winds blew up from the south keeping a wonderful high pressure system in tact up until a few weeks ago. The high pressure system that hung out in February eventually dissipated, and these past few weeks have brought in a steady stream of delayed winter storms. March came in like a lion, and is going out the same way.

I didn't intend for this to turn into a weather report, but I started writing this blog weeks ago and things just flow. I wanted to write about the security I felt when working a full time job last Fall, and now I am concerned if I will ever be working a full-time job again. God is my strength, and I am relying on God to keep me safe and secure as I enter these first few months of my 60th year..Job or no job.

I've stayed busy checking the job posts on Craigs List, and submit resumes and cover letters with a degree of hope.Other than this, I paint and draw to keep from dwelling on the negative.The evenings have been filled with AA meetings and fellowship.My diet has been restricted now that I no longer enjoy the bountiful benefit of eating my lunches at the CIA. Losing that job has hurt more though, because of the friends I no longer get to see every day. Winter has officially ended, and the tourist season gets going again after Mother’s day, and continues right on through till Halloween. I will miss all the action at the Concierge Desk. ( Oh well. )

This past year has been one of disasters, both personally and "naturally". A large quake and Tsunami hit Japan and many other parts of the globe have been affected. Nuclear reactors have been spilling toxic fumes and radiation into the environment.War is continuing to sweep the Middle east, and financial markets have suffered worldwide due to a seemingly endless oil crisis that has caused rampant inflation.Who knew that this is where we were headed? Many fear that the world is on the brink of collapse.

This is only part of the story. More is being revealed to us on a daily basis.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Green Thang

Today is St. Patty's day and I have passed out quite a few "Shamrocks" to my friends here. I am wearing a green sweater just in case someone gets the idea of pinching me. Hmmm... maybe that's not such a bad thing depending on who is doing it. But Hey, I ain't no Blarney Stone, so don't get any ideas about slobbering your wet lips all over my face.Nuff said.

The picture above is my interpretation of "Devil's Well Falls" from the Archer Taylor Reserve. Its a pretty muddy watercolor that I tweaked just enough to make presentable here on my blog. Some landscapes just don't have the same "feel" If you know what I mean. Comparing this work to the one I did of "Russian Gulch" is like night and day. I had a lot of interest in doing that one for sure.This one was a chore.

Lately, I have been having trouble staying motivated to do my art projects. I don't know why specifically, but it usually blows over in a day or two.Inspiration moves quickly. Like the saying, " Easy come,easy go" that is how it is for me.

Right now, there are a group of Mexican Stone Masons who are building a fountain area and patio next door at the Golden Haven Spa. I hear the "tink, tink, tink" of chisels and stone cutting equipment all day long. It is making me feel challenged to create something long lasting and relevant. This is what they have been doing...

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Weather Aboveground

Japan has suffered a major earthquake and tsunami. Mother earth is punishing us with what seems like continual catastrophic events.This winter has been unusual. For the first time in a long time I am not anxious to see it go. The weather has been generous and mostly moderate, whereas the rest of the country has been buried in snow or has been flooding after a record number of storms have pounded three quarters of the country.

Napa has enjoyed what might be considered an El Nina year. Santa Ana winds blew up from the south keeping a wonderful high pressure system in tact a few weeks ago. This has prevented storms that usually move down from the Pacific Northwest to continue moving across to Southeast states like Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

I didn't intend for this to turn into a weather report. but my friend Eric has informed me the the Pacific Northwest with all it’s rain has been getting quite redundant. I’ve been enjoying the rain.I suspect I am in a minority. The picture above is of my friends Dieter and Harrison. This was from the hike we took yesterday from Mt. St. Helena to Calistoga. Innocent enough, but one can see the ominous clouds rolling in from the west.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The New Ipad

Okay, so I took the plunge. I drank the kool aid . Whatever. This thing is really sweet. I am sitting her in St. Helena after a meeting enjoying the ease at which I can do a simple log entry and listen to music, video chat with my brother in Chicago, play a game, check out the web, etc. Etc. ...and it's so much fun!

On a much more serious note, Japan was hit with a major quake today and their are Tsunami warnings for Hawaii and the west coast of the U.S. My prayers go out to the people of Japan.

As I write this, it is Monday and already and SO MUCH has occurred both personally and globally, that it is hard to keep up with it all. Saturday was my grandnephew’s second birthday and it was great being with my relatives and their friends down in Napa. My nephew always does a good job of having a party, and it usually goes off without a hitch.Little Mica has a host of friends and cousins who helped him share this momentous occasion.

Yesterday, I hiked from Robert Louis Stevenson State Park through the Palisades into Calistoga with my friends Harrison and Dieter. The hike took around six hours. We started at 9:45 AM and ended in Calistoga close to 4PM. I am getting in better shape every week I go out. It is already Lent, so I am giving up bread and milk products to augment my diet. I hope to lose around thirty pounds this year. My ideal weight is 155 lbs. and I am currently 185 lbs. Time to get crackin’ !

Sunday, March 06, 2011

March comes in ...

It’s Sunday and the weather is wet and rainy.Perfect for a marathoner, because it will keep you nice and cool when you are well into the race.Around five hundred to a thousand people showed up for this race that was scheduled to go off at 7am.

Joan Benoit Samuelson , who won the First women’s Olympic Marathon event in a time of 2:22:19 in 1984 was the spokesperson who was invited to greet the runners at the start. Her hair is greying, but she still has a striking presence and great physique for a woman well into her fifties.She has been and still is an inspiration to many runners… both men and women.

You wouldn’t find me in the lineup with plans to run the race this year. The last time I had participated was in 1995 and I had jumped into it on a lark. Not surprisingly, I covered the distance in 5:21:24 and was just happy to stop.

In my best shape, I had completed the Oakland Marathon in 1984 in 2:50:14 which is one of my major accomplishments in life.I have missed running in the past few years, but have taken to hiking which still gives me somewhat of an aerobic workout depending on the pace I keep. The endorphins are still there to be had.

The video below shows the start of the race. The siren is a little annoying, but you can see the excitement in the faces of the runners. Joan Benoit is the last runner to go by as I pan the camera ( she is the one in purple ).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Angwin to Calistoga

Yesterday was Sunny and cold in the morning. We ( Harrison, Dieter and I ) started out our long hike from Angwin around 9:30 am, somewhere west of College and White Cottage road.

Being a novice with all the specialized gear and accouterments, I had over prepared myself. After a mile into the uphill start, I began to get hot and sweaty. I immediately shed my sweater and vest,and naturally the backpack was hella crammed with three water bottles, my lunch and sunglass case. Luckily, I was able to squeeze the extra clothes into the pack and continue along the path.

The next thing to get my attention was my ankle. The bone was rubbing up against the inside of my boots... Dammit! I re-laced the boot and it seemed to work, so long as I was walking straight and not doing any lateral moves. However, every time I stepped on a rock that pushed my foot sideways, it hurt. After awhile, I just ignored it so as not to seem burdensome to my fellow travelers.By the end of the hike it was pretty sore.

For Lunch, we stopped at a cool hideaway off the beaten path that only Harrison knew about. It was a cave that someone had built a wooden platform about ten feet up off the ground. You would not find this special spot if you were just hiking along the traditional path. We climbed a small ladder and sat down on little benches and rails and had our lunch ( see pic above ). We were a little past the half-way point of this 12 mile hike and it was around 1 pm.The lunches everyone brought were great, and we all shared what we had. Not to be outdone,Dieter provided us with extra sandwiches and even Truffles for dessert.

Back on the trail, we took a small jaunt over to the top of the Palisades, we then made our way back down the mountain into the town of Calistoga. We arrived about 3:30 PM , so we were hiking for a total of 6 hours including a half hour for lunch. It was pretty awesome.

To view the photo album, go to:My Mobile Me Gallery

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Archer Taylor Reserve

Went for a great hike again at the end of Redwood road in Napa. We got permission to hike around four miles up to some beautiful Falls through snow and many levels of hand-made stairs ( lots of cut logs and pieces of rebar driven into the hillside ) that kept going up and up. We reached “Maggie Peak” just around 10:30 am and continued through some pretty treacherous terrain to this powerful water fall that dropped down from an ascent of about 200 feet.Our group viewed these falls from above and below.This group of radicals could easily swayed to go for a hike... be it on a cold, blustery weekend in February or unseasonably warm one like the previous week.

After meeting at Starbucks in Napa, we checked to see if we had plenty of provisions for the our picnic lunch on the way back. Everyone except me had hiking poles and gloves. Luckily, our group leader Harrison had an extra pair of warm gloves that he lent me. Later people were complaining of frozen hands and fingers.One fellow,Ted didn’t want to use his hiking poles so I found them to be quite useful upon descents on slick rock and crossing streams.

We had initially planned on going on a hike from Calistoga to Anqwin but those plans fell through, so I am grateful that we had this wonderful new area to explore. I had heard about this place when I was living up at Mt. La Salle but never had the opportunity to hike it. A great trek for a great group.