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Caspar, California 1 May 2011

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Caspar is a foreign country

Strange, how travel plans suffuse a familiar place with foreignness as soon as they begin. As we begin thinking how to explore Italy in three months this autumn, I notice vividness and detail, beauty and unexpected strangeness right here in this village where I have lived for more than four decades.

Between our beloved village of Caspar and San Francisco. Between us and “civilization” there is a mountain range, traversed by a twisty road that switchbacks across steep slopes and winds through vineyards and redwood groves, and finally along the Navarro River to its mouth at the Pacific. We think of ourselves as islanders, because we are so far from the city lights, and in winter, when the rivers rise, the powerlines fall, and the mountain slips over the road, we are on an island.

If you will park your mouse over the picture at right, you will see a close-up aerial photo – thank you, Google – of Caspar today. We are behind the word “Us.” (More about us below.) We are between two beautiful beaches, both State Parks.

When Caspar was founded nearly 150 years ago, there was no real road from here to the outside world. For almost a hundred years, the woods behind Caspar were "mined for red gold" -- after the 1906 Earthquake that flattened San Francisco, much of the redwood lumber used  to rebuild The City came by coastal schooner from Caspar's mill. For more about Caspar's history, here is a short summary.

Caspar is on California's Redwood Coast, 200 kilometers north of San Francisco. Mouse-over this image for a close-up map of Caspar.

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<p>Our house</p>

Our house

We live in a house we built with our own hands. You can see by the row of photovoltaic panels along the top that we are partly energy independent, and moving toward a smaller carbon footprint every year. Lower in the picture you can see the hot water panels that heat our hydronic floor. From this angle, the house looks big because it is so tall – it has a workshop in the attic – but it's about 110 square meters (1,200 square feet) in area.

On the second floor, there's a deck with an amazing view. A glass windbreak on the deck's west side protects it from our chilly prevailing northwest winds. 

We have been inventing and reinventing our house for more than thirty years. On another page you can find out more about how we live under our own power.

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Between our house and the ocean is a big field where the Caspar Lumber mill once stored sawn redwood to dry and await its boatride to the Bay Area. During the last decade, the people of Caspar determined that this open meadow was our "sacred space" and we worked hard to preserve it as a State Reserve. Now Caspar's heart is open to the sea. Other coastal towns have not been so lucky, as the desirable headlands properties often get over-built with condominiums and splendid homes. Every day, rain or shine, we see people -- neighbors and visitors -- enjoying the walk on the headlands. Caspar Community -- our village organization -- once hired a director from Iowa, because she said, "Remember, this is my coast, too."

<p>View from our deck on a stormy evening</p>

View from our deck on a stormy evening

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