Caspar Institute logoitinerary   < 31 March Caspar California   2 April OAK->KOA, Waimea >

Caspar to Oakland 1 April 2013

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Underway: the windy road to Oakland

Sometimes we forget that we live in a temperate rainforest ... especially in times of global drought when we have received only 60% of our anticipated annual rainfall. The principal inhabitants of these parts, and unarguably the noblest lifeforms, the Redwoods, are stressed, but they take an amazingly long view. We are told by those who should know that these are primitives, evolving before the idea of planned obsolescence occured to the Designer, and so they don't know -- as late comer trees like pines and firs do -- that they should live only for a fixed amount of time, then lie down and die. For our native local Shore Pines, the statutory growing span is about a century, at which point an individual begins drawing in its roots and preparing to lie down and sacrifice its biomass for the nurturance of its successors.

Not the Redwoods, some of whom are thought to be more than 4,000 years old. Think of that: lifeforms occupying a holocene time that has practically seen no substantive change for four millennia! In that time, these old souls have blent their roots, so a stand, we are again told by those who should know, are essentially a single magnificent individual.

<p>Redwoods along the Navarro River</p>

Redwoods along the Navarro River

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<p>Anderson Valley</p>

Anderson Valley

Our driveway runs through the rich Anderson Valley, become an important wine producing area. The rounded hills are greener now that at any time of year. The grapes are just beginning to bud -- these vines are destined to become the prize-winning wines of our favorite winery, Navarro. Oh! their late-harvest Gewurztraminer!

Over those hills, which are a spur of the Coast Range, where the weather stubs its toe and drops its burden of rainfall, the life at this time of year is riotous. Two kinds of oaks, one evergreen and one that drops its leaves. In the foreground, at left below, one of these oaks is green with mistletoe and yellow grey with Spanish Moss. Closer up, in the center, the fractal branching of these trees hasn't yet been obscured by green. At right, a roadside Anise, member of the Fennel Club, makes tender, licorice-flavored shoots.

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The driveway gets seriously windy as soon as we leave the valley, with the headwaters of the Navarro tracking alongside us at times. Here, the north slope of the top of the valley harbors a much greener forest that the south-facing hill in the image above -- mixed of oaks, alders, and pines below, shading to Redwoods and firs toward the ridgetop.

Winding down from the crest, rounded hills and vineyards again, but now the dominant lifeform -- they are alive, aren't they? -- assert themselves.

And so, after a little retail therapy necessitated by the trip -- we are not sure they have shoes or dried apricots in Hawaii -- we wend our way through the whizzing beasts to a surprisingly quiet airport motel, and a delicious dinner at Xolo with Damiana and Rich in the rebirthed downtown Oakland, my original hometown.

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