Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Negro Bar

Last weekend I went to a place called Negro Bar. No, it's not a historical monument to a racially segregated drinking establishment. It's a land formation in the American River, but I don't know how the place came to be called that. But I didn't actually see the bar itself. I just went to the park that's named after the bar.

My trip was inspired by the fact that a fellow photographer from my neighborhood, from whose website I've gained some local photography ideas in the past, recently found my photo gallery and saw that I mentioned his, and emailed me to tell me about some other places I might want to photograph. Negro Bar was one of them, but before that, I stopped off at a different one - Nimbus Dam. He said there was a great view of the Sacramento Valley there.

At the entrance to the viewpoint, I was greeted by a sign saying I must pay $3 to enter. Since there was no gate and no humans present, and since my father has mentioned to me in the past that virtually nobody ever gets ticketed for not paying at entrances along the American River Parkway, I was tempted to just drive on in without paying. Not being much of a risk-taker at all, however, I instead stopped to pay. Or rather, to try to pay. But the metal box under the sign asking for payment gave these instructions: "Place money in an envelope and write your name on the envelope. Place envelope in box. The ranger will compare your identification with the identification written on the envelope." No envelopes or writing instruments were provided, and I don't happen to just routinely carry envelopes (or for that matter, any paper at all) with me wherever I go. Nor have I routinely carried writing instruments, in the past; currently, though, I do carry a very tiny purple fountain pen given to me by rekraft. But the pen was no use when I had no paper to write on. And with no envelope to write on, there was no way that leaving money in the box could possibly exonerate me from trespassing charges. Nor was there any way to prevent the next person who showed up from just stealing my money, since the box opened wide for every passerby who cared to open it, rather than having just a small slit to drop money in. So I resigned myself to just following the example of the vast throngs of other non-paying visitors. Congratulations, American River Parkway management, for having gone to extreme lengths to finally make a lawbreaker out of me!

But because I am, as I said, not much of a risk-taker at all, I only stayed for about five minutes before driving away in fear of imaginary and incompetent park rangers. Though there really didn't seem to be much worth staying more than five minutes for anyway. There was just a parking lot with a view, and that was about it. So I took three pictures of the view during my five-minute stay. To the east you can see a bit of the Sierra Nevadas.

To the southeast you can see . . . well, a great big bush in the foreground. It's probably a native plant, but it would have to be blooming for me to have any hope of identifying it. And you can see the completely empty Nimbus Dam parking lot. The dam itself is just barely out of sight to the right of this photograph, but I didn't photograph the dam itself, because (a) it wasn't that pretty, and (b) the great big bush conspired with some trees and a chain-link fence to prevent me from being able to photograph it from any angle I liked without having the chain-link fence visible. Everywhere that I would have liked to push my camera through the chain-link fence, the bush or the trees were in the way.

So here's my last picture at Nimbus Dam, still standing in basically the same spot from which I took the other two. For this one I did push my camera through the chain-link fence. I like how this one makes the landscape look more like a little model train-set landscape.

I then proceeded to Negro Bar, where I was nearly foiled again by the American River Parkway management's determined efforts to prevent me from being able to pay. There was still no gate and no humans present, but this time there was a vastly more technologically advanced method of paying: a touch-screen computer with slots to insert a debit card or cash. The only problem was that the colors were so extremely weakly displayed on the screen, and the glare of the sun on the screen was so strong, that I absolutely could not for the life of me see the buttons displayed on the touch-screen that I was supposed to choose from. A voice recording informed me that I was supposed to touch the button for the type of admission I wanted, which was helpful of it since I would probably not have been able to figure this out otherwise. Unfortunately, the voice recording did not go on to elaborate on what the buttons said on them. This park entrance is not blind-people-friendly, and I unexpectedly found myself blind! After several minutes of extreme eye strain, I figured out that one of the buttons was for boat-launch admission, and another of the buttons seemed to be probably for senior citizen admission. Unfortunately, neither of these buttons was the one I wanted, and there were about seven other buttons left to choose from that I couldn't read the writing on at all. Finally I just decided that since the type of admission I wanted was standard non-senior/non-boat-launch admission that seemed like sort of the ultimate default "typical" admission, the upper left-hand corner seemed like the most likely place that such a default form of admission would probably be placed. I still couldn't actually see the upper left-hand button at all, but I pushed it anyway. It was sort of like writing a blank check, since I had already put in my debit card. But then the machine printed out a ticket with text I could actually read! The ticket informed me that I had guessed correctly and obtained the correct form of admission, and that the price I had paid was $5. It seems to me that with all those $5 fees, the management should be able to afford a machine with a readable screen and some blind-people-accessible voice instructions as a backup.

I climbed down the riverbank along this path, lined on each side with clumping sedges.

The path branched about ten feet from the river, with this branch running parallel to the river along the riverbank. I didn't take this branch, but the path sure looked nice. Maybe if I had gone that way, it would have led me to the actual Negro Bar.

Instead, I went directly down to the river and turned the opposite direction from the path above. I actually walked on that little narrow strip of rocks you see here, down past the first bridge and up to the second bridge.

But first I stopped to photograph the river flowing around a rock. It's the same rock you can see sticking slightly out of the water in the picture above. Look! Here there is water flowing over this red rock. Someone should tell J. Alfred Prufrock.

In the trees along the shore, there were tiny yellow birds hopping from branch to branch.

Anyone know what kind of birds these are?

When I reached the first bridge, a very unpleasant thing happened. There was a bit of very squelchy mud that I had to cross, that reminded me of quicksand. I got through it all right, but then I wanted to photograph the bridge from a particular angle that required me to go into a different section of mud. This section was even more squelchy than the other, and the next thing I knew, I tried to take a step but my foot came out of my shoe and my shoe stayed in the mud and I couldn't get my foot back into my shoe before I had to put my foot back down to keep my balance, so I ended up with my sock foot up to my ankles in mud. And then as soon as I successfully retrieved my shoe and put my hideously muddy foot back into it, the same thing happened to my other foot! It was all quite disgusting. I retreated to this rocky river area here, and sat on the bank while I attempted to wash out my shoes and socks in the river. It didn't work very well. In fact, even after I got home and put my socks through the washing machine, the next time I wore those same socks after they were washed, I noticed that they were still full of sand.

Here is the view of the other bridge in the distance, from where I sat under the first bridge to wash out my shoes and socks.

A creek-like bit of water extended under the bridge for a considerable distance away from the river.

The bridge architecture was rather photogenic.

The water under the bridge helped improve the effect, too.

That island-like bit of land to the right is where I came from.

There was graffiti under the bridge too, but as usual, Sacramento-area graffiti artists just don't merit the term "artists" at all.

I don't know what that groundcover plant is, but it sure looked happy there.

Now I'm past the bridge, looking back at it. Here, have some boulders.

In one clearing, these tall, reed-like things were everywhere.

Sometimes it's remarkable how similar ostensibly natural areas can look to an artificially landscaped yard. There's even a sort of rock border separating the grassy area from the shrubby area.

You can see a bit of the second bridge through the trees here.

When I emerged from under the trees, I saw this. This is where I spent the rest of my time until the sun went down. Climbing on those boulders out there. Eventually, I went all the way to the top of the tallest one - the clump toward the right in this picture.

Somehow I never think to check the sky before I go out photographing. But sometimes I get fantastically lucky, like here, when the sky randomly happens to be amazing that day.

Now, how to get across?

I was not really sure it was possible to get across, but at around this time, a guy with a camera of his own showed up and found his way out there. I still wasn't sure whether it would be possible for me to get across, though, and also I wanted him to leave first so I could go out there alone. But then a mother and two children aged about six and eight showed up, and the kids went across too. So a while after that I started trying to find my way out there too, because if kids that age can do it, then I should be able to also, and at this point there'd be more people there than just two of us.

I'm partway across! And still wondering how in the world I'll ever find my way. I hadn't paid enough attention to exactly where and how the rest of them crossed. I know I'm heading at some point for that big flat rock toward the upper right, though.

Now I'm at the big flat rock. It turns out to be full of holes! I recognized them as the indentations left from the Nisenan nation of Native Americans grinding acorn mush with stones into those indentations for years on end, but I was very surprised that I hadn't seen any sign identifying them. I've never known such indentations to be unmarked. Later I discovered that there was a sign on the shore identifying them. I was glad that I hadn't seen the sign until after I discovered them on my own, because having a sign instruct you to go look at something really takes the fun out of discovering it on your own.

The Nisenan must have had quite a crowded kitchen here.

I hope acorn mush tastes amazing, because I don't think I'd have the patience for all that food preparation.

A huge house on the hillside overlooks the Nisenan kitchen. (Or is that the Sudwerk Riverside restaurant? A commenter claims it is. The location is right, but it doesn't seem to much resemble the other side of the Sudwerk Riverside restaurant. The restaurant must be one of those buildings in the picture, though.)

The two kids and the other photographer all went away at exactly the perfect time, when I was just arriving at the tallest rock and the sun was just setting. I stayed on the tallest rock to watch the sun set.

Going . . .

Going . . .

Gone! Okay, that's actually the other arc of the bridge, not the one that the sun was visible through. But the sun did set. The sun has already set seven times since then.

About 0.5 seconds after the sun finished setting, two women showed up with a tiny dog and started climbing out toward the big boulder I was perched on. Since the sun had already set, I decided to go back to the shore and leave the boulder to them.

But it wasn't really that dark yet. The sky started turning more colors in the next ten minutes after the sun had set.

A fourth woman showed up on the shore at this point, with a camera of her own, and started photographing everything in sight. This place definitely attracts photographers.

If you look closely at this photo, you can see the two women with the dog (but not the dog itself) on the very far right, next to the large boulder, and you can see the other woman with the camera on the shoreline toward the left.

But I prefer the illusion that I'm the only one there.

Oh well, I'm not. In fact, I felt crowded by the other photographers, so I just took one last photo here before I started the walk back to my car. You can see the two women again in this one.

Maybe this peninsula here is "Negro Bar"?

Near my car, I found a boat-launch ramp and walked out to the end of it to take pictures. First facing back in the direction I had just come from . . .

And then facing toward the sunset.

Hundreds of seeds floated off into the distance.

And then I went home. And had sore legs for the next four days! I hadn't even known it was possible for sore muscles to last longer than three days. I didn't even walk that far at all, so it must have been the rock-climbing muscles that I haven't had any occasion to use in years. Ouch. But I'm finally recovered now!
Tags: photographs
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