Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Five-Day Birthday Weekend!

It's my birthday! All of a sudden I'm 39. And I get a five-day weekend for it! I took Monday and Tuesday as vacation from work, but Friday was a surprise: the project I've been working on got rave reviews from an important customer, and I was rewarded with an unexpected day off work. Hooray!

I didn't do much on Friday - slept in, cleaned the house a little, talked to Mikie, went for a run. Fell down during the run, unfortunately. And it wasn't the slow kind of fall where you have a few seconds to try to catch your balance; it was an abrupt headfirst dive. Most of the impact was on the top of my right shoulder. I could hear the fabric of my shirt scraping loudly along the pavement for several inches and was astonished to find afterward that my shirt was not torn or damaged in the least, even though the skin of my shoulder under my shirt was bloodied. That is impressively strong fabric. Not such impressively strong skin, unfortunately. But considering the angle of my fall, I guess I should just be glad that I somehow managed to avoid any direct impact between the pavement and my head.

Then on Saturday I went for a hike. Several hikes, actually. And that's what I'm going to spend the bulk of this post writing about. But before I get to that, I also want to say a little about the rest of the five-day weekend. On Sunday I went to my parents' house for presents and cake. Here's what I got:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  • The Devil That Danced on the Water by Aminatta Forna
  • Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz
  • Field Guide to Birds: Western Region by the National Audubon Society
  • Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo
  • Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
  • Great Food Fast: Bob Warden's Ultimate Pressure Cooker Recipes by Bob Warden
  • Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en

Other Stuff:
  • California poppy seeds
  • baby blue eye seeds
  • bird's eye gilia seeds
  • globe gilia seeds
  • the CD The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  • two atmospheric vacuum breakers for my garden hoses

While opening presents, I observed that there seemed to be an ethnic studies theme to the literature. My mother asked, "Isn't there always?" To some extent, yes, but usually there's an occasional novel or two by a standard-issue First-World Caucasian Person™ to make the theme a bit less obvious. Also sometimes there's less actual literature and more gardening/wildlife/food books so the trends within the literature are less evident. This time it appears I'm just blatantly culture-sampling.

I've already read the Chinua Achebe - I was assigned to read it, in high school, and didn't actually like it much at the time, but wanted to try again - but the other books are new to me.

For my actual birthday (Monday), I hope to manage a short outing by myself, and then on Tuesday I'm planning to go to the California State Fair with my parents and my brother.

Now, about Saturday. Basically I decided to wander around several parks in Nevada City. I looked at Google Maps, noted where the green patches indicating parks were, and noted the directions to all of them. I figured I wouldn't have time to actually go to all of them, but I wasn't sure which ones would end up being interesting, so I figured I'd just go spend time in each of them until I'd had enough and then move on to the next until I ran out of time. I only ended up going to two of them. I also ended up spontaneously wandering around the downtown area a bit. Really, I should spend more time in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area; it's only 45 minutes away from me and is far prettier than anywhere else within 45 minutes of me. (With the possible exception of the Sutter Buttes, but those can only be entered on guided hikes that cost significant money.) Plus, the people there are much less Republican than the people here! Marysville is full of cowboy hats and State of Jefferson bumper stickers; Nevada City and Grass Valley are full of rainbow tie-dye and every kind of left-wing bumper sticker imaginable. They are much more my scene than my own town is. Not that I actually own any rainbow tie-dye. But it would be easier to persuade me to wear rainbow tie-dye than to persuade me to wear a cowboy hat.

You can't really tell, but I decided to wear trail-running shoes. First time I've ever worn them. Didn't actually run much at all in them, since it turns out that running uphill while carrying three liters of water and assorted other supplies on my back is not actually fun. Also, I found that I really do not like my trail-running shoes. My feet ached all day long from lack of arch support. I'll have to put arch support inserts in them in the future.

And if you're thinking that this is an odd outfit to wear for either hiking or trail-running in the wilderness . . . well, I've never claimed not to be odd.


The first thing I did upon arriving in Nevada City was get lost downtown for a while. Rather than continue driving in circles, I decided that actually, downtown looked like a fun place to be. So I parked and walked around aimlessly for a bit. While walking around aimlessly, I happened to notice a giant boulder in someone's front yard with a plaque embedded in it. The plaque says, "Pioneer Emigrant Trail: This boulder was known to the pioneers as the Indian Medicine Stone. On its top are hollows in which the Indians lay while taking sun baths to cure their ills. One branch of the Emigrant Trail leading from Truckee Pass to the gold mines of Nevada County and to the Valley of the Sacramento passed close beside this stone. Tablet placed by the Historic Landmarks Committee, Native Sons of the Golden West. Dedicated October 18, 1986."

Nevada City 2.jpg

That plaque was on on the boulder shown below. In someone's front yard. There's even a sprinkler head in front of the boulder to make the ownership clear. What must it be like to have something like this literally in your front yard? Do you suppose the owners take many sun baths up there? I guess no one but they and their friends can, anymore. Do you suppose they have to chase strangers off their boulder from time to time?

Well, no sun baths for me. That's all right; my skin is too pale to allow me to develop any hope for benefits from sun baths. It's very clear to me that the sun is dangerous to me.

Nevada City 1.jpg

Eventually I got back in my car and actually found my first destination: Pioneer Park. This turned out to feature a public swimming pool, a large playground, a Little League field, an amphitheater . . . a lot of stuff other than the wilderness I was hoping for. I walked through it all, though, and found that there really was wilderness back behind it all. Here is Little Deer Creek flowing through Pioneer Park.

Pioneer Park 1.jpg

The park features a very large picnic area with dozens of picnic tables packed close together; I assume they must rent the place out for large events such as weddings and the like. Near the dozens of picnic tables is this outdoor kitchen with several barbecues (two shown, and at least two more nearby), a sink with running water, a lot of stone countertop space, and off to the left in the background . . . two bathtubs?

Pioneer Park kitchen.jpg

Two bathtubs. Totally the size and shape of any ordinary bathtub you might find in any ordinary house. If you tried to bathe in one, though, you'd probably bump your head on the countertop installed above it. What on earth are these for? Anyone know?

Pioneer Park bathtubs.jpg

Beyond the kitchen, I found my way onto a winding trail that mostly followed Little Deer Creek.

Pioneer Park 2.jpg

The trail eventually crossed the creek, using some boulders as stepping stones and some tree roots as stairs of a sort for scrambling up the other side. With some trepidation about the steep bank I was scrambling up, I crossed the creek and continued on the trail. However, I continued to encounter more and more obstacles that were at least four feet tall and required serious climbing efforts. The trail always continued beyond these obstacles, but eventually it became necessary to accept that even though other people had obviously managed to surmount these obstacles in the past, those other people were probably men over six feet tall or people who had come prepared with actual hiking equipment. I had only brought a backpack with lunch, sunscreen, and a hydration reservoir - and to make matters worse, upon arriving at the park and seeing only the swimming pool, playground, and Little League field, I'd decided to leave my backpack in the car, doubting whether there was any wilderness here to explore at all. So now I was hiking in actual wilderness but had no water. It was time to turn back.

Pioneer Park 3.jpg

In lieu of drinking water, I grazed on apples. This is a non-native paradise apple (Malus pumila) that has naturalized; I saw it all throughout the wilderness areas around Nevada City.

Pioneer Park crabapple.jpg

The trail was mostly bordered with American trail plant (Adenocaulon bicolor), so called because you can potentially follow someone's trail through the wilderness by looking for overturned leaves of this plant. Overturned leaves are easy to spot because the leaves are whitish-colored on the underside. The leaves really do not want to stay overturned, though, so I think the person you're following would have to be running or stomping to do enough damage to the plant to cause the leaves to stay overturned.

Pioneer Park trailplant.jpg

I also saw California harebell (Asyneuma prenanthoides) in bloom with tiny blue flowers.

Pioneer Park California harebell.jpg

As I left the park, I paused to look at another historic marker. This one says, "The Wagon Shed: Generations of Californians living in the northern mines depended for their economics and social well-being on wheel transportation powered by the horse, mule, the ox. The vehicles displayed here represent some of those used to move people, goods and gold. The Nevada County Historical Society, Hydraulic Parlor No. 56, City of Nevada City, California Department of Parks & Recreation, Nevada City Lions Club, and many other civic groups and individuals cooperated to preserve this collection. Dedicated November 27, 1983 by Hydraulic Parlor No. 56 & Grand Parlor Native Sons of the Golden West. Walter G. Perazzo, Grand President."

Pioneer Park wagon shed.jpg

Behind the plaque is the shed itself. The white paper sign on the red wagon inside the shed says, "Beer Wagon: Simon C. Hieronimus Sr. & Jr. used this wagon from 1892 to 1918 to carry barrels of beer to the local taverns in Nevada City, as well as to the hydraulic settlements in You Bet, North San Juan, North Columbia, North Bloomfield & Washington."

Pioneer Park beer wagon.jpg

This really smells like the work of E Clampus Vitus, the gold-country "drinking historical society or historical drinking society." It is of course very important to commemorate the historic transportation of beer to gold miners.

Anyway, after that I drove on to my next stop, along Deer Creek (as opposed to Little Deer Creek). At the former site of Mountaineer Mine on Gold Creek, there is a trail that on most signs and maps is called simply "Tribute Trail," leaving it unclear what exactly the trail is supposed to pay tribute to. Omitting the topic of the tribute from the name of the trail is not a very good way to pay tribute, if you ask me. Anyway, it turns out that the tribute is to the Nisenan, the indigenous people of this area; the trail features various signs that give information about Nisenan culture. It was a fairly busy trail, with not much parking at the trailhead, so I had to park several blocks away and walk from there. While walking toward the trailhead, I paused to photograph this squirrel in an apple tree.

Tribute Trail squirrel.jpg

Here is the actual trailhead.

Tribute Trail 1.jpg

I immediately noticed that poison oak was everywhere. I was glad that my skirt was ankle-length. Also glad to be wearing knee-high socks under it.

Tribute Trail poisonoak.jpg

This was the first of the tribute signs. It shows the names and locations of various Nisenan villages. The Nisenan people also lived in what is now Marysville, but Marysville is well off the left edge of the sign, not included on the map.

Tribute Trail sign 1.jpg

This is the second sign. I was very unimpressed by this sign. Basically all people everywhere have always found multiple purposes to use common plants for. The sign fails to explain why it was special that the Nisenan did this. Also, I did not see any soap root or elderberry plants anywhere near the sign, nor indeed anywhere on the entire trail. If you're going to put up a sign about native plants, it should be near some examples of those plants actually growing in the wilderness.

Tribute Trail sign 2.jpg

The trail forked, and I took the lower trail down to Deer Creek. First, though, I stopped and ate lunch on one of the rustic benches here. This sign is also where, on my way back at the end of the day, I perched my camera to take the picture of myself with which I began this LiveJournal entry.

Tribute Trail 2.jpg

You can see another sign in the distance in the picture above. Below is that sign. I thought this was the saddest sign on the entire trail. "The roughly 300,000 native people of California made up more than 250 tribes or tribelets. The exact number is not known because of the obliteration in modern times of many tribes before they could be recorded." How often in history have people obliterated entire tribes/nations with their own languages and cultures before even taking the time to count how many nations they were obliterating?

The map of the U.S. shows that California - specifically northern California, mostly - had "90 distinct languages . . . with 300 distinct dialects" and "was home to 20% of North America's indigenous languages." Not much survives of most of those languages now.

Tribute Trail sign 3.jpg

The next place I arrived was Deer Creek. The pedestrian bridge over the creek swayed a bit frighteningly as I walked across it. Here is the view from the bridge, facing west.

Tribute Trail Deer Creek west.jpg

Here is the view to the east. The odd shadow at upper right is the shadow of me standing on the bridge.

Tribute Trail Deer Creek east.jpg

At the end of the bridge was an attractive little sitting area with some feathers and rocks arranged to be looked at.

Tribute Trail benches.jpg

When I was talking to Mikie on Friday, he was complaining being unable to go outdoors and do anything fun because of the current heat wave in Spain. I suggested swimming in a swimming hole in the wilderness. He explained that it's illegal in Spain to swim in the wilderness without a lifeguard. I said, "Oh . . . I guess Spaniards are more finicky about safety issues than Californians." Mikie replied, "Definitely! I still can't believe the complete lack of guardrail on that trail you took me on up Nevada-Vernal Falls in Yosemite in 2003! It was terrifying!"

Mikie would not have liked this trail either. What can I say? We Californians kind of like our trails guardrail-free.

Tribute Trail 9.jpg

This is a view down toward the creek.

Tribute Trail 3.jpg

And this is a zoomed-in version of the center of the picture above. I didn't go all the way down to the creek because I didn't want to disturb this couple, who were sitting in the only spot it looked possible to get to without climbing through poison oak.

Tribute Trail 4.jpg

The next sign I saw advised me to "see if you can spot Native American rock art and indigenous plants significant to the Nisenan culture." Unfortunately I arrived at the sign only after passing through the area where I was supposed to look for such things. I did not spot any Native American rock art.

Tribute Trail sign 4.jpg

I did spot this thoroughly modern drainage pipe that was thinly disguised as a fallen tree. I appreciated the effort to disguise it.

Tribute Trail drainage.jpg

The last sign I came to was this one about the Mountaineer Mine. In California, wherever there was a historic building labeled "Cyanide Plant," it is always a good bet that there were also historic buildings labeled "Chinese Cabins" somewhere nearby. Any kind of job that was likely to kill people was likely to be a job for Chinese men. (Chinese women were, for the most part, not allowed into the United States at all.) It's unfortunate that the sign doesn't actually say any of that. Mustn't actually discuss any ethnic groups other than the Nisenan on the Nisenan Tribute Trail, I guess.

Tribute Trail sign 5.jpg

Where there were once Chinese cabins, there will be invasive Chinese trees-of-heaven . . . lingering, reproducing, impossible to obliterate, long after the cabins are gone. Here they are: baby Chinese trees-of-heaven, sprouting everywhere. (Also another apple tree in the background.)

Tribute Trail 7.jpg

Here, have some more of them. I can see how they would be attractive trees when grown in a place where the ecosystem keeps them under control. They are a menace in California, though.

Tribute Trail 8.jpg

I also noticed some native California grapevines bearing fruit. It's always good to notice food plants. In the event of apocalypse, I might live slightly longer than some people due to knowing what to eat.

Tribute Trail grapes.jpg

Mostly, though, it was just a typical mid-elevation landscape on the western slope of the northern Sierra Nevadas.

Tribute Trail 6.jpg

Which is to say that it's quite a beautiful landscape. I really should go back soon and visit the rest of the parks in Nevada City to hike at all of them too.

Tribute Trail 5.jpg
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