So Who Planted the Mangrove Tree?

My favorite lake, close to home is Lake Sonoma. On the north tributary end of the lake is Yorty Creek which boasts, the only beach on the lake and BBQ pits. We have been traveling the long, windy and bumpy dirt road to the lake for about twenty years now.

Children in tow, plus the dog, kayak and fishing pole packed to the gills (pardon the pun) with beach everything, we hang out on the sandy beach, relax and unwind. Once everyone’s happily playing in the water or eating I sufficiently relax getting into my zen, creative mode and take pictures and/or draw the surrounding scenery.

Huge oak trees dot the golden, grassy hills alternating with pine trees on the far end of the hills that slope down on both sides of the blue lake. It’s beautiful, surreal and I love it here. Interesting to me is the smallish tree on the left side of the lake sitting alone on the edge of the water so sweetly, a mangrove tree. Where did it come from and who planted it? This is not a tree indigenous to Northern California. I don’t see any other mangrove trees lining the water’s edge. Just one lonely, not from around here, mangrove tree with long spindly curved trunks and a little umbrella overshadowing its base. A tree that you would see in some far away tropical island ten times its size.

I’ve been drawing the trees in the area for some time now and I know it wasn’t there before. The mangrove tree is quite young, about three years old I guess to myself. But, there it is. I walked along the dirt path winding along the side of the lake to take a look at it in the scorching heat and ended up enjoying its tiny bit of shade. Fishermen cherish the canopy of leaves for its shade to be sure. It’s the only tree around on the dusty pathway where the heat is usually ninety or above during the summer. I sat under it, alone too, enjoying its welcoming comfort. Little finches graced its green foliage and flew off in unison together happy also for its presence. I felt at peace with the world. Who planted it or where it came from, I’ll never know. I am grateful for the mangrove tree, its beauty alone on the far side of the lake.

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Bear Country

For those of you who don’t know me, I am an avid outdoor enthusiast and have been dragged across half the country, camping with my parents and siblings,and now in turn do the same to my family. I have tons of true bear stories to tell, which many of you have already heard, more than once. Maybe someday I will write a book and tell you at length about the bear stories, but for now I will just talk about my experience over our last trip in the Sierras. Everyone knows that when you camp in the mountains you always take your life in your own hands as mountains are inherently dangerous. I can think of many ways to die in the mountains; you can fall off a cliff, drown in a white-water river, get bit by a rattlesnake, get lost in the wilderness for days, chased and eaten by a mountain lion, or be attacked by bears. I very well know all the rules of bear country but this time I broke them, sadly. Number one rule, “No food in your tent!” My poor dog Goldie, who is a senior, went camping with us and loves to chase sticks and logs in the water (she always thinks she’s much younger when around water and plays hard acting like she’s three again). We spent a long day at the lake and when we got back to the camp site late in the evening, much to my dismay did I see she was bleeding quite a bit from her mouth and had broken her teeth from playing with the logs. I was able to get the one tooth out of her gum (a souvenir), but I had given her aspirin for her old bones earlier in the day and aspirin makes blood thin so the bleeding wouldn’t stop. I washed the wound out and iced it, but the blood took its time coagulating, dripping down her legs, which she kept licking, and onto her sleeping bag. I washed her legs with warm soapy water heated from the fire. I knew we were going home the next day, which this time I was grateful for because of her condition. However, I was worried because we were sleeping in bear country and the ranger had said bears had been seen in our area and to keep all food locked up. So what to do? Sleep in the tent with a bloody dog steak, or sleep in the car with a bloody dog steak and three coolers? I’ve seen and heard cars and tents both being broken into by bears, neither was appealing. It was a huge dilemma for me and I thought long and hard on it. Like I said, I know the rules of bear country. I decided I didn’t want to be lonely and scared in the car so I slept in the tent with my hubby and my poor, precious, bloody dog steak, breaking all bear country rules. I stayed awake all night armed with my iPhone with the bear app (aptly called scare bear) in one hand and my flash lite in the other, plus a hammer and a pot lid to bang if needed. I was afraid, I didn’t sleep all night, although my hubby did! No bears ever came during the night and thankfully my dog’s bloody mouth finally coagulated and she is fine. We made it out alive that night, but that is the last time I will ever break the rules of bear country. There’s my latest bear story for now and I’m tired so, goodnight!