Lake Sonoma’s Yorty Creek

We are a Lake family. Tom and I raised our kids practically on Lake Sonoma, specifically the Yorty Creek recreational area. Every chance we could get we would hang out on the beach, by the lake with our kids and our dog. The kids grew up out there. We brought grandparents, cousins, friends, visitors. Everybody we were close to, had to come with us to the lake; where we played, swam, kayaked and picnicked for days on end.

Back on April of 2010 we were coming out of, I will say a mini-drought. I wrote a blog post with pictures of the lake under drought conditions, but was happy to report in the same post that there was plenty of water from the latest storms for our summer adventures by the water.

Not this year though. Never in 26 years have I seen the lake…empty. It’s dry, ugly, murky and pretty much looks like the dead sea. We walked along the dry, barren cliffs, kicking around dust and clods of dirt. Finding fresh water clams, of course dead. We were actually I think stunned, silent and just walking, each one of us in our own world of thoughts. Disoriented even, the landscape looked that different! Wondering what happened? Where was our beautiful lake? Where is the water? Why hasn’t it rained? Even the sporadic green bushes were gone. We tried fishing it to no avail. Weary hunters passed us by silently, looking like they too were disheartened by the whole day.

We are in a serious drought. I realized standing there, how we must never take our water for granted. How we need to thank God for it. How we really need to do a rain dance and pray for rain. This lake is our drinking supply and for our farming and wine industry. We have a fish hatchery connected to the lake and annual spawning, salmon runs. This year is really, bad. What will happen to us if we don’t get rain next year? I couldn’t bare to think past that… This is a depressing post, I know. But, the reality of it all is there and posted here for you to see.

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Bamboo Pens

20130721-143318.jpgMany times I have said, simple things can bring me so much pleasure. I just discovered bamboo pens to use with liquid ink. Not calligraphy ink pens bought from a store, but homemade, ink pens made from dried bamboo! My discovery started when I bought a book named, One Drawing a Day by Veronica Lawlor. I love this book because it encourages me to get back into my creative state of mind and draw.

One of the first exercises in the work book is painting a picture using bamboo pens. Even though I have many different types of calligraphy pens, I didn’t have any pens made out of bamboo lying around my house. In fact, I never even heard of them. I knew about quill pens; you know, the ink nib with the long feather on top (I bought plenty of those as a teen). Venturing further and having to look it up on the internet, I learned about this traditional Japanese and Arabic art of using bamboo reed pens for calligraphy and how to make them yourself. How fun to create a pen made from a bamboo plant!

I love glass bottles of ink with their rich colors and have lots of them in my art storage for calligraphy and drawing. But, since I didn’t have a bamboo pen on hand, I would need to create one for the project from my book. I went into my garden to find some old, dried bamboo sticks I remembered seeing lying around, brought them inside, found my paring knife and proceeded to carve the bamboo with wells to hold the ink and wooden nibs on both ends. They are so easy to make! Mine may not be perfect but they work beautifully and I love them. The art really does take on a new, ‘Look‘ and I have an art tool which is ancient, but to me, brand new! The nice flow of ink makes it feel more like painting instead of drawing. So cool!


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.


Sugarloaf Mountain



Last weekend for my daughter’s birthday we took a trip to Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park off Highway 12 in Kenwood,Ca. Spring is the perfect time of year to visit as the weather was just right! Hiking, picnicking, stargazing at the Robert Ferguson Observatory, and camping are fun activities available at the park. I noticed some campers braved the still, chilly nights and pitched their tents along the stream, but the best reason to visit the park in spring is to catch the wildflowers in bloom! The tall, willowy grasses are green this time of year, blanketing the hills and splashed with colorful wild flowers lining the trails that meander throughout the park. Deep shades of purple lupin, pale yellow lilies and pretty white faces of yarrow and California poppies are throughout the park, to name a few. Dogs are not allowed on the trails so my dog and I had fun moseying along the road, photographing the wildflowers while the teenagers hung out at the picnic table chatting; too cool to walk with me I guess! The road leads to the Robert Ferguson Observatory where you can stargaze. I could see the California Mule Deer grazing on the grassy mountains in the distance while I was enjoying the view. When you visit here, you are lower on the food chain, so be aware of your surroundings as mountain lions could be lurking! This is a perfect place to start your summer “hot bod” by hiking straight up the trail to the top of Bald Mountain! If you are super fit then park your car before the park entrance at the trail head that leads to a gorgeous waterfall. (I can never find the parking turnout and trail head so just drive up and ask the ranger). Once you find the pullout and trail head, hike down the mountain to the waterfall which takes you to a magical place lush with green ferns, moss and a beautiful canopy of trees. I think I just saw a leprechaun…moment. Bring your camera and take your family’s next Christmas photo here to send to your friends! Pack your lunch as you will want to hang out awhile before you make the steep climb back up. (I suggest you have your heart checked out first with your doctor before you do this hike!) Also, In the summer there might not be a waterfall, as the creek that feeds it gets low, so ask the ranger first before you go! This is a State Park and has a fee. Click for more information. Have fun!

Spring Lake

On Friday, I decided to walk somewhere else for a change rather than my usual route. I try to walk every day and like to mix up the routine once in a while so I don’t get bored. (That way I’ll keep exercising to stay healthy!) It had been a long time since I visited Spring Lake in Santa Rosa. After taking the kids to school, getting some coffee, (extra energy boost) and a protein breakfast (Dr.’s orders) my dog, Goldie, and I set off for the lake. Now, mind you, it’s early Friday morning, middle of winter, I’m thinking it will be quiet, no one will be there.. Nooo such luck! I was surprised to see so many cars in the parking lot during the wee hours of the morning! There are three different entrances to the park. I chose the Howarth Memorial Park entrance which has free parking. Goldie and I joined the ranks of fellow dog walkers, joggers, bicyclists, mothers pushing strollers- folks of all ages walking. I couldn’t believe how many people were there! Don’t people work on Fridays anymore? My dog and I took the paved pathway named Kerfoot trail. The pathway route I took winds to the right by the water towers after a small incline, and heads toward the campground and then turns left down to the boat dock, around the loop and back to Howarth Park. In all, it’s only about a three mile walk, unless you take a side trail. Please refer to map so you don’t get lost! There are lots of dirt trails, so definitely bring a map if you decide to go off the beaten path. I brought my camera, which I had planned, and took tons of pictures of the beautiful lake, landscapes, and wildlife. Years ago I almost got stampeded upon by a herd of deer running through the woods and I didn’t have my camera with me so now I am always camera ready! Spring lake is beautiful, the jewel of Santa Rosa. The lake’s surface sparkled like silver in the sunlight. I found my peaceful space amongst the other people enjoying the park and took lots of pictures. The trail usually takes about an hour or less, but if you are like me you will want to putts around, enjoy the views, play, meditate and pray! (There is a big white cross on the mountain over looking you to remind you!) I love living in Sonoma County and know how Blessed we are to have this wonderful park in our own backyard. If you go you will want to spend more than an hour. If you are energetic you can fish, boat, catch crawdads, bird watch or swim in the lagoon next to the lake. Camping is also fun at Annadel state park, which is connected to Spring Lake Regional Park.
Bring your family and friends and have a picnic. I try to avoid the crowds so weekdays work best for me! 😉 Have fun!



Saralee’s Vineyard

Last summer we moved close to my old stomping grounds. I happily discovered, that you can walk through the vineyard off an old country lane and you can bring your dog! So part of my walking route usually incorporates the vineyard and it’s bounty of wildlife, which my dog loves. This is where the wild turkeys like to hangout, which I talked about in an earlier post last fall. It’s a pretty, little area and a good place to calm the mind and ponder life. Thank you, Saralee for letting us enjoy the vineyard!

Autumn Past

I haven’t blogged in some time now, except for the occasional photo and one- liners sent from my cell phone on my moblog, This past summer we moved our family of six twice. It was incredibly painful, the economy hit our family hard, really hard, but…that’s another story- you’ll just have to read the book! 🙂 Now that we have settled down and I have recovered, I am back to blogging! I really wanted to share with you my photos of autumn in Sonoma County, which is in Northern California (for those of you who might not know where I live). I love how the hot summer days here turn to cool, breezy autumn days, such a welcome relief! In October we had two, 100 degree weeks back to back, but we still managed to pull it off, “Thank you God!” I lived in Ohio through my teen years and what I miss most were the spectacular autumns. Californians experience fall but you might have to hunt it out! I have found some favorite neighborhoods and parks where I like to walk my dog Goldie and take in all the beauty. I find myself collecting brilliant yellow and gold leaves, fiery red and orange burnished oak leaves, acorns, berries, and like a kid, pick up the giant leaves bigger than my 24 inch TV screen and bring them home to wave and show off to my family. Here are some pictures I took on my morning walks.