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Summer's End

Sunday, 31 August 2003
written by Teresa

We have lived, breathed and dreamed of F-550s and utility bodies these last few weeks. We have discussed it until even we are bored, we have been round and round, in and out, confusing and dizzying ourselves in the process, worrying at it until the marrow is extracted and the bone dry. Just as our resolve was lagging and our stamina fading, we made a final decision on both counts, placed orders, handed over deposits and escaped from Bakersfield on Friday morning.

We brought with us a bag of almonds picked from the tree we parked next to in the RV Park. I’ve never seen an almond growing and had not realized they came in furry little open fronted jackets. My main experience of the nut is at Christmas time as a child when they were always the last ones left in the bowl, as they were so difficult to crack and open. The ones we picked in Bakersfield were much more obliging, opening with a little twisting pressure in the hand and giving up the sweetest most delicious kernels.

Whiskeytown Lake The all-consuming truck business has been sandwiched between two stays at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Walking along at Brandy Creek campground on our first day, a voice called out asking if we’d like a glass of Sake. Given the influence of Bacchus in the surrounding names, I suppose we shouldn’t have been too surprised. The bottle had been left in the hot Californian sun, doing away with the necessity for the traditional method of warming the wine and to the untutored palate appeared to be perfectly satisfactory. This was not the sophisticated carry-on involving ceramic sake cups but rather a sloshing into picnic plastic and while this might have distracted from the experience it was somehow appropriate given it was produced just up the road and not in the land of the rising sun.

Rice holds sway in the northern part of the central valley. Mile upon mile of the grass sways gently in the light breezes, it’s roots cooled in the standing water, the wonderful lime green colour yellowing as the eye catches a glancing look across the top of a field. West of Sacramento, Interstate Five rises on a causeway from the rich soil of the valley allowing the paddies every available inch of land. Maybe Sake isn’t so strange here after all.

The Recreation Area itself is centred round Whiskeytown Lake and much of its attraction is the water itself. In the sweltering heat of the afternoon, the cool waters are initially shocking on hot skin, producing sharp intakes of breath. Taking the plunge is the only sensible way forward; the alternative inch-by-inch submersion simply prolongs the excruciating experience. Once in, the sensation is a delight and the cooling effect becomes a blessing as the body acclimatises to the temperature. One afternoon, Sterling decided to don his snorkelling gear and while he swam far and wide there was little to report save a few small fish and plenty of rocks lying on the bottom.

It is some years since Sterling did any regular sailing but working on the assumption that it is a little like riding a bicycle, we hired a small sailing boat one afternoon and set off hoping to skim the waves. Zephyr was snoozing and so the speed of our progress was not quite the clipping pace we had envisioned. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful experience to be moving under the power of the breeze with no loud engine breaking the silence of the immediate surroundings. While the technicalities and nautical terms are all a little confusing in their newness, I’m smitten by the whole experience and we’re off out again this afternoon willing the wind to come up.

Doe & Fawn This part of Northern California is probably the least populated area of the whole state. Pine clad hills are the norm and black bears still roam seeking the berries off the Manzanita bushes. Ample evidence of their presence is found on the Davis Gulch Trail in the form of berry filled scat although the influence of people is also obvious in the ketchup sachets that the bears have attempted to digest. Much of the trail follows the line of the reservoir allowing closer looks at the little coves along its shore and wide views out across the water.

Labor Day heralds the official end of summer here in the States and is a little similar to the last August Bank Holiday in the U.K. The roads are full of trucks hauling fruit and vegetables from the fields and in some ways it reminds me a little of seeing the haystacks and sugar beet a year ago. Here the crops are different and we most frequently follow or pass, loads of tomatoes, carrots, garlic or onions. The growing season is beginning to wind down but green corn, rice and ripening vines indicate that it’s not quite done yet. Driving back up to the Recreation area for the holiday weekend, we stop for diesel at a busy petrol station. The place is teeming and in my opinion our timing is perfect. As we’re leaving, a truck turns in towing a trailer piled with boxes of bees. No doubt their pollinating work is done for the year and they’re on their way home. Many of the lids are off and the honey and its producers are clearly visible. Through the safety of the window this is a fascinating sight but believe me it would have been a very different tale if they had pulled in at the pump next to us.

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