Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lassen Volcanic National Park, Burney & McCloud Falls - plus dinner in Mineral, California

It's summer! Time for geographical adventure and vacation photos! That aren't boring, I promise/hope. This summer, Keith is working a lot and airline-ticket costs are very prohibitive, so we've been visiting, as Jackson puts it, "The most desolate places of California," via car. Having already traipsed across Death Valley in the Spring and the Eastern Sierras, we decided the time had come for Mt. Lassen.

Keith's been talking up Lassen for months now, but we had no idea what we were getting into. Lassen is a National Park that nobody I know has ever visited, nor do they have any idea what's there, other than a former volcano, nor do they know where it's located (southeast of Redding—now you know). I, until recently, was one of those people. The park's motto, Explore the Undiscovered, is apt.

But now I know more than most because we ended up visiting the park twice in two weeks, due to my losing my camera (at Lake Helen, one of many volcanically formed lakes) during the first visit. A kind, honest camper found it and turned it in, anonymously, so to you, whoever you are, THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I had no idea I was so attached to my little orange Canon PowerShot until I lost it, full of Lassen photos (and videos—this tiny camera also takes decent video), so we appreciate your turning it in to the lost & found. Note: if your lost item ends up in a National Park lost & found, the park will mail it to you—our tax dollars at work. But I felt the need to retrieve my camera, due to its delicate nature. Plus, visiting Lassen again—worth it.

First, a visit to nearby McCloud and Burney Falls. We're waterfall aficionados, having lived by so many of them in SW Washington state, but California is experiencing one of its worst droughts in a century, so we didn't think we'd get much of a waterfall experience any time soon. Wrong! Burney Falls is fed by underwater springs so potent, they never dry up. They form a sort of geological sandwich between layers of Earth's crust. That's right—water counts as a layer, at least around Burney. Look at all this water...

That's a lot of water. Watch out for falling rocks on your way down to the cool, cool pools, bridges and trails below.

We did see a gigantic boulder in the middle of the road, but not on this hike

McCloud has a three-tier waterfall and you can swim at two of its levels. We chose not to, but plenty of people were taking the McCloud plunge and they looked happy and refreshed. Not as spectacular and mind-blowing as Burney, but worth a stop, especially with little kids, older people, or people with decreased mobility. You can park at one of three lots, or walk the trail up and down. A very convenient waterfall experience.

McCloud is a pothole fall—look at all these potholes

Tiny dot in the pool is a swimmer

Our stay in Burney was uneventful, and that's good for a motel by the road. There's also lots of cabins and campsites available throughout the area, but we wanted to crash and shower easily and efficiently after a long day on the road and several hikes.

What's in Lassen? Before you enter the north side, if you crave traveling through a thousands-year-old lava tube, stop by Subway Cave. It's a cave that's very much like a subway tunnel, with former lava chunks dotting your path. It's also really cool in there, temperature-wise—perfect on a hot day. You go in and pop out a third of a mile away. Happy lava travels.

Bring flashlights

Pack your bathing suits because there's plenty of lakes in the park. Pristine, glass-like, volcanically formed lakes full of various shades of blue-green water. So refreshing.

Summit Lake - drive right up and jump in, no hiking necessary

Rain in the sunshine at Summit Lake

A three-hour round-trip hike will reward you with three mountain lakes—Terrace, Shadow and Cliff (we didn't get to Cliff due to time constraints and a kid who hates hiking). Why are there three beautiful, swimmable lakes so close together in one mountainous area? Because it's that kind of park.

Terrace Lake - a 15-minute hike downhill through the woods

Shadow Lake - ten minutes from Shadow Lake

Then there's Lake Helen, just off the main road. This is where I dropped my camera and we drove off, not realizing it was missing for a few miles. Oh, the anxiety! This is another, park-and-swim lake. Just lakes everywhere you go, as if we were in Minnesota or something.

Lassen peak in the background

Devastated Area Interpretive Trail has plenty of volcanic background story and gigantic tossed rocks from the last huge volcanic explosion of 1915. Anyone can do this walk. It's flat, short and paved.

Plenty of mountain peaks throughout your journey. Plus July is the month for wildflowers. We had no idea. We just stumbled upon all these flowers, especially on the hike to Kings Creek Falls, which starts on a hillside before heading toward multiple meadows with the creek flowing throughout the trail before you get to the falls.

We were actually lost when I found this columbine - very Alice in Wonderland
Kings Creek Falls - it's not the biggest during a drought year, but still quite nice

For something completely different and inarguably weird, head down to Bumpass Hell. Named after a guy named Bumpass, who had dreams of sulphur-mining glory before falling into the boiling hot streams running throughout the area and getting his leg amputated as a result, Bumpass Hell is not a typical hiking destination. We did it at the end of a busy day and we were TIRED. The elevation of the park had something to do with our energy levels. We were walking over rocky, steep terrain at around 8,000 feet, so plan for that.

Still, I'm very glad we got to Bumpass because, just look at it. It smells like rotten eggs. That's what you want at the end of your day. There's boardwalks throughout the area so you won't hurt, maim or kill yourself once you get to the smoking fumaroles, which hiss and shoosh loudly as you approach, adding to your Dante's Inferno-like experience. Plus there's boiling mud. BOILING MUD, I tell you!

Signs warn to stay on the boardwalk or risk serious injury or death
Not a place for the overly anxious

A roaring fumarole - what more could you want?

An nearby algae-filled stream

This little bird is hopping in the green stream like it's no big thing

Sometimes you just can't do a hike but you want to see some boiling mud and hydrothermal activity. You can drive right up to the Sulphur Works near the south entrance to the park and walk along the sidewalk for crazy otherworldly sights.

I found this interesting (besides the fact that I was staring at a large pool of rapidly boiling mud by the side of the road)—this branch in the mud had weird hieroglyphic-like markings from being boiled. At least I saw imagery in it. Do you?

Jean-Michel Basquiat-like hydrothermal art?

On the other side of the road is a deep valley with a stream (of course) and lots of steam coming up through the ground. It was too late in the day for a decent photo, but perhaps this will give you an idea.

Sulphur Works - looking down from the road

Be sure to stay at the Mill Creek Resort, little cabins in the woods, south of the park. No TV, wifi, or traffic. That's pretty nice. If you miss the resort's dinner hour (kitchen closes at 6:30), the nearby Mineral Lodge has one cafe to meet your needs.

Mineral Lodge - the only game in town - good food, nice bar, pool table, Shrek pinball

Come the dawn, there might be a deer or two on the porch, or perhaps a wood chipmunk in your kitchen trash can. "We get that a lot around here," laughed the owner when I told him about that visitor. Also, he called them "critters," which I liked.

Be sure to have breakfast out on the Mill Creek Resort deck, so you can watch dozens of hummingbirds battle one another for multiple-feeder territorial rights. Hummingbirds are fierce. The pancakes and French Toast are really good too. The Harley Davidson riders having a hearty breakfast at the next table are good. Everything's good.

This guy's a fighter - don't mess with his feeder

They're not being cute - they want to kick each other's asses

Temporary respite

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Skull Show - Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA - 2014

Do you like skulls? How about art? Do you like skulls as represented by artists from multiple disciplines across time and space? Then, make your way to delightful Walnut Creek, California where the Bedford Gallery is curating the skull show to end all skull shows. What could be more universally relevant than a skull? We've all got one, that's for sure. Celebrate your skull from June 12th to August 31st. Contemplate the artful possibilities of the cranium, while reflecting on our impending mortal plane. It's refreshing, morbid and terrifying all at once.

A sampling of skulls, most of which are for sale, but not at bargain-rate prices. Skulls are precious and don't come cheap, ya know. Here's a few skulls that caught my eye. The exhibit itself is really extensive (90 artists) and afterwards you'll feel like you just toured a freaky psychedelic mausoleum. You'll contemplate some deep issues, is my guess, and then you'll laugh it off and get yourself a chocolate milkshake or something to celebrate life. But the show will linger in your consciousness, won't it. Yes, it will.

Eye-catching, isn't it?

Laurel Skye - Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride (2014)

Derik Van Beers - Angel Headed Hipsters / Thanks Allen (2012)

Maureen Shields - a collection of ceramic plates with skulls (2014)

Molly Hatch - Spk Outa Turn and Don't Gotta Listen (2012)

Andy Stattmiller - He-Man Master of the Universe nesting dolls (2014)

Pete Hickok - I Wish This Night Would Never End (2012)

Jim Skull - Mr. Smith (2008)

Fred Einaudi - Patriot (2008)

Noah Scalin - selections from the Skull-A-Day project

Ester Hernandez - Sun Mad (1981)

Here's a detail from Enrique Chagoya's My Tattoos (2012). What I found interesting about this was that I have this particular tattoo myself, or at least a similar one. Chagoya added the skull in the dragon's mouth and played with the original image, which I found many years ago in A Coloring Book of Incas, Aztecs & Mayas and Other Precolumbian Peoples, published by Bellerophon Books in 1988.

Here's my tattoo, from the early 90s, when all us girls were starting to get them. I got mine at Lyle Tuttle's shop in San Francisco. The artist, whose name escapes me, had plenty of Precolumbian artwork going up his arm, including a very fine Olmec head. This convinced me to hire him. The image is a mystery to me because out of all the illustrations in my coloring book, it's the only one that's unlabeled. It's also tiny-sized, printed in the corner of a page of Mayan ball players, as if an after-thought. Where did it come from? Does anyone out there know? Enrique Chagoya and I want answers.

 Chagoya's My Tattoos monotype in full:

A final skull in this post.  Joshua Harker's Crania Geodesica skull installation with light-projection mapping. It really belongs in the dark at a dance party with techno music. But I put some She Mob music over it, because the song is live, it's called Party, and I think it's appropriate. Maybe this will get its proper environment during the Bedford's Arts & Craft Beer event on July 31st, 6 - 8 pm. 'Til then...


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Brady Bunch Fashion Spread - Marcia's Fair Opponent

We're on a 70s-era roll around here. I'm going to keep it going with a Brady Bunch episode that's always haunted me. I don't sit around thinking about the Brady Bunch too often, but back in my youth, I was fairly obsessed with the show. There's something about coming from a small family (me, with one brother) that attracts kids to larger families. And the Brady Bunch was such a large and cheerful group.

They looked somewhat groovy and very Southern California cool, if polyester and garish colors can be cool (they were for a moment there), but their demeanor was Gee Whiz! It's all going to be OK within the next 20 minutes! What a comforting feeling that is during childhood. And I will say this, no matter how cornball or dopey the plotlines could get, the Bradys had charm in abundance. And chemistry. They seemed to genuinely get along, at least for the most part.

This episode from the third season, My Fair Opponent, was a Marcia story. Out of all the Bradys, Marcia and Greg were the ones I least related to. They were way older than me (I was around Susan Olsen's [Cindy's] age), and way too confident for my anxiety-ridden liking. Marcia in particular was the height of perfection for 70s teen girlhood in Any-Suburb, USA. She had that California girlish demeanor down cold. She was the kind of girl who might say hi to me in the hallways of high school, but only if no one else was walking in her sight-line, and she had witnesses, so if I said "hi," she would be forced to acknowledge me. But only then.

No, I don't think about the Bradys much at all.

Mrs. Brady says c'mon in to the 70s—the Dacron's fine!

We begin this episode with an unusual establishing shot of the Brady house—from the left. An almost sinister quality to this angle, with the ominously dark foreground foliage.

Anyway, Marcia is angry. Really angry. How angry? This angry:

Don't make Marcia mad

Some popular girls at school have nominated Molly Weber as Fillmore Junior High's banquet night hostess. And Molly's a total loser, so they think it's funny. Since Marcia usually focuses on all things Marcia—which includes clothes, boys she likes and school activities—to see her this riled up over a social injustice is kind of a character-changing moment.

She decides to give Molly a makeover, My Fair Lady style, but in a kind, sensitive fashion, not just bulldoze over her, like some kind of mini-skirted Henry Higgins. Sounds good. As Molly enters the Brady compound, we see Marcia has her work cut out for her.

Molly is not only clinically shy, but clumsy and obviously parented by repressed people, living in a time wrinkle from the early 50s. She serves not only as Marcia's project, but to highlight how groovy the Brady-girl style is, at least in comparison. Molly can't understand why she was nominated as banquet hostess and even good-natured Peter Brady judges her a "wipe-out" (although, not to her face, which isn't very realistic for middle-schoolers—in my experience). The Brady-girl bedroom decor is a blend of little-girlishness with Go Ask Alice.

Marcia offers to work on Molly's demeanor to win the coveted title of banquet hostess. Thereby follows the "improvement montage," which entails Molly balancing a book on her head for a stately walk, learning to greet people with "poise and dignity," hemming her horrible dress to mini-skirt height, and submitting to Marcia's painful hair-styling technique.

And just like that—POW-Zingo! Molly's a knockout in a granny-square crochet vest.

The Brady boys are impressed. Greg says he's going to "wipe her back in," which is some kind of dialogue writing, Bernie Kahn, author of this episode. Meanwhile, Bobby's about to pop a gasket.

Molly does an aggressive meet-&-greet with Mike Brady, which really wasn't in Marcia's lesson plan. This is our first indication (or just bad blocking by director Peter Baldwin) that something isn't quite right about this new Molly.

So it turns out Marcia's an alternate nominee for banquet hostess and is called upon to fulfill her duties. After much tribulation, she decides to drop out of the race so Molly can win, even though being banquet hostess is "a great honor." She talks it over with Carol and I just included this shot to highlight their matching fabric patterns on the ugliest couch in the Western Hemisphere, to show they are simpatico, even if their formal living room needs work.

BUT THEN Jan excitedly reports to Marcia the news that there's a new guest of honor for banquet night—Colonel Dick Whitfield, THE ASTRONAUT! Marcia is all, "You mean it's not going to be the principal?" A principal being honored by a middle-school banquet hostess isn't weird at all. That's generally how it was done in the 70s.

Anyway, I always thought Eve Plumb was an attractive girl, but someone in wardrobe must have hated her because, yellow and taupe? This is not a flattering combination in any era. Or maybe Marcia was always supposed to the "the together one" with Jan the wanna-be, trailing behind. Doesn't Marcia look smart in her acrylic ensemble? It isn't fair! - as Jan often said.

Though it's a great sacrifice, Marcia tells Molly she's dropping out, Molly gets all this attitude, first making Marcia acknowledge her smart ensemble, with a twirl no less.

And then smugly claiming it would have been a close race. When Marcia says waddaya mean, a close race? Molly basically calls her a chicken for dropping out of the race. When Marcia points out that Molly had a little help getting this far in the 8th-grade society pages, Molly counters with, "It doesn't make any difference how I got there. The point is that I've ARRIVED." She then flounces away after some mythical popular off-screen girl, calling out, "Hey Sally, wait up!"

Smug Molly

This is the part of the story that freaked me out as a child. Why was Molly being such a stone cold beotch? I wondered (or words to that effect). Why wasn't she grateful to Marcia for all her help? Marcia made her! Out of the goodness of her heart, as narcissistic as it was. What about sisterhood-is-beautiful? Underneath Molly's introverted, awkward exterior lurked the heart of a jerkwad. This scared me. Maybe lots of people were secretly jerkwads. How could I tell? What if I helped someone out, someone meek and vulnerable, and they turned on me, like Molly did to Marcia. I didn't have a lot of defenses prepared for this potential (and extremely unrealistic) scenario.

Greg explains it all, telling Jan, "That's a female for you—can't trust them as far as you can throw them. And they have the brains of a goony bird!" Jan's all agreeing with him (because it's low-self-esteem Jan), but then realizes, "Hey, I'm one of them." But Greg makes exceptions for sisters. Again—great writing, Bernie Kahn. Way to go. Life lessons here.

So Marcia's pride kicks in (as always) and she decides to give Molly THE RUN OF HER LIFE. Because after all, it's a great honor, and also: guest of honor, Dick Whitfield, THE ASTRONAUT.

Mike and Carol are chillin' in their uncomfortable and ugly family room when Marcia asks for formal dance lessons. I think Carol would have made a great 18th-century lady—she sings, she dances, she does needlepoint and makes lunches with Alice—she has all the skills. And look at her lounge in that jumpsuit. She's great.

R.I.P, Robert Reed and Ann B. Davis. This was a charming scene for everyone involved.

The race is on. It's down to the final speeches. Since Marcia helped Molly write her speech, Marcia has to make do with a not-so-strong second attempt. It's a close race all right. It comes down to the speeches.

Smug Molly, AGAIN

As we fade back to the Brady household, Marcia is super-dubious about her bitter defeat. Molly gives no acknowledgement of Marcia's speech-writing help. Marcia now knows what it feels like to be a ghost-writer. She's even turning into a ghost—see below. And once again, my younger self was appalled. There's no justice!

But as is the case, especially concerning Marcia, everything works out in the end. Molly explains to the principal about Marcia helping her and she and Dick Whitfield visit the Brady household to personally deliver the good news: Marcia and Molly will be BANQUET CO-HOSTESSES. Marcia is in a tizzy because after all, he is AN ASTRONAUT. And who wouldn't want to co-hostess with a backstabbing manipulator who probably has a borderline personality disorder? Fun!

I have a theory that Florence Henderson might have, perhaps inadvertently—she is very charming after all—caught the eye of the wardrobe mistress's significant other at one point. This may have caused some dissension What is the basis of this theory? Her wardrobe, of course. Meanwhile, Robert Reed is completely stylin' in his pink turtleneck. Did you catch Susan Olsen's post on her TV Dad? It's very touching and appropriate for Pride Weekend. Susan Olsen rules.

And so we bid farewell to the 70s. That strange decade with its blend of uptight morality, loose social mores, man-made fabrics, and questionable decor schemes. Until we reminisce again.