I went to Lassen last Summer with my friends Liz and Jenna (sisters) and about 80 Oregonians, as part of a group called the Chemeketans. I was leery of vacationing with such a large number of people but Liz assured me that it was a great way to go. At a very reasonable price, with communal participation in setting up and breaking down camp, kitchen, meal and shower tents, the group provided the food, drink and facilities for an easy camping experience.
A cook and some helpers are paid and the rest of the jobs are done by campers. I was required to sign up for a few tasks during the week—I requested dish washing.
Liz was right—it was a luxury to wake up to a hot meal and return from a long day of hiking to find dinner all ready and waiting! Yowzah!
Lassen is the least visited of the US National Parks. It’s an active volcano with “steaming fumaroles,” bubbling mud and sulfur pools. Hot stuff! As you can see from my paintings, in many areas, there are gorgeous creeks, lakes and meadows. I was struck by the beauty of the place.
Mount Lassen is 10,457 feet and in late July we had to pick our way over snow-covered trails at one of the trailheads. Luckily, we were an alert group of hikers and found markers on the trees. Trail crews were at work, a ways down, for the first time that season. We passed three pristine lakes and gorgeous wildflowers as we reached lower levels.
The elevation was tough for us lowlanders. So we continued down the mountain and hitchhiked back to our car. We had no problem getting a ride—nobody was worried about picking up middle aged women with backpacks!
I’d heard, through friends, that monarch butterflies were numerous at Lassen peak at that time of year and I really wanted to see them. We got lucky at another lake where tortoiseshell butterflies virtually covered the path. They differ from monarchs in that the underside of their wings is a dull brown and yellow but the tops are bright orange with black, much like the monarchs.
At the end of each day, all the Chemeketans would bring their folding chairs into a circle (around what would have been a fire if it weren’t Summer in California) and talk about the day’s hikes.
So many hikes, so little time 🙂
Mitch said to me, “My left eye is cloudy—as if my glasses are dirty but I’m not wearing glasses.”
We were boarding a flight to San Juan, P.R., our destination alternative to a Hurricane soaked Big Island. Thus began a four-month ophthalmic odyssey involving around a dozen eye and retina appointments, two nasty procedures, two surgeries and the terror of temporary blindness. It’s been a tough year for my sweetie.
We got to know most of the doctors at the UCSF Ophthalmology department. With nothing to do but worry, I kept myself busy during the appointments by sketching.
Recovering from retina surgery is an ordeal. The patient has to keep his face down/parallel to the floor 90% of the time for four days. We rented a massage chair thing and apparatus for sleeping as well.
The planets were aligned against us, as two weeks following the left eye surgery, the right eye retina tore as well. What are the odds? This took us…
The ordeal—two torn retinas at the same time: blind man’s bluff for 4 months. The sketches are all from eye #2. And it doesn’t include the appointments in Puerto Rico.
Thanks to the incredible Ophthalmology staff at UCSF for restoring Mitch’s sight! Now for a new prescription…
I’ve been phone banking for Democrats since January 2017. This week and next are critical so I’m ramping it up. Go out and do your part—VOTE and do a little volunteering to flip your district blue. It matters!
Okay, enough sermonizing. I also did a self portrait on Art Day. I had a hard time getting the proportions right so I drew the first sketch up side down.
Yep, I went to my high school reunion in Summit, NJ, which was fantastic! I saw people who I knew from nursery school. And some of us have memories from way back then (even though we can’t remember what we had for lunch yesterday).
Didn’t do any drawings from the reunion itself but I have a few from the trip. Here are my doodles and sketches.
Had a wonderful dinner at Judy and Jeff’s house in Maplewood. This was the pre-dinner wine and cheese.
And a business trip to Milwaukee. I’d never been there before and it’s a beautiful city, though it was cold and windy. Lots of cool older buildings with ornate rooftops. This was an old Chamber of Commerce building that I could see from my hotel.
I loved the open markets of India. Have been meaning to draw from a photo I took. Fantastic colors!!
Manali is a starting point to the Indian Himalayas in the state of Himachal Pradesh. We had heard that the best way to get there was to take an overnight bus from Delhi. We investigatedt other options but none of them much reduced the number of hours of travel. So, we flew from Jodhpur to Delhi and situated ourselves on the overnight bus.
The seats on the bus reclined and elevated our legs but there was no bathroom aboard. I dubbed the ride “the Kishkaville Express” because the last half of the trip, on rocky, unpaved mountain roads, bumped and jumped in the early morning. After 13+ hours, we arrived in Manali.
On the bus, we met Alaka and Dev, a friendly couple from Delhi, who told us about a local festival that was happening that day, the Manu Festival.
You can tell that Manali was probably a sleepy hamlet twenty years ago. Its beauty and location an all to familiar blessing and curse as it’s become a tourist haven of the north and jumping off point for mountaineering. Most of the visitors are Indian, coming for adventures and ganga, which is smoked pretty freely in the old section, despite being illegal. There are a myriad of outdoor outfitters lining the main road and over a hundred guest houses and hotels. During high season (late May and June) the traffic can be complete gridlock.
We stayed a few days in Manali and then took a car to Tosh in the Pavarti Valley.
I was awestruck by the views from Tosh. The stunning snow capped mountains in the distance and homes tucked into the steep hillsides reminded me of the picturesque villages of Nepal.
Although we had been told that it was “the best place to stay in Tosh” our guest house was a dirty dump. The transformer had gone out and we had no electricity while we stayed there (not the fault of the guest house).
The latch on our door needed oil. It squeaked loudly whenever we struggled to pulled it over to lock or unlock it, the bedding was soiled and the combination squat/sit toilet seat was loose. I don’t want to talk about the rest of the bathroom.
That said, our balcony had a wonderful view of the mountains and gave us a great vantage point for watching the comings and goings of the village.
From Tosh, we walked along the valley to the Waterfall Café, where the tables sit in the gushing flow.
Further on was Kulka, a tiny mountain “village” consisting of two guest houses, a small store, a babbling brook, grazing horses and a lovely high meadow with an awesome view. We would have loved to stay in Kulka.
The next day, we took a car, which dropped us off near Pulga, another village nearby. The road is still being built there so we backpacked in. On the way, we met some travelers who recommended we stay at the #capitalcafe, a new guest house with bamboo cottages (and electricity)! The place was SWEET as was the young owner, Chetan, who spent time with us and told us his story. It was a highlight for me to share my greeting cards with Chetan and his crew, who are all Nepalese. His cook recognized one of the places I’d drawn.
We took a hike in the dense forest there, passing a waterfall and a herd of cattle (right there on the path). To our surprise, we happened upon this shrine in the woods.
We wanted to stay another night there but had already made reservations at an Airbnb which was in Gargi
I returned from a month long trip to India two weeks ago. It will take me a few postings to get it all down but here’s a start…
I remember that a light would appear in the eyes of my hippie friends when they spoke of their travels to India. I was 22 years old and my imagination was sparked forever. Although I visited Nepal, Burma and Thailand, I was fearful of India, my chief concerns being health and crime.
So…when Spring Studio’s office closed in April, and I was out of a job, I saw an opportunity to follow that old dream. And luckily, my childhood friend Liz, with whom I had traveled many years before, was game to join me on the adventure.
First day we stayed in Old Delhi and visited Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, the National Crafts Museum, and went shopping for Indian clothes (I bought kurtis and balloony pants). We ate lunch at a little, packed hole-in-the-wall and sat with some young teachers who were visiting from Goa.
Auto Rickshaws are everywhere in India. The way they get through traffic is by driving really fast and honking their horns for everyone to get out of the way. Actually, everyone drives this way. The streets are a cacophony.
Next we went to Jaipur in the state of Rajastan
Took a sweet old train (pukey greenish color) with plenty of legroom and surrounded by women! We also treated ourselves to a room at a converted palace, which was pretty amazing.
Took an Uber to Albert Hall Museum, which had wonderful art from all over the country.
It was really crazy HOT. When they say it’s going to be hot in California’s Central Valley, they mean 94. That’s a full twenty degrees cooler than it was in Rajastan.
The city is known for a walled section known as Pink City. I was really into the open air markets. The scene was alive with color as women went in to do their shopping, buying saris, groceries, herbs, clothing.
And we went to the Anoki Museum of hand printing, where we saw some impressive traditional craft techniques.
Then on to Jodhpur, also in Rajastan
Meharangarh Fort hovers over the city of Jodhpur. There are converted mansions in India, which are called Havelis. We stayed at one that was a hotel, on which, the roof restaurant afforded a great view of the fort and of a girls’ school.
It was kind of enchanting. I drew the courtyard, seen below. They had displays of artifacts there as well.
Jodhpur has wonderful, colorful open air markets. I loved seeing the women sit with shop keepers to order their saris.
The markets are where it’s at.
We went to the Meharangarh Fort on the last day. It was an incredible fort and palace. We had a guide named Sanjay.
But the heat was still an issue…it was oppressive. We decided to make our way North to the cooler climate…