Who’s Smarter: A Mule Or a Horse? Plus Death Valley’s Beautiful 20 Mule Team Canyon

Who’s smarter? This girl with her wild eyes and gorgeous eyelids…
Or this fellow with a large nose and impressive nose hairs?

Or, the question going through your mind might be, “Why in the heck is Curt asking this question when his post is on Death Valley?”

Well, it started when I was doing research on Death Valley’s well-know, historic 20 Mule Team. Given that I am featuring the 20 Mule Canyon on my post today, I wanted to provide some background information, which I will. But the first thing I learned (or relearned) was that it wasn’t a 20 mule team that was used to haul borax out of Death Valley from 1893-96. It actually consisted of 18 mules and 2 horses. All of the animals had very specific tasks. Some required more intelligence than others.

Luckily for me, the town just up the road from where we camped near Bryce Canyon (Tropic) had a Mules Days event going on and there was a horse corral just across the road from us in Cannonville. I was able to persuade a mule and a horse to pose for me.

There is a ton of information on the twenty mule teams. This may seem like a lot until you take into consideration that the 18 mules and 2 horses were actually hauling close to 9 tons of Borax at a time out of Death Valley in temperatures that sometimes exceeded a 100 degrees F. (Operations were halted over the hot summer months.) They started their epic journey from the Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek and traveled for 165 miles over primitive roads to the railhead near Mohave. As you might imagine, it was quite the challenge. It required close to a heroic effort on the part of the mules, the horses and the muleskinners. Millions of dollars could be made if the venture was successful, however, and it was. Borax has lots of uses.

Still, all of this would be a mere note in the history books except for a couple of factors. One, Borax Soap featured the mules in a very extensive advertising campaign. The second was the radio and TV program, Death Valley Days. For those of you who are old enough to remember the 50s and 60s TV show, you may also remember that Ronald Reagan hosted the show in the mid 60s just before he jumped into his campaign for California Governor.

I think this 20 mule team traveling through 20 Mule Canyon is a team that Borax Soap used to promote its product. The photo is from the US Borax’s Visitor Center in Boron, which is well worth a stop. The two large wagons were for hauling the borax. The last wagon contained water for the mules since water holes were few and far between on the long, dry 10-day journey— and it was very thirsty work. The man at the back of the line is riding one of the two horses. The two lead mules, both female, have bells.
This historic photo provides a good perspective on just how big the wagons were. The large wheel is seven feet tall. The man on the left is the muleskinner who was in charge. On his right was his swamper who carried out a number of supportive jobs including handling a back up brake to be used if the wagon decided to run away going down hill.The muleskinner earned $4 per day, his swamper, $2, and the Chinese laborers who did the hardest work of digging out the borax, $1.25

I found a rather amusing, imaginary discussion with a muleskinner on the Death Valley National Park site. The greatest challenge he noted was in getting around corners. He used a diagram to describe the operation. An 80 foot chain connects the lead mules to the wagon.

Here’s what he had to say about the process: “Now I’ll tell you just how smart my mules is: it’s one thing drivin’ along a straight road; it’s a whole nother thing turnin’ corners on a mountain pass. My 2 lead mules, both mares, are about 80 feet ahead of me–so far away I can’t even begin to use my 9-foot long whip on ‘em. I’ve been known to throw pebbles at ‘em to get their attention. Aim’s good too. Back to gettin’ around corners. The next 5 pairs of mules are my “swing teams”, they ain’t real smart, they just know their names and what ‘pull’ and ‘stop’ means. Now the next 3 sets of mules behind the swings are my “pointers”. These mules are trained special to jump over that 80-foot chain and side-step away from the curve to keep that chain tight and my wagons goin’ ‘round that corner right. Next comes the 2 big horses. They’re strong enough to start my wagons rollin’, but that’s all they’re good for. A dumb mule (and I ain’t seen one yet) is a whole lot smarter than a smart horse.”

So, there you have it— which animal is smarter. At least from the perspective of a muleskinner. I’ll allow that a horse lover might have a different point of view. Grin. And now, it’s time to get away from all of the words and take you through 20 Mule Canyon in photos. The canyon starts no more than a mile above Zabriskie Point. And even though the road is dirt, cars with two wheel drive seem to handle it easily.

The dirt road.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy caught a photo of me hiking up a trail. There are a number of stops along the road where you can get out, stretch your legs and take photos, if you want.
I captured this photo of Peggy Woohoo! And the next two photos.
I’ll conclude today with this photo of a very colorful place along the road. The colors are created by the oxidation of minerals/metals. I cover which metals cause which colors in my next post. It will be on the even more colorful drive to the Artists Palette. I am going to feature pup fish as well. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

To bring you up to date, Peggy and I have now spent a week in Zion Canyon National Park and a week in Bryce. We are now in the small, but fun community of Kanab, perched on the border between Utah and Arizona. Here’s a photo we took last week to give you a view of things to come.

A pair of hoodoos we found near Bryce Canyon. The name hoodoo is derived from a Paiute Indian name meaning scary. I think I can see why.

The Hottest, the Driest, the Lowest… Death Valley: Featuring Zabriskie Point

Today’s post marks the beginning of Peggy’s and my journey around North America. We will be sharing our insights into what it’s like to live full time on the road plus our adventures along the way. A special focus of the blog will be visiting some of the most spectacular wildlands remaining on our continent. Death Valley is up first, starting with an overview and featuring Zabriskie Point.

Peggy and I were greeted with this sign when we stopped at Death Valley National Park Visitor at Furnace Creek on our recent visit. As noted, Death Valley is a land of superlatives. The word I use is extremes. I reserve superlatives for the scenery. It’s why we have returned to Death Valley over and over again. 

Photo by Peggy Mekemson

I doubt that the Death Valley people included the price of gas as either an extreme or superlative, but we found it amusing. And we weren’t the only people taking photos of the sign. We made sure that we filled our tank in Bodie, a small Nevada town just outside of the park. Adding serious injury to insult, the price of a six pack of beer was $20 at the Furnace Creek store! Now that’s something worth whining about. 

But let’s get back to the hottest, driest, and lowest. By hottest, they mean the hottest place on earth. It holds the world record at 134° F (57° C). Death Valley is not a place you want to visit in the summer if you can help it. Here’s the bad news. It’s getting hotter. We can thank global warming. The following chart sums it up.

The impact of global warming can be seen clearly on the National Park graph that shows average summer temperatures.

The normal definition for a desert is a place that gets under ten inches of rain a year and has an evaporation rate that exceeds its rainfall. Death Valley averages under two inches and has an evaporation rate that is 75 times its rainfall.  Sit in the shade doing nothing for a day and you can lose up to two gallons of water. The Valley holds the record for being the driest place in the United Sates. There is a reason why the Park Service always warns people to carry and drink lots of water when they are visiting. 

And finally, the lowest. At its lowest point, Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level, which just happens to be the lowest spot in North America. On an earlier trip, Bone was proud to pose on the Bad Water Basin Sign announcing the low point. 

Bone was feeling a little low that day…

I’m going to add another extreme. Wind. Death Valley doesn’t hold any records here as far as I know, but when I bicycled across the Valley on my 10,000 mile solo trip around North America, I remember being out of the saddle in low gear, and working my tail off— pedaling downhill. When I got back to camp, I discovered my tent had been blown a half mile away and was totally trashed. This time the wind was blowing so hard Peggy couldn’t get her door open on our truck! It took all my strength to force mine. Back at camp, I took a photo of “Cousin It.’

The wind gave Peggy a new hairdo. We decided to call her ‘do’ the Cousin It look. It’s the latest fashion in Death Valley.

As I noted earlier, Peggy and I have returned to Death Valley many times, always in the fall, winter or spring. Each time we try to include something we haven’t done before. This time it was going in search of the rare and endangered, but not so elusive pup fish, and hiking up Mosaic Canyon. We also returned to some of our favorites: 20 Mule Canyon, Zabriskie Point, and the Artist’s Palette. Peggy and I were busy with our cameras the whole time. I’ll let our photos speak to the beauty of the park. 

I’ll start with Zabriskie Point, a quick 15 minute drive away from Furnace Creek and the Park Visitor Center. Named after Christian Zabriskie, an early manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, it is probably the most photographed site in Death Valley. For good reason. It was once the site of an ancient lake where various sediments sank to the lake bed, giving the area its rich colors today. Early ancestors of both modern day horses and camels left their tracks along the shorelines. Tectonic plates moving beneath the valley lifted the mountains and dropped the valley, giving rise to the erosion which has done such an impressive job of carving out the ‘badlands’ shown in the photos below.

This photo captures the rich colors of Zabriskie Point. You are looking out on the Valley floor. The Panamint Range forms the background. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A popular photograph of the ‘badlands” at Zabriskie Point. The peak on the left is known as Manley Beacon. The cliff behind it is known as Red Castle.
This provides a close up of Manley Beacon. Manley is the person who rescued the prospectors who were crossing the desert in hope of finding gold in California in 1849. They were lucky. It was the miners who gave the valley its name, Death Valley.
I caught this picture of Red Castle at Zabriskie Point. Had we been there at sunset it would have been much more reddish.
One of many of the geological features of Death Valley are volcanoes and lava flows. The black lava here was part of a lava flow. Being a harder rock it provided a cap to the eroded rock below. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
This provides a broader perspective.
This picture is particularly good at showing the various terrains, textures, and colors at Zabriskie Point. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I ‘ll conclude with one of my favorite views at Zabriskie Point.

NEXT POST: We will visit Artist’s Palette at Death Valley and then go in search of the rare pup fish at Salt Creek.

Finally: We Are on the Road… Did You Miss Us?

The book cases are gone, as are the books, and almost everything else. Packed up and shipped east or given away. The house feels lonely now, but soon it will be occupied by someone who is excited to have a home in the woods. The sale is pending!

My blogging friends Linda and Karen from Texas called yesterday and wanted to know where in the world were we. It was special for them to check up on us. They caught us between Death Valley and Las Vegas.

Peggy and I hadn’t dropped into a black hole and simply disappeared from WordPress as people sometimes do. We had forgotten how much work goes into moving and selling a house. It’s number three on the top-five list of stress producers— right after the death of a loved one or divorce, and before having a major illness or losing a job! There was no time for blogging during the day, and by night, I had reached zombie status. Sitting and vegging were about all I could muster. I had gone beyond couch potato; I was a couch turnip.

Anyway, long story short, two weeks ago, Peggy and I made a final walk around our house, hooked up Serafina, the trailer, to Iorek, the truck, and drove up our road, honking as we had promised our neighbors we would in a final farewell. Beep, Beep, Beep-Beep, BEEP—BEEP. 

Peggy and I took a final walk around our house and said goodbye to the Red Buttes, the Oregon pioneer rose, Peggy’s garden, the deer and so many other things that we had taken joy in.

Saying goodbye wasn’t easy. We had lived in our little home in the woods for 11 years— longer than either of us had ever lived anywhere since heading off to college. We had come to love the five acres we were responsible for with its irrepressible wildlife and even gotten used to the deer pressing their noses up against our windows to see what we were doing inside. Or leaving their babies sleeping on our porch as the moms went off to browse. That speaks to how much the deer trusted us. It gave a whole new meaning to baby-sitting. Then there were the squirrels and foxes and bob cats and cougars and bears. Oh my! Bald eagles flew up and down the canyon and soared into the air where they were joined by osprey and hawks. Numerous other birds lived on our property or stopped by on their way elsewhere. Watching them gather at our bird feeder and determine who was boss provided endless entertainment. Having a national forest in our backyard and a river in the front yard wasn’t half-bad either. Nor were the views of the Siskiyou mountains, a scant ten miles away with their snow-covered peaks and incredible sunsets. 

Last, but certainly not least, Peggy and I had great neighbors. They were a diverse group that came from widely different backgrounds but genuinely liked each other, almost a miracle in this age of irreconcilable differences.  On Friday we had them all over for a going away potlatch party, which, in case you don’t know, was a tradition of the Northwestern American natives where the chief would call everyone together and give away most of what he owned at an opulent feast. 

Our potlatch didn’t quite qualify. For one, we weren’t chiefs; for two, our opulent feast was a beer, wine, booze and pizza party. Papa Murphy’s did the honors on pizza and we cleaned out our liquor cabinet for the beer, wine, and more serious alcohol, like 98 proof rum and Tom’s Blackberry Surprise. The surprise was the amount of vodka he added to juice from the five-gallons of blackberrys we had picked last summer. Drink a little and it tastes good; drink enough and it is the best concoction you had ever downed. There was plenty of alcohol to make everyone happy. An opulent feast wasn’t necessary and the pizza was scarfed down. 

And finally, we didn’t give everything away. Hardly. We’d already sent a 16’ x 8’ packed moving pod off to our daughter’s home in Virginia with our treasures— mainly books, book cases, a buffet, art, a couple of comfy chairs and some heirlooms. We had also made numerous trips to Goodwill and the dump. And, while we had shipped 30 boxes of books to Virginia, we had also given 15 to Friends of the Ruch Library to sell to benefit the library. Peggy had been the president of FORL for six years. To top it off, Serafina and Iorek were loaded to the gills with everything we might need for the road— Plus. Peggy kept stuffing things into Serafina or showing up with bins for me to find room for in Iorek. Even with all of that, none of our neighbors went home empty handed. There were still couches and beds and chairs, and kitchen supplies, and lamps, and food, and sporting equipment and left over alcohol. There was even a 24 roll pack of TP from Costco. That would have brought a fortune at the beginning of the pandemic. People would have killed for it. We could hardly give it away.

As tough as saying goodbye was, Peggy and I were more than ready for our new life of full-timing. After all, the name of this blog is Wandering Through Time and Place!

With two weeks on the road behind us, we are almost human again. What we did, actually, was drive down to Reno where we camped out for a week while we relaxed and reacquainted ourselves with life on the road and our new trailer. And then we drove on to Death Valley, getting there four days before they closed the campgrounds for the season. A blog is coming.

A teaser from my next blog. This was taken along the 20 Mule Canyon Road. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We’ve now moved on to Las Vegas and are getting ready for our next National Park, Zion Canyon. We have four travelling companions along: Bone and Eeyore of course. They’ve travelled with us for over a quarter of a million miles. This time, however, they have been joined by Goofy and Iorek’s avatar. Goofy has been hanging out with me since the 70’s when a friend learned that one of my in-law relatives had been responsible for the creation of Goofy and, I might add, Bozo the Clown. I identified more closely with Goofy. Yuk, yuk. Iorek’s avatar was sent to us by Chrystal Trulove, one of our close blogging friends, as a Christmas Tree ornament. He told us that he would much prefer to be on the road with us than be packed away in a moving pod.

Goofy is patting Bone on the head. Bone is dressed to travel in his quilt. Usually, he runs around naked. Iorek, who is new to our menagerie, peaks out from under Eeyore’s ear.
And finally, me, happily settled into Serafina, the trailer, and back at blogging. Our Murphy bed morphs into a comfy couch, only a part of our Africa quilt is showing! (Photo by Peggy.)

For Sale: An Affordable Oregon Home that Has Great Views and Borders on a River and a National Forest

A fall view from our patio in the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon.

My wife Peggy and I are preparing to hit the road fulltime in our new RV. That means that our home of the past ten years in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley is now on the market for sale. This post on my blog is designed to give potential buyers an in-depth look at our five acre property and house. For buyers from outside the region, I have also included information on recreational and cultural opportunities in the area.

If you are looking for an affordable home that features forests, rivers, lakes, and wildlife, this may be for you. The house is ideal for a mountain retreat. It backs up to over a million acres of national forest. The beautiful Applegate River is located out front. Our living room, patio, and sunroom all provide gorgeous views of the Siskiyou Mountains. Fast internet makes this house ideal for remote work. 

I’ve divided this post into three sections: 1) Property, 2) The house and out-buildings and 3) The surrounding region.

FIRST: THE PROPERTY

The view from our living room is constantly changing throughout the year. Here, mist is filling the canyon between our home and the Red Buttes of the Siskiyou Mountains.
For the most part, our house is situated above the fog of the Rogue River Valley and below the snow of the Siskiyou’s. When it does snow 2-4 times a year, it melts off in a few days. In the meantime, we enjoy the beauty.
Sunsets can be spectacular.

We live on five wooded acres that include white oaks, Ponderosa pine, red cedar, Douglas fir, big leaf maple, madrones and manzanita. There are hillsides, flat areas, and a canyon with blackberries where wildlife likes to hang out. We also co-own property with our neighbors on the Applegate River directly across the road from our land. The upper section of our property borders on the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest. 

Trees range from this madrone that provides our porch with shade…
To tall Ponderosa pines…
To white oaks with personality.
Big leaf maples add a touch of color in the fall.
The Applegate River is just across the road. This is a view from the property we co-own with our neighbors.
Walking up our road in the opposite direction will bring you to this sign.
I’ve built a mile long trail up through the forest following old miners’ roads and deer trails. It is designed to provide year round poison oak and burr free access to the forest. And exercise. Some maintenance may be required.
One fun fact of the national forest behind our home is that it was an historic mining area from the 1920’s and 30’s. Test holes can still be found on our property. You can see where miners built their cabins, there is a small cave, and what is left of a 1920s car. I think of it as a sculpture.

There are two access roads: One directly from Upper Applegate Road; the other from a neighborhood shared road. While GPS brings people to our direct access, lower road, it is fairly steep. We recommend that visitors use the shared road. Turn left at the mile 13 marker on the Upper Applegate highway, drive up the road, turn right at the top and drive down the road just past the pole barn and turn right on our upper driveway. It will bring you directly to our house. 

The green, mile 13 marker
A view of our upper road. Off to the left, our property drops into a small canyon with a small, seasonal creek when there is ample rain. On the right is an oak covered hill.
A view of our lower road leading down to the Upper Applegate Road out of Ruch.
An attractive, gated fence, separates our property from Upper Applegate Road.

Given that our property backs up to the National Forest, wildlife is abundant. Deer live on the property, as do squirrels. Raccoons, fox, a skunk, and possums come by to visit and occasionally set up housekeeping.  We’ve even seen a bobcat a couple of times. Bear come down off the mountain on occasion. Coyotes and cougars live in the area but are rarely seen. Bird life is abundant. There is even a bald eagle family in the area.

Given the National Forest and the Applegate River, our property is great for watching wildlife. One of the true joys are the fawns that hang around outside our house in the spring.
They usually come in pairs. The one on the left is still trying to figure out how his long, gangly legs work.
They regard our back porch as the ideal place to take a nap.
Naturally, the fawns have to come from somewhere. This is Floppy. She has been bringing her babies by for several years. Note the grey hairs. She likes apples. When her ears aren’t alert, they tend to droop.
Here’s one of the dads. They tend to disappear after all the fun.
Of course you have to win fair maiden/doe’s love, be it ever so brief. We watched many a duel. Hint, the scrawny guy lost.
This youngster sniffs a lavender flower. Was it taking time to stop and smell the flowers? Nope. She was checking its edibility. Deer are known for their voracious appetites. It’s taken us a while, but most of the plants the new owners will find growing on our property are more or less deer proof! You can never be 100% sure. Peggy has worked hard to plant the most resistant.
I can just about guarantee the lavender. I have never seen a deer nibbling at it. Therefore it is planted all of the way around our house. It is also relatively fireproof, always a good thing in this age of global warming. The real plus is that the bees love it. Hundreds, even thousands come by to harvest the nectar.
We planted lavender behind a retaining wall. Sunset Magazine suggested Gabion cages were an attractive alternative for the wall. The wall, the lavender, a wire fence and strategically placed metal flowers are almost enough to keep the deer away from the honeysuckle that grows behind the lavender.
Poppies are another flower that the deer leave alone. They don’t even like to walk through them. It was a struggle for Peggy to get these flowers going but now they are taking over our hillside which was once dominated by star thistle.
Another flower the deer tend to leave alone are Irises. Peggy has planted them around the garden.
Birdlife is also abundant. This male California Quail was on lookout duty for his hen and her brood.
Turkeys are abundant some years. Once I found them carrying out a Conga line in our back yard. Several had lined up and were twirling along following each other. I never did figure out what that was about.
My brother Marshall decided that a bird bath needed to be added next to our bird feeder. A number of different birds were soon lining up to use it, including this flicker and his small friend.
Rowdy Stellar Jays are among the frequent users.
But here’s the thing, during the dry summer months, the birdbath becomes a watering hole for all the wildlife, including grey squirrels.
And, of course, deer. This young fellow is just beginning to grow his first set of antlers.
A pair of Jack rabbits stopped by for a visit one day.
They hightailed it out when the neighborhood fox showed up.
They would have been more worried about this handsome coyote we found wandering the woods in the National Forest above our house.

SECOND: THE HOUSE

The front of our house with patio and sunroom

The home is a modern three bedroom, two bath, 1500 square foot manufactured house that sits on a cement block foundation. It has a living room, family room, kitchen (with a skylight), dining nook, breakfast counter, three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a laundry room. We have modified one of the bedrooms to serve as an office with a built-in wood desk, file cabinets, drawers, and book cases. (It can still be used as a bedroom or craft room.) Each of the bedrooms has a closet with the master bedroom having a walk in closet. There is also a coat closet. The house has a peaked ceiling and the living room has a modern, open floor plan with the kitchen and the dining nook, all of which give the house a larger feel than its 1500 square feet would suggest. 

The house comes with central heating and air conditioning, a heat pump and an attic fan. It also has an energy star rating reflecting how well it is built. Combined with energy efficient appliances, this means our monthly bill for our all-electric house averages out to $109 per month over the year. The water heater was replaced last year. The refrigerator, washer and dryer, stove, microwave, and dishwasher will remain with the house. All of the appliances except the stove have been replaced in the last five years. 

Starlink Internet provides the house with fast internet service which, as the Starlink site says, “enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet. Users can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations.” Arrangements will need to be made to transfer the service but the satellite dish, router, and modem are already in place. Combined with the separate office, the house is ideal for working from home. 

A patio, cedar deck and a 140 square foot sunroom are located in front of the house. A covered porch is located at the side door entry next to our parking area. There is ample parking for vehicles and an RV as well. There are three sheds on the property: What we call our garden shed, a tool shed, and our pump house, which also includes good storage space. The total space for tools and storage between the three sheds is 250 square feet. Each shed includes metal shelving units that we are leaving. The pump house has a loft and the tool shed a work bench. An attractive pole barn sits on the upper property. 

Water is provided by a well which includes a 2,000 gallon storage tank. Sewer and waste water are handled by a two tank septic system with a leach field. 

We have painted the house and added new carpets in the past two years. We added Leaf-Filter gutter covers this past year, which eliminates the need to clean the house gutters. We have also replaced the HVAC’s duct system under the house.

Normal entry to the house is through the porch.
The entry way.
We utilize the first room as our library. Normally, it would be considered a family room.
Another view.
The bedroom and the office/bedroom are located off of the library.
As noted, we have converted the second bedroom into an office. You will have to forgive Eeyore. He likes to photo bomb our pictures. We think he is trying to compensate for the fact that he is constantly losing his tail.
Another view of the office. All windows in the house have attractive outdoor sights. When guests come, we convert the office into a second bedroom. Peggy also uses the office as her craft room.
The view down the hallway. The peaked roof and open floor plan make it feel more spacious than its 1500 square feet would suggest.
Living room.
A second perspective. The TV is covered with a mola cloth when not in use.
The dining nook.
The kitchen as seen across the breakfast bar.
A view out from the kitchen. Ample storage space is provided in the kitchen.
A final view of the kitchen. The laundry room is through the door.
The master bedroom.
A second view. His and her bookcases. The bathroom includes both a shower and a large, spa-like bathtub with jets. (The second bathroom, near the library and other bedrooms, is a full bath including a bathtub/shower.)
A view of the house and garden shed from our shared river property across the Upper Applegate Road. The ditch is where the utility lines are buried.
Our garden and garden shed. The plants around it are the irises featured above. They come in a multitude of colors. Note the high fence to keep the deer out.
We had a carport in front of our tool shed which we have taken down. The structure now sits behind the shed and will be left for the new owners. A new cover is located in the shed.
The back of the tool shed has a seating area looking down into the canyon. We used it for our smoker. The metal structure for the carport can be seen behind the chair.
The pump house includes substantial storage as well as the pump. The 2000 gallon water storage tank is in front.
A pole barn is located at the top of the property. A deck provides a place to work outside or simply enjoy the view and wildlife.
We also used it as a carport to keep our small RV.
Our sun room provides great views of the surrounding country.

THIRD: THE REGION

The Applegate Valley is one of Oregons primary wine growing regions. This photo captured the vines in the fall.

Scenic, recreational, and cultural opportunities abound in the region. 

Whether you are a hiker, runner, backpacker, bicyclist, kayaker, boater, whitewater rafter, downhill or cross country skier, snow boarder, fisherman, hunter, or even paraglider— you will find opportunities to pursue your sport within a few minutes to just over an hour from our house. 

Or maybe your idea of recreation includes wine and/or beer tasting. The Applegate Valley is one of Oregon’s premier wine growing regions with some 20 vineyards available to visit. A number of brewpubs exist in Medford and Ashland as is typical of the Northwest. Both Jacksonville and Ashland are delightful walking towns. Jacksonville is a quaint historic, goldrush town. It also features the summer outdoor Britt Festival that attracts nationally renowned performers. Ashland is home to the Southern Oregon University and the world famous Ashland Shakespeare Festival. A variety of restaurants are found in Jacksonville, Medford, Ashland and other surrounding communities. 

Medford, which is 45 minutes away, serves as the regional shopping center for Southern Oregon. In addition to stores to meet all of your shopping needs, it has two major hospitals and the Rogue Valley-Medford International Airport with direct flights to Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Denver. 

Farther afield,  Crater National Park, the Redwoods National Park and the beautiful Oregon Coast can all be reached in a 3-4 hour drive. 

Squaw Lake, which is 9 miles away, is a beautiful area for kayaking and camping.
Another photo of Upper Squaw Lake.
One of Oregon’s historic covered bridges, McKee Bridge, is four miles away.
Bigfoot is said to roam the area. In fact the world’s only Bigfoot trap is a 3 mile drive and a 30 minute walk from the house. It was built in the 1970s and managed to catch a couple of bears but not Bigfoot. The photo is of our nephew Jay and a friend.
If you enjoy backpacking or would like to try, there are numerous options including the nearby world famous Pacific Crest Trail where you can hike a few miles or 2650. I backpacked 750 miles of it three years ago to celebrate my 75th birthday, and Peggy hiked sections of it with me.
Applegate Lake, Jackson County’s premier recreation area, features camping, swimming, boating, and fishing. It is two miles from the house. The lake fills up in the spring and lowers in the summer. (The photo is from Wikimedia Commons. All other photos on this blog were taken by Peggy and me.)
Historic Jacksonville is a great walking town with fun shops and good restaurants. It’s also part of your address. We think of it as our town.
The Applegate River above Applegate Lake provides miles and miles of free camping, picnicking and swimming.Here, Peggy and I were sharing a picnic lunch a half hour away from the house.
Within an hour and a half you can be white water rafting on the Rogue River. It also has a beautiful 50 mile hiking trail along the river that Peggy and I have backpacked.
Or, during the winter, an hour and a half in the opposite direction will have you skiing at the Mt. Ashland Ski Resort. This photo is of our son and his family.
We go up to Crater Lake National Park in the Cascades as a day trip, but it’s also great for longer stays.
Farther afield for a quick weekend getaway you can reach Redwood National Park in 3-4 hours.
Or in the same 3-4 hours you can get away to Oregon’s beautiful coast.

Peggy and I hope you have found this overview of our home, property, and region valuable. We are located at 13975 Upper Applegate Road, Jacksonville, Oregon. For details on our property and costs and/or to schedule a visit please contact our realtor Kelly Quaid (541-941-8056) or Olivia Garrison (458-212-4460) at Ramsey Reality in Ruch or Jacksonville, Oregon.

MacKerricher State Park… and Moving On

Peggy and I were ‘getting the look’ when she snapped this photo at MacKerricher State Park just north of Fort Brag, California. The concern the seal had was whether we would come closer and disturb his snooze in the warm sun, i.e. would he have to get up and jump in the icy ocean? The answer was ‘of course not.’ I’m not happy when someone disturbs my afternoon siesta. So why should I disturb his. You know, “do unto others…”

This is the last post from our not-so-recent trip to the North Coast of California last November. Tempus Fugit. Indeed. My posts have been so rare lately they are close to being put on the endangered species list. But more on that later. MacKerricher State Park begins 3 miles north of Fort Bragg, California and continues for 9 miles up the coast. It features a wide variety of habitats ranging from sandy beaches to rocky headlands. There are tide pools, wetlands, a fresh water lake, and even a sea-glass beach. The ocean took an ugly dump and ground the glass up into attractive baubles that people like to collect. Our daughter-in-law Cammie used to turn sea glass she gathered in Alaska into beautiful jewelry.

We were at the park for a couple of hours and only walked a mile or two along the 9 mile beach. We were impressed, however. The area deserves much more of our time. I’ll let the photos that Peggy and I took speak for it. I included some of the these in an earlier post.

Looking south and capturing the sun reflecting off of the incoming tide.
There was plenty of action as the waves rolled in.
The bright green moss captured our attention…
As did this tide pool outlined in green
The ever-present ice plants continued the green-theme as they climbed up the ancient sand dunes in their unceasing effort to replace native plants. And be pretty.
Plus there was seaweed to admire and wonder about. I’m thinking that this would make a great whip for the Devil.
I wondered why someone had trimmed the roots off of this gorgeous driftwood.
All too soon, it was time for us to leave. For a brief moment, my footprints were captured by the sand before the next wave rolled in. I was amused to see how they wandered, never traveling in a straight line, always willing to detour toward anything that was of interest, always ready for a new adventure— wherever it might lead. Like Peggy and I are. And that’s my next subject.

MOVING ON

As you may recall, Peggy and I are preparing to hit the road full-time in mid to late March. That’s one reason why my posts have been so few and far between. But there is more. We are also selling our house and moving East. Our daughter has an empty apartment in Virginia that we will be using for our base as we travel North America. She and her husband Clay have been lobbying for years that we should move closer to them. The apartment is small, however. We are using it as a reason to seriously downsize. It’s called donate, give away and toss. If we haven’t touched something in a couple of years, it goes. (Books and heirlooms are the exception— and even they are subject to scrutiny.) A moving pod sits outside our backdoor to collect what remains. In a few weeks it will arrive on our kid’s doorstep. We’ll take three months to get there.

We will miss our cozy home with its great views and entertaining wildlife. No doubt about it. Living out in the woods had always been a dream of mine. But it is time to move on. I turn 79 in a couple of weeks. While not necessarily old (from my perspective), it is definitely not young. My sense of humor on doing all of the work involved in maintaining five acres isn’t what it once was. And, there are more serious reminders of our age: the passing of family members and friends.

My sister died a couple of weeks ago, leaving me with a thousand happy memories and a large blank spot. She was my first baby sitter and forever friend. While we didn’t see each other often, we were always close. You may recall the posts I did on our annual pumpkin carving contests. They started in the late 90s and went on for 15 years. And you may also remember my blog on Nancy Jo and the Attack of the Graveyard Ghost, a prank my brother Marshall and I played on her when we were kids. Marsh passed away couple of years ago while staying in his RV at our house. I was with him when he died. I am now the last living member of our family. It’s a strange feeling.

A number of friends have passed on as well over the past few years. I attended a memorial/life celebration in Sacramento last weekend for one of my early backpacking Trekkers, Don Augustine. I first met Don in 1981 when he went on a hundred mile trek I was leading through the Sierras. It was a tough year with lots of snow still on the ground. I was kicking footsteps in it over a steep pass leading into the Granite Chief Wilderness when he hustled up to where I was working and offered to help. He would continue to offer a hand whenever needed for the next 40 years as both a trekker and as a volunteer. His generosity was close to legendary. His specialty was encouraging newbies as they struggled to meet the challenges of long distance backpacking and bicycling. I told a story about it to the some 200 people who had gathered to wish Don goodbye.

At the time, I had gone to Alaska as the Executive Director of the Alaska Lung Association. Don and a couple of other good friends had come up to join me on a backpacking trek I was leading across the Alaska Range. We had a particularly difficult young woman along who was always last getting into camp and whined a lot. It was the unpleasant job of our trail sweep/rear guard to walk with her and bring her in. I took my turn and by the end of the day my patience was running thin. That’s when she threw her pack on the ground and declared, “I am not going another step. I am camping right here!” I responded, “Do you see that hill crest? “Yes,” she pouted. It was maybe a quarter of a mile away. “The Trekkers are setting up camp on the other side. We can be there in 15 minutes.” “I don’t care,” she answered. “Okay,” I said, “pull out your whistle.” (We required that all of our trekkers carry one.) “I have to hike over the hill and check on the group. I saw a grizzly bear about a mile back. If you see him heading your way, blow loudly on your whistle three times and I’ll come back.” She was up in a flash, had thrown her pack on, and was leading me over the hill at a hefty pace.

I took Don aside in camp and asked if he couldn’t use a bit of his magic on the young woman. “I’ve got you covered, Curt,” he said. “I’ve got candy.” He reached into his pack and pulled out a gallon ziplock filled to the brim. (There were reasons why Don always had the heaviest pack in the group.) And Don was right. On being introduced to Don’s ziplock and his charm, the girl’s attitude improved immensely and she started hiking faster to keep up with him and his candy. It was a much better solution than my making up grizzly bear stories.

Don playing his guitar on one of our Sierra Treks. He often carried his guitar and the camp chair he is seated in. And Pop Tarts. Nancy Pape, lying down and listening, was also at the memorial.

It’s always hard to lose a family member or friend, and even more so when he or she has been close. It is like closing a chapter in your life— the laughter and good times, the tears, the adventures and so much more. But it is also an important reminder that life is short, whether you are 79 or 29. Life should be lived to the fullest whatever your age. Peggy and I believe this totally. That’s why we moved to Oregon and that’s why we are now moving on now, doing what we love to do, wandering to our hearts content. Until it is time to do something else.

We will be sharing our adventures on this blog. As always, you are invited to join us. We hope you do.

My next post on Friday will be different: It will serve as a detailed description of our house, property and the surrounding region for those who may be interested in having their own ‘home in the woods.’ –Curt and Peggy

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, a Poet, and a Bookstore Cat

Most people love lighthouses. And what’s not to love? They are usually found in beautiful locations, feature attractive buildings, and include an element of romance. Their location is part of the romance, but even more so, I find the life of lighthouse keepers romantic. I picture them living on the edge of the ocean, facing ferocious storms with towering waves, and working heroically to save lives in areas that are often remote, far removed from the lives most of us lead. While such a life might not seem attractive to most, I like remote. I’m not so sure about the long hours, repetitious work, and being tethered to a 24/7 job.

I’ll never have the opportunity to find out, however.

The possibility of being a lighthouse keeper in the US today is close to zero. Of the 700 lighthouses presently functioning in the country, only one has a lighthouse keeper. It is located on Little Brewster Island overlooking Boston Harbor and has been in operation since being repaired after the British blew it up during the Revolutionary War. It had originally been built in 1716 on a pile of rubble stone with candles providing the light.

The rest of America’s lighthouses have become automated. When our son, Tony, was flying helicopters for the Coast Guard off of Kodiak Island in Alaska, one of his jobs was servicing the lighthouse in Cordova. As I recall, the salmon fishing was great in the area. He loved the assignment. And we benefited at Christmas with yummy halibut and salmon. (BTW… this past week he was flying a helicopter over Antartica in his new job.)

Today, many of the original lighthouses have been turned into museums. That’s the situation with the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse which is now part of the California State Park system. The lighthouse got its official start with a party in 1909. The head lighthouse keeper invited all of the neighbors within a mile over for its official opening at midnight. It was a pea soup night with the fog so thick that the light couldn’t escape. That wasn’t a problem for the loud new fog horns that started blasting out their warning on the dot at 12, probably waking up everyone who lived further away and wasn’t invited to the party. The lighthouse operated happily until 1961 when one of the towering waves I mentioned above rolled over the top. The third order Fresnel lens wasn’t damaged, however, and the lighthouse was returned to working order until 1973 when the US Coast Guard replaced it with a rotating beacon on a metal stand and the original lens was covered.

It was volunteers that brought the lighthouse back to life. With permission from the state and approval from the Coast Guard, they rebuilt the lighthouse and other structures including the homes of the lighthouse keeper and the assistant back to their 1930 condition when electricity was brought in. The Fresnel lens was cleaned, updated, and returned to service, being one of 70 that still operate in the US.

An attractive trail leads from the right side of the parking lot to the Lighthouse. You can also hike the road, but why would you? This is a view of wind-sculpted brush along the way.
Our first view of the Lighthouse. A bit of morning fog still hung over it. The Fresnel lens was shining. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
It didn’t last long. A few minutes later the sun came out and burned the fog away. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The trail took us over to the ocean on our way to the Lighthouse. Sun lit up the waves.
The Pacific Ocean crashed into an inlet. Can you spot the Cormorant?
It was hiding down among the rocks. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
We wandered around the lighthouse, admiring it.
A side view included the fog horns located on the back. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Peggy focused in on the lens. It can be seen 22 nautical miles out to sea. The third order Fresnel lens is made up of four panels which contain 90 lead glass prisms and weighs 6800 pounds. It is maintained by the volunteer Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Keepers’ Association. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We entered the small store and museum at the lighthouse and found this. Do you know what it is? It is whale baleen that whales use to strain their food out of ocean water.
We followed the road out since it led by the attractively refurbished lighthouse keepers’ homes. One serves as a museum. Visitors can rent the other for an overnight stay.

And this brings us to the bookstore cat. The attractive, historic town of Mendocino is located a mile and a half south of Point Cabrillo. It is another one of our favorite coastal towns. One of the reasons is its excellent bookstore: The Gallery Bookshop. The store’s logo is a cat reading a book. We went there to buy books, meet friends, and visit with the cat.

Every nook and cranny of the bookstore is filled with quality books. We could spend hours there.
The owner’s philosophy was posted in the window…
We hadn’t seen our friend David McElroy for quite some time. David is an Alaska bush pilot and a talented poet, a combination that has always fascinated me. He was traveling with his friend Susan, who among her many accomplishments, had been the first director of the Nature Conservancy in Alaska. They originally met in 1979 when Susan had hired David to fly her while she filmed the Iditarod, the first film of the event to ever be televised nationally. They met again after David’s wife of many years (and one of Peggy’s best friends from high school, Edith Barrowclough) passed away from cancer. Susan and David were on their way to Paris and then Portugal for a few months.
This sign greeted us at the bookstore door.
Catsby was sitting on the counter next to the cash register when I snapped his photo.

As I have noted before when I have blogged about my favorite independent bookstores, many of them have cats. I think that they all should. Here’s what the Gallery Bookshop’s website has to say about Catsby:

“The Great Catsby joined Gallery Bookshop in the fall of 2012. He was seen wandering on the streets of a neighboring town, darting in and out of businesses. One day, he found a car with an open window and hitchhiked (without the driver’s knowledge) to the village of Mendocino. There, he was picked up by a friend of the bookshop and offered the job of bookstore cat. His duties include sleeping atop card racks, greeting dogs with a glare and a flick of his tail, and occasionally allowing customers to scratch him behind the ears. He can usually be found sitting in the window, warming himself in a patch of sunlight.”

That does it for today. My next post will be on MacKerricher State Park, which is located just north of Fort Bragg. I should note: When I find time to do it. Our life continues to be insane as we rush into creating a new lifestyle for ourselves. More on that after the post on MacKerricher.

Is It Pomo Bluff— or Chicken Point… Fort Bragg, California

I see a massive wave like this and I remember the wise advice of old sailors: Never turn your back to the ocean. Even now when I look at this photo, I think, run! Fortunately, I was happily ensconced on a high cliff at Pomo Bluff when this big fellow came rolling in.

I laughed when I read the information sign posted up on Pomo Bluff in Fort Bragg. Sailors, fisherman, and other boaters of yore making their way out of Noyo Harbor would go out on the overlook to check how the Pacific Ocean was behaving. It could be calm and welcoming or it could be ferocious and dangerous. Checking was an opportunity to chicken out, to remember there was a cold beer that required quaffing at the local pub. Thus the name. Modern technology and weather forecasting have reduced the need to do a visual check.

We wandered around on the Bluff, admiring the ocean, checking out ice plants, watching rowdy crows, and wondering who owned the mansion hidden behind a tall fence.

In spite of the big waves, it was a beautiful day on the ocean. We watched as the charter boat, the Telstar, made its way back into Noyo Harbor. It’s available for sport fishing and whale watching. Apparently some folks had been out to try their luck. We didn’t wonder about what they caught or saw, we wondered how their stomachs had tolerated the rolling sea. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking back toward the entry into the protected Noyo Harbor.
A close up of the sea stack seen above.
Looking out to sea from Pomo Bluff. Go far enough and you will end up in Asia.
Peggy captures a photo.
And then goes in search of another. The sign is a common one along the coast, warning of the dire consequences of getting too close to a cliff’s sheer drop. But does this woman casually strolling along seem worried?
How can one resist when the best photos are often on the edge?
Such as this. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Ice plants provide an attractive foreground for photos on the coast. But there is a problem. It is an invasive species that replaces native plants.
I was surprised to find that the ice plant had adopted fall colors, something that I had never noticed before.
This crow took a break from its aerial display of chasing other crows to steal their food, to rest among the ice plants.
Peggy captured one carrying something delectable, like a long dead snail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
From her perch out on the point, Peggy was also able to catch a photo of this mansion. Otherwise, it was hidden behind a tall fence.
So I took a photo of it through a knothole.
A seagull showed us the way. I liked its feet. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And finally we came to the end. It was time to head on to our next adventure and my next post: The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.

The World’s Biggest Snowball…

I looked up our road and saw our grandson Ethan( aided and abetted by his mom, Tasha, and Peggy) was rolling a mega snowball down the road. They were about to hit a steep part. Iorek, the truck and Serafina, the trailer were in the line of fire. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Our daughter Tasha, her husband, Clay, and their two sons, Ethan and Cody, joined us for Christmas. We met them in Medford at the airport in a rip-roaring snow storm at 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. With visability occasionally dropping to a few feet and the road disappearing under the snow, it was a long drive to our home in the mountains 30 miles away. Everyone agreed I had earned the stiff shot of rum I poured for myself immediately on arrival. And the second.

The visit was all play after that. We hadn’t been home for more than 30 minutes when our neighbors Bryan, Margaret and William with 10 or so relatives showed up on our doorstep to sing Cristmas Carols. Peggy raided our cookie stash to reward them, which was a good thing since she had baked enough to last a month and Tasha was eager to bake more, a mother-daughter tradition.

Two days later, I took Bryan and his family on a snow walk over the trail I had built in the National Forest behind our house. When I got back, Peggy, Ethan and Tasha were missing. That’s when I looked up the road and saw the snowball.

By the time I got up the hill, Ethan was sitting on top of his snow ball and Peggy had persuaded him that rolling it down into our canyon was a better idea than rolling it down the road. Serafina and Iorek breathed a huge sigh of relief. Ethan, btw, at 16 is now more than six-feet tall! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Since our other grandson, Cody, had missed out on creating the snowball, Peggy took him out on our deck to build a snowman.

Peggy and Cody working on their masterpiece.
Unfortunately, the snow was really dry. Great for skiing; not so much for building a snowman. Frosty immediately fell apart. Peggy grabbed a carrot, shoved it into the remaining pile, and declared the effort a success.
You’ve undoubtably heard of people being buried in the sand. Cody wanted to be buried in the snow. Peggy, being a good grandmother, quickly agreed. Here, she is ready to drop a large snowball on his head, finishing the job!
Cody had enough. He sat up and held out his hands for Peggy’s snow…
And naturally, grandma accommodated him!

My fun was recording the action, getting in a snowball fight, and taking photos of the snow. We had over a foot by the time the storm was finished.

We wouldn’t be sitting out on our patio!
Our rose bush had morphed into some kind of snow monster.
I saw this and thought “What the…?” Were we being invaded by aliens? On closer inspection I determined is was a reflection of a light from inside our house.
Mainly, I was awed by the beauty of the snow on the trees. I framed this with snow coming off our roof.
My favorite tree, a Douglas fir, and the forest beyond it.
A view from the other side of our house.
As you can see, the snow has now melted, which is just how we like it to behave. A few days of beauty and play, and then on its way! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I’ll conclude with this. It is the Ghost of Xmas Past! Snowman style.

Escapism: Or Is the Word— Balance… Happy New Year

This cormorant at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California seems to be saying, “Bring it on! Show me what you’ve got!” It’s a New Year’s type of message. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

When Peggy and I were seeking an escape in 2021, we headed for the Oregon and Northern California Coast. It seemed like a reasonable answer to what was happening in the world. There is something calming about the ocean, a balance if you will— a reminder of the past, a welcome to the present, and a glimpse of the future. The waves continue to roll in. Worries tend to fade away under such circumstances and the spirit is renewed. Bring it on. Show us what you’ve got.

With this in mind, I decided to dedicate my first post of 2022 to the beauty and the wildness of the ocean using photos that Peggy and I took in 2021.

The sheer power of the ocean can make you stop, and say “ahhh.”

The ocean is much more than crashing waves, however. There is incredible beauty…

And an abundance of plants and animals uniquely adapted to life on and in the ocean.

I’ll conclude this first day of 2022 with a photo of the Cabrillo Point Light House, which has a beauty of its own. I rendered the lighthouse in black and white to reflect historical photos found in the lighthouse museum.

HAPPY NEW YEAR— Curt and Peggy