Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Notes: Week of 2/3/12

1."Highly Recommended" We all need clarification to understand what is going on with the Republican primaries – This piece written by Richard Cohen puts it into focus for me: ( This appeared originally in the Washington Post newspaper )

January on the Russian River - by summer this will all be leafy green

2. Last weekend my wife and I met her brother and sister and their spouses in Guerneville on the Russian River, north of San Francisco. We had reserved a house to rent for a 4-day weekend! Stepping out onto the wide deck that overlooked the river the weather felt more like April than January… Daytime temperatures in the mid 60s, the river was decently full due to our one recent rainstorm in the mountains east of us.

We woke each day to morning fog - usually burned off by mid morning

Like many houses in /Guerneville the living area is on the second floor well above the ground level – These folks are used to regular floods with water levels of 6-8 feet… and it is a town that has learned to adapt. The living room had large windows that looked out over river and trees, the hills beyond, and lots of winter sunlight… We six meet a few times a year – mostly for special holidays but occasionally just to meet and enjoy each other’s company.

Storm swells can travel vast distances across the Pacific - borne of a wind at sea far away

During the day people went off to do their "own thing" –often in pairs or small groups - We made an excursion to the open Ocean coast about 8 miles away – and an unusually high set of winter storm waves were crashing on the rocks – the swells that came in were approximately 8 feet from crest to trough, and when they broke on the rocks they rose to 15 feet or more.

Storm swell breaking on the rocks

There is something satisfying about the regular progression of great waves, their sounds, and the anticipation of the next wave.

By counterpoint, from our house, I went exploring one afternoon and found the Armstrong Redwood Forest Reserve… A fine stand of Coastal Redwood trees in a shady basin. By 3 in the afternoon it was already quite dark on the forest floor.

3PM - Light penetrating the deep forest

It is a good stand of large redwoods, and all the assemblage of deep shade plants, mosses, fungus, and lichens that have their growth time in the winter. Walking on the thick forest litter everything is so silent – the only sounds are birds singing high up in the sunlit tree canopies and the gentle flow of water in a small winter stream.

Thick Pacific coastal forest - Redwoods, fir, undergrowth

There are occasional “oh wow!” movements when I come on to an unusual growth of fungus – with delicate shapes and colors…

Deep dark forest shelf fungus

Of course with this group we had some memorable eating experiences too. In the Guerneville area is an excellent small restaurant, near by the ocean, called the “Cape Fear CafĂ©” – it offers a nice variety of what we call “California Cuisine” – stressing well cooked and seasoned meat or fish, fresh vegetables and salads, and some dishes with interesting ethnic origins.

Seasonal stream

Some of their food is so called” fusion “ foods – combining foods of different ethnic origins into one offering. The owner is chatty and interesting, we found some of the other guests friendly – One lady urged me to task her delicious appetizer. Nice folks!

The little town of Guerneville is worth a walk – Here we were 2 hours from home and we felt like we were in a far distant place. This little town on the river, nestled in the forest has a main street with a variety of business – mostly directed to the visiting tourists – but also a grocery, drug store, post office, and hardware store.


There are a few places to buy coffee and a pick up meal… but it is idyllic to stroll the street, taking in the warm winter sunlight, popping into a shop that looks interesting, then continuing. You can examine the entire town in about half an hour.

Go back and look at the photo that I use as the “cover” for my blog… this shows the Russian river flowing into the ocean… there is something very poetic about the inflow of all this fresh water into the great restless Pacific Ocean… it is such a rich metaphor that it could be used in many ways.

Near the mouth to the Pacific - seals come ashore to bask in the warmth of the sun
In case you wondered... its called the "Russian River" because a few miles north was a large Russian fort - used for fur trapping and trade - this was in the mid nineteen century. It is a fascinating part of our California history - to read more and see photos of the Russian fort go to: