Flutterby™! : up the Napa valley

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up the Napa valley

2004-06-07 15:50:31.8434+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

Had a very cool weekend. On Friday evening, we drove up to the town of Napa, where we camped at Skyline Park[Wiki], a private park with a very nice garden of native California plants (which we need to go back and explore next spring), and a lot of horse, hiking and biking trails (which we didn't explore).

Saturday morning we drove up to Middletown and to a tour of one of the CalPine geothermal generating plants. We were kinda hoping to see steaming fumaroles, but they don't take people back to where the superheated steam leaks out of the ground because the ground is unstable, so we had to settle for seeing the well heads and plant from where they extract the steam and generate power with it. This is a picture from the sulfur extraction part of the plant, since the steam is coming up from a mile and a half or two underground it contains a lot of gnarly stuff, so as a part of cooling down the water and putting it back into the ground (and yes, they are seeing the possible effects of extracting too much water from near the magma, so they recycle as much water as they can, and contract with local water districts to take wastewater and pump it back down) they filter out lots of sulfur, some mercury, and assorted other nasties. Need to hook up with a geology class sometime and get the tour of the less stable terrain.

We decided to camp at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, so we headed back down from Lake County to Calistoga, on the northern end of the Napa valley. Calistoga was so named by Sam Brannan 'cause he was trying to create a Saratoga like spa region in California. He died broke, but the name stuck, and there are also references to "Sarafornia" around town. On the way back into town we stopped at California's Old Faithful Geyser, watched an eruption, then went and got the camp set up so we could get on the bike.

Back on the bike we pedaled south along the ample shoulder of Highway 128/29 to Bale Grist Mill, a restored mill first built back in the 1840s or thereabouts, and watched the ancient machinery at work.

Tooled back into Sonoma for an iced drink, then kicked it out down Silverado Trail for a few miles, across through the vineyards of Napa valley, then back up the other side. Probably got in a good 25-30 miles of biking, through the vineyards, along roads with nice wide shoulders. Got back to camp in time to make a nice dinner, watch the folks next to us play horseshoes while we critiqued their style, and get a good night's sleep.

The next morning we pedaled back down to the Bale Grist Mill again because we'd been short on cash the day before and both needed to pay for our entrance fees and buy some of the flour we saw ground. Ended up with a bag of polenta and two of a pastry flour ground from einkorn wheat. There'll be scones in our future.

On the way back stopped to pose in front of the very cool delivery truck sculpture in front of the Calistoga Mineral Water Company. Back in Calistoga we wandered over to the Sharpsteen Museum, founded by Disney animator Ben Sharpsteen it's a neat look back at the history of Calistoga, and while a lot of small-town museums end up being a collection of junk, this one kept us reading the plaques all the way through, long enough that while we were originally going to pedal up to the The Petrified Forest we decided to load the bike back on the car and drive up.

The Petrified Forest is a bunch of relatively young petrified logs, redwoods and one pine. Because of their low relative age and that there wasn't much interesting geologically going on over them after the initial eruption which covered them in ash they aren't very colorful, but what they lack in color they make up for in texture. Unlike our experiences in Utah, you could count the rings and clearly see texture in the bark on these logs, but there was nothing there that'd take to polishing very well.

Most of the logs in this preserve are fenced off to prevent picking, and most of them have had to be artificially excavated, at least one down a long tunnel (which you can look down, but not go into). On Sundays at 2:00 there's a walk up into the fields above the trees, lead by one of the family involved in the upkeep of the forest who's very enthusiastic, which ends up at an ash mud flow in which you can see basalt, pumice, and petrified wood chips.

Inspired by this, on our way home we stopped along the Russian River to look for assorted rocks and realized we need some good references on geology and earth science to refresh all that stuff that went in one ear and out the other around ninth grade, so we're going to have to seek out that and start mapping out finds in various places. Yet another large map on the wall at home, I must get some of this stuff onto computer.

And home at a reasonable hour to head on over to the Cafe Amsterdam[Wiki] for a light dinner, listen to Jazz Philosophy[Wiki] do a set, then crash and marvel that as good as you think a sleeping mat and bag are, a good matress and sheets are so much nicer...

[ related topics: Photography Dan's Life Nature and environment Bay Area Art & Culture California Culture Machinery Cool Technology Maps and Mapping Architecture Bicycling ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-08 10:57:30.392773+00 by: polly

dan, i really love seeing the pictures you all take while out and about on your travels and biking. it gives me a feel for that part of the country, which i probably would never experience, EXCEPT when i go to burning man :)

i had never had any desire to go to california, didn't want to experience earthquakes or wildfires, but looking at your photos is making me change my mind! thank you!

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-08 19:46:15.043191+00 by: Dan Lyke

We have earthquakes and wildfires, you have floods and the occasional wildfire. In terms of risk balancing the places that really scare me are more the thunderstorm and tornadoes of the plains.

The main reason fires are a risk out here is the population density, I'm actually not sure how much of a risk per capita they end up being, but that's what happens when a culture gets squeezed on to the fringes. In terms of native beauty and cool stuff there are lots of places in the country I like, but finding places with a culture that I think I can grow in... that's a little harder.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-08 20:49:35.877839+00 by: John Anderson

On my "you haven't lived until" list: standing in a field in the middle-of-nowhere, Kansas, watching a thunderstorm sweeping in across the plains.

FWIW, I lived in various parts of Tornado Alley for 20-odd years, and was involved in less than five really serious "heavy weather" incidents -- but then again, global warming might be making things more "interesting" now than when I was a kid, too.