I have to admit that the last 30 days have taken some of the edge off global warming, at least temporarily, because the weather in Northern California has been generally SPECTACULAR. A few cloudy, overcast days (like today), sure, but overall just pure robin's egg blue skies, sunshine, and daytime temps ranging from mid-60s to 80. Thank You, Lord, for that. However, having said that, I would like to express my thanks, also, for the downpours, complete with plenty of thunder and lightning, that recently have been banging around my windows and scaring my dogs silly. We need a whole bunch of these days, and sooner rather than later, lest we experience the whole Dust Bowl scenario again, except this time in reverse. No one, not even Steinbeck, if he were still able, wants to deal with it...
Taking that as a jumping off point, let's consider the opportunities that abound here in the North State (if we continue to exist in our present condition) for those like me and thousands more who love the outdoors. Just in my little neighborhood (which does, in fact, consist of several million acres of mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, and other such God-granted blessings) there is a multitude of green, isolated, silent and lonely places for a person to go to reflect and examine themselves and their lives. One of those is a spot my dog companion Lulu and I have recently discovered and now haunt weekly, the Mule Mountain/Wintu/Meiner's Loop trail complex in the Swasey Recreation Area a few miles west of Redding, just off highway 299. I haven't yet done the math required to figure out how many miles of trail are actually present within the borders of Swasey, but it's a bunch: my guess, based on my and Lulu's wanderings, is that it probably totals somewhere around 25, maybe as high as 30. And they're beautiful miles, all of them. The trails wind through, over, and around the surrounding foothills, right now green and blooming with scattered meadows of wildflowers and native grasses. There is one primary creek flowing through the complex, running cold and crystal clear at present, and you can expect to see at least two or three folks panning for gold in various sections of its run on any weekend day. This creek crosses the trail system in so many places that I have yet to figure out whether it's all one body of water, or if there might be several smaller tributaries at work. Elevation changes are fairly gentle, with only a few climbs that qualify as "taxing", and there are many places where small meadows and grassy slopes double as picnic areas for those hikers who want to stop and enjoy a peaceful break in their day. All-in-all, the Swasey Area complex is a hidden North State treasure for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a casual day in the hills away from civilization and all its nonsense, but still close enough to the night lights of a moderate-size city to afford some pretty decent restaurants and good sleeping accommodations. Check it out if you're a travelling hiker, mountain biker, trail runner, or if you just like to be outside. If you have trouble finding information, contact me.
Just acquired a cd release of the Grateful Dead's November 1972 show at Hofheinz Pavilion at the University of Houston. I was at that show, and it was probably the best live concert I ever saw. If you're a fan, you can get a copy at the Dead's official website (www.dead.net). Typical great variations on Bertha, Sugar Magnolia, etc, and a once-in-your-lifetime 25-minute takeoff on Playing In The Band. Really good stuff.
More bad news today regarding the drought: the mountain snowpack is now at 5% plus or minus, a significant change from the last dismal report a month or so ago that put it at 19% plus or minus. It certainly appears that things are going to get a lot worse before they improve, and we might as well get ready. The state has already begun implementing serious restrictions on water usage, and the pocketbooks of offenders will be punished to varying degrees of severity depending on location and type of offense, but it's coming sooner rather than later, and it won't be pretty. Fortunately, most people seem to grasp the gravity of our situation, and are reacting accordingly, doing their best to conserve, but there remain a number of slimeballs and clowns who don't believe that the laws applky to them. Peer pressure and "water vigilantes" will rectify most of those issues during the coming summer months, but it's going to be be a brutal year no matter what happens, especially for farmers and ranchers. We'll see what impact it has on agriculture, most particularly the wine industry, as the growing season progresses. Irrigation isn't an issue with many growers, particularly those who "dry farm" vineyards specifically for fine wines, but is a much larger factor for those who farm on a commercial basis for the production of bulk wines and table grapes. The latter are likely to suffer substantial losses. We'll see.
Speaking of wine, we enjoyed another bottle from McNab's latest mailing a day or so ago: the 2012 Cononiah Vineyard Zinfandel. This one barely edges under our price ceiling for "workingman's wine" at $26 from the winery, but it's a very good value at the price. Deep purple-to-black color, a big rustic bouquet of blackberries, wet earth, rose petals, and tar, followed by rich and expansive black fruit on the palate make for a classic Mendocino zin that is reminiscent of some of the old Fetzer zins from their Talmage Ranch, as well as some of John Parducci's wines from the early and mid-'70s. Again, we don't know exactly how well distributed McNab's wines are since the winery hasn't communicated with us to date, but they're worth seeking out, and very good values. They may not be practical for those of you working on wine lists, but perhaps the winery will help us out on this.
I'm out for now...Shasta remains quiet with no UFO activity reported. Sorry.