Sacramento 1995

We ate the steelhead from the Klamath tonight, then went into town to see the Thursday night market. One or two decent bands, mostly just raucous. Back to River City brewery for a drink. Full of yuppies and wannabe yuppies, a small band of young girls with piercing
voices partly deafened us and made it difficult to enjoy
ourselves. Moved on to Old Sacramento, a quiet drink in the
Hogshead. Something of a dive, but much pleasanter than
River City. Music better, too.

Friday morning, off we hurtled to San Fran and the redwoods,
stopping only for flu medication for Frank. As we got out of
the car ($5 parking fee) the rain began to fall. Pfui. This
being California, I hadn't even thought to pack raingear.
Since we are doughty and foolhardy, off we went in the rain.
Passed the Van Wyck meadows (pop: 3 Stellar jays) on the
Stapelveldt trail and wondered quite where in the world we
were. The hiking book gave this walk a 10 for scenery, we
walked along expecting glorious vistas at every bend in the
path, but never found them. The redwoods of course are quite
magnificent, but not in themselves sufficient for a 10. Took a
long time to find a sheltered spot with some prospects for
lunch, finally picnicked on a log above the ferns as the rain
slowed and sun began to break through. Most pleasant.
Missed a turn on the way back to add another mile to the
hike. Then wound our way back to 101, where the traffic was
crawling out of SF, and headed for Sonoma/Russian river

The first, Dehlinger, a small operation with quite
decent wines. Bought a Cab Franc. Didn't have time to get to
Dry Creek before it closed, so instead went to Topelos at
Russian River, run by Greeks. A singular varietal, Alicante
Bouschet, which they used to make a Noir de Noirs, came out
of the bottle like ink. Also had a Vineyard Reserve, a red
blend including the Alicante, which was drinking very well.
Rushed back to Sac, a huge purple and red sunset in the
clouds behind us. Supped at the Virgin Sturgeon on monkfish
and snapper, the latter better because less overcooked. Wine
from Sterling in Napa valley, which is the place where they
charge $5 for a tram ride to the cellar. A gimmick because
their wines are less than wonderful. Late as usual, to the
airport to fetch H. We decided to pack for Lassen the next
day, as we were all tired.

Up not very early to start packing. I didnt make my 'little list'
and consequently forgot a bottle opener and a corkscrew. On
the way to buy some groceries, passed the finish line of the
Chevys to Chevys 7-miler, and wished I'd remembered about
it, as it would have been fun for the two of us to run it.
Shopped, then battled off up the highway to Red Bluff, and up
into the hills. The higher we got, the taller the trees became,
rather odd. Arrived in Lassen to find our planned campsite
was closed for the winter. So we pitched tent at the walk-in
campsite at the entrance, a pleasant site but some ruffians
camped nearby. 

Day was running out as we went to Bumpass
Hell for a short hike to the fumaroles. Thunderstorms were
brewing, we walked in while most people were fleeing the
approaching rain. Took some pictures of Helen at Lake
Helen, a glacial lake all green and blue below the volcano. As
we arrived in the Hell the rain began. Lightning cracked and
thunder boomed, I was glad to be safely on the boardwalk in a
little valley below the furious storm. Frank had his rainjacket
over a small backpack, seeming hunchbacked as he read from
the trail booklet; clouds of sulphurous mist drifted past his
hooded and invisible face as he read; so I wondered what kind
of guide it was we had and where he was taking us. H didn't enjoy the lightning one bit, so the sound effects were
something like 'crack' lightning 'squeak' H 'boom'
thunder. The last of the rain was frozen, rattling off our
rainjackets. From the far end of the valley there was a fine
picture, rocks in shades of red yellow and gray, some of the
lupines green and living, others russet and dying. No sun to
bring out the colours, though. Rain wandered off to hang over
the campsite as we hiked out. The peak of Lassen was dusted
with snow after this fall.

Back at camp, made tea in a few drips of rain, and began
supper. H went for a nap, Frank and I sat waiting for the
fire. Opened a bottle of 90 Rustenburg, jolly good too, once
Frank had gone to beg a corkscrew off some nearby campers.
The ruffians didn't have one, which figures, they were
drinking stuff from a screwtop bottle.  Dinner was the big
event, chicken, lamb chops, steak, potatoes, butternut, and
zucchini, all cooked on the little 2-man Weber grill. A bottle
of the Vineyard Reserve went down perfectly well. Passed out
contentedly in the van and the tent, bellies full, as the rain
and wind fussed outside. At 3 am, visiting the facilities, the
moon was three-quarters and clear in an empty sky.

Up relatively early (7:30) to get ready for a walk up Mt
Lassen. Started up at 9 am, cold strong wind blowing. Wide
easy trail, vegetation going from scrubby white pine to
remnants of lupines dug into crevices in the rubble. Kept
passing 'comfort stations' on the way up, so that the
euphemism of the trip became, 'I'm going to comfort myself'.
The trail switchbacked up over a ridge, so one side was calm
and warm, the other windswept and cold. Views expanded
with the climb. A dirty haze hung over the lower elevations,
unsure whether it was fog or smog. At the top, a wasteland of
black volcanic rock in the crater, from the 1915 eruption,
with a grand view across the desolation to Mt Shasta, 60
miles away. Some dirty refrozen snow remained on the
shadowed side, just below the trail. We sat upon the rocks and
contemplated the scene, ruminatively munching on bananas.
Traffic up the mountain grew heavier, dorks in full
camouflage with expedition-size backpacks appeared and we
decided we'd had the best of it. Trotted on down against the
steady upward flow. Far below, the parking lot appeared to be
filling up fast. Passed by a number of small children,
including a little girl about two feet tall.

Drove a little further to King's Creek picnic site. Calm and
sunny, cool air and the creek running fast. Browsed on a
variety of fruits vegetables bread and beer for lunch, after
which considerable difficulty was found in moving. A fat
BMW roared into the parking spot right next to us,
disgorging several children, the driver and his glossy blonde
second wife. Frank and I were dozing on the warm wood of
the table, but this roused and moved us. On around the park.
Stopped at the Valley of Devastation, where the fir trees were
doing a remarkable job of recovering the area from the last
eruption. On down to the visitor centre, which we found after
beating about the bush for a while, misled by the map. Not
very exciting.

Final stop was Manzanita lake, where H and Frank took
the canoe out, and I my float tube, with a fishing rod, natch.
Pretty lake, trout rising at intervals. Very much a Sunday
afternoon feel to things, families at the picnic tables and
strolling around the lake. Good views across the lake to Mt
Lassen. Fished and fished, but never found out what was
going on, fishwise. Tea in the late afternoon sun as a deer
wandered out of the woods to beg food of the children at the
next table. This too was hard to leave.

Drove like mad things back. Stopped at Marco's pizza, where
his large daughter slowly assembled an enormous and not
very good pizza for our dinner. This took an hour, so we were
rather later home than anticipated.

No rest yet. Up, almost at 7:30, to prepare for a day's
winetasting. Took the scenic route through the mountains to
Napa Valley. We saw homing pigeons being released above a
small lake. No circling for these birds, up and off, making a
beeline for somewhere at an amazing speed. I was driving at
35 mph, with the pigeons just overhead, and they were
moving faster than that. We were a minute or so late for our
first appointment at Frog's Leap, but everyone else was half
an hour late. This cellar seemed more concerned with style
than substance, lots of marketing going on - but what about
the bloody wine? we wanted to cry. Left halfway through the
delayed tour to get to Joseph Phelps winery. This was tucked
away in the hills, one of the prettiest of the vineyards. As it
turned out, just a rich man's toy, which rather put me off
buying the wine. Also the pricetags were remarkable though
the wine was not. The tour included a comprehensive history
of Joe Phelp's career as an engineer. I think this was intended
to impress us all, though the possibility of inspiring
irritability seems to have been overlooked. I did like the old
wooden railway bridge he'd salvaged and incorporated into
the buildings. 

Lunch was calling as we drove off down Rte
29, headed for V. Sattui winery, which has picnic tables and
some delicate expensive lunches for sale. We tried instead at
the St Helena grocery store, which advertised picnic supplies.
Big surprise. Two hearty Italians made us enormous
sandwiches, with nothing but bread meat and cheese, none of
this lettuce or tomato folderol. Half a chicken plus lumps of
blue cheese went into Frank's, I asked for roast beef and got
most of the cow. Bought some grapes and a lettuce, to
introduce some light nourishment into the meal, and
staggered off to the tables in the shade. Felt distinctly bloated
afterwards, picking fragments of hooves and horns out of my
teeth. I think we got the farm labourer's lunch rather than the
touring yuppie lunch. 

Down the road to Grigich Hills winery,
quite our favourite. All the wines were good, the Chardonnay
wonderful (at $24/bottle it should be), the Fume Blanc had a
bouquet of fresh figs. Good t-shirts, quite cheap - 'Ve are not
in ze T-shirt business', to quote the Serbian Mr. Grigich. On
to Mondavi, where there were the usual crowds lined up for
tours and tasting. Frank showed his Cape Wine Academy
letter and got special treatment for us, we were allowed into
the pay-per-glass tasting room and given free tasting. How
nice. An exceptional Methode Champenoise, great body and
complexity. At $28 so it should be. 

Trefethen lay at the end of
a long drive through their vineyards, the winery is a 18-
something historical building, which used to be entirely a
gravity-fed operation. One of their Cabernets had just been
declared Best Cab. in California at the State Fair. Again, all
the wines were good, with the various Cabs a standout. Prices
not that horrendous, either. Back up Rte 29 to Tra Vigne; the
only table available was at 5 which we took. One last winery,
Folie a Deux, a small house off a dirt road. Fun wines with no
particular pretensions. Frank got a T-shirt with two capering
figures on the front and an explanation of the Folie - shared
delusions - on the back. H got one of the wine-filled
chocolate truffles.

I was too full from my lunchtime cow to do the fine food at
Tra Vigne any justice, and none of us was strong enough to
drink wine. There was a good creme brulee to finish with.
Frank was given the bill, I thought of attempting to wrest it
from him but yielded graciously. Back over the hills in the
gathering dusk, a deer by the side of the road made me slow

Tuesday I went to work as boringly usual. Frank and I ran,
rather slowly, at the Buffalo Chips interval session in the
evening. We had a delicious dinner, lamb roast with an 85
Delheim Grand Reserve, Stilton with a 20-year port, and
various carious sweets with a honey wine from Maine.
Looked through photos and slides of Frank's Kenya
expedition, Mt aux Sources 50 km trail run, and our Sierra
trip for the golden trout. Stayed home in the morning to help
clean up and chat a little. Remains of lamb with a 84
Stellenryck for lunch. Frank went to the airport and I went to
work, feeling very dull.