Tuesday, December 5, 2017
RETURN TO THE GEYSERS
Ed’s Little Adventure for the Week
Ed needed an adventure and so did I. It seems making the rounds through the neighborhood looking for a new place to poop* was falling short of his canine expectations.
We hopped in the Subaru and headed for the hills.
East of Cloverdale lies the Geysers geo-thermal unit. Our other car being a Bolt, this is where her “gasoline” comes from. We thought we’d check it out.
Ed is not a fan of windy roads, but if “Dad” is driving, he’ll go.
The first interesting site was an old steel bridge. There are many on the more remote roads in Sonoma County. (There are two out on Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road a few miles from the coast.)
All seem of about the same vintage and all hail from the Phoenix Iron Works, Philadelphia, PA.
One has to wonder how I-beams got around the horn back in the earliest days of the 20th century, let along fifteen or twenty rugged miles from the NWP depot in Healdsburg, Geyserville or maybe Cloverdale.
Just check out the ruggedness of the terrain from the span.
We looked up (meaning ‘Googled’) Phoenix Iron works upon our return and discovered this: http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-2BD
Next we passed the site of an old quicksilver mine: quicksilver (mercury) being the element essential to the separation of gold from ore and overburden.
The Coast Range in our region is dotted with tiny mines where this material was extracted for use during the later half of the 19th century in California. Here are remains of another about a mile away...
The element is so prevalent that, in the nearby Clear Lake basin, it has leached out of disturbed ground and contaminated the waters to the point where fish caught there are considered toxic.
Further up the road we ventured, passing places where the pavement had crumbled and where half of the two-lane had dissolved and slid down the hillside.
Fifteen miles and forty minutes in, we come to a fork. Left takes us to the Geysers Geo-thermal array. Signs and an imposing guardhouse warn us off. 130 years ago, a resort and spa had been built up this way, according to a recent story in the local paper. Tough to get to, it struggled for quite some time until closed in the 1980s and subsequently was razed.
Here’s a little general history of the area: http://thegga.org/history.html. (The 1848-1890 section affords me a little way-back-when dreaminess.)
Rather than converse too much with the uniformed individual sporting reflective lens dark glasses (while in the shade of the deep canyon), we flip a U turn and seek a wide spot for sight seeing.
A small marker is located about a mile from the locked entrance placed by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Nearby, a set of three explanatory placards set in concrete probably pointed to highlights of the canyon’s geomorphology and how that makes it the perfect place to harness power with minimal environmental concern.
But, alas, somebody determined that these informational signs would better be removed and may well be decorating that somebody’s rec room. Still, from that wide spot, we took in a view of the south-facing ridge noting the location of facilities both on the hillside and on the top. And pipes! Pipes snaking everywhere!
Ed was not particularly happy, as I know he enjoys me reading stuff to him, but I figure he and I will one day catch up with the fellow who’d swiped the signs, check out the text we’d missed today and perhaps shoot a couple of racks of pool in the fellow’s man cave.
Tours of the geo-thermal workings can be arranged through Cal-Pine. For general information and a tour schedule check out: http://www.geysers.com/visit.aspx I’ve added this to my bucket list.
In October, when that firestorm roared through Napa and Sonoma County devastating neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, its little brother, dubbed “the Pocket Fire,” danced across the ridgelines of this area.
Taking that other route at the junction, we pause, just west of Mercuryville – population 2, according to the singed sign – we come to a viewpoint that dramatically illustrates how the fire hopscotched from here to there.
It has been said that the fire behaved in an erratic manner. From this vantage point, I’d offer to disagree. It seems the conflagration would race up the side of a ridge on the wings of an upslope wind, and when it got there, with no breeze to push it down over the other side (hot air rises) it died at the top. Thus, some stands of digger pine and oak were spared.
Some properties, however, were not. At the junction of Geysers Road and a private lane leading toward Geyser Peak, scorched fence lines and manzanita prove they were on the rails when that freight train of wind came a-blowin’.
As was this propane tank.
A few miles south and west, well outside the path of the fire, a view of the Russian River Valley unfolds. The becoming-hip village of Geyserville rests just below the line scribed by US 101 on the opposite side of the valley.
And a quintessential Church of the Open Road shot reveals the route curving out of sight behind a knoll begging the question, “What could be around that next bend?”
Although he was unable to “get” any of the several turkeys or deer he spied from the tinted windows of the Subie, Ed bedded down as soon as we got home and within minutes, his feet were twitching and moving. A series of little dog-squeaks indicated he may, indeed, have finally been hot on the trail of that game he saw on this adventure.
He’s such a good boy.
Today’s Route and Notes: US 101 to Cloverdale. Exit to South Cloverdale Blvd; north to 1st Street; east, crossing Russian River (nice paved river front walk here) to River Road; left on River Road; continue straight at junction with Geysers Road. 13 miles along Big Sulphur Creek passing junction marked Geysers to the left, Healdsburg (25) to the right. Two miles to gate. Return: Bear left toward Healdsburg at junction. Follow generally nice pavement (with a few interruptions for washouts) past old Mercuryville, Geyser Peak; wind down the west facing slopes into the Alexander Valley and CA 128 to Healdsburg or Geyserville and US 101.
Hot, dry and rather unpleasant late July through early October. Beautiful late autumn through early summer. All area land is private (respect it!) with little access to creeks, but ample pull out for photographs and great views of the distant Russian River Valley(s).
*Edward didn’t find a good place to poop.
Church of the Open Road Press