Thursday, February 15, 2018


…and not making it to the other side…

Pulling a bathrobe over my BVDs every morning, I step into some Birks and sneak out to pick up the newspaper at the foot of our driveway.  Something to read while enjoying my first cup of Joe.  Many mornings, an early sun lights the valley’s ridgeline opposite where we reside.  While the 101 corridor is the main route through our area, the faint traces of dirt roads and fire trails on that distant ridge capture my fancy.  Relatively new to the area, they become something I must explore.

Valentine’s Day 2018, such an exploration would be the weekly adventure I promised my wife when we moved in.  Edward, the lab-mix, would come along, too.  Checking a Topo Map App and my DeLorme California Atlas, I devise a plan.

The Mayacamas Mountains form a backbone ridge separating Sonoma/Mendocino and Lake Counties and Cloverdale from Clear Lake.

The map shows us that Pine Mountain Road is accessed, in our area, off Geysers Road.  At first, I missed the turn off.   Pine Mountain Road is a narrow, worn strip of nearly neglected pavement.  At the base of its climb, one caution sign warns “No Outlet.”  I check the map.  No, according to the Asti 7.5 minute quad, this connects with Adobe Creek Road up that-a-way.  A second sign warns us with a wiggly arrow and the words “Next 6 Miles.”  To me, that’s an invitation.

The pavement winds in and out of ravines past an eclectic collection of homes.  We drive past a fine looking adobe-colored house in a oak-studded spread that we can see from our driveway followed immediately by an ancient wood-framed get-away that once was painted green.  We recall that Charles Crocker owned a hunting lodge just a few miles south.  Our route climbs a ridge or two where the lot size comes acreage, and then whole sections.  Nine-plus miles up, the pavement ends, but mail boxes are posted at each junction and each junction is a road better than the one we’re on but gated and clearly marked “Private Property.”

Forty or so minutes dusty minutes out of town, Candi comments: “They get mail all the way up here?”  To which I respond, “They get a helluva lot for their 49-cent stamp.”

[I hesitate to take pictures of barns and houses and dirt tracks through meadows on private property this close to California’s Emerald Triangle, even though the product is somewhat more legal now.]

After an hour and fifteen bumpy minutes and about 19 miles, we come to the summit of the Mayacamas and stop for a few photos.

Clear Lake can be seen to the northeast rimmed by named and nameless peaks and ridges.

Near the summit, we are offered a grand view of Clear Lake’s dominant Mount Konocti, the volcanic and spiritual landmark for the Koi Nation, a subset of the Wappo, Pomo or Lake Miwok, each of whom watered at the lake.

Deer tracks and boar wallows, digger pines and acorned oaks cause me to think that the Lake County area of yore was more pleasing and abundant for its ancestral residents than its current populace.  [Note:  Lake County is the only California County never to have received railroad service.  A hundred years after that slight, Lake County is still one of the state’s poorest.]

The region is one of massive and dynamic forces.  The North American Plate pushing against the Pacific Plate caused the crust to buckle and ridge upon ridge to form.  Volcanic activity gave us Konocti to the east and Hull and Snow Mountains to the north, and countless cones of cinder and mud.  Just beneath the surface, a rising batholith heats subsurface water, forming the steam that is harnessed at the Geysers for geothermal electricity to power our other car: the non-Subaru Chevrolet Bolt.

Yet with all of the massive grandeur, subtle details exists to remind us of the region’s balance and delicacy.

Alas, at the top of the Mayacamas, Pine Mountain Road ends and a ramshackle gate blocks us from travel on Adobe Creek Road. 

We’ll not make it to the shores of California’s largest naturally occurring fresh water lake this day…

…and Edward – the quintessential Church of the Open Road canine – is left to wonder what might be around that next bend.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


History, like all living things, must be cared for in order to survive.
- the Church of the Open Road’s second principle

Whenever Dad would wax sentimental about some aspect of an otherwise long-forgotten yesterday, Mom would bellow: “Clayton! You have to stop living in the past!”

I think about Dad’s living-in-the-past malady as I wander down a path toward Wilder Ranch, a restored farmstead just north of Santa Cruz.

That we preserve such places offers a window into a past we should not forget.

Farmstead residences ranged from the elegant to the hovel.  Some still dot our rural landscapes.

Barns – among my favorite roadside attractions – could be rustic or things of architectural beauty as well.

Getting to and from may have involved a day’s buggy ride or a whistle stop from the tracks that passed through the property.

The advent of the automobile, even in its most primitive forms, provided independence but proved the death knell for rail travel.

Gone, also, is the everyman, jack-of-all-trades requirement.  When something broke, it got fixed – oftentimes by the owner – rather than tossed out and replaced.

When a gear in a drill press bound up, with some assessment, some deconstruction and some grease or oil and some reassembly, the user was back to drilling holes.  When the electronic ignition module on an F-150 or a microchip fails on an iMac or Dell, the user is kinda screwed.

Browsing through the working replica farm, I wonder if I have the stuff necessary to be a self-reliant problem-solver, the likes of which rural life in 1900 required: mechanic skills, physical strength, reason, patience.

Maybe all of that is a knack or a collection of knacks one acquires.  Or maybe it’s been bred out of us by the conveniences of today.

And if that’s the case, it’s good that we are offered the opportunity to look back with a degree of awe and wonder at what people used to do.

An hour’s respite from the saddle is well spent living in the past.  Thanks, “Clayton.”


Note:  Each of California’s State Historic Parks is worth a visit.  Wilder Ranch is a few minutes north of Santa Cruz on California’s scenic State Route 1.  Information about the Wilder Ranch Cultural Preserve may be found at:

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press