Thursday, June 21, 2018


The correct – but incorrect – answer is “C”

Quick quiz:  When in a party of two or more, one person, experiencing chest discomfort, stops, sits and most likely says what?  Is it:

A)        “I’ve had enough for today.  I’ve got to turn around,” or
B)        “Whale.  Oil. Beef.  Hooked.  (For maximum impact, practice saying that really fast.)  I think I’m havin’ a coronary,” or
C)        “You guys go ahead.  I’ll wait here.  Maybe I’ll catch up in a minute.”

Conrad, Suzie and I had just left the parking area for our second little high-country hike of the day.  The first jaunt found us on a steep trail wading through foot-and-a-half deep snow remnants to a magnificent view of the High Sierra.  

Worsening trail conditions turned us back and after lunch-with-a-view and a short drive on a dirt road, we arrived at a second, slightly lower in elevation trailhead.

Just past a sign indicating we were entering a designated wilderness area, and after what seemed like a pretty easy uphill stretch, Conrad plopped down on a rock or a stump and while not exactly clutching his chest said, “I’m feeling some pain here,”

Conrad didn’t look his normal self, but I knew he wanted to see what was over the next rise or around the next bend.  It’s in his DNA.  So is heart trouble.  His father, at about the same age didn’t make it to church to preach one Sunday, rather he made it to the ER a few blocks away.

Our closest ER would be forty-plus forest road miles away and cell phone coverage?  What’s that?

“You go on,” Conrad said.

“Nope, I’m stayin’ here.”

Eighteen years before, while serving as a school principal, Mrs. Nelson, a teacher, was called upon to drag me from my office to a nearby building where staff was feting me with cake and ice cream for Bosses Day.  (Oh, how I hated Bosses Day!)  A few feet out the door, it felt as if someone had taken a swing at my chest with a sledge hammer.  Staggered a bit more than I’d like to admit, I diverted to the multipurpose room, across the breezeway, saying, “I need to sit down for a moment.  You go ahead.  I’ll catch up in a minute.”  Unfolding a chair, I sat in the dark.  Mrs. Nelson touched her palm to my clammy forehead and chose not to leave.

Suzie had trekked up the trail perhaps fifty yards, up and around a switchback to a point where she could look down upon us.  She held of the same Gotta-Explore DNA as her brother.  Conrad sat on the stump/rock.  Amidst some small talk, I ascertained that Conrad thought perhaps he’d eaten too much lunch; that a physical ten or twelve years ago uncovered a restricted artery; that this happens every once in a while; that he hadn’t had a comprehensive physical in he didn’t know how long; and that, at 59, he was about the same age as this father when Dad had had an incident.

Shadows across the trail somehow prevented my eye contact with Suzie.  Foolish discretion about not wanting Conrad to feel badly about truncating a hike kept me from saying anything to Suzie.  Ultimately, Conrad decided to soldier on, first at a very reserved pace, then at a much sloggier gate than his usual.  I followed, all the time thinking, “The further he goes, the further I’m going to have to carry his ass out.”

After about two-and-a-half miles – these with no stunning view – we turned back around.  Downhill was easier.

That night at the cabin, over some shared Knob Creek, we conversed.  He began, “I think it’s just part of getting older.  You know, like you and your bad knee.”

“If I blow a knee out on a trail, I suspect I’d survive.  I’ll whine like a baby, but I’ll probably survive.”  Then I asked, “When was the last time you had an EKG?”

“Ten, maybe twelve years ago,” he confirmed, adding what he’d found out with that exam.

“Maybe you should see about getting a fresh one.”

An eye was not batted as he said, “It’s just part of getting older.  Besides, with a $5,000.00 out-of-pocket insurance policy – silver level they call it – I can’t afford to go in for the test.”

So, there you have it, I thought.  Conrad could expire on the trail because he doesn’t feel he can afford the care needed to, perhaps, mitigate the problem.

“Well, pal,” I said, “You need to know that, in the future, if you have a heart attack out there on the trail, I’m probably not gonna drag your ass back to the car.”  I raised my whiskey glass.  “I’ve got a bad knee.”


Notes and a plea:  The incident at school proved not to be life-threatening.  It was a simple transient ischemic attack according to the folks at the hospital.  But Mrs. Nelson didn’t know that.  She just stayed with me.  To this day, I embarrass her by reminding her that she saved my life.  

Mrs. Nelson knew not to leave the victim because of Red Cross (or similar) CPR/first aid training she received every other year sponsored by our school district.

If you haven’t renewed your card, do so.  Please enter “CPR Training” or “First Aid Training” in your browser and sign up for a refresher near you.  I may be riding through your town and need your assistance.

Know that I’ll be renewing mine…
… in case you should ever need me. 

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


A visit to Van Arsdale Dam

Today’s little adventure finds me locating the Van Arsdale Dam – one of only two on the entire Eel River Complex.  (Note that the Eel River watershed is the third largest in all of California.)  Also known as Cape Horn Dam, it and its powerhouse became operational in 1908.  I’ve been wanting to see this since we moved to the area a few years ago.

The dam itself seems like quite the early 20thCentury engineering marvel.  Built in concert with Scott’s Dam which impounds Lake Pillsbury 15 or 20 miles upstream, the pool itself is relatively small.  Water cascades over the stair-step face on the dam providing a nice soundtrack to a morning summer ride.  I can only image the roar during high water seasons knowing that the Eel has a propensity for washing out rail lines and wiping out towns further downstream.

The water held in Van Arsdale Reservoir is diverted through a tunnel to Potter Valley four miles to the south.  A powerhouse stands somewhere at the north end of that valley, but banjo music, increasing in volume over the hum of Enrico, the Yamaha’s motor, prompted me to turn back as the road wound into the pretty remote country and turned to gravel. Location of the powerhouse was not marked on the map I carried.

A small network of canals provides for the irrigation needs of ranchers in the beautiful and relatively remote Potter Valley, but much of the water channeling through supplies the Sonoma County Water Agency which contributes to the growth of towns along the Russian River from Ukiah south and west.

Non-diverted water remains in the Eel twisting through remote and rugged canyons until emerging at the Pacific Ocean near Fortuna.  On-going arguments are offered that without the diversion from the Eel to the Russian, farming and growth from Hopland to Healdsburg would be stunted.  With the diversion, however, in low-flow years, as we have experienced during this on-going drought, downstream salmon and steelhead fisheries on the Eel suffer.

No act of human engineering – no matter how marvelous – comes without some costs or compromise. As licensure for the Van Arsdale project comes up for renewal in the near term, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes are in the offing.


Today’s Route:  From CA 20 between US 101 and Upper Lake, look for signs and exit north on Potter Valley Road. Head north.  Just as the road turns west (at the store) turn right on Eel River Road.  The road climbs out of the valley at the north, corkscrewing through oaks and diggers offering expansive views but few, if any, places to safely stop for a photo. Bear left at the top-of-the-hill fork and wind about a mile or so down into a valley and left again onto Van Arsdale Road.  The dam and CA Fish and Game facility is on the right but fenced.  Nobody answered when I knocked at the door.  Walking back up the hill, I could see the fellas at work monitoring stream flow and capturing water samples.

Return? Bear left at the fork and following Eel River Road for about two miles.  At the junction, a right turn will carry you up the Eel River Cut-off back to the fork at the top of the hill.  Continuing straight (east) will take you along the deepening canyon of the Eel, then, skirting a ridge, up to Lake Pillsbury.  A loop can be made from there down to the community of Upper Lake in Lake County.  (Get lunch there at the Blue Wing Restaurant!)  A nice road for heavier dual sports.

This little ride was a good early morning jaunt, affording me the opportunity to check something off my bucket list.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Killing for Land in Early California: Indian Blood at Round Valley 1856-1863 – a book recommendation

Required reading for a full understanding 
of our conquest of the American West 
and, perhaps, our current state of affairs

Killing for Land in Early California: Indian Blood at Round Valley 1856-1863 by Frank H Baumgardner III.  Algora Publishing. 2006. $23.  (Out of print but still available with some searching.)

A couple of months back, I reported on Carranco and Beard’s Genocide and Vendetta, the expose of atrocities committed just north of here by white settlers upon their discovery of a fertile and hidden Round Valley.  Here’s a link:

Recall that the volume, published in 1981 by the University of Oklahoma Press, inflamed the passions of the descendants of the victors to the extent that a bogus plagiarism law suit prompted the U of O to suspend publication.  Many of the copies, it has been reported, were snatched up and destroyed by those eager to erase this bloody portion of California history. Remaining few may be had by ponying up prices ranging from $350 to $1140, depending on condition, either on line or, if you’re lucky, at a used book store.

My concluding admonition was “Let’s do what we can to ensure voices are not stilled by those they might offend or expose.”

An Amazon search (although I did not purchase my copy from Jeff Bezos) found Baumgardner’s Killing for Land, a text that might cover the same ground.  The independent Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah was able to find a new copy for me.

Baumgardner references Carranco and Beard frequently but also cites period newspapers, federal and state reports and records, dissertations, census reports and personal interviews in order to detail how local land owners and wanna-be cattle barons thwarted the government’s attempt to provide sanctuary to displaced Native Americans.  While serious corruption occurred on the watch of some Indian administrators – corruption that lead to those folks looking away as Euro-American war parties set off to slaughter the natives based upon false claims of horse and cattle depredations – many others reported that the Native Americans were peaceable, willing to learn farm trades and desirous of learning the language.

Set in history against the backdrop of the Civil War, folks in Washington, while in receipt of reports and requests for monetary support for the Round Valley Reservation, barely afforded those requests passing attention.  Thus, seed supplies for the Nome Cult Farm, established on the reservation to create self-sufficiency, were denied or ignored.  Government Agents had little resource to repair fences pulled down by settlers or establish tribunals to call those guilty Euro-Americans to task. With the fences down, Government livestock wandered off to be appropriated by the settlers.  Crops were grazed off by settler’s cattle or trampled to dust.  

With the assent of the Agent, Native Americans from as far away as Chico-Oroville (the Concow) and Placer-Nevada Counties (the Maidu) starving, left the “protection” provided by the government to return to their ancestral homelands.  Leaving in October, before the streams were too full to cross and before the snow flew, more than 450 Concow struggled to return to Butte County only to find white settlers there unwilling to allow them back.  Returning over the Mayacamas (Coast Range) just 277 survived.  184 had departed or died on the trail.  It was California’s “Trail of Tears.”

Captain Charles D Douglas, Commander of Company F, 2ndInf, Round Valley California, in a message to headquarters wrote: “Now the Question is which of the two parties is to blame for this wild and disorderly state of Indian affairs, the Government Agents or the Settlers?”

The lens of history shows us that it was a combination of factors: Poor support for managing the reservation coming out of DC, superior weaponry in the hands of settlers, greed, corruption and bald-faced lying under oath, all coupled with the remote and rugged nature of the terrain made supervision and first-hand observations of the Mendocino Indian War less than a footnote in the troubled history of the times.

The area Yukis, Wailaki and Pomo were doomed from the moment the first whites set eyes on the place.

In the text’s final line, Baumgardner cheekily concludes: “There may be a little poetic justice in the recent success of Native American tribes through the legalization of casino gambling.”

My conclusions are darker: 

1          “…California Indians were among the most gentle and ‘primitive’ of North America’s aboriginal peoples. Most were generally at peace and harmony with their environment, and that harmony – exemplified in their view of nature and themselves as parts of a whole and their acceptance of what life offered them – branded the California Indians as hopelessly ignorant, lazy, backward and ignoble in the eyes of many of the whites.” [quoting Elizabeth Renfro in The Shasta Indians and Their Neighbors, 1992].  Renfro’s quote sounds starkly similar to the thoughts of some of my fellow citizens regarding blacks, Mexicans, Muslims…  After all: Who are we if we cannot say we are better than someone else?

2          George Santayana reminds us: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Reading about the corruption, theft, falsehoods and protection of the guilty from the Round Valley Wars, an apt then-and-now comparison might be drawn.

3.         Therefore, I’d again suggest: Let’s do what we can to ensure voices are not stilled by those they might offend or expose.

This is a difficult volume to read, very textbook-like but, I would hazard, quite essential if we are to gain understanding of and an appreciation for a fragment of history those once in power would just as soon have us forget.  

It is well worth asking your local independent book seller to search out a copy for you.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press