From Tucson to San Diego

Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego, or rather in Jamul (ha.ˈmu:l) in the southeastern suburbs, at the home of my friends Fabienne and Wayne. As you can see, I’m getting a lot of work done on the blog, but, I assure you, on some papers too.

The trip from Tucson to here was eventful.


September 30th to October 3rd

I leave Tucson early in the afternoon on September 30th, direction due west on Interstate 8.

I plan to stay at Picacho State Recreation Area in California, on the Colorado River. It’s a dirt road, however, some 18 miles long, that leads to the park from the small town of Winterhaven. I hesitate, but the website says that any low-clearence, 2 wheel-drive vehicle or RV can easily get there. I am really looking foward to spending a few days in an isolated and peaceful place near water, where I can swim and get some work done.  So I go for it. Unfortunately, I get a late start because I go shopping in Yuma. By the time I’m approaching the park it’s already dark and I can’t see the road very well any more. It’s a very sandy road and, of course, Van gets stuck.

Van, how could you do this to me? (But I know it’s my own fault.)

There’s only one thing to do, spend the night right here.  I manage to get Van over to the side of the road, to a level place where I can sleep. But wait, there is something else to do. Have a beer! I do so.

It’s only seven in the evening, but I’m exhaused, so I go to bed and read for a while. Needless to say, I don’t sleep very well.

I wake up early and as soon as it’s light I try to get Van unstuck which I manage to do quite easily. It’s a good road, in fact, just very sandy in some places. I imagine that if it hadn’t been dark, I wouldn’t have got stuck. I’m only two miles from the park now, but I don’t want to go any further, I don’t want to risk getting stuck again, especially since it’s downhill towards the beach and I might have difficulty getting back up. I’m disappointed, because I was looking forward to swimming. It’s very hot here. I turn around and head back to civilization, and to a good breakfast in a restaurant in Yuma.

But I do have a plan B. I head west again, stopping in the town of El Centro to wash Van. After that, it’s up into the coastal mountains to Laguna Mountain Recreation Area where I camp for two days.

I like it here. It’s an alpine area above 6,000 feet, so it’s cool; after the Arizona desert this is refreshing. The campground is nearly empty, though they’re expecting a lot of people for the weekend.

The campground is in Cleveland National Forest…

1_Cleveland National Forest

…in an area which, like Portal and Patagonia, is known for its varied bird population:

2_Voice of the forest_sign


The ritual photos of my campsite…

3_Campsite 1

…which may seem repetitive to you, but…

4_Campsite 2

…to me each campsite is unique. And when I move on I always feel a little sad.  This place has been my home for however long or short a time.


The Burnt Rancheria Campground (which is not burnt at all) is near this café where they have a wonderful coffee that has pine nut in it. They’re open for dinner in the evening and so I go there once for my evening meal.

5_Café & Tavern

And nearby there is also a post office, a sporting goods store and a general store with cabins to rent. Further along there are more campgrounds. We’re only little more than an hour from San Diego here, so the area is a popular mountain retreat.


Of course, some of the local wildlife can be dangerous:


I’ve been warned about rattlesnakes throughout my travels, even in the towns. Captain, Dirk and I nearly stumbled upon one near Gila Hot Springs. So I think it might be appropriate to say a few words about them.  You can learn more about rattlesnakes here, and see some pictures here. It’s reassuring to know that these snakes rarely bite and will do so only if provoked or surprised. If treated promptly, their bite is rarely fatal. More importantly, they are predators and help keep down the populations of many birds and rodents. They are also prey themselves to hawks, weasles and king snakes.

But if you see one on your doorstep one day, I’d understand a panicky reaction.


We’re in an alpine forest here…

8_Alpine forest

…with, as is frequent in the coastal regions of California, a fair amount of oak and other deciduous trees…

7_Green forest

…but, once again, the desrt is never far…

9_Desert is never far_Pacific Crest...


Just a short walk from the campground we are on the Desert View Trail where we once again find desert vegetation:

10_Prickly pear, again

For a short time, this trail is part of the well-known Pacific Crest Trail.


The presence of deciduous trees here leads me to discover something I haven’t yet seen on this trip, autumn colors:

11_Discovery here...

12_Autumn colors...

And I’m reminded that time is passing and that I’m now in the final month of my road trip.

I camp here for two nights and regroup after the stressful experience at Picacho.  But San Diego is waiting…


August 18th, 2014

I leave Redding this morning, heading east into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After getting back from the hot springs yesterday afternoon I did some shopping and a few other errands. Redding is the California town that, in fact, I now know the best. It’s where my mother lived for many years until her death in October of 2013. I would visit her here and spend days at a time in town and visiting the surrounding area.

I pass by my mother’s house on my way out of town. The new owners have, of course, changed it a bit. They have removed a large shade tree that was in front of the house, something I would not have done since summer temperatures here regularly reach 35 to 40 °C or higher. Here’s a picture of the house:

32_mom's house2


Van is ready to go:

33_next morning, ready to leave


And I arrive in the aptly named town of Johnsville around 2 in the afternoon, via the Feather River Canyon scenic route. I stop for a swim along the way, but take no pictures.

Here we are in the Sierra, in an old mining town, where a childhood friend of mine, Mark, and his wife Katie, have a house. We visit the old mine and its museum. Here’s Mark and Katie in front of the old asseyor’s office:

2_Mark and wife Katie


Here’s Mark:

1_my friend Mark

The sign on the end of the trough says the we can pan for gold here all day for just 4$. We have other things to do.


The mine facilities, which finally closed during the first World War:

3_the mine

It hasn’t been maintained the way the Assay Office has, or the Blacksmith shop:

4_blacksmith shop 6_inside the blacksmith shop


Johnsville is entirely surrounded by Plumas Eureka State Park, and the town itself is a Plumas County Historical Reserve. Houses must be restored or built respecting the styles of 1880. We take a long walk around the town.

Mark and Katie’s house:

7_M & K's house in Johnsville 7b_their house bis


Another house that was in Mark’s family for a long time:

8_red house in Mark's family 9_red house2


There are many picturesque and attractive houses in town:

10_grey house


These more rustic ones:

12_rustic wooden house 13_another rustic


These, either renovated or newly built in the style of the period:

14_cute farm style house 15_modern rustic house


This one is for sale:

16_house for sale

Mark tells me that there are at least six houses for sale in Johnsville at the moment.


Then there is the old Johnsville Hotel:

11bis_hotel 11ter_hotel


Of course there are a few period structures too:

18_old fire house 19_a period structure

The one on the left was once the Johnsville Fire Department.


The Johnsville Historical Society occupies the old church:




22_inside the old church

…there is a display of period kitchen wares…

23_display of period kitchen wares

…a period organ and piano:

24_organ 25_upright piano


After an excellent dinner we take a bumpy drive up the mountain to Eureka Lake for a swim:



The next morning I take a few pictures of the deer that come near the house. Mark has set out a salt lick for them on a tree stump:

29_deer at salt lick


They soon see me, but don’t seem too afraid:

30_they see me, but...

The chipmunks, however, avoid my camera.

I leave Johnsville just after breakfast.  And now, as promised, I am off on my true road trip, out across the desert.

Shasta County Days

August 16th, 2014

I leave Fort Bragg just after breakfast and drive north along the coast on California’s famous Highway 1:

2_up the coast-2

1_Driving up the coast-1

You can see how the fog hangs over us…

…but it’s still a beautiful drive:

3_up the coast-3


Soon the road turns inland and joins Highway 101 through the Eel River Valley. Here the road is known as the “Avenue of the Giants”, but I take no pictures. We’ve all had enough redwoods. It’s warm and sunny here and there are plenty of places to stop and swim, but I don’t stop yet. As we approach the coast and the town of Eureka it gets cool and grey again, but I turn east on California Highway 36 through the Van Duzen River Valley. It’s warm here and, lo and behold, I find the perfect place to swim (yet another one):

4_Van Duzen River Valley

5_a place to swim

But I don’t stay long.  I have a long drive ahead of me, over mountain ridges and through river canyons, where it will be increasingly hot.  Thankfully, Van is well air conditioned. I arrive in Redding in the late afternoon and check into a motel I know, take a long nap and then go to a Japanese restaurant that I like.


August 17th, 2014

The next morning I get up early and head eastward to the tiny town of Big Bend near which there are some so-called “primitive” hot springs, which is to say undeveloped, not like Orr.

I go to the Kosk Creek hot springs, which are a ten minute walk from the main road, along this dirt road:

6_the road to Kosk Creek


Somone has decided to point the way…

7_someone has pointed the way

…down this trail where…

8_now we follow this trail

…blackberries are ripening:

9_blackberries are in season


These are primitive hot springs, but nevertheless with some restrictions:

10_primitive springs but some restrictions

I entirely agree .


And then, just over a rise…

11_and over a rise

…the first of several pools.

The first pool closer up:

12_the first pool

Notice the convenient platform that someone has built. There are any number of improvements that have been made here over the years, such as the rock and cement soaking pools themselves.

Just above the pool is this convenient bench that someone has built:


One of the best things about Kosk Creek is this swimming hole just in front of the first pool:

13_swimming hole


Kosk Creek as it flows into the swimming hole:

14_Kosk Creek-upper


And now looking downstream where there are two other spring-fed pools along the creek bank:

15_and downstream, other springs


Here is the original spring that feeds the soaking pool:

16_original spring

The water is very hot, and the pool is very small. You can’t soak here.

So I soak and swim, and soak and swim, and chat with two other hot springs aficionados who are at the nearby springs downstream. Hot springs fans are a community unto themselves, sometimes rather marginal and eccentric, but ecologically aware and in search of peace and quiet. We exchange information about other springs that we know.

The swimming hole as seen from the pool:

21_swimming hole, seen from pool

My feet, as I soak in the first pool:



Downstream, near the other pools, someone has built these now-familiar rock structures:

19_in memoriam

But I want to go to another pool that I know, further downstream. These stairs lead the way:



And I follow this trail through the forest:

24_trail to lower springs

No redwoods here!  This forest is typical of the interior regions of northern California: pine, spruce, bay and madrone.


After a few minutes walk I arrive at the lower pools. I came here last September with my friend Richard, aka “Captain”:

25_lower springs with canopy

Someone has put up this canopy for protection against the afternoon sun. But this is mid morning, there is no escaping the sun.

The lower pool, up close:

26_lower springs pool-1


And from a distance:



I have a soak, a swim and I take some pictures. And then I have a little mishap. I’m walking about, taking pictures. I think to put down my camera, but I forget that I’m wearing my glasses.  I plunge into the water to swim and realize too late that I still have my glasses on. Of course I lose them in the swiftly flowing water.  The water is clear and I try to find the glasses, but it’s no use.


This next picture was in fact taken last September by Captain. It’s me swimming, precisely where I lost my glasses.

30_last year bis


Some of my friends at home in Besançon will remember that I lost those same glasses last winter. I waited, thinking they would turn up, but I finally had them replaced. Then I found the first pair and so, fortunately, I have an extra pair here with me.

I don’t think my lost glasses will make their way back to me this time.




On the Mendocino coast

August 13th, 2014

I leave Orr Hotsprings just after lunch and arrive in Fort Bragg at the end of the afternoon at the home of my longtime friend, Louise.  The Mendocino coast in summer is a land of fog and cool temperatures, though a few miles inland Mendocino County is warm and sunny.

Here is Van parked in front of Louise’s house:

1_Louise's house 1


The house is set among redwoods just north of town:

2_Louise's house 2


In her garden out back Louise grows much of her own food.  The area has a very long growing season:

3_Louise's garden


Here’s Louise and her dog, Oso:

4_Louise and dog


Dinner this evening is salmon poached with dill…

6_salmon for dinner

…with vegetables and salad from the garden:

7_salmon, radishes and salad


Louise with her son Isaac:

5_Louise with Isaac


The next day Louise and I drive inland to visit another redwood forest, Hendy Woods:

8_Hendy Woods entrance


I’m not going to show you all of my photos; you’ve already seen plenty of redwoods, but a few of these are worthwhile to give you an idea of the size of these trees:

9_Louise and redwood tree

10_John and redwood tree


Here’s Louise standing inside one of the burnt-out trees:

12_Louise inside burnt out redwood


…and on top of a fallen stump:

11_Louise on top of fallen stump


There are some interesting tree sculptures here too:

14_more sculpture

…and up close:

15_sculpture up close


But we don’t only visit redwoods. We also go wine tasting at several of the area’s many wineries. Here’s just one of them, called “Toulouse”:

16_Toulouse winery

And some of our purchases:

23_some of our purchases at the wineries

Notice the goose on each label.


On the way home we find a perfect place on the Navarro River for a swim:

20_perfect place for a swim

But it’s getting late:

22_but it was getting late


The next day Louise and I take a long walk in the morning, and in the afternoon we go for a bike ride along the Navarro River:

24_bike ride_fog

Notice the fog. We’re at the mouth of the river, just a few steps from the beach.

Louise, after an hour’s pedaling:

25_Louise after an hour's pedaling

And me, looking fat and out of breath:

26_and me, looking fat and...

By now the sun has appeared and it’s getting warm.

The road goes on…

27_the road goes on

…with its share of wildflowers…

28_among the plant life are these flowers

…and the ever-present poison oak:

29_along with the poison oak


At some point we get side tracked onto this trail while looking for a place to swim:

30_we get side tracked on this trail, but...

But it’s getting late and we have to turn around. We must have done about 15 miles.

Evening comes and Isaac makes us an excellent dinner; some friends of his come over, Michael and Alexandra. Unfortunately, I forget to get out my camera. The following morning I leave Fort Bragg, heading north again, but first we go out for breakfast.

Louise and Isaac at the restaurant:

31_L&I at breakfast the next morning

It has been a wonderful few days on the Mendocino coast.

In Montgomery Woods (2)

Just moments after leaving the site of my previous post I did indeed find the official entrance to Montgomery Woods, with a proper sign, a parking lot, restrooms, etc. Bicycles aren’t allowed here, so I leave the bike and head out along the loop trail. The trail goes up and up. I couldn’t have biked it.

1_Mont2_ trail begins and climbs 2_Mont2_and climbed


But the trail finally levels off and we enter the forest of old-growth redwoods:

4_Mont2_ and we enter the old growth...


Sunlight shines down from on high:

5.1_Mont2_light shines down1


We see traces of the forest fire of 2008:

5_Mont2_traces of the fire of 2008


And here we arrive in one of the best preserved parts of the grove. No wonder they call redwood groves “nature’s cathedrals”:

6_Mont2_nature's cathedrals


Further along the trail I come upon a fallen tree:

7_Mont2_further along, fallen tree


But, of course, redwoods are not alone here. Ferns flood the forest floor in some places:

8_Mont2_flood of green ferns


Clover too:

9_Mont2_ other undergrowth_clover


And California’s ever present poison oak:

10_Mont2_poison oak


Further along there is more and more evidence of the fire. This tree has its trunk totally burnt out, and yet it still lives:

12_Mont2_burnt out tree trunk 13_Mont2_but this tree lives still


This one is badly burnt too, and no longer lives:

14_Mont2_this one burned too 15_Mont2_but no longer lives


More traces of the fire:

16_Mont2_more burn 17_Mont2_and more burn


And much burn debris scattered about:

18_Mont2_burn debris

But we learn from the different information signs that forest fires are in fact good for the redwoods.  Their bark is resistant to the flames and fires cleanse the forest floor and allow the undergrowth to renew itself.


Here, a fallen tree serves as a stairway and a walkway:

19_Mont2_downed tree stairway 20_Mont2_and bridge walkway


The trail meanders through a meadow of ferns:

21_Mont2_ trail through ferns


And a stream, though dry in this season, runs through it all:

22_Mont2_stream runs through it


Far back in the canyon, I come upon this makeshift memorial:

23_Mont2_memorial altar

Notice the bouquet of roses.  If you zoom in you can see a photo of a young man on the left, and you can make out the details of many of these small piles of stones.  I decide that I’ll leave something in memoriam too.


I quickly gather a few stones:

24_Mont2_my rock collection



From this collection I select a few.  Six will do. And I make the following pile which I show here from four different angles:

25_Mont2_tribute1 26_Mont2_tribute2

27_Mont2_tribute3 28_Mont2_tribute4

And I dedicate this to the memory of my parents, Phillip Eugene and Jean Darlene, the father and mother of  Tim, Larry and John.

Dad died many years ago, Mom remarried and moved to Redding with her new husband.  But today Phil and Jean are together again here, in a cemetery in Petaluma:

29_Phil and Jean



It’s getting late now, and I take another trail back down the canyon:

30_Mont2_trail_back1 31_Mont2_trail_back2 32_Mont2_trail_back3


Along the way, I see these deer.  I’ve seen quite a few of them, but they don’t like to be photographed:

33_Mont2_deer1 34_Mont2_deer2


When I get back to the parking lot I come across this duo:

35_chickens in the parking lot


I have no idea what they’re doing here, or where they come from. This will be one of the many little mysteries of my journey.


In Montgomery Woods (1)

I got on my bike my first morning at Orr and rode two miles to Montgomery Woods, hoping to have a nice long ride among the redwoods. Everything started out just fine. The trail was pretty:



I quickly encountered a few giant redwoods:




To give you a better idea of their size, here’s a picture of the bike leaning against a stump:



I soon encountered a few funny sights, like this small tree bent over the trail:



But the next sight was a bit disconcerting at first. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and I came to an abrupt halt when I saw this:



No problem, though, and so I went on my way.  But the trail soon got narrower:



And the forest got thinner:



Obstacles soon appeared:

8_Mont1_obstacles_appeared 9_Mont1_finally_got_so_bad


I decided to leave the bike and continue on foot. Here’s the bike looking forlorn and fearful where I chained it to a tree:



By now I was starting to think that I had make a mistake and that this place couldn’t be the real Montgomery State Reserve. And then I came upon this friendly sign, and another sign on the other side of the very same tree:

11_Mont1_friendly_sign 12_Mont1_other_side_of_same_tree


Notice the grafitti: “Walk along creek to parking lot”. So I turned back, picked up the bike and made my back to the road where I realized that I should have payed attention to some signals. This trashed and abandoned camper:



And this tacky sign:



Notice the name of then-governor Arnold Schwarzenneger. I’ve lived abroad so long that I sometimes forget that Schwarzenegger was actually California’s governor for a number of years, the state’s chief executive. The “governator”, as he was known.

Now I realize that I definitely made some mistake. There must be another entrance somewhere. So on I go, looking for the right place.

At Orr Hot Springs

I’ve long been a fan of hot springs. With friends, back in our university days I used to go to a place called The Geysers, an old hot springs resort, now no longer in operation. In recent years, in California, I’ve spent time at Wilbur Hot Springs. I like to soak in warm and relaxing mineral waters. It’s good for skin problems and for stress. A few days at such a place is a pause in time, a visit to another space.  This was my first time at Orr.

Northwest of Ukiah, in Mendocino County, the site and grounds are located in an isolated and forested canyon.

1_Orr_entrance 2_Orr_lodge

3_Orr_peace 4_Orr_flowers

5_Orr_gardens 6_Orr_places to relax

I parked Van in their car-camping area.

7_Orr_Van's_parking_place 8_Orr_Van_parked_bike

I would have liked to have a little more space around me, personal space for a real campsite, but Orr is so calm and quiet that this was just fine.  I had access to the communal kitchen to prepare my meals and soI still haven’t used Van’s kitchen.

My bedroom in Van:


One morning I realized that there had been visitors during the night:


There is a lot of wildlife here. Squirrels, of course, but I didn’t manage to get a picture.  And deer wander the grounds freely:


And these cheeky creatures too, especially near the kitchen:


Orr has many little bungalows to rent, like this one:


But the main attraction is the baths:

16_Orr_the real_attraction 17_Orr_second_pool

Further along there’s a another warm pool, a cold swimming pool, a sauna and steam bath.

Here I am, having a soak:


One of the best things about Orr is that it’s is very near Montgomery State Nature Reserve where you can walk among groves of old-growth redwoods.  More on than later.

Heading north today

I’m heading north to Medocino County today, to Orr Hot Springs to be exact. I’ll be camping at a hot springs resort for a few days, my first experience actually camping with Van.

Here’s a picture of me that my brother Larry took as I left Davis, a little over a week ago, the official beginning of my road trip:


Notice my mountain bike, a Diamond Back that I bought in Redding back in 2010 while visiting my mother who still lived there then (she has since passed away). The bike is coming along with us on this trip and I plan to ride it a lot, especially in the national and state parks I’ll visit.

Here I am with the bike out back at the Flying Rock Ranch:

Bike 001

Now it’s time for me to pack up Van. I won’t have any internet access for the next few days, but I’ll post again as soon as I return to civilization.

To those of you back home in France, I hope your weather is good.

Sonoma County days…

I’m still visiting friends. Yesterday I met up with some of my fellow students from my university days. We had a good time and a good lunch.  Here they are, from left to right: Mark, Janet, Ranger and Diana.

Sebastopol-my college classmates

And today Mark and I went on an eight-mile hike along the Kortum Trail in the Sonoma Coast State Beaches park. Here we are with the rock-lined coast in the background:

Mark and John

To give you a better idea of this rugged coastline:

Sandy beach, rocky coastline

Rocky coastline closeup

August is hardly the month for wildflowers, but along the way we did see quite a few:

Blue chrysanthemums Yellow daisies

Purple with mint-like leaves Thistle blossoms

Yellow trumpets White flowers

And some that may not qualify as wild, but there they were:

Naked ladies Orange flowers


The days go by and I’m anxious to get out on the road, but first I still have more friends to see and places to visit here in California.  And I have work to do, too. Yes, I’ve brought articles to translate and papers to correct.  More about that later, much later. One more day here in Sonoma and then I’m off to Mendocino.

These last few days…

I’ve been staying here at the Flying Rock Ranch near Santa Rosa, California:

house, back

barn, facing the yard

My quarters are in the barn, above the garage.

My friends Debbie and Cheryl:

Debbie and Cheryl  at restaurant

And last Sunday my brother Tim and his wife Ann-Marie had a party for their 25th wedding anniversary.  On this occasion they renewed their vows.

My nephew Isaak introduces his parents:

Isaak introduces his parents

The vows:

vows - Tim and Ann-Marie

Tim and Ann-Marie the next day, standing in front of Van as we parted company:

Tim, Ann-Marie and Van

The real road trip is coming soon folks, but for the moment I’m visiting family and friends.  That’s important.