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September 2008

California Eastern Sierra Nevada Lower Owens River & Brown Trout Restoration Project

The Other Side of the Mountains by Barbara L. Steinberg©  

Lower Owens River 3 Along Chalk Bluff Road 2008 Credit Barbara Steinberg.jpg Life is returning to the Lower Owens River along the Eastern Sierra near Bishop, California. With releases of water from the Upper Owens River – forced upon the Los Angeles Water and Power District (LAWPD) – fields of wildflowers, masses of enormous tule reeds, groves of willow, and green grasses are  flourishing. From afar, tell-tale signs of water in the Owens Valley  -- a place whose history has spawned books (Cadillac Desert) and films (Chinatown). And be still my heart, what’s that I hear but the sound of white-water rushing down the Owens River. I wander paths until I find what my eyes can scarcely believe they see.

Lower Owens River 1 Marlboro Butts 2008 Credit Barbara Steinberg.jpg Along with all this renewal, signs of ruin are prevalent along the shore. Foul humans, who come to the wilderness to enjoy its splendor and, in their wake, leave trash and signs of disrespect for what so many fought for years to reclaim. Cigarette butts off Chalk Bluff Road – is this really Marlboro Country? Clearly, someone spent some time here casting into the rushing waters. Plastic bags, bottles, duct tape, and empty cans of chew – just a few of the items I retrieved along the path near Pleasant Valley Campground. Soiled toilet paper within view of provided outhouses and illegal campfires a stone’s throw from fire rings. And it’s just enough to make you scream when you see the dumpster and recycle bins…oh, yes, visitors to this sacred place are so environmentally friendly.

Lower Owens River Access Point 2 Along Chalk Bluff Road 2008 Credit Barbara Steinberg.jpg Who are these people? Fishermen who surely must thrill at the sight of brown trout in the Owens River shallows and shadows and gates providing access to the same. What are they thinking? Wasn’t it enough that the LAWPD controlled and destroyed this landscape for nearly a century? Now that humans can again enjoy a small piece of this once grand landscape…it seems they simply cannot be trusted to be good stewards. I do not count myself as part of that community of thoughtless travelers. However, if this is how we repay the efforts, then maybe the beauty of Owens River should be left just to the wildlife…birds, animals, and fish…who will not destroy an environment that is struggling to be reborn.  Lower Owens River Pleasant Valley Campground Recycle Credit Barbara Steinberg.jpg

The irony of dumpsters and recycle receptacles within easy reach of all the trash and filth. As well as officially-sanctioned fire rings. Maybe we really don't deserve these special places.

Please...respect the land we love...and practice, at every level, the Leave No Trace philosophies. We all does our wildlife and our open spaces.


View all of the photos


Fairfield California: Suisun Valley Fun Family Farm Days

Fairfield California: Suisun Valley Fun Family Farm Days

The third annual Suisun Valley Fun Family Farm Days continues on Sunday, September 28 and October 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The past two years have seen an incredible response to this event from many visitors throughout the region including the Bay Area and Sacramento.

                                     "Thank you, we got to learn more about local produce and wine.”
                  “Glad you’re offering the Suisun Valley’s bounty to the public in such a delightful way.”
                                                      “Excellent way to promote local produce.”
                                       “I have attended all 3 years and all three days and I love it.”
                                                        “Wonderful surprise…Great fun!”

When you come to the Suisun Valley Fun Family Farm Days, you’ll experience fresh local produce, flower picking, wagon rides, children’s crafts, homemade jams, farm animals, u -pick produce, pony rides, art demonstrations, premium wine tasting, winery tours, barrel tastings, olive oil tasting, eateries featuring local produce, local winemakers, and wine and food pairings.

Activity maps are available at all participating vendors the day of event, or at the information booth located on the corner of Suisun Valley and Rockville roads. You can also visit for more information and directions. The Suisun Valley Fun Family Farm Days occurs on the last Sunday of the month in August (8/31-Labor Day Weekend), September (9/28), and October (10/26).

Learn more about farm life, farm fresh produce, and farm fun. Support the agricultural community by buying local. Escape for a Sunday to a place where life is simpler, people are friendlier, and the freshly picked produce tastes better.

Experience the hidden treasure that is Suisun Valley! It's right in your backyard.

Larrys Farm Stand Credit Fun Family Farm Days  Arts and Crafts Credit Fun Family Farm Days

Yosemite California National Park High Country Hike

Miles of Yosemite Smiles by Barbara L. Steinberg© 

Traveling California is incredible. Even more-so when it's your job to write about it. And lucky me, I have been traveling California for nearly 18 years and made writing about it my chosen profession. So for me, work is all about exploring, meeting new people, doing new things, and (sometimes) going to new heights; including my most recent visit to Yosemite National Park. I have visited Yosemite National Park many times. But no matter how often I descend into this most holy of places, it's always new...always exhilarating. As if seeing it for the first time.

This visit was no different. In fact, the trip included driving many miles from my Sacramento, California home to tour the communities known as the Yosemite Gateways -- Madera, Mariposa, and Tuolumne counties. Mono County on the eastern Gateway to the Park didn't figure into this road trip...but wait, I'll be there in a few days. Anyway, the road-trip racked up nearly 450 miles...and it's only 350 miles round-trip assuming you drive into the Valley, which I did not do. Well, I went into the Valley but someone else was driving. The point is, I covered some serious ground.Oakhurst, Coarsegold, The Pines Resort at Bass Lake, Bootjack, Midpines, and Mariposa. I passed through many other small towns but there simply aren't enough hours in the day to stop everywhere.

Yosemite Bug Sign Credit Barbara Steinberg Not including Yosemite, the highlight of the trip was spending the night at Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort a hostel in Midpines, California, and a most delicious sandwich at the River Rock Inn & Deli in Mariposa, California. But those are other stories and not what I'm here to talk about today. Other fun included chatting with the owner of Mariposa Coffee, visiting Grace Note Windchimes (a company I've known about for many years) and stumbling upon Colonial Woodwright -- all within spitting distance of each other on Hwy. 49 Mariposa Grace Note Windchimes Credit Barbara Steinberg South in Mariposa, California. So you can see, a little goes a long way and I spent hours along this one stretch of rural highway.

So, back to the real reason I'm here...or rather, there. I was in the Yosemite neighborhood to reconnect and interview John DeGrazio, owner, Y Explore Yosemite Adventures located in Sonora, California. John and I met back in June on another excursion to the region. A press trip, organized by the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, included a naturalist hike escorted by Y Explore...a relatively new company specializing in Yosemite guided hikes and tours. I hate to remain mysterious but I won't devulge why I wanted to interview John -- never mind the fact that he's a really nice guy and a great guide.

With John chauffering me, we left Sonora early a.m. and headed to Yosemite. I have to admit because I was so busy grilling (oops, I mean interviewing) John I wasn't paying much attention to passing scenery and quite honestly lost track of where we were heading. Before I knew it. we were climbing up Tioga Pass. John was taking me on my first high country hike. Though, as stated previously, I've visited Yosemite more than once I have never really hiked anywhere above Yosemite Valley. John was taking me on a low-key hike to May Lake. Low-key to some, but a big time for me. I spend most of my life wtih my hand on a keyboard -- similar to the way i am right now. I have a freakishly strong right mouse-arm, but otherwise I don't get nearly as much exercise as I should. And I have my share of maledies that prohibited high-elevation hikes in the past, inlcuding asthma. But that was then and this is now.

The 1.2-mile hike has very few heavy changes in elevation and I really only had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. The whole time, John was providing the most wonderful interpretive Yosemite May Lake Barbara and John DeGrazio Y Explore Yosemite Adventures 2008 Credit Barbara Steinberg historical and naturalist presentation. Stopping at all the most important vista points and allowing me to hike at my own pace. The hike delivered! Beautiful May Lake and lunch overlooking a granite valley View to Tenaya Lake Near May Lake Yosemite NP 2008 Credit Barbara Steinberg down to Tenaya Lake. I'm not quite sure of the elevation -- above 9,000 feet -- and I can't remember the names of the many granite peaks John so carefully pointed out. For once, I put away the pen and paper and just allowed myself to enjoy the moment.

And I'm glad I did. I would have missed so much.


Sacramento California Elder Elm Care

Elder Elm at 2701 P Street 2008 Credit Barbara Steinberg

Goodbye to Dear Friend
by Barbara L. Steinberg©

When I moved to my (nearly) century-old Craftsman in Midtown Sacramento one of its defining exterior features was a towering American Elm. This wonderful old tree was planted -- who knows when -- after my home was built in 1908. But it is part of the past and Sacramento's "City of Trees" heritage. This aging tree provided much needed shade from Sacramento's sweltering summers and my home's south-facing exterior.

Almost immediately I noticed the tree seemed to be in distress. Because it's a city tree, I contacted the city arborist for a "check up" and to be sure I was doing the best by my senior-citizen Elm. The tree was checked and happily was Dutch Elm Disease-free. It needed some pruning so I hired a city-recommended firm to provide a little coiffing of the tree canopy and dead limbs. (The city's urban forest staff is whoa-fully under-staffed, over-worked and under-funded and so the cost of this operation -- more than $500 -- was assumed by me. I loved our Elm and knew it was money well spent.)

Each Spring I watched with anticipation as our Elm came back to life. The leafy canopy was not as robust as I hoped, but it was there none-the-less. I would deep-water and fertilize, and on really HOT summer days I would provide an afternoon shower to cool it's aging skin. And sometimes a little hug and thanks.

This Spring, imagine my joy when the Elm leafed out in full glory. The canopy more beautiful then I had ever seen in my 10 years living here. Besides being a major source of shade, it has provided shelter for countless birds and one year a family of baby squirrels who cheered me with their endless comic antics. And our resident hummingbirds often perch among the massive limbs. And so I believed it would continue for me and the wildlife.

Quite suddenly, one major limb began to wilt. It had done this in the past and so at first I wasn't overly concerned.  But then another limb. And another. I quickly called our arborist...

Sad News 2008 2701 P Street Credit Barbara Steinberg Just this week, the sad news came...Dutch Elm Disease...and my majestic Elm will be gone in two weeks. I am losing a dear, old friend. And I can tell you, I will feel every cut of the blade as this aged friend is removed. As soon as weather permits, I will honor its memory with a new tree. A hardier scarlet or red oak, which I hope will grow and fill the empty space.

Care for your trees -- especially those encased in park-strip concrete. Deep water and fertilize on a regular basis. Not all trees are susceptible to DED, but they need TLC to stay healthy and strong. They are so important to the well-being of our environment...and our souls.

And so I offer this poem, written in 2003, to honor my Elm.

Elder Care


Another day of century heat

Scarcely diminishes with the setting sun.

In an offering of relief,

I bathe the withering and cracked skin

With the cold spray from my hose.

Soothing water runs down the long body

Filling every crevasse.

I am especially careful to soak each limb,

Each tiny finger.

The soul of my towering Elm sighs,

And, with grateful arms,

Bends to embrace me.


Barbara Steinberg


July 19, 2003

Fairfield California Go Undiscover Suisun Valley


SuisunValley There are some wonderfully unexpected places just off the interstate; beyond all the unsightly sprawl and big-box store developments. Sometimes you have to be willing to take a chance…take the road less traveled. Of course, having a road atlas with you AT ALL TIME is a big help.

One of these unexpected places is less than 50 miles west, off I-80 and Waterman Blvd in Fairfield. It goes by a number of names:  Suisun Valley, Wooden Valley, or Mankas Corner. You drive past miles of development when suddenly the road seems to enter some Twilight Zone and there, spread-out before you, is rural California…a beautiful valley bounded by two coastal ranges. There are a handful of vineyards and wineries with tasting rooms in the Suisun Valley appellation – classified as an American Viticulture Area (AVA) by the federal government since 1982 – and wonderful produce stands.  There’s almost always something open but it’s also just a beautiful drive.

MankasCornerClayStation Central Valley Credit Barbara Steinberg Stop in at the Vintage Caffe (yes, two ‘f’s), The Clay Station, and the Vezer Family Vineyard in beautiful downtown Mankas Corner, you won’t be disappointed.

I will never forget the first time I visited this delightful region, amazed that it survived surrounded by all the development. But each time I visit, the development is creeping closer and closer. It’s moving slowly, up over the hills overlooking this sweet valley. Go visit and do it soon. Support the local farmers and artists (they have some of that too) and breathe in all of that rich golden countryside. It’s so close.


Barbara L. Steinberg©