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October 2009
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December 2009

Yosemite National Park Welcomes Return of Cedar Santa Artisans

Calvin and Loretta Lyster to Display Holiday Woodwork at The Ahwahnee® for Second Year


The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley 's grand, historic national landmark hotel, welcomes the return of local artisans Calvin and Loretta Lyster on Saturday, November 28 and Sunday, November 29.  The artists' cedar Santa sculptures will be on display and available for purchase both days from 12pm to 6pm over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.


The Lysters originally began crafting "Old World Father Christmas" wood sculptures as gifts for friends and family back in 1991.  The cedar wood is collected from their property in Cedar Valley, California , lovingly hand carved into a one-of-a-kind sculpture and carefully hand-painted to give each its own unique personality. 


Each Christmas season, Calvin and Loretta create a limited number of sculptures available to the public.  For their Ahwahnee showing, they have crafted unique pieces that depict Yosemite's natural environment on Santa's painted clothing, including Half Dome, the Grizzly Giant Sequoia, Yosemite Falls, black bears, and coyotes.  The sculptures have been welcomed into families' homes as cherished heirlooms, and have found their way into Santa collections world wide.


Calvin's wood sculptures have been shown in Carmel, California , the Enthios Gallery in New Mexico , "Back Street Gallery" in Lone Pine, Timberline Gallery in Oakhurst, as well as the Ansel Adams Gallery and The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park.  He also participated in the "Affaire in the Park" in Beverly Hills for five years and has several pieces represented in the collection of renowned fine wood art collector, Dr. Irving Lipton.


The Lysters have lived in the Yosemite area since 1971.

Sandhill cranes make annual trek to Woodbridge in Sacramento Valley

Amazing Wildlife is in Sacramento's Backyard & then a little wild night life!
by Barbara L. Steinberg

How many of you know that each year thousands of birds traveling the Pacific Coast Flyway return to the great Central Valley. Lakes, rivers, streams, and flooded farm fields are carpeted with winged species of all kinds: ducks, geese, swans, white pelicans, egrets, heron, grebe and more.They are all special and enrich life in the Sacramento Valley. Of all these migrations, none is more spectacular then when the sandhill cranes return each fall -- and it's right in your Sacramento backyard.

Sandhill Cranes Woodbridge Credit Barbara Steinberg 2009 1 Less than 30 minutes from downtown Sacramento, the sandhill cranes begin arriving each September. They can be seen throughout the Sacramento Valley, but the best viewing site is Woodbridge Ecological Reserve. Every evening at sundown, the cranes return to Woodbridge to roost for the night. On a clear evening, brilliant sunsets beside a distant Mt. Diablo create the perfect canvas as the sky fills with the sights and sounds of these prehistoric birds. Sometimes referred to as a B-52, the cranes stand 5-feet high with a wingspan of 6-8 feet. In the dusk of evening, their ghostly bodies almost vanish into the landscape. Save the small red "cap" crowns the head of mature sandhill cranes -- as a colorful marker in the waning light.

Sandhill crane tours are conducted tby the California Department of Fish & Game through February. The Galt Winter Bird Festival, , in January, is the perfect opportunity to learn more about these amazing visitors to our region. And the Cosumnes River Preserve is another popular spot for wintering birds.

After an evening in the cool Delta air, head back downtown for a little holiday cheer! The ice skaing rink Sacramento Midtown Cheers at Lounge on 20 Credit Barbara Steinberg 2009 4 Sacramento Midtown Skating Rink2009 2 is now open in Midtown. Take a few spins around the ice and then relax at one of the nearby restaurants...Lounge on 20 has wonderful small plates and an array of exotic libations to warm the soul.

Sandhill cranes make annual trek to nearby Woodbridge


Mapping your way to a great drive

Road trips to Drakesbad and Lake Almanor in Plumas County are motoring meditation 
by Barbara L. Steinberg
Hwy 32 Thomas Bros Subaru

Traveling by car is by far and away my favorite way to relax. I know, given the current cost of fuel – rising by the minute – it’s not always the most cost efficient.  But I love “motoring meditation” – an expression I coined some years ago. Most recently a friend asked, “What is your favorite way to relax?” I didn’t hesitate when responding, “Driving.”

Driving! I am free to wander down whatever road my heart desires. I have crisscrossed more than 100,000 California miles. Some of the miles are just living life day-to-day, but many more in pursuit of that next great road trip. When each trip begins, the process is always the same:  Get out the road atlas!

What a concept! No GPS. No MapQuest. No tripadvisor or Google maps. Just good old-fashioned lines on paper in the form of a California road atlas. Thomas Bros. California Road Atlas & Driving Guide, to be exact.

This Thomas Bros. Map is a dear friend – tried, true, and trustworthy and a long-standing traveling companion. I have two just in case! Both are old and worn. The pages are Hwy 32 Thomas Bros TOCtattered and some have separated from their spiral binding. My fingerprints and DNA are embedded on every page from years of tracing and retracing routes taken and taken again. So far, not one page has been lost.

Every road traveled is highlighted – yellow, orange, green, blue – sometimes in pen when Hwy 32 Road Trip highlighters can’t be found. Some roads highlighted multiple times. Notes jotted in margins and on front and back covers.  Each trip, out comes the atlas. Eyes and hands trace the route or routes – looking for roads not taken and sights not seen. Many new roads have been built since 1993 when Thomas Bros and I became good friends, but I am loyal. This atlas is a journal of so many wonderful adventures it can never be replaced. In fact, preserving it has become essential.

My latest road trip began as every trip does, with Thomas Bros. I was heading for Plumas County and Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen Volcanic National Park. I had been near this region and the gateway to Drakesbad at Chester/Lake Almanor, but never actually at the gates of LVNP or traveling the winding road to Drakesbad. So the atlas was a must. I don’t know about GPS and frankly, don’t care to. And I know MapQuest can’t be trusted. I asked for advice from friends living in Plumas or very familiar with the county. Responses were not forthcoming….what’s up with that?

The folks at Drakesbad recommended the straight-shot up I-5 to Red Bluff and then across on Hwy. 36. This seemed a bit out-of-the-way but I understand the rationale that you can drive like a bat out of Hell up the interstate with average speeds well above the posted 70mph. So good ol’ Thomas came to the rescue. After hemming and hawing over different routes, I decided for I-5/Red Bluff going and Hwy 32/Chico on the return. I had traveled parts of both routes, but there would be new roads and vistas coming and going. It was the right choice!

I was correct about the I-5 approach. It is longer. And the speeds are aggressive. But leaving the Interstate at Red Bluff it isn’t long before the left turn onto Hwy. 36. Wow! The views, the solitude, the meditation – it’s all worth it. And I might have missed this if I’d opted to divert at Orland.

Coming home I chose Hwy. 32 out of Chester. Everyone mentioned that this road is narrow and a bit squirrely…did I want to reconsider? Heck no! That’s just my kind of road. Especially in my faithful Subaru Legacy circa 1994. In this California Travel Insider’s opinion, I hit the Mother Lode driving Hwy. 32. It may very well be my favorite California road. Winding through Deer Creek Canyon, the sun glinted through the lush tree canopy. Late September, the fall colors were just starting to peak through. Talk about meditation!!! There were few other cars going my way and I was left alone in true motoring bliss.

The one regret is not stopping at Deer Creek Falls, but that gives me one more reason to return. It’s always nice to leave some stone unturned. And one more place for Thomas B. and me to visit. 

Drive on with the help of:

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