Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas 2016

Hard to get Daddy to cooperate for pictures but he did pretty good here
Anxiously awaiting. Shasta really is happy, she just hides it well.

"Look what we got!"
 Just a few of the many photos taken on Christmas Day. A wonderful time was had by all. Thank you Grandma Debbie and Papa Vic for hosting an amazing, family day. We love you!
She wore those pants two days in a row.

"YES!!!" he exclaimed when he opened this.

Emptied the house out onto the porch. If Daddy would've stood a little more to his right, Dean would have been in the picture too.

Deck Time 1

What are those funny wrist bands

Deck Time 2

Deck Time 3

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Finding Acceptance and Humor In Alzheimer's Disease

My eighty-six year old father has Alzheimer's Disease. I'm not really quite sure when it started but its been at least 9 or more years since we started seeing the signs. At first I remember reassuring him that we are all forgetful at times. He worried a lot about not remembering things he knew he should and he would carry a small note pad and pencil in his shirt pocket to write down names, book titles, important dates and the like. I was in denial. Even though I was telling him some memory loss was normal I was becoming painfully aware that he really couldn't remember things. I would have to tell him the same thing over and over again within the same conversation. He would only stop fretting about it once I told him I would tell Debbie, my step-mother, and she could remind him. At that point he would be relieved. As it is with Alzheimer's, the disease progressed and I begin to wonder how I would come to terms with it. He had always been so sharp, so knowledgeable, so much the patriarch of our family. I've had a lot of conversations with myself in my head about how this reality would play out for our family. Largely I think we have all tried to ignore it. I'm including here a link to a recent article that appeared in the Sacramento Bee about a woman who is caring for her husband who has advanced Alzheimer's. I think it is a really important read for any family and I hope anyone reading this post will also read the Bee article

However, even though having a family member with Alzheimer's is pretty darn depressing, that is not what this post is about. What I decided about how to handle my dad's disease was to accept where he was at this point in his life and this given day. It wouldn't change anything by fighting it. This is where dad's life had taken him. I would just take each day with him as it came. Some days are better than others. Debbie is the sole care giver for my dad and I have no doubts there are some very bad days (and nights). What the family has discovered about "dad" these days is that while it appears he may not be tracking, he comes up with some pretty funny one liners in a conversation where you think he isn't paying attention or you think maybe the conversation is lost on him so you might not even be looking at him or listening to him. That would be a mistake on your part because you will miss some very funny stuff. I started writing some of his funny quips down, because guess what? unless I write them down, I forget them, ugh!!! I can only hope I'm as funny as my old man as I get older. So, let me start with a few recent full-on belly laughs that have happened recently.

Daddy celebrates 86 years January 2015

We got a late start on celebrating dad's birthday this year but finally found a Saturday where he and Debbie and Ted and Dean and I could meet at an upscale brew pub called "The Yard House." We had a nice lunch and they brought daddy his complimentary dessert. He does love his sweets these days. After dessert he opened his birthday cards.

Dean and I gave him a card with a wolf on the front. Debbie leaned over to help him read it and he seemed very pleased. Debbie said something like, "maybe you should give out a wolf howl to celebrate your birthday?" Dad looked around the restaurant and said, "I don't think I should howl too loud in here." To which Debbie replied, "Well, just howl softly." Dad gave a frown and said, "What kind of a wolf would I be if I only howled softly?" Truer words were never spoken. We all just looked around the table and laughed in agreement.

A week later I picked dad up at his house for an outing in Coloma and Placerville. As we headed out of the house Debbie looked up into the sky and saw a jet shooting across the blue expanse spewing out a robust jet stream. She said, "Hey Vic, there goes your jet for the day." She looked at me and says, "he tracks these jets everyday." Without a missing a beat dad pipes up with, "Well, it keeps me out of the bars." I honestly wonder what is going on in his head. He will tie his shoe while it's sitting on his lap or butter a single piece of bread for 15 minutes but he can come up with a one liner just like that!

We headed off down the back road of Hwy 49 toward gold country along the American River. It was a nice sunny Tuesday afternoon but since it was a work day and we were in the foothills there wasn't hardly any traffic on the road. As we were winding back and forth on the switchbacks dad commented a couple of times how the roads seemed so empty. We drove in silence for awhile and finally dad exclaimed, "where is everyone?" and then shouted, "follow me, for I am your leader." We both just laughed out loud.
Twenty minutes on the road brought us to Coloma and we stopped at the SierraRising Coffee shop. We ordered our coffee and pastry. Dad settled on a bear claw and I indulged in lemon pound cake. As we were waiting to pay dad noticed the delicious looking apple pie sitting on the counter. "Look at that." he said nudging me. "If we ate that" he said, "they'd be looking for us at the bottom of the river." Then, as if to predict what the conversation might sound like after we went missing he add, "what ever happened to those people?" I smiled imaging eating so much apple pie that I sank to the bottom of the American River with my dad never to be seen nor heard from again.

A few short miles up the road we ended up at the blacksmith S\shop at the James Marshall State Park, official site of the first discovery of gold in California. We talked to the crusty old dudes in the shop for about an hour and then headed toward the James Marshall Museum and gift shop. We strolled through quickly and then came upon a large glass case. There were several old artifacts inside. Each was marked with a detailed sign indicating what each artifact was. I glanced and began to move on. Dad however started to read out loud each card, "James Marshall's Rifle," James Marshall's Brand," James Marshall's glasses." James Marshall's foot bath." "WHAT, really?" I said, suddenly drawn back into the glass case to see if there really was a foot bath inside. Dad just laughed and laughed, "no, not really." Oh daddy, you got me!  We moved on into the gift shop. Right away we saw a hat that I thought really was a must have for dad.

He thought perhaps Debbie wouldn't like it too much so we passed. We did leave with a book on the gold rush though.

We finished the day off in Placerville with a nice lunch in an old historic building called The Brick. The bill came and I paid it and put the signed receipt back in the black folder. Before we got up to leave, daddy opened the black folder, placed his butter knife inside and closed it back up. I looked at him, we smiled at each other and left. I have no idea why the butter knife was placed there but I'm very certain in his mind, it had some very humorous significance.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lassen Park - Day Three

Rest stop on the hike to Devil's Kitchen bubblie pots
This little lake at Bumpass Hell is so clear you almost can't tell its water

 In October of 2011 Dean and I decided to celebrate our anniversary at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Dean told me this was the least visited National Park which surprised me a little because there is a geyser there and a lot of geothermal activity just like in Yellowstone. I have lived in California all my life and this park is currently only about 3 hours away from where I live. There is just no excuse not to go. We had heard the weather might be a little inclement but we like a little cool Fall weather, so off we went. Well, instead of a little wind and rain we got a full on snowstorm and Lassen Park was closed. The weather was so bad you couldn't even see the peak of Mt. Lassen. We were staying in the town of Chester at a Bed & Breakfast about 30 minutes outside the park. It was cozy enough and we managed to find a few things to do even though we couldn't get into the park. We did a 3 mile hike into Drakesbad in the pouring rain and got soaked! The area got over 3 feet of snow that week-end. Now fast forward to October 2014. We decided to try Lassen Park again. We had clear skies all three days and temperatures in the 80's. What a difference! The first day we drove into the park and I saw the peak of Mt. Lassen very clearly from the Visitors Center. It wasn't as spectacular as I thought it might be but beautiful non-the-less. We continued our drive along Hwy 89 through the park stopping to take pictures of Emerald Lake appropriately named for his green color. The lake is somewhat shallow and therefore algae grows causing the green color.
Emerald Lake

Lake Helen
Less than 1000 feet up the road is Lake Helen which is a much deeper glacial lake and therefore blue in color. Lake Helen is named after Helen Tanner Brodt, who in 1864 was the first woman to reach the Summit of Lassen Peak. Across the street from Lake Helen is the trailhead to Bumpass Hell, a 16 acre hydrothermally altered geothermal area near Little Hot Springs Valley (see photos on Day Two of this blog). The story goes that a cowboy named Kendall Vanhook Bumpass worked in the Lassen area in the 1860's. One day he stumbled upon the area and his leg was badly scalded when it broke through a thin crust above a mud pot. He told his friends and townspeople about it, describing it as "hell." A newspaper editor was interested in the story and convinced Bumpass to take him to this place. Unfortunately Bumpass' leg broke through the crust again!! This time it had to be amputated. I think they should have named the place "Dumbass Hell."    Some of the mud pots are actually boiling and record heat of 198 degrees to 230 degrees. By the time we hiked in and out of  Bumpass Hell, about 3 miles all totaled, we were hot and hungry. It was already fairly late so we decided to call it a day and go have an early dinner.
Geothermal activity at Devil's Kitchen
           We felt so inspired by our 3 mile hike, that the next day we decided to hike into Devil's Kitchen. The trailhead for this hike is actually 7 miles southeast of the Park's main entrance and much closer to the place we stay in Chester. You drive 17 miles into the Drakesbad area and then hike from there. It is a 2 mile hike into Devil's Kitchen from the trailhead. Its a fairly easy hike with only a subtle climb in elevation. The first part is an alpine meadow and then you head into the forest. The smell of sulfur lets you know when you are getting close.
Beautiful colored water at Devil's Kitchen

Pyrite bubbling away

Caught a nice little rainbow coming off the geothermal steam

Interesting mineral and high springs running through Devil's Kitchen

Its Diana, waving hello in Dean's sunglasses
This little hot spring runs with water that is probably 100 degress

Gnome Home

View from the road to the summit (photo out of sequence)
 A short distance into the forest I saw a decaying tree that reminded me of a Gnome's hat. I immediately recalled my hike into the Bijou Basin in Colorado with son Ryan and grandson RJ. On that hike we named areas we hiked in based on what we found there. For instance, where Ryan had found deer antler shed in the past, we named "The Known Bone Zone" and RJ found a deer skull that was several seasons old so therefore that area was called the "Old School Skull" area. Fast forward to the hike to Devil's Kitchen, my rotting tree was to be called "Gnome Home."
Unlike the hike into Bumpass Hell, where we shared the trail with 3 bus loads of 5th graders, we only saw 5 people on our entire hike in and out. I was sorely tempted to skinny dip in Hot Springs Creek. If Dean hadn't been with me, I probably would have.
Zoomed in on the Peak of Lassen. Looks like an eye staring down (photo out of sequence.

Leaning Log
After an hour or so of exploring and photo taking we headed out toward the car but decided to take the split in the trail to Drake's Lake, the real name of the lake, not made up by me. It was still early in the day and we had read the hike to Drake's Lake was two and a half miles one way from the original trailhead. We thought we would be adding about another mile or so to our existing hike since we were catching the trail about 2 miles in already. Wrong!! Once we were well into the trail we discovered it lead up the mountain side, leaving the forest behind and climbing an open trail with 7 sets of switchbacks. We found out afterward that we climbed well above the 6400 foot level. I found two more areas to name, "Leaning Log" area and "Low Log" area. Dean of course, thought I as ridiculous. 
Low Log

Mt. Lassen from a distance

 One good outcome from our impromptu hike to Drake's Lake, a pretty clear view of Lassen Peak. We climbed and climbed thinking we would never reach the lake and knowing we had come too far to go back. We also mistakenly thought the trail made a loop back to our original trail head. It was already 3:30 by the time we figured out that wasn't true. But I'm getting a head of myself. We stopped to rest several times and fortunately we had brought plenty of water and snacks. We climbed over and hour and a half. I was thinking that I more than earned the pieces of See's candy I would be eating from our stash back at our room. I was also thinking I need to put some elevation into my thrice weekly walks around my neighborhood.

Dean makes a nice resting post.

Dean's rests on the way up to Drake's Lake.
Sunspot on the trail to Drake's Lake, climbing, climbing climbing.
Do bears shit in the woods? They sure as shit do!!
Glad we didn't run into this fellow.
 The photo above was our first sighting of the lake. from a distance it looked pretty but upon clearing the forest we found a muddy looking lake shrunken way down from the apparent shoreline. I read later that Drake's Lake is fed by snow melt and when you hike there in the summer you will find it well receded, especially in a drought year. In addition to a rather ugly lake we found clear evidence of bear activity. A lot and I mean a lot of piles of bear poop along the trail that we thought was the loop. Well there you go, it was "Bear Poop Loop."
The only loop we made however was back toward the lake once we discovered the trail didn't take us toward our original trailhead and to where our car was parked. We came to the realization that we would have to go back down the way we had come, slipping and sliding down the switchbacks of loose volcanic gravel. We had already walked about half a mile from the lake at this point and there was bear skat all over the place, each pile dotted with the tell tale signs of manazanita berries. I was more than a little nervous. Unlike Glacier National Park and the Grand Tetons, there had been no warning signs on the trail about bear. We also had no idea we were going to be climbing so high. Anyway, back down we went stumbling and exhausted and watching the waning sunlight. It was 5:30 p.m. by the time we made it back to the car. What a great day!! We cleaned up and went to a nice dinner where we toasted each other on 11 years of wedded bliss.
Less than spectacular Drake Lake
Bear watering hole

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lassen Volcanic Nat'l Park - Day 2

We took the 3 plus mile hike into Bumpass Hell to see the bubbley pots and geothermal activity. It did not disappoint.