The Mountain Houghtons

Winter 2007


                                                    Pinecrest Lake



December 23, Sunday


It is the second day of our winter vacation. We are still home but planning to leave on our annual winter trip. Tonight is Christmas Eve for us and we cannot wait to open all the boxes that Santa accumulated in the last few days under and around the small, artificial Christmas tree.


The Living Room on Christmas Eve



It is a cool evening outside, Buck and Spitz are cuddled up in their beds and we are enjoying the warmth of the fireplace.


Let the present opening begin. I go for the largest box which contains a hardhat with ear and face protection. It is to be worn with my chainsaw I got for Valentines Day this year. They match in brand and color to make sure I will look fashionable when I’m out there making toothpicks out of the forest.


It is Mark’s turn. He is opening a box of rag wool socks. They are always in high demand in this household and this time he got a week supply of it. Santa wanted to make sure, we didn’t spend this trip without rag wool socks.



It is my turn. The label of this box kept me guessing for two weeks. At last, I can find out if it is what I think it is inside. Yes! The Bavarian touring dress imported in spinach. That’s how the catalog described it. We cannot find any spinach in the box.

Mark is opening a box of flannel shirts. Three different colors of the same shirt. That’s what happens when we cannot be specific about color on Santa’s list. All three will make good logging shirts.  

 My turn! Oh my gosh! I cannot believe Santa listened and brought me the coat of my dreams. Ask not what you can do to save the animals, but what the animals can do to save you. 

 Mark’s next present is a new alarm clock that adjusts to the satellite. We need to figure out how it will adjust to Pacific instead of Eastern Standard Time. Hopefully this has a more pleasant alarm sound than the old one.

Finally we both got a pair of new, shearling house slippers. There goes another sheep! 

Warm Feet


Suddenly, there is a knock on the door! We open it and find a brand new snow shovel Santa left for

us on the deck. Let it snow!


We need to rest up for the big travel.



December 24, Monday


Today, we are packing for the trip. Buck and Spitz are helping. The loading is taking all day and that does not include the food supply packing.


We are too tired to go anywhere now. We need to take the day off and relax. Just because we are home we are still on vacation.


We take the dogs on a long walk and get even more tired. They are inside with us and watching the slow progress of gathering goods for the trip.  

 The Boys in the Living Room


Our stockings this morning had some DVDs and we never get to watch movies so what better time is to do it than on your vacation. We settle up in the movie room and watching “To Build a Fire”. A Jack London story.

The story about the man freezing did not encourage us to rush up into the Sierras. We need to see something warming now. We pick the “Jungle Book”. This makes a nice bedtime story.



December 25, Tuesday


Departing Pine Cove at 11:00 am. It is a little late, but at least the days are short. Mark calls mom to let her know, we are stopping in Lancaster to drop off Santa’s boxes. She is with the Dopps and they are having a grand, present opening morning which will take most of the day.


The next major stop is in Fresno. We are looking for dinner. This is challenging on Christmas Day because no American restaurant in the right mind is open. Thank goodness the Thai do not celebrate Christmas. We are having Thai food. We will be hungry in a couple of hours after dinner for certain.


By the time we arrive in Mariposa, it is dark. Luckily, this time of the year walking through a little town in the dark is prettier than during the day. There are Christmas lights and decorations everywhere.

Main Street is spectacular. All the guest houses, hotels and some of the homes are filled with lights and decorations.

Buck and Spitz are enjoying the evening family stroll after such a long drive.


We are taking a short cut and that always takes longer. The long, curvy road has magnificent scenery, but we are unable to see it in the pitch black darkness. Mark says he should never let me look at the map and to give him directions.


He takes that statement back, when we find a very quiet campground in the canyon of the Merced River. It is somewhat foggy and cool down here. The fresh, moist air feels and smells really good. It is too cold to think about showering. We walk back from the campsite to the entrance to register. It is about ½ mile one way. We find the boat launch ramp; it is about 30 feet lower than it should be. Instead of a lake, we have a creek.



December 26, Wednesday


Our night was extremely restless. It was the sleeping bags’ fault. We zipped together two of the big, flannel sleeping bags and inside of it I was in my super Northface mummy bag that keeps me in confinement and has more Velcro and zippers than all of the JoAnn stores do. Naturally, I was jumping around all night and my hair was pulled out by the hardware on my sleeping bag. My tossing and turning created a drift inside the sleeping bag for Mark so he was freezing all night. He wants to take me back home now.


Outside of the camper, we have a flock of wild turkeys making turkey noise. They gobble around for awhile and walk away. Buck was tied up all night and Spitz was in the camper with us so neither of them had the opportunity to chase the turkeys.


At the entrance of the campground, we are looking down into the canyon from the bridge. There used to be a small town on the creek side down there. We can still see remnants of a few buildings. Now,

the canyon is filled with water and the lake swallowed the little town.

Turning onto the road, Mark is going towards Sonora. I guess he is not taking me back home after all.

He is pretty mad at me though. Maybe he is hungry.


We stop in Sonora for breakfast that calms him down. We have the oil changed in the truck and we walk Buck and Spitz up and down on the Main Street. They are very well liked by all the passing by people. The people admire the puppies and they love all the attention.


The little clothing store “Dragoon’s” is still here. I stop in to talk with the owner. She loves our babies also. I like her store. She has many 20’s and 30’s style dresses and some cute boots.

The sporting good store is another fun place to visit. This time we invest into a topo map book of California.


I am thinking about how to fix the sleeping situation. We are in Mervyn’s. They have a Christmas sale and I must have a normal blanket. This poly filled, cotton comforter only costs about twenty five dollars and it will save me from getting shot in the middle of the night.


The disadvantage of winter traveling is, right after breakfast, we need to figure out where we are planning to spend the night, since the days are too short. This time, the private campground in Columbia seems like the best choice. We got a 10% discount and they have hot showers. We settled on our spot and walking back to the old town Columbia.


Buck and Spitz are showing off how cute they are for the tourists again. We are visiting all the historical shops and buildings. It is cold, so we spend some time inside the book store to warm up. The chocolate store stop is a necessity. This time, Mark really loads up with about twelve different varieties of candies. Spitz and Buck needs to try some of them too.


The hot showers are lukewarm. We have home made chilly with chips and cheddar cheese to keep us warm until we climb into the camper.



December 27, Thursday


For twenty five dollars, we had a great night sleep. Everyone was warm and nobody complained.

I love my new blanket!


Breakfast is at Perko’s diner. We are stuffed and Mark thinks our sleeping could still be improved.

His thermo rest deflates each night and he had enough of that as much as I had enough of the Nortface people’s hardware to battle all night. We go and purchase a queen size, 4” thick foam mattress.


We are definitely getting old. Graduated from the tent into the camper shell, the next step is a travel trailer. I wonder how long before we start looking around for one of those.


It has been several days since our vacation began and we did not see Pinecrest Lake yet. All our shopping needs are satisfied, so we are on our way to Pinecrest.


Now, we are finally in the parking lot and starting to walk toward the lake. We still cannot see it!

We know it was here last summer!  

                               Buck and Spitz with Daddy on the Beach



This time, the dogs are allowed on the day use areas. They cannot find the doggie trail but none of the other dogs can. They are all over the place and playing in the snow. There are a few other huskies and they all come to say hello.


After September, dogs are allowed everywhere but they still should all be on the leash. Nobody seems to care about this rule now and the dogs are happy to be free.


We walk almost into the middle of the lake on the ice. There is a little water in the middle.  


Buck walks on the ice very carefully, reconsiders each step he takes and he does not like it one bit. He thinks lakes are for swimming not sliding. He turns around and leaves Mark and Spitz in the middle of the lake. He runs for the snow.  



Slippery Lake




Back in the Ranger Station, we talked to the guys for awhile and they suggested some nice places for cross country skiing.


Our campground for tonight is the Sugarpine RV Resort. We are under large pine trees, protected from the wind and it feels a little warmer than Columbia did last night. We have hot showers here and they are not kidding.


There is a dog trail on this campground. We have to try it out of course. It is not too long but it takes us into the pine forest and Buck and Spitz have plenty of smells to check out. They are leaving lots of p-mails.


Dinner is at Mia’s brick oven pizza. It sounds awesome and it is just what we need.


We have been waiting for two hours for the pizza. We are very hungry and it is starting to snow outside.

Finally they produced our food. It is extremely salty. It does not taste bad, but all you can taste is the salt.


Mark does not feel dirty tonight and he missed out on a long, hot shower. I am overheated and it feels great!

We climb into the “bedroom” to warm it up, throw the Spitzers in with us and leave Buck to guard by the tailgate. He would not like to come in. Only if it’s very, very cold outside, we put him in and that he doesn’t mind. This is still hot outside as far as he is concerned. Though it is snowing and the temperature is 25 ºF.



December 28, Friday


The new mattress is so hot; it keeps the heat like a furnace. We were cooking last night. We are all happy this morning. I am taking Buck and Spitz on a walk. On our return, Mark has the camp organized and we are ready to look for breakfast.


Alicia’s Sugar Shack is the place. We need to talk to her anyway about catering. She is not here though. The food is delicious. We had a ham and cheese croissant and a bowl of broccoli cheese soup warm and filling enough, we are ready for our cross country skiing adventure.


We are parking on the Old Strawberry Road and we found the road the ranger was talking about. It has a little snow on, enough to ski and not too much for the dogs. Perfect! It is time to put the skis on.   

 Mark in the Bushes


Buck is ready to go. We ski down the road a bit but Spitz does not feel like going. He ran back to the truck so I carried him back to the trail a couple times. Mark hooked him up to his backpack with a rope. Now he has no choice but to follow.


The road is so great. It is an old railroad grade. They could not make a better cross country ski trail if they wanted to. The snow is fresh, only two other cross country track on it.


Spitz was running along just fine, so we let him off the rope. He followed us for a few minutes and then he figured he had enough of this. He turned around and ran back.

We assume he will be waiting by the truck like he always does when he runs away. We keep going for awhile, but guilt takes the better of us. We must find the little one. Mark offers to go back. Buck and I ski on for a bit, when Buck turns around and starts going after Mark, so I follow as well.

Some skiing this is!


We all met at the truck and both puppies are disqualified. They got locked up into the camper and Mark and I are back to ski the old road.


The road is slightly up and down and the scenery is awesome.

After about a mile, we are on a narrower road by the South Fork of the Stanislaus River.

The other people’s tracks stopped here. We have fresh snow everywhere. Some of the trees still have their snow-cover from last night, but most of them dropped it in the slight breeze.   




 The Stanislaus River


The river is very cold. Even Buck would not go into it now. He is missing out a great deal. He would love it down here. He usually does not run down to the water if there is snow around. He is taking huge bites out of the snow instead of drinking water.


We have overcast all day and now it is getting a little cloudy. Maybe we get some more snow while out here. This weather is nice for skiing. We do not have many layers on and still sweating but it is not too cold if we stop for a few minutes.


On the other side of the river, it seems to be another road. Maybe this road loops back at one point and who knows where we would end up coming out on the end. Mark does not want to find out.


On the side of our road, there are huge icicles hanging off the rocks. 


 Icicles on the Roadside


We travel down about 2.5 miles to a water weir that channels the water to a sluice. We suspect that our road is not going much further.


Water Sluice



We ski on and cannot find the end of the road yet. This road keeps going and going and we are missing our doggies way too much. If they were here, we would have much more fun.


Skiing back to the truck seems very long. It is snowing pretty heavily now. The road going back is mostly uphill. I wonder why all the trails and roads are always uphill all directions?


We are back with the sleeping babies. We are wet inside and out. They are having a great time snoozing in the cozy camper. Smart doggies!


At the Ranger Station, we look at our ski trip on the topo map. It turns out, another ½ mile and we would have made it to the Frazier road bridge that loops back to another trail leading back to another section of the Old Strawberry road. Probably the section we saw across the river.

We gave the ranger one of our home made banana nut bread (Stephanie’s recipe). He was very happy.


Back on the campground, we are loading, unloading, organizing and trying “To Build a Fire”. We have a box of semi dry oak and two local newspapers. The fire is no more successful than that in the Jack London story. I fetched a bundle of pine from outside of the campground office. They are closed, so I cannot pay, nevertheless I need this wood. We have an ax in the camping box, so Mark is splitting the wet wood.


The fire is nice and warm now and we are sitting under a tarp shelter top. Buck took most of it over, so I am sitting under a dripping sugar pine tree. Spitz is in the camper sleeping quietly. We are heating the last of the home made chilly for dinner.


All the trees are dripping, it is hard to tell if it’s snowing or raining or perhaps neither. It may be a nice dry evening except we are under a bunch of trees to get soaked. Speaking of soaking, I still have to take my long, hot shower.



December 29, Saturday


We slept like a log. Spitz cuddled between our pillow and we were warm and cozy. It was melting and dripping all night, thus everything outside is really wet and muddy. Including poor Buck. We are not exactly jumping out of the warm bed, but Buck is fussing outside. He knocked over the trash box and chewing the cardboard to pieces.


It is not a good day to ski. The snow is likely ruined. We are yet to decide what to do. The camp is packed up and we are sitting at Alicia’s again having breakfast. This time she is here and we talk to her about our reception in September.


Undecided about the activities for the day, a walk through the main street in Sonora and visiting Columbia again inspires us to explore Calaveras County.


On the top of Jackass Hill, we are visiting Mark Twain’s cabin.



Let Me In!



The charming little building is fenced up so we cannot see the inside. We like the still original rockwork on the fireplace and the chimney. The cabin was reconstructed since Twain lived here.  He spent a couple of years in this rustic little home where he wrote many of his short stories. To name one, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was born in a local pub in Angels Camp and of course composed in here.


A new inspiration took hold of us and now, we are driving to Angels Camp, the home of the jumping frogs. By looking at the scenery we forgot that it is winter time. The rolling hills everywhere and the moist, coastal climate is unlike we had this morning.


We are crossing Melones Lake. Like all other bodies of water around, this lake is very low. A few people are out there boating and fishing. It must be much more crowded in the summer.



Melones Lake



We are in Angels Camp. The little town is neat and is decorated with all the Christmas light we must come back and see in the evening.

We stroll up and down on the main street with Buck and Spitz. We learn, the town is not named after flying, white creatures with feathered wings, instead, it named after Henry Angel, a shop keeper from Rhode Island. There is a nice park, where the dogs particularly like to hang out. It has a mine shaft and some old equipment left from the gold rush years, around 1848 when more than 4000 miners worked the surface gold.


The next little town to visit is Murphys. The main street is not very long especially if we are not walking it. Driving through, we are out of town in less than a minute.

It is raining, so we need to figure out where we want to spend the wet night. The choice is between Big Trees and Angels Camp. The latest is the winner.

I remember seeing an RV resort advertising hot showers. It is amazing, how this trip is revolving around showers.


We did some driving around in circles, but we found the Angels Camp RV Resort and rented a deluxe camp spot. It is deluxe on account of having a roofed area with the table, benches and shelving.

The rain stopped and it is far warmer down here than it was up in Sugarpine and Columbia. We can dry out our gear and take hot showers in the clean, warm building.

This campground cost less than either one of the previous night’s ones and it is much nicer here. Given that not many people travel this direction during the wet winter months, we have the entire campground to ourselves. Well…we have to share with 2 tent camper women and about 3 or 4 RV campers. It is as quiet as it ever gets.


Dinner in American fashion tonight is at Rodz Diner. Mark is having a huge burger with fries. I am trying to keep my girlish figure and order a chicken fajita salad. The salad is big enough to feed a family of four and the waitress is surprised to see there is nothing left on my platter. So much for my weight control tonight.


Exploring the campground is our family walk tonight. There are five cabins to rent next to a pick-nick area that has a covered kitchen with electric burners and sinks, with hot, running water, tables and benches. There are BBQ equipments also. The cabins are in their own little area and we think this is the perfect family get together place.


The evening is damp and foggy. We are sitting under the roof of our deluxe campground and scratching the babies. Our wet gear is hanging under the roof and spread out everywhere.

It is time to try that hot shower and to crawl into the deluxe camper, call it the day.



December 30, Sunday


Spitz shared my pillow last night and we slept face to face.

We are back in Rodz Diner for the good ol’ bacon and eggs. We need the energy, because we will be out searching for snow today.


Not too far from Angels Camp, in Big Trees, the roadside has some snow and many people are playing in it. Further up the road, we find a not too busy turnout and dress up for skiing.

There is a trail going back into the woods. Lucky us. The snow is packed at the first 200 feet because many people are sledding and playing in it. Once we pass the playing crowd, it gets deep and soft with an icy crust on the top. It is perfect for us on skis, but the dogs are sinking too much and Buck is crying; his hips are hurting.



 Mark Next to the Perfect Christmas Tree


The trail is steep uphill and the further up we go, the deeper the snow gets. The dogs are truly miserable and they had enough exercise for now, so we turn around and put them back into the camper to have a rest.


They are happily jumping onto the soft bed. We lock them in and go back to the hillside. It is so warm and sunny today. The snow is getting icier on the surface as the sun is heating it. I am beginning to think about downhill. I love traveling uphill and on flat, but going down is scary, especially when I cannot plow the fluffy, soft snow. This icy surface will surely be too slippery for me.


Still, I only fell twice and Mark was too far with the camera to preserve the scene for future reference.

He fell twice also and I was not quick enough with my camera.



Don’t Fall!



We are getting a little tired and worried about the dogs being inside the camper in the heat.

Time to get back to see them!






It is good to see that Buck and Spitz did not suffer too much in our absence. They were both crashed out when we returned.

The Big Trees State Park is very busy. They also charge 6 dollars for parking so we are not going to play here. Keep driving down the hill to the town of Murphys.


Walking the historical main street is much easier for the dogs. Spitz would like to go antique shopping for some reason. Buck likes everyone that walks by telling him how beautiful he is.

Along the side of the museum wall, we are reading some of the placards of all the founding fathers of the town.

Some of the homes and wine tasting buildings are very nice. My favorite is a stone guest house towards the end of Main Street. It is already dark and the Christmas lights are fun to look at.


After the over salted Mia’s pizza in Sugarpine, we had a puffy eye and face for two days and Mark promised not to have a pizza for at least a year. So now, we are in Mike’s Pizza in Angels Camp and he ordered a huge pizza and a bunch of garlic bread.

This place must have a family special tonight and we are surprised to see how many children are in this little town. 80 % of the population is under ten years old.

We are waiting for our food and are amused watching the little kids, high on soda pop, running around and stumble all over the place.


We pigged out once again and this time half of the food is leftover.

We are back on camp. Buck and Spitz got a bag of new kind of dog food and they are woofing it down so eagerly, I have not seen them eating like that since we left home.

It is laundry night tonight. The RV resort has laundry facility also. Waiting for the dryer, I am reading about the big bird. Big Bird is actually the given name of the emu that lives on the campground. He was found on the side of Piney Road and taken into the Calaveras County Animal Shelter on September 21st. Nobody came to claim ownership of the bird, so on November 7th, Sterly Engman, the owner of Angels Camp RV Resort, adopted him. (Actually the gender of the bird is not yet determined.) Big Bird has a 16’ x 32’ fenced pen and a little wood building to sleep and to eat in. He loves his new home and he is well looked after. Two of the care taker women on the resort are bird lovers. One of them keeps African Parrots also.

Many children are visiting the park during the summer and they are educated about emus here.


Big Bird was very unfriendly when he was adopted from the shelter. It took three men, 1.5 hours to escort him into the horse trailer he was transported in. The bird is so strong, he lifted up one man from the ground.

Now, he is friendly enough that people are able to pet him on the head.

That is not something I would like to do!


We walk by him every morning because Buck and Spitz likes to visit him and to watch him run back and forth along the fence. They would love to sniff the bird if I let them go near enough.



December 31, Monday


The sun is peaking out! We did not see the sun for days. I woke up to hear Buck barking. He must need to go to the restroom. It is not so great that we need to keep these babies tied up all the time.

I am taking a nice, long walk with Buck and Spitz, Mark needs a quiet, sleepy morning.


It is the last day of the year and we better use it to educate ourselves. Moaning Caverns is just the place to do it. They offer a guided tour, rappelling and the zip line. The latest two are much too costly, but the guided tour is a must. We can rappel for free any time we want to. 


Inside the cave, we are stair stepping down on a wood stairway for about 70 feet. After this, a historic, spiral staircase descends another 100 feet. The formations and the history of the cave were described pretty well by a young, caver guy. We even got to sit in the darkness, listening to the water dripping sounds. As the dripping water is hitting the vents in the cave, it makes a thump-thump sound. It is the sound of a soft drum. This sound is traveling through the cave and when people heard it outside, it sounded like moaning. We can no longer hear that, because the top opening was closed off by the gift shop and the stairs to descend the tourist. They are thinking about relocating the building, so the moaning sound would be heard again.


The tour guide has pretty entertaining stories.

We recall the lecture of famous British geomorphologyst, Lewis Owen, from UCR, where he told us on a fieldtrip how to distinguish between stalactites and stalagmites and how to remember which is which. He said: “It mite go up, but the tite always comes down.” 


 Elephant Rock


  Is This a Mite or a Tite? 


Lacey Cave Wall


 Pig Ears! No wonder dogs are not allowed!


Poor Buck and Spitz could not come to the cave. Buck would not like all those steps anyways.

They got their beauty sleep in the camper, now they are ready to walk around.


The hillside near the cave is inviting us. Most of it is on private land, but the cavern has a small area where we can go around to stretch out the dog legs.



Outside of Moaning Cavern



Angels Camp has a big museum filled with turn of the last century things. They have a nice piano and Mark did not let me try it. There is an entire case for cameras prior to digital times. Lots and lots of guns everywhere we look. A bedroom from 1848 or so includes a pretty cape I would like to buy, but Mark reminds me that this is not a thrift store. They have many cute little ragtime shoes.


A separate building is dedicated to display old carriages only. The one with the feather dusters on the top used to transport the dead people.

Another building has a small traveling organ, barber chairs, nice old stoves and fire places, a dentist chair, a dining set and many other antique furniture and goods.

There is a rock room that shows just about all the rocks and minerals one would find in a Petrology text book.

There is a model railroad display that shows the town of Angels Camp. It is awesome. This is in another building yet, where we see logging wagons, corn husker (the same my grandparents had), and a hog oiler. Now, that I’ve never heard of! I only heard about the Edmonton Oilers. The museum guard explained that the hog oiler had nothing to do with hockey. It is a drum that turns as the pigs are rubbing against it. It has oil in it, which seeps out and is deposited on the pigs’ skin. This protects them from insects.


They have many two men crosscut saws, just like the ones we have, and an antique chainsaw. These are pretty rusty.



Mark in the Angels Camp Museum



The model of the stamp mill is not working but they are in the process of fixing it.

It is a great museum and we spent most of the afternoon gazing at these century plus old artifacts.


The dogs are left out of this activity, so we need to see what we can do that they are allowed.


A little more time left before dark, enough to visit the “Jewel of the Mother Load”.

That is the town of Sutters Creek. Luckily enough, dogs are allowed to walk on the historical Main Streets of all these little towns. They do like it too. I need to peak into a few antique stores for a quick look. My attention span is very short when it comes to browsing, so I am in and out within about 80 seconds. Mark is happy, because I cannot spend money that quickly.


We are walking some of the back street and looking at the homes. They have some really fancy ones.

Thinking about how we should spend New Years Eve, we look around in town to see what the restaurants have to offer. They all seem too costly and we are not prepared to dress up in elegant attire.

We also not want to leave Buck and Spitz in the camper all evening.

The sunset is dramatic as we are driving back to Angels Camp.


We look at the one and only chichi restaurant in town, the Italian place. They will have a New Years Eve Special, but the cost and the dress code lead us to a rapid decision.

Burgers from Rodz diner is the best available New Years Eve dinner.

The rest of the evening, we are walking around the campground with the doggies, playing with them and planning out the activities for the next day.




January 1, Tuesday


Another year is gone! Buck is crying again, so it’s time to start the day. It is a gorgeous morning, sunny and it warmed up to the mid 50’s.

We are staring a healthy year. I am having soup, orange and dried bananas for breakfast. Mark has the same but he likes a breakfast bar instead of the soup.


He went to the office to tell Nola, that we would like to stay one more night. They are happy to hear our extension of stay day after day.

The care taker of Big Bird gives Mark a bird tour; she tells him all about the animal.


There are more caverns around here and we liked the Moaning Cavern so much yesterday, we must visit another one today. It is the Mercer Cavern.

The tour is just starting as we get here. This is a larger cave and it is more interesting for its formations, rooms and grottos. The guide is not as interesting as the one from yesterday. She is lacking the enthusiasm of a caver. She is short is speech, descriptive and to the point.


We had a few drippings above our head in three different locations indicating that the cave is still well alive and growing.


The cavern was named after a miner, Mercer. He was having lunch in a hot summer day when he saw a green spot on the ground. Assuming there might be a spring to drink from, he looked for it. Instead, he found a hole in the ground. He was excited, thinking that he has the greatest mine in the area. A geologist friend told him, what he found is a calcite mine, called cave. So he opened it up for visitors to make money that way. It’s a lot cleaner and easier than mining.



Ceiling with Pig Ears 




Calcite Flowers




A Grand Room



Buck and Spitz needs a rescue from the camper again. The guidebook talks about a trail nearby. It is called Natural Bridges. We find it outside of Vallecito. They do not allow dogs here either. Other people are taking dogs on the trail right in front of us, but Mark says, let them pay the fine.


At the end of the parking lot, a dirt road stretches into the forest for a short while, so we follow it.



Near Natural Bridges Trailhead



The road leads to a trail and we follow it for a short distance until it is becoming very muddy.


Next stop is Jamestown. The Railroad Station Museum is closed on account of the holiday. We are getting very good at strolling historic Main Streets, and like all little towns in gold country, Jamestown has one also.

Buck and Spitz have hundreds of main street miles on them by now. They are enjoying this activity. They have to, because that’s about all they are allowed to do. No justice for doggies!


Jamestown has many antique shops and I fly through all of them.

The gazebo, off the main street still has the Christmas decorations and lights. I guess tomorrow is when everybody takes down the decorations.



The Jamestown Gazebo



Apple Bees in Sonora is our dinner place for the day. Nothing else is open!


Back in Angels Camp, the babies had their walk around the RV resort; they had their dinner, now they are sleeping. Mark is reading Jack London and I am about ready to wash my hair.


It is cool tonight; about 37. The sky is full of stars. Sipping on a hot apple cider warms us up before bedtime.



January 2, Wednesday


Buck woke me up extra early today. He is tied around the chair and cannot move. Silly little darling. He circled and circled until the rope, he is tide up with, had no more slack. I rescued him quickly and we walked around. Spitz jumped out of the camper and ran away. He needed to go also.


This is our last chance to return to Pinecrest on this trip.  We are by the crowded Dodge Ridge ski area.


We stop at the Pinecrest Resort. It is very nice, the townhouses are great, but they don’t allow dogs on the premise. What is this anti dog thing everywhere we go? I don’t understand. It must be Bush’s fault. Who else? He is blamed for everything else.


The snow level is much lower on the beach today. We are walking around a bit to check the campground for reception location and the little snow is tempting us to put the skis on again.


We find ourselves back on the old Strawberry Road. This time the dogs are coming with us. Spitz is tied to Buck with a rope. His little legs get tangled up so many times as Buck is pulling him around; we are worried he will break it.



The Dog Sled Team



The snow is not so good today. Buck and Spitz love it, but it is too packed, icy, and bumpy from the foot and the snowshoe traffic. Too bad. We continue and ski down to the bridge across the Stanislaus River anyway, a bit further than last time. This is where the road loops back. There is a campground down here too. It is closed right now. We separate Buck and Spitz and they are very happy about that.


The road on the other side of the river has not much snow but has a lot of mud. We must take the same road back. It is mostly uphill. It would probably be a lot faster to walk, but it’s not too comfortable to walk in the ski shoes. Spitz turns and starts running like a madman. Buck is waiting for us time to time.


Back at the truck, Spitzers is waiting curled up under it. We are hungry and tired.


Make it back to Sonora for dinner and we are in the mood for Mexican food. We have huge burritos. I can eat less than half of it; Mark is trying hard to finish it.

Each of these burritos is the size of a loaf of bread and they are stuffed full of mostly rice and beans.

The restaurant has a large board on the wall with pictures of the costumers who were able to consume the burrito on their plate. Mark did not make it to the board but he sure got extremely stuffed.



 January 3, Thursday


We are packing up camp. No more time to hang out in Calaveras County. It is time to return to Riverside County.


Our trip is quick; we only stop to let Buck and Spitz walk around. It is a nice drive through the central valley.

By 4:00 pm we are in Lancaster. Mom is waiting for us with dinner. Finally a home cooked meal!

Roast beef, potatoes, carrots, salad and jelly with pears. They are all delicious!


We think we might spend the night there, but after dinner, she says: hope you will not have too much trouble on the icy road to get home tonight. She threw us out…hahahahaha……..


Buck and Spitz are happy to get back into their own little beds. We have some snow on the yard but it is late and dark. We will try out the new shovel in the morning.


We have three more days before work starts. Plenty of time to clean up, organize and rest after our fun trip.    





from  Serenade for Strings  in C Major

Composed by Peter Il'yich Tchaikovsky

Performed by London Symphony  Orchestra 

Conducted by  Harry Rabinowitz