The Kuraoka Family Weekly Journal

The Kuraoka family, March 2009
Us, March 9, 2009: John, Ondine, Roy, Leo, and Buddy

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

We’re back from camping! And you know what? We hit the ground running like crazy and we’re still not caught up, so the camping journal post will have to wait until we can go through our hand-written journals, edit and resize nearly 300 photos, and get the house ready for Kevin’s stay.

Yes, we have a teenager from Germany flying in Friday evening! Sleeping bags are still airing out, the camp boxes are still in the trunk of the Mazda, and John is still doing laundry.

The good news, is that John managed to land in his office with a couple new projects queued up. The result, though, is that last Monday’s journal might be delayed until next week or later, so here’s this Friday’s journal a bit early.

But first, a quick preview of the camping journal! This was the first trip we’d taken without the benefit of Barbara and Bill accompanying us. But, once in camp, Ondine’s Aunt Ulli arrived shortly after we did, and had reserved the campsite right next to ours! Yay! And, she’d brought Diego, her Chihuahua. We had campsite #2, and Ulli had campsite #3.

Well, right away, there was no water in camp! A lightning strike very near the campground was still creating buzz amongst the campers. It zapped a large tree into tiny scorched splinters (which was apparently cleared by the time we drove up), and knocked out the pump that provided water. Roy and Leo were our water heroes, finding a spigot at the lowest point in camp that still had a small amount of water draining into its pipes through gravity alone. They patiently filled several liter-sized bottles of water while we set up camp.

Ondine drove to Salmon Creek campground for water – there was one working spigot there. The next day, she drove to Bassett’s Station for a case of gallon water jugs – we needed both the water and the jugs for transport.

The weather was spectacular! We had terrific winds that ripped apart awnings and sent tents tumbling across the campgrounds. Not ours, though – we don’t have an awning, and both of our tents were securely staked and guyed. Then, the rains came!

As we drove into Downieville for an “in-town” day, we noticed snowplows driving up the road. Hmm, we thought, strange to see snowplows in August. Odd. Well, it turned out that snow was predicted down to 8,000 feet, so the snowplows were being staged up the mountain to clear the roads!

We went to the Kentucky Mine – always a great tour! And this time, we enjoyed the presence of a descendent of one of the early mine owners and two current hard-rock miners, who added immeasurably to the presentation. Ondine, who sat with Buddy in the picnic area while John and the boys took the tour, was treated to a family of deer that emerged from the woods!

John, Roy, and Buddy enjoyed a hike to Volcano Lake with Ulli and Diego, past numerous “No Trespassing” signs, much to Roy’s discomfiture. And, we all enjoyed a hike to Upper Sardine, where Ulli took John and the boys (including the fur-brother) on a trek to “the cove,” where the family used to swim and fish. There was actually a broad puddle of water in “the cove,” along with fresh deer tracks and lots of deer poop! It was great having Ulli with us, to share family stories from the past and guide us to nostalgic haunts. With each passing year, we feel more and more connected to the area.

We also did some gold panning in the Yuba River, went up to Lower Sardine (where John carved Roy’s name near Leo’s on the famous table), and visited Snag Lake and Gold Lake. Plus, we spent some time at Sand Pond and in the spillway.

John, who had his birthday the day we arrived in camp, had brought along a Lego motorhome, and photographed it at various points during our travels. It contained chairs, a stove and fish, coffee cups, a bicycle, a surfboard, and a happy (and child-free) couple. It added a surreal quality to our trip.

One major milestone was that we allowed Roy and Leo to walk to Sand Pond on their own!

We enjoyed several meals out, including dinner at Bassett’s upon our arrival, breakfast at the Mountain Creek Restaurant in Sierra City, and dinner at the Wooden Trout in Downieville! Livin’ large, we were.

Ondine’s knee held up well, until Friday when she joined everyone hiking to Upper Sardine. The next day – our packing-up day – her knee was swollen and painful. Sigh.

Ulli took the boys to breakfast at Bassett’s on the last day, so we could pack up in peace – thanks, Ulli! After breakfast, she even took the boys to Packer Lake, where they walked around the lake. After packing up, we all met at Bassett’s for one final lunch together before heading down the mountain to Santa Nella.

At Santa Nella, John shaved off his beard! That was Saturday night. It is now Wednesday afternoon. So far, no one has noticed, or if they have, they haven’t said anything. Yeah, who wants to look at his silly mug long enough to play ‘what’s new’?

We stopped at John’s Mom’s house on the way up and the way back, which divided the trip into three equal legs – Sardine to Santa Nella, Santa Nella to La Caņada, La Caņada to San Diego. She wasn’t home, but had laid out a wonderful dinner to reheat - turkey meatloaf and rice! John started the laundry, using nearly all of his Mom’s laundry detergent in the process. He also used up nearly all her fresh vegetables in a giant salad. Kids! What, nearly 50 years old, and still a parasite!

Funny enough, we were actually not going to stop at Grammy’s house. But, as we drover through Pasadena, John looked at Ondine and said, "So, what will we have for dinner?" Ondine groaned. John groaned. We knew that there was a dinner waiting for us to reheat at Grammy’s house. At the last moment, we took the offramp. The dog knew where we were going about a minute before his back-seat brothers! We stayed overnight, and headed home Monday.

John has been doing laundry nearly non-stop since we got home. He’d laid in an extra box of laundry detergent, and is almost all the way through it. He still has two sleeping bags (the boys’ new bags) and another load or two to go.

No matter where we go, it’s always wonderful to come home to San Diego! Barbara and Bill had cleaned up our garden for us, and reported there was a nocturnal intruder grazing our front garden! Sure enough, we found several tomatoes with their entire bottoms eaten! ‘Possum? ‘Coon? Rats! (Rats?)

Grandma Barbara made some wonderful books for us called The Kuraoka Kampers Battle the Sierra Weather Grinch, a “nearly true story.” We enjoyed reading them with the boys and reliving our recent camping experiences, writ large!

Roy was invited to go swimming at Stephen’s house! When Alex saw Roy, he was delighted. “It’s Roy!” he said, giving Roy a welcome home poke. Lucy told Ondine that Alex was worried that he’d forgotten what Roy looked like. Well, they’re’ on the same soccer team, so they’ll see a fair amount of each other in the coming months!

Barbara and Bill took Roy and Leo to Lawrence Welk today! Roy likes to go golfing, and Leo loves the Rec Center. When they returned, they settled in to watch The Swiss Family Robinson, a movie that Aunt Ulli gave to us!

Neighborhood gas prices are about $3.05 per gallon, although we paid $3.01 and $3.12 per gallon at Bassett’s Station last week. The most we paid was $3.30 per gallon, at Castaic on the way home.

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