Road to Opals in Nevada

I took a special trip with my dad a couple years ago to mine for opals. The desert landscapes were very photogenic.

We left from Winnemucca, which is definitely not a made-up town in the middle of nowhere

Slightly cloudy at the end of summer

Click to enlarge

Lots of interesting geologic features, wish I knew more about them like this black spot

Long stretches of road with little around

Rougher rocks poking out

So nice and recently paved

Small patches of green were scattered across the arid landscape

The natural vegetation was sparse

But produced interesting patterns in the distance



Looking towards the opal bearing areas

On the way in we passed gigantic walls of rock

I wonder what the white layer is about

But a nice stop on the way in is an old campground around a hot spring

An off-limits building

I wasn’t soo sure about any swimming in the green water

Sunset with two people on the horizon? No, just a cool rock

More of the Virgin Valley, where several claims allow you to mine for a fee

Lots of claims out here, so really not a good idea to go out on your own

we decided on Rainbow Ridge

They bulldoze the right layers of rock and then you break open the clumps and use water to find the opals

There was so much to go through, but the owner and other rockhounds will help you get your bearings

On the way out got this monumental vista

Odd abandoned building out on a promontory

But this round one in the middle of nowhere was a shining beacon

Until next time

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Chico Pt. 2 – Old Buildings and New

I will have more natural wonders of the Chico area in another series from a separate trip, but this post is about mostly the built environment of the downtown area.

There are so many beautiful old buildings in the downtown Chico area they publish a walking tour, I hit up some highlights

But along the way this very large park with lots of art was showing itself off

I bet they host different events and music shows from here

But the central fountain in the late summer heat was quite nice

I think it is also a kids play area

Loved the embedded glass beads

I think this is the old city hall

But my favorite was this art deco mayan revival building with spanish accents

I wonder if this one was a theater at one point

Nearby the state university takes up a good chunk of downtown on property gifted by the founding Bidwell family

Lots of beautiful brick architecture, likely trying to reflect that of other famous campuses in California

I wonder if they have a walking tour here?

The administration building was almost ostentatious

It was a very plain building inside, but had a few flourishes like this spiral staircase

And giant glass tile globe

One highlight on campus was the very, very old trees. This is a ginko

Silverleaf maple, likely planted by the Bidwells in the late 1800’s to about 1930

Other parts of campus are more modern, and this one is a clear transitional building with both modern materials and the familiar brick

I think it was the library, and felt very brutalist in design

A lovely clock tower

Then you get to a much more modern part of campus

This newer building also evokes a brutalist past

A little imposing, no?

This was a surprisingly large building for a city of 90,000 (human at bottom right for scale)

One of the science buildings had a great mineral collection on display. If on a college campus, go check out the science buildings because they often have both natural history displays and posters describing cutting edge research with relatively straightforward language and graphics

And the newest area with lots of bland 21st century design

The old Bidwell mansion is a state park now and offers tours much of the time

However I was too late in the day and had to get window shots

The old stables were well preserved (too well, I thought the parks had no money)

Filled with wonderfully restored carriages

More giant trees, this one is over 5 feet across

And this massive magnolia was similarly oversized

In the park the Bidwell’s gifted to the city there is a grove of cork oaks imported from europe

They are absolutely beautiful trees, but not so much when the bark is harvested

You can easily cut the spongy bark and peel off sections

While it does not kill the tree, it does leave ugly scars

To end the day I went and checked out this place in the park called sycamore pool

The creek that runs through the park and town goes through here where they created a natural swimming pool that is constantly filled with fresh water

It is a true gem in this very nice city


Next up – Nevada desert and opals

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Chico Pt. 1 – National Forest Arboretum and Seed Orchard

Sorry no Washington state yet, I saw my pics from a trip to Chico were next in line. However, this gem of a city in the north sacramento valley is an excellent place or a day trip or a weekend getaway.

The road up to Chico is very picturesque in the late summer, this is golden California rice, used in most sushi in the U.S.

My first stop was the site of one of the state’s first plant breeding and research centers that is now part of the National Forest system

The forest service grows trees for seed to re-populate logged and burned forests in the local area to maintain genetic diversity and growth conditions. This is an old part of the orchard on the way in with Afghan pines planted after the soviet war to help re-forest the country; it still provides seeds for that country

There were some small garden spaces on the way in with native flowers

Like this hardy hibiscus

And pokeberries (very poisonous)

They are such vibrantly colored!

I can’t remember what pines are in this part of the orchard, but this canal was built in the early 1900’s to supply the nursery

Still provides water, such as for these fir trees. The orchard produces half the state’s doug firs and ponderosa pines

These new plantings are incense cedar, a rarely planted tree

You can tell the species by the flat chevron (v-shaped) leaves

A very old valley oak

Very majestic, but the canopy shot above this was ruined with sun glare

Kinda like this one, but the start of the arboretum and its eucalypt collection

There were several different kinds, but not all have signs anymore

They have gotten very big since the 20’s or 30’s when planted

This is the chicken-of-the-woods fungus, named after its taste and texture. Don’t eat these growing off a eucalyptus, they absorb some stomach churning toxins

These native walnuts are smaller, and very, very hard to open, but way delicious

This one seemed to be a cross between a pine and a eucalyptus

A better view of the bark and leaves

But it is indeed a pine

Lovely pacific dogwood with leaves ready for fall and fruits from summer ready (not edible either)

I hadn’t heard of oracle oaks before

I haven’t seen this type of maple so large, about ten times bigger than any planted in the last 20 years (when they became a popular landscaping and street tree)

There was even a bamboo grove

Such fun pics

This building was from the depression era government works projects

It used to house public services and back in the day research, but now is just office space

They had old research specimens around, like this olive tree

Some aggressive grapes climbing the hedgerow

But they were good grapes

As you can see I tried one, they had seeds though

A persimmon tree

Pistachio trees were introduced in 1917 from persia here. They used this grove to see which varieties would do well here

And this is the one they came up with, and which is the mother of all modern pistachio trees in California, the second largest producer in the world

This tree was seriously massive, most of the ones you see on farms are the size of the branch in the center! It is likely the mother tree from the 1920’s, but I could not find the mother kiwi tree from 1934

See you hopefully sooner next time

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Sacramento River Cruise

Have you ever been on one of those European River Cruises? Well this is nothing like that, but the river cruise here in Sacramento has a fun flavor of its own.

The boat was a bit lackluster to say the least, clearly worn on the inside and only beverage service and snacks (a bit overpriced if you ask me). It was seaworthy though and served its purpose

Looking back at the doc as our narrator began to describe the Sacramento river and its history

Like the Delta King, a restaurant, bar and hotel with beautiful views and elaborate architecture. It doesn’t move from the dock though

The I street bridge (really original name there) which carried traffic and trains over the river for over 100 years, but now will just be for trains as they build a new bridge just to the north for cars and bikes

This pretty riverfront high-rise is an office building for the state teacher’s retirement system, which is considering building a second one next to it to accommodate growth in teachers and associated pension activity

The remnants of a world war two era wooden boat

Cool water tower

Lots of people and watercraft were outside on this spring day

This is a water intake plant that provides water to the sacramento area, there are many along this river and the American river to supply the flat part of the region

I loved the design touches like these lights with boat sail motifs

This is the old water intake plant, things have grown since the 20’s

This bridge is over the American river around its confluence with the Sacramento river

It is apparently a good place to fish where the two rivers meet

The white marker indicates the confluence

Looking back to discovery park on the river, a county run money grab (there is a similar, but smaller park that is free a bit down river) and you can see the dark American and cloudy Sacramento

Those colors reflect their origin and courses, as the American starts reasonably nearby in the high sierra and doesn’t pick up much dirt on the way here, while the Sacramento river flows hundreds of miles through ag land that deposits lots of brown silt in it

Unfortunately due to the housing crisis and other issues, many people live along the river in makeshift camps. You can see one in this shot hiding

You can see the tent a little better here, unfortunately many of these areas were flooded the following winter and led to a lot of people having to move

Another very old shipwreck

As you head north on the river, there are many public and private harbors, like this one, Crawdad’s on the River

Here is the floating restaurant

Not the only one, the virgin sturgeon is relatively famous among boaters

Lots of riverside activity up here

But also home to humble, quiet residences along the river

The Ziggurat building with a cormorant, can you see it?

I think this angle will be easier to see it

Former Sutter’s Landing, a dock in Washington (now the city of West Sacramento)

the Hawaiian Chieftain was in town providing historical tours of the replica and sailing lessons to apprentices, next to Joe’s Crab Shack

This little control room sits atop the Tower Bridge , so it can lift when the occasional large ship comes through

It was painted gold after the city decided it needed an iconic structure, as the plain steel wasn’t as memorable

They even painted the underside gold!

Hence the name, Tower Bridge

This is the more modern Pioneer Bridge carrying US Highway 50 over the river, installed in the early 70’s

Unfortunately there were some derelict boats rotting on the side of the river

Looking back onto downtown sacramento

And that iconic bridge from a rare perspective for us non-boaters. The river may look high, but later that year it got within two feet of the base, making it about 14 feet higher than this picture

Next up, my fantastic October 2016 whirlwind trip to Seattle and around the Olympic peninsula over a series of posts.

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