|Eclipse behind clouds.
|Pixel wrestling a pear.
Of course it began gradually. Stresses and problems bubbled up to the surface one by one.
Lisa started school, brought a heap of papers to sign; Tom followed a week and a half later.
There were common chores with goats, getting to know Ljufur the pony, and planning our trip to
Czech Republic. And nature had decided to barbecue us this year — every time we started
hoping the hot weather was over for good, another wave came. Not just regular California hot,
when it is hundred by two in the afternoon, we run air conditioning for three hours, turn it off
by seven and open our windows, for it cools off to below eighty and one can breathe again.
Oh no — nicely stewed in our own juices, with unusually high humidity and temperatures
not dropping below ninety even at night. I have to say, after three months it got pretty tiresome.
|Alex joined us on a horseback ride.
|Lane Lake before a storm.
On August 21, the sun eclipse day, we were at home in the morning — true, we had formed a few
thoughts regarding how much sense it would make to drive out somewhere for a couple of days, where
there would be a full eclipse, but in the end we dismissed them all as too complicated. And we did
not feel like joining crowds of people and spending hours in traffic jams that everybody was
threatening with. Even so, our back yard offered us a decent view. It was a bit overcast, and the
diminishing disc of the sun was easily visible. Even at our latitude, the eclipse was about 70%.
We did not experience any true darkness, one could still see well, but we noticed birds going quiet
and it got chilly — in our semi-desert at the level of Algiers, sunshine is a very significant
source of heat, and when you reduce it by seventy percent, it's quite noticeable.
|Tom has found this nice mushroom.
|Over the waterfall.
At the end of August, we had managed to invite ourselves to visit with Pixel, our Twilight's first
born wether. Pixel lives with his uncles on a beautiful ridge in Santa Cruz Mountains, in the middle
of a pear orchard. He surprised us how fat he looked, which had a simple explanation — he
loves pears and has figured out a system to get to them. Either he collects them from low growing
branches, or he leans on the trunk and shakes the tree until they fall — and then he rolls
the pear into some dip in the ground to be able to bite it properly. Walker, Tom's favorite wether,
has grown into a beautiful, elegant young adult, and Marshmallow, named for his originally white
fur coat, began to darken into brown.
All three wethers happily joined us for a walk, but just as happily continued then back home.
We should not be surprised that Pixel had called us imploringly when we were leaving, just like
Willy did before. This, however, had confirmed that it was no real desperate cry for help and
return to mommy; instead, it was a form of blackmail, if perhaps we would be willing to give him
We had endeavored to organize a multi-family trip out to Leavitt Meadows for Labor Day weekend.
Alas, we provide and others dispose. Thus, one week before departure, when we had already reserved
horses and mules with Craig for our wilderness ride, all our friends opted out. Our children were
disappointed that they lost their companions, and we were feeling betrayed, and left holding the
bag in the shape of all the reserved, expensive animals.
Were we to know from the start that nobody would come, we would not have arranged a ride to Lane
Lake, but perhaps just a half day loop. And if we really want to invest into a serious
ride just for ourselves, we would have gone farther out, not to the nearby Lane Lake (which we had
chosen so that non-riders could reach it too, hiking).
|Svítání v Renu.
Thus we are back with our trips, where we had been before. Nobody would go with us on our trips.
For many of our friends (like the Kovars), we don't do enough action, and for the majority
of our friends with children, we like too much action. Perhaps our camping style is
"weird" — sleeping in a tent is our way to reach interesting locations and
do interesting things there, and we don't mind camping in relative wilderness without technical
support and civilization other than our car.
In the last moment, Sid invited a work colleague, Alex, and thus we had at least some company.
Our trip had similar structure like the one on previous year. On Saturday, we let ourselves be
carried to Lane Lake, or to West Walker River, to be precise. Our spot of previous year was taken,
and we had to move on a bit farther. Overall, there were crazy many people camping in the
wilderness, especially in a spot that was easy to reach either riding or hiking, even with small
children. Tom and Lisa frowned that they were bored, and spent half of the evening being obnoxious
— but over time found things to do, and apparently lost their electronic withdrawal symptoms;
then they became very pleasant and willing to do chores, including gathering wood, filtering our
drinking water, and such.
Because mules had brought our stuff, we used the two-tent system, and could spread out at night
and sleep decently. Even I did not get up at my obligatory 6:45 and stretched it till almost eight.
I still caught Alex before he ran away — Alex runs super-marathons and took this trip to
the mountains as another training; he was visibly eager to get tired on surrounding slopes.
We took a very leisurely time to see nearby waterfalls, then back for lunch, and finally to the
lake, planning to swim. An approximately five-year-old girl in a hammock at the beach scolded us for
disturbing her peace, like others before us — but since they made camp on one of the two
beaches, what is one to do?
Yet we had somehow under-estimated our mountain experience and the fact that thunderstorms
arrive in the afternoon — before we got to actual swimming, an icy wind picked up and
we were left shivering on the shore, watching crayfish teeming in the lake. And people teeming
around the lake — quite incredible, how many tents and holiday-making groups we could spot,
here in the mountains. Eventually we retreated to our camp site, which was off to one side.
Tom had subsequently found a king mushroom in the woods, and we used it to spruce up our evening
|Balloons shine against the still dark skies.
On Monday noon, cowboys came for us as had been agreed. We had time to pack in peace, chat with
Alex, and compare our totalitarian experiences. A thing happened on our way back, which — from
my point of view — balanced out all the disappointment and expense of this trip.
Sid dismounted his horse Racer and said that he tremendously enjoyed his ride, for the horse
communicated with him. After years, during whose he laughed at my descriptions of what Neddie had
said, and what the goats told me, he had suddenly discovered how it is when an animal
Apparently because he rod Racer twice in a row in a short span of time, Racer had decided that it
would be good to arrange things with this human, and not just carry him stoically — and when
he met with a positive reaction and understanding, they both enjoyed it much more.
Many a horse person (often a mystically endowed female with a dreamy glance) would tell you that
horses are telepathic and can sense what a human thinks. It is no likely the case; instead, horses
are very good observers and great handlers of humans. Usually already during the first encounter,
they begin to float little test balloons towards the human, awaiting some reaction. If the human
notices the balloon and responds accordingly, a horse begins to think harder how to deal with such
a person. Tourist-trained horses, who get to service many inexperienced riders, often don't even
bother with it, for they know that the really important human is the one who feeds them and puts
the saddle on, not the one who gets to sit atop; sometimes it takes a while to break through this
|Lisa thus got the chance to see things from above.
We had returned home on Monday evening, and on Thursday we were again taking the children out of
school, heading by way of Kirkwood to Reno, to fly balloons. We had packed quickly, everybody
grabbed something, and apparently nobody grabbed a bag with boots, which we had noticed by the time
we had covered half of the distance there. I was wearing flip-flops, and Tom had fabric loafers
— neither one qualifies as a suitable footwear for stumbling at four o'clock in the morning
across a field, dragging a heavy aerostat. Eventually our family council had resolved that instead
of buying random cheap sneakers, we would rather buy proper and useful boots at Tractor Supply in
Minden. My horse boots began leaving me lately and Tom needs trekking shoes; we ended up with
comfortable ankle-high riding boots by Ariat. And as it happens with us in such a store, we did not
limit ourselves to boots — Sid and Tom purchased jeans as well.
Ballooning proceeded in a pleasant, familiar routine; weather cooperated, crowds behaved reasonably
orderly, a proven restaurant in Sparks accomodated us all for a crew dinner, and Lisa was the happy
one of our family who got to fly this time. Triple getting up at an uncivilized hour (quarter to
four) had caused us a considerable jet lag, but I did not have the strength to fight it anyway.
Instead, I accepted it as a prep for another time shock coming up in ten days with our trip to
We had just a bit more time left for our goaties, for buying packing things we would need,
releasing children from school, organizing Twilight to get milked during our absence, and trying
to plan some get-togethers with friends during our stay in Czechia — and trying not to
stress out too much about the upcoming flight.