Category Archives: Lake Isabella

Sightseeing at Home.

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Recently I  was asked to write about sightseeing around my new home in the country, in the middle of nowhere, in a one-horse town in Kern county, California.

After seven years living abroad and traveling the world, I’ve moved to the small town of Lake Isabella, CA, population 2300. With one main road and three traffic lights, there are no sights to visit. To understand and appreciate the extraordinary diversity and raw elegance of my new home, one has to venture into its essence..

Situated in the high desert, on the edge of the majestic Sequoia National Forest, home to the world’s largest trees, this small hamlet offers easy access to countless activities for everyone. The surrounding landscape is as magnificient as the gorgeous trees.

 Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

In spite of the drought, the lake is still full of bass for sport fishing and kayaking. There are two rivers and countless creeks for trout fishing, rafting, tubing, swimming,  more extreme kayaking,  just putzing around in the shallow water, or stretching out on one of the smooth boulders that line the river.  My friend’s daughter, Rose, has lent me a kayak, and I just bought the necessary life jacket at a local thrift store. I’m ready. Estoy lista!

I’ve already taken advantage of a few of the hundreds of hiking trails in the area. They   range from ea

Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

sy to difficult, and most are accessible. Camping and lodging is plentiful. One need only contact the Park Department to make camping reservations within the park, and each small town has at least one motel or lodge.

In addition to water sports, you can picnic on one of the National Forest’s developed picnic areas, go horse riding, mountain biking or view wildlife from your car or while hiking with your camera or binoculars. Use your manners. How close do you want a complete stranger coming to your family?

During the winter, with any luck at all, there are ski slopes, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling which I must say I am not fond of  because of the damage done to the forest floor.

At night, after a hard day of outdoor fun, people flock to the many pubs in the surrounding towns for great food made to order, locally brewed beer, and to listen or dance to live music played by excellent blue grass and folk bands. Before bed, take time to marvel at the crisp, clear sky above you. Track NASA’s satellites, identify your constellation, view the Milky Way, and wish on a falling star.

Settling In. Traveling back.

For the past seven years, I’ve been on the move. Some places I stayed a few months,  some a couple of years.  I settled into apartments in Mexico, China, Costa Rica and Los Angeles, plus, at my daughter’s request, I lived with her and her children outside historic  Charleston, SC.  Except for Los Angeles, where I actually got my stuff out of storage for a short spell, I purchased or borrowed what I needed to make myself comfortable wherever I happened to be in the world.

House on canal in Venice Beach, CA

House on canal in Venice Beach, CA

The Cabin

The Cabin

I learned a lot about myself. My odyssey taught me that my most useful attributes are my improvisational skills, and the ability to be flexible. I discovered that although coffee is  preferred, tea will do just fine; that unusual spices and unidentifiable food make eating an adventure, the struggle to communicate with those who speak different languages is challenging: sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, that the best adventures happen when one is lost, that fear is overrated. That we are basically all the same.

L

Amigas: Barbara & Linda

Amigas: Barbara & Linda

Cindy, Wyatt n Bullit

Cindy, Wyatt n Bullit

Mis Amigas

Mis Amigas

Moving crew

Moving crew

ast year I felt compelled to go home.  Unfortunately I didn’t have one.  I had a 10X10 storage unit in Tehachapi, in the mountains between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mohave Desert.  I didn’t belong in the south. My daughter had her own life, and a family that didn’t include me. I missed my friends in California. Maybe I missed the state itself.

I headed across the country in Margaret, my Mini Cooper to my friend, Brandon Maggart’s, house in Venice Beach. Maybe it was the beach, the craziness, the chaos.  What ever, talking to my daughter, Alice, on the phone, she said, ” It must feel good to be home.” Ah, she understood. Still, Brandon’s, although I was totally comfortable, and I loved having another writer to share thoughts and words with, was not my home. I went back to Tehachapi, then to Bodfish and Lake Isabella. Searching.

My cabin in Lake Isabella is surrounded by woods and rocks. Outside my window three Hummingbirds argue constantly about nectar rights at the newly hung feeder. Abby, my friend Sherry’s  dog, comes to visit and to do yoga with me. At night I have a commanding view of the valley lights  stretched out below me as a long strand of rhinestones gracing the neck of the sparse mountains above it.

My Tehachapi friends rallied to pack the uhaul truck. That I have these good friends fills my heart.

Bedroom in cabin.

Bed in cabin.

Opening the boxes, I find pieces of myself that go back to my childhood. There are letters to my mother while she was in the hospital having me. A photo of me in my dad’s arms, my great grandparents surrounding us and several of my grandpa Naughton, the main man in my life for the first decade of my life. My home in Foxburg, PA was the flat on the second floor of his Irish bar. Across the street the beautiful Allegheny River flowed, sometimes leisurely as if it had all the time in the world, sometimes raging as if it was angry, to Pittsburgh.

A small three-legged table that was  my grandma Emma’s sets beside my bed.  I eat my meals on her red, separated plates. A hobnail vase of Mary McCoy’s, my mom’s first cousin and closest friend all of their lives,  my Mother’s bible, so important in her life, a banjo and a dulcimer made and given to me by different men who hoped in vain that I would become a musician.

Through countless photos and  mementos, I wander back through the years to my son’s births and deaths, my daughter’s births and schools years, their marriages, and the birth of my grand children, to life before my teenage brother was killed by a drunk driver, my ill-fated marriages, the fulfilling comedy years, to the time I could pick up the phone and call my mother. I wonder why my daughter doesn’t want to talk to me. Through photos and articles, I revisit countries I’ve visited, men I’ve loved, and people who have both inspired and thwarted me.

The past gives us perspective for the future. I see a busy one filled with the talents of my friends, music, stories, laughing, sharing and travels. This time when I leave, I’ll have a place to come home to.

French Gulch

French Gulch 3

French Gulch 3

Desert art

Desert art

Bodfish Creek

Bodfish Creek

I’ve been walking late afternoons around French Gulch, a section of Lake Isabella easily accessible from the road. The water is so low that sometimes I’m directly on the lake bed. A brisk wind causes small waves to lap at the new shoreline that is littered with small clam shells the size of dimes and quarters.

Even with minimum water the lake is beautiful. Here and there a few fishermen stand patiently with their fishing rods, ready to catch large mouth bass, and renegade catfish. An occasional boat can be seen on a far away shore, and yesterday a family was camped a few feet above the water line.

I walk briskly, up and down the sandy, dirt roads that criss-cross the gaunt  terrain, thinking about the critters that might join me at any moment-might come down f

French Gulch

French Gulch

image

rom the hills for a drink and some leftovers, or minnows.In my childhood hometown, Foxburg, PA, the black bears still saunter across the defunct railroad tracks, now a bike path, to the Allegheny River.

I imagine

coyotes, or bobcats, even bandit raccoons, bewildered by the dry creeks, having to travel farther, even across the busy highway for life sustaining water. Taking a photo of a cluster of large, smooth boulders,  I halfway expect a Western rattler to emerge, yawning from its nap, from between the cracks.

I think about what I’ll say to them. The first thing I’ll do is apologize for my race -all of us homo sapiens because we have fucked the earth up and are not capable of getting along with other enough to make amends. I’ll tell them I hope I have another chance, in another life, even if it’s on a different planet, to make amends.

“Still, I will say, I am ever so grateful to have had the pleasure to see you all  alive and free in spite of sharp-shooters and greedy cattlemen, and the dumbasses who think snakes are out to get us;  that all in all its been a pretty sweet ride on the big blue ball.”