Posts Tagged ‘snow’

Finally – Tangier and the American Legation – after crossing more mountains


Last stop ahead

Time for the last big drive, Al Hoceima to Tangier.  At this point I believe we were regarding this as a strenuous trip because we had NO IDEA how much driving would be involved.  As we left Al Hoceima, the countryside was beautiful with orchards in bloom, wild lavender by the road.

Orchard outside of Al Hoceima

Some of the hills looked like the farms along The Three Gorges in China – multi-colored and terraced.

The weather was gorgeous and there were people alongside the road gathering herbs.

We passed fascinating haystacks.

Haystack outside Al Hoceima

We passed prickly pear in full fruit, but we noticed something alarming.

We were going up.  We had forgotten about the Rif.  We were driving Morocco’s third major mountain range.  But the weather was lovely, we could still see the Mediterranean – how bad could this be?

Bad is the answer.  It was getting colder and I did not have my long underwear on.  The car heater of course was still broken.  And it was foggy, then raining.  We passed patches of snow up on a hill.  I took a picture, thinking, “Ooh, I’ll show the kids how high we were and how close to snow!”

Snow in the distance

You might be asking yourself right now, as I am asking myself, what do the kids care if we are passing snow?  We have snow all the time at our cabin in Alta Sierra.  And the kids aren’t little either.  The youngest is 37.  Old habits die hard.  So when we passed snow at the side of the road, I took a photo of that also.

Closer patches of snow

If I’d had my crystal ball with me I would have known that in a matter of moments we would be driving through a snowstorm.


Yes, for about 1½ hours.

Visibility was low.  And snow was starting to coat the roads.

The snow starts to stick

Snow is beautiful, one must admit, even in the midst of it.  The trees were turning white.

And then rain.  The road tricked us – we’d be descending and Mark would say, “We’re out of it now, going down.” And we’d go up again.  Each time, Mark hopefully said the same thing, and finally, at last, the snow and rain and fog were gone and we were out of the Rif.  We’d seen the snow plows going up to 7,000 feet, where we had been, and where the roads had been awful.  It registered now why Joaquin had said, as we drove away from Casa Paca, that the roads probably hadn’t been fixed yet since winter.  This place gets torn up each year from snow and ice and rain.

And all of a sudden, as if we’d never been through rain, fog and snow, there were wildflowers.


So.  Tangier.  We lived there for six weeks in 1971 during our Peace Corps training.  And we were going back.  The American Legation, where we trained and lived, was the first property the United States owned on foreign soil, and it is currently the only National Historic Site not in the United States.

George Washington and King Mohammed I had correspondence back when, trying to solve the Barbary pirate situation.  And thus Morocco came to be the first country to officially recognize the United States as an independent nation.  We couldn’t wait to see it again.

But we needed to get rid of that rental car which meant find the airport.  Signage had been pretty good throughout the country so I just said to Mark, let’s drive into town and we’re sure to see an airport sign somewhere.  Now understand that “town” has gotten a whole lot bigger and we drove a very long way, before, on the verge of desperation, we saw a sign.  We knew we couldn’t go very much farther without landing in the Atlantic Ocean, and we knew the airport was south of town near the coast, but nonetheless, we were beginning to look for airplanes and what direction they were landing.

Walking happily into the airport to the car rental desk, eager to tell them about the lack of oil and the squeaky brakes and the lack of heat, we found – no one.  There was one person in the whole array of rental car agencies and he said, oh, they aren’t here, just put the papers under the window.  OK? OK, we did, and found Andrew from Dar Jand who was picking us up, and we were on our way to the medina.

We wanted to stay in the medina since the Legation was in the medina and it would be like old times, sort of.  On tripadvisor I found Dar Jand.

Dar Jand

And a plug for tripadvisor – it was invaluable.  I got most of our lodging based on recommendations on tripadvisor, and none of them were in the guide  books.  Unless it’s Rick Steves, I don’t really trust those books like Frommers and Fodors anymore.

Andrew and Janet – the JAND of Dar Jand, are an American couple who own a quirky, four (or was it five) story place in the medina.  Janet spent five years renovating it while Andrew was still working in the states and I am in total awe of what she accomplished.  When she arrived she spoke no French or Arabic, and she says now she’d never do it again – had no idea just what she was in for.  But she did a fantastic job.  Honestly? It was nice to be with Americans and speak English.  Andrew showed us where everything was, including the laundry.  We’d been three days in the same clothes and I mean all the same clothes and were desperate for something clean.

View from Dar Jand - Medina Rooftops

How was it that we knew that medina inside and out once?  It’s a rabbit warren, a maze, it tricks you into walking in circles.  But we’d had the adventure squeezed out of us by now and lacked the energy to care about where we ate or what we saw.  We just wanted to be there.  And visit the Legation.

Medina steps outside Dar Jand

Andrew gave us directions, we set out, walked in circles and got lost.  Someone offered to lead us so we knew a tip would be in order, which was fine with us.  It’s a way of working, it provides a service, and everyone we saw in this country worked hard.  We wondered about how unemployment is defined.  Are people selling their vegetables in the souks considered unemployed? Or people selling on the side of the road?  What kind of living do those people make compared to the cost of living? One thing is clear, I expect to the population in general as well as outsiders: the country runs on tourism.  It’s only 10% of the GNP and that’s hard to believe.  The unrest in the Arab world isn’t good for Moroccan tourism, although Morocco is completely safe.

So we were happy to pay our self-appointed guide to reach the legation.  Jerry Loftus, the director of the Legation museum, met us and actually got pretty excited when he realized we really truly had lived there during a Peace Corps training.  We were searching for our room; when we lived there we had the best room of all since having a two-year-old daughter gave us privileges. Where other volunteers bunked together and shared bathrooms, we got our own room and bath!  We did not just have any room, however.  Ours had a secret door with a hidden area that one could escape to if one didn’t want to be found.  And I don’t think it was for getting “alone time.” Perhaps the area could be treacherous.  We explained all this to Jerry but we couldn’t find the room.  I knew in my head exactly how to describe it, and now we’ve found that Jerry is actually living in that room – but since he has not found the secret door, he didn’t match our description to his room.  It may not be there but then again…it was a secret.

Jennifer outside of our room 1971

How did Jerry figure out he was living in the room? We sent him old photos after our return, which he was happy to have, room identified or not, as there is very little in the way of records for that time period.  He did bring out a very old, very crude scrapbook that someone had given him, and Jerry wondered about the photos.  We knew who the people were because it was our training group!  (By saying “very crude” scrapbook, I’m not disparaging the work of whoever made it – but it sure makes a stark contrast to all the technology available today.)

Scrapbook in legation

Little by little, the Legation is being restored and the museum enhanced.  There are copies of letters between George Washington and Mohammed I – difficult to read with the florid script of the day but thrilling nonetheless.

Courtyard steps 1971

Legation courtyard 1971

Dining room American Legation today

Dining room during Peace Corps training 1971

Jenny at kid's table 1971 - on the balcony

Legation balcony today

Exterior Legation crossing over alley

A neat feature of the American Legation is that it spans the road in the medina.

So it was over.  We’d seen what we came back for – Oujda, the Legation, Tangier, and points in between.  Tangier was the most different of anywhere.  A tourist in Tangier used to feel like a gladiator thrown into the pit, set upon by people offering to sell you goods, guide you, or pick your pocket.  It was not so much like that now, blessedly.  Plus, many shops do not bargain anymore, which is a huge relief no doubt and makes the tourist experience livable.  So many of Tangier’s tourists make day trips from Spain, and to have one’s first experience of Morocco seem like a hell-hole can’t be good for extended tourism.

Tangier is also feeling more like part of the country.  Hassan II did not like the North and never set foot in Tangier, which left them the poor stepchildren of Morocco.  Mohammed VI, however, has a residence there, visits, and it’s made a terrific difference to the populace to feel like they count.  That, at least, according to our host Andrew, and if I’ve misremembered, I offer apologies.

Here are a few pictures of our wanderings in the medina.  Everything is interesting, colorful, exciting.

Purple wall, Tangier medina

Blue wall, Tangier

Blue passage, Tangier medina

Inside a holistic herb store, Tangier medina

Medina port, Tangier

Now our zip was completely gone.  We were ready for Spain.  We’re getting old and organized tour groups are looking better and better; but we couldn’t have seen all we’d wanted to without driving the country and it was worth it for sure.  We’d been on camels, in planes, cars, taxis and trains in a little over two weeks.  We found a country we loved that had developed incredibly in 40 years yet still retained its character and heart.  We headed through the medina to the port to catch a fast ferry to Tarifa  to the bus for Sevilla.  We got one last look at Tangier as the ferry pulled away.

View of Tangier from ferry

We’ll be back.  Next year is the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in Morocco so chances are good we’ll attend, then go to Agadir and spend a week or so at a beach resort and spend time with Krim.  As soon as we recover our energy from this trip, it’ll look a whole lot better for a return.

Next – to Sevilla.


Fun in Alta Sierra: Sledding and Skiing only 1.5 hours from Bakersfield


Yesterday was a fine day to have fun in the snow – since our cabin is in Alta Sierra, which is having unseasonably low temperatures like much of the West Coast.  And with the temps comes more snow than usual also.  So while we were up for Thanksgiving, I took advantage of the location to do photo journals for Art Every Day Posts.   And you know what? It’s Day 27 and I haven’t missed once.  That takes discipline, something I often find in short supply.

So on to the fun.  Everyone skedaddled to sleds as soon as possible.

I don’t think the temperature got above freezing once but that didn’t deter anyone.  But me and Jennifer.  We were deterred.

We’re on our third year owning our cabin and that white truck hasn’t budged once.  What they are all walking on? That’s our street, Connifer.  Right.  Doesn’t look much like a street – it’s not plowed, and the snow just grows and grows all winter long.

We also use our next-door-neighbor’s driveway when he’s not in residence.

Sledding always gives way sooner or later to combat.

Snowball fights.

Friday morning most of the group headed out for Alta Sierra Ski Park just a hop and a skip away from the cabin.  Everyone wanted to go tubing but as it happened, the tubing wasn’t open but neither was the park!  Opening day was today.  By some miracle, however, Benjamin, Sophie and Joe ended up skiing.  For Benjamin it was old hat.  Sophie and Joe had never been on skis before but they ended up having a lesson (perhaps the park staff used it as part of training day) and it was sure good PR because they are hooked.

Look how rapt Sophie is.  Both she and Joe took right to it, skiing down the slopes with no problem.  Alta Sierra has seven slopes from ultra-advanced to easier and I’m sure Sophie and Joe were on the easiest.

Sophie is on the lift, which she said was on her bucket list – riding a ski lift.  I don’t know what to think of a 13-year-old with a bucket list but I guess it never hurts to know what you want to do.

Now she has just gotten off the lift like a pro – first time.  Joe has already landed there on the left.

They each had an instructor – three kids, three instructors.  What a deal.  This photo looks down from the top of the lift.

And this photo looks up.

Sarah just watched.  She’s recovering from strep and mono and although she’s been cleared to do whatever she feels like, her  energy goes only so far.

The Three Skiers – the twins and cousin Benjamin – had a wonderful time and we know much more skiing is in their future, for which their parents are gearing up.

By the way – all you Bakersfield readers – did you know that barely 1.5 hours away you have seven ski runs, two lifts, and a tubing and all-terrain park?  Check it out. Don’t miss out on the fun in your own backyard.  It’s snowing now and more is predicted for tomorrow.  Aunt Anne from Anchorage said we have more than they do right now –  so take advantage of it.

A Thanksgiving adventure: Over the river and through ghostly woods (don’t try this at home)


Well, I don’t need another experience like yesterday’s.  Oh, no no no no no.  Mark and I headed up the hill to our cabin in Alta Sierra for Thanksgiving.  Today we have family coming but we needed a head start.  We got halfway up the hill to Glennville and stopped at Hassano’s to eat.  Doesn’t look like much but the food is top notch.  The first thing we noticed was it was COLD.  A different kind of cold than we’ve felt there before – it’s somewhere around 3,500 feet.  The waitress told us snowflakes had just been floating down.

Then – up to the cabin at 6,200 feet.  We immediately encountered the sign that said chains required in 10 miles.  And then we were in ghostly woods.

We were not in fog.  Oh no, not the thick tule fog we get in Bakersfield.  We were in clouds and it felt so still and quiet, so untouchable and even mystical.

I didn’t ask Mark to stop for photos but once or twice since it was slow-going, and even though we were the only car on the road, it was snowy and slick.

Finally, we stopped at a pull-off by Slick Rock Road One for the…you guessed it, chains.

As you read on to the meat of the adventure, keep in mind this lovely tire with chain (almost) perfectly applied.  And while Mark did this, I scoped out the surroundings.  I found a perfect tree.  Would that we could take it, snow and all, for a Christmas tree.

I noticed how much snow there had been by what had been plowed to the side.

I looked over at Slick Rock One cabin and admired the pattern on the roof.

After the snowfall, the trees gave up more of their cover, heading towards naked for winter.  But across the street, other trees were still putting up a fight, holding on to those fall leaves.

My eyes landed on leaves outlined by ice, which may be the most magical image of all.  Ice storms look like fairy castles but they can be deadly.

Back across the street, the clouds were closing in.

The road had gathered its cloak closer, as if to shut out the cars.  Maybe we should have listened.

The real adventure begins

None of this was of any consequence when compared to the real adventure.  We headed down Old State Road, which had been plowed.  Caltrans had done a good job on Highway 155.  But the road to our house was not plowed.  And I wish I had pictures to show you, but you’ll have to take my word because I was too busy shoveling snow to take photos.

Should we go up our road?  We’d driven through snow like that before – we had snow tires, 4-wheel drive and chains.  Going up the S-curve.  Made the first turn.  Didn’t make the second turn- ended up stuck.  Whoa.  What to do?  Mark maneuvered any way he could – no dice. Mark noticed that one of the tires was without chain.  We found it in the snow, mangled.  I started shoveling snow out from behind the tires – but what was that I heard? A sound much better than eight tiny reindeer.  I heard a snow plow.  Off I went to find it and luckily I had my STABILicers on – shoes with metal cleats that fit over the shoes I was wearing.  I’m not hired by STABILicers to plug these ice shoes, but they are invaluable.  We rented some in Sequoia National Park once, and when we bought our cabin I bought about 10 pair in different sizes for guests.  Better than broken bones on slippery ice.

Rescued – almost

Ah – there was Tom, my savior, clearing out the parking lot of the Greenhorn Grill.   What could he do? He could plow out behind our car and maybe we could back down the hill.  He hadn’t been able to plow there yet because too many cars had been stuck!  Tom said the snow was a different consistency than usual – very heavy and wet with ice underneath.  It had snowed and rained and I guess there was too much moisture to push on through to the other side.

Now what?

Road behind us plowed and still we couldn’t move.  I started shoveling again when two guys on snowboards zoomed by and stopped.  Hey, could you help us?  Three more snowboarders arrived.  They were young, strong, everything we could want.  So they guided Mark in how to turn the wheels since we were quite close to the edge with a nice drop off – nothing that would injure us, but it sure would injure the car to slide down there.  They all five pushed on the car to make it go the way we wanted.  And we were down.  We parked in someone else’s parking place.

Rescued, for real.

I had a brilliant idea.  We had all the stuff for Thanksgiving dinner and the car was full.  Have any of you broken a trail, uphill, through deep, soft snow?  Where you sink to your knees with each step? It is NOT fun and in no way an adventure.  I was already beat from running up and down hills to find the snowplow and then shoveling snow.  I kept thinking of all the people who die of heart attacks while shoveling snow and I am 64.  So is Mark.  How many trips would we have to make?  It was a long walk – this next photo is from the balcony of the cabin and you can’t even see where our car was!

BUT there were five young, strong guys there.  Could they help?  Yes, they carried everything, making several trips each.  I started up with my tripod, a light duffel and a snow shovel.  Pretty soon the path was littered with items as I discarded them one by one.  These guys were angels of mercy and we gave them money to have dinner at the Grill on us.  Phew.  And off they went on their snowboards, jumping over the very ditch we would have landed in.

In the house it was much warmer than outside – 48 degrees.  It was 24 outside.  But the heater would not stay on.  Not to worry, I knew just what to do because it had happened when I was at the cabin with my daughter Karen, and she figured it out.  So I gave Mark a bowl of steaming hot water and three towels and instructed him to find the pipe that went from the heater in the basement to the outdoors and thaw it. He was pretty darn impressed that Karen had figured this out – while several men stood around saying oh no, that couldn’t be it.  Why do men insist on thinking women can’t do stuff? Anyhow, three hours later we were at 65 inside which is actually quite toasty.


We’d had visitors since our last weekend up.


We made it to grandmother’s (and grandfather’s) house

We’d gone over the river and through the woods, but you can forget about the horse knowing the way to carry the sleigh through the freshly fallen snow.  Forget about ho-ho-hos and jingle bells.  Down on the driveway we heard the most wonderful sound of all, and it wasn’t Rudolph.

Happy thanksgiving, everyone.  We have so much to be grateful for, including the fact that we have a cabin in the woods, have family to share with us, have heat in the house, doors that lock, and cupboards full of food.  In other words, we have shelter, food, security, family, friends – so much more than most people in the world have.  With that knowledge always in the front of my mind, I find it impossible to seriously complain about anything anymore.

And – with blogs, the internet, Creative Every Day, twitter and Facebook, we have an extended family the world over.  Even though I suffer technology overload sometimes, I’m grateful for it, nonetheless.

#CED2010: Cabin in Winter: Almost Snowed Out


Cabin in winter cocooned in snow,

Visiting brings it to life.

Inside heat melts outside snow

Creating new creaks and sounds.

Would’ve been scared as a kid.

Settling in, finding a rhythm

To being alone in the woods.

Wandering mind loses focus,

Don’t care, not concerned.

After all, it’s only me.

Cocooning in snow, waking the cabin

With books, canvas and paints.

Crashing through silence, ideas tumble.

Thoughts focus in images and words.

Sleepiness scares them away.

Alone in the woods, finding a rhythm

To thinking and writing with paint.

Everything quiets, urgency flees

To return on another’s day.

Today, it’s only me.

I love being at the cabin alone.  But I almost didn’t make it.  We knew there had been four feet of snow last week (we’re at elevation 6,200 ft.) but the guy in charge of our “snow plow collective” said the road had been plowed a few days ago.  Maybe he was dreaming.  Anyway, my husband drove me up because I knew we’d need the chains and I don’t seem to be able to get them on.  So we got most of the way, and here was the “plowed” road.

Time for chains.

We still couldn’t get up – first the snow tires failed us, next the chains.  We could just leave the car there and carry everything to the cabin – SO MUCH because I take all my art stuff!  And food.  But we did it.  I did the first trip only.

There was the stair rail, but where were the stairs?  Under four feet of soft snow.  We became trail breakers, sinking in past my knees with each step.  At one point I fell down and sunk so far into snow that I figured I’d just stay there until snowmelt.  But no, finally I maneuvered myself flat on my stomach and figured out a way up.  Camera hanging from my neck the whole time.

So that’s why I did the first trip only.  By now, I was willing to call my husband my sainted husband.

Without the stabilicers I wouldn’t have made it at all.  These are ice shoes with crampon things on the bottom and they strap over your shoes with velcro.  I won’t set foot in the snow and ice without them.

Even if the road had been somewhat plowed, our lower driveway sure hadn’t.  We have four foot high flexible things with reflectors on the top, mainly so I can stay on the driveway as I back down and not go off the edge.  Can you spot one?

We made it.  Mark left to go back to Bakersfield and he’ll get me on Saturday.  I won’t be setting foot outside the cabin except to the balcony – maybe.  But everything worked.  Internet is spotty but working.  Water works.  Hot water works.  And furnace works, even if it did take several hours to get from 39 degrees inside to 68.

It was pretty darn cold so I sat snuggled in a blanket and caught up on my newspaper reading, finally getting enough energy to make dinner.  As far as I can tell, I’m the only one up here.  That’s what prompted Cabin in Snow, the poem I started with.  I was almost snowed out.

Creative Every Day: Little Bodies


The promised post is here – or part of it anyway. I’ll save the Kern River for tomorrow and do the rest of our week at the cabin here. Since the CED January theme is BODY – how about some real life little bodies?

Taking it from the top:

When we got there, the driveway hadn’t been plowed so we just parked in the street overnight.  The next day the plow guy came and cleared out part of the driveway.

Here is the cutest little body present.  The innocence and joy of little children can move me to tears.  Two of my grandsons were running back and forth – Xavier would be in the lead and at the other end of the room, Jackson took the lead.  Cooper watched for a while and then joined in.  But she was always late so when the boys were running one way, she was running the other.  This doesn’t sound like a tear-producing moment, does it?  But watching Cooper’s sheer joy at joining in this fun game does tear me up.  So sweet.

Later that day, after the plowing, we moved our cars out of the street onto the driveway.  But the next morning it was snowing!

At least we were out of the street.  And the snow led to the production of a very strange body – a disembodied head.

It was a strange and unhappy snowman.  Made me think of Calvin and Hobbes.  And he was sporting one of my locally produced, organic carrots.  Anything for the cause.

So back to the little bodies.  I brought canvases up (special treat – 2 for 1 at Aaron Bros.) so the kids could each paint.

Jackson is still in the mode of putting one color on top of the other until the whole thing is brown.

Movies are a good thing, and I had Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  The three littles bodies’ Uncle Dave worked on this movie, so when you watch it look for David Davies in the credits.  I believe he spent over a year on the jello.

The next day the littlest bodies left and I had a day alone with the medium to large bodies (the “large” body is my oldest grandchild – 15 1/2 with a learner’s permit).

Sledding occurred behind the cabin.

It was really quite beautiful from the new snow.

Snow forts with ammunition were constructed.

It was obviously too cold for any little or big bodies to sit on the porch, which is my favorite spring, summer, and fall activity up here.  But the porch did have one taker – a body of a different sort.

Snow activity is tiring for all sorts of bodies, so we had snow cones.  Having only chocolate syrup and butterscotch sauce, we invented chocscotches.

All seven days all the available bodies worked on a jigsaw puzzle from our summer Disneyland visit.  We mount each completed puzzle on foam core, write on the puzzle the date completed and who did it, and put it on the wall just below ceiling level.  We have quite a collection.

Next day, while awaiting my husband and the mother of the three remaining young bodies, we painted ceramic tea sets.  And the little bodies played American Idol on the wii whenever possible.  As did some of the large bodies.

At midnight we said Happy New Year and went to bed.  The oldest body was already asleep and the second-oldest body tried to go to sleep early without success.  That’s me, of course.  Sleep can be elusive.

But when I got back to my room, the feline bodies were well settled.

We have a little snow/ski place around the corner named Shirley Meadows.  On New Year’s Day the crew went tubing and snowboarding.

The littlest body present snowboarded.

The oldest body present went tubing.  It’s pretty cool because after you come down the hill, they hook you up to the tow line, so you never have to walk up the hill!

The visit was drawing to an end so there was a mad dash to finish the puzzle, which was said to be the hardest ever done (by my daughters – I hate puzzles).

So this post was about 12 bodies in all, including Lily and Tiger, the felines.  And I think that fits the theme well enough.  These were the most precious bodies of all – different sizes, shapes, ages, personalities – but they are what life is made of.  I’m so glad my husband and I created three little bodies who grew up, married, and created three more apiece.