Coarsegold, CA

We left Tehachapi in overcast, windy conditions that left the little Mountain Valley Airport very quiet. The gray skies were also hazed with LA pollution and as we entered the San Joaquin Valley, I remembered why California sometimes casts a pall on my spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, the flowers and sunshine are marvelous, but in Upstate NY we’re used to clear air, and when we do have a rare sunny day, the sky is usually blue, not beige with gray-line shadows of con-trails cast on lower atmospheric haze. Somehow, as we drove beneath it, it felt like it was putting a price on everyone’s head.

So after passing hectares of gorgeous fruit and nut trees in row after row, sod farms, vineyards, and well-advertised stands of fruits and nuts alongside serious traffic, along Routes 58 and 99, beneath unsavory skies, we finally began to climb Route 41 into lovely buff-colored hills, studded with handsome oaks, granite boulders, or occasional cattle. Above all, the sky got bluer and bluer and our hearts got lighter as we climbed into the Sierras.



Our Escapee Park of the Sierras is beautifully laid out over 161 rolling acres of Sierra foothills, with well-groomed meandering roads, oaks and manzanitas, and sites that many people proudly call home at least part of the year.

Our own site has a patio/wood-framed deck that looks down into woods and grassland, populated by squirrels, rabbits, blue birds, and woodpeckers (the kind who stuff acorns into holes they’ve drilled in trees, phone-poles: anywhere they can, to host the grubs they’ll eventually eat.) Even though it’s still a desert ecosystem, the trees and hilly terrain make the landscape more inviting and the parching winds are less noticeable here.

John, a volunteer SKP member and one of the builders of the park, gave us a delightful tour of the whole place in a golf-cart, pointing out special gardens, the old stage coach road that splashes through a cool stream, which will later dry up, then climbing to some picturesque river stones, formed by millenia of snowmelt and swirling grit into deep bowls and hollows.

John pointed out some smaller mortar, or metates, in a series of flat rocks above the stream, where the Chukchansi women used to sit and grind acorn flour. I could almost hear the chatter as they companionably worked together. When a woman got too old for the work, her daughter would be given her spot, so each metate continued in the family line. Now this land has been sold, and the Chukchansi own a vast and growing casino on a nearby hill, and now only the wild creatures harvest the acorns.

He showed us all the work that had been done by volunteer co-op labor to transform this hill into a pleasant community in less than ten years. The waiting list for leases here is four years, and I can well understand why. Even if Yosemite weren’t nearby, it would be a delightful place to park for a long time, and get to know the good people and pretty country. As we sat on our patio at dinner, we watched the bluebirds, and noticed, with satisfaction, the blue, blue sky.

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