Pinnacles

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Summer hasn’t left the hills of the Pinnacles just yet. The dry heat pulls the water right out of my skin. An warning of extreme fire hazard fits the browned out landscape. A prairie falcon glides along an escarpment riding the wind without once beating its wings. Annoying flies seem to want to land on our faces if we stand still for more than a few seconds.

DSC_0432_DasBootWithQuarryAlthough not quite as stunning as Crater Lake or the Grand Canyon, the geologic features are impressive. The condors sometimes soar on the thermals of the pinnacles but even with field glasses, none are to be found. We climb up a ridge bordered by a multi-colored wall of ores and lichens on one side and a rock dubbed the elephant on another. I dub another feature the boot. A slab with drops of red and yellow rises to the sky.
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Grapes of Wrath, Revisited

IMG_0692_LaborersAn overcast sky keeps the heat down. A few drops even fall from the sky but the effort quickly fizzles. Each worker’s face and hands disappear into the green leaves looking for good clusters of grapes. The clusters are few, the grapes are small. The late rains have knocked down production everywhere. Last year it was the May heat that caused so many fires that slowed production. Many of the vines are barren, or the grapes are too shrivelled to use. I find a couple of spots with good grapes. I load up my bucket, snipping away at the healthy clusters.

IMG_0695_GopherSnakeIronically, the low hanging fruit is harder to get at than the high hanging fruit. I have to squat down, working my old knees, to get the clusters near the ground. When I top off the bucket, I dump it into a bin. As the bin fills, the forklift comes by and carries it back to the house for processing. The migrant crew quickly works through the two vineyards, one Sauvignon Cabernet, one Sauvignon Franc, working from row to row. Our farmers have thoughtfully provided music and the workers make decent company as we work our way through the vineyards. Continue reading “Grapes of Wrath, Revisited”

Yellow Tale

I stand at the back of the PIMG_0650remier trying to get my line in quickly as the ship stops over a school of fish. Porpoising seals struggle in the swell to catch up with the boat to get their cut of the anchovies. Seagulls hover in the air, then dive down to steal bait. The deckhand stands on the fish tank tossing flying anchovies dripping with salt water for chum over my head.

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My anchovy gently tugs the line as it drifts from the back of the boat. The line starts running. I flip the lever to unset the spool release. Tighten the line and set the hook with a quick yank upward on the rod. The fish is running and the tip of the pole is pointing straight down, the telltale sign of a yellow tail. I start working the line reeling up, keeping the tip of the pole up. Already, my forearms are tightening. I have to work my way from the end of the boat around the corner on the port side ducking under some poles and lines as I move.

The fish runs again. I wait.

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I reposition the rod handle into my hip for some better leverage and put my foot up against the bottom rail. I reel down and pull up, reel down and pull up, reel down and pull up. Someone tells me they can see the fish. I work my further up the side of the boat. I feel the burn in my forearms and hope I can get the fish on board soon before it becomes a seal snack. It runs again. The captain says he will tire and come up soon. The captain gaffs the yellowtail and pulls the first yellow tail of the day on board that turns out to be the jackpot winner. I get several fish, er(??) fist bumps and high fives.

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I raise my fifteen pound trophy for a quick picture, shake out the lactic acid in my wrists (is it even possible?) and remove my pullover as the overcast sky suddenly seems a bit warmer than it was fifteen minutes ago. The fish is a fine birthday present.