These are some of the best and worst of my experiences during the decade-plus our family has lived in this ghost town – with a few of my favorite people/places/events from surrounding communities thrown in.
Best form of exercise: Walking the dog or pushing a baby stroller, with my girl on her bike and my two men beside me along a secluded country road – in springtime, of course.
Least favorite form of exercise: Running around the backyard looking for a large boulder or cement block; then running back to the other side of the house to toss it on the rattlesnake slithering among the hydrangeas, before it got away; then running into the house to call the neighbor to come and finish the job.
Best entertainment: Meteor shower under a velvet midnight sky studded with glistening stars; watching the fog roll over the foothills on a cozy winter afternoon; listening to our resident owl before going to sleep at night.
Favorite California state park: Has to be Columbia!
Favorite historic Gold Rush towns: Grass Valley and Nevada City. Love those tree-lined streets and the Victorian architecture.
Favorite campground: Mono Hot Springs. The stars look closer, because the air is clearer – so gorgeous up there.
Friendliest bank tellers: Elsie and Kristi
Favorite educators: Besides my husband, who runs our church’s Christian school, Jackie and Marge who taught in Mariposa schools and are now retired, Rod F. of Mariposa County High School, and the staff at Glacier High School Charter in Oakhurst. A thousand thank-yous for all you’ve poured into our kids!
Most amazing discoveries in the country: Moonbows! And the perfect symmetry of a peach blossom.
Worst discoveries: Besides rattlesnakes, tarantulas, other ugly spiders, iris-eating gophers and mice in my pantry. Seeing whole sections of forest turned brown from dead pine trees, and seeing Don Pedro Reservoir almost dry.
Favorite coffee shop: (Amy’s) Pony Expresso. I’ll always remember the morning after the Pizza Factory fire, when she and a co-worker stood on the street corner in town offering coffee to those passing by, and holding a sign saying they’d be back.
Favorite grocery store: High Country Health Foods & Café in Mariposa.
Best employees: Tonia at Pioneer Market – she not only works full time, but volunteers her spare time in community service projects and church events. And Melanie at Office City – she is so professional and always gets us what we need when we need it. And Bob at Best Western and our dedicated Cal Fire guys and gals.
Favorite shop: Chocolate Soup. Period.
Favorite appetizer: The cheese and fruit plate at Charles Street Dinner House is a lovely array of cheeses, fresh and dried fruits, nuts and seasoned crostinis, all drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Yum! I created my own version for company earlier this summer, and our guests couldn’t stop eating.
Favorite Mexican food: Nachos supreme at Sal’s. Can’t go wrong with refried beans, warm melted cheese, and dollops of guacamole and sour cream on top of crisp tortilla chips!
Best museums: La Grange and Mariposa
Best school activity: Picnicking at Snelling’s Henderson Park and kayaking in the nearby Merced River.
Worst school activity: It was a home-school field trip – to watch the salmon spawn. My daughter was in elementary school, and I thought, “How cool! The Fish and Game Department can predict when the salmon will lay their eggs.”
Well … not exactly. The agency’s people rerouted the salmon through a tube and into a building, clobbered the fish on the head, cut open their bellies and scooped out the salmon eggs.
I know. Salmon die after spawning, but this also wins the award for my worst memory.
Best memory: Shortly after moving here, I arrived home after a full day of shopping in the Valley; my kids were so excited that dinner had been provided by a neighbor, delivered in a wagon by her kids – the beginning of new friendships.
Funniest memory: Lifting the lid on the washing machine and seeing a tiny tree frog sitting on top of our jeans. “Boy, you just got the ride of your life!”
Worst part of country life: Septic issues
Best part(s) of country life: Hearing a hummingbird’s wings, the frog chorus on a spring evening and water gurgling in a creek … and climbing a hill after a rainstorm, reaching the top and seeing a rainbow on the other side.