The Brittlebush is blooming and long V’s of Geese are heading north. The Arizona daytime temperatures climb and begin flirting with the 90 degree level. It is our cue. Just as snow birds move towards their summer breeding grounds, we consider our next move for our travels. We have obstacles and many decisions facing us.
We have enjoyed our winter hibernation on the shores of Lake Havasu. It was an everyday treat to wake up and look across the “Blue Green Waters”. The moderate temperatures in Arizona are also a blessing. When millions of Americans were suffering from the onslaughts of “Polar Vortexes,” endless blizzards and mountains of snow, we face decisions of which t-shirt and shorts to wear.
The day after we arrived in Havasu Springs last November, we received a phone call that changed our nomadic perspective. Jude’s son, Chance had a seizure, then another which eventually lead him into the caseload of the University of California at San Francisco. It is the nation’s number four Neurological treatment center. Chance had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. It was immediately scheduled for resection.
It is malignant. In fact, it is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. It supports itself with a well-developed series of blood vessels and it contains several different types of cells. It is virtually impossible to totally remove and the probabilities of re-growth are nearly 100%. Glioblastoma is a most deadly form of cancer.
We make the decision to forgo our original summer plans. We were scheduled to volunteer at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, a summer nesting area for Trumpeter Swans near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. For two years, we planned to spend our summer in this lush Minnesota refuge. Now we make decision to cancel those summer volunteer plans and begin searching for volunteer opportunities closer to the Bay Area. We need to respond to any needs that Chance may require. We are determined to keep him on the face of the planet.
Because he insisted he didn’t need help, although we very much wanted to hover, we resisted the notion. We scour the volunteer.gov pages seeking volunteer opportunities that remain unfilled and close to San Francisco. We locate several opportunities that were offered by the Corp of Engineers. We settle for a Campground Host position at a 62-site campground at Eastman Lake Recreation Area near Madera, California. It is only two- three hours from Chance’s Dublin, California home and will allow us to be close to him without seeming to be hovering over him.
The Eastman Lake Recreation Area is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and is a step-off location for visitors who are headed for Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks. It is also well visited by springtime fisherman seeking the trophy Largemouth bass that live in the lake. However, Eastman Lake is a mere shell of its normal self after nearly four years of severe drought. It is down nearly two hundred feet and the locals call it the “frog pond!”
The Sierra Nevada foothills are an expansive area of huge granite outcroppings and cliffs intermingled with Oak and Pine trees and expansive grasslands. It is the home of Bald Eagles, Red Tail Hawks, Bullocks Orioles and Miriam Turkeys. It is also the home of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. We keep our walks limited to the paved road and avoid any high grassy areas!
We settle into a routine making the best of our situation and after a little snake education for Jude, we are enjoying ourselves for the most part. Campground visitation is heavier on the weekends leaving us with a fairly quiet work load on the weekdays. We take this opportunity to explore the surrounding area.
Ever since Jude and I have been together, we have always expounded to the thought of “I wonder where this road goes?” Here on the Sierra Nevada foothills, it leads to great experiences of grandeur trees and towering landscapes punctuated with deep rugged valleys. We enjoy the massive mountains, forested valleys and pristine mountain lakes that are associated around Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I am in awe of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is much to explore here.
Sierra Nevada means snow covered range but the mountains are barren of any snow cover. The entire area is bone dry. I can’t help to think about fires here. Any fire has tons of totally dry grasslands and drought stricken trees. A single lightning strike would set off a fire storm of biblical proportions. I worry silently and constantly scan the skylines for smoke.
Eastman Lake has negative phone reception. Even our trucker phone antenna is useless. We have excellent internet reception but are totally unreachable by phone. We soon realize that this feature is totally unacceptable for our caretaking role with Chance. He suddenly had another seizure and we realize that our non-communication by phone is a deal breaker with the Corp of Engineers. We pack and make plans to locate closer to the bay area where all forms of communication are easily at hand.