Six miles away from Buckhorn Campground on Cow Mountain

As part of the ongoing work-in-progress of cleaning out Greg’s office and the shed, Suzanne had over a dozen boxes of books to donate to a research library down in the Bay Area. In better times, it would have made an excellent excuse to spend a weekend having fun in San Francisco or Oakland.

Alas, pandemic.

But we did want to deliver the books and Suzanne’s job means that her opportunities to do so are limited. (Postal workers deliver mail on Saturdays, so most of her weeks don’t include two days off in a row.)

Unfortunately, most campgrounds in the counties near the Bay are still closed. State parks are closed. County parks are closed. Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds are closed. Everything is closed. Except maybe the Bureau of Land Management sites?

The closest campground I could find to the city that might be open was a BLM campground with no online reviews near Ukiah. The no online reviews was a little worrying, but on Saturday S & I headed south, planning to check out the campground, maybe set up my tent to hold our site, then drive to Albany and drop off the books, then drive back to the campground.


In almost four years of traveling, the road to Buckhorn Campground is the first road I’ve taken that I will declare officially impassable for a 20-foot van. I’m not sure how close we got — maybe halfway, so three miles? — but it was a dirt track up the mountains, one lane, hairpin turns, deep ruts, steep sides. Probably fun for those with off-road vehicles and maybe drivable for a truck with 4-wheel drive. But by the time I’d decided it was not possible, gotten Serenity out of trouble, found a place to safely turn around, and gotten back to the gravel expanse at the bottom of the mountain (see picture above), I believe my hair was grayer. Maybe literally, as I actually did notice the next day that I’ve finally started to go perceptibly gray.

With no campground, we stayed focused on immediate goals: a stop at Big John’s Market in Healdsburg for essentially needed treats and some lunch. We wound up spending an hour in the parking lot, eating grocery store sushi and sugar, while calling campgrounds. I’d already tried a bunch earlier in the week, but we called farther and farther away from the city and finally wound up with — maybe — a spot at a KOA in Willits. Then we drove into the city, found an excellent parking spot, unloaded the books, and got back on the road.

We didn’t get to the KOA until after 8PM. It’s a classic parking lot style KOA with loads of fun stuff to do if you had kids with you — swimming pool, petting zoo, water spray zone, train depot — but sites lined up in rows with bare patches of grass between gravel that Z hated walking on. Since for us it was just a way to avoid driving until midnight, it was fine.

On Sunday, we drove back to Arcata. Along the way, we stopped at a rest stop and had lunch, and it’s weird to say that was a highlight of the trip — woo-hoo, rest stop! — but Zelda was very interested in all the smells and actually wanted to wander around. She hasn’t been eating much lately, nor has she cared about going for walks, so I was happy that she was still interested in the rest stop. Art galleries for dogs, I swear.

Back in Arcata, we took it easy. But I wanted to save the below picture: potato chip nachos. We’d bought store brand potato chips at Big John’s Market to go with our roast beef, horseradish cheddar & angula roll-ups for dinner Saturday night, but the chips were so thick that I said they ought to be potato skins instead. When we got back to Arcata, I put that thought into practice, and topped the chips with melted cheddar (or possibly gruyere, I’m not sure which), bacon bits and green onion. I’d call it peak junk food — the unhealthiest thing I’ve eaten in months, possibly years — but it was delicious. Inspired, IMO.

Potato chip nachos

I know I haven’t been posting much. Ten days, I think, since my last post, which is a long time for me. But the world feels like such a mess that posting about potato chip nachos and rest stops seems simultaneously like an absolute waste of anyone’s time, including my own, and yet also like exactly what I want to hold on to. I can read books and share insightful Facebook posts and do my personal best, but I can’t change the world or fix anyone’s problems, including my own. But if you can’t appreciate potato chip nachos, than really, what’s the point? So potato chip nachos it is.