Brief family visit

Monday (Sep 19)

Good morning Home Hub!

Along the side of Home Hub turned out to be a pretty nice place to spend the night. In the morning I had the sliding door wide open, reading the Sunday paper in the sunshine. One of the bait shop dudes walked past and didn’t say anything, which I took to be kind of a tacit permission.

The other tenant of their building is a bait shop. They have been there forever, and they are pretty entitled being the senior tenant. “This place would be great if you weren’t here” is the vibe. Lots of passive-aggressive bullshit about parking places etc. Anyway, they didn’t bother me today, so woo! 

The plan is to make my way slowly back across the Valley, taking enough time to let the wildfire smoke in Reno dissipate. It’s a slow day between summer and fall, and there’s no wildfire smoke on this side of the Valley, so I decide to make this a Harbin night!

I do hop into Home Hub for a minute, say hi to Rayne, official Home Hub Helper :) I had breakfast at Hallie’s Diner and hit the road – north this time. I avoided 101, staying instead on the east side up through Penngrove, past Sonoma State,  a bit of CA 12 through  Santa Rosa to Calistoga Road and the familiar road to Harbin. I have a fridge full of backed-up leftovers from all these days on the road, so I did not stop at good ole Perry’s Deli this time.

  Harbin Hot Springs

WHUFU page for: Harbin Hot Springs

All through the 90's and 00's this was my favorite getaway - old resort in the hills, a very hot pool, a just-right pool, a cold plunge, a lap pool that rocks on hot summer days, a cozy lodge, breakfast in the morning, expensive espresso drinks all day, world music dance every Tues and Thurs night.

That whole vibe got vaporized in the fire. But the wonderful hot water is still coming out of the ground and the tubs (and beautiful ironwork railings) are still here!

Last few visits before the cleansing fire I thought they were getting a little too taken with themselves. A Harbin parking ticket?! Give me a break.

Then came the fire that consumed all the beautiful old wooden buildings. Everything that wasn't stone or metal was gone.

On the way to rebuilding came COVID, now they're back!


The last visit (pre-covid!) didn't really hit the spot.

But it's perfect fall weather, so seems like no better time to try again.

The price for "overnight visit" (they don't like to call it camping) is now $48. I opted for the one-month membership ($10) instead of the annual ($30).

I had a great Harbin experience this time! Check-in was a breeze. By 3-ish I was taking my pick of parking places in the camping area. I chose my usual spot across the road from the bathrooms. I don’t think it is quite level anywhere over there, but the downhill end across the road seems be the most level.

I had not showered since before the concert. Yesterday, it didn’t seem like a good use of time in my assigned hours at Martha’s. So first thing here was a nice shower in the outside facility at the local bathroom. Now I’m ready for the pools!

Getting a little baked and walking the trail to the pools is always so pleasant. The pools are mostly the same as before the fire – the main hot pool, with the very hot pool in the little building behind it, the cold lap pool and the heart pool. They did sneak in two now hot tubs, rectangula concrete jobs like anywhere, but it great to have them.

Rain was threatening with I got there, so I my best to shelter my stuff – by bag under the bench, covered by my pants. Turns out it rained quite hard while I was there. I hadn’t brought my phone or wallet, so there was no harm done, but I did walk back in pretty wet clothes.

Rained like a motherfucker again! When I was walking back the sky was genuinely threatening … mean noises and lightning. I did make it back, but soon after the second storm cut loose, and it was intense.


It rained off and on all night. Must’ve been intense for the tent campers. Most of the picnic tables are covered with sleeping bags and such drying in the sun. Walked down to the food area, got coffee and ate some of the apple fritter I still have from the Donut Mill in Eureka. Then slooowly make the walk up the steep hill to the tubs. A couple of fit young women overtook me. They had accents, and stopped every few steps to take pictures. I decided they are Russian spies!

There was construction going on next to the soaking area, more or less where the old bathrooms and second floor kitchen were. Noo idea what the plan is, but I was enormously entertained to soak and watch them work their big machines.

Soaked til about 2, walked back to the van, tidied up and hit the road, close to exactly 24 hours after I checked in. The Harbin Way. :))

For old times sake I stopped for a chicken sando and hot fudge sundae at the Foster’s in Lower Lake. It was excellent as always. The rest of the familiar trek to Cowboy Camp was uneventful.

  Cowboy Camp

WHUFU page for: Cowboy Camp

Set up as a horse camp, but regular horse-less citizens can camp here also. Plenty of horse shit around, so it appears that horse people do use it!


The actual horse camp in the meadow below is still open for the season. There are four or so vehicles spread out down there, but I elect to post up in my traditional spot "under the trees" on the upper level.

Strange animal calls this evening!

Harbin wears me out. All that relaxing, I guess. Anyway, I pulled the van right in usual Cowboy Camp parking spot under the trees, open up the bed and fell right asleep … hard!

I woke up later and read and did my usual things, enjoying the sunset and beautiful clouds.


Quiet morning at Cowboy Camp, just the way I like it.

Stop at Granzella’s for coffee and pastry and a couple of their incomparable breakfast bars for back home.

After a little, pointless interlude at Colusa NWR I decided to take the long way around to Black Butte. Man what a fun drive that turned out to be!

Because this kind of weather gets me jazzed up, I eat one of those very mild Fort Bragg gummies and smoke the teeniest puff of my same ole pot. I head you the north-south country road, cross the interstate at Willows and head off to points west on CA 162. It rained so hard over there!

I had to run the wipers on high for a while, which means it’s a hard rain! There’s almost nobody on the road over here, I passed like 6 cars on the whole loop. One of them was a Fedex truck which had a schedule to keep, so I edged over to the right and let them get on their way. :)

I justed noodled along at 30-40 miles an hour, driving down the middle of the road, enjoying the rain and the intermittent sun and the sparkling green of the hills and the rich brown of the recently burned hills.

Great way to spend a mid-afternoon. The most energizing and really pleasant 45 minutes I’ve lucked into in quite a while.

  Buckhorn Campground

WHUFU page for: Buckhorn Campground

Due west of Chico, about 12 miles on the west side of I-5 is Black Butte Lake. There are two ACE campgrounds. This one is the main one, with a nature preserve and large recreation area. Open all year, on a point of land jutting into the lake, quite scenic. This campground is closer to the lake.


The other end of the loop is pretty full tonight. My little corner is happily still deserted.

There was some kind of cross-country event down at the boat parking. Nice to hear all the excited people.

Rained off and on. The clouds were quite dramatic!

Back at ole familiar Buckhorn. I’m still officially against this reservation-required policy, but I gotta say it’s pretty cool to just take your time and cruise right into your spot with no worries.

There were other campers here this time, but they were all on the other side of the loop, so I still had my whole corner (sites 1-5) to myself. There was some excitement down by the lake, a cross-country meet as it turns out. I enjoyed watching the kids trot along the loop road beneath my site, then duck into the gate at the trailhead, then on to the finish line at the marina parking lot.

It was still raining on and off. A pretty heavy squall blew through and busted up the end of the cross-country meet. It cleared completely after dark for some pretty good stargazing.


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