The Humbug Trail at Malakoff Diggins State Historic paek – The Sierra Canyon Hiking Group Thursday Hike

Last Thursday seven of us from the Sierra Canyon Hiking Group went to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park in California and hiked the humbug trial down Humbug Creek to the Yuba River.  It took us about two hours to get to the park from Reno.

From the park brochure I learned that Malakoff Diggins was the largest
and richest hydraulic gold mine in the world. Gold was discovered there
in 1851 and hydraulic mining began in 1853. Millions of dollars worth
of gold were recovered and 41 million cubic yards of earth were
excavated leaving an open pit over a mile long and up to 600 feet deep.

The hike was beautiful. We went down about 1000 feet and 2.5 miles to the Yuba River, had lunch by the river, and then climbed back up again. Afterward we stopped for a few minutes at the park headquarters where they have rebuilt the old gold mining town of North Bloomfield.

Marion at Yuba River 5-29-08 
Yuba river 5-29-08

I Shook John McCain’s Hand

 Last week I found out that John McCain was going to be in Reno on Wednesday and was doing a town hall meeting. I went and thoroughly enjoyed it. I even got to shake his hand.

I had to wait about 30 minutes to get into the Boy's and Girl's club where the town hall meeting was being held but I think pretty much everyone who wanted to did get in. There were about 600 people there. Before he came out they had all the Republican elected officials and candidates go behind the curtain, I assume to have their pictures taken with McCain. McCain was introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. I wonder if he might be the vice presidential candidate.

McCain spoke for a few minutes before he started taking questions. It was interesting that the two subjects he chose to speak about were pork barrel spending and the war. He had a list of things from the farm bill and the latest emergency appropriations bill that  he used as examples of waste. He said he would veto bills containing wasteful spending. The list included things like 215 million for asparagus growers, 93 million for race horses, and 75 million for commercial fisheries. He said that Republicans allowed spending to get completely out of control and that Obama wants to continue more of the same.

On the war he said that  Obama has only been to Iraq once and won't sit down and talk to General Petraeus. He said that Obama wants to sit down and talk to the leader of Iran but not to General Petraeus. It has always seemed to me that a Presidential candidate going to Iraq is a lot of work for the military with questionable return on investment. But I suppose that hearing form the troops that are on the ground in Iraq is worthwhile. McCain gave an example. He said he knew that we were in trouble in Iraq right after the invasion when he visited Iraq. He said many soldiers came up to him and stressed the need for more troops.

After his brief speech McCain took questions. It is easy to see why he likes the town hall format. He is very good at engaging with people and answering their questions. When asked about increasing the use of nuclear power he pointed out hat he is a straight talker. He said that in Iowa he told the farmers that he is against Ethanol subsidies and although it may be unpopular in Nevada, he is in favor of storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. John McCain does a very good job of building trust. I think that the fact that people believe they can trust him to be honest with the American people will be one of the main reasons that people vote for him.

There were a wide variety of questions. About health care for the working poor McCain emphasized his belief that the government should stay out of people's choices about health care. He said he favors giving people a $5000 annual tax credit for health insurance.

McCain was full of humorous quips. At one point he pointed out that France currently has a pro American president. McCain said it just shows that if you live long enough anything can happen.

Since the event I have been trying to synthesize my take aways from seeing McCain in person. I do trust him. I do believe that he would make a strong president and would not take us to war capriciously. I do worry a bit that Obama might be a weak president like Jimmy Carter.

McCain is quite low key which means he doesn't really build up excitement and enthusiasm in a crowd. But maybe that can work to his advantage. He has a realness that is appealing.

I do worry that McCain would be bad for the country economically. He certainly did nothing  in the town hall meeting to demonstrate his economic credentials.

All in all I am really glad I went. I still haven't decided who I am going to vote for in November but I feel better informed and I had a lot of fun. Oh, and now I can say I shook John McCain's hand. All I had to do was walk over to the ropes by where he was going to walk out and when he walked by I just stuck out my hand.


Sierra Canyon Hiking Group Monday Hike East of Reno

Duke and I hiked with the Sierra Canyon hiking group on Monday for the first time in over a month. The group has done quite a bit of hiking east of Reno but this was our first hike in that area. It was also the first time I have been the only woman on a hike. Usually the women outnumber the men but on this hike there were six men and me. We started just a little bit north of the Mustang exit off of Interstate highway 80 (exit 23). and hiked about 2.5 miles up a dirt road to some towers with a great view of Reno. It was a cool and rainy day, really a perfect day for hiking. The elevation gain was 1100 feet so it was a good workout. If you would like to see all of the pictures from the hike you can see them on Flickr here.
Hiking at Mustang 5-26-2008 011

Dad’s House Sold

My Dad put his house in Escondido, California up for sale back in January. It finally sold. Duke and I just got back from two weeks down there helping him pack everything up and getting it shipped. 
Import 5-24-08 045

He sent some stuff to each of the kids and of course some stuff to his apartment in Reno. I think he is relieved to be out from under it. But I know he was sad to leave Escondido and the  house he and my Mom lived in and where she died.
Import 5-24-08 043

Import 5-24-08 051

James Madison a Biography by Ralph Ketcham

In August of 2007 I set myself a goal to read at least one biography about each U.S. President. So far I have read the following.

  • His Excellency George Washington by Joseph-Ellis
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Thomas Jefferson by R.B. Bernstein

In the blog I wrote about the Jefferson biography I asked if anyone could recommend  the best book to read about James Madison, our fourth President.  I was thrilled to have my question answered by Bernstein, the Jefferson biography author. He said "For Madison, the best large one-volume life is by Ralph Ketcham" I started reading the Madison book in December and just finished it.

Ketcham’s biography of James Madison is a big book
(671 pages) but then Madison’s life was big. When I think of all that happened
during the span of Madison’s life and all he contributed to our country it
inspires me.  Madison lived for 85 years .
He is known as the father of the constitution. He was Secretary of State under
Jefferson and he was the fourth President of the United States serving two
terms from 1809 to 1817. Madison led the country through the war of 1812, the
invasion of Washington and the burning of the White House.

The constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and
state can at least partly be credited to Madison. In reading Ketcham’s
biography I was struck by how important the difference is between religious
toleration and the complete freedom of religion that Madison championed.  As a young man Madison witnessed persecution
and imprisonment of Baptist preachers for preaching without a license. “His
study and the scolding and disputing over the persecutions helped move him from
the condescending idea of toleration to the more liberal concept he was to
implant in the Virginia Bill of Rights in June 1776.” Pg 57-58. Madison believed strongly that government
should have nothing to do with religion. Ketcham says “religious liberty stands out as the one subject upon which
Madison took and extreme, absolute, undeviating position throughout his life.”
Pg 165

Madison believed that we should learn from the past. Prior to the Constitutional Convention of
1787 he extensively and exhaustively studied the history of republican and  federal government throughout history.  Ketcham said that “Madison’s intense study at
Montpelier in 1786, after his sparse breakfasts and before the evening games of
whist for half bits, left him as well informed on the workings of confederate
governments as any man in America”  Madison compiled his notes on “ the facts and lessons about the ancient
and modern confederacies in a booklet of forty-one pocket size pages, easy to
use in debate of writing.” pg 184 I like the idea of compiling notes and studying to
become an expert.  In a small sense that is what I try to do in this

One of Madison’s big
concerns in determining how the federal government should be designed was the
tension between majority rule and the
idea of inalienable rights. “Was there any way to guard against the majority
consenting to a violation of such rights? A positive answer to this question
would, in Madison’s mind, solve the fundamental problem of republican

I found it awe
inspiring to read Ketchum’s description of the Continental Congress and
Madison’s central role in the creation of the constitution.

Ketchum’s descriptions of Madison’s personal life were especially interesting to
me. I was surprised to learn that Madison didn’t marry his wife Dolley until
1794 when he was 43 years old and had already helped create the
constitution. She was a widow seventeen
years his junior. Her first husband and
her infant son died on the same day during the Philadelphia yellow fever
epidemic of 1793. The story of Dolley Madison’s role in Madison’s life and
especially her role as first lady are a big story in and of themselves. It is amazing to realize that
Madison’s life was half over before Dolley even entered his life.

Madison always sought to defend the balance of powers
established in the constitution. He was especially concerned about the power of war and peace. Alexander
Hamilton’s efforts to expand the executive power alarmed Madison.  Madison’s words on this subject seem

“In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found
than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the
legislature, and not to the executive department…… It is in war …. that the
laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.
The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast;
ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame are all in
conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”

Madison tried to avoid war with England long after many
people believed that it was  a necessity.
When the US did go to war in 1812 the country was weak and unprepared. The
early part of the war was a disaster of bungling and defeats. Reading about the
British invasion of Washington and the burning of the White House is especially
frustrating when you realize the ineptitude
of the defenders. Ketchum puts it all in
perspective saying “ Madison accepted knowingly the liabilities of his
republican approach, calmly confident that preserving the nation’s free
character was worth some travail and inefficiency. As a result, by 1816 Madison
was for more certain than be could possibly have been twenty years earlier that
the nature of American government was firmly free, united, and republican, and
that the successful conclusion of the war made America’s national independence
unassailable.”(pg 605)