Cambrian: Opinion

Want to visit the hills before it rains? Fair warning: Do so at your own risk

The foxtail barley plant Hordeum jubatum is common throughout most of North America.
The foxtail barley plant Hordeum jubatum is common throughout most of North America. Wikimedia Commons

Now that it’s October, I hope we’re headed into our rainy season, even though I’m seeing precious little evidence that precipitation is around the corner. However, once the hope becomes a reality, it will be time to hang out our “Vacancy” sign to officially signal that the Rhoades Resort is happily open to receive guests.

In the Santa Lucia Mountains in Cambria’s backcountry, we have two seasons — brown/dry/prickly/buggy/hot and green/soft/damp/cool.

Whenever people tell us how much they’d like to come for a visit, we always say, “Come in the winter or the spring. It’s green and lush here, and the temperatures are pretty close to perfect.”

The next communication inevitably starts with, “We’re going to be in your area at the end of August. Would it be convenient for us to stay with you?”

And there it is — the beginning of the steady stream of the dry-season house guests. Since most of these potential visitors are people we love, what are we going to say? No? No. So we just try to figure out how to make it work without causing them accommodation anguish.

Our now predictable requests for summer lodging started when we moved here in 2004. We had no shade trees, no window shades and no fans when my dear Atlanta cousin, her son, and his girlfriend decided to visit us in August. It was 108 degrees at our house. They stayed about two hours and then ran screaming to a cunning little motel on Moonstone Beach. That was the beginning of the summer visitors who have expected to come here to enjoy the peaceful backcountry.

Bugs, foxtails and clover burrs

And, yes, it is always peaceful here, but the dry season is a tough time for visitors and for the hostess, me, since I’m responsible for making the house presentable for a dream-come-true instead of a nightmare vacation. Without a major fire threat like last year, the preparation issues are primarily dead bugs, foxtails, clover burrs, dirt, and sometimes unbearable heat.

For some reason, when the temperature soars, we constantly find dead bugs littering every flat surface. This freaky number of dead bugs is impossible to hide or explain to visitors used to lovely hotel rooms where bugs dare not accumulate.

Since we have dogs and one long-haired house cat, there is always an endless trail of outdoor yard debris all over the hard floors and carpets. Since vacuuming 10 times a day would leave me little time for food preparation for guests, I always wonder what our visitors will think if they dare to look down.

Dirt? Not only does it come in on dog, cat, and people feet, it also blows in through the screens. It’s everywhere.

When the dogs drink from their kitchen water bowl, they inevitably drip water around the kitchen, which they promptly walk through, making the floor look like a kindergarten finger-painting project without any primary colors.

Dinner anyone? Let’s eat in the kitchen. Please ignore the floor.

In October, we can usually be confident that the weather will be cooler than in August, but with GW (I dare not spell it out), temps could climb into the 100s, which makes no sense to me. So, as we prepare to welcome beloved family members from Texas this week, I pray that the dogs and cat will leave most of what sticks to their coats outside and that the weather will be cool enough for all of us to be as comfortable and bug-free as it can be in Cambria’s backcountry in the dry season.

Sadly, there’s nothing to be done about the dirt until the rains start and turn it into mud, and then ...

Mountain Musings appears the second Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian. Email Marcia Rhoades at