Tuesday, December 26, 2017

California: Old Faithful Geyser

Ed and I are in northern California for the holidays, visiting my parents, who moved to the area over the summer, and my brother and his family, who live about 20 miles away. After visiting my brother and his family for lunch this morning, Ed and I decided we wanted to explore the area, so we headed Old Faithful Geyser.

Water for the Geyser comes from an underground river that's 350 degrees and is two miles below the surface. In the early days of the National Geographic Society, this geyser was declared one of only three "faithful" geysers in the world because of its regular eruptions.

It erupted quite often; there was very little wait time between
the Old Faithful Geyser of California
The hot mineral therapy pool was constructed in the 1930s; the walls the pool are made from lava rocks indigenous to the area, and it's thought that structures like this one were built to protect the water's magical healing properties.

the hot mineral therapy pool

From off to the side, we saw the Napa Valley Palisades, in the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, just east of Mount Saint Helena, and is in the North Coast Mountain Range. The Palisades contain three large amphitheaters, and in each is a small spring-fed streamlet; they're made of volcanic rock from the last volcanic eruption about 1.5 millions years ago and is a result of extensive lava protrusions. On a clear day, when standing atop the Palisades, one can see Clear Lake, St. Helena, Napa, and San Francisco. In the foreground was the Old Faithful Capped Geyser, which was capped in 1916, the same year it was drilled. In the mid-1900s, this geyser was put back into service as part of the hot mineral therapy pool. Waters from the hot springs and geysers in the Calistoga area was most commonly used for bathing and drinking, but in the 1900s, water was used to heat homes and other buildings.

the Napa Valley Palisades in the background; in the
foreground is the Old Faithful Capped Geyser
On the grounds of the geyser, there were also places for picnics, lots of seating areas, and places for families with children to play (including a bocce ball court). It also featured a goat farm with a guard llama, Tennessee Fainting Goats, and a Jacob's Four-Horned Sheep.

In North America, since the 1980s, llamas have been used as livestock guards in areas of the country where larger predators, such as the coyote, are prevalent. Typically a single castrated male is used for this purpose.

Except to move its head, the guard llama didn't
move the entire time we were there.

"Fainting goats” are a distinctly American breed with an obscure origin. Sometime during the 1880s, a transient farm worker thought to have been from Nova Scotia brought his goats to Marshall County, Tennessee. After having spent many years in the area, he left his goats behind with another farmer to breed. After much research, only recently new information suggests that original goats that shared the breed may have come from the mountainous areas of Europe. Myotonia Congenita is the medical term to describe stiffening; this simply means that the condition is inherited from prior generations and is no longer considered a defect. Myotonia occurs in the muscle fiber and not the central nervous system. Myotonia has been observed in dogs (chow chows), mice, quarter horses, tumbler pigeons, sheep, and humans.

Tennessee Fainting Goats
The most distinguishing features of the Jacob are their four horns, although they may have as few as two or as many as six. Both sexes are always horned, and the rams tend to have larger and impressive horns. Four-horned rams have two vertical center horns which may be two or more feet in length, and two smaller side horns, which grow down along the sides of the head. Each Jacob has distinctive markings that enable the shepherd to identify specific sheep from a distance. The skin beneath the white fleece is pink, while the skin beneath colored spots is darkly pigmented. Jacob’s have a medium grade fleece and no outer coat – essentially the fleece is light, soft, springy and open, with little lanolin (grease). This wool has a high luster and is highly sought after by hand spinners if it is free of hemp. They are shorn once a year, most often in the springtime.

Jacob's Four-Horn Sheep

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