Weekly Photo Challenge: Today Was a Good Day

This week’s photo challenge is to share photos from your ideal day or some of your favorite things. My photos are some snapshots from my summer. My ideal day is usually spent close to a large body of water. These photos were all taken in California from Lake Tahoe, La Jolla and Huntington Beach.

The other part of the challenge was to present photos in a gallery possibly using Mesh. It’s pretty simple to add photos in Mesh. However, it may cut off photos in the Full Screen View. Photos look quite nice in this view when they don’t cut off. If they are cutting off, you can simply click inside the photo (in either view) and it will present the photo as it was uploaded.

To view photos with the full screen option, click on the dashed box (the second one in from the right. Got it?). I hope you like my summer snapshots.


For more ‘Today Was a Good Day’ photos, visit the Weekly Photo Challenge site.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Creepy

I happen to have a lot of creepy photos, my lovelies. I’m not going to analyze why that is at this moment, but I would say my best creepy photos are from a tour of the Preston School of Industry, also known as the Preston Castle, in Ione, California. Here’s a post I did about it a while back. A few commenters had suggested that my post was not completely accurate. For the record, that post was based on information learned from my tour guide. It’s quite positive she glossed over some things.

When pressed, our docent admitted that were many unexplained deaths that happened on the premises. The former reform school for boys is thought to be haunted and, whether it was the power of suggestion or not, I felt a presence. It so happens this castle, once a school for wards of the state, may be transformed into a college for extension classes and a culinary school. If I were to ever take classes there, it would not be after dark.

These pictures were taken in 2013 when it was owned by the state of California. It currently is under the ownership of the Preston Castle Foundation, so I have no idea what the place looks like now. When I took the tour, it was in need of serious repair.

I chose what I thought were my most creepy and played with a few filters for a spooky effect. How did I do?

Creepy_PrestonCastle1Yes, you do see a hanging man on the right side of the photo. Don’t worry, it’s not real. It’s for a special Halloween sleepover. For a fee, you can spend the night!

Creepy_PrestonCastle5Would you like to spend the night here?

Creepy_PrestonCastle6The ghost was upstairs. True or not, the docent said that door opened and closed on its own.

Creepy_PrestonCastle2This is the infirmary, the only area of the castle that was intact. We were told that patients were given care here on the floor with no anesthesia. This room felt spooky and strange.

Creepy_PrestonCastle4This is the basement.

Creepy_PrestonCastle3Here’s the back of the castle.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour.

For more creepiness, visit the Weekly Photo Challenge site.


It’s time for Friday Fictioneers where writers are challenged to write a 100-word story based on a photo prompt.

All are welcome to participate. Join in!

My story is below.

PHOTO PROMPT – © Madison Woods

(102 words)

Swimming Hole

They checked trees and rocks validating they had arrived at their swimming hole. Desi’s name etched into the rock confirmed it.

“Where’s the water?” said Desi.

Arnold squinted with dust in eyes. “Not enough rain. No swimming for us.”

Desi skidded a rock and it bounced off the cracked earth.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a cycle. Next year, we’ll be flooded,” said Arnold.

“What if it doesn’t happen?”

She climbed on top of a tire in the middle of the lake as a lizard scurried beneath. He put his arm around her and she shrugged it off.

“Wi-Fi it is,” he said.


Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting every week. She’s so amazing and I appreciate all her hard work. Thank you to Madison Woods for supplying the photo.

You can find more stories from this week’s prompt here.

A note about my story: I did walk on the bottom of Folsom Lake (in California) when it was completely dried up. Oh, it was such a sad day. There’s water in it today, but the drought is still severe. Here’s a pic:

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Folsom Lake at 17% capacity last year. There’s some tires for you.

Swimming Hole – Friday Fictioneers

Walking Alone with Nature

This past weekend, I desperately needed to breakaway from the walls of my house. I can be a slave to my computer if I allow myself. My back aches from all the sitting I do. It was high time I stretched my legs. I pleaded with my family to join me on a walk to see a waterfall. They declined. I know, right? Apparently, they are all addicted to their devices.

I threw a fit. I was exasperated that they still didn’t want to join me, hardly in the mood for a nature walk, but I decided to go anyway.

So my journey begins. Alone. I ventured forth to the Hidden Falls Regional Park just outside Auburn, California. I took the Poppy Trail along with many other park visitors. Hidden Falls proved to be popular destination.

Shortly after arriving at the Hidden Falls Regional park, after calming myself, I sent my family this picture:

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Late afternoon and the weather was perfect. California is green for a very short period of time.

I was going to attach a spiteful message like, “Wish you were here.” It was “not delivered,” as cell phone access is limited. I suppose that was the whole point of being here, was it not?

Although these photos appear to be quiet and calm, I’m only fooling you. I was hardly alone. These trails were bursting with activity. Families, couples, all had the same idea I did: to spend time with nature. Just you and the trees. Ahem. I had to pause for people to pass to snap photos of isolated stillness.

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Oh, which path to take? The many visitors steered me on the right course.

Many walked dogs; big dogs, little dogs, dogs in little, pink jackets, moving their little legs up the hills quite speedily. I thought, if a dog can do it, surely my kids can. Sorry, I have no video to show you.

I considered getting a dog. I considered renaming my blog name to “The Lonesome Traveler.”

I only counted two other people who walked alone among the various groups; one was a runner, the other, walking with sticks. So, both were utilitarian, walking with purpose. Not like me, aimless and taking photos.

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There’s me now (my shadow) snapping a photo of the water that I will eventually see fall.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind spending time alone. I rather enjoy it. I had wanted a family outing. As it turns out, spending time alone was exactly what I needed.

Could the light be more perfect?
Could the light be more perfect?

I can go at my own pace and stop to read signs if I want. One sign mentioned that California is home to more than 5,000 species of plants. But did you also know that 2,000 of them are invasive?

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Non-native Periwinkle (Vinca minor). A foreigner. Who knew?

I felt my head clear, less constrained. Thoughts float through me. The subject of a post reveals itself: writing and editing in the digital age. It is sure to be riveting. It takes so much to get away.

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Up a hill to what looks like a secret meeting place of the druids, most probably after hours when the place empties out.

At last, the waterfall. I watch the water pound the rocks, as people snap photos. We all snap photos together to capture the moment.

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People and nature together for an afternoon. Note the shadows.

But some things you have to see up close. You have to be there.

Note to my East coast/Canandian friends: I’m sorry. I can’t control the weather. Just remember that California is in a terrible drought.

A Taste of Their Own Medicine – Friday Fictioneers

(March 5,  1911)


“They can eat all the acorns and berries they want in their land of plenty,” Ned said, breathing in the fresh citrus of an orange. “Ancient burial ground, please. If those Indians want it to rain so bad, so be it.”

“Do we really need the Orange Show to happen on this corner? We could prop up tents anywhere.” Mary sighed.

Ned kissed the orange. “Better than gold.”

The promised curse of rain fell in icy, heavy drops on the Orange Show fairgrounds that year, and every year since. While there is still rain, there are no more oranges.


Genre: Historical Fiction (100 words)

Photo copyright: Janet Webb


I was inspired by Rochelle’s story this week, and thought I would try my hand at historical fiction. It’s harder than it looks. I got to hand it to Rochelle!

After reading her story, I thought about the urban legend behind the “Orange Show, which started in San Bernardino in March of 1911.  The urban legend is that the Serrano tribe of Native Americans (I believe it’s the Serrano tribe) put a curse on the Orange Show because it was held on their ancient burial ground, and swore that it would rain each year during its run. History shows that in this first year, it rained every day.

I remember while growing up in the area that the Orange Show was a huge deal, and indeed, it rained every opening day. That’s what I remember. The organizers tried moving the time of the event a few times, and it didn’t matter. It could be sunny skies with no rain in the forecast, and opening day: Rain! It always rained, always. I’ve always believed that the curse was true.

Nowadays, people want the Orange Show every weekend since we need the rain so bad in California, and the rain is more of a blessing than a curse. Still, there are no longer many orange groves, if any, left in the Inland Empire in California. They have been replaced by track homes, development, and dust. What comes around goes around. That I definitely believe in.

Thanks for reading my explanation.

Please visit this link for more stories from the talented Fictioneers. Many thanks to Janet for the photo and to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for leading this group.

A Brief History of Orange Show
History of San Bernardino


Filled with Hope (A Photo Journal)

“Mom, my boots are waterproof so no mud will seep through,” my son said from the back seat of the car.

“My shoes are full of holes,” Dad offered.

“I know of some great, cheap shoes from Costco. We’ll get you some tomorrow,” I said, trying to console.

“A lot of good that does me now,” said Dad.

“I know, we can burn your shoes in a fire pit,” my son cheered along side his little brother.

“Maybe we can find a fire pit at the bottom of the lake,” said my younger son.

“I’m going to look for pennies. Legendary pennies worth millions of dollars that will pay for my college education,” said the oldest.

“Yeah, yeah,” little brother said. “A million dollars!”

“Maybe we should look for shoes, too,” I said.


Just outside of Sacramento, California, Folsom Lake is more mud than water. Boats no longer dock in the marina now.

I see boats on them thar hills. They once made quite a picturesque scene here on the docks where the geese swam and floated by. Geese rule these parts now and will roam wherever they please. Thank you very much.

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What does a lake that is at 17% capacity look like? This was our first glimpse of it.

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I know. Gasp. Yes, this used to be water. Or was that just a dream?

People and cars fill the lake now.

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And porta-potties. Now more than ever, Folsom Lake is a popular place to visit. It’s an event.

FolsomDrought 027a

It’s not just the mind-blowing desolation or perhaps the prospect of walking inside a lake. Perhaps that’s as close to walking on water as we can ever experience.

As it turns out, what was submerged under water is now exposed.

Tree stumps:

FolsomDrought 019


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My family inside a tire inside a lake:

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My son surfing on rusty remnants:

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Buoys stripped of their purpose. With water, this would float to the top.

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This lake is also filled with history.

The biggest fascination for the masses is the resurfacing of “The Ruins,” a Gold Rush Ghost Town. That town was Mormon Island. In 1955, the town flooded after Folsom Dam was built. Here is what’s left.

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A docent in Little House on the Prairie attire hurried by us on her way to the airport. She mentioned she’d be back next weekend to give “tours” and answer any questions. A little digging of my own revealed that this bustling Gold Rush town once supported more than 2,500 residents, a school, a winery, a dairy, four hotels, and seven saloons.

Perhaps this was one such saloon.

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The rest of the town is still submerged, somewhere out there.

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Had we uncovered any legendary pennies, they would have remained at the lake bed to preserve this historical site.

Rusty nails, debris, shells of broken bottles are collected and stacked as treasures.

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The concrete covers what was once a well.

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We left with plenty of mud on our shoes and our socks and

…with a lot of luck…and a lot of hope…

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for the water’s return…because hope is a good thing.

Folsom Lake when full with marina in the foreground. Image Credit: www.discovergold.org
Folsom Lake at normal levels with marina in the foreground. Image Credit: www.discovergold.org

On January 17, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in California. 


Related Video:
Drought Exposes Ghost Gold Rush Town in Dry Lake Bed – Folsom

Related Article:
Governor Brown Declares Drought State of Emergency


Haunted Places: A Tour of Preston Castle

Recently, I visited the Preston Castle in Ione, California in Amador County for a historical tour. During the month of October, the Preston Castle also offers a thrilling haunted house and overnight ghost tours. This is not surprising considering it is believed to be truly haunted. Not only is there an unsolved murder in its past, but at least 26 suspicious deaths that occurred on the premises.

I found its history fascinating. The Preston Castle, formerly the Preston School of Industry, opened its doors as a reform school for boys in 1864. It is one of the oldest and best-known reform schools in the United States.

Preston Castle 144
The very first class at Preston. They look a bit grim.

Juveniles were sent to Preston instead of the nearby prisons of San Quentin or Folsom with the goal of rehabilitation, and thus, this amazing construction of the Romanesque Revival style architecture was envisioned and realized. Boys, aged from 12-24, were not named as prisoners or inmates, but were referred to as wards of the state or simply “wards.” Their crimes ranged from burglary to murder; orphaned boys also ended up here.

In 1890, the state of California purchased 230 acres (at only $30 per acre) for the Preston School. The plan included 77 rooms in all. The school was divided into three areas: academic, military, and industry trade. Everything they used at the school was produced onsite, including the butchering of animals for meals and the sewing their own clothes. Wards picked a trade to master such as agriculture, farming, printing, brick laying, plumbing, carpentry, or baking. The goal was for the wards to be productive members of society once released.

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Sitting on the steps with my son. It’s hard to capture the entire Castle in a photo.

Did you think you saw a man hanging from the top of the building? You did.

Preston Castle 142
Don’t worry. It’s just a prop for their Halloween Haunt.

Since the tours began, many visitors have cited strange sights, disembodied voices, slamming doors, and fallen objects. Paranormal events have also been documented on the Ghost Adventures TV show. I’m glad I decided to watch the creepy episode after my tour.

Take a look inside.

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Does it not look a bit spooky?
Preston Castle 171
I’m not going up there…

Because next year the deed for a 55-year lease will be in the hands of private citizens, this may the last year they open their doors for tours and their haunted house. Today much of the Castle is in complete disrepair.

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In many spots, whole floors are missing. Believe me, this tour requires a guide for safety alone.
Preston Castle 170
Once a staff apartment. It’s seen better days.

Preston Castle closed its doors in 1960, and in the years that followed the slate roof, considered to be of value, was torn off for monetary gain; the castle was vandalized and exposed to the elements. All except this room…what was once the hospital.

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Infirmary Room I. According to Ghost Adventures, this is a hot bed of paranormal activity.
Preston Castle 178
The ceiling, not exposed to the elements, is in good shape.

When our guide took us to down to the basement to the kitchen, she paused, then announced, “If there’s any reason why this place is haunted, it’s probably because of what happened here in this kitchen.”

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She then told the story of Anna Corbin, the Head Housekeeper on staff, who was believed to be murdered by nineteen-year-old ward, Eugene Monroe. She was found with a burlap sack over her head, tied with a cord around neck, and blugeoned to death. Eugene was tried three times and finally acquitted, and so Anna Corbin’s murder was never solved. Eugene Monroe was later incarerated in Oklahoma for the murder of another woman.

Preston Castle 218
A memorial now stands in the pantry.

It must have been a rough place with all the documented attempts of escape. While the goal of rehabilitation did not take hold in infamous serial killers, Gerald Gallego and Caryl Chessman, many more went on to live productive and successful lives.

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Preston Castle 240
Others left their mark by etching their names into this wall.

Only eight acres now remain of the school campus, including the Castle and the Fire House, which are listed as California State Historical Landmarks and are on the National Register of Historic Places. The rest of the surrounding area is home to the San Quentin Prison and the California Youth Authority Detention Center (now closed). Most of the acreage has been sold for homes and an accompanying sprawling golf course.

My tour guide remarked, “It’s a state town.” She questioned whether the restoration effort is worth it, but added, “People have a vision about this place.” The hope is to restore the Castle to its former glory and possibly convert it for extension programs for nearby college campuses.

No matter how it is restored, I have a feeling it will still be haunted.

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