With the Labor Day weekend approaching, it was time to make our way over the mountains towards home. We decided a three-day camping outing was in order. The trick was to find a spot off the beaten track that would be away from the throngs of campers. Here’s where a little local knowledge came in handy. Our son Aaron had a tip that Parker Lake might be the spot. So on Saturday, September 5, we pointed our rig towards Parker Lake. Along the way we observed that campgrounds near Grant Lake and Silver Lake seemed to be packed to capacity, and the trail head parking was full to overflowing.
We found Parker Lake road and left the pavement, switching into four wheel drive. This is not a road I would recommend for anybody with low clearance, although we did see a Subaru Forester. We stopped on a rise where I took a photo of our rig with Mono Lake in the background.
A few miles further on we found a nice camping spot in a grove of aspen and pine trees. As is my habit, I’m always looking for that Truck Camper Magazine calendar photo, without a camp fire in this case, since campfires are not allowed in the current conditions. I substituted a camp lantern for our campfire glow. In the morning we woke up to an orange dystopian sun peering through smoke from a wildfire, the Creek Fire, on the other side of the mountains. As you can see in the photo above, the sun is peeking through the smoke. Despite the smoke we decided to do the short hike to the lake before breaking camp.
From our camp we hiked up the road to the trail head, and then up through sage brush and desert vegetation and down into a lovely wooded valley with pines and aspen.
Once in the valley it’s a short distance to the lake which is situated in a bowl with mountains rising above. The mountains were shrouded in smoke, but nonetheless we stopped to let Carson get his feet wet and to watch ducks that seemed to be looking at us for a handout. Don’t look at me for a handout. I make it a point not to share my food with the local wildlife. After a brief stay, we hiked back to our campsite, popped the top town on the camper and headed over the mountains for clean air.
It’s August 25 and I’m hiking down a mountainside when I hear cowbells. For a moment I start fantasizing that I’m in Switzerland. I check the map and I’m headed to Upper Gardner Meadow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but let me back up to the previous day. The story starts when Carson, my dog, and I hopped on board our camper for a four-day trip over the mountains. The original plan was to finish some client work and head over the mountains to join my wife and my son’s family in Big Pine, joining them on the 25th. The wildfires burning near Santa Cruz forced me to change my plans. The fire drove my daughter and her family to seek refuge at our house in Albany. Both she and my grandson, Micah, had colds and, as such, my family on the East Side suggested I take my time crossing the mountains to make sure I didn’t bring the cold with me. I can think of worse fates than being banished to the mountains for a few days.
In any event, I decided to drive up State Route 4 and to camp near Highland Lakes near Ebbetts Pass.
The drive took us past Mosquito Lake, which despite the name, provided an idyllic view of a cabin on a rock with clouds reflecting on the quiet water.
Not far beyond we found the turnoff to Highland Lakes. I found a spot to camp for the night a couple of miles down the road, a spot with a well-established fire ring and a babbling stream. A perfect spot to camp and let Carson run off-leash. I popped the top on the camper and cooked a quick dinner.
In the morning we broke camp and drove the rest of the way to Highland Lakes, where we found an established Forest Service camp. I picked a site near the lake. I wanted to be close to the lake to take advantage of the evening and morning light. The campground fee was $8.50, the reduced rate for a senior pass. I ended up putting a $10 bill in the envelope since I did not have the exact change. I wonder if the pricing is just a way to put a few extra dollars in the coffer. Pit toilets and running water was available and the campsites have steel fire rings. Many of the picnic tables are in need of repair. Most of the campers had dogs on leashes so we felt at home. Having established camp, Carson and I found a trail that would take us on a five mile loop, up a mountain side to a lovely little pond. From there we hiked along a ridge and then an off-trail scramble down the mountainside to join the trail again at Upper Gardner Meadow. Then it was back to camp. The air was a bit hazy with smoke, but I found that the quiet waters of the lake provided some nice reflections early the next morning. Here’s the track of our hike
Stay tuned, since I”ll be sharing more stories about the trip.
In the weeks ahead we’ll be walking about 100 miles along the Costa Brava and in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. We’ll be following two self-guided tours offered through Macs Adevntures: Foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees and Hidden Gems of the Catalan Coast. As a shakedown I decided to put a few miles on my new hiking boots so on May 12 we put the dog in the car and drove to Briones Regional Park. The goals were to give our Carson some off-leash time, log five miles and check out the wild flowers. Briones Regional Park is a 6,225-acre park in the hills of Contra Costa County. It’s about a 20 mile drive from our house. In spring it’s a stunning park with oak canyons, and green rolling hills. The ridges along the top of the hills afford wide sweeping panoramic views. Later in the year the green grass becomes a golden brown and the temperature can be quite warm.
At one point on our hike Carson decided to get a drink in one of the cattle watering troughs and ended up taking an unintentional swim. Along one of the ridges we passed a herd of cows, and Carson did his best to hike in Joann’s shadow acting a bit shy. There were a couple of steep sections of trail where I was glad I had my hiking poles, and even so, I took my time descending the steepest sections of trail.
Over the course of our walk we logged 4.9 miles. You can see a map or our course above or view more details about the track here.
Out the door and in the car at 7:30 for a return visit to Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. At a bend in the Cuyahoga River I caught a glimps of the rising sun reflecting off the water, with a misty fog lingering in the bottom lands. No place to stop and I was intent on getting to the falls with the soft morning light. I could easily spend a week here with all the gorgeous scenery. But that might have to be another trip. Yesterday we did a three mile hike from Blue Hen Falls to Buttermilk Falls, through the woods and alone a creek, hiking through tall hardwood forest and moss covered rocks. Photographing the Falls was a challenge with people continually walking into my composition and a bit of harsh light. Today I had the woods and the falls to myself and I enjoyed basking in the peace and solitude.
After my sojourn I returned to our B&B where we brewed a pot of coffee and had breakfast. Then we managed a three mile hike on the Ledges Loop trail, walking past some fascinating sandstone cliffs, with large blocks of sandstone forming ledges, again with moss, ferns and trees, some of the trees showing a bit of fall color.
Now we’re on the road again heading to Ohiopyle and back to our theme of chasing Frank Lloyd Wright.
On Saturday we took a break from grand-parenting for a quick hike in the mountains. It’s 11 miles from our son Aaron’s place in Big Pine to the Glacier Pack Station. We were just a few miles up the road when we had to stop for a cattle drive. Cattle and cowboys (and cowgirls) coming down the middle of the road. Seemed like they deserved the right of way so we stopped the car to let them pass.
Once the cattle had passed we continued on to the end of the road. Once you reach the end of the road there’s a campground and a trail head. The trail leads to the Big Pine Lakes Basin in the John Muir Wilderness with a number of lakes surrounded by spectacular mountains and a view of the Palisade Glacier. It’s about 5.5 miles into the first lake. From there you can hike to a number of other lakes. If you want to make it more than a day hike you can backpack in or hire the packers to carry your gear. We did a pack trip here two years ago. More on that in future post. For the ambitious there’s also a trail up to the Palisade Glacier.
We were just out for a short hike, so we grabbed our day packs and hiked up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek until it was time to turn around. It felt good to be in the High Sierra, with the cool clear air surrounded by the sharp jagged peaks of the Sierra. Our dog Carson was thrilled to be in the mountains able to run off-leash. We saw a few signs of fall with Rabbit Bush, a few aspen and the willows showing some yellow. It’s still early for the aspen.
On Thursday, September 13 I was able to break away from work for an extended weekend in the Eastern Sierra. Evening found us setting up camp at Tioga Lake, just east of Tioga Pass and just outside Yosemite National Park. I had this destination in mind as photo opportunity to show off our camping rig at dusk. Sure enough the campground was only sparsely populated and we found a site on the edge of the lake. We’ve avoided this location on previous tent camping trips since it tends to be quite windy and chilly here. With the pop-up camper though the wind isn’t much of an issue. The lake sits at 9700 feet and the wind can howl through Tioga Pass. The campground is located in the Inyo National Forest and managed by Inyo Recreation. The camping fee is $22 but with our Park Pass the fee we paid $11. Dogs are permitted on leash, although once we were out of the campground our dog Carson was happy to be off leash. Water is available through a hand-cranked pump, although we were equipped with plenty of water on-board our rig.
The temperature dropped to 38 degrees in the night, and we had the heater going part of the night, since we had our summer sleeping bags. Fall is on the way though, with the willows turning yellow, the temperatures are dropping.
I had a second objective in mind, and that was to try and capture a photo of the Milky Way over the lake. With the elevation, the clear air, and lack of light pollution, I though this might provide an opportunity for some astro-photography.
Shortly after the crescent moon set, I set up my Nikon D800 with a 14-24mm lens and captured a few images. This turns out to be a more daunting task than I had imagined. Trying to compose and focus through what seems to be a pure black viewer is a challenge. In the morning we did a short hike around the lake, covering about two miles. Tioga Lake is a spectacular location in the High Sierra, with easy access since it’s right on Highway 120, which runs through Yosemite National Park.
After our hike it was time to head down the East Side towards Big Pine, with a stop at the Mobile Station in Lee Vining for a lunch with their famous fish tacos.
Our outing yesterday took us to Kasha-Katuwe Ten Rocks National Monument some 35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Part of our motivation to come to Santa Fe was the opportunities to hike. With a high fire danger though the National Forests were closed so we decided to head to the Tent Rocks for a short hike.
After a short hike through the desert Junipers we entered a slot canyon which provided a cool respite from the hot sun. We meandered through the slot canyon and then climbed up to a view point on the rim, hiking through fantastic towers and spires. These spires were formed by erosion of the volcanic ash left behind by local volcanoes millions of years ago.
Our hike covered 3.7 miles and we were happy to be done with our hike before noon, since the temperature was approaching 90 F when we returned to the car.
When we left Arches National Park on Thursday the temperature was 97 F. After hiking the arches in the morning heat we decided to head to the high country of Colorado, finding a beautiful campsite at Woods Lake. In the morning we had a lovely hike around the lake.
After our hike we headed for Ouray, where we had Lunch at Maggie’s Kitchen. We split a buffalo burger.
We are currently camped in a meadow about halfway between Silverton and Durango. Once again I’m posting from my iPhone. More to follow when I have internet access with my laptop.
We spent our last two days in Tanzania in Moshi, a town on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Our primary motivation was to visit Sophie Augustino. Sophie recently graduated from the College of African Wildlife Management and has started a tour company, Matriarch Hill Safari. We became acquainted with Sophie a couple of years ago when my sister Laurie connected with her while doing some non-profit work in Tanzania.
Sophie did an excellent job of showing us around Moshi. Our tour included a walk to the Materuni Waterfalls, a tour of a family run coffee farm, and a walking tour of downtown Moshi. The walk to the waterfalls took us through the lush, green picturesque farmland of the Materuni Village. The waterfall is a spectacular fall with water cascading 300 feet into a pool below. A worthwhile visit if you have a reason to be in Moshi.
Overlooking the Gualala River and the Pacific Ocean at Gualala Point Regional Park.
Carson fetching a stick at Pinnacle Gulch beach.
Carson on the Beach
Sunday, June 25th found us packing our camping gear for a quick trip to the Sonoma coast. One of our goals was to look for dog friendly beaches. We had reserved a campsite at Gualala Point Regional Park, a walk-in site, since that was what was available at the late date we decided to go camping; a lovely site on the river and quiet. This park is managed by the Sonoma County Regional Parks. Unlike the state parks that are not open to dogs on trails, most of the Sonoma County Regional Parks are open to dogs on a leash. There is also beach access at a number of places along Sea Ranch. Our beach explorations took us through redwoods and along fern lined trails and out to the coast. A refreshing get-away for two humans and a dog.