Monday, June 27, 2011

Day Tripping Yosemite

It’s been a banner year for water in Yosemite with a 199% of normal snow pack.  Friend S and I cancelled two previous times due to Merced River hitting  flood stage.  It did lap on the road a couple of days, and parts of the meadow are still under water. But no serious flooding thanks to our unusually cool June.

So this day, we did a tourist loop around the valley, checking out the water falls and visiting the museum to see the current exhibits.

First stop is always Bridalveil Fall.  It was 10:00 all ready, but the sun was just beginning to peak over the canyon wall.


The mist was heavy and the water was an inch or so deep on the walk way, but we braved the elements to catch a glimpse of the whole fall. 

Next stop was along the Merced River in the meadow. Don’t be fooled by this calm water,  it was roaring just a mile or so down stream.  The flow was in the 6-7,000 cubic feet a second,  down from a high of closer to 8,000 or maybe even a little more.


We expected crowds and were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t that bad.  Easy parking and relatively quiet roads.  Another stop at the meadow to see Yosemite Falls.


Crossing the bridge we couldn’t get a parking place for the long shot of both the Upper and Lower Falls, so continued on to the new parking area at the base of Falls.  What a joy this area is compared to the old bus parking.  The Park did good on this one!

The view walking up the trail to the base of the Lower Fall is always amazing.  This year it is beyond awesome.  I’m so glad I got to see this run-off, even if not the peak.


We walked the loop, again braving the driving mist and wind to cross the bridge at the base of the Lower Fall.  The creek was crazy over the rocks. 


Just a few hundred yards back down the trail the same Yosemite Creek flowing flowing serenely under the next bridge. 


Late dogwood blossoms!


And with a last long look at Half Dome we hit the trail for home.


(FYI for anyone going to Yosemite,  the museum has an outstanding exhibit called “Views and Visitors: The Yosemite Experience in the Early 20th Century” this year.  It’s worth a stop by the Visitor’s Center)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns

Reading Nevada Barr’s “Blind Descent” a few days before I left Texas resulted in a impromptu decision to visit Carlsbad Caverns.  This instant of happy serendipity lead to the absolute highlight of my trip home.

Careful signs warn visitors about the trail down into the cave from the Natural Entrance. At that point I still was planning to hike back out (!).


It was a long drop from the entrance to the bottom, right around 100 feet, and that was why the Indians didn’t enter this cave past the dark zone.


The trail drops 800 feet in a mile or so, and with minimal  lighting, is great.  The best part,  very few visitors choose this entrance!  I got to experience the cave without the crowds for most of an hour on my hike down.


I tried a few pics, with sorry results.   It wasn’t until I got into the Big Room that I discovered my iPhone would take really good shots!

Another surprise in the Big Room was a concession stand!  Cavern visitors could have a some food, a cold drink, AND buy a T-shirt!?!?

OK,  as it turns out,  early visitors did enter through the Natural Entrance and they DID hike out again,  and so, the tradition of providing refreshments at the bottom of the cave has deep roots.


I hiked the Big Room Loop,  doing my best to dodge large groups of people.  It really wasn’t so bad.  They have 600,000 visitors annually.  And there just isn’t much room to spread out.


After the Big Room I rode the elevator up to the Visitor’s Center to grab a quick lunch.   Then made it back down just in time for the 3 pm Ranger lead tour of the King’s Chamber.  It lasted another hour or so.  Our guide was totally crazy about the caves and it was fun to listen to her stories.




I had caught a glimpse of the Green Pool on my hike down the trail and was really excited to get a closer look.  The water in the cave is crystal clear. 


This pillar is the last really big one before the tour ends.  Even though I was really getting tired by now, I was so disappointed the tour ended.

There are two more ‘easy’ Ranger lead tours available.  And then, there is a descent into the ‘Lower Room”.  I’ll do the other two for sure, and maybe, even the Lower Room.


There are 130 miles of explored caves in the Guadalupe Mountains.  The mountains were formed by the lifting a a reef (yes, think ocean!). And the basin at their base is what’s left of that sea.  (Really interesting geology here.  Out in basin are layers of salt).


The Pecos River runs through the town of Carlsbad.  I didn’t get to see it either this trip.  For sure I will go back!

(FYI,  next summer, 2012,  the Park has a contract in place to replace all the lighting in the Caverns).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sugar Pine Railroad Hike

Along the Stanislaus River two sections of the old Sugar Pine Railroad are open to hiking, biking, and equestrian users.   Many thanks to the owners of the private property that allow us access through their land! A long range plan has been in the works for many years to create a 25 mile ‘rails to trails’ corridor.  So looking forward to that!

Today, Adventure Pal P and I hiked the section from Middle Fork Road to Lyons Lake.  It’s 9 miles round trip. The weather was just short of being hot.  Most of the way is broken shade.


It’s a really lovely walk through the forest, but the payoff is reaching Lyons Lake.  Thanks to way above average snow pack there was a big spill from the dam.


This is domestic water for a large part of Tuolumne County so no boating or swimming.


I like how the water in the spill is the color of the braces of the spillway in this picture.  At least it is on my monitor.  And no, it wasn’t really that color!


There are still a few dogwood blossoms left on the trees at the higher elevations.   


At 3:30 when we got back, my car temperature said 82, and it was closer to 95 by the time I got home to Jamestown.  We picked the hottest day of the year (so far) to hike!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Orla, Texas

I was looking for a good place to stop to make some breakfast when I came upon Orla on Highway 285.  Tumbling down buildings were a great photo op, but I thought there must be more to the town because a new sign pointed to a Post Office.  As it turns out,  Wikipedia tells me,  Orla IS a ghost town with only two remaining citizens AND, yes, a post office. 




Here’s the Historical Marker.  I can’t read it on my Acer, hope it tells us something interesting about Orla!


Balmorhea State Park

Following several ‘escape from I-10 for a couple hours’ stops at Balmorhea,  this time I planned my travel across west Texas to include an over night stay.


Here is my perfect camp before the SEVERE wind, thunder, and lightening arrived (and stayed until close to mid-night!).


The canals carry the water from the springs out of the park, through downtown Balmorhea and then into ag land.  The first pic is in the park; the second in town.



The water in the springs stays between 72* and 76* year round.  These warm temps reflect the temperature of the rocks the water flows through underground.

About 6 pm the Rangers came to the spring to ask us to leave because of the lightening storm on the way.  A few stragglers didn’t want to leave.  One guy had just arrived after the 7 hour drive from Austin.  Very disappointed!


A Great Horned Owl watched the activity from a tree. Probably very happy the humans were leaving his territory early!


Even (or because of) with the storm we had a gorgeous sunset!