Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

Happy Christmas from Texas!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tucson Desert Museum

The highlight of my annual fall drive out to Texas was a stop in Tucson at the Desert Museum.  RV friend Beth was staying nearby so we hatched a plan to meet for a day.

The Museum is build around the Sonora Desert NOT on it.  Pathways leading from exhibit to exhibit often feel like wilderness.  The variety of plants is amazing.  One day I hope to visit when wild flowers, trees, and cactus are blooming.

It was a hot day so most of the animals were either sleeping or preparing to be shortly.

We had a yummy taco salad in the onsite restaurant;  checked out the gift shop; and stopped for a photo op. (Wish I could blame someone else for the  saguaro growing out of my head, but no, I did it!)

Morning and afternoon were punctuated by the Raptor Free Flight Show.  We attended BOTH and would have gone for a third if it had been offered.   All the pics are on My Bird List.

I got to see my first 'Walking Stick' in the Hummingbird House.  Quite amazing!

My camp at the Gilbert Ray Pima County Park just minutes from the Museum felt like the middle of the desert.  (Maybe not for summer, but totally comfortable that night!).

Gorgeous sunset for the best day!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

Calaveras Big Trees is usually my last hike in the fall before blast off to Texas.  This Sunday there was another reason to head to the Big Trees:  an early winter storm was forecast to hit Monday with snow down to 5000 feet.  Not that extra reasons to visit this fantastic area are ever necessary,  but Sunday had a feeling of now or never!

Color in the trees is odd this year;  many leaves are just brown from lack of measurable precip since last April;  a good portion are still green.  Happy serendipity found us with enough gorgeous color on the dogwoods, maples, and black oak under scattered clouds to make this near a perfect day for beautiful pictures.

There are several dogwoods near the picnic area that always have deep color.

Hiking with my adventure Pal P,  we decided to do the Upper Grove Overlook Trail first.  There was enough dew Saturday night to settle the dust and the temperature was in low 60s.  So nice for walking.

The filtered sun highlighted the big trees down on the North Grove trail, especially the Three Sisters.

There are two trails through the North Grove.....the North Grove Trail (duh); a level walk that passes ALL the really big trees with many interpretive signs and benches for stopping to glory in the forest.  The Grove Overlook trail branches off to make a bigger loop up the hill.  Combining the two is usually about  50 minute walk.  

A good portion of the main loop is board walk to protect the forest floor and the roots of the big trees. Several of the big trees have fallen over the years.  The exposed root systems are endlessly fascinating.

The South Grove is a 5-6 mile drive down into the Stanislaus River canyon.  The campgrounds are closed for the season.  Along the way is another opportunity for a hike, the Bluff Trail; I've not done that one (yet).

We were surprised to see a dozen or so cars in the parking area.  Of the two loops in the South Grove we choose the Bradley Grove; clearly the least traveled as we didn't meet another hiker on the trail!

A bridge crosses Beaver Creek and then the trail branches for the two separate loops.

I was a bit surprised to find the trail climbs a BIG mountain to the Railroad Tree (a beautiful giant) before winding back down (rather quickly) to the creek.  This was close to 90 minutes and we moved along at a good pace all the way.

I love this style walking bridge that can be found in parks all over the country now;  I'm also curious who designed it;  I bet she is very proud indeed!

Elephant ears that grow along the edges of creeks (and sometimes out in the middle!) turn many shades of brown, yellow and orange.  (They so remind me of Cherry Valley and Jawbone Creek!).

Back to the car we had a couple more quick stops in mind for the ride back out of the canyon.  One was at the bridge over the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.

There aren't many places to pull off along this narrow road;  we got out to snap a few pics and hurried back into the car just as a big truck came zooming into view!

The new Visitor's Center is very close to complete.  The grand opening will be a great reason to visit next spring,  not to mention the dogwoods will be blooming.

(Note to RV friends:  an overnite stay here can't be beat as it allows one access to the trail through the North Grove late in the evening or early, early in the morning.  No hook ups though. Umm, now that I'm thinking about it,  a full moon hike would be amazing too!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Garfield Point Hike - Crater Lake

To escape the smoke from wildfires I headed north to Crater Lake arriving there about mid-day with plenty of time for a hike.  From my last visit I knew I wanted to do Garfield Point and the Watchman Trail.  There were so few visitors in the park that I was able to grab a shady spot for my van across from the gift shop.  It's a short walk from my parking spot to the trailhead behind the Hotel but the view is so spectacular it took me a long time to get started!  Finally headed up the hill I looked back at Wizard Island.

Straw flowers were growing in the dry rocks.

Looking up the mountain I had my eye on what I though was Garfield Point.

There were many switchbacks going up this section.  I would graciously stop for the few people coming down because it gave me a chance to rest!

By now I realized this wasn't going to be the top, but I soon forgot that when I crested the ridge to find a view of The Phantom Ship!

And then.....while I standing there just soaking it all in.....a rock side began!

It only took me a minute to recover and I zoomed in on the dust that looks like a rainbow!

Nothing like adrenaline to kick a hike back into high gear.  Farther up the trail I found the last of the summer wildflowers clinging to the cliffs and bees working their little hearts out before the snow flies.

I had passed the last hikers way before the rock slide and now had the whole mountain to myself; except for a raptor that decided to join me.  (I'll post those pics on My Bird List).  It was the most amazing thing.  He stayed with me at the top, all the way back down the trail and finally landing in a tree near the Hotel back at the trail head, contentedly hopping from branch to branch until a couple came by and scared him away!

Finally, the last section of trail;  around the hill on a gentle climb and I would be there.

Almost completely bald on top, one lone pine stood with a sign warning that it was being treated for bark beetles.  I hope it wins the battle!

Heading back down the mountain I'm surprised I didn't fall flat on my face it was so hard to keep my eyes on the trail.

At the top of the last set of switchbacks there is an old foundation;  didn't see anything explaining what it was for but whatever, it had the same old boring view.

After hanging out with my raptor friend, I snapped a pic of the hotel; jumped in my van and headed to campsite at Mazama Village.  It was a great day. : )

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Harris Harvester

Along the highway, between Tule Lake and Klamath Falls,  this Harris Harvester is displayed by a local rancher in  coordination with the local Rotary.  It was manufactured in Stockton. How cool is that?  (Couldn't help but think of an acquaintance who owns a foundry  there now and wonder if any connection to this historic harvester).

Wonderful opportunities for closeup photos, but the highway was busy and I didn't have a place to stay that night. Time to move on.......

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sycamore Grove (Red Bluff)

Forest Service campground, Sycamore Grove, in the Red Bluff Recreation Area is my favorite overnight stop on Highway 99 in Northern California.  Slightly over 4 hours from home and just a few minutes off the freeway at the Highway 36 exit, it's first come first serve and just about perfect.

These pics are of the Sycamore trees in the day use area near the Sacramento River.

There are several miles of trail in the Rec Area.  One with a view of Mt Shasta on a clear day!  (If you need internet there's a McDonalds near the highway with great wifi in the parking lot :).

If all that wasn't enough there is a amazing old Diversion Dam on the river next to the campground.  When it was in service it was not so nice as 8 humongous pumps ran 24/7 through the summer to divert water from the Sacramento River into the irrigation canal system.  Just last summer, 2011, the pumps were silent and the gates opened forever when a new, and very much better for salmon run, diversion system was put into service.  The woman who operates the Visitor Center was the Information Officer for the construction of the new system and was happy to tell me all about it!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cleo's Bath

Our favorite hike around Pinecrest Lake passes the trail junction to a very famous swimming hole on the Stanislaus River, Cleo's Bath.  The summer before last I tried to find it, but the river was a raging torrent and I figured I missed Cleo's because it was under 10-20 feet of water.  Well, no.  Here's the rest of the story.....

After an early stop at Andy's in Miwok to fortify ourselves with Cinnamon Rolls for the day ahead,  we (Super Nephews S and G and me) arrived at Pinecrest.  It was a lovely morning hike around the lake to the trail junction to Cleo's bath.  Not far along we met a group of backpackers heading up the trail.  Like a complete dummy I told them I had missed Cleo's on my hike the summer before.  They said, no, the trail ENDS at Cleo's.
That should have been my first clue, but we continued happily on our way.  Intrepid explorers!

The river is barely running now,  waiting for winter to be replenished.  G led the way around many wind falls.  The trail is mostly a gradual climb. Ummm,  I remember all of this,  but where is Cleo's?  Not far ahead the river flows over a steep mountain.  When it's really roaring the water falls are visible way down the trail.  I said to S,  Cleo's can't be up there, I'm not climbing that mountain!

The trail guides warn to expect some boulder hopping.  I assumed that meant 'horizonal' boulder hopping, as in from the trail over to the river. No problem!   What soon became clear even to me was the the boulder hopping would be VERTICAL!

This was fast becoming a great adventure to S and G; not so much for me, but there was no turning back.  G scrambled ahead and then waited to help me up the many crevices that passed for a trail.

Lucky for us there were strategically placed ducks (piles of rocks) to mark the way; along with some faded green spray painted arrows on the granite. (I know, it's bad to spray paint granite; still I was grateful!).  We climbed for what seemed like an hour, but in hind sight was probably only 15 or 20 minutes  to a table with a great view back to Pinecrest. (It's that tiny blue dot in the middle of the pic!)

Finally there was the trail to the river.   As expected, it was very low with virtually no flow.  The green arrow (only appropriate!) marks what appears to be the normal water line.  It was clear this would be a spectacular swimming hole earlier in the season.  (That's Pinecrest again in the distance).

We weren't disappointed; it was fun to see the granite formations that would normally be under water.  Looking up stream across the pool the water backs up into a narrow canyon.

Above the little canyon, the water falls steeply creating 'holes' in the granite as it swirls through.  Most rivers in the high Sierra have these same holes and are the best fun to sit in on a hot day!  And we even found a tiny trickle of water.

After some more exploring and a near miss with my walking stick (and G!) sliding off the slick rock, it was time to test the water.  S sat on a rock dangling his feet, while G dived right into the pool.  It was cold!

I'm wondering what the water temps are earlier in the season.  It's down in the 30s at night now, so am guessing that's why the water in these small pools is so cold.  

The hike up had taken longer than we expected and it was pushing lunch so we headed back down the trail.  Surely it would be easier than the climb up!  As S walked under a very cool balanced rock, it sorta looks like a dinosaur peaking over the mountain.

Climbing back down the steep section,  G and S were a great team.  Two rocks created a squeeze too narrow to pass wearing a pack, so G passed them down to S.  And then waited to help me down too!

This was really the hardest climbing I have done for a long, long time.  Lots of lifting with arms and long reaches with legs. It's not for a solo hiker.  Or for dogs.  The depth perception is lost in the pics;  just try to imagine a 8 - 10 foot drop here.

It was 1 pm by the time we hit the junction at the lake trail.  G decided to run back.  S stuck with me for awhile but then took off too.  Couldn't blame them, Grandma and Auntie were waiting at the picnic area with sandwiches, chips and cookies!

And that's the rest of the story.