Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Mono Lake Basin - Eastern Sierra Nevada - June 2018

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

Where Does This Road Go?

It is a rite of passage, a sign that summer has begun. We stopped for our first meal of the season at Walker Burger in Walker, California on highway 395. This place is down home America. At least the down home America of our youth before multinational corporate franchises took over the exits off the interstates. We'll stick to the small roads and support small town businesses. The slower pace is a joy.

Our meal was in the early afternoon and after watching the birds congregating at the feeders in the garden setting at Walker Burger, we continued south on highway 395. Where were we heading? We really hadn't  made a decision. At this point of our adventure, south was good enough. 

We stopped in Lee Vining for a baby sized soft serve at Mono Cone and wandered about town. Shortly after leaving Lee Vining we decided to drive east for a while and turned onto highway 120. We saw a familiar dirt road heading north.

"We've always wondered where that road goes," I said to the Lady. "Want to find out?"

"Let's do it!" was the Lady's quick reply.

The road led to beautiful places.

We found a wide spot cut out of the sage.

We had passed onto BLM managed public lands and this area is obviously a sheep grazing allotment. Sheep were not present but the evidence covered the ground. The sea of sheep pellets was only a minor annoyance since we had expansive views all around us and complete solitude.

Night came softly. It gently settled in around us. Coyotes announced its arrival with their songs.

We sat in silence as the landscape darkened. We waited for the last bit of light in the sky to spread across Mono Lake.

We were up the next day before dawn. We walked with our mugs of coffee and watched the return of daylight. The coffee warmed us as the temperature was 33°.

After a simple breakfast and lowering the top of the camper, we headed back out.

There's always something on our list to go searching for. It seems our list is endless. On a previous trip in this area we had searched for an ancient petroglyph site without success. We decided to give it another try. A series of 4x4 roads took us to our starting point.

The Lady is always anxious to get going. And I like to follow and compose photos.

We were searching an area of springs. Our previous search had turned up stone flakes from tool making and other tidbits. What would we find this try?

Our first find was fresh bear tracks. "Fuzzy face was through here!" the Lady said as she pointed out the classic fore foot back foot placement. She loves bears as do I.

We turned up nothing new around the spring complex so headed up to the ridge tops for the view. A species of dandelions - related to desert dandelions, but with minor differences - were abundant in open spaces with sandy soil. They were the dominant wildflower with scatterings of Indian Paintbrush.

We found a spectacular stacked rock hunting blind on one high point.

We continued up to a high rocky outcrop overlooking the Owens River from the Inyo Craters to Crowley Reservoir.

Most all of the beautiful meandering spring creek - the Owens River - visible is in private ownership.

The Lady picked a large cross country circle to take us back to the truck.

We returned to the truck and explored more of the area, finding one outstanding dispersed camp spot that you may hear about in the future. We continued to the west and followed the road up to Bald Mountain Lookout, arriving around mid afternoon. We had not seen another person all day.

The views from here are world class.

Bald Mountain is on the edge of the Long Valley Caldera. USGS has a presence here with monitoring instruments.

Since no one was around, and this was her favorite kind of spot, we wanted to spend the night up here. We parked the truck off to the side, went for a couple walks, and explored the area.

A log building - of more recent origin - serves as a winter warming hut when snow blankets the mountains.

The views of the eastern Sierra Nevada in the evening light were wonderful.

We enjoyed the vistas from our chairs on the roof.

This was as good as our previous evening's vigil as day turned over into night.

The next morning, and at 51°,  was equally special.

It was a quiet drive home on Sunday. We were absolutely refreshed by this quick getaway and discovering where a few more roads lead.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Staying Home for Memorial Day Weekend - May 2018

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

A Good Idea?

We live in an extremely popular outdoor area that is close to large urban centers. Weekends draw huge crowds. Holiday weekends are truly scary with the hordes. On a weekend it is difficult to make the turn onto the County Road we live off of because of the line of traffic. Do not even think of going to our local Safeway grocery store on a weekend , a place we call "The Beer and Chip Capital of the World". Armed with this information, you can see why those lonely campsites we seek out with vast expanses with no people around are so attractive to us.

We stayed home for Memorial Day Weekend - well, kinda sorta.

Saturday we left well before dawn and after stopping for a nice breakfast in Tahoe City, we drove to Graeagle to deliver a project to one of my customers.The rainy, drizzly weather kept the roads fairly quiet. We circled back home on the backroads.

Sunday was for hiking. Our friend Cathy wanted to come along. The nearby Caples Creek area is outstanding. It is attractive for us because we can get there without using a state highway. It is just up the road.

Water was high with the melting snow pack upcountry.

The above photo is of the confluence of the Silver Fork of the American River and Caples Creek. The alders were just beginning to leaf out and the Western Azalea was in full bloom.  

We seem to always leave the trail in the Jake Schneider Meadow area and climb to the top of a high granite outcrop for a snack and the view. With these two women together, I had to expect a little erratic behavior.

We usually do an early season loop hike in this area and then pass on information about downfall across the trail and other needs for maintenance to the mule group that does the volunteer work out here. We also knew they were taking a break from attending Mule Days in Bishop and would be doing a ride out here today.

It would also be a surprise for Cathy - she's had livestock and horses in the past - to finally meet our friend Barking Spider's new mule Amos.

The mules caught up with us at Government Meadow and Barking Spider got to show off Amos.

All it takes is carrots to get Amos eating out of your hand.

A famous Barking Spider quote when he is asked about his mule - "Why don't you just ask him?" The three of them - Amos, Barking, and Cathy - retired for a private conversation.

There is a loop trail route around the Caples area but the ford of Caples Creek was chest high and ice cold. The mules were not even crossing.

The three of us resumed our hike by crossing Caples on a downed log.

There was a bit of a pucker factor for two of us.

This section of Caples Creek is beautiful fly fishing water.

Caples is known for its stands of remaining old growth forest including magnificent Sugar Pines.

Although there were a few other folks out hiking, we only met one other person on the loop on the south side of Caples Creek. This was wonderful for this holiday weekend.

The girls continued to be great company - always - and put up with taking direction from me for staged photos.

We climbed the ridge separating  Caples Creek from the Silver Fork and dropped down to a wonderful section of the Silver Fork along the trail.

I know, some of you are asking , "Why are you not here every evening with your fly rod?"  I do not have an answer I can effectively defend.

We took a short break...........................

......................and then headed over to cross Caples Creek to return to the trailhead.

This was a nice 10 to 12 mile hike close to home.

Monday was Memorial Day. Let's always take time to reflect on the meaning of this day and remember those who died while serving in our armed forces.

I was thinking about all that beautiful trout water we had seen on Sunday but Barking Spider had talked the Lady into joining him on another one of his passions - sailing.

Jenkinson Reservoir is a couple miles down the road from us, one of the most popular recreation areas in our county and the reason for those long lines of traffic.Barking and Mom Spider keep their Catalina in a slip on Jenkinson in the early season before moving the boat up to Lake Tahoe in July. You can understand the sailing passion now, can't you?

We waited until one pm for the wind to come up before heading down to the reservoir. And, most weekend visitors were packing up and heading for home.

When you sail with Barking Spider, he makes you sail. You do not just go along for the ride. One of our biggest adventures happened on Jenkinson while sailing with Barking - a gust of wind while sailing up the channel - the stuff of legends. But, a tale for another time. Ask us about it sometime if you remember.

I'll just let the photos tell the story of a warm Memorial Day afternoon.

Yes, the Lady had her see mores and she reported spotting a mermaid and a walrus.

Was staying home for the holiday weekend a good idea? You bet it was, and, I suspect, many of you will never let me grouse about where we live. As in so many aspects of our lives, we are always thankful and feel lucky and blessed.

Addition - we gave our report to the mule group and yesterday the Lady went along on the work day and swamped for the sawers. They love to have that hard working woman along. And, they keep talking about needing to get her on a mule....................