Monday, October 24, 2011

Eastern Sierra Fall Colors - October Birthday Weekend 2011

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“Do you mind if I take a look at your camper” the man asked.
“Not at all,” I said looking up from my sandwich.
We had pulled into the north parking area on Carson Pass. The blasting work for the highway improvement was late in closing down this Friday afternoon and we figured pulling in and enjoying our dinner outside was much better than sitting in the truck stopped on the road. We could be patient and relax. We were again heading over to the east side of the Sierra Nevada for a weekend getaway.

A couple had watched us drive in. They were also waiting for the highway to open and approached us to ask about the camper as we were eating.
“Yours is a six foot bed right?” He asked as we walked along our truck.
“This is what we would need. We have a Tacoma.”
They had several other questions and as we were talking the Lady joined us.
“This is the third weekend in a row we have taken off after work on Friday to go over to the east side. I love our camper!”
They were from the San Jose area and I told them about FWC being in Woodland and that ATC was in Sacramento and, of course, about Wander the West.
I continued, “It can be work to try and find a used unit and they really hold their resale value.”
“Oh, I’ve been watching the Internet and I have seen that. They are expensive and these campers have a cult following.”

Highway 88 reopened but we waited for the first wave of anxious travelers to move on before we started up the truck and headed east down into Hope Valley. The fall colors were in their prime in the late afternoon light. We were feeling free and happy, except for that one word the man had used.
“Do you think we belong to a cult?” There was worry in my voice.
“No.” The Lady was content in just watching the yellows and golds stream by her open window.
“Cult, cultists, I don’t like those words. They scare me.” I was rambling now trying to clean my head. A seed had been planted or even worse, a worm or a virus. It was a ploy used with dexterity by political strategists. It would lurk in the background and slowly undermine confidence. “This is our second weekend in a row to join other WTWers on the east side. Could that be a cult activity?”
“I tell you what,” she said. I could tell she was working on this one. She was working on a nip it in the bud reply.
“Just turn the question over to those folks on Wander the West. They are all smarter than us. If there is something to worry about, they will think on it, work it all out, and if there is a problem, come up with the proper solution. They will handle it. We don’t even need to think about it. We are going to meet some neat people this weekend and have a wonderful trip. We are going to have fun!”
“Sounds good to me,” and it did.

We met some neat people and we had fun.

Lighthawk and MarkBC had a large campsite secured along Green Creek just south of Bridgeport. We pulled in after dark, set up, and joined them around the campfire. This was our first time meeting MarkBC and our second meet up with Lighthawk and SR and good ole Sadie dog. This being the Lady’s Friday night after a long week of school, it was soon time for us to turn in.

Apparently we have an earned reputation as being early risers. The next morning, trying hard to be quiet, the Lady made our cups of Peets coffee, and we wandered off well before sunrise with the camera and tripod. I am really enjoying long exposures on quiet mornings, capturing the dim soft light as the sky begins to glow.

Although not actively taking photographs, the Lady is approaching my interest in photography much like she has done with my flyfishing for trout. She will take the high ground and spot a nice fish, “Catch that one!” will be her direction. This morning it was, “The sun is hitting the ridge and look at the frost on the meadow. See if you can get it!”

The morning sun had warmed us significantly from the morning low of 24°, as reported by MarkBC. After breakfast we were ready to roll out from our campsite along Green Creek.

We headed out Green Creek on our way to the highway 108 and Sonora Pass corridor.

MarkBC announced that he was really anxious to continue south on his east side adventures. It was nice to meet Mark in person and make that connection. We wished him safe and happy travels.


We had enjoyed our prior visit to the Leavitt Meadows area to the east of Sonora Pass. This would be the Lighthawks first visit here along the upper reaches of the West Fork of the Walker River. Fall days are just the best for a hike in the mountains. We found ourselves alone on the trail all afternoon, with our first stop being pretty little Secret Lake.

We decided to make it a circle back to the trailhead that allowed the return to be down Leavitt Meadow.

We had a couple of interesting small stream crossings with their adornments of fallen leaves of autumn.

Arriving back at our trucks late in the afternoon, we headed up 108 toward Sonora Pass to find a dispersed camping spot. We were in the lead and every time I would tap on the brake seeing a possible turn off to check the Lady would exclaim, “No higher, I want to go higher. We can find a place higher up!” There was a small dirt road to the right, right across from the 9000 feet elevation sign. Surely this had to be high enough. “We can look out here but I was thinking of a spot higher,” she said.

Lighthawks found a little spot about a mile in that would comfortably accommodate our two rigs. It was a nice location and we made ourselves at home. With an abundance of firewood about, Lighthawk had a roaring fire going that we enjoyed well into the evening, telling stories, sharing adventures and great company.

Sunday was a very special day. It was the Lady’s birthday. We have a fun tradition on birthday mornings. Today it was my turn as we woke up. I stretched and yawned and said, “You know this is the first time I have ever woke up with a fifty five year old woman!”

In a few weeks it will be the Lady’s turn.

Seeking a high point at dawn we climbed a granite knob behind camp and found ourselves on a wide open rolling ridge line. The views were outstanding and perfect for the Lady’s birthday.

We waited for a finger of light to hit Sardine Falls but settled for lighting up the aspens below, as it was time to return back down to camp.

After breakfast, we parted ways with the delightful Lighthawks and ole Sadie. They headed down to fish the East Walker and the Lady wished to spend her special day going over Sonora Pass and down the west side.

It had been around 25 years since our last visit and drive down this road. Frankly, we just did not remember how spectacular the high parts of Sonora Pass are and this was a perfect day, weather wise, to enjoy time up here.

We spent some time at Kennedy Meadow along the Stanislaus River.

Intersecting highway 49, we enjoyed a leisurely Sunday drive back up through the gold country along with an early birthday dinner in Jackson. It was another excellent weekend adventure. Special thanks to the Lighthawks and MarkBC for your hospitality and good company, hardly anything that I’d ever think of as cult activity!

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