Monday, April 29, 2013

Back to the Bodie Hills – April 2013

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It doesn’t take much to get us away for a weekend trip. The reason this time – or the excuse – was fleece sheets. A couple of years ago we purchased a “bedding system” from West Marine. They no longer carried it but found the last one they had in a store in Florida. It was on the shelf so long one side is faded. That didn’t matter much as they wanted half price for it, a hundred bucks, and no shipping charge to get it to a closer store. It’s a big rectangle sleeping bag, double bed size. One side is thicker quilt and labeled “winter”. You can turn it over for summer use. It is lined with a long folded over cotton percale sheet, the kind that’s cool in the summer but shockingly cold on a frigid winter night when you move into new territory while rolling over. The sheet has Velcro along both sides so it can be pulled out and washed and replaced if you are handy. We bought a set of end of the season half price fleece sheets. With help from Mom Spider they were cut to size, hemmed, and Velcro sewed on. “Let’s try them out! I want to see how they feel. Where can we go?” the Lady asked. As I said, it doesn’t take much.

The truck was packed and ready Thursday night and after forgetting to prior to our Mammoth trip, I got several “Be sure and fill the water tank.” “You did remember to fill the water tank?” “Is the water tank full?” With a full water tank late Friday afternoon we hit the road.

Saturday was the traditional opening day of trout fishing season. That has several impacts, more people on the road, dispersed campsites along water features are filled, Walker Burger is open for the season, lots of factory fish have been dumped into easy access waters, lower elevation campgrounds are opening up, Hays Street Café in Bridgeport has switched from “freezing season” hours to “fishing season” hours and now opens at a more reasonable 6:00 am, and local businesses are hoping for the tourist dollars that they depend on to flow in. We are lucky in that we can get away from the pack. Surprised to find few people up the Little Walker River drainage, we found a nice high spot tucked back down a rough road. It was a deliciously quiet and peaceful night. We walked and watched the stars pop out in the night sky. We gave the new fleece sheets every test we could think of. They are absolutely wonderful, especially on a cold night with the windows open so we can feel and smell the night air.

Mount Emma, above, was the first to feel the sun in the morning.

This was a morning to linger. We were heading over into the Bodie Hills, but why hurry? Highway 395 was visible in the distance but we were surrounded by the sounds of this place – Blackbirds with their grating calls as they flew, the Robins’ songs were poetry, the squawk of the Stellar Jay diverted our ears, the drumming of woodpeckers added percussion, all on top of the flow of the river below.  Moments like this should define our existence.

We retraced some of our route from last year’s trip into the Bodie Hills. We stopped at Hays Street Café so the Lady could grab a hot cinnamon roll. They remembered us with excitement, “Your friend Ted, the famous camper, the celebrity, is he outside? Is he coming in? Oh, we’d be so excited to see him again! He doesn’t charge for autographs now, does he?” We broke their hearts with the news we were alone without the Teds.

We headed up Aurora Canyon Road at a much more leisurely pace than last year’s getaway speeds and we got a reminder of why we love the rural west so much, why small towns take us back to thoughts of simpler times and an old fashion western heritage. On the outskirts of Bridgeport (and you can see most all of Bridgeport from here) is the cemetery and just beyond is the community ball park. There was a Mono County Sheriffs unit parked at the ball park this early morning. A woman deputy was supervising two male county jail inmates raking and cleaning up the area. The two fellows were dressed in honest to god old fashion horizontal black and white striped prison garb.

We drove south on the Bodie Masonic Road and were stopped by snow in the same spot as last year. We grabbed our packs and headed up. The Lady looked down at the truck below and the snow banks on the road. The upper cut on the hillside is the remains of a ditch that supplied Bodie with water.

Our first objective was Potato Peak, the high point of the Bodie Hills.

We tried to refrain from making silly jokes about us being “Tater Tops”, but that’s just not our nature.
Although it was a hazy morning out to the west and south, the views from up here are incredible.

We were making a circle so we dropped off to the west and then headed to the top of Bodie Mountain to the south. The views from Bodie Mountain east to the Sierra, south to Mono Lake, and also to the southeast to Glass Mountain and the White Mountains are very nice.

Bodie was below to the southeast.

We dropped off the summit to the south to go around the remnant of a cornice on the northeast slope and ended up circling Bodie Mountain. We made our way back down to the truck.

We wandered back to the north on Bodie Masonic Road and turned to the east on a narrow two track road to explore the Paramount Mine area. Lower down on a northeast facing aspen covered slope, our way was again blocked by snow. We had noticed a great camp spot above so we drove back up and made it our home. In the late afternoon we donned our packs and started out cross country for the Paramount Mine area below us.

We traversed the slope, rounded the corner, encountered an area of cliffs, and dropped into the aspen thicket at the base of the cliffs. We worked our way through the thicket and a slightly different color and a movement caught my eye.

I froze except for the quick hand signal to the Lady behind me to stop. She did. I motioned her up to my position. She was only a few steps behind. We whispered.
“That is one big bear. Look for cubs.”
“He’s looking right at you. I don’t see cubs,” the Lady said.
“I can’t see his head through the thicket.”
The Lady was just a step up slope. “He’s not moving. He’s looking right at you,” the Lady replied and added, “What should we do?”
“Let’s both take one step up hill so he can see us better and let’s see his reaction.”
The bear immediately turned, and without making a sound, completely disappeared.

We have been lucky enough to have had many close encounters with bears both black and grizzly. This was a smart bear. I really liked this bear. We have had many bears just turn tail and run, crying and whimpering, and making a great deal of noise. We have also had them pop up on their hind legs and try to get a better look, sometimes hopping up and down. Sometimes they have also made strong belligerent displays. This was a smart bear. We knew he would not show himself across open terrain. We knew this bear knew exactly where we were the rest of our time in the area. I really liked this bear.

There are only a few ruins associated with the Paramount Mine.

The main draw turned out to be the continuing vistas across the Bodie Hills.

We returned to camp and enjoyed the lengthening day light as spring progresses.

There were still no leaf buds showing on the aspen at 9000 feet.

We left camp as the sun was setting.

We made our way up to the crest to watch the last light play out across the landscape.

We walked back to camp in the dark.

After a quiet night we were up before dawn. I was intrigued with the aspens against the brightening eastern sky.

The now waning moon was in the west, preparing to set.

We walked back up to the crest and watched.

Camp was in full sunlight when we returned.

We wanted to do some exploring on the way home.

We headed north and came upon seven female pronghorn.

“They sure look healthy and beautiful!” The Lady is always happy to see speed goats. I added, “They also look pregnant and I bet are going to give birth soon.”

We took the Masonic Gulch Road down into Nevada. We traveled east and through the historic Nine Mile Ranch. I always enjoy seeing the Nine Mile Ranch for as Twain tells it in “Roughing It”, this was where he was taking care of a sick friend, Captain Nye, when he should have been working on his claim and thus ended his short time as a millionaire. Of course there are other versions of the story. But there is no doubt that Twain spent time there.

There was a place we wanted to find if ever we were in the area. It is accessed with a pretty remarkable road.

Although not too bad, we did spend some time cleaning up the area and removing the two ill sited fires. We also picked up shooting related trash around our campsite in the Bodie Hlls including much partially burned trash in the fire ring.

We rambled along the East Fork of the Walker River.

The day was coming to its end as we returned home over Monitor Pass. It had been another great weekend getaway. It was fun poking around to see what’s around the next corner. We really don’t need much of an excuse to do that.


  1. Ski3pin, over a period of a couple of weeks, I have carefully read every single one of your blog posts to date -- and I just wanted to thank you for hours of entertainment and your wonderful photos. Great adventures! We have a trailer, not a TC, so we can't quite get to some of the remote places you have camped -- but I have enjoyed all of them vicariously. Well done, and thanks again!

  2. Wonderful views from the Tater Top! Love the sunsets and sunrise, too.