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Archive for October, 2013

Tuesday morning was chore day: laundry and shopping. Since it was lunchtime by the time I got through, we had very good hamburgers at the Whoa Nellie Deli. We decided to take a look at Parker Lake. That trail, unlike the one to Walker Lake, begins by rising some 600 feet and then levels out. It traversed chapparel, evergreen and aspen groves and pretty Walker Creek. We got up there around 3:20 and the sun intermittently was going behind clouds. Soon it would go behind the mountains. The afternoon breeze came up and the lake was choppy. Oh well, not ideal photographic conditions. But both Dave and I found things to interest us. I got fascinated with the sunlight reflecting under the shallow lake water.

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Dave lagged behind, photographing the creek while I ambled back down the trail. He got quite a while behind me which always makes me nervous. I left a message with two hunters heading up to the lake to tell Dave I was heading back down. The light got softer and softer as we descended.

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There were some storm clouds forming to the east and when we got back to camp, there was a strong wind blowing. No more Mr. Nice Weather for today or tomorrow. It was drizzling a little the next morning. We stayed in our nice warm bed until the rain turned to snow. Uh oh, this was supposed to be our takeoff day to head south to Lone Pine. Highway 395 goes over two summits: Deadman’s Pass at 8,041 feet and Sherwin Summit at 7,000 feet. If it was snowing at 6,000 feet, it was probably snowing harder at 8,000 feet. We decided to stay put and decamped to the local RV park. It was first full down day of the trip. Felt kind of good after 2 days of hiking.

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Saturday was our big hike: six miles and 840 feet of elevation gain. We didn’t get an early start because it is so darn cold. Then the Garmin stopped talking to us and we missed the turn up Green Creek Road, wasting about 12 miles. There used to be a shortcut between Twin Lakes Road and Highway 395 but it has disappeared. I guess the owner of the land decided to fence it in. Anyway, we started hiking around 11 and it was warm in the sun, cool in the shade and very pleasant. After the trail began to rise, there were huge cedars, both dead and alive, providing great foregrounds for our images. About a mile in, we hit some switchbacks that got my heart pounding. After that it was a gentle uphill rise all the way to Green Lake. As we rose, the views behind us and in front of us kept looking good.

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We ate lunch at Green Lake and I was ready to do the extra mile to East Lake, but we had a little trouble finding the trail. Thank heavens we didn’t! The three miles down the trail was almost total descent, but I got very tired after about 1.5 miles. One interesting backpacker that was heading up the trail had a very, very thin little dog. I asked if it was a whippet and he replied that it was an Austrailian greyhound. What was amazing was that his legs were so thin, the sun actually shone through the skin at his knees. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of that delicate dog.

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We got back to the car around 3 p.m. and coffee and cookies revived me somewhat. With phone reception back in play, Dave got a recorded message from our friend Rob, saying he was coming over the hill and maybe we could meet up. We invited him over for dinner and headed home via Dunderberg Meadows Road.

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The sunset at our campsite was another spectacular one. I love this site (and sight)!

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We had a pleasant evening with Rob. He is into all kinds of interesting stuff including hangliding. He later retired into the back of his camper and made his breakfast on a campstove on his tailgate. It reminded me of the old days when we did that. Nice on a sunny morning but not so much when it’s a brisk 41 degrees outside. Rob drove off into the sunrise (not really, but it sounds romantic) and we had a late breakfast, our first bacon and eggs bacchanalia in quite a while. Then we piled all our necessities into the Rav and headed for the June Lake Loop Drive. Since it was on the way, we wanted to check out Walker Lake, near the Loop. We set the Garmin for Walker Road and off we went….down a track with some nice aspen grouped by a creek and a locked gate beyond.  Try the Garmin again and find another Walker Road farther south, and then another one after that. At least those two had signs indicating Walker Lake was at the end of them.

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Since it was getting later in the afternoon, we gave up the search for Walker Lake and continued over to the June Lake Loop. It’s a spectacular drive and there were people out there fishing, bicycling, kayaking and sunbathing. There are lots of campgrounds around Grant, Silver and June Lakes but almost all of them were closed because of the government shutdown. What Congress is doing is really hurting the small communities that depend on tourists for their income.  Leaf peeping is pretty big business for them in the fall and business has definitely dropped off for them. Talk about job destroyers.

We stopped at Silver Lake and photographed there until the sun went behind the mountains. As we rounded the other side of the loop, we were bathed in sunlight once again. We returned to camp pretty early, caught up with our blogging and watched Homeland, one of our favorite shows.

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We pulled up the shades on Monday to find a cloudy sky. Halleluia! Landscape photography loves cloudy skies. Once we opened the door, it proved to be cool but not cold. We put on our hiking pants and went out to find Walker Lake. This time we found it without mishap and parked right next to Rob’s red truck (identifiable because of its hangliding support on the roof). The trail starts with a short walk up to ridge where you look down, down, down at Walker Lake. Bits and pieces of it’s teal waters, golden and brown meadows and green and gold trees were revealed as we goggled at its beauty. As warned by Jim and Gayle Cummings, the hike down was slippy-slidey. The hiking poles helped a lot. We photographed as we descended, trying to find unimpeded views through the trees.

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When we hit bottom, an easy, flat trail led us east. We went merrily along, heading for the docks we saw at the end of the lake. A good lunch spot. Didn’t work out that way. After climbing up and down a humongous fallen cedar to reach our destination, three “No Trespassing” signs blocked our way. Darn! We weren’t going to get to walk around the lake. After re-traversing the cedar, we found a nice log right by the water and ate lunch. We were seeing several types of birds on the lake. A lot of coots (they’re everywhere!) and what might be a Merganser, scudding back and forth on the water in what I thought was mating chasing.

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We walked back around to the other side of the lake and crossed a creek that was swarming with migrating fish that Dave figured were trout. They look as tired as we were getting. Finally, we headed back to the foot of the trail and trudged the mile back up – about 850 feet. Made it up with hearts pounding, a great cardio workout. Celebrated our return with cold coffee and almost the last of my chocolate chip cookies.

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We hit one more location before returning to camp: Lee Vining Canyon. For many years now the water that L.A. was taking has been restored and Lee Vining Creek is a lovely place to fish, photograph, cool your feet and camp. Except of course, the 3 or 4 campgrounds are all closed because of the government shutdown. At least you can park by the locked gate and walk to the creek. We saw one guy with his little girl, setting up to fish. All in all, a nice day.

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After a very quiet night, we awoke and did our normal routine: coffee, reading, writing  (no arithmetic), shower, breakfast. We loaded up the Rav and headed out into a cloudless day around 9:30 or so. Our initial destination was the wonderful area right off Highway 395 that had a pretty little creek, aspens and a run-down little cabin. The dirt track that took off from 395 was not marked and we had spotted several possibilities on Wednesday. We pulled over into each pullout, tried one track that took us to Virginia Creek but wasn’t the right place. We finally took a track that I didn’t think was right, but was. We established the GPS position for our new Garmin and hopefully will find it more easily next time. The aspen were still mostly green and the light wasn’t optimal, so we didn’t photograph there, just noted it for the future.

Next destination: Virginia Lakes. Well-marked and easy to find, we got up there around lunchtime. We re-established that are no aspen stands around the lake, just a lot of fishermen.

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After lunch, we departed to find Dunderberg Meadow Road. It’s another dirt road that eventually connects to Green Creek Road. It was wonderful, with small and large stands of aspen all along the 8 miles of road. As we descended, we saw a turnoff that the Garmin didn’t even recognize as an unpaved road. We took it for a mile or so because it headed closer to spectacular stands of aspen. We had our afternoon coffee beside a stand of multi-colored aspen. (Love that coppery color some of them get.) We decided to return the way we had come and were treated to backlit aspen for another 5 miles or so. We got home a little earlier than yesterday and enjoyed the last hour of sunlight in camp.

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Our destination Friday was Lundy Lake another canyon running up into the Sierra Nevada. As the creek runs down the valley, it creates marshy areas with golden grasses, with aspens and cottonwoods nearby.

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As with the other canyons we’ve visited, Lundy had a trail ascending into the mountains. We walked an idyllic path until the switchbacks began, enjoying the beautiful afternoon.

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After returning to camp and cleaning up a little, we went out for a night on the town. That meant driving a mile to the nearest gas station and getting in line to order dinner at Whoa Nellie Deli. The specials included a T-bone steak or Fried chicken dinner. Fancy? No. But reasonably priced and good? Yes. And a bottle of wine at the table? Yes. And very good chocolate cake to bring home and eat later with ice-cold milk? Yes!

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The beginning of our trip has been inauspicious, but not terrible. On Monday, we finished packing the motorhome and went to hook up the Rav, but got an error message. Dave thought there was a problem with the pigtail that electronically hooks up the motorhome with the Rav4. He seemed to get a fix on the issue, so we revved up, crossed the new Bay Bridge east span and headed east on a nice cloudy day. We stopped at Tracy and saved $1.40 per gallon on 25 gallons of gas – thank you Safeway. We continued on to Oakdale and stopped to get propane and eat lunch. When we went to take off, the lube indicator in the motorhome was flashing red. Not good. If the lube isn’t working, the drive shaft in the Rav4 isn’t getting lubricated. We apparently can go around 100 miles without lube action but after that…. We got ourselves up to the Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite around 5:30, squeezed in between two trees and settled in for the night. Chicken fajitas and a bottle of Chardonnay later, we felt pretty good.

October 1, the next morning, we decided to go for a little walk and of course couldn’t find the trailhead. We walked around and found a park person putting lots of toilet paper in the bathroom. Turns out that Congress managed to shut down the federal government, first time since 1996. So among everything else, Yosemite was shutting down. Everyone out of the campground. We spoke for a while with a woman from Australia, who was amazed that our Congress could be so damned stupid. She had heard that the U.S. was still first among nations. We put her straight about that. She was bitterly disappointed to learn how our nation operated these days. She was also disappointed to find out how much California state campgrounds cost per night. I was a little depressed by how crummy our national government is, but it was offset by how beautiful the country is around here.

After our walk, we drove through the upper part of Yosemite and over to Lee Vining. We wanted to find the free, dispersed camping that our friends, Jim and Gayle, had used. The ranger station where we could have asked for help was closed because the federal government was closed. We had some GPS coordinates and a picture of what Mono Lake looked like from their campsite. We tried to find the GPS coordinates and failed. We went down several dirt roads and found no likely campsites. We finally found some likely looking sites that were nowhere near the GPS coordinates. Good enough. We settled in with Direct TV access, great sunlight for our solar panels, a spectacular 360-degree view of the Sierras and Mono Lake and a nice breeze. We brightened up the late afternoon with Cuba Libres and potato chips.

After dinner, there was a great sunset. Later it got dark and the stars were fantastic. Dave went outside and took some great shots. I went outside and took some shots. But it was just as much fun to look the stars as photograph them.

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We had a good day on Wednesday. After a relaxed morning, we loaded up the Rav and headed north to look for fall color. We started out by going to Twin Lakes and reconfirmed that the aspens weren’t all that entrancing. Then we headed north on Buckeye Road and reconfirmed that there was one pretty little stream, but otherwise wasn’t all that exciting. Another discouraging thing I found was that all the Forest Service campgrounds (and bathrooms) were closed and locked because the National Government is shut down. Thank you, Tea Party Congress members. I’m back to furtively seeking heavy cover in which to urinate because of you.

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Next we tried Green Creek Road, one we hadn’t traversed before. Wow, did that pay off! After about 5 miles of rising on a rocky dirt road, a stream runs through it and there are lots of marshy grasses and aspens. We stopped several times before we hit the end of the road at the Green Creek Trailhead. It was about 2 pm, so we decided to hike along the trail for a while. We had no idea how long it was because all the trail info was gone because of the government shutdown. We hiked through a beautiful area (8,000 feet in altitude) with lots of aspen, evergreens and Green Creek running through it. We turned around when we hit switchbacks, about a mile down the trail. We may hike this again when we’re better prepared for a hike.

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We stopped at few streamside areas on the way back down the road and photographed water images. Never get tired of that!

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After a while there, we were tired and headed home to download our many images and post the blogs.

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