Archive for October, 2017

October 9   Lee Vining Canyon and Yosemite

Another down day after a very cold night. It got down to 26 outside but we only were at 41 inside at 7:30 a.m. It took the heater a very long time to get up to 68 degrees. Dave helped heat up the kitchen area by turning on the oven and opening its door. After a very late breakfast, we drove off to check out Lee Vining Canyon, with Lee Vining Creek and lots of aspens. I found it totally uninspiring. Sometimes, nothing works.

We continued up CA-120 Tioga Pass, one of the most impressive roads I’ve ever seen. It goes UP! Then you coast along a few miles at the top and reach the Yosemite entrance. It’s all pretty wonderful up there, with meadows, rivers and forest. However, when we got out of the forest, a fairly heavy haze lay over the valley, something we’ve never seen before. All the facilities at Tuolumne Meadows have closed for the season, but there were loads of people at several of the pulloffs.

We went to one of our favorite places at the west side of Tuolumne and stopped for coffee and cookies. Though it was hazy, it is still a wonderful, huge space to ponder. A young Asian couple pulled in next to us. The girl got out with her iphone on a selfie stick and took a few pictures of herself. Then the guy got out and was soon filming them looking out at the meadows. Then he took some pictures of her standing in front of the meadow. Then it looked like they were going to take a little walk, but no. They walked about 15 feet, looked down at something, came back to their car and drove off. I don’t think either one of them looked at the scenery with their actual eyes for more than a minute. After posting their images to Facebook or Instagram, do they ever look at their pictures again?

We drove back and had another chilly night.

October 10         Walker Lake

We’ve been getting off to some later starts because it’s so cold in the morning. We arrived at the Walker Lake Trailhead around 10 a.m. We knew what we were in for: a 500-foot descent to the lake and a 500-foot ascent return.

It was another cloudless, beautiful day. It has been so cloudless in Eastern California, I’ve been missing the lenticular clouds that usually create spectacular sunsets. Walker Lake is a nice-sized lake that usually has good vari-colored foliage in October. As you go down the trail, you have little breaks among the trees as you look down at the green lake. One good aspect of the hike is that there is no road on other side of the lake, so no vehicles. And we yet to see a boat on the lake. Aside from a generator hum created by the lodge at one end of the lake, it is very quiet here.

Once we got down to lake level, we followed a haphazard trail along the lake edge. The lake level was higher than when we were last here and it changed some of the reflection opportunities. I made reflection images anyway.

I don’t believe there is a trail all the way around the lake and if there was, it would have several marshy areas. We walked to one end of the lake, came back and walked to the creek at the other end of the lake. As in a 2013 trip, we saw a large flotilla of coots on the lake. We also saw one duck following the coots around. Did that make it an ugly cootling?

As before, there were Kamloops Rainbow Trout migrating up the small Walker Creek. (Do they import trout from Canada?)

We marched back up the trail in record time and hastened home. We took the LD to Lee Vining, filled the propane tank and dumped. Then it was back to camp, shower and go to the Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner. We found out that their wonderful 5-layer chocolate cake comes from Pennsylvania. Do the Amish make it? Our next trip may involve Pennsylvania.

October 11   June Lake Loop

We took it easy on our last full day of camping. A car trip around June Lake Loop was our final local destination. The lakes in the loop were much fuller than the last time we saw them. The aspens ranged from green to gone. The wind was not cold but it was pretty strong. I love it when the aspens shake. We snuck into a closed campground to see if it still had birdhouses strewn throughout the trees. The birdhouses weren’t there but a small herd of deer were. Why do they close a campground when it’s at its prettiest?

We drove, parked, meandered and drove some more. There was a fair amount of traffic but nothing like last weekend. It was fun, but neither of us was particularly inspired. That leads to silliness and we always have time for being silly.

We paid a final visit to Test Station Road, overlooking Mono Lake. The clouds had proliferated and the light was soft and changeable.

We also checked out Moraine Campground, a little higher up Lee Vining Canyon, but the creek and the trees weren’t exciting. So that was it. We repaired to our RV to begin cleaning it up.

October 12-13     Going Home

We were in no rush on Thursday. We had decided to stay at Moccasin Campground by Don Pedro Reservoir. We got to cross the upper part of Yosemite; often CA-120 isn’t open this late in the year but it was a beautiful day, except for all the smoke. Once in Yosemite, we stopped by the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River to see if there was ice. As suspected, there was.

We continued on to Olmstead Point. The view of Half Dome was impaired by smoke.

We continued out of Yosemite and down Priest Grade to Don Pedro Reservoir. We had never stayed at Moccasin Point before and enjoyed it immensely. There were about 3 other people camping nowhere near us. It was quiet and warm. We pulled out the chairs, chips and Limoncello that we had been carrying since Jeff and Betty Denno so kindly gave it to us. (Thanks again!)

Friday the 13th worked out well for us. We drove 130 miles to San Francisco and didn’t experience even a slowdown until we got on the Bay Bridge. However, the smoke was terrible. We could barely see San Francisco from Oakland. A sad ending to a great trip.


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October 6     Convict Lake

We figured that we would go to Convict Lake on Friday, rather than the weekend. There’s only one trail around the lake and many people walk because it is short and flat. Even on a Friday, there were many people. This is really prime leaf-peeping time in the East Sierra and it’s also Columbus Day weekend. It’s also a great fishing lake and there were people strewn along the shoreline as well as in a variety of boats.

It was warm and pleasant with a slight breeze that interfered with Convict Lake’s reflective ability. But it’s still one of my favorite places for autumn because of the reflections and the way the trees grow under the trail and over the water. Unlike our last visit, the aspens were ablaze.

Convict River that flows from the mountains was going strong, involving some fording. And some close investigation.

There were loads of people all along the trail. A few with kids who should have been in school. Lots of dogs. Lots of older folks. Lots! But it’s only to be expected this time of year. We moved a little off the trail to eat lunch and eventually meandered our way back.

October 7 Dunderberg Meadow Road

We decided to drive north past Conway Summit to see what was happening to the trees up there. As before, we stopped a few places on the Virginia Lakes Road to photograph, but when we got to Virginia Lakes, not interested. It’s not a good fall color place. So a few miles down from them, we turned onto Dunderberg Meadow Road. We began to go through aspen groves, but the light wasn’t optimal. We kept stopping and fooling around photographically, as we do when nothing strikes us strongly. We forgot that the last 10 miles of the dirt road is boring; I’ll have to make a note of that.

Once back on CA-395, we used Garmin to look for the turnoff to our special little place. After about a mile on a very rough dirt road, we reached the creek in an aspen grove. This late in the afternoon, there was no ice on the creek, so I walked up to the little, long-abandoned cabin nearby. It had not faired well since last I visited. A tree had fallen and its top had scraped stuff off the side of the building. It also looked like several parties had been had inside, to its detriment.

I found some thin, interestingly-patterned paper that looked like it might be scraps from inside of the cabin. But Dave looked in a different direction and found the source – a defunct beehive. Fascinating.

October 8     McGee Canyon Trail

We rose around 7 a.m. and got ourselves on the road by 8 or so. We were going to McGee Canyon, another favorite location. The canyon with McGee Creek flowing through it, makes a 90-degree turn and provides a whole different view. There are aspens galore. There also were people galore. Some were returning from an overnight camping experience. Some were jogging. Some were walking their dogs (Springers, Setters, Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers and of course, Retrievers). Some were climbing trees ungracefully. Lots of people.

We entertained ourselves among the creekside cottonwoods for quite a while. When you are standing deep in a grove, everything turns golden. It was hard to move forward; everything was spectacular. Also, when the trail started to rise, that certainly slowed me down. I had forgotten a 1,200’ rise. We always have to earn our wonderful views.

After crossing a couple of streams, I trudged up to a shady place where we had lunch. I traded half my dry chicken breast sandwich with Dave’s salami. The salami was better. Going down the trail was easier. We progressed at a pretty good pace and eventually made it back to the car. Another 5.2-mile trail under the belt. We gathered the coffee and cookies, found a fairly shady picnic bench, and lolled for a while.

We stopped at the boy scout camp down the road, but it didn’t capture my attention very long. The wrong time of day, I guess. But there was one iconic shot – the campfire circle.

We drove 35 miles back to camp and had a melange dinner – that is, leftovers. They go down well with a bottle of red.





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October 1-2     Bishop and Rock Creek Road

On Sunday, we picked up and moved to Bishop. We decided to spend a night at the Highlands RV Park in order to do laundry and other chores. Then we would check out our usual BLM place north of town. The drive north was all of 66 miles. So we got in early and watched the action around us. It was like the whole RV park was a small town. They hung around outside all day long, blabbing away. Too much community for me. But they did have a nice laundromat.

The next day we moved on up to Casa Diablo Road, north of town. Our usual place had someone in it so we checked further up the road. We got a space on top of the bluff that gave us great views of the mountains to the east and west. We set up camp and took a ride to check out Rock Creek Road. It takes off from Tom’s Place. We are finally back in aspens.

Afterwards, we went along Lower Rock Creek, but there was nothing special there. We drove on some small roads paralleling CA-395 and saw some nice backlit cattle. Photographically, we’re so versatile.

October 3   Treasure Lakes Hike

I was excited about doing the Treasure Lakes hike. It was 6 miles and only a 900-foot gain. That was easy compared with some of the hikes we’ve been doing on this trip. The trail begins at South Lake, a deep blue, dammed lake about 20 miles directly east of Bishop. The South Fork Bishop Creek drains out of it. From the look of it, most of the water goes into a pipeline that runs along much of the road. Dave guessed the water mostly goes to L.A.

When we forked off to South Lake Road, there was one little grove of golden aspen visible. But once we reached 8,000 feet, there were aspen everywhere. They were in all states: green, gold, orange and coppery-brown. We had been here too late (October 15) in 2013 to catch the aspens in full color, so this was a treat. But we zoomed up the road to begin our hike. The trail to the Treasure Lakes begins by ascending a narrow, steep trail that overlooks South Lake. It has aspen on both sides, highlighted by the sun.

Because we were heading up from 9,000 to 10,000 feet, I was soon out of breath and pretty much stayed that way the entire hike. The scenery varied a great deal. We went through a pine-forested area that followed the creek for a while. We switchbacked through some of that, all the while getting glimpses both of South Lake down below and the huge, mountainous bowl we were heading into.

The trail guide had said the trailhead started at 9,800 feet and Treasure Lakes 1 and 2 were at 10,688 feet. What it didn’t take into account was the large up and downs in between. The downhills felt good going up but I knew they would be uphills going back.

We crossed a stream at one point and looked for the trail on a granite area. We finally found it against a huge stone wall and continued up. Eventually, we came to Treasure Lake 1. It was surrounded by high mountains with the remnants of old glaciers clinging to their steep sides. As we pulled out our cameras, a huge gust of cold wind nearly knocked me over. It was really blowing. I put on my heavy mittens and my knit cap although there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

We ate lunch in a protected niche and then went to find Treasure Lake 2. It didn’t take long.

We began our descent fairly quickly. It was just too cold to want to hang around up there. At the granite ledge where we had trouble finding the trail coming up, we totally lost it coming down. We were looking for the 2 big logs that crossed the creek but weren’t finding them. Luckily, I saw some people uphill from us, crossing the creek on the bridge and then they were looking for the trail. Cairns or rock outlined paths would have helped that situation.

As always, I was pretty tired after Mile 4. We still made some images and stopped to nibble some cashews. We stopped to photograph aspen leaves floating in a small pool and two men passed us by. One was carrying a canvas with him. They had been up in the mountains painting. The visible painting showed a swirly sky that really evoked the wild winds up there. I mentioned it to him and he replied “I paint what I feel more than what I see.”

We took our time through the aspen alley at the end of the trail and got back to the car around 4:30 p.m. It had been a long day and a good hike.

October 4   A golden drive

The next morning, I felt pretty lethargic. But we pulled it together and went back up the road to South Lake. We got there around 9:30, when the sun was shining behind the trees. Backlit, the aspen glow like gold coins. From the other direction, meh. There are lots of pullouts along South Lake Road and most of them had occupants. Some of them were fishing the creek but most were photographing. There was one van-ful of Japanese tourists enjoying themselves immensely.


What is amazing to me is the manner in which the leaves change color on each tree. The inside heart of each tree seems to be a deeper shade or different color than the outer leaves. Or is it just leaves in shadow? When I get close to such a tree, I can’t see a clear difference. Aspens are trees to ponder.

Eventually, we found a narrow dirt track that the Garmin declared was “Old Aspen Road”. It did indeed, wind through grove after grove of young aspen as well as by a creek.

I love the aspen leaves that turn brown. They have interesting coloring and contrast nicely with the gold.

Some of the trees have deep orange leaves.

And then there are people with other interests.

After we got home, Dave wanted to drive out to a Mono Lake overlook to catch the full moon rising. It was pretty much a bust. There were no clouds and the color in the sky was almost gone by the time the moon rose. (The long exposures portrayed a little color.) Then when the first glow appeared, so did a car, driving up the foreground. We’ll try again some other time.




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September 29    

It was a get up-get out morning. We were planning a long day at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (heretofore known as ABPF). It’s 13 miles to the turnoff to the park. Then it’s 36 miles to the Patriarch’s Grove. First, we wound ourselves to the Schulman Grove and our 4-mile-hike through the Methuselah Grove. On the way up, we stopped to watch a herd (12 or so) of deer cross the road. Then we kept going higher, though the morning views of the Sierra were not very good.

We reached the Methuselah Grove and began our hike. The lack of snow changed the trail immensely since the last time we hiked it. It was easy to navigate and was less contrasty, but not quite as dramatic.

As we walked along, the trail turned a corner and all of a sudden, we could hear voices coming from another trail that was above ours. Though they were a half-mile away, we could hear them clearly. It was a man and a woman and they never stopped talking. Eventually, they caught up to us at a lookout and continued to gab while looking at the scenery. We waited for them to go ahead of us but they looked ensconced, so we took off again. They soon followed, talking and talking. They weren’t being purposefully loud, but the area is so quiet, they really were distracting. Finally they passed us and the breeze and terrain blew their words away from us. For me, one of the highlights of being in remote places is the quiet. There is so little quiet in the world today. (This is written by someone who had to have a sign next to her phone at work that said “Stifle yourself!”)

A bristlecone pine is the drama queen of trees.

I had forgotten there was 1,100 foot-elevation gain on the trail. The last mile was a trudge. Luckily, the Rotary Club of Manhassat, New York(?) strewed comfortable wooden benches along the trail.

From the Schulman Grove, it was twelve miles to the Patriarch Grove. Easy-peasy? No! It was the roughest dirt road we have ever been on. Very, very rocky, so you were always driving from one side to another, trying to find the smoothest part. Our poor tires. It took us an hour to go 12 miles, but what a landscape. Outstanding! The landscape at 11,000 feet is so open, so bare. This definitely ain’t the Swiss Alps.

The trees are so far apart that you can easily separate one from the rest of the landscape. And the clouds are amazing here.

We started the long drive back. The clouds continued to be amazing.

We left the Patriarch Grove at 5 p.m. We got back to Bishop at 7 p.m., just in time to catch a fiery sunset end the day.

I was too tired to cook when we got home. We wanted to go to the famous Copper top BBQ but it was closed at 7 p.m. They barbecue outside there and I guess they sell out pretty fast when they finish. We ended up at the Country Kitchen and we had an excellent burger and fish and chips. I got the last glass of white wine they had – a pretty nice Pinot Grigio. Cheers!

September 30

We didn’t do much the next day. We did manage to go drive up Glacier Lodge Road. We had never been up it before and I wanted to see it. It had a few campgrounds not suitable for us. The Lodge was rustic, not the place to go for a drink and look at the mountains. And no aspen, but the foliage was in nice shades of fall.




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