Friday, May 22, 2015

Washoe Lake State Park, Nevada Via Lake Tahoe

 

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It was another early departure for us on Tuesday, hooked up and leaving Glory Hole Recreation Area before 9:30. Based on advice from a friend we decided to head east on 88 over 8,600’ Carson Pass and rain was predicted after 11. Just before we got to the pass it started raining lightly but we drove out of it. We were a little concerned about the road becoming icy since it was so cold. There are lots of forest service campgrounds along the way but not even a consideration in this kind of weather.

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It was a pretty drive and the road was not bad considering the elevation gain and loss.

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Since we’d never been before we decided to spend a night at a Passport America park in South Lake Tahoe, CA to check it out. It was only in the 40s and rain was in the forecast but we got to Tahoe Valley RV Resort before it began. I forgot to take photos but remembered the next morning as we were pulling out. Sites are squeezed in among the pines on the dirt. The only “resort” feature we took advantage of was the laundry, which was cheap and adequate, so we got that out of the way.

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We decided to go for a walk to see if we could find the lake, which looked to be fairly close, but it started raining and we realized we were actually at least a couple miles from the water so we turned back and got the car. Found a park to the east where it was not raining and a pleasant trail along the lake.

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This appears to be a really bike friendly area, with trails and bike lanes everywhere, although it is probably so crowded in the summer it wouldn’t be much fun.

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The next morning we took off for a short drive to Washoe Lake State Park near Carson City, Nevada. Paul and Nina (Wheeling It) recommended this park, and I called to see if we would have any trouble getting a site before the holiday and was assured it should not be a problem. Probably because there is not a drop of water in the lake right now, but water or not, as soon as we drove in we knew we were going to like it here. Huge sites, 360 views, and very few people. It reminds us of our favorite park, McDowell Mountain in Arizona, minus the saguaro cactus.

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The rain began shortly after we arrived but it cleared up a couple hours later so we managed to take a hike on the beach trail, through the lake, and back over the dunes.

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Jim standing in the middle of dry Washoe Lake.  

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Being a shallow lake (only 12’ when full), and depending on snowpack for its water, of which there was little this year, it is not uncommon for the lake to dry up. Apparently it’s happened several times since the 70s.

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Terry and LuAnn (Paint Your Landscape) arrived here yesterday, being driven out of Lee Vining by the weather, and just as they got here we had a phone call from our Lazy Daze friends Robin and Lydia from Ridgecrest, wondering where we were. They were on their way up 395 heading to Santa Rosa and thought we might be along their route. So they ended up stopping here for the night and we had a nice visit with them and their new kitten last evening. Never know who we’ll run into, even in what feels like the middle of nowhere.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Glory Hole Recreation Area, Angels Camp, CA

 

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We headed out of Yosemite by 9:30 on Thursday morning with the threat of rain and/or snow looming overhead. Our new mifi device was waiting for us at the post office in the Mother Lode town of Sonora, CA, nearly eighty miles away. The most exciting part of the drive along 120 was coming down the one hundred plus curves and hairpin turns of Priest Grade, with me in the lead in the car. I was very glad we didn’t hook up. We spent that night at Marble Quarry RV Park in Columbia, just a few miles from Sonora. It’s a Passport America park and our site was actually quite nice for an RV park and the $22.50 price. It began to rain shortly after we arrived and continued all night so I failed to take any photos. We definitely timed it right getting out of Yosemite when we did.

It was only in the mid forties but after the post office we walked in the cold rain through historic downtown Sonora, a cute place with mostly antique and specialty shops, but Jim did buy a new pair of hiking pants in the outfitter store. The RV park happened to be located just a few blocks from Columbia State Historical Park so I suggested we stop on the way back. Jim stayed in the car while I donned my rain gear and wandered around the streets of the preserved California Gold Rush-era town, which looked more like a ghost town on this dreary day.

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The next day we were in search of a quiet place to relax and spend the weekend, so we drove 18 miles to Glory Hole Recreation Area on New Melones Lake, where we found a great campsite overlooking what’s left of the lake at 25% capacity.

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Jim had long grown tired of too many days of being parked in the forest, but I didn’t realize how much it was affecting my mood, also, until we got back in the wide open grasslands. Wild turkeys wander by frequently, there is an osprey nest with babies just at the end of our loop, and miles of trails, so we’ve hung around a couple more days.

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This area used to be part of the lake.

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 Houseboat owners have been asked to get them out of the water before the lake turns to mud. Most have been moved to dry storage but there were still a few left.

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Yesterday we took a drive to check out nearby Angels Camp and San Andreas, two more Gold Rush towns along Highway 49. We spent a couple hours at the Calaveras County Museum in San Andreas, a nicely done historical museum if you care to learn more about this part of California’s prosperous gold days.

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Angels Camp’s claim to fame is that Mark Twain based his first famous short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, on a story he heard at Angels Hotel in 1865. They now have an annual frog jumping contest in May, which happened to be taking place over the weekend, but we didn’t attend. They like their frogs here.

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Tomorrow we move north in search of a place to hide out for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Yosemite: Day 3

Wednesday, May 13

For our last day in the park we decided to hike the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls. Because we had to change sites that morning we got off to a late start. The site wasn’t vacated until almost 11:30 but we had our backpacks ready to go so as soon as we moved over and got settled in we made our way to the trail. The beauty of staying in Yosemite Valley is that you can walk to most of the trailheads, since parking near them is at a real premium. Of course this can also add another mile or two to the hike.

 The paved trail starts off easy enough along this peaceful part of the Merced River.

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It then begins a very steep climb where the river becomes less friendly and Vernal Fall comes into view.

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I read that this is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite and unfortunately that seemed to be the case. It is also the most deadly trail in the park due to people slipping off rocks and falling into the river where they drown. Part of the reason it’s so heavily used is that this is also the first several miles of one of the trails to Half Dome.

The crowds thinned out quite a bit as the trail makes an even steeper climb up over 600 granite stairs to the top of Vernal Fall.

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We soon understood why it was named the Mist Trail.

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That is me in the green rain jacket slowly working my way up.

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The steps were very wet along here so it was nice to have the railing.

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This is the very steep last section of steps. Our knees were already bothering us on the up so we knew coming down would be painful but we persevered.

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As did a lot of other people.

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From here we had to decide if we would continue on to Nevada Fall. We had already climbed a thousand feet, and the trail climbed another thousand over the next 1.3 miles. After resting a bit we decided to push on and see how we felt.

Having seen no wildlife Jim enjoyed trying to catch this guy eating flowers.

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We could see a foot bridge over the river and decided to at least go that much farther.

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This part of the trail was a gentle climb and very scenic so we were happy we kept going.

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A short distance past the bridge we saw a group of people stopped looking down into a meadow. They said there were three bears but all we saw was a quick glimpse of the backside of one of them running off into the woods so we continued on. Each time we got a look at Nevada Fall we stopped and debated on whether to continue. We knew the last uphill section was going to be steep, and I kept thinking we should have hung around to try and get a look at the bears.

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Having already come nearly three and a half miles we finally decided to turn around. No top of Nevada Fall for us this time.

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Just before we reached the bear sighting area some hikers coming up told us about a mother bear and her two cubs just down the trail. Apparently after we left they came back out into the meadow. It’s hard to see but here is a cub on the left and the mother to the right of the tree in the center.

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We walked down the slope a short distance to get a better look, and luckily we have a good zoom on the Pansonic FZ200 camera. In all of our years and miles of hiking this was our first bear sighting. She is both tagged and collared, which the park does to monitor the behavior of some of them. Get a look at those claws!

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The cubs were both busy eating berries.

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Then the lighter colored one decided to pay mom a visit and lick her mouth. This went on for a very long time until she finally got tired of it and walked away.

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They were still hanging around when we finally left. This was definitely the highlight of our visit to Yosemite.

The trek back down the stairs was not easy, and four days later our knees are still bothering us but it was so worth it. Damn this getting old!

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We were tired and hungry after our five hours on the trail, so I made a quick batch of guacamole to accompany some chips and salsa, and we shared our last 22 ounce bottle of San Diego beer, Alesmith’s Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. Doesn’t get much better than that!