(Remember that you can click on the photos to see a slideshow, and then hit "escape" to get back to the text. Also, a note on the photo credits: as always, both Felice and I took these shots, and many of my shots resulted from her suggestions. I do the photo editing using Lightroom; my goal is to reproduce just what we saw, as faithfully as possible.)
Tuesday, August 29: We kept heading south out of Oregon, looking for clear air. The highlight of the day was soft-serve ice cream in Susanville at the old-fashioned Frosty Mill – garnished with huckleberries from Mt. Rainier. The smoke diminished as we approached Reno, so we decided to stay at Gold Ranch, an RV park between Reno and Tahoe.
Wednesday, August 30: We rode our bikes on the Truckee River Trail, starting at Squaw Valley and heading toward the lake:
We joined up with the West Shore Trail in Tahoe City and rode northwest toward Lake Forest:
On our way back, just before we got to the truck, we did some swimming (actually sitting) in the Truckee River:
Thursday, August 31: Our plan was to head south out of Reno on 395 toward the Eastern Sierra, north of Lee Vining. But surprise! As we headed out of Reno, there was a big electronic sign: "395 Closed at State Line.” We fired up the iPhone – sure enough, there was a big forest fire straddling the highway. We called the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, and the ranger told us that the whole area was filled to the brim with thick smoke from fires on all sides. His conclusion was "don't come here."
Time for a new plan – one more in a series of on-the-fly improvisations! We took a sharp right turn up Highway 88 toward the Desolation Wilderness, west of Echo Summit. We knew the area fairly well from an earlier trip, so we were pretty sure we could find boondocking, even though it was the dreaded Labor Day weekend. This was the miserable heat wave when the temperature in San Francisco hit 106°, higher than the temperature in Phoenix.
We got ourselves set up in a reasonably shady and cool area of the forest, about 7000 feet up above the canyon of the American River, not too far from Wright’s Lake. After setting up, we went for a dip in a nearby creek. Our faithful Dodger towel came with us to the swimming hole, as it did so often on this hot trip:
The campsite was about a hundred yards off the forest road, down a dead-end spur road. This was a very quiet and peaceful place to boondock:
Friday, September 1: We took the ferry across Echo Lake to hike to Lake Aloha. The last time we took this hike, much of the trail was covered in snow. This time there was no snow, but the trail surface itself was very bad – rocks the size and shape of baseballs on top of big round boulders. No ankles were harmed, but it was not great fun. We probably won't take this hike again. That’s Tamarack Lake behind us in the haze:
At Lake Aloha, we were above the low-level haze, but there is a tendril of high-altitude smoke creeping in on the left side of the photo:
That afternoon, we stopped in at the nearby Berkeley Echo Lake camp, the temporary home of the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. BTC was a huge part of Felice's childhood; it burned down a few years ago. We spoke to a member of the Friends of Tuolumne Camp about the plans to rehab BTC. The Echo Lake camp has the same nostalgic green Adirondack chairs as BTC had -- but instead of overlooking a river, the chairs overlook suburban South Lake Tahoe:
That night, the moon illuminated the campsite:
Saturday, September 2: Happy 86th, Sam!! This was another really hot day, so we spent most of it wandering happily along Pyramid Creek below Horsetail Falls, looking for swimming holes. We stopped first at the spectacular lower cascade:
We climbed toward the falls and stopped for lunch in a cool, shady spot near the stream -- this was an eighth of a second exposure, hand-held -- yay for image stabilization!
After some strenuous but non-technical mild boulder-scrambling, we made it all the way to the base of the falls. There’s no established trail, so it is a little tricky:
On the way back down, we stopped off to swim – the water was not nearly as cold as we thought it would be. Shady, cool, secluded, beautifully clear water. Fun!
OK, just one more shot of the cascade in the late afternoon – Felice is standing on a rock at the top center:
Sunday, September 3: We hiked to Grouse Lake. It was a hot day, and the hike was steep. Just as we got to the lake, a thunderstorm arrived (see the upper right corner of this photo). Very pretty lake, but we had to leave:
Frankly, the Twin Lakes hike in this area is a better bet. Next time, we will try to find the (perhaps mythical) Enchanted Pools downstream from Twin Lakes. Late that afternoon, we again cooled off in our private swimming hole near the trailer.
Next: Part IV – The Eastern Sierra