Sunday, September 19, 2021

Eastern Sierra: August 2021

 As expected, fire season had filled the mountains with dense smoke.  But after much reading of meteorological tea leaves, we took a risk:  since the monsoonal flow was predicted to trend from the southeast for a few days, the smoke might be pushed out of the Eastern Sierra temporarily.  

Would we be able to see the Perseid Meteor shower, or would there be too much smoke?  Would it be too smoky for hiking?  We packed up and headed out, spending the first night in Bishop at Highlander RV park:  not beautiful, but convenient.

August 11:  We found a shady boondocking site.  Felice had obtained a three-day pass to Yosemite (reservations required), so we left the trailer and headed up to the Tuolumne Meadows area.  It was hot and a little smoky -- so instead of a major hike, we soaked in the river.

We had brought our water shoes, which protect our feet from the rocks in the streambed:

Some of us enjoyed the cold water:

Some didn't:

That night, we were able to see some meteors, but many fewer than in a clear year.  We've had smoke-dimmed Perseid meteor showers for several years running -- will we ever have clear summer air again?

August 11:  Another hot and smoky day, so we headed back to the Tuolumne River, hiking upstream on the Lyell Fork of the river.  We were literally hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, if only for a few leisurely hours.  The little blue triangle is the PCT emblem:

We found a cool shady place for lunch:

After scouting along the river bank for a good swimming hole, we decided that the best place we had seen was the one from the day before:

August 13:  The promised monsoonal clouds finally arrived overnight, and yes, the air was much clearer and cooler.  We took the Miner's Creek trail, which passes through the Bennettville ghost town:

We made it all the way up to Spuller Lake.  There were a few sprinkles, as you can see from the surface of the lake:

On the way back down, we stopped off at a cascade -- there were still a few wildflowers left over from the early-summer display:

August 14:  The thick smoke had returned, so we packed up and headed south to see if the air in the Bishop Creek area was any better.  The Air Quality Index map looked promising, so we unhitched the trailer and drove up to South Lake. 

The lake was almost empty -- we had never seen the bottom of the lake at the dam site.  Not pretty.  Note the huge glacially-sculpted "whalebacks," which are usually hidden by the water:

The air was fairly clear during the steep climb up to Long Lake at 11,000 feet.  In this picture, notice the dark clouds off to the left:

The rain soon arrived -- very refreshing!  

The rain had completely cleared the air, at least for a little while -- the sun streamed out from behind the clouds:

That night, we stayed again in Bishop and went home the next day.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Northern California Coastal Redwoods: May 2021

Given the drought, we suspected that it was going to be a hot and smoky summer.  (Unfortunately, we were right.). So we headed for the redwoods to soak up the cool moist forest greenery.  Because the campgrounds were closed due to the pandemic, and there was no boondocking available, we stayed at Kamp Klamath, just north of Prairie Creek.

May 24:  We started our ride on the Newton Drury Parkway at the Prairie Creek State Park headquarters.  We had just missed rhododendron season, but there were still a few blossoms.  Note the albino spider just below the center:

The ride was very pleasant -- gently uphill heading north, gliding downhill on the way back, rolling through the ancient groves, stopping often:

May 25:  We hiked slowly along Brown Creek, with its lush fern understory:

It had just rained, and the trilliums were enjoying the moisture:

In the afternoon, we walked up Cal Barrel Road, to see whether it was suitable for bikes.  Parts of it were pretty steep, but there were plenty of old trees:

May 26:  We took the James Irvine trail through a dense old-growth forest from the park headquarters to Fern Canyon.  We chose to savor the lovely scenery, hiking slowly and stopping often, so we didn't get all the way to Fern Canyon this time.  The trail contours along the hills, which provides a good view down into the canyons:

Many of the sword ferns were unfurling:

We had never seen this flower before -- a ranger told us it was "false solomon's seal:"

The individual blossoms were very intricate:

May 27:  It was a rainy day, which (to us) is a rare treat.  We hiked the Prairie Creek trail in our ponchos:  

Our backpacks enjoyed a brief rest, while we enjoyed our peanut butter sandwiches on a moist bench overlooking the gurgling creek:

This banana slug (not quite ripe) was enjoying the rain, too:

May 28:  We intended to take our mountain bikes on the Coastal Trail, starting at Fern Canyon -- but we were stopped by deep mud.  The trail was buried by a mudslide:

We walked up Fern Canyon to celebrate our 43rd anniversary, with a backdrop of finger ferns. Unfortunately, we got our fingers reversed, so it looks like our 34th:

We tried once more and got it right:

We finished the afternoon with a ride on the Lost Man Creek trail:

May 29:  We headed south to Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  As was the case at Prairie Creek, we stayed at an RV park (Ancient Redwoods).  The Rainier cherries, planted between each campsite, were beautiful and tasty but a bit tart:

We spent the afternoon at the Rockefeller Grove:

May 30:  We took the Bull Creek Flats trail:

May 31:  We rode our bikes along Avenue of the Giants, from Mattole Road to Myers Flat and back:

June 1:  We biked along Mattole Road.  Here's a short video:

And here's a short video of the video: