Friday, November 21, 2014

Mid November Sierra Hikes

Mobil 6 below Mt. Tom on BLM land

Rob, a friend who I haven't seen in ten years or so, invited his hiking buddies to some adventures in the east side Sierra. He has been staying the high desert north of Bishop for about a month, getting ready to work the winter season in Mammoth. Always a strong mountain guy, I knew he would be in top shape after a month of hiking.

Every year as the weather starts to turn, I wonder if this might be the year that snow hiking gets too hard for me. At 70, can't really come back from an injury very quickly and know that if something happens when solo, things could go wrong in a hurry. Still, I love the adventure and crave the uncertainty that is kind of missing in day to day life. So, load up the 96 Dodge and head for the high desert north of Bishop. Kind of did things at the last moment and didn't really know where Rob was camped, but figured I could find him. The computer screwed up at the last morning before leaving, so didn't have his phone number.

Looking up Rock Creek Canyon, Morgan Pass to the left


The first night at the County Pleasant Valley camp was uneventful. Decided to head up Rock Creek Canyon and see how far I could get. Everyone was saying there wasn't much snow and wanted to see how bad my lack of  high altitude acclimatization would affect my ability to move effectively. The road was in pretty poor shape and gets down to a single lane at the Mosquito Flats trail head. I was the first person in the lot and was surprised to see pretty much continuous snow at 10,100 feet, where the trail starts.  Forgot to put snacks in pack, but too lazy to open bear box to get same. Starting to see effects of altitude in retrospect. Fortunately, had Gatorade knockoff to make hike and two locals beat me to the trail and provided foot prints to follow.

Getting close to Morgan Pass

The locals went to Gem Lake and I was on my own on the way back from Morgan. Moving a bit more carefully, knowing that I was probably the only person in this place for about 4 miles and who knows how many days. The sun was still out and felt pretty confident about how I was doing.

Air bubble under the ice, close to trail head on return

Morgan Pass stats
Morgan Pass route


Kathy helped me get in touch with Rob and he came to my campsite. He is looking good and was only 7 sites down from me. His wife and he showed me their place and we tried to reconnect after 10 years. He is a solid guy, quick to laugh and fun to be around. Almost my polar opposite. His wife Liz has been a Pilates instructor and looks very fit. I am beginning to wonder if there is some way that an excuse could be found to avoid going on a big hike with them tomorrow!

So here it is. The morning of our hike. I make my self busy by loading the day pack and make sure there is a peanut butter sandwich in my future. Don't have my gaiters, but have dried out the smart wool socks and shoes pretty well, so good to go. Rob takes a shortcut to South Lake, which avoids the Bishop traffic. The road is good to South Lake, with just a few cars at the trail head. Liz and Rob have bigger day packs and seem better prepared. My guess is that they are also in better shape for this adventure.

South Lake at the start, drought year

We are off and hiking. Their pace is just a little faster than mine at the start, but soon enough Liz starts putting some distance between us. Still keeping her in sight, so no biggie. I am a little more careful today to put my shoes precisely into the snow to avoid loading the socks with snow. Am feeling good, just have to accept my own pace rather than trying to match theirs. The mountain scenery is nothing short of majestic.

Ice beach just below the pass


Rob is a good hiking companion, checking every once in a while to see if I am doing OK. The month that they have spent hiking here is evident. As we get closer to the pass, am concerned about the switchbacks, just under the pass. They are very narrow, with big exposure. Not sure how they will be with a snow load. Once we get to them, am tempted to bail. But I keep going because I want to do this pass and have already got quite a bit into it. Just short of the top I take the time to eat, drink and gear up with my parka, full mittens and wool cap. The view from the top is fantastic but it is windy.

Sign on top of pass


Rob and Liz, looking toward Le Conte canyon

Rob is a better photographer

Because I was the caboose on this hike up to the pass, decided to be the first back to the car. Many times in the past have engaged in this unrepentant competitive exercise. When in snow covered terrain, this means dog trotting and fast walking, but not so fast as to allow a mistake. Going downhill one does not have to be in good shape, just compulsively going, going and going. Got back to the car with 20 minutes to spare, but then had to strip my wet clothes and fast walk around the parking lot waiting for my friends. As it turns out, they go downhill at a slow rate because of overuse issues. I was quite chilled by the time they arrived. Karma is a bitch.

Bishop Pass stats, mileage actually over 12, GPS straight line computes

Bishop Pass route

But the adventure is not over yet! Had some good Mexican chili verde and headed back to Rob and Liz's 5th wheel for a nice glass of wine. Made a tentative date to do Villager in the Anza desert in a few weeks. Good people! The wind seemed to be picking up as I made my way back to the truck. Got into the shell and geared up a bit. The wind first came in pulses down from Sherman Pass. The forty or so tent campers began to scurry around trying to protect their possessions and get into shelter. It looked like some kind of Mad Max knockoff, with lights illuminating dust clouds and things flying through the air. My camp chair was soon up there somewhere. Was in the sack by 6, but then the wind really picked up. My 7,000 lb Dodge started creaking and shuttering. Finally, at 10:30 gave up on trying to sleep. Fired up the diesel and retreated to Coso Junction rest area, where I got some sleep. What a  great way to spend four days in mid November.

























Friday, October 31, 2014

Sedona "the Beta"



Sedona "the Beta"

Just coming into town on 179

                                   
                   

We loved the Dry Creek area, uncrowded beauty

We have gone to Sedona 4 times and only on the last trip a few weeks ago did I finally get information on trails and trail head locations.  The key was to have a good topo map with the trails and major access roads clearly marked.  First, when you go on  179 towards Sedona, do stop at the forest service information building on the right side of the road. It has the 12 page bulletin that gives the overview of what is offered in Sedona. Get the overview!





Most of the destinations in Sedona only need a rental car or one with high clearance! You will just be forced to drive a little slower and with more attention. The map which makes everything work is titled "Sedona Core Trails". It is a topo map with all major access roads and mountain bike/hiking trails overlaid. It can be purchased at "Bikes and Beyond" on 89.  Do not cheap out on this key to the kingdom. Most of the locals driving in Jeeps with the tourists know about these maps and will be happy if you pay for something that is easy to master on your own.





Much of the trail system in Sedona is made for the high end mountain biker! Sure the trails are well marked, but this is a rocky place. Be sure to be aware of the difficulty rating, especially if it is hot. Certainly do Tempelton, but come back on Easy Breezy, unless you want to do much of the return on city streets. Our favorite ride was the Dry Lake area. It is much less crowded and has spectacular views. It is fairly open and probably not the best choice if it is hot. I used my wrist gps to get tracks of our bike rides and hikes. All bike routes are hiker friendly. It is easier and more effective to use a vehicle to get to the trail heads. Sedona is fairly close to Phoenix and gets a huge tourist car count. Not my favorite place to road bike.

Templeton Ride


Dry Creek Area

Adobe Jack area

Just as good as the mountain bike rides are the hikes! Bell Rock area is the easiest for hiking or biking. Most routes are very well marked and fun. One that is only a quarter mile up from the Rancho Sedona RV park is the Marg's Draw trail. It has beautiful views and is deserted in comparison to the Bell Rock area.

Marg's Draw hiking only trail

Kathy at the top of Boynton Canyon (by a big resort)

Marg's Draw gps track

 If RV'ing , stay at the Rancho Sedona RV, up Schnebly Hill , just before meeting 89. It is a low key RV park that has just enough rules to make it a quiet, well run place. It is also close to the "Javalina" restaurant and other good eateries (Walking distance). No tents, but Australians were using rented minivans for shelter.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/rancho-sedona-rv-park-sedona-2


We went to the Palatki Cultural Site. You can make this with any vehicle if you go slow. They have two docents that cover the ruins to the right and the pictographs to the left. I am a Indian art fanatic and could not have had such a great experience without the information of the docents and volunteer rangers. Do not miss this treasure. The Indians lived here from 650 to 1300 and were called "AguaSin" by the locals (without water). The Indian art in Baja Sur is generally more colorful, perhaps because of it's more recent age.



Here are some of the pictographs:


johnhmcc44's Test Album album on Photobucket

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'm going to miss you Jon


I'm going to miss you Jon.  I'll look for you when I hear the halyards tinkle down at the boat dock. I'll look for you when I hear the wind whisper thru the pines in the Sierra. I'll look for you at the putting green at Balboa. I'll look for you at the Princess Pub down on India Street. You will always be in my heart, but I'm still going to keep looking.

Jon was a bear of a person, a true Renaissance man. His talents allowed him to become an inventor, academic, deep social thinker, author, political activist, teacher, politician, visionary, sailor and analyst. We met when working together at the County Welfare department on Market Street in the 70's. We shared a liberal bent, but Jon always put the time in on research and fact based opinions. He was a good listener and could have a reasoned discussion with a person of any point of view. Animated and engaging, you were in for a ride when you brought up a topic for Jon. Not a people pleaser, you received his best effort and full concentration plus a acerbic wit. I loved him.



Jon was always ready for adventure. We made a couple of trips together to the Tioga Winter Lodge for back country ski tours and good times in the lodge at night with friends and new friends. We also did a few trips skiing around the big Sequoia. Our best trip was four day trans Sierra, starting at Lee Vining on east side of the Sierra, going over Tioga Pass, across the rib and down through Snow Canyon to Yosemite Valley. My brother had recently skied the Continental Divide from Canada to southern Colorado, but he was impressed with the mental toughness and lack of fear that Jon displayed. A bunch of friends of Jon's met us at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite, where there was a $20 skier buffet. Jon's friends plied us with long series of special wines and an evening to remember. What a contrast to snow camping. Jon was at his best in this convivial atmosphere.


Jon and I also did many dumb things together. One highlight was a winter ski to the Hot Creek hot springs south of Mammoth. It was a late afternoon when we started and a light snow was falling. No worries we had plenty of antifreeze and provisions. Of course, no tent, extra clothes or sleeping bags because we were going to the "hot" hot springs. We were in the springs for an hour or two when we noticed that it was getting dark and the wind had picked up. The snow started to blow sidewise and the visibility was nonexistent. One of our headlamps failed and we were both shaking pretty good. Where was that car? Finally, our luck held and we found it. We didn't stop shaking until we took turns in the tub in a flea bag motel in Bishop.

Jon Christensen died on August 28th. I learned about it last night from his daughter Cynthia's email after returning from a month long trip to Baja Sur. I now wish that I had stayed home for one last round of golf with Jon and the guys at Balboa. My condolences to his wonderful wife Sally and his children Eric and Cynthia. I am sure they will be looking for him too.





Thursday, August 30, 2012

Highway 1 brings Memories

While going down to Baja Sur last month, I passed the turnoff for San Pedro Martir. Everything had changed so much. What was a sleepy agriculture area is now a part of the urban sprawl. I wondered how the mountain that was of my dreams had become. A post on Baja Nomads made me post this info on my experiences there many years ago.

 Here is my post:

Thanks for bringing up the topic of the San Pedro Martir. It has brought back many memories that have not been visited in some time. I used John Robinson's "Camping and Climbing in Baja" as sort of a bible in the 70's and 80's. There was no GPS or topos, so things were much different than now. A good source for more current information is in this report: http://www.dankat.com/swhikes/devil.htm

My first backpack in the San Pedro Martir was after many trips to the eastside canyons of the Sierra Juarez. We got kind of lost on the first day in the maze of canyons and went for a few hours without water. We got to La Gruella meadow and it was like heaven. We followed one stream going towards the west and found it filled with small trout that have adapted to this area by becoming miniature. The species is Nelsoni and they were so numerous that we tried to catch them by hand. I have since fly fished for them at Mike's Sky Ranch and they are good fighters. That spring the grass was at a uniform height throughout the forest and it looked like a giant city park that someone had mowed.

 I kind of got the bug to climb Picacho del Diablo about 25 years ago after the above backpack. I joined two other people and hired a guide who had been the head of San Diego's search and rescue team. We went in from the west, stopping for a great meal at Meling Ranch.

Without GPS even the guide got lost once. Going with him was special in that he would point out where this or that climber was buried (with the family's permission) because they had made some serious error in judgement. I was hoping that we wouldn't make some similar misstep. It took four days for us to make the peak and back.

 I will always remember the feeling of remoteness and wilderness in the San Pedro Martir. Without the current technology of sat phones etc. my time there was an adventure in retrospect but rather frightening at moments along the way. Of course, the epic approach of Norman Clyde from Yuma to the east side of Diablo and then to the peak is hard to even imagine.

 I didn't see any snakes on the climb but two weeks after our trip a Sierra Club fellow was bitten by a snake which reportedly had one and a half inches between the fangs. This has been a big year for snakes in San Diego, so definitely be aware while hiking there. Reasonable caution should keep everyone safe.

Have a great trip and thanks again for tickling those old memories.

                         View from the Peak looking toward the Gulf
                                View towards the South
                                            Scrambing
                                       Climbing shoes for traction

Wall Street

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alamo Lake and Sedona October 2011


Alamo Lake is a man made lake about an hour from Quartizite


View from the West end of the Lake

My favorite bike partner



No AC, but a fan with 3 misting drips and we are in business. Above 95 degrees all four days.


Training for a race next week down the Colorado




Many trails in Sedona are not worth riding because of the rocks and cactus. We are trying to find the good ones.




The views are awesome and you can appreciate them when a good trail is found



Storm brewing. This one netted a hail storm and lightning by the end of the ride. The red rock floods easily.


Kathy just before the storm caught us.



We terrorized the older senior citizens on the mean streets of Catalina, Arizona, with fellow golf cart racers Matt and Deb. Great people, good times.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seven Lakes Basin, Big Pine




Camp overlooking 2nd Lake
(Green tint water is from glacial melt from Palisade Glacier)



Lower 4th Lake




Looking Back at 1st and 2nd lake
from the Black Lake trail



Getting water in flip flop
climbing shoes


Sam Mack Meadow, second day



Lakes 1, 2 and 3
from the Palisade Glacier trail


The weather turns to crap


Now we are having fun


Beauty is fragile at altitude


395 bidding us farewell