We squeezed-in three socially-distant hikes before school started. Emma Lake, Double Dome Rock and Horse and Cow Meadow. It's been a very long year. The geologizing, hiking and fishing was refreshing after a summer of vigorous work. We only saw six people total on the trails over our three days! Details about each hike can be found in the photo journal.
Finished a little family project last week: "The Best Hikes and Adventures from the Laffin Cabin". It will find a place on the bookshelf in our rustic WWII-era family cabin in Twain Harte. There are 26 adventures along SR 108 for my relatives to explore when staying at the cabin.
The Bennett Juniper is the oldest and largest known juniper of its species. Twelve and a half miles of forest service roads will put you at the doorstep of this protected 80’ tall behemoth that is estimated to be over 4000 years old! Two minutes of walking on a well-graded trail will put you in the shade of one of the most magnificently gnarled trees you’ll ever see.
Once you visit the juniper, return to the spur road and turn left instead of returning to the main 5N01 road. Take the small spur north about a half mile to its cul-de-sac end and enjoy a lunch while taking-in the glorious views of the Dardanelles and the Stanislaus River canyon. This lunch spot sits on a volcanic mudflow deposit that bulldozed some trees as it covered this area 10.5 million years ago. As a consequence there are many small pieces of very white petrified wood scattered about the hillside. There are worse ways to spend 30 minutes than perusing a hill for ancient forest bits. Please only take photos, though.
For specific directions and more info on the tree, visit the SAVE THE REDWOODS site.
Zephyr, Laura, Grandma H and I went for a lovely short hike to May Lake, taking advantage of the short drive afforded to us by base-camping at our Twain Harte cabin. Knowing that our Yosemite Pass was a precious commodity during the Time of COVID, we wanted to make sure we got at least two hikes completed this summer in Yosemite. The hike to May Lake is short and steadily climbs 500' in just over one mile. Normally extremely busy during the summer, COVID had reduced the number of folks in the area to late-autumn numbers. It was very peaceful and quiet and with an anomalous low pressure system overhead, the temp only reached 55 degrees with a breeze and no mosquitos.
The lack of crowds also was apparent in the results of our fishing. Z caught a lovely 13" brookie, got excited and called it a day with his goal of catching a fish having been accomplished. I went on to catch and release another 10 brookies (10-12") in the next 30 minutes. It was a lovely, perfect day. And oh yeah, the geology here is first rate!
Our first visit to Yosemite during the time of COVID. We were able to score one of the 1500 limited park entry passes online. This was an exceptionally long day-trip that left Turlock at 7:30am and returned home at 9:45pm. My dad and I were able to reach the fishing hole I wanted to share with him, but encroaching lightning limited us to 10 casts and several missed strikes. We ate a TO GO order from the Whoa Nellie Deli on the Mono Lake bluff and headed home over Sonora Pass where the temperatures were 50 degrees cooler than Turlock!
A quick trip to a mostly snow-less Yosemite Valley a few days after the start of the New Year. Highlight of the day was seeing a large buck mosey along a trail. Close second was seeing Grandma attempt to eat an entire plate of Ahwahnee Hotel pulled-pork nachos.
Zephyr learned a great lesson about why we should always take the road less-traveled in natural areas today (safety permitting, of course). Instead of taking the short trail to the Sousa Marsh viewing platform, I convinced him to take the trail along the irrigation ditch that supplies that make the wetlands wet. (Sadly, the ditch likely has more water flowing through it than the San Joaquin River that meanders just several hundred meters away).
As we walked along the maintenance road/trail we heard a very large splash coming from a stand of fennel. We immediately looked for a clear view to see what fell in the water. It turned out to be a friendly beaver. My immediate reaction was trying to analyze its swimming technique and to scrutinize its nose & tail to make sure it wasn't a nutria. Luckily for everyone, the beaver was a beaver and we were very happy!
Other cool sightings today were two deer and a great snowy egret that we got to watch spear and eat a fish!
The Twain Harte Laffin Cabin was a magical, snowy wonderland in 2019. Best Thanksgiving ever? Time will tell. But the kids (of all ages) had a great time playing in the snow!
Z and I hit the trail while Laura stayed home to catch-up on some studying and project work for her Masters degree. One of the great benefits of living in Turlock is that we're about two hours away from Yosemite. We slept-in on Saturday morning, ate a good breakfast and headed out to Yosemite a bit after 10am. We arrived at the Lukens Lake trailhead at about 12:30pm after stopping to pick-up sandwiches in Oakdale. We hiked nearly four miles while enjoying the scenery, exploring the rocks and discussing the fate of stars that die and what would happen to our sun and our solar system in the future. Pretty heady stuff for a six year old.
Z wanted to end the day by seeing Half Dome and El Capitan because the are "my favorites".
Here are the photos from our absolutely perfect Labor Day weekend camping trip to Lee Vining. With Motel 6 going for $160/night we opted to camp at the Mono RV Park group tent site for $28/night and eat breakfast at Nicely's and dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli. I had not anticipated all of the Burning Man traffic on 395. A huge chunk of the Burners were from SoCal, I guess. Although Z had a rough first night sleeping, we all managed to hike the extremely steep trail to Gardisky Lake on Sunday with smiles and a sense of awe.
We were rewarded with immaculate views from both sides of the lake as well as an abundance of sierra tree frogs hopping out of the meadows. After dinner we headed down to the South Tufa parking area to watch the stars for a few minutes.
We slept-in on Monday morning until 7:50am (late by camping standards), packed, ate and then took the easy trail to Sardine Falls just east of Sonora Pass. Then we headed back to to reality.
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.