Tag Archives: hiking

Camping and Hiking at Cold Springs

Last weekend Pam and I went camping and hiking at Cold Springs Campground in Sequoia National Park. We were joined by our friends Jason and Lina. The campground is in the Mineral King Valley, a beautiful area that the Walt Disney Co almost turned into a ski resort. The only way into the valley by car is via an old logging road. It’s slow going, with hairpin turns, narrow passages, and no guardrail–though I would not describe it as harrowing or terrifying like I’ve read on some online reviews.

Pam and I arrived on Friday in the early afternoon. We claimed a site and went hiking on the Nature Trail. It winds across the bottom of the valley, somewhat following the East Fork of the Kaweah River. The plants are wonderful: quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), redstem dogwood (Cornus sericea), false hellebore (Veratrum californicum), and streamside bluebells (Mertensia ciliata) to name a few.

Quaking Aspen

Hiking through the quaking aspens in the Mineral King Valley.

We saw some mule deer along the trail, very close to where we saw mountain quail as well.

Mule Deer

A mule deer with antlers in-progress.

A mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus) picture from a hike last weekend in Mineral King.

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The late spring and early summer are prime marmot season in Mineral King. The furry little rodents emerge from the ground and chew on things. They have been known to destroy cars by targeting brake lines, fan belts, wiring, insulation, and basically anything they can chew. The park service recommends wrapping cars in tarps in the worst marmot spots during this time of year (the trail heads are the worst locations). We hiked by a trail head and saw many wrapped cars.

Marmots

Three out of four cars are practicing marmot protection.

On Saturday we hiked along Mosquito Creek, which took us up toward Miners Ridge. Just below the ridge sits the first Mosquito Lake, which was our destination. By direct line the hike was 1 mile, though in the Sierra Nevada a direct line is rarely possible. We took a route that appears as 1.5 miles on a map, however that route involved many switchbacks that stretched the distance out beyond that. I think it involved ~1,800 ft of elevation gain, with Mosquito Lake sitting at 9,065 ft.

Hiking 6

Hiking near Mosquito Creek.

Hiking 2

Stunning views in Mineral King.

Hiking 7

I was happy to see Dicentra pauciflora in bloom.

Hiking 5

I was fascinated by bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens ).

Hiking 3

The high elevation meadows were very cool–notice the snow.

Group Pic 1

The hiking party at Mosquito Lake.

swimming

Three out of four hikers went swimming, the fourth was not swayed by peer pressure.

From what the rest of the group told me, the water in Mosquito Lake was very cold. I was content to sit in a hammock eating bison jerky while they shivered.

Ben and Pam

Posing with my hiking buddy on a ridge in Mineral King.

On our hike back from the lake I was watching for animals. I really wanted to see a bear. And I did. It was watching us intently through the trees.

Bear Watching

The curious bear.

A good day of hiking makes peanut butter and jelly, jerky, and an apple taste like a feast.

On the way home Sunday we stopped in Silver City. We had sandwiches and pumpkin pie at the little store/cafe. The pumpkin pie is usually not on the menu, but they had hosted a wedding that morning and sold out of their famous fruit pies, and the pumpkin pie was leftover from a wedding request–so we got it.

It was a good weekend in the woods.

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Camping in Sequoia National Forest (Oct 2-4)

The Fall Quarter has been busy. In the middle of the chaos Pam and I spent a short weekend camping with friends. We went to Sequoia National Forest. It still amazes me that we have such diversity here. The coast, the desert, and the mountains all close together. We camped near 5,000 ft of elevation in a small campground.

On Saturday I did some work in the morning, then we set out on a hike. It was a beautiful hike through redwood groves and springs. We gained a couple thousand feet of elevation, ending up near 7,000 ft. There were many dead and dying trees in the forest, a testament to how stressful this summer has been. It was easy to understand why campfires are banned.

But all the springs and plant diversity made it possible to get caught up in a small piece of the forest. The world in view looked lush and healthy. The drought seemed far away as water bubbled over rocks and green abounded.

In the forest it was possible to forget we were in a major drought (for a time).

In the forest it was possible to forget we were in a major drought (for a time).

I spent some time admiring the Kellogg oaks (Quercus kelloggii), which is a species I am not very familiar with. I collected a few leaves, and at the end of the day pressed them in my car owner’s manual. (That is the sort of thing horticulturists do.)

A Kellogg oak seedling along the trail.

A Kellogg oak seedling along the trail.

Early in the hike we saw large patches of mountain misery (Chamaebatia foliolosa). While it might not make a very good food source for wildlife, it is pretty cool to look at.

Mountain misery looking pretty.

Mountain misery looking pretty.

I lingered in the back of the group, scurrying around taking pictures.

The hiking party in action.

The hiking party in action.

The sheer size of the trees was captivating. Such amazing structures.

The large pines, firs, and redwoods were spectacular.

The large pines, firs, and redwoods were spectacular.

The trees made humans look small.

The trees made humans look small.

Posing with a large strobilus (I think a sugar pine cone).

Posing with a large strobilus (I think a sugar pine cone).

It was fun to spend some time in the national forest, which is different from the national park part of the Sierra Nevada. Both are wonderful in their own way. I suspect we’ll be returning to the national forest in the future–there are many trails left to explore and sights to see.

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Hiking in the Highlands

During our Scotland vacation Pam and I spent some time in the Highlands. It was sunny and green. We had long days (sunrise around 4:30 am and sunset around 11:00 pm). On the drive from Edinburgh we stopped and admired the hills.

An HDR photo from the Highlands.

An HDR photo from the Highlands.

The first night we stayed in Fort Augustus at a lovely B&B. We were right at the end of Loch Ness, which made me happy. The next morning we went out hiking. The trail wound through the forest at the base of the hill. The forest was a mix of conifers and hardwoods; many of the hardwoods were planted in rows for harvesting.

The Highlands lowlands forest.

The Highlands lowlands forest.

The trails we hiked were a combination of logging roads, narrow paths, and open ground. Each was a fun experience. Some of the conifer-rich areas smelled like Christmas.

The logging road in the conifer forest.

The logging road in the conifer forest.

In some of the dappled shade there were brilliant rhododendrons.

A rhododendron under the trees.

A rhododendron under the trees.

The forest had many ferns beside the winding trails. I was in the back of the line, taking pictures.

The winding trail under the evergreens.

The winding trail under the evergreens.

Many of the tall conifers were arrow straight.

Looking up to see the sky through the trees.

Looking up to see the sky through the trees.

We found a little opening in the forest that afforded us our first sweeping view of Loch Ness. So cool. The Scotch broom was a brilliant yellow (you’ll see more of these).

A Loch Ness panorama from the trail.

A Loch Ness panorama from the trail.

We posed with Loch Ness.

We posed with Loch Ness.

At the upper bounds of the forest the bracken ferns were impressive.

Bracken ferns by the forest.

Bracken ferns by the forest.

As the terrain switched from forest to high elevation peat bog the ferns played a prominent role. We picked our way through the maze. Matt served as a scout, looking for good footing in the bog. Much of it felt slightly spongy but solid. Occasionally a foot would be swallowed up–I was thankful that I re-waterproofed my boots before this trip.

Hiking through the bog (ferns).

Hiking through the bog (ferns).

The mosses were very cool.

Mosses in the peat bog.

Mosses in the peat bog.

We decided to hike toward the highest point we could see on the hill, hoping for a view of the valley.

Our fearless leader scouting for a path across the bog.

Our fearless leader scouting for a path across the bog.

Our hiking to the peak led us through a logged area. Old parts of trees littered the ground. The harshness and bleakness of the tree remains contrasted with the green carpet and blue sky. It was beautiful.

Bog hiking through fields with evidence of logging.

Bog hiking through fields with evidence of logging.

There were thistles in the bog, fitting for Scotland.

A thistle and butterflies in the bog.

A thistle and butterflies in the bog.

From the peak the view of Fort Augustus and Loch Ness were spectacular. We tarried to admire them.

Loch Ness and Fort Augustus viewed from the top of the ridge.

Loch Ness and Fort Augustus viewed from the top of the ridge.

On the way out of the bog I saw a tree and a foxglove side by side. It reminded me of the Fox and the Hound. They’re the best of friends. Right now the foxglove towers over the tree, but those days are numbered.

The Fox and the Hound II.

The Fox and the Hound II.

The trail continued to delight us as we lost elevation. Scotch brooms became common. They were vibrant, even brighter than forsythia. Stunning. The trail took us right through the yellow sea.

The trail through the Scotch broom.

The trail through the Scotch broom.

Highlands Hiking 6 sf

Highlands Hiking 7 sf

Highlands Hiking 8 sf

A posed hiking picture.

A posed hiking picture.

We saw a blind worm by the trail (also called a slow worm). However, it is not a worm at all–it is a lizard!

Highlands Blind Worm sfWhen we got back to Fort Augustus we feasted on strawberries. Later that night we celebrated Lauren’s birthday at The Boathouse restaurant on Loch Ness. I had haggis for the second time.

The next day we drove to Inverness, then to Drummond Castle, and on to Aberfeldy.

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A Valentine’s Day Hike on the Black Hill Trail

Yesterday Pam and I decided to go on a hike. A few weeks ago I mentioned to Pam that I wanted to hike Black Hill and Cerro Cabrillo (Cabrillo Peak), which are part of the Nine Sisters. And so we decided to tackle the Black Hill Trail on Valentine’s Day. We did the long version of the trail, which is an easy hike under 3 miles. Black Hill is the shortest of the Nine Sisters that can be hiked (only Morro Rock is shorter). The views of Morro Bay and the Pacific Ocean are excellent.

The Black Hill Trail winds under tree canopies.

The Black Hill Trail winds under tree canopies.

The trail moves through meadows, wooded stands, and rocky areas. In the lowest ravine we encountered many mosquitoes. It had been more than a year since I had been bitten by a mosquito–they’re just so rare on the Central Coast. As we gained elevation the views went from good to great.

Morro Rock is visible from the trail, though at times only through the trees.

Morro Rock is visible from the trail, though at times only through the trees.

Lizards were lounging in the sun by the trail. I’ve lived here more than two years, and lizards and palm trees still delight me.

A lizard sunbathing.

A lizard sunbathing.

The marker at the top of Black Hill.

The marker at the top of Black Hill.

When you stand on the top of Black Hill you see Morro Bay spread out in front of you like a model city. It looks something like a model train landscape.

Morro Bay viewed from Black Hill.

Morro Bay viewed from Black Hill.

The sights aren’t limited to Morro Bay. The estuary and sand spit are also visible.

A panorama from Black Hill, looking at the Morro Bay Estuary and Morro Rock.

A panorama from Black Hill, looking at the Morro Bay Estuary and Morro Rock.

The inland areas were also beautiful. Rolling green hills, with Hollister Peak serving as the most conspicuous sight.

Hollister Peak, another of the Nine Sisters.

Hollister Peak, another of the Nine Sisters, viewed from Black Hill.

At times Morro Bay is blanketed by fog, but not during our hike. The water was a brilliant blue. The grass was bright green. We could see for miles.

One last shot of Morro Rock from Black Hill, with boats on the bay on this sunny Saturday.

One last shot of Morro Rock from Black Hill, with boats on the bay on this sunny Saturday.

After the hike we went to Taco Temple in Morro Bay. I got a carnitas burrito that must have weighed close to three pounds (I regret that I did not have my scale with me). It is the first burrito that I have ordered that I was unable to finish.

Hiking and burritos with my lovely wife–not a bad Valentine’s Day.

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Yosemite National Park: Hiking Part of the Four Mile Trail

We returned to Yosemite on Saturday to take on a more strenuous hike than we had done during our first day in the park. It was a rainy, grey day. I really wanted to stop at Crane Flat on the way in (for the photo op), but the campground was closed for the season. We stopped briefly at the Crane Flat Gas Station, which had plenty of snow. This gave me a chance to take a picture of the snowy road we were driving into the park. The sight of the snowy forest was stunning. I appreciated the combination of the snow and the bright green moss.

Beautiful snow and evergreens at the Crane Flat Gas Station.

Beautiful snow and evergreens at the Crane Flat Gas Station.

We stopped at the same point from which we had first admired Half Dome. On this day a wall of fog had replaced the iconic rock formation. The fog was beautiful in its own way, blanketing the ridges and valleys with sometimes thick and sometimes wispy covering.

The views from the vista were shrouded in fog.

The views from the vista were shrouded in fog.

We drove to the Four Mile Trailhead, which provides a nice view of Yosemite Falls across the valley.

Yosemite Falls viewed from the valley.

Yosemite Falls viewed from the valley.

The Four Mile Trail leads to the top of Glacier Point. When we started we had no idea if we would make it to the top or not. Soon after we started the hike we met a hiker coming down the trail. He told us that the trail was closed ahead, but that the views were still good. So we pressed on.

Glacier Point looming in the fog.

Glacier Point looming in the fog, viewed from early on the Four Mile Trail.

The Four Mile Trail is actually 4.6 miles long (the original version was 4 miles long). We didn’t know it yet, but we would be able to hike about 2.75 miles before reaching the closed gate (~2,000 ft elevation gain). The trail started in fog, with bright mosses and a tree canopy covering.

The Four Mile Trail winds through the foggy lowlands.

The Four Mile Trail winds through the foggy lowlands.

Little patches of snow started to appear soon. Eventually the trail was snow-covered.

My adventurous and wonderful hiking companion.

My adventurous and wonderful hiking companion.

At random times snow would fall from the canopies of trees and shrubs, causing miniature avalanches of snow to fall over the trail. These were small enough to pose no danger, but would have been viciously cold (we did not get hit).

We paused to take a picture on the Four Mile Trail.

We paused to take a picture on the Four Mile Trail.

Eventually we reached a gate notifying us the trail was closed. A headless snowman guarded the trail.

The end of the Four Mile Trail for the winter (about 2.75 miles in).

The end of the Four Mile Trail for the winter (about 2.75 miles in).

We got a spectacular view of a snowy Half Dome from the trail closure spot. We decided to take some pictures right away, since the fog had been rolling through the valley on and off all day.

The view of Half Dome from the spot the trail was closed.

The view of Half Dome from the spot the trail was closed.

Fog wisps around Half Dome.

Fog wisps around Half Dome.

And one last photo from this vantage point.

And one last photo from this vantage point.

If was a good thing we took pictures quickly. By the time we ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a few truffles the fog had obscured Half Dome.

Half Dome hidden by fog.

Half Dome hidden by fog.

We hiked back to the car. Seeing the valley in the fog was interesting. It was dramatic in its own way, but it prevented us from seeing the details of the valley in full panoramic view. So we got to see some dramatic sights, yet more sights remain for a return trip.

We visited Yosemite Village and the Ahwahnee Hotel, then headed back to Groveland.

I hope we get a chance to hike the full Four Mile Trail in the future. I’d like to stand on Glacier Point and see the valley on a clear day.

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