A Lake Tahoe area recon - Friday, May 16th, 2014

I guess I should say a Truckee, CA recon since that was the area we were technically looking at, but not as many people know where Truckee is as compared to Lake Tahoe.  Actually, they're next door to each other.  Here's a little known fact:  Lake Tahoe has many inlets (creeks, streams, etc), but only one outlet: the Truckee River.  The Truckee River, in turn, flows down, down, down into Pyramid Lake located above Reno, Nevada.

But first, here's a picture I took (while Jimmy was driving) up near Donner Summit.  Not much snow left at this elevation, more's the pity.  That straight line on the mountain is actually part of the train track system -- the snow "sheds," I believe (protects the tracks from deep snow).  It may be lacking in white stuff, but it's still quite a magnificent show.  From our house to Lake Tahoe/Truckee is approx 60 miles ... all of it uphill, and all of it (through the Tahoe National Forest) is beautiful!

 Near Donner Summit (7,239 ft).

Truckee River

We knew of several campgrounds on the Truckee River at about the 6,000 ft level, but wanted to see which campground suited us and which site we liked best.  Our questions were answered and we have both picked out for a few days outing the first week in June.  Price is another matter.  These campgrounds offer no hookups and should charge a nominal fee.  Usually forest service campgrounds charge seniors half price. But here a sign sez: This facility is Operated by Tahoe Recreation, a division of California Land Management, Under a Special Use Permit from U.S.D.A. Forest Service.  The cost is $22/night and no discount for seniors?  What's up with that?

While up in these parts, we decided to explore a new trail.  Called the Prosser Creek Trail, it tags along with the Commemorative Emigrant Trail.  Prosser Creek empties into a reservoir of the same name, and again, we could see the water level was considerably lower than normal.

 Lively Prosser Creek is braided at this point. 

 Our out-and-back hike of maybe three miles was relatively flat, except when we followed the left uphill fork which led us astray, and then we had to scramble down this dusty track to return to the river.  That was, umm, lots o' fun! 

Oh what a nice day!

Jimmy at the reservoir mouth with the Sierras as a backdrop!

 While warm and sunny, a stiff wind blasted out of the west, blew my visor clean off my head!

Patches of pretty Stansbury's Phlox decorated the hillsides.  I've included this picture, rather than the other one I took of bear poop.  I've already done enough bear poop pics.  I know... thanks!  You're welcome!


Ready, Set, Go -- company's coming! Mother's Day weekend 2014

Laurie and I both wanted to attend an "Outsmarting the Drought" seminar in Nevada City at 9 am on Saturday, May 10th.  We arranged that she and Odel would drive from their home near Placerville on Friday and spend the night so we could all rise and shine for that early 9 am begin time.  Since Jimmy and I got home from Pinnacles on Thursday and unloaded Tergel, we were ready for company on Friday!  Plus -- O boy -- we four were going to try a new restaurant (for us) for Friday night dinner:  The Old 5-Mile House in Nevada City.  I think everyone was pleased with their dinner selection!  And, we had a great time getting together! 

The seminar was enlightening.  Israeli, Shahar Caspi, knows first hand about gardening in a land of little water.  Since 2012 his job has been raising food year round for his community near Grass Valley, all without tilling and with little to zero added water.  This is the kind of stuff we need to learn in our dry part of the country.  The info he shared with us was invaluable.

Laurie is using rice-straw bales in her gardening (@1700' elevation), while I'm growing in keyhole gardens (@3100' elevation), so we're having a good time comparing what works and what doesn't.  Both of us are using water-saving methods to garden.  She's Farmer Brown and I'm Farmer Jones!  And now we are armed with drought-saving armor!

 This Iris surprise in our front yard was most welcome!

Laurie and Odel on the balcony at Nevada City's 130-year-old National Hotel.  We did a walkabout town after our dinner at the Old 5-Mile House.  Some of you readers will recognize Laurie from her former blogs.

 Bleeding Hearts have popped up all over our yard.  I like!

After Laurie and Odel left on Saturday, the newlyweds, Matt and Jennifer, came for an afternoon visit.  They had a few days off and popped up to NorCal to see their parents.  Matt and Jen brought me a nice Mother's Day plant, much appreciated.  Come dinnertime, Jen's parents - Alice and Tom - drove up from Roseville so the six of us could enjoy an early Mother's Day dinner at Cirino's in Grass Valley.  

The guys:  Matt, Tom, and Jimmy
The gals:  Jen, Alice, and me
at a pleasant window table enjoying our delicious dinner.
What a lovely day!
Tomorrow?  A well-deserved Mother's Day rest!!


Last day at Pinnacles - Thurs, 5/8/14

We picked a good time to visit this nat'l park.  Even in a drought year, glorious wildflowers bursting with blossoms, dazzled our eyes with color.  I've included photos of three wildflowers I'd never seen before. Meadows sprouting native and (and exotic) grasses were still a vibrant spring green.  The weather was accommodating, neither too hot nor too chilly, tho one morning surprised us with a 39° low!  Days were warm and mostly sunny.

Mariposa lily

Pinnacles campground is pocked with treacherous ground squirrel holes.  You could break a leg or hip if you made a misstep, or even crack your head wide open if you landed on a fallen log.  An entire town of the durn things -- they're everywhere. California quail zipped about the camp, fun to watch them.  More than once I noticed the male quail would perch atop a log or fence post while his lady pecked thru the grass for seeds. Sounds good to me!

Two-fer (California quail and ground squirrel)

California condors were re-established in Pinnacles in 2003.  The first nest since reintroduction was built in 2010, and Pinnacles now manages a population of 32 free-flying condors.  Turkey buzzards are prevalent, but we were told how to identify a condor from a buzzard (soaring way up high) -- a buzzard "wobbles," whereas a condor, North America's largest land bird, well, a condor just soars.  When we hiked the High Peaks Trail on Tuesday, we hoped to see a condor, and I'm not 100% positive that I did or didn't, but maybe I did.  The bird was simply too far away to be sure.  I did see the North America's smallest bird on that hike -- a tiny Anna's hummingbird!  And the fella below.

 Ash-throated flycatcher

 Sticky monkeyflower

 Acorn woodpecker workin' that snag!

A virtual village of Acorn woodpeckers lives in the Valley oaks of the campground.  They are noisy, busy, comical, chattering, and never still.  It was a contest to hear who got our attention first in the morning:  quail or woodpecker.  I've seen trees so full of holes (stuffed with acorns) that it's a wonder the trees don't tump over. Or a power pole -- they can do a job on those, as well.

 Gnarled, ancient and beautiful

Indian warrior

My man 

Wednesday morning we strolled along Chalone Creek and the South Wilderness Trail.  Nothing strenuous, merely ambling along like two people who have all the time in the world -- what a grand feeling.  More flowers, grasses, trees and birds to check out.  We laugh when I say I'm actually looking for rusted tin cans, à la the Saddle Ridge Hoard!  Very relaxing morning.

That afternoon we hopped on our bikes, rode out of the park on a dirt road.  We pedaled easily for several miles, encircled by rolling hills.  No one else around, just me and Jimmy on a bicycle explore.  Tomorrow morning we depart, head for our Nevada City home.  Company coming tomorrow, and the next day -- O boy!  Guess who?  
Sure enjoyed our Pinnacles National Park visit.  

I love California.


Pinnacles -- a real peak experience! Tues, May 6th

Pinnacles isn't simply a beautiful place, or a fine area to explore, hike and camp.  Rising out of chaparral-covered mountains east of California's Salinas Valley, Pinnacles is the spectacular remains of part of an ancient volcanic field. Here it gets really interesting:  One-third of this field lies 195 miles to the southeast! You can thank the San Andreas Fault Zone, which runs just east of the park and the geological forces that have shaped this landscape for millions of years.  Fault action and earthquakes account for Pinnacles' talus caves, formed when boulders fell into deep, narrow gorges and lodged between the rock walls -- which Jimmy and I experienced yesterday on our hike.

Pinnacles isn't all spires and crags; tho our pictures mostly show these.  While elevations in Pinnacles range from 824 ft along Chalone Creek to 3,304 ft atop North Chalone Peak, much of the park consists of gentle rolling hills.

Today we picked a different hike, up Condor Gulch Trail, a 1.7 mile (one way) strenuous trail.  That's what we decided initially, but when we junctioned with the High Peaks Loop trail, we opted to return to our start point by way of this different (but longer) trail.  The elevation gain was 1,300 ft, which is why the whole durn thing was rated strenuous.  Altogether the hike was approx 6 miles.  And it was truly awesome!

Our route.  Hiking this loop enabled us to see 360°  worth of Pinnacles' special scenery.

Jimmy is eyeing the bird nesting hole on the rock face, left.  It looked well used.  Tomorrow I'll talk more about the birds.

On the Condor Gulch Trail, at the Overlook.

Alone on the trail, silent, all I could do was breathe.

Skies were partly cloudy; without sun we didn't get overheated trekking uphill.

Break time!  Lunch at Condor Gulch/High Peaks Loop junction.  We were actually cold up here.

Looking back on our trail.

"Balconies!"  Pinnacles is famous for this formation.

Spires and crags.

Jimmy is smack-dab in the lower center of the trail in his yellow shirt.

We discovered what the brochure meant by "steep and narrow," on the High Peaks Trail.  It wasn't a typo.

Did I sign up for THIS?  ("steps" continue at the top of the pic, and on, and on!!)

Of course, what goes up, has to come down.  Steep and narrow, uh-huh....

I am actually perched on the edge of the rock, that falls away behind me.  Hard to determine from pic.

Oh yeah, that's our trail down there.  Down!

Encountered this fella (maybe 8"?) sunning itself.  We got right up next to it and it did not move.

Down, down, down.

Amazing adventure.

OK, we were tired when we wrapped it up.  That's all right.  Better to wear out than rust out!  We stopped often to take pictures.  We paused frequently to gawk... and on this trail we couldn't gawk and walk at the same time! How could we not stop to look?  Dinner was ready for us after showers.  I make meals before we leave on trips and all I have to do is hot 'em up.  I'll finish by saying, we were early in the sack!


No bats in my belfry! Pinnacles, 5/5/14, Monday

Here's what the national park brochure sez about today's hike, in part:  "Bear Gulch Cave is a talus cave created when boulders formed a roof over a narrow canyon.  Some cave areas are narrow and twisting with low ceilings and uneven footing.  Passing through may require scrambling over rocks and wading through water.  The cave is dark; use a flashlight."  That sums it up, all of it.  In addition, Gear Gulch Cave hosts a maternal colony of Townsend's big-eared bats, and because this is the time of year they breed and raise pups, one small part of the cave was closed to the public.  We didn't see any bats, big-eared or otherwise, which was OK with us!  

A good place to begin our hike! 

Looks as if I might be swallowed up in a spider hole - yikes! 

Glad I'm not any wider....

Getting to the cave involved a nice little hike, but when we entered the talus cave, we fervently hoped the earth would NOT move... if you get my drift.  No quakes, please!

We encountered plenty of dark areas in Bear Gulch Cave, but my little point 'n shoot camera doesn't favor pictures under those conditions.   You get the lighted ones.  Being in, under and surrounded by these colossal boulders causes a person to feel quite small.  And a little bit afraid ....

But, when you're out, you are out.  We continued on up to the reservoir.

You just don't want to hear the words:  Look out Below!

Looking down on the boulder (right) and steps in the above photo.

Suddenly we were at the reservoir.

Jimmy clambered down to find a flat place for our lunch.

This bold fella heard the granola bar being unwrapped, and magically appeared,
and he was very hungry.

Starving to death, even.  Beggar!

After eating (sharing) lunch, we continued on up Chalone Peak Trail to this point,
where we sat and chatted, admiring the spectacular views. 

I saw a face here, but I couldn't match a creature to the face.

Eventually we made our way down, yet we were still high above these massive tooth-like rocks.  

Woolly Bluecurls -- aren't they different?

I gasped when I saw this harmless snake only because I nearly stepped on it.  After taking its picture, it lazily slithered across our trail into the brush on the other side.  It was between two and three feet long. 

The sign reads:  Tourist Trap. Climber access to the top. Group size limits in effect. 12 people total. This rock grouping may not look large, but if we were standing close to the rock base, it would loom far above our heads.  Be a crazy climb!  (we passed on it, you can be sure) 

Our hike wasn't especially long, maybe three miles, but it was certainly diverse!  When we returned to Tergel and after showers, we sat outside to enjoy a cuppa coffee and the balance of our afternoon. Across the road from our campsite, I spied nine tom turkeys moving thru the grass.  Made me think of dinner!
What a great day!