Monday, December 11, 2023

Convict Lake towards Mildred Lake, hiked August 12, 2023

Hike from the summer, during my ill-fated Perseid trip. Second day in the Sierra. Convict Lake was a frequent fishing destination, back when I was in high school and before. Never got to hike around the area, so I was pretty sure this was going to be a destination during this trip.

There's a trail that goes around Convict Lake, and it's not particularly short, at a bit over 2.5 miles, because Convict is a pretty large lake. The other trail heads into the John Muir Wilderness from the far side of the lake.

Not long after you leave the parking lot near the outlet from Convict, there's this sign on the trailhead. If you click on the picture, you'll see a larger version, but the gist of the matter is that it says the bridge crossing Convict Creek, three miles ahead, is washed out, so plan accordingly.

So I was pretty sure I wasn't going to actually make it to Mildred Lake. I was pretty sure I'd stop at the bridge out, and turnaround. But I was open, depending on how I felt and how high the water was.

Well, it turns out, it's actually about four miles from the parking at Convict Lake to the bridge crossing, and by the time I got there, I was perfectly willing to call an eight mile out and back hike good enough for a day.

Despite being August and with the trail clear of snow, there were still some snow patches along the way, and their melt kept the water relatively high. But, unlike above Sabrina Lake, the slope of this creek and drainage meant far fewer stagnant pools, and basically no mosquitos. It was a more enjoyable hike, from that perspective, for sure.

On the other hand, with the faster drainage and dryer soil, there were far fewer wildflowers on this trail than above Sabrina.

The trail was well defined pretty much the entire way, up until just before the turnaround point, where use trails made the true trail less obvious. Still, once I got to the washout, there was no question that this was the place. Only the abutments remained. No sign of the actual bridge.

I was later informed that this was because it's not like the bridge got washed out this year. It's apparently been out for many years.

At the wash out, a side stream came in from the right, heading into the main stem. The bridge used to be just below that confluence.

The roar of the creeks was quite loud when standing near the water. And because I already knew (from my Alltrails recording) that I had gone four miles, I was ready to turnaround. However, in looking at my still shots, the water seems less powerful than it did in person.

Crossing would still require taking off my boots and splashing through swift water, but I think if I crossed the tributary, first, then either went further upstream or even crossed just above the confluence, the flow would not have been hazardous to cross. Yes, wet feet, and some time to dry my feet before lacing the boots back on, but not impassalbe, if I was committed. But I wasn't, because I didn't want to tire myself out too much, in the event of astronomy, later that night.

Spoiler alert -- It clouded out again that night, so I "saved" myself for nothing.

Returned the way I came. Passed only a few people who seemed prepared to continue past the water crossing. Almost everyone was on a day hike, and even then, it was a lot emptier than the trail around the lake.

Haven't been hiking much recently, for a variety of reasons. And not currently sure how many past hikes I still need to blog. So no more than maybe one more hike to post this year. So, Happy Holidays, and see you all in a few weeks!

Video from the crossing, here. Not sure if I uploaded it right. If not, I'll return tomorrow to fix that.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Valley of Fire State Park, NV -- Fire Wave / Seven Wonders Loop, and Mouse's Tank

Hiked November 6, 2023. While still having many older hikes that need to be blogged, thought I'd go ahead and put this more recent one up. It's the good season for visiting Valley of Fire, with the summer heat having passed into more temperate circumstances.

I had visited Valley of Fire numerous times previously, most recently in February 2021. Never managed to blog that, though. So I think this is my first hiking blog entry for Valley of Fire State Park.

It's a little over an hour of driving time from the Las Vegas area. Depending on where in the Las Vegas Valley you're coming from, there may be little difference between heading north on I-15 and taking Exit 75, then heading east to Valley of Fire, or heading through Lake Mead NRA and Northshore Road, then heading west into Valley of Fire. It's faster via I-15 (assuming typical traffic), but the drive through Lake Mead NRA is more scenic, more leisurely, trivially fewer miles, and with vault toilets at several spots along the way. No food that way, however, unless you bring it with you, or possibly if you detour a not insignificant distance to Calville Bay. Also, you'll need to pay a Lake Mead NRA entry fee, unless you already have a pass.

By contrast, if coming from I-15, you've got the Love's travel center at U.S. 93, and the Indian casino/truck stop at Exit 75, for food, gas, and flush toilets.

Because I already have the park pass, I took the scenic route.

I was slightly surprised to find the entry kiosk to Valley of Fires Tate Park from the east actually staffed. I think on my last visit, you either had to pay at the visitor center or via a self-serve "iron ranger." Entry is $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for non-residents. I don't know if they check IDs or just go by car license plates, but $15 was fine by me, even if I was only going to be there about a half a day.

Figured I'd hit the "Fire Wave" place, again. This being a Monday, I figured it would be emptier than when I was last here, on a weekend. And it was somewhat emptier, but far from empty in the park. Parking was also still limited, as they now only allowed parking in designated lots; no roadside parking.

The "good" news is that makes it a mile or so walk from Parking Area 3, rather than just a few hundred yards from the road (still not very far, of course), and the longer walk from either side meant you'd spread out the arrivals, hopefully.

Last time, I was annoyed by a family who just planted themselves near the most scenic area, and let their kids run around the rocks. Made it impossible for anyone to get just regular pictures of the "Fire Wave." This time, there were no "permament" residents, but there was a foursome of hikers that moved with amazingly glacial speed. They spent literally 10-15 minutes walking the 150 or so yards to get out of my shot. By then, I only had a few moments before additional hikers appeared. Still, at least I did get a chance for a few photos of unpopulated sandstone.

It's not as otherworldly as the actual "Wave" in Arizona, but it is a beautiful spot, and the alternating colors of sandstone stripes make for a nifty shot.

Once at the Fire Wave, you can either retrace your steps back to Parking Area 3, or continue on a loop, cross over the highway, then head up the "Seven Wonders" loop, returning to Parking Area 3 from the other side of the south and west.

More scenic rocks along this hike, including some that are purple. No idea of the chemical composition it takes to make purple sandstone. The whole loop is about 2.5 miles. On the return, I observed what looked like an unofficial trail that would also take you to Parking Area 4, near the White Domes at the end of Mouse's Tank Road. So if Lot 3 were full, you'd have that as an option to still get to walk to the Fire Wave, though with a somewhat longer trek involved.

Meanwhile, the shot above was taken just southwest of Parking Area 3, looking into the Seven Wonders. Looks very Zion-esque.

Once back at my car, I next drove back down the "Mouse's Tank" road, which starts near the visitor center and deadends north, near the White Domes trailhead. I parked in the picnic area across from the Mouse's Tank parking area, and took the short, roughly 3/4 of a mile out and back trail to Mouse's Tank. The "tank" is a spot of relatively impervious stone that holds water late into the year, and was used by a Paiute renegade named "Mouse" (or "Little Mouse") when he was on the run. The tank, itself, is not a lot to see, by itself.

The main attraction on this trail is that there are a lot of petroglyphs visible on the walls (generally the walls on the north side of the canyon, or your left, on the way in, and right, on the way out). At least those are the ones I saw. There was one interesting thing on the south side wall, but I'm not sure if it was a petroglyph or just natural weathering. That's the first of the "petroglyph" shot in this post.

Petroglyphs can be tricky, and their visibility can vary widely depending on which way you're walking and where the sun is. I actually didn't see that many on the way in, but, on my return, as I walked slower and spent more time looking up, I saw a surprisingly large amount. And, as just noted, almost all seemed to be on the north side of the canyon.

I was especially intrigued by the one panel, with many antlered animals, presumably deer, though, potentially, elk. Obviously, they're pretty scarce within 100 miles of the place, now. But, long enough ago? Yeah, the area would have been wetter and forested, and deer or elk definitely around.

Alternatively, it's possibly more likely that these were made long after the last ice age, by an artist who traveled a bit and saw or knew of deer and elk from his or her own travels. No idea which version is more likely.

I returned to my via an alternate route, in a mostly-fruitless search for more petroglyphs. This took me up a short canyon that was immediately north of the one the official trail took. Only one possible petroglypth, though it was deeply etched, so I'm not sure if it was ancient or modern. I did see this pretty nifty rock, though.

All told, about three miles total walking, so just enough to qualify as a day of "hiking" in my blog. Nice way to spend a late fall day.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Sabrina Lake Past George Lake, Inyo National Forest -- Hiked August 11, 2023

One of two hikes I took around the Perseid Meteor shower, back in August. Friends booked the group campground in the White Mountains for meteor and general astronomical viewing. I was happy to join in on the astronomy, but wasn't feeling the need to camp, so I booked a room down in Bishop. Turned out to be a good choice, since there was clouds and rain pretty much every day (except, ironically, for the first night, but even that was only partially astronomically clear).

It was quite a contrast from recent years. Because 2023 was such a heavy snow year, the snow coverage in Auguest 2023 was still a good deal more than July 2021, for example. Not to say that it was all that snowy, but it was, at least, not completely dry. Of course, that meant more mosquitos!

Fourth picture from the top, by the way, if you click on the shot to enlarge it, you'll see a mosquito, top left-center. They were swarming, and you could hardly take a shot without them getting on your hands.

But that meant lots of greenery, lots of wildflowers, and lots of running water. It was gorgeous.

I gave some thought to continuing on down into the South Lake drainage, to Tyee Lakes, but the threatening weather deterred me. I didn't want to wind up getting soaked, and there was plenty of thunder and stormy weather around me during this hike. I only got showers on me, however.

So, at the pass, looking down, and a cross a small patch of snow, and knowing I'd be descending now and need to climb back up that to get home, decided better of it.

This still made a nice walk, far enough to get tired, not too far to get too tired. But it also meant I got back into Bishop as darkness fell, and I lacked the motivation to then head back into the White Mountains for some astronomy. Not that it would have been great seeting, but, in the benefit of hindsight, this was the least cloudy night up there of the three I had to choose from.

As noted previously, the return only meant sprinkles on me, not a major downpour that I feared. Plenty of time to snap flower photos. Lots of columbine, including some whitish columbine.

This hike was out of Lake Sabrina, at the western terminus of CA-168, 19.3 miles, and 23 minutes from the Travelodge in Bishop, where I was staying. From Lake Sabrina, there are a couple of backcountry options. The one I took looped over towards Tyee Lakes, over towards South Lake. The other trail heads past Blue Lake. I took that hike, to Dingleberry Lake, the previous year, to near Dingleberry Lake. Oddly enough, I don't think I ever blogged that hike, or at least I can't find my write-up.

Both trails take off from a bit below the Sabrina dam, on the south side of the creek and lake. About two-thirds of the way along the lake's south side, the trail splits, with the side to Tyee Lakes going up steeply to the left.

So it was a slow slog up a long climb, but with the blue waters of Lake Sabrina set off against the granite cliffs and patches of snow below. About 800 vertical feet later, you're in the George Lake basin. Relatively level, and often adjacent to running water, and lots of greenery, along with the aforementioned mosquitoes.

George Lake is the largest of the lakes in the basin, and the last you come across. At that point, the trail begins another steep climb, this time, to the northeast. Looking back the way you came, you seem more steep granite cliffs, now above George Lake, rather than Sabrina.

Another 800 foot vertical gain puts you at the pass into the Tyee Lakes Basin. Those lakes aren't visible from the pass, however, as they're tucked below the more granite cliffs that you can't see from the pass. At the pass was the pictured patch of ice. The trail would continue in that direction, first at a gentle slope, but then steeply down a creek canyon to Tyee Lakes. Because of the threatening clouds and the big climb it would take to get back if I continued, I turned around here, and made it back to the car with only drizzles catching me. The rain was light enough and intermittent enough that I stopped for plenty more wildflower pictures along the way back.

Don't have the Alltrails recording handy, but it says 6.3 miles roundtrip to George Lake, so probably 9-10 miles roundtrip from Tyee Pass. Plenty enough for me to get tired.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Eastern Sierra, October 7 and 8, 2023 -- North Lake, Bishop Pass, McGee Pass, and Rock Creek Canyon

With the exception of the rabbit brush shot at the end of the post, all of these were taken on Sunday, October 8. By now, these areas are likely well past peak, but probably still scenic.

Despite many fishing trips in the eastern Sierra when I was younger, from boyhood through until young adulthoold), these are two places I never visited, before. Both had been mentioned prominently in some of the fall folliage websites I had been perusing the past few years, however, so I wanted to visit both. I feared overwhelming crowds at both, however, so I had to choose which to try to hit first.

Because the websites had mention aspen near the start of the McGree Creek trails, and also mentioned a small lot, and so urged you to "come early," started there. Got there a little later than intended, because I initially left Bishop (my home base for this weekend trip) without tossing my camera bag in the car. Had to turn around and drive back, wasting about 40 minutes.

From Bishop, I headed north on U.S. 395 for about 30 miles, before turning left on McGree Creek Road. Having never been here, before, I then needed to slow down to figure out what next. There's a lodge right after you turn, and a rather narrow road to the right of the lodge. That's the road you need to follow, heading straight up after the stop sign.

It's paved but occasionally steep and rough until you get near the campground. Then the pavement ends. Still easily passable by passenger vehicles, but narrow. When I got there, before 9am, there was still plenty of parking. When I left, in mid-afternoon, the parking lot was overflowing, and a lot of people were there for the fall foliage.

Vault toilets at the trailhead. Then you head upstream. The trail splits at several points, where you can either hug the river or go a bit higher. Because the sun hadn't yet reached the vally floor, I stayed high and headed up. John Muir Wilderness sign maybe a 1/2 mile up. Very picturesque near there, and ever more so on my return, when the sun was hitting the entire canyon, but clouds kept the view up from being too glare-y.

I continued up until where the map indicated a fairly large lake, but reality indicated was a large marshy meadow with a brook meadering across. Some color on the cliffs across the way. Took a detour on the return to get a face-on view of a waterfall that came down from the left (when heading down-canyon), as seen in the previous shot, and as seen from when closer to the trailhead at the top of this post.

Returned to my car, ate lunch, then drove to Rock Creek Canyon. Took a scenic route; should have stayed on 395 until Tom's Place, but the way I went (next turn off of 395, south) took me through a picturesque town. Eventually got to actual Rock Creek Road. I think the speed limit is something like 35 or 40mph, but cars wanted to drive much faster. Continued upstream to near the end of the road (not knowing where the colorful aspen would be), wound up parking about 1/2 mile from the end, when the traffic started backing up, walked up to the end of the road, then picked a random short trail to walk. That ended up being a 1/2 mile trail to Eastern Brook Lake.

As I neared the end of my drive, graupel started falling. That's frozen precipitation that's harder than snow but softer than hail. Because of recent warm temperatures, it didn't stick on the road, but did accumulate a bit off the roads. It continued falling on my short hike to a picturesque lake, which I assume must have at one time been planted with eastern brook trout.

However, this lake, like I"m sure the others on the longer trail to a chain of additional lakes, was above the aspen line. Just confiers. Having never been up this way, I didn't know. So I walked back down the trail, then down the road. Aspen and willow lined the creek than ran by the parking area and the road back to the parking area. I took plenty of photos.

Then I drove down to actual Rock Creek Lake. Parked near the start of the road to Rock Creek Lake campground, since I assumed by the sign that only camp parking was allowed down the road. This was not correct, so I ended up walking more than I needed to. Once near the lake, there were more roads and paths to walk adjacent to the lake, some with good aspen color right along the road.

There was more color along the shoreline. However, being late afternoon by now, the sun was above the lake from were I walked, creating a strong clare off the water, which made photography over the lake difficult. Once I got to the southern end, I took some pictures, including some of a few people fishing near the inlet to Rock Creek Lake. There was the impressive snag, pictured here, near that southern end.

Then drove back down to Bishop. Long day, with about a six mile hike out and back from McGee Creek, and several shorter walks in the upper Rock Creek area, both around Rock Creek Lake and to Eastern Brook Lake. Were I to return to Rock Creek Canyon, I'd definitely want to walk more along the upper reaches, though not for aspen. For aspen, further down, well below Rock Creek Lake, were several campgrounds along the creek, with lots of aspen stands. For the fall, I'd spend more time down there.

This last photo was from the Division Creek rest area. Rabbit brush was thick in bloom down in Owens Valley. With more time, I would have wandered down there, to try to get some fall blooms in my collection.

A little rushed for such a long drive, but still, got one pretty full day of fall foliage. I also took a few hours on October 7 to hit North Lake and parts of Bishop Canyon. May try to get that posted soon, too. Also still waiting to be blogged are some summer hikes in the Sierra, among others.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

South Fork Taylor Creek, Kolob Canyons Section, Zion National Park -- Hiked October 29, 2022

Remember how I keep saying I'm way behind in my blogging? Well, this one is almost a year old. That makes it sort of timely, since it's soon to be fall foliage time in southern Utah, again.

I did this hike a few weeks after I drove up above Cedar City, along Kolob Terrace Road. Because of its lower altitude, I assumed (semi-correctly) that the leaves would change later in this section of Zion National Park. The trailhead is just under 30 minutes south of Cedar City.

The NPS list of hikes makes no mention of this as a trailhead, which is odd, considering the size of the parking area. As you head up Kolob Canyon Road, the parking area is just before the big hairpin turn, about 3.4 miles east of I-15.

Despite many previous trips up this road, I only hiked up this canyon twice, both fairly recently. And that's because it wasn't listed on the dayhike list in the orientation material the NPS provided upon entry. So, the first time up this canyon, I had no idea what to actually expect. But it turns out there's a pretty well-defined trail up this canyon. Yes, it's steep in places. But, until you get near the end, it's just still just a walk.

Most of the fall color in this canyon is yellow, which provides a nice contrast against the reddish sandstone walls. There are steep walls as you work your way up canyon, that narrow, the further up you go. Eventually, the way forward requires scrambling. At that point, after it becoming apparent that I was nearing the end of a non-technical walk, I turned around. Very roughly, I'd estimate maybe three miles roundtrip.

Impossible to get lost on this hike, unless you climb out the side of the canyon. I did observe anchor points on several of those canyon walls, so clearly there is (or was) some technical climbing done in this canyon. If people were climbing above me, I'd get nervous hiking below them. But, there were no rock climbers on this or the other time I poked around this canyon, and rather few hikers. That seems odd, considering the size of the parking lot, but I think part of the reason for the size of the parking lot is that it is either overflow or an alternative parking area for folks hiking out of the Lee Pass trailhead, a half-mile further up the road. You'd park here on those times when either snow or rain damage makes the road further up the canyon impassible.

Used to be there was no entry fee to drive up this section of Zion, but that's not been the case for a while. However, paying in the main canyon would cover your entry here, or vice versa. And, of course, if you have a federal public lands pass, it's free, either way.

Despite this location being lower in altitude than the hills above Cedar City, it can still get cold here. You'll notice some snow on the downed trees in this photo, and perhaps some patches in the first shot of this post, as well.

Still, the lower altitude does mean fall foliate change comes later here than in Cedar Breaks, though probably earlier than in Zion Canyon. However, there were also some windy days and nights a bit before this trip, so there was less foliage on the trees than if the weather had been more conducive to leaf peeping.

By the time I got back, it was pretty dark. So I waited for more darkness. Somewehre along the line, I realized I had forgotten the adapter I need to connect my dslr to my ball head tripod. So I resorted to using my cell phone. This is with my Samsung S21, in pro mode. ISO 1600, 30 second exposure, braced against my car antenna to hold the camera still, and using voice activation to trigger the shutter. I also used the free Lightroom for Mobile to process. The Andromeda Galaxy is near the center of the photo. I'm pretty pleased with the result, as I don't usually use my cell phone for night skyscapes.

As always, click on the photos for larger versions of each shot.