The next day was still pretty cold and snowy/rainy/sleety. We headed down the road to the valley floor. The cloud cover was so large that we missed a lot of views and the tops of a lot of waterfall- but it was still gorgeous. Yosemite is really two things- Granite and Waterfalls.
We visited a number of quick hikes off the main road, lots of waterfalls, the nature center and even caught a coyote out in the middle of the day howling.
We finished the valley with a scotch at the Ahwahnee Hotel fireplace before heading out to Hetch Hetchy. In general the reservoir is a sad place because it was a real conservation loss when they filled the valley (once similar to Yosemite Valley) in order to create the Hetch Hetchy reservoir with the O’Shaughnessy Dam. The Reservoir provides drinking water for San Francisco. You can still hike around the shores and see some of the surviving waterfalls into the reservoir. We did spot some Harlequin Lupin- very cool, and there are supposedly some type of giant mastiff bat around the area, but we didn’t find any. The evening finally cleared and we had a chance for a leisurely dinner and campfire.
After Mono Lake we headed into the park via the Tioga Pass entrance. The pass goes through the Inyo NF first, then you enter the NP at an elevation of 9945 ft. It started snowing here first.
Our first stop in the park was to scramble up Pothole Dome in order to get a wide view of the Tuolumne Meadows. Unfortunately it was far too early for wildflowers at this elevation and I think that all the critters maybe went back into hibernation. The domes are pretty cool granite structures that reminded us of some parts of New England and upstate NY.
It started to really snow at this point but we headed on to Tenaya Lake, which the guidebook mentioned was great for swimming and sitting on the beach- brrrrrrr…. way too cold for any of that but we did get some good pictures looking across the lake.
Zack is typically the master of timed photos but he was a little rusty this past weekend- I think I like the first one better than the actually portrait.
We descended elevation along the Tioga Pass and the snow was intermittent. We ate lunch in the car and ventured out for a short hike to the Tuloumne Sequoia Grove. The grove wasn’t too big but the trees are always impressive and the woods was filled with blooming pacific dogwood.
Hogdon Meadows campground is still at around 7,000 ft so we arrived to find the campground pretty empty with snow and hail. At this point they had closed the Tioga Pass and the entrance into the Valley due to snow.
The snow didn’t stick too much but it sure made setting up the tent cold work. We also took this opportunity to try and set up the new vestibule we bought for the tent -don’t worry, we are still married. Our tent is officially huge with the extra vestibule and it felt like we should have had a dance party in there without the dogs. This could be a seriously viable option to add square footage onto our house. For a NP campground it was pretty nice- we had a walk-in site along the edge of the woods with our own bear box and lots of trees- which I imagine would be nice shade in the sun. As it was they provided a bit of snow protection.
The one park we didn’t make it to on our adventure last summer was Yosemite (well ok we still have to visit the Channel Islands and then we are really done!). The original travel plan included Yosemite as a stop for many reasons- it is relatively close, the Sierra Club history, and it was the inspiration for all the National Parks. Zack and I also managed to get through about 1/2 of the Ken Burns documentary – and most of what I remember between falling asleep was about Yosemite and Muir. Our inability to get a campsite (any campsite) that summer and the unfriendly doggy atmosphere made us eliminate it from our itinerary. Long story- but we have been planning this trip to Yosemite since we got back last year.
Our experience with Yosemite really started in January when the campsite reservations opened up online. There we sat with laptops ready, 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices all picked out for the 9:00am start. At 9:01 the service was overloaded, at 9:10 everything in the valley was booked- at 9:15 someone released a site outside of the valley in Hogdon Meadows, and we booked it for the long weekend.
We left San Diego after work on thursday and Zack amazingly drove us all the way to Mammoth Lakes by 1:00am. Sadly there are no mammoths there but the town was pretty cute, right in between Sequoia NP and Death Valley NP, and looks like it would be great for a winter get-away. There is also reportedly a super cool ghost town north of the town. We stayed overnight at a ski lodge and headed out early the next morning. It was cold, but we didn’t really pay attention to the hotel staff when they told us they were expecting a snow storm.
The Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve is just north of Mammoth Lakes on the way to the Yosemite entrance. Mono Lake is one of those classic examples of California water miss-management. It is an ancient (over 1 million yr.old) lake with no outlet that serves as a huge stop0over for migratory birds and the nesting ground for about 80% of all California Gulls. The birds eat the millions of brine shrimp in the lake- which you can actually see in the water. Of course the birds are super buoyant in the high salinity water so they bob awesomely when they are eating.
In the 1940s they started draining the lake for water supply for growing populations in LA- the water in the lake halved and the salinity doubled causing all sorts of ecological problems. In the 1970′s they began a plan to bring the water levels back up to an acceptable level. Another interesting conservation story in this area of California.
What is a Tufa? A tufa is a fabulous name for a geological feature made of limestone and formed when underwater springs rich in calcium mix with the lake water that is rich in carbonates. The calcium carbonate precipitates (remember this from chemistry?) around the spring, and over the course of decades, a tufa tower will grow. Here is some more tufa geology.
Do you see those storm clouds over the mountains?
It’s been getting hot in the east county. Actually it has been heating up in all of San Diego, with little to no May Gray as we head into June. This time of year heralds the end of east county and desert hiking until next winter. In search of a shady hike this weekend we stumbled upon the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway.
The hike through the creek-side riparian area was perfect but we may have taken on a bit too much with this 5 mile hike through the canyon and up to Lake Ramona. The last few miles were uphill and hot and at about mile 2 Sonora and I were attacked by bees! Fortunately I was the only one hit- unfortunately it was on my face
We passed Lake Poway trailhead and finally made it the whole way up to Lake Ramona. Monty, as usual enjoyed cooling of and playing ball in the water- but even Sonora went swimming- it was that hot.
On the way home we saw a large snake slither along the path ( and big tracks). We were all pretty sore the next day and Sonora actually ended up injuring her paw pad on the way back on some gravel. Today’s mission: recovery with aspirin, ice packs for the face, and new boots for Nora to protect those paws!
Following the advice of Roam o Rama, we headed up to Ramona on a half day off from work. Black Canyon is located down 8 miles of dirt truck road in the Cleveland National Forest. The road is narrow and winding and you need to honk going around corners- but the view was fantastic! We parked on the forest road and headed down to the closed campground. The campground was pretty overgrown but you could still tell it was an amazing place at one point. The trail at this point was very overgrown but the flowers (bee plant, monkey flowers, yerba santa etc.) were amazing. After a short hike we starting trailing along the river, which while not overflowing, still had a steady stream from the winter rains. We made our way to a larger pool with nice flat rocks and while the water was kind of stagnant it made for a good doggy wading pool. We had the place to ourselves for over an hour! We could hear the bigger crowd upstream at the larger pool but I can’t imagine the water was much better there. Perfect spot for a spring swim! Sadly Monty lost a favorite ball and Sonora sprained her tail from too much swimming. It was really sad to see no wags for a few days but I am happy report that it is back at 100%.
A few weeks back we headed up to the Laguna Mountains again to try out a different trail within the Cleveland National Forest. The Pioneer Mail Trail was listed online as a favorite for dog hikers. The trail began at a gorgeous picnic area (certainly worth a stop) late in the Spring it still had a nice variety of blooming chaparral including tons of ceonothus or mountain lilac in white, blue and purple. The ground was pretty rocky, hot and dry for the pups- but we were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the bleakness of Anza Borrego. The view of desert nothingness made the ceonothus seem so lush. The hike only took about an hour or so but we returned to the picnic area to the sounds of about a dozen acorn woodpeckers.
We visited the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve in Julian in the late fall this year instead of our regular Julian camping trip in September. We were a bit worn our from camping but still wanted to hit up Julian during the height of the season. We had heard great things about Volcan Mountain – but sadly no dogs allowed. Fortunately the East staging ground of the Santa Ysabel Preserve is right down Wynola road past the Volcan Mountain Entrance and was a great alternative for four legged hikers.
It was a really good idea to keep the dogs leashed on this trail because it is a joint use area and cattle are often grazing around the grassy area. Sonora really wanted that extension leash to disappear as she stocked the wild cattle. God knows what she would have done had she actually been allowed to try and heard them.
The day was getting short so we only ended up doing about 2/3rds of the Kanaka Trail, next time we will head back and complete the loop. The most interesting parts are when the trail follows the river bed and is filled with large old growth sycamores and other riparian plants. The ridge grasslands had very nice views but was also pretty windy. The nicest part is that the hike is a hop skip and a jump from Julian (wine tasting and apple pies!). Monty feels like he really pops in B&W