Saturday, August 20, 2016

Clark Fork Campground and the Attack of the Bees

Resting in the hammock, I listened to the sounds of nature in this pretty campground located in the Stanislaus NF off of highway 108.  The meat-eating bees were buzzing and flying into the trap of sardine water that my daughter had made earlier that day. We couldn't tell if a bee kept going into the bottle because of the smell of sardines or trying to rescue their fellow bee.

The campground was mostly empty since school had started, which is a week earlier than last year. So the third week of August, which would normally be a busy time for families in the past to camp, was very quiet. Only one family with very young kids were at the opposite end of the campground. Otherwise, the other few campers were elderly folks. Out of 88 sites there were only about 15 occupied.

Our site was nestled in a group of shrubs, nice and private.

The campground is surrounded by rocky peaks, but from our campsite the view was of the pines.

Some of the surrounding peaks are on the edge of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. On the first day, we hiked the Arnot Creek trail, which is located at the end of a dirt road just a short distance from the entrance to the campground. We hiked from our campsite to the junction of Arnot Creek and Woods Gulch and back, round trip was about 7 miles at an elevation of 6,350 feet.

Our second day hike was to the beautiful Sword Lake in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. After the long drive to the parking area near the entrance to the trail, we made the steep climb up the trail for a wonderful view of the Stanislaus NF. Sadly, a hive of bees had taken a liking to this area of rocks. I got stung in the knee while admiring the view.

From this point, it was almost all down hill to the lake. We crossed a meadow along the ridge and then did a series of switchbacks down the mountain. Along the way, we were rewarded with spectacular views towards Spicer Reservoir. 

There were miles of granite and pine to be seen.

The hike from County Line to Sword Lake is 2 miles, at least that is what the National Forrest Service states, but it felt like a good 3- 3.5 mile hike to the lake. Once we got to the lake, we were rewarded with wonderful views of the Dardanelles. 

The water was so inviting that we took a quick dip to cool and refresh our sweaty bodies. 

Before heading back, we took a photo of us and the Dardanelles behind us. We didn't want to leave this beautiful place, but we knew we had the long and slow climb back up the mountain to the car. As we headed out, a group of backpackers were coming in to camp for the night at the lake. I prefer the comforts of the RV. 

So, off we trudged along the trail passing many different flowers in bloom, like the Indian Paint Brush, and taking in the wonderful views of the Dardanelles.

Mother nature provided a lesson on different ways tree branches form along the trunks of the pine trees- -way cool!

I needed numerous rest stops while climbing back up the mountain. One can't complain of the scenery along the way. 

A shady rest stop was badly needed before walking past the rock pile of nasty bees. So, I rested well before making the last quick dash up the hill past the pile of rocks. From there, it was the short and steep descent back to the car.

Back at camp, more of the meat-eating bees had committed suicide. We were amazed at how many had ventured into the trap.  

After a peaceful night of rest, we took one last hike around the campground (mid-morning) looking at all the sites and commenting on which ones would be nice for future stays.

Of course Meeks gave us that look of do we have to go home so soon. I'm sure that she wanted to be back at the lake. 

Yes, we will return again to this lovely lake and to explore this region more.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

TeleLi puLaya

TeleLi puLaya could be lyrics to a song, but it's the name to a wonderful campground off Hwy. 108 in the Stanislaus National Forest. This campground just sings of beauty with spectacular views of the Stanislaus River Canyon and the Dardanelles in the far distance.

After our wonderful camping trip and hiking adventure at Fraser Flat, I decided that my husband and I would explore more of the campgrounds and trails off Hwy. 108 this summer. In the past, our Sierra car-camping trips with our children would always be to Utica Lake off Hwy. 4--another equally beautiful area. On this trip, we were rewarded with the beautiful setting of TeleLi puLaya a.k.a Black Oak campground nestled in the Jeffrey and Yellow pine forest just above Beardsley Lake.

Since there isn't a trail from the campground to the lake, I planned a hike that would take us into the Emigrant Wildness which is located on the other side of Hwy. 108 from where we were camped. After stopping at the Summit Ranger Station for additional information, we were off to explore. And explore we did!

First adventure was off-roading up to the parking area at Gianelli Cabin trailhead, about 8,600 feet. From there, our next adventure was a relatively easy climb up to Burst Rock a.k.a Birth Rock. We stopped numerous times on the way up taking in the views of the granite boulders covered with snow and far off volcanic rock formations, such as the Dardanelles and the Three Chimneys.

Close to the top of Burst Rock there is large sign with historical information about the pioneers that pulled wagons up the mountain. In addition to that information, which is difficult to picture, there is information about a legend of one pioneer lady that gave birth on Burst Rock. Eeks! All I could think of was OMG that poor woman. After the climb, we descended to find Powell Lake, about 2.3 miles from trailhead. The lake can't be seen from the trail coming from Burst Rock. It is located left side of trail coming from Burst Rock and is nestled in granite below the trail. A faint trail junction is the only clue that something of interest is in that direction, no sign.

Once we found the side trail that leads down to this pretty lake, we sat to soak up the peacefulness of this small, pristine lake. 

Surprisingly, the walk back to the car was fast and equally enjoyable as heading to the lake. While walking back, I noticed different flowering plants along the trail that I didn't see while heading to the lake. Total miles hiked was about 5 miles and at an altitude above 8,000 feet. Back down the mountain we headed for our traditional camping hour of appetizers, tea (for me) and cocktails (for husband) while resting our weary bones and planning the next day's adventure.

The next morning we headed off thinking we could hike the Trail of the Gargoyles, but the forest road leading back to the Gargoyles is extremely rutted and better for high clearance 4WD vehicles than our new tow vehicle, a diesel Cayenne. So, we decided to drive down pass our campground to look at the campground at Beardsley Lake.  That's one steep and curvy drive down to the lake--but well worth the look.

A view looking up the lake and canyon from the west side after the dam. The campsites at the lake look nice, but I would NOT tow a trailer down to camp since the road's incline is very steep. We headed back to TeleLi puLaya for lunch and a walk around the campsite. While walking the campground, we noticed an old forest road near the trash dumpster next to the camp host site. We followed that road until we came to a T-junction, another forest road. From that junction, we just headed back the way we came to the campground. Along the forest road where signs that some folks had driven their dirt bikes sometime recently.

Numerous butterflies were frequenting some milkweed that was along one sunny location of the forest road. We counted five different types of butterflies enjoying the milkweed nectar. 

In one large area along the forest road there is a field of Mountain Misery. I get a kick out of that name. Mountain Misery is also known as bear clover, bearcat, or kit-kit-dizzy, a Miwok name. 

Interestingly, it grows only on the western slopes of the Sierra Range. This plant, a member of the rose family, is very important agent in building a healthy forest environment as well as being a main source of winter food for black-tailed deer. The Miwok Indians would make a tea from it to fight off colds and ease rheumatism.

TeleLi puLaya is located far from Hwy. 108, but well worth revisiting in order to explore more of the forest that surrounds this lovely campground. There is a large rock that can be seen from the campground. The friendly camp host told me from that rock, shaped as a glove, one can see all of Beardsley Lake and the Stanislaus River Canyon. Next time I come back to this delightful campground, I'll hike over to the rock for a picnic lunch.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fraser Flat Campground

I love hiking...and I really enjoy hiking with my husband and my dog. So, I'm always looking for new hiking places that are dog-friendly. Luckily there are still places in the Sierras that allow dogs on trails, and Stanislaus National Forest offers many interesting places in which one can do so.

Not far from Fraser Flat campground is the wonderful Sugar Pine Railroad Trail. My husband, Meeks, and I hiked the section from Fraser Flat campground up the 3% grade trail to Post #9 and back, total ~ 7 miles. The trail was once a railway line used for logging in the early 1900s.

The trail runs beside the South Fork of the Stanislaus River, which provides plenty of opportunities for those that love to fish; but for us, it provided a place to experience springtime nature.

Shortly into the hike, we noticed the contrast of the vibrant, red snow plants against the brown, wooded path. While we hiked under the canopy of pine and deciduous trees, we vigilantly watched for the "mileposts" along this section of the trail. 

At each of the nine post markers, I read from a pamphlet about historical highlights that can been seen from the marker. Across the river, was a flume and ditch, the Philadelphia Ditch, that was built in 1899 to supply gold miners with water to work hydraulic diggings. Today, the flume is still used to carry water to Spring Gap for power generation.

Being a person that grew up on the East Coast and thinking Dogwoods are an East Coast tree, I was surprised and delighted to see the Dogwood in bloom.

The diversion dam provided us with a waterfall. It was wonderful to see that this winter's snowfall was filling the river with swiftly moving water. We were told that the fishing hasn't been good though.

We came across Cardinal Catchfly in a section of the trail that was out in the sun.

On the return to the campground, we stop at the bridge to take in this beautiful view of the Stanislaus and the flow of the swift current moving down the mountain. The elevation here is about 4,800 feet.

Back at the campground, we were just one of three campers. The weekend crowd had headed home-thank God.

The campground is situated along side the South Fork Stanislaus River. This campground was once an important railroad logging hub. 

This was the morning view from the RV dinette of empty campsites. The sites are spaced generously away from another site. Even though the road passes by the campground, we only saw a couple of trucks heading off to a campground further in the forrest.

Meeks was always inspecting the site for critters.

 Fraser Flat is now on our list of campgrounds to visit in early Spring.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chasing Waterfalls and Making Burgers

We purchased a new toy for camping, a Biolite Camp Stove and Grill-top. We were excited to try out our new toy; but before we did, we headed off to chase waterfalls at our new favorite campground, Arroyo Seco. Yes, we were just there less than a month ago, but we enjoyed our stay at this pretty spot that we decided to head back before the warm-weather campers make it difficult to reserve a spot at the campground. Plus, it was Spring Break for our college son, and we thought he would enjoy seeing the waterfalls and hiking the region.

So, off the three of us went to hike closer to that waterfall my husband and I tried to hike to on our last trip. This time we brought with us water shoes for crossing the Santa Lucia Creek.

This time the water level was higher due to the rains the previous week.

We had to cross the creek twice to get closer to the falls...

And do a lot of bouldering to make it to this little island in the creek just below the falls. Doggy wasn't happy with the wading across the creek-she isn't a water dog.

A couple of smaller falls were running. We saw a newt trying to run for cover while we hiked through his lush, green habitat. He was too bashful to pose for a photo; so, my son posed.

The seven mile round trip hike took us by a hut that was used by rangers in the 1920s.

Swimming holes along the Arroyo Seco river can been seen from the trail we hiked along. The weather was warm enough for a swim that day, but we wanted to get back to camp to set up the Biolite grill camp stove.

I collected twigs, while husband looked after the burgers. Surprisingly, not a huge pile of twigs and sticks were needed. I only needed to pick up the fallen sticks around our site; which wasn't too much, but more than the amount in the photo.

The first batch of burgers were so yummy! We were so happy with the performance of the stove and grill top that I cooked the last two burgers as the sun was quickly setting.