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April through June 2016

A Happy Camper Post date: Jun 21, 2016 1:57:22 PM We loved getting this note from one of our readers:


Hi M&P,Thank you so much for getting me started on the right foot for my trip to Yosemite last weekend. I reserved for Young Lakes via Dog Lake. When I got to the wilderness office to get my permit and bear canister, I learned that the Tuolumne area of Yosemite is still under snow and the rangers said I would have to forge my own trail in some areas.


Being new to this… I did some research and opted for the Porcupine Creek trailhead. I ended up hiking to North Dome, then going across to Yosemite Peak/Yosemite Creek and Falls, then coming back to Yosemite Peak to camp for the night.It stormed like crazy at night and I got nervous that it would be storming all day, so I woke up early and opted for going the “easy” way out, straight down to Yosemite Valley.


Little did I know that this route was all rocky switchbacks and was far from easy. When I got to the Valley, I learned that the hiker bus did not start until later in the season, so I ended up making a hitchhiking sign to get back to my car on Tioga Road. A nice hiker couple (who mentioned that they had taken many hitchhiking rides in their heyday) picked me and another girl up and took me back to the car.


The whole trip was life changing. I met so many friendly people along the way and saw some of the most beautiful natural landscapes while at Yosemite. I genuinely want to thank you again for your detailed recommendation for my trip. This weekend I did Big Sur on my own too, and camped along Pine Crest Trail. Next weekend I plan on going to Tahoe and trying to find a trail there!


Sincerely,Sara



Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Post date: Jun 20, 2016 4:16:56 PM We're back from a short trip up Arnot Creek out of the Clark Fork Road, exploring a section of this wilderness that sees a lot less traffic than you'd think. We spent two days there, and saw a total of seven people, all on our way hiking out.


The first day we were on our own. The trail starts out easily enough as a old logging road for the first mile or more. Then after a fording of Woods Creek, it starts to climb up the beautiful Arnot Creek Canyon. Because snowmelt was in full swing, the creek was roaring and made for an impressive companion on the way up.

The views began to open up, both of the peaks on our side of the highway in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness and on the other side, in the Emigrant Wilderness. We crossed a series of smaller tributaries, some on the map and some not, and reached the first fords of Arnot Creek by lunchtime. Sadly, these fords were not marked on our map...and that led us to believe we were about a half mile further up the trail than we were. After lunch, we came to the second set of fords, and they looked a little less inviting, with slick rock, fast water, and no easy entry and exit to the stream.What the heck, we decided. Let's just stay on this side of the creek and meet up with the trail a but further on, where it crosses back. How bad can it be?

Well, it could be very steep. There's a reason that trail crosses the creek, and as we struggled up towards the top of the ridge, we finally took a few photos and called it a day, heading back down to that ford to camp. That's the canyon at left.And there were more snow plants that we could count.


That night the wind howled (just as well we weren't camped farther up) and there were a couple of times that we felt a possible raindrop. But this trip was a test run for our 4-season tent, and it did splendidly. M loved it. P wasn't so happy about carrying seven pounds of tent...

The next day we had an easy stroll back to the car, and made it back to our cabin in time to eat a late lunch, take a nap, and then clean up the yard for the rest of the afternoon. Which made Sunday a delicious day of rest.



Practice makes perfect Post date: Jun 3, 2016 4:46:39 AM We sometimes hear from hikers who have made mistakes. Serious ones.We never do that.


Of course, this weekend P packed up all the food for our trip except the lunches which were going in M's pack. P assumed that she got them, since they were going in her pack. M assumed P had put them in her pack, since he was in charge of the food planning. One way or the other, we were both sure they got packed.


The "good" news is that M came down with a nasty virus, and we never went backpacking. We only discovered this problem when P reminded M to put the salami back in the fridge. That's when M told P she had never taken it OUT of the fridge, nor had she packed the cheese or crackers. Oops.


Would have made for an interesting hike---lots of oatmeal and freeze dried dinners. No lunches...So we started thinking. We had plenty of energy bars--enough for us each to have one for lunch. And we had dried fruit aplenty, too. And GORP. By the time we added it all up, we figured that we probably could have managed a three-day trip with the food we'd brought along. And we would have had a lovely time.


I bet we would have lost some weight, too!



The best laid plans Post date: Jun 2, 2016 4:26:26 AM We had high hopes for this past Memorial Day Weekend. Even better, we had a permit for a four day backpacking trip into Dinkey Lakes. But then M started to feel poorly....She went to the doctor on Thursday, and was told she had a virus that's "going around" and would take about two weeks to disappear. Loaded with medicines and certain amount of unrealistic hope, we headed to our cabin on Friday afternoon.


By Saturday, M was feeling worse, and we scrapped our plans and our permit. By Monday morning she felt so rotten that we simply came home early and let her sleep away the rest of the day in her own bed. She's now feeling better, thank goodness. And we're making plans for another trip soon.



Visiting Yosemite for the first time? Post date: May 26, 2016 6:29:24 PM We've had quite a few questions about this topic over the years, and just got another flurry of them, so we've written this summary to help you find your way. Bear in mind that in August the waterfalls are going to be less impressive than they are in May...but they'll still be cool. And the High Sierra will be blanketed by snow in a normal year until the middle of June or so...but the mosquitoes will be fierce when the snow melts. And September is lovely.


Actually, it's always lovely. With that in mind, when you first plan a visit to Yosemite:


1. Don't overlook dayhiking. Many of the truly stunning parts of Yosemite are easily available as day hikes, and you should make a real effort to see the following:> Glacier Point and its nearby hikes of Sentinel Dome and Taft Point--and if you have time, Dewey Point for a stunning view.

> The Giant Sequoias at Wawona--also visible in the Mariposa Grove, although that is closed this year. Add in the hike to Chilnualna Falls for a real workout near the South entrance to the park.

> Tuolumne Meadows and its local hikes: Lembert Dome, Pothole Dome, Gaylor Lakes, and Elizabeth Lake. That's a shot from near Tuolumne Meadows below, on the trail to Young Lakes.

> A day in the Valley to watch the climbers on El Capitan, view Bridalveil, Yosemite, and the other falls, hike out on the trails into the main meadows, where you will be amazed at how quiet and peaceful it all is...in the middle of everything.


Longer dayhikes not to be missed:

> Merced Canyon past Vernal and Nevada Falls (Half Dome if you can get a permit).

> Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake (a better hike than Half Dome, and when get to Clouds Rest you are looking down on the people on Half Dome--plus an amazing view of the Sierra crest.

> North Dome from Porcupine Creek--the best view of Half Dome in the Park

> May Lake and Mount Hoffman, one of the best views anywhere, period.


2. Now, once you've done all of that, you can look for a backpacking permit to some nice locations. You'll need a permit for a trip. The most popular sites fill up quickly, but I would recommend the following:


> Ten Lakes Basin is a great hike. And it's only two days---leaving you some time to explore the hikes above.

> Young Lakes, for the same reason. See photo above.

> Cathedral Lakes, for the same reason---explore Echo Canyon from there, just over the pass, if you have time.

> Glen Aulin pass through permit to go downstream of the High Sierra Camp to see even more waterfalls.


>> What I would NOT recommend is a high up to LIttle Yosemite Valley where there are so many people. Not exactly a wilderness experience. But it's the most direct route to Half Dome. Which is why it is so crowded.


What you will need is a campsite, and those can be hard to find during the middle of the summer. A backpacking permit helps, because it allows you to stay in a backpackers campground the day before and after your backpacking permit. But you can probably find a site at Tamarack or Porcupine if you get there earlier in the day...


Does that give you enough to get started? We have photos of most of these hikes in the destinations section of this website...so feel free to poke around there.



Cancellation policy Post date: May 25, 2016 3:43:13 PM We were so pleased with ourselves. We had remembered to act early and reserve exactly the wilderness permit we wanted, for Rafferty Creek in the middle of June, to get up into the upper reaches of the Merced Canyon early in the season. And we got it.


And then fate intervened. P was invited to speak at the Smithsonian about a topic near and dear to his heart...and that's an invitation he can't pass up, even at the risk of losing our permit for Yosemite. So yesterday he called the Yosemite Wilderness office and explained the situation. And he was delighted to learn that he can apply the charges he paid for the cancelled permit towards any other wilderness permit in Yosemite this year.


No, we won't have time to get into the Upper Merced this year. But we will take a trip in Yosemite sometime later in the season. And we've already got our permit paid for!



Spring Weather Post date: May 21, 2016 3:18:54 PM It seems that all of our local highway passes are now closed again: Highways 4, 108 and 120 have been shut down due to the big spring storm. That means that Ebbetts, Sonora, and Tioga Passes are closed. The weather is expected to warm up eventually, maybe by next weekend, and the roads can be opened again by then.

But as long as Mother Nature keeps dropping snow on the ground, the roads will be hard to predict. And so will the conditions in the mountains. Our advice? Head for lower elevations, where you are more likely to be able to get to a trailhead, or get out after you return from the hike.


And take along a little extra clothing, so that you can put on some dry clothes in the tent. We have a group of recommended hikes for early in the season on our destinations page:https://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home/destinations/early-season-hikes


But even if the highway is open, be careful out there. As we noted in our last post, snow is NOT your biggest concern in the spring. High water and roaring streams are a bigger worry. Take it easy, and don't be afraid to be smart. If the stream looks to big and fast to cross, it is. Look for another option, or head in another direction.



Come Hell or High Water Post date: May 21, 2016 3:56:20 AM We headed out on a hike this past weekend in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness off highway 108. We started well below snow level, thinking that we might not encounter any serious problems on the route.But it's springtime in the Sierra, and that means that the snow is melting like crazy.


Our route took us up Arnot Creek, and the creek itself was roaring, as was the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River. And a couple of miles later, when we came to our first ford, we decided that we didn't want to get our feet wet on a simple day-hike, and so we turned around. It's not the first time that we've done that.


The biggest single cause of death in the backcountry of the Sierra is not bear attacks, or axe-murderers. It's people getting into high, fast water, and not being able to get out again.So we encourage you to get out and hike this spring. And we encourage you to do so with caution and common sense. As an old rock-climbing partner of P's used to say: "Summits are all in the mind." The only place you really HAVE to get is home, and safe.



Questions about current conditions? Post date: May 8, 2016 1:59:59 PM Are you busy making plans for a backpacking trip? Want to know how much snow is in the Sierra right now? The Pacific Crest Trail Association has a great website with all kinds of information. Check out this interactive map which shows you snow depths everywhere along the Sierra...and the rest of the USA.


(Click on the SNOW DEPTH button for that version of the map.)http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps-and-guidebooks/


What you'll see is that after this last storm, there is still significant snow in the Sierra, although in the southern part of the range the snow levels are lower. And if you're looking for a destination for Memorial Day weekend, you're options are still quite limited. Much of the Sierra still has three feet or more of snow on the ground. One other element really stands out when you look at the snow level map--the huge swath that the San Joaquin River cuts into the Sierra. That massive canyon, lower than most of the rest of the range, clearly shows up. And it's almost that obvious when you see it from the air...Next time you fly, ask for a window seat!



Women on the Trail Post date: May 6, 2016 4:45:14 AM In time for a Mother's Day blog, we've had quite a few questions from women who want to know how M manages to spend a week in the woods with her backpacking husband. And we've had a few questions from men asking how they might construct a scenario that would encourage their wives or significant others to join them on the trail.


So here goes. First draft by P, with comments added by M.


First of all, P never forces M to tackle anything. No trail, cliff, or bushwhack is sacred. We've turned back at rushing streams, steep granite, and long climbs just because M didn't feel like doing that. That has to be part of the rules, because if one of you is worried and unhappy, it isn't going to be a good trip. Any time the going gets rough, P lets M call the shots, and set the pace. He may walk ahead of her, but he doesn't leave her behind, and he is always ready to bail out of a situation if she calls for it. And we've done that more than once.


Second of all, P always carries a heavier pack. He is bigger and stronger than M, and he eats more. So while her pack might come in at about 20 pounds, his is going to be 25-30 or more. That's fair. And if taking a bit more weight is all that it takes to get her to go backpacking, pile it on.M’s observation: The comments of a wise man!That's us below, posing for a "selfie" in Death Valley. But according to most of the questions we get, the three big issues are privacy, safety, and hygiene. Let's talk about them one by one.

Privacy: While it may seem more comforting to take your first trip in a larger group, or in a popular hiking area, M suggests just the opposite. "I'm not worried about you," she says, "and I'm not really worried about animals. But I don't like the idea of other people around when I am going to the bathroom or washing in a stream or lake."

The first trip we took together was to a very quiet stream about five miles in. There were no people around at all, and we spent an idyllic two days living out of the tent, wandering around the stream. She read books, I fished, and we agreed that it was so much fun that we started planning our next hike on the drive home. And we left the next day for the new trailhead.

Going to the bathroom is pretty straightforward. We take along a small plastic trowel and some toilet paper in an opaque plastic bag. And we take along a second opaque bag for the used toilet paper--because we follow Leave No Trace rules about that. When it's time to go, one of us takes that bag out into the woods as far as one needs to go for privacy, and takes care of business. The bag goes back into the outside pocket of one of the packs when we're finished. See below for a note about handiwipes---a nice accessory.The worst case scenario, for her, was backpacking next to a group of ten Boy Scouts. In that case, she actually asked P to stand guard between the scouts and her bathroom area, just to make sure that she had privacy.


M’s Comment: In a secure spot you can actually enjoy answering a call of nature outdoors. The mountains and trees are glorious, the birds are singing, and you are there being a part of it all. It sounds kind of unbelievable, but it can be lovely.

Once you accept that you will be packing out your toilet paper, adjusting other habits isn’t hard. You can still be fastidious. I am a big fan of thickets for privacy: Wade in there among the heavy brush and hunker down. No one else will be blundering past and they can’t see in even if the path is nearby. (It also helps to wear natural-colored clothes so you blend in with the scenery. Once I realized how conspicuous it was, I never could relax in that bright red fleece I had imagined would be "cheerful.") Where the terrain is more open, back up against a big rock or thick tree and you only need to be aware of what’s in front of you.Indelicate as this sounds, you don’t need TP if you’re only going to pee. Dry leaves and sticks don’t have to be packed out after use. So that part can be taken care of pretty fast. Please don’t hold back on drinking plenty of water in order to pee less; it isn’t worth it to get dehydrated or sick.


Consider where you’ll go if you need to get up in the night, and have a headlamp and supplies nearby. On our first overnight I wandered off into the woods and was heading over the hill and downstream when P woke up and called me back. Otherwise I might still be out there.


Safety: The best advice we can give here is to suggest you read our website sections about dangers on the trail: https://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home/general-information/dangers-on-the-trail. If you are worried about lions, tigers and bears, that should help put it all in perspective. Again, avoiding areas with lots of people will mean that the wildlife is much wilder--and more fearful of you.The only time the fear of bears kept us awake was one night in the John Muir Wilderness when M woke up P and asked him if he heard "that noise." He didn't. She went back to sleep for the rest of the night, and he stayed up for hours trying to hear the noise. True story. (It was a deer.)


Stay hydrated. Stay found (i.e., participate in the navigation, so you don't feel as if you are simply a passenger on the bus). Stay warm, fed, and well-rested. And stay out of fast, high water, please.The most dangerous thing you'll do on a backpacking trip is drive to the trailhead. In the Sierra, you won't run into many people once you get a couple of miles away from the trailhead, and the ones you do meet will almost all be charming people just like you. Only maybe a little dustier.


Hygiene: Let's face it, keeping clean on the trail is a challenge. You can't stop in at a restroom and wash up whenever you feel a little bit bedraggled. The good news? Nobody is there to see you, and if they do see you, they don't care. So it's really just about keeping clean "enough." It's not about being presentable. It's not about smelling good.On our trips, M always takes advantage of the lake or stream at the end of the day to rinse off her feet and hands. And if there is nobody else around (which is often the case) she rinses off a lot more. And taking along a small pack of handiwipes makes it easy to do the basics even when there is no water at all. M’s comment: If you can concentrate on just hygiene and basic comfort, living outdoors becomes much simpler. I don’t bother trying to look as polished as I (think I) do at home – that’s way too much work in the wilderness, and nearly everything else is easier and a more interesting way to spend the time. The bare minimum that my self-respect can stand for is sunscreen, a tiny soap, toothbrush, hand cream, Vaseline, lipstick/balm and a tiny mirror. (Okay, also eyebrow pencil.) Sanitizer is good, but only a very small bottle, as that stuff is heavy. A nice soft all-cotton bandanna is wonderful for wiping face or hands, and many other things.

The best campsites are those that are off the beaten path, so that you can actually skinny dip if you want. You can also rinse out your clothes pretty easily while you're backpacking. You will be thoroughly surprised at how quickly things dry at 10,000 feet.


The other option is to take a cooking pot full of water into the tent with you, and give yourself a sponge bath. It's amazing how much cleaner you can feel after using only a quart of water to rinse off the trail dust and sweat.

In some ways, most of the dirt you'll see is "clean dirt." Yes, your feet and ankles are going to be a different color at the end of the day. But that's just dust, and it won't make you sick. It feels great to wash it off!

M’s comment: After a long hike I’m usually desperate to get the salt and sunscreen off my skin, but it’s miraculous how much better I feel after a simple wash of face, hands, neck and feet. Anything more is a bonus. Soaking my tired feet in the stream is grand to start. I’m not brave about mountain lakes so most times I use a wet washcloth (ours are black!) to scrub off sunscreen, then wade into the nearest stream or lake and splash around till I get cold. (Rinse the cloth out in the grass far away from water.)

Hair washing remains the big deal because my hair isn’t very wash-and-wear. It’s great if you can make do with braids, a headband or scarf (maybe a second bandanna?). At a lake or stream you can rinse your hair with no soap and it gets clean enough. When it’s really necessary, we make do with the pan of water and a cup. Walk away from the stream, shampoo a tiny bit, and rinse into the grass. Have a pal bring you more rinse water if you can.

Washing the dishes is actually a pleasant task on the trail. You have warm water, a bit of soap and you get to wash your hands (and maybe your face!) as you wash the dishes. Just remember that soap DOES NOT belong in the water in the wilderness. Wash yourself and your dishes far (200 feet) from any stream or lake, to keep that water pristine.

So the solution? Pick a hike that isn't too challenging for the first trip. Make the destination somewhere you'll have a bit of privacy. And take it easy. Nobody should go on some 75-mile ten-day trip as their first outing. Make it an overnight, make sure that everyone has a really good time. Eat well, stay hydrated. And you'll be amazed how everything comes together after dinner, as you sit on a log or rock, watching the sun go down, and appreciating the fact that this is a very special moment.



Need Inspiration to get out there? Post date: May 3, 2016 4:31:06 AM Here are some of our favorite quotes about travel--which apply to hiking as well:


“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” from Ibn Battuta, the remarkable Arab who toured the known world 1200 years ago.


“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous


“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – A great line that explains why large groups always travel slower, by Henry David Thoreau, who supposedly was roughing at Walden Pond. But his sister brought him fresh baked cookies every day...


“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca“


Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien. And we've wandered many times, on our trips


.“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville--which is just the excuse you need to get off-trail and explore a little bit.


And an all-time favorite from Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”



Addition to our First Aid Kit Post date: Apr 25, 2016 3:23:24 PM We've added one more item to our first aid kit for backpacking, but it's not something we suggest for everyone.


As you know if you've been reading this blog, P is an avid cyclist. He tries to ride just about every day for 15+ miles, and has regularly ridden over 5,000 miles a year. But over the past few years, he's been stung by bees a few times, and each time the reaction to the sting has become more pronounced.


The last time he was stung, about month ago, it was on the thigh, and his entire thigh swelled up to about 150% of it's normal size. That's when he decided it was worth going to the doctor about this. The doctor prescribed some massive dosages of prednisone, and then asked P what he liked to do for fun.


When P mentioned backpacking, the doc immediately prescribed a couple of epipens. He was concerned that if P were stung near his head by a bee, the reaction could easily prevent him from breathing. There's a happy thought. So we've added this to our FAK for in the mountains, even though it adds a few ounces to our packs. Wonder if there is an ultralight version?



Bears and Guns Post date: Apr 21, 2016 6:03:51 PM Sometimes we meet someone who suggests that the best way to defend yourself against bear attacks is to carry a firearm. If you think bears are a significant danger in the Sierra, first read our website about dangers in the Sierra. Bears are not on the list.On the other hand...you could always read this great story from the Lewis and Clark expedition. They ran into a grizzly bear (there are no grizzlies in California):Lewis described the encounter as follows:


…they took the advantage of a small eminence which concealed them and got within 40 paces of him unperceived, two of them reserved their fires as had been previously conscerted, the four others fired nearly at the same time and put each his bullet through him, two of the balls passed through the bulk of both lobes of his lungs, in an instant this monster ran at them with open mouth, the two who had reserved their fires discharged their pieces at him as he came towards them, boath of them struck him, one only slightly and the other fortunately broke his shoulder, this however only retarded his motion for a moment only, the men unable to reload their guns took to flight, the bear pursued and had very nearly overtaken them before they reached the river; two of the party betook themselves to a canoe and the others seperated an concealed themselves among the willows, reloaded their pieces, each discharged his piece at him as they had an opportunity they struck him several times again but the guns served only to direct the bear to them, in this manner he pursued two of them seperately so close that they were obliged to throw aside their guns and pouches and throw themselves into the river altho’ the bank was nearly twenty feet perpendicular; so enraged was this anamal that he plunged into the river only a few feet behind the second man he had compelled take refuge in the water, when one of those who still remained on shore shot him through the head and finally killed him; they then took him on shore and butchered him when they found eight balls had passed through him in different directions.


Lewis and Clark subsequently forbade any of their men to shoot at grizzlies for the rest of the expedition.



Seeing is Believing Post date: Apr 20, 2016 4:46:33 PM On a recent post on this blog, we reported seeing both Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak from the top of the bridge in Terminous, California, about 250 miles away.Here's a link to that post: https://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home/our-blog/riobellavista


Happily, one of our readers pointed out that such a thing was impossible. Austin wrote to say that Shasta would have to be 40,000 feet tall in order to be visible from 250 miles away. And he gave us proof: a link to a site that allows you to calculate everything visible from any point you choose:http://www.heywhatsthat.com/?view=LMO6RTDB


Which is all really cool, except that we know what we saw. On a sparkling clear morning with no clouds, we clearly saw the white snowy bumps on the horizon right where Lassen and Shasta should be. Hmmm.


And, of course, P being an amateur astronomer, he know what must have happened: atmospheric diffraction. To quote Wikipedia: "Terrestrial (atmospheric) refraction usually causes terrestrial objects to appear higher than they really are, although in the afternoon when the air near the ground is heated, the rays can curve upward making objects appear lower than they really are.Which is exactly what happened that morning in Rio Vista. We literally saw things that were around the curvature of the Earth. And if Austin hadn't written to us, we'd never have known.



Talus is a full-body workout Post date: Apr 19, 2016 12:26:08 AM When we go off trail, the challenges are two-fold: finding our way to the next destination, and finding our way through the next fifty feet.It's that latter part that can get really complicated. On a map, it may look just fine, but when you get there, it's whole different matter. And the thing that makes us most concerned is talus--big chunks of rocks in a pile. You have to climb up, around, over and through these rocks, and it's a ton of work. You end up using your hands, feet, knees, butt, and just about anything else that might help you keep moving through the pile of huge rocks.

And while those rocks may be big, they are not necessarily stable. If one shifts underneath you as you are walking, it can make things pretty darn exciting.

Just one of the reasons that off-trail travel is almost always slower, a lot slower, than walking on a trail. And it's why we always find ourselves pretty darned tired after an hour of this. Now if you could only develop a work-out program based on climbing through talus...



Where to eat in Oakdale Post date: Apr 17, 2016 3:20:56 AM If you're traveling to Yosemite via the Big Oak Flat entrance station and Highway 120, there are not a lot of good options for food. We've written before about the Old Priest Grade Café, and we've also eaten heavy but tasty Mexican meals at the Cocina Michoacana restaurant in Groveland.

But if you want something closer to Oakdale, we've found a very nice alternative--in a very unimpressive Grocery Outlet shopping center just west of town. Go figure!

Pho 38 is a Vietnamese restaurant specializing in noodle dishes, and they are delicious. It's a family restaurant in the most basic sense--I don't think they have any employees who aren't part of the family, and we've been waited on by Mom, Dad, and at least one of the young kids.

The last time we ate there our bill was about $20 including tax. And we were in and back out on the road in about 30 minutes. And the food was yummy. Hard to beat that.The Chinese restaurant next door is also very inexpensive, and pretty tasty. We've eaten here three times, and always enjoyed it!



Rio Bella Vista Post date: Apr 10, 2016 7:18:01 PM During our last trip to Preston Falls, the air was clean and clear as we drove across the Central Valley. We noticed that we could see plenty of mountains stretching up and down the Sierra, particularly to the north.


First the Crystal Range, west of Tahoe, and then we picked out the snowy summit of Mt. Lassen, further north. And then, as we hit the top of the bridge over the slough at Terminous, we looked hard, and saw the tiny but identifiable bump of snow even further north: Mt Shasta. According to Google, that's 250 miles away.


No, we didn't take pictures, because we were moving to fast, and our little camera was too small to truly capture the moment. But it was amazing.



Preston Falls Post date: Apr 4, 2016 6:29:35 PM The weather was so nice this last weekend that we decided we'd hit the trail again. Last year in April we hike out past Ostrander Lake into the Chilnualna Creek drainage and saw almost no snow. But this year we knew that conditions would be different. So instead, we headed down into a canyon, and hiked to Preston Falls on the Tuolumne River, below Hetch-hetchy. This is in the Stanislaus National Forest, and part of the Rim Fire from three years ago. The area had been closed for some time, but now it's open, and we were ready for an adventure.

It's a beautiful trail for a spring hike, and the weather fully cooperated with temperatures in the high 60s in the afternoon. By the time we got the to the trailhead it was 10:30, and so we managed to get to the falls in time to eat lunch.

The flowers were out in force, but so was the poison oak. I don't believe I have ever seen poison oak look so lush. And it was everywhere. We had to be careful not only about where we walked, but where we put our packs, our hands...There was a lot of poison oak. And there were quite a few trees down across the trail, most of them left over from the Rim Fire.

Some had been removed by trail crews, but at least one of them made for some interesting "hiking" for about twenty feet along a ridge. There was no way to wear the pack though this section, and we had cliffs both above and below us.


And then there was the river, running high and strong this spring after four years of drought. It was wonderful. The falls themselves are nice, but not anything like the other falls you can find in Yosemite. But that didn't keep us from having a wonderful time on a trail that never gets above about 3,000 feet. A perfect "first hike" of the season. And we did think about taking the hike up the river a bit farther. But it was an out and out scramble over cliffs and talus, covered with poison oak, and obstructed with trees. Given the possibilities for real disaster--or at least real poison oak--we folded out tents and headed home.

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