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April through June 2017

The Company Campout Post date: Jun 30, 2017 5:59:16 AM Each year we take our company on a four-day camping expedition to the Sierra. It's a chance for us to have fun together, eat and drink really well (we take turns making memorable dinners) and also do some outdoor activities, although those are purely optional.

This year we camped at the Upper LIttle Truckee River campground, and loved it. On the first day after we arrived we tried to hike the trail to the top of Mt, Lola, but had a heck of a time. First of all, we didn't have a topo map, and our guide book did not give great directions to the trailhead. Luckily, after we had given up, we ran into a USFS staff member in the campground who gave us great directions and a map to boot. Our tax dollars well spent!

We were sure that we would NOT make it to the top of Mt. Lola, given the heavy snowfall this year, and we were right. The snow was so deep that we only got about three miles in before we had to turn around and head back. It was either that, or cross a bit of a tricky bridge over Cold Stream Creek that had whitewater flowing over it. But the trail is delightful, following Cold Stream Creek up a canyon, and then eventually leading to a beautiful meadow at mile four or so. After that, the trail is supposed to take you all the way to the top of Mt. Lola, with views up and down the Sierra Crest. We'll have to tackle it again when there is less snow. There might have even been a few nice campsites for backpacking trip at some point. The second day we hikes the Pacific Crest Trail from where it crosses Jackson Meadow Reservoir Road North for a few miles and found a scenic overlook that had a nice view of the Sierra Buttes. But since the trees had grown up since the viewpoint was created, we pressed on for another 1/2 mile or so and then climbed a ridge off trail to get a perfect view. Other members of our team visited Independence Lake, Donner Lake (kayaking and paddle boarding until sunburned!) drove around Lake Tahoe, and generally put in a full day of fun in the mountains.

But the real highlight of the trip each year is our fabulous dinners. We eat and drink like kings and queens, and everyone tries very hard to outdo the previous night for delicious treats. If you want to get an idea of both the activities and the amazing food, take a look at the facebook photo collection, which is here:

Getting out is good Post date: Jun 19, 2017 6:20:19 PM M was feeling a bit under the weather this past weekend, so we tabled plans to go backpacking. Instead, we found a nice local trail in the Stanislaus Forest below Kennedy Meadows, and took off on a day hike. It was warm (it was hot everywhere else, but we were up about 7,000 feet, so it was a bit cooler) the sky was blue, and the scenery was a treat. we hiked up a few miles, had lunch, and then wandered around in the forest a bit before we headed back to the car. On the way, we were accompanied by at least a score of swallowtail butterflies. And once back at the car, we couldn't resist going up to Sonora Pass to see exactly how much snow is up there.A lot. This is about 9,000 feet, and snow covers just about everything but the most southerly facing slopes. People were snowboarding and snowmobiling along the road here. That should give you some idea of what kinds of conditions you'll find if you start hiking anytime soon...And by the way, the Stanislaus River is at full flood stage. Amazing--solid whitewater.

Good News and Bad News Post date: Jun 8, 2017 4:25:01 AM First of all, the really good news is that the Sierra got a massive amount of snow this year, and that will make a dent in California's chronic water shortage. That is great news. And taking advantage of all that snow, Mammoth Mountain has announced that they are going to keep operating their ski operation well into the month of August. There is still ten feet of snow at the bottom of their runs, and more than twenty feet at the top of the mountain.

But it's not all good news. Yosemite has announced that the High Sierra Camps will not open this year, because there is just too damn much snow. Well, they didn't exactly say that. What they said was this:

As you may have heard, Yosemite National Park is seeing a record amount of snowpack in the high country, which includes the High Sierra Camps. The National Park Service has noted that this year’s snowpack is bigger than the previous four years combined.We are sending you this email to inform you that unfortunately the High Sierra Camps will not open this year due to the record snowpack, lack of access to water for bathrooms and kitchens and other infrastructure challenges. As a result, we will need to cancel your meals-only reservation for the High Sierra Camps. Please note that your wilderness permit issued by the National Park Service is not affected.We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we hope you are able to dine with us next year at the High Sierra Camps. The health and safety of Yosemite National Park visitors is the park’s top priority.You will automatically receive a cancellation email and a refund for your payment. If you have any questions, please contact us via email at If you need to speak to a reservations specialist, please call 888.413.8869 and select option 4.Please note that your wilderness permit issued by the National Park Service is not affected, which means you can still enjoy your overnight backpacking trip in the Yosemite Wilderness.Regards,Yosemite Hospitality

An Early Season Backpacking Trip Post date: May 30, 2017 4:14:26 AM This weekend our youngest daughter came home for a wedding, and wanted to fit in amn overnight backpacking trip. But we knew all too well that the options were pretty limited, since so many of the trailheads are not accessible due to snow, and the rest would certainly be crowded.

But P had an idea. A number of the backcountry roads in the Stanislaus National Forest are still closed due to the amazing amount of snow still on the ground. Those roads are open for hikers, however. And so we left our cabin near Twain Harte and hiked into the Stanislaus National Forest via the Eagle Meadows Road. We only had a few hours to hike in, so we stopped at Niagara Creek and set up camp. It was lovely, and we didn't see a soul. P even caught a nice rainbow out of the very fast and high creek, and we explored some of the rock formations above the campground after dinner.

It was a bit odd, backpacking in a campground, with a picnic table at our disposal, but it was also pretty convenient. And it beat hiking through snow all day (we only had a few stretches of deep now on the road). We also noted that there were any number of potential campsites along the way, and water was not an issue, since there was water, water everywhere thanks to the melting snow. Now we have plan for those early season hikes. Instead of waiting impatiently for the snow to melt higher up, we can tackle some of these roads early in the year, and still get quality time in the mountains. And we got to hike with our daughter. Nice.

Things are looking good! Post date: May 1, 2017 1:05:45 AM We were up at our cabin this weekend, taking care of a few things, making sure it was ready for summer. But that didn't stop us from checking out a few of the local sights.

Up at Pinecrest lake on Saturday, it was opening day of the trout fishing season, and although the lake was quite low (leaving room for some snowmelt that is sure to come in the next six weeks) there was enough water to keep scads of fishermen busy. We saw at least fifty of them: on shore, trolling in boats, drifting in kayaks, and fishing from islands. And we also saw two osprey engaged in the same activity. While we watched, we saw each team catch one fish: men 1, osprey 1.

There was very little snow at Pinecrest itself (5,600 feet) but by the time we had driven up to Dodge Ridge, the snow pretty much covered the ground there at 6,500 feet. It will be some time before Crabtree trailhead will be open, since the road has to go over the top of Dodge Ridge--and that ridge is deep in snow right now. The next day we headed over to the West Side Trail, an old rail line that runs up along the North Fork of the Tuolumne River. It's an easy hike, and we saw lots of family groups and friends out for a stroll. We also saw clouds of lupine along the trail, and down below the river was really roaring.Keep that in mind when you plan your early season trips. The rivers will be high and mighty.

Be safe.

Crossing Creeks Post date: Apr 21, 2017 12:55:32 PM Sorry--we've been out of town for the past two weeks. Actually, we've been out of the country, as P was a speaker on a cruise up the Danube from Budapest to Nuremburg: a wonderful adventure with AMA Waterways...

And while we were gone, this story caught our attention. A very experienced hiker and her grandson swept away in a creek full of spring run-off water. Very sad news, as they have now scaled back the search, and hope is dwindling away for any positive result.Please be careful this spring and early summer, With the huge snowpack in the West, the creeks will be roaring and rolling. And you don't have to cross them, ever. This warning applies not only to wading, but even using a log to cross a dangerous stream. If you slip, you die--and it's not worth it. Water is the number one killer in Yosemite and most other national parks in the West.

As we have done quite a few times, you can always just turn around.

Yosemite Bears go online Post date: Apr 5, 2017 2:28:57 AM This is quite cool. Yosemite National Park has now launched a website that allows you to get GPS coordinates for the bears in the park that have transmitters. Here's the link for that website:

But once you get there, take the time to check out all the filters you can put on the map--including the one that shows how many bears have been hit by cars on the park's roads. Very sad, and very sobering.Slow down when you're driving in Yosemite. The life you save may be a bear.

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