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January through March 2020

More Closures in California Post date: Mar 27, 2020 11:23:12 PM VALLEJO, Calif. — March 26, 2020. USDA Forest Service appreciates the public’s interest in outdoor recreation, particularly in light of current events. The Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service, in response to the recent statewide shelter-in-place order issued by the Governor of California, is joining the cause to aggressively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by closing developed recreation facilities on our National Forests statewide.

“Developed recreation sites” refers to designated recreational use areas designed to facilitate public use. Information on individual recreation sites and opportunities are available from local National Forests.

Closures of developed recreation facilities are being put in place until at least April 30th in an attempt to avoid groups of people and promote social distancing of staying more than six feet apart.

While designated recreation sites will be closed, the general Forest area including the extensive trail system will remain open and available to the public. Hiking and walking outdoors are widely considered beneficial to maintaining one’s health. It is the intent of USDA Forest Service to maintain trail access to the extent practicable.

Please keep health, safety and the environment in mind when visiting National Forests. Your personal responsibility is critical to ensuring public safety and preventing further restrictions.

We ask that you consider whether your personal participation in outdoor recreation at this time would pose an unnecessary risk to others as we all work together to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate your cooperation in keeping our National Forests safe and healthy for everyone’s use.

Stay Home Post date: Mar 24, 2020 1:43:57 PM This was posted yesterday by the County Health Office for San Mateo County, near San Francisco:"

As I write this, I am both immensely grateful and exceedingly disappointed. We are in a grave crisis. I believe the virus is growing at an exponential rate in our county. Unless everyone does their part and follows the County’s Shelter-in-Place order and the Governor’s Safer at Home order, we will be facing an Italy-type catastrophe very soon. These orders are not recommendations, they are rules to be followed. My disappointment stems from the fact that many people just aren’t taking this seriously and going about their business as if nothing has changed. Our world has profoundly changed in an instant. It is now up to you all, the community, to decide what you want your future to be. If you decide you want to do your own thing and follow your own rules, you disrespect us all. You spit in our face, and you will contribute to the death toll that will follow. For those of you who say: “nobody tells me what to do,” now is a time to make an exception. You can go back to being ornery in the future."

And this:

"For families in different households, do not mix your households at this time. As hard as this is, do not gather in any way outside of immediate households. As for outdoor exercise, people certainly need to get out, but do this in your own immediate neighborhoods. Do not drive except to provide or obtain an essential service. Do not go into other neighborhoods for recreation. This increases the risk of virus spread. Always maintain social distance. Wash your hands frequently and follow all the other recommended actions."Seems pretty clear. Be safe, both for yourself, and for so many others.

Amazing what you see... Post date: Mar 22, 2020 3:09:32 PM How serious is this virus? As we learned from our walk around town yesterday, even the local endangered wildlife is taking it seriously!

Hope you are doing the same in your town. .

Yosemite Update Post date: Mar 20, 2020 12:20:44 AM As our nearest National Park, we're always paying attention to developments here.


Yosemite National Park Campgrounds Are Closed

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSSDate: March 18, 2020

Yosemite National Park campgrounds currently open, Upper Pines and Camp 4, are now closed. These closures will remain in effect through March 31, 2020.Where it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance, Yosemite National Park’s entrances, comfort stations, hiking trails, and the outdoor spaces around the Yosemite Village will remain open.

Yosemite National Park is working on utilizing alternative methods to provide interpretive services and programming that adhere to the CDC guidelines. Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Yosemite National Park.

Download the park’s free App and please continue to enjoy Yosemite National Park through the park’s webcams. There are many wonderful resources available to explore on the Yosemite National Park webpage to help you stay connected to your national park.

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Yosemite National Park is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.


Roads (call 209-372-0200 and press 1,1 for current information)

All trails except Mist & 4 Mile (

El Portal Gas, Wawona Gas, 24 Hour Tow ServiceFacility Management Customer Service CenterYosemite Valley Public LibraryYosemite Post Offices

Employees/Community ONLY

Degnan’s Deli, Village Store, Wawona Store, El Portal Market


All guest lodging & restaurants

All campgrounds

Valley Visitor Center (Rangers available behind VC)Valley Theater, Yosemite Museum

Interpreter-led programs


Badger Pass ski lift & equipment rental

Badger Pass A Frame (self-registration wilderness permits available)

Ostrander Ski Hut, Glacier Point Ski Hut, Snow Creek Cabin

Good Advice Post date: Mar 19, 2020 3:24:02 PM From the good folks at Leave No

Suggestions for the current situation--The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly altering our daily life. It is important to be aware of the most current information from the CDC on these changes, and that goes for changes to the way we spend time outside as well. To keep ourselves, our communities, and our outdoor spaces safe and healthy during this time, please consider these recommendations.

Stay Home or Stay LocalWhile it can be disappointing, the best thing to do might be to stay home, especially if you are sick. Even if you are not symptomatic, saying home is still a good idea. Park rangers, volunteers, and locals in the often small and rural gateway communities near our favorite outdoor spaces need to be kept safe and healthy too. That’s not to say you need to be stuck indoors though unless it is mandated. Now is the time to enjoy your local trails, open spaces, and parks. Rather than travel to big name outdoor areas, see what is available in your own backyard and neighborhood.

Expect ClosuresAs businesses limit services or direct their staff to work remotely, closures should be expected. This can mean not only visitor centers, service stations, and restaurants, but also parks and outdoor areas. The result could be a lack of water, restrooms, campgrounds, or other facilities, or even entire areas closed to the public. Do your best to research before you leave home, but also be prepared for things to change quickly. Take necessary precautions like bringing extra food and water, learning how to go to the bathroom outdoors, and being ready to pack all your trash out with you.

Pack Out Your TrashWith limited staff and services likely in many parks and protected areas, trash and recycling receptacles may not be emptied as often as normal. This can result in trash overflowing from receptacles which becomes litter and can harm wildlife. Instead, pack all your trash and recyclables out with you all the way home and utilize your own receptacles.

Avoid Times and Places of High UseSocial distancing definitely applies outdoors. To avoid creating large crowds and groups at popular trails or outdoor areas, spread out to less popular spots, and avoid times of highest use if possible. If an outdoor area is more crowded than anticipated, don’t hesitate to adjust plans. Remember these Tips For Handling Crowds in Outdoor Spaces.

Don’t Forget the Leave No Trace 7 PrinciplesJust because times are tough, doesn’t mean the Leave No Trace 7 Principles go out the window. Our outdoor spaces will likely be receiving less attention from staff and volunteers for the time being. This means our shared spaces need us to act as stewards more than ever. Remember, it is still just as important to prepare for spring weather conditions, stick to trails, dispose of our waste properly, minimize fire impacts, leave what we find, keep a safe distance from wildlife, and…

Be Considerate of Other Visitors We are all in this together. Be considerate of other outdoor visitors by washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer when hand washing facilities are not available, sneezing and coughing into a tissue or your elbow, and keeping group sizes small. Also be kind to park staff during these challenging times. Help them do their job by doing your part to take care of each other and the land.We’ll make it through, and will get back to enjoying our backyards to the backcountry together soon.

And weather is not the only concern! Post date: Mar 17, 2020 3:12:24 PM On Aramark's Yosemite Website:UPDATED: March 16, 2020 @ 6:05 PM (PST)

As a result of guidance provided by the National Park Service and public health officials, all lodging, tours and dining facilities in Yosemite National Park are temporarily closing as of tomorrow March 17, 2020. The temporary closure is prompted as a precaution due to coronavirus concerns. The closure is anticipated to last through March 31, 2020.

The health and safety of Yosemite National Park visitors and park employees is the park’s top priority. We are working closely with public health officials and the park will continue to review operations and reopen facilities when appropriate.

So Long, Old Paint Post date: Mar 12, 2020 9:55:19 PM It was a sad day at our home. A few weeks ago, our old Ford Escape Hybrid finally bit the dust.

It all started with a single flashing light on the dashboard...which turned out to be the indication that the complicated and expensive hybrid battery was no longer functioning as designed. Rats.

And after some research, we ended up with quotes from $6000 top $13000 to replace it. That's far more than the car was worth. Sigh.

We'd had some wonderful adventures with this car. We bought it when we bought our cabin above Sonora, so it was involved in all of the work to fix that up---and it carried far too many building supplies in those first two years. Then we took it on the road, to innumerable trailheads in the Sierra and many times down into the wilds of Death Valley. It never let us down--at least, not until a few weeks ago, when the odometer was reading well over 200,000 miles. Very few repairs, and it was still getting more than 32 mpg the day it died. Sigh.

It's off as a donation to benefit the Sierra Club. And since we recently installed new brakes, new rotors, and new tires, we hope that the Sierra Club will get some value for it.

Farewell, Old Paint. You done us proud.

We're Back...from beyond Post date: Feb 25, 2020 6:20:22 AM You may have noticed that we've been quiet for a while now. It's not because we haven't wanted to post anything, but we were off on an adventure. It turns out P's experiences in the wine business have led him to second career, talking about wine on cruise ships. So we are just back from almost three weeks in New Zealand and Australia. And we have a few stories to tell.

We began with a few days in Auckland, where we met an old friend and his wife for dinner, and then spent a few days exploring around Auckland. We loved the city, loved the food, and really liked the wines and wineries, too. What a great place to spend some time.

From there we boarded our ship, the Azamara Journey, and headed for the Bay of Islands, where we visited the town of Russell (once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific--now a very quiet little town) and then walked around the national park of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where they signed the original treaty between the Maori and the Queen. The fact that the treaty was written in two different languages, and translations were inaccurate, has led to some significant differences of opinion today in New Zealand. Our guide for the tour there was a Maori who did a wonderful job.

Then off to the Bay of Plenty, where we put on our hiking shoes and hiked up, down, and then around the local landmark, Mount Maunganui. this is supposed to be New Zealand's most popular hike, but since New Zealand is the size of California, and has fewer that 5 million people, it wasn't crowded by Yosemite standards! What knocked our socks off were the beaches. Yes, New Zealand is basically two islands...but wow! The beaches are simply stunning. And as far as we can tell, pretty underrated. We were unprepared for how wonderful they were.

From the Bay of Islands we sailed past now notorious White Island (the volcano that recently erupted and killed a number of tourists) and then sailed down the East Coast to Napier in Hawkes Bay. In the evening, P walked up on deck to try and see the southern sky...and was surprised to see Venus well north of him. Of course, in the southern hemisphere, most of what we see in the sky is to the north! Napier was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1930's, and the whole downtown section was rebuilt only a couple of years later is classic 1930's style. It's quite fun to walk around the downtown and admire the many buildings.

After Napier, we stopped in Wellington, the capital, where we strolled around the city and took in the national museum. Wellington seemed rather dull to us, but we may have hit it on an off day.But the rest of the trip was stunning.

First to Picton, on Queen Charlotte Sound, at the North end of the South Island. We took a great hike out along a narrow and steep peninsula to the Snout (the point at the end of the peninsula) and enjoyed every minute of it--including the deafening crickets that overwhelmed the trees, and at one point were flying around like mosquitoes in the Sierra.

It was a total of about nine miles the way we did it, and that helped us adjust to the usual routine of eating way too much on board the ship. It felt great to get out and really walk. Although we found one element a bit confusing. In New Zealand, all of the hikes are not measured in miles or kilometers. They are measured in minutes. It took us some time to adjust to that--and we never really did get the hang of it completely. Here we also saw the predator traps that they had set to catch invasive mammals and rodents that are eating all of the local bird life. The organization that places the traps is the Picton Dawn Chorus--a name we really liked. Next stop was Dunedin, which we found in the middle of market day. Everything and anything was being sold on the streets, and we stopped to buy some fabulous cherries. We took in the modern art museum (which was nice) and the history museum (which we liked better) and then sat down to fish and chips and beer at an outside table in the middle of the market. What fun. But here's where our itinerary took a turn. We were supposed to head from Dunedin to Milford Sound, and we really looking forward to that. But the recent storms had turned the area into a disaster--floods just hammered it--and the seas were running about 25 feet, which would have prevented us from seeing much of the scenery, and kept most of the passengers down below hugging the toilet. So instead we changed gears, and sailed back up north to Akaroa, a small town just outside of Dunedin. It later turned out that the seas were closer to 40 feet, and would have been really unpleasant. Nobody on the ship complained about missing those waves. And we loved Akaroa. It was originally a French settlement--still has their street names--but it's small, local, and at least when cruise ships are in port, full of life. And best of all, it offered a whole series of great hikes right out of town. We immediately chose to head up towards Purple Peak, and climbed up over the ridge and then back to town from the other side. Another 8-9 mile hike, with spectacular views.The weather wasn't great--its was spitting from time to time, and the winds were quite blustery up on top, but we loved just about every minute of it, including the boardwalks through the rainforest. They were covered with chicken wire to give better traction over the slick wood boards. Smart thinking. This was our favorite hike of the trip. And from there we went to Kaikoura, which is famous for its massive tidepools, seal colony and beaches. Justifiably so, as it turns out. Instead of taking the free shuttle bus to town, we chose to hike the coastal trail, which was about 4-5 miles along the top of the bluff above the beach. It had wonderful views, and it would be easy to spend quite a few days exploring the shore here. The town itself has a very nice beach, and we have never seen so many camper vans in once place. Clearly, this is a "must stop" for everyone in New Zealand. And the camper van industry is going gangbusters.

Our last port in New Zealand was New Plymouth, which is a rather industrial town that just happens to have a great local park and a very good modern art museum. We visited them both, really enjoying the park's Kauri Grove and 2000 year old Puriri tree, as well as the art. And the local man who took it upon himself to lead us to the Puriri tree turned out to be a huge fan of Elvis can't make this stuff up! Nearby is 8,500 foot Mt, Taranaki, but it was a two or three hour drive to get there...and the weather wasn't great. We were afraid we might arrive to find is socked in, or pouring rain. (As it turns out, some friends did go, and had reasonable weather, including a brief period where the whole peak was visible...) But we still had a great time in New Plymouth, and we all headed off into the Tasman Sea with smiles on our faces.

Those lasted for most of the crossing. The Tasman is famous for big waves and big storms, and we were hopeful that we had missed most of them. But we did run into a heavy swell one night (happily at night when we were all trying to sleep) and so avoided most of the discomfort. P never did take any medicine for seasickness, and M only did a couple of times. All in all, that's an easy crossing of the Tasman Sea! Our last day was in Sydney, complete with a majestic entry into the city past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge. We spent the rest of that day exploring the area around Darling Harbour, with the Maritime MuSEAum and lots of restaurants and shops. We even took in the 3-D Monsters of the Deep movie along with about 200 kids (it was a Saturday) and enjoyed their screams of terror as much as the movie itself. Who says we don't know how to have fun?

Because of the change in our route, we did miss seeing Tasmania. And that is a pity. But we also saw enough to know that this won't be our only visit down under...and we already have a long list of things we'd like to see and do next time.

Fixing a hole, where the rain might get in... Post date: Feb 1, 2020 7:08:28 PM In the last post I wrote about doing some trail crew work in the Sierra foothills this week. We were repaired erosion damage and burning up piles and piles of brush and dead wood left over from the massive Ferguson Fire of two years ago. It was a lot of work, and we got at least some of it done.

But while we were burning off those piles of brush, the sparks were occasionally flying, and one ember managed to land right on the ridge of our favorite Tarptent. Nuts. Or words to that effect.

So today, on a Saturday, I went on-line to Henry Shires' Tarptent website to get some advice on how to fix the problem. There was a phone number to call, and an email system as well. But as I debated which to use, a chat window opened and someone named Henry offered to help me. Yep. Henry Shires, the CEO of the company, was there on a Saturday morning manning the help line.

And the problem was quickly resolved. He's going to send me a little kit to fix the small hole...and in the meantime, gave me some advice on the tent as well. That is customer service as I dream it to be.

Oh yeah...and if you needed one more reason not to have a campfire in the Sierra...or at least to keep your campfire tiny, this is it.

Happily, we were burning downed wood that was so wet from condensation that we had to use an accelerant to get those fires started. So fire danger was somewhere between low and non-existent. But it won't be that way in the summer when you are backpacking...

Hite Cove Trail Work Post date: Jan 30, 2020 6:45:10 PM It was a great way to spend a couple of days near Yosemite. The volunteers out of Mariposa have been working on the trails in that area for a number of years. And Bill King, the man behind all this work, is a fountain of knowledge about the trails, artifacts, and history of the area. Every time I work on a trail crew with Bill, I learn more about the history of the early miners, and the Native Americans that were here before that. This crew went into the Hite Cove area to try and repair some of the trail that was so badly damaged between the massive fires and a flash flood that hit the following winter. The fires burnt off the vegetation, and the water from the flash flood eroded away huge gashes in the trail...and in the landscape.

But Bill and his friends have been working on this area for some time, and they have been making progress. The trail is still closed to the public, but as trail crew volunteers with hard hats, picks and shovels, we were allowed past those signs to get to work.

After the morning's hike into the camping area, we immediately began to burn off massive piles of slash that had been cut by previous crews. There was no end to this work, and even with four of us working hard, we didn't get it all done. As our five huge piles slowly burned down (thankfully, everything was dripping wet throughout the area, so fire danger was essentially nil!) Bill and I took off to tackle one of the erosion problems between our campsite and Hite Cove. We built the lower part of the rock work necessary to cross the ravine, pulled a few buck brush sprouts from the side of the trail, and got back to camp in time to eat an early dinner. Then the four of us stood around the last of the burn piles and told stories while we added more branches and slash to the fire. It was a really damp night. All four of us, each with a different make and kind of tent, fought a huge amount of condensation by the early hours of the morning. We woke up wet. That was no fun. But before the sun hit our campsite, we were further up the canyon. Dave and Marty finishing up the work Bill and I had started the afternoon before, while Bill and I tackled the next stretch of erosion damage. Mid-morning, we took a brief break to explore Hite Cove itself, working our way around the massively eroded gorge there that had demolished the trail. that's a project for another day, and another crew.

By late morning we were back at camp to eat lunch. And while we were there the sun finally hit the bottom of the canyon and our camp. Each of us took our turn hanging our sleeping bags and gear out in the sun to dry it out. We started another burn pile upriver from the camp, and that kept us busy until mid-afternoon. At that point I took my leave, heading back to the trailhead and Le Vin Blanc. I had a meeting the next day I could not miss.

And I left Bill, Marty, and Dave planning that afternoon's work, probably up by the eroded gorge. It was hard work. It was a great group of guys, and we made a real difference in the conditions on the trail. And I can hardly wait for the next one of these.

Stories about the Sierra from Gary Noy Post date: Jan 27, 2020 6:21:33 PM We love to read about the Sierra--not just hiking books and trail guides, but history about the region and its wonderful and often crazy people.So this holiday season we noticed a book in our local independent bookstore: Sierra Stories by Gary Noy.

Gary was born in Grass Valley and for the past twenty-five years taught history at Sierra Community College. And we wish we could have taken a class from him. He is clearly one of those teachers who doesn't stop at covering the basics, but rather dives into the subject matter and makes it come to life for his students. He also knows how to tell a story.

And what could be more relevant and interesting to students at Sierra Community College than the fascinating history of the Sierra itself?

Gary has published a series of books on the topic. We're reading Sierra Stories right now, but will certainly move on to read his other titles, including the soon to be published Hellacious California: Tales of Rascality, Revelry, Dissipation, Depravity and the Birth of the Golden State (Heyday Books and Sierra College Press). We hope you find some of these books locally, but if not, you can find them on the huge web book retailers. It's just not as much fun as buying from a local bookstore.

Here's a link to Gary's website, where you can learn more about him and the books he writes. Highly recommended.

Check him out!

On the other hand...Yosemite's not having a great January Post date: Jan 12, 2020 2:53:43 AM Not only has the Ahwahnee lost one star from its rating:

But now there may be a food problem

Sad news for our favorite park...It's still beautiful.

Starting the New Year off right...on the trail Post date: Jan 3, 2020 1:54:04 AM Since we spent New Year's Eve at our cabin near Sonora, we thought that it might be a good idea to start the year with a nice local hike. And as we reviewed our options, the trail up to Table Mountain seemed just the ticket. Besides, we thought, on a day like today we'll probably have the whole place to ourselves.(We can hear you laughing from here, you know...)

Because yes, the trailhead was packed with cars. Apparently, everyone in Tuolumne County who wasn't skiing up at Dodge Ridge was hiking this trail. Which was absolutely OK, because we started a little late (2:30) and met more people coming down the trail than were going up it. And once we got up on top of Table Mountain, there was room for a multitude and more. It's huge, and thoroughly impressive.

In addition, we got great views of New Melones Reservoir, which looked almost Norwegian from up on the mountain. See the photo at left. We've already made plans to go back again when we can start earlier and spend more time up on top. What a great little adventure, and what a perfect way to start the New Year.

(For those interested in hiking this trail: Take Rawhide Road in Jamestown for about 3.5-4 miles until you can turn left on Shell Road. Take Shell Road to the closed gate (you can open it and continue by 4WD--but where's the fun in that?) And start hiking. There is a vault toilet about a mile in, and from there the trail climbs pretty steeply up to the top of Table Mountain.)

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