Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Park of the Sierra's, Coarsegold, California

usbackroads destination--Park of the Sierra's, Coarsegold, California

lots of links...right click on the link and select open in a new tab.  that way you can always come back to usbackroads by clicking on previous tab.  If you click on photo use your escape key to return.

We have been camped in the Park of the Sierra's since early February after leaving Black Butte Lake.  The Park of the Sierra's is a private campground affiliated with the Escapees organization which touts itself as a TOTAL support network for RV'ers.  If own an RV you might want belong to this organization.  If your a full-timer RV'er you really SHOULD belong.  Here is the link:  Escapees.

The Escapees Discussion Forum.  Great advice, great bunch of people on the forum. So good, we joined Escapees just to support the forum.

But there is more to Escapees than the forum.  They run several Parks under various organizational umbrella's. So there are many different Escapees Campgrounds run under different management arrangements.  The Park of the Sierra's is a CO-OP Park.  You MUST be a member of Escapees to stay in one of the Parks.

Here is the link for Park of the Sierra's.  The good news is that this is one of the nicest parks we have visited. The Park is great.  The original co-op members did an outstanding job of laying out the park given the topography.  It is more like a Forest Service campground than a RV park.  Full hookups, of course and a club house complete with library, internet access, and various activities.

We were pleased with all the bird life inside the Park.  Bring your binoculars and field guides.  From hummingbirds all the way to Hawks.  Lots of birds, including many, many woodpeckers.  I am surprised that they did not name it Woody Woodpecker Park.  If your into birding, late winter and early spring the Park is full of a wide variety of birds.

There is a dog run that Bugaboo and Snowpatch really enjoyed during their stay here. The initial greeting from the resident dogs was less than friendly, but it was all for show.  The crew got along real well, and the human companions were great company.   For large dogs, like Bugaboo the crossing over Coarsegold Creek offers an isolated area that they can stretch their legs.  The crossing is only slightly wet.

The only downside for Bugaboo was all those noxious weeds.  We did end up shaving his tail to remove the burs he picked up on the "Mexican" side of the border.   See photograph above.  Click to enlarge if necessary.

With the topography in the Park, parking that RV can be a challenge.  Well, this is a good place to practice your parking skills.  Plenty of time and patience to get it just right.  A very nice park.  Not much downside INSIDE the Park.  The only downside was no internet access at the campsite.  So Susie's IPHONE hotspot got quite the work out this month.   Hopefully, all that time was under 5 gigs.

It is just off Highway 41.  A very busy highway.  From Fresno, call the Park for directions and stay in that left turn lane no matter how many people are honking at you!!!   Coming from Yosemite and Highway 49 north, CALL the Park.  That right hand turn...well you do not want to try it without some warning!!  It is an adventure WITHOUT the tow vehicle.

Our other disappointment was the steepness of the public roads around the Park.  The electric bikes pretty much were used in Yosemite Valley and inside the Park.   The narrow shoulders and high speeds on the county and state highways made bicycling a suicidal endeavor.

For our tastes.  Fresno was too large.  Oakhurst was too busy.  However, see all our postings since February and they were all made with Park Sierra as a home base.

You can join the co-op at Park Sierra and get your own camping spot.   There is currently a waiting list for available sites.

If you have never been a member of a co-op click on this: Rochdale Principles.  While a student at the University of California at Berkeley in the late 60's and early 70's I belonged to the student housing co-op. And it being Berkeley they were the roachdale principles.  And it was a definite case of the inmates running the asylum.  But hey, we did not know how nuts we were!!  Well, I had a clue...Destination: America

Living in a co-op is not for everybody.  My parents were born into a variation on co-ops in 1917 and it ended VERY BADLY for them.  However, I still belong to credit unions and the REI co-op.  And the student co-op at Berkeley was cheap enough that I could afford to pay for half my college education by working summers for Smokey.  I found that I just needed to be "somewhat" removed from the day to day of living in a co-op.

So stay at a co-op park for month or so.  Talk to the residents.  Attend the Board of Directors meetings. Decide if living the co-op lifestyle matches with your personality and needs.  Be honest with yourself.  Co-op living is not for everyone.

The idealism meets head on with human nature in the co-ops and there is no place to hide.  And those idealistic folks, well sometimes it is about their THEIR idealism not YOURS!!  So remember so many things look so good in theory.

That said we do enjoy staying in the escapees co-op parks.  It reminds me of my university days.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway, Sierra National Forest, California

Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway, Sierra National Forest, California

as always click on picture to enlarge.  it is worth clicking on the above picture.

This is a most unusual posting.  Yes, here it is the end of February and this is a posting of a National Scenic Byway through the High Sierra.  Well, there is a definite lack of snow in the Sierra's this year.  So we decided to see how far up the Scenic Byway we could get before encountering snow.

The Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway goes from North Fork, Callifornia into the High Sierra in the vicinity of Mammoth Pool before looping around and ending close to Oakhurst, California.  The entire trip should take six to seven hours according to the brochure.  I would allow more time since there are many great stops and vista's along the way.  Here is the link for additional information on the byway:  Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway.

We started out climbing out of North Fork with views of Redinger Lake.  This part of the road is paved and goes through an oak-woodland landscape.  Lots of great views straight down the hillside!!

After a bit the road goes to Ross Cabin the oldest structure in Madera County.  It is worth the stop.

Snowpatch and Bugaboo were rather excitied to explore the cabin and hurried along the short trail ahead of us.  The cabin is well constructed with a great fireplace.  There are newspapers on the wall that was used for wall paper.

There is a nice incense cedar just next to the cabin.  We continued on the road passing through patches on snow on the road.  There were several small campgrounds along the road at Fish Creek and Rock Creek.  These campgrounds are small, not suitable for trailers and very shady.  The patches of snow kept getting more and more frequent until we hit Mile High Vista.

At this point, the snow appeared to be continuous and so we turned around.  I hate unsticking vehicles.  One summer I worked on the Boise National Forest and my work partner could stick a vehicle just by getting in to it.  He must have stuck four or five times during the course of the summer and almost always on Friday afternoon when I was looking forward to that beer at the Pine Tavern.  So we turned around.  Generally, getting past a rough spot will almost always find you stopping just 50 yards down the road anyway.  Our turnaround point was at 5393 foot elevation.  Not bad for the end of February.

Here is the Forest Service sign at the start of the Scenic Byway.

I would wait until summer and do the entire loop.  It looks like a great drive with the more interesting stuff up higher.  So one of these days we might come back down in the summer or fall and complete the loop.  Really to explore the National Forests of California the best RV is probably a camper on the back of the truck given the road and campground conditions in California's National Forests.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park

usbackroads destination--General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park

I am continuing my tour of all the areas I worked in California way back in the early 1970's.  Today's trip was to visit a Giant Sequoia Grove.   While working for a consulting firm in 1973-74 I supervised a project that mapped the backcountry Sequoia groves in Sequoia National Park.

Only in California can you find the coast Redwood and the Sierra Redwood.  Most folks are familar with the coast redwood, however, the Sierra Redwoods are much more massive and impressive.  The coast redwoods do grow taller.

So how big are Giant Sequoia trees.  Well, take a look at the picture above.  That women is six feet tall.  The General Grant tree is 40 feet in diameter at four feet above ground.  Ok, that does not mean much.  If you have never seen a Giant Sequoia do this.  Get a tape measure and some plastic chairs for marking.  If you have a football field near by, do it on one of the end zones.  Set the tape measure for 20 feet and place a chair every few feet around the circle.  This is the size of  General Grant tree.  Now look towards the other end zone.  That is the height of the tree.  Now that is worth seeing in real life!!

This is the fallen Monarch log in the grove.  Be sure to let your kids explore!!  It served as a cabin and restaurant in the early years after discovery.

Soon after discovery a Giant Seqouia was cut down and the lower part re-assembled back east.  Everybody believed the tree to be a fake!!   Worth a stop on any trip through California if you have never seen one before.

We took California 180 to enter Kings Canyon National Park.  The road just barely enters Kings Canyon National Park and then exits and enters Sierra National Forest.  So you get to see the Sequoia's and then have the freedom of roaming the National Forest without all those silly Park Service regulations.  Bugaboo and Snowpatch are great fans of National Forests.  We have already commented many times on their feeling about National Parks.

Hwy 180 dead ends after 30 miles back inside the back at Cedar Grove.  However, we knew the road was gated and with the low snow year were hoping that we could bicycle on the road all the way to Cedar Grove.  Looked like just enough snow to make the trip very difficult.  The road from the General Grant Grove to Three Rivers was closed.  So we will make another trip to visit the south end of Sequoia National Park.

So make the trip to see the largest living things in the world.  If you are pressed for time and only visiting Yosemite National Park the Mariposa Grove at the south end of Yosemite National Park will be a satisfactory second to visiting Sequoia National Park.

Oh yeah, you still might want to visit some of those coast Redwoods.  Be forewarned that they will be disappointing after you have seen the Sierra Redwoods.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Restore Hetch Hetchy--The Tuolumne Yosemite

usbackroads destination--Hetch Hetchy the Tuolumne Yosemite. 

The common perception is that there is only ONE Yosemite Valley.  That is not true.  As John Muir said "Yosemite is so wonderful that we are apt to regard it as an exceptional creation, the only valley of its kind in the world; but Nature is not so poor to have only one of anything".

Just twenty miles from Yosemite Valley is its identical twin.  Hetch Hetchy.  John Muir preferred to call it the Tuolumne Yosemite.  It was at one time complete with a river flowing along the floor of the valley, but here it is the Tuolumne River rather than the Merced.  Waterfalls grace this valley just like Yosemite.  Wapama Falls booms its song across the landscape in spring.  There are other falls just as spectacular and special as any in Yosemite Valley.

For more information on Hetch Hetchy is probably best to go to the source.  In John Muir's book the Yosemite he devotes one whole chapter to Hetch Hetchy or the Tuolumne Yosemite as it should be called. You can find the book at used bookstores, Amazon, or the Gudenburg Project where it is available as free e-book download.  Here is his description of the Tuolumne Yosemite.

"After my first visit, in the autumn of 1871, I have always called it the Tuolumne Yosemite, for it is a wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite, not only in its crystal river and sublime rocks and waterfalls, but in the gardens, groves, and meadows of its flower park-like floor. The floor of Yosemite is about 4,000 feet above the sea, the Hetch-Hetchy floor about 3,700; the walls of both are of gray granite, rise abruptly out of the flowery grass and groves are sculptured in the same style, and in both every rock is a glacial monument. Standing boldly out from the south wall is a strikingly picturesque rock called "Kolana" by the Indians, the outermost of a group 2300 feet high, corresponding with the Cathedral Rocks of Yosemite both in relative position and form. On the opposite side of the Valley, facing Kolana, there is a counterpart of the El Capitan of Yosemite rising sheer and plain to a height of 1800 feet, and over its massive brow flows a stream which makes the most graceful fall I have ever seen. From the edge of the cliff it is perfectly free in the air for a thousand feet, then breaks up into a ragged sheet of cascades among the boulders of an earthquake talus. It is in all its glory in June, when the snow is melting fast, but fades and vanishes toward the end of summer. The only fall I know with which it may fairly be compared is the Yosemite Bridal Veil; but it excels even that favorite fall both in height and fineness of fairy-airy beauty and behavior. Lowlanders are apt to suppose that mountain streams in their wild career over cliffs lose control of themselves and tumble in a noisy chaos of mist and spray. On the contrary, on no part of their travels are they more harmonious and self-controlled."

Why have you never heard about the Tuolumne Yosemite (Hetch Hetchy)??  Well, it seems back in the early 20th century the City of San Francisco looking for a cheap area to develop a reservoir for power and water.  What is cheaper than using Federal land inside a National Park?  So the city used its political influence to dam the Tuolumne River and flood the Tuolumne Yosemite.  Yes, for cheap water and power the City of San Francisco dammed one of natures most spectacular valleys.  It broke John's Muir heart and led to his early death.

If you look at a map of Yosemite National Park you will see a large lake just 20 miles north of Yosemite Valley.  Very few people go there now to see a bathtub rim reservoir even though the waterfalls still thunder and fall into a lake rather than down to the valley floor.  I talked to a Park Service Archaeologist that hiked down through the reservoir and that there is little sediment and the entire valley could be restored in a few short years.

There is an organization dedicated to restoring one of natures wonders:  Restore Hetch Hetchy.  Be sure to click on the photo archives to see what we have lost and what we can restore and enjoy once again.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan proposed to provide power and water from other Federal water projects and undam the Tuolumne Yosemite (Hetch Hetchy).  I jumped for joy.  I had hiked the trails that rim the reservoir and did the entire hike through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne that stops just short of its most spectacular feature the Tuolumne Yosemite that is buried under a 175 feet of water.  Surely, no one with oppose this sensible proposal.

With President Reagan in support surely the environmental movement and the city of San Francisco would be willing to support the restoration of one of natures most spectacular landscapes.  Editorials in the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, and the Wenatchee World have discussed the need for the restoration of the valley.  Unfortunately, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Diane Feinstein have refused to consider removing the dam.  Though they have supported removal of the Snake River dams in Washington and the draining of Lake Powell in Utah they have been irresponsible in defending the continued flooding of the Tuolumne Yosemite.  President Bush and Governor Swartzenager have supported studies regarding removal of the dam.

Unfortunately, it will it take significant public pressure on the City of San Francisco to get them to show SOME environmental awareness and redress a wrong in this nation's history.

Take the drive to the Tuolumne Yosemite (Hetch Hetchy) and see what the City of San Francisco has destroyed and marvel at why it continues to defend its inexcusable behavior. It is a scenic drive.  Well, worth the time.  Then write the President, your Senator and anybody that will listen on why we need to restore this special place inside of Yosemite National Park.  Hike the trails and listen to the thunder of the waterfalls and dream about what can be once again.

There.....I can get off my soapbox now.  Yosemite Valley is hardly a usbackroads spot, except maybe during a winter storm.  The Tuolumne Yosemite can be that special spot where Americans can reconnect with what made Yosemite Valley so special a hundred years ago.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brunch in Yosemite Valley

usbackroads destination--brunch in Yosemite Valley

The place for brunch in the Yosemite Valley is the Ahwahnee Dinning Room.  This has been a California tradition for years.  Dinning at the Ahwahnee dinning room is a special occasion type place.  Dinner requires a tie and LONG pants!!  Well, not sure there is any dinner that is worth that!!  Lunch looks like it will cost you in the $20 range.  However, Sunday brunch is $39 and if you time it right it is breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire day!!

So that was our call.  We made reservations several day earlier.  There was a very short wait.  It seems for dinner and lunch even with reservations your wait can be quite awhile since people tend to linger over lunch and dinner.  There is a nice fireplace just outside the waiting where you will meet all sorts of distinguished and interesting people.  As in all public places discretion is highly recommended before striking up a conversation.

The food was good, but not exceptional.  However, it is hard to have a good buffet with exceptional food given the wide variety of items and the necessary wait times.  So some foods like seafood tend to be overcooked just because of the buffet nature.  But there is plenty of variety and I am sure that you will find something to appeals to your taste buds. 

My favorite was a simple cheese and avocado omelet cooked to order just right.  I would be great if we could find a buffet where they cook to order seafood!!  The Ahwahnee has a good wine list so a bottle of wine is a good idea to go along with brunch.

Now this is the most difficult part.  Desert.  Of all the various foods desert was by far the best part of the brunch at the Ahwahnee.  So this might be the case of eating desert first!!   In any case, you will waddle out feeling full and contented with your lot in life, particularly if it is a warm, sunny winter day.

Here is a view of the dinning room with its 34 foot ceiling.  There was a piano player for music while you eat.  One of the servers joined him to sing "What a Wonderful World".  He even sounded a bit like Satchmo. 

So brunch at the Awahnee.  Expensive, particularly when you add the wine.  However, we only pass through Yosemite Valley on rare occasions.  If fact, I believe it has been 36 years years for me and Susie's first time in the Valley.

Don't miss brunch or Yosemite Valley for that matter.  Since the early 1900's there has been only ONE Yosemite Valley on the face of the earth.  More on this topic soon. 

So go now and take some bicycles and they do not have to be electric to best explore the valley.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sasquatch and Yosemite Valley

usbackroads information--Sasquatch and Yosemite Valley

We took the electric bicycles to pedal around Yosemite Valley instead of driving the truck.  Great call.  We went to Mirror Lake and over to Happy Isles, but unfortunately we could  take the bicycles up the John Muir Trail to view Vernal and Nevada Falls.  Then back over to Yosemite Falls for a quick lunch and peak at the Ansel Adams gallery next to the visitor center.

However, the excitement of the trip was discovering proof that Sasquatch lived in Yosemite Valley!!  Millions of visitors visit the Valley every year and yet nobody has noticed that the Indians have made a petroglyphs of Sasquatch and his friend the coyote.   Now I am more familer with pictographs which are painting on rocks.  There are famous pictographs all over eastern Washington.    Petroglyphs are actual carvings into the rock.

If you think about it what would the Yosemite Indians use, but the largest canvas in the valley?  How about Half Dome?  Here is my picture of  Half-Dome from the Yosemite Falls parking lot.  Can you see Sasquatch??  Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Ok, how about this picture from Mirror Lake.  You should easily be able to find Sasquatch and his faithful coyote.  

Ok, see it?  No, aw come on.  It is easy to spot once you know what your looking for!!  Here try this picture.

There you can't miss him NOW!!  Wow, what an amazing discovery.  Here it is for years viewed by millions of people that never "see" Sasquatch.  For more on the art of seeing in the outdoors see this blog posting.  Art of Seeing in the Outdoors.

I was going to wait until April 1st to post this scientific discovery, but the first poster in science gets all the credit.  So here it is in February, instead.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eastman Lake, COE, Madera, California

usbackroads destination--Eastman Lake, COE,  Madera, Calfornia

This is a usbackroads destination only in the winter.  Similar to Black Butte Lake, but located much farther south in the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada mountains.  In fact, it is just above the floor of the Central Valley so we are not sure if it is above the infamous valley fog.  However, it is a pretty place just as attractive as Black Butte Lake with the same day use sites, campgrounds, trails,  and boat launch. 

Coming from Madera the COE has signed the day use site with a left directional arrow.  The campgrounds and overnight areas continue straight ahead.  The signing on this COE site could be improved.  The campgrounds are east of the signed day use site. 

Here is a picture of the typical campsite.

And here is the current fee schedule.  Note there is a 50% discount for holders of the senior or access passes.
There are only five full hookup sites and probably about twenty water and electric hookups.  The remainder of the sites are boondocking.  Some of the campground loops are best explored without the trailer attached!  As we drove through the campground we noticed that reservation notices were already posted for President's Day Weekend. 

As noted on the bulletin board Eastman Lake is a quality bass lake with one fish over 22 inches allowed.  The lake is a clear lake and very fishy looking.  It was only that $100 plus California non-resident fishing license that stopped me from fishing.

Like Black Butte Eastman Lake has lots of hiking, mountain biking, and horse trails.  This is a picture of the hiking trail. 

Eastman Lake has plenty of wildlife.  Though we were there at 1:00pm we saw a coyote loping along the ridgeline just south of the trailhead.  At the trailhead, we noticed the posting for keeping an eye out for the "resident" mountain lion.  And less than a 1/4 mile down the trail we heard a loud noise in the draw.  Suddenly, three pig sows complete with litters burst out of the draw and up the hillside.  Now, Bugaboo took one look at the 300 pound pigs and just watched from the trail.  Snowpatch on the other hand, had them on the run!  All ten pounds of him raced up the hillside trailing the sows and their 20 pound piglets. 

An English vet study on the death of dogs listed cancer and heart disease as the leading causes of death in large dogs.  For small dogs it was trauma.  As we watched him race up the hillside, we realized that he just might end up in that statistical category at under one year of age.  Fortunately, he turned around before the pigs realized just how small he really was!!  A dog trapped in a lapdogs body.

The sun shelters above the day use site on the lake.  It probably does get hot here in the summer!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Leaving Black Butte Lake, Orland, California

usbackroads destination--Black Butte Lake, Orland, California

We measure the time at Black Butte Lake by how long it takes to fill up the holding tanks.  We went ten days without dumping the tanks, however, it was nip and tuck there for several days.  Thankfully, the campground has a shower and bathrooms.  Sunrise at Black Butte a forest fire without the smoke.

The weather for this stay was partly cloudy and cool.  There was almost always a slight breeze from the north and though the temperatures were in the 60's that breeze made wearing a fleece vest from Columbia Sportsware, of course, advisable.  The skies had a high haze most nights so the telescope did not leave the storage area unfortunately.  We hope for better luck at Coarsegold.

We started riding the electric bicycles and there appears to be a learning curve on how to best conserve battery power.  Going slower does not seem to make that much difference, but we will do further investigations.  The bikes with gears are 24 speed and add to that the 4 speed electric assist and your at a 96 speed bike.  Another 96 for generate mode!!  Anyway, I am sure that lots of those gear overlap.  So we will spend some time learning the best gear for pedaling and the best gear for assist.  A more complete report will be coming in a few weeks.

The other project at Black Butte Lake was this picture.  I took it as I was bicycling thinking it was just a throwaway picture so just shot it in JPEG.  Well, after looking at the picture I decided that I liked it.  So I kept going back to get a RAW image with similar light.  I think I might have finally gotten a decent light, but we will see it turns out after processing.  It might be time to switch all my pictures to RAW, but they are much larger files and more difficult for this blog.

The Army Corps of Engineers were busy building trail bridges and new trails outside of Buckhorn Campground.  So we are looking forward to riding some of those new trails next year.  The heavy rain made the trails way to soft for riding this year.

In Orland, be sure to stop at the Farwood Bar & Grill.  Fantastic hamburgers and if you are a senior there is a FIVE dollar buffet between 11:00 am and noon everyday of the week.  Good food, good service.  No waiting.  Farwood Bar & Grill

In Chico, we waited in line for a half hour for breakfast at the Sins of Cortez.  It was worth the wait for breakfast.  They are serve lunch.  No dinners.  Here is their web site:  Sins of Cortez.

The bakery and Portugese restaurant mentioned in last years blog entry, have both closed.  A loss.  We were so looking forward to the cinnamon bread!!

Well, we packed up the trailer, hooked up, and started pulling out.  At this point, Bugaboo woke up in the back seat and started looking around.  I think he suddenly realized that the trailer was behind us and we were leaving Black Butte Lake.  He started whinning.  I think he wanted to stay.  So far, this was his favorite spot.  We were camped alone for most of the ten days and it is definitely one of our favorite places in winter.