Tour without a goal – 27 August 2014

Written by robert on August 28th, 2014

Lake Kaweah and up toward Sequoia

low and high
My campground was only four miles or so from the entrance to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park and I reveled in my final glimpses up the valley. Moro rock stood out as did the surrounding rock edifices. But out of the canyon I went and into the tourist town of Three Rivers. I spent too much time here but I really needed some essential supplies. At a hardware store I got actual denatured alcohol for my stove for the first time since Ashland. So it was early afternoon and already plenty hot as I rode out of town and around Lake Kaweah.

lower Yokohl Valley

The lake was, like Pine Flat Lake, super low and it was really hot in this valley. So the campgrounds and such around it were all empty as far as I could see. The heat really picked up as I descended still further from the lake down to 512 feet, here temps were at least in the upper 90s (F). The road swung into the Yokohl Valley and this was the most bleak landscape of the tour. Nothing but rock, dead grass and dirt under the merciless sun. Barely anything here though it was ranch land. As I climbed the oaks reappeared and sometimes there was some shade. This was a pretty tough slog, a 2000′ climb out of this bowl like valley up switchbacks to the lip. There was a pretty long decent from the Yokohl but mostly on terrible roads that I had to be mindful of. But on reaching the bottom, I took a short break to resupply my liquids and then began the second climb of the day. It was after 5pm, I’d already ridden near 60 miles and it was 97 degrees here.

Giant Sequoia National Monument

The ~3500 foot climb into Giant Sequoia National Monument was probably the hardest climb of the tour. It was all small curves with really steep bits leading up and around each curve. The sun was right on my back and just beating down and I was already worn down. The valley though was beautiful with big rocky protrusions and a the Tule River merrily running over rocks below. The river ran over a series of pools that looked so inviting to swim in. The sun was setting and I again attracted the swarm of gnats that harried me for many miles. At one point, just over 70 miles for the day a pickup truck passed and asked if I need a lift. Only pride had me immediately respond “I’m cool”. They drove on. If they asked me again five minutes later I probably would have given in. I nearly bonked on this climb as I was starving for dinner and it was getting late. Finally though it flattened out and the final few miles to Camp Nelson weren’t bad. I turned down the side road to Coy Flat Campground which was two miles into the woods and it was pitch black. I was quite happy though to reach the campground, drink as much water as I wanted and cook dinner.

crumbling black rocks       –     soft scurrying of lizards
withered yellow grasses    –    raucous scramble of squirrels
swirling tan dirt                –    the piping of an unseen bird

 

Tour without a goal – 26 August 2014

Written by robert on August 27th, 2014

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The big tree is nature’s first masterpiece, and, as far as I know, the greatest if all living things.

- John Muir

amongst the monarchs
I spent this day in Sequioa National Park Park experience as much as I could of the park. I took the shuttle up from my campground in the morning and took the last shuttle back – maximized my time best I could. I was alone in the shuttle up and the driver would just whip around the corners of the crazy twisty road. I have to admit that by the time I got off at the Giant Forest Museum I was feeling somewhat queasy.

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The museum had some interesting exhibits on the life cycle of the sequoia and the history of this area. The Giant Forest is one of the biggest sequoia groves on earth with over 2500 tress with a greater than 10 foot diameter. But I wanted to get out amount these trees so shortly I was on the Big Trees hike which makes its way around a forest meadow. These meadows are essential sequoia habitat as they need huge amounts of water but with teir wide shallow roots they can’t actually be in a wet meadow. So they like to grow on the edge and dip into its water.

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The trees are just magnificent, huge gnarled bases then the thick knotty trunk rises up and up. The lower branches die off on the older trees so they have a stalk of broccoli kind of look. On the oldest trees the crown also dies off and there is bare wood at the top. There were several big fallen trees here, laying like huge pipes across the forest. Many of them had the burn scars that is so common of these old timers as they slice century after century through all manner of conditions.

Looking up at the canopy

One particularly interesting thing about the Giant Forest grove was that by the 50s it had been extensively overdeveloped with over a hundred buildings, plus campsites and all the services at many people demand. All this right on the shallow roots of these ancient monarchs. Well the forest service really turned things around from the 70s on and almost all of those buildings are gone and they built a new lodge outside of the grove for visitors. But I’ve seen this time and time again at these old parks, how they were focused on the people and car culture at the expense of the natural environment that they are actually there to experience.

Vagina tree

From the Big Tree trail I hike out to Beetle Rock which give a nice view into e foothills and the smoggy San Joaquin Valley. Then it was back to the shuttle bus where I took it up to the General Sherman tree. The other of the “generals” this tree is the largest being on earth by mass. And it is truly huge and just stunning. Several places on the hike you could see the entire tree – which is often difficult – as well as the signed location where people basically went one after the other to get their picture taken with the tree.

Moro Rock

I used the shuttles to go to Lodgepole where I ate my lunch and then up to Wakushi Lodge, which was the one built to replace the Giant Forest lodge, where I took advantage of their internet connection. In the later afternoon it was back to the Giant Forest where I hike up to Moro Rock. This was the longest hike I did this day and the most hike like. That is it was a dirt path in the woods that while not too challenging was virtually deserted. It went right by some big trees, that you could walk right up to and feel there tough skins. There was a fire in this area, ever deliberate or natural and thus there was burnt sequoias as well as regular trees. A couple of the sequoias had holes burn right through the base.

Climbing up Moro Rock

I took the short trail to Hanging Rock where I got a view of Moro Rock which is a big fin like chunk of granite right on the mountain edge with a dome at the top. Really neat and you could see all the people on top. Climbing Moro Rock itself was via a series of 600 stairs at I almost ran up as I was pushing it to catch the last shuttle. These were decent stairs but went right through natural openings and such that sometimes were really narrow. But they blended right in with the rock and didn’t alter it’s character.

Looking east from Moro Rock

The view from the top was absolute amazing, nearly 360 degrees you could see the eastern mountain range where Mount Whitney is (though it itself is obscured) and then the southern range who’s rampart like rock faces stop the view. But then the long view down the San Joaquin toward the coast range all lost in mist-like smog. A really fitting overview of a lot of the park and a perfect final view of Sequoia National park.

Looking down the San Joaquin toward the coast range

looking up
buried under giant trees
clear blue sky



Posted from Sequoia National Park, California, United States.

 

Tour without a goal – 25 August 2014

Written by robert on August 26th, 2014

Grant Tree

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.
 
-John Muir

riding with the generals
I spent part of the morning exploring what I could in Kings Canyon but alas the titular canyon itself is thirty miles up a road perpendicular to the route. It’d take at least a couple of days to explore by bicycle. But it is not without some regret that I didn’t do it – no less authority than John Muir said that it rivaled Yosemite. I did though go to Grants Grove, a stand of sequoias withe the second largest entity on earth (by mass), the General Grant tree.

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Really majestic these old wanderers who stride through time, though fire and flood and snow and the deprivations of man. There was a hollow fallen sequoia you could walk though – it had been a saloon, horse stables and barracks throughout the years. The fire damaged trees are especially fascinating as a sequoia can be completely hollowed out by fire and yet live on.

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From the grove it was back to the road which continued the climb from where I’d left it. It would peak somewhere around 7500′ but then it oscillated from 6000′ to over 7000′ several times in a series of rollers. Still in Kings for the most part, there was views into the far distant rocky canyon, and back toward the foothills I climbed up yesterday. And of course fantastic stands of trees everywhere, though sequoias tend to be in groves and so it was mostly pines and oaks and also Nobel Firs – Christmas trees!

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I entered the edge of the Giant Sequoia National Monument and the into Sequoia National Park. Along the road was the Lost Grove, one of the few stands of sequoias the Generals Highway passes through in this part of the park. Not too much further on I reached the Lodgepole campground and visitors center. About in the middle of the highway this is clearly the center of the car portion of the park. For even more than Yosemite almost all of this park is designated wilderness and inaccessible by car. Here there was laundry, showers and a store and I took advantage of them all.

despite mans best efforts
the giant trees still stand

What with using all of the facilities at Lodgepole I returned to my travels rather late. Happily it was almost all downhill from here to where I was camping. The road was the twisty-est I’ve ever ridden on and the first section was undergoing work and as all torn up and gravel strewn. This was a pity as it went through the Giant Forest and there were huge sequoia at every turn. But I had to keep my eyes on the road. Happily there wasn’t too much traffic.

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The lower down portion of the road was if anything even more winding and steep. It had had its roadwork down previously though and was in good shape. I was mostly out of the forests – definitely below where sequoia grow, and there was huge views all the way out to the coast range. A domes and rampart like rock structures of the park would also come onto view. I descended from nearly 7000 feet to around 2500 feet, so it was pretty epic and a lot warmer. It had clouded up this afternoon, so as I descend there was a dramatic sunset through the clouds and over the foothills. It was deep gloaming when I reached Potwisha Campground where I’d be staying for the next couple of nights.

true darkness,
only light the strewn of stars–
giant trees stand silent



Posted from Sequoia National Park, California, United States.

 

Tour without a goal – 24 August 2014

Written by robert on August 25th, 2014

Dry Lands

all withered–
grasses I walked over
going nowhere
 
-Santoka

big hills into big trees
Packing up this morning I received a surprise as when I was pulling,stuff out of my Hobo Bag (the handlebar bag) a giant hairy, tan spider charged out. A wolf spider I’m pretty sure, (though perhaps a hobo spider!) it was about the size of a fifty cent piece. I shooed it away and it hung out under the picnic table for the duration of my time there. This is hot land for sure, the campground fee collector had a group move sites because they were right below a hill and at night “the snakes come down where its cool”.

view down the valley

This was a hot day and it featured some of the toughest climbing of the tour. I was at around 750′ and I had to climb up to Kings Canyon at around 6500′. So over 5500 feet of climbing. This was done in three big stages each doing near 2000 feet. The first was the shortest stage, but it was on these back country roads with no sort of grade limits. So steep through ranch land and heading right into the fierce morning sun. The second stage occurred after a brief stint on hwy 185 which was busy so it was good to return to the back roads. This stage was the longest climbing over 2000′ and I finally made it out of the dry valleys. Trees appeared beyond the black oaks, and manzanitas that there had been so far. There was still dry rivers though, and it was hot out of the shade.

Entering Kings Canyon

There was only a short stint on relatively flat land before the final haul. This last stage was hard, as I’d already climbed a lot and was plenty burnt out. It was steep too, a series a switchbacks that climbed the bulk of the altitude in short order. During this time there was an increasing swarm of gnats, or black flies or something buzzing around my head. I couldn’t pick up enough speed to lose them and it was only the occasionally breeze that would blow them away. There was plenty of big trees now, so e redwoods for sure among much bigger pines than I’d seen in some time. Finally I turned back onto hwy 185 for just the last six miles or so. I passed 6000′ just a bit after this and the final miles while still uphill wasn’t too hard. But I was plenty tired. So I was happy to enter Kings Canyon National Park and I made my way to Crystal Springs Campground.

climbing so slow
even the flies have to double back
to buzz me

This being a national park there was some concern about the campground being full, though if hoped showing up on a Sunday would ameliorate that somewhat. Well can’t fears were unfounded as the campground was nearly empty. I had the quietest night in a campground I. Quite some time.

hot
sun
climbing
switchback
after
switchback–
  red
    dragonflies



Posted from Hume, California, United States.

 

Tour without a goal – 23 August 2014

Written by robert on August 24th, 2014

Pine Flat Lake

somehow
I get to go on living
among summer grasses
 
-Santoka

the empty lake
Today was mostly spent in the low altitude valleys and it was hot. First thing In the morning I crossed the San Joaquin River and then climb right back over 2000 feet. But the rest of the day was primarily on valley walls going up and down in the heat. I was on these virtually empty back roads through ranch land that was dry, drought dry. I rode along an empty stream bed and crossed over the dry feeder creeks. The terrain was all brown, tan, dead grasses and stunted trees. I never saw any livestock on these ranches. The only relief from the blazing sun was that portions of it were lined the black oaks that hung over the narrow road providing some shade

Deeper part of Pine Flat lake

Most striking though was when I came around Pine Flat Lake, which clearly was a major recreation area. But the lake was dramatically low, with this hard line of trees where its level had historically been. But all the way down to the current level was these rings like close terraces showing where the levels it had been as it slowly drained away. There was still boating and such in the deeper sections of the lake but I have to,say this brought the three years of drought home. From the lake I descended to below 750 feet to Choinumi Park in Piedra where I camped this night. This was on a river that drained from Pine Flat lake and I was happy to see it burbling with water. Plenty hot here until the sun went behind the hills and it cooled a bit.

far down the hot, dusty valley,
the promise of green mountains

 

Tour without a goal – 22 August 2014

Written by robert on August 23rd, 2014

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
 
-John Muir

steaming into the valley
Today was going to be a short day due to the vagaries of campgrounds and timing so that I’d reach Sequoia National Park post weekend. So when I was just four miles out from camp and I encountered the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, I had to check it out. This turns out to be an old rail logging concern which really stripped this area bare in the early 20th Century. It was well forested now but it’s all second and third growth – natural too as the loggers of the day didn’t deign to replant. The engine was a Shay engine, prized for its ability to pull loads up steep grades. Easy to see why that’d be a popular logging engine.

On the train

During the trip the conductor talked quite a bit about the trees. I was able to verify that those huge pinecones I’ve been seeing are from sugar pines. Ponderosa pines have the largest needles and almost look bushy. Also,learned that these bushes that look like Madrona’s are in fact Manzanita, though I ink there was Madrona’s in southern Oregon. In the thirty odd years this logging company was active they apparently cut enough boards that if laid end to end would wrap around the earth 26 times. The train wound downhill and then stopped for a short break at an outdoor amphitheater. This is only used for various nighttime programs they use which means it was a bit of an anticlimax on this trip – not really a destination. But the steam engine was the focus of the event and it’s plenty neat.

Bass Lake

Back on the road I was primarily descending today. Down from the heights of the Yosmite Valley, primarily through trees. There was one climb back up to 3000′ where I rode around Bass Lake. Another reservoir type lake it was heavily used for recreation. The road that wound around it always going up and down was in quite poor shape though happily it wasn’t too busy (yet). The lake was crowded with people playing in the water and on the shore. Past the lake I really descended into the San Joaquin Vally and near 1000′ for the first time since the Columbia Gorge. It was really arid here, all dried grasses, ponderosa pines, sugar pines and thorny bushes. Just above the San Joaquin River I pulled off to camp at Smalley Cove Campground on Kerckhoff Lake. It was really hot in the valley and I was here really early. So I took a good long swim in the lake which I have to say was just what I needed.

this hot late summer day
begins to cool
as the sun falls behind the hills

 

Tour without a goal – 21 August 2014

Written by robert on August 22nd, 2014

Last view of Yosemite Valley

It seems strange that visitors to Yosemite should be so little influenced by the novel grandeur, as if their eyes were bandaged and their ears stopped. Most of those who I saw yesterday were looking down as if wholly unconscious of anything going on about them, while the sublime rocks were trembling with the tones of the mighty chanting congregation of waters gathered from all the mountains round about, making music that might draw the angels out of heaven.
 
-John Muir

beyond the valley of the walls
I spent most of today’s ride, over thirty miles of it, riding out of Yosemite valley. That should give some feeling for how large it is, I think I did about a hundred miles all told. And there are still parts of the park – the Hetch Hetchy for instance – that I did not ride near. Plus of course the cast wilderness away from the roads – the true heart of the park.

Half-Dome reflected in the Merced River

I lingered long in the Village this morning as I did have some legitimate business to take care to prep for the next stage of the tour. I stayed long enough that I had an early lunch at a fundraiser BBQ for the Village Daycare. As I left I took many more pictures of the hanging granite walls that tower above all parts of the valley. I had ride in the opposite direction for a bit to cross over to the other side of the Merced to get to hwy 41.

Hanging Valley reflected in the Merced

Once on 41 it began to climb immediately. This wasn’t a hard climb IMO, or perhaps I’ve become a bit inured to it, but it steadily rose the entire way. There were several viewpoints looking back down into the valley, similar to when I first came down – massive cliff walls and at the far end Half Dome. The best of these final overlooks was right before a long tunnel that gently sloped upwards. In this tunnels the cars coming through howled like freight trains from the close echoes. There were side passages that looked like the went out to a cliff face. I’ve never seen anything like that in a tunnel before. Out of the tunnel the road climb for a good distance but then I crested the valley wall and descended into the Wawona Valley.

Small waterfall at Summerdale Campground

This is still part of Yosemite but the character is totally different. The valley has gently sloping hills, lined with big trees and none of the stark granite cliffs. At the bottom is a an old ranch, a lodge and golf course. You have to climb this valley wall to get out and once you do there is the final attraction: Mariposa Grove, a stand of Redwoods on the edge of the park. I didn’t visit the grove as it was too far off track, but this marks the transition into the parts of the mountains with Sequoias. Not far outside of the park was Summerdale Campground where I stayed this night. It had a nice little stream with a tiny waterfall cutting into living rock. It had big pools above it where I swam and washed up on this hot summer day.

leaving the valley,
not without a backward glance,
butterflies flit around me

 

Tour without a goal – 20 August 2014

Written by robert on August 21st, 2014

Vernal Falls

But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers on close and confiding communion with her.
 
- John Muir

hanging valleys
Today was an entire day spent off the bicycle and hiking around Yosemite. I can’t of course do any real epic hikes, which I’ve come to believe is the best way to really experience these places. However I was able to do three short hikes and see some pretty stunning sights.

Half Dome over Mirror Lake

The first of these hikes was to Mirror Lake which I was able start from the North Pines campground and walk just a bit up the road to the trailhead. Once on use trail it a mile or so up the Tenaya River which was rusty and barely running over the rocks at this point. The trail was sandy, and through the trees with glimpses of the granite cliffs and the river now and again. Seasonally Mirror Lakes go dry so it was a big sandy pit with just a small amount of rusty water remaining. Historically they charged admission to see Half Dome and the other promontories reflected in these pools.

Yosemite

I rode the free shuttle system that runs all around the Valley to the Village and had lunch there and checked out the Ansel Adams Gallery which definitely has some stunning Yosemite Shots throughout the seasons. I was able to walk from the Village to the trailhead for Yosemite Falls which like Mirror Lake runs dry in the late summer. All of this is exacerbated by ongoing California Drought. The towering rocks, scoured with mineral deposits from the falling wasters was definitely still a sight. Clearly though earlier in the year is the time to see some of these sights.

View from the top of vernal Falls

Back on the shuttle bus I rode it out to the Mist Trailhead which would be my most extensive hike of the day. This was a pretty challenging 1.5 mile hike uphill the entire time. At first it’s a gently climbing, windy sandy path along the merrily bubbling Merced River that hugs the canyon walls. But soon enough you crossed the river and then the ascent begins in earnest. Steeper uphill with some rough widely spaced out stone steps. You begin to,go over and around bigger rocks and at one point a tunnel made up,of a big boulder leaning on a flat rock. But past that Vernal Falls comes into view.

Vernal Falls

The two falls on the Merced, of which Vernal Falls is the lower one are e only really active falls in the Valley in late summer. But it is a stunning falls, free falling over a shear rock face, which is striated with mineral patterns and water scoring. Beyond these stunning views of et falls you can then go up 700 rough hewn stone steps to the top. This I did and I have to say the views of the valley, the Merced and the Mist Trail which I took up here was stunning. There were people who jumped the fence and were playing it on the edge of the falls. Just seemed crazy, one guy leaning back right on e edge to take a selfie. The trip back was more harrowing, pounding down some uneven stone steps but my trail running holes gripped fine and I made it down safely.

Lee Stetson as John Muir

I returned to the Village to have a quick bite to eat before I went to the Yosemite Theater to see a the one man show: Conversation with a Tramp: John Muir Live, featuring Lee Stetson as John Muir. Stetson really captured Muir and I’ve read enough of Muir to know that he had his style down. He of course quoted quite a bit from Muir, I recognized a passage here and there. The play too, place on the night that Muir learned that Woodrow Wilson would not veto the bill allowing a part of the protected park, the Hetch Hetchy Valley be dammed as a reservoir for San Francisco. Stetson told a lot of stores from Muir’s youth of the long fight for the Hetch Hetchy and of course the wonders of nature. One of my favorite bits was his contempt for those who just drove through parks looking at scenic overlooks and driving on to the next. Behavior I’ve witnessed many times myself. He also passed on his mothers admonishment to eat apples and smell the lilies.

sitting beneath these hanging granite walls
thinking of impermanence

 

Tour without a goal – 19 August 2014

Written by robert on August 20th, 2014

El Capitin

To the timid traveler, fresh from the sedimentary levels of the lowlands, these highways, however picturesque and grand, seem terribly forbidding– cold, dead, gloomy gashes on the bones of the mountains, and all of Nature’s ways the ones to be most cautiously avoided. Yet the are full of the finest and most telling examples of Nature’s love; and though hard to travel, none are safer.
 
-John Muir

into the valley
This was quite possibly the coldest night I’ve camped in, certainly on this tour. All the backpackers had on stocking caps and I wished I’d brought mine, if for just this morning. However I’d be descending from the ~9000 feet of Tuolumne Meadows to around 3500 at Yosemite Meadows where it would be almost twenty degrees warmer.

Towering granite

It was a beautiful day for a ride through the park, sunny with tendrils of white cloud against the deep blue sky. Tioga road almost circumnavigates this massive park taking fifty miles to get to Yosemite Valley. Coming down from the Meadows the initial sights are just stunning. Massive jagged granite peaks, some with climbers on them, cut right into the blue sky. Tenaya Lake, is a stunning blue body of water right below these peaks and crumbling stone hills. At Olmstead Point who’s can see far down the valley toward the Cathedral Peaks and other promontories.

Tanaya Lake amidst the rocks

Tioga road then sinks down to Yosemite Creek and then you climb back to over 9000 feet again. But then it’s mostly downhill into Yosemite Valley. Some of this was pretty harrowing as a ride – long stretches with no shoulder, few turnouts and a a steep enough grade for a fast descent around the twisty curves. And of course it’s all heavily trafficked. I didn’t see any other cyclists on this road which is unusual – I almost always see roadies riding these classic roads, but at least today none. With the traffic I can see why this would be too appealing.

Half dome

This whole section was in trees, with the only open areas in sections that had been devastated by wildfires. But once the road turns toward the valley, huge views begin to open up. Then you are in the valley with its massive towering rock faces. Half dome comes into view, way at the end of the valley, buttressed by layered groupings of peaks and rock faces. One rides through some tunnels, which are certainly better downhill then going up (in fact this whole section would be pretty bad uphill IMO – do it early is the best option), cross the Merced River and then you are on the valley floor.

Tunnels in the valley

Coming out of the trees, El Capitain springs into view, just massive and commanding your attention. One of those edifices that might seem to be over-rated, but once you are under it’s towering glory, it clearly is not. Around this area thou and into the Village and surrounding campgrounds it’s just a zoo though. So many people, come here, everything is packed. But there is everything here – showers, laundry, a big store, post office, restaurants and so on.

Woodpecker

I set up in the North Pines Campground – I’d gotten a reservation here (which is required) via the website just two days ago – and then road around the valley trail system exploring the Yosemite and Curry Villages and taking advantage of some of those aforementioned services. As I rode from camp a gentle rain began but didn’t last, leaving dramatics clouds like fingerprinted streaks above the striated granite strictest that loom over the valley.

North Pines Campground, Yosemite National Park
 
in camp,
under the towering granite cliffs,
a red-headed woodpecker knocks on a tree
standing on a rock a disheveled raven mutters to itself
the rising sun glimmers through the tall trees
a morning car alarm to wake us all up
as soon as it’s allowed the drone of generators begins
a soft rain falls for a few minutes
     then the sun glimmers out of the
        clouds as they fade away

 

Tour without a goal – 18 August 2014

Written by robert on August 19th, 2014

Tioga Pass

The Mountain Spirit (excerpt)
 
Driving all night south from Reno
Through cool-porches Bridgeport,
past Mono Lake’s pale glow,
past tongues of obsidian flow stopped chill,
and the angled granite face
on the east Sierra front –
 
-Gary Snyder

High Point
Today i would ride Tioga Road into Yosemite Park. This was pretty much a relentless climb for about 6 miles before leveling off at a series of alpine lakes. I have to saw though that if you are inching your way up a pass, scenery like this is pretty much ideal for long contemplation. Stark granite cliff faces, crumbling piles of rock, rust red peaks, jagged mountain peaks like castle walls all above a green valley.

Rocky peaks on Tioga Pass

When I did reach the lakes, they were like a string of sapphires among the pale white, tan and brown landscape. Nearly to the summit Tioga Lake was a large body of water with like blue green patches amidst the darker blue. On the other side of he road I saw a large beaver like animal but without the big flat tail. I’d latter learn this was a marmot.

Tioga Lake

There was one final little uphill and then the line to the Yosemite Park entrance station and the pass summit was here. Tioga Pass at 9945 feet is the highest pass on the route and one of the highest in the nation. I rode to the front of the line (advantage: bicycle), paid my entrance fee and was in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite! At long last. I descended a bit, thou a rock strewn alpine meadow and then into rather sparse woods. Soon enough there was plenty to see and I stopped now and again to check it out.

Lambert Dome

The big bare rock of Lambert Dome hove into view, dominating ones attention. But this was the edge of Toulemne Meadows where I’d camp tonight. A short ride, even with the big pass crossing, but it’s a long way to Yosemite Village still and this would give me a chance to check out these end of the park. I was able to set up in the hikers area as it seems to be the rather I noted policy of the park that bicycle tourists can sty there as well. Then I did some exploring.

Toulumne Meadow

I hiked out around Lambert Dome, doing a bit of the trail up to that but mostly took this hike to a soda springs whose water bubbled up through rusty rocks and had a rather appealing mineral tang. Just past the soda springs was a historic Sierra Club lodge where they’d take people as they were fighting for the creation of the park. I walked back along the Toulumne River though the meadow that John Muir wrote so passionately about. It was along this river that I saw four more marmots and a helpful fly fisherman told me that’s what these animals were.

Marmot

Back to camp I made dinner in the dwindling light and it cooled right off as the sun descended. I’m still above 9000 feet and it promises to be a cold night.

a bold bluejay
landed right on my table
and stole a walnut