Tour without a goal – 22 August 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

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