Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Getaway at Sly Park a.k.a Lake Jenkinson - 7/15/11 - 7/17/11

          Sarah and I were able to get away for the weekend and enjoy some sunshine and swimming at Lake Jenkinson also known as Sly Park. Sly Park is located in Pollock Pines just past Placerville and a few minutes off of Hwy 50.
          We sat through brutal Friday afternoon traffic and arrived at Sly Park just after sunset. We unpacked the gear at the cabin where we were staying and relaxed with some cocktails.


          Saturday morning we started off slow, relaxing at the cabin and living it up. We got our things organized for the day and set off for the lake. Parking along the Mormon Emigrant Trail near the spillway and Dam, we set off on the mountain bikes along the single track that wraps around the lake. With a few clouds in the sky the weather was perfect for a mellow ride.
          The singletrack hugs the shoreline for most of the time offering ample views and swimming opportunities. We opted to only ride the undeveloped shoreline which is the most enjoyable part of the trail anyhow.
          Wildflowers were plentiful and I was stopped in my tracks at the sight of an unusually giant Tiger Lily.

Wild Tiger Lily

          The trail is a great beginner’s singletrack with very little elevation change and few obstacles to keep it interesting for more experienced riders.
          It is best to get an early start along this popular stretch of trail in order to enjoy a nice flow, as the later it gets more and more trail users will require frequent dismounting. The upside to that is it forces one to stop and enjoy the views more often.
          While stopping to let some hikers pass I noticed some inconspicuous orchids poking up out of the drab forest floor.

Wild Orchid

          We stopped to rest at a bench with views looking out onto the magnificent aquamarine colors of Lake Jenkinson.

A Perfect Spot to Rest

          After a couple of miles of riding we decided to turn around and head back so we could spend some time on the lake with our raft.
          As we were pumping up our raft a few mountain bikers rode by and one of them got a pinch flat right in front of our eyes. I offered to help patch the tube as I had a patch kit and full sized bike pump readily available. The pinch flat was what is known as a snake bite where the rim pinches the tube in such a way that there are two holes in the tube. This made for a difficult patch job and unfortunately we never were able to get the tube to hold air completely. I felt bad that these gentlemen had come up from Sacramento to go for a ride and were now out of luck. The guy who got the flat had a great attitude about it and told the other two to ride ahead while he’d jog behind them. It was a perfect lesson of going with the flow rather than putting up a resistance. An event like this could ruin some folks day, but these guys were off to have a good time regardless.
          With our raft pumped up I rowed us across the lake a distance where we tied off to a tree to relax and go swimming. We spent several hours on the lake soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the views of the snow capped Crystal Range in the distance.
          We retreated back to the cabin where we BBQ’d and relaxed for the rest of the evening.


          I got up before sunrise and headed down to the lake to take some photos. I love the quiet morning hours as they are often serene and meditative. About a half hour before sunrise is often when the colors are the best and when I arrived at the dam the sky was lit up nicely.

Break of Dawn at Lake Jenkinson

          While waiting for the sun to peak over the distant mountains a Coyote scampered across the road next to me. By the time I switched lenses the Coyote was too distant for a decent shot.
          The sky got brighter and the sun eventually rose above the horizon offering a beautiful sun star above the lake.

Sunrise Over the Crystal Range and Lake Jenkinson

          After sunrise I drove a short distance to a wildflower filled meadow that I had noticed the day before. The meadow was still wet with dew and I got soaking wet as I walked out into the tall grasses. The abundant wildflowers made a terrific foreground as the first light touched the meadow.

First Light on Wildflower Filled Meadow

Gorgeous Meadow

Different Vantage

          The sun got higher in the sky and I headed back to the cabin to have breakfast with Sarah. We had a slow morning and packed up our gear. We checked out of our cabin and went for a scenic drive on the Mormon Emigrant Trail to Silver Lake along Hwy 88. The views were spectacular and there was even some significant snow banks remaining along the upper elevations of Hwy 88. We stopped at a pullout off of the Mormon Emigrant Trail to have some lunch.

Roadside Picnic

View of the Crystal Range & Crimson Columbine from a nearby pullout

          After lunch we drove back down to Sly Park and again set out on our raft into the warm waters of Lake Jenkinson. Last year we saw quite a few Osrprey overhead, but this year we did not see any.
          In the evening time we had dinner in Placerville and cruised home without any traffic. It always amazes me at how fast the drive is when there is no traffic. There is something to be said for traveling at night.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Front Yard Flora - Epipactis helleborine - Marin's Orchid Weed

          This past year I've blogged about several of Marin's Native Orchids and during my research I read about a non-native wild orchid that grows throughout Marin as a weed.
          As it turns out I was doing some weeding in my front yard in San Rafael when I noticed a weed with tiny flowers on it. Before pulling it up I took time to inspect it and after one glance I knew just what it was, Epipactis helleborine.

Epipactis helleborine - Orchid that's a Weed

          It has a striking resemblance to Epipactis gigantea (Stream Orchids) but slightly smaller and not as vibrantly colored.
          I've left it alone and have seen more coming up in the backyard as well. Without really looking at them up close, most people might not even realize they are orchids.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Inverness & Tomales Bay - Shell Beach to Pebble Beach - 7-3-11

Jellyfish in Tomales Bay as viewed from Pebble Beach

          After running a few errands in Bolinas Sarah and I drove to Inverness where we met up with a couple of our close friends from San Diego Elloitt and Spar. I was amazed at how much traffic there was on Sir Francis Drake. Being 4th of July weekend I expected crowds, but this was as busy as I’ve ever seen Inverness and Point Reyes. We caravanned to the parking lot at Shell Beach where we found it completely full and even overflowing. We managed to nab two spots a little further up the road without too much trouble.
          The four of us headed down to Shell Beach where we were met by the masses. I was quite astonished by the sheer number of people sprawled out along the beach. There was hardly a place to relax.
A few Ospreys soared overhead, occasionally letting out their distinct cries.
          We had already planned on going for a hike so we took a short trail to the next beach where it seemed to be more crowded than the first.
          From the second beach we took the Johnstone Trail which starts as a faint trail near an outhouse but soon opens up to a nice singletrack. Within a few footsteps the noise from the beach dissipated and we had the trail to ourselves. We only did run into a handful of people along the entire trail.
          We passed beneath a giant Osprey nest and saw a few bird heads poking out.
          The trail climbs up a few gradual switchbacks and continues to gain elevation until eventually topping out near Pierce Pt. Road. As the trail tops out it also becomes overgrown with the late season grasses and poison oak. There are a couple of spur trails that lead out to the road itself but we continued onward until we reached a junction with the Jepson Trail about 2.6 miles from the Shell Beach. We continued on the Johnstone trail and soon crossed a private road where we took a short rest.
          The trail heads downhill from there snaking in and out of lush vegetation and through several boggy areas which took time to navigate without getting muddy. I didn’t seem to mind, but everyone else was wearing sandals and didn’t want to get their toes funky. While hiking along Spar noticed a caterpillar which we stopped to observe for a moment.


          A little over a mile from our rest at the private road and we arrived at Pebble Beach. Being just a half mile from a parking lot and Hearts Desire Beach there were a handful of people enjoying the sandy stretch, however, it was desolate compared to what we experienced at Shell Beach.
          We took a seat in the sand and enjoyed the views and the sunshine. It was quite warm in fact and eventually we all went wading in Tomales Bay. A problematic issue was that there were literally dozens of jellyfish floating towards shore and they were mighty hard to avoid. The strange thing was that they all seemed to propel themselves toward the shore willfully, then turn over and die. At least I’m assuming they are dying. It makes me want to do some research. I even talked with a local back at the parking lot when the hike was done and she always remembers an abundance of jellyfish in the area.

Upright Jellyfish

(One of Many)Upside Down Jellyfish

          Elliott was brave enough to take a dip and fully submerge himself only after we thoroughly scouted the immediate vicinity for any jellies.

Tomales Bay from Pebble Beach

          With the hike taking a little longer than expected we decided that Elliott and I would hike/jog back to the car and drive back to pick up the girls. Sarah and Spar would walk to Hearts Desire Beach and then up the Jepson Trail about a mile to a pullout at Pierce Point Rd. where we would pick them up.
          Elliott and I made it back to the car and met up with the ladies in just about an hour which both they and ourselves were quite proud of.
          It was a great opportunity to get out in nature with great people. Those are the opportunities we cannot miss out on!