Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Richmond Bridge Sunrise - 8/24/11

Sunrise From West End of Richmond Bridges

          When I got out of bed to get ready for work I looked out the window and noticed a nice display of Altocumulus and Altostratus clouds in the sky. This is usually a good recipe for a colorful sunrise so I hurried through my morning routine and shuffled out the door about 20 minutes earlier than normal in hopes of capturing a fiery display.
I took the last exit before getting onto the Richmond Bridge and parked near the Marin Rod and Gun club at the scenic overlook.
          As I pulled into the lot a touch of neon red had just lit up the lower portion of clouds and I scrambled to find a good vantage. I spent the next 25 minutes watching the clouds turn from a vibrant pink to a subtle glowing white hue. A spectacular sunstar formed as it broke over the horizon.

Colorful Clouds Before Sunrise


          I took in my final moments of serenity before heading back into the rat race.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hope Valley - West Fork Carson River - 8/13/11

          From our cabin we took the Mormon Emigrant Trail to Hwy 88 and then headed east past Silver and Caples Lakes then over Carson Pass. I wanted to stop at Carson Pass and take some photos of Red Lake; however, there was some road work going on that caused the lake to be extremely muddy and ugly.
          A few minutes later before reaching the junction with Hwy 88 and Hwy 89 we found a nice spot to park the car alongside Hope Valley Meadow. We walked gently across the meadow and set up a picnic blanket on the edge of the West Fork of the Carson River.

Picnic on West Fork Carson River

          It was a gorgeous day, the sun shining and wispy white clouds floating in the sky. The West Fork of the Carson River is one of mine and Sarah's favorite rivers, so peaceful and with such breathtaking surroundings. There’s also something to be said for dry meadows and their lack of mosquitoes! At one bend in the river a dense patch of lilies were blooming and I waded out into the cool water to get a better look.

Water Lilies

West Fork Carson River

Nice Views, Cold Feet!

Windblown Spent Flowers in Hope Valley

West Fork Carson River

Cloudscape above Hope Valley

          We spent a couple hours relaxing and unknowingly getting sun burned. At least we made it until the end of the trip before suffering from the sun.
          Eventually we pulled ourselves away from the river and started our drive back to the cabin. I pulled over a couple of times for photo ops along the way.

The Nipple

          If you ever get the chance to visit Hope Valley in the Fall you will be treated to spectacular displays of Fall color.

Crystal Basin Trip Report - Day 6-8 - 8/11/11 - 8/13/11

          Skipping sunrise, we woke up and lay in bed for quite a while just relaxing. Sarah still felt sick, however, her soar throat had lessened quite a bit.
          We had a slow morning and packed up camp. We left Wright’s Lake and explored some more Forest Service Roads on our way to Hwy 50. From there we stopped for Gas & ice cream in Silverfork and then from Kyburz we headed up Silver Fork Rd. for some scenic driving.
          The road climbs steeply toward Hwy 88 and we soon had views looking over the Silver Fork of the American River. And what a gorgeous river it was! We passed by the China Flat campground which has good day use access to the river. All along Silver Fork Road there are some good dispersed camping spots with river access.
          While driving I started to notice a tickle in my throat which would eventually turn into a full blown cold by evening.
          We reached the top of Silver Fork Road and continued on the Mormon Emigrant Trail back towards Highway 50 and Sly Park/ Lake Jenkinson. Once at the lake we were disappointed as we were both now sick and thought better of going swimming.
          We detoured to Safeway in Pollock Pines where we re-upped on food and medicine then drove back down to our cabin rental near Sly Park where we would spend our last three nights.
          By the time we got to the cabin my energy was at a low and we were now both feeling pretty crappy. We ended up just relaxing the rest of the evening in the cabin reading books.


And on the seventh day – we rested!
          After sleeping in quite a bit, we just relaxed as best we could and read all day long. We did not even leave the cabin. It was disappointing that neither of us could go swimming. Our health forced us to relax which isn’t always a bad thing. After an uneventful day of reading we had a mellow evening then fell into our Nyquil induced comas.


          We woke up feeling a little better, but still in no shape for swimming or enjoying the lake. Cabin fever had set in and we wanted to get out and enjoy the sunshine albeit we couldn’t hike.
          We packed a picnic and decided to take a drive to Hope Valley, one of our favorite places.
(Click HERE to read about our trip to Hope Valley and the West Fork Carson River)

West Fork Carson River in Hope Valley

          After leaving Hope Valley on Highway 88 we approached Caples Lake and made a detour up towards Schneider Cow Camp to check up on the wildflowers and do some hiking with the car. This area is known to have one of the most prolific displays of wildflowers and today was no exception. It was almost a tease as we weren’t doing any actual hiking and only got a small taste of the magic. I went on a hike here last year and have been yearning to get out and do it again. It will have to wait for another day…..or year!
          We made our way slowly down the ruff dirt road back to Hwy 88 and then continued to the Mormon Emigrant Trail. We got back to the cabin and relaxed for the evening. Again, there was some shared disappointment that we didn’t even get to go swimming once and hiking wasn’t really an option either. We rolled with the punches and took it as a sign from our bodies that we needed to rest.
          The next day, as opposed to spending time on the lake, we ended up driving home about midday.
          Despite us both falling ill, the trip was still a blessing and offered us a lot of insight and inspiration for future trips!

Crystal Basin Trip Report - Day 5 - 8/10/11

-Sunrise at Twin Lake and cross country hike to Silver Dagger Lake-

          Just before first light I crawled out of bed and reluctantly put on a pair of shorts and my ‘not so warm’ hiking clothes. I knew the first couple of minutes would be cold but I would warm up in no time once I got moving.
          I told Sarah that I might attempt Mt. Price but my ultimate goal was Silver Dagger Lake which lies above Twin and Island Lakes among scree and slabs of granite.
          My pack was heavy as I set off on my bike toward the Grouse Lake Trailhead. Once at the trailhead I issued myself a day use permit as required for the Desolation Wilderness. I breezed through the next half mile, locked my bike to the same tree as the day before, and set off up the trail. Within a few minutes I stripped down to my T-shirt as I was keeping a good pace. I wanted to make it to Twin Lakes for sunrise. As I climbed higher I gained vistas of Wrights Lake below and the distant hills being kissed by the first rays of sunlight. I knew what time the sun hit the edge of Wrights Lake from watching sunrise the previous morning and it would be even later that the sun would hit Twin Lakes. So I knew by keeping my eye on when the sun hit Wrights Lake just how fast to push myself.
          The trail follows a stream for a ways before coming to the Desolation Wilderness Boundary sign. Continuing on, I traveled in and out of granite and forested areas admiring lots of blooming Penstimon along the way.

Desolation Wilderness Boundary

          I passed by the turnoff for Grouse, Hemlock, and Smith Lakes where the terrain then turned mostly to granite. I found the route by following rock cairns. I enjoyed the solitude the trail offered for I knew on my return hike I would surely run into hordes of hikers. The granite path leveled out a bit and I traversed across the slabs toward Twin Lake. At times the trail was basically a stream due to the late season snow melt. I crossed over the outlet creek using the provided stone boulders. This marks the near arrival to Twin Lakes.

Entryway to the Land of Oz(Awes)

          A short distance further and I was at the western shore of the lake. I had made it before sunrise so I looked around for a good spot to watch. I ended up crossing over the outlet stream soaking my feet in the process. The creeks are much higher than normal for this time of year. A man and his son were fishing from the shoreline and were the first people I had seen so far. They had a campsite set up not far from the lake.
          Twin Lake is bounded by granite so it wasn’t hard for me to find a nice spot by the waters edge to watch the sun come up. I ate a second breakfast as I waited. Again, the lakes surface was very still and reflected the mountains beautifully.

Twin Lake Outlet Creek

Morning Light Above Twin Lakes

Sunrise Over Twin Lakes & Twin Lakes Cascade

          After the sun peaked over the mountains I continued around the north shore toward Twin Lake Cascade. I passed through a small but beautiful wildflower filled meadow.

Wildflower Filled Meadow

          I knew Silver Dagger Lake lay not too far above the falls but I realized an opportunity to catch another sunrise directly above the cascade. I scurried down to a steep ledge and again, waited for the sun to rise.

Sunrise Over Twin Lakes Cascade

          It was a good time to apply sunscreen as I knew the sun would be scorching as soon as it got just a little higher in the sky.
          I traveled on and soon came to large snow drifts which I had no problem traversing. Luckily the snow was hard and there was no post holing. I had a little difficulty crossing a small fast flowing creek on the way to Boomerang Lake but managed without getting wet.
          There was so much snow pack that I lost the trail which really didn’t matter too much as this is where I was to venture cross country to Silver Dagger Lake. I headed East up the steep rocky slopes gaining elevation rather quickly. I soon found myself looking down on several pristine ponds that feed the Twin Lake cascade. I ventured across the talus slopes in search of Silver Dagger Lake. After a couple of stops to check the map and compass I eventually arrived at my destination. Silver Dagger Lake also known as Shangri La is a gorgeous sliver of a lake. I guess by definition it isn’t really a lake, but who cares about the technicality.

Silver Dagger Lake

Silver Dagger Lake

          Sporadically scattered around the shoreline were delicate patches of Red and White Mountain Heather. These plants are extremely delicate and require one to tread lightly and be mindful of every step.

Red Heather & False Summit of Mt. Price

          I explored around the small lake for some time still contemplating making the ascent of Mt. Price. Several factors deterred me from continuing on. First off, Sarah was sick at camp and I already felt bad enough leaving her behind alone to take care of herself… Some husband!? Secondly, the sun was already taking its toll on me and I had already burnt a lot of time taking photos. And lastly, the snow pack covering the terrain leading up to the peak looked steep and slippery and I would prefer to have a hiking partner.
          With the decision to abort the summit attempt, it gave me more time to relax and enjoy where I was at.

Water Depression

Silver Dagger Lake

          Time seems to disappear when I’m in the mountains and it is often difficult to return. I was however, completely satisfied with my journey to this point and decided to head back to camp to be with Sarah.
          I took a different route back across the talus and happened upon an interesting spiral painted rock. It looks like the spiral was painted on a solid rock that has since broken apart giving an even more interesting appearance.

Painted Spiral & Island Lake

          Below me were great views of Island Lake set in a large granite cirque. As its namesake suggests, the lake is full of islands.
          I came to one snow field where I was able to have a little fun glissading. Other than that I had to hike carefully as the footing was rough. Soon I was back on an actual trail which I followed along the shore of Boomerang Lake and back toward Twin Lakes.
          I started the descent and started to run into day hikers about half way down the trail. I was glad to be finishing up with my hike because it was already hot out. One family hiking up asked me if they were close to Enchanted Pools. I told them they had missed the turnoff and kindly walked them downhill and pointed them in the right direction. As it turned out they were are camp neighbors.
          The rest of the hike was pretty much a formality as I hiked back to my bike in short order and rode back to camp.
          I arrived to find Sarah resting in bed still not feeling well. We rested beneath our canopy swatting mosquitoes away from our faces constantly.
          Sarah was itching to leave camp so we took a drive to explore some forest roads in the vicinity. It’s what I like to call hiking with the car. We ended up finding some great secluded spots with excellent creek access. Spots we will definitely revisit in the future.
          That evening I decided to forgo any sunset adventure and relax at camp with Sarah. We had dinner and a large campfire before turning in for the night.

Crystal Basin Trip Report - Day 4 - 8/9/11

          I woke up early and headed down to the lake to watch sunrise. I just love the quiet morning hours when the majority of society is still asleep, before the collective thoughts of rambling souls fill the void of serenity.
          When I reached the lake there was a mysterious layer of tule fog hovering right above the waters surface. I watched as a couple set off in their canoe for a sunrise row. Again Wrights Lake was still as glass and the reflections were crystal clear.
          I waited patiently for the sun to arrive noticing that there wasn’t a mosquito in sight. Although another cloudless morning, the sunrise was beautiful nonetheless with the sun rising directly over the Crystal Range.
Sunrise over Wrights Lake and the Crystal Range

          I then walked along the shoreline taking photos of the foggy environment.

Foggy Reflections

          There were some young boys fishing off of the pier when I noticed the sun shining through the trees and a perfect reflection in the lake. I set up and took a few photos from the shore nearby and soon realized I was standing in prime fishing territory. The boys were patiently waiting for me to move on and once I realized what was going on I stepped back to watch them have fun. I was impressed these little guys were up so early and even more so that they were full of excitement. Almost as much excitement as myself!

Wrights Lake Reflection

Young Fisherman

          Once back at camp I checked in with Sarah to see about getting ready to go on a hike. Sarah’s symptoms had progressed throughout the night and she was now feeling really sick with an especially painful sore throat, horrible congestion, and next to no energy. I contemplated going on a solo hike but decided not to in hopes Sarah would feel a little better later on to join me. We had a very slow morning and eventually Sarah felt good enough to go on a small hike. We didn’t want to venture too far so we decided to hike to the Enchanted Pools along the Twin Lakes outlet creek.
          We rode our bikes the half mile to the Grouse/ Twin Lakes Trailhead. There we decided we wouldn’t need a Desolation Wilderness Permit as the Enchanted Pools lie just outside the wilderness boundaries and we didn’t plan on going any further. We continued on bike for another half mile as the flat trail wove through the forest along the edge of a giant meadow. We arrived at the junction with the Loop trail and the Grouse / Twin Lakes Trail where we locked our bikes to a tree just out of sight from the trail. Before locking up I did have to play around riding on the granite for a just a minute or two.

Riding the Granite

          We traveled up the Grouse Lake trail a short distance before heading cross country towards the Enchanted Pools. Although not on any map, the route to Enchanted Pools is pretty much a well defined trail. It is just the beginning of the trail that can be a little tricky to spot.
          We crossed over a small creek and began traversing across vast slabs of granite following the many trail ducks provided by previous hikers. Within several minutes of hiking we could hear the sound of rushing water and soon were looking down on the first of several Enchanted Pools. The upper pools seemed to be occupied by a family so we opted to remain at the lower pool. We sprawled out on the granite and took in the vibes.

Sarah Soaking Her Feet

Stone Circles and Enchanted Pools

          We were both surprised to see as many hikers as we did, but places like this are hard to remain hidden. Sarah’s energy levels were still quite low and we didn’t venture too far from the lower pool.

Lower Enchanted Pool

Lower Enchanted Falls

Lower Enchanted Falls

          I got a little carried away with the natural stone circles.

Looking Upstream

Same View Different Angle

Emerald Green Lower Enchanted Pool

Lower Enchanted Pool

          Several hours passed by in the blink of an eye. Sarah’s throat began to feel worse so we decided to head back to camp. Once we got back to the bikes and were pedaling through the flat forested area we concluded that having a bike for this section was most enjoyable.
Back at camp we battled with the mosquitoes and Sarah did the best she could to enjoy herself considering.
          We made an early dinner and afterwards I headed down to the lake again to watch sunset. From camp I rode my bike past the trail to the Amphitheater and then to the lake shore where I caught the sun setting behind the trees.

Sinking Sun over Wrights Lake

          I then pedaled over toward the rocky point at the day use area stopping for some vantage points along the way.

Crystal Range and Wrights Lake

          Again the mosquitoes were relentless but this time I had sufficient repellant on my hands. In fact, the mosquitoes were so prevalent that I had to swat them away from the lens before each exposure.

Last Light on the Crystal Range

          While my focus had been on the colorful mountains I soon realized the moon had risen without me even noticing.

Moonrise and Reflection in Wrights Lake

          I waited until the sky went dark, took a few more pictures, and then headed back to camp to have a late dinner.

After Sunset Colors

          Back at camp Sarah and I discussed our next days plan and agreed that she would stay at camp and rest while I went on a solo hike. I would leave before sunrise so I organized my stuff for an early departure.
          We had a small campfire before going to bed.

Crystal Basin Trip Report - Day 3 - 8/8/11

          I looked out the window at dawn and saw that there were no clouds in the sky. I decided I would sleep in a few extra minutes and head out just before the sun rose over Tells Peak. The time came and I left the cabin with Sarah still snug in bed.
          I looked around for a good spot but was dissatisfied with all that I found. I stumbled across a patch of Rein Orchids that were tucked neatly among a bunch of Tiger Lilies.

Rein Orchids & Tiger Lilies

          I settled for a spot near some corn lilies and let my thoughts drift as I waited for the sun to cast its first rays.

Van Vleck Sunrise

          Just after sunrise I drove down to the Tells Creek Trailhead and set off on my mountain bike toward Upper Bassi Falls in hopes of arriving before the sunlight. I powered my way to the Bassi Creek Trail turnoff where I once again abandoned my bike. I scrambled down to and then across the creek to the good views of the falls. I was disappointed to see that the Mariposa Lilies were closed up.

Upper Bassi Falls

          I climbed around for a bit admiring different vantage points of the falls and creek.

Upper Bassi Creek Falls

Upper Bassi Falls

Sun Star Over Bassi Creek

          I rode my bike back to the car and then drove back to the cabin where I met back up with Sarah to enjoy the morning. We ate breakfast then slowly packed up our gear and cleaned the cabin.
          About mid day we left the Van Vleck cabin in route to our next destination Wrights Lake. We had planned on visiting Bassi Falls along the way and even drove up the 1.7 miles of dirt road leading to the trailhead. However, when we pulled up there were so many cars in the lot and alongside the road that we thought otherwise. After 3 days of seeing less than a handful of people we opted to avoid the now popular Bassi Falls. I would have expected different midday on a Monday but I guess the cat is out of the bag. We did stop at a pullout along the dirt road to have a quick lunch on top of a peculiarly shaped boulder.

Our Lunch Rock

          From there we drove toward Ice House Reservoir and took a left on FR32(Wrights Lake Tie Rd.) We talked about stopping to check out the "Tea Cups" and South Fork Falls along the South Fork of the Silver Creek by Ice House reservoir but by then Sarah had developed a wicked sore throat and her energy was lacking so we pushed on to our campsite at Wrights Lake.
          Just weeks before we arrived, the campground still had significant snow drifts which equated to damp conditions. The mosquitoes would prove to be relentless. We pulled up to our reserved campsite and unloaded our gear. It took us quite a while to adapt to the busy atmosphere of the campground but eventually we settled in.
          I took a walk down to the Wrights Lake and strolled along the shoreline. There was a pretty cascade on the outlet stream framed by some fairly large lichen strewn boulders.

Wrights Lake Outlet Creek

          I walked out to the day use picnic area to a rocky point that juts out into the lake offering great views all around. I decided this is where I would come to watch sunset and possibly sunrise as well.
          I walked back to camp where Sarah and I continued to fight off mosquitoes. We held down the fort and kicked back under our canopy while Sarah’s symptoms progressively got worse.
          Around sunset I jumped on my bike and rode down to the lake shore where I saw the sun dip behind the trees. I noted to myself to arriv here just a bit earlier the next evening to capture that vibe.
          I rode over to the day use area that I had scouted out earlier and walked out onto the rocky point. Pyramid Peak and the Crystal Range glowed glamorously as the sun sank. The still water of Wrights Lake created dramatic reflections of the landscape.

The Beginning of the Show

Wrights Lake Panorama (Click Image to Enlarge)

Wright's Lake at Sunset

          As the night wore on Sarah continued to feel crappy so we turned in early in hopes of recovery.