Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18, 2017 – Stevenson Creek Falls and Million Dollar Mile

Title: March 18, 2017 – Stevenson Creek Falls and Million Dollar Mile
Hike Info : Description : Background : Extra Photo's : Flowers and Plants

Trail head:  Italian Bar Road
Hike Info:
Type: Hiking
Trail: Million Dollar Mile
Destination:Stevenson Creek Falls
Distance:  12 miles 1
Start Time: 9:00am
End Time: 2:00pm
Travel Time:  5:00 (2.4 mph)
Moving Time:  4:15  (2.83 mph)
Elevation Rise:  1,220'
Maximum Elevation: 2,365'
 1Another hike without my GPS. So the times, distances and elevations are best guesses based upon experience and my Fitbit. (Yipee-found my GPS, but after this walk.)

This was the final training hike in a series of five to get ready for the Classic California Half Marathon. The idea behind this one was to walk five hours to the end of the road, to Powerhouse #8 and back. We were to walk about 13-14 miles. But we had a slight problem: we could not go beyond Stevenson Creek Falls. Why you might ask? The Falls were thundering, covering the bridge, making it impassible. So we decided on a different tactic.
We would give our meetup group two options:
  • Option A: To hike 7 miles round trip from the trailhead to Stevenson Creek Falls and back. Six of our group took this option. This would take 2 ½ to 3 hours.
  • Option B: To hike the full five hours. We would hike to the Falls, then back. Any remaining time we would hike half of the time back towards the falls, giving us the rest of the time to walk back. Four of us took this option.

 So we met at Eddie's Bakery at 7:00am and get off about 7:20-there was repeated visits to the bakery for coffee and pastries. A stop in Prather-the last bathroom before or along the trail. Then take off along some backroads-Audberry Road, Jose Basin, and Italian Bar Road-where our trail starts. The trail is a road which Southern California Edison cut into the mountainside 90 years ago-it is still in use.
Jose Creek
Mill Creek
Bruce is waiting for us at the trailhead. We take our picture, observing the sign that says the road beyond Stevenson Creek is closed. Of course we already knew that. So we started out along the road. Denise and Ken leap ahead-not that this is a race. The rest of us start clumping together walking and talking.
Shortly along the way, we cross JoseCreek-on a bridge built for trucks. Most of the time before we crossed it, there was water, but way down. Today, there are falls above it running full, along with the creek beneath us. After lingering there for a few minutes, we take off up the road.

Inside the adit
Adit Opening
For the next mile we trade off people to talk to. Sherri bounds ahead of me when I ask hiking partners do they know what an “adit” is. None did, so I moved a whole wad of them over to a tunnel and showed them an adit. There was appropriate wondering over the adit-both the size and the purpose. One additional wow factor was the little water dropping 30' in front of the adit.

San Joaquin River

But now we are off again. We start to see the gorge which Stevenson Creek dumps into the San Joaquin. The only thing we are able to see is a bit of white foam where the two combine. But the gorge itself is so deep and the river is at the nadir of the steep V of the gorge. We can look all the way up to mountains which are 8,000' high.
Stevenson Creek Falls
There is a place on this walk where we hit a high point, about 2,300' up which we start a long descent into the place where Stevenson Creek. But you cannot see the creak for most of the way. But there is a point where the road does a right turn and there is the falls. Today, we make the turn and there is THE FALLS!!! It is roaring, kicking water high, creating all kinds of mist and pounding the bridge. There is no way to cross it today.

Note: This video is courtesy of Bill Redando

Roadside view

Mist from top
  Then we come along a group of our people. Some wet, some dry. The wet ones went a bit closer and got sprayed on-no one ventured, or should venture, into the actual fall itself. I went further down the road and made a mistake here. Instead of being content with the pictures I had taken, I thought it would be cool to get a different perspective on the falls. All I got was a lot of water on the lens. Fortunately the camera still worked. In a mater of 10 seconds, I was dripping wet from the spray from the falls. Once wet, why go back soon, except the water was cold, like having come off the snow recently. Still enjoyable being experiencing the close roar of the falls.
Art and Gary
Sherri on the road
Water down a rock
Then it is back up the road. Sherri and I now start walking together instead of with others. While we keep a steady pace, we are definitely the last ones. The uphills do take a toll which going down only partially relieve. We stop occasionally to take pictures of plants, redbud and water dripping from rocks. Anything to stop. No place to get lost so cannot stop to do a bit of map consulting.

Lunch Spot
A little before noon, we make it back to the car. Only two-plus hours more of walking. Art and Ken are out taking pictures along the Million Dollar Road. It will be interesting to see the results of their efforts. We find a little spot of grass and flowers for lunch. The normal Peanut Butter and Nutella-the best. Then it is off again to finish up our walk-an hour more in and another hour out. How will we do this for real in two weeks?

Ken and Gary
We return up the road and do another two or so miles up the road. We stop less for pictures, but I feel like our pace is slowing down. So as we approaching the high spot on the road, we see the outflow of Stevenson Creek into the San Joaquin, but not the falls. Since it is 1:00pm, it is time to turn around-we have almost reached the high point for the second time. The good part is that it is now almost all downhill, well most of it. I did notice that our pace seems to have picked up. But not enough to keep Ken behind us. The final third of a mile, he catches up to us and I walk with him back to the car. He is the only one who has done a full two trips to the waterfall. Art, the other one who did an additional time is back at the car waiting for us.
Tired, not looking forward to the drive back. But looking forward to our meal at Velasco's. I have a light meal of a chicken burrito-content. Then it is back to Eddie's to drop off Art and Ken. We get back home around 4:30 to take a shower and enjoy family time.

An adit is an opening cut into the side of a hill or mountain to drain or access something. In the Big Creek project's case, it was to gain access to the tunnel leading through the mountain.
The Big Creek project is a Southern California Edison project dating back to the 1910's. It actually was originally the project of the Pacific Light and Power Company before being taken over by SCE. Its purpose was to harness the San Joaquin River for the use of hydro-power. Since then, the San Joaquin River has gotten the reputation of being the hardest working water in the world.  Some links:

Extra Photo's

Flowers and Plants

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017 – East Yosemite Valley Loop

Title: March 12, 2017 – East Yosemite Valley Loop
Hike Info : DescriptionBackground : Extra Photo's : Animals

Trail head: Camp Curry Parking Lot
Hike Info:
Type: Hiking
Trail:Valley Loop Trail
Destination: Loop around Mirror Lake and Yosemite Falls
Distance:  Approximately 12 miles 1
Start Time:10:30am
End Time: 5:00pm
Travel Time: 6:30   (1.85 mph)
Moving Time: 5:00   (2.4 mph)
 1I still do not have my GPS, so no tracks, no mileage or elevation gain or time walked. So the above is guesses made upon other hikes.

Sherri and I are training for the California Classic Half Marathon-it is a run, but we will walk. Just trying to get down under 4 hours for 13.1 miles. So we set up a series of training walks with the our meetup group. We start out with about 20+ people who were interested, but only have 9 total on the walk. But it was a good group.
Staircase Falls
We had been up to Yosemite on Wednesday, March 8th and there was about 3” of snow all across the Valley floor, so we were expecting some snow and lots of mud. Also Highway 41 into the park is closed until March 15th (it actually opened on the evening of the hike), so we have another 30-45 minutes of travel. Still to see the beauty of Yosemite in the Winter. So we get to Camp Curry around 10:15 after a stop in Mariposa at the Burger King.
The air is cool, but clear. It will be a wonderful day to hike in a T-shirt. Staircase Falls is running nicely along the western face of Glacier Point. Because the trail looks a bit wet in places, we walk the road up to Happy Isles. We do our traditional stop there for relief. Things are looking up as much of the snow we saw a few days ago has gone and there is a niceness of standing in the sun.
Because the snow is gone, we pick up the Valley Loop Trail after crossing the Happy Isle Bridge. Robert is a bit ahead while Angel, Betty and I talk a bit. But nobody falls really behind. This is familiar territory and pleasantly away from the road, even though only Park vehicles go along that road. Few tourists know about this trail. We come out at the Tenaya Creek Bridge where we make a decision. That is to do the full loop around Mirror Lake rather than the more direct route. There will be muddy places, but what I have seen so far looks good, no more than what I have seen in other years.
Low end of Mirror Lake
I can tell that the legs are going to do ok, but I am carrying way too much weight. At least, the lungs thinks it needs more oxygen to continue movement. But this is the scenic part so there is lots of reason to stop and view Tenaya Creek. Below Mirror Lake, it rushes down over many rocks. But once we climb up to the “lake” itself, all is peaceful. It lives up to its name with good reflections of North Dome and Mt Watkins

Reflective Pond
When we pass by a little pool, I wonder if anybody have read the The Chronicles of Prydain by Llyod Alexander. Reason? In The High King he talks about the Mirror of Llunet. Where Taran went to find out about himself. Does this small pool have that same qualities? I think not, it only reflects what it sees.

Tail end of Bobcat
But then the highlight of the day happened a little beyond Mirror Lake. I was a minute or so behind the lead when everybody stopped. “Why?” is the natural question? Then there was a little movement of a stripped tail, but a pretty big body. The head was behind a rock. My brother, from a distance, looked around on the other side and said, “bobcat!” Angel had spotted the cat on a hunt, maybe a mouse in the meadow below us. A few minutes passed and he stalked down passing in front of some trees, with his eyes on something. Then regained the trail behind us. Just breath taking. All were excited.
Bobcat on prowl
Sun coming over Half Dome
Ephemeral falls (not a name)
After the bobcat, it returns to the same old trail. You know, a trail with only the usual drop dead gorgeous sights such as looking up towards Half Dome and AhwiyahPoint and watching the sun gentle rise. Or Mt Watkins and Clouds Rest covered with snow. Nothing very spectacular at all. We stop for a few minutes on Tenaya Creek Bridge before moving on.

Mirror Lake with Mt Watkins
We reached the west side of Mirror Lake by 1:30. So we stopped for lunch. But one of the things which makes walking with the group is the conversation. Sometimes it is serious stuff about life. But today it started with Rocky and Bullwinkle. Of course, it de-generated into other characters-Boris and Natasha, Dudley Do-Right, and of course, Nell.
Trail on north side

After our PB and Nutella sandwiches, its time to hit the trail. Some people are in need of relief facilities which are about ½ to ¾ miles down the trail. So we rush along and make it in time to a lonely outhouse sort of halfway to no-where. Now it is time to make it to the Ahwahnee Hotel (Majestic Yosemite Hotel, if you prefer, I do not.) But first we start our walk along the northside of the Valley besides Indian Caves and WashingtonColumn. I think I our group is starting to tire a bit under the warm temperature. But there is a bit of relief to that as we have our gaze focused on Royal Arches and its Falls above us. There is no spray from the falls, but the runoff goes right down the trail. Most are able to go from rock-to-rock-to-tock without difficulty. But a few want to have a bit more stability to traverse our watery-way.

Royal Arches Falls
After Royal Arches, we hit the Ahwahnee, we do a quick walk through. The group confirms my thoughts about it being tired, so rather than continue to take the Valley Loop trail, we walk through Yosemite Village. It is a bit shorter and leveler. I draw attention to the Lost Arrow, Yosemite Falls and the Ranger's Club. But I was going to take them along the back way into the lower falls, but it is roped off as closed. So we go up to the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls. The trail has a layer of packed snow on it.
Middle Yosemite falls

Gary  and the group
We return to the tram area where I give a choice: return to Camp Curry via the tram or walk the 2-3 miles back to the cars. Three take the tram. David, Sherri and I want to walk it and off we go with Rebecca, Betty and Keith. Now it is paved path and pretty level. We cross Cook's Meadow and the Merced River and come out at the Valley Chapel. For a short way we go up Southside Drive, then crossing over at Sentinel Bridge.
Half Dome from Cooks Meadow

Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge

Mystery Rings
A month ago I saw a piece in the Facebook Yosemite History group about some rings in a rock across from Sentinel bridge. The speculation was they were there to tie up horses, but others are thinking they may have helped support an early bridge. I am interested in finding them. David and I look for them while others go on. Eureka! There are the rings. Not sure what they were used for, but it was fun finding them.
Horsetail Falls

Now it is time to make for the cars. We pass the LeConte Memorial, Housekeeping, and the employee housing. Then David and I go into Camp Curry to see if the pizza place is open-it is not. But when we get back to the car, the group has already decided to eat at Happy Burger in Mariposa. So we pile into our cars and head on out. By the time we get back to Fresno, it is 8pm. A good day of walking.


Horsetail Falls is one of those ephemeral falls which many Spring comes down from the side of El Capitan. During sunset in February, Horsetail captures the redness of the sun, making the falls look like it is on fire. A natural fire fall.

Extra Photo's

North Dome

Meetup Group at Mirror Lake
Ahwiyah Point

More falls

Mt Watkins from the Ahwiyah rockslide
Top of Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls
Horsetail Falls

Birdalveil Falls with Cathedral Rocks behind it




Flowers and Plants