Saturday, October 7, 2017

October 7, 2017 - Big Basin Trails

Title: October 7, 2017 - Big Basin Trails
Hike Info : Description : Trail Lessons : BackgroundExtra Photo's : Animals : Flowers and Plants
 Trail head: Parking area around the park headquarters
Hike Info:
Type: Hiking
Trail:Sequoia Trail, Shadowbrook Trail, East Ridge Trail
Distance:  7.78 miles 
Start Time:1:27
End Time: 6:15
Travel Time:  4:48 (1.62 mph)
Moving Time:  4:24 (1.77 mph)
Elevation Rise:  1,054'
Maximum Elevation: 1,412'
GPS Tracks

Fern and Trail
After taking care of my Mom and having David return from Hawaii, Sherri and I decided to take a day and do some hiking. Some thoughts were to go to San Francisco and walk around or San Jose-there are app’s to help you with walking tours of these cities. But then we decided that going to Big Basin really warmed the cockles of our hearts.
We left around 11:45-a late start which we will run into some limitations on our walk. Instead of going the quicker route, I decide we will go up Steven’s Creek to Skyline and drop into Big Basin. Much more scenic and interesting. We continued on up Mt Eden Road, hitting Pierce Road. This led us to Skyline Blvd which we traveled for a few miles. Hoards of bicyclists were out today. Then following Highway 9 down to Waterman Gap. There we turn off onto Highway 236 which drops us into Big Basin.
Gary walking the trail
It is Saturday and Big Basin is crowded, but we find a parking place, way down the road which parallels Opal Creek. We did talk with the visitor center about 1) Getting a senior pass-need to send it in or you can get it at selective parks, but not Big Basin. 2) The Skyline to the Sea trail.  The Skyline-to-the-Sea trail is more of a December possibility. So on to find a parking place. We go up the road a ways, along Opal Creek before finding an empty spot.
We start our walk up the paved road having decided to try to at least do the Sequoia Trail. After about ¾ of a mile, we get to the branch off of the road-this is after the road has turned into a dirt service road, behind a gate. So far, it has been a pretty gradual climb. But now we start a climb up. Not used to taking these ascents, no matter how minor. Part of getting back into shape.
Gary the the Chipmunk
As part of the walk, we come across a growth which I call the Chipmunk burl. From a certain perspective, it does look like the eyes and snout of one. At least it gives a place to stop. The redwoods here are so much different than ours in the Sierra’s. Leaner and taller. Still I can see why they were mistaken at one time for their big brothers. These trees have the same elegance as our Sequoia’s, only thing it reminds one of a younger forest.

There must have been a fire as we do find some blacken trees. But it does not look like a prescribed burn. I will need to research this.
Fire burnt tree having swallowed Gary
Top of Slippery Rock
When we get to the top of the ridge, we cross highway 236. And then we see Slippery Rock. A couple of years ago, we were at its base on a rainy day. Being able to take a hint: slippery rock, we had decided not to continue on up this way. But today all is dry and we go down it. I see a bit of rock graffiti-boo, hisss. But the sentiments I share: I Wish My Daughter Could Be Here. At the bottom of Slippery Rock is the founder’s plaque. We stop and have lunch here before carrying on.

Sherri coming down Slippery Rock
Founders Plaque

The Job Tree
Time to switch trails to the Shadowbrook Trail. It goes up and over Sky Meadow. On the way up, we see a knotty dead stump which I label the Job Tree. You know the story where Job was covered with boils. Sort of looks like that. Sky Meadow is a group campground. The trail skirts by it on a service road. But the combination of light and green gives it a very Arcadian feel. But now we drop down to Union Creek and follow that for a ways. Few people are with us. Sort of amazing in a park as busy as this one.  We also see some redwood groves.
Trail close to Sky Meadow

By now, I am feeling the lack of hiking.  Sherri says that my step still has spring to it. But the legs are starting to feel like they have already sprung. Glad this is downhill, following the creek. We pass by Huckleberry Camp where we hear the noise of campers. Progress. But we still have a ways to go.
A bit later, we get to the Sempervirens Campground and I start looking for a place to turn along Highway 236.  We see a ranger making sure that the campgrounds are properly filled. But we continue on down the Shadowbrook Trail looking for our cutoff trail. Finally we come to the East Ridge Trail-not the trail we are looking for. After doing some head scratching, we decide that this is the best route-either that or go back the way we came from. So onward we go. We cross Blooms Creek and then take a break, eating the last of the Cliff bars.

 Our nice little trail climbs the side of a ridge until we hit a service road, which is also part of the trail. Traveling a little ways, we come across a giant limb across our road. It is about 4’ high. I struggle to get across it. Sherri thinks there is a way around. But ends up also straddling this limb.
Brother's Grove
Further down the East Ridge Trail we hear the sounds of campers. Looking across we spot a tent. When looking at a map, it looks like we are seeing the Blooms Creek Campground. There should have been a trail going off to it. I must have missed it. So we backtrack a ways, but see no sign of a trail.  But there seems to be an opening to get down to the campsite, maybe an eighth of a mile away. There is plenty of brush in the area, but we should be able to find a way around it, right?  This was true for about 200’ and then our way got blocked by some brush. We were able to wander our way around and through it, but with some scratches. We even found a redwood grove hidden away: the Dorothy L Carpenter Redwood Grove. I wonder when was the last time anybody has been here. Then came the hidden barrier: Blooms Creek. The creek itself was not a barrier, but the 20 sides to the creek is. But we eventually found a way down and across to the campground.
But what is this? It is not the Blooms Creek Campground, but the Sempervirens Campground. We have come full circle! Would have been better off backtracking in the first place. But then where would the adventure have been? Would we have ever seen Carpenter’s Grove? Still, I was not happy with myself. I am guessing if we had gone on a hundred yards further we would have seen our lost trail.
Limb Walking
Dorothy L Carpenter Grove
Now it is a matter of walking about 2 to 2 ½ miles back to the car. it is starting to darken. I ask Sherri if she wanted me to go on ahead and get the car? No. Love that woman. Once we hit Blooms Creek Campground, we cross over Highway 236 again. There is an accessible trail on that side of the road. We make pretty good time. Even though I was “glad” to see that the park was giving the handicap the same issues as us-there was a branch across it. But the handicap would have more issues than us. So it was not fair.
We get to the car around 6:15pm. Tired, but glad we walked this. Now what to do about eats? Maybe pizza on the way to Santa Cruz? Cannot find the shop I remember, so we stop in at a Foster Freeze in Felton. Tasted real good to us hungry people. Then on to Marianne’s Ice Cream in Santa Cruz for our reward.

Trail Lesson:
Now matter how good your navigation skills are, you can be lost. Be Prepared!

Lost. After looking at some of my previous blogs, we did much of this loop before. On August 24, 2012, we took the East Ridge and Shadowbrook Trails. So there is no reason why I got turned around.
Fires. There was a 3.2 acre fire near Blooms Campground in June 2014. Sept 1948 there was a 1,000 acre fire at Mill Creek.  Big Basin has conducted prescribed burns since 1978. T he Pine Mountain Fire burned 6400 ha in 1948; the Summit Fire burned 1728 ha in May 2008, and the  Lockheed Fire burned 3163 ha in August 2009.

Extra Photo's


Light hitting a fire burnt trunk

Sherri under a tree

Sherri being gulped up by a tree

Inside a burnt out tree


Stripped Racer

Flowers and Plants

Loos Grove

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12, 2017 - Delilah Lookout, the Fire Edition

 Title: September 12, 2017 - Delilah Lookout, the Fire Edition
Hike Info : Description : Trail Lessons :Extra Photo's : Animals 

Hike Info:
Type:  Lookout

Today is like any other lookout day. We hit the road at 0715 to arrive at Delilah by 0900. We see the token bovine along the way, which looks us over and allows us to pass. Then there is a car on the side of the road with a female and two males. Sherri asks if they need any help. They do not seem to be very appreciative of any offer or inquiry, so we move on. Sherri see what looks like a goshawk which she has me slow down for a picture. Then we encounter an  RV that is parked within the Forest Service boundaries with no sign of anybody in there.
We make it to Delilah a few minutes before 0900. Not much to lug up the 80’ to the cab since we are staying just the day. Our day starts out as normal: take the weather, do scan, go into service, … One thing out of the ordinary is the Battalion Chief 31 (BC31) calls to alert us that there has been some lightning strikes in the area: McKenzie Ridge, Sampson Flat, Davis Flat and Clover Meadow Spring. We will be keeping extra vigil on those areas-all within 4 miles of us. One thing with the weather last night, the air is clearest than we have had all this year.  We can see 20 miles to the north and 14 to the south. Only towards Park Ridge is there a haze.
And so we settle down to do our work. About noon time I start wondering a couple of thoughts. First, today’s blog entry may be really, really short. There is only so many times which I can write, “we did a scan, we took the weather, we listened to the radio.” This is the majority of our time in the lookout. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being up here where we may have a visitor every two or three days. But I am not a good writer and it would require more talent to put down any introspection I may have. The other thought is are we doing any good being up here? Sort of the take off on the tree falling in the forest thoughts. If there is no fires to spot, am I really a fire lookout?
All of these thoughts is getting me tired, so Sherri takes over for a little while and I lay down and read.  Sherri went out and did a scan. When she came back in, she said that she heard a helicopter. At Delilah, this counts as excitement. So I grab my binoculars and started walking around the catwalk, all the way to the end, looking for where the sound came from. After a few minutes, I gave up looking for the source of the sound. Probably came from Trimmer Springs, but who knows. As long as I am out, I am looking over our territory.
When I reach the north east corner of the catwalk, there is a smoke. SHERRI! THERE IS A SMOKE! She responds immediately, I SEE!  Sherri springs into action and I make sure of what we are seeing before entering the cab.  She has the firefinder already lined up and has the paperwork ready. I start to go through the numbers:  azimuth 61o30’, distance: 3 miles; legal: T13S, R27E, Section 6, SE; jurisdiction: Sequoia National Forest; describing the smoke  and now it is show time. Also we noted that it was a mile northeast of Davis Flat.
Oh I hope we are doing this right is what is in my thoughts (I think Sherri was thinking this as well). At 1439, Sherri and I make our first smoke report from a fire lookout. EVER! Four years of looking around and we have the first report on a fire. We radio in Porterville and they process the information we give them, as well as a fire danger card and response levels. Then Porterville consults their staffing list and starts the process of calling out resources to fight the fire.  This included the battalion chief, a patrol from Sierra National Forest, an engine from them and Sequoia’s Patrol 33.  Porterville reports  that this incident will be called the Davis Fire. Park Ridge Lookout confirms the sighting almost immediately after we our report and adds a cross azimuth.
Being the first time to this rodeo, I was wondering what else to do. I did look on the map to identify the trail which seemed to be just below the fire. This is trail 27E04. So that gets radio’d in as well.  We start hearing the chatter on the radio about how to get into the area. While I knew that Davis Road was closed due to last Winter’s storms, I did not know what kind of damage. Evidently, major damage, like a landslide just about where the fire was. That is why the battalion chief had questioned me a bit earlier about exactly where the fire was.
Around 1505 excitement starts. We see a single plane fly overhead and look around. Then a second one comes in.  And then a VLAT-a Very Large Air Tanker-comes rumbling up the Kings River. There is nothing which prepared me for the immensity of this plane. I think its body could fit 4 or 5 of the fuselages of the other planes inside of it and still have room to play tennis.

Watching these planes go about their business is fascinating. Once the VLAT comes into play, they form a dance routine. One of the spotter planes  makes a pass by the fire, The VLAT falls into position behind him. Then they circle around and line up in the position where they wanted to lay down the fire retardant. They do this another time and I start wondering, what is wrong? And then the show happens. They line up again and come in low and this orangish pink phosphorus retardant drops from the VLAT. Not on the fire, but to the south of it on the uphill side where the fire is moving. Later on we realize this is the side which could cause the problems and they were working on stopping it.

I will admit, there was a part of us which was playing tourist during this time. Eyes wide open, in awe of what was going on. But we were being kept busy enough. If there was one fire, could there be more? So we were going along looking and making sure nothing else was started. Also Sherri had the where-with-all to take weather in case the incident commander wanted to know the humidity or wind or temperature Also there was the radio to keep up on. 
Fire Fighters climbing towards Davis Fire
Then someplace between 1600 and 1630 the ground troops come in. Sierra’s fire fighters arrive and sets up there. Then Sequoia’s come in. Over the next hour about 10-15 fire fighters made the climb up to the fire. Most of these stayed overnight to cut down trees which would fall down and dig fire lines.
As much as we seem like we are all along, we are in contact with various people. First, there is Porterville-Sequoia National Forest’s communication center. Then both Kathy and Wendy were very interested in our well being and were we handling things OK or were we being overwhelmed. It is always good to have that support there in case we needed it. BC31, Steve, would call us to gather information, we could tell him if we were running into issues. Incident Commander for the Davis Incident would check in to see where the fire started and what the weather was.

VLAT Dropping retardant
Patrol 33, Nora, was a big help. She was our “cheat” code which made us look like we knew what we were doing. It seemed like she was giving us the answers to the quiz. Somebody would ask about lightning. P33 already had warned us that question would be coming up. Somebody says they needs us to rely a message. P33 warned us that their radio communications would be pretty bad down at Davis Flat area. What is the best route into Davis Flat, considering there had been a mudslide closing the road? P33 had already primed us. Thank you Nora!

"Normal sized tanker dropping retardant
Sherri starts to see lightning a little after 1800. So that gets radio’d in. Kathy had told us that  Marty would be coming in to replace us this evening. Around 1845 we see his friendly head pop in. So we go over the situation with him and do a radio introduction to both the Incident Commander and P33. This is also his introduction, like ours, to the fire incident waltz. We hope we are leaving things in good shape for him. By the time we left Delilah, there had been 30-40 flashes from two different cells, but all north of the Kings River.
A little after 2015 we leave the lookout. Sherri and I talk for awhile on the way down Delilah Road. But  just one more little thing to give us something to talk about. We top one of the rises on Delilah Road, there is a little black ball with a white strip running down the road.  I slow down, with Sherri’s encouragement,  as I am thinking it would be pretty bad driving all the way to Fresno with skunk smell on the car. I gave him plenty of chances to move off the side of the road and disappear. But no, this little critter is like a squirrel-runs down the track of the road at least for ¾ of a mile. Finally I lost him when I waited behind a rise in the road. We ended up getting home to Fresno a few minutes after 2200. Tired, but pleased with ourselves.
Thunder cell catching the evening light
Note: Evidently we were not the only ones pleased. Kathy and Wendy both thought we had done good. Now to live up to those expectations.
Also were were told at least one spot fire opened up the next day.

Trail Lesson: Being alert with no activity is called vigilance.

Extra Photo's

15 minutes after discovery

About twice the original size

Flames on the edge



Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017 - Park Ridge Lookout

Title:  September 10, 2017 - Park Ridge Lookout
Hike Info : DescriptionExtra Photo's : Animals 
Hike Info:

Type:  Lookout

Last night, I asked Wendy about coming up to Park Ridge the night before. She said yes. So today I went for a walk, worked on my desk. Then we went out to dinner at Huckleberry’s/ Food was ok, but service was slow. The idea was if I could leave by about 1:30, I could go for a hike, Hitchcock’s Meadow-a short hike, still a hike. But we got back from lunch at 2:00 pm and would leave at the earliest 2:30. No good for my hike. So I stayed around Fresno till 4pm.
I was aiming for 5:30pm to be at the Panorama Pt gate. But I did need to get gas. A line slowed me down a bit. Then got behind a slow car. So I got to the gate a little after 6pm. Having been warned that it is awkward to meet a car on the road, I waited inside the gate. When I unlocked the gate, I noticed that the series of locks were not set right. With the fear of Wendy in mind, I took a before picture for her. A few minutes later Carol came down the road-the same Carol as on our other two Park Ridge hikes in July and August. We talked for a few minutes and then I locked the gate and drove in. Got into Park Ridge about 6:40pm.
That is when I found the problem of the trip. The milk bottle had gotten unsealed, spreading milk on the bottom of the truck. Cleanup time.  Talked with Kathy and Wendy, electronically. There was a single thunder roll about 7:30pm. That got me ready in case more was to come in my direction. Then had a conversation with my mother. Neat to show the sunset to her. Finally talked with Sherri before going to bed, just after a good moon rose.

September 10, 2017
For the last hour I woke up off and on as I watch a pink line in the eastern sky grow. Finally at 0600 got up. The lookout yesterday said she could not see the Western Divide. This morning it is grand. Of course later on the smoke may come back and then it will be the same yuk stuff. Or maybe some clouds will come in. But until that time, I will enjoy the sight with my breakfast-granola, without the milk. (Can I cry over my spilt milk?) Walked a little ways just to stretch my legs for the start of the day. Now it is time to take the weather.
At 0925 I go in service with both Sequoia NF and Ash Mountain Fire. One of the differences which you need to get used to being at Park Ridge is the additional amount of radio traffic and the slightly different vocabulary used. Such as with Ash Mountain, we also hear much of the National Park traffic for SEKI.  Bathroom needs plumber? Yep. Road construction holding traffic? Yep. Bear breaks vehicle window? Yep-and don’t forget the bear jams!. Disturbance at a campground? Yep. So there is a lot more non-fire traffic here than at Delilah. The trick is filter out, rather than get involved with the drama-as fun as some of it is.
 But in my world it is scanning for smoke, listening to the radio, taking notes on staffing and weather which are my bread and butter duties. In between all of this, I make sure I remember the area: which hump is Burnt Point (this is actually an easy one to identify, but some bearings I was using did not agree with other bearings, so was wondering which is correct and why the difference), where is the Hogback and the like?  Around 1230 I have my sandwich for lunch.
And then the visitors start rolling in. The first couple is from Connecticut. We talked about a wide assortment of things including bark beetles, how far can we see and where is all the smoke coming from. Then they leave after about 20-25 minutes. Another man has come up and is looking at the brown haze over the Central Valley. He makes a comment about the smog. I reply not only that but there is smoke mixed in. He says, “Gary!” Turns out it is John, a co-worker of mine and a teacher of one of my children-now a college dean. John, Brenda and his son, as well as his friends have hiked up to Park Ridge. Last time I saw them was at the Christmas Tree Lane walk. It was good talking with him and catching up on. I, of course, do the fire lookout tour guide stuff. But it is even more fun talking with people whom I know.
After they leave, I realize I have not done the things I should be doing up here, like take the weather. As I have been talking with the lookout visitors, I do scan the area to make sure there is no obvious smokes. Then another couple comes up and we talk about. They mention they have been to all three lookouts: Buck Rock, Delilah and Park Ridge. I am impressed! Buck Rock everybody goes there. Park Ridge is a hiker magnet. But Delilah? You have to be purposeful to go there. Steve and Kathy and I click right off-so it is another case of, well maybe not ignoring my duties, but at least delaying them. They live down close to the Kings River in the valley.
The evening is coming fast and it seems like most of the day has been spent talking. I get a few more scans in and then it is house cleaning time. I get about half the windows cleaned up and am about to mop. A couple more visitors come by. Then scan some more and mop the floor. Time to go on home. But first, go out of service with both SEKI and Sequoia NF.
Now for the big question of the day. Sherri had mentioned going to Snowline Lodge to eat sometime. So I decided to check it out. When I stopped, I asked if it was too late to grab something to eat. They indicated, it was not a restaurant. But then they looked at my Buck Rock volunteer shirt and this was the key to a conversation. People around here are appreciative of those connected with fire fighting since the Rough Fire went right behind them a couple of years ago. Asked if I wanted a cup of coffee? Not know. But they also invited if we wanted to stop in sometime on the way up, coffee would be ready for us. So I stopped at Bear Mountain Pizza and then headed home.

Extra Photo's