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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lone Pine/Humphreys Basin, Sierra Nevada - "hammered us with hail stones"

(Photo credit: Ron Pinkerton)
 As the Sand Fire raged near our home I packed up the camper and my backpack and drove North to Lone Pine.  Some might question how I could leave our home with a wildfire raging only a few miles away. We now live in the city and our level of concern is much lower than at our former home in the hills. (Note: Our previous home in the hills was incinerated by a wildfire in October of 2008.)
Sunset on the road to Lone Pine.
 Dawn at our Lone Pine campsite. Clark and Jo Ann and I agreed to a leisurely start for our backpack to Humphreys Basin. After a half dozen setbacks during the day our leisurely start became ridiculously late. (No more mention of a Four Wheel Camper until the end of the post. Jan and I usually limit this blog to trips in our truck camper but the story does have FWC's as bookends. So, here are a few photos from a four day backpack.)
 Wild flowers were blooming along the trail.
Late afternoon at our Piute Lake camp.
 Looking West from Piute Pass.
 Panorama of Desolation Lake.
 Bosco and me relaxing at Desolation Lake.
 Clark, the goats and Jo Ann leading the way.
 Cooking dinner during a rainstorm is more comfortable in a FWC than a cramped backpacking tent.
 Bosco at Summit Lake.
 After an enjoyable four day back-country vacation below Mount Humphreys we packed up our camps and began the hike back to the vehicles.
We stopped at this lovely waterfall for lunch and that is when our little adventure began. A small dark cloud appeared over the peak in the center of the photo above. Clark and I expressed our concern about possible precipitation. Jo Ann confidently stated, "It is only a small cloud and it will blow over." About five minutes later a light sprinkle began and two minutes after that the hail began to fall. Jo Ann, Clark and I have been in many high country storms but this deluge lasted longer than a typical Sierra hail storm. For 90 minutes it hammered us with hail stones of many sizes.  It was almost like the little black cloud hovered over us for the entire time and emptied all of its frozen precipitation on our location. A friend who knows a lot more about meteorology than I do thinks that we might have been in a "hail shaft."
The moisture from the storm highlighted the color of Piute Crags.
 Bosco looked back as he crossed a slippery log bridge over the North Fork of Bishop Creek.
 Jo Ann, Clark and the goats led a soggy march back to the parking lot.
 To return this post to topic of Four Wheel Campers, we sighted one parked near our truck in the parking lot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Between Crooked and Cottowood, White Mountains - "the helicopter rotated and flew away"

 Driving East down the North Fork of Crooked Creek.
 Left to Cottonwood Creek and McCloud Camp. Right Crooked Creek.
 Posted: Washout below Deadhorse. No thru access to Wyman Canyon.
 Near this location we stopped so I could investigate something found on GoogleEarth.
 Driving through granite monadnocks.
 Winding our way toward a flat near Sage Hen Peak.
 After a steep climb up from the previous valley we reached the flat. (The transmission on the Tacoma made an odd sound of complaint on the climb up to the flat.) Iron Mountain on the left, Sage Hen Peak on the right.
 Sage Hen Peak was only a short distance from the road so Bosco and I strolled up to its summit.
 First page of the register. I counted 14 visitors in the past five years.
 The view North with Station Peak to the right and White Mountain Peak in the distance.
 The view South with the road to Dead Horse Meadow on the right. Twenty minutes later we drove over the ridge and began the descent into Deadhorse.
 We stopped at an abandoned mine alongside the road on the ridge above Crooked Creek.
 There was a curious mix of equipment at the site. Upon my return home I could not discover any information about this particular mine, although it could be part of the Jay Jay; Lava Cap Nos. 1 and 2; Sage No. 1 and 2 claims.
 The view South to Deadhorse Meadow below.
 Just after the mine and before the switchbacks I decided to turn around and not drive down to Deadhorse. The transmission on the Tacoma was still occasionally making an odd sound and when I considered how difficult it would be to extract my truck from Deadhorse with the Wyman exit route closed the decision was easy.  (To retreat was a good choice because a few weeks later the transmission in the Tacoma was kaput.)
 The route back to the flat between Iron Mountain and Sage Hen Peak.
 The last half mile was steep and rocky and the transmission voiced another complaint.
 We set up camp near Sage Hen Peak.
Sunset over the Crooked Creek drainage.
 Bosco relaxed as I ate dinner while the light of the day faded into night.
The next morning I reviewed a topographical map for the area and discovered a cabin located in the Crooked Creek drainage at the end of this road. The gradient of the contour lines showed a steeper route than the one into Deadhorse so I decided to hike.
 At first the road was mellow but soon became steep and rocky.
 When we reached Crooked Creek the road turned left and followed the drainage South.
 We walked past a large patch of wild roses.
 Soon a cabin came into view.
 Between the cabin and the stream was an old water pump.
 Later I found a 1931 catalogue on the internet featuring a model of Smith-Vaile pump pictured in the photo above.
 That old pump had to overcome a large dynamic head to push water up a serious vertical rise to the mine we had visited the day before. Note the PVC pipe. Someone had been pumping water not too long ago.
 A poignant moment occurred as I thought that all the memories of what happened here were probably lost in time.
 Interior of the cabin.
 As I sat next to the creek eating Bosco jumped across to investigate what was for lunch.
 We tried to bushwhack our way South to Deadhorse Meadow by following Crooked Creek but the path deteriorated and we gave up the quest.
We hiked back past the cabin and were soon at the lower section of the steep access road from Sage Hen Flat.
We stopped for a rest break at this section of the road...
... because I had the spot place-marked on GoogleEarth. When looking at the photos on GE it seemed that the vehicles had been abandoned, but they were no longer at the location and when examining the area I came to the conclusion that the satellite had captured a recovery operation.
The upper section of the road is pretty mellow and could lure a driver farther down into the steep rocky section. That steep section would be a challenge without a locker.
We returned to camp in the early evening.
After watching the sun set and eating dinner we retired for the evening.
Dawn on Sage Hen Flat.
Later in the morning while inside the camper I heard the sound of a helicopter flying up the canyon. A few minutes later it was hovering a few feet off the ground about 50 yards from our camp preparing to land. After I stepped out of the camper the copter rotated and flew away. I can only surmise that they weren't looking for an old tall guy with a beard.
After breakfast we drove over to the East side of Sage Hen Flat and started to hike down a canyon toward Cottonwood Creek. My map showed a couple of springs and it looked like we could make a reconnaissance loop through the scenic valley below.
The air temperature was warmer than the day before and Bosco enjoyed the shade whenever he could find it.
We hiked past several large granite monadnocks.
The first spring was dry.
We hiked on into the valley.
Found a faded boot print of a previous visitor.
When we had exhausted half of our water it was time to hike back to the truck. The return seemed to be the longest part of the hike, probably because it was all up hill. (Truck a little above center right in photo on far ridge.)
After dinner Bosco and I watched as night fell over the flats and ...
... the moon rose over Iron Mountain.
The next morning we drove North retracing our route along Crooked Creek.
We wound our way through the narrow granite filled canyon ...
... and stopped for one last romp along a flowing creek.
The upper drainage of Crooked Creek about one mile East of the UC Field Station.
Our route home began with a drive South along the White Mountain Road.