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Re: C'est la beurre!

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C'est la beurre!
December 15, 2015 09:33PM
(This trip report is from November 14, 2015)

The days were definitely getting shorter. Despite a comfortably early departure from the Bay Area, the sun was almost setting when I stopped in Oakdale for dinner and some supplies, and it was almost dark when I changed into my hiking clothes at the ranger station. The drive along the Cherry Lake road was in total darkness; the only lights I saw were from a white truck leaving the Lake Eleanor area as I arrived. The air was dark, quiet, and warm as I loaded up my pack at the trailhead, next to the Chick-on-mobile.

I was able to reach the advance party on radio--they were settling in just as I was starting out. I planned on hiking in four miles--to Miguel Meadow--a route that followed an old road, so in theory would be easy to follow by headlamp alone. The only navigational goof I made was right at the beginning--I headed down a spur that led to the lake instead of up and across the dam--a junction that would be obvious if it hadn't been so dark.

The trail/road was mostly nice to follow, although various brush and weeds had narrowed the path to a single-track in places. The stroll near Lake Eleanor seemed particularly nice, although I couldn't see the much-reduced lake at all. I actually got a bit sweaty climbing away from the lake and on to the high point near Miguel Meadow. Snow was supposed to arrive in a day or so, but there was no hint of it yet.

I eventually reached Miguel Meadow and headed toward the site of the old ranger cabin. I had been there only once before, this was the only place I knew of in the area with flat ground for camping, and I didn't feel like searching around much at night. Soon after locating a nice flat spot I pitched my tent, unpacked, and climbed into my sleeping bag.

An hour or so later you might have heard La Marseillaise being sung from my tent. At the time I was not aware of the tragic Paris attacks of that weekend; I was watching Casablanca and had forgotten to bring my headphones.



The next morning I enjoyed breakfast from the warmth of my tent. As I was finishing my tea, I heard on the radio that the advance party was just getting up. I was also warned that the trail I'd follow to get to them was "delicious" in places and that I should bring water. Since we were planning on returning to Miguel Meadow later that day, I left my tent set up and some gear stashed in it.



Indeed, various weeds were reclaiming the former road that I was following towards North Mountain. I had been to North Mountain earlier in the year, but not via the official trail--thus the need to return.



The recent fires had cleared the forest whose shadows had kept the understory under control; this brush, and the various oaks, were taking advantage of the recent fire to grow as much as possible until the pines and cedars returned. Oddly, in several places there were recently cut logs--a trail crew armed with chain saws, but not a hint of loppers, trimmers, or anything suitable for smaller foliage, had been though recently.



In one particular place, the trail was covered with tall weeds that shed dusty seeds as they were pushed aside. This was one of the few places in the Sierra where a machete may have made sense. The few small tarns that the map had located along the trail were mostly dry.



Just past the second tarn, which had a small muddy puddle remaining, I left the trail to head to the advance party, who had camped on top of a grassy hill with nice views all around. After they were finished packing, we headed off towards North Mountain.



The trail was a bit more open from here to the top; although there were still stretches covered with tall weeds, much of the trail was just overgrown with tall grass.



We eventually reached the old, burnt-out gate at the park boundary. The Trail Quest portion of the journey was over, but there was no reason not to continue to the summit.



Despite the extensive fire damage, the landscape was not unattratctive, the blackened trees contrasting with the bright green understory.



We eventually reached our destination: the fire watch tower at the top of North Mountain. We climbed its stairs for better views.



Way off in the distance, we could see the multi-arch dam of Lake Eleanor that I had walked across late last evening. The lake itself looked completely dry from our vantage point.



We could see a sliver of Hetch Hetchy Valley from the stairs.



After climbing down from the tower we had lunch, after which we headed back to Miguel Meadow. I had gone off-route a bit on the way to the advance party; fortunately, I was able to cover the bits of the real trail I had missed on the way up on the return trek---full Trail Quest credit for all of us!



At one point, we could see the advance party's campsite in the distance--it was one of the few places with both a view and relatively unimpacted by the fire.



Supposedly, the North Mountain trail is no longer maintained... but it is still on the map (and is thus on the Trail Quest list), and of course that logging crew had gone through recently. Unless the shrubs are trimmed along the route, however, it will be impassable perhaps as soon as next year... at least until the next fire, at least, or in several decades when tall evergreens shade the forest floor once more.



The dusty sneezy weeds were no better on the return trip.





The sun was almost down as we approached Miguel Meadow, and the sky was still quite clear and cloudless.



Since the forecast for that night was possible wind and probable snow, we decided to camp a bit farther from the burned-out "widowmakers" I had camped under.



The night had been calm and comfortably mild; the next morning started out with barely a hint of the forecast snow. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast as some light flurries fell on the tent. Just as we were finishing up, I got out of the tent to start packing things, and thick snowflakes started to fall. The storm was here.



By the time we were packed, a light flocking of snow was covering everything. Fortunately, we had a short hike back to the cars, so we took our time strolling out, taking lots of pictures and enjoying the new snow.



Our umbrellas and UFO pack covers were very effective in keeping us and our gear dry.



The snowfall was getting quite heavy, and we were a bit concerned that there might be enough snow to making driving from the trailhead a challenge.



It was hard to worry about such things while wandering through a winter wonderland, though.



I got my first up-close daytime view of Lake Eleanor this trip--a distant, dark pool of water surrounded by a sea of stumps poking out from the snow.



The snow was several inches deep as we neared the dam, and my camera lens was starting to fog up from the dampness.



However, it didn't seem like the snow would be too deep to drive out safely.


Snow on the dam does not count as "water ... over topping". This is the "real fog on your lens" photo filter effect.

Someday, I'll have to revisit the Lake Eleanor dam when I'm not exhausted, it's not dark, and it's not snowing.



Ours were the only cars at the trailhead, but someone (the Hetch Hetchy groundskeeper?) had driven the road to the dam recently, so we followed his tire tracks back to Cherry Lake.



Overall, not a bad winter jungle trek, and we knocked off a Trail Quest trail in perhaps the best conditions it will be for quite awhile.



More Pictures
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 05:27AM
Thanks again for posting. One question about the umbrellas....how do you manage to use two hiking poles and somehow carry the umbrella ? You must have some kind of anti-gravity thing I don't know about smiling smiley
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 06:28AM
Quote
The Other Tom
Thanks again for posting. One question about the umbrellas....how do you manage to use two hiking poles and somehow carry the umbrella ? You must have some kind of anti-gravity thing I don't know about smiling smiley

It's is the euroSCHIRM Swing Handsfree Umbrella. When I last looked, Campmor had the best price on it. And you might be able to use their "SAVE20" discount code. A friend bought a few yesterday for family members.

Note that there was a collapsing hands free unit (no longer on Campmor?, 19" collapsed)-which I bought to look at- and just returned unused. It was more finicky because of the folding mechanism and the umbrella was shallower and smaller than the 30" long (collapsed) unit. The original non handsfree unit has a deep bell like the 30" long unit and though it cuts down invisibility, protection is better with the deeper bells, imo.

I've mounted it and used it on three trips now. Last weekend, I had it dialed in beautifully. There is a bit that the shaft snaps into that attaches to your shoulder strap. It wraps around the strap and locks to itself with Velcro. The handle has a strap that goes around your waistbelt and cinches down.

Once done, I'm hands free and protected.

Chickon has been using the original GoLite umbrella for years for sun and rain. I wanted to try, but want my hiking poles. Now I have both.

Oh.. This is the OEM for the GoLite Umbrella. But the silver one!!! Works for sun well too!

Also.. Be aware of obstacles!!! I have been learning how to lean and twist as appropriate to dodge trees. Use on maintained trails is obviously easiest.

But when the hail turned to rain, I was super pleased with the umbrella. A few non waterproof items I like to have at hand were just fine!!! And it *is* a tad warmer!!!
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 07:21AM
Quote
JustKeepWalking
The original non handsfree unit has a deep bell like the 30" long unit and though it cuts down invisibility, protection is better with the deeper bells, imo.

I think the UFO day-glo pack covers and chrome cut down on invisibility :-)
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 09:22AM
Thanks for the info, especially the tip about avoiding obstacles. I hadn't thought of that.

Edit...any info about performance on a windy day ?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/16/2015 09:23AM by The Other Tom.
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 12:39PM
Quote
The Other Tom
Thanks for the info, especially the tip about avoiding obstacles. I hadn't thought of that.

Edit...any info about performance on a windy day ?

It's well-secured and very sturdy. It was a bit gusty, but not bad, and handled fine. In seriously bad winds, the kind that like to torque me around when I'm carrying just a backpack... I think it would be unwieldy at best. Can't say where the cutoff is between annoying and intolerable is yet. Haven't run into bad winds with it... Yet..
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 01:18PM
Thanks. I would be interested when you get more info.
avatar Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 04:24PM
avatar Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 07:00AM
Yosemite! It duzn't get any butter!



(ok, technically Butter Mtn isn't IN Yosemite) tongue sticking out smiley

Great thing about the umbrellie... is you can continue to take pix in pretty much any weather!





Love it!!!!



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 07:25AM
Brings back great memories of our trip in that area last spring. Thanks for sharing!
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 12:48PM
Quote
Bearproof
Brings back great memories of our trip in that area last spring. Thanks for sharing!

You mean the almost summer-like to winter trip we took in February this year? Can u believe that?!?

It was awesome seeing you guys walk in looking like chimney-sweeps!!!

The trip was mentioned frequently. Along with the lament that OD and I had not camped at the dam!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/16/2015 12:49PM by JustKeepWalking.
avatar Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 03:52PM
Really? That was February? Yeah, it sure seemed like spring! And thanks for bringing up the reminder that we didn't camp at the dam...yeah, that was a very, very long last mile!

Good thing I knew that cupcakes were waiting!
avatar Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 08:30AM
Good stuff! Many thanks for another report.
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 16, 2015 02:36PM
That's a great shot of Eleanor from afar.

We had similar weather in mid-June a few years ago in that area....



Balzaccom

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avatar Re: C'est la beurre!
December 17, 2015 06:31AM
One morez in 3D:




Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: C'est la beurre!
December 17, 2015 08:45PM
Great trip report. Thank you. I will have to look into the umbrellas.
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