Archive for June 26th, 2015

Day hikes at Alum Rock Park

Friday, June 26th, 2015

One of my favourite local places to hike is Alum Rock Park. It is close to us – about a 20 minute drive east – which makes it an easy place to go for a short hike. As I was slowly recovering from surgery, it became our go-to place for a walk in the woods. As I began to heal, I could measure my progress by how far I was able to walk. Initially it was not that far – a kilometer or two. Now I’m able to do a complete loop of the upper trail (4.5 miles/7km).

Usually we park at the bottom parking lot (which is free) and hike in from there. The majority of the trail is shaded, so it is still hike-able in the middle of the day, even when it is hot outside.

Elevation Profile
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Up past the visitor center – this picture was taken back on February 14, 2015.
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This one was taken back on April 9, 2015. I’m amazed to see just how green it was, compared to the pictures I took on Tuesday and today.
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You can see that now the trail is looking rather dry, but still is nicely shaded.
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This is looking out onto the same hill as the picture above taken on April 9th. Notice how all the grass has dried up. The hills are brown with a few green dots (trees). Even some of the trees are losing their leaves because of the drought.
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Today I decided to pay for parking and hike from the upper portion of the parking lot. I had planned on purchasing a year pass in the parking pay machines, as indicated on the parks website. Unfortunately, they have changed the programming for the machines and they are no longer offering year passes from them. I now need to make a trip out to the San Jose Regional Parks office in order to get a year pass. For today, I paid the $6 and got a regular day pass. It was worth it for me to get a chance to hike the upper trail – which I otherwise would not have had the energy to tackle.

Elevation Profile
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The drought appears to be taking a toll on the trees. In this photo you can see a bunch of the trees on the adjacent hill are dead.
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I enjoyed my hike today, but it was very dry. I’m not sure how much longer the park will stay open – as it closes if the fire risk gets to be too high. They have now banned all fires in the park, including BBQs. When you breath the incredibly dry air, and see the trees which are shedding their leaves due to lack of moisture, you can appreciate the impact of the drought.

Vacation Day 8 – The End

Friday, June 26th, 2015

I’m happy to report that my ‘rain-sense’ seems to be working in the Sierra’s. I had thought that I had totally lost it. You see, I had this uncanny sense of when it was going to rain. We would sleep in the tent with the fly off, and I’d wake up about 2 minutes before the rain started. This had not been the case when we moved to California. I was no longer able to ‘sense’ when the rain would start. So, I was relieved when I awoke at 4 am for my usual trip to the loo. Immediately upon returning to the van, the rain started. First it was a light sprinkle, but then turned into a serious coastal mountain rain.

When I awoke and was ready to get up at 8am, it was still raining. There was no sign of it letting up. We decided to pack up and head to the cafe at Toms Place for a dry/warm breakfast and hopefully some Internet, where we could check the weather forecast and figure out where to go next. We had originally planned on another day hiking at Rock Creek and then a day at Mammoth Lakes, but neither was any fun if the rains were constant and heavy.

It turned out that the only place in Northern California it wasn’t raining that day was Napa. So, we decided to head back over the Sierra’s to one of the state parks up in Napa. It would allow us to dry things out and perhaps go out for a nice meal. We had previously been to Sonoma, but had not been to Napa, so it would also be exploring a new area. The fastest way over the Sierra was through Yosemite. We had originally planned to drive over via Kennedy Meadows (which features in Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild), but with the rain there weren’t many great scenic views to be had – so the fastest route made more sense. Either way, we were in for a long day of driving.

On the way through Yosemite we drove around the Tuolumne Meadows campground. It wasn’t particularly busy, but was certainly soaking wet. The roads through the campground were in remarkably bad shape for a National Park. The area was pretty nice and many people were still out and about, going on short day hikes in the area. We concluded that we much preferred the quieter campgrounds in Rock Creek valley. We would like to come back to Tuolumne Meadows to do a hike or two, but would probably try to stay in a National Forest campsite outside of the very busy national park. We snapped a quick picture and got back in the car to continue the uneventful drive to Napa.
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In Napa we stayed at the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Our expectations were low, so we were pleasantly surprised by the park. It was pretty much two open fields with campsites on the outside edges. What was nice was that the edges were trees, so you could choose a site that had either morning or afternoon sun (we opted for morning sun, thinking we might spend two nights there).

Since the campground was still pretty empty, the morning was rather peaceful (my favourite part of camping). I snapped a photo from my phone of the wild turkeys that were grazing in the field.
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After breakfast we decided that we were ready to just be home (OK, I decided I wanted to sleep in my own bed!). We had really enjoyed our time in the Eastern Sierra and will definitely make plans to go back and explore more. The old trees and the hiking were fantastic.

Through this series of posts, I’ve shared some of our pictures. You can see the full set in this gallery: http://dttocs.smugmug.com/Travel/201506-Eastern-Sierras