Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day Hike To Nellie Lake

Dale Matson

Route From Suunto Ambit Downloaded To Movescount 

Nellie Lake is north of Huntington Lake and West of Kaiser Peak in the Kaiser Wilderness Area. The access trailhead is out of the Billy Creek Camping area on the northwest side of Huntington Lake. The hike is about 10 miles round trip with about 2,000’ of elevation gain outbound. After an initial steep climb, the trail become a more gradual climb until the last mile where it becomes steep until it crests and drops down to the lake. My total time out was about 5 hours.

Map At Trailhead
Cut Logs Indicate Trail Too
Blaze Mark
Snowpack Survey Location

I like this hike as a good ‘warm up’ for my hiking season. The trail is well marked and deeply worn in some places. There are assurance markers (blazes) on trees along the route. At this time of year, there is generally more snow on the Nellie Lake trail than the Kaiser Peak trail because it is less exposed. There are occasional snow patches above 8,000’ and a few logs across the trails that have fallen over the winter.

Stream Crossing

The pack trains have not started and the cattle that free range have not been brought up from the lower elevations yet. The mosquitos were few and the trail was not dusty. This time of year there are seasonal streams before Nellie Lake for filtering water to resupply. The trail crosses two of the streams and comes close to the other as it parallels the trail.

Interesting Rock Formation
Nellie Lake

I like to hike to a view or to water or both if possible. My dog Susie made several trips with me to Nellie Lake and enjoys a cooling swim there while I take a lunch break. My two 28 ounce water bottles were adequate for this 60-degree day but I carry water purification tablets with me.

There are campsites near the lake but a wilderness permit is required for overnight trips. I usually get my wilderness permits in Prather but I believe there is a place near the junction of highway 168 and Kaiser Pass Road. I have never fished the lake but have seen trout swimming near the shore.

Nellie Lake Panorama
My 20 Year Old Fanny Pack For Summer Day Hikes

There are other hikes that depart to the east from the Nellie Lake trail. There is a hike that goes to Mary’s Meadow and a cutoff trail further north that goes east to Kaiser Peak. Having taken this route to Kaiser Peak and back (16 miles round trip) I would not recommend it unless it was part of a loop hike.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Climbing: Another Mission Toward Manhood

Rock climbers and their alpine adventures have always fascinated me. Doug Robinson made a great video called Moving Over Stone. He presented rock climbing as poetry; orchestrated movement. The video is now available on YouTube and well worth the watch. 
In the video, he filmed and interviewed climbing masters of the day such as Lynn Hill and Peter Croft.

My wife and I took our grandsons to their first 'rock climbing' experience yesterday. We were instructed in how to belay our grandsons as they climbed the wall at “MetalMark Climbing and Fitness” in Fresno. Our five-year-old grandson did give the 48’ walls a couple of tries but liked the “bouldering” more.

The seven year old really loved the big wall and worked his way up to a 5.10b climb.
Michelle, our instructor was patient with all of us and very encouraging. As we were leaving after three hours of climbing the older boy said, “Can we come back tomorrow?” Their muscles were not sore the next day! I find it amazing how resilient young muscles are. The boys have a good power to weight ratio.

I can't think of any better exercise for young boys in an era where so many boys are sitting playing video games. Children are natural climbers and perhaps someday they will be on the granite walls of Yosemite like Alex Honnold.

We also watched some young men practicing free running and parkour. Here is some video shot in Fresno.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rain in Due Season

 Dale Matson

San Joaquin River Along JMT

“Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” (Leviticus 26:4, KJV).

There is a certain irony in the fact that the seasonal rainfall for the Central Valley of California is a meager eleven inches yet the Central Valley has the largest agricultural production in the United States. Some of the irrigation water is provided by deep wells but the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the East provides the explanation for how such an arid region can be so productive. Sierra Nevada is Spanish for Snowy Range. The mountain snowpack is reclaimed moisture that has traveled east passing the Valley by and returns Westward back toward the Valley as streams and rivers created by melting snow. The U.S. record for snowpack is at Tamarack CA of 37.5 feet. This melting snow is fed back gradually and is captured and stored in reservoirs that help regulate the flow westward toward the Pacific Ocean. These reservoirs provide recreation and electricity for millions of Californians in addition to water for drinking, agricultural products shipped around the world and habitat for wildlife.

The mountains provide natural containment of water reserves in the form of snow. When I hear the seasonal rain on my roof, I rejoice knowing that the Sierras are gleaning much of the remaining moisture from the passing storm and will give it back throughout the rest of the year.  Much of California vegetation is green in winter and brown from mid spring until late fall. The spring reminds me of Exodus. “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at k Horeb; and l you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it that the people may drink." (Exodus 17:6). In spring, the water literally flows from the granite cracks and the earth.

The rivers that flow out of the Sierras are spaced such that the entire Central Valley is supplied with drinking and irrigation water. The combination of mountains and the rivers they give birth to, provide some of the most beautiful scenery on the face of the earth. Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon Parks are located in the Sierras and the rivers provide majestic waterfalls.

This is really a song of praise to God who is the Architect of this landscape. No engineer, artist, or farmer or could have even imagined such an intricate interplay of water, rock, snow and people. No one can describe this early beauty.

“The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand;” (Deuteronomy 28:12a).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Susie The Airedale My Trail Companion Part II

Dale Matson

Susie Cooling Down
(Click Photographs For A Larger View)
Susie is really a ‘cool weather’ dog. There are two problems that arise in the summer. She needs to be on a lead while on the trails. She is only too willing to chase any animal she sees. If she were off lead, she would run and run and get lost and never come back. She is like the DEW line (Distant Early Warning). I may not be aware of an animal but I can even tell what kind of animal is around by how she reacts. She has tried to chase coyotes, deer and even pack Llamas. She gets less excited by mules and horses but a lizard causes her to lunge hard enough to strain a biceps tendon. She has also barked and growled at animals we have never seen, perhaps bears or mountain lions. Thanks Susie.

Susie And I Were Surprised By The Llamas

A second reason she is a cool weather dog is that she does not like warm feet. Even in the mountains in summer, the trail surface is hot for her feet. As the day warms, she begins a silly dance as if she is walking on hot coals. Her feet are not being burned but she is simply a pansy about it. I have seen other dogs on the trail that don't seem to even notice the warm trails. Now Fresno at noon in the summer is not the place you want to walk a dog on asphalt.

She has never done well with dog “booties” and lost two in the muck of Edison Lake the day after I bought them for her, so much for that idea. Carrying a dog pack is too hot for her, at least that’s what she has led us to believe. We carry extra water and treats for her.

Drama Queen On A Warm Spring Day Near Kaiser Peak

Susie Plowing Through Deep Powder

Icy ponds and streams are just fine with her and she will jump in for a drink at the drop of a hat. I have always kept in mind that she could fall into a tree well in winter and carry a 30’ nylon strap.

The greatest fun for us is in the winter when she and her younger brother go off leash and run free. They love to flip on their backs and make Airedale Snow Angels. When the snow is chest deep or deeper, we can keep up with them when we are on skis. Eventually, they get tired of running here and there and follow the trail we create in the snow with our skis. When there is too much snowfall at one time, the powder is simply too deep even for skis and certainly too deep for dogs with no skis. I have often wondered how the coyotes get around in the deep powder.

Baldy Lookout Seven Miles From Tamarack Trailhead

The scariest time for us was one spring when Tamarack Creek opened up and the snow no longer provided a bridge over it. The banks were two feet high but the snowpack added four more feet. Susie saw some ducks in the creek and jumped in after them. Much to her surprise, there was no way out for her. I was able to lasso her and pull her over the bank to safety before she got hypothermia.

Susie In Trouble In Tamarack Creek

MU 52 On Duty 24/7

It is times like this when a pet is a companion. Airedales appear to be less intelligent but it is really because they are more willful than other dogs. Susie is not funny at home but on trails, she makes me laugh and laugh.

Here is a Youtube video I made of Susie and her younger (but bigger) brother in the backcountry snow.