Friday, March 17, 2017

Millerton Lake: The Blue Oak Trail

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
The Portion Of the Trail We Traveled Today

The Blue Oak Trail begins about a quarter mile past the entrance booths to Millerton Lake State Park off Friant Road on the Fresno County side of the lake. The first two miles of the trail run parallel to the road as the road travels north. There is a small parking area and potty at the trailhead. It is a popular trail for horseback riders, mountain bikers, runners and hikers and consists of gentle ‘rollers’ for the most part. This time of year there are no mosquitos but beware of Poison Oak in some places alongside the trail and rattle snakes. If you begin at the trailhead and go all the way to Winchell Cove, the total distance is about 8 miles round trip (out and back).
We chose to begin at the end of the road where there is also parking and potties. There is no potable water at the trailhead or where the road ends and trail continues. Our hike took us about 3 miles round trip. We had a very casual pace while looking for wildlife and taking photographs.
I recommend an early start since the sun quickly warms the exposed trail that runs along the rim of the lake. There are also fewer travelers early. At some places the trail is at the very edge of the drop-off. There is one place as you are approaching Winchell Cove where the trail requires a bit of scrambling and all but the best mountain bikes dismount and walk their bikes through this area. There is a nice big rock just past Winchell Point that provides a nice resting place. Also, if you have binoculars or a spotting scope, you can see the Bald Eagle sitting in a tree across the cove to the east by the white rectangular home (north side of house) at the tip of the peninsula. There is a nest nearby.
I would have to say that every time I’ve traveled this route I have seen at least a Red Tailed Hawk. You may also see an eagle perched on one of the trees overlooking the lake or have one fly overhead as we did this morning. I have seen some folks pass unaware underneath eagles on the trail, as the eagles remain perched above them. I have never seen deer but I have seen their tracks. I assume they go down to the lake for a drink from the woods above. There are also possible sightings of coyotes, bobcats and a rare sighting of a mountain lion. There is also an occasional home above and the area above the trail is all private land.
Today I used a Sony RX1R 35mm camera with a fixed f2 lens and my Sony A7R2 camera with an adapted telephoto Canon 400mm f4 D.O. lens. My wife took photos of wildflowers. If you are fortunate, you may get close enough for cell phone eagle photographs. My wildlife photographs were taken with the Canon lens. The photograph of the historic Millerton Courthouse from the trail is also a telephoto shot. You can also see snow covered mountains to the northeast but that view was hazy because of the stale air today. If the lake  level looks low, it is because it has been lowered intentionally in anticipation of a large snow melt this year. It is currently only about 50% of capacity.

 Millerton Courthouse From Trail (Telephoto)

 Crow In Nest Hidden By Leaves

 Tree Trunk With Hole

 Winchell Cove Marina
 Poison Oak Along Trail

 Bald Eagle Across Cove
 Young Bald Eagle In Flight

Large Flock Of Seagulls Near Dam (Telephoto From Trail) 
 Hawk In Flight

 Close By Red Tailed Hawk
Tiny Hummingbird
Red Tailed Hawk
Young Eagle Below Trail On 03-24-17
Osprey Along Trail 04-16-17

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