Monday, April 24, 2017

Tamarack Meadow: Out And Back From Tamarack Snow Park

Dale Matson

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Hike Route

What a wonderful snow year this has been in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with nearly 500” of snowfall at China Peak Ski Resort. Tamarack Snow Park is about a 1.5-hour drive east of Fresno, CA with an elevation of about 7,500’. It is off Highway 168 between Shaver and Huntington Lakes. There is still considerable snow pack at Tamarack that I would guesstimate at about 10’ at this elevation with a much deeper snowpack above 10,000’. A snow park permit is required until May 1st. It is $5.00 per day or $25.00 for an annual pass. You can pick one up at several places in Shaver Lake on the way up. Trail maps are available when you pick up your permit.
The snow is firm enough to walk on and I used trail shoes with slip-on micro-spikes and trekking poles. The outbound trail to Tamarack Meadow has a slight descent of about 150’ with a total mileage of about 4 miles round trip. Old snowmobile tracks have made the snow firmer and distinct. It is also frequently marked with trail signs to indicate the route. I was out a total of about 2.5 hours.
During the week, there are few folks at the snow park and fewer still on the trails beyond the trailhead. As you head out the main trail (Tamarack Trail) you will come to an initial intersection about .5 miles from the trailhead. The trail on the right outbound is (Raven Trail) Nordic Ski Only, which means no snowmobiles. It leads to an overlook of Shaver Lake. The trail on the left (Squirrel Trail) does allow snowmobiles. If you continue a short distance further out the Tamarack Trail, you will see the Meadow Trail come in from the left with the sign on the right.
If you have a dog off leash, be careful not to let him jump in Tamarack Creek at this time since it would be difficult to climb back out with the high snow banks along the creek. We had this problem in the past with our Airedale and I had to haul her out making a lasso with a 30’ length of webbing strap.
There is a nice rest spot before heading back. It is located near the end of the Meadow where an unnamed creek joins the South Fork of Tamarack Creek. Red Mountain (9,863’) can be seen to the west. It was a great joy to be in the mountains again as I continue to recover from my anemia. The creek water is crystal clear and the sights pristine. It is good for renewing body and soul alike. The temperature when I returned to my vehicle was 55 degrees Fahrenheit and I was down to a wool shirt and ski pants. Take extra gear in a day pack, for the mountains make their own weather.  Many of you are not able to go there because of distance or physical limitations. I hope you will enjoy the journey with me.


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Kings River And Pine Flat Lake

Dale Matson

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Two of the major rivers of western slopes of the Central Sierra Nevada watershed are the San Joaquin River and to the south, the Kings River. I have devoted a considerable amount of time and space to the San Joaquin and nearly nothing on the Kings River. It, like the San Joaquin has a north, middle and south fork with headwaters in the high sierra. Actually, the Middle Fork of the Kings and the South fork of the San Joaquin have headwaters less than five miles apart. The Middle Fork of the Kings River begins at Helen Lake in Evolution Basin in Kings Canyon Park. I have walked along it in LeConte Canyon as it travels along the JMT. The South Fork of the San Joaquin begins in Goddard Canyon at Martha Lake in Kings Canyon Park.
I have crossed three of the major tributary streams for the Kings; Bubb’s Creek, Woods Creek and Dinkey Creek. All three are really rivers after heavy snow years like this winter. Dinkey and Woods have bridges but Bubb’s does not and it can be very dangerous to ford. The JMT crosses Woods Creek via a suspension bridge that only accommodates one person at a time.
As you will see in the photographs, Pine Flat Lake is only about 50 percent of its one million acre foot capacity and is being emptied to make room for the expected massive snow melt this year. The dam was completed in 1954, is 20 miles long and has 67 miles of shoreline. In addition to irrigation, recreation and electricity generation, Pine Flat also was built for flood control.
It was a drizzly overcast day but I enjoyed the vast expanse of beauty before me. The foothills are still green with splashes of wildflowers. I used four lenses on my Sony A7R2 since I was driving along the river in my truck on Trimmer Springs Road and not backpacking the weight.
I used my Sony A7R2 and an adapted Canon 70-200 2.8, an adapted Leica Elmarit 28mm 2.8, a Batis 18mm 2.8 and 85mm 1.8. The wider lenses were more useful. Both the Leica and 18mm Batis have wonderful color.    
I have a short YouTube slide show of the photographs with included video clips here:

 River Headed Toward Highway 180 Kings Canyon Road

 Pine Flat Dam

 Kings River Immediately Below The Dam

 Bridge Over Rancheria Creek
 Rancheria Creek

 Bridge Over The Kings River