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Friday, April 28, 2017

Hike To Stevenson Creek Falls On The Miracle Mile Road


Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Hike Route

From Fresno we drove to Auberry then took Auberry Road to Jose Basin Road near the Mono Wind Casino. We then took Italian Bar Road to where the Million Dollar Mile Road intersects near the sign to Powerhouse #3. The Million Dollar Mile Road got its name from the high cost per mile of building it in the early 1900s. The drive took about an hour and 15 minutes. The beginning elevation is about 1,900’. There is a small parking area near the locked gate. Do not believe the sign on the gate that reads, “Stevenson Falls 2.5 miles”.
 From there Stevenson Creek Falls is about 3.6 miles (7.25 miles round trip). The total elevation gain round trip is about 700 feet. Our hike was about 4 hours with a half hour lunch stop at the falls. As you approach the falls, you will see a small waterfall in the distance at where you would expect Stevenson Falls to be. Don’t be discouraged for this is another nearby falls, not Stevenson Falls that remains hidden from view till you are almost there.
There is drinking water along the way if you have a means of purifying it. Watch out for Poison Oak on the side of the road. The San Joaquin River can be seen far below along much of the hike along the road. You can also see a penstock which is a large metal tube used to bring water downhill to a turbine. Powerhouse #3 is part of the Big Creek Hydroelectric Power Project begun in the early 1900s with the fourth and final phase completed in 1987. It is one of the largest hydroelectric projects in the world and supplies electricity to Los Angles. There is an interesting history here.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Creek_Hydroelectric_Project
Stevenson Creek begins above and flows into Shaver Lake. Many lost hikers find themselves descending the Stevenson Creek drainage and winding up at Shaver Lake. From Shaver Lake the creek flows about four miles and then empties into the San Joaquin River. The magnitude of the Stephenson Creek Falls depends on how much water is being released from Shaver Lake. At this point you are above Redinger Reservoir and below Mammoth Pool Reservoir.
I seem to remember a friend and I taking this trip on bicycles which would probably be easier than hiking it. This would also make a wonderful running route for the young and fit. There is an occasional Southern California Edison vehicle traveling along this route.
There is a tunnel along the way and another near the falls. I don’t know how deep either one is or why they were excavated.

The falls is a great lunch stop but not the best time for photography. Wide-angle lenses produce the best photographs here but, facing the waterfall, you are looking directly at the sun and there is a tendency for ‘lens flare’. I used a Sony A7R2 camera. The outbound shots of the river were with a native Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8 lens. The shots at the falls were with an adapted Leica 28mm 2.8 and Zeiss Batis 18mm 2.8. The remaining inbound shots were with the Leica lens. 
























That Is Not How I Usually Wear A Cap







 Smaller Falls Visible Before Stevenson Creek Falls












Mill Creek 

There is a video slide show with some video clips also here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3fy23ZnYJA

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tamarack Meadow: Out And Back From Tamarack Snow Park


Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

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.













































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