Tuesday, April 11, 2017

San Joaquin River: Hiking On And Off Trail Near Big Bend

Dale Matson

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Loop Hike Route

I had an opportunity to hike with Sharon and our patient friend Mike. We went from the “Cattle Shoot” area along Sky Harbor Road. We began there and immediately climbed about 500’ uphill till we met the trail that follows along the base of the lava table. As we continued east, the trail split and the narrower trail headed toward the top of the table. We continued on a rather wide trail. This trail is not located on my software topographic maps but is indicated on the Suunto Ambit download map on Movescount. We had somewhat tricky footing since a herd of cows had gone before us after one inch of rain recently and it was slow going, slogging through the wet cattle prints until the cattle decided to leave the trail. Not long after that, the trail left us as we continued through the woods far above the river. I dropped my plastic water bottle on a rock. The thin walls could not withstand the fall and began to leak. I had to pour the remaining water into Sharon’s bottle.  
We could not find the trail again and decided to drop down to the San Joaquin River Trail, which runs along above the edge of the river to Temperance Flat and beyond that to the River Gorge. It was a steep and slow descent in the wet grass. We were glad to have trekking poles. Young Michael descended as gracefully as Jean Butler moved across the stage in River Dance.
Michael spotted the trail and gave a holler up to us. We heaved a sigh of relief and got to the trail without incident. There were other folks on the trail and we were happy to make way for them. One fellow had a full pack and was practicing for the high country when the snow melts. We climbed back up as we headed west toward Pincushion Mountain. We could see folks standing on top as we turned up and left to meet our original trail. We made our final descent to our vehicle and finished the five-mile loop in a little over 4 hours. Mike cheered that we had a ‘finishing kick’ to get us to over a one mile an hour pace. Our total ascent was 1,227’. We burned enough calories to warrant a stop for ice cream treats in Friant.  

I used my Sony A6000 with the 16-50mm kit lens exclusively for this hike and was glad for the weight reduction from my usual gear. I have a used Sony Zeiss 16-70mm f4 lens that arrived today that I believe will improve the already good quality shots from this ASP-C sensor camera.


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