Thursday, July 20, 2017

Silver Canyon Bighorn Sheep

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

California Highway 395 runs down the middle of a giant caldera. Near Bishop California the highway runs between the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the west and the White Mountains to the east. Although the White Mountains are lesser known, White Mountain Peak (14,246’) is higher than all but two of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
There is a difference between the sheep that inhabit these two areas with those sheep to the east of 395 adapted to dry, hot and arid conditions. The sheep in the Sierra Nevada are more at home in the high basins on the western slopes in the summer and mostly the east side in the winter to avoid the heavy snowpack. This winter was especially difficult for the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep and there was heavy mortality for an already endangered species.
For some reason, the bighorn sheep to the east are less timid and more accessible. Both kinds of sheep have the same main predator, the mountain lion which is also protected but not endangered or threatened.
As usual the sheep work their way up as you photograph them. I was hand holding a Sony A7R2 with an adapted Canon 400mm f4 D.O. lens. As they continued climbing, I added a 1.4X extender, which gave me 560mm f5.6. However, when photographing sheep, the closer the better. My first photograph when they were the closest was the sharpest also. This was my second opportunity to photograph this particular group. We saw no sheep with tracking collars and no mature rams.

My wife and I spent about 2 hours watching and photographing the sheep. She had some good photographs with her compact Panasonic Lumix Zoom camera. We were blessed to share this rare encounter thanks to a tip from the “Sheep Whisperer” aka Steve Yeager. We traveled from Fresno mainly for this opportunity but just being in the eastern Sierra Nevada is good for the soul. We came over recently opened Tioga Pass through Yosemite Park. 

I have a short movie with photos and video clips on YouTube:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Day Hike To Nellie Lake 2017

Dale Matson

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Hike Route (I don't know why the maps doesn't show Nellie Lake)

Here is a link to this same hike from 2014 for comparison.
 In 2014 I did this hike at the end of April with less snow on the trail. It was a drought year and quite a contrast to this year's near record snow. The particulars of getting to Nellie Lake are in the earlier posting. It is a 2-hour drive from Fresno.
This year I waited for the snow to melt out until mid July. It is still early in the hiking season because of difficult trail access. There were several deadfalls across the trail that has not been cleared by the forest service yet. Additionally, the snow, which began about 8,000’, covered the trail in several spots. I brought orange flagging tape to help keep track of my route and took it down as I returned inbound. I met a couple of older guys I met on this hike a couple of years ago. They had tried the hike two weeks ago and lost the trail. They asked if they could have the tape that I had taken down to use for themselves and agreed to take it down when they headed back.
The mosquitos were evident and I was glad to have insect repellent with me. My total time out was 6:26. I took it slow to keep my heart rate near the limits my cardiologist set on my last treadmill stress test and am scheduled for a retest this month.
This “early” in the season, the trail crosses two seasonal creeks. There is also water available at Nellie Lake. I used water purification pills. I got an early start, beginning at 6am. My start temperature was a comfortable 50 degrees but my ending temperature was about 80 degrees even at 7,000’. We have been in the middle of a string of triple digit temperatures here in Fresno CA which is about 300 feet in elevation.
I am still traveling light with the Mountain Hardware race vest as a daypack and my Sony A6000 camera with the Sony/Zeiss 16-24 f4 lens.
Nellie Lake is a typical small lake in the Sierra National Forest surrounded by trees and crystal clear. I miss not having my Airedale Susie along but she is too long in the tooth for this kind of hike these days at age 12. Here is a posting that shows her at various locations including Nellie Lake on previous hikes.

 One Of Many Deadfalls Across The Trail

 Area Where Snow Depth Is Monitored 

 First Sign Of Snow About 8,000'

 First Creek Crossing Outbound

 Nellie Lake 16mm (APS-C)

 16mm Panorama

One Of Several Trail Markers Placed By Previous Hikers
I Carry A GPS And A Compass

Friday, July 14, 2017

He Died Doing What He Loved

Dale Matson

How many times have you heard that phrase? Sometimes what we are known for can be our undoing. For example, Dean Potter dying in a wingsuit was just the last activity in a long series of death defying activities he engaged in. It was reported that he died doing what he loved.
A good friend of mine Joe Schlereth ran 10,000 miles one year preparing for the Western States 100 mile endurance run. He finished 3rd behind Ann Trason and Tim Twietmeyer that year. That is more than a marathon per day of training. How did he stay injury free? How do you maintain a reputation for that kind of mileage without eventually injuring yourself? Joe’s favorite saying about injury was, “Run through it”. I suppose it would be a good epitaph for Joe some day. I had the pleasure of pacing him from Foresthill to Green Gate at Western States one year.
Mica True, aka Caballo Blanco, real name Michael Randall Hickman was a trail runner made famous in the book “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.
“Caballo Blanco left the lodge at about 10 a.m. He was seen along State Highway 15. The sun was a hot yellow beam when he entered the wilderness.”
He did not return and a three-day search ensued.
“But once nearer the body he knew instantly it was a corpse. True was lying face up, his eyes glossy, his jaw open. Flies were busy.” (Ibid)
“The others also forced themselves to look. True’s body was reclining on an outcropping of small rocks and boulders. His legs were in 10 inches of water, and his arms were against his chest, the right one down, the left one up. One of his shoes was off, and nearby was a plastic water bottle, two-thirds empty.” (Ibid)
Mica True’s autopsy indicated heart disease, specifically cardiomyopathy. It was said, “He died doing what he loved.”
I have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) diagnosed by a cardiologist using an angiogram. I wanted a definitive diagnosis for why I didn’t seem to have the energy I once had. I got a definitive diagnosis and stents to boot.
I am a recovering cigarette addict and alcoholic who decided to begin running as a substitute. 30 years later my lifestyle and even my identity have changed. Running and hiking have been a panacea for me and it is difficult to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty of daily life. Do I play it safe and limit my activity? Do I avoid the things that gave me a new identify and great joy? Exercise, which once gave me a sense of peace, has become a new source of anxiety. Did I push myself too far, too hard today?
It distressed me to read about Mica True when he died. I suspect he knew there were problems and chose to ignore them because running was too much a part of his identity.  Like Joe Schlereth, the identity we establish has the possibility of being our undoing also.
If I am found dead along a trail someday please don’t say, “He died doing what he loved.” Like Mica True and Dean Potter, I died doing what I had to do.    


Thursday, July 13, 2017

College Rock Day Hike Near Huntington Lake

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Hike Route

This is both the beginning of the hiking season and the evident snow melt out at the lower elevations. Although some of my friends have already hiked to the top of Kaiser Peak (10,380') through lots of snow, I hiked to the halfway point at College Rock on the same trail. It is about three miles to College Rock. The Kaiser Peak trailhead parking is off Huntington Lake Road at the end of Deer Creek Lane. The trailhead is above the D&F Pack Station. Get there early on the weekends since there is only room for about 8 cars.
This is a challenging hike in its own right with an attitude gain of nearly 2,000’ in three miles. There is one nice ledge of flat boulders at about 1.5 miles where you can rest and enjoy the view of Huntington Lake. The Sierra Nevada Mountains will be just peeking out at this point. For some, this may be enough climb.
The climb to College Rock from this point is a bit more shaded and somewhat less steep. I was content to stop at College Rock. For those of you who have hiked to Kaiser Peak, I have provided a photo since you may not even know it is there. Here the view begins to open up a bit more with more mountains evident.

I took it really slow and the hike time for me was a total of about 5 hours. There are some water sources as of this writing but they will be dried up soon. Bring plenty of water with you in your daypack.  


 The Snow Plants Are Fast Disappearing

 Deadfall Detour
 Trail Runner
 Huntington Lake From Rest Area At About 2.5 Miles
 Already On Her Way Back From College Rock!
 College Rock
 Mounts Hilgard, Gabb And Recess Peak 
 Mt. Goddard Center

 Red Mountain

China Peak Ski Area Above And Left Of Huntington Lake

 Huntington Lake Regatta

Kaiser Wilderness "Dolmen"

Photographs taken with Sony A6000 with Sony/Zeiss 16-70 lens.