Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mama Kathy's Super-fun Backcountry Adventures, July 2014 edition

Tahoe and Yosemite get all the attention, but right in between them is perhaps the prettiest place I've ever hiked. And you don't need to fight any crowds or go through a bunch of red tape to enjoy it.

Some of my best hiking buds drove up from the Bay Area to join Arthur (age 8) and me at the cabin in Arnold we've been renting. We drove about 35 minutes up Highway 4 to Lake Alpine. On the way we stopped to sign in at the ranger station (no charge, no reservations needed). We started out from the Silver Valley Trailhead, headed east around Duck Lake to our campsite along the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.

This was the first two-night trip Adam and I had done together since we did Skyline-to-the-Sea when I was 6 weeks pregnant with Arthur.
When I was planning this trip, Adam asked me how far we were hiking. "10 miles," I said. "Each day?" "No, total." It wasn't long into our afternoon of hiking that he realized what a wise bit of planning this was on my part; kids who don't have a pack (of any weight) on their back are happy to run along the trail and scramble up any and every boulder they see. Putting a pack on their backs puts us at an average speed under 1 mph.
Bennett, age 6

There were many helpful cairns throughout our hike.

Amity's boys are just 6 months younger than mine. We've all hiked together many times. I'm so glad she could hike with us while we're in California!

Love all the amazing rocks and boulders. So dramatic and beautiful.

Our first day of hiking was pretty easy, and we enjoyed many amazing boulder features along the way. It wasn't a day of big views, but there was lots of beauty.

We found an established sight just south of the river. We got there fairly close to dark, so there was a lot of work to do. This included hanging bear bags (canisters aren't required here, like they are in Yosemite). We all had watched the video on a clever method of keeping your food out of bears' reach. There were no problems, except that I had managed to bring two bottles of sunscreen and way to much food (including a good 3 pounds of candy) so my bear bag weight about 10 pounds.

Water-filtering and boulder-jumping site.
 For some reason there's all kinds of grazing allowed in the wilderness, so we heard a cowbell jangling loudly for much of our time at the campsite.

We slept in a little too long Saturday morning and didn't get on the trail until almost 10. It's a good thing we only planned to do 5 miles, since we had some issues pretty shortly after we got started.

On the trial again Saturday morning.

At the ranger station, the ranger had told us that a fire a couple years back had felled some trees, obscuring parts of the trail and the junction we needed to take west at Rock Lake to Elephant Rock. As a result we were nervous about finding our way to the correct trail and spent more than hour on a wild goose chase. Once we got to the trail junction we found that the ranger had give us some poor guidance.

The ranger told us we would have a hard time seeing the junction, the post would be gone, and the lake would be hard to see from the trail. None of these were remotely true.
 However, the lake was beautiful and many of us swam our cares away.

 Then we made our way down the trail to Elephant Rock. The trail was steep and rocky and less shady than it had been before the fire. We were glad to be going downhill instead of up in the afternoon sun.
Elephant Rock
 Elephant Rock was pretty impressive.

After our late start on Saturday we decided to get up at first light.

Here's my attempt at a photo of the moon in the early morning light.
 We were on the trail before 7!

Bennett with a view of Elephant Rock.

Amity was the head of the local orienteering club in Michigan.

Our group (except Bennett, who refused) at Duck Lake.

There are a few cool rundown cabins at Duck Lake.

Ready for the steep final push up to the trail head from Duck Lake.

I don't know how many times Arthur has told me how awesome and fun and great our trip was. 

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