Hike to Mono Pass, Yosemite National Park

Our 8.5 mile hike round trip up to Mono Pass, Yosemite National Park, CA., was awesome! A big view of Mono Lake at the top!. Cool, cloudy day! Good for a hike. The climb was gradual from 9,600 to 10,800 feet in elevation. We passed through alpine forests predominantly lodgepole pines and some white bark pines. Both pines look quite alike, except the white bark pines are more sparse and have 5 needles in a bunch as opposed to 2 needles in a bunch for the lodgepole. The lodgepole smell like butterscotch.

But the cool thing about white bark pines is the Clark’s Nutcracker bird is the only bird that carries the white bark pine seed up in high elevations so white pines can continue to populate Yosemite. The Nutcracker has a pouch in its throat to carry seeds. on the trail we heard lot’s of Nutcrcker’s and saw a few. The Nutcracker is cousin to stellar blue jay’s with a different sounding scratchy voice. When you hear the nutcracker look for white bark pines too.

The Mono Pass hike passes through many meadows with lots of panoramic views and two alpine lakes.

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Double me!

Double me! Double fun!

Overlook down to Mono Lake (in the distance), Lee Vining

Overlook down to Mono Lake (in the distance), Lee Vining

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker

So Gail was shooting the lake views and the many miniature wildflowers—only a few here and there but these mini-flowers are incredible specimens under Gail’s close up magnification.

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Lupine

Lupine

Edible currant.  Tasty, slightly sour.  We tried a few.

Edible currant. Tasty, slightly sour. We tried a few.

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This blog is a hike we did September 13th but did not have cell / WiFi service to post it.  We currently are at Kings Canyon, Grant Grove Village using their WiFi.

Hike to Gaylor Lakes, Yosemite National Park

We hiked up to Gaylor peak 4.5 miles round trip, starting at the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park.  Elevation to start was around 9,700 feet and we topped out at 10,900 feet. Total elevation gain was 1,500 feet.  It was a steep hike in thinner air than we are used to.  So we were breathing deep, taking baby steps and climbing slowly.  Through lodgepole pines we climbed, then we reached an intermediate summit with a view of the first Gaylor lake surrounded by a meadow and mountain tops with views of Mt Dana (13,057 feet).

On the way to Gaylor peak I passed an old mining settlement, while Gail hung out at the 2nd Alpine lake.  The house and mining entrances were all made of rocks / dry masonry.  Pretty cool.  Gail took lots of mini-wildflowers pictures—not bad, since the wildflower season is long past.  I carried my zoom lens hoping to get an interesting wildlife picture, like a black bear, raptor, or nutcracker.  I settled for a chipmunk eating a pine nut.

Gaylor lakes from the top.

Upper Gaylor lake

Out of business!

Mine out of business!

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Double me, double fun, in a single shot on iPhone panoramic.

Double me, double fun, in a single shot on iPhone panoramic

I see a nut watching me.

I see a nut watching me

Now for some amazing mini-wildflowers and seed pod shots by Gail.  These pics are smaller than a nail on a pinky finger.

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We were camping in Tuolumne Meadows and did this hike September 12th. We did not have WiFi or cell service so the next few blogs are about Yosemte, while we are having fun in Kings Canyon, loving it here too!

Tufa Towers, Mono Lake

Gail and I walked down to Mono Lake (Lee Vining, CA)  and were fascinated with the Tufa Towers, which formed over centuries. Because the lake has no outlet, salts and minerals accumulated from fresh water streams flowing into the lake. Tufa’s formed over springs in the lake when fresh water calcium combined with the salt and solidified like limestone. The salinity is 2 to 3 times greater than the ocean—I tasted it and I know the taste of the Pacific Ocean well—real salty! The towers are geological wonders we were excited to walk among and take a pictures.

DSC_0472 DSC_0442Check on the next pic closely to see “double me.”  Do I have a twin brother who dresses like me?  No.  Is it trick photography, splicing pics or software editing?  No.  But it is Gail and I being tricky with a panoramic photo.  It is just ONE shot!

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A little history on Mono Lake: In 1941 Los Angeles began excessive water diversion from the Mono Basin. Essentially, LA stole the water! LA built an amazing gravity feed aqueduct about 300 miles long diverting water from streams and rivers feeding into Mono Lake. The lake lost 1/2 its volume and dropped 45 vertical feet.

After a decade of litigation, in 1994 the California Water Board ordered to raise the water level to 6,392 feet, 20 feet above Mono Lake’s historic low. Mono Lake is on the rise—good for close to a million migratory birds that stop by for food on their journey.

Flume Trail Notes, Lake Tahoe

Twenty-three miles in Tahoe backcountry was a fat tire ride to remember. We staged at Spooner Lake. While I biked, Gail hiked into the backcountry.  My ride climbed 4 miles up to a picturesque, Marlette Lake, and then a spin onto one of the most popular trails in the west, the Flume.  I met a couple from France, who saw a picture of the Flume and dreamed of riding this trail.  They were staring awestruck above Lake Tahoe from an elevation of 7,000 to 7,500 feet—about 1,000 feet above Lake Tahoe on a skinny, sandy and packed trail.  It follows the edge of a mountain in the Toiyabe National Forest. It is an adventurous ride—one to ride cautiously and slower.  I’ll share my Flume trail notes and pics in a moment.

I met a group of riders at the Flume trail end.  One guy said he was navigating a technical section, when he looked up, a black bear blocked the trail.  When he fell off his bike, the bear ran off too—probably laughing at a stunt he has pulled on other bikers—bears just wanna have some fun!

After the Flume, I dropped into Twin Lakes and blasted through the forest on Red House Flume—a gradual, fast descent.  Three miles along, the trail markers at a fork were not easy to discern using my Nevada State Park, Spooner Backountry map.  So, I called the Spooner ranger station.  The ranger said “take that trail and you will end up in Carson City.”  But I still thought I was ok, the State Park map matched my cell phone GPS to a tee.  However, confused more by the ranger, I called Gail and said “pick me up at Incline Village.”  I doubled back 3 to 4 miles, a little hike-a-bike 1/2 mile through deep, soft sand on a steep slope out of Twin Lakes, where I encountered 2 other riders in my predicament.  Back to the Flume I dropped gloriously down toward the lake shore, where Gail waited in the Tundra.

Just a few Flume pictures.

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Flume Trail Notes

From Spooner Lake, pedaled nine miles,
Welcome to the historic flume trail,
the sign read “caution”
“narrow trail, steep drop offs, landslide area”
“no horses”
“4.4 mils to Tunnel Creek Road”
a first timer, solo on a 29er Salsa Spearfish
so off I go

pedaling a thousand feet above Lake Tahoe
it’s bursting blue all the way through
on my left, far below,
and Alpine green and Manzanitta
on my right, far above,
and beneath the fat tires
firm on the Flume, I hope,
a single track, fairly packed, loose in places
with some washed out spaces
just wide enough, at times, for treads to roll,

I could feel the blood gushing through my fingers
as I squeezed my grips
stay steady, look ahead, watch the curves
‘round huge boulders, then, slow down
don’t wanna slip
and slide away
up here or I be found
more of less, broken and spilled out
on the ground, way down, and over the cliff

as I pedaled Salsa onward with great caution
the muse pounded rapidly in my chest
exhilarating and spinning syncronously,
all these cogs, holding onto concentration to the end
and enjoying the ride at the same time

immersed in “Flume-minous” moments,
in the wonder of all,
stopping a few times for a few pictures
only—I sought the Flume to ride
not shoot lots of pics,
and rolled up to the Tunnel Creek trail connector
there, to celebrate, to rest
and added the Flume Trail to my list
of all trails out west,
perhaps, the most scenic
the Salsa—and I, will test