Although we planned this east side trip for high desert and seeing Bodie, the Virginia Lakes hike was an unexpected surprise. Chris Savastio, one of my soil survey crew, had been here earlier in the summer and kept insisting that I should see it. We decided to spend our third day on the east side of the mountains exploring these lakes.I have so many photos of this lovely chain of hanging valley lakes that it's hard to choose, so just check out the link to see all of it. The hike was just challenging enough to be fun, and I was hoping that I wouldn't have a problem with the elevation, and think that our two days of camping at 7,000 feet helped a bit. I made it to the 11,100 foot pass without any problems. Abby had her fill of swimming in each lake and some of the highest ponds, the winds weren't unbearable, and of course, the views from the pass were breathtaking.
The hike was only 6 miles or so, round trip, but we spent most of the day on the trail and were happy to get back home to our camp and the last evening campfire supper. Our last night out before returning home saw the temperature drop to 34 degrees, and in the morning the heater felt very good and the generator was a good thing to have!
Mo took down the solar panel, we buttoned up the MoHo is short order and waved bye to each other as she headed back north to Klamath and I followed the gorgeous Sonora Pass back to Jamestown. Truly a perfect weekend with just a little bit of everything wonderful
After traveling through the desert all day, it was wonderful to return to our private camp, rest a bit, and then take Abby up to the lakes again for a swim. We saw people fishing and walking or biking with great strings of very large trout, so it must be a good fishing lake. There are actually two lakes, with the lower Twin being a bit more private and accessible through the back way along the east side, and the upper lake has steeper banks with the Twin Lakes Resort on the southern end. The water was crystal clear and just a bit chilly, but Abby didn't mind at all. I only made it in up to my thighs! Ended the evening with some writing time and a wonderful campfire supper of zuchinni with onions and garlic, a fresh salad, and t-bone steaks, which of course were a hit with Abby as well. Once again, no bugs! Amazing. While I was sitting at the picnic table writing this post, Mo looked up from the fire she was tending and said, "How could anyone ask for anything better than this??" We both decided this was one of the most relaxed and restful sites we have camped in to date.
Just for fun, click here to see a video of Abby enjoying swimming at Twin Lakes.
Photos of Bodie are here:
Deciding on an early breakfast of coffee and little powdered sugar baby donuts, we planned an early start for our adventure to Bodie. We gassed up in Bridgeport, at 3.99 per gallon for regular gas, in the midst of motorcycle rallies, a big rodeo, art shows on the courthouse lawn, and general busy-ness. Once we left Bridgeport, however, things quieted down again, even on 395. The road to Bodie from the highway is only 13 miles, 10 of it paved, and was a bit curvy but not a problem at all.
We have often traveled past the HWY 270 sign to Bodie, thinking we should go there, and for one reason or another never made it. Initially we thought we might boondock along this road, after receiving some correspondence from the BLM saying it was ok to do so. But even though there were some possible wide places in the road, it still is much less private and at this time of year we wouldn't be able to have a fire in the evening, which we can do back at our forest service campground.
Bodie was wonderful, and a bit sad. I first saw this piece of old western history in 1971 when my children were small, and there were no people around then, and no fees. Today it costs 5 bucks per person to enter the park, with an extra 2 bucks for a really nice self guided tour book, well worth the price. We wandered the town with lots of other people, marveling at the history, and the fact that Main Street was once a mile long bordered on both sides by buildings, bars, hotels, and restaurants.
I haven't included any more photos of the town because they are all so interesting that it is impossible to choose particular photos that really catch the feeling of the place. At one time Bodie boasted 10,000 people and 68 bars. The state of California has managed to preserve things as they were left when the town finally gave up in the 1930's in a way that doesn't detract from the originality and mood of what it must have been like to live there. Even so, Bodie is now one of the State Parks of California scheduled to close because of California's budget woes. It would be a truly sad thing to lose this place to vandals and such because of the state's management by crisis and focus on so many things of less importance than maintaining some of our history. There is no other ghost town that I know of in the west that is quite like this one.
Rumor was going around that the state also planned to sell off the artifacts on EBay to make money. Reading about the "Bodie Curse" befalling anyone who took even a rock or a plant from the place makes me wonder what would happen to those buying artifacts from Bodie!
We left the busy parking lot and dusty road to return to Bridgeport following the back way through the Bodie hills, with views of the Sierra's and the desert of Nevada to the west. Found a great little spot near a spring for a picnic lunch, where once more my trusty sleeping bag served us well, providing nice comfort on the hard ground. Abby loved it. We then wound down Aurora Canyon back into Bridgeport.
Tracking another backway, we took the Buckeye road from just west of Bridgeport along the base of the mountains with fabulous views of the Bridgeport Valley. This valley is one of the most extensive wetland valleys I have seen outside of Klamath, and there were literally thousands of cattle grazing on the lush grass.
We got another perspective of the valley by taking the Buckeye road south from 395 into Twin Lakes area. Beautiful! The Buckeye campground is back from this dirt access road another mile or so and can be a bit rough. We probably wouldn't want to take the MoHo there, but did see some bigger rigs camped, and even some empty spaces available on this Holiday weekend Saturday. In addition, at the crossroads on Buckeye road is the Buckeye spring, which was filled with people the day we passed so we chose not to go there. It is a "clothing optional" spring on the side of the hills above the creek. I plan to check it out someday, but probably not on a weekend!
Backway photos are here:
Mo and I decided that we really wanted to get to the back side of the Sierra's one more time before I move home to Oregon permanently. The great part of this plan for me was the fact that Sonora Pass, HWY 108, is still open and my trip to Bridgeport took just a little over 2 hours compared to Mo's 8 hour journey from Klamath via HWY 395. I got to Bridgeport around 11:30 , so had a little time before our 1PM meeting arrangement to go find a campsite for us. Again, it is a holiday weekend, and for some reason we seem to plan these spontaneously, without making reservations. There are more than half a dozen campgrounds along the Robinson River leading up to Twin Lakes. Humbolt-ToiyabeNF Camping. We thought at least some of the campsites were still available on a first-come-first-served basis, but very few were still open when I arrived on Friday morning. I drove around a few of the campgrounds, and realized that I was lucky to find a very open, somewhat exposed site in Honeymoon Flat Campground, so I grabbed it, put down an old sleeping bag that was in the back of my truck so it would appear taken, and drove back to Bridgeport. Mo arrived on time, and we set up camp and decided to explore our little valley, discovering in the process that we really had the best site of all. Even though it is open, without much shade, there are aspens around fluttering in the breezes, the sites are huge, and somehow sitting in camp, we see no one at all. Parking my truck perpendicular to the MoHo between the table and firepit made for a perfect little home that felt just right. We watched the sunset on the Sawtooth Ridge and the Matterhorn over Twin Lakes to the south.
The night temperature was perfect, down to 41, with a full moon and the MoHo stayed warm enough for comfortable sleeping without any extra heat, dropping just to the 50's by morning.
I suppose the only drawback was the holiday traffic on Twin lakes Road, but with the sound of the wind and the noisy creek it all blended together eventually.
I am visiting Mo in Oregon for a few days, and once again, we launched our kayaks on our favorite local canoe trail, part of the Upper Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It's less than a mile from home to the launch at Rocky Point, but this time we decided to launch at Malone Spring and travel north to Crystal Spring.
Every season has a different feeling on the refuge, and this was no exception. We realized that it had been awhile since we traveled this route in full summer, and the tules were nearly 10 feet high. The water was lower than we have experienced, and filled with plants, but as usual, crystal clear. This is the kind of waterway that makes kayaking such a treasure. There is really no other way than a kayak or a canoe to really experience this kind of wild land.
The water was still and sweet, and for the first time, the air was still as well. With temperatures in the low 80's and no winds, it was just about as perfect as kayaking can be on still water with a slight current. Crystal Springs was green and clear and deep, and on the way back down the river the current carried us along with very little effort. We saw two sandhill cranes flying over the marsh, with their unique croaking sounds, and great egrets, white herons, merganser ducks, blackbirds, and willets, and some pelicans cruising in the distance. A highlight was the pair of otters watching us with curiosity from their playground along the banks of the marsh.
Abby finally learned that she can actually relax in the kayak, and I had great fun attempting to video part of the trip with the camera perched on the bill of my cap. Check it out here
Later in the week we again took advantage of the west side of the Upper Refuge. It was nearly 5pm, a little early for supper, so we thought, "why not? let's go out for a short kayak". In 10 minutes we were on the water, launching this time from Rocky Point. Even though it wasn't a weekend, the launch was busy with boats and canoes, fishermen, and kids. The breeze was blowing but we thought heading south into Pelican Bay might be a different trip so we took off and in minutes were out of the congestion.
Pelican Bay is a western arm of Klamath Lake, and Crystal Creek leads north directly into the marsh from this bay. We paddled along the tules, and in spite of the late hour couldn't resist going just a little bit into the marsh on the creek. Once protected by the tules and carex there was much less wind, and for no reason that we could figure out, in spite of paddling upstream, it felt as though we were being pulled north by an invisible tide. Smooth, quiet, deep water. It's been a long time since we were on this part of the canoe trail, and we had never done it upstream. Time slid by like the water, and before long we knew that we were going to attempt to go all the way and connect up again with Recreation Creek to the west.
Just a little bit of adrenalin makes everything a bit more fun, because it was getting later, we weren't sure how far it was to the Wocus Cut, and neither of us wanted to be on the marsh in the dark. Finally we found the Wocus Cut signs, and noticed just how low the water was at this time of year. The cut is about a mile crossing shallow areas of the marsh filled with wocus and open water. What we discovered on this late evening was that the water was barely 4 inches deep. Paddling a mile in shallow water, with our boats sometimes sliding along the silty mucky marsh soils was challenging, with our paddles often digging into the muck to try to move forward. Getting out of your boat in these organic mucky soils is not an option. You will sink to your armpits and become food for whatever. Finally, just after the sun set behind Pelican Butte we reached Recreation Creek and paddled effortlessly downstream to the Rocky Point launch and home..
Maybe August isn't a good time to attempt the Wocus Cut across the marsh!