Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

After leaving the snowy pass of Grand Staircase-Escalante Nation Monument, we continued April’s Spring Break trip down out of the mountains toward Capitol Reef National Park. By the time we reached Torrey, UT at the edge of the park, we had dropped out of the mountains a long way, but were still at 6,837 ft elevation! Once again I was caught off guard how high this part of the country is. I had expected a warmer, low elevation vacation.

Capitol Reef
A chilly morning near the park entrance

Our road trip was nearing its end, and soon we’d have to turn around for the two day trip back to Carson City, NV. Capitol Reef covers a large area with a diverse landscape filled with cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges. There is much to see. One of our first stops was at the Visitor Center to get some ideas on where to go.

Capitol Reef
Visitor Center

The ranger at the Visitor Center was really helpful, and gave us a list of things we could do in a day without a lot of driving and hiking. A good sampling of the park for someone on a short time budget.  There was also a good selection of books and informative displays in the center.

Capitol Reef
Petroglyphs made by the Fremont people

Our next destination was the petroglyphs just east of the visitor center along the Fremont River. These rock drawings were left by the Fremont culture, Native Americans that lived in this area around 1000 CE, and are in surprisingly good shape. According to Wikipedia, the Fremont people irrigated crops of lentils, maize, and squash and stored their grain in stone granaries. We would see one of these granaries on one of our later hikes.

Capitol Reef
Hickman Bridge Trailhead on the Fremont River

Continue reading “Capitol Reef National Park”

Return to 20 Lakes Basin

Return to 20 Lakes Basin

About a year had passed since we backpacked the 20 Lakes Basin in 2011. What a difference a year makes. The Sierras received far less snow last winter. There wasn’t nearly as much standing water, and the grass had already started to turn brown. But probably the most notable change was the lack of mosquitoes. We did see a few here and there, but they didn’t seem all that hungry. Compare this to last year when mosquitoes put our tent under siege!

Twenty Lakes Basin
Driving up Tioga Pass

We began our return to the 20 Lakes Basin by leaving way too late from Carson City on a Sunday afternoon back in July. We’re still getting the hang of packing for overnight backpacking trips. Although you can only take what you can carry on your back, it’s still a bit of an art to make sure you remember everything, while at the same time, not over-packing and making your pack too heavy. Forgetting one little item can create hardship, but carrying a few too many pounds can create a huge burden. By the time we got to the Mono Lake Visitor Center to get our Hoover Wilderness permits, it was nearly 5 PM.

Twenty Lakes Basin
Getting Started at Saddlebag Lake

We still had enough time to hike to camp if we hurried, but thunderstorms were starting to rumble in the mountains above. We had to make a decision. Risk hiking in a thunderstorm at 10,000 feet, only to make camp just before dark? Or stay low for the night and get an early start in the morning? There wasn’t much to gain by sticking to the plan, and following the plan could certainly lead to problems. We decided to have dinner in Lee Vining instead, and look for a campground in the lower area of Tioga Pass.

Twenty Lakes Basin
Leading the Way

We found a pizza place with an outside patio out of the wind. It was also right next to our car so our dogs could keep an eye on us and not get too upset. After dinner, we drove up Tioga Pass to the Lower Lee Vining Campground. The campground is clean enough, but it was busy and loud. One nearby neighbor had a noisy generator hooked up to his RV that competed with the sound of the rushing creek. The generator ran late into the night, and I tried to imagine what on earth it was powering. I finally settled on the idea that the RV occupant had to be inside an iron lung. Why else would they disturb the rest of the campground if it wasn’t absolutely necessary?

Twenty Lakes Basin
Making our way around Saddlebag Lake

Continue reading “Return to 20 Lakes Basin”

First Snowshoe of the Season

We first got our snowshoes in early December of 2011, hoping to diversify our wintertime activities. The snow never came, so we put them under the Christmas tree. The snow still refused to fall, and so the snowshoes sat by the front door for yet another month. A few pathetic winter storms finally blew through the Sierras by the end of January. We were finally able to get out on the snowshoes, but with only a couple inches of snow at some of the places we went, we probably could have gotten away with snow boots. Still, it was enough experience to figure out that we liked it.

Snowshoeing at Carson Pass
Meiss Trailhead at Carson Pass

I had never really considered snowshoes until recently, always hanging on to the idea of being able to coast down the hill. I grew up cross country skiing, and have always liked the go-anywhere style of touring skis. Although there are nice groomed Nordic skiing resorts, there are still plenty of places to ski in the mountains that don’t require an expensive trail pass. What I don’t like about my touring skis, though, is that they’re clumsy…or, rather, that they make me clumsy. Turning around or navigating tight terrain takes a lot of balance and finesse. And descending on touring skis pretty much guarantees a face-plant or some other kind of wipe-out. I’ve found that the older I get, the less I enjoy hitting the ground. During one of last year’s trips to Mount Rose Meadows, I was surprised to see that most of the people were now on snowshoes. Perhaps others share my feelings.

Snowshoeing at Carson Pass
MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes

Although not really significant yet, we’ve started out the 2012-13 snow season a little better than last year. The Carson Pass area seemed to be heavier hit in the last series of storms, so this is where I decided to explore last weekend. I grabbed my California SNO-PARK permit, and drove up Highway 88 to see what I could find. Hope Valley was pretty much all melted, and it wasn’t until a couple miles later I started to see any snow accumulations worthy of strapping on snowshoes. There were a few trucks unloading snowmobiles at Red Lake, and then by the time I reached the top of Carson Pass, there was plenty of snow. The Carson Pass SNO-PARK was open, but I drove just a little further to the Meiss Trailhead SNO-PARK on the north side of the highway.

Snowshoeing at Carson Pass
Getting Started

Continue reading “First Snowshoe of the Season”