• Riding the High Country

    by  • December 13, 2011 • Fall, Field Trip, Sierra Foothills

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     “Hmmm. Wonder where that goes?” My husband says as we pass by a hidden trail heading into the forest.  Those are familiar words to me and a joy to him as a new trail is a treat to explore with his friends where they’ll find new routes long ago forgotten through the spectacular Sierra National Forest. I know he’ll file that bit in his mind somewhere and go back later to check it out.

    Central Camp Road, near our place

    Central Camp Road, near our place

    It was my husband’s work that brought us here to these woods and a particular joy to me to be able to get up high on granite peaks and deep into pine forests where the pines get shorter as you get higher.

    My View through Maggie's ears

    My View through Maggie's ears

    Access to the forest back roads, fire roads and established jeep trails was a big selling point when choosing where we live now.  Any chance we get to drive up there is taken and we happily explore any unknown road, walk the dog and have a sandwich in the quiet piney air.

    Seven Rock

    Distinctive Seven Rock can be seen from the valley below and is how we spot 'our' mountain

    Yesterday, we took a rare trip up this road, never before taken in December. Most years the snowfall prevents any travel here until long into Spring. On this cloudless blue sky day, we chanced a trip up to find a good walk for the dog.  In fact, since our beloved Corgi has become our friend, we call these trips ‘taking Maggie for a ride’.  During the building of our house, we called them ‘sanity breaks’.

    Here we go…

    Backroads filled with pines, firs and cedars

    Backroads filled with pines, firs and cedars

    Central Camp Road, two miles from our place off the main mountain highway was a road originally used by loggers.  In 1921 a huge camp community was built by the Sugar Pine Lumber Company to log the forest. There were seventy buildings constructed and apparently money was no object at the time…11 million dollars were spent to operate, but after harvesting huge amounts of timber, the entire operation went bankrupt within nine years. Now the area is used as a summer cattle station.

    Bass Lake in late Fall

    Bass Lake in late Fall

    Just up Central Camp Road is an overlook where we have watched fireworks over the lake in July. Usually it’s too snowy to get up here when the lake is low, so we have never seen this view.  Bass Lake is lowered in the winter to hold more rain.  It’s LOW!

    The road bisects huge granite faces

    The road bisects huge granite faces

    It’s not too long before we are in what I call the alpine, where the trees are shorter and there’s a lot more granite.

    One of the most colorful rock walls

    One of the most colorful rock walls

    Some roads are paved and single lane like this and most are dirt.

    Central Camp

    Central Camp

    The sign to Central Camp is marked further in as private property, but you may pass through. There an administrative looking building and a few cabins and the dirt road turns steeply to the left.

    Cedars

    Cedars

    Canyon view

    Canyon view

    At one spot the road opens up to a horseshoe shaped canyon where you can see the road cut into the rock wall on the other side.

    See the road across the canyon

    See the road across the canyon

    Amazing those road crews!  All  the roads here were built to get the logs out.

    Stopping for the view

    Stopping for the view

    Love there pine needle covered dirt roads

    Love there pine needle covered dirt roads

    Look, look, Maggie!

    Either the Park service or private citizens cut trees that cross the road

    Either the Park Service or private citizens cut trees that cross the road.

    Someone has been here before us to cut away the tree.  Before one of my husband’s dualsport rides (a scenic ride for street-legal dirt bikes, called dualsports), he and his friends cut away over 100 trees from roads and trails.  Not as big as this however. The forest is surely a living thing,…always changing….

    A quiet stream

    A quiet stream

    Around a bend is a bridge and this nameless flowing stream. Bare trees that we rarely see in this stage watch over.

    A hidden fall

    A hidden fall

    There’s a neat waterfall in this corner, he says. Oh,…what’s this stream, I ask.  Don’t know….

    I can imagine that the water just roars over these rocks, from edge to edge, in snow melt.

    Manzanita grows thickly on the roadside

    Manzanita grows thickly on the roadside

    The road winds higher and higher but the manzanita still grows lush and green on either side of the road. This could be Arctostaphylos patula or green leaf manzanita which is found over 5000 feet commonly and hugs the terrain, taking it’s shape.

    Ice on the road caused us a short detour

    Ice on the road caused us a short detour

    Oops! Thick ice…. and we switch into v.  After only one slight uphill, my husband swings off onto a dirt side road.  We’ll avoid any problems with this impressively thick ice and I’m grateful that he knows this forest so well. We can go on.

    Snow fell in the middle of November

    Snow fell up here in the middle of November

    Back on the road to Nelder Grove where we planned to walk, we were stopped ,…by a closed gate. Plans change and we go on to The Shadow of the Giants trail.

    The Shadow of the Giants trail

    The Shadow of the Giants trail

    Maggie’s glad to be out of that bumpy car.  The last few miles were very rocky. This bridge, I’d like to take home with us.

    Fallen tree on the trail

    Fallen tree on the trail

    It's all about getting the dog enough exercise

    It's all about getting the dog enough exercise

    The Giants are Sequoias

    The 'Giants' are the Sequoias

    The Giants, of course are the giant sequoias, Sequoiadendron giganteum, trees beloved by my parents. They took their honeymoon at Sequoia National Park in 1948 and had an affection for the species of only one kind ever since. We went to Sequoia or Yosemite as a family, too, on vacation every year. We always had a convertible car when I was growing up, ‘so we could see the tops of the trees’ my Dad would say. Neither parent lived to see that I am now in the shadow of these great trees and that this beloved area is now my home.

    Maggie needed to sniff everything

    Maggie needed to sniff everything, traces of wilder animals than she, no doubt.

    The trail this day is crowded and we pass the family of four, their happy voices breaking into our peace and quiet.  We decide to share realizing that many people think of this forest and this trail as their trail and their place and their home.

    The Road Not Taken
    by Robert Frost

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less travelled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

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    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.