September 28, 2017 Bend, Oregon

Exploring the Cascades

Below Sahalie Falls
Below Sahalie Falls

With some wonderful autumn weather presenting itself, I drove about 80 miles north of Bend to check on foliage on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. While traveling south on Route 126 towards Belknap I happened to stop to check out a couple of waterfalls along the way, Koosah Falls and Sahalie Falls.

Sahalie Falls
Sahalie Falls

Unfortunately, instead of my camera gear, I only took Sam along with me for a longer than expected, though still short, walk along the trail to Koosah Falls. I did take the camera gear down the trail to Sahalie Falls and will be going back to revisit both falls on a better day for water shots, less in the way of perfect blue skies.

Oregon Foliage
Oregon Foliage

Mostly coniferous forests here in Oregon, so fall foliage is certainly not the same as back in New Hampshire, but if you search long enough, there are some stretches of mixed forest here and there, and that is the case along Route 126.

Oregon Foliage
Oregon Foliage
Kayakers on Clear Lake
Kayakers on Clear Lake
Lava Fields Foliage
Lava Fields Foliage

The one thing here that is unavailable in New Hampshire is a shot of fall foliage in a lava field. Throughout the Cascades there are many large lava fields and the pioneer plants that take hold in these fields do tend to be deciduous shrubs and trees.

Yesterday I completed round 5 of 6 of my chemo treatments at the Bend Memorial Clinic. One more three treatment round and I will be swapped over to a Revlimid maintenance treatment and taken off the steroids and other chemo drugs. Might take a couple more weeks here in Bend to get the new maintenance dosage adjusted since my oncologist plans on starting off with some pretty low dosages. So it is looking like early November before making my escape from Bend for warmer climes.

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April 6, 2017 Mariposa Fairground, California

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls

A Final Visit to Yosemite National Park

El Capitan
El Capitan

A spectacular valley without a doubt! I had been wanting to revisit Yosemite for many years but was usually going through that part of California either too early or too late in the year. So this year I waited out the weather and finally yesterday made it into the park.

Yosemite
Yosemite

Mariposa Fairgrounds Campground

Since every campsite in Yosemite was reserved ( and this is early April, not exactly peak season ), I chose to stay at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, just south of the town of Mariposa. This is just a grass ( turned to mud during the 3 days of rain I experienced here ) field with only a couple level spots, but they do have electric and water hookups AND a very useable wifi   system. Right next to the highway and spaces are pretty tight, but at $30/night, a bargain in                   $$$ California.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls

When I arrived the only open road into the National Park was Route 41 into the south entrance of the park. This meant backtracking on Route 49 and picking up Route 41 in Oakhurst, a long way around to access the park, took about 2 hours, what with a tree clearing road closure for 40 minutes on Route 41 and then a 25 minute wait at the ticket booth for the park. Fortunately, while I was in the park, Route 140, the western entrance to the park, that had been closed due to a road washout, was reopened and it only took me about 45 minutes to return to my campsite in the afternoon.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls

With this winter’s above normal snowfall in the Sierras, all of Yosemite’s waterfalls are pretty impressive right now.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls
Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls

Due to the prolonged drought and the bark beetle, a lot of the trees within, and outside, the park have died and the valley looks a little more worn and desolate because of this. The huge crowds, even now, at the beginning of April, also contribute to the worn appearance of the park, loved to death, I suppose.

Spring Runoff Yosemite
Spring Runoff Yosemite

The large parking lot at the Visitor’s Center and Lower Yosemite Falls was completely full, and despite circling around the lots twice, I was unable to find a spot to park here. And, again, remember, this is in early April, not peak summer time. I know I would never want to experience this place that time of the year.

Spring Runoff Yosemite
Spring Runoff Yosemite

Without a doubt, this place is still a miracle of Mother Nature, but it is just too small an area to handle the millions of people that visit each year. Unlike other popular Parks like Yellowstone or Glacier, all the visitors are concentrated in a relatively compact area on the valley floor as oppose to being spread over several hundred square miles as in Yellowstone.

Blown Away
Blown Away

This waterfall appeared to be completely blown away by the winds howling along at the top of the canyon walls.

Blown Away
Blown Away

The road to Glacier Point and also Route 120 that comes over the mountains from the east side of the Sierras, are both still closed as usual until much later in the spring. I guess that means I will never get to see the view from the upper reaches of the park, since I can’t imagine coming back again. Still an awe inspiring valley, if only we could get rid of all the tourists!

So now it’s on to the coast, Bodega Bay, for a few days of yet more rain, then slowly continue my trek north, along the Oregon coast.

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April 1, 2017 Lake Kaweah, California

Potholes
Potholes

Still Waiting Out Weather Conditions for Yosemite

While waiting for the snow to stop falling and messing up opportunities to explore Yosemite National Park, I have been poking around the back roads around Three Rivers, California, and, once again, when weather permits, taking drives up into Sequoia National Park. The shot above shows a potholed stream at the end of Mineral King Road, just outside Three Rivers.

The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198
The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198

Last post I showed a Google Maps image of the serpentine road leading up into the sequoia groves …

Serpentine Road to the Sequoia Groves
Serpentine Road to the Sequoia Groves

… but I thought this image taken from the road itself would give a better idea of just how severe a mountain drive this is.

Mountain Stream
Mountain Stream

But one of the advantages gained by climbing this road up into the 7000′ elevation range is discovering snow melt filled streams like this one running through the tall pines.

Mountain Stream
Mountain Stream

Snowpack measured in the Sierras this spring show levels up to 190% of normal accumulations, a very good sign of California finally getting a little break from the severe drought conditions of the past several years.

Potholes
Potholes

Being up here this early does present many obstacles to getting to explore the upper elevations ( roads closed due to snow accumulation ) around Sequoia National Park, but it also does give one access to many steams that later in the year have most likely all but dried up and disappeared.

Spring Runoff
Spring Runoff
Spring Runoff
Spring Runoff
Potholes
Potholes
Redbud and Mountain Stream
Redbud and Mountain Stream

Still finding redbud blooms while exploring the upper elevations!

Hope to proceed up to Yosemite in the next day or two as there appears to be a brief window of favorable weather approaching.

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March 23, 2017 Lake Kaweah, California

Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

Patiently Waiting on the Weather

Horse Creek Campground on Lake Kaweah, California
Horse Creek Campground on Lake Kaweah, California

Two days ago, I made the short move from Lake Success to Kaweah Lake and the Army Corps of Engineers Horsecreek Campground. I settled in on a fairly level campsite all but on the campground loop road. Fortunately, there are very few other campers here right now so I really haven’t been bothered by any traffic. I took this particular site because there are no other sites anywhere near it and it is fairly level … and level sites are pretty scarce in this campground. All the sites are primitive but there is a dump station on site, though I have yet to find any drinking water source here. Camping fee is $20/ night with a 50% senior discount making it $10. This place is probably very popular in the summer months, but with the roads up in the National Parks still intermittently closed by snow, most sites are empty right now.

Despite the very steep surrounding foothills I was able to get my rooftop satellite to lock on and surprisingly, there is a very strong Verizon signal here for some decent internet connectivity, something I have been lacking for the last several weeks.

Collapsing Arch
Collapsing Arch

Directly across the loop road from my site is a collapsing stone arch with a rubble pile of boulders below it, tumbling right down to the road’s edge.

Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits

And the rubble pile is home to several cottontail rabbits that are constantly hopping all over the rocks and ducking down under them every time they see the shadow of a black vulture or raven flying overhead.

Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits

Their antics are kind of fun to watch when I am stuck in the RV during the rainy days.

And speaking of rain … there has been plenty of it lately and more is forecast. I have made a couple of forays up into Sequoia National Park but can only venture in a dozen miles or so before encountering rain … or sleet … or snow … and always running into clouds ( literally ) once I get up to 3000′ elevation, and that makes any kind of photography impossible.

Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras
Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras

The entrance into the park is at about 800′ elevation and the sequoias grow at an elevation of 6000′-7000′. The morning I took the beautiful spring shots  ( above and below ) I ran into snow and ice just 12 miles into the park, probably no more than 15 miles from where these two shots were taken.

Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras
Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras

In the distance of just 15 miles of serpentine road climbing up into the park, probably no more than 8 or 10 miles as the crow flies, you go from beautiful sunny weather in the low 60’s to snow and ice and freezing temperatures … pretty amazing contrasts in weather here right now.

Kaweah River Rapids
Kaweah River Rapids

The Kaweah River runs next to the park road and there are some wonderful overlooks along the road. This is all snow melt runoff from the first good snow year in the Sierras in quite a few years.

Kaweah River
Kaweah River
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

Redbuds are in bloom from 2000′ to 4000′ elevation along the park road and when the clouds allow, they are something to see.

Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

I have only made it up to the elevation where the sequoias grow one time so far and everything was enveloped in a very thick fog, actually a cloud I suppose, so I didn’t bother taking any shoots. But there are supposed to be a couple decent days coming this week and I am sure I will eventually make it all the way up the mountains and into the sequoia groves, so stay tuned.

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