Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Charity Valley Trail crossing Grover Hot Springs State Park

The Charity Valley Trail east of Markleeville in Alpine County, California, connects the meadows and campground around the Grover Hot Springs with the Blue Lakes Road trailhead in the Charity Valley (west-end Charity Valley trailhead). The east-end Charity Valley Trailhead is also named Burnside Lake Trailhead, since a trail that branches off Charity Valley Trail leads to Burnside Lake. The trailhead board gives the following distances: Charity Valley 4.5, west-end Charity Valley trailhead 7.5 and Burnside Lake 6.5 miles. Grover Hot Springs State Park's campground is only a half-mile away from the trailhead. Skirting the campground, you will, after 1.3 miles from start, get to a junction, at which you have the option to leave the Charity Valley Trail and head for a waterfall—1.2 miles southwest from this junction. Continuing uphill on Charity Valley Trail for another 2.2 miles, you'll reach the junction from where you may either continue to Charity Valley (3 miles) and to Blue Lakes Road (4 miles) or, switchbacking further uphill, to Burnside Lake and Burnside Lake Road (2 miles).

The eastern sections of the Charity Valley Trail are mainly going along a south-facing, granite-boulder-studded canyon slope (top picture) and parallel to Hot Springs Creek, which flows downhill through Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest land and Grover Hot Springs State Park towards the Carson River. The western trail sections follow the canyon of Charity Valley Creek. Hot Springs Creek is flanked by forest of pines, firs and cedars. Depending on the season, you will observe interesting plants, mushrooms and animals. The picture above shows a mistletoe hanging down from a vertical branch of a juniper tree. The busy woodpecker, photographed in early November of this year, knew where to peck—and finally was rewarded with a big worm hidden within the bark of the conifer tree.

Getting to the east-end Charity Valley trailhead
The east-end trailhead is located about three miles west of Markleeville. From Highway 89 in Markleeville, drive west on Hot Springs Road. After about one mile, pass the Pleasant Valley Road junction, from where you can get to the Thornburg Canyon trailhead. Continue on Hot Springs Road for another two miles until you approach the well-signed trailhead. Find parking on unpaved ground to the right.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lake Tahoe's Rubicon Trail

The Rubicon Trail along the shores of Lake Tahoe's southwest corner connects Vikingsholm Mansion at the head of Emerald Bay with attractions in D. L. Bliss State Park such as Rubicon Point's Lighthouse and the Balancing Rock. The two-mile trail section along the Emerald Bay shore between the Vikingsholm grounds and Emerald Point offers various views of Fannette Island—the focal point from about any place in and above the bay.

Fannette Island in Emerald Bay

From Emerald Point, Rubicon trail winds and climbs northward passing large boulders, cozy coves and tiny beaches. Multiple vista point invite for short breaks and magnificent views. Certain points allow a direct view down into the deep blue, leaving it to your imagination to further dive down into the submerged West Tahoe Fault (WTF). Earthquakes have occurred in this area in prehistoric time. They will happen again. Certain sections of the Rubicon Trail are probably high enough to be considered as a tsunami escape route; although falling trees, falling rocks and landslides are other possible threats. Indeed, the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe is an exciting place, staging both drama and serenity. 

Getting to the Rubicon Trailhead in Emerald Bay State Park
There are fee-based and no-fee parking areas available along Highway 89 (Emerald Bay Road) above Emerald Bay. The parking fee for the Vikingsholm parking lot on the eastside of the highway is currently $10.00 (see http://www.vikingsholm.org/tours.html). But arriving during the right time, early or off-season, you may find free parking on the westside between the Vikingsholm and Eagle Falls parking areas. From there, carefully cross the highway and take the short trail next to the highway to access the Vikingsholm parking lot, from where a steep, well-maintained trail leads down to the Rubicon Trailhead and Vikingsholm Castle.   

Note: There is a loading/unloading dock for private boats. This dock is located close to the Rubicon Trailhead at the Vikingsholm beach. Unfortunately, tour boats do not provide disembarking services in Emerald Bay. However, non-motorized Tahoe visitors have a chance to get to the bay by bus from both North Shore and South Shore locations. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The next long trail: Carson Valley Discovery Trail in the Pine Nut Mountains

The Pine Nut Mountains stretch for almost forty miles north-south from Dayton in northwestern Nevada to Topaz Lake at the Nevada-California stateline [1]. This mountain range with peaks as high as 7,300 feet is located east of the Sierra Nevada, bounded on its west side by the Carson Valley and on its east by the Mason Valley.

A new 45-mile-long, non-motorized, recreational trail, which will include five loop trails, is proposed along the westside of the Pine Nut Mountains: Carson Valley Discovery Trail. The Carson City Sierra Front Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is coordinating environmental and national historic preservation assessments in order to begin with the trail construction [2-4]. On November 14, from 5 to 7 pm, a public workshop for community input is scheduled at Pinon Hills Elementary School, 1479 Stephanie Way, Minden [4].

Keywords: trail planning, trail construction, trail network, hiking, outdoors.

References and more to explore
[1] SummitPost: Pine Nut Mountains - Nevada [www.summitpost.org/pine-nut-mountains-nevada/623219].
[2] BLM News Release, Carson City District: BLM Seeks Input on the Proposed Carson Valley Discovery Trail. October 25, 2012 [www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/october/blm_seeks_input_on.html].
[3] U.S. Department of the Interior: Carson Valley Discovery Trail, Public Scoping. October 31, 2012 [www.carsonvalleytrails.org/docs/EastCarsonValley/ECVTS_ScopingInfo.pdf].
[4] Reno Gazette-Journal, Outdoors Briefs: BLM seeks input on Carson Valley Discovery Trail. November 1, 2012; 3C [www.rgj.com/article/20121101/LIV08/311010041/BLM-seeks-input-Carson-Valley-Discovery-Trail].

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lola Montez Lake Trail

Lola Montez Lake Trail is a hiking and mountain biking trail, which connects its trailhead next to the fire station at the Soda Springs exit of Interstate 80 between Sacramento and Truckee with the Lower and Upper Lola Montez Lakes—and also with the Hole in the Ground trail. Since there are two lakes, both named for the legendary gold-rush actress and dancer Lola Montez, the trail name also occurs in plural form: Lola Montez Lakes Trail, as the trailhead sign on the page Lower Lola Montez Lake, Sierra Nevada, California shows (see paragraph Getting to Lola Montez Lakes Trailhead).

The new signpost shown above is located about half a mile from the trailhead, where the beginning single-track trail meets a gravel road. This road descends to Lower Castle Creek. A short distance past the creek crossing, another single-track section ascends from a marked junction to the next gravel-road section. Following this road, which passes by private property and no-trespassing signs, will take you into Tahoe National Forest territory and therein to a junction, at which the Hole in the Ground Trail branches off to the right, connecting Lola Montez Lakes with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). A short westbound walk from the junction, Lower Lola Montez Lake comes into view. The upper lake can be reached via the single-track trail along the northwest shore, from where one needs to climb and cross the granite landscape seen in the back of the picture.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Out of the Truckee River Canyon to the TRT and Painted Rock area

The Truckee River Canyon between Truckee and Tahoe City features a string of camp grounds and picnic areas. Various biking and hiking trails can be accessed from within the canyon. Other trails, such as the Sawtooth Trail, skirt the canyon and provide scenic vista points. Most prominent, the Western States Trail, which in major sections coincidences with the nation's first non-motorized, coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail (ADT) [1], crosses the canyon.

The Painted Rock area along the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is only a few miles away from where the Western State Trail crosses the Truckee River. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders have the option of a moderate out-and-back trip to the Painted Rock(s) or a longer loop-including round trip, which has recently been described in a detailed, GPS-tracked trailhiker post [2]. Interestingly, it is not clear where, exactly, the Painted Rock is to be found. In my opinion, there are many painted rocks— assuming that the term painted rock refers to a rock with lichen- and erosion-based coloring and shading. The top picture with brain-like rock structures are located next to the TRT junction, while the others are found further to the east along the Watson-Lake-bound TRT.

Getting to the Western States Trail crossing and the TRT
The Western States Trails crosses the Truckee River on a Highway 89 bridge half-way between the Squaw Valley and the Alpine Meadows turnoffs. Driving south, you may find right-side shoulder parking before or after this bridge, overpassing the Truckee river and bike trail. Parking space is very limited. Just before driving onto the bridge, you'll see the Western States Trail signpost to your right. From the south end of the bridge, the Truckee Bike Trail can be accessed. Underpass the bridge on the bike trail and immediately ascend to find yourself on the opposite side of Highway 89. Here, the eastbound Western State Trail starts as a single-track trail. The trail winds out of the canyon for about two miles through pine and fir forest. Turn left at its junction with the TRT. Good luck with the painted rocks!    
References and more to discover
[1] American Discovery Trail: California [www.discoverytrail.org/states/california/ca_info.html].
[2] trailhiker: Western States Trail - Painted Rock loop from CA-89 [trailhiker.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/western-states-trail-painted-rock-loop-from-ca-89/]

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Gregory Creek Trailhead to Tahoe Donner trail network

The Gregory Creek Trailhead (GCTH) is a popular gateway to the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT). This trailhead is located just north of the Donner Lake exit of Interstate 80 between Donner Summit and Truckee, California. From here, Summit Lake is 3.5 miles away. About the same distance applies to the trail that connects the GCTH with its toponymic overlook and the end (or beginning) of Gregory Creek Overlook Trail. The straight distance between GCTH and Gregory Overlook at the steep southern edge of the Donner Ridge is less than a mile. You do not want to climb up directly. Instead, the trail, used by mountain bikers and hikers, follows Gregory Creek northward to the Drifter Hut plateau. It then U-turns southward and continues along the slope below Donner Ridge.

The whole trail is single-track. At the Gregory Creek Trail/DLRT junction (about one mile from GCTH), you will take the right DLRT branch—the direction given as Drifter Hut and Glacier Way on the signpost. On this DLRT section you are going to leave the riparian habitat and climb up the forested slope until you get to the outcrops shown in the picture above. A few more switchbacks and you'll reach a plateau, which belongs to a patch of the Tahoe National Forest next to the area with the Tahoe Donner trail network. Watch out for the DLRT post signaling the almost-180-degree turn. Now comes an easy-going mile with magnificent views. At the vista site (posted as Negro Canyon Overlook), DLRT currently ends; but you are at another Tahoe Donner entry point, connecting with the Glacier Way Trailhead and further ridge, overlook and loop trails—actually, well-marked fire road trails.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gregory Creek Overlook Trail

Gregory Creek Overlook Trail is a short trail connecting the Glacier Way Trailhead with the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT). The signpost at the end of the overlook trail, where the DLRT starts, still uses the designation Negro Canyon Overlook Trail. This seems to be politically incorrect, since the word Negro here does not present the Spanish adjective for black; but, instead, refers to a person of black ancestry or appearance. There is the possibility that the name refers to Albert Johnson, an African American and resident of Donner Lake around 1878 [1]:
Johnson was well known and respected, and was a cook at the Truckee Hotel and later worked as a cook on a Lake Tahoe steamer. [...]. Eventually, he began renting cabins at Donner Lake near the output of Gregory Creek, which flows from Negro Canyon [sic!]. Unfortunately, his name does not appear on land or property records, making it difficult to establish if he has any official connection to the Negro Canyon name.

Let's stay with the name Gregory Creek for the canyon and, as done above, with the name Gregory Creek Overlook Trail for the Tahoe-Donner fire road trail, which ends at the marker with number 22 (see map). This scenic spot offers views of the western tip of  Donner Lake, Donner Pass Road with Rainbow Bridge, Mt. Judah, Roller.Pass and other features of the Pacific Crest. From this point and during a hike along the adjacent northbound section of the DLRT one gets various views of Gregory Creek. The picture below shows the DLRT section west of the junction, at which the Wendin Way Access Trail (not seen, since at the canyon bottom), also named Gregory Creek Trail (but not Negro Canyon Trail), meets the DLRT. Obviously, the mapping of this area has experienced a history of naming confusion. Fortunately, all its trails are easy to find and also well marked, when it comes to giving directions to destinations such as Summit Lake, Drifter Hut and Glacier Way.

Keywords: (in)correct naming, toponyms, hiking, mountain biking, vista points, Donner Lake, Sierra Nevada.

[1] Truckee Open Space > Negro Canyon (Upper Gregory Creek) [www.tdlandtrust.org/truckee-open-space].

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tahoe Donner Glacier Way Trailhead: walks, views and DLRT access

The Glacier Way Trailhead gives Tahoe Donner visitors access to the trail network of this neighborhood northwest of Central Truckee in California. Most trails are fire roads allowing various non-motorized uses. For your orientation, trailheads and intersections are numbered on the Tahoe Donner Association Trail Map and corresponding trail markers (24 on the Glacier Way post, as the picture shows) are found within the real trail system, which is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The starting point of the half-way completed Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT) is about one mile away (marker 22).

Over the last 35 years over 150 fires burned around Tahoe Donner. Not far from the trailhead you will find a sign of the Forestry Department, indicating the implementation of the Tahoe Donner Fuel Break Reforestation Project. Further west of this area of strategic thinning and planting, you will come to an open slope, still showing some burned trees. A downhill trail leads you to grand vista points, from where you may overlook entire Donner Lake. The picture shows the eastern section of the lake and Donner Memorial State Park. Beyond this park, you see parts of the Tahoe National Forest south of Truckee—the Sawtooth Trail landscape —and further east the yellow-brown meadow of the Martis Creek Wildlife Area (see Martis Creek Trail).  

Getting to the Glacier Way Parking & Picnic Area (trail marker 24)
From Central Truckee, drive west on Donner Pass Road and turn right onto Northwoods Boulevard. After about two miles Northwoods Blvd. splits into a loop. Take the left branch of this loop, pass Zermatt Dr. junction, turn left into Skislope Way and follow this road for about three miles. The entry to the Glacier Way Trailhead parking lot is located at the corner of Skislope Way and Glacier Way.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Via Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake northwest of Round Lake

Dardanelles Lake northwest of Round Lake in the Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada is located about half-way between the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT).  The shortest path to the lake is from the Tahoe Rim Trail parking lot next to Highway 89 between Meyers and Hope Valley (4 miles, one-way; see map). The trail starts at the Big Meadow Trailhead. Take the southbound TRT route via Big Meadow to Round Lake. The latter is three miles south from the trailhead. But to get to Dardanelles Lake, you want to turn right after a little more than two miles—before reaching Round Lake. Head north on a trail that connects the TRT with Meyers Trailhead and Hawley Grade National Recreation Trail (another map). After a quarter-mile you'll reach another trail fork. Turn left: this final, westbound cul-de-sac—unsigned Dardanelles Lake Trail—concludes your hike or ride to the lake by wading through or rock-hopping over two streams, about a mile apart.

With the exception of Big Meadow, the trail leads through forest of Jeffrey pines, lodgepole pines, red firs and a few old sierra junipers. Quaking aspen, manzanita, yellow buttercup, lupine, paintbrush, monkey-flower, corn lily and pond lily (near the first stream crossing) are other wayside plants. Dardanelles Lake is surrounded by natural granite sculptures including tall cliffs, humps (as shown in the picture above), shelves, slabs and slopes. The lake is part of the Upper Truckee River system and considered a fishing gem by anglers. Overnighters will find a pleasant campsite near a quiet cove.   

Outdoor activity tags: hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, swimming, sunbathing, trout fishing, picnicking, backpacking, camping.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Shealor Lake Trail

The Shealor Lakes wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest embeds four small alpine lakes surrounded by steep granite cliffs, hillsides, canyons and ridges with shrubs and conifers. It is a great summer hang-out to look for wildflowers and insect life such as pretty face and bluet damselflies.

Manzanitas, white and red firs, Jeffrey and lodgepole pines and Sierra junipers are plants that you will see along the trail and on the slopes. After a short gentle climb through mixed forest and rock sections, the steep descend to the first of the lakes follows various switchbacks down the granite slope. Most visitors do not hike past the first lake, where they get ready for a picnic and even a dip into the lake water. If you adventure further and climb the opposite granite slopes, you will find colorful lichens. The vistas are amazing, both from the lakeshores to the granite ridges as well as from the tops into the lake and canyon sides.

Getting to Shealor Lake Trailhead
The trailhead is on the west side of Highway 88 between the north and south end of Silver Lake. An information board at the trailhead lists eleven Highway 88 Corridor Trails. According to this board, the 1.5-mile-long Shealor Lake Trail (one way) is classified as moderate and open for hiking and horse riding. Dogs and mountain bikes are given an OK in Mike White's Afoot & Afield hiking guide (Trip 25 in Kit Carson Country). The elevation of the parking area is about 7440 feet, while the lake levels are 200 to 400 feet lower. Every source highlights this hike and outdoor attraction as an enjoyable experience for kids.

Keywords: trail map, nature, wildlife, outdoors, hiking, swimming, Sierra Nevada, California.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Salmon Lake Trail

Salmon Lake Trail is a short, one-mile-long trail that connects Salmon Lake with the Loch Leven Lakes, which are located in an elevated lake basin in the Sierra Nevada—south of the South Yuba River between Rainbow and Big Bend.

Salmon Lake Trail starts at the trail junction near the shore of Lower Loch Leven Lake, where the Loch Leven Trail continues on to Middle and High Loch Leven Lake.The shown trail sign marks the beginning of your two-miles out-and-back side trip. Or—perhaps—you want to spend a quiet night at one of the few Salmon Lake campsites.

From the lower-loch junction, a short climb through pine forest with small meadows of corn lilies and other plants gets you to a granite plateau, offering southwest views towards the Sawtooth Ridge and North American River Canyon. The trail descends over bare granite sections and then turns west through a lightly forested, rocky landscape. You'll get your first look of Salmon Lake not until reaching its granite rim. Once there, you'll have plenty of granite sculptures, humps and terraces with varying vistas to explore. 

Keywords: hiking, backpacking, nature, outdoors, fishing, camping.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

From Lower to High Loch Leven Lake

The Lower Loch Leven Lake is the first in reach on a hike from the Hampshire Rocks Rd. trailhead out of the South Yuba River Canyon to the Loch Leven Lakes. From the trail junction at the shore of the lower loch, a marked trail branches off to Salmon Lake, while the Loch Leven Trail continues over Little Granite Creek and winds through rocky landscape to Middle Loch Leven Lake.

In summer you will find overnighters at the campsites along the shore of the middle lake. The trail follows the lakeshore to the south tip, where the Cherry Point Trail begins at another junctions. From this junction head east-northeast for about 0.7 miles to get to High Loch Leven Lake after a short climb and walk over bare rock sections. A sign says you are at an elevation of 6920 feet. Take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery of granite cliffs and slopes, which are lined and interspersed by heather, bushes and conifers (picture on top: looking northwest from the south shore). Weather permitting, get ready for a swim or for sunbathing on one of the granite slabs and sprinkled rocks in the clear, blue water of the lake.

Friday, September 7, 2012

From Loch Leven Lakes Trailhead at Hampshire Rocks Road to Lower Loch Leven Lake

The Loch Leven Trail provides hikers and backpackers access to Sierra Nevada's Loch Leven Lakes, nearby Salmon Lake, and the Cherry Point Trail junction, from where one can continue on to the North Fork American River. The map shows the Lower, Middle and High Loch Leven Lakes and Salmon Lake. Many smaller lakes and lochs can be found in this area.

Starting your ascend at the trailhead next to Hampshire Rocks Road, the trail leads you out of the South Yuba River canyon to the lake basin. The trail description posted at the trailhead board explains that—along the first portion—the path of the trail can be difficult to find on the bare rock sections. Often, however, you will find piled rocks and rock lines, as the curved one in the picture above, which guides you over those granite floors.

Half-way between the trailhead and Lower Loch Leven Lake, shortly after crossing an alder-lined Yuba River tributary, the trail intersects with the twin tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad (see quote and picture below). Be careful while crossing! Since these tracks are not frequented by speed trains, you have a good chance to get across easily, even while hiking at a slow pace with your heavy overnight package and camping gear. 

The trailhead board offers some historical background:

The railroad tracks are on the original 1860s route of the Central Pacific railroad, built by hand with Chinese labor. It remains a major freight and passenger route in and out of California.

From the tracks to the ridge top, you have another 800 feet to climb. Then, the trail gradually descends to the Lower Loch.

Getting to the Loch Leven Lakes Trailhead
Driving on I-80 from Sacramento, take the Big Bend exit and follow Hampshire Rocks Road (old Highway U.S. 40) to the Fire Station. You will find the trailhead parking area to your left about one-eight mile east of the Big Bend Fire Station. The trail begins at the wooden “Loch Leven Trail” sign across the road.
Driving on I-80 from Truckee, take the Rainbow Road/Big Bend exit. Following Hampshire Rocks Road for about one mile, you will arrive at the trailhead parking lot and additional shoulder parking on the right side of the road.
According to information given at the trailhead board, the trail is open for hiking from early June to November and it is not marked for winter use. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mt. Judah Loop Trail

On a clear, calm day the Mt. Judah Loop Trail is always good for a pleasant hike south of Donner Pass to scenic vista points and—for history buffs—to historical Roller Pass by adding a short extra walk to this saddle reminding of emigrant fates. A round-trip hike including the peak of Mt. Judah consists of somewhat more than two miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) plus a semiloop of  2.2 miles with trail sections over Judah slopes and ridges.

Most sections of the loop trail lead through forest of red firs and mountain hemlocks. Mariposa lilies and other wildflowers may be found. Around the top and along Judah ridge the trail passes by lichen-covered rocks and crosses carpets of mule ears. Great views of  Donner Lake, Castle Peak and the Carson Range can be enjoyed from the ridge section. The ridge trail is shown in the picture above.

Getting to the Mt. Judah Loop/PCT junctions
The trailhead is just south of the Sugar Bowl Academy at the old Donner Pass Road. See the description Getting to Roller Pass and beyond in my post On the Sierra Nevada Crest between Roller Pass and Mt. Andersen. Your hike begins with a mile-long section of the PCT: a few switchbacks across granite formations (upper left in the trail sketch) followed by an easy walk through pine and fir forests with westside views of Lake Mary. Shortly afterwards, the PCT crosses a sky slope, while the first branch of the Mt. Judah Loop Trail turns left and leads up to Donner Peak and then southbound to the Judah Ridge.

In case your are not taking the first branch, which is marked by the signpost shown to the left, you'll continue on the PCT for about another mile. Make sure you don't miss the second junctions. On my last hike in August this year, I didn't see a signpost at this junction. Once you arrive at the historical marker for the Truckee Trail and Roller Pass, you'll know, you missed the Judah junction. However, unless you are on a tight schedule, this short extra distance to the Roller Pass saddle, which early pioneers crossed with their wagons (or failed to do so), is always worth it.

Places of interest and trails nearby
Donner Party Memorial
Donner Lake
Donner Lake Rim Trail
Summit Lake
Frog Lake Overlook

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Various trails lead to Frog Lake Overlook

There are different ways to get to the Frog Lake Overlook north of Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada, California. My favorite options include hikes starting with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Access Trail and the Wendin Way Access Trail. Either way you will be headed to access the Warren Lake Trail, which winds up—through forest, shrubs and carpets of mule ears—to the Castle Peak area. The Frog Lake Overlook is located on top of a cliff above the west shore of the toponymous lake. The map inserted into the Frog Lake picture roughly sketched the area, while the Donner Lake Rim Trail Area Map (www.tdlandtrust.org/sites/default/files/file/DRLT Map.pdf) is much more detailed; although it doesn't contain Frog Lake itself.

Hiking option 1 via PCT. This hike begins at the PCT/Boreal Trailhead (0.3 mile east of I-80's PCT exit). After walking the 3/4 mile PCT access trail, a short northbound PCT section underpasses the split highway (I-80) through two culverts. From there, a short climb gets you to the beginning of the Warren Lake Trail. The latter intersects with the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT) after less than two miles. Here, the sign (shown above) posts a 0.5-mile-distance to Summit Lake and 5.5 miles to Warren Lake. Half this way, Warren Lake Trail crosses a mule-ear-covered saddle, where a short use trail branches eastward to the Frog Lake Overlook. 

Hiking option 2 via Wendin Way Access Trail. This much longer hike begins at the Gregory Creek Trailhead just north of I-80's Donner Lake exit. Climbing up Wendin Way Access Trail along Gregory Creek, one arrives at a DLRT three-way junction. Turning left, Summit Lake is about 2.5 miles away. From Summit Lake it take about half a mile to get the Warren-Lake-Trail/DLRT intersection, which is also accessible via option 1.

Which ever trail sequence you are going to chose to get to the overlook, I am sure you will enjoy the bird's-eye view of the small and beautiful, glacier-carved Frog Lake—and also views of the Verdi Range and Carson Range to the east.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reno WUI fire near Caughlin Ranch (Pinehaven Fire)

Pinehaven Fire near Caughlin Ranch in Reno

Pinehaven Fire: a fire in the upper Caughlin Ranch area burnt through pine- and brushland today, starting early afternoon. The Caughlin Ranch slopes, with their various power lines, have seen fires in the past when strong winds blew through the area. But today it was relatively calm. Currently, a human cause is suspected: a man fleeing police is believed to get the fire started after driving off road in the Pinehaven Road neighborhood [1]. The picture shows the dark smoke of the fire shortly after 1:00 pm, seen from West Fourth Street between the Oxbow Nature Study Area and South McCarran Boulevard.

The affected area is a rugged terrain, which includes many dirt roads and trails leading up to Hunter Lake and into the Mt. Rose Wilderness. This unoccupied land is a typical example of an wildland-urban-interface (WUI), known to be at risk of human-caused fires. Fortunately, this time no heavy winds blew downhill. The fire burnt away from inhabited areas and structures [2], taking a different direction than the destructive November 2011 Caughlin Fire that spread southeast all the way down to Bartley Ranch and Anderson Park.

References and further news
[1] Caughlin Ranch brush fire ignited by police chase suspectwww.foxreno.com/news/news/local/brush-fire-burning-caughlin-ranch/nPkXg/.
[2] Standley White: Pinehaven Fire burns near Reno's Caughlin Ranch [renotahoe.about.com/b/2012/07/02/pinehaven-fire-burns-near-renos-caughlin-ranch.htm].

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sibley's Geological Treasures: rocks telling the story of the past of the Berkeley-Oakland hills

Basaltic breccia with limestone matrix

Before you venture on a self-guided tour through the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve east of San Francisco Bay, get started with the history and geologic past of this unique place by browsing the interpretive panels and displays on the patio of the unstaffed visitor center at the park entrance. There, the rock display, entitled “Sibley's Geological Treasures,” shows a collection of rocks related to various events that happened during the 10-miilion-year history or volcanic eruption and mountain uplifting along earthquake faults of the Bay Area:

Lapilli agglomerate, spatter from vent

Basalt lava with vesicles formed by escaping gasThe Sibley Preserve is a great place for nature studies as well as hiking and mountain biking. It includes the  Pond Trail, Quarry Trail and Volacanic Trail. and the Bay Area Ridge Trail/Skyline Trail is going through the preserve. Along particular trail segments you may want to view and explore the many geologic features reminding you that you are on top and between ancient remains of an extinct volcano; yet an active fault system.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pond Trail in the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

The short 0.42-mile-long Pond Trail in the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve is a dead-end trail. The “dead-end” consists of little ponds, which are not dead at all. They are thriving with aquatic life.

The ponds are located east from where the Bay Area Ridge Trail follows Round Top Creek parallel to Old Tunnel Road. From the parking area next to Old Tunnel Road, one can ascend Quarry Road (no motorized traffic) for about half a mile and then turn left onto Pond Trail to descend to the ponds. The Pond Trail/Quarry Road junction is found near the lower end of the Quarry Road segment between Quarry Road's junction with Quarry Trail and Volcanic Trail. A hike or ride from Sibley's main entrance and visitor center via these upper ridge trails will add up to a distance of about two miles. Less, when taking Quarry Trail. More, when taking Volcanic Trail and/or the longer half-loop of Round Top Loop Trail.

Keywords: hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, network of trails,  Berkeley-Oakland hills, East Bay, California.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trails with a view of San Francisco Bay: Sibley's Volcanic and Quarry Trail

The Volcanic Trail and the Quarry Trail in the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve contour the rolling ridges of the Berkeley-Oakland hills. Along these trail, hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders enjoy the view over the lower ridge forest to the Bay with Treasure Island and the skyline of San Francisco in the background.

On a foggy day this westward view may be rather limited; but perhaps not to the east, where you can see Mount Diablo. In late summer or fall you are likely to experience the hot and dry Diablo Winds coming from there. Being located close to Oakland neighborhoods, the Sibley Preserve is a wildland urban interface (WUI), also called wooei. The preserve and neighborhoods are at a high fire risk when such winds from the east blow over the ridge.

The most spectacular features are found right next to the trails— for a geologist anyway. Fires, blasts and hot lava have ruled over the area for quiet some time, evidenced by the basalt lava blocks scattered around. You are invited to explore sites that, for example, expose Orinda Formation river gravels and mudstones, brick-red knobs, basaltic tuffs and other rocks built from lava and ash.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve: volcanoes, pits, outcrops, knobs and tuffs

The Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Berkeley-Oakland hills, California, is named to honor Robert Sibley, a founder and director of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) [1,2]. The preserve includes the 1.6-miles-long Round Top Loop Trail, circling around the extinct volcano, after which this trail is named. Round Top has an elevation of 1,763 feet [3,4]. Originally the preserve was called Round Top Park and mostly limited to the area around this peak. Today, the preserve extends further northwest beyond Quarry Road to a couple of ponds and to the site of the Stephen A. Lewis bench, from where one can view Siesta Valley across Highway 24.

The most interesting features in the preserve are those left over from a 10-million-year-old volcano as well as the exposed rocks and sediments telling the geological history of the uplifting of the Berkely-Oakland hills by tectoniic forces along the Hayward and Moraga earthquake faults. The above picture shows the Round Top quarry pit, discovered by quarry operations and now exposing the interior of the Round Top volcano. At times the pit turns into a small “crater lake.” Currently, a spiral labyrinth has been crafted onto its tuff-breccia floor. Northwest of this crater pit, you'll find various numbered sites of rocks and outcrops, whose formation history is explained in the preserve flyer by referring to diverse volcanic phenomena.

Getting to the Sibley Preserve entrance, visitor center and trail junctions
The preserve entrance is located east of Skyline Boulevard, just 0.1 miles south of the Grizzly Peak Boulevard/Skyline Boulevard junction. From Tilden Park in Berkeley follow the winding Grizzly Peak Boulevard southwards, past the intersection with Fish Ranch Road until you reach Skyline Boulevard. Turn left and find the park entrance to your left. From Highway 24 take the Fish Ranch Road immediately east of the Caldecott Tunnel to get to Grizzly Peak Boulevard after driving 0.8 miles. Turn left and follow Grizzly Peak Boulevard to Skyline Boulevard as described above.
Trailheads are found on the left and the right side of the unstaffed visitor center. They are the beginning and end of a loop trail. After hiking or horse-riding either half of this loop, you get to the Round Top Loop Trail and the southward Bay Area Ridge Trail/Skyline Trail. The Round Top Loop Trail connects with further trails in the preserve, including the Volcanic Trail and Quarry Trail.

References and more to explore
[1] Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve flyer: East Bay Regional Park District, P.P. Box 5381, 2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA 94605-0381.
[2] East Bay Regional Park District Map: www.ebparks.org/parks.
[3] East Bay Regional Park District > Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve: www.ebparks.org/parks/sibley.
[4] David Weintraub: East Bay Trails. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, 1998; pp. 252-255.

Monday, June 25, 2012

From Stateline to the Tahoe Rim Trail: Van Sickle Trail

The Van Sickle Trail connects Stateline in Nevada and South Lake Tahoe in California with Heavenly and the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). The trail has been designed for mountain biking, hiking and equestrian sports. Although it is a connector trail between Lake Tahoe basin and the ridge and loop trails in the Carson Range around Heavenly Village and Daggett Pass, the Van Sickle Trail will delight you with a great outdoor experience even if you are only planning for a short walk: from Heavenly (Kingsbury South) to the first trail sections that offer stunning views of Lake Tahoe and surrounding Sierra peaks; or from Stateline to the waterfall (3/4 mi)—an easy to moderate climb between outcrops, boulders and through open manzanita and pine forest. Infrequently, wind from the west may carry to your ears the sound of the Heavenly Gondolas passing supporting towers.

The picture shows a westward view from an upper Van Sickle Trail spot to the Desolation Wilderness and Crystal Range, still covered with snow (June 16, 2012). The total trail length (one way) is about 3.5 miles. Until recently, the middle section of the trail was still under construction and smoothening work, yet open for “traffic.” The Van Sickle Park and Trail was opened in summer last year [1-2]. The South Tahoe Area Trail Map shows how this trail is linked with other multi-use trails, dirt roads and bike trails in South Lake Tahoe and the Heavenly Mountain Resort [3].

Getting to the lower trailheads
From Highway 50 in Stateline, Nevada, turn into Heavenly Village Way. Walk or drive through the wide-spread village and mall neighborhood to get to the intersection of Heavenly Village Way with Montreal Road (right side) and Lake Parkway (left side), where you should see a boulder with “Van Sickle Bi-State Park” written on it. Get straight into the Park, pass the interpretive area with the barn and continue until the paved road ends into a turn-around loop and parking area. The trailhead is to the right at the beginning of the one-way turning loop. Picnic tables and restrooms are available.
Van Sickle Trail may also be accessed from Saddle Road in South Lake Tahoe, California; but parking space is very limited and there are no restrooms and no trail signs (when visited on June 24, 2014).

Getting to the upper trailhead
The intersection of the Van Sickle Trail with the TRT can be accessed from the Heavenly Resort (Kingsbury South). Starting at the Stagecoach Express ski lift, as described in the East Lake Reservoir hike, take the new westward-going TRT section. There, a signpost indicates that you are half a mile away from the Van Sickle Trail Junction.

References and related pages
[1] Lake Tahoe News: Trail building day ensures July opening for Van Sickle Park [www.laketahoenews.net/2011/06/trail-building-day-ensures-july-opening-for-van-sickle-park/].
[2] California Tahoe Conservancy: Van Sickle Bi-State Park [tahoe.ca.gov/van-sickle-bi-state-park-79.aspx].
[3] South Tahoe Area Trail Map (From Kingsbury Grade to Highway 89) [mountainbiketahoe.org/wp-content/Maps/Map_SLT.pdf].

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Covell Park, Northstar Park and Davis-Covell Greenbelt

The Davis Community Park at West Covell Boulevard in Davis, California, is connected with Covell Park and Northstar Park by the Davis-Covell Greenbelt. Parks and greenbelt are linked by a paved path, which is used by joggers, bicyclists, dog walkers, hikers and inline skaters. The greenbelt features playgrounds, frisbee greens, art and nature. And all is conveniently accessible from the neighborhoods through which the greenbelt circles and branches.

Dogs can be seen in most parks, but along the 2.7-mile-long loop trail of this parklike belt you'll find both realistic and amusing dogs—bronze sculptures crafted by artist Jean van Keuren. They include the shown dog at play, a dog chasing a turkey and a dog on a tricycle. While you are jogging by these dog sculptures, you may think of the sculpture that captures your activity: The Joggers in downtown Davis. 

Northstar Park, in most parts, is a wetland habitat. A short boardwalk trail leads from the loop path to a platform, from which you can overlook the wildlife habitat and the Julie Partansky Pond. Residential and migratory waterbirds inhabit the small habitat and the pond. The latter also provides flood protection as part of a storm drain system for the surrounding homes, streets and gardens.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Berkeley Rose Garden: trails in a theater of roses

The Berkeley Rose Garden is a City of Berkeley Landmark. It is surrounded by the Codornices Park, tennis courts and residential areas. The rose garden is build like an amphitheater with views of San Francisco Bay. The theater terraces correspond to planting arrangements, displaying roses organized by color, starting with red at the top and descending through bronze, pink, and yellow to white at the bottom. The many walkways and rose beds of the theater terraces are sun-exposed, while the semicircular redwood pergola provides partial shade and climbing opportunities—for roses only! One finds more shade along the small loop trail through a tiny forest (see right picture), which is located on the left side, assuming that you are overlooking the garden from the upper entrance at Euclid Avenue.

In case you are looking for other interesting plants from around the world, you'll find them in the Botanical Garden of the University of California, beautifully situated in the Berkeley Hills.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rock Lake off Ophir Creek Trail

Rock Lake is a shallow lake southeast of Slide Mountain in Nevada. The lake can be accessed via a side trip while hiking and climbing Ophir Creek Trail, which connects Davis Creek Regional Park in Washoe County with Tahoe Meadows and the Mt. Rose Wilderness. Rock Lake is a little more than three miles away from the Ophir Creek Trailhead in Davis Creek Park. After crossing Ophir Creek, half-way from the trailhead, the trail bends back, follows the creek for a while on its south side in eastward direction and bends again, ascending westward through channels and forest. Along the rocky ledges and slopes, creeping penstemon mats—displaying their tubular purple-red flowers—can be found during late spring.  

The “lake junction” of Ophir Creek Trail is well marked: The half-mile Rock Creek Trail branches off to the north through dense forest and shrubs. The main trail continues as directed by the sign for the Price Lakes. The latter lakes are still 1.5 miles away.

Rock Lake is surrounded by forest, a few grassy patches and boulders. Rocks are also spread out over various areas of the lake. Its name is justified! Carefully hopping these rocks into central parts of the lake brings you close to the pads of yellow water lilies, which cover the open lake surface: Rock Lake becomes “Lily Pond.”

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trailing archaeology: records of early Americans at Lagomarsino

The Lagomarsino Petroglyph Site features an impressive amount of abstract images pecked or scratched in basalt boulders and rock walls. Images of humans and animals such as the one shown above (a frog, human being or something else?) are rare. An interpretive board at the site explains that the size and complexity of Lagomarsino kept archaeologists from being able to fully document the rock art until the Nevada Rock Art Foundation (NRAF) and Storey County began in 2003 the enormous task of recording the site by photographing and drawing every petroglyph and mapping its precise location. The details are well documented on the NRAF Lagomarsino website [1].  This website puts the representations seen at Lagomarsino in context with those found at other rock art localities in the Great Basin. In conclusion, over 2,200 rock art panels were documented during field observations, including some occurrences of vandalism.

Overall, Lagomarsino is in good condition. The NRAF website explains that some forms of  natural destruction must be expected: surface spalling, lichen growth, weather-related exposure and infrequent displacement and damage of images on boulders that have tumbled down the talus slope from their original position.  

In addition to rock art, a few other archaeological features (milling features, projectile point fragments) were found at Lagomarsino, suggesting that the site was occupied—at least seasonally [1].   

Keywords: archaeology, anthropology, cultural heritage, pre-columbian art.

References and links
[1] The Nevada Rock Art Foundation: Lagomarsino Canyon Petroglyph Site [nvrockart.org/Lagomarsino.html].
[2] The Lagomarsino Canyon and how to get there by hiking via Long Valley Creek Trail.