Friday, July 31, 2015

PCT sideways: Paradise Lake

Paradise Lake north of Donner Summit
Paradise Lake
Backpackers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) often look out for little extras and diversions. The scenery of Paradise Lake offers such a side adventure. It is a great place for camping and swimming.

Paradise Lake is located north of Sierra Nevada's Basin Peak, which is located north of Castle Peak; all north of Boreal at Donner Summit. Day hikers typically start their Paradise Lake round trip from next to Interstate 80: either from the Pacific Crest Trail parking area (south of I-80) or from wherever they may get to on Castle Valley Road (a dirt-road trail north of I-80); for example, from the shaded parking area at the trailhead of the Hole in the Ground (HITG) Trail.

Once you have managed Castle Pass and have arrived at the Peter Grubb Hut, you want to continue northbound on the PCT until you will arrive at its junction with the Paradise Lake Trail in Paradise Valley. North of the hut you will cross Lower Castle Creek and then pass the junction with Sand Ridge Trail, a connector trail linking the PCT with the HITG Trail and Sand Ridge Lake. The PCT traverses the eastern slopes below the crest between Castle Peak and Basin Peak with spectacular views of the western Sierra, including Sierra Butte further north.  There is an unmarked Y-junction, from where a trail ascends to the top of Basin Peak.

Unconformity Spring
After getting over the openly forested crest of Basin Peak's shoulder, Paradise Valley is coming into view. The descend into the valley takes you into thicker forest. In spring and summer, Unconfirmity Spring next to the trail is edged with a lush display of greens and wildflowers. Switchback after switchback, the PCT will lead you down to the valley floor, where a bridge (built in 1994) is crossing North Creek, the westward flowing water coming down from Paradise Lake.

From there, with Mike White's words [1]:

A mild, winding ascent leads past a pond surrounded by meadow to a junction with an old road, 6.6 miles from the trailhead [PCT parking area (south of I-80)]. Nailed to a lodgepole pine just before the road is an old wooden sign marked PARADISE LK, with an arrow to the right.

Exactly. The sign is still there. The tall lodgepole pine is getting to old age. Resin is dripping from a wound in the bark.

Resin of a lodgepole pine
Turning right at the junction and following the double-track trail between forest and meadowland, you will enjoy the views of the interestingly structured, northfacing walls of Basin Peak. As soon as the tracks of Paradise Trail get lost between trees, shrubs and granite boulders, you will know you are almost there. Just keep ascending eastbound over gravel and bedrock until you see the lake—beautifully tucked into a granite cirque basin.

Paradise Lake is surrounded by granite slabs and cliffs. Tiny granite boulder islands seem to float in the lake, some with bonsai-like and some with surprisingly tall conifer trees. On a hot day, you may want to make a water-surrounded granite floor your resting spot, from where you can easily walk or slide into the refreshing lake water. 

[1] Mike White: Afoot & Afield. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing November 2008.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Walking—actually, marching—along Riverside Drive to kick off Reno's 20th Artown

MarchFourth! opening Artown next to McKinley Arts and Culture Center on Riverside Drive, Reno, Nevada

July is Artown month in Reno, Nevada. The “20th Anniversary Opening Night Celebration” took place yesterday. In the evening, children, parents and other Artownersfriends of Artown—watched and followed the unique marching band MarchFourth! on their opening parade from the McKinley Arts and Culture Center along Riverside Drive to Reno's downtown stage at the west end of Wingfield Park. 

MarchFourth! at Wingfield Park Amphitheater
MarchFourth! artisans and musicians with their motto “This Band Is Your Band” are no newcomers to Reno. I have seen them opening Artown years ago on the sky roof of the Nevada Museum of Art. Walking or marching with MarchFourth! feels like taking part in a kaleidoscopic Cirque du Soleil road-show performance. Leading the marching route were stilt walkers, followed by Vaudeville-style dancers and musicians delivering the explosive sonic stomps & rhythm.

Stilt-walk dancer on stage
The marching band and the following crowd moved alongside the Truckee River, while passing the Hub coffee hangout, the Lear Theater, the Bicentennial Park and then gathering at the Wingfield Park Amphitheater, where more Artown fans where already waiting or picnicking on the lawn in front of the stage—or floating in the river pools surrounding the venue island.

Later in the evening, the Glen David Andrews Band from New Orleans was playing jazz, gospel and soul music. Everyone celebrated the first 2015 Artown sunset. At late night, MarchFourth! continued their spectacle at the Cargo at Whitney Peak Hotel in downton Reno.

Reno is Artown!

Glen David Andrews Band all the way from New Orleans

Keywords: Reno Artown, open-air events, fun, entertainment, music, jazz.

More about MarchFourth! and Artown
Reno is Artown:,
Artown parade in Reno's Wingfield Park: