Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lassen National Park - September 2009

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I'll make this brief, as I have a thousand and one things to do tonight (and want to get this posted). Great camping trip in Lassen. Second time I've been there, the first time with my dad. I stayed 4 days, 3 nights of solo camping in Manzanita campground near the northern entrance to the park.

Lassen Volcanic National park is one of the lesser known National Parks. It was the site of a 1914 eruption and evidence is quite visible throughout the park. That being said, it's a beautifully green and scenic park, offering some great views and photographic opportunities.

The campgrounds are top notch, as you'd expect from a National Park. Manzanita Lake has great campsites and a small general store (in case you forgot any critical items, like marshmallows). The lake itself is an easy 1.5 mile loop and offers great views of Lassen and local wildlife. There are bears in the park, so the normal precautions are necessary (did not see any, but heard one in my camp Tuesday night).

In terms of hikes, I did Bumpass Hell and the Cinder Cone. I would recommend both. Both are fascinating examples of the volcanic history (and present) of Lassen and incredibly scenic as well. Bumpass Hell trailhead is right off the main road through the park, but Cinder Cone requires an hour drive from Manzanita Lake (6 miles of which are down a well-maintained dirt road). For those in better shape than I, I've heard great things about climbing Lassen itself as well as nearby Brokeoff Mountain. I didn't fish at all this trip, but Manzanita lake offers some great fly-fishing opportunities.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • When to visit: I've been there in July and in September. Avoid going too soon, as the park is snowed in (heavily) in the winter. While there in July, the peak was covered in snow. Unsure of crowds during peak season, but it's mostly empty after labor day, especially mid-week.

  • Where to Camp: Both times I've been to Lassen, I've camped at Manzanita Lake Campground. And both times, I've been very happy. Imagine the quality of Yosemite without the crowds. Plus, you're near Manzanita Lake, which is fun short hike.

  • Campground Reservations: You don't need them in the off-season and I always enjoy shopping around for my campsite (as far away from others as possible). Loop D at Manzanita is first-come, first-served.

  • Bears: Each campsite is provided with bear lockers. Use them. I heard bears in my campsite at night. Recommend putting toothpaste, deodorant, etc in the bear locker as well (if only so you don't regret it when you hear grunting next to your tent that night).

  • Advanced Hikes: If you're in good shape, consider Mt. Lassen Peak and/or Brokeoff Mountain. Heard great things about both from friends, but never done either myself.

  • Bumpass Hell Hike : 3 miles roundtrip. Moderate hike with some great views. Plus, you get ot see the most hydro-thermally active part of the park. Safe for kids, as long as they stay on the decking surrounding the main area.

  • Cinder Cone Hike: 4.4 miles roundtrip. Strenuous, as you're hiking in loose rock, most of it uphill. Don't let the 700 foot elevation change fool you. This hike kicked my tail. If you only hike to the base and back, it could qualify as "moderate". Also recommend starting early, as it's an hour's drive from Manzanita lake to the trailhead at Butte Lake, including 6 miles down a dirt road to the trailhead. You also want to start early, so you aren't hiking up the side of the cinder cone in the heat of the day (with no shade). Butte lake has campsites as well.

  • Manzanita Lake: Easy 1.5 mile roundtrip. Great, easy, short hike with outstanding wildlife viewing and beautiful views of Lassen reflected in the lake on a still day.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (130 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Lassen Main Page(



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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hat Creek and Pit River 2009 Trip

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I spent five days and four nights in a rented cabin in the Burney area of California (about 1.5 hours northeast of Redding) on a fishing/golfing/photography vacation. Went with my Dad and two of his buddies (Mike Gorski from Portland and Russ La Hive from Pleasanton). All were pretty mellow guys, so it made for a very fun, relaxing trip (especially consider how insane my job has been with the H1N1 outbreak response).

Primary fishing locations were along Hat Creek (The Meadows and The Barrier Dam) and the Pit River (Powerhouse #3 and #4). The first night we fished Hat Creek about 100 yards from our cabin. Got a few small ones. Second night, my compatriots fished The Meadows while I photographed. Few fish caught, but tons of fish rising. I got some good shots. We also saw a mountain lion on our drive out. He dropped to a crouch as we rounded a bend in the road, the leapt off the road and disappeared. Amazing moment for all of us.

I fished one day at the Pit River Powerhouse #3, then photographed one day. Very productive place, but only room for a few people to fish. We caught a number of fish between 8 - 15 inches. If you fish there, be prepared to lose a lot of rigs, as there are numerous hazards underwater.

We spent two evenings fishing the Barrier Dam on Hat Creek. Beautiful place with a lot of insect activity just at sunset. I chose to take photos instead of fishing. Russ spent 30 minutes at sunset on the first night landing a 20 inch rainbow. We were starting to think he'd been eaten by the mountain lion we'd seen previously (or had gotten lost). The second trip was where I stumbled across (almost literally) a 4 foot bull snake which I photographed. For the squeamish, you may want to close your eyes after the lizard photos.

Spent one morning golfing at Fall River Mills Golf Course. Great course and fairly inexpensive. Highly recommend it to golfers. I managed to shoot 116 after not playing for 5 years (and that was 3-4 putting each hole).

Overall a great trip with a great bunch of guys. Highly recommend this area for fly-fishermen, golfers and photographers alike.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Where to Stay: We stayed a small rental house in the tiny town of Cassel. As soon as I get the info from my dad, I'll post it here. Many fishing lodges in the area.

  • Prettiest Fishing Spot: Prettiest fishing place is The Meadows at Hat Creek. You won't catch anything, but you'll see tons of fish rising and the scenery is incredible, especially at sunset.

  • Most Productive Fishing Spot: Most productive fishing spot was at the base of Lake Briton Dam (aka Pit #3 Powerhouse). Not very attractive and can only fish about 3 people max, but consistently catch fish here, and decent size ones.

  • Best All Around Fishing Spot: The Barrier Dam is the best all around fishing spot, in terms of beauty, wildlife and good fishing.

  • Golf: If you're a golfer, I highly recommend Fall River Mills Golf Course (see link below). Great local course and relatively cheap ($45 incl. shared cart and lunch). Plus the waitress at the club house was way cute.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (94 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Map to Powerhouse #3

Map to The Meadows on Hat Creek

Map to the parking area for The Barrier Dam on Hat Creek (Barrier Dam is downstream 0.5 mile northeast)

Angelina's at The Rex (Very good, but pricey, food in downtown Burney)

Fall River Mills Golf Course

Clearwater Lodge

Burney Mountain Guest Ranch

Burney Falls (Visited during a previous trip - amazing waterfall!)

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Friday, March 20, 2009

03-20-09 - Yuba River (near Owsleys Bar)

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Just a quick blog this time. Head north on Highway 70 from Davis/Sacramento last Friday to fish/photograph the Yuba River outside Marysville. I chose to photograph instead of fish, as my thumb was still stitched up from an unfortunate encounter with a bread knife the week before.

The river itself is sparse, but quite beautiful. It was flowing extraordinarily low (700 CFS), which allowed us to cross the river. Learned an interesting trick from my father: You cross a river upstream of a riffle. The riffle is the shallowest point, which it makes sense to cross, but it's also moving the fastest there. The trick is to skirt the edge of the riffle, in the deeper water, which is not flowing as fast. Amazing how much difference this makes. Do keep in mind that the Yuba is normally not cross-able this time of year when river flows are normal.

While my dad fished, I trekked out across the flood plain and came across the largest beaver dams I'd ever seen. There were multiple dams at various points in the side channel and were holding back huge amounts of water. Never saw actual beavers, but it was fun to photograph their handiwork, especially from a ridge line I hiked up to.

Only actual wildlife I came across to photograph was some turkey vultures which were circling overhead. There are always vultures circling overhead on the Yuba. Makes me wonder how many dead things are out there. They're always fun to photograph with the long lens, and I had the unique opportunity of photographing them from the ridge, where I was at roughly their same height. I also shot a few photos of what I believe to be a predator drone overhead, flying out of nearby Beale Air Force Base. Fairly certain that's what it is.

Fishing was only so-so. A few possible strikes for my dad, but no fish hooked. This is always a risk of fishing the Yuba, but given the size of the water, you know that if you do hook a fish, it's liable to be a big one.

Overall, a fairly fun day and nice way to spend a furlough day. Part of our purpose was to scout this location for an upcoming pontoon boat trip. My father and I just purchased Dave Scadden Outlaw X5 boats this weekend (see North Fork Outdoors), which we plan to use for river runs as well as still-water fishing. They're rated for class 4 rapids, though we won't be trying anything like that....yet.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Hiking: The Yuba river is probably not the best place to hike in the world, as most of the ares I explored required waist deep wading (and low flows). However, if you're looking for some variety, it is a neat place to trek around.

  • Fishing: As I said above, this is big water and big fish. If you go, bring your chest high waders and don't expect to cross at high flows. You can park where we did or park up

  • Rafting/Kayaking: The run between the highway 20 bridge and Owlsely Bar is supposedly a very good. The folks at Sycamore Ranch will even drive your car from the bridge to the pullout for $35.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (52 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Sycamore Ranch Campground and RV Park

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5/11-13/08 - Lava Beds National Monument

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Having decided to have one “last hurrah” before starting my new job, I looked at a map of California and keyed in on the one region of the state I had never visited: The Modoc Plateau. This is a region of high desert located in the north eastern corner of California. Smack dab in the middle of it is one of the frequently forgotten National Parks: Lava Beds National Monument.

Getting to this remote part of California involved driving 200 miles north on I-5, past Redding, to the town of Weed. Yes....the town is called “Weed”. From there, you go another 54 miles north east on Highway 97, then ~20 miles east along Highway 161 which parallels the Oregon/California border, then you weave your way down Highway 139 another 23 miles to Lava Beds National Monument. Oh, and be sure to stop off in Tulelake, CA to fill up on their $4.44/gallon gas (because you were too stupid to top off your tank earlier).

Having gotten a late start, I arrived in Lava Beds around 6:00 PM on Sunday, May 11th, after a 5+ hour drive from Davis. My immediate concern was to find a campsite and set up camp before sundown, since it gets kinda chilly in the high desert at night. I had my pick of camp sites as I was one of two campers in park, me in loop A and an RV in loop B. The one I settled on (A6), I would later learn from the camp hosts, is the best campsite in the park. The view of the valley from my campsite was absolutely stunning. It was like something out of No Country For Old Men, only without insane killers with cattle guns.

I managed to set up camp and cook up some ramen noodles before sundown, but it was too windy for a fire. Without a fire, it got very cold, very fast, so I hit the sack not too long after sundown. As I mentioned in my Crater Lake blog, solo camping can be a bit lonely. But when you’re the only person in the campground and surrounded by 70-100 miles of open’s VERY lonely. And a little bit creepy, particularly when your tent is flapping in the wind all night long and all you can think about is how your not supposed to wander mountain lion territory alone.

After a none-too-restful night's sleep, with a low of 33 degrees, I got up and boiled some water for tea, ate some breakfast, then headed off to the visitor center. I talked to one of the rangers and got the scoop on the park, including which caves were closed due to hibernating bats. I also acquired two very important items. Item number one was called a “Bump Hat”. This orange hard hat cost me around $7 and was worth its weigh in gold. It saved me from no fewer than 4 bonks on the head (two of which would have likely drawn blood). The other item was a free flashlight rental for the day. I almost didn’t get one, as I had a big Maglight, but I’m glad I did. I ended up attaching the flashlight to my backpack strap using a 2 foot shoelace. This allowed me to let the flashlight hang down when I needed two hands (such as when going down a ladder).

Below is a list of the caves I explored (in the order explored):

Mushpot Cave: The first cave I explored was called Mushpot Cave. This cave has lights and interpretive signs, so you understand what you’re seeing in the other caves. It’s definitely a good way to learn about the features of these lava tubes. Lava tubes are formed when lava is flowing out of a volcano and the outsides cool. Inside the “tube”, the lava remains a toasty 1,800 degrees and continues to flow like water until the flow eventually subsides, leaving a hollow tube behind. This is what created the caves I was about to explore. Most of the photos you’ll see are from Mushpot cave. The small amounts of light and wide opening allowed me to shoot a lot of photos. The photos from the rest of the caves are either near the entrance, exit or at a point where the top of the tube collapsed (Balcony Cave).

Golden Dome: The next cave I explored was called “Golden Dome”. It required a climb down a rather steep ladder and a squeeze passed “headache rock”. Once I got to the bottom of the ladder, I turned on my light and headed into the blackness. Here’s where words fail to do justice to the experience. The cave is completely pitch black. Your eyes do not adjust, as the only available light is from your flashlight beam. Outside the narrow beam, you see nothing. Forget taking photos. Heck, you’re too busy shining the light up, then down, then up, then down (to make sure you don’t A) bonk your head on the ceiling that just went from 8 feet to 5 feet or B) tripping over the rough floor. This being my first cave, I didn’t venture too far into the cave. It’s very easy to lose your sense of direction, which I learned even more so while exploring the next cave: The aptly named “Catacombs”.

The Catacombs: The Catacombs are the most extensive cave in the park. It runs a total of 6,903 feet, with so many twists and turns that a map is required to navigate it. Here I learned how easy it is could be to lose one’s sense of direction. Mine is pretty good, but there are few points of reference in a cave. Since you only see narrow slivers of your environment as you pivot your flashlight around, things look different from different angles. This cave allowed you to walk upright for the first 800 feet, then the ceiling dropped to 3 feet. I’m not sure I made it the full 800 feet, as I made it my rule that I only went three intersection deep, so as not to get lost. I would find out later from the campground hosts that, a few years back, and 11 and 12 year old got lost in the Catacombs for 22 hours, after stumbling into an antechamber that had never been discovered.

Lunch Break (not a cave, but figured I’d include a funny story here): At this point, I broke for lunch. I got back to camp and immediately went for my food box, which I’d placed on top of my cooler to keep it safe. Unfortunately, the box had been chewed into by something and my apple and hot dog buns were half eaten. Thankfully, the rest of the food was untouched. I originally blamed a little chipmunk, who came to eat the half eaten apple. But I later realized the culprits were two very aggressive ground squirrels. The stupid things were lucky it was a National Park or I might have done them harm.

Upper and Lower Sentinel Cave: After lunch, I headed back to the caves to explore what would be my favorite cave in the park: Upper and Lower Sentinel cave. If you explore no other cave in the park, do not miss Sentinel. It’s the only cave with an established “trail” inside and two entrances. I would never have ventured this deep into a cave, but I knew this cave had no side channels to get lost in. It was absolutely amazing to walk through this total darkness knowing that I’d arrive safely at the other entrance. I should note that there are ladders going up or down and some narrow paths to walk, so those afraid of heights should be cautious. I’m not big on heights myself, but I was able to tough it out.

Skull Cave: Speaking of heights, Skull Cave was next on the agenda. This cave has a huge opening into an 80 foot high cavern. You follow a very defined path to a series of staircases that take you the down to the bottom of the cave, where there is solid ice that lasts all year. The climb down can be a little nerve-wracking, as your climbing down a steep staircase into total darkness. This is where I’m glad I had the flashlight tied to a safety line, which allowed me to keep both hands on the railing. Unfortunately, the ice portion is blocked off, but you can see it from the viewing platform. This was the only cave where I encountered anyone (a nice, older couple at the very bottom of the ladder). It was actually kind of nice to have someone down there with a light.

Balcony and Boulevard Caves: Next on the list were Balcony and Boulevard caves. Balcony had a small collapse in the center of the lava tube, which allowed me to take some neat photos inside the tube. Actually, I was a bit nervous in this tube, as the ceiling looked remarkably unstable. And with the recent quakes in odd places through California and Nevada, I didn’t hang out long. Boulevard cave was interesting in that the floor was completely smooth. I could’ve explored deeper here, but it would’ve required knee pads and I was already sore enough from all the ducking and dodging.

Merrill Cave: A similar cave to Skull is Merrill Cave. This also had a series of very steep stairways and an ice lake big enough for ice skating at the bottom. I attempted this one AFTER I had returned my flashlight to the rangers station by the 4:30 PM deadline and had to turn back because I couldn’t attach my maglight to a safety line. I wasn’t keen on dropping my mag light, leaving me in total darkness in the middle of a steep ladder (with my backup flashlight in my pack).

Big Painted Cave and Symbol Bridge: After aborting my Merrill Cave exploration, I decided to check out the pictographs at Big Painted Cave and Symbol Bridge. Big Painted Cave turned out to be a Big Freaking Disappointment, as I couldn’t see any pictographs. Thankfully, I found some at Symbol Bridge and was able to photograph them with my long lens. The hike was only 0.82 miles, but caving is fairly tiring and I was dogging it during the hike back to the car.

The evening consisted of dinner (curried vegetables in a pouch), followed by a few nicely roasted marshmallows. I had an awesome fire using the remains of an oak wine barrel that a fellow Davisite had posted as Free Firewood on Craigslist and left in their front lawn for any takers. I sent them a thank you card. The fire also helped stave off the mosquitoes that were swarming about (assume they must be laying their eggs in puddles in the caves?).

I slept slightly better that evening, though the tent still flapped in the wind all night. I awoke to relatively warm temperatures, as the heat wave was just getting started. I debated staying an extra day, to see some of the historical sites in the park (related to the Modoc Indian War) and climbing a Schonchin Butte, but I’d come to see the caves and was ready to head home. I broke camp by about 11:00 AM and headed out the south entrance. Not recommended, as the road is terrible. I stopped off in the town of Newell, hoping to see the Tule Lake Japanese Internment Camp, but all that was there was a historical marker. Apparently, money was allocated to restore it in 2006, but no work has been done yet.

I headed home via Highways 139 and 299, with a brief stop in Alturas for what was, quite possibly, the best burger and fries I have ever eaten. I should’ve gotten the address, but based on some searches, I think it was Gil’s Burger Stop. All I know is it had 3-4 stone tables in a little “side yard” like area (and the best darn fries I’ve ever eaten).

All in all, it was a really neat trip and certainly one of the most unique adventures I’ve been on. If you choose to go, be sure to print my recommendations below. I lucked out on a couple choices and there were a few things I’d have done differently.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Buy a “bump hat”: These light weight hard hats, available for purchase as the visitor center, are an absolute necessity. Don’t think twice. Just buy it. Lava is sharp and you run out of headroom frequently and often unexpectedly in the caves. It saved my skull on at least 4 occasions

  • Check out the flashlight: Check out one of their flashlights (for free) at the visitor center. They have handles and put out as much light as a 3 D cell mag light. Unlike a mag light, they have a handle you can tie to your belt or backpack, allowing you to use both hands while climbing ladders.

  • Leather Gloves: They do not sell these, but I brought my own. Nice to have when you’re crawling on sharp lava.

  • Kneepads (optional): If you have a pair and plan to do serious exploring, bring some or buy them at the visitor center ($15). Recommend the kind with hard plastic covering the knee. Only necessary if you don’t plan to crawl.

  • Buy a “bump hat”: Wait, I already said that. Oh well. It bears repeating.

  • Other gear to bring from home: Long pants and a long shirt that you don’t mind tearing are a must. It gets down in the 30’s in some caves and you need protection from the often sharp lava rock. A backpack is good for water, etc, but keep it low profile (as it can get stuck when climbing through narrow passages). Bring extra flashlights (at least two), with a small maglight accessible in your pocket. If your main light dies, you don’t want to be stuck on a ladder with no light.

  • Photography: I brought my camera with me, but was only able to take shots at the entrances of the caves. If you bring yours, wrap it safely in your backpack to avoid bumps from the rock walls.

  • Tie your flashlight to your belt or backpack: : I tied the handle of my flashlight to my backpack strap, which allowed me to dangle it down when I need two hands. Be sure to tie a good knot, as you don’t want to lose your flashlight halfway down a staircase in the pitch black.

  • Food containers: Do not leave food out or store it in hard plastic containers, due to the aggressive wildlife (squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, mice, etc). You do not have to worry about bears. You don't have to worry about Mountain lions eating your food, unless you consider yourself (as food).

  • Chapstick, Visine and sunscreen: Be sure to bring Chapstick and Visine on your trip, as the dry, windy high desert will take its toll on eyes and lips. Sunscreen is a must, even on days your caving, as you spend more time than you think in the sun.

  • Plan for cold nights: Many people forget that temperatures reach freezing and below in the high desert at night. A 20 degree sleeping bag is recommended. I brought a 40 and a 20 degree bag and slept in both, as I find the 20 degree mummy bags a little claustrophobic.

  • Buy a freakin “bump hat”: You’re not gonna buy one, are you? You’re either too cheap or you don’t want to look dorky, right? OK. Fine. Don’t buy the bump hat. You were warned.

  • One Day or Two?: You can spend two or more full days at Lava Beds if you plan to explore all the caves or visit some of the historic sites. There are also some trails nearby. However, if you’re like me and visiting 10 caves was enough, you can do it in one full day.

  • Top of your gas tank often: Top off your gas tank in Weed, as there are not many towns between there and Lava Beds. You can also take a short jog north into Oregon to the town of Merrill, which supposedly had cheap(er) gas. If you forget, you can pay way above average at the one gas station in Tule Lake.

  • Stuff I missed: I did not hike up to the fire lookout atop Schonchin Butte, nor did I see any of the Modoc War sites, but part of me wishes I had.

  • Guaze packs: If you failed to heed my advice and did not buy a bump hat, at least be sure to pack enough gauze to staunch the blood flow from your thick skull when you do (and you will) crack your head on the ceiling. If not for yourself, do it for the National Park system. This IS a national monument and it’s unpatriotic for you to bleed all over it.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (108 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Lava Beds National Monument Web Site(Great resource for trip planning)

Tule Lake Internment Camp

Gil’s Burger Stop

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

5/1/08 - Yuba River

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Last Thursday, I tagged along with my dad and two of his fishing buddies (Russ L and John F.) on a fishing trip to the Yuba River. I arrived later than my early-rising father, so I had to track him down with the use of a two-way radio and comparing our relative positions using three buzzards that were circling overhead. Unfortunately, none of the three fishermen were having much luck. The wind was blowing across the stream, making casting very difficult. And while there were a number of large fishing rising and jumping, none were hitting on the flies they were using.

With the fishing as bad as it was, I was glad I brought my camera instead of my fishing pole. I got some good shots of them fishing, though I was hoping a shot of one of them with a big fish (I think they were hoping for that even more than I was). Also got some neat shots of the local Flora and Fauna as well, including some buzzards that kept circling overhead.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Fishing Notes: This section of the Yuba is home to some very big fish. Bring an ability to roll cast, chest waders (it's deep), and a big assortment of flies.

  • Hiking: Not a huge amount of hiking to be had on the northern side of the river (and portions of the trail are thick with poison oak). Probably not an ideal hiking area, though the southern side of the river looked interesting.

  • Kayakers and Rafters: Looked like an interesting area to kayak or raft, though signs warned of a submerged dam 6 miles below where 20 crosses the river. Apparently, this is a common pullout for rafters putting in at Englebright Dam for a Class III run.

  • Where to Park: Cars do get broken into in this area, so I recommend parking further up the road instead of directly under the bridge (where you aren't as visible from the highway). In fact, we saw remnants of a shattered window directly under the bridge. Goes without saying not to leave any valuables in your car.

  • Windy Conditions: Be aware that the Yuba can be very windy, so don't forget lip balm and ear plugs (for those whose ears get bothered by high winds).

  • Where to Eat: For those coming from Sac/Bay Area, I recommend stopping off at a little Fish and Chips place in Yuba City (see link below). It's not exactly gourmet dining, but it's pretty good, pretty cheap and if you can't get any fish on the river, at least you're guaranteed some here.
Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (36 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Parking Area Off Highway 20

Yuba City Fish and Chips

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

4/19-20/08 - Moss Landing

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I recently traveled down to La Selva Beach (south of Santa Cruz, near Watsonville) to visit my Aunt Lori and Uncle Rich (and my canine cousins Buckwheat and Blue, of course) and to attend my friend Peggy's 60th birthday party. It was great to catch up with family and I reconnected with a number of old and dear friends from my Tobacco Control days at the party.

On the 19th, my aunt and I drove down to Moss Landing to do some sightseeing. We braved howling winds to photograph a group of at least a hundred sea lions which had commandeered a public dock. It was fun to watch them jockey for position on the dock, with big ones holding their ground by sheer mass while other young male engaged in mock battles with each other at the far end of the dock. We saw one otter out in the channel, but he was too far away to photograph well (even with the long lens).

On my way home on the 20th, I took a slight detour back to Moss Landing to see if I could find any additional photo opportunities. I stopped at the beach off Jetty Road and photographed the beach and some interesting birds (attention birders: If you can identify, let me know), as well as some insane person who took their small sailboat out in those crazy conditions.

Next, I headed about a half mile south on Highway 1 to Moss Landing Road. My aunt and I had stopped there the previous day, to see if any otters had taken refuge from the wind at the far end of the harbor, but none were there. This time, however, there were no less than FOUR otters in the cove. One was sound half-asleep while floating in the open water. Next was a mother and her overgrown pup sitting on her belly while she tried to clean his fur (the pup is almost as big as its mother). Last, but not least, was a sound asleep otter who had planted himself in a solid mat of seaweed. His little paws were pressed together, as if in prayer, so I nicknamed him "Buddha Otter." The ones of Buddha Otter are probably some of my favorite wildlife shots I've ever taken.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Where to stay: If you have a cool Aunt and Uncle who live in La Selva Beach, I would strongly recommend staying there. Barring that, I haven't a clue.

  • Do Not Disturb The Wildlife: There are signs everywhere to this effect, but it bears repeating. These are wild animals and both Otters and Sea Lions can do some damage (particularly the latter) if you get too close. Not that I was tempted to go further out on the dock. No siree. Not me...

  • Ear Plugs: Not sure if this would work, but I found myself wishing I had ear plugs to guard against the wind. My sinuses have been bothering me all week and I think ear plugs might've helped.

  • Sunscreen: Even if it's cold, the UV rays still burn your skin. So don't forget the sunscreen.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (54 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Dock With Sea Lions

Beach off Jetty Road

Sea Otter Location

La Selva Beach(courtesy of Wikipedia)

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

4/12/08 - Infineon Raceway

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This particular outing did not involve any hiking (unless you count running around a race track trying to get shots from different vantage points as "hiking").

My buddy Bob Gill, whom I've known since the age of 13, owns an Acura Integra which he has spec-ed out with racing tires, a roll cage, racing seat, removable steering wheel, fire-suppression system, etc, etc. He races about once a month during race seasons it at Infineon Raceway (Sonoma, CA) and Thunderhill Raceway (Willows, CA) in the Honda Challenge Racing series. This particular shoot was at Infineon (formerly Sears Point) near Sonoma, CA.

Probably will not be terribly interesting to you unless A) you're into racing or B) you own own of the cars pictured herein. This was primarily to get some good shots of Bob's new car. Bob is in the #4 car (the #3 car is driven by Brian Z, a fellow racing buddy).

I go to these races fairly regularly and they're neat events, especially if you're a car person. It's fun to wander around the paddock, see the various cars and what people have done to them and just soak up the racing culture. If you're interested in tagging along with me sometime, just let me know! The next race is May 3-4 at Thunderhill, up I-5 in Willows

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (56 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Infineon Raceway Web Site

Thunderhill Web Site

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

3/16/08 - Walking In Davis

Sorry - No Photos For This Entry

I debated whether to post this, since A) there are no photographs to go with it and B) I'm not sure "walks" count as "trips". But one of the purposes of this blog is act as a resource of places to visit and things to do, so I figured what the heck.

For those who don't know, I've been walking for exercise a lot lately (and by "a lot", I mean almost daily and 2-4 miles per day). I found running was too hard on my knees/shins/tendons at my current weight and early attempts ended in injury. So I resigned myself to walking instead.

For me, the key has been listening to NPR podcasts as I walk. I got the idea from my buddy Mike R, who listens while walking to and from work. I found that I get in a zone and can walk for miles and miles without even noticing. I think the podcasts occupy my overactive mind during the long walks in a way not much else can. I've tried walking to music and it doesn't distract me enough. Oddly enough, I can't run without music (preferably something from a Rocky soundtrack). Go figure....

I highly encourage anyone who is out of shape, wants to lose weight, or just wants to get out of the house more often to take up walking. No membership is required and you can do it anywhere. It will also get you into good hiking shape to try out some of the hikes detailed in this blog!

Below are a few things that have really helped me go from "Couch Potato" to "Avid Walker".

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to take up walking):
  • Learn What a Podcast Is: For those unfamiliar with podcasting, the ones I download are clips of NPR radio shows. I download them for free via iTunes. The songs are then placed on an MP3 player

  • Buy an MP3 Player: These are available at any electronic store. The most popular is the iPods, which comes in various models, but there are many other types. I have a Zen Nano made by Creative Labs. They all do essentially the same thing: They store music files on something the size of a 5 sticks of gum, powered by a single AAA battery.

  • Start Downloading Podcasts: There are various ways of getting podcasts. I use iTunes (available for download at Once you downloaded and installed iTunes, Click on "iTunes Store", search for "NPR Podcasts" and start subscribing. You then transfer them to your MP3 player via whatever the method specified for your MP3 player. I'm sure iPod syncs automatically somehow, but you'll have to consult a non-Scottish person who doesn't own a cheaper off-brand.

  • Pick some interesting/scenic routes: Don't just walk around your own block. It gets boring. In Davis, I'm blessed with tons of greenbelts to walk through, which makes it a lot more enjoyable. I've listed some of my routes in the links below. Some start at my house, others I drive to the starting point. Trust me, it matters.

  • Get decent shoes: Invest in some walking or cross-training shoes if you don't have them. If your sneakers are at death's door, and you won't buy new ones, invest in some gel insoles. Not that I'm describing myself or anything...

  • Start Small: Start with a very short increments, whether a few blocks, a half mile or a mile every other day. Walking 4 miles your first day will just make you sore (or worse, you'll injure yourself) and you'll give up.

  • Work through the soreness: The first 1-2 weeks will not be fun. Accept that right now. The next two weeks will be much easier. The two weeks after that, you'll feel antsy if you DON'T get a walk in every day. Not sure if it's the endorphins or what, but it's addicting.

  • Do it NOW: The weather will not get better than it is right now. You have a limited amount of time before the weather gets really hot (then really, REALLY hot) and you want to be addicted by then.

Free Web Site For Creating Routes (w/ total distances) (

Mike's Arboretum Loop (4.4 miles - Davis, CA)

Mike's Walnut Park Loop (3.1 miles - Davis, CA)

Mike's Mace Ranch Loop (2.4 miles - Davis, CA)

Mike's Wildhorse Loop (3.3 miles - Davis, CA)

Monday, February 18, 2008

2/17/08 - Half Moon Bay

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This Sunday, I took the Amtrak from Davis to Berkeley to meet my brother, Matt. The train ride itself is a fun adventure. The Capitol Corridor ( trains run from Auburn, though Sacramento and Davis, then south to San Jose. Ticket price varies, depending on destination, but the round trip from Davis to Berkeley trip was $40. It takes you through fields and marshlands, then over the train bridge (beneath the Benecia Bridge) , then along the coast through Martinez. It becomes more urban as it nears Richmond. You can also get off at Richmond and board BART to San Francisco.

After arriving in Berkeley, my brother took me to an awesome hamburger place called Barney's ( We then hopped on the freeway and headed for Half Moon Bay.

Being that it was a 3-day weekend, the roads were crowded. We took Highway 92, though later regretted it after hitting major traffic. The beaches were just as crowded. We almost settled for one area, then flipped a U-turn. We drove a little further south down Highway 1 and pulled off at a gravel pull out (Lat/Long: 37.352608,-122.399068) to stretch our legs. We walked up to the overlook to take a few pics when we discovered a trail. We decided to hike down it to see if it lead to the beach, as you couldn't tell from the road. After a 5 minute walk, we found ourselves looking down on a nearly empty beach, with less than 15 people in 4 groups.

However, to get down to the beach, we had to descend a rather steep incline with the aid of a knotted rope that had seen better days. When we were kids, my brother always used to say "The true adventurer spirit is within us all" right before we did something exceedingly stupid and/or dangerous. Today was no different. So we started down the rope and, luckily, survived without injury.

While on the beach, I was able to talk my brother out of writing "Obama '08" in the sand (I love Obama, but nature should be an apolitical zone), so he instead opted for a large 35 foot diameter peace sign. We hiked the south until the beach dead-ended on some rocks, watched some fisherman and enjoyed the views.

Climbing up was more tiring than coming down, but less of an adventure. We drove back along Highway 1 (which had zero traffic compared to Highway 92). We got to see where they are installing a tunnel to bypass Devil's Slide, an area of Highway 1 which is known for rock slides and road closures. I'm looking forward to a future episode of Modern Marvels on this one.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Buy a GPS system: You haven't a prayer of finding this place unless you own a GPS system. It's not marked by any signs nor does it look like a trailhead.
  • Bring gloves: Gloves would've been nice during this climb down, as my hands are still a little raw from the weathered rope. A climbing harness, rope and belaying device would be even better, but probably overkill (unless you're Mike M. or Scott A).
  • Flip flops and skirts are discouraged: A group of 20-somethings somehow made it down to the beach in flip flops (and one woman had a skirt on), but we thought they were insane.
  • Do not rappel down with your 4-year-old: Not to take away from our manliness, but a couple did descend the cliff with their 4 year old son (despite our warnings). We stuck around long enough to make sure we didn't have to call an ambulance and Child Protective Services.
Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (33 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Parking Area (37.352608,-122.399068 - near 19203 Cabrillo Hwy, Half Moon Bay, CA)

Capitol Corridor Amtrak Web Site

Capitol Corridor Amtrak Route

Amtrak Official Web Site

Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers

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Monday, February 11, 2008

2/10/08 - Sandhill Cranes

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This Sunday, my Dad and I met in Lodi, CA to view and photograph Sandhill Cranes, as part of a CA Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) tour.

Sandhill Cranes are one of the oldest species of birds in the fossil record, dating back 2.5 million years ago). They weigh about 11 lbs and are 4 feet in length (with a wingspan of 7 ft!). The groups we were viewing spend the fall and winters outside of Lodi, then fly north into Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada.

We signed up for the tour via the DFG web site ( The tour is lead by volunteer docents who are avid birders and full of great information. Unfortunately, the tours are currently (2/11/08) booked through the end of the season.

The tour consisted of a short 5 minute drive and no walking. We met at 4:00 PM at the rendezvous assigned by DFG and listened to a brief talk about the cranes. Then we went to one of their viewing areas, depending on where our Tour Guides thought we would have the best chance of seeing cranes.

And see them we did! The sky was filled with thousands of birds (not only cranes, but various species of geese and ducks too). While we were not able to get close to any birds on the ground, we had hundreds fly overhead and land in the fields of the Isenberg Crane Preserve (about 50-100 yards from us).

One of the most unique things about the Sandhill Cranes are their vocalizations. They have a bizarre call that's nearly impossible to describe. It's somewhere between a crow's call, a frog's croak and a lion cub's growl. And when there are thousands of them in all directions, it's pretty amazing.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Visit during the Late Fall/Early Winter: The number of cranes decreases significantly as spring approaches. Some birds have already begun to move North, in fact.
  • Book your tour early: Tours are already booked for the rest of the year, so make your reservations 1-2 months in advance.
  • Bring high power binoculars, spotting scope or a 100-300 mm lens: You will not get close to any birds, so some sort of optical assistance is a huge plus.
  • Plan to stay until dark: They frown on people leaving early, as it spooks the birds. Plan to stay until it's totally dark.
  • Bring mosquito repellant: Sandhill Cranes sleep overnight in flooded fields, so expect swarms of large-type mosquitoes. If you don't want to get eaten alive, bring the bug spray.
  • No Dogs Allowed: Definitely best to leave your dogs at home, as they tend to spook already nervous birds.
  • Arrive a little early: The location where you meet the tour can be a little hard to find, particularly if you and your father decide to meet at a restaurant in Lodi (without realizing that aforementioned restaurant is 15-20 miles away from the tour location).
  • Plan to eat at Habanero Hots afterwards: I found a neat local restaurant in Lodi called Habanero Hots. It looks "dive-ish" from the outside, but the inside is very warm and family-friendly. Food was excellent, authentic and came in large quantities, plus the service was great. See for more info.
Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (63 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Viewing Location (W Woodbridge Rd @38.155225, -121.472077)

Dept. of Fish and Game Sandhill Crane Tours and Registration

San Francisco Chronicle Article (September 18, 2005)

Bird Identification Web Site (

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

1/12/08 - Tomales Pt./Pt. Reyes

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On Saturday, my buddy Mike R. and I drove to Pt. Reyes National Seashore for a hike. I've known Mike since 7th grade and adventures are nothing new to us. Previous adventures include:
  • 2007 - "It's called 'The Blue Ridge Trail'. How steep can it be?" Berryessa trip.
  • 1999 - The "2000 Mile, 4-Day Spring Break Road Trip" thru CA, NV, UT, and AZ.
  • 1988 - The "It's a short hike, so why bring extra water?" Mammoth Lakes trip.
    and, of course,
  • 1986 - The infamous "Since I've got a rope, why don't you guys lower me down into this abandoned well" Mt. Diablo trip.
Given our history, I was pleasantly surprised that Mike's wife allowed him go with me on yet another adventure (particularly since she's expecting baby #3 next month). I did agree beforehand not to ask Mike to lower me into any abandon wells we might find.

We decided to leave Davis at the insanely early hour of 6:00 AM on Saturday (after playing poker with friends until midnight the prior evening). It was raining when Mike arrived to pick me up, which did not bode well. However, the rain soon stopped and turned into cloud cover. After a 2 hour drive from Davis, we arrived at Point Pierce Ranch in Pt. Reyes National Seashore, which is the trailhead for the Tomales Pt. Trail.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a beautiful park and is known for a number of things, including the Point Reyes lighthouse, elephant seals and incredible beaches. We were there to hike the Tomales Pt. Trail and view/photograph the Tule Elk herd. These animals were almost wiped out entirely 100 years ago and only around 1000 survive in California today.

The trail runs along the ridge of the Pt. Reyes Peninsula, which extends north towards Bodega Bay. Tomales Bay was created by the San Andreas fault, with the peninsula on the Pacific plate and the other side of Tomales Bay being on the North American plate. The hike is moderately strenuous and is about 10 miles round trip if you go all the way to the point, which isn't a requirement. It's fairly hilly country and towards the point, the trail gets sandy. The trail does not, however, get you anywhere remotely near the water, tide pools or beaches.

We lucked out on the weather. It was chilly when we stared, but the sun broke through the clouds around 10:00 AM and cleared entirely by midday. The ocean was also very cooperative, providing some HUGE waves, which were a blast to photograph. You could hear them crash loudly as we hiked along.

As you'll see from the photos, you're able to get fairly close to the tule elk that roam the peninsula. Granted, I'm shooting with a 100-300 telephoto lens, so "close" is relative. The best part about photographing these wild animals was having the backdrop of Tomales Bay and the Pacific ocean. It was hard to take a bad shot and the only difficult part was avoiding "camera shake" using only a monopod (my walking stick converts to a monopod). I have a lightweight tripod, but the term "lightweight" is also relative.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):
  • Dress in layers: I've been here many times and it can be socked in with fog, very windy, sunny and warm and everything in between (all in the same day).
  • Visit during the Fall/Winter: Dense fog is more common here in the late spring and summer, so winter is a great time to go.
  • Don't feel the need to go all the way to the point: The view from the point is quite nice, but not so amazing that you must see it. This hike is about the journey, not the destination. Unless you're like Mike and I, in which case you must go to the point or you are girly men.
  • Be cautious, but not fearful: Signs warn that male elk can be dangerous during rutting season. However, if they're in the middle of the trail, just approach them slowly and confidently and they will get out of your way. They're very cow-like.
  • Arrive early: We arrive around 8:00 AM and were one of two cars in the two parking lots.
  • Make a choice - Beach or Trail: The trail described herein does not go to the beach at any point. If you want a beach hike, choose one of the other trails in the park. And don't plan to do it afterwards. You'll be too tired, unless you're 25ish and in killer shape.
  • No Dogs Allowed: Sorry, but dogs aren't allowed on this trail, as they spook the elk. Check the Pt. Reyes web site to see if/where dogs are allowed elsewhere in the park.
Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!

Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (69 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Tomales Point Trail Map (PDF)

Pt. Reyes National Seashore Web Site

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

1/1/08 - Cache Creek Hike

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Happy New Year, everyone! Below is a trip summary and pics of my New Year's Day hike in the Cache Creek Natural Area north of Rumsey, CA. Feel free to skip the Trip Summary and scroll to the bottom if you just want to see the pics.

Trip Summary
I decided to spend the first day of 2008 hiking, as one of my resolutions is to spend more time in the outdoors (particularly after I'm gainfully employed once again). I'd originally planned to hike a trail near the junction of Routes 16 and 20 (north of Rumsey, CA). I'd planned it out using a topographical mapping program. Unfortunately, when I got to the "trailhead", there was a locked gate with a no trespassing sign on it. The problem with maps and mapping programs they're made using aerial/satellite photos and don't differentiate between private and public lands.

I drove a few miles south and ended up at the Cache Creek Natural Area, a small park on BLM land near Cache Creek. After talking to a rather gruff BLM ranger (seemed more cop than ranger), he said my best bet for hiking was to cross Cache Creek and go overland. I was hoping to photograph the resident elk herd, which numbers 150 to 200.

After lucking across an extremely shallow section of Cache Creek, I crossed and went overland across the valley floor. The grass had been heavily grazed, so I knew the elk herd was there somewhere. I hiked to the top of a rather steep hill which gave me a great view of the valley, but still couldn't find the herd. They must've been hiding somewhere out of range. I ended up hiking a little further, then headed back down the hill.

I only saw one other person hiking all day and that was some guy stretching out a long, red sheet on the other side of the valley. Couldn't figure out what it was, even through my long lens, but I took a few shots. After zooming in on the computer at home, it appears to be some sort of paraglider. If I'd known that, I'd have stuck around long enough to watch him get airborne.

On my way back, I stumbled across a strange, hollowed-out area of dense undergrowth underneath some dead trees. It almost looked like something's shelter or "den". Being a typical guy, I had to go inside and take photos. Then I realized that being either mauled by a mountain lion or trampled by a panicked elk would not start off 2008 well, so I left.

Overall, a good trip. I'd have liked to have seen some elk, but I got some exercise, fresh air and solitude, which were my primary goals. After finding the BLM web site for this area, there are a number of trails I might take in the future.

Let me know if you have any questions! Take care and happy 2008!
Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (26 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Cache Creek Natural Area BLM Web Site

Saturday, November 17, 2007

11/17/07 - Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

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Below is a trip summary and pics (end of email) of Saturday's day trip to the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center near Muir Beach, CA. Feel free to skip the narrative stuff and scroll to the bottom if you just want to see the pics.

Trip Summary
I've wanted to check this place out for about a year now, after finding it on the web. I had originally planned to get a hotel in Inverness and spend the weekend here and hiking Pt. Reyes. However, the threat of rain and the dense fog made me decide to make it a day trip. I'm glad I did, as hiking Pt. Reyes would have been about as scenic as hiking in cloud bank (and many of the beaches were closed due to the oil spill).

Green Gulch Farm Zen Center is located near Mur Beach, CA (along Highway 1, north of the Golden Gate). It's a small Zen temple and organic farm. The web site ( describes it as "a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition offering training in Zen meditation and ordinary work. It is one of three centers that make up San Francisco Zen Center, which was founded by Shunryu Suzuki-roshi."

It is made up living quarters, a guest house for visitors, a zendo (or meditation house), a conference center, and an extensive organic farm. Everyone is welcome to wander around the facility. One can stay overnight in the Guest House. The nice practitioner at the office likened it to a Buddhist Bed and Breakfast (just with very small, simple rooms). They do have a public program every Sunday morning, which includes meditation instruction, meditation, a lecture, tea and a vegetarian lunch ($8 donation requested). I'm definitely planning to go back in the near future to stay overnight and attend the Sunday program.

Let me know if you have any questions and enjoy the photos below!

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Photo Album (47 photos):
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Green Gulch Farm Zen Center Web Site:

Friday, September 7, 2007

9/7/07 - Crater Lake/Oregon Coast Trip

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Below is a trip summary and pics (end of email) to my recent camping trip up to Crater Lake, OR and along the Oregon Coast. Feel free to skip the narrative stuff and scroll to the bottom if you just want to see the pics. I won't be hurt, honest!

Trip Summary
I'd originally planned to head to Montana/Wyoming and visit Glacier NP and/or Yellowstone NP. However, after looking at the distances on Google maps, I decided it was a bit further than I wanted to travel. So I decide to go to Crater Lake National Park instead.

I left Friday (9/7) and arrived at Crater Lake that evening. I got a camp site at Mazuma Campground and stayed for tow nights. Crater Lake is absolutely beautiful. It was formed when a volcano (Mt. Mazuma) erupted 7,700 years ago, emptying it's huge magma chamber and causing the top of the mountain to collapse in on itself. This created the 1,943 ft deep lake we see today. It is made up entirely of rain and snow run-off, which sounds shocking until you hear that the average snowfall is 44 ft. The extreme blue color of the lake (no, I did not Photoshop these pics!) is caused by it's depth, as light is absorbed color by color as it pass through clear water and the last color absorbed are the blues. The sky is blue for the same reason.

On Saturday, I drove the entire road around the lake. It takes 2-3 hours, more if you stop and hike like I did. The views from each area is different, as you'll see in the photos. You need at least one full day to appreciate the park fully. One thing I didn't get to do was take the boat tour. This requires getting tickets the day of and a long, steep hike down into the crater. It looks neat, but it's a half day excursion.

On Sunday, I headed west to the coast via the Umpqua/Rogue Scenic Highway (138). Beautiful, but very curvy and tiring to drive. Would've loved to fish, but didn't have room for fishing gear in the ol' Accord. I got to the coast around 6:00 and camped at Bullards Beach State Park that night (9/9). I didn't get to take a photo of the camp site, but we were packed in like sardines. One plus was that it encouraged me to meet my neighbors (one of whom, Chuck, I got to ask about his jet boat and crab pots).

On Monday, I headed down the coast on 101 to Crescent City. By the time I got there, I was tired, dirty and didn't feel like setting up the tent a 3rd time (only to have it get soaked by the fog, which makes packing up difficult). So I wimped out and got a hotel room. After a shower and a meal of Cajun ling cod at the local seafood place, I watched the 49er's on Monday Night Football and sleep in a comfy bed. It was nice.

On Tuesday, I headed home. According to Matt-Matt (similar to a Tom-Tom, only less expensive and consists of me on the phone with my brother sitting at his computer on Google Maps), the drive home was 6.5 hours. With a half hour lunch and occasional stops for pics, I was home in 9 hours. I did spend 45 minutes at Sundial Bridge in Redding. It's a 700 ft. pedestrian bridge that is supported by cables stemming from one massive column. It's a beautiful work of architectural art and well worth the short stop.

All in all a great trip that I'd recommend to everyone. Let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise, just enjoy the photos below!

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Photo Slideshow:

Monday, June 27, 2005

Lassen Volcanic National Park

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Here is another trip with some of my best photos from the Pre-Blog days:

In late June of 2005, my father and I camped for 4 days in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is a remarkably beautiful park and rich with history of one of only two volcanoes to have erupted in recent geologic times in the continental US. It also has all the facilities of a well-funded National Park (good trails, rangers, visitors centers, campgrounds, etc) without the usual throngs of visitors you contend with at most National Parks, like Yosemite.

Late June is probably one of the best times to go, since the park has been snowbound for the entire winter and it's not very crowded. Again, crowded is a relative term. By then, the snow has cleared out of the campground area, but you can still experience it at the upper elevations. You can climb to the peak of Lassen, though it's an all-day affair. It's do-able by non-mountaineers (no ice axes required).

Fishing was fairly good at Manzanita Lake and various small streams throughout the park. My dad and I did some bushwhacking to get back to some of the streams and were rewarded with a few small, but beautiful fish.

Sorry for the abbreviated trip report, but this was almost three years ago and my memory isn't as good as it used to be. I definitely recommend Lassen for anyone who has never been. It's truly one of the forgotten jewels of our National Park system.

Mike's Recommendations (if you decide to visit):

  • Best Time To Visit: I recommend late June, as that's when we went. Crowds are relatively light and it's a good mix of snow at the higher levels and no snow in the campground. However, in a really good snow year, all parts of the park may not be open by then (so there is some risk).

  • Camping: We stayed in the Manzanita Lake campgrounds, which were some of the nicest we've ever stayed in. Highly recommend that as a good launch point for all park activities.

  • Bears: There are bears in the parks, though not as many as in Yosemite and other parks. Precautions are still recommended (and bear lockers are provided).

  • Fishing: Special regulations apply to Manzanita Lake: within 150 of the Manzanita Creek inlet is closed to fishing, the rest of the lake is catch and release only; artificial lures and single, barbless hooks must be used. Manzanita Creek is closed above Manzanita Lake year-round.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions!


Click Here For Full Screen Slideshow (recommended)

Individual Photos (33 photos)

Driving Directions (courtesy of Google Maps)

Lassen Volcanic National Park Web Site

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