Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Saturday, May 31, 2014

While Lynnae was fishing...

...unsuccessfully this time, I was playing with my camera and looking for interesting images at a kind of ugly lake (Portal Forebay is basically a holding pond for the hydroelectric system).  I took some rather mundane pictures but had fun with them in the post-processing.

I thought this old log looked cool in black and white

This was one of the largest bunches of snow plants I have seen and thought it really brought out their color by taking the color out of the rest of the picture

Sharpening up the detail on the stick and softening the surrounding water made this a bit more interesting
An example of how Lightroom can enhance the creative process: I started with this picture of plants under water...

... but a little post-processing made it a completely different photo!

Friday, May 30, 2014

It started out as a great hike, then....

We set out to hike to Twin Lakes in the Kaiser Wilderness right behind Huntington Lake.  We got a tip for a shortcut from the guy at the store where we bought a few fishing weights for Lynnae.  We found the trailhead up at about 9,100 feet on Kaiser Pass and headed out.  All went well until we got to the meadow and took what we thought was the trail over Potter Pass.  Well, pretty soon the trail started heading off in the wrong direction and down the wrong side of Kaiser Peak.  We took off cross-country using my phone as a GPS and were traversing the high ridge (with great views) when we stopped to have a snack and take pictures of some wildflowers.  I had been checking my phone periodically to make sure it was tracking our path, but this time when I went to check it, it was gone!  We spent a hectic half hour or so trying find it, going back to a few stops and trying to reach my security app on Lynnae's phone to locate it.  Nothing.  We finally gave up and decided to head back before we got ourselves lost too (since my phone was our only map).  So we never found the lake and I lost my almost new phone.  But it's only stuff and we had a nice hike in a beautiful place.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A young family tries it

A friend forwarded a story to us about a young family who sold everything to pursue the nomadic life.  They have some nice photography on their blog: and I particularly like this short documentary on them:

It would be a completely different experience to do this with a young child along like this family, but what an adventure for them all!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Huntington Lake

Leaving the great national parks of Yosemite and Kings Canyon, we decided to find a low-key place to spend a week before heading up to Auburn and Grass Valley in June.  I picked Huntington Lake off the map because it looked like it was in a good place--right between Yosemite and Kings Canyon, up at about 7,000 feet, with a decent road to get there.  Plus the Deer Creek campground had great reviews on

When we arrived yesterday, the campground was full and it looked like tent city.  Each campsite had at least 3 tents, 4 cars and 2 kids.  Welcome to summer (Memorial Day weekend, no less) in California!  But our site was nice and the area looked beautiful, so we were content. This morning everybody left.  I mean every campsite was open but ours and the camp hosts.  I guess we'll have a quiet week here!

We went on a hike today to Rancheria Falls.  Very beautiful little falls on a 2-mile trail.  And because it is national forest, not national park, we could bring Tucker.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Have or Have Not

I don't write much about interesting people we meet on the road (I should probably get over my reluctance to take their pictures), but I have to tell you about our recent neighbor during one short stay in town getting groceries running errands.  I won't mention his real name, but he also goes by Wavy Gravy.  Wavy has lived in the trailer park for about 15 years and doesn't own a car--he rides his bicycle everywhere or ride shares.  His home is modest:

He is 63, tall and skinny with long hair and makes a little money by house-sitting and selling pot.  His main pastimes are writing poetry (after the style of the beat poets) and watching baseball....and getting stoned.  I suspect he may do all three simultaneously.

We shared a beer at the picnic table and traded stories about the 60s (we were both at Altamont). We were talking politics and local Fresno lore when he floored me with a comment. After noting that the country was becoming increasingly divided between the "haves" and the "have nots", Wavy said "I never would have predicted 30 years ago that I would end up one of the "haves"."  I thought for sure that he was about to say "have nots", but I was completely wrong.  He sees his life as successful and secure and is grateful that he never held a regular job. He seems quite happy to me, but you never really know what goes on in a person's life. I thought he was very articulate and pleasant...a nice guy.

I guess I never would have predicted that I might spend my "golden years" hanging out in trailer parks and having neighbors like Wavy.  But like him, I feel like one of the "haves", especially when I wake up to the sound of a river tumbling nearby and look forward to a hike up a mountain or a bike ride around a high-mountain meadow with my sweetie.

Sequoia National Park

After six weeks in the Sierras, we only had one day to visit Sequoia NP, which was a shame.  But we will be back!  This park includes both huge stands of the big trees and breathtaking high country, including most of the highest mountains in the entire 400-mile range.  We will see a bit of both on our short visit.  We hiked from the General Sherman tree, considered the largest (by volume) tree in the world.  Each year it grows enough new wood to equal a 60-foot pine tree. I didn't even take a picture of it because it was kind of like a lion in a zoo...the King Kong of trees.  But as we walked past the Sherman tree into the Giant Forest, we became awe-struck.  It is one thing to see a single Sequoia or a small grove of them as we have in Yosemite and Kings Canyon, but quite another to walk for miles through hundreds of these stately, beautiful and character-rich trees. It was a unique experience that is really hard to capture in pictures...but I have a few here to attempt it.

After six miles, we reached the end of our hike--Moro Rock.  Kind of like a smaller version of Half Dome, the top of Moro Rock is reached by climbing 350 concrete steps built in the 30's and clinging precariously to the side of the granite face of the rock. Several people have died here, either struck by lightning or falling.  The views were spectacular in all directions.  To the west we could see the rolling foothills down to the Central Valley and to the east, we could see the Sierra crest.

On the top of Moro Rock (well protected by railings!)

Looking down the foothills to the Central Valley. The road is Hwy 198, the southern entrance to the park.
Looking toward the vast crest, uncrossed by roads for 200 miles. Fittingly we are exactly due west of Mt. Whitney, on the east side of which we were camping about six weeks ago.

A closeup of the crest.  It's worth clicking on this one to get the full effect!

Friday, May 23, 2014

ANOTHER Environmental Crime!

I know, I know...I am starting to sound like a broken record ("what is a record?" everyone under 30 asks).  But I just obsess about the people who found these wonders like Hetch Hetchy and their first thought was, "Gee, we can improve that thing that took 20 million years to create and fill it with water".  So another case in point is the giant Sequoia.  No one had ever seen trees like this before.  The mature ones were 2,000 to 3,000-years-old.  Their dimensions were immense.  So what did the early settlers do?  They cut them down.  In one case, they cut a huge one down and dissassembled a 30 foot section of the trunk and shipped the pieces to Chicago for the 1892 Exposition and reassembled the trunk there--where no one believed it was a real tree!  It was called the "California Hoax".  So they killed the tree to impress people how big the tree was, but no one was impressed.

The saddest case is the story of Converse Basin, once the largest grove of mature Sequoias in the world.  It was privately-owned, and in the late 1800s was extensively logged.  This was not even a successful commercial venture because when Sequoias fall, they tend to splinter into unusable wood.  So these magnificent trees were all cut down to become pencils and grapevine stakes. So in the end, only one mature Sequoia survives in Converse Basin, the Boole Tree, ironically named for the foreman of the lumber company that cut down all the others.  But what a magnificent tree it is!

Stump Meadow in Converse Basin. Sequoia wood takes centuries to decompose.

This shows the immense size of the stumps next to our truck

The Boole tree stands among fir and pine trees and towers over them all

The fires scar on this tree must be sixty feet high.  I walked around the tree as close as I could and counted 52 paces around it!
Not only big, the Boole tree has unbelievable character and beauty.  So does the sweet girl standing next to it ;-)
Today we walked through the remains of a once-great forest, tomorrow we get to visit a living one in Sequoia National Park!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

More Tucker!

 We have been asked for more Tucker in the blog, so for you Tucker fans, here goes!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kings Canyon NP (Part 3)

After hiking in shorts and t-shirts on Sunday, the weather turned dark and cold.  We drove up out of the canyon to the Grant Grove area of the park, which is higher at 6,500 feet and (since we had no internet to find out), we ran right into a snowstorm.  We hunkered down for the night and in the morning did some short drives and hikes and spent some time at the visitors center. 

It was VERY foggy in the morning:

Lynnae went fishing on Hume Lake (didn't catch anything but a friendly fisherman who was doing better gave us two fish--trout tacos tonight!)

And we explored the inlet creek of the lake.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kings Canyon National Park (Part 2)

On our last day in Kings Canyon, we took a longer hike up one of the side canyons to above Mist Falls.  This hike was one of the most spectacular we have ever done.  This hike is the first leg of a 42-mile loop that is quite popular and goes deep into the high country to the 12,000-foot level and traverses several lakes and a few passes.  Our backpacking days are likely over, but we got a glimpse of the beauty of this area on our day hike of ten miles.  At some points we were hiking below sheer granite cliffs that rose over a mile high on either side of us, while the Kings river roiled madly near the trail for nearly the entire hike.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Kings Canyon National Park (Part 1)

Outside of California, not many people know about Kings Canyon.  It is another glacially carved valley like Yosemite, only different.  We were excited to explore it and spend a few weeks there.  The key difference between Yosemite and Kings Canyon is that Yosemite Valley is about a mile to a mile and a half wide, while Kings Canyon is only a half mile to a mile wide, and steeper from the back to the front of the valley.  So Yosemite had roads built deep into the valley over a hundred years ago.  Now there are hotels and stores and lots of campgrounds all through the valley, so while it is very beautiful, it is quite popular and crowded. In Kings Canyon. the road barely penetrates to the entrance of the valley (about as far as El Capitan, for those who know Yosemite).  So the real deep valley of Kings Canyon must be hiked in to.  We spent a wonderful five days deep in the canyon and hiked a lot.  Here are some highlight pictures of the area:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A little R & R

After spending a month in Yosemite, after two weeks in Lone Pine, which was after two weeks in Death Valley...we were in need of a civilization fix.  We found a nice RV park in Fresno which was within a mile of every store and service one could want.  Over the course of five days in Fresno we got new tires for the truck, did laundry, had our trailer furnace repaired, had Tucker washed and waxed, washed the truck, shopped at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, ate some Thai food, went to a great music performance by Asleep at the Wheel, Lynnae got a pedicure, we both got haircuts and filled the truck with diesel and the trailer with propane.  We were set to head to the mountains again!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tioga Road

On our last full day in Yosemite, we took advantage of the opening for the season of the road that goes up through the Yosemite high country and over 10,000-foot Tioga pass.  It was a cold and overcast day, but the mountains were beautiful.  I thought I would highlight some of Lynnae's pictures on this post, since she took some great ones that day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another environmental crime

I wrote a while back about Los Angeles' theft of water from the Owens Valley a hundred years ago.  Unfortunately San Francisco also had a darker side to its development and growth.  After the 1906 earthquake, when much of the city burned in part due to lack of water, the city set out to secure a source of water and lighted on Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.  It is inconceivable today, but San Francisco managed to get a bill passed in Congress allowing them to dam the "other Yosemite Valley" and create a reservoir.  Wrote John Muir:  "I have always called it the 'Tuolomne Yosemite' for it is a wonderfully exact counterpart of the Merced Yosemite, not only in its sublime rocks and waterfalls, but in the gardens, groves and meadows of its flowery park-like floor."  This valley was inundated with hundreds of feet of water and is still the source of drinking water for millions of people in the Bay Area.  There has been a small movement to drain Hetch Hetchy and restore a second Yosemite Valley, but that is unlikely to gain general approval.  Our visit included a short hike to massive Wapama Falls and lovely views of the surrounding cliffs.