Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Twenty Lakes Basin Hike

I had never done this hike before and was determined to do it before I got too old. It's located just outside the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.

You can cut 3 miles off an otherwise 8.5 mile hike by taking a water taxi to the upper end of Saddlebag Lake. Sign me up!

I meant to do the left side of the loop and then turn around, because it was supposed to be the easiest and most scenic. But why are the lakes on the wrong side of the trail?

Uh-oh! I think this is the hard part I had heard about. I'm on the right side of the loop, and that's Lake Helen down there. Yes, this is the trail!

On the way down the rocky canyon, this creature was having dinner. Anybody know what it is? It looked like a gigantic mouse.

Walking on rocks all the way from Odell Lake to the upper side of Lake Helen was a challenge.

But eventually the trail leveled out, and Shamrock Lake came into view.

This lake is just beautiful, with several islands and peninsulas in it.

I was seeing a lot of this plant. I don't know what it is, but it looks kind of pretty close up -

But with the sun behind it, it turns bright red!

Up and over the next hill, and suddenly, there was Steelhead Lake.

The trail got easier here, because it used to be an old mining road.

Three lakes in one picture! Does it get any better? An unnamed small lake in front of Greenstone Lake, with Saddlebag Lake in the back. If you look closely, you can see the water taxi on it's way.

Wow, that was great! Definitely goes on my list of favorite hikes!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Hot Springs of Bridgeport

Bridgeport, CA has some very nice natural hot springs. I had been to Travertine Hot Springs before, but I wanted to find the others.

Fales Hot Ditch is north of town and right by a busy highway. Fairly difficult to find, it was not very appealing.

Buckeye Hot Springs is a little easier to find. The Upper Pool is fairly close to where you park. Near the foot of a tree, it's a nice temperature, and offers shade most of the day.

To get to the main pools down by the creek, you have to go down a fairly steep slope. Several trails exist, none of them good. Did I mention I am not good on steep slopes?

Down by the creek are several pools, each a different temperature, under a cliff built up by mineral deposits. I washed off the mud and had a nice soak.

But my favorite hot spring of Bridgeport is Travertine Hot Spring. It's also the closest to town.

Hot water runs off a high travertine ridge into four pools, each a different temperature.

The water runs down into each of the pools from a series of grooves dug into the mineral deposit.

It's a great soak, and you get meet some interesting people too.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Goodbye, God, I'm Going to Bodie

That is what one little girl wrote in her diary when her family moved here.

Today, Bodie is the best preserved ghost town in California. Gold was discovered here in 1859 and by 1879, the town boasted a population of about 10,000.

Only about five percent of the buildings still remain, including the Methodist Church, which the residents apparently really needed. In 1881, the Rev. Warrington saw Bodie as "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion."

The Ten Commandments, which once hung behind the pulpit ("Thou shalt not steal"), has been stolen.

Great rusty stuff abounds! I especially liked the old cars half buried in the grass.

Some of the buildings are not in the greatest shape - this one is propped up with a big board. California is maintaining the town in a state of "arrested decay,"

The Bodie Odd Fellows Lodge (IOOF) used the upper floor of this building.

The first floor was an undertaking business. Many buildings were still furnished, including the morgue next door. I was a little skeptical about how this could be...

The Sam Leon Bar was just one of the 65 saloons in town. Here's one reason for my skepticism - why would people just leave their chips here?

The old barber shop -

And the Boone Store and Warehouse. The general store was owned by a descendant of Daniel Boone.

The mine area is unsafe and not open to the public. Between 1860 and 1941 the Bodie Mining District produced close to $100 million in gold and silver.

And what's this? The DirecTV store?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fiddlin' Around in Fiddletown

After enjoying Napa, it was time to go up the hill and visit with some friends in Pioneer, CA. This is a beautiful area, with lots of log houses (I wouldn't call them cabins) among a variety of conifer trees.

The deer are very friendly, especially when they get fed. I was worried they were getting too unafraid of people, but I was assured that there were no hunters in the area.

On Saturday, we all headed over to the Fiddlers' Jam Fiddle Contest in Fiddletown.

This is an old gold mining town. It was named Fiddletown because it was settled in 1849 by a party from Missouri who spent all their time fiddling. I guess they weren't very successful gold miners.

We missed the actual fiddle contest, but made it for the entertainment.

I was wondering what this guy had in his jug.

But it turns out that was his instrument.

There was a room where everyone could jam when they weren't on stage.

After leaving Pioneer, we went over the mountains to Carson City, NV, and saw yet another capitol building.

It's a small building, and has only one statue - Sarah Winnemucca. Sarah is famous for having tried to ease the friction between her people, the Paiute Indian tribe, and the white people. She was also the author of the first book ever published that was written by a Native American woman.

The statue had some interesting detail on the fringe of her dress.

The Capitol had a small museum inside. This elk horn chair was used by President Theodore Roosevelt during his visit to the Capitol. Ouch!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You Had Me at Merlot

I think there are about 3 trillion wineries in the Napa Valley (or at least it seems that way), and I wanted to see some of the more interesting ones. There are not many free tastings here anymore. In fact, I could only find one. Most cost between $10 and $50.

So let's move on to a few of the pretty, photogenic wineries I found. Darioush has everyone beat as far as pretty goes. Wow!

I liked this statue at Robert Mondavi.

The mosaic of different birds is very detailed.

I really liked the Trefethen Winery, mostly because they have lots of RUSTY STUFF!

They also have cute photo opps in the gift shop.

And some gigantic squash!

Chateau Montelena is in an old ivy-covered castle.

With a lovely pond where you can have a private tasting in one of the pavilions.

But this was my "find of the day" - a HUGE piece of rusty stuff!

In front of a water company -

With an old man and a dog driving. It just doesn't get any better!