Somewhere around ten years ago David and I spent a day at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. This is a small and quiet park that is only accessible via boat since other than its lakeshore, the park is surrounded entirely by private lands. Ten years ago we rented a canoe and paddled about a mile to the first trailhead, then did a six mile hike through lava flows and by lava tubes. After the hike we paddled back across the lake. We didn’t see another person and the wildlife was incredible. For years we’ve been saying we need to go back and take advantage of the campsites lining the shore, and we finally got around to it last weekend.
About twenty miles east of Lee Vining and Yosemite National Park there is a small high desert mountain range known as the Granite Mountain Wilderness. There are hundreds – thousands – of these small desert ranges across the western states, and frequently they are driven by at highways speeds, from a distance appearing brown and grey and desolate and boring. But during my years of exploring the backcountry of California I’ve learned that these ranges are full of life, history, and exciting adventures.
Last weekend I backpacked in to Rancheria Falls in the Hetch Hetchy region of Yosemite National Park. Is Yosemite ever anything other than incredible?
Wapama Falls crossing:
Rancheria Falls cascade:
April is a somewhat unpredictable time of year in terms of weather in Yosemite, so when I made campground reservations a few months ago I had no idea if I’d be snowshoeing or hiking. April is about the latest I’ll go to the Valley since I prefer to avoid it during the busy summer season, and this year it ended up being perfect timing. It has turned out to be a dry winter and with clear skies and forecasted highs around 70, I planned a couple of great Yosemite Valley hikes that would get us to some classic sights as well as away from the crowds. On Saturday we hiked the northeast gully of Liberty Cap to the summit, and on Sunday we hiked the Rockslides, the Old Big Oak Flat road that used to be the only road into the Valley.
We usually spend Easter weekend in one of two places: Carrizo Plain (in good wildflower years) or Lava Beds National Monument. This year we decided that a visit to the Eastern Sierra was in order instead. Five months without a Bishop fix was long enough and despite the passes still being closed, driving the long way around for a three day weekend was worth it.
On Thursday night we headed out from San Jose for Truckee where we had (gasp!) booked a hotel room for the night. That hotel was conveniently next door to one of our favorite breweries, FiftyFifty. Several delicious beers were enjoyed with dinner, and we retired early to get up the next day for some outdoor adventures.
The list of local parks that I haven’t had a chance to explore is shrinking. One of its final members was Pacheco State Park, a nearly 7000 acre park west of San Luis Reservoir on the south side of highway 152. It is the southernmost parkland on the Diablo Range before Pinnacles National Park, and shares its land with grazing cattle and a windmill farm.
On Saturday morning I set out with two goals in mind: 1) explore Pacheco State Park and 2) get in a nice long hike. The trails in Pacheco are numerous and one can put together hikes from easy to difficult. Our chosen route would take us around the perimeter of the park and over Spikes Peak, an estimated 15.5 miles and ~3400 ft of elevation gain.
I have previously extolled the virtues of Almaden Quicksilver County Park. Today it was the source of sanity after a couple of long and busy work weeks. I’ve been working from home all week due to very early morning phone calls followed by a lot of heads-down work, so by this morning I was suffering from serious cabin fever. Fortunately, today was finally a day to take a breath and I found myself with the freedom to pop out for a trail run. Naturally, I chose my closest park with the best (no poison oak) trails for running. It was a gorgeous day, and despite only carrying my iPhone I still managed to snap a bunch of pictures capturing the beautiful sky and views. Enjoy!