Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

I had just an evening and a few hours the next morning to explore the Alabama Hills. I got in after dark and it was very windy and cold Halloween night so I didn’t want to spend too much time outside. I shall return with more time to explore the Movie Road and Movie Flats to find the locations of the arches and television / movie shooting locations. The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine will provide a history and has information and self-guided tours of the area.

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Map of several of the Alabama Hills movie sites

These hills, arches and rock formations on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada are in the shadow of Mount Whitney just west of the California town of Lone Pine. Located right off the road to Whitney Portal, the starting point for climbing the 11th highest peak in the United States and the tallest in California, this BLM land is open for exploring, hiking, astronomy, camping and exploring. The formations are part of the same geological formation although geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada Mountains just adjacent to the east

Mines in the area were named after the Confederate Civil War ship the CSS Alabama by sympathetic confederate miners of the time and then it became the name of the entire area. When the Alabama was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864 the mining district, a mountain pass and peak and a town were named Kearsarge by sympathetic union miners.

Used by television and movie productions for filming, especially Westerns. Since the 1920’s this rugged environment has been shown in approximately 150 movies and a dozen television shows. A few of the early television shows have been Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, The Gene Audrey Show, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza. While Gunga Din, The Walking Hills, Yellow Sky, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock and How the West was Won are some of the Movie Classics. Current Films have included Gladiator, Django Unchained, Iron Man, Man of Steel, Firefly and Tremors.

Nighttime is just as impressive as the landscape during the day as the Alabama Hills is a Bortle Class 2 “average dark sky” site. On a clear moonless night many star formations and the Milky Way appear brightly in the night sky.

My visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park on a trip south to visit family.

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I left Vancouver for southern California and my first overnight stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. As the name implies it’s major features are volcanic in origin. Being the southern most volcano of the Cascade Range the prominent features of the park are the largest plug volcano in the world, Lassen Peak and it’s sulfur – thermal hot springs.

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Originally two separate National Monuments dedicated in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak National Monuments were declared Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1916.

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I arrived late in the afternoon after an 8 1/2 hour drive and set up camp at Manzanita Lake Campground located in the northern section of the park. Then I proceeded to walk the loop trail around Manzanita Lake, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice campfire before retiring to my tent to read and fall asleep.

 

Accessible by five vehicle entrances the majority of visitors enter either from the north or south along State Route 89, named the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway or Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, off State route 44 in the north and 89 from the south. Three unpaved roads enter the park but do not connect with the main road through the park, Highway 89.

The north-south 29-mile (46.6k) road, Highway 89, was constructed between 1925 and 1931. The road summit is the highest in the Cascades topping at 8,512 feet (2,594 m). This road is closed in the winter months due to snow, which can reach 40 feet (12.2m) deep.

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Early morning along the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway

 

I got up early, had a quick breakfast and packed up to head south along Route 89 to visit the sites of the park. It was very interesting stopping at the many informative signs along the road to read the history of the park.

 

The last minor to major eruption started in 1914 and lasted until 1921 creating a new crater on Lassen Peak. Releasing ash and lava it fortunately did not kill anyone. This eruption covered many miles of forestlands with landslides and the new growth forest today stands many feet above the old forest floor. These landslides also created Manzanita Lake as it damned Manzanita Creek.

The first blast was on May 19, 1915 and was said to be a night to remember with it’s steam explosion and subsequent mudflows. Had it not been for Elmer Sorahan many people might have died but he ran 3 miles (4.8k) to warn others after escaping the explosion.

 

Three days later on May 22, 1915 another explosion on Lassen Peak threw ash, pumice, rock and gas into the air that was more devastating to the area than the first. The pressure in the mountain built up like a lid on a boiling pot of water and finally blew. You can now explore this area on a ½ mile (0.8k) loop trail or take the strenuous 2,000 foot (609.6m) 5 mile (8k) round trip hike to the top of 10,457 foot (3,187m) Lassen Peak. Many other hiking opportunities exist in the park along with backpacking, auto-touring, bird watching, camping skiing, skiing, snow play, and snowshoeing.

There are 5 hydrothermal areas to explore within the park. Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake and Thermal Geyser. I am limiting myself to 2 for this trip.

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My first hydrothermal area would have been the hike out to Bumpass Hell Hydrothermal Area, a moderate 3 mile (4.8k) round trip hike. This is the largest hydrothermal area of the park with temperatures of up to 322 degrees F (161 degrees C). I had done this hike with my kids back in the early 1990’s although I found the trail closed this season for maintenance of the trail and boardwalk through the 2018 season.

My next stop was Sulphur Works, a formation of mudpots, steam vents and boiling springs located right off the main road. This hydrothermal area in near the center of a massive composite volcano that collapsed many thousands of years ago. Mount Tehama or Brokeoff Mountain was estimated to be 1,000 feet (304m) higher than Lassen Peak. Active 400,000 to 600,000 years ago it is estimated to be nearly 11 miles (17.7k) across and had towered to 11,500 feet (3,505k).

 

My final stop was the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the south entry of the park to visit the small museum learning the history of the park, peoples and area and had a nice talk with the Rangers.

Now for the long 8 hour drive down the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along State highway 395 to the BLM area of Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, CA.

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Named by Captain John Meares’ 1778 disappointing sailing to find the mouth of the Columbia River for trading. Being turned away by a severe storm, he named this place Cape Disappointment. While in complete contrast Lewis and Clark’ s Corps of Discovery cheered as they completed their journey with their first sight of the Pacific Ocean on a bluff on Cape Disappointment.

“Cape Disappointment Map 07-27-16”

Cape Disappointment State Park is far from being a disappointment. Steeped in Northwest history, it is a place to explore U.S. military and maritime installations, learn more of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition and their effects on native tribes of the area. Camp, fish, hike old-growth forests, roam around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Marvel at the breathtaking views from the highlands above the sea and wander the beaches that are enjoyed by kite-fliers, beachcombers, sandcastle builders and those who just love to walk. Hike to 2 lighthouses that guided the mariners to the mouth of the river and kept them from becoming victims of the Grave Yard of the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

I began my day at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and one of the Battery’s of Fort Canby that defended the entrance to the Columbia River from the mid 1900’s to the end of World War II. The Interpretive center is a museum providing a history lesson of The Corps of Discovery’s journey from settled America along the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk along the history path in its interactive exhibits that will entertain all ages. Sitting right above Battery Harvey Allen of Fort Canby to the inland side and overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its cliff side perch it is a wonderful place to start your visit to the park.

Off to the south from the ocean-viewing platform of the Interpretive Center you see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Start the hike to the lighthouse in the Interpretive Center’s parking lot. You’ll walk through dense forest glimpsing ocean and river views as you make your way to the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Built in 1856 to warn the ships of the treacherous currents and obstacles of the river bar at the mouth of the river.

Continuing on driving I thought I made a very wrong turn as I saw a sign for Waikiki Beach. It is a short ¼ mile (0.4 k) walk to the beach. It was still overcast when I visited although I suspect it would be a nice place for a picnic lunch and to watch the waters and vessels of the Columbia River float past.

Continuing my exploration of the park I stopped a short time later at the trailhead to Battery 247 that is perch on a hill in a strategic location overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. Very deteriorated and overgrown it is an interesting structure to wander through. Although being small I recommend bringing some type of flashlight or headlamp to go deeper into the underground ammunition building. This is also the area where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

Following the road a little further leads me to the campground. I wish to see if I wanted to spend the night here. I found it to be a nice place right along the ocean and went back to the entry station to reserve a site for the night. I wanted a quiet spot to relax for the night so selected site #157. My site is not right along the beach, although a few are, but only 200 yards (183 m) away. In this group of 9 campsites there were only 2 other sites being occupied.

 

Having settled my accommodations for the night I drove up to North Head Lighthouse to walk the pathway to the base of the lighthouse. This second lighthouse was built as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse left a section of coast unprotected from a mariner’s point of view. Built 190 feet (60 m) above sea level in 1898 this 65’ (19.8 m) tall lighthouse is still functioning and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. This is located on one of the windiest places along the west coast with recorded winds of up to 120 MPH (321.9 km/h).

Finished for the day I returned to set up camp and have a snack before I took a walk along the beach outside my temporary front door. The beach was an easy walk although exploring higher up the high tide line finds many logs that have been deposited along the beach during the severe storms coming in off the Pacific. Many small windbreak structures have been built by visitors add to the cozy feel of the beach.

Deciding to go back and grab my camera tripod, I return to the beach to watch the sun setting in the west. After a wonderful rest and watching a beautiful sunset I proceed back to my camp, fix a small dinner and climb into the tent early to do a little reading then to fall asleep listening to the waves crashing into the shore.

I will return here again to continue exploration of the trails in the area. The 1.5 mile (2.4 k) Coastal Forest Loop trail, Bell’s View Trail, the 1.5 mile (2.4 k) long North Head Trail and the south portion of the coastal Discovery Trail will be on the short list of walks.

I continue my journey in the morning crossing back into Oregon to visit Fort Stevens then head a little further south to see another fantastic beach.

Labor Day 2018 Barlow Trail Adventure

Excuse the lack of clarity in the photos and the videos; they were all taken with an iPhone 6 mounted to my windshield. The road was very bumpy and your looking through the very dirty windshield .

I was asked by my son to join him and 3 other friends to traverse the Barlow Trail on Labor Day weekend. I use the term Barlow Trail and Barlow Road interchangeably as the non-paved portion of this route is considered a trail on forest service roads.

What is the Barlow Road? Originally named the Mount Hood Highway this historic road/trail was the last segment of the Oregon Trail over the Cascades from Missouri.  The opening of the Barlow Road in 1846, as a toll road, allowed wagons to pass over the landscape that was both rough and steep. This ended up being the most harrowing 100 miles (160 km) of the 2,170-mile (3,490 km) Oregon Trail between Missouri and the Wilmette Valley in what was then the Oregon Territory. The original overland portion of the Oregon Trail ended in The Dalles, Oregon.

The Cascade Range of mountains west of The Dalles at Mount Hood proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to early wagon trains. Surviving the journey from Missouri the settlers found The Dalles crowded by others awaiting the expensive and dangerous passage down the Columbia River. Barge operators floated the wagons down the river, the settlors walked along the banks of the river or drove their livestock over the high-elevation Lolo Pass of the Cascades. This was the only way to complete the journey until 1846 when Sam Barlow was authorized in December 1845 by the Provisional Legislature of Oregon to build a road. The road proved popular with more than a thousand immigrants and 145 wagons using it in the first year of operation. Only about twenty percent of the old Barlow Road is still visible today, the rest being covered over by paved roads and highways.

This segment of the Barlow Road, now known as Barlow Trail (NF-3530), is open to 4x4ers, bicyclists, hikers, and those with an adventurous spirit.

Leaving town heading to the Barlow Road

Leaving early in the morning to rendezvous with the others at a roadside rest area by Mount Hood in Oregon my son and I arrived a little late, the others were waiting as we fueled up for the 32-mile overnight off-road adventure.

 

Heading east along Highway 26 to Highway 35 we turned off on a dirt side road to find the entrance to the Barlow Trial. Before continuing we all stopped and aired down our tires for better traction and to give us a more comfortable ride on the dirt forest service road. Our speed would not be more than 20 miles an hour although more often than not at a 5-10 miles per hour.

 

 

Turning left onto the road we stopped about 2-3 miles along under the trees for lunch. Sandwiches and snacks made, eaten and enjoyed we continued on.

At about 8 miles into the adventure we came to a bridge across a small river that was closed due to flood damage from a few years ago. Hikers and bicycles are allowed to cross but no vehicles are allowed. We went into the campground just before the closure to see if there was a way around or if we should just call it an early day and stop for the night. There is a way across the river but it is an illegal crossing and shouldn’t be used. As per Trails Off Road: “While there was once a crossing ….. the Motor Vehicle Use Map shows the crossing as being closed and all indications on the ground are that it is intended to be permanently closed. Further, the crossing itself is in a wilderness area. However, some 4x4ers still attempt the crossing illegally, damaging important natural resources in the process ………… Do not under any circumstances attempt the crossing. For those wanting to access the Keeps Mill Campground on the south side of White River, there are well-maintained roads coming from the south. Remember it is everyone’s responsibility to Stay on the Trail and Tread Lightly to protect our natural resources and help preserve access to our shared 4×4 trail system.” At the time we did not know this information but we all came to the conclusion this was probably an illegal crossing and we shouldn’t cross.

Deciding it was still too early we retraced our tracks then headed east on Highway 35 until we could reconnect with the trail on the opposite bank of the river.

 

 

Back on the trail we found a side trail that cut off to the north along the creek we had been paralleling. We drove in about a mile and found a beautiful creek side camping area to enjoy our evening. Fires were not permitted due to the high fire danger that the entire west was having so we sat around a legal propane fire pit one of the guys brought for a nice evening under the stars and a pretend fire. We all headed to bed rather early, bunch of old farts, and enjoyed listening to the stream splashing by us all night long.

 

 

After a great nights rest we got up for breakfast. Having eaten and picked up my camp I looked around the area and noticed some large cat prints in the sand down by the creek just 20 yards from camp. A mountain lion had been down to the water sometime during the night as we all were asleep to have a drink. They were relatively fresh in the sandy mud and in the water so it must have come down early this morning before we got up. My son got a little nervous at that point as his 3-year-old son with us. The rest of the time we were there as he ran around camp, the forest and creek side there was one of the 5 of us keeping our eyes open and not letting him wander to far from us.

Continuing on after breakfast we still had a fair ways to travel.

 

 

The group at lunch at the end of the trail

Upon completion of the trail a little after 1 PM and stopped at The Sportsman Bar and Grill in Wamic, OR for some nice big burgers before we all headed home our separate ways.

 

Heading north my son and I caught Interstate 84 at The Dalles and drove along the Columbia River until we crossed back into Washington on the Interstate 205 bridge. Arriving home right around 5 PM I unpacked the perishable foods from the cooler, showered and just rested until retiring for an early bedtime.

What a great time was had by all, it was great to finally meet this group of guys my son talks so highly about. I cannot wait to share some more adventures with them.

 

 

This Lonely Old House

It has been an empty house for 2 years since I lost my best friend, my love. It is hard to perform even the simplest tasks such as getting the mail, cleaning, picking up the phone, or just being happy. I keep the house dark and rattle around through ti’s rooms. Being all that’s left of 2 that lived as one has been difficult, I hardly care about anything anymore. Her spirit has been with me since that night, I feel her everyday although I am now just an empty shell of a man.

One night as I sat in the Living Room I see a shadow down the hall and go to investigate.  Finding nothing, I feel a presence, the air gets cold and the hairs on the back of my neck are electrified. Walking past this spot the feeling dissipates but does not go away. I find nothing in any of the rooms I explore.

Going into the last room, our Bedroom, I feel the sensation once again. What is this, it is stronger this time, more intense. I say her name and it gets colder and the hairs on my neck are at attention. I say, “I love you, and always will”. The feeling slowly goes fully away.

Later in the year I feel lethargic, tired, achy, I eat to satisfy the requirement for nourishment but do not enjoy the taste anymore. Even the simplest tasks are getting more difficult.

One evening going to bed early I find sleep difficult, my body aches more this night. I finally fall asleep very late and find I have fallen into a very deep sleep with vivid dreams.

1 A quiet path to the light-1Finally waking I find myself standing in a forest with tall trees and a beautiful path leading away in front of me. I feel refreshed, energized, and younger than I have felt in years. Looking at my arms they look like a much younger version I remember from long ago.

Following the path in front of me for what feels like a very long time I notice I am not tired or hungry. Finally coming to a steam crossing the path I sit down on the near bank listening to the trickling water trying to understand what is happening and where I am going.

unnamedSoon walking toward me on the opposite bank along the path a younger healthier version of my love is approaching. Nothing is said as she crosses the stream, she bends over, resting her hands on my knees, giving me gentle kiss. This has been a strange dream, I smell the forest, feel the path under my feet, feel her hands on my knees, feel her hair in my hands and her soft lips on mine.

Reaching for my hands she stands motioning me to rise to my feet. I stand and she lets go with one hand and we start across the small stream. I follow and when we reach the other side, her first words are spoken since the meeting, “I am so glad you are here”.

We walk along the path side by side. Not much is said except for small talk just as we have always had.

On we walk with the forest starting to thin and finally around a bend we come to a meadow. In the meadow below is a lovely small village with thatched cottages and homes built into the hillsides.

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 8.07.44 PMWe walk through the village with its stores open, their wares displayed proudly on tables along the path, cafes with outside seating under small trees. Everyone smiles and says hello as we pass.

On the other side of the town we come to a small cottage and pass through its gate to the front door. She opens the door and walks in still holding my hand. As I cross the threshold she says, “Welcome home”.

My eyes adjust to the change of light and the rooms I am able to see feel familiar but new to me. She slowly closes the door behind us and I am frightened.  Will this end this dream for me to awake in that lonely house or become the beginning of a new reality?

January 27,2018 Bickel Camp Fundraiser

 

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Good Morning, 6:30 AM 28F degrees

Well I am heading back out to Bickel Camp, Burro Schmidt Tunnel and a ranger led hike into Nightmare Gulch in Red Rock Canyon State Park for a fundraiser to help offset expenses on the upkeep of Bickel Camp.

Bickel Camp is full of mining equipment on display at this historic 1930’s era mining camp. The camp is still there to be visited by the adventurist explorer. Luckily this has remained on the “Adopt-A-Cabin” program and there is a caretaker on site to help explain and protect the remaining historic artifacts. Donations to help preserve and maintain the site are appreciated. 2 of Walter Bickel’s granddaughters were there walking us around the camp and telling of the fun they had out here when they visited. They told us one story of Bickel finding a stranded motorist in the desert and helped him get unstuck, turned out it was Jimmy Durante. Another interesting fact was that both Bickel and Schmidt were in the service during WWII, living within sight of one another they had a strong friendship and even rigged up automobile headlights so they could send messages back and forth in Morris Code. And yes the light at Bickel Camp is still standing.

For a full history on this wonderful place to visit follow this LINK.

 

After wandering around the camp and being entertained by first hand stories from the granddaughters we all head the few miles down the trial to Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel to explore the hand-drilled tunnel nearly a half-mile long that was dug with a single 4-pound jackhammer, and dynamite.

For additional information see my previous post LINKED HERE.

 

Next up it was to find our way back to asphalt and turn south into Red Rock Canyon State Park and the hike into Nightmare Gulch. We all meet-up for a short lunch stop at a park rest area before heading out the dirt road to the trail head. Although we did not do the loop we drove as far as we could to the official trail head and took a 5-mile total out and back hike into the canyon. Led by 3 Bureau of Land Management rangers we were given lessons in history, geology and ecology of this area. It was a great hike and took most of the afternoon.

 

Leaving the trail head at about 4:30PM I still had a 3 hour drive home. Arriving home at 7:50 PM I was exhausted as I got up at 3AM to get there and meet someone at the turnoff to the Camp. This adventure was wonderful as I met new adventurers and discovered this magnificent canyon that I will return to to follow the entire loop trail.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 6

Well we plan another easy day as it’s getting late in the trip and I think we are all tired from all the visiting and traveling that has been done. Today it was decided to go to a nature reserve for a short drive and walk, as the weather is finally getting rainy. Imagine that, rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest during winter.

This 5,150-acre (2,084 ha) area of marshes, grasslands and woodlands, named the Ridgefield National Wildlife Reserve is just north of Vancouver, WA and is one of 4 reserves located along the Columbia River in the greater Vancouver area. Established in 1965 to protect waterfowl, it was established with the 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley for wintering birds migrating and nesting from Alaska.

The area includes a 2-mile (3.2 k) self-guided walking trail that’s objective is to showcase the Columbia River Watershed, the 4.2-mile (6.75 k) auto tour route and a seasonal 1.2-mile (1.9 k) hiking trail.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it protects sandhill cranes, various shorebirds, and a large variety of songbirds, mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks. Mammals calling the reserve home include deer, coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter, and brush rabbits.

The refuge consists of five sections, each unique in habitat supporting the wildlife that reside there. Two of these sections are open to public visitation and enjoyment, while the remaining three are kept as sanctuary for wildlife to rest, nest and escape human disturbance. This maintains an important balance for those species less tolerant to human presence to thrive in an increasingly urban area.  The visitors then get the chance to view and experience wildlife and habitat, receiving the many benefits of being out in nature.

The Columbia River has long sustained human population and dates back long before Euro-American arrived. There have been large Native American settlements found on the reserve. The refuge also preserves the most intact archaeological site on the lower Columbia River with evidence of at least 2,300 years of continuous human occupation. That history and culture is interpreted through the Cathlapotle Plankhouse built in 2005 and open to visitors on the weekends in the spring and summer. The plankhouse was built to represent the buildings Lewis and Clark might have found here at their Wapato Portage village.

Since we are visiting in January we are not to leave the car due to the large flocks of geese and ducks nesting in the area between October 1st and April 30th. The cars become your movable animal blind as the birds are accustomed to the vehicles presence. There is an observation blind halfway along the route you can park and take the short hike out to it.

There are 14 interpretive markers and signs along the way along the one-way road. It was a fun drive as we were one of the few vehicles in the reserve on this weekday morning. We saw many birds, mammals and 2 deer along our route. When we left the car to hike to the blind my grandson had an old cell phone that he uses to take photos and he was just shooting away at all the details on the forest floor trying be like his Dad, it was so cute.

It has been a tiring week of visiting family, meeting new people and seeing new sights so we leave at lunchtime to head home for a late lunch as I need to pack and rest for my drive home.