NORTHERN SIERRA FALL COLORS LOOP AND MORE October 17, 2009
Curious on how the fall colors were doing, I left home to motor east on U.S. 50 to see what was new on my usual loop. I made a stop for breakfast at the recently opened casino, and was quite impressed by the size and design. They have their own freeway exit, and you quickly come to the seven floor parking garage. Then, only a relatively few cars were already there. I had suggested to my Assemblyman once, in about 1973, how much gas was being used by gamblers to get to Nevada, and that having, then, gambling in California might help to keep the money in this state. Better for the local economy.
I took the Mormon-Emigrant Road and saw a few red dogwoods, yellow big leaf maples, and some shrubs just past the Sly Park reservoir. A few hunters were about, but I saw no deer.
Coming then to Highway 88, I motored east to see some new snow on the high peaks, and then the start of the sights of many turned aspen. I pulled well off the highway and was able to snap some record shots. I was pleased that the recent heavy storm had not affected the leaves much, and that plenty of photo ops were available for me and others this day.
Seeing some fishermen and hikers, I crossed Carson Pass to make my quick stops for my usual photos in Hope Valley. I have been tracking the aspen for a few decades since I took up Nikon photography. I'd rate this year's show a 6 or 7 out of ten, as there were some dead leaves, and the reds weren't as vibrant as I've seen them.
Getting a soda drink at the rustic lodge a mile past Pickett's Junction, I motored back to Highway 89 and over Luther Pass. Into South Lake Tahoe, I kept heading north on CA 89, and stopped at the USFS Lake Tahoe Taylor Creek visitor center. The now Rainbow Trail offered many fine sights of aspen, Mt. Tallac, and the deep red, spawning, Kokanee salmon, unique to Lake Tahoe, I think. Plenty of families were enjoying nature and the fine weather.
Motoring back to U.S. 50, I had it in mind to do a hike. Starting along the Pacific Crest Trail from Echo Lakes at 1 p.m., I figured that I might bag Ralston Peak. It is a longer hike this way, but with less gain. I'd see how I did.
Hikers in T-shirts and shorts passed by. I had an extra layer, then a parka on, as there was some wind. I was happy with my times, then I turned left at about Haypress Meadow. Following the sign toward Pinecrest, I eagerly anticipated a summit. Alas, as I came to hill 8,600+', there was the drop, and the view of the still mildly distant peak. I had encountered some small patches of snow on the trail, and figured that I would come back in the dark if I went on for the top. I had no headlamps or flashlight, so that could get to be a problem. I had my light pack, with only warm clothes and first aid kits, and I was drinking up my water.
I walked the few feet to the local summit, and began to record the sights. Some more hikers passed by, and I spoke to one of them. They were bound for the Ralston Peak Trail on the south side of the peak, to make a shuttle set up between Echo Lakes and U.S. 50 at about Camp Sacramento. They turned back, too, and I went with them for a bit.
I lagged behind, and then took many photos of the sights on the way back to Echo Lakes. The feeling of late afternoon and the picturesque snags made a subject for my cameras. I had kept track of my hiking times, then sidetripped a few yards over to a view of Lake Tahoe. Homes were being rebuilt at the site of the Angora Fire, the first, bad conflagration in the Tahoe Basin.
Back to my car at 5:27 p.m., I had made a good call. I would have returned well into the night if I had bagged the peak.
Content with my pictures and my little drive, I made another stop at the California casino for a small meal and plenty of drink. I had a nice red sunset as I had headed home.
Hiking some 11 miles, I did maybe 1,300' gain, and captured a total of over 300 images. I drove about 240 miles round trip, and spent $10 for added gas, with about $21 for food and a good tip.
Having done it all as far as local peaks, I still wish for a good partner to bag some repeats. Ralston would have been my 29X, and I should have done Echo Peak for a more sure thing. I have no big plans for any other road trip this year, but I'll see what or who comes up. I am saving my current car to serve to at least 2012, when vehicles better suited for more fuel efficiency, or even zero emissions, will hit the market. That will spark a big resurgence in my climbing and hiking, should I be able to afford far more highly environmentally friendly transportation.
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