Head for the Hills.

How to Hide from Horrendous Heat?

The Sequel -  Head for the Hills  

Spectacular Sunset View of Edison Lake from Vermillion Campground, Sierra National Forest.

Spectacular Sunset View of Edison Lake from Vermillion Campground, Sierra National Forest.

Some memories stay with you for a lifetime. Some memories fade fast under an oppressive heat of the moment. When it is 105 degrees it is hard to recall the comfort of a cool breeze, or a misty early morning. When it is 70 degrees at 7 AM, and 80 degrees at 8 AM, and over 90 degrees at 9 AM, it is time to head for the hills. To be more precise, I headed to Vermilion Campground on Edison Lake in the Sierra National Forest.

Eggburt on his way to Edison Lake. 

Eggburt on his way to Edison Lake. 

Vermillion Campground is an excellent base for exploring the Ansel Adams or John Muir Wilderness Areas. It is located on the northwest shore of Edison Lake, in a shady stand of Ponderosa pine and lodgepole trees.  

You can purchase a hankie with a map of the Vermillion Valley Resort on Edison Lake.

You can purchase a hankie with a map of the Vermillion Valley Resort on Edison Lake.

The campground is located on the lake, and it is ideal for tents, small RVs and trailers like Eggburt. Visitors can enjoy mountain views of the surrounding John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness areas.  Canoeing and kayaking near the shoreline are popular activities. Anglers can fish for rainbow, brown or brook trout. Sandy beaches within the campground provide lake access for swimming. 

Campsites include a picnic table, campfire ring and a bear-proof food storage locker -which was too small for our ice chest.  Some sites are sloped and not suitable for tent camping but there are a couple of absolutely beautiful tent sites overlooking the lake. Vault toilets and water spigots are on-site, but boiling the water is recommended.  I drank the water and I didn't get sick. 

Edison Lake is more to me than just a beautiful place to escape the heat.  In 1991, I made a career change from working on the Sequoia National Forest to being the Wilderness and Recreation Officer for the Pineridge Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest.  I remember my first drive over Kaiser Pass Road.   The District Ranger and I went for a ride in a green Forest Service blazer up to see the “High Sierra.” We drove, and drove, and drove forever through the wilderness! I was quite convinced that we were driving up and through the John Muir Wilderness and we would soon run over the crest and into the Owens Valley. We could see Banner Peak and Ritter Peak on the horizon in Yosemite National Park and we could identify the backside of Mammoth Mountain.

All that wonderful wild forest stretched on forever.

Edison Lake, Sierra National Forest. 

Edison Lake, Sierra National Forest. 

I promoted past the Wilderness Officer job and came to represent the people of the United States of America in the process to determine how  Southern California Edison’s (SCE) would manage their Big Creek Hydroelectric project. Edison Lake is really a hydroelectric reservoir, and SCE brags that the Big Creek Project is “The hardest working water in the world.” Maybe so, because it was a personal and professional challenge to represent the public interest in the project negotiations. I learned a lot, and it was a high point in my 33-year career with the Forest Service. I loved working on that project. 

 Vermilion Campground serves as a benchmark for my career.  Campground toilets were an important negotiation item. 

 Vermilion Campground serves as a benchmark for my career.  Campground toilets were an important negotiation item. 

Memory has a strange relationship with reality.  I remember my first trip up to the High Sierra. I remember meeting Katy and Toby Horst, owners of Vermillion Valley Resort and I was very afraid of their long lectures on what the Forest Service needed to do for them. I remember the stories about the famous pies of the resort. I recall when they retired, and Butch Wiggs bought the resort and he added a workshop and wanted to put up commercial beer advertising signs that would be visible from the road. And I recall numerous work related trips over the slow, bumpy, pot hole filled, narrow, windy, single lane road over Kaiser Pass. Looking back at my experice with the area, I thought, "It was only a few years ago that I attended the Celebration of Life Services for the two previous owners of the Vermillion Valley Resort."

But was I surprised when I learned that those memories - although clear - were not five years past, but nearly twenty years ago! 

Another beautiful  stormy sunset over the Ansel Adams Wilderness. 

Another beautiful  stormy sunset over the Ansel Adams Wilderness. 

Lodgepole Pine Campground Cones. 

Lodgepole Pine Campground Cones. 

Now I get to create new memories, sitting in Vermilion campground, reading my book, drinking a beer, and listening to the wind softly roar through the tops of the trees.  The temperatures were comfortably in the 70’s and I could relax and listen to the white-breasted nuthatches gurgle “whit-whit-whit-whit” and watch them hang upside-down looking for bugs to eat on the Ponderosa pine tree trunks.

Keith checking out the bird life in Vermillion campground. Eggburt sits in the background. 

Keith checking out the bird life in Vermillion campground. Eggburt sits in the background. 

Mariposa Lilly in bloom on the trail. 

Mariposa Lilly in bloom on the trail. 

I have faith that the work I did on that project will keep the campground running for years to come.   One day the campground toilets will be replaced with newer designed facilities that should smell better and be easier to keep clean.

Trails in the area will be engineered, not pioneered, and they will gently meander through the forest into the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses.

And families will come to the lakes and streams and find water flowing through healthy ecosystems with birds, fish, and flourishing fauna.

We're gonna need a bigger bear box. Our ice chest doesn't fit. 

We're gonna need a bigger bear box. Our ice chest doesn't fit. 

Fifty years from now, the documents that bear my name will be digitally archived in some corner of a remote server, but the megawatts of electricity generated in these hills won’t suck the land dry. There will be wonderful campgrounds, trails, and a sustainable ecosystem at Edison Lake. 

I wonder, "Maybe Whelan on Walkabout will not endure. Maybe it will become short lived and out dated." Vermillion Valley Resort had a blog. The first entry is dated March 2013 but the last entry was only May 10, 2014. http://www.edisonlake.com/blog1 . We will come and go. Our memories will come and go, but the forest will continue. I may have changed, but Vermilion and Edison Lake hasn’t changed a bit.

Some memories will burn out and be lost, some will last forever.

#vermillionvalley, #hiking, #camping, #highsierra, #outdoor, #forest, #sierra, #sierraforest, 

How to Hide from Horrendous Heat?

Living in the San Joaquin Valley is sometimes challenging. The air quality isn’t always healthful and in the summer it gets blazingly sizzling, oppressively hot. The kind of hot that gives you cabin fever and you long for a cool breeze that isn’t pushed through vibrating, oscillating, rotating machinery.

An all too typical screen shot for Clovis, CA.

An all too typical screen shot for Clovis, CA.

Yesterday is was over 100 degrees in Clovis. Tomorrow,  it is again going to be over 100 degrees and the weather forecast for the next 10 days has the thermometer over 100 degrees. Too hot to handle has a different meaning when you live in the Central Valley. We take it literally. So, I do what our fellow Fresnonian’s do, hide from the heat by heading to the coast. Walkabout is my way to manage those moments of not loving what's up. On walkabout,  I can remember how fortunate I am to have the flexibility of mobility.  

Montaña de Oro State Park. 

Montaña de Oro State Park. 

How do you hide from horendus heat? Take a hike on the headlands.  Head to the coast for a hike on the bluffs of Montaña de Oro State Park.

But first, we need food.  We take the two hour and 45-minute drive directly to downtown Morro Bay and Shine Café.

This place is worth the drive. 

From their website: “Established in 1998, Shine Cafe is known for serving fresh vegan cuisine featuring local and organic ingredients for its loyal customers and the countless tourists that cross Highway 1 looking for vegetarian-friendly alternatives. With a generous selection of breakfast items, entrees, soups, salads and smoothies, our cafe is perfect for a quick bite or a full meal that will genuinely satisfy you.”

Sacramento Vegan, (http://sacramentovegan.blogspot.com ) you would be proud of us and you simply must go here and have not one, but several of their vegan items! Everything is vegan, and unapologetically, wonderfully, beautifully executed. We arrived before they opened and there were already three people in line ahead of us. You could smell all the vegan goodness in the air as we waited for our turn. The vegan tostada and the tempeh tacos were astonishing, and we never missed the meat or cheese. The juice line was slow, but you know it is good when the wait is longer than the meal. We loved sitting and people watching while enjoying a healthy guilt-free lunch.

One of our favorite hikes is near Morro Bay and in Montaña de Oro State Park. The Bluff Trail is a hike on the California headlands allowing coastal views north to Morro Bay and south along the shoreline. The path is wide, easy, well maintained and you can stay far from the dreaded poison oak. Sunscreen is a must even in the fog because you are out in the open ocean air.  To add a little distance and a change of view, we added on Coon Creek Trail, a five mile out and back that follows a creek up the coastal canyon to meet with the Rattlesnake trail. Some people run, but today we chose to stroll and enjoy the view. 

I feared that there would be hundreds, thousands of Valley residents lingering after the long Fourth of July holiday, but it seemed to be the normal summer crowds. Los Osos was buzzing, the State campground was full, and we needed to squeeze into a busy parking area.

But once on the trail, all was right with the world. The sky was that wonderful coastal moist mixture of blue and patches of residual marine layer overcast. It felt like naked freedom to be outside and not sweat from the overbearing heat. There were people crowed on the main beach, but after a while, the crowd thinned and we found ourselves alone with the cormorants, dark-eyed-juncos, western gulls, and California quail. The Bluff Trail was in bloom with native plants and invasive weeds side-by-side. California poppies made it a complete California coastal postcard picture ready for a Sunset Magazine cover.

We are so fortunate to live in Central California! It's hot, but we can drive a few hours, sometimes only a few minutes and be in an entirely different climate and biotic environment. Don’t like the grasslands? Drive to the forest. Don’t like the city? Drive to the wilderness. Don’t like your neighborhood? Drive to the coast.

While hiking on the Bluff trail in Montaña de Oro State Park, I was so thankful for the vision and wisdom of the rich person (or people) who made the donation to keep this part our California Coast un-developed and open for public use. There are still wild stretches where you can hear the crashing of waves, watch the pelicans fly in formation, and not see or hear human development, all within a short drive. You can smell the ocean, get sand in your toes, and you can feel the moisture in the air, all without commercial development. 

Tomorrow it is going to be again heartbreaking hot. I can’t drive to the coast every day and I can’t live on the beach, but I can recall how proud I was to live in California where there is still an opportunity to walkabout to the coast and breath in the clean Pacific Ocean air. 

The campground was full, so Eggburt had to stay home this trip. 

The campground was full, so Eggburt had to stay home this trip. 


A coastal cone for my "Cone Collection" exhibit in September at Fresno City Hall. 

A coastal cone for my "Cone Collection" exhibit in September at Fresno City Hall. 


Kings Canyon Carpeted in Cones

The last time we wanted to hike the Redwood Mountain Sequoia Grove, the air was so thick and brown that it hurt our eyes and burned our noses. We were smoked out by an administrative burn, as sometimes happens in the land of the Giant Sequoia trees.  This trip was just before Memorial Day weekend and there was a wait in line at the entrance station to Kings Canyon NP.  We were visiting one of our three backyard National Parks (with a capital “N” and a capital “P”), so we could stand to wait a few minutes for the other visitors to enter.

The adventure for the day was going to be the loop trail, less than two hours drive from our house and only two miles off the highway.  The parking lot included license plates from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and of course, many from California. The weather was seasonably nice and the trail was in beautiful condition: clear, easy to follow and winding through the hundreds of beautiful ancient and second growth giant sequoia trees along the two ridges and the valley. The black char of previous burns intermingled among the huge red bases of the giants. Young sequoia seedlings and historic stumps were side by side. The dogwood trees were still in bloom. Fern fiddlenecks were unfurrling There was water in the streams and the grass was green. We were pleased to have a chance to walk among the giants, and also proud to be in ‘our’ backyard.

The area was with carpeted in cones, as if the ancient giant sequoia trees were concerned about their future. Trees can produce ‘stress cone crops’ whereby they create an unusually high number of cones. These additional seeds can increase the number of possibilities for future scenarios. Did they know something? Giant Sequoia have survived many serious California drought years, but can they continue? Are they prepared for the future? Will others be able to marvel at their size and beauty as we do?

Giant Sequoia cones, everwhere.

Giant Sequoia cones, everwhere.

Keith blew out the sole of his boot and we didn’t have any duct tape in our daypack. So, being friendly, I chatted up a couple of young Texans out for an overnight backpack trip. “Excuse me fellow hikers, I’m looking for a fix for a floppy sole.”

“Where are you from?” they asked casually.  With only a moderate level of modesty “We’re local. We live down in the valley and we’re just up for a daytrip. Just having a hike and a picnic today.” Keith and I were on walkabout in the British sense: a public stroll taken by an important person, such as a monarch, among a group of people for greeting and conversation.  We were polite, but I recall thinking “this is our backyard and we are so happy to be able to share it with you, what do you think? Isn’t it beautiful?”

Keith at the base of a giant sequoia tree.

Keith at the base of a giant sequoia tree.

Yet, despite our pride, we were humbled by our relationship with the giant redwood trees.  How can you be proud standing among lives that dwarf us in time and space? Our backyard neighbor is bigger than us, will outlive us, and may be wiser than us. It was an honor to make the acquaintance of such a grand place.

Our 5.8-mile round-trip fitness/photo/bird hike ended at Heart Redwood; not quite half the loop available on the map. Returning to the parking lot we were glad that we didn’t try the entire loop with Keith’s boot wrapped up in tape from our first aid kit. Next time… we can try the full loop, but we better buy some new boots and start training for our next back yard hike.

Kings Canyon Carpeted in Cones @cynthiaawhelan, http://www.cynthiawhelan.com 

#walkabout, #kingscanyon, #hike, #bigtrees, #giantsequoia, #sequoia, #nationalparks, #cones,