Jul. 31st, 2015

queerbychoice: (marble)
I went camping! Alone except for Boston. I'd never been camping without another human being before, but I was tired of waiting for an acceptable other human being to agree to join me, so I decided to go it alone. It was fairly successful!

Silver Lake campsite 4.jpg

When I was trying to pick a place to camp, I fairly quickly narrowed the choices to two places: Silver Lake Campground in Plumas National Forest and Camino Cove Campground in El Dorado National Forest. (They are both small, free campgrounds with no running water.) Then the area near Camino Cove caught on fire, forcing the closure of the nearby highway, so that settled my decision in favor of Silver Lake.

I left home Saturday evening and returned Tuesday evening. I had originally hoped to leave Friday evening, but I knew this was a long shot that depended heavily upon my being able to finish all my packing and preparations during the work week. There are some weeks when I can get a fair amount done on short breaks in the middle of my workday and in the evenings, but on this particular week, the work I was doing required intense concentration to a degree that made it very difficult to switch back and forth between work and camping preparation tasks. No matter: I'd taken Monday and Tuesday off work, so leaving on Saturday evening still allowed me enough time to camp for three nights.

There are two main routes of traveling from here to there. The larger, more traveled route is Highway 70, which follows the north fork of the Feather River for the majority of the distance between here and there, and therefore offers spectacular views of the river and the rocky cliffs sloping down to it on each side. The smaller, less traveled, and slightly shorter route is Highway 162, which offers the compensatory advantage of traveling through dense forest for the majority of the distance between here and there, and also allows you to travel for miles and miles without ever seeing a single other car. Basically, both highways are spectacularly scenic, but on Highway 162 you're enclosed and shaded by tall trees all around you to the point that you can hardly see any sky, whereas on Highway 70 the view is mostly of rocks and water and is more open to the sky, less closed in by trees. I took the forest route on my way there and the river route on my way back. I liked the fact that the forest route made me feel that I'd already arrived in wilderness extremely quickly after leaving my house.

The California Camping book I consulted when choosing a campground sometimes notes the poor quality of roads to and from campgrounds, but it failed to warn me that the last seven miles of the route to this one were on a dirt and gravel road carved into the side of a steep cliff, with no guardrails. I actually quite like driving on winding mountain roads carved into the sides of cliffs - the quality of concentration required for it is pleasingly meditative - but I could have done without combining this with a dirt and gravel road. My little Nissan Sentra does not have four-wheel drive, but I felt a need to put it all the way into first gear to try to get a decent grip on the road. Also, I happened to be arriving at the exact time of the evening when the angle of the sun lights up every speck of dirt on the windshield to the point of turning the entire windshield opaque - because dirt roads do not waste any time getting car windshields dirty - so I had to drive the road practically blind. I came to a complete stop very regularly while straining to figure out where the road in front of me was located and where the sheer cliffs without any guardrails were located.

But I survived! And I have lots of pictures! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
I hadn't slept well on Saturday night because the air mattress was uncomfortable. On Sunday night I added more air to it, and I slept much better after that. Well, at least until some bizarre bird landed high up in a nearby tree at sunrise and spent about half an hour making very loud, extremely bizarre nonstop bird calls that sounded like nothing I've ever heard before. It had two separate types of calls: when it first landed, it cawed several times like a crow, and after that it spent the next half hour making a bizarre, repetitive sound that was something like bubbling water. It was a sequence of clear musical notes repeated identically over and over. The bird did the same thing at the same time on both Monday morning and Tuesday morning. I haven't been able to figure out what kind of bird it was. Later on Monday I saw a large black bird that I think was a raven and wondered whether that was what had made the noises - I imagine the bird making noises to have been very large because of how loud it was - and upon looking up recordings of raven calls I've found some degree of resemblance, but not enough resemblance to make me think the bird I heard was actually a raven.

I eventually resorted to getting up and making myself visible just to get the bird to go away. (I first tried just letting Boston out of the tent, but this was not sufficient to scare the bird away. Only I was sufficiently frightening.) Once the bird finally left, I went back to sleep for several more hours and then got up at around 11:00 a.m. When I got up, I immediately started preparing to hike to Gold Lake. I spent half an hour shelling some homegrown pecans and adding the shelled pecans to a bag of home-dehydrated banana chips to create a homemade trail mix, then checked the water level in my hydration pack, put Boston's harness and leash on her, and set out for the trailhead that I'd noticed the day before.

As noted in my previous entry, the landscape on this hiking trail was chaparral - mostly manzanitas varying from less than one to occasionally as much as four feet in height - so there was very little shade, and I was forced to place great faith in the power of my sunscreen.

I didn't visit Bucks Lake, but the wilderness area in the entire Lakes Basin region is named after Bucks Lake because that's the largest lake in the area. Bucks Lake is vastly larger than Silver Lake, which in turn is several times larger than Gold Lake.

Gold Lake Trail 2.jpg

Let me tell you about the hike. )


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