Monthly Archives: September 2012

Car Camping: Calaveras Big Trees State Park

This past February, I began planning three car camping trips and two backpacking trips for the summer of 2012 – because I thought I would be jobless and on funemployment by June. That didn’t happen…and through the course of planning those five trips for myself and my friends, I discovered that organizing that many camping trips with multiple groups of people is like herding ferral cats.

However, the experience did help me discover Calaveras Big Trees State Park on the edge of the Sierras – it seems to be the closest way to get to the Sierras from the Bay Area. And it’s purrty.

About the park and campground:

1. The Oak Hollow campground is much nicer than the North Grove campground, IMHO. The sites in the lower loop can be pretty spacious (if not gorgeous) and are not as close to each other as the sites in the North Grove section.

Oak Hollow site #105 – notice the matching Campdome 4 tents and the morning sunlight through the trees

2. You can swim in the Stanislaus river where everyone goes fishing, just be careful. If you don’t watch yourself you’ll just float down the river. The campground doesn’t officially condone it, but swimming is pretty feasible when the river is calmish. The rocks around the edges of the river are perfect for passing out in the sun; plus there’s some decent rock jumping around the boulders near the bridge/cascade area.

Loungin all day long. Check out the guy sitting in a chair on the rocks.

Swimmers can also get a natural cold spa treatment if they’re brave enough to scoot across the shallow rapids to the middle of the cascade.

Just make sure to clear the rocks when you jump

3. If you camp here, you must do the North Grove “hike”. It takes you on a gorgeous walk through various giant redwoods, including the most famous one that started the park. The South Grove loop, on the other hand, is a short walk through nothing scenic (my friends and I somehow got lost on this short trail, and ended up walking through the parking lot and up the street to find our car).

When the settlers first “discovered” these big trees back in the day, they chopped down the biggest one and displayed it at fairs. It’s a damn shame.

4. There’s apparently a lot of bears around this park, but don’t worry about them too, too much.

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Backpacking (and Day Hiking) Diaries: Henry Coe State Park

Oh Henry Coe State Park. Very few people know about you, yet you are one of the biggest wilderness areas near the Bay Area.

On the way in: Evening hike on the Spring trail towards Manzanita Camp.

Henry Coe is a really…really huge park. ¬†Apparently it takes about a few days get out to the actual “wilderness” area – called the Orestimba Wilderness, to be precise – from the start of the trailheads near the ranger station/parking lot. If you do choose to venture that far out, they say you should be prepared for a lot of bush-wacking because very few people actually make it all the way out there, and the trails are not maintained (especially these days with budget cuts threatening our ability to still have state parks in California). Definitely bring a map and a compass.

On the way out: Hiking towards the Poverty Flat Rd. / Manzanita Point Rd. junction.

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Backpacking (and Day-Hiking) Diaries: Mt. Tallac

This year I swore that I’d make a trip back to my favorite place on earth: Desolation Wilderness in Tahoe, CA.

So far, I’ve been there three times for three different backpacking trips, and have day-hiked the area countless times while staying at my favorite Lake Tahoe (car) campgrounds.

During our five day/five night backpacking trip this past August, we spent the morning of our 4th day taking on Mt. Tallac. I am quite pleased to say that I highly recommend it.

On top of Mt. Tallac

The hike itself is not that bad if you approach it from the PCT / the Gilmore Lake area (it definitely helps if you’re camped out there), but it looks like a helluva climb if you day hike it from the Mt. Tallac trailhead near Fallen Leaf Lake – there’s nothing but little jagged switchbacks on the dotted trail on the map.

Unlike hiking, say Dicks Peak, in Deso, the hike to Mt. Tallac is much more meadow-y. We saw a good amount of purple, vermillion, magenta, and yellow wildflowers despite the fact that we were hiking it in early August.

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Meadow on the mountain

From Gilmore Lake, it’s about 2 miles to the very top of the mountain. For 90% of the hike, we saw no one on the trail. The only other living creatures around us were a few marmots scurrying to their homes in the ground below some old tree trunks.

That’s why were kinda surprised (Rob was straight shocked) to hear a bit of a commotion as we approached the top.

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