Lofty Alpine County, California

The highest county in California provides visitors with panoramic views of rocky mountains, lush valleys, and tranquil lakes, as well as the host of trails that lure the adventurous to follow them.

Counties that encompass the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California may have the highest peaks, but no county in the state has a higher average elevation than aptly named Alpine County. Although four of its mountain passes are crossed by highways (two of which are closed in the winter), Alpine still consists primarily of forest, meadows, and rocky peaks. In fact, it’s much like it was when Kit Carson crossed the mountain pass that now bears his name on his way into California.

By taking California highways 88 and 4, you can travel a loop through Alpine County that begins and ends in Stockton. Near the county line, you’ll pass the popular Kirkwood Ski Area and reach 8,500-foot Carson Pass. This pass is filled with history. Kit Carson accompanied Captain John C. Fremont and his expedition over this pass bound for Sacramento as the party completed the first winter crossing of the Sierras, in February 1844. Today, a monument to Fremont and Carson stands at the pass, as does a replica of a tree section into which Kit Carson carved his name and the date.

Another monument here honors Norwegian-born John “Snowshoe” Thompson, who should be the patron saint of postal workers. Thompson was a hardy mail carrier who skied (skis were called snowshoes in those days) over the Sierras, including Carson Pass, to get the mail through. He never failed – even during blizzards, and even though his load sometimes amounted to 100 pounds. He delivered mail from 1856 to 1876, twenty years of his life, for which his promised salary was never paid.

Carson Pass is used heavily by hikers and by cross-country skiers in the winter and with good reason. Two heavy-duty scenic trails – the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail – pass through here. As they head south, both of these trails zigzag through granite outcrops and mountain hemlock for a 1/2 mile before reaching Frog Lake. Watch for the broad, cheery flower heads of mule ears (a member of the sunflower family) around this lake early in the season. The trail continues on through a mix of meadows and conifer clusters, where gray, black, and white Clark’s nutcrackers swoop from tree to tree. From a trail junction near Elephant’s Back, the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail heads straight toward Winnemucca Lake and on into the 150,000-acres Mokelumne Wilderness. The wilderness trail plunges steeply into Summit City Canyon, passing a little jewel called Fourth of July Lake on its way to the bottom. You’ll need a Forest Service permit to hike this trail.

The Pacific Crest heads left, skirting the base of the brownish volcanic deposits of the Elephant’s Back and dropping down the eastern slope of the crest. Much of the Sierran crest in Alpine County is granite overlain by more recent volcanic deposits. Glaciers covered most of the landscape in the geologic past, so the lakes are usually set in granite basins. Many of the peaks are volcanic.

From the pass, Highway 88 drops steeply down the east slope overlooking Red Lake. The second turnoff on the right, Blue Lakes Road, leads out to the Hope Valley Campground and on to the Blue Lakes. The pavement soon becomes washboardy dirt, and the road becomes narrow and twisty in places. Somehow good-sized motor coaches manage to get back in here at the area’s campgrounds and in scattered undeveloped sites, despite the condition of the road. The lakes are set in a patchwork of pines, aspens, and granite amid looming peaks of the prevalent volcanic deposits.

As you follow the narrow West Carson River Canyon, turn right toward Markleeville at the historic town of Woodfords. On your way there on highways 89 and 4, turn left on the Airport Road, and drive one mile to the Curtz Lake Environmental Study Area. Three short, self-guiding trails, to moderately dense, coniferous forest; open grasslands; and lakeshore provide an education on the geology and ecology of this area, as well as an enjoyable introduction to the natural history of Alpine County. Among other things, the trails introduce hikers to the vanilla-odored bark of the Jeffrey pine, and to the single-leaf pinyon pine, which is still sought by the local Washoe Indians for its large, tasty pine nuts.

From Markleeville, travelers can drive three miles to Grover Hot Springs State Park. This park not only offers pine-shadowed campgrounds and hiking trails but also a pool area where hikers and weary travelers can luxuriate in 102- to 106-degree Fahrenheit (about 40-degree Celsius), mineral-rich water, alternating with the bracing plunge into an unheated pool. Although its hours vary with the season, the pool area is open year-round. The hot pool is especially inviting after a wintry day of cross-country skiing.

Less than a block before you rejoin the highway on your way back to Markleeville, you can turn left onto Museum Street and climb a hill to a historical complex that overlooks the town. Operated by the Historical Society of Alpine County, the complex consists of the town’s Old Webster School, which was in use from 1883 to 1929; the old jail containing 100-year old iron jail cells from Silver Mountain City; and a museum full of artifacts. Among the museum’s displays are a pair of skis and a certificate of citizenship belonging to Snowshoe Thompson himself, plus an enlargement of an old newspaper article about him.

At the Forest Service visitor center in town, travelers can learn about rafting opportunities on the East Fork of the Carson River. A takeout point is situated a short distance south of town. If you don’t have a raft of your own, then you can float with a number of private rafting companies. Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley can make reservations for rafting trips for you. Several companies offer raft trips on the Carson River; the easiest way to hook up with one is to search for East Fork Carson River rafting in your web browser.

After Highway 89 heads off toward Monitor Pass, you’ll pass the gates that keep the higher elevations of Highway 4 closed through the winter. The road continues past the gates along the East Fork Carson River until it reaches the historic site of Centerville. Near here, you can turn left onto Wolf Creek Road. After driving 3-1/2 miles, you’ll reach a fork. Take the left road of the fork and drive to the north end of Wolf Creek Meadows. Then, after 2/3-mile, you’ll reach a spur road that climbs to the trailhead for the High Trail and the East Carson River Trail, which is also called the Low Trail.

Soon after you reach this point, this relatively uncrowded road takes on its high-country character. In the words of a friend of mine, “it used to be a deer trail until they narrowed it.” As such, drivers of large coaches will probably want to turn around at this point. However, the road can accommodate mini-motorhomes and Class A vehicles up to 25 feet in length, assuming that their drivers are up to the challenge.

The High Trail and the East Carson River Trail lead into one of California’s designated wilderness areas – the 160,000-acre Carson-Iceberg Wilderness – and into the East Carson River Canyon, which is one of the longest and deepest canyons east of the Sierran crest. The canyon has been carved by glaciers up to 19 miles long.

As you continue along Highway 4 next to Silver Creek, the road becomes very narrow. Small coaches that make the climb up to the Silver Creek Valley will cross the bridge over Raymond Creek, and passengers will gasp at the sight of Raymond Creek Falls upstream. Just past a sharp bend up ahead, two Toiyabe National Forest campgrounds spread out on both sides of the road.

As the highway snakes its way up from the campgrounds past aspen groves, it passes several primitive campsites. These are little more than dirt driveways leading out to rock fire rings. In fact, much of this high country provides primitive sites for the taking. A few favorite campsites are situated in this Silver Creek area. Next to a small creek with aspens and willows all around, the traveler can enjoy a broad view of the valley from the top of a bare hill. The sound of rushing water lulls you to sleep at night. The chilly creek has carved smooth contours into the granite.

After you pass the Kinney Reservoir and probably a number of anglers, you’ll once again reach trailheads for the Pacific Crest Trail, just before the 8,730-foot Ebbetts Pass. If you take the first trailhead, you’ll head south, climbing a ridge and curving along a slope toward Nobel Lake, which you’ll reach after about 4 miles. Nobel Creek is well-stocked with California’s state fish, the golden trout. If you choose the second trailhead, you can climb to an overlook that takes in the highway and Kinney Reservoir, and then continue north past Ebbetts Peak and some small ponds and lakes toward Upper Kinney Lake. This stretch is less than two miles long.

Continuing westward, you’ll cross the Pacific Grade Summit at 8,050 feet and negotiate more hairpin turns on your way to the major recreational attraction along the Stanislaus National Forest portion of Highway 4. At 7,320 feet, pine-shrouded Lake Alpine is 50 miles from the town of Angels Camp. Motorboating is popular here and the Department of Fish and Game has stocked the lake with rainbow trout. Around the lake itself, trails lead to two volcanic ridges – Osborne Point on the western side and Inspiration Point from the southeast. Four developed campgrounds offer sites for campers. These facilities and picnic areas are usually open from June 15 to October 15 only, because Highway 4 isn’t plowed during the winter months from this point east.

The Tahoe-Yosemite Trail runs next to the eastern end of the lake. To head south on this 186-mile hiker’s trail, you would start at the east end of Silver Valley Campground. After you’ve walked about a mile up and down over the low ridge, you’ll reach a meadow at Duck Lake on the border of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Rock Lake, a shallow, marshy body of water provides a warm swim, is farther on if you’re up to the 4-1/2 -mile hike from Lake Alpine. The Mokelumne Wilderness is about four miles north of Lake Alpine on the trail.

Even though the Ebbetts Pass area is closed in the winter, another of California’s more popular ski resorts, the Mount Reba Ski Area, swings into high gear. Alpine County is truly an unspoiled, year-round recreation land. Even a mostly dry-reading plan for the county transportation waxed poetic about this place saying, “life here is a dedicated involvement with nature.” For those who are interested, it’s also a dedicated involvement with history.

Alpine County’s official website: http://www.alpinecounty.com

Toiyabe National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/htnf/ then go to the Carson Ranger District, which covers the area east and south of Lake Tahoe.

Do Not Put an End for the Hobby of Exploring Nature

People who can take break from their regular life for the relaxation are definitely smart. They are the people who live long without any health problems. These smart people would at least set the vacation or trips to some of the beautiful places as a hobby though not compulsory. They try to make their past time enjoyable by sailing or else boating in the nearby shore. For people who are very near to the shore would definitely get blessings from the nature. People who are away will definitely have to take the baggage along with them and travel to the nearest shore or to the mountain top.

It need not be the seas shore exactly to enjoy, even the lakes between the mountains can also give you the best time pass with double benefits of sailing in the lake for short distance. You can also climb the mountain tops with ease. People who are said to have this travelling as their hobby of visiting the nature definitely know what all they have to carry with them. They have great experience with the nerves that sprain when they climb on the rock that are not fixed firmly in the mountain. They may suddenly loss the grip and with the fear of falling, they take some quick action which will cause the sprain.

Though this is a natural thing that happens, the moment the pain exaggerates you may feel why is that we are not at home and roaming here and there. The moment the pain subsides with some medicine provided by the service doctor of the service apartment, then again you will start off your journey for next day. The next day it might be the flowing currents that keep you busy in the lake and that night for sure you will get the severe aches. For some people, swimming might not be the hobby. Fishing out the big fishes from the lakes and then having it cooked on the fire of the forest woods and having it along with munching some hot pepper and salt is what they like a lot.

In the busy city life, you hardly see some green trees in any of the houses around. You may see some trees in the center of the road along the bisecting path of double way to decrease the pollution. People would definitely love to stay away from this traffic filled city and love to explore the nature to the best of their time. People who do not have the budget in their hand will definitely try to enjoy the most beautiful places that are there within the city, while some fly out of country by arranging the expensive flight tickets and the lavish and luxurious stay in the apartments.

You can also find some people who are very much interested in seeing the landing and takeoff of flights. They buy the air tickets and see the same from very closure. Also the green lands that are surrounding the main path of the flight takeoff will be very lovely to capture on your personal camera provided the customs would allow them inside. Or else you can take a shoot from the nearest building the same thing and enjoy. Probably some of the hotels that stay close to the airport would let you enjoy such scenes.

So despite the several reasons and commitments you have it is always good that you start off planning for a best stay that you ever want to cherish when you are alone sitting in your wheel chair at the age of 70s and 80s. Even then the hobby of visiting places will not be ended.

The Marble Halls of Oregon Underground

Serendipity is a wondrous thing – the discovery of something when one is not looking to discover it. Oregon Caves, in the southwestern part of the state, is a case in point.

Elijah Davidson was out one day in 1874 deer hunting with his dog. After he brought down a deer, his dog caught the scent of a bear. The bear fled down a hole in the ground. To the hunter’s consternation, his dog went down the hole after the bear. Now, what was he supposed to do? Let his dog get himself out of the jam or go in and try to rescue him. Not quite sure what he was going to do find, he went in after him with only matches for light and wound up discovering the most wondrous cave in Oregon.

You can discover Oregon Caves for yourself by going on a tour at the 480-acre (194 hectare) Oregon Caves National Monument. Perhaps the first thing your tour guide will tell you about is how Elijah Davidson discovered these caves. The finish to the story of his initial discovery is that he ran out of matches while still in the cave. Fortunately, he followed an underground stream out and luckily his dog soon followed. A close call for both.

The entrance to the 44-degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees C.) cave is a locked door for which your tour guide has the key. One thing to remember about this cave is that it is still actively growing, so you shouldn’t touch any of the features. The oils on your skin stop growth of the cave decorations by preventing calcium carbonate from combining with the existing feature.

After passing the aptly named Grand Column, you enter Joaquin Miller’s Chapel, one of the prettiest rooms in the system with its well-spaced columns. They are formed when a stalactite growing down from the ceiling joins a stalagmite growing up from the floor to form a single structure. These features grow at the rate of 1 millimeter (approximately 1/25 of an inch) per hundred years. Try figuring out how long it might have taken for the 12-inch (30 cm) diameter Grand Column to form – about 30,000 years!

But the largest room is still ahead. It’s quite a sight to see and the guide turns off the lights, leaving only a candle lantern’s light, which was as the early explorers of the cave saw it. No offense to modern electrical lighting, but a cave looks bigger and more mysterious by candlelight. No wonder this is called the Ghost Room. Then again, it is nice to have the option of seeing it both ways.

A room this large has a few surprises up its walls. Up a set of stairs, which are almost steep enough to qualify as a ladder, is a secret room that was one of the last significant rooms to be discovered. And your first impression of this small circular room is one of being overwhelmed. One of the first tour guides at these caves was Walter Burch, who discovered this room. It looks like dozens of marble parachutes are about to descend upon you. He thought the sight of all these shelves and columns was a most wondrous sight and it’s location tucked up and away from the main room led him to name it Paradise Lost. Walter Burch also discovered the Ghost Room five years earlier.

The terms geologists use for cave features help you determine what it is you’re looking at during the tour. The original rock of the cave when it formed is called speleogen, as in what was generated when the cave came into existence. Features that build up over time on the original rock are called speleothems. This includes stalactites, which build from dripping mineral-laden water downward from the ceiling; stalagmites, which grow upward from mineral-laden water dropping onto the ground, and columns, which form when these two features meet and continue growing. To help remember which is which, remember that “c” for “ceiling” is in the word “stalactite” and “g” for the “ground” is in stalagmite.

There can also be a line of water dripping down along a wall and the minerals build outward from the wall forming what is called cave draperies and angel wings.

An added attraction, if you want to call it that, is one the National Park Service found while reconstructing the trail. Because of it, they decided to reroute the trail to highlight the find. And what is this new feature? Fossils of ice-age black bear bones. In another part of the cave are the oldest Grizzly fossils in North America, and they were discovered at the end of 1997. There’s a mystery for you. How did bears get this far into the cave?

While you’re thinking that one over, you might also want to think about how a Jaguar got into the Ghost Room and became fossilized. Its remains have also been found here. Well, geologists know that the cave had other openings in the past that have since been plugged up, so these unfortunate critters may have fallen down a now-hidden shaft into the cave.

You should encounter nothing quite so earth-shattering upon your return to the above-ground world. The monument does have three surface trails for your exploration, including a nature trail introducing you to the old-growth forests of the area. The Big Tree Trail leads you to the largest Douglas fir in Oregon.

Oregon Caves National Monument is amust-visit place for any nature enthusiast passing through southern Oregon.

If You Go

The cave tours are run by private concessionaire: Discovery Cave You’ll need to be reasonably fit to go on a tour of the cave. Young children must be at least 42 inches (107 cm) tall and be able to pass a simple stair climbing test to go. Children can not be carried. The cave has more than 500 stairs, and only the first room of the cave is wheelchair accessible.

Cave tours fill up quickly, especially during the summer, so try to get there early. Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the monument is open all year, with cave tours offered starting March 24th. Because of the threat of spreading white-nose syndrome, you should not be wearing anything that was previously worn in another cave. The hours when the tours start and end vary with the season, check the Oregon Caves website for the most current information.

The concessionaire also offers off-trail tours where you will get muddy, but get to see places the regular tour doesn’t. There’s also a candlelight cave tourso that visitors can see the cave the way the original explorers would’ve seen it. Both of these types of tours are offered only during the summer.

While you’re waiting for your tour, you might want to stroll across the road to see the historic Oregon Caves Chateau, a 24-room 6-story hotel that was constructed from local materials in 1934. It’s tucked into a waterfall glen with a trout pond.

Oregon Caves is 20 miles east of Cave Junction which is on U.S. 199 between Grants Pass, Oregon and Crescent City, California, at the end of Oregon Highway 46. U.S. 199 may be a bit challenging for longer rigs but it’s a beautiful byway and a lovely respite from Interstate 5. Also known as the “Caves Highway,” Highway 46 gets narrow and winding its last 8 Miles. You’ll have to get to the monument either in your tow vehicle, if you’re in a trailer, or in your towed vehicleif you’re in a motorhome.

There is no camping in the monument. The Siskiyou National Forest has nearby campgrounds. There are several private RV parks in nearby Cave Junction and Selma.

Photography Specialties

There are quite a few Americans who believe photography is all just about taking photos; however, there are so many specialties one can get into if they go to school for photography. First, numerous schools exist for those who want to focus on just one type of photography. For example, a photographer can specialize in taking just senior pictures. Below you will find a brief list of some of the different types of photography and what kinds of jobs you can have in each field:

1. Wedding/special event photography can be a very rewarding career. Many professionals in the field revel in having the ability to capture their clients’ happy memories on camera. Most photographers in this specialty start off at a small studio, then move on and open their own studio. Owning your own studio can be a lot of work, so some people prefer to go into a partnership with one other colleague to share the costs and responsibilities of owning a studio.

2. Graduation photographs, which may or may not be separate from wedding and special events. Some photography studios are just dedicated to taking graduation photos all year-long. Taking pictures of high school seniors has become more and more popular. Many studios offer personalized service for their clients. For example, they will shoot a variety of images whether it is indoors or outdoors for each outfit the client brings to the studio. A high school student can wear jeans and a top for an outdoor picture and wear a dressy outfit for an indoor shoot.

3. Photographing nature can also be a very rewarding career. The first career choice that comes to mind is shooting photos for National Geographic, which would be a really fun thing to do all the time. A lot of travel is involved in shooting nature photos for any kind of magazine or periodical. Nature can include living animals in their natural habitat and non-living things in their natural habitat. With this track, you would usually be working for a magazine and you would travel with a journalist to whatever site is chosen for the article.

4. Finally, another popular direction for photographers is to shoot models for magazines and/or fashion shows. This is a very difficult field to get into because it is seen as the most glamorous. Many people would love to be involved in photo shoots with models and celebrities for one of the more popular magazines, but there are a limited number of jobs in that type of industry.

Contrary to popular belief, there are so many directions one can take their photography careers in once they are finished with all the schooling. Which you decide will depend on how you want to spend the rest of your career. If you want to settle down, stay in one place and have a family then maybe starting your own studio would be best for you and doing special events might be good for you. If you want to travel a lot and maybe not settle down anywhere in particular, then maybe the nature photography track would be best, since photography for any type of nature magazine usually requires a lot of travel.

5 Cool Facts to Know About Garner State Park

Would your ideal vacation spot be a perfect natural haven filled with hiking, canoeing, tubing, geocaching, and even dancing? For many the answer is yes, and each year many outdoor enthusiasts choose Garner State Park as their ideal summer destination. Chock full of numerous nature-based activities, loaded with Mother Nature’s wonders, and highlighting the beauty of The Frio River, this state park could be your prime location for summer outdoor adventures as well. Are you unfamiliar with this amazing state park in Uvalde County? Here are 5 cool facts to know about Garner State Park.

1. Location

This beautiful state park is located in Concan, Texas on the southwestern edge of what is known to be the Edwards Plateau in the Balcones Canyonlands. It was created during the Cretaceous age due to fault line activity. Deep cliffs and mesas define this picturesque canyon land and surround clear rivers and streams perfect for fishing, canoeing, and tubing. The location, although visited by many year after year, remains mostly unchanged by human activity. The natural changes that occur due to weathering, flooding, or plant growth are allowed to constantly redefine the landscape without human intervention.

2. Wildlife

Being that the naturalness of this park is preserved as much as possible, much wildlife live and thrive there. Visitors to the park will frequently spot this wild life around them. Squirrels, raccoons, and white-tailed deer are the most common, but more exotic animals exist there too. Look for Rio Grande turkeys and mourning doves amongst a whole selection of various birds. If you are a bird watcher then you are in for a treat. The golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, both endangered species, nest in the park from spring until summer.

3. The Frio River

Rising from springs as the West Frio River, it promptly joins 2 other tributaries and flows southeast for 200 miles before draining into the Nueces River. The name Frio means cold in Spanish and this name perfectly describes the fresh cool waters that lure swimmers and campers up and down the length of its banks. This river is given a shout-out in the song, “All my Ex’s live in Texas,” by George Strait who grew up in Frio County.

4. Geocaching

Merge the joys of hiking and exploring with a scavenger hunt and you have geocaching. Hundreds of geocaches are hidden throughout the park and can be found using a GPS device or an app on a smart phone with GPS capabilities. The GPS device tells you how far away a geocache is and you must go off searching for it. They can be hidden in trees, under rocks, or even placed behind signs and landmarks. Often times a geocache will house a log book so you can write in your name and claim victory over that treasure forever.

5. Dancing

Back in the 1940’s during summer evenings, people would gather at the park’s concessions building and host a dance. This tradition has survived to this day and the park hosts dances each evening. They are very popular and require early arrival as they fill up quickly.

As you can see, this national park is a wonderful vacation destination filled with wildlife and natural beauty.