you crazy?" "Good luck!" "Are you sure you want
to do THAT?"
were some of the reactions of family and friends when I told them
that I was taking both my young great grandsons camping. Colton, six
and a half, and Jack, four and three quarters, are energetic,
fun-loving, smart, and sometimes a real handful. However, as usual I
was undaunted. Well, maybe a little daunted.
had our moments of crying and complaining, but I think the best way
to tell how it went came from Colton after he got home. His Dad
asked him "How was the camping trip?" Reply: "It was
with dirty faces
cuter than us?"
usual for these events, Johnny dropped them off at my house about
7:30 a.m. on July 22, and I fixed breakfast. We finished loading the
truck and made the 60-mile drive to the Nelder Grove campground,
arriving about 11 a.m. Daughter Jennifer from Oakhurst was waiting
and had occupied the campsite we wanted. She was not camping, but
joined us for our frist activity, hiking the Chimney Tree Trail.
This is a one-mile loop trail through an area north of the
campground where there are a few large sequoias, and a lot of stumps
from logging in the 1890s. It's a fairly easy route, and at the end
a short spur trail leads to the Bull Buck, the most nearly perfect
giant sequoia in the grove.
base this on the fact that is not scarred by fire; the top is
unbroken, the base is symmetrical, and the trunk displays clean,
straight lines for many feet to the beginning of the huge branches.
A number of years ago an area was cleared out from the tree, with a
bench at the end, where you can sit and enjoy a full top to bottom
view of this magnificent sequoia.
prepared a sign to guide us to our camp
Colton on the Chimney Tree Trail's log bridge
and a big stump along the trail
Buck was looking especially fine on July 22
we returned to camp we had lunch, then Jennifer took her leave, and
the boys and I started setting up camp. Since
I started pickup camping again in 2016, I have slept under the
camper shell in the back of
my Ford F150. This has worked fine for the
most part, but it's a hassle to get out during the night, which I
have to do several times. Recently I bought a camp cot and a canopy,
intending to sleep outside in all but the coldest weather.
plan for this trip was for the boys to sleep in the truck, with me
right outside. However, Johnny offered his four-person tent, which
would easily accommodate all three of us. It's been decades since I
have set up a tent, and then it was the small "pup tent"
variety, but with Colton's help I got this one set up. It has a
screened front section, and my plan was to have the boys inside the
main part, with me on the cot in front.
a thick, very comfortable folding mattress, which I planned to put
on the cot, but it proved to be a
full foot wider than the cot, and when Jack climbed aboard, he
immediately fell off. I could see that I would suffer the same fate,
so I put my mattress inside the tent. (The cot has since been
returned and a satisfactory replacement acquired.)
boys climbed and sat on this sign several times throughout our campout
did another short hike, on the unofficial trail that goes parallel
to California Creek. A short distance downstream from the camp, the
creek begins to drop over a series of cascades, culminating in a 20-foot waterfall that takes the creek down
to the main road.
trail goes all the way down to this road, but it's a fairly long
ways, and we only went to where it started to go away from the
creek. The boys have done this walk before, and they always enjoy
the part where the creek drops into a little canyon and we have to
watch out for the "Canyon Monster." (Disclaimer: There is
a makeshift bridge over California Creek
the last azaleas of the season
took one more walk, over to the exhibit area where there are
features explaining early logging methods. It was getting dark and
we wore our headlamps, since I wanted the boys to understand that being
out in the dark is not that scary. This worked out fine, especially since it
was not quite full dark when we got back.
had a campfire, which of course required the making of S'Mores.
Jack's idea of "roasting" marshmallows is to catch them on
fire, and few were edible. He did eat some, following his own
special recipe which eliminates the graham crackers, leaving a
marshmallow between two large pieces of Hershey bar.
was some drama at bedtime, which was after 9, since this is the time
they start missing Mom and Dad. Colton started crying softly, and
Jack of course joined in. I got in the tent with them and we talked,
and they relaxed and then talked with each other till 10 p.m.
next day started out with the boys noticing a trail that started
right next to our camp. This is one end of the Bull Buck Loop, a 3/4
mile jaunt to the tree that returns on a section of the old road
that is now also part of the Chimney Tree Loop. They walked up
the trail out of sight, then came running back down. They repeated
this several times, going a little farther each time. Eventually
they informed me that they wanted to hike this trail, and I told
them we would do so after breakfast. I did NOT tell them I had
planned to take them on this trail anyway.
made our second visit to the Bull Buck where I added one more to my
collection of kids/grandkids/great grandkids posing in front of the
tree. As we were leaving I talked with a couple hiking there who
turned out to be teachers in my old high school in Mariposa. While
we talked the boys ran all the way back to camp and were
"hiding" in the tent when I arrived. I had definite mixed
feelings about their comfort with going off by themselves.
hike the Bull Buck Loop Trail
Colton, the fourth generation to pose in front of the Bull Buck
were prepared for the boys to play in the creek, and this was our
next activity. The creek runs through a huge culvert under the
campground road, and Colton and Jack ran through the culvert a half
dozen times. We went downstream a ways to where there was a log
across the creek, and they played here for a long time while I sat
on the bank watching. There was a tiny island of delightful sandy
mud in the creek, and much of it got thrown into the water, into the
bushes, and at a brother. When we left Colton had a bit of drying
sand in his hair. Jack had a large patch there as well as on all
sides of his body.
wonderful muddy, sandy island
walked up from the creek past the Big Ed Tree, the only large
sequoia visible from the campground, and to the exhibit area. Their
favorite thing here was the big 3D topographical map that shows the
entire grove. John Hawksworth, a former campground host, created a
model of every large sequoia in the grove, just over 100 of them,
using bits of redwood and what looks like Spanish moss for the
greenery. The boys had a good time locating the exhibit area and the
Bull Buck on the map.
map is enclosed in Plexiglas, and is too high for them to see it
very well. I could lift Jack up and hold him briefly, but Colton had
to stand on a chunk of rotting wood. Jack also wanted to lay on top
of the display, something I strongly discouraged.
Upshaw Brothers at the Big Ed Tree
returned to camp via the road, and soon set off on another
adventure. We drove out of the campground and along the main
road to the waterfall. The creek crosses the road on a concrete
apron, and the boys could wade through this two-inch deep
section. Jack had a slight mishap, sliding down a rock into the
creek, where both feet went into a narrow space. He had a little
trouble getting one foot out and was starting to panic, but Colton
helped him get free. I then administered a special medication
designed to cure being afraid, his favorite food on earth, a Hershey
bar (Colton and I also had some as a preventive measure).
falls on California Creek
returned to the exhibit area, and I set up a milk crate I had
brought from camp for the boys to stand on while looking at the topo
map. We also discovered a new use for the various logging exhibits.
These include a replica of the flume that carried lumber from the
mountains down to the San Joaquin Valley, and a rail bed that was
used for carts that moved logs to the mill. There were two other
displays, and all four of them became a "station" on an
exercise program, with the boys running from one end to the other on
each of the stops.
also ran along the top of a fallen sequoia nearby, as well as two
other smaller logs. I would estimate that they ran a good mile in
this area, over and above the four plus miles of our various hikes.
in the flume
two-pole logging chute - good for
guiding logs, good for boys to run
tree has remained solid 120 years after it was cut
to the top of a giant sequoia
also made a wonderful discovery in this area. For many years the Big
Ed Trail has run from the exhibit area a few hundred feet down to
the tree, just above the creek. Standing next to the tree, you can't
really appreciate its scale, and I always thought of it as a
second-rate giant. Now they have diverted the trail across the slope
south of the tree, to a vista point that gives you a great top to
bottom view, and lets you see what a great example of the species
this tree really is. Colton chose to go down to the tree, while Jack
and I enjoyed the view from above.
Ed from its new vista point
this we returned to camp and just played around there for the rest
of the evening. Throughout our campout the boys were always getting
into food and candy that was in the truck, so I locked the doors,
but lowered the back windows half way. I heard the sound of a box
being dragged across the dirt, and looked up to see them climbing in
that final night Colton laid down in the tent and fell asleep about
7:30, the first time I have ever worn him out before he did it to
me. Jack needed some comforting, but fell asleep easily by 8:30, and
I soon followed him.
the morning we ate breakfast and started loading up. When it was
tooth brushing time Colton decided to brush Jack's, resulting in
tooth paste from nose to chin.
our way home we stopped at Reimer's, a candy and ice cream place in
Oakhurst, for ice cream, then completed our trip back to the valley.
the last few years I've gone camping near Courtright Reservoir every
summer, either alone or with family. This particular outing was
supposed to include my older daughter Teri, her older son Johnny,
and his family. Then the Upshaw's planned a trip to their mobile
home in Greeley Hill and it looked like it would just be Teri and I.
So I was very happy to get an email from Johnny saying that the boys
would go up with Teri on Thursday, August 8, and he would join us
after work. They would stay one night, and leave the next afternoon.
had a meeting that morning, so I didn't get started from home till
close to noon. The place we like to camp is an unofficial spot on
the road that goes past the lake and leads to the Dusy-Ershim
4-wheel drive trail. It's a big, fairly level area of granite
bedrock with a fantastic view of some of the many
domes that are common throughout this area.
I arrived someone else was in "our" spot, but Teri had set
up in one of the other half-dozen camp sites along the road. It had
a view of some of the domes, plus a section of the LeConte
Divide, which can't be seen from the big rock site. No one was
in their campsite, but I thought I recognized the boys little
chairs, and this proved to be the case.
it's a big relief to go up to 8,000 feet, with temperatures of 100
to 105 in the valley. However, the high at home was supposed to be
only 95, so we were prepared for nice days and cool nights As
it turned out the lows were around 40, and the days were pleasant,
just right for hiking and climbing around among the rocks and
juniper trees that make this a special place.
Dome, AKA Voyager Dome
juniper near the trailhead parking lot
and the boys soon returned from a visit to the lake, which is on the
opposite side of a rocky ridge from where we were camped. We took a
hike to see a huge juniper tree I had spotted a couple of years ago,
which we had named the Bull Juniper, honoring the Bull Buck sequoia
tree in Nelder Grove.
only a short walk from our camp to the edge of a small cliff where
you can look almost straight across at the top of the tree. It takes
a little rock scrambling to get down to the next level, where you
can stand next to the trunk of this rugged, extra-large specimen.
path took us right across the edge of our favorite campsite, which
temporarily belonged to someone else, so we took a longer, more
round-about path back to camp, enjoying the sight of other rugged
junipers, living and dead. Before returning to camp, we explored the
start of a side road that leads to the Clyde Pack Station corral,
and climbed up on a large boulder near
the trailhead. Colton picked up a few
sticks for the fire on the way.
Colton and Teri get up close and personal with the base of the Bull
rest of the day we mostly lazed
around camp until Johnny arrived about 6:30. Once he got their
tent set up, he and Colton gathered firewood to supplement the box
of "store-bought" wood that I had brought, and we got a
nice campfire going.
the first time since I resumed truck camping I did not sleep in the
truck, but instead on my new folding cot. It's 40 inches wide, just
right for the three-foot wide folding mattress I've been using, and
worked out very well. When the weather is cold I normally sleep in a
hooded sweatshirt, but I forgot to bring it. Johnny lent me his
hooded down jacket, and I was warm and comfortable, even with the
temperature down to 40 that night and 37 the next night.
breakfast the next morning, Johnny and the boys wanted to fish in
the lake. The plan was to hike over the ridge above our camp and
down to the water. Teri and I have hiked up that ridge together and
separately several times, and where we reached the top, it was more
or less a cliff down to the water. However, Johnny knew of a trail
that left the rocky slope and went through the woods and over to the
lake with no difficulty. We first went up to the Sentinel Tree,
which Johnny declared should be the Saguaro Tree, then headed
northwest. I reached a point that I realized was far enough, wished
them good luck, and made my way back down through the rocks to camp.
Sentinel (or possibly the Saguaro) Juniper
and sons on a granite shelf below the tree
the good life - Oreos for a snack and Legos to play with
had had a good time fishing, without any of that messy catching, and
returned after an hour or so. We had lunch, then Johnny started
taking down the tent and packing up to leave. They would be driving
up to their mobile home in Greeley Hill in Mariposa County after
Brittany got off work. But first we all drove to the other side of
the lake, where Johnny and the boys again tried their luck. Once
again all the luck belonged to the fish.
Colton and Jack got into his pickup and headed down the mountain,
while Teri and I drove back to camp in her car. We did a little
wandering around near the camp, but no real hiking. We had dinner,
and got to bed fairly early.
Saturday we did our usual leisurely job of having breakfast and
packing up, and got started for home before noon. The section of the
road that runs from the dam to the Ducy trailhead has a half dozen
unofficial but well developed campsites. All of them were occupied,
and people were camping in secondary areas farther off the road.
None of us had ever seen so many other campers in the area, but
considering the amazing beauty of the area, it was not surprising
that it attracted what amounted to a good size campground's worth of
weather was clear all the time, and we had a great view of stars
early in the night, with a half moon coming up after midnight. I had
the added bonus of waking up early enough to get some nice sunrise
photos Friday morning. Since it was 40 degrees, I got back in bed
until the sun started to warm our campsite.
Jack and Johnny fishing in Courtright Reservoir
with Grandma Teri
one thing we didn't do was hike on the Ducy trail, which leads
through a small glacier-carved valley to a big
granite slope about a mile back. Perhaps I will have to camp at
Courtright once more this year.
August 14 my great grandsons and I went to Kings
Canyon National Park. My intention was to hike the Big
Stump Trail, a two mile loop through old
stumps and a few big trees. About 300 yards into the hike it was
clear the boys were not in the mood for hiking. The main feature of
the hike is the Mark
Twain Stump, and there's a quarter mile round trip trail to it
from near the park entrance, so we drove there and walked in.
far from the Mark Twain is a huge broken-off sequoia
stump which Colton has climbed on before, naming it The Castle.
We walked the short distance and both boys had a great time climbing
in, around, and through this unique feature.
then went to
Panoramic Point and had lunch at a picnic table at the parking
area. Itís a challenge to find something Jack will eat. Heís
allergic to nuts, so the go-to kids food of PBJ is out.
and I were happy with salami sandwiches, and for Jack I took
Cheerios, a food he would eat three meals a day.
lunch we went up the trail to the point, which has a fantastic view
peaks of the
backcountry. We also went to the
, and sat outside eating our dessert of Hershey bars. Despite not
much actual hiking, it was a long and fun-filled day.
Colton surveys his empire from The Castle's
Colton leads the way, stepping carefully across
the jagged wood
Jack, just kicking back
Another Courtright Camp
early September trip was probably the first time I had a pretty bad experience camping. I
had a cold, so didn't feel like doing any serious hiking. I did take
several short walks around the area, enough to add up to a little
over a mile, with lots of rest in between. It rained the first day,
just for about 15 minutes. Some things got damp, but it was not too
bad. The next day was partly cloudy, with no rain, but lots of wind.
I had bought a canopy, which I set up for the first time. I was
camped on granite, so could not put in the tent stakes, but I piled
rocks around the legs. This was not enough, and it blew over three
times, slightly tearing the fabric on some rocks. Still I had a nice
day overall, with another walk of over a mile. I still didn't hike
after I woke up the final day it started to rain. It slacked off, so
I decided to have breakfast and leave. Before I could get breakfast
started the rain began again, and showed no sign of stopping. I
finally loaded everything into the truck, all of it wet, and started
home. There was rain almost all the way out to Dinkey Creek. When I
got home I had to spread everything from the truck around my garage
and patio to dry out. While I was packing up, I used all the swear
words I knew, and had to make up some new ones.
A rugged juniper clings to life on the rocky
slope above camp
Late afternoon clouds hint at a coming storm
Sunset view from camp
The rugged top of the Bull Juniper
Glacier Point (Almost)
Saturday, September 7, Teri, Colton, Jack and I set out for Yosemite,
intending to go to Glacier Point. I had hoped that since it
was after Labor Day the crowds would have diminished at least a
little bit. This was not the case. As we approached the last half
mile, traffic came to a halt. Sporadically a car would come up the
hill, including seven Ferrari's, apparently a club. We concluded
that cars were finding no parking available and were driving through
the lot and coming back up.
turned around, hoping to park at Washburn
Point, about a half mile from the Glacier Point parking lot.
This lot was full of Ferraris, so we drove a little farther and
pulled off the road where we could give the boys a snack. Our plan
was that when we saw the first Ferrari coming up the road, we would
jump in the truck and drive the short distance back down to
Washburn. We did this, so literally that Teri, who was changing into
her boots, had on one boot and one tennis shoe. We got the last
parking spot, and spent some time here enjoying the view.
can see Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls and the high peaks
beyond, but there is no view into Yosemite Valley itself. However,
this location does offer a look at the top of Ilillouette
boys had a great time climbing on and jumping from the boulders
around the parking lot. We drove back down the road and found a
place where we could set up my card table and enjoy our picnic
lunch, as well as more rock climbing and running around.
had a great time, but vowed never to go to Yosemite on a weekend
Vernal and Nevada Falls seen through a big
Colton points out the Mist Trail, which he hiked
with his family earlier in the summer
Jack and Colton in the rocks
Dick and great grandsons Jack and Colton
Courtright & McKinley Grove
I camped at Courtright on September 3 and 4, I brought my film
camera with black and white film, intending to photograph the
LeConte Divide to the east. Unfortunately, I forgot my telephone
lens, and could not get good long distance shots, so I knew I had to
return. I considered a day trip, but it's 75 miles one way, which
makes for a long, long day, so I planned another camping trip on
September 23 and 24.
I arrived at my usual camping spot, I got out a few things, then
hiked up the granite slope west of camp. I photographed some of my favorite
junipers, as well as the distant mountains, and returned to camp
to have lunch.
LeConte Divide, Mt. Goddard on the left
I started to eat my chicken salad, I was harassed by dozens of
yellowjackets, AKA meat bees. They were so bad that I ended up
eating in the truck. Then when I sat out in my chair to read, I
still had the nasty little critters buzzing around me. It was also
very windy, and I began to think about moving to a different
location. I took a few more
photos, then loaded up the few things I had taken out of the
truck, and headed down the road.
Teri's Dome from the road into the lake
had previously explored a dirt road that left the McKinley Grove
road just west of the grove, and knew it had a nice flat spot for
camping, complete with two fire rings. I drove in and found it
unoccupied, and made camp there. The rest of the day was spent
getting everything set up, walking around the area, and reading. The
road forms a loop by the camp, but at the edges of the area is
either thick forest, or a steep slope with thick forest - no place
to really walk except in the road itself. However, it is right on
the edge of the Dinkey Creek drainage, and I had views through the
trees down into Blue Canyon and the valleys of Laurel Creek and Bear
Creek. As the sun set, the western sky turned fiery red, and I
enjoyed a nice campfire as it cooled off.
breakfast the next day, I set out on my "major" hike of
the trip - down to McKinley Grove. It's less than a quarter mile
along the main road, but the grove has a nice loop trail that goes
by most of the bigger
trees. At first glance the grove does not appear that
impressive, but there are actually a lot of big trees - over 200
with diameters larger than six feet, and at least a dozen much
larger. The grove's tallest tree rises to 230 feet, and the biggest
in diameter is 19 feet.
Sequoias along the McKinley Grove trail
My camp near McKinley Grove
A good crop of sugar pine cones
hike added up to a little over a mile. I was on this walk for two
hours, although only 40 minutes was actual walking time. The rest of
the day was spent as usual, reading, loafing, wandering around the
camp area, and eating. The final morning I had breakfast and got
everything loaded up, and made it back home in early afternoon,
already thinking about where my next camping trip will take me.
July 2019 my younger grandson Mikie started working as a
correctional officer at High Desert Prison in Susanville. On October
2 his mother, Teri, and I drove to Susanville for a visit, traveling
over the Sierra on I-80 and from Reno to Susanville on US 395. We
had a nice visit, and went out for a great breakfast at Lumberjacks
the second day.
girlfriend Lizzie had to work that day, but the rest of us went to Lassen
National Park, about 65 miles away. We drove into the park as
far as the King Creek picnic area, where trails lead to several
points of interest. Teri and I had visited this area last
year with Colton, and Mikie went through the park a number of years
ago, as well as hiking on the road with us two
was quite a bit of snow at the highest elevation, and a good amount
on Mt. Lassen. At the picnic area we walked on a path that runs
along King Creek for a few hundred yards, then started back.
Mikie and Teri in the snow near King Creek
And Teri and Dick by the creek
made a stop at Lake Helen, and I got a pretty good photo of Brokeoff
Mountain, one of several remnants of Mt.
Tehama, a huge volcano that eroded over the years after thermal
activity moved north to Lassen about 300 thousand years ago.
at Susanville, we enjoyed pizza when Lizzie got off work. The next
day we decided to go home via Tioga
Pass through Yosemite National Park, which proved to be a
fantastic drive, despite taking ten hours instead of the eight via