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Dick's Adventures of 2024 - Part 1

  
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Finegold North

 
Finegold North
(Photos by Teri and Dick)

This is one of my made-up names, and a short hike on an unofficial trail. From Auberry Road a short distance into the foothills you can turn left on Millerton Road; or you can access it from Friant Road near Friant Dam. Near the Table Mountain Casino, turn on to Sky Harbor Road, which goes up a hill, then winds around above Millerton Lake to a housing development. At the end of the road is the Finegold Picnic Area, a county park that is almost always closed. People park along the road and take the San Joaquin River Trail up hill to the south.

That route has become too steep for me, so I have been going down from the turnaround north to a fishermen's trail/cow trail/old road that goes around a little divide between the lake and a small inlet. I've been there solo, with the Ramblers, and with daughter Teri. On this hike we didn't take many photos, so I have recycled some from earlier hikes, with the year of origin identified.

On January 13 Teri, her mom Jackie, and I went to Chowchilla for the Chamber of Commerce Banquet, where my younger daughter Jennifer was being honored as Teacher of the Year. We got back to Teri's at 10:30, and as planned, I stayed overnight.

The next morning, after a breakfast of oatmeal, we drove out to Sky Harbor (as planned) and hiked the trail north of the road. The trail is mostly level with a few gentle ups and downs, but it starts out with a rather daunting 30-foot descent from the end of the pavement. I get a good grip on my hiking poles, proceed very carefully, and have never had a problem on this section. The recent rains have made the trail damp, which improves footing. When it's dry, it's easy to slip on the loose soil.

At the bottom, he trail goes directly north and becomes completely flat for a hundred yards or so as you pass the inlet. Water is not up that far at this time due to the low lake level. Another short, moderately steep climb brings you to an old road that goes west and around the point of land between the inlet and the main lake.

   
Where the trail goes out toward the western-most point of the divide (from 2018) Our trail is the black line on the left (from 2020)
    

The weather was all we could ask for - blue sky with white clouds, increasing slightly as the day went on. There were lots of cars lining the road, and we got in a few hundred extra steps walking from where we parked. For only the second time, we encountered other people on "our" trail, a couple with a kid and a dog. They went down the steep hillside off the trail to the lake, and out on a little spit of land that jutted out into the water.

Under the "always something new" category, we observed large areas of the tall, dry grass that had been flattened down. It was the type of thing you see where cows lie in the grass, but the hillside was too steep for that, no cows were in evidence, and the area was much larger than what a cow or two does. We speculated that there could have been a strong wind that knocked the grass over, but it may always be a mystery.

    
Flattened grass below the trail Dramatic black and white rock
    

There were plenty of rock outcroppings, trees and small bushes along the trail, and of course, constant views of the lake. A dead tree that fell across the trail a few years ago was held up by branches, but has dropped down a bit and now requires a bit of bending to get under. Some bushes with red stems grow along a 50-yard stretch of the trail, but they remain unidentified, and we've never seen them anywhere else.

    
The Ramblers in 2020 at a tree that fell and created a tunnel on the trail There are a lot of these unknown shrubs in one short stretch along the trail (2022)
          
Low winter sun makes the lake glow Cars parked on Sky Harbor Road in 2019 are visible
through the branches of this leafless blue oak tree

When we returned to the car, we had walked a mile and a third, and enjoyed California's mild January weather. Colder days and more rain were ahead, but we would be inside in our comfy chairs and wrapped in blankets when that happens.

--Dick Estel, January 2024

      

 

Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window)

    

Future photos

 

 

 
     
     
   
     
     
 
     
     
  
 
Related Links
   
Millerton Lake Millerton State Recreation Area Sky Harbor
First Finegold West Hike First Ramblers Hike at Finegold Another Ramblers Hike
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
   

 

 

 

 

 
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Updated January 23, 2024