Dick's Adventures of 2024 - Part 2

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Mile High A-Frame

Mile High A-Frame

For a number of years the Upshaw's - my older grandson Johnny, wife Brittany, and sons Colton and Jack, enjoyed many visits to a doublewide mobile home in Greeley Hill in Mariposa County. The winter storms of recent years brought a tree down on its roof, allowing a ton or two of snow to enter, effectively rendering it a complete loss. This motivated them to buy a cabin near Shaver Lake, a much shorter drive from their home in Clovis, and convenient to the winter snowboarding they enjoy.

It's also available as an Airbnb rental, so I arranged to spend three days and two nights there at the end of May. Being retired, I have a seven-day weekend every week, and did not think about the days I requested being the last two days of Memorial Day weekend. Although this probably meant a bit more traffic on the main roads, it did not cause any real problems for me.

Early days, before repair and remodel Snow in January 2024
All cabin photos by Johnny and Brittany

The cabin is actually about ten miles from Shaver Lake, which is a small mountain town catering to tourists on Highway 168. The lake of the same name, formed in 1927 by the damming of Stevenson Creek, has a capacity of 130,000 acre feet and is part of the Southern California Edison Company's (SCE) Big Creek hydroelectric project. At the 5,500 foot elevation, it draws boaters, swimmers, and fishermen most of the year. Located on the route to the China Peak Ski Resort, it also does  a good business in winter serving skiers, snowboarders and snow play enthusiasts.

The cabin is located on Bald Mountain Road off Auberry Road, about three miles from where it connects with Highway 168 near the famous Cressman's General Store. The elevation is 4,300 feet, so it's surrounded by black oaks, pines, and cedars. Lots of cedars. Cedars ranging from a height of two inches to around 80 feet. Oh yes - also sequoia trees. These were planted and there are about a half dozen, the tallest of which is about 15 feet. The smallest is a thriving specimen that Jack was given when he joined a Ramblers hike last year.

Jack's sequoia One of about five nice size sequoias on the property

I arrived at the cabin in the mid-morning of May 26 and got my stuff carried in. I was delighted to see that there are many wild iris in bloom around the cabin and all over the neighborhood. There was also a daisy-like flower with a dark center that grew in profusion in many places. These blossoms would close up or otherwise disappear when the sun got hot, then reappear in the early evening.

I also saw a lot of western wall flowers, some lupines, and limited numbers of other flowers, some appearing quite a bit later than they do at lower elevations. 

Wild iris Some kind of daisy
A nice stand of western wall flowers Bear clover in bloom

On the opposite side of Bald Mountain Road from the cabin, a loop goes east about 300 yards, then curves around and back out to the main road. Although it's a paved road, this is a great place to do a short hike. Upshaw's call it "The Horseshoe." This is where I saw most of the different wildflowers that enhanced my stay, but more importantly, it offers a view of the Ritter Range - Mt. Ritter at 13,000 feet, Banner peek, just 200 feet lower, and the Minarets. Although part of the range, the latter are not visible from this location. To make up for this, you can see Fuller Buttes, two classic domes topping out at just above 6,000, a mile lower than the range.

The Ritter Range Mt. Ritter, with Fuller Buttes in middle foreground

Another great feature of the place is the wood deck, about 15 by 30 feet, with comfortable chairs. You can sit out in the morning or evening (or any time you want) enjoying the oaks and evergreens, and in my case, sipping a Bloody Mary. I spent quite a bit of time out there, reading and resting. I went out during the night to look at the stars, and at 4 a.m., the moon. There are other houses all around, but they are well spaced and mostly without the ultra bright lights that so many people put up to eliminate the stars.

The next day was Monday, Memorial Day, the only full day of my stay. After a relaxing morning and breakfast, I set out for Huntington Lake, another SCE facility 20 miles and 2,000 feet in elevation above Shaver. This area does not have the tourist development of Shaver, but it is the site of China Peak, a major ski resort. The proximity of this snow play area has been one of the Upshaw's favorite things about their new vacation location, and Colton especially went snowboarding many times during our recent extra-snowy winter.

State Highway 168 ends at this point, but a paved road goes up and over 9,000 foot Kaiser Pass and into several other popular recreation spots, including Edison and Florence Lakes, as well as Mono Hot Springs. I did not intend to go even as far as the pass, my destination being a vista point just a few miles up the road where there is an excellent view of Rancheria Falls, where I have hiked a number of times with family and with the Ramblers.

It's probably a good mile across the canyon from the road to the falls, but I had brought my tripod and a telephoto lens, and was able to get some good still photos and videos. The location also provided a good view of Huntington Lake. The elevation here was 7,900 the highest point I reached on this adventure.

From the vista point I drove back down to the lake and walked in on the trail that starts at the ski lodge and goes up Big Creek to Indian Pools. It was already time for me to be sitting on the deck, so I kept this hike very short, just going far enough to get a good look at the creek.

The dramatic beauty of Rancheria Falls Huntington Lake

I did not have a formal check-out time, so on Tuesday, my last day, I took my time getting ready to go, just as I would if I were camping. I enjoyed some final "deck time," had bacon and toast for breakfast, and got everything cleaned up and put away. I took a final walk around the "Horseshoe," where I photographed a vista that is somewhat less than delightful. Much of this area was affected by the Creek Fire of 2020. It did not touch what is now the Upshaw property, but its scars are visible just over a hill back of the cabin, and especially down in a basin overlooked by the east end of the loop. What was once a thick forest is a land of blackened sticks and the brushy plants that are first to come back after a fire.

Devastation from the Creek Fire of 2020; this scene is repeated over 380,000 acres of the Sierra

When I left for home I did not drive back out to Highway 168, but instead turned left on Auberry Road and went through the village of Auberry, then out to 168 below where it starts its climb up the 4-lane section. This offered some different scenery and avoided the three twisty, roller coaster miles between Bald Mountain Road and the highway.

I was well satisfied with my short vacation, and a looking forward to another three-day stay scheduled for July.

A few final notes

In addition to the flowers mentioned above, I saw farewell-to-spring, buckeye, chaparral, Sierra star, dove lupine, baby blue eyes, filaree, harvest brodiaea, blue dicks, tall lupine, penstemon, dogwood, and yellow violets.

Driving up to Huntington, between Cressman's and the Shaver Lake Marina, I met over 50 trailers and motor homes heading home on Monday. This didn't leave the mountains unpopulated. When I returned to the cabin, where the highway runs close to Shaver Lake, there were cars parked on both sides of the road for a half mile, and many people in the water swimming and boating.

I saw two gray squirrels and quite a few birds. No other wildlife. Shortly after I arrived I walked out from the cabin as far as I could go before encountering a fence. On my way back, I saw through the trees a patch of red flowers near the cabin. Up close they looked like this.

There were patches of snow all along the Kaiser Pass Road, and large mound of very dirty snow near the ski lodge.

I drove a total of 145 miles, and got 40.2 MPG in my hybrid. Take that, big oil!

--Dick Estel, June 2024

More Photos



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


Mile High A-Frame


Mile High A-Frame

The interior, before repair and remodel Western wall flower These daisies ranged from one half
to one and a half inches in diameter
Penstemon A nice clump of bunch grass Walking back to the house I spotted a cluster of
red flowers through the trees. Well, not exactly
Clouds over the Sierra Big Creek lives up to its name Yellow violets by the Indian Pools trail
Related Links
Shaver Lake More about Shaver Lake Big Creek Hydroelectric Project
China Peak Ski Resort Cressman's General Store Ritter Range
Banner Peak Minarets Fuller Buttes et al
Huntington Lake    






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Updated June 5, 2024