Frog Camp 2007


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April 2, 2007: In 2003, my grandson Mikie and I went camping at Kirch Flat, a U.S. Forest Service campground just past the upper end of Pine Flat Lake. It is about 60 miles east of home (Fresno CA), and takes an hour and a half with the trailer, so it is a quick trip that takes you into the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. This is an area that gets hot and dry in the summertime, but in spring everything is brilliant green and beautiful. There are various kinds of grasses and small plants covering the ground everywhere, as well as several species of oaks and other trees, and many shrubs.

That first time, we picked a camp site that was just above a place where a tiny, low flowing side branch separates from the main river. In effect, it creates a long, narrow pond. That night at dusk our conversation was nearly drowned out by the croaking of hundreds of frogs in the pond. These turned out to be those very tiny green frogs that puff out their throats and make a very large sound.

My grandson believes any animals he finds should be captured and taken home and he managed to get one frog. With scenic beauty and hiking opportunities for me, and frogs for Mikie, we have made “The Frog Pond” a regular camping destination during each Spring Break.

For this year’s trip, we left Fresno about 10 a.m. Sunday, April 1, and for the 3rd or 4th time were able to get our favorite spot, even though there are several dozen people here this year.

One problem with leaving home at this time of year is that the hockey season is winding down and the playoffs are at hand. To deal with this problem, a few years ago I got a portable satellite dish, so we set that up and were able to watch the Sharks-Kings game yesterday afternoon.

Of course, Mikie could hardly wait for dark and the sound of frogs. They usually do a few warm-up croaks with just a few frogs before the entire chorus starts, but it was not long after dark when the noise was at a high level. We went down to the water with flashlight and net, and soon the three most careless frogs in the pond were in Mikie’s bucket. One escaped during the night, and he has firm instructions not to bring home more than one. I’m encouraging him to let them all go, but we’ll see how that works out.

April 3: Mikie caught three more frogs last night, and was ready to release the original two. It turned out that one had got away on his own, but we were able to deliver one happy frog back to his home.

Today we went for a drive. About a mile or so upstream from here the road crosses the river and heads up the North Fork to Balch Camp, a PG&E residential area for people who work at the local power houses. At the bridge, dirt roads go up the main river on both sides; on the south the road follows the river for three miles, then heads up along Mill Flat Creek to join Highway 180, the road from Fresno to Kings Canyon National Park.

The north side road goes up eight miles to Garnet Dike campground, and the start of a trail that follows the river another six miles or so. We drove up this road about six miles, stopping one place to do some hiking; and setting up our chairs for reading and snacking at another spot. All of this country is green, with a good growth of grass and other plants, and bright new leaves on the deciduous trees. In addition, there are wild flowers everywhere, with an emphasis on golden poppies and blue lupines.

Although this is National Forest land and some of it has additional protection, it was once open to ranching and other uses. There are remnants of buildings and other signs of human activity here and there along both sides of the river. Where we hiked we followed an old road, now overgrown with trees and bushes.

We came back down the main road and went past our campground a few miles to where the road climbs over a pass, and cell phone reception is a possibility. We each called our mothers to let them know we’re alive and well, then headed back to camp, with today’s hockey game coming up at 4 p.m.

April 6: On Tuesday night (April 3) Mikie caught another two frogs, one of which escaped immediately. The final tally was eight captured, four escaped, three were eventually released, and one was taken home (he’s doing well and croaking loudly).

When we woke up Wednesday, Mikie asked if we could go home, and I was ready, having done all the things I planned to. We had breakfast, got hitched up, and arrived home about 12:30 p.m., with “Frogman” in a bucket and ready to go into an aquarium.

--Dick Estel, April 2007

(Pictures open in a new window)

Mikie sits on an old cattle loading
chute on Garnet Dike Road
Mikie holds his "bug box"
with a captive inch worm
Two captive frogs
Mountains in Kings Canyon National
Park from above Pine Flat Lake
Old corral on Garnet Dike Road
above Pine Flat Reservoir
Sycamores by the Kings River
Kings River above Pine Flat Lupines near Kings River Orange lichen on rock near
Kings River, Garnet Dike Road
Redbud near Garnet Dike Road California poppies cover the
hills above the Kings River
Rock work by Garnet Dike
Road (purpose unknown) 

Related Links

Pine Flat Reservoir Kirch Flat Campground Kings River Rafting
All About Frogs San Jose Sharks Foothill Wild Flowers


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