29, 2011: Every year I try to camp at Hensley Lake at least once
and preferably two or three times during the fall and winter. Last
year (2010-11) I did not make it until April of 2011, because
there was a lot of rain. Every time I had some days free with no
obligations, it would be raining. This year, with nothing on the calendar
for November 29 - December 1, and a forecast of sunny weather in the
low 60s, I decided to seize the day, and headed north from Fresno
about 10 a.m.
been foggy in the morning, but has been burning off by early
afternoon, so I was not particularly worried by today's fog,
especially since it's not thick and visibility is good. Now I'm
having second thoughts, with no sign of sun at 1 p.m., but I remain
arrived around noon, and immediately took a bike ride around the
loop where I'm camped. This was not idle exercise; I was scouting
and writing down the numbers of the best camp spaces. The Federal
government has an on-line reservation
system. For Hensley, you can
see a "Google Earth" view of the place and pick the
campsites you like (if you've been here before), but there is
nothing to indicate what number a desired spot is. So I now have a
list of the spaces that I consider acceptable or better - 30 amp
power, relatively flat, somewhat private, and off the main road. A
number of campsites here require you to park your vehicle in a wide
spot just off the road, which would be a last resort selection only.
After entering my findings into the computer, I rode around the
other loops, so I've had quite a bit of exercise, since there seems
to be just as much uphill as down.
it is 52 degrees, I put on several layers, gloves, and a warm hat
over my billed cap, and I was quite comfortable, even zooming down
hill on the bike.
two years ago I discovered the two formal hiking trails in the area,
and I usually hike both of them. I'm hoping sunshine will arrive
before I do that. I will probably just walk around the roads and
hills within the camp today, and do the "big" hike
of the challenges of returning to the same place over and over is
finding something new to photograph. This time I plan to take my
tripod on the hike, and get some photos of myself on the trail. I
often take a hundred or more pictures on a trip, and realize there
are none of me (probably just as well from the reader's point of
it's 3:20, it's 49 degrees, and there's a sharp wind blowing in from
the lake. Time for me to be inside. I haven't been lazy. I sat
outside and read for quite a while, then walked up the hill next to
my campsite to a weathered rock. I went back down, got my camera,
and went back up the rock, where I took a bunch of pictures of the
lake, of dead
trees, of the
rock, and, coming back down a different
route, my motor home.
At 4:30 it's
47 degrees. I have a little electric space heater that I use in the
motor home if I have a 30 amp hookup; this saves me from using
propane. The refrigerator also runs on propane, and switches
automatically to electric when the RV is plugged in. The water
heater has separate switches for gas or electric operation.
ready for bed at 10:30 p.m., it's 46 degrees. The wind died down
about two hours ago.
30: Although it was overcast all day yesterday due to high fog,
the air did not feel damp. Today is a different story. The camp road
pavement is wet as if there had been a shower; sitting at the picnic
table would get you wet front and back, and it's about 45 degrees.
So far there
is no wind, although it's predicted to be up to 15 MPH. I sat
outside for about an hour having a bloody Mary and reading Crazy
Heart, a novel
about country-western music that was recently made into a movie
starring Jeff Bridges. Wearing four layers, gloves and
a cap that covered my ears I was quite comfortable. But it's good to
be back inside the motor home with the heater going. My toes got
quite cold despite heavy socks. My book and clothes were getting
misted, so I put up the awning.
The forecast is for sun by noon, but I am skeptical, so let's move on
from the weather report for now. Conditions here are typical of
fall. Some hillsides have a lot of last year's dead grass left;
other areas are almost completely green. There are many broadleaf
plants coming out, and green grass growing throughout the area. The deciduous
trees, mostly blue oaks, have lost a few leaves, and the rest of
them are slowly changing color. This is normal with this
species; they lose their leaves when they get too dry to sustain
them, and we had a lot of rain last year.
The lake is
down quite a ways; I'd guess half full. There are no more than a
half dozen parties camped here if that many. One is a campground
volunteer. I was able to get my favorite spot, and now that I know
its number I may stake a long term claim.
With no sign
of clearing, I had decided to take my hike at 1 p.m., despite the
weather. A short bike ride just now changed my mind. There is a very
biting cold wind blowing, it's very damp and misty, and a hike in
these conditions would be misery. Therefore I will just enjoy the
view, stay in or near the motor home, read, watch TV, and goof off.
If the sun comes out, so will I.
This may be
the coldest camping trip I have ever been on. During Thanksgiving
weekend, when I was thinking about going on this trip, the predicted
high for today (11/30) was 68. Each time I looked at the forecast, the high got
lower. The actual high today was about 46 degrees.
sun came out around 3 p.m., although it did not warm up. It's still mostly clear at 5 and
getting dark. I didn't hike the trails, but took one fairly long
walk up to the top of a hill where one trail comes in, then back
down cross country. During my explorations I saw one ground squirrel
and one rabbit. I did some short walks and shorter bike rides, and
sat outside reading for a while. Although it's not any colder than
it was two hours ago, the darkness makes it seem colder, and I'm in
for the night.
I did get
what I hope are some nice photos of Shuteye
Peak with pink clouds behind it. This is the location of a
fire lookout, and I've been to the top in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
It's a nice looking granite ridge, part of which is called the Eagle's
clear skies mean colder temperatures, and it was 41 at 6 p.m. At 10
o'clock, bedtime and 39 degrees, I enjoyed a brilliant star view.
1: I think it got down to about 38 last night. It was clear all
night, with stars visible in all directions. I got up fairly late. I
did not feel like eating breakfast, so I started getting ready to
go. I washed dishes and picked up the stuff that gets scattered all
over inside; then did the outside items - taking down the awning,
rolling up the electric cord, etc.
I did not
plan to leave the Hensley area right away. I went to the dump
station and emptied the holding tanks, then drove to a parking lot
that is the trailhead for the longer Pohonichi
Trail, north of the
campground itself. I didn't walk the entire trail, just went up the
first slope, then off the trail up to the top of a hill. There was a
pretty good wind coming across on the hilltops, so I started down the
other side and joined the end of the loop trail just above where it
comes back to the trailhead.
On my way
home I was driving east on Highway 145 toward Highway 41. There was
a bad crosswind, knocking the motor home around a little. I stopped
to take some
pictures, and stepped out into the strongest wind I
have felt in many years. I had to be alert at all times because it
could move you enough to knock you off balance. I had a hard time
taking pictures, but they came out OK. It later turned out that this
wind hit the valley and the foothills hard, knocking out power,
taking down trees, and generally causing problems.
In the week
since my trip it's been colder and colder, and even with sunshine,
highs have been around 50, and lows down to the mid-20s. It's been
the kind of sunny winter weather that makes me think about going
camping again, until I step outside. Then I hurry back in and put on
Estel, December 2011
20-21: It seems
that my camping trips to Hensley come in bunches. Less than three
weeks after the trip described above, I returned to Hensley Lake
with my grandson, Mikie Liddle, and his best friend, Aaron
Robinson. They are classmates at Central High, and teammates on the
Fresno Junior Monsters hockey team, and also spend as much time
together as possible away from those activities.
was much nicer this time, mostly sunny, in the 60s, with little
breeze. I couldn't get my preferred spot, but we had one that was
satisfactory, and got set up by noon. The boys immediately headed
for the water with their fishing poles, but did not have any luck.
This lake is best fished from a boat, although people do catch fish
from the bank if the timing is right. They also played some street
not allowed, but we decided that the BB guns they brought are "air-arms,"
and of course, don't make much noise. I don't know anything about
this for sure, but It's my understanding that they set up a paper
target and plinked away at it, as well as wandering over the hills
away from camp for some random
I did some
bike riding and walking, but didn't do any official trails the first
day. We had a good dinner of baked potatoes and a pre-cooked whole
chicken, which was reduced mostly to bone.
had many other activities planned for their three-week Christmas
vacation, we stayed only one night. However, we did not rush off
after breakfast, but instead did some more of the same till early
afternoon. We then repeated my actions of the previous trip, driving
to the Pohonichi trailhead, and waking the
trail. Mikie and Aaron
brought the BB guns, and no tree or fence post was safe.
As you might
surmise, my eating habits are very different from those of teenage
boys - a good breakfast, and a main meal around mid-afternoon, then
a snack at night. This will not sustain 14-year olds, so I had
planned for a more normal three-meal day. However, with all our
activities, we did not eat again after breakfast. On the way home,
probably around 3 p.m. or so, I realized that I was getting hungry,
so the boys must be starving. I asked if they wanted to go to
Colorado Grill, one of my favorite burger places, and they were
ready to stop right then. However, I knew I would get more help
unloading the motor home if I could offer an incentive, so I told
them we would go out to eat as soon as we got that job done.
Needless to say, a new record was set.
We had a
good meal at the restaurant, and I delivered the boys back to
Mikie's house around the time it got dark.