2021 Rambler Hikes Page 2

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Courtright Reservoir          Lewis Eaton Trail          San Joaquin Gorge


Courtright Reservoir
(by Wes and Dick)

Dick: The Ramblers are rolling along, brave and strong. On August 17 seven of us traveled in two vehicles to Courtright Reservoir. The group included three of the original four Ramblers, Wes Thiessen, Dick Estel, and Carolyn Amicone, making her first hike since February 2019. Two more of the group have at least a dozen Rambler hikes under their belts - Sue Wirt and Allen Ward. Newer members were Jeff Adolph, making his third appearance, and Keith Sohm on his second outing with us.

All of us are experienced and enthusiastic hikers and campers, and most have hiked at Courtright several times. The exception was Allen, making his first visit to the area.

Wes's email summary that he sends after every hike covered the day very well, so I'll let him take over for the rest of this report (or at least most of it).

Even with low water, Courtright's beauty is amazing August Ramblers: Keith, Jeff, Wes, Carolyn, Dick, Allen and Sue


Wes: Yesterday seven Ramblers traveled to Courtright Reservoir with the goal of hiking along the shore of this beautiful body of water.  In the past, our hikes had followed a jeep trail on the east side of the reservoir to a granite rock formation.  This time we wanted to see water and decided to try something different.  If seven is the perfect number, then this group was just the right size.

We had received directions from Dick's grandson regarding a pathway to the shoreline.  One of our members, Jeff, had spent much time in this area and suggested we follow the Cliff Lake Trail to a cove from which we could walk along the shore.  We agreed to follow his hike plan.  So into the deep forest we hiked with smiles on our faces.

Wes caught some of us coming down the trail - Jeff... ...and Carolyn....
...and Dick Towering evergreens

But the trail was longer and more difficult than we had anticipated.  Several of us hiked ahead to catch a glimpse of the "cove". Unfortunately the ongoing drought had depleted the water level to such a great extent there was no cove.  All we could see was dry grass and tree stumps where once clear water lapped a sandy beach.

We hiked back to the main group with our report.  We all decided to turn around and simply enjoy the lush forest.  And we had the added joy of sharing Carolyn's birthday and extending blessings to her.  She returned to the Ramblers after a long absence due to health issues. Happily, these have been resolved.

The dry cove Low water just west of the dam

Dick: There's a place where the trail goes through a swampy area, and becomes a boardwalk. Of course, there was no moisture in that place this time, and bypassing the boardwalk on an informal dirt path, we noted that an even older section of boardwalk was rotting back into the soil parallel to the official route.

Carolyn on a recently repaired section of the newer boardwalk The old boardwalk is returning to the earth

There is a campground and a private development near the trailhead. While the rest of us were straggling back to the parking area or resting in the shade, Wes decided to go directly to the lake through the private land. a distance of about a mile. We will not discuss what happened on this exploration, but if you know Wes, ask him to tell you about his adventures with Mike and Buddy.

We enjoyed our lunch at the parking area, then drove east across the dam so that first-time visitor Allen could see the steep gorge below the lake, the array of domes, and the Dusy-Ershim Trailhead.

After this brief excursion, we turned back and returned to our valley homes. In addition to 100+ temperatures, we are experiencing smoky skies from forest fires in northern California. Fortunately, the 8,000 foot elevation of Courtright was above the smoke. Maybe we should look into moving to that private development by the lake, winter snow be damned.

--Dick Estel, August 2021

More Photos


Lewis Eaton Trail

Fires in the Sierra, and the smoke drifting throughout the area, kept the Ramblers off the trails in September and October, but on November 1 we finally managed a short, fairly easy hike on the Lewis S. Eaton Trail, which parallels the San Joaquin River just north of Fresno. There is a parking lot for the trail at the corner of Friant Road and Copper Avenue. Traffic lights allow hikers to safely cross both these busy streets to the trail.

If you turn left, to the west, the trail eventually leads to Woodward Park, the largest in Fresno County at 300 acres. The trail to the east, which was our route, winds down the bluffs to the upper edge of the river's wide flood plain, and goes about a mile to the Hallowell Center for River Studies. Between the trail and the river there is a series of ponds, left from gravel mining. Usually they harbor an array of water birds - ducks, geese, egrets, and others. Due to the drought this past year most of the ponds are dry.

Our group included six Ramblers who have been on previous hikes, and one first-time hiker, Suzie Tellier, a friend of Sue's.

Jeff Adolph, Dick Estel, Keith Sohm, Ardyss Webster, Allen Ward, Sue Wirt Suzie Tellier

I took only the two photos above, but there is a good sampling from previous hikes here and here.

When we arrived at the River Center, we were disappointed to see that the pond next to it had been reduced to a mud puddle about six feet in diameter. In the past we have seen turtles, night herons, gulls, and ducks of every description on this pond. Hopefully this winter's rains will restore it.

We wandered around the Center, which has an old farmhouse from the early 20th Century, two barns (one old, one contemporary), restrooms, and storage sheds. The farm house and the gift shop were not open, but we took advantage of benches provided here and there, and spent at least a half hour there before starting back.

To top things off, we enjoyed lunch at the Ark Mediterranean Grill in a nearby shopping center.

--Dick Estel, November 2021

San Joaquin Gorge

For our final hike of 2021 on December 7, the Ramblers went to a familiar place, The San Joaquin River Gorge Recreation Area. We've hiked here at least eight times, and as long as our bodies hold out, we will do so again. Previous reports provide plenty of information on the features of the area, so we'll just deal with the events of this hike, such as they are. First, a few words from Wes:

Seven happy Ramblers traveled to the San Joaquin River Gorge for a two-mile round trip hike to the iconic bridge spanning the river. When the hike started it was cold and foggy but when it ended it was warm and sunny. The hills were winter green with a few trees and bushes still carrying leaves of yellow and red. I hesitate to call it a hike. We followed the advice of John Muir and "sauntered" along the way, stopping frequently to enjoy scenic vistas and the changing flora. We noted the abundance of Miner's Lettuce but decided not to eat thereof.

The "happy seven" included Wes, Dick, Carolyn, Jackie, Allen, Sue and Susie. We left the San Joaquin Valley floor under high fog, hoping that the sun would break through up in the foothills. We had some misty views for about half the hike, but ended it in full sunshine.

Misty skies over the San Joaquin River Where the trail starts its final drop into the gorge

Although cool even when sunny, the weather was pretty much just right for a hike at this elevation in late fall. On the way down to the river we enjoyed the sight of yellow and orange leaves on the wild grape vines, and the new grass and annual plants, giving promise of a nice wildflower display on future hikes.

Wild grape vines climb high into a dead pine Grass and annual plants have a good start, surrounding a mushroom.

Although we have sometimes gone a short distance beyond the bridge, everyone was ready for a rest and happy to make that our turnaround point.

The whole gang on the bridge: Sue Wirt, Dick Estel, Susie Tellier,
Allen Ward, Jackie Taggart, Wes Thiessen, Carolyn Amicone
The bridge was built in the late 1970's

It was a special outing in several ways. Wes had gone through a procedure in October to deal with some heart issues, and had just been given the green light to resume normal activities. We all wondered if Wes had disclosed to his doctor just what his "normal" activities are (in addition to hikes, they include long bike rides in the valley and foothills).

Carolyn had not been able to join us very often for the last two years or so, but made it in August and this month. And Susie was enjoying just her second outing with the group.

On top of all this, Velasco's, the Mexican restaurant in Prather that has been our lunch stop on many hikes, was finally open, and we could enjoy our favorite spicy dishes for the first time in over two years.

In January we will begin our ninth year of Ramblers hikes. If you are within driving distance and can hike about two miles, consider joining us.

--Dick Estel, December 2021

More Photos









Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 
Courtright Reservoir           San Joaquin Gorge
Courtright Reservoir
(Photos by Wes & Dick)
The old boardwalk is more dirt than board Entrance to a large private development One of our MANY rest stops
San Joaquin Gorge
(Photos by Wes, Susie and Dick)
Skies start to clear over Kennedy Table A tree fell across the trail and was cut apart A resting bench was installed
along the trail about two years ago
Wes ventures into the wilderness Susie with the gorge in the background Carolyn, Dick and Jackie stop for a rest
Related Links
Wes's Courtright Video Courtright Reservoir Cliff Lake Trail
Woodward Park Hallowell Center for River Studies Lewis S. Eaton Trail
San Joaquin River Gorge San Joaquin River Gorge (Recreation.gov) Links to prevous San Joaquin Gorge hikes
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Updated December 16, 2021