April 3, 2011
I went with my friend Janell Sidney and her grandson Mark, to Little
in Madera County, by Highway 145 off Highway 41. This low hill is
part of a series of flat top ridges that run intermittently along
the San Joaquin River, between Highway 41 and the community of
Auberry. The tops of the
mountains are all marked by basalt cliffs ranging from a few feet to
80 feet in height. In the upper tables, this rocky material consists of lava flows, indicating the presence of ancient waterways that
were significantly above the present streams. Little Table Mountain
is slightly different - the lava is mixed with embedded rocks that present the typical appearance of river rock, rounded and fairly
smooth from centuries of stream erosion. The cliffs and nearby
boulders appear as if the river rocks are cemented together.
structure was at the bottom where the receding waters flowed and
each layer of sediment gives an idea of how much water was flowing
by the size of rocks held in the individual layer. The larger rocks
were tumbling down when the melt was great and the smaller rocks
mean that it was not flowing so much. There
are a number of large boulders at the bottom of many of these hills,
which I assume tumbled down as the material eroded. Areas of
lava in both areas protected the softer underlying soil, so that the table top
hills remained after erosion had worn down the surrounding lands. This
site has a good aerial view of the topography of Little Table
Mountain and the adjacent tables; here
are some photos and a topographical map.
weather was overcast and windy when we started out, and I was
comfortable wearing a T-shirt, sweat shirt, and flannel shirt. The
weather remained cool, but there was no threat of rain. On a similar
hike two years ago, Mark got sick and didn’t make it to the top, so
he was eager to go all the way this time.
There is no real trail, although there are cow trails here and
there. The walk is short, but becomes quite steep over the last
half, so it's a good workout for anyone, especially those of us who
have passed 70. We walked across a large, grassy field that rises
gradually, then made our way up the mountain to a place where there
is a break in the cliffs and access to the top is fairly easy. It
was green and damp, with quite a few flowers but not as many as some
there is a big metal cross that used to be standing but has been
down since at least 1983. Since it fell, people have been scratching
and painting their names and the dates into the metal, and Mark was
anxious to add his.
When we got to the top, we walked around the edge where there
is a view of Millerton
Lake and the snowy Sierras in the distance, then got down to
the serious business of name carving.
of this table is probably close to a half mile long, and several hundred yards
across. We went all the way to the south end, then down and across a
drainage to an area I call
. Here there is a big
boulder of basalt
that is quite tall compared to its horizontal dimensions, resulting
in the name. We climbed
around on the boulders (the ones not too tall to climb), Mark climbed
trees, and we took pictures.
here we could see two groups of cows, which eyed us warily. At one
point, one herd all began walking in the same direction, but
eventually they drifted back to their original location. The closer
group was right on our path back to the car, and started moving
across in front of us to the right, so we drifted to the left. Then
they turned around and all ran back the opposite way and out of
sight, so we followed our original path.
The route from Stonehenge back to the road follows a clear cow trail
that goes down a drainage, so from the flat valley land of our
starting point, we got in quite a bit of up and down hiking without
having to go very far.
April 4 and 5 I finally got in my first “winter” camping trip of
the season. Whenever I’ve had time to go, it’s been rainy or
cold or windy, or a combination of two or three of the above.
my favorite spot, which is somewhat private, got set up, and had a
drink. After the ranger came by to collect the camping fee, I rode
my bike to the trailhead of the Shaw'-Shuck trail, one of two trails
in the area. This one goes up and around the top of a hill and back
down, about a half mile.
Monday evening Janell, her daughters Nichole and Jessica, and their
dogs Copper and Tinkerbelle, came out for a while. Shortly before
they arrived, about ten buzzards
vultures) landed in a tree right across the road from me. They
had disappeared by the time Janell arrived, but as we walked up the
hill behind my camp, we saw them above us in a dead
tree. There were soon enough that they needed two trees. This
particular hill actually has the best views in the campground, so it
was a nice walk. Copper thought he smelled a ground squirrel, and
did a bit of digging, He would dig, sniff, then move forward and dig
some more, until he had made a shallow trench about two feet long.
next day I took the longer trail, the Pohonichi, which is supposed
to be about a mile. It goes up and down several times, which makes
it a perfect hike in my opinion. On both hikes there are nice views
of the lake, as well as the snowy Sierra.
these "official" hikes, I did a lot of walking and bike
riding, and just generally enjoyed the beauty of the area. On
Wednesday morning I lazed around, slowly getting ready for the trip
home, and got started around 11 a.m. for the 35 mile drive.
a fairly brief report, but for a fuller description of the area and
more pictures, you can check out my previous camping trips here
April 16 Janell and I took a trip to Mariposa
(my childhood home town). We went up Highway 99 to Madera, then
through town to the Raymond Road, which goes through the rolling
hills between the valley and the foothills, to the tiny town of Raymond.
Although there are only a few businesses still in operation, this
was at one time a busy stage stop on the route to Yosemite, and is
still the site of the Raymond
Granite Quarry, which provided building stone for many of the
major buildings in San Francisco, as well as elsewhere around the
my interest in photographing old barns, Janell suggested we go down
the road toward the quarry, where there is a nice looking barn,
and nearby, the local Catholic
church, built around 1922 from local granite. We took several
pictures in this area.
main roads leave Raymond to the north. One goes northeasterly and
joins Highway 41 at Coarsegold. The other connects to the Ben Hur
Road in Mariposa County, and leads eventually to Mormon
Bar (location of the fairgrounds, two miles from town), and to
road crosses the Chowchilla River just above the upper end of Eastman
Lake, and goes through beautiful, green foothill country,
gradually climbing up to the 2,000 foot level. One of the most
striking areas along the way is the Quick
Ranch, established in gold rush days by Morgan Quick, who was
one of the few miners who actually made a fortune through his
efforts. There was an old house on the property, but Quick built a
new home and outbuildings, and commissioned the construction of a
series of rock
walls. Four miles of rock fence, four feet high and two feet
wide at the base, were built at a cost of $1.75 a rod (16.5 feet).
Quick provided the Chinese coolie masons with their daily pork and
rice, buying a great herd of hogs at about a cent and a half a
pound, to feed the men. The Chinese captain kept strict accounts of
the progress of his workers, sitting on a chair under an umbrella,
clicking off each foot of fence on an abacus. The coolies pushed
forward rapidly, for each had to lay a rod and a half a day or
forfeit their day's pay of twenty-five cents. The fence was
completed in a year at a cost of $6,000. (Details here were gleaned
from the Quick Ranch web site, which contains an article by Woody
Laughnan for The Fresno Bee.)
prospered a second time raising cattle on the ranch. He was from a
well-to-do family, and lost no time in having fine furnishings sent
around the horn to stock his new home. When his sons were old enough
to take over the cattle operation, Morgan Quick retired from cattle
ranching, bought property near Watsonville, and made another fortune
raising apples. The property remained in family hands, and in 1890 a
post office was established under the name Ben Hur. The ranch is
still owned by the Quick family, although part of the property has
been sold, and much of it is leased to another long-time Mariposa
county cattle rancher.
thing Janell and I have noticed during several foothill trips this
spring is the shortage of wildflowers, which seems
counter-intuitive, since we have had near record rains this winter
and spring. However, it has also been unusually cool, with heavy
snow down to very low levels in March. I suspect the cool weather
inhibited the development of flowers, and once it warmed up, it was
too late in the plant's life cycle. There are flowers here and
there, but they are scattered - no big orange patches of poppies or
white and blue fields of popcorn flowers and lupine blossoms. But boy is it green!
rest of our trip from the Quick ranch into town was a scenic
delight, with the new bright green of deciduous trees, tall native
grass, unique rock formations, and occasional views of higher
is trying to fill in some missing pieces from several sets of
dishes, and had found some for sale in Mariposa, so that was the
"official" purpose of our trip. We got that job taken care
of first, visiting briefly with the seller, who is related to a
long-time Mariposa family that I'm acquainted with.
stopped next at the Mariposa Cemetery to visit the graves of my
parents and grandparents, and to see who else I knew was there, then
parked downtown and enjoyed the walkway along Mariposa Creek, before
heading to the many shops that line the old main street of town. I
was looking for a birthday gift for my grandson's wife, and with
information from him and a little guidance (well, OK, a lot of
guidance) from Janell, I found a bracelet that seemed right.
a 70-year familiarity with Mariposa County, I had a long list of
places to show Janell, but we realized we couldn't get them all done
on this trip. We wanted to see a little of the countryside close to
town, so we drove up the Old Highway, a section of the original
State 140 alignment that runs from near the high school for about
two miles to connect with the present day road a mile east of town.
We enjoyed the pines, blue oaks and bright green grass along this
route, then returned to town for lunch at the Red
least 30 years ago or more my parents purchased a seven-acre tract
of land several miles from town on Carlton Road. Although there was
a pole for an electric meter and a well on the property, they never
used it for anything except a source of firewood. It is a fairly
long, narrow strip, with trees, brush and plants of all kinds, and I
wanted to see if any trees had been broken off by the heavy snows,
so we went toward Yosemite on Highway 140, then turned right just
past Midpines Summit on Triangle Road. The first part of this road
goes through rolling, tree-covered fields, then arrives at a high
point where you can see a big part of central Mariposa County,
specifically the Bootjack basin and various hills and mountains
beyond that I've been familiar with since childhood.
past this point we turned right on Carlton Road, which eventually
goes across and connects with State Highway 49 about a mile west of
Our property is a short ways down this road, so we parked and walked
the entire length of the land. Although the heavy snow brought down
many limbs large and small at slightly higher elevations, there were
none here. We did enjoy looking at the huge, four-trunk canyon
live oak that is the property's outstanding feature (the one
tree Dad said he would never cut down), as well as manzanita
blossoms, a few other flowers, and the old, falling-down barn
that was on the property when we bought it.
our explorations here finished, we returned to Triangle Road and
continued east, following the road through several more miles of
green, scenic countryside, to its junction with Highway 49 near the Usona
Cal-Fire Station. Highway 49 ends at Highway 41 in Oakhurst,
where we turned south and headed back home to Clovis and Fresno.
enjoyed our trip to Mariposa, we decided to do it again April 30, so
we could visit a few other places on my list of really cool things
to see in Mariposa County.
first stop was at the Bootjack
Volunteer Fire Department station, where they hold a pancake
breakfast every three months to raise funds for various expenses.
I'd been there a few times several years ago, and have been wanting
to go again, so finally made it. Janell and I both enjoyed our
pancakes, eggs and sausage. There were several people there that I
knew, so I had a brief visit with them.
chosen destinations in Mariposa County seem to fall into two
categories - places I've never or hardly ever been, and places I've
been to many times. After breakfast we began our explorations with
one of the latter. Barely a half mile from the "town" of
Bootjack is the house I grew up in. In between is Pegleg Creek,
which flows mainly south into the Chowchilla River about a mile
downstream from Highway 49. A short walk below our old house is a small
waterfall, in a very scenic setting with a cliff on one side,
large boulders and granite bedrock on the other, and several Indian
grinding holes at the upper end of the rock.
into this area from the highway, we were able to follow some paths
that the owner of the land has mowed, which made walking through the
tall grass much easier. After we had looked at the falls from above
and made our way down below it, we started up the creek bank
(moderately steep, but quite walkable) about 100 yards below the
falls. Janell noticed some chairs ahead of us, and when we arrived
we found a very well-constructed deck (or viewing platform as we
called it), with a small table and three chairs. It has been placed
so that there is a perfect view of the falls, so we sat a while, enjoying
the view, the nice weather, and the surrounding flowers and trees.
We left a brief note on the table to say how much we enjoyed
"borrowing" the deck, and briefly describing my history in
this area. We joked that next time we return, we'll probably find
another note that says "stay the hell off our land!"
mowed paths most of the way, we made our way back to the highway and
drove a short distance to Pegleg Road, which goes past the house I
grew up in. In those days this road went back one mile, where it
crosses the Chowchilla
River. Our house was by the main road; there was one house at the
end, and none in between. Now there are 20 or more mail boxes at the
start of the road. We drove back as far as the bridge. There are
lots of houses along the road, which now continues on to the right
along the river, with other side roads along the way.
returned to the highway and drove into town, a distance of six
miles. A band was playing somewhere, and virtually every parking
space all over town was occupied, but our destination was the road
that goes up above town past my parents' house (now owned by my
sister and me and used as a rental). The house is literally the last
one on its street before you get to the "country," and the
road leads past it to the town water purification facility, then
runs high along the bank of Stockton Creek to the town reservoir.
The waterworks includes a million-gallon tank, a pond, and a
building that houses equipment. Part of the pond, separated by a
cement wall from the other half, has only a little water, but about
a million cattail plants, which are a favorite perch for red-winged
blackbirds, and this was the time of the year that they were
active in the area.
above our house we parked at the gate that blocks public access to
the dam road and
walked back the road toward the dam a few hundred yards. We did not
take the full walk, which is well over a mile. In the other
direction from the waterworks an old road goes out along the ridge
that is the divide between Stockton Creek and Mariposa Creek. This
road goes out well over a mile, and was so overgrown with grass that
we sometimes had trouble staying on track, so we went only few
hundred yards, found a place to sit and rest, then headed back down
were ready for lunch, but with the large crowds in town, I suspected
that every restaurant would be crowded, so we left town via Highway
49 northbound, which eventually goes through all the old gold
rush towns, well into northern California. Our first destination was
the town of Mt.
Bullion, which was the site of a mine and milling operation
during gold rush days, but is now best known as the location of the
county airport. There is also a small cafe there, the Airport Bar
and Grill, where we planned to stop for lunch.
into this establishment was like going back in time 30 or 40
years. Patrons were smoking. The waitress was smoking. And in
the next room, a raucous game of dice poker was underway, with piles
of money on the table. Actually, the gambling was part of a fund
raiser for someone who was ill, but going back to the "old
days" of smoking in a restaurant was a bit of a shock. Although
I could smell a little smoke at first, I didn't notice it after
that, so I think the place was well ventilated. And the food was
here we continued on Highway 49 to Bear
Valley, another Gold Rush town that has no commercial
enterprises at all, but at one time was the headquarters for John
C. Fremont, who owned a large
section of land in Mariposa County, and operated mines for a
number of years. For several miles before this point, there are lush
green fields along the west side of the road. We drove past Bear
Valley to a point that overlooks the Merced
River and the notorious Bagby
winding section of the highway that drops down from around 2,000 feet
to the canyon probably a thousand feet below. The highway crosses
the upper end of Lake
McClure at the river, and continues on to still another small
Mariposa County mining town, Coulterville,
that still has a few stores.
did not go that far, but instead drove down about a half mile to the
site of the Pine
Tree Mine, where my father worked briefly around 1940 (this mine
was originally part of Fremont's holdings). Across the road from the
mine site you can walk out on the ridge about 100 yards and get a view of Yosemite
Valley. I had heard all my life that you could see Yosemite from
this area, but it was not until about five years ago that Mariposa
Radanovich described the exact location to me. I was there a few
years ago, but it was quite hazy that day. This time we had a good
view, and the snow on the mountains helped define the features. You
can clearly see the upper part of El Capitan, Cloud's Rest and Half
enjoying the view, we headed back to Bear Valley, then turned west
on Bear Valley Road, which goes to still another old gold rush town, Hornitos.
Started by Mexican miners, the town is said to have had a population
of 5,000 and a reputation as a wild and wooly place. It's also known
as one of the hideouts of the bandit Joaquin
Murrieta, whose exploits, mostly thought to be legendary,
terrified honest citizens until he was caught and killed by a posse.
The town contains a building that housed the store where the Ghirardelli
company, famous makers of chocolate, was started in the 1850s.
Hornitos now has only one active business. Another point of interest
Catherine's Catholic church. Although regular services are no
longer held here, it is the location of an annual Day of the Dead
observation each November 1.
Hornitos we took the Indian
Gulch Road, which goes out to Highway 140 at Cathey's Valley.
This was the only place on today's itinerary I had never been, and
it goes through the site of still another old gold rush town. If
there is anything left of the town today, it's not visible from this
road. As far as I know, the last surviving public building was moved
to the museum in Mariposa at least 30 years ago. It was clear this
road is little-used, with grass growing down the center instead of a
white line. As we got closer to Highway 140 the road surface
improved, and turned to a good two-lane blacktop for the last couple
Highway 140, we made our way back to Fresno and Clovis via
Cunningham Road, through LeGrand
(a small farm town in Merced County), and south on Santa Fe Avenue.
This route more or less parallels State Highway 99, and joins this
freeway a few miles north of Madera. I like going this way because
it misses a lot of the traffic found on other routes.
We had a
great time on our two Mariposa trips, and we still have a long list
of places to see there.
Estel, May 2011