Stargazer Rock Campout 2006
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August 3, 2006: It seems as if this camping program is wimping out. This year only four of us will spend a night in the woods above Dinkey Creek, a mile off the Rock Creek Road, in the big flat area I call Stargazer Rock.

I guess itís just hard to find a date that works for everyone. Kenny and Leslie are on a cruise to Alaska. Jennifer is busy getting her classroom and curriculum ready for school, which starts next week. Teri has chosen not to spend the night, but will bring Mikie up after his hockey game Saturday morning. Tim and Johnny will spend Friday night at Courtright Reservoir for some fishing, then come here for Saturday night.

So right now Iím here all alone, which makes for a much needed, peaceful period of rest after a hectic week, which included a trip to Las Vegas last Friday through Monday; a trip to Mariposa Tuesday and Wednesday, and getting ready for camping last night. Thatís three trips with no full day at home, something a retired person should never have to deal with.

When I returned from our trip to Oregon in early July, I backed the trailer into my yard, something I hadnít done for ten years, since the gate is narrow and there are usually cars parked in my way in the street. One gate post had broken off so I took advantage of the wider space to see if I could get in, and I was successful after a bit of maneuvering. It made getting ready for this trip much easier, since I canít park the trailer on the street longer than 72 hours, and I was gone six days before this trip. I had some stuff ready before I left for Vegas, although there are still quite a few things that have to wait till the last minute.

I got started a little before ten, and arrived here around noon. There were a lot of people along Dinkey Creek Road Ė camping, unloading off-highway vehicles, etc., and I was afraid there might be people in the two good spots here, but there was not a soul, so I have my favorite spot, which is under the trees and shady most of the day except morning. The heat wave has moved east so it has only been in the mid-90s in Fresno, which means about 70 degrees here at 7,200 feet. Actually I would like it a tiny bit warmer, but I have been OK in shorts and a T-shirt all day. Of course, it will get pretty cold tonight; I predict low 40s.

I havenít done much but eat lunch and read, which is my idea of an ideal camping activity. People ask if I go fishing. I explain that I donít like to eat fish, certainly donít care to clean fish, so thereís not much point in catching fish.

I walked down to Rock Creek, about a quarter mile down hill. It has more water than Iíve ever seen during our campouts here, although I think weíve been here a little later in August sometimes. However, we had a very wet winter, so higher stream flows are to be expected.

The rock structure around the creek and throughout this country appears to be of the same type that forms domes in Yosemite and elsewhere. On large, exposed granite masses, the rock flakes off in layers or shells, eventually rounding off angular bodies to a dome. This process is known as exfoliation. There are lots of rock layers around the creek, and there are a number of outcroppings that have formed more or less into domes. The cause, at least as explained in a book I am reading, is expansion of the internal rock due to relief from pressure as older material wears away.

I highly recommend this book, The Incomparable Valley, by Francois Matthes. It is a geological explanation of the development of the Yosemite Valley , as well as similar features throughout the Sierra. It was first published in 1950, and I read it when I was in high school. That copy disappeared, so I bought one on Amazon a few months ago, and am making it my primary ďreadĒ on this trip.


August 4: The temperature got down to 44 last night, but was around 60 when I emerged from my trailer-cocoon at 9:30 or so. There was no breeze at all at that time, but itís now 70 degrees and quite breezy Ė feels cooler than this morning.

I drove down to the ďphone booth,Ē an open area along the road about a mile from here where weíve been able to use our cell phones in the past, but could not complete a call. I then went down a rough road near camp where there are a couple of fallen trees. Weíve gathered broken limbs for firewood there before, but the pickings are getting slim. I always check all the other campsites in the area for wood left behind, but previous campers were not kind to me this time. This area is not an official campground, but has obviously been used for many years. There are several substantial fire rings, and a dozen or more small, somewhat temporary ones.

The first neighbors arrived about 3 p.m. today, a motor home pulling a trailer with a four-wheel drive truck. It appears to be just one man and his dog. So far heís been quiet and well behaved. We rarely have noisy or annoying neighbors here. The neighbors turned out to include two motor homes, three four-wheel drive vehicles, and a tent, but they were still quiet and unobtrusive throughout the weekend.

I rode my bike up the road and walked into a wet meadow area to take some photos a while ago. There are shooting stars, which make their appearance in the foothills in February, but bloom much later at higher elevations. I have seen them in September at 9,000 feet.

Other than that I have spent the day loafing, napping and reading. Iím looking forward to Teri and Mikieís arrival tomorrow. I donít like camping alone as much as I used to, although a day or two of solitude is nice.


August 5: A lot more activity today Ė Teri and Mikie arrived around 11. She stayed for about an hour and a half. We went for a short walk, but mostly sat around and visited. We also set up Mikieís tent. He wanted to sleep out on Stargazer Rock, a good hundred yards or more from here. I doubt if he would stay there by himself, but even if he could handle it, I couldnít. In fact, it turned out that he slept in the trailer with me both nights.

Tim and Johnny arrived about a half hour after Teri left. They had good luck fishing this morning. The ground was damp when they arrived at Courtright Friday evening, but they did not have any rain. Yesterday afternoon it was quite cloudy here, although never completely overcast, and looked as if there could be rain clouds farther up in the mountains.

They got their tent set up and mattresses inflated and unloaded the 4Runner, then went with Mikie down to the creek to do some more fishing. Mikie loves it and has had some good success in the past. They drove down a 4-wheel drive road that heads south back of the camp, and meets the creek about a half mile in. They caught one small fish which they released, and Mikie took a fall and hurt his ankle. It does not appear to be serious, however.

I walked about a mile this morning before breakfast, the first time Iíve really walked in a few weeks. I also did some bike riding, with and without Mikie, loafed, read, and got paper and kindling ready for the fire. I rarely have a fire when Iím by myself, but itís always fun with a group.

Itís quite cool again, still around 70, but with a breeze that sent most of us looking for our long-sleeve shirts. Itís been in the low to mid 90ís in Fresno, so quite an improvement from the 110 plus we had before I started this series of trips.

August 6: We had a good campfire last night, but everyone headed in fairly early. Tim and Johnny had got up at six to fish at Courtright. Mikie and I watched a little TV in the trailer. I have to run the generator every night to keep the trailer batteries charged, so we might as well take advantage of having electricity. It also serves to re-charge the laptop. I do my writing during the day, on battery power, and usually have about a half hour to work.

In between TV shows Mikie and I walked over to Stargazer Rock and lay down to watch the stars. We didnít see any meteors, but we did hear coyotes howling, which made the walk worth while.

Last night it got down to 41, the coolest so far. We got up fairly early, since Johnny had to go to work at noon, and they wanted to leave by nine. Tim cooked some bacon and sausage for breakfast, and I turned on the generator long enough to make toast.

After the guys left, Mikie and I went down to the creek to try a little fishing. We went to the area close to the camp, where the water was too shallow for fish (according to Mikie); however, he did get one bite, which took his only bait, an artificial worm.

We also took a ride down the back road that eventually leads to Bald Mountain. The first few miles are OK for 2-wheel drive. We hiked around the rocks a little. It was much cooler there Ė probably a little higher, but also much more open to the wind.

We also did some bike riding, played hockey, played the hockey player name game, and fixed grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Iíve gathered up a few things, poured water on the fire, taken down the flag, and weíre winding down the day. Weíll take another bike ride, and probably head inside by 7 (20 minutes from now). Weíll leave when we get around to it, probably not long after breakfast, which weíll fix whenever we get around to it. Mikie starts school Wednesday, so heíll have a day and a half at home to finish out his summer vacation.

August 7: We got up about 8:45 this morning and had a quick, light breakfast. Even so, we didnít leave till almost 11. I had to wash dishes, and pack and load all the stuff that had been scattered around camp Ė chairs, tables, a big mat that goes in front of the door; take down the awning, hitch up the trailer, etc.

We got back in the valley about 12:15 , to a temperature of 82 Ė a lot better than the 100 to 110 plus temperatures in July. I again successfully backed the trailer into my yard, scraping some tree branches so Iíll know which ones need to be trimmed. With the trailer right next to my house, there is no hurry to unload, except for items that are needed immediately.

We all agreed that we need to try to schedule this event earlier in the summer, so more people might have a chance to join us.

--Dick Estel, August 2006

Photos (click to enlarge)
(Photos open in a new window)

Along Rock Creek

A thin apron of water catches the sun

Broken rock layer in creek
Exfoliation along the creek bank

Casting off of rock layers creates a rounded dome in Dinkey Creek canyon 

Shooting star in a hidden meadow

The 2002 gathering Tim, Mikie, Dick & Johnny Fishing in Rock Creek

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Updated August 23, 2020