Stargazer Rock Campout 2007
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Thursday, August 23, 2007: It has been hot and humid in Fresno, so itís time for a much-needed getaway to one of my favorite camping spots, Stargazer Rock, located in the general area of Dinkey Creek, east of Shaver Lake.

I got started about 10:15, fairly early for a lazy retired person, but the same time I always start, i.e., ďwhen I get around to it.Ē Itís a little more than a two-hour drive, the last seven miles or so over a rough, winding paved road with lots of potholes. The top speed on this part is 25 MPH, and youíre more likely to be going 10 MPH.

There is one other trailer here, but no one around, obviously someone who came up to grab a spot, planning to return after work tomorrow or Saturday.

Iím alone so far, but on Saturday my daughter Teri, grandson Mikie, and one or two of Teriís friends will arrive. My friend Janell and her grandson Mark are also coming, so it will be a fun time. Actually I like a day or so of privacy, then a few people around, then a quiet Sunday evening after everyone leaves to wind down before heading home Monday morning.

I didnít do much today - a little bike riding, even less walking around, and quite a bit of reading. Someone left behind a huge pile of firewood in the form of 2 x 4 and 4 x 4 scrap lumber pieces, cut to the proper length, so I hauled about half of it from the other side of the camping area to my spot.

If youíve read my earlier reports on camping here, you may recall that itís not an official campground, but itís a place that gets a lot of use, with maybe four or five good campfire rings and a dozen more primitive, temporary ones. I picked a spot Iíve never been in before, because the other trailer was 30 feet from my favorite spot, and the fire ring at my usual second choice spot has been destroyed. In the late afternoon itís a bit sunnier in this spot than I would like, but at 7,000 feet itís starting to cool down then anyway, and I can always move to the shady back side of the trailer if I have to (or even go on a hike or a ride).

The temperature was down in the mid 60s about 45 minutes ago, at 7:15 p.m., so I got things organized for the evening and came in and started this report.

Friday, August 24: Today was a fairly lazy day (after all, thatís the whole purpose of camping, in my opinion). I got up about 8:30 and relaxed a while enjoying a bloody Mary, then had breakfast (hash browns, toast & cocoa).

Just under a mile from here, back down the road, is an open spot where weíve been able to use our cell phones in previous years. It was so reliable we called it ďthe phone booth,Ē but like most phone booths, it no longer works. Both last year and this year I could not get a call through, although the phone does recognize the Verizon network.

I went further down the road and tried a couple of other places, with no luck. Of course, we go to these remote spots to get away from phones, traffic, etc., so it seems incongruous that we now feel we should be able to use a cell phone anywhere we happen to be.

I drove down a dirt road to see where it went (to a dead end turnaround), and walked down another one, which turned into a gully with no good place to turn around anything bigger than a Jeep.

Rock Creek, near the camp, is essentially dry. Itís always low, although last year it had the most water Iíve ever seen in late summer. This year it has the least. It is still running, but much of it is under the rocks. Water comes out here and there and runs for a few feet in a trickle a quarter inch wide, with so little water you canít see it move. I did see one big very murky pool, and I know there are others.

When I was driving around, I went east at the road junction where you turn west to get to camp, to check out Cow and Calf Creek, which has always had more water than Rock Creek. It had a visible flow, but was very low.

I split some of the lumber scraps into small kindling, and also split up a round of lodgepole pine that I gathered nearby.

The day was fairly warm, right around 80 from mid-morning on, meaning it is probably around 100 in Fresno. The low last night was about 47.

About a half hour ago another trailer arrived and set up on the far side of the camp area from me, so my time of solitude is over.

Saturday, August 25: Teri and Mikie unexpectedly arrived last night, as did their friends Larry and Michelle. So we got tents set up and had a campfire. Mikieís friend, my next door neighbor kid Librado, came with them, on the very first camping trip of his life. The three ďkidsĒ (including me) went out on the official Stargazer Rock to see the sky. The moon is three quarters full, so it washed out a lot of the stars. The best time for viewing now is around 3 a.m., but Iím the only one who gets up at that time. I took a short walk around that time both nights to check the stars.

Mikie and Librado had a baseball game going shortly after we got up (heís become a major fan and fanatic during the recent season). Larry served as catcher, which reduced the amount of time the kids had to spend chasing bad pitches.

After breakfast and a lazy morning, everyone but me left for Courtright Reservoir to go fishing. Only a few minutes after they left, Janell and Mark arrived. We didnít do much - ate lunch, lazed around, took naps; and Mark and I walked down to the creek. He was fascinated by the water bugs which live in the few remaining pools.

The fishing expedition went well, with everyone enjoying the scenery at Courtright. There was only one fish, caught by Michelle, cleaned by Larry, and eaten by both of them.

When everyone got back, the baseball game resumed with me as catcher. Meanwhile Teri fixed chicken fajitas for everyone, followed by Smores prepared by Michelle. The three boys are now heading off on their first snipe hunt, so weíll see how they do.

Sunday, August 26: The sun is going down rapidly, the temperature is following, and at 7 p.m. itís time for me to come inside the trailer. Itís been cooler today, with more wind and some clouds. We heard thunder early this morning, but nothing came of it.

The snipe hunt last night was a big success as far as scaring the hunters went, although Mikie was not happy - mainly because he didnít get to see an unusual animal heíd never seen before. Even so, he was suspicious from the start, and all the boys came back saying it was Larry and Michelle out there in the woods. This did not prevent them from yelling and jumping up and running when they heard a weird noise behind a tree right next to camp. Of course, it turned out to be Michelle.

We heard coyotes both Friday and Saturday night, always a thrilling wilderness sound (even though I also hear them next to my motherís house on the edge of Mariposa).

Everyone else left by noon, so I spent the day reading, walking around a little, bike riding, and getting a few things ready to go. I have all the chairs and tables folded and ready to load tomorrow morning, and nearly everything that was scattered around picked up.

The other party that was here left early this morning, and the trailer that was here when I arrived remains unoccupied.

It was a fairly typical size group compared to recent years, but a little more low key, with no four wheel driving, and just the one long ďexpedition.Ē Itís been a little cooler each day, which makes it a little easier to go back to the low country, and I feel refreshed and reinvigorated.

--Dick Estel, August 2007


Who lives in here?

Dinkey Dome from Rock Creek Road

Dick Estel, Janell Sidney, Larry, Michelle
Maynard, Teri Liddle, Mark Washington,
Librado McHenry, Mikie Liddle
Left to right, Librado McHenry, Mikie Liddle, Mark Washington, making & eating smores

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