Stargazer Rock Camp 2012


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The annual Stargazer Rock campout isn't what it used to be - but this year, at least, it was bigger than the previous few years.

After lots of emailing and checking the calendar we finally determined that the weekend of August 10 through 12 would work for everyone who had an interest in attending.

"Everyone" in this case was I, my daughter Teri, both her sons, Johnny and Mikie, my friend Janell, and her sister Denise and brother-in-law Juan.

My younger daughter, Jennifer, is recovering from knee replacement surgery; Teri's husband Tim, was on call for work, and Johnny's wife, Brittany, is pregnant and not interested in primitive sleeping arrangements. So - it would be a small but enthusiastic group.

The working people had to wait till after work Friday to leave, but I went up Friday morning, August 10, hoping that our spot would not be occupied by a mob of 4-wheel drive enthusiasts. They location is actually called Bald Mountain Base Camp, because 4-wheel drive clubs use it as a staging area for big gatherings, including runs to nearby Bald Mountain. I had already done some research on line, and knew that the local club's big event was scheduled for Labor Day, so I was hopeful that we would not have any company other than maybe one or two small parties.

I drove across town in my car to pick up Mikie, and on the way back stopped and picked up Janell from work, so that she could keep my car to drive up the next day.

After Janell headed back to work, Mikie and I set off in the motor home, going up Auberry Road to Prather, then up Highway 168 to Shaver Lake. Here we turned east on the Dinkey Creek Road, which leads to the Rock Creek Road, which leads to road 9S09, which goes to Stargazer Rock and on out to Highway 168 above Shaver Lake.

This once fairly primitive location has become ever more civilized, so it was a surprise, but not a shock, to see a number of portable toilets in the area. When I came up last year, picnic tables and metal fire rings had been added. During the day, two men with a pickup and trailer came and removed the toilets, which had been set up for a 4-wheel drive event early in the season, so some of the original ambiance was restored.

The temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley have been ranging from 105 to 112, so even at 7,000 feet, it was quite warm, but of course, much nicer than at home, about 85 degrees in the daytime. At night it was cool enough to enjoy the fire, and to snuggle down in the sleeping bag, but not nearly as cold as it usually is.

After we got set up, Mikie and I walked down to Rock Creek, about a quarter mile down hill from our camp site. In normal rain years, this creek has very little water in August, but there's usually a trickle, even though it disappears under the rocks in places. This year there was no water at the point where we arrived at the creek, and pools that normally have water even when there is little visible flow were dry. About 100 yards downstream we finally came to a place where there was a slight seep from a spring on one side, a tiny trickle in the creek, and a few small pools.

We had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, and collected some firewood. We didn't really have to do much work - there was a small amount of wood there already, and the men gathering toilets gave us quite a few pieces of wood that they did not want, including some oak. During our campout here in 2000, on his 16th birthday, Johnny had split a large pile of wood, so I explained to Mikie that at age 15, that was now his job. He made a good effort, but couldn't get the technique of letting the splitting maul do most of the work.

Teri arrived about 6:30, followed soon after by Johnny. Johnny did some wood splitting, and gave Mikie some pointers, and soon he was doing a great job. Eventually he split some logs that were already small enough just because he could - once you start, it's hard to stop!

We got a fire going, and enjoyed a very pleasant evening. Mikie, Johnny and I walked over to the open area that is the actual Stargazer Rock and lay down to watch for meteors (it was the peak night of the Perseid shower). We saw about a half dozen good meteors, including a couple that left trails of sparks as they crossed the sky.

Teri's pickup and Johnny's Jeep both have room in the back for sleeping, so they soon headed for their vehicles, while Mikie and I went into the motor home. Mikie wanted to watch TV, but I pointed out that our "neighbors" would not appreciate us running the generator when they were trying to sleep. We stayed up only a short time, and got to bed about 10.

The next morning Teri fixed a "birthday breakfast" (a few days after my birthday) of potatoes, bacon, sausage, toast and chocolate milk.

Johnny and Mikie are both fishing fanatics, and a waterless Rock Creek offered nothing for them, so they headed for the Dinkey Creek trailhead, about five miles away, and hiked in to the Dinkey Lakes area, about a mile and a half each way. When they returned they reported that there were many cars parked at the trailhead, lots of people at the lakes (most of them not fishing), and not much luck - Johnny caught one trout that he returned to the lake.

While they were gone Janell arrived with her sister and brother-in-law, so we had a good visit. They and I drove a few miles to a road that goes to Bald Mountain, but is OK for two-wheel drive vehicles the first few miles. I had gone in quite a ways with my pickup in the past, but we soon encountered big holes in the road that seemed to be more of a challenge than I wanted to try with the Honda, so we turned around and headed back. Janell drove and did a great job of navigating around the bumps and potholes.

We just loafed around camp the rest of the afternoon. Janell and her party left in time to get out of the mountain roads before dark, and Johnny left soon after. Teri, Mikie and I enjoyed a dinner of barbecue pork chops, corn on the cob and salad.

We had planned to do some more stargazing, but it was partly cloudy most of the day, and after dark we had just a few stars visible through the clouds. We did not feel like bothering with a fire, but we did all go in the motor home and watched a few videos before going to bed.

Teri and Mikie left early Sunday as planned, but I stayed another night, so I had a quiet day. I spent most of the time reading, with a couple of short walks around the camp area, and a bike ride up the road a ways.

On Monday I got my usual late start, taking time for a good breakfast. On the way up I had hit a snow pole, breaking the passenger side mirror, so I went first to the storage yard to empty the holding tanks, so that I could take the motor home in for repairs the next day. Needless to say, when I first opened the door back in the valley, I was greeted with a blast of hot air and the realization that I should have stayed where it was cool a few more days.

--Dick Estel, August 2012


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 


Dick Estel, Teri Liddle, Mikie Liddle, Juan,
Janell Sidney, Denise at Stargazer Rock

Mikie performs inside the motor home

Mikie & Teri, playing Yahtzee
Red firs south of camp More red firs Giant sugar pine near camp
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