an absence of two years, we returned to Stargazer Rock for another
family campout. The origin and location of this event, and general description of the
area are included in my
report from 2005, so I won't repeat them here. There are reports
on other years' events below.
invitations were extended to just above everyone who had joined us
in the past, only a small group was able to attend. Reasons included
everything from moving to a new house to work obligations.
went up Friday morning, July 31, along with Jim Neely, my younger
daughter's nephew. The trip was not without some problems, although
we worked around them. The right rear inner tire on my motor home
has had a slow leak for some time, and I have aired it up for each
trip without any problems. Driving up Highway 168, we heard a noise,
and I immediately suspected a problem with that tire. The good,
outer tire seemed to be carrying the load OK, and I knew replacing
the bad tire would be a half-day project, if indeed a shop able to do it
could be found in the nearby mountain community of Shaver Lake.
checked the air pressure, finding the outer tire fully inflated, and
the inner at zero pressure. Not willing to abandon my trip, we
continued on, arriving at our destination without incident.
grandson Johnny and his son, Colton, had arrived less than a half
hour earlier. The spot we usually camp in was occupied, and they
were waiting our arrival before selecting an alternative. There were
a number of people setting up camp in the large area that offers the
most shade, but there are lots of places to camp, so we
decided on a place near where Johnny had parked. I was able to
position the motor home so it would shade us from the afternoon sun,
and there were flat spots for those who would be using tents.
we got the motor home set up, Johnny, Colton and I took a walk to
Creek. The route we usually follow is across the big,
open flat area that is the official "Stargazer
Rock," then down a rocky slope to the creek. Colton, age
two and a half, made this trek with only occasional help from an
adult. Despite the dry year we've had, the creek had a small flow of
water, more than I expected. I believe the unusual storms we had in
July brought the water level up slightly.
of he creek bed consists of large slabs of granite, with only a
slight slope. Water runs along the edges of these slabs,
occasionally filling pools ranging from two feet across to eight
feet or more. Colton was delighted with the area, running down the
rocks and hopping over the joints between one slab and the next. Of
course, he enjoyed the
creek, putting his hands in, throwing rocks
in the water, and sharing the excitement we all felt when Johnny
spotted a small water snake.
walked down the creek a couple hundred yards, then returned to camp
by a slightly different route that took us up to the jeep road that
runs across the rock, then down to a different section of the creek where the direction of
flow turns from south to east.
was not long before my daughter Teri (Johnny's mom and Colton's
grandma) arrived, and after proper greetings we helped her set up
her tent. The four generations of my family plus Jim made up our
entire camping party for this year.
had never before been in my motor home, so he enjoyed exploring
this drivable house. Having recently become toilet trained, he was
especially interested in using the bathroom, with the foot pedal
I arrived, Colton's first words were "I didn't bring my sand
toys." The need for these was soon obvious, since there are a
number of runoff channels through the camp area, lined with coarse
sand that is mostly decomposed granite. Johnny gave him two plastic
cups, and these proved satisfactory, as he spent considerable time
pouring sand from one to the other, over several plastic toy cars,
and into a bug box he had brought. Collecting insects was a favorite
activity of Mikie, my other grandson, when he was small.
Colton's box briefly contained a single ant, then became a sand toy
for the rest of the weekend.
the afternoon, people continued to arrive with 4-wheel drive
vehicles, and our neighbors eventually consisted of half a dozen trailers, a
number of tents, and a group of 25 people or more. For the most part
they were good neighbors, with no loud noises day or night the first
day. At dusk a half dozen or so of their vehicles left for a night run
Mountain. I've ridden with Teri's husband and others
on this drive in the daytime on some of our earlier trips, but
much of the enjoyment is looking at the scenery, so a nighttime run
seems like a waste of time to me.
had brought tri-tip, which she barbecued for dinner. I had picked up
corn from the market at Fresno State University. I cooked this in
the microwave, as nature intended.
was partly cloudy throughout the day, and during dinner we
heard a lot of thunder. The center of the storm was so far away that
we did not see any lightning, but we did have a 15-minute shower
that started before we finished eating. It was not heavy, but we all
got damp and it was quite cool with the breeze, so everyone ended up
putting on an additional layer. We were rewarded with a partial
dinner, Teri, Johnny, Colton and I went for a walk, with Colton
riding his tricycle much of the way. We went out the route we
usually take to the creek, but ended up going out on a small rock promontory
that drops off on three sides. It's not a huge cliff or anything,
just slopes down close to vertical about 15 feet on the end, and a
little less to the sides out near the end.
started out in that direction Colton told us, "The creek is
waiting for us," but we didn't get to it on this part of the
walk. We went back to the main road and went west a short distance
to a dirt road that goes in a short distance to a camping site. Not
the hill from this is the creek, so Colton was able to
throw rocks in the pools and enjoy looking at water bugs. He was reluctant
to leave, but darkness was coming on, so we headed back to camp.
our walks he was interested in the many fire rings scattered around
the several acres of Stargazer Rock, commenting at
each one, "They have their own campfire."
in the evening Colton continued his sand play in the dark, and we
sat around the campfire ring. Due to extreme drought conditions, no
fires are allowed outside of designated campgrounds, and Stargazer
Rock does not qualify, so we just enjoyed watching for the blue moon
to rise. When we could see it was time, we went out to the open
area, where we could see quite a few stars, and the moon as it rose
through the clouds. With the bright moon, the star gazing was not at
its best, but I think we still saw more than are visible from Fresno.
also saw a jet trail that seemed to be above the full moon. Later
the trail drifted higher and spread out, with half of it lit by the moon,
and the other half darker but reflecting some light from the earth
The next day was our day of adventure. Well before the trip Johnny
had told me that we should hike to Dinkey
Lakes. I was noncommittal,
not sure how strenuous the effort would be. The Dinkey Lakes are a
group of natural lakes between 8,000 and 9,000 feet, with the
trailhead starting about seven miles from our camp. In reading the
trail description, I found that the distance from the trailhead to
First Dinkey Lake was three miles, or a six-mile round trip, more
than I usually want to do. Johnny said we would be going to the
closest lake, Mystery Lake, more like a mile and a half each way.
Once you arrive at one lake, it's a relatively short hike to the
I vacillated until we had all finished breakfast and it was almost
time to leave. When I learned Colton would be making the hike, I
decided that what a two and a half year old toddler could do, a
three quarter centenarian
could also do, and I got my stuff ready and climbed into Johnny's
Jeep with him, Teri and my great grandson. Jim does not do long
walks, and would stand guard at camp, just enjoying being out of the
road to the trailhead was mostly rough dirt and rocks, and in
sections where there was pavement, it was marred by huge potholes, a
"feature" of the entire road system throughout the area.
was probably seven miles to the
trailhead, located on Dinkey Creek, where we found many
vehicles, including passenger cars that must have struggled on the
road getting in.
got our packs on, enjoyed looking at the unusual dark gray rock
around the parking area, and set off on the trail to the left or
north side of the creek. The "official" trail is on the
other side, but this
route, although not maintained, is easy enough to follow and
joins the main trail after a half mile or so. Along this section
there was a low
rock ridge, almost a cliff, on our left, but the opposite bank
of the creek was forested and fairly level as far as we could see.
The trail was not steep most of the way, rising gently, and often
smooth and level.
about the half
way point of our hike we entered the Dinkey
Lakes Wilderness Area, which is part of a complex of several
such preserves in the high Sierra.
were lots of flowers, nice views of the creek, many interesting rock
formations, and of course, fallen trees. This was a new thing for
Colton, and often caused him to announce, "Tree fell
down." He understood soon that a tree down on the ground was
called a log.
bit more than half way to our destination Colton ran out of steam,
but Teri had prepared a raisin and nut mix, and practiced her
grandmotherly spoiling arts by picking out his favorite item for
raisins. We all had a few handfuls of the mix, and as we
continued our hike, Colton occasionally announced that he needed
"more energy," meaning another handful of food.
rocky ridge on the left became higher and sloped away from the
trail, which went up hill in that direction for the first steep
section. This part of the trail was fairly rough, but took us to a
mostly level valley for the next part of our hike. We came to a
trail junction, where going straight ahead continues the level route
that eventually goes up to First Dinkey Lake. The shorter route we
had planned was a right turn across the creek, then up a fairly
steep ridge with some switchbacks, but somewhat smoother hiking than
the first uphill section.
reward for reaching the top of this part of the trail was to arrive
at a large plateau which contains Mystery
Lake. It appeared to be fairly small, but what you see when you
first arrive is just a small arm of the lake, and after crossing a
"peninsula," the main part of the
lake comes into view. Here it is several hundred feet across,
and as is usual in the Sierra, offers a postcard perfect vista.
got out some sandwiches and homemade chocolate energy bars, which we
and enjoyed. Colton took advantage of his tender age to remove
all clothing and wade in the lake, but it was cold enough that he
didn't go in past his knees. Johnny has fished in this lake in the
past, but for this family trek had chosen to leave his pole behind.
I tried to get in a short nap on a granite boulder that lacked a
certain comfort level, but at least I rested up for the return trip.
soon it was time to head back down the hill, with the steep sections
requiring careful footwork, but less effort by the lungs. When we
reached the place where the "official" trail joins the
abandoned route, we
creek and enjoyed some different
scenery during the final part of the hike. The final 100 yards
is a steep climb up from the creek, which makes the sight of the car
even more welcome.
rode on his dad's shoulders several times for very short distances,
maybe a quarter mile total, and walked the rest of the 3.7 mile
round trip. In fact, on easy level places he did quite a bit of
running. At age 75, I walked it all, no running.
we started our drive back home, Colton chattered about the day for
the first mile or so, then promptly fell asleep, and remained so
until shortly before they left for home. Teri had an event to attend
on Sunday, and Johnny is working on a bathroom remodel, so both of
them packed up and left shortly after we got back to camp. Teri left
even before Colton woke up, but maybe that was lucky. He woke up
crying, was not satisfied by offers of food, drink or hugs, and was
still unhappy when he and Johnny left. Fortunately, Johnny reported
that he went back to sleep again soon after they started driving.
saw a few dark clouds and heard some thunder during our hike, but
there was no repeat of the rain at our camp sight. We did get a very
thanks to the clouds.
had planned to stay Sunday night as well, but Jim and I had a
discussion about the remainder of our campout, and both agreed that
we had accomplished all we set out to. We decided to head for home
Sunday after breakfast.
I needed to run the generator to keep the battery charged, we
watched a DVD of an old Saturday Night Live show from the
program's second year, plus a Simpsons episode, and got to
bed shortly after ten.
next morning I wanted to get in a good exercise walk, so I went up
the road to the east, then down a dirt trail that runs behind the
forest east and south of the camp. Here I walked a short way down
the 4-wheel drive road that runs down toward the creek, then turned
back, coming up across the big flat area, logging close to a mile
and a half.
eating breakfast and getting everything ready, I took the alternate
route, going west on the road from the camp. This goes about six
miles to State 168, joining it half way between Huntington and
Shaver Lakes. This road was quite a bit better for the first mile,
then became the same pothole nightmare as the other route. At least
we saw different scenery.
contact during our trip included a doe and two fawns that Jim and I saw
while driving in,
another deer spotted by Johnny and Colton, quail on the road to the
trailhead, the snake in the creek, and lots of chipmunks. In
addition we heard coyotes howling Friday night, and I saw fresh deer
tracks on my Sunday morning walk.
I was going to get new tires and have other repairs done, we went to
the storage yard where I keep the motor home to empty the tanks
before going to my house. We arrived to annoyingly hot weather, but
the next day was cooler, and the two days since have been just above
80 degrees - quite a change from the 100 plus of last week. Still, I
am hoping to get in some more camping at higher elevations this
enjoyed camping with my family at all ages, but of course, the
youngest grandson hasn't been a little kid for a dozen years, and
it's been longer for everyone else. Sharing the experience with my
two and a half year old great grandson made this one of the best
Stargazer Campouts ever.
Estel, August 2015