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Old 07-19-2010, 03:38 PM   #1
Cycle61
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Got lost on the way to Hawthorne, or, Wandering about the High Sierra with a camera..

Last weekend was the Hawthorne Rally. Huge crowd of barfers, good times, lots of alcohol, amazing roads, tricycle races, bacon bits, boobs by the pool, and all sorts of other Nevada-only goodness. But somehow, I wanted something different. And so, a plan was hatched. I unfolded my Yosemite topo map, and started scouring the passes for something that looked hikeable in a day or three, far enough out from civilization that I wouldn't have to see another human. I like most of you individually, but people in general get on my nerves sometimes, and it's nice to get away for a bit.

Yosemite itself is amazing, but overpopulated this time of year. I'll take it in November or something, but not at the peak of summer vacation season. Anyplace that has a lottery system for their wilderness permits...no thanks. So I begin to look at the edges of the map, outside the park boundary. And there's Sonora Pass. And just east of the summit, a little dotted line, marked as a 4x4 trail, with a black bar across it indicating permanent closure. It appears to head up a thousand feet or so, to a small lake nestled on the side of a steep ridge of peaks. Perfect. And even better, there is a trail heading further still up, to two smaller lakes, the highest registering an altitude of 10,389 feet. My destination is set.

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Old 07-19-2010, 04:11 PM   #2
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Not wanting to be entirely antisocial (and since I'd already mentioned to the rally organizers that I would be in attendance) I joined the group in Livermore for Friday morning's start. We gather at Starbucks, of course, and chat, swap plans, discuss routes, lend earplugs, drink coffee, eat donuts, leghump one another's bikes, catch up with old friends, and generally have a good time.

My camera is, at this point, in one of the hard side cases of my bike, with a rather sizable backpack strapped down on the lid. I decide to leave it there for a bit.

We roll out, four of us heading for Sonora Pass. Most of the group, headed for 120/Yosemite, and a few took Hwy 4 over Ebbets.

Roadside stop in Escalon, hoping to pick up another rider, but to no avail. Gives me time to get out the camera through, and so begin the photos.

You've all seen Frank~~~ do this. He's better at it than I am.



We roll through the hills out beyond Oakdale, with traffic moving at mind-warping speeds in the mid-double digits.



As a photographer, I fear few things more than a boring sky...but no worries, mother nature delivered.



Forgot this guys' name. Mike maybe? He was our lead for a bit, set a respectable pace on his ZX-10 on the freeway, and finally let me catch up for a picture.



Peter (Cinncinatus)



Robin (Edit: SVBEESGAL )



Unlucky passenger (one of many)

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Last edited by Cycle61; 07-19-2010 at 10:32 PM..
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Old 07-19-2010, 04:12 PM   #3
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We make our way into the hills, higher and higher, and the valley heat fades into a cool freshness as the road becomes interesting. Robin leads the group now, my low-slung cruiser throwing sparks from the exhaust and footboards as I hold pace.





Another handful of miles, and a few thousand feet of elevation, and the mountain air again feels warm, and laden with moisture. The clouds ahead and above thicken. We hear thunder in the distance, crest over a rise, near Kennedy Meadows, and suddenly it's raining.



The roads now wet and slippery, we slow our pace a little. But not too much.



We push on, and are shortly clear of the showers. Finding a convenient vista, we pull over for a break, a picture or three, and a laugh about a pack of t-shirt wearing Harley riders heading the other direction into the squall.







BMW owes me for this one.



Robin



A big fat overweight underperforming machine, totally out of it's element in the high mountains.

And my bike.

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Old 07-19-2010, 04:54 PM   #4
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From here, we resume our eastward course, shout a celebratory "woohoo!" inside the helmet at the summit, and a few miles further, I spy my turnout. Waving goodbye to the other riders, I pull off the road, roll to a stop, and look about. I've traversed this pass many times on two and four wheels, and always appreciated the rugged beauty of the mountains, but now it's time to get closer.

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Old 07-19-2010, 05:07 PM   #5
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Absolutely awesome!!!
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Old 07-19-2010, 05:37 PM   #6
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Old 07-19-2010, 05:58 PM   #7
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excellent pics.
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Old 07-19-2010, 06:02 PM   #8
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Fantasic pics dude! Gotta love those wide lens!
Nice to meet you too!
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Old 07-19-2010, 06:12 PM   #9
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very nice

thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-19-2010, 06:18 PM   #10
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Nick let me know next time you head out. I would be very tempted to join you if I can figure out how to pack stuff onto my RC that is.
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The kid is so cute and entertaining. Like a little teddy bear. With Down Syndrome.
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Old 07-19-2010, 06:28 PM   #11
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Nice pics Nick ! Glad the trip went well for you !
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Old 07-19-2010, 06:56 PM   #12
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Nick - Nice pics!! I've saved the K12R as my background, I owe you at least two adult beverages for that sweetness!
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Old 07-19-2010, 08:18 PM   #13
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Old 07-19-2010, 08:21 PM   #14
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A big fat overweight underperforming machine, totally out of it's element in the high mountains.

And my bike.

awesome pics!
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Old 07-19-2010, 11:28 PM   #15
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I confirm on the map that I have indeed found the correct one of a dozen or so relatively unmarked roads leading off from the highway. A signpost with "77" scribed into the side is the best I'm gonna get, but it's enough. Time to stop thinking in street terms and get used to it. I pull perhaps a hundred yards up the hill, to a little spot large enough to park two cars, and with one last wheezing carbureated *pop* of the big v-twin, I have arrived.

I set about unstrapping my pack from it's perch across the cupcake seat, and by the time I have it freed, I'm half winded myself. Changing out of my riding gear into my shorts, and repacking my jeans and a few water bottles into the backpack, and pulling the fitted cover over top of my bike has me nearly gasping. How the hell am I gonna climb a mountain again? We're at approximately 8,400 feet elevation, and I'm wiped out from just tying my shoes. Off to a great start indeed.

I set the camera on a conveniently located 4x4 truck, and take a self portrait. Part of me is certain that this will be found by a search and rescue crew sometime next decade, and I want them to know that yes, I went in there on purpose.



The road/trail starts off easily enough, and despite my earlier apprehensions, I am able to carry a moderate pace without becoming too winded. I find myself consciously slowing down, as my legs do not yet detect the suffering my lungs register every time I walk at a brisk clip. The scenery helps distract me though, and provides ample excuse to step off the trail and stop for a minute every so often. I have always been fascinated by how differently processes we take for granted, such as decomposition, take place in alpine environments. This meadow is probably covered in snow and ice six or seven months out of the year, and the stump of a long fallen tree has dried and bleached in the harsh sun, rather than rotting softly back into the dirt as it would in a gentler place.



The path winds it's way further up the valley, and after a mile or so I arrive at the first of what are supposed to be three or four stream crossings. This one has a crude footbridge across, consisting mostly of an old pallet, a dead stump, and a few scattered basketball sized rocks. I manage to keep my boots dry, a feat that in later crossings will involve changing into my flipflops before wading across. I find solid footing somewhere mid-stream, and holding the camera as low to the splashing water as I dare, grab a picture looking up the hill. No expansive vistas here, as the local terrain is too steep and blocks the distant views.



Another mile or so, and another stream crossing. A different stream presumably, since I haven't re-crossed the first one, and this time there is no makeshift bridge. Water looks to be about mid-calf deep, easy enough to wade with care, but far too deep for my boots. Since the pack must come off to extract my water shoes, I sit down for a short break. Have been climbing continuously for almost an hour now. I grab a cliff bar, enjoy the sound of the water tumbling along through the still-dense trees, and dare to think that I'm making good progress.



The road here steepens considerably, and any illusion of it being passable by less than a well-sorted 4x4 or dirt bike are erased. I again force myself to slow the pace, in order to keep moving steadily. It seems better that way than to walk at a normal speed and suddenly find myself badly winded. This will prove to be a problem much later in the snowfields, but we're not there yet. My pack is decidedly overloaded, as most of my backpacking gear has been borrowed from the car camping kit, or in the case of my tent and sleeping bag, simply so old that they're twice the weight and bulk of anything modern. The large bear-proof canister isn't helping matters either, weighing several pounds empty and stubbornly refusing to compress. Fitting everything into the pack was no mean feat, and I still ended up looking like some sort of retarded christmas tree, with tent poles, sleeping pad, two nalgene bottles, a pair of Miller Lite flipflops, a small cooking pot, and a camera dangling from various attachment points.

However, I manage to put enough of this aside to realize that I am still breathing, and the trees are beginning to appear shorter, and sparser. I am slowly but inevitably approaching the timberline. I stop again, ostensibly to grab a shot of some more yellow flowers (are they following me ) but mostly to rest a minute. Having attained the summit of a sort of rise within the valley, the high ridges surrounding it become again visible. From my study of the map I know these ridges and peaks are all around 10,000 to 10,500 feet, and they don't seem to be so far above me.

Yet.



I turn and look back northeast, down the trail, and am surprised to see laid out below me, the valley through which I have just climbed. I attempt to capture a sense of the grade here, but unfortunately, that's near impossible to convey accurately in a picture. But it's encouraging to see such progress, out in the open, after a few miles in the woods.



Turning again to the task at hand, I resume my upward journey. How far? I don't really know. My map is a 1:80,000 projection, and the distances marked are for the trails, not for closed 4x4 roads such as the one I'm currently trekking. It could be 2 miles, it could be 6. Impossible to tell accurately, it's like trying to measure the distance from your door to your mailbox by using a map of the city. The ridge in the distance looks encouraging though...



And sure enough, within another 20 minutes or so, I find myself climbing over one last gentle rise, and into view comes this little gem of a lake. I slough off my pack, and sit on a nearby rock to celebrate my first quantifiable victory of the trip. Fresh and encouraged after a bit of trail mix and a short rest, I wander a lap around the lake to take some pictures.

Leavitt Lake.









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