Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Looking" for a Winter Camp

One day in late October, with Hunter arriving in a little over a week away, I had the opportunity for a quick jaunt up to the hills to do one of my favorite things while in the mountains. I'm always interested in finding new places to set up a camp which no one has camped before. With winter coming up, I've been interested in finding places to spend a night or two in the snow. So with these things in mind, and a few hours of free time, I was headed up the hill to a spot I have had in mind for a couple of years. My intention was not to go up there and build a campsite, or start a fire, or something like that. I just wanted to check out the area, tune in to the forest and surroundings, and pretty much just "Look" around.

I bring up the subject of "Looking" because that is also one of my favorite things to do while in the woods. Someone brought up that subject a few days ago because he used to "Look" in his younger days, and was getting back into the practice. For him, it involves just looking at things as a sort of meditation. He was not gathering information about what he is looking at, not looking for a specific thing, but pretty much enjoying the visual aspect of Life. Soaking in the subject of his gaze, and burning the images in his mind for enjoyment and the possibility of using the image in the future.

Usually when I am Looking in the woods, I am gathering information about the subject. Tuning in to what I am Looking at or Looking for, so that I can use the information at the present moment and in the future. Seeing, soaking in, tuning into the moment, learning about the mountains, is what I enjoy most when I am on my trips.

I believe good observation skills, reading and understanding the signs, are born and bread into all of us. They come from a time long ago when our ancestors were not so separated from their environments as modern humans are today. It's just a place that some of us like to go to every once and a while. Not talkin' about runnin' around in loin cloths, but getting back to ancient ways - often times with modern gear which allows one to blend into both worlds. It's being in touch with our past and living in the present - in the moment. It's a good way to slow down and just exist.

Few views of the first hills you come to as one travels up higher.

The hike in was about a mile from where I will be able to leave the car in the winter. My destination was across this meadow, through the taller trees at the center of the picture, and up a little creek drainage that feeds this meadow.

Loving the deep forest travel. Tuning in more now as the chance of crossing paths with animals becomes greater.

The creek drainage I was travelling up was dry now. I imagine it pretty much is just a channel for melting snow since there was no spring to feed it. Alongside the creek bed, I found this spot where deer had bedded down sometime in the past. I normally wouldn't use this spot if deer were going to use it for their camp, but they won't be here in the winter. Looking went into full force in this area. Great way to spend an afternoon.

The only thing that concerned me about this area, was that the creek area seemed like sort of a funnel for wind. It was sorta calm on this day, and this ground area seemed protected by the dense tree cover, but there was more than a few broken top trees around. Made me think either it gets pretty windy through here, or maybe it was just an isolated wind event that topped these trees. Well, I'll just have to camp out sometime and find out.

Cave would work for a decent a pinch.   Just don't light a fire as the rock may crack!

On the way home I stopped by to "Look" at Redwood Mountain. I can see how it got its name. Just look at all those Sequoias! Simply amazing. First snow's rollin' in......winter is fastly approacing. It was a great autumn outing, even if it was just for a few hours to Look around.

Ok. That brings us back to the present ;)

Scootin' Roots From A Fare

It was another hot day in mid September. I had convinced my brother to come over from the big city by the bay to do some exploring in the local high places. I had seen on the map a magical mountain peak smack dab in the center of the Kings River watershed where you could look out and see all the peaks and valleys which send their waters flowing down the Kings towards the old Tulare Lake Bed. Well.....most of them anyways. Not only did I want to give my brother a grand view of tall mountains instead of tall buildings, but I wanted to get a good lay of the land. Do some scouting of some routes and trails which I plan to travel in the future. Trails such as up and over Silliman Pass out of Lodgepole. Enter the Sugarloaf Valley out of Big Meadows. Travel Deadman's Canyon and the Roaring River valley. Over Glacier Ridge to Cloud Canyon.

So the first thing I noticed once we reached the top of Mitchell Peak at 10,000 feet and could see the passes and areas where those trails go, was that I would need to be in much better physical condition!

We spent a few hours playin' around on the peak and enjoyin' the views.

The Lower Kings River Valley. Gives you a good idea how the Sierras rise from the West.

Black Kaweah and its glacier.

Below the Tablelands.

That's my bro on the right - good times.

An Old Wolf's Last Journey

If a dog is a man’s best friend, is it possible for it’s cousin the wolf to be a close second? As people that have to deal with the problems wolves cause may have other opinions, it is possible in the case of my buddy and his pet Caine. My two companions on a late August overnight trip to the woods.
Caine has joined us on a couple backpacking adventures, and a few car camping trips, but as we went along this most recent trail, we soon found out this was probably going to be Caine’s last. At 12 years old he was moving along pretty slowly. However, it was still a joy to share the wilds with him again.

Now being an almost pure wolf, the wilds have coursed through Caine’s blood with at times a pretty intense surge. His father was a completely slate gray Timber Wolf, and his mother a snow white Arctic Wolf. Mix those two colors together and you get this-

Caine has always been the wildest of his brothers. Usually keeping his distance, and quickest to let out a howl to shake the timbers, but loving an occasional rub behind the ears as well. Won’t listen to a darned call to heal for nothin'. We have found out the hard way it’s a must that he be on a leash whenever joining us in the woods. I know it seems contradictory to have a wolf leashed up in the wilderness, but trust me that it’s in everybody’s best interests.

So the closest lake to the trailhead it was to be on this trip. However as this had not been our original destination, we had no map to this lake. With the many paths and side trails in this area, the journey up took us a little while longer than expected.


Tomahawk I got from The American Grouch - - helpin' to bring in the night's wood.

However on the way down the next day is where Caine really shined. He led the way and kept us on the right path and refused to go in any other direction but the exact same way we had come up. Talk about a good bushcraft companion. Quick to alert the camp of movement outside of it, and superior trail finding skills.

You will be missed around the campfire old friend. It’s been a pleasure.