Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Copper Mountain

I finally got around to driving the Copper Mountain trail. It appears in 3 of my trail books: "Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Wells, "High Sierra SUV Trails, Volume 1, The East Side" by Mithcell, and "Sierra Nevada Byways" by Huegel. As you can see in the photos, the trail is pretty easy, mostly class 2 with small spots of class 3. The views are terrific.

Before I drove it, I read the descriptions in each book and decided to use the Wells book while driving it. There was no chance of getting lost since the roads also showed up in my Garmin Nuvi navigation toy. I encountered one other SUV out there (a young couple in an FJ Cruiser) and they were using Mitchell's book.

This trail ascends to the top of Copper Mountain which sits to the west of Mono Lake and just north of Lundy Canyon, offering great views of both.

Here's a google map centered on Copper Mountain.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Camping at Mammoth

I went camping last week up near Mammoth. Actually right on the edge of Mammoth Lakes town at a USFS campground named New Shady Rest Campground. It was pretty nice. The low temps (around 80F) at 7,800 feet elevation were a welcome relief from the 100+ temps down in Pasadena.

This campgorund had an array of conveniences that I am not accustomed to. OK, not the campground exactly. Being on the edge of town, you can walk to shops. It's located across the street from a McDonalds! I bought a sandwich at Subway for a mid day snack while off-road driving one day. It rained lightly one afternoon, and that was refreshing.

The campground itself is pretty nice also. Mildly hilly and the sites aren't too close together. By comparison, the South Campground at Zion NP is flat and most of the sites are right next to one another.

The squirrels and ground squirrels are very habituated to people and they walk right up to you (and onto you) to beg for food. There were no signs of bears when I was there, but the campground host told me that they are often visited by the same bear, mostly checking out the dumpsters.

One afternoon I explored the dirt roads in the forest on the east side of highway 395 (the circled areas on the map). They ranged in difficulty from class 1 to class 3 (Mitchell scale).

The northwestern area indicated has many USFS roads of differing quality. The larger ones were being used by mountain bikers. I encountered many bikers out there, so I had to drive slowly and approach blind corners with caution. I also came upon a gun firing range with many people shooting at the time. That explains the loud sounds I'd heard when I was about a mile away.

I stopped off to gander at the hot springs site. I didn't stay long and didn't walk down to get near the water. They've got signs posted everywhere warning about the hazards and the prohibition on entering the water.

If you're interested in camping in the area, then the USFS has a very helpful guide: 2011-2012 Inyo Forest Visitor Guide (6MB PDF file). I found the link to this on this USFS site for the Inyo National Forest.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Navy SEALs

I've just finished my third book about US Navy SEALs. I became interested after the news about the SEAL Team 6 soldiers that executed the attack on Osama Bin Laden's compound. I didn't know much at all about SEALs, so I read a few books.

First I read "SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper" by Howard Wasdin. I blogged about that here. Then I read "The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL" by Eric Greitens. That one was also interesting, and had much less (almost nothing) about the author's childhood and upbringing. It left me with an uneasy sense that he was a snooty privileged sort. Although, it had an astute message, that humanitarian aid can only go so far. Sometimes, forceful intervention is necessary to truly help the populace of war-torn areas.

Lastly, I just finished "The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228" by Dick Couch. That book follows the soldiers in BUD/S class 228 as they succeed and fail during that grueling training regimen. While it included more details than the other books about BUD/S training, it had nothing about their deployments or operations in the field (like the first book did).

For convenience, here's the informative Wikipedia page about the SEALs.

I think that concludes my fascination with SEALs. At the very least, I'm better informed than before.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kiavah Wilderness and More

I escaped the confines of my home to spend the day in the hills on the very southern end of the Sierra mountains. I like driving around the 4wd trails just to see what's out there. I try to aim for places with some history that I've read about before-hand.

I turned into Jawbone Canyon OHV Area and headed for Butterbredt Canyon Road. The shot above looks east down Jawbone Canyon. Butterbredt was a pleasant meandering road down a sandy wash. The brush on the sides didn't encroach very far and never scratched my truck. I was surprised to encounter two signs that read "NO OUTLET" at a trail intersection a few miles east of Kelso Valley Road, but was very happy to find they were wrong and I was able to exit onto the road.

Next I drove north to take the Bird Spring Pass trail. The sign in the photo explains the historical significance of this route.

I wanted to visit Wyley's Knob at the top of the pass, where an old microwave relay station sits.

There was a great view to the east.

The PCT crosses the road up there. Friendly people leave jugs of water for the PCT hikers. Some of the bottles appear to have brown water in them, but plenty appeared clear.

I was surprised to see that all the roads I drove were shown on my Garmin Nuvi GPS navigator. Several do not appear in my printed maps, so it was nice to see them on the Garmin. I also used an old map from the Jawbone Canyon OHV visitor center. Years ago, they would give me old ones free. I don't know if they still do that. They're excellent maps, and I plan to buy a new one next time I'm there when the visitor center is open. On this trip, the store was closed when I stopped. But I did get to see "Mr. Bob" the very old desert tortoise. He was sitting half-way out of his burrow.

I turned north on SC82 (not on my printed maps) and headed for Horse Canyon. I encountered 2 different sites where commercial bee hives had been parked.

Here's the sign marking the boundary of the Kiavah Wilderness Area, then one for the Sequoia National Forest.

It was nice up on the ridge with temps around 80F. Not too bad, given that it was 100F down along Highway 14.

I had planned to drive the 4wd trail north to McIvers Spring and check out a cabin there available for campers to use. The road turned to class 3 right where the book said it would.

But within a mile it deteriorated to class 4 with a few small sections of class 5. This was the result of runnoff down the middle of the trail. I can handle this challenge, but I prefer to only tackle class 5 with extra trucks, in case I need to be pulled off a boulder. And with a spotter. So, I turned back.

Here's a photo looking east down Horse Canyon. There's some vestigial asphalt in places. I was able to spare my brakes by putting the truck into 1st gear, then 2nd as it got less steep.

The remains of an old stone cabin sit at the base of Sage Canyon. My trail books offered no info on this site.

Another mystery was at the base of Cow Heaven Canyon. A memorial cross for Lonnie Johnson. With subsequent googling, I could find nothing about this person. Based on the number of kind inscriptions on the cross, he was well liked.

I stopped off at the Indian Wells Brewery to see if they'd resumed brewing the strong version of Lobotomy Bock. No, they haven't.

All in all, it was a fun day. Relaxing.

Note: Most of the trails and canyons I explored are presented in Mitchells' books "High Sierra SUV Trails, Vol IV, The Southern End," and "Southern California SUV Trails, Vol I, The Western Mojave Desert." I was also using the Jawbone Canyon map (excellent). They offer a simple version free on their website. Here's the page, and here's the PDF map (1.5 MB).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stir Crazy

It's been two months since my surgery, and I'm going stir crazy. I'm ready to resume hiking, even though I'm not fully healed. While I can do loads of lunges and plenty of pushups, my abs haven't recovered their strength. I used to do 200 crunches each morning, and now I can barely do 10.

I'm planning a couple trips, just to focus on some targets. I'd like to head to the Mammoth area for 3 days or so for some hiking and 4wd touring. My plan currently includes: Laurel Canyon (a fun and scenic 4wd road), hiking Laurel Mountain and maybe Bloody Mountain, Copper Mountain 4wd trails, hiking in Lundy Canyon, and San Joaquin Ridge (scenic 4wd road) with a hike over Deadman Pass. At the same time, I'm planning a trip to southern Utah (Zion and thereabouts) for after Labor Day. I'm open to any suggestions for activities on those trips. My best adventures have been to places suggested by others.

Tomorrow, I'll go exploring some canyons in the Kiavah Wilderness Area, east of Lake Isabella.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Land Rover Hood Sensor - Take 3

The replacement alarm hood sensor arrived and I installed it. I posted a little more about it on the other blog here.