Wes captured this dramatic view of the Sierra snow

All that rain means green grass

This was where we realized we'd walked just far enough

A section of the trail before you reach the flooded area

 

 

 

2017 Ramblers Hikes Page 1

  

The Ramblers are Carolyn Amicone, Julie Hornback, Wes Thiessen, Don McClellan, and Dick Estel, former colleagues at the Fresno County Department of Social Services. Every month or so we get together for a short hike, good conversation, and lunch.

   

Links to Photos, related links, and More Travel Reports at bottom

  

2015 and 2016 Hikes          Millerton Lake Trail          FINS Trail

   

Millerton Lake South Bay Trail

To kick off 2017, the Ramblers repeated a hike from just over two years earlier, the Blue Oak Trail on the south shore of Lake Millerton. Julie had a conflicting engagement, so the hikers were Wes, Carolyn, Dick and Don, who is now an official Rambler. The best way to do this hike is to leave a vehicle at both ends of the trail, so we all met at the town of Friant on January 16, then drove to Winchell Cove Marina, left my Honda there, and drove in Wes's Highlander to the state park entrance and into a small parking lot where the trail leaves the road.

We had read of groups spotting eagles while hiking or boating in this area, so it was our hope to see one soaring overhead or perched in the branches of one of the many blue oaks along the way. This was not to be, although we saw many small birds, some ravens, and a few ground squirrels. We saw magnificent green hills, lots of blue oaks, and near the end of the trail, a few bull pines.

We also saw water - the lake, which had been a large puddle during the drought years, is around 80% capacity, and would be full if the irrigation managers were not releasing a large flow to make room for the snow melt and runoff that are expected from the big storms that have moved across California during January. In the past, getting down to the water line would have been a hike in itself; now it's an easy stroll.

Along the trail we met a large group of birders, one solo hiker, and a number of bike riders, all undaunted by the weather, which was cold and overcast most of the time. As we reached the end of our outing at Winchell Cove, the clouds lifted enough to give us a look at snow on a short section of the distant Sierras.

As we came in sight of the boats moored at the Winchell Cove Marina, we felt a touch of disappointment, because the hike had been so enjoyable, and it seemed to be over too soon. However, seeing the boats and arriving at the parking lot are two different things, and we were not as close as we thought; we still had to go over the "hardest" part of the trail, a brief uphill section through a rocky passage. In the end, when we came in sight of my Honda, we felt we had hiked just the right amount.

We drove back to our starting point, retrieved Wes's Highlander, and headed for the park exit. When we reached this spot, the sun had come out a little more, and we had a view of a longer section of the mountains, sparkling with the white stuff.

We caravanned to nearby Friant, and enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Pizza Factory. We also finally enjoying some sunshine right where we were standing instead of seeing it on the distant mountains.

Wes provided this summary of our day:

January is the beginning of a new year for Ramblers hiking. Dick chose a beautiful hike along the shores of Millerton Lake with waters almost at the spillway of the dam. We had hoped to see eagles nesting in the oak trees or soaring in the clouded skies. That was not to be. Instead we enjoyed the haunting beauty of blue oak trees stripped of their leaves with branches extended like veins or tentacles. The sun was playing a game of peek-a-boo with the clouded skies. Now and again the rays of the sun would highlight the snow covered mountains to the east. This hike of less than two miles on even ground was a needed respite from the confusing sights and sounds of the city. We had a wonderful experience. I wish more of our friends could have been with us. I'm hoping the photos below will encourage them to join us next month.

 

--Dick Estel, January 2017

Millerton South Bay Trail Photos

  

FINS Trail

It's possible we may have to call this the FINS Trail and Swimming Hole, but more about that later. First let it be said that I have hiked this almost-new trail once, and Wes has ridden his bike there, both before the massive rains of 2017.

Julie and Carolyn were not able to join us, but Don was there, along with another of our former colleagues at the Department of Social Services, Sue Wirt. She is an enthusiastic camper and hiker, and usually when I mention going some place, whether in the Sierra or in another state, her response is, "Oh yes, I was there in 19xx...." So at least this time I had been here first.

Since it was a short distance from home to the trailhead in Friant, and a short trail, we met at 11, Don and I driving our own cars from opposite directions, and Wes picking up Sue. Actually Don arrived at 9, having it in his mind that we had a "regular" time for our hikes. No such luck, we adapt the time to driving distance, weather, and whim. At least he had time for a cup of coffee, and a three-course breakfast if he had wanted it.

Although an early forecast had predicted a few showers for the day, it was dry and mostly sunny, but very windy - flags sticking straight out at the fish hatchery next to the trail. We all added an extra layer and I wore my gloves. With the wind blowing upstream along the nearby San Joaquin River, it was right in our faces. 

We walked down the stairs from the parking lot to the hatchery, which offers a bathroom, then walked through one of the buildings, one in which no fish could be seen. Once we got on the level, paved trail, we took a short detour at the Small Fry Trail, a section with lots of stuff that kids like (and we are all kids in some way). There are photos of this area with my earlier report, so I only took one this time. There is no place for a "Wes on the rock" photo, so we substituted "Wes on the cattail."

The trail runs about 3/4 of a mile to Lost Lake County Park. We knew that the park was closed because of high water in the river, caused by flood control releases from Friant Dam. What we were not prepared for, half way to the park, was the need to have hip boots or a raft to finish the trail. An overflow channel in the river was overflowing the trail, bringing our walk to a halt.

We're not used to such adversity (even very mild adversity such as this), so for a while we just stood around observing the scene and taking pictures. Wes set up his tripod to take our group photo there, and we chatted for a while with a bike rider who came along and was also stopped in his tracks.

When we started back, we had the wind at our backs, so it was much more comfortable, and of course, we got a different view of some scenes we had missed on the way in.

Where the trail goes by the hatchery, you can go in and walk beside the long outdoor tanks where the larger fish are kept, so we enjoyed that diversion for a while, then headed back toward the parking area. Before ending the hike we sat at a picnic table by the hatchery and enjoyed some good conversation, one of our special skills.

As we started up toward the parking lot, we saw a pair of hawks, swooping and diving, and spotted their nest in a tree between the hatchery and the trailhead.. 

When we end a hike in or near Friant, our favorite lunch stop is the Pizza Factory. This is a chain that got its start in Oakhurst and Mariposa, up in the foothills above Fresno, and puts nearly all its stores in smaller towns. I've patronized them in at least a half dozen places, and they are always very good.

Even with with a shorter hike than planned, we did enough wandering about to put in a mile and a half, and to spend two hours in the delightful riparian environment. Wes summed up the day as follows:


We started the day with great hopes of enjoying the paved trail along the San Joaquin River near the fish hatchery at Friant. We thought our only adversary would be the cold wind blowing along the riverbank. About a half mile into the hike we came upon that which so much of California is experiencing this rainy winter: a flood. The great San Joaquin had overflowed its banks and our trail as well. One would have needed "high water waders" to navigate that flooded trail. We took stock and found no one wanted to swim this morning. Even under these conditions, walking through nature was enjoyable. We strolled under cloudy skies, saw Redtail Hawks gliding with the wind and the beginnings of so many wildflowers and budding trees. I'm glad I went.

Along the way back home one of the foothill creeks, Little Dry Creek, crosses Friant Road on its final run to the river. I've been photographing this creek along Auberry Road and Millerton Road, so I took advantage of the opportunity to get some photos of it as it nears the end of its run.

--Dick Estel, February 2017

FINS Trail Photos

     

Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 
(Photos by Wes Thiessen, Don McClellan, and Dick Estel)

  

Millerton South Bay Trail          FINS Trail

  

Millerton South Bay Trail

   

Highest water in at least five years All that rain means green grass Sun kisses the green hills across the lake
Highest water in at least five years All that rain means green grass Sun kisses the green hills across the lake
Don lines up a shot Wes saw veins or tentacles in this leafless blue oak This tree has stood up to all that nature could throw at it
Don lines up a shot Wes saw veins or tentacles in this leafless blue oak This tree has stood up to all that nature could throw at it
  
Getting on this rock was a challenge even for Wes A closer look Carolyn and Dick under the "Tunnel Tree"
Getting on this rock was a challenge even for Wes A closer look

Carolyn and Dick under the "Tunnel Tree"

   
The Ramblers: Dick, Carolyn, Don and Wes A flock of bird watchers A typical section of the trail
The Ramblers: Dick, Carolyn, Don and Wes A flock of bird watchers A typical section of the trail
  
Wes captured this dramatic view of the Sierra snow Boats tied up at Winchell Cove The rugged, rocky pass near the end of the trail

Wes captured this dramatic view of the Sierra snow

Boats tied up at Winchell Cove The rugged, rocky pass near the end of the trail
  
Snowy vista from the park entrance
Snowy vista from the park entrance
  
FINS Trail
     
A section of the trail before you reach the flooded area Something new - Wes on the cattail This was where we realized we'd walked just far enough
A section of the trail before you reach the flooded area Something new - Wes on the cattail This was where we realized we'd walked just far enough
   
Water comes in from an overflow channel to the right The trail winds around to the right by the fence The Ramblers on February 22: Wes, Don, Sue and Dick
Water comes in from an overflow channel to the right The trail winds around to the right by the fence The Ramblers on February 22: Wes, Don, Sue and Dick
   
Another section of the overflow channel White Manzanita blossoms instead of the usual pink Wes can't resist climbing on stuff
Another section of the overflow channel White Manzanita blossoms instead of the usual pink Wes can't resist climbing on stuff
   
Half of a pair of redtail hawks that occupy a tree by the trail Hawk sitting on a post A look at the nestt
Half of a pair of redtail hawks that occupy a tree by the trail Hawk sitting on a post A look at the nest
   
Little Dry Creek above the Friant Road bridge
Little Dry Creek above the Friant Road bridge
 
Related Links
   
South Bay Shore Trail Info Millerton State Recreation Area Winchell Cove Marina
January 2014 Millerton Hike Ramblers 2915 Millerton Hike Pizza Factory
South Bay Trail Map January 2014 Millerton Hike April 2014 Millerton Hike
FINS Trail Opening San Joaquin Hatchery Pizza Factory
 
 

Wes saw veins or tentacles in this leafless blue oak

A closer look

The Ramblers on February 22: Wes, Don, Sue and Dick

Half of a pair of redtail hawks that occupy a tree by the trail

 

 

 
Travel Reports
   
Before 2002     2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008

2009    2010    2011    2012     2013     2014     2015     2016     2017     Other

   
Before 2002
Early Trips Later Trips
Camping Trips Backpacking Trips
1961 Monterey Jazz Festival Bluegrass Odyssey
   
Multi-Year Compilations
Fresno Area Canal Walks Clovis Trail Walks
   
2002
Journey of 2002 (Ohio & Back) Logandale & Utah Parks 2002
   
2003
Arizona & Bluegrass on the River 2003 Grand Canyon & Logandale Bluegrass 2003
Parkfield & Huck Finn 2003 Early Frog Camps (2003-2005)
   
2004
Paso Robles & Parkfield 2004 Road Trip 2004 (Ohio & Back)
Bullhead City Bluegrass, Mesa, Superstition Bluegrass 2004 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2004
   
2005
Arizona-Southern California 2005 Huck Finn Bluegrass 2005
Morro Bay 2005 Stargazer Rock Camp 2005
Parkfield Bluegrass 2005    
   
2006
Huck Finn Bluegrass 2006 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2006
Rock Creek Non-Camp Stargazer Rock Camp 2006
Parkfield Bluegrass 2006 Oregon 2006
Bluegrass in the Foothills 2006    
   
2007
Bullhead City, Bakersfield, Joshua Tree 2007 Frog Camp 2007
Eastern Sierra Journey 2007 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2007
Stargazer Rock Camp 2007 Roundup #1
(Mother Lode; Kings Canyon, Yosemite)
Bluegrass in the Foothills 2007    
   
2008
Nevada-Arizona Hockey & Bluegrass 2008 Parkfield Bluegrass 2008
Frog Camp 2008 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2008
Stargazer Rock Camp 2008 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2008
Hobbs Grove Festival 2008     
   
2009
Roundup 2009
Las Vegas, Mariposa, Table Mountain, Orange County
Frog Camp 2009 Southern Journey 2009
Parkfield Bluegrass 2009 Stargazer Rock Camp 2009
Bluegrass Tour 2009
Brown Barn, Plymouth, Hobbs Grove
Hensley Lake Camp
   
2010
Mojave National Preserve & Havasu Bluegrass Roundup 2010
Hensley Reservoir, Mojave Preserve 2 & 3
Parkfield Bluegrass 2010 Lake Almanor & Mt. Lassen 2010
Las Vegas Expo Summergrass
    Brown Barn, Watsonville & Hobbs Grove
   
2011
Roundup 2011
Mariposa, Hensley, Table Mountain
Frog Camp 2011
Parkfield Bluegrass 2011 Frank, Pat, Dick & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Northern Coast Journey 2011 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2011
Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival Chilkoot & Stargazer Rock Camp
Kings River & Brown Barn Bluegrass Festivals Hensley Camp 2011
    
2012 
Parkfield Bluegrass 2012 Four Squaw Leap Hikes
Northern Coast Journey 2012 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2012
Stargazer Rock Camp 2012 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2012
A 3-Event Weekend
Farmer's Market, Kings River Bluegrass, Antique Fair
2012 Las Vegas CAN AM Hockey Challenge
Fall Hikes
Finegold Trail; Bower Cave
Into Los Gatos Canyon
  
2013
Silver Stick Tournament - Canada Sierra Foothills - Winter 2013
Finegold Trailhead, Hensley Lake, San Joaquin Gorge
Death Valley - Alabama Hills - Whitney Portal Sierra Foothills - Spring 2013
San Joaquin Gorge Hike, Big Creek Drive
Parkfield Bluegrass 2013 Shaver Crossing Station & Big Creek
Lake Almanor & Caribou Crossroads Mono Hot Springs
Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival A Wedding in Duluth
Sequoia Park Hiking Roundup 2013
Kings River Bluegrass, Buena Vista Peak Hike, Hensley Lake Camp, North Fork Mono Museum, White Rock Road, Hockey in Denver
     
2014
2014 Winter Hikes
Millerton South Bay Trail, Clovis Trail, Hite's Cove Trail
San Joaquin Gorge Campout
Colorado Springs Hockey Tournament Lake Havasu Bluegrass
2014 Spring Hikes
Stockton Creek Preserve, San Joaquin River Trail, San Joaquin Gorge, Millerton Lake, Sycamore Creek, Buena Vista Peak Again
NORCAL Hockey Playoffs and Santa Cruz Visit
Greeley Hill Road Trip Parkfield Bluegrass 2014
Journey of 2014 Journey of 2014 Photos
Nelder Grove Hikes 2014 Sentinel Dome Hike
2014 Fall & Winter Hikes
San Joaquin River Trail South & North, Red Rock Canyon Nevada, San Joaquin South Again
California Flat Campout
Snow Day with the  Upshaw's   
 
2015
Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 2
Adventures of 2015 - February to May
(Goofy Smith Flat, Coast Redwoods & Big Sur, Pine Flat, Finegold Trail, Edison Point Trail, Nelder Grove)
Adventures of 2015 - June to December
(Lewis Creek Trail, Kaiser Pass, Kaiser Pass Again, Taft Point, Kings River Bluegrass, Shaver Logging Road, San Joaquin River Trail, Lewis S Eaton Trail, San Joaquin River Gorge, Thanksgiving at the Gorge)
Lake Tahoe & Virginia City Parkfield Bluegrass 2015
Colorado Springs Cousin Convention 2015 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2015
Stargazer Rock Camp 2015 Grand Canyon & Arches National Parks
  
2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 1
Adventures of 2016 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 2
Adventures of 2016 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 3
Adventures of 2016 Part 4 A Pennsylvania Adventure
Adventures of 2016 Part 5 Parkfield Bluegrass 2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 6 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 7 Stargazer Rock Camp 2016
     
2017
Adventures of 2017 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 1
Adventures of 2017 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 2
Hiking and Hockey
Parkfield Bluegrass 2017 Stargazer Rock Camp 2017
Other
Fresno Area Canal Walks Clovis Trail Walks
Butch's Blog Walker Family Trips
Parkfield Earthquake Kim & Morgan Brown Trips & Photos
Travel Report Menu Estel Home Page
Photo Albums Slide Shows
Laurie Lewis' High Sierra Hikes Email
   
 

Updated February 23, 2017