2017 Ramblers Hikes Page 3


The Ramblers are Carolyn Amicone, Julie Hornback, Wes Thiessen, Don McClellan, Sue Wirt, Elsa Sweeney, 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.

Photos         Related Links         More Travel Reports

2015 and 2016 Hikes          2017 Page 1          2017 Page 2          Camp 4 1/2 Cabin          Wawona Meadow


Camp 4 1/2 Cabin

In some ways this was a typical Ramblers hike. In other ways it was unusual. As has happened several times this year, we started off with five people signed up, then two had to drop out, leaving us with one of our "all-boy" hikes - Don, Wes and Dick. Unlike all other hikes, we went to the low foothills on a summer day, September 19.

We wanted a low-elevation destination for members who have some problems hiking at higher elevations. Some of the most obvious choices were off-limits due to recent fires, so we decided to hike by the upper Kings River, barely above 1,000 feet in elevation. In high summer this would be an invitation to heat stroke, but we've had a cooling trend, and the high for the day of our hike was predicted to be 75 in the valley. Before the date arrived, the prediction fluctuated up and down, to 85, and finally settling on 81. Since we would start early and be done before mid-afternoon, we were certain that we would be OK. As it turned out, there was a nice breeze all the time, and we never got too warm.

Beyond the upper end of Pine Flat Lake, Trimmer Springs Road divides into two dirt roads, one on each side of the river. We parked where the paved road crosses a bridge and becomes Black Rock Road, and went up the south side. This is the area where I hiked in April, and our final destination was the same, Camp 4 1/2 Cabin, a former forest service residence that can be rented through Recreation.Gov for a rustic vacation experience.

Our walk was mostly on the dirt road, and of course, the green grass and profuse wildflowers of spring were brown and gone to seed. The river was still running good, but not anywhere near the raging torrent it was right after the big rains of winter and spring. When we reached the cabin we went down toward the river, where we found a tiny sandy beach, and a rope swing hanging from a tree that leaned over the water. After thinking about it for a bit, Wes was unable to resist, and braved the questionable looking rope to swing out over the water and back - twice. There was no "Wes on the rock" photo this time, but the rope swing was a delightful substitute.

We also looked around the cabin, but the blinds were down and we could not see in. There is a picnic table, barbecue, and propane tank outside, and the setting is very attractive, even in summer, with a number of huge valley oaks shading the area.

Since it was almost fall, I did some harvesting. My great grandson, Colton, was fascinated by buckeye trees in bloom in the spring They produce a large seed about two inches in diameter, and the trees along the road were thick with them. I picked one and put it in my pocket, but soon noticed that the seed was oozing sap from the point where it had been attached to the tree, producing a stain that provided the others with an opportunity to make crude but humorous remarks. Less troublesome were the milkweed seeds that I gathered for a friend who had mentioned she would like to grow the plant to attract butterflies. The only concern with these was to avoid also gathering the big black and orange insects that clustered on some of the seed pods.

With the extra walking around we did near the cabin, our total hike was a little over two miles. But our adventures did not end when we got back to the car. We had brought our lunch, and since it was only 1 p.m. we decided to drive up the other side of the river to where there is a small campground. There is only one picnic table, but it was under trees less than 30 feet from the river, and we enjoyed our meal, complete with some wine that I had won in a drawing earlier in the year. I hope it was the right vintage for peanut butter sandwiches.

After eating, Wes wandered down by the river. The cool, slow-running water was just too tempting, and soon he was taking a five-minute dip. After this we loaded up our stuff and started back down the road. We had a little longer drive than usual both ways - there is major construction on Belmont, our usual route, and we had to detour via Highway 180 and Piedra Road through Centerville. The section from 180 to Trimmer Springs Road is quite scenic, with a number of horse ranches, and the low hills surrounding Tivey Valley, not quite a town, but an area of ranches, homes and a country store.

It was up to Wes to provide some final comments on this trip:

Then there were three. When we planned this hike, we anticipated five Ramblers strolling along the Upper Kings River. Only three guys were able to make the journey. But what a journey! We drove to the last bridge beyond Kirch Flat which leads to Balch Camp. We then walked a mile or so along a gravel road to a cabin which Dick had hoped to rent for a family vacation this past Spring. Unfortunately, mud slides and severe rain called a halt to that adventure. We found a trail leading from the cabin to a beautiful beach on the Kings River. And there was a tree along the shoreline with a swing attached. The child within me couldn't resist it. Yes, I swung full force over the river with great joy. Some might say that at 68 years of age I'm revisiting my childhood. Let them talk. Better yet, let them eat cake.

--Dick Estel, September 2017

Camp 4 1/2 Hike Photos


Wawona Meadow

Although we didn't get a full turnout for this October 26 hike, we had the pleasure of Carolyn's company for the first time since March. The others were Wes, Don and Dick, and we all drove up from the San Joaquin Valley to Wawona, a few miles inside Yosemite National Park at the 4,000 foot level. We have hiked the full four-mile loop around the meadow in the past, but had decided to just go about a mile in, then return. Because of recent health issues, Don was not up to even that distance, but went with us for a half mile or so, then returned to the Wawona Lodge, where he sat out on the lawn reading, surrounded by cedars, pines and sequoias.

On the trail we also enjoyed the magnificent forest country, as well as views of the meadow. The fall weather had turned the dogwood leaves to pink and red, and Wes was beside himself, trying to photograph every tree. Leaves from the dogwood as well as other deciduous trees carpeted the trail, offering a colorful mosaic. The dark green of the evergreens provided a perfect background for the yellow leaves of the black oaks and the multi-colored dogwood.

The weather was kind to us - it was cool but warm enough for comfortable walking, with a very slight breeze from time to time. We met a half dozen or so other hikers on the trail, all lost in the wonder of it all.

When we got back to the lodge and roused Don from his reading, we went inside for a great lunch, indulging ourselves with a sinfully delicious dessert, despite the fact that our stomachs were full. There's always room for ice cream or chocolate cake!

Driving up and back down Highway 41, we went past the site of the recent Railroad Fire, which burned over 12,000 acres south of Fish Camp, including parts of Nelder Grove Sequoia area, the Sugar Pine Railroad property, and the little communities of Sugar Pine and Cedar Valley. In some areas there was complete devastation; in others, only a few trees were burned, and some places were untouched. The loss of buildings was minimal, but access to a large area of the national forest is barred for the next few months at least.

As usual, Wes offered a perfect summary of the day:

Today my Ramblers Hike Group drove to Yosemite National Park to catch sight of the fall colors. Teri reminded us that there are lots of deciduous trees in and around Wawona. And we were not disappointed. We hiked along the Meadow Loop Trail which circumnavigates the golf course. The trail is hidden in the forest covered with a canopy of evergreen trees. Along side these green giants, there are oak and many dogwood trees. The sun was bright and filtered through that canopy to alight the color of the fall leaves of these amazing trees. It felt like we were walking through a Christmas Tree Lane created especially for us. Catching our breath over and again, we finished our hike with a delightful lunch at the Wawona Lodge. I don't care what they have to call it, it will always to the Wawona Lodge to us. It was way too good.

--Dick Estel, November 2017

Wawona Photos


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


Camp 4 1/2 Cabin          Wawona Meadow


Camp 4 1/2 Cabin Hike


Pine Flat Lake, still with plenty of water in late summer Milkweed seed pod and guests Dick and Don on the road
The Kings River with the little beach by the cabin Camp 4 1/2 Cabin Raccoon tracks in the sand
The Ramblers: Wes, Don and Dick An idyllic spot for boyhood adventures Fortunately, we brought a boy
Rock with iron stains and lichen Red leaves of buckeye, brown hills, and white clouds in the blue sky Our lunch spot on the north side of the river
Still a lot of water coming down the channel Buckeye seeds are thick throughout the foothills The last bridge
Clouds above our hiking road The river where we ate lunch
Wawona Meadow
Dogwood beauty
Looking across the meadow at Wawona Dome Ripe berries, awaiting a hungry bird or bear Mossy rocks stand out against fall leaves
Wes, not quite on the log Carolyn and Dick on the trail Leaves carpeted our walkway
This old rail fence surrounds the meadow Another view of the fence A walk in the woods
Evergreen sampler: Fir, cedar and pine A perfect combination of sun and shadow Sunlight on black oak leaves
A typical section of the trail The Ramblers: Wes, Carolyn, Dick and Don

Related Links



Pine Flat Lake

Kirch Flat Campground

Camp 4 1/2 Cabin Kings River Yosemite National Park
Meadow Loop Trail History of Wawona Wawona
Railroad Fire

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Updated November 14, 2017