started doing regular reports on our more or less annual visits to
Stargazer Rock with the 2005
adventure. I had some notes in my
journal about earlier trips, including the very first one, and I've
been wanting to put them into a standard format for some time.
Finally, this is it. The style is not quite the same as my
"official" reports, since it was written as it happened
for a personal journal.
did not take my trailer on this
trip, which included my daughter Teri, her husband Tim, and younger
grandson Mikie. They slept in a tent, and I slept in the back of my
1990 F150, which had camper shell.
the Journal, July 17, 2000
: We had a great time camping. We were at a very nice spot at around
7,000 feet on a road that leaves Highway 168 above
and joins the Rock Creek Road, which comes from the Dinkey Creek Road. Tim
had recently bought a used 4-wheel drive vehicle, so we went to
(my first trip). At the top there is an old fire
lookout, no longer in use. We also drove up to a spot on Bear Creek off the
McKinley Grove Road
that I first visited about 25 years ago. We camped there quite a bit
back in the day, but I probably have not been there for 15 years or more. There
were people camped there, but we went down by the creek. Tim fished,
Teri and I read, and Mikie slept the whole time.
Note About Road Names:
The Rock Creek Road goes about six miles north from Dinkey Creek
Road, to a T intersection. Back in the beginning I thought that was
the end of Rock Creek, but actually the section that goes to the
left (west) out to Highway 168 is still part of the Rock Creek Road.
The road to the east goes to the Dinkey
than a month later I returned to the area with my trailer, this time
driving my brand new 2001 red F-150, which I still use for truck
14, 2000: My week long camping trip starts tomorrow. I
have most everything ready, but have to run a couple of errands today
and finish packing. There is a fire near Auberry which has closed
Highway 168 between Prather and Cressman’s. If it’s not open I
will have to go up old Tollhouse Road. That is a very winding road, so
I hope the four-lane will be open by
August 24, 2000
: I had a great time camping. I had to go up Auberry Road, since they were still dropping retardant near the
four-lane section on Highway168. This is a better route than
Tollhouse, and quite scenic in places.
We were at the spot that
named Stargazer Rock, one mile west of where the Rock Creek Road
joins a road that comes in from Highway 168 to Dinkey
Lakes. I went up on Tuesday and came back Monday, so had a full week.
Teri and my
and Mikie came on Wednesday. Johnny's friend Dustin arrived on Friday morning,
and another friend, Moses plus Tim and his cousin Kenny later on
was Johnny's sixteenth birthday, which he celebrated by splitting a
big pile of firewood. Then Teri, Johnny, Mikie and I went to Kaiser
Pass, and up to White Bark
Vista, the start of the Dusy/Ersham
trail which comes out at Courtright. Next we drove up to Florence
Lake, which is 20 miles above Huntington, but on a
narrow paved road that is one way a lot of the way,
winding and slow all the way. It takes about an hour or more to go the
20 miles. Johnny drove all the way.
Master woodsman at work
His 16th birthday portrait
to make a solo ride down to the creek
Teri, Dick and Johnny at White Bark Vista above Kaiser Pass
We had some great four-wheel drive trips, up to
the top of Bald
Mountain, then back a road by our camp that eventually joined the Bald
road. Kenny had his 4WD Mazda. We went up and down some really hairy spots, but the photos I
have don’t really do it justice. Kenny slid off the
“trail” at one spot, but Tim was able to tow him back a little
and he got back on the road with no problem, and a tiny dent in the
right front wheel.
and Cousin Kenny
Dustin, Tim, Johnny and Teri on Bald Mountain
going anywhere, just testing the capability of the vehicle
ride for Johnny, Moses and Dustin
a good size group, and a great time had by all, we agreed that this
should become an annual event.
August 23, 2002
: Last week (8/12 through 19) was the 3rd Annual
Stargazer Rock Campout. I left on Monday,
August 12, with Teri and Mikie planning to come up on Wednesday.
Odometer read 26,006, temperature 89 degrees, time
A few temperatures: 82 to 84 high most days; 50 to 52 low most days.
The last night (Sunday) it was 42. Temperatures in Fresno
were well above 100, so we escaped the worst of it.
I set my alarm to get up at
Tuesday morning to look at meteors. Drove over to the rock (the
"official" stargazing spot) since I
had my chair, water, flashlight, and other stuff I didn’t want to
carry. I laid down on the rock and saw 15 meteors in 45 minutes.
Several had fairly good trails. One had a trail that glowed for a
full five seconds. One did not really seem to move, but seemed to
glow then slowly fade out. (I also saw two meteors that night when I
got up to go to the bathroom during the night). None of us saw any
more, although we stargazed each night.
Teri and Mikie arrived early, about
on Tuesday. We didn’t do a lot that day; walked around the camp
area, drove down the road for a load of wood, and read. On Wednesday
we made a trip to Wishon Domes, a spot I have not been to for about
15 years. From the road between Dinkey Creek and Wishon, a rough
paved road goes south to Sawmill Flat
Campground, and on to Black
Just past Sawmill Flat a road goes to the left (more or less north).
But first we kept on going on the Black Rock Road about a half mile,
where there is a vista point looking down into Granite Gorge and
Hell Hole, on the Kings River North Fork below Wishon Dam. There is
a nice waterfall and a large pool down there. I have backpacked into
there, but there is no trail; I just found my way down and up the
rather steep canyon side.
Then we went back and took the Wishon Domes road. I gave the area
this name because a lot of the country is open, rounded granite –
not a classic dome like North Dome in Yosemite, but more like domes in progress. But before you get there, there
is a road to the right (more or less south), that winds down to a
spot where they dumped rock from a hydroelectric project tunnel.
There is a cleanout tunnel (adit) that is fenced off. Walking up to
it, we were talking, and I thought I heard voices coming from the
tunnel. As we got to the fence, we realized it was an echo, and we
then made all the necessary types of noises that must be made when
you find a good echo spot. Mikie especially enjoyed making loud
After exploring this area, we continued on to Wishon Domes. The road
is decidedly 4-wheel drive only, although I went over it with my
Buick Opel and Datsun pickup years ago. A few hundred yards of the
road is just a rock pile, and it drops down six or eight inches into the creek
crossing. Long Meadow Creek comes zig-zagging down the rocks, then
forms a pool next to the road about 20 feet across and as deep as Mikie’s chest. He
and Teri played in the water, while I sat in my lawn chair in the
road and read (not much traffic there).
Before swimming, we walked out on the domes, which will take you to
the brink of Granite Gorge if you follow the right path. Since it
had been so long since I was there, I got a little north and higher
up than I intended, but it was still a nice walk, and at one place
Mikie and I walked out where the rock curves down into the gorge. We
could not see the river, as you can if you go to the extreme end of
from a successful wood-gathering trip
in Long Meadow Creek at Wishon Domes
We continued on the 4-wheel drive road to where it comes out on the
Wishon road, probably within a mile of the reservoir, and three or four
miles past the Courtright turn-off.
On our return drive we saw many lizards crossing the road and
scurrying into the brush. Mikie insisted that he could catch one if
we would just stop when we saw one.
On Thursday we mostly stayed around camp; went to Cow Creek for a
while, about 2 miles east of camp, and gathered wood.
Friday we went to Bear Creek, off the
Wishon Road (properly called the McKinley Grove Road), to swim. I got in the creek, the first time I have done that in
probably 15 years. We stayed there an hour or so, then headed back.
Tim and Jim Neely arrived around 8:30 or so, followed almost
immediately by his cousin Kenny and wife Leslie with their 1955
“white trash” teardrop trailer (actually not theirs, but stored
on their property). We all had a good time teasing them.
& Leslie relaxing at Shaner-ville
Creek runs about a quarter mile below
the camp, providing fun for
Saturday morning everyone but Jim and I took off to go fishing at
Courtright. Rod and Jennifer, Johnny, and Mike (Taggart) and Emily
Windle (now Mike's wife) all arrived within an hour. Rod and I were
going to hike to a nearby dome, but while I was in the trailer he
took off by himself, so I went 4-wheel driving with Johnny. He had a
good time going up a bad road where Tim got a flat tire the first
time he brought the 4-Runner to the area. We went over some bad
spots, but made it OK. Also found a way to get across the creek, but
could not get into the area I was interested in (below Big Rock Eats
By the time we got back, the fishermen had returned with no fish. We
did a little more driving, and several people went with Johnny
on short trips. We had a tri-tip dinner with corn, and a big
campfire gathering. Rod and Jennifer sang and played the guitar
and I tried to sing and play the guitar.
Next morning all but Rod and Jennifer set out for
Mountain. Rod and Jennifer went to the dome which has now been named Neely
Dome, then left. When you walk west from camp down into Rock Creek,
you cross and go up an open rocky area. This leads up to a dome and
ridge of rocks where there is a big rock that looks like it is
trying to eat a smaller one, as well as a wonderful monster tree, a
gnarly lodge pole pine that we call the chupacabra
tree. This is the area I have named Big Rock Eats
Little Rock. Once you go up over the Big Rock ridge, you start the
climb to the highest dome visible from camp (Neely Dome).
puts his "new used" Jeep through its paces
this "Big Rock Eats Little Rock"
Our trip to Bald Mountain went as usual, with some difficult moments
for Johnny and his jeep, whose tires are not quite what he wants for
four-wheeling. We made it through several difficult spots, with
guidance from Kenny, and enjoyed a nice view at the top. For the
first time, Mikie (age 5) went up and came down the fire lookout steps
without anyone holding his hand.
can go up and down all by myself!"
Dick Estel, Emily Windle, Mike Taggart, Tim and
Johnny Upshaw, Teri Liddle;
Front (on rock) Leslie & Kenny
Shaner, Jim Neely
There was to be a birthday party
in Fresno that night for Johnny (his 18th
on the 18th), but by the time we got back to camp, it was
only two hours before party time. Johnny packed and left taking Jim,
and it was decided he would call every one and postpone the party to
the next day. By the time Tim and Teri were ready to go, it was
less than an hour before party time, so it proved to be a wise move.
stayed that night, getting everything loaded from outside except my
mat. The next day I did my normal morning exercise and walk, then
ate breakfast, hitched up, and headed for home.
September 7, 2002
: I went camping at Stargazer Rock Thursday, September 5, through today. I
under partly cloudy skies, with a predicted high of 85 and possible
showers. The weather the next day was supposed to be rain-free. Ha!
I had drops on the windshield a few times after I went past Shaver
Lake, and enough to turn on the wipers for a couple of swipes on the
and got set up. About
I walked down the jeep road to the creek. It was sprinkling all the
time on my way down, but stopped about the time I started back. It
was never hard enough to get me wet.
pool on Rock Creek
excellent landscape design
there was bright sun through the clouds, but a strong breeze came up
and it felt cool. At 4:45
the temperature was 60 degrees with the sun down in a dark cloud,
then went back up to 63 when the sun broke through at 5:10.
late in the day, there were always 10 to 12 yellow jackets around,
started a small fire about
sun was going out of sight behind the domes to the west at , temperature 56 degrees, with just the normal evening downhill air
flow. It was mostly cloudy, but bright.
sunset there were some blue and pink clouds, fading through all the
normal colors, gold through subdued rose. Vega, Deneeb and Altair
were bright overhead; Venus was bright but fading in the clouds and Arcturus
was dim or hidden.
through the evening: 50 at ; 46 at
on the generator at
to charge the trailer batteries and heat pizza, and went inside for the night at
September 6, there was a short sprinkle at 5 a.m.; then it rained hard at
6:30 for about 5 minutes; then misty rain steady at 8 a.m., blowing under
the awning from the front. It looked like a bad day for my planned
drive and hike up the northern Bald
road (9S02). I walked the official Stargazer Rock exercise mile,
from camp to near the junction with the road in from Dinkey Creek
Road. After that I drank
bloody Mary’s, read and gathered wood. There were several brief
showers through the day. I made hash browns and bacon for brunch about
There was some sun, but the temperature was only 58.
ranger stopped by to say hi and ask if I had a fire permit, but did
not ask to see it (I have one).
went for a walk about 2 p.m.
It started raining, not hard, but I headed back. There was no rain
after that, but it was windy and very cool. I started a fire at
and sat around reading. It was not very pleasant with the wind. I heard
coyotes howling a couple of times, a rare sound in the daytime. They
probably didn’t like the weather either.
was 47 degrees, sky about 60% clear. I started the generator and went
in. Low temperature at 2:30 a.m.
(9/7) was about 37, with a mostly clear sky, bright stars, and my
fire nearly cold; not enough warmth to burn paper.
it was mostly sunny so I went on my planned drive and hike. I went
west on the road that goes past camp to the Bald
trail entrance. I was able to drive in about three miles on Road
9S02 before it
turned into a real 4WD road. I walked around and climbed up on some
rocks, and called Teri on the cell phone.
Dome east of Road 9S02
Rocky cliffs west of the road
I returned to camp, I saw four or five cows walking down the road.
I’ve seen old dried up manure, but never any cows in that area.
Then right behind them I saw a jeep, apparently herding them down
the road. These modern conveniences!
got everything picked up, hitched up, and headed home around
Estel, August 2020
(Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window)
Chefs Tim and Kenny
It takes a driver
and a co-pilot
to negotiate these trails
A job well done
Dustin, Johnny and
Moses on the old fire lookout
Mikie with Grandpa
Dick by the trailer
tough job, but
someone's gotta do it
Falls in Hell Hole
on the Kings River's North Fork
Tim and Kenny at the
Mountain Fire Lookout
drainage below Rock
and brush in burned area