Baltimore Town, and Old Man Mountain (Yuba Gap area)

A friend, who moved from Santa Cruz to Grass Valley a few years ago, pinged me with a backpacking idea. It sounded much more reasonable than some of the crazy bushwhacking adventures he had been known for. It wasn’t!

We met at the Blue Lake trailhead versus carpooling, as this is the “year of the COVID”. It was a reasonable hike, with our 30 pound packs, up a gently inclined trail, to our campsite, near Baltimore Lake. We had started at 11AM, so the plan was to crash there, then get an early start on a day hike to Old Man Mountain.

(The red baggy thing is his sleeping bag, in an oversized stuff bag. He’s a novice backpacker, so I encouraged him to locate a better stuff bag, and shift some of the weight up higher.)


The view to the west, where we came from. I was VERY happy to see granite and alpine lakes much closer than Tahoe or the Eastern Sierra. The Yuba Gap area is where Highway 20 meets I-80, about 25 miles west of Donner Summit. NO PERMITS OR RESERVATIONS NEEDED!


Below is the un-named pond, just south of Baltimore Lake, as viewed from our campsite.


Our plan for the next morning was for an “easy” off-trail morning hike to Old Man Mountain, via a lake with a small island. We’d then return to camp, grab our packs, and head back to the car.

Below is an old mine shaft, noted on the USGS Topo maps. That’s as close as we got!


There’s Old Man Mountain, with the further lake, in it’s shadow. We had no idea what we were in for.


We got down to the shore, and found a nice gathering circle, made of arranged rock and a fire circle.


Below, my friend swims about 100 feet to a small island. Why? Geocache…


After Dan’s swim, that “easy” morning hike became quite an ordeal, with a few dangerous spots. We proceeded around the right side of the lake, only to find a very fresh rockfall of 10 foot boulders, going straight from a cliff into the water. We carefully scrambled over and under the boulders, hoping that they were setttled into their permanent resting places.

We then started uphill, to the trailless summit, through the thickest brush I’ve ever seen. Dan was ahead of me, and knew I wasn’t happy when I asked if he was interested in turning around. We eventually found a clear “path” to the summit, pictured below.


From the summit, we studied our downloaded USGS Topo maps, and decided to make a loop around the other side of the lake, to avoid the rockfall. It looked fine, until we found ourselves peering over an edge, looking down at treetops. The 50 foot gradients on the map seemed to have hidden an impassable 75 foot drop. (I wasn’t taking pictures at this point. It was getting late, and I was not happy…)

We circled back the way we came, and instead of climbing over and under the rockfall, Dan suggested swimming across the lake! It would be safer, as well as saving at least an hour. One problem: Phones, electronic car keys, and my DeLorme InReach. Solution: one holey ziploc, and float them across on a log, that kept wanting to roll my stuff into the water. We made it. Below is a picture of that log, which barely had enough buoyancy.


After the successful swim, it was just a looonnnggg slog to the campsite, to grab our gear, and head back to the car. Below is the one photo that I managed to take on the way. Probably the only time I noticed my surroundings.


We got back to the cars at 10PM, after 15 hours of hiking! I would happily go back that area again, but with a bit more time in the schedule, and less reliance on topo maps to show us new rockfalls and impenetrable dropoffs!

11 miles and 2130 vertical feet to camp, on the first day:

5 miles and 2239 feet, roundtrip, to the Mountain and back to camp. 8 hours slogging time, whereas we had planned on 2 or 3 hours!

9 miles and mostly downhill, from camp to the cars:


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Dana Plateau (Tioga Pass area)

Does anybody read my blog? Yes, actually the WordPress statistics show 4300 visitors, so far, in 2020. A few years ago it was about 3 times that. I like the blog because I can pull-up photos and a short story quickly, using a Google search.

About a month ago I spent a few days camping off of Tioga Pass Road, outside the east gate of Yosemite. (Yosemite currently having heavily restricted capacity, requiring reservations.) I did a bike ride part way up Tioga Pass Road, followed the next day by a very nice day hike, with two friends, up to the Dana Plateau.



The below picture is mirror-flat Tioga Lake, at the beginning of our hike


Lotsa flowers, though we were not in the correct location to see the elusive Skypilot.


The western edge of the Dana Plateau has a big dropoff, and gorgeous views of Mono Lake. We rested for awhile, then headed back.




The Dana Plateau, at around 11,600 feet, is called a “sky island”, which means it was not under glaciers during the last Ice Age, as was most of the surrounding area. As a result, the geology is a little different, and there is a greater variety of plants.


Additionally, it’s relatively flat, vety high up, with year-round water from snow-melt.


…which so just happens to be perfect habitat for Ptarmigans! We stumbled-upon this pair, which we didn’t see until we were within 10 feet.


It turns out that we were in the best spot to see them on the West Coast! I did a bit of research, after I got home. They were introduced to the area a few decades ago. Colorado and Canada have quite a bit more of them.



That’s about it! Here is the Strava track, including our starting point at Tioga Lake

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Incredible Views from Mt Tamalpais

Has it really been 9 months since my last post? Anyway…I hiked Mt Tam a few days ago and took some incredible photos. I don’t get a huge audience reading this blog, but it’s a convenient place to park my photos, for future sharing and reference!

My route: 12 miles and 2159 feet, starting from the “White Gate”, which is a bit shorter than starting at the beach.

This was #5 of my 2020 ixpack of Peaks Challenge

Here are the pics, completely unedited, from my iPhone Xr.
















IMG_9913That’s all Folks!


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Cerro Gordo Ghost Town – Go! …before it changes!

Way up on a mountain, between Death Valley and Lone Pine, is the ghost town of Cerro Gordo. It’s a privately-owned site, which recently changed hands to a pair of businessmen. They have plans to preserve it, while adding lodging or retreat facilities. Those plans seem to be off to a slow start!


If you see this when you leave the pavement, you’re on the right track!\

Locate “Keeler, California” on your map, and head up “Cerro Gordo Street”.


Up we go! 5000 feet up the hill!

There is a narrow canyon near the bottom, then the road widens considerably. It was easy in a Wrangler and an Outback.

The caretaker said he gets all sorts of vehicles up there, including sports cars and rental cars. Last week, he had a Maserati, an Alfa-Romeo, and a Land Rover up there. The two Italians did not break down…


The Owens Valley below, and snowy peaks in early June


I see old wooden buildings!

Cerro Gordo got alot of press last year, when it changed hands.


The entry sign



Just above the town

The first building we stopped in, and caught up with the caretaker, was the Assay Office.


My friend put down his iPhone to test his typing skills…


A pneumatic drill…not an anti-aircraft gun!


Assaying equipment, to the left


Bottle collection


The wooden ore carts, with a metal liner, were lighter and easier to ship than the all-metal ones


Workshop or storage

Robert, the caretaker, says the new owners seem to be a bit slow in their planning for the place…I also got the feeling that it’s a bigger task than they expected! There’s no water, and the best building, the American Hotel, is listing to starboard and needs alot of structural work.


The American Hotel – the most impressive building!


The bar, in the middle of the ground floor

This was very much a “hands-on” tour. We went behind the bar, touched a few of the bottles (to be sure they were empty). Robert kept telling us “this is not Bodie”, referring to the State Park, with similar old buildings, where you can only peek through the windows! (Bodie is ~175 miles north, just above Mono Lake. It’s larger, but alot less personal than walking around Cerro Gordo! )


Paul, does your brother really drink this brand?


The wonderful caretaker, Robert. The wall behind him has a bullet hole, and a blood stain on the floor. 


A few of the necessities of mining!

Robert was great! We showed-up unannounced, and joined another small group he was showing around. We brought him a few gallons of bottled water, made a donation in the big jar, and bought one small ore sample from the dusty old gift shop.

One thing we forgot to ask about is the cemetery…I read about it after I got home!

Cerro Gordo will be changing…unless the new owners get cold feet. Perhaps you should consider visiting on a not-too-hot (or snowy) day.

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Crowley Lake Columns – close to 395 and Mammoth Lakes, but it takes some effort!

Conveniently located, just off 395, between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes…

I had heard mention of the “Crowley Columns” from someone…possibly my friend Sam. Then, sometime last year, I saw more details at I added it to my Eastern Sierra “to do” list. This past week I made a whirlwind tour of the Sierra with a friend from Ohio. He was driving a rented 4WD Wrangler, and I was in my Outback, so off we went!


I was in charge of navigation, so the above picture is likely on our way out! Using the coordinates of the Columns, at the easternmost bend in the lakeshore, plus the instructions in the link above, we only made one wrong turn! It was quite helpful to have an AT&T signal, for a satellite map…

At one point, we reached a steep downhill, which looked like my (I-wish-I-had-bought-the-6-cylinder) Outback might have a problem coming back up. We were less than an mile away, and the weather was great. We parked and walked from there.


How did these come about? Excellent question! They were completely unknown and invisible until a few decades ago. This article is hard to paraphrase, so take a look for yourself:


It’s definitely accessible by canoe or kayak. We saw some water skiiers, as well, out on the lake.




If you decide to go, note that there are no signs, no water, and it can get very warm here! It is not an official tourist attraction…yet!

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Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

Waaayyy out in rural Tulare County is a former town, which was founded, owned, governed, and entirely populated by African-Americans, around 1910. It’s now a State Park, with about a dozen nicely restored buildings, and a handful of others. Camping is available, too.

Worth a stop, if you’re in the area. It’s just off Highway 99, between Visalia and Bakersfield. I was headed from San Jose to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, and it was a small detour.


Entry sign, and one of the smaller buildings. (About 20 buildings total)


This tells the story!


Colonel Allensworth was the highest ranking African-American soldier of his time. Unfortunately, the town failed due to being bypassed by the railroad, plus farming difficulties (lack of water and/or pool soil)



Inside the small Visitor’s Center


The Schoolhouse, which is the most prominent building


A peek through the window, There were no docents that day, to let me inside.


About the skool


The Colonel’s house. It was a kit, which arrived by rail, like many homes of the day, including “Craftsmen” homes


A peek inside the house


About the house


One of 2 or 3 stores. Odd architecture, but hard to miss!


The store


Barber shop. Most buildings are wood, This is concrete


A peek inside


About the barbershop

That’s about it! I recommend a weekend, or one of their periodic special events, to get a better feel for the place. On a June weekday, it was just me and a maintenance guy! A nice stop, way out on the country. Plan ahead for food, water and gasoline. There’s none nearby!

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Schulties Road, Laurel, Redwood Lodge, Skyland Church (Los Gatos, Summit Road)

Back a few years ago, when I first started using Strava, I followed alot of local cyclists to discover interesting new routes, preferably with wide shoulders and few cars. One of those routes I spotted was Schulties Road and Redwood Lodge Road. These roads are on the Santa Cruz side of Summit Road, east of Highway 17.

It was a beautiful ride back in 2015, and it became even more interesting when the road suffered multiple mudslides during the winter of 2016-2017. They have not been repaired in 2 years, and Santa Cruz County has no immediate plans…

Here is my previous blog post, from 2015, with a few different pictures, plus Holy City:

Bicycle up Old Santa Cruz Highway from Los Gatos, or park along Summit Road, for an easier day.


Where Old Santa Cruz Highway meets Summit Road, you’ll see the sign, below. It politely tells you that going straight is not the way to get to Santa Cruz. Go straight!


Head slowly down some bumpy pavement. When you get to the fork in the road, take it! (left)


It’s closed to cars. Keep peddling, I hear banjos! There are a total of four places where the road is not passable by cars, but fine for cyclists who can carry their bike a few hundred feet.

Below is a beautiful scene, from the road, where SoCal palm trees meet NorCal redwoods and grapes.


Another warning, before the first closure, below. The really bumpy pavement becomes packed dirt. I took it slow on my 23mm skinny tires, and it was fine/


OK, so here you are at the first closure. An easy hike-a-bike, if it hasn’t been raining recently.


The same closure from the other side. You can see where the slide came down the hillside. The below truck is owned by a family that is stranded between two closures…and has been for two years! Their truck takes them a short distance from their driveway to where they need to walk to get anywhere.


The second slide I did not get a picture of, but the local residents have made a nice little log plank to make the walk easy.

After that, you’ll arrive at the former town of Laurel. It used to be timber harvesting town. It now has only a few homes, and an abandoned train tunnel, back behind that telephone pole. (Private Property.)


In Laurel, take a left onto Redwood Gulch Road, and descend a bit more, past additional “Road Closed” signs. You’ll come across the below scene, where the road appears to dead-end into someone’s driveway. This is your third closure of the day! Walk to the right of the vehicles, behind the middle orange cone. IMG_5225

It feels like you’re walking into someone’s yard, but that’s where the road was. The steep, but clearly defined path is there, and I waived to the homeowner as I passed.


Down, down, down you go, to the fourth closure of the day.


Rideable with a bike, but too narrow for cars, and gated on both ends. The Private Property sign, below is puzzling, on a public road. Possibly it refers to the land to the left.


Redwood Lodge Road is quite steep after this final slide, eventually taking you out to Soquel San Jose Road. Go down SSJ Road a bit, and turn left on Stetson Road. Dig out your navigation device, and make your way up to the historical Skyland Church. (The dinosaurs are across the street!)



The church was built in 1891, which is quite old, in California terms! There is a bell tower in the parking lot, to the left. On the clear day I was there, Monterey Bay and the Monterey Peninsula were visible to the left of the church (below)IMG_5238

From the church, you can close your loop back to Highland Way and Summit Road, including a stop at the Summit Store’s outdoor tables. (Check out the single slice pies and cakes, next to the coffee counter!)

More info: Ray Hosler’s ride on Schulties Road, in early 2017, right after the slides.

Ray’s more recent ride, which reminded me to go again! (He always talks about Jobst Brandt. Jobst was a local local cyclist who did alot of long and interesting rides.)

A big PDF of the church’s history, published a few decades ago:

If you want to see what inspired me to seek out 8 train tunnel portals, in one day, read this! (I drove from one to the other!)

My Strava track, starting and ending in front Burrell School Winery, near the Summit Store.

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Martin’s Beach (near Half Moon Bay)

Martin’s Beach is a scenic little cove, on the coast, a few miles south of Half Moon Bay. For years I have been hearing about the legal challenges to reopen beach access at Martin’s Beach, which was closed when Vinod Khosla, a wealthy Silicon Valley individual, bought the whole place and closed public access. The battle was between private property rights versus historical access and coastal access laws.IMG_4248

I’d been past the closed gate a few times, and knew that people had recently parked on Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) and walked down, without any problems. There was a break in our lengthy, wet winter, and I was itching for a bicycle ride. Over the hill I went. Up Kings Mountain Road from Woodside, where it intersects Skyline Blvd.IMG_4235

It becomes the even more peaceful “Tunitas Creek Road” on the coastal side of Skyline Blvd.IMG_4237

Just after the road flattens out, about 2 miles from the coast, is the fabulous Bike Hut! Water, coffee, tea, snacks, porta-potty, and a place to rest and maybe chat with other cyclists. The nicely restored building was a small garage or barn, with a hanging / sliding door, now painted in stripes! (My previous write-up here: )


Turn right when you get to the coast, and be sure you check your map. The street sign was missing. Below, the gate was open, and the “Right to Pass” sign at the top was new, and less threatening. There is an old sign below that new one…IMG_4242

It’s about 1/4 mile down the street, from the gate to the beach. Just below the public parking lot, which may try to collect $10 from you, the scenery gets beautiful!IMG_4244IMG_4245

Below is the view from the northern end of the cove, looking south. There’s about 30 modest homes and cabins of assorted “casual” architecture. I saw nobody there, and very few vehicles, on a cool weekday morning. Mostly vacation or weekend homes, I guess.IMG_4246

A nice sign, between the Bike Hut and the coastal highway. You’ll notice it heading back, but not headed westbound.IMG_4250

I was quite chilly on my final descent back into Woodside. As I stopped to warm myself a bit, I notice this photogenic dirt island, on Kings Mountain Road, highlighting how steep these roads can be!IMG_4253

That’s it! Go visit sometime. You can leave your car on Highway 1 and walk down, or drive down to the parking lot and see if there’s room and someone collecting money. I imagine it may be quite popular in the summer!

My route:

Wikipedia “Martin’s Beach dispute”:

Yelp, with more pictures:

Surfrider Foundation, with a bunch of historical legal news links at bottom:

October 1, 2018: Supreme Court refuses to hear his appeal. CASE CLOSED!


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Cataract Falls @ Mt Tamalpais (in the rain)

A brief post to freshen-up my blog. My last post was about 2 months ago, and this hike was quite fun!

A little circle of friends was talking about climbing Mt Tam, to the summit, for the Northern California Sixpack of Peaks Challenge. When rain appeared in the forecast, the hike shrunk into something more manageable, with waterfalls..and fewer intrepid hikers.

How did I plan this and how did I get there? I was chauffered in a new Tesla Model 3, to the trailhead, with no planning whatsoever. (Thanks, Sam!)

Somewhere north of the Golden Gate Bridge, we hiked:


Water, and more water!


Sorry…not my usual blog post quality. (Actually, I’m not sorry! I want to post the photos and don’t have much of a story to tell.) If you’re pressed for time, just do the first few miles (CCW direction), then go back the way you came. The best part generally is the first few miles. Enjoy!

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American Heritage Museum (Collings Foundation)

Back around 2000 I heard whispers, on the internet, of a collection of military tanks in nearby Portola Valley at the “Pony Tracks Ranch”. It was not open to the public, but some groups were getting private tours. I tracked down a few crumbs of information on the internet, and left a telephone message to ask if the Studebaker Club could have a tour. (Yes, I own a 1963 Studebaker convertible that my grandfather bought new. I rode in it when I was a baby!)

Jacques Littlefield, the billionaire with one of the best collections of “toys” in the world, promptly called me back, and we were in! We had an amazing tour, led by Jacques himself, of his huge collection of about 200 tanks. It also included his restoration shop with Russian-language manuals, a (very serious) hoist to lift the turret off a tank, and other such exotic tools to restore these beasts to full operating condition.

Fast forward a few years, Jacques passes-away at a relatively young ago of cancer, and his wife wants the stuff outta there! His “Military Vehicle Technology Foundation”, with a group of loyal members, is disbanded and the collection went to auction.

A quick overview of the former collection: and one of many longer YouTube videos of the former collection:

Fortunately, the same awesome Collings Foundation, which has a WW2 warplane tour every year, stepped up and bought the best parts of the collection. It was all trucked to the Boston suburbs, and beautifully presented in this new building!


Just inside the front door, it honors Jacques:


Below is the address and website, should you wish to plan a visit! (Note they are in a “pre-opening” phase right now in late 2018, with very limited hours.)


Jacques’ space in Portola Valley, was a massive garage, in the hills above Silicon Valley. Below is what you see upon entering the new space:

(A few items are not from Jacques’ collection, including 2 airplanes and the amphibious landing craft at lower-right below (PA45-18). It was purchased from a fisherman in Normandy who had still been using it since the Americans left it behind in 1945…)


Some really rare stuff, sorted by military campaign or theater.


Heavy on German and American armor, there is a little bit of Soviet hardware, too! (The signs explaining what each item is have not been added yet. “Coming soon”!)


Below is one of two SCUD Missile Launchers that Jacques owned. This one has Iraqi markings. (Jacques told me a great story of how his first one was hung-up in Customs at the Port of San Francisco for a very long time. He had to document that it was not capable of operating if it was going to be in private hands. The second one he bought went right through!)


The exhibits do not discuss winners and losers, and right versus wrong. The goal is to preserve the lethal hardware, and present it in a historical context.


My favorite quote of Jacques’, which explains his fascination of these machines, I saved from the defunct website of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation:

“For me, the important part of the tanks is understanding the industrial know-how that allowed them to be built, and then document those findings. There may not be much appreciation for them now, but hopefully after I’m gone people will look back and say, ‘Thank God he saved these historical vehicles instead of just letting them rust away and disappear forever.”


The large camouflaged tank, below, to the right of the Soviet tank, was Jacques’ prized German “Panther”. It spent 70 years at the bottom of a river in Poland. Jacques acquired it, and restored it to operating condition! (Here is the restored Maybach V-12, being fired-up for the first time. Jacques is the bald guy, to the rear )


All of the tanks have had their barrels cut and reattached so as to make them incapable of firing properly. Jacques used to hold an Open House every year for his neighbors and law enforcement. He knew his hobby was unusual, and he knew his neighbors did a double-take every time there was a new “toy” being trucked thru the neighborhood. Opening the gates and letting them look around was a really good idea!


Where did he get these? Well, just like old warplanes, they are sold to collectors by small countries who often use them for many years after the original countries have moved on to newer stuff. Some the items are a bit trickier. The first SCUD Missile launcher was from, I think, the Czech Republic when the Soviets pulled-out. The second one was left when the Iraqis were pushed out of Kuwait.


One of his other stories that I recall, was hearing of a vintage WW2 American tank that was owned by a warlord in Bosnia, back in the 1990s. He sent someone there, with a big wad of cash and said “buy it”! Due to the fragmented war in the former Yugoslavia, it was quite a task. It included paying-off other warlords to allow the tank to pass thru their territories, on the way to the port.


The below German tracked troop carrier is huge! The top of the grille is about 7 feet off the ground.

IMG_2935Many of my pictures are from the elevated walkway. You’re also able to walk to within a few feet of each tank, on the lower level, and look at it closely. They have plans to keep at least some of them operational and take them outside for public events.

Should you decide to visit, be sure to check their hours and days at I believe they are now closed until April 2019, when they will have their formal Grand Opening.

Here is a link to the Collings Foundation’s annual magazine, with discussion of both the tanks and their aircraft: The aircraft collection is quickly expanding, as well. New additions include an iconic twin-tailed P-38 Lightning, an F-4 Phantom, and a 1914 Curtiss.

Enjoy your visit, and tip your hat to the memory of Jacques, who did indeed create a collection that is like nothing else.

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