Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Approach

I've fallen quite far behind in the blog due to the access issues previously described, but again, a brief summary follows:

April 30: San Luis NWR to Livingston. My first glimpse of both the San Joaquin and Merced Rivers. Walked through what seemed interminable vineyards of Gallo Winery, crossing a number of small canals and a variety of other water-related infrastructures before arriving in Livingston. My longest day so far at just under 18 miles. My first view of the Sierra Nevada at the very end of the day.

May 1: Day off in Livingston. Met with Amy Moffat of the Great Valley Center to discuss some of the human issues of the modern San Joaquin Valley. Talked with ranger Daniel Rizzo of McConnell state park about the difficulties of land management in the valley, and some of the ins and outs of the state park system.

May 2: Livingston to Hopeton. The Earth began to stir, the first hint of topography since Apr. 27. Interminable vineyards replaced by interminable almond orchards. Heavy morning rain, but dry afterward. Tried to stop at an almond processing plant, but it was closed for the day. I spoke to an organic farmer briefly, fended off a few angry growling dogs (and a few vocal gangsters driving uncomfortably close...), and met a Muir enthusiast from the area who, after offering me a ride, pointed out the bluff where Muir herded sheep the summer after his first ramble to the valley.

May 3: Hopeton to Lake McSwain. With the sky clearing and the pace quickening eastward, the Sierra and foothills were finally becoming visible with some detail. Most of the day's scenery, however, came in the form of the Snelling dredge field, a kind of mountain range in miniature along the banks of the Merced. Large cobbles are piled up for at least 10 miles on either side of the town of Snelling, the remnant of dredge mining not from the gold rush, but later attempts around the turn of the (19th) century. I've seen many smaller dredge remnants since, but none quite so impressive, or oppressive, as this long field near Snelling.

May 4: Lake McSwain to Lake McClure, Barret Cove Campground. Today I finally began traversing the topography of Sierra foothills, following the road through ranches and metamorphic outcrops. To the east, the Sierra began to loom beyond the foothill valleys. To the west, the entire San Joaquin Valley was visible, with foothills misty in the distance. Even some major roadways and rivers shimmered in the afternoon light.

All this is behind, but today marks my last day in "civilization" of the trip. The next few days through national forest land and into the park promise a different kind of experience and "reading" of the landscape. I'm feeling pulled along by the closeness of my destination, but trying my best to think hard about the intervening lands and people. Until then, just trying to stay out of the mouth of the bear, or "in bocca al lupo"


  1. Nice to hear from you!! So you met Bob Brower in Hopeton? Did you follow the fantastic Fields Road?
    - Donna

  2. Snelling is a neat town. I used to drive thru there on my way to my second home in Murphys. Did you see the geodesic dome house?

  3. The two geodesic dome houses in Snelling are no more. The base of one of them is still there, but unless you knew where it was, you wouldn't realize it.