Monthly Archives: November 2018

Another Meysan Lakes Trail Tale, Part Two of Two: A Journey

While I tested a new hammock setup for a relaxing afternoon; James was restless and wandered around the campground, finding his way back to the trail info sign and onto a piece of key information we had missed.

You do not need a permit to day hike the trail, unlike Mount Whitney. A permit is only required if overnight camping is your intention. James came rushing back to camp. to tell me the exciting news — only to find to me warm and cradled in my hammock, instead of raring to go hike the Meysan Lakes Trail, our would-be second trail and a trail about which we knew nothing. Come on. Look at that hammock. Check that sweet underquilt setup.

Alright, Alright. So we went, starting at something like a quarter after four, believing this to be a moderate to difficult hike, totaling 4 miles, round trip. We were in athletic shoes, but fortunately, we had hiking poles. We would never have made it without them. Thankfully, it is all worth it when you reach this sign —

The entrance to the John Muir Wilderness



And see this view, when you look over your shoulder (or head in that direction on a switchback, of which there are many!) —

Now, back to the trail — are you ready to take on this beast?


First thing first —

The entire trail is a 10.9-mile loop. It is 4 miles to the first of the lakes — Grass Lake. (Forest Service)

Do not wear athletic shoes of any kind. I slipped and slid too many times at the edge of the trail and through terrain that was rockier, sandier, more powdery, or more littered with debris such as pine cones, small bones, and twigs. Wear some type of appropriate hiking footwear. This is not an easy hike in regards to terrain variance and stability or elevation gain. Do not attempt this hike unless you are in good aerobic shape. 

Be prepared for a long, steady, fairly steep ascent most of the way, except for the switchbacks, which are a challenge all their own. They are flat, well defined, and an excellent alternative to what would otherwise be brutal inclines. However, turning around over and over to walk the other way after a short distance can be disorienting.

The trail is only as wide enough for a pair of feet and a pair of trekking poles most of the way up. The drop off is this and sheerer.

Be prepared to stay focused and alert. Keeping your footing is obviously crucial. Always plant your trekking pole before moving your foot forward.

Sounds dreadful, right? No! All of this just means the reward is so much more gratifying! You are going to work for it, and it will be worth it!

Knowing every step in reverse would be in the dark, we were ever diligent in our awareness of changes in the trail. There were a lot of them. I am not an experienced or seasoned hiker but I have hiked and the Meysan Lakes Trail is thus far the most diverse and challenging. That and it was so, so beautiful! The views were amazing and when we reached Grass Lake, the feeling of triumph was eclipsed only with awe of our surroundings.

Somewhere in this picture, there are bats skimming the water for . . . ?
This is Grass Lake.

Including a 20 minute-ish stop for an issue with previously untested equipment, it had taken us two and a half hours to reach grass lake and we arrived around a quarter of seven, just before dusk.

We were fortunate enough to see a group of bats swooping above and skimming the water, but were not able to get any good footage or images of them. Bats are tiny and the light was challenging, what can I say? We decided at this point that Grass Lake would be our destination, which we later learned was the wise decision as reaching the final destination – Meysan Lake, requires some bouldering and we did not want to do that in the dark! We loved the Whitney Portal campground and the trail is definitely worth coming back for a second time.

So we stayed; enjoying the sunset and the views, wolfing our energy chews and drinking water like it was a picnic. We practically ran back to the campground, the return trip was so much easier, and we figure it took us about an hour and a half to get back.

… and that is my Meysan Lakes Trail Tale!

United States Forest Service

Another Meysan Lakes Trail Tale, Part One of Two: What Brought us to the Meysan Lakes Trail

This tale leads up to our Maysen Lakes adventure, if you are only interested in the latter, feel free to skip ahead to part two.

What Brought us to the Meysan Lakes Trail

We do not watch network or cable television, but this does not mean we do not partake of visual entertainment. Instead, we watch movies and shows on Netflix and videos along our interest lines on Youtube. One of our interests is traversing the great outdoors through running (me only), cycling, hiking, and driving mountain roads.

So we watch a lot of Youtube videos of trail-riding and hiking, particularly thru hikers on any one of the trails making up what is known as the ‘Triple Crown’; the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. While we have considered the possibility of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, our positions as longshoremen do not allow for that amount of time off, plus I have reached the conclusion through some soul searching that a thru-hike is not a situation in which I want to put myself.

One of the spectacular views from the trail to Eagle Rock
My victory V in front of Eagle Rock

As it happens, we live a few miles from the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail and have the ability to drive to various points for day hikes or even camp for several days, to facilitate greater exploration. In 2017. we began a tradition for my birthday of going on a memorable hike. We hiked to Eagle Rock, which is a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail, about 6 miles, which leads to a feature of a grouping of granite rocks which appear to be in the shape of an eagle with his wings slightly expanded. 

We needed a new destination. We did some camping at Southern California mountain destinations, including Wrightwood, Kennedy Meadows, and a night on the side of the road at Whitney Portal because we rolled in late on a Saturday night to find no available camp sites. These locations exposed us to altitudes much greater than just above sea level where we live and we hiked around these areas to gain some experience at elevation. Still, we did not discuss it much and when we did, nothing came of it. September came around, so we began to think about our trip and look for the break in our work schedule. We talked about Devil’s Postpile and some other hikes in Yosemite. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to stay at the campground at Whitney Portal and find a day hike in that area.

Site 116 on the Zuni loop at Table Mountain campground.

We had a late start and pitched for the night in a favorite, familiar camping spot; Wrightwood, CA next to Sky High disc golf course. We have stayed there multiple times on disc golfing trips or to drive the Angeles Crest Highway. None of our usual favorite campsites were available and this one had no proper trees for hammock hanging, so we pitched the tent for the night, It was late, not to mention windy and chilly, so we were very ready to snuggle down for the night.

In the morning, we packed up all but the essentials, then took our time drinking coffee and having breakfast, after which we wandered around the campground taking pictures. We continued on to the Whitney Portal and beyond to the Whitney Portal campground, arriving about a quarter to five.

James near the bear box

It was nice to reach camp and set up relatively early, have a meal and be settled by a fire relatively early. We did all of that and still took the time to explore some of the campground, as there was plenty to see! Impossibly tall trees surrounded us and the tall mountain ridge surrounded those, plus a river ran through the campground, separating the sites that would be back to back. It was a beautiful feature, which added ambient noise and good separation from other campers, in a campground with sites that are more packed together.

A view of the small river under the foot bridge
The view entering Whitney Portal campground and from our site.

On the way in, I had noticed a sign reading “Meysan Lakes Trail” and exclaimed that I recognized the name as one that many PCT thru-hikers we watched talked about taking a side trip to day hike it. I suggested investigating it as a possibility for our own hike. I did not know anything about it other than the name. After morning rituals, we trekked down to some bulletin boards with information about the trail and hiking it. Upon reading it, we determined that permits were needed to move forward. We decided to hang around camp awhile longer and think about our next move.

To be continued…

A Primer on how to Drive a car with a Manual Transmission

Driving a car with a manual transmission has been slowly becoming a lost skill over the last few decades, with the percentage of cars with manual transmissions now representing just 3.9% of new car purchases, in 2018 (multiple soutces).

Nevertheless, I and a number of the population believe it is a good skill to have. For me, I found it necessary to learn when I became a longshoreman and encountered vehicles with manual transmissions that needed to be driven off or onto ships. I have found a surprising number of my colleagues who do not have this skill since I have learned it.

This post is meant to serve as a guide for anyone who has never driven a vehicle with a manual transmission to theoretically be able to get into one, start it up and get it moving. Below is a video illustrating the steps.

The first frame of the video shows the three pedals: (from left to right) the clutch, the break. and the accelerator.

Step one: Sit in the driver’s seat and get comfortable, ensuring the seat is positioned so you will be able to fully depress the clutch.

Step two: Place your right foot on the brake and fully depress the clutch with your left.

Step three: Turn the key in the ignition

Step four: Shift the knob into first gear

Step five: Release the handbrake

Step six: Look to your left, release your foot from the brake, and slowly begin to release the clutch. When the car begins to move forward you have found the “bite point”. This is where the clutch engages.

Step seven: Gently apply the throttle and fully release the clutch.

When the car reaches between 3000 and 4000 RPMs (indicated by a gauge on the dash), you will need to shift into second and shortly thereafter, third gear. This will enable you to drive the car on surface streets, with the proper downshifting techniques, which we will discuss in another post. Below is a video of my footwork, from starting the car to shifting into third gear. The camera is attached to the steering column and the viewing angle does turn a bit. My apologies.

Lastly, is a video of operating the gearshift for posterity.

Why I Choose to Document my Life Publicly.

I have a stalker and have had for many years, despite multiple attempts to end it. My first, natural instinct is to withdraw and live in hiding as much as modern life will allow, but to to do that would be to give him all of my personal power.

Stalking is about taking power from the person with which you are obsessed through fear, intimidation, and invasion of privacy.

Therefore, by publicizing my existence through my blog, Twitter, and Facebook; I am in control of my world visibility, I am presenting myself to the public, thereby sapping surveillance of its ability to harm me. 

As an added bonus, when a former associate chose to slander me on his blog; I was able to promulgate Google and other search engines with counter information, in my own words and images, to refute the negative post and present an image of myself that I had defined.

My self-titled website, Twitter, and Facebook naturally facilitated this endeavor.