Place: Crags Campground and vicinity, Toyabe National Forest, Bridgeport, California
This isn't a hiking post.
By the time I got around planning our getaway for Memorial Day weekend almost every campground in California was already booked out. I didn't worry, for I had in mind to camp at a first come first serve place. I also didn't think to drive more than 3-4 hours from home. But then I found some vacancies at the Crags Campground near Twin Lakes by Bridgeport and decided to book a couple, one for us and one for friends who where to join us for this trip.
For some time now I wanted to explore the area around Bridgeport, and now we had a good opportunity to do so. And it had been a very rewarding trip for us. Crags Campground turned out to be beautiful and our stay there was much enjoyed. This is not a hike post - it is about Crags Campground and a few other places that we visited in the area.
Coordinates: 38.172068, -119.321567
Crags Campground is located near Twin Lakes, northeast of the town of Bridgeport. For that weekend, the minimum nights for which a campsite could be reserved was three, so we had reserved our sites from Friday night until Monday morning. The campground is about 6 driving hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, and despite Papa Quail's reluctance I was hoping to cover all that distance on Friday evening.
We worked hard to get ready. Papa Quail made it home early from work, and as soon as the chikas we out of school we packed everything and everybody in the car and took off.
The drive was uneventful and we actually made it to Bridgeport not to long after nightfall. It was then that we found out that we couldn't find the campground. We went by the coordinates supplied by Google, and those turned out to be wrong (and they still are! People who read this post and wish to go there, use the coordinates I give above, not those found at Google Maps!). Following the faulty coordinates, our navigator took us on a desolate dirt road leading nowhere. When we realized we were not going to the right place we got back into town and then I looked up the driving description given at the Toyabe National Forest website. We followed the directions, and by 11 pm we finally arrived our destination. We quickly pitched out tent and transferred the sleeping chikas into it, then followed suit and went to sleep.
We woke up and found ourselves in the most beautiful settings. Having arrived at night we did not know what the area looked like, so when I stepped out of the tent in the morning I stood and gasped. We were in a flat valley surrounded by peaks - round hills on the north and east, and high, jagged peaks on the west and south. The high mountain peaks were snow-capped. The air was crisp and my lungs hurt with the first few breaths, until I got used to the chill. I could hear running water nearby, but couldn't see the creek.
|At Crags Campground|
In fact, they were hanging by the campground throughout our stay there, shifting positions every now and then, or resting under a tree in the middle of the campground, completely untroubled by the camping humans.
|Steller's Jay on the nest|
They weren't all too quick, though.
Between the bushes I found my own little pleasure. A very tiny pleasure, in the shape of dwarf monkeyflowers. So small they were that I had to lie almost flat on the ground to get any decent photo.
|Dwarf Monkeyflower, Mimulus nanus var. nanus|
|Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel|
|Rocky Mountain Iris, Iris missouriensis|
Our friends couldn't make it on Friday night and we were expecting them around noon Saturday. We wanted to explore the area a bit but not get too far away (and stay within reception range) so we went to check out Bridgeport Lake.
Bridgeport Lake is a water reservoir at the edge of town with a picnic area and a boat launch ramp. We arrived at the picnic area and found it nearly empty, despite it being a nice Saturday morning. At least one of the picnic tables was occupied ...
|California Quail, male|
|Tansy Leaf Evening Primrose, Taraxia tanacetifolia|
|Eared Grebe, breeding colors|
|American White Pelican, breeding adult (left) and juvenile (right)|
|Western Tanager, female|
|Yellow Warbler, male|
Coordinates: 38.245735, -119.204239
I suppose I will upset Bridgeport residents by adding some publicity to this local treasure of theirs, but I think it really is already a well-known site. Otherwise I cannot explain how it was so full of people, many of who sounded foreign, with a rainstorm brewing above.
There are several hot springs in the great Bridgeport area, but the closest to town and the most accessible and well known are the Travertine Hot Springs. A short dirt road that starts behind the National Forest Ranger Station leads into the hills and ends in a small, dirt parking lot with a small vault toilet at its edge. The parking lot was full but a few cars were leaving as we came so we quickly pulled in and parked.
It was overcast, windy, and quite cold outside. Not an inviting weather to wear bathing suits. Still, none of us wanted to back out of this (Pappa Quail, maybe, but he didn't say anything, he simply refrained from taking his swimsuit out), so we got our stuff ready and went out to check out the pools.
There were several pools in the area of Travertine Hot Springs. The closest one was right by the parking lot - a small rock basin full of steaming water and submerged partially humans in swimsuits. Behind the pool was a low ridge, and a narrow trail sloped up and curved behind it. We went on the trail, our friends leading and me at the rear, enjoying the colorful wildflowers that added bright colors to the overcast and gray afternoon.
Below is a snip of a satellite image of the area, showing the Travertine geothermal zone right at the edge of Bridgeport.
|Satellite image of the Travertine Hot Springs area|
|Nut Pine, Pinus monophylla|
The hot springs area is somewhat elevated from the town but lies below higher hills to the east. An open forest of pinyon pines spaced by sage brush and other gray-green shrubs covered much of the light-brown soil, and annual wildflowers claimed most of the remaining open space.
It was those wildflowers that attracted me, and I spent a good time looking at them before returning eventually to the hot spring pool and joining my chikas and my friends in the water.
|Milkvetch, Astragalus sp.|
|Longleaf Groundsel, Packera multilobata|
On Monday morning we broke camp and said goodby to the lovely campground we had spent the weekend at. Our friends had departed and were already on their way back to the Bay Area, but we wished to explore the area some more before embarking on the long drive home.
At first we took a drive along the northeastern shores of the Twin lakes. It was a beautiful day and the lake was calm. As calm as a mirror.
A solitary bird floated on the water - a young common loon.
|Common Loon, juvenile|
|Mountain Wallflower, Erysimum perenne|
|Mountain Mule Ear, Wyethie mollis|
|Mountain Bluebird, male|