2 Meadows and 2 Mountaintops
Quaking Aspen & Frog Meadows, Tobias & Baker Point Lookouts
July 1-3, 2006
View south from the Tobias Lookout
Sequoia National Forest
On the evening of Saturday July 1st Todd and I met up with 4wheelbob and Gina at
Quaking Aspen Campground in Sequoia National Forest.  Bob graciously offered to be
the guest speaker at my campfire program that night and he did a great job!  The
audience was friendly and they asked Bob lots of good questions.  I think they all really
enjoyed the program as did I.  Bob has a great sense of humor and he puts everyone at
ease as he tells great stories.  After the program we sat by the fire for a little while
then headed off to bed.  Except for some overexcited kids in campsite 1 (and some
overexcited adults in another campsite) we had a pretty peaceful night.  I slept very
well as I hadn't had a day off in 2 weeks!

In the morning I was the last one up (I love sleeping in!) and we went over to the
Ponderosa Lodge for breakfast.  Afterwards Gina and Todd played a game of Pac-man
while Bob and I sat out on the deck and watched a friendly and very cute chipmunk run
around.  We then went back to the campground and I went for a walk along the edge of
the meadow to photograph some wildflowers then I walked back and helped pack up.  
Gina and Bob headed back home, unfortunately, because Bob had to work on Monday :(  
Todd and I headed south towards the Portuguese Pass area.

Two years ago I drove to Frog Meadow and I had wanted to go back there for quite
some time and stay the night.  (See
here and here).  On the way, along the Sugarloaf
Road, we stopped at French Joe Meadow and a spot on the map that is marked "Indian
Rock."  I got out and explored a little and found that there are "Indian Bathtubs" in
several granite rocks.  The origin and use of these rock basins is still up for debate.  
You can read more about them

If you ever have the inkling to explore a great backcountry road, and one that is paved
by the way, the Sugarloaf Road (Forest Service Road 23S16) is a great one to try!  It
winds its way from near Johnsondale, up and over Portuguese Pass, then all the way
back down again to the hamlet of Posey, CA.  The views along the road are incredible;
you can see all the way to Mt. Whitney (one of the only roads in the western Sierra
that you can see Whitney from!)  There are some great camping areas and trails to
explore out that way as well.

We made our way back into Frog Meadow and found a great campsite on the meadow's
edge.  We ate lunch, set up the tent, and I set off to explore the meadow.  There I
found tons of wildflowers in the green, GREEN meadow.  I also found the reason why
the meadow got its name...

A little while later Todd came down to join me as I sat along the small stream flowing
through the meadow soaking my feet.  It was then that we heard a huge boom!  
Somebody in the campground was setting off a firework or something!  We heard 3
more booms, each one louder than the next.  We saw the people throwing a bucket of
some sort in the air then when it dropped a huge boom resulted.  Fireworks are of
course not allowed in the Forest and any kind of explosive device is not allowed in a
campground so I decided that we should try to contact Porterville Dispatch.  Todd has
a satellite phone for work and so I used it to report the illegal activity.  A little while
later a patrol unit showed up and they talked to the people.  They claimed it was a
potato launcher.  Hmmmmmm...   Anyway, we heard no more booms that day or night,
thank goodness.
4wheelbob and me
4wheelbob tries to get Tashia the
Wonder Dog to smile :)
4wheelbob and Gina
Pussy Paws, above and below
Calyptridium umbellatum
Achillea millefolium
Sierra Gooseberry
Ribes roezlii
Yellow Salsify
Tragopogon dubius
Common Buttercup
Ranunculus californicus
Stickseed, above and below
Hackelia velutina
The Indian Bathtubs at Indian Rock
Our campsite at Frog Meadow
Old cabin at Frog Meadow

You can rent a "newer" cabin at Frog
Click here for more info.
Western Mountain Asters
Aster occidentalis
Sidalcea malvaeflora
Field Chickweed
Cerastium arvense
Bigelow Sneezeweed
Helenium bigelovii
Water Minerslettuce
Montia chamissoi
On Sunday we got up and enjoyed the cool morning air and the multitudes of little
birdies singing.  We ate oatmeal for breakfast then packed up and drove up to
Tobias Lookout, herding some cows along the way.  This lookout is at 8284 feet and
is manned, or womanned I should say ;)  Mary Ann has been staffing the lookout for
many summers now and it is always a pleasure to visit with her and her faithful
companion Tennessee.  It was a clear morning and the views were far-reaching...

I asked Mary Ann about the Baker Point Lookout and the trail going there.  She said
it wasn't too difficult and the view was great!  So Todd and I drove towards Baker
Point and found the trailhead.  Todd wasn't feeling very well so I decided to do the
hike by myself and I could keep in touch with Todd using two-way radios.  Another
small group of people arrived at the trailhead and they looked like they were
preparing to hike so I was glad I wouldn't be alone out there on the trail.  This
country is rough and there are lots of hazards like rattlesnakes and mountain lions.  
Funny thing it turns out I knew one of the guys in the group!  His name is Bill and he
works in the Sequoia National Forest Supervisor's Office in Porterville!  He and I
had never met in person but had talked on the phone many times.

The hike to the Baker Point Lookout is flat and easy at first but soon becomes more
difficult.  It is about 1.5 miles out and I'd leave at least 2-3 hours for the hike.  
Much of it is rocky and narrow and steep and there are currently two large trees
down across the trail that are tough to crawl under or over.  But the views along the
trail are outstanding!  
Click here for a panoramic view looking east-north-west from
the trail!  There are also many interesting and unique plants that grow here and thus
the area has been deemed a Sequoia National Forest Botanical Area.

The Baker Point Lookout has not been manned since the 1980's.  Mary Ann thinks
they ought to man it again because it has a very unique and helpful view up and down
the Kern River Canyon.  It would take a little bit of work to restore the lookout but
it seems like the infrastructure is still intact.

Once we reached the lookout we had fun poking around and chatting and eating!  Bill
and his wife and two friends brought 4 kinds of cheese, crackers, pretzels, wine,
and beer out there to enjoy.  These are folks that take their hiking seriously ;)  
They offered me some cheese and pretzels and I enjoyed their company.  Soon
enough, though, I figured I ought to hike back to Todd.  So I thanked and left the
group and hiked out on my own.

I made good time on the hike out and it was about 2:30 when I got back to the
trailhead.  Todd and I then drove to Panorama Campground and ate lunch.  Then we
headed west and downhill to Sugarloaf and Posey, CA then north towards home.
Tobias Lookout
Tennessee is a very sweet dog who kept
bringing me her bone to share.  She reportedly
lets Mary Ann know when there is a bear near
the lookout and she also likes to lick the faces
of all the kids that visit  :)
The views stretch all the way northeast past the
Needles to Mt. Whitney (the highest peak just left
of center), Mt. LaConte, Mt. Corcoran, and Mt.
Langley -
Click here to read about my trip to that
part of the Sierra last year
The view south to Lake Isabella
The view west towards the San Joaquin Valley
The view northwest towards Dennison, Moses, and Maggie Mountains
Todd soaking his feet in the cold creek
I think this is Blue Elderberry Sambucus mexicana
It was growing profusely in the meadows along the Sugarloaf Road
Penstemon grows profusely in the rocky areas
Bridge's Penstemon, above,
Penstemon rostriflorus
Pride of the Mountain, below, Penstemon newberryi
A sweet little monkeyflower carpeted
dryer portions of the meadow
Mimulus sp.
The namesake of this meadow?
Baker Point from the trailhead
You can't see the lookout, it's hiding behind a pine tree just left of center
Sugar Pine, Jeffrey Pine, and White Fir are scattered
on Baker Point's steep slopes
One of the rare flowers on Baker Point
This flower is only found in the southern Sierra
Coville's mule-ears
Agnorhiza invenusta
What a view!

Click here for a 180* view taken from Baker Point
Kernville and Lake Isabella are visible in the photo above
A bend in the Kern River, below
The Needles
Mt. Whitney
Mt. Whitney       LaConte & Corcoran Mt. Langley
Mt. Whitney                 LaConte & Corcoran    Mt. Langley
Sherman Pass Road
Potentilla sp.
7,754 feet is the elevation of the Baker Point Lookout
Long-Horned Beetle
Everyone laughed at me because I jumped and shrieked when after snapping
one of these photos the beetle decided to jump on me!
Parts of the trail are very rocky
Kern Swertia Swertia tubulosa
Another flower found only in the Southern Sierra