What Is the Cost of a Living Trust in California?

Different Living Trust Costs and Options

There are a variety of options when completing a California living trust. After some extensive research to determine the cost of a living trust in California, I’ve summarized my results into 2 categories:

* In-Office Consultation

* Online Living Trusts

In-Office Consultation

The In-Office Consultation is your traditional office visit with an attorney. You see these a lot of these listed in the yellow pages. They offer you a free one-hour consultation in the hopes of earning your business.

The typical charge is $2,500. The services provided will be a complete estate plan, which includes a living trust.

Lawyers in California are required to have you sign a fee agreement. This fee agreement will dictate the terms of payment, document delivery, etc. You will typically need to pay the $2,500 up front. This $2,500 will be deposited into the attorney’s trust account.

These types of contracts typically take 3-4 weeks to complete.

After interviewing several law firms, I found they typically include the following documents in their California estate plan:

* California Living Trust

* California Advance Health Care Directive (Living Will)

* California Power of Attorney for Finance

* California Pour-Over Will

The Advance Health Care Directive is important in case you are incapacitated because it allows you to appoint a health care agent who has the authority to make decisions based on your current wishes.

The Power of Attorney for Finance is needed in case you are incapacitated and need someone to take care of your finances (e.g. file your personal tax returns, etc.).

The Pour-Over Will essentially transfers everything to your living trust that was not formally transferred. Basically, you are naming your California living trust as the sole beneficiary of your property.

However, these $2,500 plans did not include some key elements:

* California Notary Fees

* California Transfer Grant Deeds

California Notary Fees

Notary fees in California run a maximum of $10 per signature (that’s the law). If you are single, there are four signatures or $40. Married couples will pay $80. If you use a mobile notary, their travel fees are excessive. Many banks offer a notary service for free.

California Transfer Grant Deeds

After you complete your living trust in California, you will need to transfer your home (and any rental properties) to your living trust. Essentially, you prepare a transfer grant deed to title the property in the name of your trust.

If you don’t complete these transfer grant deeds, the living trust is invalid.

It’s much simpler on your 401k and life insurance because it’s a simple matter of naming your trust as the beneficiary. However, you cannot name a beneficiary on real estate in California. The only way to name a beneficiary on real estate in California is to use a living trust.

After you notarize the trust and prepare your transfer grant deeds (each parcel requires a separate grant deed), you will need to record them. Each transfer grant deed is recorded at the County where the parcel is located. That transfer grant deed is also accompanied by a county change of ownership report. This county change of ownership report is a document required by all 58 California Counties and is used by the County Assessor to see if the property should be:

* Re-assessed

* Documentary transfer tax be applied

Since a living trust is EXEMPT from both of these taxes, you must be careful to complete that form properly.

Now that I’ve discussed in-office consultations, let’s examine online offerings.

Online Living Trusts

There were many options for online trusts as well, as this option was gaining popularity. The price for an online living trust ranges anywhere from $297 to $997, so it’s an avenue where you can save a lot of money.

We found, just like in the in-office version, that many did not include the transfer grant deed. In fact, one provider charged an additional $249 per transfer grant deed (if you owned four properties you would pay $249 x 4 or $996).

We also found there were extra hidden fees for other documents. For example, one provider charged another $40 each for both the advance health care directive AND power of attorney (x2 if you are married or domestic partners because separate ones are required for each or $160). Make sure you pay attention to the fine print.

In the in-office consultation, you pick your trust package up in person, but the online version is shipped, so be sure to verify if the shipping charge is included.


If you have a complicated estate needs, you’re probably best meeting with a local provider in their office. Whether you are using an online provider or in-office consultation, be sure to take this list with you and ask to ensure ALL of the documents are provided.

If you have more than one piece of real estate, make sure the transfer grant deeds are completed for ALL of the properties. Also make sure they include each preliminary change of ownership report and the recording instructions (separate ones required for each deed).

Lastly, make sure the notary fees are included because they will cost you another $40 (single) and $80 (married). You will also pay another $10 for each transfer grant deed ($20 each if married).

California Failed To Protect Its Citizens, And Now The Promise To Fix Infrastructure?

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was California Governor he attempted to allot funds towards the repair and maintenance of the levee system and yet, couldn’t get the democratic California legislature at the time to accept his budget, instead they had endless social programs and pet projects to fund. Some folks do not remember their history, but I am not one of them, you see here we are in 2017 and we have a dam crisis brewing at the Oroville Dam, which happens to be about 1/2 of Northern and Central California’s water supply – it is the main dam with 9-smaller dams above it. As I pen this article all 9 dams are 100% full and Oroville Dam needs repairs on its spillways which are in jeopardy of total failure.

Now then, the leftist newspaper (yes, I am a bias writer in hindsight of this on-going fiasco), The Los Angeles Times, had an interesting article on February 24, 2017 titled; “California Governor Jerry Brown proposes speeding up water and flood-protection projects after the winter’s big storms,” by John Myers which had a quote from the governor:

“We have our aging infrastructure and it’s maxed out,” Brown said during a news conference at the state Capitol. The plan, largely an acceleration of existing plans to fund infrastructure needs, requires approval of the Legislature.”

The one page article also stated that the California Governor contacted Donald Trump for fast-tracking environmental rules for some key repair projects like the Oroville Dam spillway. The Governor also wants to set aside $437 million of the California budget to fix levees and storm drainage in the state. Infrastructure experts estimate this to be a drop in the bucket to the overdue repairs needed in state infrastructure which are thought to be $187 Billion to bring the CA infrastructure up to an A-grade by the American Society of Engineers. A good overview of this is on YouTube, a video titled; “Jerry Brown Finally Speaks About Oroville Dam Spillway Failures 2/24/2017.”

When California Governor Jerry Brown gave a press conference one reporter asked him about who was to blame. He deflected these questions explaining that there are many infrastructure maintenance projects that desperately need budget monies, but monies are not unlimited, and named important social programs, health care, and legacy costs (pensions for former and current state employees). We all understand the realities, and yet, California is to blame for their own failures a and whereas they can divert blame way from themselves, they may not be able to divert that much water or snowpack runoff in time to prevent the largest dam disaster in US History.

Extending the Time to Respond to a California Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Complaint

Extending the time to respond to a California unlawful detainer (eviction) complaint is the topic of this article. Because of the very short time period to respond to a California eviction complaint any request should be made by ex-parte application.

Code of Civil Procedure sections 1167.3 and 1167.5 require that good cause be shown for any request for an extension of time to respond.

Examples of good cause would be a defendant who does not qualify for a fee waiver and needs additional time to come up with the required filing fee for a response, needs more time to locate an attorney who can represent them, or has a valid family emergency that prevents them from filing a timely response to the eviction complaint.

Anyone considering requesting an extension of time to respond should first contact the plaintiff or attorney for the plaintiff and request that they stipulate to an extension even though it is unlikely that most would agree. This is due to the fact that some Judges may deny any request for an extension if the defendant does not first request that plaintiff stipulate to an extension of time. The fact that the defendant requested a stipulation to extend the time to respond which was refused may help establish good cause.

Note that in most cases the maximum extension that will be granted is ten (10) days, and some judges may be very reluctant to grant any extension unless the defendant can show that circumstances beyond their control require that an extension be granted. The request should include a supporting declaration detailing the unique circumstances for that particular case.

A California Court of Appeal has held that the 10-day period allowed is only a direction to the court rather than an absolute limitation and may be extended as may be just under the circumstances of a particular case.

Normally, a party seeking an ex parte order in a civil case must notify all parties no later than 10:00 a.m. the court day before the ex parte appearance unless a showing is made of exceptional circumstances justifying shorter notice. In unlawful detainer proceedings, however, an ex parte applicant may give shorter notice “provided that the notice given is reasonable.” See California Rule of Court 3.1203. Again a supporting declaration should be submitted that includes facts showing why the notice given in that particular situation was reasonable considering all of the relevant circumstances.

To view the entire text of any code section cited in this article or any other California code section use the link shown below.


To view the entire text of any California rule of court cited in this article use the link shown below.


Can Sacramento California’s Levees Survive A Robust Pine Apple Express Atmospheric River?

In watching the huge amount of precipitation that will deluge Northern California just after the first week of 2017 our Think Tank dared to ask the question no one wants to talk about; are the Sacramento Levees safe? It turns out that Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California tried to get the upgrading of those levees into the budget several times (along with water retention projects for droughts), but the Democrat majority in the California Legislature at the time wanted to spend that money on social programs.

At the time Democrats called it a victory, but perhaps in hindsight they set the state up for a pending disaster, we shall soon see as this mega storm drops it’s mother load on California. How much water will hit Northern California? Well, he Los Angeles Times had an interesting article published on January 6, 2017 titled; “In Mammoth Lakes, preparing for a mammoth storm,” by Tony Barboza, Hailey Branson-Potts and Joseph Serna which stated:

“The epic system could dump so much rain and snow that some ski runs and roads are closed warning of significant flooding, mudslides and avalanches in the Sierra Nevada. Up to 12 inches of rain is expected on areas below 8,500 feet & up to 7 feet of snow in higher elevations. The storm was packing the same wallop as one that hit Northern California in 2005, causing $300 million in damage. This system could bring 36-hours of heavy rain to parts of Northern CA. While that is good news for California, in its 6th year of drought, the coming rain could melt already-standing snow – feeding watersheds swollen from storms earlier this week.”

True enough and other reports from the Weather Channel suggest that the amount of water could be in the neighborhood of 15-Mississippi Rivers and about 57 Trillions of gallons of water, enough to actually affect the planet’s rotation, albeit only few hundredth of a second. Will the mistake of the California Legislature during Arnold’s tenure as governor and the subsequent years recently under Jerry Brown cost the US Taxpayer around the country 100s of Billions of dollars? It just might, and this will be a tough call for the Trump Administration if that levee system fails and drowns thousands of people and put a good chunk of Sacramento underwater.

How bad is the situation? Well, it turns out there was a lot of snow pack, about a decade ago, one year that put the snow levels at 175% of normal and they were extremely worried back then, fast forward 10-years later, more wear and tear on the levee system and no major upgrades, that could spell disaster and anyone who isn’t worried about it, isn’t paying attention – let’s just hope the experts and weather forecasters got this one wrong. Think on it – be great, don’t hesitate.

How to Start a Medical Marijuana Business in California

Medical Marijuana Stores or Medical Cannabis Dispensaries are nothing new in California. They have been around since the law was passed in 1996 making medical marijuana legal in California. Before 2016, you could open a medical marijuana dispensary in California by complying with local city and/or County requirements.

But now we have two new licensing laws that regulate the marijuana business in California. First, we have the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act which was enacted September 11, 2015. This new law creates a new regulatory scheme that regulates all aspects of medical marijuana production and sale. That law went into effect on January 1, 2016.

Next we have California’s Proposition 64,which officially is known as the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act”, was voted into law by 64% of Californians in 2016 and became law on November 9, 2016. The law is also referred to as the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act”. This law regulates the production and sale of recreational marijuana in California.

Both Acts require licensing of various parts of the marijuana business with a full licensing scheme to be ready as of January 1, 2018. There are several different license types available under both laws including licenses related to various parts of a marijuana business including the following license types: manufacturer, testing, dispensary or retail store, distribution, and transporter.

Three Licensing Agencies will supervise the sale, cultivation, and manufacturing of marijuana. These agencies are identified as follows: 1) Department of Consumer Affairs – issues licenses related to retail sales of marijuana; 2) Department of Food and Agriculture – issues licenses related to cultivation of marijuana; and 3) Department of Public Health – issues licenses related to manufacturing and testing of marijuana.

Your new marijuana business, whether it may be a medical marijuana dispensary or a recreational adult use of marijuana retail store will want to get ahead of the competition and research the application process for these new licenses. We expect to see new regulations and a new license application process published at the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs Website. The new sub-agency of the Department of Consumer Affairs that will be issuing retail sale and dispensary licenses is the new Bureau of Marijuana Control. At the time of this writing, this Division of the Department of Consumer Affairs did not have a website or webpages live yet describing the new licensing requirements.

Motion to Correct Clerical Error in California Judgment

A motion to correct a clerical error in a California judgment is the topic of this article. Correcting a clerical error in a judgment entered in California requires the filing of a motion to amend the judgment in California to correct a clerical error under the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 473(d).

This procedure is used to correct inadvertence or errors in recording the judgment. However it should be noted that it cannot be used to contest the intended terms of the judgment. The motion can also request that the judgment be amended nunc pro tunc as of the date the original judgment was entered.

A motion to amend a California judgment to correct a clerical error is filed on the grounds that the recorded terms of the judgment do not agree with the outcome indicated when the judgment was initially declared. This motion is a very limited tool as it is authorized to be used only to correct clerical errors.

However the trial court is given very broad discretion in classifying such errors as an omission or mistake in a judgment; a misdescription in a judgment, inadvertence in signing a faulty judgment, and an ambiguity in a judgment.

The characterization of an error in a judgment as clerical rather than judicial is critical as a clerical error can be corrected at any time, sua sponte by the court or on a motion from one of the parties, even years or decades after the case has closed. But a judicial error can be only corrected on a motion for new trial or on a motion to vacate and enter a new judgment.

Thus the party who is seeking to persuade the court that the error was merely clerical must be very careful and also aware of how to properly characterize the error, and should be sure that the error is in fact clerical and not judicial.

However it should also be noted that there are many instances in the California Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal have ruled in which an omission or mistake in a judgment has been characterized as a clerical error. These instances include:

An omission in the determination of an account and decree of distribution involving the probate of an estate;

The failure to include a direction that one party pay another party’s attorney’s and accountant’s fees when recording a judgment, and

The failure of a judgment to clearly name the defendants, and to state their liability to the plaintiff.

The California Supreme Court stated in a case decided over 75 years ago that California Courts have the power to correct clerical errors in their judgments at any time, regardless of how much time has passed since the error was made or the judgment entered. In that case the Supreme Court stated that a hearing and the resulting order nunc pro tunc correcting a clerical error in a decree of final distribution of an estate 35 years after the original entry was valid.

The California Supreme Court also stated in a case decided over 40 years ago that all courts have the inherent power to enter an order entering a judgment nunc pro tunc All courts have the inherent power to enter orders for judgments nunc pro tunc so that the judgment will be held effective as of the date on which it was actually entered.

Used in the right situations, a motion to amend a judgment to correct a clerical error can allow the moving party to correct a clerical error in a judgment, even if years or decades have passed since the date of the original judgment or decree. But the motion should only be used in the right situations when the error is clearly a clerical error and not a judicial error.

How Can Employers Benefit From the California Labor Code?

It is fun working in California. The state ensures you do not face any issue regarding workplace rights, safety or health. Actually it is the California Labor Code that stands by you in all adverse situations. But what about the employers? Who stands for them? Apparently nobody. So if you are an employer in California and a good one that too, how are you to save yourselves from citations and penalties?

The laws of California are becoming stricter day by day and a single mistake can cost you your whole career. Although there are numerous organizations trying to help out the employer by constantly updating them regarding Cal OSHA and California labor laws, very few of them are actually concerned about the employers’ benefits. All they do is to make them aware so that they do not commit a mistake that they have to pay a huge price for. However, a few HR consultants are eager to help the employers in California not only to prevent themselves from getting penalized but also acquire certain benefits from the existing California Labor code. How? Read along to know.

You can popularize your brand – Many companies in California, including your competitors are not much aware of the labor laws. However, all of them are aware of the basics so as to save themselves from citations. But, you can be an exception. With the help of an experienced HR consultancy firm, you can take the initiative of letting your employees knows their rights and privileges they are entitled to under the Labor laws. Thus, you will be known among your employees as the keeper of their rights and not the violator. People will flock to your company and love to work under you.

You can increase awareness regarding Safety and health – An employer who acknowledges the power of human resources understands one thing. If you can utilize this power, it will take you to heights. But if you misuse it or try to exploit this power, it will be the one to bring you down. Thus, your employees should be treated as gems of the organization. Take good care of them and promote their health and well being. Invest in holding medical campaigns, vaccinations and other things necessary to maintain the health of your workers. Give them their sick leaves without grudging and you will see they will come back smiling and say, “You are the best Boss!” Sounds like music to the ears, right? Well, indeed it is.

See to that your employees are getting the best of everything – Only recently, a new law pertaining to the Cal OSHA heat illness prevention program states that you need to supply clean and purified water as well as make arrangements for adequate shade to ensure your workers’ health and safety. Besides providing the same, why don’t you go check out on how they are doing from time to time? Okay, you are busy but you can at least hire someone to see whether your workers are making the best of everything, can’t you? That will show them that you care and have faith, this relationship building has major outcome in the future.

Impose a strict anti-harassment law – Issues like sexual harassment or discrimination should be taken seriously so as to provide your employees a sense of safety. This is crucial if you have a large organization where all of your employees work in unison with each other. While building healthy work relationships enhances the growth of your business, unhealthy incidents can ruin your name once and for all. Hence make sure that you take such issues and complaints seriously.

Thus, can you see how you, as an employer, can make use of the California Labor code to make your business one of the most reputed ones in the state? Take help from an expert HR consultancy firm exclusively for the employers in California to know all about the recent labor law updates so that you can make your employees aware of the same. If you take care of your employees, the law will surely take care of you.

Restaurant Reviews From California To New York

There’s no need to search far in California or New York to locate one of several fine dinning restaurants. For anyone who is seriously interested in locating a fantastic one for supper, whether or not it’s with close friends, family members, or maybe that special someone to you personally.

It could be as challenging as looking for a needle inside a hay-stack at times.

There might be a number of respectable smartphone applications where you can look into restaurants within your neighborhood however they really don’t provide detailed food selection or menus and or photographs. In cases like this, you wouldn’t want just a listing of restaurants, you need a little something a whole lot better.

It is advisable to find ways to get sneak-peeks by means of images, in addition to insightful information and price ranges, and also the different varieties of delicacies that a restaurant features.

Does your special occasion need more thrilling restaurant choices than usual?

It’s quicker to select the ideal family type restaurant, fine-dining restaurant, as well as informal dining destinations whenever you take full advantage of on-line restaurant guides, they can assist you to quickly pick out exactly what you or others are looking for. In many cases, a lot more than the ordinary names and standard specifics. You will get all sorts of bonuses and information on eating place with the proper information such as, kinds of food items these places serve, the typical range of prices for that restaurant, photos in addition to menus.

In case you are to the business side with the restaurant, like an owner or even thinking about opening one in the near future, you are going to have a very distinctive narrative. On the internet cafe and restaurant reviews imply different things in your case and what they necessarily mean to individuals searching for a spot to try to eat. Strategies are for testimonials to be able to paint the eatery within the most optimistic light achievable. You need the bistro cafe or any eating hot spot to be able to capture the interest of people searching for wonderful restaurants within California or anywhere for that matter.

Fundamentally you must always be thinking about appealing to those people who are searching for just what your own eating place is offering, it could be a family type restaurant, or perhaps Ancient Greek, Mexican, Native Indian, or even Chinese eating place. You need to have the ability to give folks discount coupons to enable them to come and find whatever you are offering at a lower price. You need detailed evaluations or positive reviews for any dining establishments within Los Angeles and also the San Francisco Bay-Area, and you will get these whenever you list ones restaurant with the appropriate tutorial, yes, on the internet.

You have to create and keep building a positive reputation for the eatery and make certain that it’s recognized by the general public if you wish the restaurant to flourish. Those who work in the business currently have paid out a whopping price tag while surviving in the past economic downturn.

The end result is, it does not matter if you’re the greatest thing to hit Thai food markets in Brooklyn, if no one has seen you or even that you’re among the best dining places in New York, if nobody is aware where your location is, they are not going to come inside. So, get on the information highway of the world-wide-web and enjoy the ride of good fortune.

Mammoth Magic: California’s Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain is a stocky hulk of a volcano that stands apart from the Sierran peaks around it. Some 300 miles north of Los Angeles, California, along U.S. Highway 395, this 11,053-foot peak is the centerpiece of a year-round playground. Amidst this alpine region in the Inyo National Forest, numerous lakes and streams and geological wonders await the visitor and offer countless recreational opportunities. In the summer, backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, bouldering, boating and fishing top the list of activities enjoyed here. In spring and fall, seasonal beauty offers special allure for hikers, photographers and artists. In winter, a snowy cloak drapes the landscape, beckoning sports enthusiasts to the area’s world-famous Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, and to nearby cross-country ski and snowmobiling trails. And numerous public and private campgrounds in the area offer year-round camping, making it a favorite destination of many RVers.

Depending on the visitor’s interests, an RV tour of Mammoth-Mono country can be approached from different locations and during any season. As a sample tour to introduce the area, begin your visit at the Inyo National Forest Mammoth Visitor Center, the first right as you’re coming into town on State Highway 203. The center has books, maps, leaflets, displays and helpful rangers to assist visitors in planning itineraries and to issue wilderness permits for overnight wilderness backpacking trips. The center also sponsors ranger-led hikes and evening programs.

Unless you’ll be camping in the Devil’s Postpile area, you’ll have to take a shuttle bus between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily to get there. Instituted to alleviate traffic congestion in this very popular area, the bus cost $8 per adult or $4 per child ages 3-15, free for children under 2 years of age, round-trip service. Bus rides between stops in the canyon are free. If you’re going to camp in the Middle Fork Canyon of the San Joaquin River, you should know that the road from the Minaret Summit to Agnew Meadows is curvy, steep and scarcely more than one-lane wide. The shuttle is free after Labor Day into October.

The trailhead at Agnew Meadows are packed with the vehicles of hikers, and the meadow is even more packed with flowers. Horseback trips into the wilderness start at a pack station near here. Both hikers and riders visit such places as Shadow Lake, which the guidebook Mammoth Lakes Sierra called “one of the jewels of the Sierra, particularly because of its setting below the peaks of the Ritter Range.” It is a moderate 3-mile hike.

At Devil’s Postpile, you’ll see a jumble of talus of the Postpile (something like giant, polygonal Lincoln logs piled in the corner) made when basalt lava filled this place to a depth of 400 feet. As the basalt cooled, it cracked to form a honeycomb of columns – in fact, one of the best examples of columnar-jointed basalt in the world.

But volcanism was only one part of the story here and in the Mammoth-Mono area. Glaciers were another. After hiking to the top of the Postpile, you’ll see the tiled floor finish of the column tops. A glacier 4,000 feet thick left not only polish, but also parallel scratches called striations. The glacier also plucked 100 feet worth of basalt off of this formation, although the columns are still another 280 to 300 feet and go straight down.

From the Postpile you can reach the end of Highway 203 at Reds Meadow. The meadow is a resort with a general store, cafe, cabins and pack station offering horse or wagon rides. Just before reaching the resort, you can camp at a Forest Service campground and luxuriate in it’s free hot-spring-heated bathhouse.

Also in this area is the trailhead for Rainbow Falls. The hike is only 1-1/4 miles and re-enters the national monument. The San Joaquin River broadly plunges 101 feet over a lava ledge and partly atomizes into a spectral-colored mist, which is best seen at midday. The rainbow in the mist of the falls is a daily occurrence, as long as the sun is shining.

This canyon is snowed in during the winter, but Mammoth Mountain is open all year. This inactive volcano is home to one of the country’s grandest downhill-ski areas. The skiing terrain is a healthy mix of 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced. Thirty-two lifts and 150 trails covering 3,100 vertical feet serve skiers of all abilities. For the borderline suicidal, there are advanced to expert runs (i.e., cliffs and near cliffs) from the summit, which a gondola reaches in 20 minutes. That gondola is also open for summer visitors who want to hike across the summit to enjoy the scenery from probably the best, most easily reached vantage point around.

Returning to the village, turn right on the Lake Mary Road to get to the Mammoth Lakes. The distinctive granite spire called Crystal Crag dominates this glacier-scoured basin. The cluster of lakes here is sprinkled with campgrounds. Mammoth Mountain RV Park is one of the most popular and is open year-round. In addition to camping, visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, horseback riding and hiking.

From Horseshoe Lake, the farthest one you can drive to, you can hike to McLeod Lake in a half-mile, then on over Mammoth Pass to Reds Meadow. For a memorable meal, picnic at the Twin Falls Overlook, where the outlet of Lake Mamie tumbles over volcanic boulders 300 feet to the Twin Lakes below.

Heading back to U.S. Highway 395 and turning right (south), you can visit more Mammoth attractions. Convict Lake, a 10-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes Village, offers camping, fishing, horseback riding and hiking, including a level, one-mile long trail around the north shore, and trails into the John Muir Wilderness. Mount Morrison looms over the southside of Convict Canyon, and aspens in the campground put on a show in the fall.

Farther south, Crowley Lake is heavily fished, which isn’t surprising, since the fishing is fantastic in the eastern Sierra. During the summer, it seems that every lake and stream has at least one angler on it everyday after brown, rainbow, golden or brook trout. The opening day of the trout season, in April, sees its share of eager anglers, too. You can get a copy of the fishing regulations and a fishing license from just about any store in the area.

Heading back north on U.S. Highway 395, the next road, mostly dirt, leads to the Hot Creek Fish Hatchery and the Hot Creek Geologic Site. The hot springs here provide the hatchery with ideally warm water for the incubation of trout eggs. It is one of the many hatcheries in the area that keep nibbles on the line throughout the season. Hot Creek is open to visitors daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearby geologic site, open for day use only, has boardwalks leading to steaming vents and boiling waters. Swimming is not recommended, partly because of inconsistent mixing of the heated water with the cold creek water.

Continuing northward, toward Mono Lake, you’ll turn onto the June Lake Loop. On your way to June Lake, you can climb an observation deck near Oh! Ridge, so named because of how suddenly you see the lake. The lake itself has one of the best sunbathing beaches in the area. All along the loop, numerous public and private campgrounds accommodate the RVer. Trails strike off from the road, inviting the hiker or horse packer to the higher country of the Ansel Adams (formerly the Minarets) Wilderness and the “back door” of Yosemite.

After passing Silver Lake, where the California record brook trout was caught, you’ll parallel the upper reaches of Rush Creek to Grant Lake. Grant is the main holding reservoir for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s diverted Mono Basin water. From this point, the water goes under the Mono Craters instead of to Mono Lake, to the Owens River. Below the dam, Los Angeles has kept lower Rush Creek – once the finest brown trout stream in the eastern Sierra – bone dry. That is, until three wet winters a few years ago swept trout over the dam. These fish actually re-established their own wild spawning population once again, though perhaps only temporarily. The creek would be dry through the summer, were it not for a temporary injunction brought on by fishermen’s groups and the Mono Lake Committee, which has been fighting to protect Mono Lake. The injunction requires Los Angeles to maintain a 19-cubic-feet-per-second minimum flow. Anglers have been treating the reborn creek as a wild catch-and-release trout stream.

Returning to U.S. 395, head south, crossing Rush Creek, and turn left onto State Highway 120, east toward the Mono Craters, which tower 2600 feet above the surrounding plains. These volcanic craters are practically newborns in geologic terms. This is especially true of Panum Crater. You can take a short trip to the crater’s rim and take in the surroundings. Panum Crater was formed only 640 years ago when explosive eruptions piled up pumice to create the rim, set up by the oozing of a glassy, obsidian plug. To the west, Sierran canyons show the broad U-shape of glacier-carved valley. Mono Lake itself rests in a bathtub-shaped basin with the eastern Sierra as the wall, with faucets on one end and with volcanic highlands forming the rims, but this tub loses water only to evaporation. Today, it is drying up because of Los Angeles’ diversion of four of the five Sierran streams that flow toward Mono.

Return to Highway 120 and turn left. After about three miles, turn left onto a dirt road, then follow the left fork. This takes you to an interpretive trail at the South Tufa Grove. Tufa is one of the most peculiar products of the lake, owing its existence to Mono’s unusual chemistry. Mono’s water is three times as salty as the sea and about 80 times as alkaline, which makes it feel soapy. One type of these salts is carbonates – chemically related to baking soda – which react with the calcium in spring water as it wells up from the lake bottom. The result is tufa. The fragile, other-worldly sand tufa at the nearby Navy Beach was formed in the same way as the tufa towers, except that the calcium carbonate formed in sand. The hardened calcium carbonate holds the grains of sand together in fragile formations.

In spite of its “dead sea” appearance, Mono teems with life. It supports algae, brine shrimp and brine flies by the billions, which, in turn, support nesting gulls and millions of migrating shore birds. The fall migration is particularly heavy. The black, volcanic Negit Island was the main nesting colony for gulls until 1979, when the lake level dropped enough to expose a land bridge. Coyotes then crossed the island and routed the gulls. Thanks to those wet winters, Negit is an island, once again.

Mammoth-Mono Resources:

Mammoth Visitor Center, Mammoth Ranger District, P.O. Box 148, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 (619)934-2505

Lee Vining Ranger Station, Mono Lake Ranger District, 1 Visitor Center Drive, Lee Vining, California 93541 (760)647-3000

Mono Lake Visitor Center, 1 Visitor Center Drive, Lee Vining, CA 93541 (760)647-3044

The Mono Lake Committee, P.O. Box 29, Lee Vining, California 93541 (760)647-6595

For information on Horseback trips, write or call:

Agnew Meadows Pack Train, Red’s Meadow Pack Train, 1 Reds Circle, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 (760)934-2345

Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit, 3244 Lake Mary Road, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 (760)934-2434

McGee Creek Pack Station, McGee Creek Road, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 (760)935-4324

Convict Lake Resort, 2000 Convict Lake Road, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 (760)934-3800

For more online information about Mammoth Lakes, point your browser to: http://www.VisitMammoth.com

For more information about Mono Lake, go online to: http://www.MonoLake.org

Lofty Alpine County, California

The highest county in California provides visitors with panoramic views of rocky mountains, lush valleys, and tranquil lakes, as well as the host of trails that lure the adventurous to follow them.

Counties that encompass the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California may have the highest peaks, but no county in the state has a higher average elevation than aptly named Alpine County. Although four of its mountain passes are crossed by highways (two of which are closed in the winter), Alpine still consists primarily of forest, meadows, and rocky peaks. In fact, it’s much like it was when Kit Carson crossed the mountain pass that now bears his name on his way into California.

By taking California highways 88 and 4, you can travel a loop through Alpine County that begins and ends in Stockton. Near the county line, you’ll pass the popular Kirkwood Ski Area and reach 8,500-foot Carson Pass. This pass is filled with history. Kit Carson accompanied Captain John C. Fremont and his expedition over this pass bound for Sacramento as the party completed the first winter crossing of the Sierras, in February 1844. Today, a monument to Fremont and Carson stands at the pass, as does a replica of a tree section into which Kit Carson carved his name and the date.

Another monument here honors Norwegian-born John “Snowshoe” Thompson, who should be the patron saint of postal workers. Thompson was a hardy mail carrier who skied (skis were called snowshoes in those days) over the Sierras, including Carson Pass, to get the mail through. He never failed – even during blizzards, and even though his load sometimes amounted to 100 pounds. He delivered mail from 1856 to 1876, twenty years of his life, for which his promised salary was never paid.

Carson Pass is used heavily by hikers and by cross-country skiers in the winter and with good reason. Two heavy-duty scenic trails – the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail – pass through here. As they head south, both of these trails zigzag through granite outcrops and mountain hemlock for a 1/2 mile before reaching Frog Lake. Watch for the broad, cheery flower heads of mule ears (a member of the sunflower family) around this lake early in the season. The trail continues on through a mix of meadows and conifer clusters, where gray, black, and white Clark’s nutcrackers swoop from tree to tree. From a trail junction near Elephant’s Back, the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail heads straight toward Winnemucca Lake and on into the 150,000-acres Mokelumne Wilderness. The wilderness trail plunges steeply into Summit City Canyon, passing a little jewel called Fourth of July Lake on its way to the bottom. You’ll need a Forest Service permit to hike this trail.

The Pacific Crest heads left, skirting the base of the brownish volcanic deposits of the Elephant’s Back and dropping down the eastern slope of the crest. Much of the Sierran crest in Alpine County is granite overlain by more recent volcanic deposits. Glaciers covered most of the landscape in the geologic past, so the lakes are usually set in granite basins. Many of the peaks are volcanic.

From the pass, Highway 88 drops steeply down the east slope overlooking Red Lake. The second turnoff on the right, Blue Lakes Road, leads out to the Hope Valley Campground and on to the Blue Lakes. The pavement soon becomes washboardy dirt, and the road becomes narrow and twisty in places. Somehow good-sized motor coaches manage to get back in here at the area’s campgrounds and in scattered undeveloped sites, despite the condition of the road. The lakes are set in a patchwork of pines, aspens, and granite amid looming peaks of the prevalent volcanic deposits.

As you follow the narrow West Carson River Canyon, turn right toward Markleeville at the historic town of Woodfords. On your way there on highways 89 and 4, turn left on the Airport Road, and drive one mile to the Curtz Lake Environmental Study Area. Three short, self-guiding trails, to moderately dense, coniferous forest; open grasslands; and lakeshore provide an education on the geology and ecology of this area, as well as an enjoyable introduction to the natural history of Alpine County. Among other things, the trails introduce hikers to the vanilla-odored bark of the Jeffrey pine, and to the single-leaf pinyon pine, which is still sought by the local Washoe Indians for its large, tasty pine nuts.

From Markleeville, travelers can drive three miles to Grover Hot Springs State Park. This park not only offers pine-shadowed campgrounds and hiking trails but also a pool area where hikers and weary travelers can luxuriate in 102- to 106-degree Fahrenheit (about 40-degree Celsius), mineral-rich water, alternating with the bracing plunge into an unheated pool. Although its hours vary with the season, the pool area is open year-round. The hot pool is especially inviting after a wintry day of cross-country skiing.

Less than a block before you rejoin the highway on your way back to Markleeville, you can turn left onto Museum Street and climb a hill to a historical complex that overlooks the town. Operated by the Historical Society of Alpine County, the complex consists of the town’s Old Webster School, which was in use from 1883 to 1929; the old jail containing 100-year old iron jail cells from Silver Mountain City; and a museum full of artifacts. Among the museum’s displays are a pair of skis and a certificate of citizenship belonging to Snowshoe Thompson himself, plus an enlargement of an old newspaper article about him.

At the Forest Service visitor center in town, travelers can learn about rafting opportunities on the East Fork of the Carson River. A takeout point is situated a short distance south of town. If you don’t have a raft of your own, then you can float with a number of private rafting companies. Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley can make reservations for rafting trips for you. Several companies offer raft trips on the Carson River; the easiest way to hook up with one is to search for East Fork Carson River rafting in your web browser.

After Highway 89 heads off toward Monitor Pass, you’ll pass the gates that keep the higher elevations of Highway 4 closed through the winter. The road continues past the gates along the East Fork Carson River until it reaches the historic site of Centerville. Near here, you can turn left onto Wolf Creek Road. After driving 3-1/2 miles, you’ll reach a fork. Take the left road of the fork and drive to the north end of Wolf Creek Meadows. Then, after 2/3-mile, you’ll reach a spur road that climbs to the trailhead for the High Trail and the East Carson River Trail, which is also called the Low Trail.

Soon after you reach this point, this relatively uncrowded road takes on its high-country character. In the words of a friend of mine, “it used to be a deer trail until they narrowed it.” As such, drivers of large coaches will probably want to turn around at this point. However, the road can accommodate mini-motorhomes and Class A vehicles up to 25 feet in length, assuming that their drivers are up to the challenge.

The High Trail and the East Carson River Trail lead into one of California’s designated wilderness areas – the 160,000-acre Carson-Iceberg Wilderness – and into the East Carson River Canyon, which is one of the longest and deepest canyons east of the Sierran crest. The canyon has been carved by glaciers up to 19 miles long.

As you continue along Highway 4 next to Silver Creek, the road becomes very narrow. Small coaches that make the climb up to the Silver Creek Valley will cross the bridge over Raymond Creek, and passengers will gasp at the sight of Raymond Creek Falls upstream. Just past a sharp bend up ahead, two Toiyabe National Forest campgrounds spread out on both sides of the road.

As the highway snakes its way up from the campgrounds past aspen groves, it passes several primitive campsites. These are little more than dirt driveways leading out to rock fire rings. In fact, much of this high country provides primitive sites for the taking. A few favorite campsites are situated in this Silver Creek area. Next to a small creek with aspens and willows all around, the traveler can enjoy a broad view of the valley from the top of a bare hill. The sound of rushing water lulls you to sleep at night. The chilly creek has carved smooth contours into the granite.

After you pass the Kinney Reservoir and probably a number of anglers, you’ll once again reach trailheads for the Pacific Crest Trail, just before the 8,730-foot Ebbetts Pass. If you take the first trailhead, you’ll head south, climbing a ridge and curving along a slope toward Nobel Lake, which you’ll reach after about 4 miles. Nobel Creek is well-stocked with California’s state fish, the golden trout. If you choose the second trailhead, you can climb to an overlook that takes in the highway and Kinney Reservoir, and then continue north past Ebbetts Peak and some small ponds and lakes toward Upper Kinney Lake. This stretch is less than two miles long.

Continuing westward, you’ll cross the Pacific Grade Summit at 8,050 feet and negotiate more hairpin turns on your way to the major recreational attraction along the Stanislaus National Forest portion of Highway 4. At 7,320 feet, pine-shrouded Lake Alpine is 50 miles from the town of Angels Camp. Motorboating is popular here and the Department of Fish and Game has stocked the lake with rainbow trout. Around the lake itself, trails lead to two volcanic ridges – Osborne Point on the western side and Inspiration Point from the southeast. Four developed campgrounds offer sites for campers. These facilities and picnic areas are usually open from June 15 to October 15 only, because Highway 4 isn’t plowed during the winter months from this point east.

The Tahoe-Yosemite Trail runs next to the eastern end of the lake. To head south on this 186-mile hiker’s trail, you would start at the east end of Silver Valley Campground. After you’ve walked about a mile up and down over the low ridge, you’ll reach a meadow at Duck Lake on the border of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Rock Lake, a shallow, marshy body of water provides a warm swim, is farther on if you’re up to the 4-1/2 -mile hike from Lake Alpine. The Mokelumne Wilderness is about four miles north of Lake Alpine on the trail.

Even though the Ebbetts Pass area is closed in the winter, another of California’s more popular ski resorts, the Mount Reba Ski Area, swings into high gear. Alpine County is truly an unspoiled, year-round recreation land. Even a mostly dry-reading plan for the county transportation waxed poetic about this place saying, “life here is a dedicated involvement with nature.” For those who are interested, it’s also a dedicated involvement with history.

Alpine County’s official website: http://www.alpinecounty.com

Toiyabe National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/htnf/ then go to the Carson Ranger District, which covers the area east and south of Lake Tahoe.