Wednesday, October 8, 2008

June Lakes and Alabama Hills

Friday, October 3
Another driving tour day. We had been through the town of Mammoth Lakes to Devil’s Postpile before, but we had not been to the lakes area. At the end of the road, I enticed Dorothy to go up the trail to McCloud Lake for 10 minutes just to get some exercise. It worked, she was huffing and puffing in short order at 9,000 feet, but we made it the half-mile to the lake in 30 minutes.

I noted a geologic feature on our Delorme map called Hot Creek. It was just down the road, so we had to see it. So did a few other people, including a geology class from a college in San Luis Obispo. It was a mini Yellowstone.

Our final stop for the day was Convict Lake, scenic, but covered up with people in a fishing tournament.

Pam caught several more trout so we had a divine dinner.

Saturday, October 4
Big winds last night. We woke up to snow above 10,000 feet. It was the first snow of the season. More is expected tonight down to 8,000 feet.

Driving south, we came down from 8,000 to below 5,000 feet. We stopped Bishop for gas and to do laundry and changed into shorts. Darn warm. A big climate difference in 60 miles.

We arrived at our destination, the Alabama Hills, after 3. We found a good location to set up camp - off the main road, but in the open so we have a 360 view. While we were having cocktails, a young couple from Germany drove up and asked if they could stay with us - Hans and Beata. It turned out that he had been to the US about 25 times and to the Alabama Hills seven times before. He is an accomplished photographer, we saw a few dozen of his prints. We chatted with them until bedtime and set our clocks for 5:45 to capture the Sierra Nevada before the sun comes over the Inyo Mountains behind us.

This is our third visit to the Alabama Hills. It’s a very special place for us. The Inyo mountains to the east are the second of four ranges blocking moisture from Death Valley and they look like what you see in Death Valley, unremarkable. The Sierra Nevada to the immediate west is to our way of thinking the best mountain range in the lower US. Ragged, jagged, snaggle-toothed mountains that rise suddenly from the valley floor.

Sunday, October 5
When the sun is still behind the eastern mountains, the tops of the Sierra Nevada glow hot pink. This lasts less than five minutes and then a white band descends down the mountains replacing the hot pink.

We said goodbye to Hans and Beata who were heading north to the White Mountains.

We spent an hour or so jeeping around in the hills stopping frequently to read the signs erected this week for the film festival, showing which movies were filmed at which set of rocks.

After lunch we drove into town and visited the Lone Pine Film Museum.

Monday, October 6
We got up at 6:30 and drove a short distance to capture a few more photographs at first light. I think we got better ones today.

After a breakfast of biscuits, we drove north to Independence and took Onion Valley Road 9,200 feet up into the mountains. This drive is as good as the several we have done in the Owens Valley. The roads go directly up, as you ascend from 4,000 feet to 9,000 or even 10,000 in 15 miles or so.

We did a short hike as Dorothy was not having a good day, altitude wise. The trail I choose was washed out after only ½ mile. We tried another one with the same results. And so it goes.

Tuesday, October 7
Oh Boy, we went and did it today. We had hiked the Mt. Whitney trail before, but only two miles RT or so and that was more than enough for Dorothy on that day. Today, we went three times that distance, 5.6 miles, with a 1,590 feet elevation gain. We started out at 9am at 8,360 and went to Lone Pine Lake at 9,950. We huffed and puffed all the way up and spent a lot time resting. It took us 3:45 to get to the lake and 2:40 to come down. That means we spent about an hour resting on the way up.

Dorothy has several blisters and is out of action for the rest of the day, but she is in good spirits after a Coke and a martini. We are setting four miles as our hard limit from now own.

Wednesday, October 8
We get up early, have a quick coffee and cereal and reluctantly break camp. We are about out of water and would need to dump in one more day. Besides, we really need to head home.

We stopped to see the arch, which we just heard about the other day (from a BLM chap who stopped by to say hello and warn of fire danger). Of course, we have probably seen more of the hills than most who visit here. Some of the roads are for high clearance vehicles only. We plan to come back one year. Perhaps the first two weeks of October at June Lake followed by two weeks at the hills.

We drove 3.5 hours to just east of Barstow to a non-descript CG in the Mojave. After months of great scenery, the trip home is going to be boring on I40. The choice of CG’s on I40 is really sad.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Friday, September 19
A bright sunny day. I could not get up for yakking, so we took the easy way and drove into the Siskiyou Mountains. The high point is only 4,550, but after being at sea level for weeks, it was a change. We had been on the Grants Pass/Galice side of these mountains two years ago and found them to be unusual. The mountains go up at about 70 degrees with the one and one half lane road blasted from the side. The terrain is twisted and tortured. These mountains were ripped from the northern Sierra Nevada some 200 million years back and transported by unknown mechanism northwest some 60 miles.

At the summit, we took a gravel road, which looking at Deloreme “goes forever” along the ridges.

Saturday, September 20
It was cloudy at dawn and was still cloudy at 10:30. We needed sunlight, for us and the batteries. So we drove KoKo into town to let the alternator do it’s thing. We parked by a large rock on the coast, connected to the internet, had lunch, noted 10-12amps were coming from the solar panels, pronounced it a good day and took a nap.

We later walked on the beach and picked up a few more rocks. We left our Mobil travel guide at home and we want to review one for restaurants in San Francisco. There is a two story book store in Gold Beach, so we dropped in to see if they had one. No Mobil, but one of the best used book stores we have seen. Plus they have a store of rare books. We managed to escape with buying anything. I did read a short book of John Wayne quotes.

We love Oregon and it is difficult for us to leave.

The CG has numerous Murtlewood trees. When you crush the leaves, there is a pleasant aroma.

Sunday, September 21
We drove 37 miles south, almost to the OR/CA border, to Brookings. We had stayed here in 1996 and traveled through it in 2006. Harris Beach SP had one site with cable open. We took it so we can watch 60 Minutes tonight. We don’t want to leave Oregon. We only got here a month ago.

Brookings is the best town on the coast north of San Francisco. It’s prosperous. It has several places to eat and a Fred Meyer. What more could one want?

Monday through Wednesday
Just watching the surf splash on the rocks. We met two other LD couples in the CG. Four great days.


Thursday, September 25

It was difficult to leave Oregon, but we pulled up stakes, had a fine pancake breakfast at Mattie’s and a few minutes later we were in Del Norte county California. Once we past the intersection of 101 and 299 we were in new territory for us.

We stopped by Ferndale to gaze on the Victorian homes and got to the Avenue of the Giants around 3 – a long day for us. We got a site at the Burlington CG at the south end of the park.

The redwoods are as awe-inspiring as we recalled them.

Friday, September 26
We took two short hikes in the redwoods. It was a little disconcerting when we wheeled into the trailhead for the first hike and a logging truck went down the road. Yes, California allows cutting in their forests.

We got away from the campground just after 11 and turned off 101 onto 1. Right away the road narrowed and begin going up. When we saw the sign that the next 22 miles would be twisty-turny, it did not prepare us for meeting oncoming loaded log trucks on the narrow road. Woohoo! We went up to around 1,900, then down to 500, then back up again before descending to the coast. The coast road was not any better, it was still narrow with sharp curves.

Sections of the coast were just good as Oregon. In one place the surf was high and the waves exploded straight up when they hit rocks just under the surface.

Filled up in Fort Bragg at $4.15 and that was 15 cents less than some places.

We got to our planned destination Russian Gulch SP. It was full. We went south four miles to Van Damme SP, they had one site open for one night. We took a look and rejected the whole park. It was really a sad looking place. We decided to end our misery and went to a private park. It’s probably one of the worst we have been in and it’s $34 and nearly full. We decided to do the A Class thing, plug in the cable and pull down the blinds.

We will terminate our adventure down highway 1 and head east.

Saturday, September 27
We said goodbye to the Pacific after a short walk to the beach. Lots of kayaks here. I suppose you paddle around the semi-protected lagoons and watch the wildlife. Too many people in one small place for us.

We took CA20 back over the coast mountains to 101. Any hopes that it might be better than 1 were quickly dashed. It is 26 miles of twisty-turney, vs. 22. After a few miles on 101, we picked up 20 again, east bound to Clear Lake, which is not all that clear and comes with dead fish. We continued on through some more small mountains and finally dropped down into the Sacramento Valley. We are back to civilization. We are overnighting in an unremarkable private CG. But it is the ONLY one in the area. It’s 97 and the a/c is required. Elevation tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 28
After watching CBS Sunday Morning, a treat for us, we drove through Sacramento and then east on US50. This was an easy crossing of the Sierra Nevada, except for the non-stop oncoming traffic from Tahoe. We saw a quick vista of Lake Tahoe from the highway.

We got to Indian Creek CG, a BLM facility, just after 1. The CG is small and very quiet. Lester is the camp host and has lots of rules. LOL Dorothy’s foot is bothering her from driving, so no activities this afternoon.

Nestled in the foothills, we were surprised to have one bar on the cell phone, but nothing on the Verizon card. We do have a full lineup of network TV channels, so we can watch 60 Minutes tonight. Woohoo!

We had our first campfire fire of the trip, not counting he ones Doug built. We are in grove of sugar pines and the cones are saturated with resin. You can light them with a match.

The evening weather report is not promising, rain clouds will be increasing over the night. They are hopeful it will end 70 days without rainfall.

Monday, September 29
Dawn came with clouds, we decided to drive over the pass on CA88 and paddle Silver Lake. The pass was not at all remarkable and an easier drive than we had on US50. Silver Lake was like all the lakes we have seen in the area, LOW. While this lake is in the forest, it is surrounded by resorts. The only access we saw was for a $10 launch fee.

We stopped at another small lake that has a FS CG, the fee was $22! That is the highest we have ever seen. And no amenities. The lake has several private homes on the shore. To reach them, you packed all your stuff in a boat and row to your property.

The sun was out, so we decided to try CA4, a narrow road over the Sierra Nevada. As you turn on the road, a sign warns of 28% grades. Woohoo! It is narrow, one and one-half lanes, but the grades are not bad, at least in the Jeep. If we were on a 28% grade we did not know it. By the time we neared the summit, there was a drizzle of rain. I was hoping for a Tioga Pass kind of road. While CA4 has a few elements of that road, it is a distant cousin. And so it goes.

Tuesday, September 30
We left Indian Creek CG and drove 90 or so miles so to June Lake, which is a picture post card lake. There are over a dozen FS CG’s in the area, we choose Oh Ridge for the view that five and only five campsites have of June Lake. See the picture of the lake out our back window.

The weather is great today, with only a light haze in the valley.

We had cocktails and dinner with Steve and Pam of Santa Carlita. Pam does a mean salsa.

Wednesday, October 1
In the morning, we paddled Gull Lake and in the afternoon, we drove up a FS road to Oh Ridge which overlooks OH Ridge CG, June Lake and the Sierra Nevada.

Tonight, cocktails and dinner with Steve and Pam.

Thursday, October 2
We extended for two more days, even with 90% overcast skies and dropping temperatures. Strong wind today, so no chance to paddle. Dorothy really wanted to see the tufa at Mono Lake and so we did.

After Mono, we drove Tioga Pass, one of our fav roads and went up to Saddleback Lake at 10,000 feet. It was real windy there and the air temperature was 45. Of course, there were several fishermen there.

Tonight dinner in June Lake so we can watch the debate with Steve and Pam.

Dorothy is way depressed with the market being down and McCain’s chances of being elected now are about zil.