Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Monday turned out sunny and just about cloudless. The high-country ghost town of Bodie was our destination. Jim and Gayle drove and Dave and I passengered while Jeanne and Riley drove separately. It’s a pretty short drive from Lee Vining to Bodie but 13 of the 35 miles was the road going up to Bodie. At 8,300’ it’s pretty high. What was abundantly clear when we exited the car was the millions of hungry gnats were going to drive us crazy. Even the occasional gusts of wind didn’t disperse the relentless buggers. The gnats were bothering Riley so bad that Jeanne departed early. The rest of us persevered for 2 hours, ate lunch in the car, and got the heck out of there. Too bad!

200MG2530Bodie 201MG2511Bodie 203MG2521Bodie 205MG2529Bodie 206MG2525Bodie 207MG2543Bodie 208MG2550Bodie 209MG2555Bodie 210MG2557Bodie 211MG2560Bodie 212MG2587Bodie 214MG2576Bodie 215MG2596Bodie

After Bodie, we decided to check out the Lundy Lake Trail as a possible hike for Tuesday. It was beautiful up there and for some reason, there were no gnats. Later that night, however, I discovered I had about 20 bites all over my head and neck. Itchy!

220MG2616LundyCanyon 221MG2605LundyCanyonDaveGJimCGayleC

Tuesday dawned another clear day, so we returned to the Lundy Trail. We got to look up at another spectacular mountain as we traversed through naked aspen and sagebrush. At this altitude, there were few wildflowers but lots of flowing water. Various people we talked to returning down the trail said they hadn’t gone past the first few water crossings. We were warned some of them were “shaky”, going over unreliable logs and stones. We all crossed without much trouble, using our trekking poles for stability. Those poles have changed my hiking life. Crossing streams used to terrify me. Now I’m fine with most of them.

225MG2609LundyLake 227MG2632LundyCanyon 228MG2647LundyCanyonJimCGayleC 229MG2650LundyCanyonDaveGGayleC

We continued up the trail and it got snowier, to the point where I decided not to continue. I ambled back down the trail and waited for them. About a half hour later, they returned, saying it was too snowy to continue. They had seen some skiers who had packed their ski equipment up the trail and had skiied on the backside of the mountain. Lo and behold, as we ate lunch, they appeared.

231MG2652LundyCanyon 232MG2653LundyCanyon 233MG2629LundyCanyon

After the hike, Jim and Gayle took off and Dave and I repaired to the nice campground sites at Lundy Lake and had coffee and cookies. It was so relaxing. Later, the five of us got together for a final happy hour. Gayle and Jim are staying at Mono Lake for a while. Jeanne is heading north on a grand tour of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, eventually ending in Texas. Whew!

The drive up 395 was nice, with the Walker River running fast and the hills green. We decided to spend one night at Washoe Lake where Jeanne was planning to stay. It’s a pretty site, though the lake was low. It’s surrounded by hills and full of quail, jackrabbits and cottontails. We cleaned the Lazy Daze, and on our final day on the road, cleaned it some more. Jeanne and Riley showed up later and we finally got to sit outside for happy hour, enjoy the mild weather and say goodbye to them.

The drive home on Friday was easy, with traffic moving pretty well. We got home around 2 p.m. and for the first time in many trips, couldn’t get a space in front of our house. We had to park around the corner. So that meant about 25 trips (for me) hauling things across busy Joost Street, half a block down to the house and up the stairs into the house. We were both tired when that was finished. Then comes washing all the bedding and linens (well, not exactly linens), dishes, storage containers, cutlery to put back in the rig for storage. As is our wont, we celebrated homecoming and our 27th anniversary with pizza and a Tobin James Primotivo. We are home.

Our first afternoon at Mono Lake was magical. There are usually piles of clouds here and their movement keeps sun and shadow patterns changing constantly. But it was chilly so I didn’t go outside to photograph until the rainbow appeared. Dave went up on the roof of the rig to obtain an unimpeded view of the lake and I followed him up there. I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable ten-feet high, trying not trip on antennas and solar panels, but the altitude is worth the view.

170MG2430MonoLakeRainbow 171MG2423MonoLake 172MG2436MonoLake 173MG2426MonoLake 175MG2432MonoLakeDave 177MG2439MonoLake

We eventually descended and changed into our dress Mono Lake clothing: black pants and nice long-sleeve sweaters. I carried my new cork purse. The Historic Mono Inn is a little north of Lee Vining and we haven’t been there in 20 years or more. It’s always closed when we arrive early or late in the year. It’s a nostalgic place for us because it’s the first nice restaurant we ever ate in together in January, 1980. We were camping during a photographic workshop with Steve Johnson and it was so nice to get out of the cold.

The view of Mono Lake was wonderful and being the day before Mother’s Day, the place was crowded with locals. At a table next to us, a man about our age got down on his knees and proposed to his ladyfriend. She said “Yes”. As they left, we found out from their minister that it was a proposal to renew their vows after 35 years of marriage. Sweet!

The clouds were thick Sunday morning and Dave showed me an iPhone trick that I love: he set the camera on time lapse, propped it on the back window facing the lake and clouds, and left it there for an hour. The time lapse of the clouds scudding past was wonderful. I tried one but the clouds were so thick then the movement wasn’t as good.

Later, we went on a drive around the June Lake Loop. Its one of those drives where you can pull over on the road, hop out, and soak up beautiful sights. It was shocking how low the lakes were. Hopefully, the snowmelt will replenish them to a higher level. There are 3 lakes strung out on the loop. Grant Lake is first, then the road and a creek takes up most of a narrow pass and you’re in another valley.

180MG2441GrantLake 181MG2445GrantLake 182MG2456GrantLake 183MG2460GrantLake 184MG2463GrantLake 185MG2470GrantLake

186MG2474GrantLake

Silver Lake appears, one of our favorite spots on the drive. I had brought yoghurt, one of my lunch staples, but I had forgotten to bring a spoon. The little café at Silver Lake had real metal cutlery; no plastic spoons in sight. I had to resort to the original spoon, handy if not perfectly clean – my finger. It worked well.

187DaveiPhoneSilverLakeMary 188MG2481SilverLake 189MG2483SilverLake

After Silver Lake, the small hamlet of June Lake appears and June Lake itself. Photographically, for me, it’s the least interesting of the 3 lakes. We decided to check out Obsidian Road just south of the June Lake Loop, off 395. After a mile or so, we were driving next to the bottom of a large crater, with huge to large chunks of obsidian. Some of the larger pieces were shiny black, but nothing very reflective. We progressed farther up the dirt road but decided not to squeeze further when snow covered half the road. We didn’t feel like hiking further up, so that is now an option on a future trip.

One final revisit before returning to camp: The Unknown Prospector Grave. I think it’s a joke, but it’s a joke that has been running for more than 35 years. It used to be a mound and headstone by the side of the road, but it has been moved and “protected” by a metal fence. People still leave little tributes but the old pair of boots used to stick up out of the grave.

190MG2494UnknownProspector

We returned to camp and Jeanne and Riley had arrived. Later in the afternoon, Jim and Gayle showed up. Gayle was still not feeling well and we have discovered the area is full of biting gnats that seem to love our heads. We all retreated into our little homes. I only came out later to photograph when the waters of Mono Lake turned various shades of sophisticated green.

195MG2495MonoLake 196MG2501MonoLake 197MG2503MonoLake

It didn’t take long for the clouds to cover the mountains on both sides of the valley. But it was warm and sunny in the middle. We decided to visit Manzanar, one of ten locations where West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry were “relocated” after the U.S. joined WWII. That included about 70,000 U.S. citizens. The government decided that people living in California, Oregon and Washington had to leave. They were allowed about 48 hours to pack just what they could carry and walk away from their lives. The camp held 10,000 people for up to 3 1/2 years. Conditions at Manzanar were brutal: hot sun in the summer; freezing cold in the winter with relentless wind a constant factor. They were hemmed in by barbed wire and guard towers where guns were trained on them.

There’s not much left there. The government has built a couple of “block” buildings, outfitted with furniture mostly built by the internees. They are slowly rebuilding one of the small gardens. The cemetery only has a few graves, but still features the “soul consoling tower” and a spectacular view of the Sierra Nevadas. We happened to show up the weekend of the annual pilgrimage to Manzanar, where several of the internees, who were children or young adults then, visit with their families. The ritual includes decorating the tower with long strings of homemade origami cranes. As with Custer’s massacre of American Indians, national park employees try to present an accurate historical picture of the occurrences.

100MG2145Manzanar 102MG2149Manzanar 103MG2150Manzanar 105MG2172Manzanar 107MG2189Manzanar 108MG2143Manzanar 109MG2156Manzanar

The clouds and virga (rain that falls but doesn’t reach the ground) over the mountains were so spectacular, we spent about 4 hours there, just watching and photographing them. The sky just got darker and darker.

110MG2178Manzanar 111MG2198Manzanar 112MG2203Manzanar

Monday was travel day. Both Jim and Gayle and we were heading about 60 miles north to Bishop, the largest town on 395 until Reno. We dumped and took on water at an Indian casino outside of Independence because we were dry camping in an area north of Bishop. Jeanne and her dog, Riley, were there. Riley was doing okay, but being an older shelter dog, he has various medical problems. He is a sweet boy, quiet and gracious.

That night, Dave selected “Harold and Maude” from our copious DVR collection of film. It was fun to watch that again and try to identify the several Bay Area locales used during filming.

Tuesday was supposed to be the hottest day of the week. We decided that a hike along McGee Creek would be fairly easy, without a huge gain in altitude. Jeanne and Riley drove up there separately in case Riley couldn’t walk too far. It’s fun for us to see Jeanne’s reaction to the terrain – this is her first trip up Highway 395. As it turned out, Riley pee’d and pooped and then showed a definite reluctance to continue up the trail. So they turned back and we continued on.

120MG2224McGeeCreekTrail 122MG2244McGeeCreekTrail 123MG2236McGeeCreekTrail

We had hoped the aspens would be leafing out, but the trees we saw only had buds on them. Other than ground-level foliage, the trees were mostly bare. But the tangled skein of bare branches displays as a soft cloud of pastel tints from a distance. Behind them were the snow-covered peaks of Mount Baldwin and Mount Aggie.

124MG2232McGeeCreekTrail 125MG2212McGeeCreekTrail 126MG2245McGeeCreekTrail

As we continued on, we heard a deep, drum-like “ump” of what were probably grouse. We never saw them or any other critters except for a few birds. The trail made a gradual huge left turn and soon we were looking at another set of peaks. At one point, we were taking a rest and first heard and then saw, a small rockslide occurring far above us. It quickly stopped but it’s a reminder of what can happen in the mountains. We followed the trail for 2.5 miles or so and turned back. It felt so good to be out there and so good to get back.

127MG2264McGeeCreekTrail 128MG2293McGeeCreekTrail 129MG2286McGeeCreekTrail

We had our coffee and cookies at a trailhead picnic table by the creek and headed back. There’s some kind of processing plant on the road right before we head up the hill to our campsite and a great blue heron surprised us by flying right in front of the car. Gayle and Jim had checked out a brewery in town, so after we all cleaned up, Jim hauled us in for some good grub and various beverages. It was a great day.

High winds were supposed to come up on Wednesday, so Gayle suggested an early outing west of Bishop on Buttermilk Road. We took separate cars. I’m pretty sure the washboard road got its name because there was enough churning to create buttermilk. What’s so great about this country is that you think you’re headed for some nondescript foothills, go over a rise and find something completely different. The terrain became jumbled piles of tremendous boulders. I don’t know what huge mountain they rolled off of. That was surprise No. 1. Surprise No. 2 was the huge variety of wildflowers all over the hills. There were several that I don’t think I’ve seen before. So we had a couple of great hours puttering around the rocks.

130MG2307ButtermilkCountry 132MG2309ButtermilkCountry 133MG2305ButtermilkCountry 134MG2317ButtermilkCountry 135MG2318ButtermilkCountry 136MG2322ButtermilkCountry 138MG2338ButtermilkCountry 139MG2327ButtermilkCountry

Jim and Gayle moved onto a different area for a while. Dave spotted a large swath of wildflowers and we parked by that and tried various photographic maneuvers to make them look fantastic. Jim and Gayle returned and we talked for a while until the predicted wind started blowing. We headed home, but not before hitting a bakery in Bishop with great triple chocolate cookies.

140MG2351ButtermilkCountry 142MG2354ButtermilkCountry 143MG2363ButtermilkCountry

Thursday’s weather prediction was high winds and it was already windy when we took a morning walk with Jim, Gayle, Jeanne and Riley. It was right by our campsite and there were a few inexplicable (as usual) petroglyphs.

High winds made it a good chore day and I did the laundry, dumped our garbage, got more water, refreshed our Eastern Sierra information cache, bought cheap gray slippers to replace the crumbling pair in the LD and got Dave his favorite frosted chocolate brownies. Dave remained in camp and provided Jim with a lesson in using Photoshop. Later, I sent Jim my 15-page précis of Photoshop lore.

We changed our mind about going up to Lee Vining on Friday and stayed an extra day at Bishop. I’m glad we did because the day turned out to be nice. The five of us and Riley started a walk along the Lower Rock Creek Trail. Dave and I have been along parts of this trail on a previous trip but we walked along for 2 miles or so before retracing our steps. Jeanne and Riley came along for about a half-mile before Riley got tired and they turned back. Jim and Gayle and we continued along. Much of the trail was a level, narrow corridor between the Rock Creek and very high talus slopes. We were again pleased to see a wide variety of wildflowers. What’s interesting is that certain types of wildflower, like Globe Mallow, appear for a few yards then you never see them again on the trail. I guess the seeds don’t travel well or require a very narrow type of environment to bloom. We might have gone a ways further but the sky behind us look pretty threatening so we turned back.

150MG2366LowerRockCreekTrail 152MG2369LowerRockCreekTrail 153MG2378LowerRockCreekTrail 155MG2382LowerRockCreekTrail 156MG2387LowerRockCreekTrail 157MG2391LowerRockCreekTrailDave 158MG2399LowerRockCreekTrailGayle 159MG2398LowerRockCreekTrail

Saturday morning was gloomy and gray. We packed up and did an easy drive to our favorite boondocking site just south of Lee Vining. We got a nice view of Mono Lake.

We departed El Capitan and went south down the coast. We’ve stayed at Emma Wood State Beach that has campsites perched smack dab next to the sea. There are 3 Ventura County beaches just north of there and we decided to stay at Faria County Beach, also nestled next to the sea. We saved ourselves about $10 and they had a little café that served breakfast and lunch. When we pulled in around noon, the wind was so strong that huge palm fronds were blowing off the very tall palms that ran down the center of the skinny campground. Not what you want to be parked under. Luckily, we weren’t. Conscientious campers picked up the fronds and moved them to the dumpster as they fell. As the afternoon progressed the spume from the waves was blowing like snow all over the campground. Our windows were splotched with the milky stuff. So our last day at the coast was quite exciting.

075MG2020FariaBeach 076MG2018FariaBeach 078MG2017FariaBeach

On Thursday, we did the longest drive of the trip so far: 134 miles. Highway 126 was a new road east for us. Our routine is to stop in Bakersfield to prepare and then go over the Tehachapi Mountains. Instead, we drove past orange groves and farms, avoiding the high winds of the mountains. We got into a breezy Mojave RV park with lots of trees. We did laundry, tried to wash off the film of salt spray that covered both vehicles, filled up with water and propane, dumped the holding tanks. We were all ready for dry camping at Alabama Hills.

Although all the signs on Highway 395 warned of high winds, we didn’t experience any. It was an uneventful drive. Once again, I marveled at the bitter contradiction of a large Crystal Geyser water bottling plant stuck between the Sierra and Owens Lake, sucked dry to provide water to Los Angeles.

The Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine, is a wonderful conglomeration of jumbled rocks that sits smack dab in front of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in Continental North America. It has loads of little canyons where people can camp for free. The clouds are usually amazing because of the Sierra poking at them. It’s just fantastic. We had the GPS coordinates to locate our full-timer friends, Jim and Gayle Cummings and companion cats Sophie and Elvis. We hadn’t seen them for a couple of years. They have a Lazy Daze like us. Jeanne Bold and her Sheltie, Riley, were in a third Lazy Daze but she had to take off that night to find a vet further north. Riley had a seizure.

Jim and Gayle hike almost every day, so we went on an afternoon hike. There is an abandoned ashram high up in the Sierra, so we drove as far up as was comfortable and set off. After 2 weeks on the sea-level coast, we started the hike around 6300’. In less than 2 miles, the end point was at 7700’. In other words, steep! I had to stop quite a few times to catch my breath. I look less at the passing scenery when I’m slogging up, but when I did, it was wonderful. The trail rose up one side of the steep canyon cut by Tuttle Creek. There were various wildflowers around, though not in profusion.

080MG2026AshramHike

We finally reached the ashram, a handsome stone building with spectacular views both down the canyon and up the mountain. It was hard for us to imagine people living up here (where was the latrine?) but easy to understand how they received spiritual sustenance from the mountains.

081MG2047AshramHike 082MG2042AshramHike 083MG2030DaveAshramHike 085MG2034AshramHike

On the way back, we stopped to take pictures of the clouds roiling down the side of the mountain. The wind that had not been around during our hike came in with strong gusty vehemence. Our movie selection of the evening was “Fort Apache” with John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple. It opens with them riding through Monument Valley. Neat! A little too long (3 full dances) but it was an interesting picture of how the fort system worked, including how unfairly they treated the Indians.

Before we went to bed, we stepped outside and watched lots of stars in the dark skies. Some people near us were fooling around, attempting rock climbing at 11 pm. The wind shook us periodically all night and when we woke the next morning it had blown over the very stable mobile solar panels.

It stayed pretty windy on Saturday. We didn’t do much. We decided to go out in the afternoon to wander around the Alabama Hills. The rock formations are just amazing, close up or far away. And the clouds made a nice non-blue backdrop.

There was an overview that showed a lot of the Sierra with fantastic clouds so I made a panoramic sweep of eight shots.

090MGWhitneyPano2116-23

091MG2081AlabamaHills 092MG2056AlabamaHills

We walked a short trail to a couple of arches that frame the mountains so well.

093MG2069AlabamaHills 094MG2067AlabamaHills 095MG2073AlabamaHills

An addition we haven’t seen here before – lots of Prickly Pear with hot pink blossoms.

096MG2080AlabamaHills 097MG2062AlabamaHills

098MG2087AlabamaHills 099MG2086AlabamaHills

 

First of all, Happy Birthday, Mom! We’ll take you out when we get back.

We were at a bit of a loss. I did laundry and we were planning to go to Cal Poly to see an art installation that we missed last year. But when I looked for information, there was none, so we didn’t do that. I thought it might be nice to check out Los Padres National Forest. It runs east of Highway 101 from Morro Bay all the way south to Santa Barbara. It may or may not have trees; it may or may not have wildflowers. So I picked what I thought was a paved road and we drove about 40 miles to reach it. It was not paved and rose steeply and windily upward into a not-very-interesting canyon. So we turned around and headed back. There was one nice spot on CA-166 with lots of mustard and one spot we couldn’t pull off near with a boat nestled into tall grass. Not too exciting.

052MG1960CA166Mustard 053MG1959CA166Mustard

On Thursday, we got our new retractable stair. It’s so shiny and new and we no longer have to worry about it collapsing with us on it. The company, Sea to Sea RV in Nipomo, did a good job in less time than they estimated. We couldn’t stay in the rig while they worked on it. They told us that years ago one of their workers had been killed while working under an RV, when the owners decided to leave. Yikes! So we sat inside the store, ate our sandwiches and acted as “greeters” for the people who came in.

Rain was predicted for Friday but the clouds were neat so we went up to Morro Bay to do the Black Hill Trail, a short steep trail to a 360-degree hilltop. The trail took off from Morro Bay State Park Campground, so we got a look at it. It’s a nice, large spread-out campground but it’s a few miles of narrow road to get to it and the sites go for $35 without hookups and $50 with. A little steep for us.

The hike has a 600-foot rise and it was warm but it was pretty nice. The wildflowers were mostly past peak but there were quite a few of them. We saw a couple of deer and a very large gopher snake stretched out across the trail. He slithered off before I could capture his head (photographically). We chomped our sandwiches at the top and watched the clouds get heavier. By the time we got back to the car, it was sprinkling a little. We got some coffee and goodies and found a nice spot right on the edge of choppy Morro Bay. That’s when it started sprinkling more heavily. Good timing for us.

060MG1965MorroBay 062MG1971MorroRock 063MG1980MorroBay 065MG1978MorroBay 066MG1989MorroBay 068MG1997MorroBay

Saturday morning we went for another walk along the beach and got Dave his second fix of Salt Water Taffy. That was the action part of the day, other than grocery shopping. We’re getting to read a lot, which is a pleasure when we have good books.

070iPhone1316PismoPier

We settled into our new home – El Capitan State Beach Campground, on Sunday. We experienced an incredibly windy evening. The campground is ensconced between the Pacific and Highway 101 and train tracks. It was very noisy but we couldn’t tell if it was the sound of surf or car tires echoing on the highway or wind in the trees; probably all three. At one point I thought it had started to sprinkle, but it was pine needles raining on the roof. I was worried about a big limb falling on us but there was little we could do about it.

After surviving the night, we drove up to Solvang on Tuesday. Solvang is a Danish town that revels in its Danishness. Liz Vega and Stephane, her husband had come down for a week to celebrate their second anniversary. We walked around town, saw Mission Saint Ynez, had sausages at the Bit O’ Denmark, walked around some more and had coffee and goodies at a Danish bakery. It was a nice day with good company.

072MG2002StephaneLiz 073MG2003DaveMary

We wanted one more hike in the area and went to Gaviota State Park for one on Tuesday. All the hikes around Gaviota go up into the hills and ours did too. It wasn’t a spectacular hike but it was nice and accomplished our objective – hike enough to be guilt-free when we had Cuba Libres and potato chips later in the afternoon.

074MG2007GaviotaStateBeach

 

After Dave kicked the broken stair farther under the RV, we departed Pinnacles and headed down to Paso Robles. We spent one night at the Paso Robles RV Ranch, a very nice RV park right off Highway 101. I went off in search of groceries and found a Smart and Final with good produce more reasonably priced than Safeway. Dave tried to set up the receiver so we could watch Orphan Black, a TV show we like but he couldn’t get it. We watched Escape from Alcatraz instead; an oldie with Clint Eastwood. Having visited Alcatraz twice in the past two years, we could verify that the film was mostly shot on site.

The next day, we dumped and filled up with water and headed over to Tobin James Winery, our favorite purveyor in the area. We have joined Harvest Hosts which allows us to dry camp for free next to participating wineries and farms. There are three of them in Paso Robles. So now we can go wine tasting, walk across the road and be home for our afternoon nap. What’s not to like about that! (Hey, Jim and Gayle, maybe there are breweries that have a plan like that!).

041MG1887TobinJamesHarvestHost

After settling in, we went to buy a new toilet seat cover, a mundane but necessary chore. Then we visited some wineries where Zinfandels were featured. Shale Oak is a sustainable winery and features recycled cork purses. I liked the look of them and they can be put in the washing machine, which sold me on getting it. Not cheap, but my birthday is coming up and I needed a new purse. We finished up our wine tasting at Tobin James and tasted quite a few. The difference between their ordinary wine and their good stuff is amazing, although we did buy a reasonable Sangiovese and enjoyed it with dinner.

040MG1885CorkPurse

We rose early on Saturday morning, threw the cameras and lunch into the Rav and went to Joe’s Other Place in Templeton for breakfast. As a year ago, it was perfect, especially the hash browns. Brown and crusty on top, creamy on the bottom. Full and happy, we drove east to see if there were any wildflowers left on Shell Road. There were not. Too bad. But it was a beautiful morning so we rolled down the road and turned from Shell onto Gillis Canyon Road. It wound up into the hills, many of which were still very green. Birds, squirrels, rabbits zoomed across the road in front of us and we spotted a couple of coyotes dashing up a steep hill away from us. It looked like a good place to revisit some other spring.

043MG1869GillisCynRd 044MG1871GillisCynRd

We got home in time for a nap and a late lunch. We headed out again around 3 p.m. We visited Rio Seco Winery. The congenial hosts told us about their Harvest Host duties and their guests were very enthusiastic about them. Good for the next trip. We then visited Graveyard Wineries and tasted the best chocolate dessert wine we’ve ever had. We bought a bottle, found a roasted chicken to bring home, and dined on greasy chicken and a reheated vegie dish. The air cooled off and we repaired outside for a while and then watched a Giant’s game. A great day.

On Sunday, we said farewell to Tobin James and headed 45 miles south to Pismo Beach. We planned to get to North Campground, our favorite, around noon when people start to leave. We got in a line and were surprised that only a few campsites were available. We got to select and pay for Site 38 that we know and like and were told we could check in at 2 p.m. So we parked right outside the campground and hung out for 2 hours. Then we sailed into our spot. It took Dave about 15 minutes to set everything up. Nice!

Since Monday was going to be warm, we decided to do the Bluffs Trail at Montana de Oro State Park. South of Morro Bay, it is a lovely, remote park where high hills descend to the water. You can hike upward or do a nice flat walk along the edge of the bluffs. There is always something to see. Today it was a large otter, floating along on his back, some Oystercatchers and Pigeon Guillemots, clinging precariously to the side of a cliff. Lucky they can fly! The main trail was pretty warm but when we went right next to the cliff’s edge, a cool breeze refreshed us. It was a nice walk.

045MG1905MontanaDeOro 047MG1888MontanaDeOro 048MG1907MontanaDeOro 049MG1942MontanaDeOro 050MG1949MontanaDeOro

The next morning we drove a few miles south to Nipomo to let a repair service look at our wrecked stair. They found the part number and now we’ll wait for the new part. North Beach Campground is a nice place to wait. We took our first walk on the beach later in the afternoon. It was warm enough so that a mist was rising on the beach. Sandpipers and curlews raced along the edge of the water. Dave got a half pound of salt water taffy in town and we walked back, sucking on the treats.

2016 has been a grueling year for us. The first week of January, Dave’s Mom collapsed and went into the hospital. His Dad, recovering from chemo and radiation therapy for lung cancer, was weak. Five of the six kids in the Bay Area began trading off staying with them in Millbrae. Our construction project, adding two rooms to the basement had been going since October, 2015 and was finishing up. This meant a lot of painting for us and moving all our stuff that had been tucked away upstairs, back downstairs. Then I left my purse sitting in a BART Train Station on February 23 and someone took it and used one of my credit cards. It’s amazing how much is carried in a purse. Car and house keys – gone. Driver’s license, credit cards, medical cards, membership cards, library card all had to be changed or replaced. Reading glasses, sunglasses, fingernail clippers, comb, and my recipe card for Bar-be-cups – all gone.

Dave’s Dad got weaker, went into the hospital and passed away on March 6. One of his Dad’s best friends, Hank Helmers, died on March 5. Dave’s Mom is doing better health-wise but it has been a very emotional, difficult time for everyone.

We finally thought we could get away for a month or so. Dave changed the tow system for the Rav and when we tested it a week before we left, the lube pump didn’t work. Luckily, the part we needed came in 4 days before we wanted to leave and got installed. When Dave brought the Lazy Daze up to Millbrae to get it ready for our trip, the radio wouldn’t work and the stair into the rig wouldn’t retract. Dave started changing some fuses and on Friday night, the engine wouldn’t turn over. The battery was fine; it was something else. After a miserable evening, he figured out that he had changed the fuse into the wrong place. The engine started again – Yay!! Then he rigged up a system with our 30-year-old boom box so we would have some music on the trip. All systems go!

We took off Monday morning. We only had to drive 120 miles to Pinnacles National Monument. As we drove away, the radio started working – it only works when the engine is running. Dave decided not to fool with the fuses while we’re in the remote Pinnacles. However, the stair still would not retract, so we drove with it down, sticking out about a foot from the passenger side of the rig. The road to Pinnacles involves 28 miles of a narrow 2-lane road, then turns into an even narrower road into the monument. We made it 27 miles with no mishaps. Can you guess what happened next? At one point, the stair swept through some grasses by the side of road. No problem. Then the stair didn’t sweep through something much harder. Crunch! It didn’t rip the stair off; it just bent it towards the back of the rig, about 2 inches from the tire. We limped into camp, set up and took a walk. We’ll think about it when we get to Paso Robles but we’ll have to drive about 35 more miles down a narrow road to get back to Highway 101.

Although it was overcast, it was a pleasant walk; so good to be in a quiet place, enjoying the sights, smells, sounds.

004MG1727PinnaclesBenchTrail

As we walked along, I saw some pines with a cluster of pointy little pinecones. I tapped one and a cloud of green pollen coughed out. Not being allergic to pollen, I thought it was cool.

005MG1729BenchTrail

There were quite a few wildflowers but the poppies were closed. At one point, my knee felt like I had a sticker in it. I pulled up my pants and looked at something sticking out of it. It didn’t brush off and I called Dave over. He pulled it out – it was a tick. It wasn’t swollen with blood so I hope it didn’t have time to infect me. We traipsed out and back about 2 miles and went home for our traditional first-night-out spaghetti. In the group camp, a huge number of kids had set up flocks of tents. Glad we weren’t camping too close to them.

006MG1713BenchTrail 008MG1733Camp

Tuesday morning was overcast so we were in no rush to start a hike. We did our ritual: coffee and books in bed. Ten years of retirement has not reduced this pleasure one whit for me. Like last year, we were going to do the High Peaks Trail. Only this time, we knew where we were going. In the parking lot, an older man started talking with us. He lived in an RV park in Santa Cruz but was camping in a nice Toyota van. He had a little shelf in the back where he could lay out his sleeping bag. It reminded us of our Chevy van in 1982.

On the trail, the air was cool and pleasant and the pinnacles were shrouded in fog. We gradually hiked up a thousand feet or so. The wildflowers were everywhere – all kinds. Mimulus (aka Monkeyflower) predominated, a rich buttery color.

010MG1746HighPeaks 012MG1766HighPeaksMimulus 013MG1765HighPeaks 014MG1762HighPeaks

The long-distance views continued to become more impressive as we ascended.

015MG1795HighPeaks 017MG1778HighPeaks 018MG1753HighPeaks 020MG1793HighPeaks

We stopped at the highest point of the trail for lunch, then did a 2-mile loop back to that spot. More wildflowers and moments of sun breaking out. The first leg of the loop is very exciting with lots of small stairs carved into rock and heavy-duty banisters to keep you on the skinny trail. One man along that portion was tracking condors. Most, if not all of them are tagged so they can be tracked even when not seen. No condor sightings for us. Then it was back to switchbacks, down and then up again. We got back to the high point, shared the last of our Envy apples, juicy and sweet. Then it was two miles downhill. The sun finally came out all the way and puffs of cool air were interspersed with puffs of warm air. My back was complaining and I was looking forward to an Ibuprofen when I got home. It was a great hike.

022MG1798HighPeaks 023MG1804HighPeaks 024MG1808HighPeaks

Wednesday morning was a lazy one. I made bacon and eggs and found out I hadn’t brought a spatula. The fried eggs were removed from the pan with a spoon. Dave read the Lazy Daze manual and fiddled around with fuses and terminals and got the radio working again. What a guy! The step also seemed to work with his repair except for the fact it was whacked out of place. Dave managed to pound it in a little so it doesn’t stick out a full foot now. It will still need to be replaced.

028MG1861LDStair

After lunch, we decided to go on a short, flat walk. It was sunny and mostly shady, just lovely. We found a nice patch of poppies and Dave exercised his 17mm wide-angle lens. That involved stretching out flat on the ground to shoot upward. What a guy!

030MG1824Poppies 031MG1840Poppies 033MG1835Poppies 035MG1847DavePoppies 037MG1853BenchTrail

We weren’t out long; our legs were still sore from the 6-mile hike. We repaired to our chairs and read our books. I started Book 1 of Game of Thrones. The TV show is remarkably faithful to the book and whoever did the casting of characters for the show did a fantastic job.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.