Archive for May, 2010

Ah, the big bed, the huge shower, our own computers – we’re home. Hurray!

When we found out they were expecting “a little snow” in the mountains on Sunday and Monday, we decided to bag the trip and get over the Sierras. It’s no fun to sit around in bad weather, trying to decide if we should try a shorter road over the peaks or drive further north and take I-80 home. So we gave up going to Bodie (a neat ghost town) and headed west. It was beautiful, sunny and breezy, laboring up and skidding down the mountains. It was sunny and warm when we got arrived at our favorite RV resort in Plymouth, CA, so we sipped on our Chardonnay outside, watching the local ducks cavort.

Sunday, we celebrated Mother’s Day by going wine tasting. Every mother loves Zinfandel, doesn’t she?

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Boulder Creek RV Resort is a nice place to camp on Highway 395. They have lots of trees, cute little picnic benches a nice pool-spa area. Even at 4,000 feet, it’s still in the 80’s during the day. I settled down to a quiet afternoon, while Dave drove back 20 miles south to photograph a Crystal Geyser bottling plant. The ironic thing about it is that it’s on the edge of Owen’s Dry Lake, a lake that is a dry, alkaline wasteland because all the water feeding it gets sucked into L.A. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get a good shot. So we caught up with “Nurse Jackie” and “Breaking Bad”, two of our favorite shows right now. And Tuesday was “Lost” which we’re still trying to follow, though it’s not easy on the road.

On Tuesday, we got up early and drove out to the Alabama Hills, a great area with mounds of rounded boulders, plopped in front of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the southern 48 states. There were a lot people camping out there; I’m not sure if it’s legal to do that or not. It gets very confusing who operates what land out here. We walked the short trail to an arch that frames Mt. Whitney and clicked away. After some more noodling around, we returned to the RV, showered, napped, and headed out to Manzanar National Historic Site. This is one of the ten sites where Japanese were interned during World War II. There is not much left of it; it was dismantled after the war, but 12,000 people spent up to 3.5 years here; deprived of their freedom, property and livelihood. They did what they could to make the barren place livable. There are the remains of kitchen and pleasure gardens and there is a cemetery with a few graves. When the internees were finally released, they received a bus ticket to their chosen destination and $25. It is a sad, haunting place. It was there we had our critter event of the day. After not running over a 30-inch snake in the middle of the road (I thought it was dead), we stopped and found out it was alive and unharmed. We chased it off the road and into some bushes where it made the most horrible hissing noise, kind of like a leaky radiator.  Later in the day, we drove up the Whitney Portal Road, that goes from 3,700 feet to 8,000 feet towards Mount Whitney. There are spectacular views of Lone Pine, Owens Lake and the valley. Quite a day.

The next day, we went farther north to Big Pine and found a convenient campground. Thursday, we got up early again and went up the hill to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. We knew we couldn’t get all the way to the top – it’s too snowy yet, but we thought we might be able to get to a Bristlecone grove. Nope. And we didn’t feel like hiking up there so we got back to camp early and moved north again to French Camp near Tom’s Place (that’s the town name). It’s a pretty wooded campground, next to a stream. We took a drive up the canyon to check out the trail we planned to take. Nope, the road was closed before we reached the trailhead and the snow looked pretty deep.

So instead, we had a nice birthday breakfast and went off to Convict Lake to do a trail we hiked last year. When we turned onto Highway 395, we saw a big plume of smoke rising into the air, a fire, right at the turnoff to Convict Lake. Luckily, the wind was blowing in a different direction, so it didn’t bother us. We went to trailhead that runs south of the lake – nope, it was covered with snow. The northern side had a trail that was snow-free, so we did get our walk. It’s just the very beginning of spring at this altitude (7,500 feet). We had spaghetti and a good Karmere zinfandel for my birthday dinner. We may have a fancier celebration at some other location.

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Three days of wind at Joshua Tree was enough. The sunny days with a cool breeze made for good hiking, but relentless wind is tiring. So we’re heading north up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. It’s a spectacular drive, with mountains lined up like sand dunes, only most of them are 12- 13- or 14,000 feet high. That’s on the west side of Highway 395. The desert, with a distant mountain range or two, is on the east side of the road. We’re looking forward to it.

We got a good campsite at Jumbo Rock in Joshua Tree and went for a walk to Skull Rock. The trail was replete with loads of wildflowers, including lots of blooming cacti, Yucca and Joshua Trees. It’s going to look boring the next time we come here in the fall; the wildflowers really add to the ambiance. The next day we did a couple of short hikes. The Split Rock Trail is short but takes you past such wonders as Tulip Rock and another formation that looks like a profile of George Washington. Later in the day, we walked to Barker Dam, a small lake in the middle of the desert that’s always fun to look at.

Friday was set for our big hike – the famous 6.6-mile North View-Maze Loop. We tried to hike this trail a couple of years ago, descended down a wash to the point where there were 4-foot drops and our clothes were getting torn up by Cats Claw, and turned back. This time, there actually was a sign designating the trailhead. So we confidently went down the wash, following the directions in our little trail guide. Again, the wash began to get dicey and we seemed to be past the point of the expected turnoff. Dave spotted a small, unsigned trail taking off in the right direction, so off we went. After a mile or so, we seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so we backtracked and found a different turn off that went more in the direction we wanted. It eventually led us back to the roadway and our car, but it definitely wasn’t the trail we wanted. We were grouchy, but did another trail we hadn’t done before, to Pine City, a rocky area with a few small Junipers. It’s a flat, easy trail and Pine City has great sets of boulders with lots of nooks and crannies where cacti, lichen and yucca thrive. We poked around there for a while and walked back, as the wind finally died down a bit. We soothed our wind-frayed souls with barbecue potato chips and Mojitos.

Saturday, I went to the Visitor Center to complain about the unmarked North View Trail, and the ranger said that many people complained how inadequate the trail markers were. I know that cairns get washed away in washes, but how hard is it to pile up a few rocks here and there? I wrote my little complaint out and we’ll try the trail again the next time we’re here.

My Homeland Security Wristwatch battery went dead and we stopped at a JC Pennys in Yucca Valley to replace it. The lady who helped me in the small store was fascinating; I could have stared at her hands a long time. She worked at the jewelry counter, and had long, fake nails done with a French manicure (I’m not so sure what it’s called) with little blue glitter designs on several of them. She had shiny, pretty rings on every finger as well as both thumbs. It made me want to do the same, but it wouldn’t look so great on my bony, freckled hands. While I was waiting for the battery, a little girl next to me was talking to her Teddy Bear: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, pull down your shirt and don’t let people see your diapers.” I wonder where she got that line from?

We’re heading north now; yesterday was our longest drive (190 miles) in weeks. We stopped at Red Rock Canyon State Park (the California one), which has a really nice campground, but the price has risen to $25 a night. And the dump station is out of order. I think that they should give a discount for that. When I’m 62 (getting closer!) there’ll be a Senior Citizen’s discount of $2 per night for camping, that doesn’t reduce $25 by much. Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger! I think we’ll be staying in fewer state parks from now on.

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