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March 11, 2018   A few more Windmills

We got up early (although we had moved the clocks forward on Saturday night. I hate the two time changes each year; they always occur on our trips) and trekked out to the windmills once again. The atmosphere was much clearer after rain and dark skies made a dramatic background.

We tried to find good perspectives to get some closeups of the blades but dead ends, electrical wires and fences limited our options.

And then a train was traveling across our view.

I finally got a relatively unimpeded image.

Joshua Tree – Skull Rock Trail

We came back and prepared for 4 days without dumps or water. All the campgrounds in the central area of Joshua Tree don’t have water. So we filled up all our jerry cans, canteens and water bottles as well as the water tank. It was only 56 miles from Desert Hot Springs to the Jumbo Rocks campground but we were amazed once we entered Joshua Tree. Every parking spot or pulloff had cars. The place was swarming, probably because of Easter Spring Break. (It seems like schools vary when they have Easter Break so there are always people flocking the park.) We arrived a little after noon and found our campsite, a tight squeeze for our rig and Rav. The campground, with 119 sites, was completely full and people and cars were piling in.

After investigating our surrounding environs, we relaxed and enjoyed some reading and a short nap. Then we went for a 2-mile hike on the Skull Rock Trail that starts right across from our campsite. The trails wind through many interesting rock formations. Skull Rock was teeming with tourists and we had seen it before so we kept on walking. There were lots of clouds but several short bursts of sunshine were nice.

We came across a couple having wedding pictures taken among the rocks.

Because of Daylight Savings Time, the light lasted later. We got back from our walk around 6 p.m. and I reheated some very good spaghetti sauce and we had a Tobin James Silver Reserve Zinfandel. Oh yeah! A good start to our first real night out in a National Park.

March 12   Barker Dam, Ryan’s Ranch, Keys Viewpoint

I had to laugh this morning. When we’re not going to have water for a few days, I try to use the campground facilities when they’re close by. As I was about to enter, a woman about my age popped out, gave me a big smile and said “We’re in luck! Someone left a roll of soft toilet paper in there.” That’s always a small bonus because the black tank in our rig requires single-layer toilet paper and that’s what most camp bathrooms use also. Ah, appreciating the small pleasures of life. (Thinking of you, Betty)

We got a bit of a late start to go on the short Barker Dam Trail, reaching the trailhead around 9:30 a.m. It was beautiful weather, but the best light was diminishing quickly. Half of the trail was closed for maintenance so we went the other way. There has been little rain this winter so there were few fresh wildflowers but there were lots of attractive dried flowers. I got some nice Joshua Tree shots.

We met a couple around our age who had their tripods and they had just finished a photographic workshop. They were so enthusiastic. The woman said it was wonderful to find an interest they both enjoyed. It helped us remember the incredible joy of being out photographing when we first started.

It was a short walk to Barker Lake. We were shocked at how low the water level was. But there was still enough water to provide some good reflections and a couple of ducks to provide amusement.

On the way back to camp, we drove Bighorn Pass Road and saw some healthy-looking Joshua Trees.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to Ryan’s Homestead Trail. The trailhead used to leave out of Ryan’s Campground, but I guess the campground has gotten so busy they moved it to the main road. The number of cars and people are overwhelming, especially in the afternoon. The trail goes to the remains of an adobe home and a few nearby sites. It wasn’t terribly exciting this time around but it was a nice walk.

After that, we drove up to Keys Point to check out the view. This place is always tough to photograph because the smog from Indio and Interstate 10 fouls the air. It wasn’t too bad today.

I tried a new recipe for dinner. Sear chicken fillets seasoned with salt, pepper and chili powder, then sear half avocados, then saute red onion rings, jalapeno peppers and mix in green onions, lime juice, soy sauce. Put the onion mix in a baking pan and nestle the chicken and avocados into it. Bake 7 minutes at 450 and make a thin drizzle out of sour cream and a little water. It was really good.

 

 

 

 

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On the Road!

March 5-8, 2018

After making our farewells to various family and friends, we brought the Lazy Daze up to the house and began the loading process. It’s not too bad when stretched over 3 days. I work off an oft-updated list that works pretty well. But there’s always new stuff for adding and gone stuff to be removed. Additionally, we walk through the house, looking at everything with an eye of what is needed for the road. Right before we were ready to depart, I remembered to bring our hiking hats. They were on the list but I had missed them.

We left at the usual time, 10 a.m., heading for Merced to visit our friends, Jeff and Betty. Betty is seriously ill but rallied enough for a short visit. They revealed one of their well-hidden secrets: a stash of Ghirardelli candy in a discrete drawer in one of their tables. Jeff showed us his work in process: a bocce ball court. Perfect for those warm days and balmy Merced nights.

After our visit, we rolled south for 60 additional miles to Fresno. Dave wanted to see an exhibit in the Fresno Museum of Art but it wasn’t open until Thursday and we were not willing to wait two more days to see it. Onward to Bakersfield, where we supplied up before hitting the great nowhere.

We always stay at the Desert Palms RV Park in Bakersfield. It’s funny: It’s not in a great part of town; freight trains run day and night right next to us; an overpass has constant traffic noise. Yet surrounded by adobe-colored walls and lots of palm trees, I always experience a sense of peace here. Plus, it’s convenient to CA-58, the highway that goes over the Tehachapi Mountains and leads to the desert. Dave arose early today and went off to photograph the Kern River Oil Field. It’s an amazing site/sight. Miles of oil derricks pumping away.

We made a command decision to not drive all the way to Joshua Tree National Park on Wednesday and drove 120 miles to the Shady Lane RV Camp in Barstow. We didn’t need the shade – it was cloudy, but it’s a nice, old-fashioned, family-run place. We were right next to a busy road but you can’t win ‘em all.

Thursday was a long day. We drove the pleasant 100 miles through the Mojave to Joshua Tree National Park and got there around 11 a.m. The entrance station told us that all the reserved campgrounds were full but try the 4 first-come, first-served campgrounds. We did, dead ending at one and having to disconnect the RV and Rav to turn around. They were all full. So Plan B was put into play. As soon as we got out of the park and got a good connection, we made reservations for Sunday through Wednesday. Then we worked on getting reservations near Palm Springs for Thursday through Saturday. We were rejected by a few places because there’s a huge tennis tournament going on this week. Dave got the final site left at Caliente Springs RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs (at $58 per night). So we drove the 35 miles there, settled in and had a nice happy hour in the balmy afternoon.

March 9-10   Palm Springs 

The high on Friday was supposed to be 82 degrees. So when we went out to scope out the windmills at 7:30 a.m., we wore shorts. Dave is including the windmills in his Into the Anthropocene project, so we made coffee, shoveled down some cereal, and headed out. The amount of smog hanging in the valley is amazing but smog is another effect of human activity.

The San Jacinto Mountains provide an interesting background to the windmills and one thick cloud obscured the top. When you get of the car to photograph, there is a dull, low roar of the wind in blades. Wind City.

We went up a hill to get some perspective and gazed east in the morning light. In that direction, the air quality is pretty awful.

There were some solar farms in the middle of the windmills, glistening in the sunlight. All this clean energy doesn’t help here, not with I-10 rolling along on the south side the area.

It was getting quite warm by the time we returned home. We downloaded our pix and started processing them, reveling in air-conditioned comfort. We bought a new laptop which means we each have one now. I have the old, slow, crochety one while Dave has the young, fast, limber one. (It’s only fair, since he has the business to run.) It is so nice to not have to share one though we’ll have to see how long the old one lasts.

I checked out the large library in the RV park but didn’t find any books I had to have. It’s Christian section was as large as it’s Romance section, but both are eclipsed by the Mystery section. There was a woman working on a jigsaw puzzle in there (many RV parks maintain a ragged collection of puzzles for rainy days) and we discussed the fine points of solving a difficult puzzle. I might have helped her, but the room wasn’t air conditioned and it was too warm.

We went to visit a college friend, Dick Matgen and his husband, George, who live in a beautiful home in Palm Springs with 2 young Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and a 19-year-old cat that declined to meet us. But Andy and Me-Too seemed happy to meet us, tails wagging away. The heat declined in the late afternoon and we enjoyed their back yard, catching up before going to a Vietnamese Fusion restaurant for dinner. Later, driving back to the RV resort, we again passed the windmills, blinking with hundreds of red lights like a very large home decorated for the holidays.

Saturday was cloudy with a few light showers. We were thinking about taking the Palm Springs Tram up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Then we looked at the Tram Cam which showed snow on the ground and a temperature of 37 degrees. That changed our mind. So Saturday became chore day – grocery shopping, laundry and updating the blogs. I did spot a visitor to one of the resort ponds.

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November 8-10, 2017        

Leg 1

We were up and at ‘em at 4:30 a.m. It had been a long time since we needed an alarm clock wakening. Neither of us slept very well – it was going to be a long, complex day.

SuperShuttle arrived at 5:30. We were the first to be picked up. Would we head directly to the airport? Of course not. The van headed up into the foothills of San Bruno Mountains. It felt surreal and peaceful, driving through the dark, empty streets of the Bay Area. We gradually made our way south, picking up additional travelers. We passed a sign welcoming us to the city of Colma. The very first thing I saw after that was a long succession of cemeteries. Colma was founded as a necropolis, a city of about 1.5 million dead. San Francisco outlawed burial of the dead in 1900 and eventually evicted all the cemeteries in the city. So Colma has a lot of green space.

Leg 2

We reached SFO around 6:15. Our flight was at 8, so we had lots of time for coffee and for me, a large Apple Fritter. Sunrise was dramatic, with lots of clouds. Enough clouds, I guess, to make Southwest Airlines cancel 3 flights that were supposed to depart an hour later than we were to fly off. Lucky break for us.

Note: The images are a mix of Dave and my iPhones and my Nikon Coolpix. They were mostly taken behind windows on moving vehicles, i.e. not so great.

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The flight was only 45 minutes, so the lack of leg space and the miniscule time period I could go to the bathroom weren’t too bothersome. The plane flew south over California. We were over land instead of sea, and I got to play my personal game of trying to guess where we were flying over. Pinnacles National Park? Kings Canyon National Park? Carrizo Plains? The one constant was a thin line of blue running north/south: the California Aqueduct. It moves a tremendous amount of water from Northern and Central Sierra Nevada Mountains to Southern California. I sipped from my plastic water bottle as I peered past Dave’s shoulder.

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Leg 3

We arrived at LAX on time, took off our sweaters, retrieved our luggage and broke into a gentle sweat as we waited for the FlyAway bus in the sunshine. It took us about 45 minutes to reach Union Station in Los Angeles, a huge facility that hosts hordes of trains and buses. We were here to rent a car. We could only return a car here if we rented it from here and we would board a train here tomorrow.

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Mural at Union Station

Leg 4

Oh boy, we got to drive in Los Angeles! It was only 35 miles to Pomona and our little Yaris made a good job of it. We felt a little insecure without our Garmin to guide us through the snake nest of highways that cover greater Los Angeles. I used Google Maps to get us to our destination – the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel in Pomona. Traffic was fairly light at 1 p.m. so we got there fairly quickly. There was a small complication. Google seemed to think we were cattle headed into the fairgrounds, but human intervention helped us locate the hotel. We checked in, had a late lunch and relaxed for a while, relishing the air-conditioned suite that the university had provided for us.

 

The University of La Verne

The reason for the trip? Gary Colby, the Photography Department Chair at the University of La Verne in La Verne, California, saw Dave’s work and really liked his Life on Wheels: The New American Nomads project. He invited Dave to exhibit at

the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography, on the University campus. Part of their mission statement: “We choose photographers whose work causes us to think about the effects of our craft on our culture. By these presentations the University of La Verne invites students, faculty, staff, and community members to become inspired by photographs and informed by the peculiar way of knowing realized by adventurous photographers.”

Dave was excited to display a large body of his work on the project. We were still on an RV road trip when the exhibit opened, so Gary arranged a reception for Dave on November 8.

The University of La Verne was founded in 1891 by members of the Church of the Brethren who had moved west. Both the college and the surrounding agricultural community were renamed La Verne in 1917. I didn’t see all of the campus but was impressed by the area I saw. Having attended the University of San Francisco, an urban, compressed campus in the center of the city, I was impressed by the expansive, green, sunny campus. Gary told me a little about the University’s history while Dave and Kevin Bowman, the Photography Department Manger, were stowing the Yaris.

The exhibition was nicely mounted in the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography. People started to filter in, most of them photography students. Dave got many questions about how he started out in photography, why he chose to photograph RV full-timers as well as questions about some of the individuals pictured. It was interesting to meet some young photographers who are learning to use equipment other than smart phones. The department maintains a darkroom and film and alternative photographic processes are explored.

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Things wound down at 7:30 and Gary, Kevin and Art Suwansang, A Senior Adjunct Professor in the Photography Department, took us to dinner in old downtown La Verne. We walked only two or three blocks to reach downtown, an advantage when a town develops around the university. While cool enough to put on a sweater, it was a distinct pleasure to walk after a long day of traveling.

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Kevin, Dave, Art, Gary

We bade farewell and collapsed back in the hotel. After an hour of the National Geographic Channel showing a feature involving the enormous flood that created the Scablands (love the name!) in Washington state, we slept well.

Leg 5

We rose at 6 a.m. That gave us 4 hours to shower, pack up and drive the 35 miles back to Union Station, turn in the car and board the train. The drive, west on the 10 (everyone in SoCal seems to preface highway names with “the”) was, as we expected slow. Not excruciatingly slow, but 20-mile-an-hour slow for a good portion of it. I was using Google Maps on Dave’s iPhone and by the time we got off I-10 his phone battery was low. We had to stop for gas and the street to return the car was not the main entrance to Union Station where Google was trying to direct us. All in all, it took us 2.5 hours to reach Union Station and return the car. We were both limp after the tension of driving in unfamiliar territory.

Leg 6

We had enough time to get an Egg-a-muffin and coffee from Starbucks and headed to Track 10-B to catch the Amtrak Coast Starlight. It was almost right on time and we stowed the luggage and found our seats. And ohhhhhhh, the leg space. Enough to stand up and turn sideways. A footrest came down from the seat in front and I had to stretch a little to reach it. The seat reclined fairly well and a leg rest could be popped up. We beamed at each other. No more driving for the rest of the trip.

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Waiting for the train

The ride to Santa Barbara was only 2.5 hours and it was a pleasure. The train heads west through suburban terrain for the first 90 minutes. We reached the coast when we got to Ventura. It was fun to try to identify the campgrounds we had stayed at over the years. The views were wonderful. We congratulated ourselves for requesting seats on the left, the ocean side of the car.

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The lounge car in front of ours had seats facing the large windows. I thought the seating was reserved but the car is open to all. We ensconced ourselves in there for an hour or so, sipping our drinks, still winding down from the morning. Nice!

Leg 7

We reached Santa Barbara around 12:45 and detrained in the pretty little Amtrak Station. We had to walk to our hotel, the Hotel Indigo. It took, oh, about 3 minutes. We had stayed there several years before and noticed how close it was to the train station.

Hotel Indigo may not be for everyone, but it has its own Euro-style vibe. The rooms are small. Our king bed had about 1 to 3 feet of space from it to the wall. There is a small desk and a short, open closet with 2 drawers. We discovered the terry cloth robes in the drawer too late to enjoy them. A phone and small coffee pot took up most of the available surface space. Since we were there for one night, we didn’t unpack the suitcases which meant we had to maneuver around or over them to move around the room. It was cluttered.

The bath is nicely done but is also small. The frosted glass bathroom door lays flat against one wall with the sink. The shower has a glass door that also flattens against the wall, next to the toilet. To shower, you pull the glass wall open next to the toilet and pull over a shower curtain that is at a 90-degree angle to the glass wall. Inevitably, all the water does not stay in the shower area.

I believe the idea is that you won’t be spending a lot of time in your room except to sleep and shower. The hotel makes up for the small room space by creating several public areas. There are two upstairs outdoor patios that guests can use. There’s a library with loads of art books and comfy chairs. The lobby also has indoor-outdoor seating. Santa Barbara’s mild climate is ideal for this setup.

Cocktail hour arrived and we went to the restaurant next to the hotel for drinks and a couple of small plates. We sat in the patio and watched people go by while listening in to what appeared to be a first date at the table next to ours. We walked a few blocks to Stearn’s Pier. Later on, we walked up State Street a quarter-mile or so and had dinner at a Spanish restaurant, Cadiz. The night was mild and the walk back was pleasant.

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View from Stearn’s Pier, Santa Barbara

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On Friday morning, Dave had arranged a meeting with his friend, Christa Dix, the founder and director of wall space. Christa’s mission is to help promote photographers and photography. He discussed his new project, Into the Anthropocene, with her as several families and lots of kids enjoyed a Veteran’s Day breakfast around us.

After that, knowing we had a long day of sitting on the train, we took a long walk up State Street. Having seen the snack shop on the train, we bought sandwiches at a little lunch place to take on the train.

Leg 8

After checking out, we pulled our suitcases across the railroad tracks to the station. Dave had noticed that one of the wheels on his beat-up suitcase had lost a pin and was falling off. He rigged it and hoped it would make it home. Carrying a suitcase up the hill to our house was not something he wanted to do.

There was a group of about 25 young teenagers sitting in a huge circle at the train station. We fervently hoped they would not be in our car. They were not. We asked for seats on the coast side and received them. We stowed the bags and ascended to the coach seats. They were perfect. We settled in for the 8.5-hour ride.

There were lots of clouds but the sun kept breaking out. The views were wonderful. We saw another campground we stayed at. We saw lots of surfers. We read our books. We ate our lunch. We watched people come and go on the train. We relaxed. Eventually, the train headed inland but we were going past ranches, farms and occasional small towns. We mostly weren’t traveling near Highway 1 or 101.

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After hours of sitting, dinner reservations took us to the dining car at 5:30 to sit somewhere different. Cloth tablecloths and napkins added a touch of class but the menu wasn’t too exciting. Steak for Dave, chicken for me. Woodbridge was the only choice for wine. Adequate. Couples were expected to share tables so we met a couple coming from San Diego and heading to Oakland to visit their daughter. It was a pleasant meal.

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Back at our seats, we amused ourselves for another 3 hours. I could faintly smell smoke in our car. After a while a warning came over the loudspeaker, saying the train personnel knew someone was smoking in the bathroom and when (not if) they found them, they would be put off the train. I had my suspicions about one person but they were still on the train when we arrived at Jack London Square in Oakland.

Leg 9

It felt quite romantic leaving the train. It had rained and the station platform was wet. We found the bus to San Francisco and sat in the front seats. The train was departing as the bus pulled out of the station. We saw two people running for the train but they weren’t going to catch it. At the train stops, there are clear warnings of how long people have to “stretch their legs”. Those two had taken too long.

It took the bus about two minutes to get on the Bay Bridge. The huge windshield allowed me to get some pictures of our beautiful city as we crossed the bridge.

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Leg 10

We retrieved our bags and started rolling our way to BART, about 4 blocks. The transit angels were looking after us and we caught a train immediately. We were at the Glen Park BART station in fifteen minutes.

Leg 11

As we came up the stairs to the street, the wheel fell off Dave’s suitcase. He wasn’t going to carry it up the long hill to our house, so I sat down with the luggage and he went home to get the car. As I waited, I was watching a woman yelling at her prospective Uber driver on the phone. He apparently was claiming he was waiting at the Glen Park Station. Where was she? “I can’t see you” she kept saying. I couldn’t see him either. No fun at 11 p.m.

Dave showed up and we finally made it home. Unloaded the toothbrushes and left the rest for tomorrow. Toasted a successful trip with a tot of Glenlivit Scotch and slept in our own bed.

Conclusion

The train trip was comfortable and fun. Breaking it into two days improved things a lot. Arriving at our destination at a reasonable hour helped a lot. I haven’t heard good reports of doing a cross-country trip on Amtrak but the Coast Starlight was very nice. I recommend it. Be sure to bring your own entertainment and your own food. Be aware that WiFi on the train costs.

P.S. The one-way train trip for 2 seniors (62 or older), broken into 2 days was $185. A good value, I think.

 

October 9   Lee Vining Canyon and Yosemite

Another down day after a very cold night. It got down to 26 outside but we only were at 41 inside at 7:30 a.m. It took the heater a very long time to get up to 68 degrees. Dave helped heat up the kitchen area by turning on the oven and opening its door. After a very late breakfast, we drove off to check out Lee Vining Canyon, with Lee Vining Creek and lots of aspens. I found it totally uninspiring. Sometimes, nothing works.

We continued up CA-120 Tioga Pass, one of the most impressive roads I’ve ever seen. It goes UP! Then you coast along a few miles at the top and reach the Yosemite entrance. It’s all pretty wonderful up there, with meadows, rivers and forest. However, when we got out of the forest, a fairly heavy haze lay over the valley, something we’ve never seen before. All the facilities at Tuolumne Meadows have closed for the season, but there were loads of people at several of the pulloffs.

We went to one of our favorite places at the west side of Tuolumne and stopped for coffee and cookies. Though it was hazy, it is still a wonderful, huge space to ponder. A young Asian couple pulled in next to us. The girl got out with her iphone on a selfie stick and took a few pictures of herself. Then the guy got out and was soon filming them looking out at the meadows. Then he took some pictures of her standing in front of the meadow. Then it looked like they were going to take a little walk, but no. They walked about 15 feet, looked down at something, came back to their car and drove off. I don’t think either one of them looked at the scenery with their actual eyes for more than a minute. After posting their images to Facebook or Instagram, do they ever look at their pictures again?


We drove back and had another chilly night.

October 10         Walker Lake

We’ve been getting off to some later starts because it’s so cold in the morning. We arrived at the Walker Lake Trailhead around 10 a.m. We knew what we were in for: a 500-foot descent to the lake and a 500-foot ascent return.

It was another cloudless, beautiful day. It has been so cloudless in Eastern California, I’ve been missing the lenticular clouds that usually create spectacular sunsets. Walker Lake is a nice-sized lake that usually has good vari-colored foliage in October. As you go down the trail, you have little breaks among the trees as you look down at the green lake. One good aspect of the hike is that there is no road on other side of the lake, so no vehicles. And we yet to see a boat on the lake. Aside from a generator hum created by the lodge at one end of the lake, it is very quiet here.

Once we got down to lake level, we followed a haphazard trail along the lake edge. The lake level was higher than when we were last here and it changed some of the reflection opportunities. I made reflection images anyway.

I don’t believe there is a trail all the way around the lake and if there was, it would have several marshy areas. We walked to one end of the lake, came back and walked to the creek at the other end of the lake. As in a 2013 trip, we saw a large flotilla of coots on the lake. We also saw one duck following the coots around. Did that make it an ugly cootling?

As before, there were Kamloops Rainbow Trout migrating up the small Walker Creek. (Do they import trout from Canada?)

We marched back up the trail in record time and hastened home. We took the LD to Lee Vining, filled the propane tank and dumped. Then it was back to camp, shower and go to the Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner. We found out that their wonderful 5-layer chocolate cake comes from Pennsylvania. Do the Amish make it? Our next trip may involve Pennsylvania.

October 11   June Lake Loop

We took it easy on our last full day of camping. A car trip around June Lake Loop was our final local destination. The lakes in the loop were much fuller than the last time we saw them. The aspens ranged from green to gone. The wind was not cold but it was pretty strong. I love it when the aspens shake. We snuck into a closed campground to see if it still had birdhouses strewn throughout the trees. The birdhouses weren’t there but a small herd of deer were. Why do they close a campground when it’s at its prettiest?

We drove, parked, meandered and drove some more. There was a fair amount of traffic but nothing like last weekend. It was fun, but neither of us was particularly inspired. That leads to silliness and we always have time for being silly.

We paid a final visit to Test Station Road, overlooking Mono Lake. The clouds had proliferated and the light was soft and changeable.

We also checked out Moraine Campground, a little higher up Lee Vining Canyon, but the creek and the trees weren’t exciting. So that was it. We repaired to our RV to begin cleaning it up.

October 12-13     Going Home

We were in no rush on Thursday. We had decided to stay at Moccasin Campground by Don Pedro Reservoir. We got to cross the upper part of Yosemite; often CA-120 isn’t open this late in the year but it was a beautiful day, except for all the smoke. Once in Yosemite, we stopped by the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River to see if there was ice. As suspected, there was.

We continued on to Olmstead Point. The view of Half Dome was impaired by smoke.

We continued out of Yosemite and down Priest Grade to Don Pedro Reservoir. We had never stayed at Moccasin Point before and enjoyed it immensely. There were about 3 other people camping nowhere near us. It was quiet and warm. We pulled out the chairs, chips and Limoncello that we had been carrying since Jeff and Betty Denno so kindly gave it to us. (Thanks again!)

Friday the 13th worked out well for us. We drove 130 miles to San Francisco and didn’t experience even a slowdown until we got on the Bay Bridge. However, the smoke was terrible. We could barely see San Francisco from Oakland. A sad ending to a great trip.

October 6     Convict Lake

We figured that we would go to Convict Lake on Friday, rather than the weekend. There’s only one trail around the lake and many people walk because it is short and flat. Even on a Friday, there were many people. This is really prime leaf-peeping time in the East Sierra and it’s also Columbus Day weekend. It’s also a great fishing lake and there were people strewn along the shoreline as well as in a variety of boats.

It was warm and pleasant with a slight breeze that interfered with Convict Lake’s reflective ability. But it’s still one of my favorite places for autumn because of the reflections and the way the trees grow under the trail and over the water. Unlike our last visit, the aspens were ablaze.

Convict River that flows from the mountains was going strong, involving some fording. And some close investigation.

There were loads of people all along the trail. A few with kids who should have been in school. Lots of dogs. Lots of older folks. Lots! But it’s only to be expected this time of year. We moved a little off the trail to eat lunch and eventually meandered our way back.

October 7 Dunderberg Meadow Road

We decided to drive north past Conway Summit to see what was happening to the trees up there. As before, we stopped a few places on the Virginia Lakes Road to photograph, but when we got to Virginia Lakes, not interested. It’s not a good fall color place. So a few miles down from them, we turned onto Dunderberg Meadow Road. We began to go through aspen groves, but the light wasn’t optimal. We kept stopping and fooling around photographically, as we do when nothing strikes us strongly. We forgot that the last 10 miles of the dirt road is boring; I’ll have to make a note of that.

Once back on CA-395, we used Garmin to look for the turnoff to our special little place. After about a mile on a very rough dirt road, we reached the creek in an aspen grove. This late in the afternoon, there was no ice on the creek, so I walked up to the little, long-abandoned cabin nearby. It had not faired well since last I visited. A tree had fallen and its top had scraped stuff off the side of the building. It also looked like several parties had been had inside, to its detriment.

I found some thin, interestingly-patterned paper that looked like it might be scraps from inside of the cabin. But Dave looked in a different direction and found the source – a defunct beehive. Fascinating.

October 8     McGee Canyon Trail

We rose around 7 a.m. and got ourselves on the road by 8 or so. We were going to McGee Canyon, another favorite location. The canyon with McGee Creek flowing through it, makes a 90-degree turn and provides a whole different view. There are aspens galore. There also were people galore. Some were returning from an overnight camping experience. Some were jogging. Some were walking their dogs (Springers, Setters, Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers and of course, Retrievers). Some were climbing trees ungracefully. Lots of people.

We entertained ourselves among the creekside cottonwoods for quite a while. When you are standing deep in a grove, everything turns golden. It was hard to move forward; everything was spectacular. Also, when the trail started to rise, that certainly slowed me down. I had forgotten a 1,200’ rise. We always have to earn our wonderful views.

After crossing a couple of streams, I trudged up to a shady place where we had lunch. I traded half my dry chicken breast sandwich with Dave’s salami. The salami was better. Going down the trail was easier. We progressed at a pretty good pace and eventually made it back to the car. Another 5.2-mile trail under the belt. We gathered the coffee and cookies, found a fairly shady picnic bench, and lolled for a while.

We stopped at the boy scout camp down the road, but it didn’t capture my attention very long. The wrong time of day, I guess. But there was one iconic shot – the campfire circle.

We drove 35 miles back to camp and had a melange dinner – that is, leftovers. They go down well with a bottle of red.

 

 

 

 

October 1-2     Bishop and Rock Creek Road

On Sunday, we picked up and moved to Bishop. We decided to spend a night at the Highlands RV Park in order to do laundry and other chores. Then we would check out our usual BLM place north of town. The drive north was all of 66 miles. So we got in early and watched the action around us. It was like the whole RV park was a small town. They hung around outside all day long, blabbing away. Too much community for me. But they did have a nice laundromat.

The next day we moved on up to Casa Diablo Road, north of town. Our usual place had someone in it so we checked further up the road. We got a space on top of the bluff that gave us great views of the mountains to the east and west. We set up camp and took a ride to check out Rock Creek Road. It takes off from Tom’s Place. We are finally back in aspens.

Afterwards, we went along Lower Rock Creek, but there was nothing special there. We drove on some small roads paralleling CA-395 and saw some nice backlit cattle. Photographically, we’re so versatile.

October 3   Treasure Lakes Hike

I was excited about doing the Treasure Lakes hike. It was 6 miles and only a 900-foot gain. That was easy compared with some of the hikes we’ve been doing on this trip. The trail begins at South Lake, a deep blue, dammed lake about 20 miles directly east of Bishop. The South Fork Bishop Creek drains out of it. From the look of it, most of the water goes into a pipeline that runs along much of the road. Dave guessed the water mostly goes to L.A.

When we forked off to South Lake Road, there was one little grove of golden aspen visible. But once we reached 8,000 feet, there were aspen everywhere. They were in all states: green, gold, orange and coppery-brown. We had been here too late (October 15) in 2013 to catch the aspens in full color, so this was a treat. But we zoomed up the road to begin our hike. The trail to the Treasure Lakes begins by ascending a narrow, steep trail that overlooks South Lake. It has aspen on both sides, highlighted by the sun.

Because we were heading up from 9,000 to 10,000 feet, I was soon out of breath and pretty much stayed that way the entire hike. The scenery varied a great deal. We went through a pine-forested area that followed the creek for a while. We switchbacked through some of that, all the while getting glimpses both of South Lake down below and the huge, mountainous bowl we were heading into.

The trail guide had said the trailhead started at 9,800 feet and Treasure Lakes 1 and 2 were at 10,688 feet. What it didn’t take into account was the large up and downs in between. The downhills felt good going up but I knew they would be uphills going back.

We crossed a stream at one point and looked for the trail on a granite area. We finally found it against a huge stone wall and continued up. Eventually, we came to Treasure Lake 1. It was surrounded by high mountains with the remnants of old glaciers clinging to their steep sides. As we pulled out our cameras, a huge gust of cold wind nearly knocked me over. It was really blowing. I put on my heavy mittens and my knit cap although there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

We ate lunch in a protected niche and then went to find Treasure Lake 2. It didn’t take long.

We began our descent fairly quickly. It was just too cold to want to hang around up there. At the granite ledge where we had trouble finding the trail coming up, we totally lost it coming down. We were looking for the 2 big logs that crossed the creek but weren’t finding them. Luckily, I saw some people uphill from us, crossing the creek on the bridge and then they were looking for the trail. Cairns or rock outlined paths would have helped that situation.

As always, I was pretty tired after Mile 4. We still made some images and stopped to nibble some cashews. We stopped to photograph aspen leaves floating in a small pool and two men passed us by. One was carrying a canvas with him. They had been up in the mountains painting. The visible painting showed a swirly sky that really evoked the wild winds up there. I mentioned it to him and he replied “I paint what I feel more than what I see.”

We took our time through the aspen alley at the end of the trail and got back to the car around 4:30 p.m. It had been a long day and a good hike.

October 4   A golden drive

The next morning, I felt pretty lethargic. But we pulled it together and went back up the road to South Lake. We got there around 9:30, when the sun was shining behind the trees. Backlit, the aspen glow like gold coins. From the other direction, meh. There are lots of pullouts along South Lake Road and most of them had occupants. Some of them were fishing the creek but most were photographing. There was one van-ful of Japanese tourists enjoying themselves immensely.

 

What is amazing to me is the manner in which the leaves change color on each tree. The inside heart of each tree seems to be a deeper shade or different color than the outer leaves. Or is it just leaves in shadow? When I get close to such a tree, I can’t see a clear difference. Aspens are trees to ponder.

Eventually, we found a narrow dirt track that the Garmin declared was “Old Aspen Road”. It did indeed, wind through grove after grove of young aspen as well as by a creek.

I love the aspen leaves that turn brown. They have interesting coloring and contrast nicely with the gold.

Some of the trees have deep orange leaves.

And then there are people with other interests.

After we got home, Dave wanted to drive out to a Mono Lake overlook to catch the full moon rising. It was pretty much a bust. There were no clouds and the color in the sky was almost gone by the time the moon rose. (The long exposures portrayed a little color.) Then when the first glow appeared, so did a car, driving up the foreground. We’ll try again some other time.

 

 

 

September 29    

It was a get up-get out morning. We were planning a long day at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (heretofore known as ABPF). It’s 13 miles to the turnoff to the park. Then it’s 36 miles to the Patriarch’s Grove. First, we wound ourselves to the Schulman Grove and our 4-mile-hike through the Methuselah Grove. On the way up, we stopped to watch a herd (12 or so) of deer cross the road. Then we kept going higher, though the morning views of the Sierra were not very good.

We reached the Methuselah Grove and began our hike. The lack of snow changed the trail immensely since the last time we hiked it. It was easy to navigate and was less contrasty, but not quite as dramatic.

As we walked along, the trail turned a corner and all of a sudden, we could hear voices coming from another trail that was above ours. Though they were a half-mile away, we could hear them clearly. It was a man and a woman and they never stopped talking. Eventually, they caught up to us at a lookout and continued to gab while looking at the scenery. We waited for them to go ahead of us but they looked ensconced, so we took off again. They soon followed, talking and talking. They weren’t being purposefully loud, but the area is so quiet, they really were distracting. Finally they passed us and the breeze and terrain blew their words away from us. For me, one of the highlights of being in remote places is the quiet. There is so little quiet in the world today. (This is written by someone who had to have a sign next to her phone at work that said “Stifle yourself!”)

A bristlecone pine is the drama queen of trees.

I had forgotten there was 1,100 foot-elevation gain on the trail. The last mile was a trudge. Luckily, the Rotary Club of Manhassat, New York(?) strewed comfortable wooden benches along the trail.

From the Schulman Grove, it was twelve miles to the Patriarch Grove. Easy-peasy? No! It was the roughest dirt road we have ever been on. Very, very rocky, so you were always driving from one side to another, trying to find the smoothest part. Our poor tires. It took us an hour to go 12 miles, but what a landscape. Outstanding! The landscape at 11,000 feet is so open, so bare. This definitely ain’t the Swiss Alps.

The trees are so far apart that you can easily separate one from the rest of the landscape. And the clouds are amazing here.

We started the long drive back. The clouds continued to be amazing.

We left the Patriarch Grove at 5 p.m. We got back to Bishop at 7 p.m., just in time to catch a fiery sunset end the day.

I was too tired to cook when we got home. We wanted to go to the famous Copper top BBQ but it was closed at 7 p.m. They barbecue outside there and I guess they sell out pretty fast when they finish. We ended up at the Country Kitchen and we had an excellent burger and fish and chips. I got the last glass of white wine they had – a pretty nice Pinot Grigio. Cheers!

September 30

We didn’t do much the next day. We did manage to go drive up Glacier Lodge Road. We had never been up it before and I wanted to see it. It had a few campgrounds not suitable for us. The Lodge was rustic, not the place to go for a drink and look at the mountains. And no aspen, but the foliage was in nice shades of fall.