Monday, November 20, 2017

Down the 395 in eastern California


Well, it seems the batteries in my calendar died again, or something.  I had no idea that time continues on – even when I’m not updating the blog.  Things have been happening, and we have been on the move since my last entry.  First off, the mouse situation has gone from poor, to bad, to downright pain in the butt.  After catching none all summer at home, it seems they have now found the secret to illicit entry!  It could be worse.  I don’t think any of the mice are inside more than a minute or two before one of my strategically placed traps have them captured, dead or alive.  But how/where they are getting in is still a mystery.  We spent a few days camped near Travertine hot springs, near Bridgeport, Ca before friends Doug and Dale showed up on their way back to BC from LA. 

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They only stopped for one night, but it was good to catch up on the news, have a bbq, and have a couple of soaks in the springs.  Nights were cool, but the days pleasantly sunny and warm.

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Because of quite a few days spent at Travertine hot springs, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop by all the springs in the Whitmore Tubs area further south.  But it was early in the day when we reached the area, so it was decided to make a brief stop, perhaps not over night.  I was quite disappointed in the deteriorated condition of the pool at Wild Willy’s.  People have been digging away at the mud banks around the pool to the extent that there is hardly a bank left to hold the water in.  Pretty soon, it will just be a warm stream, with no pool.

Fuel prices at Lee Vining …

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In the morning, I turned around upon seeing how many cars remained in the parking lot, but decided to walk down for a look anyway.  Surprisingly, there were only 4-5 people at the springs, and they wandered off before long, leaving the whole area to myself.  That was when the two bathing suit models showed up with a photographer.  But no bathing suits.  And they left their shyness at home, too.  Sorry, no photos of that, but later it seemed that they were talented hoop dancers as well.  An impromptu performance broke out on top of an old ambulance converted to an RV in the parking lot.

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Heading on south down 395, the next stop was in Bishop, where the diesel prices on the reserve by the casino provided a bit of relief from the higher prices elsewhere, and the propane was filled there as well.  The only auto glass shop in town was too busy to fix my windshield chip, but after some food and grocery updates, we were back on the road south to Lone Pine.  Movie Road, in the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine has provided the backdrop for countless movies through the years, and The Lone Ranger and John Wayne likely still roam some of the hills.  It also provides a very scenic backdrop for some camping.

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It also provided hours of exploration, rock climbing, and hunting opportunities for the grey mountain lion.IMG_9009IMG_3805IMG_3803IMG_3795IMG_3793IMG_3792IMG_9017IMG_3787

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Another friend from back home showed up in Lone Pine, after attending the SEMA show in Las Vegas, so the next few days was spent touring some of the scenic spots in the area, including Whitney Portal and the road up to Cottonwood Pass, where I hiked last year.

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After spending about a week in the Alabama Hills, it was time to move on again, this time to Sawtooth Canyon, south of Barstow.  We made a slight detour through Ridgecrest to get the windshield chips repaired, and to stock up and essentials at WM.  I still hadn’t put new batteries in the calendar, so it was a bit of a shock to arrive (late) at Sawtooth, and find that not only all the ‘official’ camp spots were occupied; so were a lot of unofficial off-road places.  Guess that happens when a long weekend you didn’t know about is in full swing in a popular climbing area.  Fortunately, it was mostly over and I managed to get a good spot the next morning as someone was vacating.

Then, John  & Nicole showed up with their brand new Arctic Fox 5th wheel, pulled by a brand new Dodge pickup, and moved in next door.  They seem to have survived the snow that had arrived as they departed their home in BC, and were more than ready for some hiking, bbq, and generally kicking back and relaxing.

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Hailey loved doing some rock climbing here too, right at the edge of camp.  I would follow her, wearing my best climbing ‘Crocs’ with the heels locked down, while sipping the morning coffee.  When it was time to descend, I would do so with an armful of squirming cat, no hands, while attempting not to spill any coffee or cats!  No cats, coffee, or humans were injured during this risky exercise.  All those years of mountain rescue are paying off now!

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The mice here were even more adept at getting inside, in spite of my attempts to deter them, using lights, strobes, and tinfoil scarecrows.  At least the mice were prone to early capture in one of my many snap traps or my two live traps, though it kept me busy emptying them all.  But that all changed when a kangaroo rat got into the basement.  He was like a bull in the china shop, making a constant racket as he scratched, banged, and rattled things.  Opening doors to provide an escape did not work, but luckily he managed to get entangled in a too-small mouse trap long enough so that I was able to evict him.  My trap inventory has since been upgraded!  And the search for entry points continues.

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I also managed to catch my first real cold in about 5 years while here, so that diminished my keenness to get out hiking, but I did manage a couple of ridge walks with John & Nicole.

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Friday, November 03, 2017

From the ocean beaches to the Sierras …

At last update, we had just overnighted on the jetty at Gold Beach Oregon.  In the morning, we were on the road south again.  Preferring not to haul a full load of water around, we just took a partial fill at the Harris Beach SP rest area, then filled up with diesel at the Fred Meyers in Brookings, Or.  Lots of road construction all up and down the highway, with many areas of one-way traffic, pilot vehicles and the like.  In most cases we would pull over and let the entire line up go past us, knowing that for the next 10-30 minutes, there would be absolutely no one behind us.  After passing through Crescent City, and always being amazed at the number of homeless types wandering the streets of Eureka, we were back out to the coast to spend a couple of days just relaxing and walking the beach.



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Took this opportunity to do a major overhaul on the big GM.  Actually, it was just to change a headlight bulb, but they have regressed a lot since a 2003 GMC I drove where you could replace a bulb in about a minute with no tools needed at all.  With this truck, there are 3 different ways of getting to the light on the driver’s side – none of which are easy.  This method I chose involves removing the battery on that side, removing 8 bolts holding the battery support in place, then partially removing the windshield washer tank.  Even then, it’s not exactly easy.  I’m getting pretty good at it now, after replacing the same bulb just a couple weeks earlier.  I guess I neglected to wash off the blood, sweat, and tears (peanut butter?) off the last bulb, and it proceeded to burn out right away!  But…nothing much better to do on a warm, sunny day at the beach!

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After a couple of nice beach days we moved along.  In Fortuna, the Chevron pumps didn’t seem to like 00000 for a zip code, so we moved on to the Shell station and filled with both diesel and filled a propane bottle.

From the coastal areas, we wanted to head across to the eastern side of California.  Last year we took Hwy 36 across to Red Bluff and eventually Susanville and Reno.  It is a very scenic route, but it can be challenging in some sections for towing, with the steep, winding sections and tight curves.  But this time there was some major construction going on, resulting in all-day closures in some areas.  With that in mind and always wanting to explore new routes, on down the 101 we went.  This year, a new section of highway goes around Willitts and avoids the downtown area entirely.  We started to see a few freshly burned over areas north of Ukiah, but it was not till reading it later in the San Fran newspapers that we realized we had passed very close to some of the devastated areas, where many residents perished, unable to avoid the flames or evacuate in time. Sad smile

After filling up at the Coyote Valley casino at $2.75 we took the 20 across, and after a Wally world overnight, hit the I-5 at Williams.  Never fond of driving on the I-5, but it seemed best to follow it south at least as far as Sacramento, and then turn east again on the 20.  We filled up on $3. diesel in Placerville and headed for the hills! 

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Twas still early in the day when we passed the tiny forest service camp spot where we’d previously overnighted, so we kept going.  Because of snow last year, some of the interesting routes in this high sierra country were already closed for the winter.  But not this year, so we struck out on 89 & 88 through Markleeville.  By now it was getting late, and after a bit of scouting on foot, the rig got squeezed down a short steep goat path to the river at the jct of 4 and 89.  Hailey had fun digging in the sand on the beach and launching mock attacks on imaginary prey.

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The following morning, we were not discouraged by the first sign on the road.

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From there, hwy 89 climbs through some beautiful country up towards Monitor pass at 8314’


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That’s Leviathan peak in the background, and we could see a fire lookout up top as we got close.IMG_8929IMG_8927

Never one to pass up a visit to a lookout (even if not getting paid), I parked the rig and left Hailey there for a hike up to the peak, which is just short of 9000’.  There is a decent road going most of the way up, but I was in the mood for a stretch and a good hike.  On top, the fire lookout was found to be closed  Sad smile, and possibly abandoned.  But there were a couple of radio techs there from the Ca Highway Patrol just finishing some routine maintenance on their repeaters as all the roads in the area will soon be snow covered and closed for the winter.

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I took a 360* photosphere from the summit, which is now live on Google Maps, though googles image stitching missed the boat on this one as the top of the tower appears to be floating in thin air.  Rest assured, it’s not!  Click on the link or photo below to take in the whole scene.

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Not sure what it is with these California mice?  The rig was parked at home stationary all summer in excellent mouse habitat, and not a single trespasser made it inside.  And before I departed, I even plugged a few more possible entry points.  Well one night recently, two were caught, and the next night – three!  I give them a choice of live traps and snap traps, but most of them seem to prefer the snap traps!  At least they all show up at the same location inside and are not running freely about the rig, but they all seem to manage to avoid the 5 baited traps in the basement.

Since my last update, a few more migrants have made their moves south.  Jean & Skip have passed me and are now in southern California, and John & Brenda are also doing some boondocking in southwest Arizona.  Wandering Willy and the Bayfield Bunch are still waiting for the correct star alignment before making their move.  Non blogging friends John & Nicole waited a bit too long and are driving through 4-5” of snow as they start south with their new 5th.  And, non blogging friends Ernie & Deb have sold their house, and will shortly begin adventures as full-timers as they head south with a fancy diesel pusher.  I hope they will still let me camp near them!

This blog post is getting long enough, so will leave the hot springs visits for the next one!


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