Saturday, November 16, 2019

After spending about a week on the California and Oregon coasts, it was unfortunately time to move inland.  We spent quite a few days camped right on the coast near Westport, overlooking the ocean 24/7, but in a relatively quiet and free spot.  From there, it was a short but scenic drive south to Fort Bragg where, despite it's relative isolation, prices for fuel and propane were downright reasonable, for California at least!
We picked up highway 20 out to Willits, and after a short jog south, continued east.  Any further south would have taken us right into the Kincade fire zone in Sonoma county.  At Williams, we rather reluctantly hooked onto the I-5 down as far as Sacramento, before veering east again on 50.  Fuel was topped off at Placerville around dusk.  After encountering very heavy oncoming traffic as we climbed into the Eldorado National Forest, we managed to locate Sand Flats FS campground.  It was immediately adjacent to the highway, but the traffic noise eventually died down, as did the temperatures at that higher elevation.
To take advantage of the better prices for fuel ($3.10/g diesel) and beverages, we made a short detour northward to Gardnerville, Nv, before returning thrrough Alpine Village and Markleeville, then taking Monitor Pass back towards 395.

There are lots of wide open vistas up there, and last time through we hiked up to the now abandoned fire lookout on Leviathan Peak.  While the lookout is sadly closed, it still bristles with communications towers.
Following 395 south into the eastern sierra is very scenic and the traffic was very light, so we made it into Bridgeport in good time.  We recalled that the diesel price last year was $4.79, but it seems it has gone up just a bit!
Fortunately, the tank was full, as were my two spare fuel cans at this point.  Our destination was Travertine hot springs, just outside of town.  The road up to my preferred camp spot is rather rough, and I'd rather not do it, only to find my spot taken.  That's where the UAV (drone to some folks) comes in handy!  I sent it up to check the area, and found that sure enough, my spot was vacant.  I always try to avoid arriving on a weekend as well.

 As I was flying back down, a small class C scooted past us, but luckily did not take the best spot!

I usually head to the pools before dawn, to beat any rush, and by the time the sun comes up, it's warm enough to exit the water and air-dry!
Hailey quickly got back into re-training all the local chipmunks, and whatever real or imaginary creatures lurked under the bushes!  
We hadn't really planned to stay that long, but the long weekend snuck up on us, and I had no desire to face any increased traffic on the road, or at the next proposed stop at hot springs down near Mammoth. 
Went for what was planned to be just a short exploration up Aurora Canyon road, leading right out of Bridgeport.  But, as usual, it lured us further and further, and higher and higher, till we had a nice view back over the valley, and could see that the road seemed to join up with the Bodie - Masonic road.  The road was even fairly smooth - in a few places!  We picked up the Bodie road at the junction, and seven miles later, the ghost town of Bodie came into view.
 Bodie is now maintained as a State Park, and there is an entrance fee, but I just drove on by, heading for the highway.

 It looks like a place you could easily spend a day wandering around and taking photos.

 Although highway 270 leads directly to Bodie from the 395, the last several miles turns from nice pavement to really ugly, dusty, washboard - worse than the 4x4 roads I had arrived by.
I suspect more than a few visitors turn off the main highway, believing the road is paved all the way - but not so.

After the long weekend was over, it seeemed advisable to carry on.  Got the propane topped off in Lee Vining, and headed for the hotsprings near Mammoth.  Having just spent a week in hot water at Travertine, it was not that important to hit these springs as well.  But once again, it was decided to check out the parking and such before committing to the dusty road.  Good thing we did, too.  It turns out that the BLM have been busy maintaining and controlling the area.  The spot I usually park with my 5er is now all blocked with rocks, so that it is a turn-around only :-(  Good thing I didn't drive all the way in to discover that!

The main parking lot seems to have gained a badly need outhouse and garbage bin, so I guess overall, it's an improvement - since most of the usual campers have tents, or sleep in their cars or vans.
Trail and wooden walkway down to the pools.

Pools at Wild Willy's
 With lots of flight time available, we checked out nearby Hilltop springs on the return.  This is a fairly small, concrete tub, but the view around is 360, and there is a handy tap so you can turn the heat up and down as you like. 
 With the investigation complete, it was decided to keep on rolling down the highway to Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills.

Not my photo!
Without even flying, I could see that my usual camp spot was available, so we just pulled in and left setting up till the next day.

 Hailey found that the lizards have lost all their training, so she got right back to work keeping them properly nervous.

 I think she also enjoys the scenery of the area.

Zoom in - she's up there!

As usual, we made a day trip up to Cottonwood Meadows area, from the 4600' level in our camp to over 10,000' up at the meadows.  Previously, we hiked up to Cottonwood Pass, at over 11,000', but the wind was blowing up there and it was chilly, though sunny and nice.

There seems to be some confusion on the road up there.  Do I park on the pavement, or not?

 Same road, different signs.

 I suspect that we'll be here - until we leave!

I was hoping maybe Bayfield Al would have picked up a nice new Class C or something when Kelly was away for a few days!  But glad to see they are still keeping their eyes open for the right rig.  Hope to see them down here again soon.  And, well before Christmas I'm told the elusive Wandering Willy will be trying to sneak into somewhere in Arizona.
Maybe John & Brenda, too, as soon as their rig gets out of hospital after an unplanned encounter on their last excursion.  Glad no one was hurt.
Till next time!


  1. Oh Dear those pics of the Alabama Hill sure tugged at me. We were only there once years ago and I had always hoped to make it back there again. What a great area all around there. Looks like Hailey the Mountain Goat has adopted very well to her triangular mode of transportation. Good for you in sticking with her and enabling her to enjoy these great traveling days. Travels for us this winter are looking doubtful but we haven't given up. Enjoy your days:))

  2. Thanks Al. Never give up!

  3. The reports are encouraging, and our tentative plan is to find a weather window, that fits our escape plan from winter, but not probably till just before that jolly old elf is scheduled to make his southerly run. Maybe we can help him bring his load south.

    1. Better get studded tires on the rig, just in case!

  4. Glad you stopped at the Alabama Hills. As of March 2019 it is now officially the Alabama Hills Nation Scenic Area. Altho Tuttle Creek and Portagee Joe are said to be the only authorized overnight areas, it's nice to see you found dispersed camping is still allowed. Looks like you're having a great trip

  5. No new signage, and no changes that I can see. No water or dump site in Tuttle - for the winter, I guess. It was very quiet, till the weekend, then tons of climbers and a few noisy, dusty atv's! All good.