Thursday, November 25, 2021

Mojave Desert, at last!

I didn't want to spend a lot more time at the hot springs near Bridgeport, Ca, as the amount of sunshine (therefore warmth) during the day was limited, and I also didn't want to deal with any weekenders that might show up.

To make sure I had enough fuel to avoid buying any at the prices in Bridgeport (below), I dumped in both of my 5 gallon cans of spare fuel, and we headed south on the 395.

Little consideration was given to stopping at all the hot springs near Mammoth Lakes for some of the same reasons as above.  As well, the ski hill there was now open for the season - which usually means that crowds of skiers descend on the pools every evening.  And lastly, several years ago, BLM decided to block off the spot near the springs where I often spent a few days camping and soaking.

So we carried on down to Bishop, where the Paiute Casino gas station provided us with fills of diesel, propane at reasonable prices, and water for free!

Daylight was showing signs of fading for the day as we approached Lone Pine, so it was an easy decision to overnight up in the Alabama Hills where we have spent a fair bit of time in the past.

The area was getting a lot of use and abuse from a variety of user groups, resulting in lots of trampling, dust, and most likely a lot of human waste spread around.  So, even at our last visit two seasons ago, BLM had started to rehab some areas, and re-planting some vegetation, and closing some questionable routes.  This has obviously been continuing.  Heading up into the hills from town, virtually all of the admittedly lousy, uneven, roadside spots are now signed as 'no camping' from the landlord, LA Water & Power, who own most of the valley.  Up on Movie road, most of the easily accessible (dusty) roadside spots are now marked as 'no camping'.  And, the entire area to the west, favoured by rock climbers in their vans, tents, VW buses, is now marked as 'day use only'!  I can imagine the climbers are not impressed.  Sure, they can still camp in the 'open' areas and commute to their favourite climbing routes, but ...

I headed for my own 'usual' private spot, but it was already occupied (dang it all), and I managed to add some new grooves to the truck box getting the 5th turned around on the narrow, uneven roads :-(.

There are still a lot of available spots for vans or truck campers, but much less so for bigger rigs, unless they like to crowd together in the area where the pavement ends?  I don't.  We spent a quiet night in a previously scouted area - generally on the way towards Tuttle Creek campground.  Again, the weather was not that inviting, so it was only an over-nighter.  We had warmer places in our sights!

Next day, after stocking up on fuel and food again in Barstow, we aimed for a spot in Mojave National Preserve where we have previously camped and enjoyed several times in the past.
Decent warmth - finally!  Time to kick back, relax, stop driving and enjoy the weather, the scenery, and the Mojave desert.  Hailey loves it too.  She was eager to get out, hunt for some kangaroo rats, and prove that 3-legged felines can still climb trees.

And enjoy the sunsets!
In fact, this is the spot we came to relax and rehab after having her leg amputated in Vegas two years ago.

My 'new' method of satellite dish stabilization has now been tested for two years, and I no longer bother bringing along any other type of support.  Usually, I clamp the plank under whichever corner jack of the rig has a southern exposure, but this time the front hitch got the nod.  Even in strong winds, that dish is not going to move - unless the rig tips over.  Simple, free, effective.

This area has a lot of potential for exploring old abandoned mines and structures, old trails, mountains, caves and dry lake beds.

No one else camped within view, or for miles, although one night a jeep and a tent appeared not 50 yards away despite a thousand square miles of other options.  But, they arrived in the dark, were quiet, and left first thing in the morning.

I had the new e-bike out - cruising for miles across the dry lake bed and trails.  I think it will prove very handy down here this year.

Hailey, doing her morning kitty-yoga routine.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

California Coast to the Sierras

 As we headed southward, we enjoyed a few days just parked on the side of the highway overlooking the ocean along the northern California coast.

 But the weather was starting to get cloudier and cool, so it was time to continue on southward.

We stopped in Fort Bragg for some fuel, than took the Comptche Ukiah road from Mendocino to Ukiah.  While the road was well paved throughout, and quite an easy drive for the first half, the second part became very winding, and narrow with many switchbacks and steep grades, with few views, so won't be on my itinerary in the future.  From there, it was across the central valley to Williams, then down the I-5 to Sacramento before turning east again along highway 50 leading through the Sierras and Eldorado National Forest.  We were kind of aiming for a little roadside campsite at Sand Flat, where we have over nighted a couple of times in the past.  Unfortunately, a huge wildfire passed through the area in September.  The campground wasn't burned, but it was closed because it was an access point for an obviously massive salvage logging operation.  So we had to continue on in the dark, and eventually just parked in a viewpoint along highway 89, just south of Lake Tahoe.

It's a pretty scenic route from that point, with some 8000' passes and very light traffic.

We stopped here for about an hour to have a snack and let Hailey out for a look around.  I think only two vehicles went by during that time!

We picked up 395 going down east of the Sierras, and got to Bridgeport, where the fuel prices again topped anything I have seen!
             Nov 2021                                             Nov 2019

We got our 'usual' BLM camp spot near Travertine hot springs, and spent a few days soaking in the wonderful hot water in a variety of semi-natural pools.  It was the first time this trip to actually un-hook, put out the slides, and really relax.


Some nice sunrises from the pools.

Next - Lone Pine - Alabama Hills and further south.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Southern Migration - Oregon/California coast on the 101

 We spent a quiet, but breezy night on the side of the road overlooking the John Day dam from the Washington state side of the Columbia river.  Normally, we'd be right down by the water, watching the tugs and barges going in and out of the locks on the dam, but that area is now signed as day use only area :-(  I guess things change when you are forced to take a year off from southern travel?

A few splashes of rain followed us down the I-84 on the Oregon side of the river approaching Portland, but it cleared up as we skirted the city on the south west side. 

It would have been nice to stop in at the Fry's Electronics store in Wilsonville, just south of Portland on the I-5, but unfortunately it appears that all those stores have closed down :-(.   Many stores were sadly getting bare shelves before we left due to covid in spring 2020.  
Making good time, the route took us further south-west to McMinnville, where we often overnight in the huge parking lot behind the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.  It was early in the day, and I debated continuing on towards the coast.  Another 'new' sign helped make the decision.  I didn't check to see if there was a cost involved - and headed for the coast.


 Weather was a mixed bag, with frequent rain as we hit the coast at Lincoln City and headed southward.


 Next day, traffic was light on the 101, and the mixed bag of weather kept us moving along, ever southward, passing a number of spots where we typically stop for a night.  After getting diesel in Idaho for $3.25, it was a bit of a shock to see the prices along the southern Oregon coast. 

In Brookings, it was $4.99 at the Fred Meyer, and we managed to find the same price in Eureka, Ca.  But we saw some stations along the way showing $5.45!  I guess that's not bad (?) considering my Gas Buddy app shows the diesel price in Bridgeport, Ca at $6.29/gal!  Wow!

 Hailey was glad to be away from the snow; free to hunt seals and sea gulls again!

We made it as far as Orick, Ca. that day, and found our 'usual' private, ocean-view spot ready for us.  Too bad the locals (?) seem to like to dump their trash over the bank there ...

Next day was a short drive to the beaches near Fortuna.  The weather was now sunny and warm, with only light winds.  Time to slow down and smell the sea breezes!

Hailey, of course enjoys the endless sandbox of the dunes and beach areas!

Where to next?  Not sure, but it will be southbound for sure!