Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Up the coast, running the snowy gauntlet, and home!

After close to a week on the coast near Fort Bragg, Ca, the weather was starting to deteriorate, so it was time to move along.

Usal road continues pretty much right along the coast, while the highway heads inland, winding like a snake at times till it reaches the 101 at Leggett.  I've wanted to check it out for a while now, so parked on the highway and hiked up it a mile or so for a look back out across the ocean.  I found that it is a good hard surface, though very steep in places, but there are almost no places where you could meet anyone and pass!  Maybe sometime we'll give it a try with the truck camper or empty truck, but it would be foolish to even consider it with the 5th wheel.
Continuing north on the 101, we elected to slow our progress by taking several section of scenic, winding secondary road on the Avenue of the Giants, enjoying the huge redwood trees - quite a change after months in the desert!  About this time, I found and removed a rather engorged tick from Hailey - yuck!  Previously I had found a couple others wandering around on my clothing, including one that tried attaching itself to my leg.  Personally, I could do without ticks!
Next night we found an ocean view spot near Loleta, but near constant rain and wind diminished it's appeal, or our desire to stay longer.  Heading north with the help of some reserve fuel, we stopped near Orick the next night, and slept to the sounds of the surf again.  We did have to stop for a splash of fuel in Crescent City, just to get us as far as Brookings, where the Oregon fuel prices were not as crazy.  Added fuel and propane in Brookings, and used the dump site at the rest area across from Harris Beach SP to get everything empty in preparation for 'winterizing' :-( again before getting home.
A roadside spot with an ocean view near Humbug mountain was our next overnight spot, and the periodic rains continued.  We made a brief stop at Paradise Point SP in Port Orford, but the temperatures and wind deterred any thoughts of a nice walk on the beautiful long beaches there.  The sun was out and it was a bit warmer when we go to Bullards Beach SP, so there was time to check out the old historic lighthouse on the Coquille River there.

The next night was at another windy cool spot along the coast, and I took the opportunity to drain the hot water tank as the next step towards winterizing.  With Hailey's help a couple of stowaway mice were evicted from the rig - the first ones all season.
One last windy rainy night on the coast and we were ready to begin the inland leg of the return journey home.  But not before filling up the truck and spare fuel cans with $164. of diesel at the bargain price (in Lincoln City) of $4.85/gal!  We made the run through Portland, and then followed the south side of the Columbia River eastbound on I-84, till turning northward again towards Spokane, Wa.  Our last US night was spent at a BLM camp spot not far from Spokane, but with howling winds and rain, it was not all that enjoyable!  After another top off of the fuel, we headed for the Canadian border.  There was a big line-up (2 semis), so it took us 6 minutes to get across. Pretty good, when compared to friends who had spent 6 hours in line crossing at Coutts, further east, a week or two previously.  Removal of the testing reqirements at the border had created a rush of Canadians soon after that change occurred.

Once north of the border, roads were good, but we hit some falling snow on the way to our next stop at friends in Pincher Creek, Ab.  Freezing temperatures were predicted, so I completed the winterizing before we solved a few world problem over an adult beverage or two.  Of course, as is the norm there, winds were howling, and any loose articles would be found in neighbouring Saskatchewan!

To avoid the worst of the winds, an early start was in order the next morning as we headed north on Highway 22 - where special wind speed warning signs have been installed.  It must have been relatively calm overnight, as there was only ONE overturned semi still laying in the ditch as we continued northwards.

 As we continued on our way, we were treated to the best of winter driving in Canada.  There were sections of black ice, white ice, packed snow, blowing snow, falling snow, slush.  Traffic was light, and we managed to avoid ditches and incidents along the way.

After having a nice clean truck and rig, rinsed clean by the coastal rains, it was sure nice to get it properly covered in slush, dirt, and salt again ;-(.  A quick stop at a cell phone place in Cochrane to pick up a new sim card, and we were on our way northward again.


 Now, the road had some rough frozen ice sections to enjoy, as well as seeing some less fortunate victims of the previous nights conditions!

Tell us again why we left Yuma and Lake Havasu "it's too HOT!", I think we said?
It became increasingly apparent that there had been a big, unexpected dump of snow the previous night, and roadside ditches and fields were covered by a deep layer of heavy wet snow.
Another roadside, slushy stop, and we picked up close to 5 months of mail - nice that it wasn't all stolen like it was a couple years ago.

 The final leg of the journey was the worst, with unplowed roads bearing 8-10" of heavy wet snow with only a single track.  Fortunately, we only met a lone vehicle along this stretch, but when I chose a spot atop a low rise to pull over and stop, any attempt to move had us sliding toward the ditch.  Eventually, I was able to get back on the track and continue, but there are a couple of very steep and large dips to navigate.  This required going way faster than advised on the downhills to have any chance at all of making it up the far side, even in 4wd.

The yard at home was unplowed, but by taking the corner way too fast, we made it in our driveway.  Even managed a few attempts at parking properly before conditions halted us in our snowy tracks!

At least this year, I didn't have to get my snowshoes out to carry Hailey into the house!  Lots of honking geese around, and hungry robins arguing about why they were here in these conditions!

Luckily, after only a couple days at home, all the snow has melted away.  And, who knows, in another month, there might even be a hint of green in some of the trees.

We'll get the fifth wheel parked for the summer - likely, and put the truck camper on for any summer adventures that will inevitably ensue.  In the meantime, there will likely be not a lot to blog about.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Across California, from Nevada to the Pacific.

After our time spent at Travertine and Buckeye Hot Springs, near Bridgeport, California, it was time to make a move.  Heading too far north at this point was likely to put us in colder weather that we wanted to avoid.  Our usual route takes us from just south of Lake Tahoe across California, through Sacramento, and then to the west.  We had followed that route back in November, but found that there was a lot of burned areas from recent fires, and associated salvage timber operations.  For a change of pace and a new view, we decided to pick up I-80 over Donner Pass and head west that way.  Of course we made sure all diesel tanks were plum full before leaving Nevada. :-)

The route took us on a steep climb up the Kingsbury grade, over Spooner Pass, then up the east side of Lake Tahoe. 

Our route intersected I-80 at Truckee, just east of Donner Pass.  It's high elevation country up there, and several ski resorts we passed were at least partially open.  Lots of snow still in the high country.

But, not being a fan of Interstates when not in a rush to get somewhere, we took the first opportunity to exit - onto Highway 20 at Yuba Pass.  That route was a lot more relaxing, though there were numerous construction zones and one lane traffic areas where they are logging, in preparation for widening and re-aligning parts of the road.

When not in a rush (we weren't) I kind of like these periodic traffic stops.  After following a pilot vehicle through a one lane construction zone, I would pull over and let everyone else by, so I could be the last vehicle.  That way, you know there is no one coming behind you and you can go as slowly as you like without impeding traffic, and easily choose where to pull off and check out trailheads or possible camp spots.  We passed through Nevada City, Grass Valley, Yuba City, and Williams along the way before needing an overnight spot.
Eventually, we found this scenic little BLM camp spot in prime elk country - though we didn't see any!

Hailey was keen to get out and keep the local lizards and mice on alert.

It's right next to the road, but at least the overnight traffic was light, and the frogs and crickets were glad to serenade us.
We had to fill up once more to get across California, but found slightly cheaper fuel at a casino gas station east of Clear Lake.  Next day, it was on across the 101, and west from Willits to Fort Bragg.  So nice to be back on the ocean!

I found miles of great cycling trails right along the ocean at Fort Bragg, so braved some refreshingly cool breezes to explore the trails.

We spent close to a week in the area, not really 'camping', but just overnighting in a variety of roadside areas.

 While the traffic is usually light, and almost nonexistent at night, we found one day that there was almost non-stop traffic, coming in lines!  A few checks of Google Maps traffic and twitter showed the reason why.  There had been a fatal collision and fire out on the 101 near Laytonville, and much or all of the 101 traffic was coming to the coast.  Luckily it did not last that long and it was back to the usual peaceful scene.

Marina at Fort Bragg on the Noyo river.

Near Westport, Ca.

Hailey figured we could have seal for supper, if she could just figure out a way to escape her harness and leash!

From here, we are continuing on northbound up the coast, as slowly as possible.  But as the weather gets cooler, and inevitably turns to rain, our speed tends to increase, the closer we get to home.