Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tuttle Creek Campground, Lone Pine, California

Hi Kids!

This place is so cool!

We came down a crazy-long 6% grade, miles and miles long... seemed to last forever. Still, truck did fine with the exhaust brake and minimal brake usage. We are so pleased.  That's no small thing with a 19K pound trailer.

So down from about 8,000 feet of elevation to about 4200. We are still up high, and the temperatures are more mild, mid 80s during the day, and not quite as cold at night, 50's.  MUCH better. Our furnace was running every night at Glass Creek... low 30's every night!  It's odd to experience such a wide swing in temperatures in such a short time. One of the new skills we will have to master, I guess!  Tomorrow we will move and they will swing wildly again... and not in a good way. 100's!! YIKES.

So this campground was one that Dad researched as to whether or not we would fit. His research paid off and we were able to find a site, though most of them are NOT suitable. Most are very unlevel and there the campground is primitive. No hookups (see a theme here?) but there is water and a dump station to access when you arrive and of course when you leave.

The attraction here is Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. Lone Pine is a very small and picturesque town who's claim to fame is the nearly constant occupation by Hollywood making western movies. It all started way back in the 30's... and when you see the natural scenery here it is easy to understand why. They even made the movie "Tremors" here too... I am now anxious to see some of these movies (again) and be able to recognize the area. It's very distinctive!  They made IRONMAN here too.

The Alabama Hills is the natural recreation area that adjoins Lone Pine. It is owned by the BLM and they have miles of free boondocking on the scenic landscape. We chose the campground for simplicity; it's very close to the Alabama Hills recreation area and it is only $8/night. We were glad to have access to the water and dump station. Though, after exploring the Alabama Hills, we could see that there were lots of areas we could have camped out there, for sure.

While here, we visited the Film Museum, where you learn all about what went on out here. It's definitely a MUST DO. Again, I thought of Grammy. These were HER PEOPLE for sure. She so loved all of that stuff. I thought of her constantly as I browsed through the copious amount of memorabilia. Lots of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger, on and on.  So interesting.

The backdrop of this campground (and all of Lone Pine) is the STUNNING Mt. Whitney and the Sierra Nevada range. It is indescribable. The tallest peak in the continental US, thousands of climbers come here to take the ultimate challenge. It is beyond beautiful. I would love to see after a little snow falls, which should be soon beings this is nearly October. The jagged granite peaks are amazing in the early morning when the rising sun lights them up in electric relief. Wish you could see it.

Today we got up early to beat the heat and take advantage of great sunlight effects and took our bikes over to the Alabama Hills Recreation Area to ride among all of the dirt roads off of "Movie Flatts Road". The exact spot where all of the movies were made, exciting ambush scenes, and cowboys and indians fought endlessly. Really epic stuff.

The MONEY SHOT with Mt. Whitney through the arch!
We hiked up to a landmark called Mobius Arch and took the sought after photo of Mt. Whitney through the arch, glowing in the very early sun. It was magical.

I love hiking on granite and sandstone... the rocks are so "grippy" and you can scale up the side of them like a mountain goat! Super fun!

Next we scoured the dirt track roads, up and down granite faces and through slot canyons of giant boulders.

It felt like we were riding around in a Flintstones cartoon! The landscaping is truly other-worldly. It's just amazing to us that there are places like this that occur naturally. NOT man made.

Tomorrow, very early to beat the heat, we will head out and continue south toward Arizona. We are stopping at an Elks lodge for a couple of nights. They have hookups there which we will need with temps as high as they will be. I will get some laundry done and maybe a much-needed pedicure! I need to buy more milk, you know how Dad needs his glass of milk before bed every night. Things are going really well so far, and we hope it continues. It truly is like a dream come true. The only negative so far is being so far away from all of you.

I hope things are well there. I know the weather must be starting to turn. Seems odd that we won't experience that this time. Hmmmm. Don't know how I feel about that.

Love you all so much! MOM

Elks Lodge #1913, Ridgecrest, California-Great Stop!

Hi Kids!

Well, it's time to start truly making our way to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta on October 3.  We have a long way to go yet, and we don't like to drive extended hours so we have to make a lot of stops. We planned these stops months ago, and it's a lot of fun to finally see them actually happening. Our careful planning and research has paid off (so far) and we have been very happy with every place we have stayed.  We have been living off the grid now for a long time, and we were looking for a place to take care of some business; namely, do some laundry and clean up some stuff. It has been very dirty and dusty with all the outdoor playing we have been doing.  Though our solar has been fantastic for enough electricity, our water tanks only last so long and running the clothes washer uses more water than we would like when boondocking.

After an easy haul down 395 to come down another couple thousand feet in elevation, we arrived in the city of Ridgecrest where there is an Elks Lodge that we had targeted. It offers full hookups (YAY! Sewer!!) and 50 amps of electricity (TWO A/C's!!). This is what we were really after... the temps in Ridgecrest are right at 100 degrees every day, and we are not used to that AT ALL.

This lodge has a terrific setup, lots of room, and several sites. There were a few RV's there but plenty left for us to pick from. They are all pretty level and have a fine, graveled surface. None offer shade, although a couple have a small tree between sites. We chose one of those. We got setup and filled out one of the little slips at the kiosk outside. The lodge was closed on the weekend. The cost of the site is $20/nightly, so we would square up in the bar on Monday.

The big benefit of this location is that it is located very near one of the places we have been really excited to explore; The Trona Pinnacles.  The Pinnacles are tall calcium spires in a large grouping in the middle of what used to be one of several large lakes about 100,000 years ago. The spires were formed by volcanic springs bubbling up from the bottom of the lake, and the chemical reaction between the compounds caused the deposits to be formed in a pile... now they are these ghostly, other-worldly sculptures in the middle of the dessert, surrounded by BLM land that is free to camp on for up to 14 days. It is truly unbelievable and amazing.

Since it was so hot, we chose not to camp near the pinnacles, but to simply drive out early one morning for a bike ride in and around the spires. We wanted to be on our way home before the blazing hot sun got too hot, like about 10 AM. One thing about the dessert, yes, it is a dry heat, so it isn't too bad in the shade, but IF you are in the sun, it is almost unbearable. It's intense on our tender Pacific Northwest Pallor!

We got there as planned and parked not too far from the large parking area and single vault toilet provided. We unloaded the bikes and excitedly took off on a really fun exploration of all the different sandy dirt roads that wind through all over the place. You go up and down hills, through the spires and around the area. Most of the roads are easy riding but you can see deep ruts and washouts from when it rained last. I have read the the roads quickly become impassible if it rains and people get stuck out there. I wouldn't want to experience that, for sure.

Our electric bikes are ideal for this. We never had any problem zooming up steep hills and between the rocks. The fat tires are excellent for this kind of terrain, the bikes are sure-footed and steady. One of the really great benefits is that they are SILENT. You hear nearly nothing except the crunching of the gravel in what feels like a magical place. I just loved it. Having the bikes allowed us to be very comfortable and see most of the area without really getting tired or hot.

We rode for about an hour and half and could feel the air heating up. It was time to go. We had seen most of what we came to see, and were elated that we actually had the whole place to ourselves! Not a single other person there, due to the early hour. It was like being on another planet. We were so glad that we had made the effort to get out there early!

Well, time to get ready to move again! We are headed out early in the morning for Needles, California, and another Elks Lodge. Only for one night, because it is even HOTTER there... 107ish each day this week! YIKES! We are going to keep going the next day to Winslow, Arizona where it is a little higher in elevation and finally better temps. Only in the 80's! That will feel like heaven after being in this blast furnace for a week! So we'll check in from there.

Yellow ghost light made from a bucket!
Oh: Dad made a new ghost-light, he missed his too much. We decided yellow would be better because of the bugs. It was a good choice, no bugs at all bothered us as we enjoyed our new light on our patio last night! Check it out:

I bet it's getting a little more like fall at home! Love you!!! MOM