Friday, September 23, 2016

Salty, Eerie Mono Lake, California

Hi Kids!

What a BUSY 24 hours it has been! I feel like it has been DAYS since my last entry, and it has only been hours!

We left the grimy, busy Reno area and headed south on 395 again. This was new territory for us, we had never ventured further south on 395 when we lived in Herlong, California all those years ago.  Our plan was to get down into some of the good boondocking areas in the lower Sierra Nevadas that the West is famous for.  I have read countless inviting blog posts from other RVers who have had so much fun down here.

Eventually we knew we would be headed into Yosemite through it's east entrance on highway 120.  We are fighting weather as a cold front is supposed to be headed in, and we wanted to make it over Tioga pass.  Tioga pass is the highest elevation passing in the West and exceeds 10,000 feet in elevation.

Mono Lake, California
As we came down into the valley in the town of Lee Vining we were dazzled by the sight of Mono Lake spread out below.  WOW it was amazing to see! The shorelines are crusty white with the alkalinity of the water.  I won't go into all of the amazing facts about this natural wonder here, but it's crazy amazing.  We knew we had to stop here for the night, so we found some gorgeous boondocking areas and picked our spot. We were like the only people on earth and had a very quiet night among the big pines growing out of the light and fluffy pumice gravel that was so odd. Very difficult to drive in, we had to use 4 wheel drive.

Next morning we pulled in the slides and headed over to the lake to see what we could see.

Our amazing paddle on Mono Lake among the Tufas... AWESOME!
We learned of the cold front coming in today and high winds were expected... so we were uncertain as to whether we would be able to break out the Banana Boat or not. Dad was actually more nervous about it than me (isn't that a first?).  We hiked through the South Tufa area and were awestruck by the weird, ghostly spires that were formed over thousands of years when that area used to be under water. The very salty lake water (2 and half times SALTIER than the ocean!) mixes with the fresh water coming in through underground springs and the bicarbonate (think baking soda) causes a chemical reaction as the underground water bubbles up and builds the spires.  Of course, Los Angeles has laid claim to much of the tributary streams and rivers that used to keep this lake filled, and so now the Tufas stand as grim sentinels, a testament to the depletion of the water supply in the region.  The lake isn't nearly as large as it used to be.

Check out the SALT on Dad's hand!
We were covered with it!
Because the water is so dense with salt, buoyancy is greatly enhanced. They say that it is almost impossible to sink when you are swimming in it.  We didn't swim, but we did wade in to launch the boat. It has a crazy, slippery feel. When the water dries, every surface is covered in white salt.  Our glasses, our clothes and our skin was powdery white.

Though the wind had picked up measurably, we just had to risk a quick paddle in the lake around the Tufas. We are SO glad we did!  Within minutes after getting off the water the weather arrived... Whew!

We loaded up and headed out 120 for YOSEMITE!!  WOO HOO!!  We will update you tomorrow! We miss you all so much! Watch for more Facebook LIVE broadcasts! Love, Mom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Check Engine Light, Playing and Into The Desert!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Soon after leaving the Crater Lake area we were just arriving in Klamath Falls, Oregon and the dreaded "Check Engine" light came on.  CRAP! Now what?  You'll remember that I just took the truck in to RAM to have this fixed. It was a flaw with the catalytic converter system. They said at the time that if the check engine light comes on again that we would probably have to have our catalytic converter replaced.  Since we have no way of knowing what the light was for, we stopped in at the local RAM service center and a technician came out and confirmed that it was indeed the same issue as before.  He said that it would not harm the truck to keep driving on our trip, so we took off. I emailed the local dealership where we normally go to let them know. We then continued on south.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

It was a peaceful night at the campground last night.  This morning we got going early and had a quick breakfast before heading out on the "Bumpass Hell" trail to the most interesting place! This 3 mile, moderate hike took us through gorgeous scenery to the location of this geothermal curiosity. Mud and water boil at over 200 degrees while plumes of sulfurous gas escape. The stench of sulfur (which has a rotten egg smell) was strong as we used the man-made boardwalk to view the bubbling pools.  It was very surreal, and there were several signs warning you to stay on the boardwalk because of the strong danger of being burned by falling through the thin-crusted surface! Yikes! In fact, the man who discovered it who was named "Bumpass" did fall through one time burning his leg, and eventually lost it.  We stayed on the trail.
After leaving there we were pretty tired. It was only a three mile hike, but there was some steep terrain, and we haven't been hiking for a while, PLUS we were at about 6,000 foot elevation. We got in the truck and traveled a little further to the Lassen visitors' center and bought ourselves a t-shirt and an ice cream. We felt pretty restored after that.  Dad said we could go to Reno, so that's where we are headed next, though we plan to stop for the night on the way there.  We are very close now but too tired to go to Reno today! Guess that's it for now! Love, Mom.

Monday, Sept 19, 2016

We found an interesting boondocking prospect on our "Allstays" app in the Plumas National Forest very near Herlong, California. The significance of this area was that 32 years ago to the day, we met while stationed in here in the Army.  We felt compelled to spend a night surrounded by the familiar landscape of the high desert where we spent our first months together, completely unaware that we would be back here 32 years later after spending our lives together.  What an incredible journey it has been!  THe circle of golden hills surrounding this place brought back many memories of what we thought were trials and tribulations. How young and naive we were!
This boondocking spot had about 6 primitive, small campsites, and one vault toilet.  The sites were not level, but close enough for a truck camper, our jacks were able to straighten us out.  I would NOT recommend it for big rigs at all, and only very small RV's, like a small class C. Early in the morning, after a very peaceful night we closed up the camper and hit the road.  Todd decided he wanted to make the short drive into Herlong itself, and visit the ghostly remnants of what used to be a pretty bustling Army Depot.  Not much is left of it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We stopped in Reno at the Grand Sierra Resort RV Park.  We had never been here before, but we were looking forward to taking care of some housekeeping items (laundry, tanks, etc.) with the full hookups. We were surprised that it was only $30/night with our AAA discount.  Granted, it is only a huge parking lot with spaces painted in, but there are good, clean amenities, including access to the VERY nice hotel pool and hot tub.
Naturally, we spent the evening playing games in the hotel, and had an awesome time. We had chosen one of the smaller back-in sites with a max rig size of only 30 feet.  We always work to be considerate and not take a "big rig" site if we can use a smaller one. The park was only about half full though, so really we could have taken any.  One thing that we did NOT like about the spot we chose; it backed up to the access road to the hotel, and obviously some people like to use it as a drag strip late at night! Just couldn't have anticipated that.
Today we are headed for some serious boondocking in the desert, and we are really looking forward to it. On the way south on I-395 we stopped in Carson City to get a few items and we bought two new bikes! We have been wanting bikes for a long time and I had bought a bike rack before we left for just such an event! We have been travelling thus far with an empty bike rack, but NO MORE! We got two Schwinn bikes and a few accessories and hopefully we can zip around the area we boondock in and see some good sights!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Crater Lake Stop

Hi Kids!
We arrived at Crater Lake NP after a lengthy delay for road construction on the way up.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day and the lake was like it always is: Bright blue and surreal.  We made a B-Line for the gift shop and got our T-shirts (we intentionally packed only a couple of T-shirts for the trip, intending to replentish our stock of National Park wear!).  It's only the second night away from home but we are on track for our goal of doing as much boondocking as possible.  After seeing the sights, we headed down the other side of the mountains toward Lassen.  We have not seen it before, and it has been on our list for a long time.
After this trip we will have seen MOST of the western National Parks.  We had to change our route (reversed it actually) because we just missed the good weather up at Glacier. We want to go when it's not rainy and in the 40's... I mean, we can get that at HOME right?

Our Allstays app indicated there was a free boondocking spot at Annie's Creek snow park, so that's where we headed. Until November 1, there is no permit required.  We pulled in to find it PERFECT, and one of the best boondocking spots we have come across.  Definitely goes on our list of repeats if we are need of overnights in the area again.  Beautiful Annie's creek runs through the park and there is ample parking for lots of rigs. Anything from a big rig (which would be the paved parking lot) or if you have a high clearance rig you can venture down the very decent gravel road to the creek area. AWESOME.

This morning we had our coffee and buttoned up the Lance and hit the road about 8:30. We hope to arrive in the Lassen area around lunch time where we will stay for the night.  Dad randomly said maybe we could stop by Disneyland on our way back up depending on how we go... He laughed when I gasped with my hand over my heart. I ALWAYS want to go to Disneyland!  Miss you all so much! Love, Mom.