Glacier National Park

A month and a half ago, we left Jojoba Hills Escapees RV community in Southern California. To the question we were asked many times while there, “where will you be headed as new full-timers?”, we finally came up with an answer…Glacier National Park. On Friday, the three of us arrived.

entrance-signThey say that the good weather window in the park can be as short as two and a half months. As you can see by our attire, we got lucky. But it didn’t last long. As I write this a couple of days later, it has been raining and snowing in the park. But on the otherhand, it is to be mid-70s by the middle of next week. Even so, Fall is definitely in the air.

The current rate for park admission for one car is $30. Yikes! So, it was with great pleasure that I presented our Geezer Pass to the ranger, and he waived us right through…for free. Woohoo!

After stopping by the Visitor’s Center, we checked out the adjacent Apgar Campground. This is the largest campground in Glacier N.P. with 192 spaces, 25 of which are large enough for a 40 ft. motorhome. And the beauty is that the sites are FIRST COME-FIRST SERVE.

There are loops A,B,C and D. Loop E is reserved for Groups. We drove all of the loops and found several that our 36 footer would have fit in. And because it was late in the season, there were sites available. But we WERE concerned about the tightness of the loop roads and trees quite close to the roads. We probably would have been okay but, ultimately, the weather made our decision for us. As is typical, the campground is heavily forested with glimpses of sun throughout the day when the sky is fairly clear. When it is raining or close to snowing, that would not be fun. So, we decided to camp outside the park.

lake-mcdonald_first-view20160909_134936

Our first glimpse of the beauty of Glacier was almost immediate. The southern end of Lake McDonald is just inside the west entrance and connected to West Glacier Village and Apgar Campground.

 

 

lake-mcdonald_20160909_152519

 

At the other end of Lake McDonald, is the Lake McDonald Lodge. This is a view looking northward from the dock behind the lodge.

lake-mcdonald-lodgeAnd speaking of Lake McDonald Lodge, we had to take a look at this cozy little lodge.

 

 

Built in 1913, this historic chalet-style lodge has a  location on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake McDonald that is quite picturesque. There are 82 guest rooms split between the three-story main lodge, a row of  cabins, Snyder Hall and Cobb House.

lake-mcdonald-lodge_interior

 

Main lodge rooms are located on the second and third floors. Large/small cabin rooms are located along a tree-lined pathway adjacent to the lodge.

 

 

 

As we drove throughout Glacier National Park, we saw plenty of these tour cars. We found out later that they are actually known as Red Jammers, manufactured back in the ’30s by the White Motor Company. carWhile the buses are called reds, the bus drivers are called jammers because of the sound the gears made when shifting on the steep roads of the park. The “jamming” sound came from the unsynchronized transmissions, where double-clutching was a must.

The buses were modified between 2000-2002 by Ford Motor Company to run on propane or gas to lessen their environmental impact. The bodies were removed from their original chassis and built upon modern Ford chassis. The original standard transmissions were also replaced with newer automatics, removing the trademark “jamming” sound. Reportedly, there are 33 of these buses used throughout the park.

climbing-going-to-the-sun_20160910_122045

 

Just another stunning view of what glacier carved mountains and valleys look like. We were just a bit early for Fall colors, but as we traveled through the Park, we got glimpses of color that was on its way.

 

One of the most popular hiking trails in Glacier National Park is the Highline Trail. This photo is at the start of the trail which begins at Logan Pass, the highest point of the Going to the Sun Road within the park. The trail looks innocent enough here, but just around the corner I found out why it is called the Highline Trail.

start-of-highline-trail_logan-pass_20160910_133042

 

Because it was quite cold and windy at Logan Pass, Sharon chose not to hike the Highline Trail with me. But one of the things she was REALLY hoping to see while in Glacier was a Big Horn Sheep or a Goat.big-horn_20160910_133740

No sooner was I on the trail, like within minutes, and there in a meadow grazing was this Ram. And then, he started approaching us so that he could cross the trail. We were NOT going to stand in his way.

 

This is what I encountered once I hiked for about 10 minutes. Click to enlarge this photo and you will see that this “trail” is little more than a catwalk as it traverses the face of what is known as the Garden Wall, well above the automobile traffic directly below. highline-trail_20160910_134400I wanted to be able to say I had at least experienced “The Highline”, but unfortunately, my “hike” was cut short by the severe wind on the “wall” and I was forced to turn back. I’m such a sissy.

When visiting Glacier, you have to pick your weather days. Things can change rapidly it seems. We looked at the weather forcast and decided that this day was going to be perfect for a drive on Going to the Sun Road from West Glacier over to East Glacier. And it was.

heading-back-from-st-mary_20160910_151104This photo is a glimpse of St. Mary Lake as we were on the east side of the Park and were heading back west. Trees and shrubs were just starting to change color with Fall being just around the corner.

I’m including this photo because it is relevant to Glacier, which was certainly occupied by many different Native American tribes at one time or another. blackfeet-at-st-mary-1914When traveling through western Montana, Idaho, Washington or Oregon, it is impossible not to become appreciative of the influence tribes and bands had on the various areas. Amazingly, this “modern” photo was taken in 1914 at a time when the Blackfoot were still gathering on the east side of Glacier in the Two Medicine Valley.

Although we totally enjoyed this, our first visit to Glacier. ultimately the weather caught up with us, including rain and snow in the park. The forecast called for more on the way and so we decided to move on, heading in a westerly direction toward the San Juan Islands of Washington. But we’ll be back. Next time approaching from the east side.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

McKay’s Bend Campground – Lewiston, Idaho

After 7 glorious fun-filled days in Wallowa, Oregon, it was time to raise the levelers and continue our onward push toward Glacier National Park. Lewiston is 88 miles from Enterprise, Oregon, and we were about 22 miles north of Enterprise. So, we had about a 110 mile drive.

When we left Wallowa River RV Park, we were not sure where we would be staying next. We knew we would be heading north to Lewiston, Idaho. And we thought we would head even further north up Highway 95 through Moscow and then on to Couer D’Alene. But we didn’t want to make that entire drive all in one day. We also were in the mood for some boondocking, or at least inexpensive camping. So, I did some research while in Wallowa, and while we still had internet.

One place I found was a campground known as McKay’s Bend. It was located about 17 miles east of Lewiston on Highway 12, right on the Clearwater River. This campground is a partnership of Idaho Fish & Game and BLM. It has 15 sites on a first-come-first-serve basis only. No reservations. All sites are full hook-up at $18 per day. With a Federal Senior Pass, it’s $9 per day. 14 day limit.

McKay's Bend

Because this campground seemed like a sweet deal, we were concerned whether any sites would be available. We would be arriving in mid-to-late afternoon on a Monday before the Labor Day weekend. Because of this, we actually had considered not driving the 17 miles in a direction we would not be going otherwise, only to possibly have to return the same 17 miles if the campground was full.

We had had a strenuous day in that, although Highway 3 took us due north over terrain that could be described as high plains and forest, mostly farms and ranches, everything changed once we reached Rattlesnake Canyon. We had heard about this canyon beforehand. Even so, we were not prepared for the extreme grades, curves and depths that the road took into the canyon, and then once at the bottom, the unbelievable climb back up and out. Putting the transmission in 2nd gear still allowed too much speed to be built up while descending. So, I slowed everything down and left the transmission in 1st gear with my flashers on. I’m not one to over use the brakes so we just let the transmission do the work. It was a slow go, but nothing was abused or overheated.

Once we reached the bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon, we could see that the road was switchbacking up the other side all the way back up as far as we had just come down. We immediately started looking for a turnout before the climb so that we could unhitch the Jeep. It’s tough enough asking a 36 foot motorhome to make such a climb. We don’t need to add an additional 4,000 pound Jeep. So, Sharon drove the Jeep and I motored up and out of the canyon in the Pace Arrow Vision. Frankly, I was impressed. The motorhome was like a billy goat the way it made the climb. Not a fast billy goat, mind you, but it was no slug either.

Once we got to Lewiston, it was decision time. Ultimately, we decided to take a chance on McKay’s Bend Campground. And as it turned out, we need not have worried about sites being available. Half the campground was empty.Our site 4 at McKay's Bend

The entire campground is along the Clearwater River and is beautifully tree covered with spacious lawn between sites, with asphalt pads with concrete patios. And throughout the campground the healthy lawn continues except for pads, roads and parking areas. It is absolutely park like.

Unfortunately, there is no internet and no cell service. At least not for ATT users, which we are. But even Verizon customers were having some issues. And, in trying to use our DISH Tailgater, there were just too many trees and steep hillsides to get a signal. So, no TV. But, as it turned out, we were fine without TV. And internet and phone were available when we went to Lewiston.

So now as I write this, it is hard to believe we will have stayed here for 8 days. That’s how much we like it. We originally had reservations for another Forest Service campsite at Hayden Lake, north of Couer D’Alene for the Labor Day weekend. The plan had been to stay at Mckay’s Bend for 4 days, and stay at the other campground for the holiday weekend. But on Friday it rained here. We want to try and avoid driving in rain as we travel so we made the decision to cancel the other reservation and stay here for the holiday weekend since we already had a great campsite.

As we have been traveling, we try to get out and get the lay of the land, so to speak, in those areas we are staying. Such was the case while staying at McKay’s Bend. Aside from the requisite resupply trips to Costco and Walmart, we had new brakes put on the front of the Jeep at one of the local Les Schwab’s in town and even caught a movie (Jason Bourne). On another trip, we took a long walk along the levee that overlooks the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Did you know that Lewiston, Idaho is a seaport? Through a series of dams and locks, some ocean-going vessels are capable of reaching Lewiston from the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon some 465 miles away. Here is a photo of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. They would probably be one town except for the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, and the resultant drawing of state boundaries. Lewiston is on the left, Clarkston on the right. The Snake River is in the center of the photo. Lewiston_Clarkston from Above

Since visiting the Wallowas of northeastern Oregon, the home of the Joseph Band of Nez Perce and the burial site of Chief Joseph the Elder, and now traveling through north central Idaho and eventually to Montana, we have been under the influence of important elements of American History, that pertaining to Nez Perce native Americans, and also to the explorations of Lewis and Clark, both histories of which have crossed paths in the Lewiston area.Nez Perce Museum So, it was fitting that we should visit the Nez Perce National Historic Park and Museum while here. It is located just east of Lewiston along the Clearwater River, one of the ancestral homes of the Nez Perce.

At the precise location of the museum and park, a particular band of the Nez Perce lived, fished, hunted, farmed and raised and trained stock for a thousand years. The Clearwater River is below the bench just beyond the treeline. Spaulding Site

Horse Regalia

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures will not do the museum justice. It is a treasure trove of items that serve to show how the Nez Perce lived, fought and died for there land and their culture.

Nez Perce Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, although we have really enjoyed our stay here, and have even developed some new friendships among fellow campers,  moving day is upon us once again. We’ll be retracting our levelers and getting back on the road.  Next stop Missoula, Montana and then on to Kalispell. Glacier National Park is calling.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day Trip to Hell and Back

Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area, that is. Located in relative close proximity to where we are staying in the Wallowas, the Hell’s Canyon “natural wonder” was something we felt we had to visit. Although we were not disappointed, getting there certainly made this a trip of an entire day.

We really did not know what to expect. Our research indicated that there were a few different places to view the canyon. One of these is Hat Point Overlook. It is one of the best viewpoints, and is also the closest to Joseph, Oregon where we were starting from. Before you can get to Hat Pt., you must first drive to the town of Imnaha. On the map, the road appeared to be fairly straight and headed due east ending at Imnaha some 30 miles from Joseph. We figured “no sweat”. We’ll just drive to Imnaha, head over to Hat Pt. and look at the canyon. At that moment, we had no idea what was in store.

Since Hell’s Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America, deeper than the Grand Canyon, we assumed that Imnaha was a town on the canyon’s edge. We’d just drive out there and basically look down. After just a couple of miles from Joseph, we noticed that the road started descending from the high plain that is the Wallowa Valley. The further east we went, the more we dropped in elevation.

Road to Imnaha

The distance from Joseph to Imnaha is about 30 miles.  This photo gives you an idea of the terrain and geologic features that were more and more dramatic the closer we got to Imnaha.

 

Imnaha

 

There is not much to see in Imnaha. At the end of the paved road (yes, after 30 miles it’s a dead end), you make a right turn and this view is what you are presented with. The post office is on the left, and the Imnaha Store and Tavern is on your right. That’s pretty much it except for a few houses up this street and to the left. If you can enlarge this photo, you will notice that the street narrows as it heads towards the hill in the background. Shortly, the pavement ends and a gravel road bends to the right and immediately you start climbing literally up the side of the mountain. Little did we know what we were in for by driving this road.

Not Hells Canyon After about 20 minutes of climbing, we came to a turnout and were presented with this view. Although a deep canyon with dramatic features, and even a river at the bottom, this is NOT Hell’s Canyon. The farms and ranches at the bottom gave a clue, as there are no farms or ranches in Hell’s Canyon. And this canyon was not nearly deep enough or wide enough.

 

Jeep_Hat Pt. Road

 

Once on top, we found ourselves driving through forest that, at times, was quite heavy. Among other things, there was ample evidence of past forest fires. But there were also large areas of old growth trees spaced so tightly that it was hard to see very far into the forest. Quite beautiful. It was about this time that we stopped to check our map and GPS to find that this road was going to take us 24 miles to Hat Point Overlook. We had thought it was about 12 miles.

7 Devils_Hell's Canyon As we were leaving Joseph to go to Imnaha, and then on to Hat Pt. Overlook, we could see a jagged mountain range way off in the distance. Even after leaving Imnaha and climbing up onto the ridge that would eventually take us to Hat Pt., this same sawtooth range seemed quite distant as we caught glimpses through the trees. Then, after nearly traveling 24 miles on top of our mountain, we came around a bend and we were face-to-face with the 7 Devils of Hell’s Canyon. Even in this photo, it’s hard to believe the “Devils” are 10 miles on the other side of Hell’s Canyon.

Fire Watch Tower_Hell's Canyon

 

The landmark that lets you know that you have arrived at the Hat Point Overlook is this fire watchtower. We found it quite ironic that this tower was almost completely surrounded by evidence that a forest fire all but burned the tower down. In reality, this tower and Hat Pt. are at the same location, which is on a mountain top overlooking Hell’s Canyon. This is prime territory for frequent lightning strikes, the cause of most forest fires. Whether lightning caused or not, we saw evidence of separate past fires all along the 24 mile stretch of this particular ridgeline as we were climbing up and then driving on top.

Wild Flowers_Hat Pt. Overlook_Hells Canyon

In spite of the barrenness of the past fire at the base of the fire watchtower, and the lateness of summer, these flowers did not get the memo. Although not so evident in this photo, there were beds of color from fresh blooms covering the entire areas adjacent to the parking area.

 

Hells Canyon

The claim is that Hell’s Canyon is wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon. And, although that is true, it’s hard to have a vantage point for demonstrating the difference. This was about the best shot we could get that showed the Snake River far below, but this spot does not necessarily show the canyon at its deepest point…or its widest.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bend, Oregon

We actually stayed in the Bend area August 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th, 2016. This post is a bit belated due to no internet at the time.

In just four days, it’s impossible to experience everything that Bend and the surrounding area have to offer. But we did our level best. We rolled into town and are actually staying in Redmond, Oregon about 15 minutes north of Bend at the Deschutes County Expo and Fairgrounds, which includes a very nice RV Park. No sooner had we set up and unhitched the Jeep, and we were headed back to Bend.

In addition to the seemingly limitless restaurants, Bend has become known for its sheer number of micro breweries, the most famous of which is Crux. Officially named the Crux Fermentation Project, this place comes highly regarded by bloggers that include Nina and Paul over at Wheeling It, and is not to be missed. So, first stop…Crux.

Crux

The first thing we noticed is Crux’s most unlikely location. It is NOT on any main drag, or even adjacent to the other breweries in closer proximity to the Descutes riverfront, although it is not too far. It’s actually in more of an industrial area, with its own building and outdoor park. We had to ask someone how to get there, although we could have Googled it.

Crux has an extensive menu of beers. Way beyond any expertise we had in beer types and selection. So, it only made sense that we order their “taster tray”, which includes a selection of six “samples” of any beer on the menu for $10. Believe me, this is a sweet deal. Although you might expect shooter-size glasses of each sample, they were significantly larger. Our choices? Crux Pilz (German Pilsner), Tough Love (Barrel Aged Imperial Stout), Crux Farmhouse (Saison Ale), Unkonventional Kolsch (Kolsch), Vicky’s Got A Secret (India Pale Ale), and Freakcake (Barrel Aged Oud Bruin). We split the tray since we had no designated driver. In the end, Vicky’s Secret was our “winner”. But we drank them all. 🙂

Crux has self seating, high tables, high stools. We chose a long table that seats ten that was empty for the moment. But not for long. We sat on the end, and were soon joined by a family that included two couples, their teen-aged children, and “Pat” their grandmother. We soon were fully engaged in conversation with pretty much all of them. Little did we know that this would not be the last time we would meet. Stay tuned.

In addition to restaurants, breweries and shopping, Bend is probably best known for the multitude of outdoor activities and its scenery. And then, there is The River. The Deschutes River to be exact. It runs right through the center of town.

Float

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oregon’s Secret – The Wallowas-Part I

August 22nd, 2016

Wallowa, Oregon -Wallowa River RV Park

In the extreme northeastern corner of Oregon, is a mountain region known as the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the Eagle Cap Wilderness, otherwise known as the Wallowas. It is an isolated forest-covered mountain range in which many of the peaks are above 10,000 feet. In winter, the snow on these peaks reminds one of the Swiss Alps. In fact, there is an area here known as Little Alps. Here is a borrowed photo that depicts late spring or early summer in the Wallowas.

WallowasSurprisingly, this beautiful region of Oregon is a secret, even to Oregonians we have met who had never heard of it. It IS fairly remote. It’s not an area that you pass through on the way to somewhere. You have to want to come here. In our case, we were turned on to the “Wallowas” by other bloggers, particularly Nina and Paul Fussing of Wheeling It fame, with her wonderful blog post as a result of visiting here, as well as the spectacular photos and descriptions by Emily and Mark Fagan over at Roads Less Traveled.

As you approach the Wallowas from the west, Interstate 84 will get you to La Grande, Oregon, where state highway 82 will take you east and north up and over the northern shoulder of this mountain range. Then the fun begins. You find yourself driving over a high plain of farmland and the the road starts dropping down into a deep and narrow canyon that eventually brings you to the eastern flank of these mountains, the first town of which is Wallowa.

We are staying at Wallowa River RV Park in Wallowa. Their daily rate is $30 for full hook-ups and a pull-thru site. Excellent ATT cell coverage and Wifi. If you stay a week     (7 days) the rate is $165, equivalent to just less than $24 per day. That’s what we will be doing, and then use the Jeep to see the sites. Wallowa is one of four towns on the eastern and most spectacular side of the Wallowas. The others are Lostine, Enterprise and Joseph, all within close proximity to each other.

Our site is on the Wallowa River as it cascades over rocks and small boulders, separated only by lawn and trees bordering the river. It’s quite beautiful. Here are a few photos taken inside the park.WRRV Site 1_20160823_100239

We are in Site #1. Here is a photo from the rear of the park looking all the way to the front. Our site and motorhome is visible as the last (first) one in this row. River is on the right running along the grass and trees. As the photo shows, the park really DOES look like a “park”.

                                                                              WRRV 1_20160823_084328

Here is a view of the river, running full force 24/7. What a great sound to go to sleep by.

WRRV River Front_20160823_083018

 

 

I’ll make this post short. Next, we will be exploring the area from here south through the towns of Lostine, Enterprise and Joseph, a 30 mile one-way distance. Perfect for a leisurely drive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carson City, Nevada

August 10th, 2016

Washoe Lake State Park, Carson City, Nevada

Another belated post. Still trying to get the hang of being without internet for periods of time. Last night was our first here at Washoe. We traveled yesterday from Lee Vining, California, located at the bottom of Tioga Pass, which is the East Entrance to Yosemite. We took a day trip while there and drove to the top of the pass and entered Yosemite. The eastern portion of Yosemite, which is the high country well above Yosemite Valley, is becoming my favorite area. It is wide open country compared with Yosemite Valley but SO beautiful for so many reasons.

The drive north from Lee Vining, following U.S. 395, is beautiful as well. Particularly, the Bridgeport, California and Walker River areas. Once you clear those heading north, you arrive in the Carson Valley at the foot of Lake Tahoe on its eastern (Nevada) side. Carson Valley includes communities of Gardnerville, Minden and Carson City. Washoe Lake is at the north end of Carson City.

As I sit hear looking out the window at the mountains to the west, which are the same mountains that cradle Lake Tahoe, no one would suspect what is beyond. Washoe Lake is at around 5,000 feet + in elevation. The mountains rise another 3,000-4,000 ft. Who would guess that several miles just beyond the ridge line exists a lake that is about 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. It certainly must have been a surprise to early pioneers who passed through this area heading to California, having left the Oregon Trail and heading south and west.

Included in our travels yesterday was another getting to know you episode with our new-to-us Pace Arrow Vision coach. For some time now, we have been experiencing a “Check Engine Soon” light, which we had decided was related to our gas cap not sealing correctly. Our reasoning was due in part to the fact that the engine and drive train were running just fine. Unfortunately, I was not able to connect my diagnostic scanner to the port as yet because the “port” has been hidden somewhere up under the dash near the steering column. I have heard stories that the chassis manufacturer (Ford) makes locating the diagnostic port harness convenient as to its location, and the motorhome manufacturer just wants it out of the way while building the rig. So, they tuck it away. Such is apparently the case with our motorhome. Eventually, I will locate it. I know about where it is. Just haven’t taken the time necessary to get to it.

Anyway, yesterday I had pulled off the highway into a neighborhood after just entering the Carson Valley. The “why” of it is a whole other story for another time. But as I got back onto the highway, the motorhome sputtered, and the overdrive light at the end of the shift column started blinking. I have never seen that particular light blink on other vehicles I have owned with the same setup. After a moment or so the sputtering clears up, and the light stops blinking. So, we continue on to Walmart to re-supply. After shopping, we start to leave. I turn the key. Nothing. I try the “Auxiliary Start”. Nothing.

To make a long story a bit shorter, we go back into Walmart and buy a battery to use as a jumper. We didn’t really have to, we had the Jeep as a “jumper”. But, we thought it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra for the road. So, I get out the jumper cables and open the Start Battery compartment. As I go to place the jumper cables, I touch the Positive cable clamp and immediately see that it is just resting on the battery post. Not tight at all. Quite loose actually. I grab a wrench and tighten it and guess what? The engine fires right up AND the “Check Engine Soon” light goes out. Realize that this light and a similar sputtering that occurred at the time, has existed since we bought the motorhome almost two months ago. Has this battery clamp been loose all this time and only made intermittent contact? Maybe. But it is fixed now, and my only problem at the moment is whether to return the battery to Walmart, or keep it as a spare.

Getting back to Washoe Lake, many full-time RV bloggers have mentioned staying at this location. All of them have liked staying here, even though it is dispersed camping. I can see why. It is a nice campground with picnic table canopies and paved asphalt parking pads. A nice setting out in the country, but actually very close to town with all the amenities there. And speaking of the lake, several bloggers have reported in the past that the lake was actually empty due to drought conditions. I can report that it is NOT empty at present. We plan to walk the Beach Trail to the lake this morning. We’ll see whether it is back to full level. I suspect not. But at least there is water in it once again.

EDIT: We have taken our morning hike and discovered why it is called the “Beach” Trail. There really IS a beach, complete with fine sand, sand dunes overlooking the lake, and a myriad of prehistoric sea shells strewn throughout. Amazing further evidence of an inland sea millions of years ago. Also, once we got to the “beach”, we could better see that the lake is quite low. Although it is not empty as has been reported earlier by others, my estimate is that it is probably only about 20% full at present at best. We’re gonna need a lot more snow melt and runoff from the adjacent Sierras before it is completely full once again. I suspect that won’t be too soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Couple of Days in Lee Vining, California

Lee Vining is best known for two things. One is that it overlooks Mono Lake, a large, shallow  shallow, saline soda lake formed at least 760,000 years ago. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salt to accumulate in the lake. The other thing that Lee Vining is known for is that it sets at the bottom of the road that leads to Tioga Pass, the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. We stayed in Mono Vista RV Park in Lee Vining, a very nice little park. We wanted to take a day to drive up to Tioga Pass, and then visit some of the sites in the high country of Yosemite. Staying in Lee Vining is perfect because it is so close to the park entrance, although the entrance is at a 10,000 foot elevation. Quite a climb up the Tioga Pass Road. This borrowed photo does not begin to reflect the sheer and exhilerating ascent or descent. Woohoo!

Tioga Pass RoadOnce on top, however, the high country eastern portion of Yosemite is spectacular.

Tioga Pass_Tenaya LakeJust west of Tuolumne Meadows, this is Tenaya Lake, cradled by glacier sculpted granite that is awesome to see up close.

A bit further on, at Olmstead Point, you can get a view of the other side of Half Dome.Tioga Pass_Half Dome

 

All of this and more within an hour of Lee Vining…once you get through the line of cars wanting to get into Yosemite…even at 10,000 feet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hiking Convict Lake in the Sierras

August 5th

Today we hiked the Loop Trail that circles Convict Lake, just south of Mammoth Lakes, California. There is easy access to Convict Lake from U.S. 395, which partially explains why SO Many people visit the lake. Mostly for the fishing, but also for the sheer beauty and a feeling that your deep in the Sierras, even though your just 2-3 miles from the highway.Convict Lake

The hike itself is about 3.4 miles if you start at the trailhead. It is rated as “moderate”because, although the trail rises and falls as it circles the lake, there is not a tremendous amount of elevation gain. Even so, “moderate” or even easy to some may not be the case to others. For us, who are woefully out of shape, this hike was more of a training exercise now that we are on the road full-time and was a perfect length and workout. And the nearly constant and changing view of the lake as we hiked made it quite enjoyable.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crowley Lake, California

Sign_ReducedAugust 3rd

Crowley Lake, California (near Mammoth Lakes)

Today was moving day. But not too far. About 75 miles. We had decided to stay a total of 3 days at Boulder Creek RV Resort (park), just south of Lone Pine, California. Why 3 days? Who knows? Chock it up to retirement, and not really being in a hurry. It worked out well. We were able to visit the Museum of Western Film, check out Movie Rd. and the various locations where scenes were filmed in the Alabama Hills as well as checking out future boondocking spots there, and took a drive up the Whitney Portal Road that takes you on a switchback up to the Mt. Whitney trailhead deep in a granite and heavily forested canyon at some 9,000 ft. Just beautiful, for a relatively short drive from Lone Pine.

So anyway, today we moseyed up 395 to Crowley Lake, just south of Mammoth Lakes, about 10 miles further up the road . We could have stayed in Mammoth Lakes at Mammoth Mountain RV Park. But at $59 per night, we thought we could do better. So, we’re sitting on the slope of the Sierras at a BLM campground known as Crowley Lake Campground. It is dispersed camping, but we don’t mind. We have an unbelievable view in nearly every direction. Directly in front of us is Crowley Lake, about a mile distant and several hundred feet lower than our site. Crowley’s claim to fame is that it is “Mecca” to folks coming up from L.A. for “opening day” of trout fishing on the lake in April of each year. The lake itself is a dam’d up portion of the famed Owens River, one of the best trout fishing areas in the world. Today, in early August, the lake has nary a boat on it. But come back in April and the lake will look like a parking lot, what with the sheer number of boats on the water.

For $2.50 per day with our Senior Pass, staying here was a no-brainer. And although we were worried whether there would be any campsites in the middle of summer, we should not have been concerned. The campground has 47 sites, and ALL of them are first come-first served. So, arriving in the early afternoon in the middle of the week allowed us to select from half the sites. Even though our new “coach” is nearly 37 feet long, even with our former 32 foot Bounder, we have always intended to spend a good deal of our time boondocking. So we were glad to find several sites that were deep enough to accommodate us. It’s hard to believe that we could stay here the entire 14 day limit for a total of $35 with our Senior Pass. No electrical, no sewer, no water at the site. But who cares? We’re equipped. Woohoo!!

I mentioned that our front view overlooks the lake. Our backyard is the Sierras, with gradual upslopes of green sage brush evolving into pine forest and granite peaks at higher elevations. Combine all this with the limitless views across large expanses of open high country and beautiful cumulus clouds in all directions, and it’s…priceless.

The one downside is that we have no internet nor any cell service. So, I’m writing this in my Open Office “Word” program, for further transfer when we once again can go online.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, no sooner were we settled in than a fire broke out up near Mono Lake to our north. Fire_ReducedThey reported that it started at about 2:30 in the afternoon. By the time I took this photo toward evening, it was well underway. Interestingly, another fire broke out the next day, much closer to the south of us. It wasn’t too long before we had a front row seat as helicopters and flying cranes began using Crowley Lake to get water to be used in fighting both fires.

While staying at this campground, we took several day trips with the Jeep. On one of those trips, we came across these guys up in the Mammoth area on the road that takes you to the Mammoth Mountain Main (Ski) Lodge.

DeerWe spent a total of four days at Lake Crowley, using it as a base of operations for day trips that included some Jeeping, as well as hiking.

The Mammoth area is well-known to us, having lived just about 250 miles south for the past 25+ years. So, we wanted to revisit some places, and explore some new places. One of those new places was the campground at Crowley Lake. It’s not the most developed campground we have stayed in, but the location was right, the price was unbelievable with our Geezer pass, and the view from our frontyard was priceless.

Lake Crowley

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heading North – Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

August 1, 2016

Many full-time RVers spend time in the Alabama Hills, adjacent to the town of Lone Pine, California, which is on Highway 395 as it runs north and south along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. And although it is a boondocking (dispersed camping) destination for RVers, most come in the cooler times of the year, either in the spring or in the fall. As full-timers just starting out in the summer time, we found ourselves arriving in the area at the end of July. Temperatures here at this time of the year are above 100 degrees most days.

For the past few days, we have been staying at Boulder Creek RV Resort just south of Lone Pine. For years, we have passed through this area on our way to Mammoth Mountain further north to go skiing in the winter, or fishing during other times of the year. We seldom spent much time in Lone Pine other than to buy gas or food before continuing onward. Because we are working on our new found retirement attitude of “what’s the rush”, we decided to spend some time exploring the area.

The Alabama Hills are probably primarily known for two things aside from there sheer and unique beauty. One is that they serve as a foreground to the majestic Alabama Hills_Movie RdSierra Nevada range immediately to the west that includes Mt. Whitney, and the other is that the Alabama Hills have been used as the setting for countless movies and commercials going back to the 1920s. It is safe to say that most of the western “cowboy” movies of the last century were filmed in and around the Alabama Hills.

In the town of Lone Pine is the Museum of Western Film, which is a must-see for anyone who grew up in the 40s, 50s and 60s as I did,Sign watching western movies. Why we have never stopped and toured this museum in all the years we were driving up and down U.S. 395 through this area, I will never know. But today Sharon and I put a stop to it and we’re glad we did.

The museum is a treasure trove of western movie and TV memorabilia, including some of my favorites, the Lone Ranger and Tonto.Lone Ranger 2

Although there is no admission fee, per se, you ARE asked for a minimum $5 donation per person. But, in my opinion it is well worth it to spend some time contemplating those “thrilling days of yesteryear”. And a hearty “Hi Yo Silver”.

Lone Ranger The museum also pays tribute to more contemporary movies, and even commercials, that have been filmed,    in part, in the Alabama Hills, including Ironman, Star Wars,  Gladiator and, most recently, Django.Django

It’s amazing to find out the sheer number of films that were filmed in the area, and the stars we’ve come to know and love on screen. Russell Crowe, Robert Downey Jr., Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Hopalong Cassidy,  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and one of our earliest of “Cowboys”, Tom Mix, are just a sampling of actors who have lived and worked in the Alabama Hills.

When in the area, The Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History is worth a visit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment