Kamp Klamath: The Final Entry

July 5 – July 18, 2021

A-Liner Set Up – Kamp Klamath

We decided in early June to finish our trip at the end of July, drive to Golden to fix up and sell the trailer, and move on to the next thing in life with no idea as to what that was. We also decided to take the last few weeks of our journey to just sit somewhere comfortably and enjoy the time. Sort of a vacation for wanderers if that’s a thing. Our initial idea was to look for a spot along the coast of Washington but that proved difficult based on the crowds of campers already in all the good camping spots for the summer. Then it occurred to us that Klamath, where we were currently sitting, checked all the boxes: great trails, low-use roads, water, and best, a cool climate and we didn’t need to go anywhere. So we booked a spot at Kamp Klamath and made it happen, never regretting a moment of it.

The Tone

The opening sentence of Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row, reads, Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. This sentence intrigued me with its brilliance and for some reason, this sentence remained in my thoughts while spending time in Klamath. The relationship wasn’t necessarily the words he used as much as the way he used them to set the tone for the story. For it was the tone of this place that captured our attention.

Klamath from the start made me think, dream, and breathe. It was a befuddling combination of interesting, wild, beautiful, and a magical stretch of land. Visually, it seemed at times a mystical place of imagination of the natural where trolls might live beneath a bridge, a place where personalities of the outcast, simple, and impoverished lived. The land provided a healthy environment supporting a smorgasbord of wildlife all feeding on each other, by far one of the most interesting places and cultures we’ve visited.

The Place

Klamath sits in one of the more remote sections of the Northern California Coast, about 20 miles south of Crescent City, 30 miles south of the Oregon border, and about 50 miles north of Eureka. It is surrounded by the Redwood National Park, reservation land, the Klamath River, the Pacific Ocean, and accessible only by the 1. A place once created on the back of the timber industry, scaled back to save the tall redwood trees from extinction. There were signs posted throughout the Redwood National park celebrating the history of this effort, an occasional truck hauling smaller new growth harvested trees, and dilapidated buildings in small towns that once serviced the booming timber industry. The land is a rain forest where the coastal mountains meet a wild river colliding with the huge ocean. The temperatures are the most delightful of any in the USA if your goal is avoiding the summer heat. The climate is kept moist and cool by the winds off the cold ocean water and a low fog that rolls in and off the shore each day based on the fluctuating inland temperatures. Daily highs here were in the low 70’s while the temperatures 10 miles to the east of Klamath were in the 100’s, even in the mountains.

The Yurok community of Native Americans and the much smaller sect of the Yurok’s known as the Resighini Rancheria own most of the land and businesses around Klamath. If you think Resighini sounds more Italian than Native American then you’re correct. This was the name of the man who sold the land to the US government, now used by the smaller group as their home. “Rancheria” is a word used to describe a Native American land common in California tracing back to the California Mission Indians. The history of these two recognized tribes is complicated with the 30 plus existing members of the smaller Resighini Rancheria existing completely within the Yurok tribe territory. Their land consists of 450 acres of prime waterfront real estate creating some conflict with the larger Yurok community over many things including fishing rights on the Klamath River. For a full understanding of the history of this area since noohl hee-kon (the beginning), check out their website, http://resighinirancheria.com/who-we-are/.

The small town of Klamath has a casino with a hotel and restaurant, a small motor inn, a convenience store, and a lounge slash burger grill. There is a visitors center but not much else. Surrounding the town are a few more RV parks, some hidden diners, and the Mystery of Tree’s tourist event complete with towering statues in the parking lot of Paul Bunyan and Blue, his Ox. The main feature bringing folks here is the Redwood National Park. Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is the main road inside the park with many of the most popular trails, a visitor center, and a campground along the way. For all these attractions the road never seemed busy. In fact, besides a few of the most popular trails, seclusion and silence can be had most days along many of the trails that include the same features as the popular ones. Wildlife in the park included elk, deer, bears, Citizen Roy’s family, and birds.

There was a feeling of third-worldliness in and around Klamath. It could have been the sights of only a few small homes with yards full of debris, the abandoned cars along roads and public boat ramps that sat getting picked through for valuable parts, or the remoteness of the place, the rainforest, and coastal mountains. Many of the natives, locals here, who we encountered appeared impoverished. It was unique.

Each outdoor experience, whether hike, run, or bike, was met with lush, moist greenery along trails through magnificent redwoods, soft mountain terrain that dropped steeply to secluded beaches, lined by rocky cliffs that dropped to the ocean below, and the constant pounding of the ocean surf. Foliage included a range of ferns and rhododendron in full bloom with their bouquet of pink flowers. We carefully stepped over snails, caterpillars, and we saw the occasional banana slugs which were nasty but likely a good survival food. There was a daily dose of mammals both on land and sea. Elk and bears were the most seen while the seal population was huge as they fished the bountiful inlet where the ocean met the Klamath River, then snoozed along Klamath Beach. The ospreys were everywhere many times seen carrying their catch in their talons or perched on a log eating while giving little thought to the humans hanging around watching. The place was abundant in everything we enjoyed.

Klamath Beach was a feast for the senses. Located about a mile and half down the pot-holed road running along the outer edge of the camp is a small, unmaintained pull-off used for accessing the beach. There you’ll find Yurok ceremonial grounds, a rustic event center with several log structures sitting on a large flat field of wild grasses overlooking the river. Following the trail to the far side of the grassy area, a small path leads through the trees and along the rocky cliff to the beach. Once you exit on the beach, you’ll walk through the deep sand, past lots of driftwood, and alongside a large rock feature before witnessing the dynamics of the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. The river sends endless amounts of freshwater downstream daily where it meets the incoming tides of the ocean. Here, waves create a gnarly clash of water full of disoriented fish trying to advance up the river while being hunted by seals and birds of prey. If this isn’t interesting enough for a daily visit then consider that just above you, the bears actively graze on the berries and roam the redwood forest while rumors of mountain lions sit watching and waiting. Just up the hill a bit further are the behemoth coastal redwoods towering over you. The place is simply stunnamazingascinating.

Kamp Klamath, where we stayed was yet another ingredient in our captivation of this place. The camp was originally purchased from the tribe for whatever reason, now owned as a hobby business by a pasty white rich dude from down south metro. It is bordered by reservation land, the magnificent Klamath River, and the Redwood National Forest. It is set among the rainforest with several camp options. The first is the dry camp side which is rich with foliage, trees, shrubs, grasses, and ferns that are typical of this environment. The camp store and office sit in the middle with a large wooden deck and stone fireplace where communal fires are lit most nights. The lower field is open dry camping with a small playground, corn hole, and other games set up. Off the field are several paths that lead into the bush to a shallow tributary of the Klamath River. The RV sites are up the hill, have lots of trees surrounded by the forest typical of what has been described, and are equipped with full hookups. This is the place that the TWT team made their final camp, the last 12 days of living in the A-Liner that they called home for 14 months.

The People

The people who live here come in many flavors. Those that are native own most of the land and businesses. There are some, a few who aren’t native but still live here. Those who aren’t native who work here live in one of the other smaller communities sprinkled along the 1. To describe both of these would be to use words like blue-collar, impoverished, hardy, and salt of the earth. We heard that substance abuse was prevalent but thankfully we were never invited to that party. Then there are the work campers who live in their RV’s and play host to the guests who travel here. Words used to describe these people would be bohemians, solitudinarians, early retirees, and people like us who simply fell in love with the place, the lifestyle, and wanted to stay. We met people with names like Don, Lauren, Maria, and a guy named Guy.

Kamp Staff

When Lysette entered the office at Kamp Klamath for the first time, she was met by a tall lanky man with a week-old beard and a full head of hair squished out of both sides of his baseball cap, providing shade to his huge smile. He was friendly speaking using really good English with a persuasive pitch to his conversation, one that might be considered of a salesman of sorts. He wore a Kamp Host t-shirt and heavy-duty kakis with hiking shoes. Through our time at Kamp Klamath, we’d learn that his past career was in corporate sales and that he and his ex-wife co-manage the place. He was always up for a conversation, loved to pet our dog, and had stories about every situation.

Once he finished checking her in, she returned to the car. Waiting in a camp golf cart in front of us was a young mother with her teenage daughter behind the steering wheel. They signaled to us to follow them to our campsite which we did. We’d learn that the mother and daughter were a part of a five-member family of travelers currently work camping while living in their travel trailer. Their past careers were at Wholefoods which they left sometime after it sold to Amazon and became too corporate. They decided to go full-time while homeschooling their three children. We learned while staying at the camp that they purchased a small farm in Oregon where they intended to homestead their family, living off the land.

Later on that afternoon we met another lady who stopped by our camp. She had salt and pepper hair beneath a wide brim straw hat, 70’s horned-rim old lady glasses, a sly smile beneath her straw hat. A pair of white Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers were carrying all this when she stepped off the golf cart. Her purpose was to drop off the paperwork that the first guy who checked us in was supposed to give us but didn’t. When Lysette mentioned the guy checking her in told us we didn’t need it, she responded with a smile that he was a “dumb-ass”, then turned, walked away, climbed into her golf cart, and drove off. As it turned out, she was the co-manager in charge of customer relations and the ex-spouse of the “dumb-ass.” We liked her as we got to know her and appreciated her personality. She was colorful in a harsh sort of way. We’d spot her at times in nonmatching socks with her sandals on while driving the camp golf cart smoking a joint. Once Lysette went to the office to report the conditions of the restroom and she responded that she agreed, saying, “the whole toilet experience is horrible isn’t it”, and then nothing was ever done.

Then there was the long-term camp host in his late 50’s or early 60’s who liked to ramble on about his military service where he drove a tank during the hottest days of combat without AC. He dressed in a cavalry stiff brimmed hat, button-down olive green work shirt tucked neatly into his heavy-duty camp host khaki pants. But it was the large metal belt buckle that was his signature accessory. It was obvious that he wasn’t a socially comfortable person but made the effort when given the chance. Once he got to talking he would simply ramble on about whatever was on his mind without concern for what interests you. He set up hoses and sprinklers to water all the grass once a week around camp which was not that unusual except that we were camped in a rain forest and the ground was already damp all the time. We’d pass by him on various occasions during our stay as he cornered other campers at their sites repeating the same long stories he shared with us early on, and sometimes with a drink and stagger in his gait.

We enjoyed getting to know all of them during our stay, each with a fun, interesting, and unique personality.

Father, Son, and the Hairdresser

The personalities of any camp can be extreme. Most campers in Klamath could be considered typical wearing flannel and t-shirts, jeans and shorts. Most resided in boxy camp trailers over 20 feet in length, some RV’s, and lots of tents. Our immediate neighbors in site 6 were in an Airstream and more refined than most. He owned a successful business that sells used aircraft machine tooling equipment around the world. They collect vintage cars and travel each winter to their house in the Caribbean. They drank a bottle of red wine each night, read, and he dressed in a collared shirt and matching style sweater beneath a pair of jeans or cargo shorts. He wore house slippers around camp versus crocs. The couple in site 4 on our other side was a firefighter and city employee from Eureka. They played games using dice, drank Budweiser, and stood outside their trailer to vape. Both neighbors were wonderful interesting people but from contrasting worlds likely never to cross paths again in any other world, place, or time. We all converge on this dirt to share common things like the fresh cool air and natural beauty. The lush green rain forest surroundings and the coastal experience. But likely the contrast would be too great to share back home.

Stereotyping people is hard not to do as a human camper. I believe it is there for self-preservation as much as anything, sort of like a deer will do when it sees an object coming. It judges the threat by judging the object using all its senses. I used all my senses to judge our neighbor in site No. 5. He was sitting next to a big 5th wheel trailer being pulled by a white dually Dodge 2500 Ram truck. After our setup, I took Toohey for a walk taking this opportunity to strike up a conversation with him. My observation was the guy was traveling alone, wearing a baseball cap, t-shirt, cargo pants, and tennis shoes, and had a neatly trimmed grey beard. I quickly pegged this guy as a non-threat, likely a person we’ve met a hundred times at a variety of camps along our journey, a common person traveling in a 5th wheel trailer and Dodge 2500 Ram truck. As it turns out, I was mostly wrong. This guy was actually a hairdresser from San Francisco who now doubles as a self-taught RV inspector (think home inspector for those purchasing expensive RV’s). We learned that he grew up on a rice farm in Beaumont Texas where he learned his work ethic from his dad. After his successful hairdresser career, he decided to learn something new, and here were are. He was completely counter to what I was expecting when I initially said, “hello, we are your new neighbors,” but a huge amount of respect for his efforts to continually learn and live his life. He also was extremely helpful with an electrical issue we were having with the trailer.

Our RV Inspector left and was replaced with another family of four. We sat and watched from our trailer the evening they backed their trailer in with the neighbor from behind giving all kinds of unsolicited backing advice. The father grew frustrated when after explaining to his two teenage sons and wife what specific backing move he was planning and as it was going wrong they all stopped helping him with directions and started moving the fire ring, picnic tables, and other objects he was backing into, out of the way. He went on to explain to his family on one of his frequent exits from the cab that he couldn’t hear her while sitting behind a diesel engine. He eventually got the trailer into the spot without incident but the communication during this process was one of our favorite things to watch. Mostly husbands and wives doing one of the most stressful things beyond public speaking, backing a trailer. Seeing the hand signals, laughing at others’ frustrations, learning the use of technology like the cell phone to talk to one another. But his group was one of our favorites up to the unhitching of the trailer where all four were standing on the bumper jumping up and down to finally get the ball released from the hitch. We enjoyed this group as they were full of energy, a lively group of travelers who, as it turns out, were the son of the couple previously discussed living in the Airstream.

Homelessness or tweaking

The low-key life also brings less law enforcement to the area. While kayaking the back inlet area I heard someone yelling lots of profanity as I was getting close to my take-out area. Recognizing it as not normal and knowing that Lysette and Toohey were likely on the other side of the commotion, I hurried onto the beach. As I approached the truck I saw the guy named Guy (we’d met several days ago on the beach while watching an osprey eat his catch on a log) who stopped and rolled down his window. I asked him what was going on and was the dude harmless or should we be worried? His answer wasn’t what I wanted as he just didn’t know. So I started towards the gate when I saw Lysette and Toohey walking up. She said the man was standing shirtless in the ceremonial grounds yelling profanities, something about being a Native American tribal member. We quickly secured the boat to the roof and left as the last thing we wanted was a confrontation. The next evening, we made our nighty expedition to the beach only to find him still there, yelling and making loud boisterous comments. We left again not wanting any confrontations with a person who wasn’t operating in the world of logic. At first impression, this simply goes with the ramshackle cars and poverty of the area, the freedom to roam with little accountability. Then I started thinking about how this occurs every day along city streets in major metropolitan areas of our country. Places where the homeless, mentally ill congregate, some quietly while some with mental issues become loud and agitated. So maybe this experience wasn’t anything special to the place but certainly unwanted.

The Experiences

We took advantage of most of what this place had to offer. Our CV while in the area included hikes to Big Tree trail, Corkscrew Tree, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Fern Ridge Trail, Fern Valley Trail, Hope Creek trail, sections of the Coastal Trail in both directions, Jedediah Smith, Carruthers Cover, and the permit required Tall Trees Trail. Our daily trips to the beach to watch the surf, seals, and other wildlife. We biked along highway 101, sections of the coastal trail, Lost Man Creek trail, the loop from camp that included Adler Creek Drive. I kayaked the Klamath River among the seals in the calm waters behind the beach while native Americans trolled the same waters for fish. Grabbed bear spray for the first time in all our travels and learned how to discharge a can when the safety accidentally activated the trigger burning our eyes and noses. There were simply too many great stories to include them all here.

We drove along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, the main drag off the 101 through the park, with access to many of the trails and visitor center. There were food and laundry runs to McKinleyville which sits just north of Eureka but a much faster option during the week with the four-hour closures of the 101 north to Crescent City. We did take advantage of the drive north on the weekends as we drove to Jedediah Smith State Park and up to Brookings, Oregon for a late lunch and appropriately priced gasoline. We drove along the Smith River which cuts through the mountains to the coast through spectacular gorges and river runs. All of these places were equally great but nothing compared to our run from camp over the Flint Ridge Trail one morning. An event that was so profound, it would dictate much of what we did the remainder of our time.

Run, Bear, and the Crash

The RV park sits across the street from land owned by the Redwood National Park but is an area of the park that doesn’t get lots of attention. The Douglas Bridge Parking Lot for the Flint Ridge Trail at the corner of Klamath Beach Road and Adler Road serves as the access point and was pretty much empty every time we passed it. As with everywhere here, the trail was magical, a place where the word “troll” and the thoughts of a tree trunk Keebler Elf Cookie Factory frequently came to mind. The forest was full of mystic qualities with the steady cloudy mist that hovered over wet ferns and damp cushy packed trails beneath the towering redwoods. And the silence. A place that makes you dream of the magical.

We set off for a clockwise loop advertised as 9 miles from the trailhead and figured the same would hold from our camp. The first bit was along the Klamath Beach Road leading to the trailhead at the Douglas Bridge Parking Lot. From there we twisted through the rain forest then began the climb up with many switchbacks and six small bridges. The trail twists and turns around huge redwoods, under fallen decaying trees, and along a cushy single-track path, narrow enough to keep the shoes and legs wet. It was a magical experience, quiet with the only sounds that of our breathing, footsteps, and nature. The trail took us up to a ridge through old-growth then into a section of second-growth redwoods. Second-growth is the younger trees in a forest that has been harvested for timber and replanted but is still quite impressive. Then as we dropped towards the coast we ran out of the redwood strand into other trees and brush, stepping over bear poop and along blackberry thickets until alas we reached the coastal road and way home.

As we ran down the road with the ocean to our left and the steep hill to our right, we encountered a black bear in front of us. We were happier to have encountered him here than in the thick brush of the trail as we could see him off in the distance. Though in the distance, his direction of travel was up the road towards us. As he wandered our way we considered all the bear attack prevention measures on all the trail signs. We pulled our bear spray out just in case and began loud talking, saying things like, “hey bear, go away bear, this is bear spray, bear.” All while waving hands high over our heads to look bigger. This bear hadn’t read the literature as he kept coming towards us, not aggressively but with a steady swagger in our direction. About that time a small white car with a couple in it came down the road behind us. We think they were laughing at us but kindly asked if we would like to get inside. We said maybe. They sat there with us watching as the bear continued to move closer. The bear eventually turned and went up into the woods and out of sight. With the offer from the couple for a ride still on the table, we asked them if we could at least ride past his departure point from the road and they agreed.


Now, safely out of the car and running down the hill then back towards camp, all was good. We laughed repeatedly at our bear story and were relaxing into the final mile when a road bump grabbed Lysette’s toe tossing her to the ground. She rolled in pain, gasping for breath while I stood with hands again high over my head signaling an approaching truck to stop and wait for her to get up and out of the road. The couple in the truck asked if they could help but we said no. Finally, she got up and we started a slow walk back to camp. She was pretty scraped up, bleeding from her knees and hands, with a badly bruised rib. A tough end to a great day on the trail and bear story.

We enjoyed the rest of our time at Kamp Klamath. Our activities slowed a bit with the rib injury, but the place continued to amaze us. This was the perfect place to end our travel journey for the time and one that will continue to inspire us as time goes on.

Conclusion: I started most mornings writing about the trip, our life so that we could provide something for you to follow us, and so we could remember the story of our time spent traveling. Writing every day became an exercise in creativity that not only uses the typed word but also opens up the senses, requiring you to look at life differently to find interesting details that might have been overlooked, and seek various ways to tell a story. With any art style, you begin to explore various media. One that I found and have been having fun with is flash fiction. Flash fiction is the art of telling a full story in as few words as necessary placing a greater impact on each word. There is no set word count but most will strive for under 1000 words down to those called micro-fiction which requires 100 words or less. Famous writers have played around with this with the following being one of the most famous flash fiction stories told in 6 words written on a napkin by Ernest Hemingway, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

So, to end our journey of 14 months, all the miles, looping the entire continental USA, over 150 campsites, and a butt load of blogging, I offer our travels in the following micro-fiction-styled story.

The Art of a Simple Life Shared.

The boy, the girl, and the dog left their comfortable life of things to wander throughout the land collecting artifacts like driftwood, rocks, antler, an old rusty horseshoe, and a plastic toy soldier.

Together, they breathed the air, climbed the mountains, touched the land, gazed at desert stars and beach sunsets, swam in waters, and met people.

They talked, wrote, laughed, hugged, and photographed it all while creating wonderful memories, but it was their intimacy with a shared simple life that ultimately touched their souls.

Thank you for joining us on our travels.

The TWT Team of Kemp, Lysette, and Toohey

A-Liner Take Down and Final Departure from Kamp Klamath

The End

California Edition 6: North Coast Culinary Caravan with the Clan

June 17 – July 5, 2021

The Northern California coast is remote, rugged, and beautiful. It is visually stunning with its coastal mountain ranges, lush rainforest, and tall trees that all abruptly end in a dramatic scene where they collide with the Pacific Ocean. It is at this point that the ocean sends the force of endless waves of cold water striking the coastal cliffs and beaches. The climate along the coast is moist and cool, the coolest summertime place in the lower 48 states yet, in contrast, just a few miles east it’s damn hot. Bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, eagles, osprey, buzzards, and aquatic mammals from seals to whales feed along the coast supported by large amounts of lush edible foliage, prey, and a healthy sea life. It is the same healthy sea life that supported the first human native tribes that still call this area home. The northern coast of California is a smorgasbord of interesting things supporting our curious sloverlanding lifestyle as we moved over small coastal mountains, dropped into beach front harbors, through small towns, and met unique personalities.

Caravanning up the coast of California with the nomadic Helkins of the Hunt clan added to our experience. It was wonderful traveling with them and their two pooches. As an added benefit to us, these two fulltime wanderers spent years in the restaurant industry learning from and becoming really good chefs and knew how to entertain with food and drink. We blended our experiences of seeing beautiful and interesting places with the adventure of sharing meals, daily stories, and of course, laughter around the picnic table.

But first, a TWT learning opportunity around the theme of food. While traveling and thinking of all the delicious foods we were eating, the question came up, why do we call cow meat, beef? And for that matter, why is pig meat called pork and lamb called mutton? According to our Google search we learned that many of these changes occurred after the Norman’s conquered the Anglo-Saxons of Britain. The Anglo-Saxons were peasant farmers who raised the cows and pigs and served the animal meats to the aristocrats who referred to them by their foreign words of boeuf, porc and mouton, somewhat disassociating them from the dirty animals. And in case you’re wondering, although there are various languages for goat meat, they all simply translate to goat.

Travel Journal

San Pablo Bay View

Note: Our first stop north wasn’t really northern California but is included in this blogisode because, well, we wanted to and because it wasn’t big enough to stand on its own. It was a short two night stopover on our journey to the north coast and a work-around of the busy San Francisco and Oakland metro area. A place we really enjoyed as one of our favorite, most unique camps on our journey.

Menu Highlights: Dinner at Black Star BBQ/Locally harvested raw oysters and a low country shrimp boil

The Travel Department of the culinary caravan researched and booked a Hipcamp on a patch of land known as the San Pablo Bay View at Terminal 4. The San Pablo Bay waterway begins where the San Francisco Bay ends as it moves inland delivering just the right climate to the vineyards in Napa. If you look down to the map below you will see a small blob of land that jets into the bay. On it sits a coastal mountain that some might call a steep hill. This land mass separates the industrial refineries of Richmond from the views of an active waterway and our camp experience.

The history of this blob of land suggests that it was at one time the last holdover of whale harvesting industry in the USA, the infrastructure of the leading wine processing area prior to prohibition, and served as a military fueling station for naval operation. We passed much of this old infrastructure as we drove in. Once we got to T-4 we found it fenced and gated. Beyond the key coded controlled gate was an unused old worn out industrial site whose last tenants left railroad tracks, dilapidated buildings, and docks with some still falling into the bay. The place apparently sat for years waiting for something good to happen.

Just outside the entry gate to T-4 was a narrow road to the right leading up a steep grade hill with great views of the bay. Once over the summit you drop down more steep windy roads into the small enclave of San Pablo Harbor. If you stopped to read the small signs on the side of the road before heading up you might choose not to venture up the hill as it appeared to be a private drive. The Helkins on the other hand made the decision to drive it in their 32ft rig and to the surprise of the Helkins and those on the other side, they made it!

The harbor is a small spot of flat land with a marina, houseboats with fulltime liveaboards. The current owners of the land have artsy metal structures around the yard, goats, and the main feature, the Black Star BBQ restaurant on the dock. Most of the area along the hills is treed, hilly, and full of deer. In short, this place is a quiet enclave in the midst of a large metropolitan area.

As we continued through the gates to Terminal 4, we found two campground areas. The A sites, aka San Francisco view, sat along the water with a distant view of the San Francisco skyline. (Note: Take heed of the high winds comments in the reviews if you choose to camp here). We camped in the C sites, aka San Pablo Bay view, which sat around the corner with the hill blocking the wind. (for those trying to logically follow along here, there were no B sites). An unused road and narrow lot with old railroad ties, a few new benches, and a table made from one large piece of wood and two wine barrels sat between us and the large active waterway. Our view from camp included a rusty white ship moored a few hundred yards offshore, passing cargo ships moving through the bay, and pleasure boats enjoying the day but likely not the rough choppy water. We watched both mornings as a US Coast Guard helicopter patrolled the area overhead. If you want manicured typical RV camping then this isn’t the place and if dry camping isn’t your thing then keep driving. But if you want a really cool industrial style campsite with million dollar views for $90 a night and some seclusion, then boom. 

When we arrived, the only other camper was a fella named Dennis. Dennis was a young, fit, clean-cut dude who was fulltiming it while going through some life changes. He self reported that he was an attorney by trade but his current passion was flying paragliders long distances, for many hours, a sport he referred to as cross country flying. He sat with us sharing his adventures and mishaps during flights.

Later, the owner of the Hipcamp stopped by to say hello and provided information about the area to include some history. He highly encouraged us to go to the Black Star BBQ restaurant this night as the weekend could bring in several hours of wait time based on its recent popularity. Once he left, we took his advice and made the short drive out of Terminal 4 and back over the hill to the San Pablo Harbor. This little piece of land surrounded by the coastal mountains on three sides and the San Pablo Bay on the other was unique and we were completely thrilled with the experience and food. The ambiance of an open air casual dining on a dock with live music was perfect. After we enjoyed our brisket and beer, we got the dogs from the car and strolled the property, seeing the flotilla of house boats, other live-a-board boats plus many pleasure boats. We walked to the end where the dogs got a bit of a swim before returning back to camp for the sunset and to digest the huge amount of brisket in my belly before bed. 

Our only full day here was designed to be a relaxation day around camp followed by a seafood feast. The afternoon started off with raw oysters while playing cornhole. We then took time to walk the railroad track bed with the dogs back to the harbor where we strolled the yard art, watched the goats, and then headed home. The evening included more cornhole, a few cocktails, and a wonderful low country shrimp boil. The only excitement were the new neighbors who came. These two young women, one from San Luis Obispo and the other an American who lives in Italy and works for Backcountry Tours. Dennis apparently had forgotten to reserve the night at the site where the two young girls had reserved which created a frenzy of research for confirmation and calls to the owner for answers. Some light and friendly drama ensued before they worked it out, agreeing to share their site with him which squeezed us in a bit, but was certainly okay.  

Use the link below for more information about this unique camping spot and if you are ever in this area looking for either good BBQ in a fun setting or a really unique campsite, then we highly recommend it.


Bodega Bay

Menu Highlights: Oysters at Gourmet Au Bay/Swordfish steaks/Spud Bay fresh crab and Carol’s World Famous Clam Chowder

We packed up early and set off from the camp heading across the long bridge over the bay and into San Rafael where we picked up the 101 north for about 30 miles. We turned off the 101 heading west through the most charming small backroads that eventually led us to the coast. The drive was mostly blue sky and sunny. However, as we got to the coastal areas, we were blanketed by clouds which remained for the day. The temperatures here were forecasted for the mid 60’s and the place was damp from low coastal fog. The RV park had the feel of an old fish camp as it sat on a small bay with a mixture of old and new docks. Most of the boats docked were working fishing boats and charters. The channel appeared extremely shallow with a long straight series of nautical green and red markers in a perfect line coming into the bay from the Pacific Ocean. There was the steady sound of a fog horn blowing and sea lions barking loudly while following the low moan of boat engines as they returned to harbor with their daily catch.

The other wildlife here included the seagulls, egrets, and herons but thankfully they were not nearly as angry as those characters featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, which was filmed in Bodega Bay. Not much is the same as the movie set other than maybe a few buildings and back ground scenery but an interesting little trivia nonetheless. https://www.bodegabay.com/the-birds/

Our one full day here started off slowly, hanging around the camp as the low clouds set in providing a gray feel to the day. The plan was for a bike ride up to Bodega Bay head which sat at the end of the road and entry to the harbor. The ride was nice, low traffic, with some good bike lanes. We took a right turn at the end of the road and up the hill. The top flattened a bit as we we came to a fork. We first rode down the road to the right which ended at a parking lot to an overlook with high cliffs overlooking the coast being pummeled by large waves. The ice plant which is a succulent ground draping the cliffs like a natural carpet. The plant has a rich, dark green leaf that turns red towards the top then produces a colorful flower. The display intermingles with a variety of other colorful flowers that produce an amazingly spicy array of color along the already dramatic cliffs. 

We left this overlook heading back to the fork to follow the other road finding another short trail needing to be hiked. The trail, lined with the most amazing yellow wildflowers, was high up along the harbor entry. The sounds of sea lions barking could be heard as they congregated around a small rock island sitting just off the point. We watched as a rogue wave appeared to mystically rise and break through the low fog in the middle of the ocean. As we stood commenting on this we saw a blow of water shoot up from the surface and the large body of what we’d determine was a humpback whale just below us off the cliff. Money! We moved along the trail watching it as it came to the surface repeatedly, slowly and with purpose. A pretty cool sight indeed. 

Along our bike ride home we stopped at Spud Point Crab Company for a late afternoon lunch. We each got a quarter pound of fresh crab with a cup of clam chowder and a loaf of sourdough bread which we all enjoyed as we sat at a picnic table in front of the place and along the road. It was indeed a wonderful moment to be in Bodega Bay.

Bodega Bay was visually pleasing, mostly occupied by day trippers from the metro area to the south and fisherman who enjoyed the harvesting the waters. In fact, our neighbor and his family who trailered their own boat and fished several times during the day kindly shared their catch with camp neighbors. They happily handed us a baggie of their freshly cleaned morning catch of rockfish just as we were packing up camp to leave, something of a prize for us and extremely nice of them, the type of positive humanity that we have found on every turn of our journey.

Manchester KOA

Menu Highlights: Fresh rockfish caught by our neighbor at Bodega Bay, fresh artichoke cooked using the original Chart House recipe

Our move north up the coast was first to the small, zero traffic light town of Manchester which we passed through before hucking a left off the 1 and into a KOA, which was AOK. We chose adjoining sites to support our karavan and went for a bike ride as soon as kamp was set up. Our bike route first took us to the beach where we went for a short walk through the dunes. The sand was dark, heavy, gritty, and loose, making it tough to walk. The beach wasn’t the rocky coast we’d been enjoying but more typical beach with dunes, coastal sea grasses, old trees, and a good surf break. We enjoyed a few minutes of that space before heading back out to the 1 where we rode back into the small uneventful town of Manchester. We quickly turned back towards camp then hucked a right onto a small farm road where we found some cycling nirvana. The road steadily climbed past the Manchester Community Center, passing a few small older homes, before curving up and through small farms with rolling hills and at some point lush trees. There were wild daisies growing along the road and more wonderful scenery. It was great that we had time to take in all the scenery on the uphill as the decent was fast and fun. The finish line at Kamp was met with a cold beer and cheer.

Dinner was fresh fish and artichoke using the original Chart House recipe. Full disclosure here. I admittedly have never in my 50 something years of life eaten fresh artichoke from the outside leaves inward to the center. We picked the leaves scraping the meat off, tossing most of it into the bowl. The leaves progressively got more meaty and flavorful as we worked our way inward. Once we got to the colorful center, we were warned not to eat the spiny stuff but to remove it and toss it into the bowl. We were finally at the heart of the plant which was more familiar territory. This soft ball sized flower was reduced to a few inches of wonderfully flavored vegetable. It was delicious and followed by an amazing plate of rockfish fillets from our neighbors at Bodega Bay.


Caspar, CA

Menu Highlights: Scallops, local ling cod, brussel sprouts, blistered shishito peppers

Just before leaving Manchester KOA, we took the dogs to the large dog park for some free time. While there, we spoke to another dog owner who told us he was waiting on a tow truck to haul their 42-foot rig to a repair facility in Sacramento. His story took us on his 8-hour journey as he traveled south the previous day along the 1. He met an uphill switchback with a 10 percent grade where his rear tire left the road resulting in the rig getting stuck. With traffic backing up and nerves high, he made an effort to reverse it out over the bend in the road, his front end drug the asphalt, cracking his front windshield. Once he got to the KOA he called his insurance company to report the claim. Even though the vehicle was still drivable, the insurance adjuster preferred he didn’t and paid for the long distance tow so technicians could properly check for structural issues. Holy Moly! This sketchy section of roadway was the setting of our journey heading north up the 1 following the Helkin’s in their 32 foot rig plus toad, sweaty palms ensuing. 

Thankfully the drive wasn’t nearly as eventful for us as we rolled downhill through the accident scene and beyond. This section of the coast had homes sitting cliffside along the Pacific Ocean followed by stretches of pasture with cows grazing who seemed unaware of any view at all. We past a few state parks along the way and mostly the road was rustic beauty. The roads were hilly, curvy, and fun to drive in the right vehicle. The wildflowers were popping adding to the already magnificent scenery. The drive passed in and out of a variety of foliage and fauna representing several different eco zones from rainforest to coastal prairie.

We made it to Caspar Beach RV park which sat in a tight cliff lined sea level ravine with a small beach and rocky harbor just across the street from the entrance. The land locked park can best be described as rain forest with really tight spaces. This place was busy and as much a party scene as any we’ve stayed. The tent camp sites located in the back were the nicest section based on space and natural setting of trees, shrubs, and the largest banana slugs I’ve ever seen.

Mendocino is the town in the area that gets most of the love. It sat to the south of Caspar with its quaint little Victorian artist enclave perched on the coastal prairie overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Fort Bragg, located north of Caspar, is an old lumber town and more blue collar touristy. We explored other places in the area like Russian Gulch State Park, Point Cabrillo, and the best was the small beach at the end of our campground.

We ventured into Fort Bragg which we found interesting and worth some research. We learned that the place started as a military garrison/outpost but turned into a papermill town. The current town exists with all the good oceanside real estate sitting behind chain link fencing where the paper mill use to be just waiting for someone with lots of money to repurpose the land. The Main Street is old and a bit worn out looking. The Skunk Train is the main attraction and still operates as a museum and tourist rail line taking folks into the surrounding Redwood forest. The name Skunk Train, was given as at one point it was more street car than typical train, powered by gasoline with wood burning stoves to warm the cars. The smell was reportedly putrid so locals would say they are like skunks, you’d smell them before you’d see them

Our time at Caspar included enjoying the dog friendly beach as our pooches splashed through the surf to chase balls, sticks, and rocks, rolled in sand, and were simply happy dogs. In Fort Bragg, we enjoyed a basket of prawns and chips and a cold pint of Pliny the Elder on the dock at Sea Pals which sat on the Noyo River among the commercial fishing operations. We rode bikes through the trails at Point Cabrillo and Russian Gulch State Park where we hiked out to sink holes that have been formed along the coast, some sitting 200 feet inland. We could see waves rolling into the sink hole through caves beneath the ground. Each day was capped off with drink and food at camp, enjoying conversation and local seafood to include scallops and ling cod, all cooked to perfection.

Hell’s Heat: Red Bluff, CA

Menu Highlights: Ribeye steaks with salad wedge/Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, Aguachile, watermelon salad with feta, lime, and basil

Attempts to secure camp sites along the coast for two rigs for the upcoming weekend failed. The travel department worked diligently eventually finding a spot a good day’s drive east over the mountains and into the valley in the town of Red Bluff. It looked promising as it sat along the banks of the Sacramento River and was heavily treed. Only after reserving the sites did we learned that the camp location was under a severe heat warning with temperatures forecasted as high as 113 degrees. Nonetheless, we packed up and left our damp cool coastal experience to beat the weekend crowds and found a spot in… hell. But first, the drive through the Redwood forest was scenic with large pines and fir trees, curvy roads, and lots of California cars. We eventually made it to Sycamore Grove camp in Red Bluff. It was hot, but late in the afternoon so the heat didn’t seem insurmountable. We set up, walked the camp and as the sun fell and the evening began, we assembled at the Helkins for our evening picnic table culinary adventure. They had thawed ribeye cut cow meat which was cooked to perfection on the Blackstone. Sleep was difficult in the A-Liner as it didn’t drop below 90 degrees until well after midnight but we woke to a nice morning. Nice enough for a quick morning run before the heat hit, and the heat hit hard. By early afternoon, while sitting in the shade of a tree, my phone stopped working because of the ambient temperature. I showered outside with cold water, kept Toohey wet, and shaded and by noon, had decided we had to leave.

While we kept wet at camp, Lysette and her sister made a drive to the Target in Reading for an electric fan, inflatable swimming pool, and some other items but mostly they enjoyed the AC in the car and stores. When they returned home, we gathered at the Helkin’s rig where their AC was cold as were the drinks and dinner. They had prepared a cold dinner dish of Mexican shrimp cocktail and Aguachile which were both amazing and perfect for our time in hell. And while in hell and enjoying this dish, I also learned that ceviche isn’t actually a city in Italy but a South American method of preparing fresh seafood by marinating it in citrus juices. In fact, ceviche originated in Peru and has nothing to do with Italy. Stomachs full, we left them for our hot box of a camper and rough night of sleep while the strange campers across the grass held some sort of spiritual dance with lights around their camp fire. Yep.

The morning came and we quickly left for the coast!

Kamp Klamath/Cher’ere Campground – Klamath, CA

Menu Highlights: Chicken breast, peppers/ Cheese burgers and a salad/Halibut, asparagus, scored sweet potatoes/Filet mignon, marinated zucchini, grilled sweet onion, salad/Hot dogs, bacon wrapped stuffed jalapeños

Perspective changes everything and after experiencing hot, we chose our destination to be opposite on the cool California coast with daily highs in the low 70’s and scenery described as heavenly. The TWT & Helkins travel team secured reservations through Friday and we got the heck out of hell before the morning temperature rose above 90. The drive to our climate nirvana was through Redding then up the mountains through Whiskeytown winding all through the hot high country before finally dropping us beneath the coastal marine layer of low cool clouds and back to the 101. We turned left, south for a few miles towards Eureka finding our first overnight stop at Redwood Coast RV Park in Arcata, CA. The park sat behind and old woodyard just off the highway and was in fact an old KOA. Based on what we observed, it was likely kicked out of the franchise based on the lack of upkeep to KOA standards which is a pretty mediocre mark. We played a round of cornhole, walked the park, and enjoyed left over Mexican shrimp cocktail, aquachile, and watermelon for dinner. The next morning we bolted again slightly north on the 101 to Klamath Beach Road and finally Kamp Klamath. Our initial impression was that it was a beautiful. It sat on a patch of land sandwiched between the Redwood National Park and Klamath River. The beach was about a mile and a half down a narrow pot-holed road that was once the old coastal drive. The beach access was from a small roadside pull-off where you first pass through a gate then walk through a flat grassy river front meadow that were Yurok Tribal Ceremonial Grounds. At the far end of this was a small path that emptied onto the beach with views of the inlet. The inlet, with its large boulder feature, was full of everything aquatic hunting and fishing. The fish making their way to the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean while the dynamics of the break of the ocean against the rivers outgoing waters created a major hydro-disturbance. We spent lots of time down here as this place was remote and remarkable, pure entertainment.

To match remarkable, we spent time at camp while the Helkin’s prepared and cooked a dinner of chicken breast, peppers, and rice on the well seasoned Blackstone. We all sat quietly enjoying the nice temperatures and relaxed vibe of the park placing lots of physical and emotional distance between us and the hot we experienced over the last few days.

Activities that we shared over the next few days included bike rides along the coastal trail and Adler drive, hikes through the redwoods, and stops along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway which is a main Redwood National Park drive. We saw huge herds of coastal elk which are every bit as large as those seen in the rockies. I had a bear sighting while on one of the bike rides that was caught on camera by a bystander on her cell phone. The daily trips to the beach to watch the feasting among aquatic mammals and birds continued to amaze us. Dinners continued to be as wonderful as the campground.

We had to move camp sites on one occasion in order to stay at Kamp Klamath but our luck ran out over the Fourth of July weekend where they had no availability. The result wasn’t terrible as we found several good sites at the Cher’ere Campground, a tribal run operation just two miles up the road. Other campers there were sparse, possibly because they had no web presence, but the sites were large and facilities clean.

There was one other couple in our section of Camp Cher’ere the day we arrived. They had a truck camper which they’d left sitting on its stands while they were gone with their truck. As we left to make our provision run to Crescent City, the owners pulled in and from the look of it, were preparing to leave giving us even more space. We returned a few hours later with four filet mignon steaks, a hearty appetite, and their camper now sitting on the ground. Apparently the legs where they joined the camper had rotted. There were several other men from around the camp working to engineer the heavy camper back up to the truck bed using several boards which they found by disassembling the picnic table, a ratchet strap, and muscle. They were using the two boards as rails to slide the camper up towards the truck bed. Needless to say, safety was not much of a thought with this team. We tentative helped, never getting into any danger zones while offering suggestions not to do things like crawl under it or between it and the truck bed. The idea was finally made to tilt the camper on its rear edge and back the truck under it. Now with about 10 men and the front edge of the camper on the bed of the truck, we lifted the back up gradually until it was about 3 feet off the ground propping it with a large metal propane tank and the metal fire ring. The last move to get it on the bed was using the 10 manpower thrust to push it forward and finally securely on to the bed of the truck. Success with no injuries. The young couple had reportedly just purchased the camper for $5,500 to use for their trip to Alaska and this was their maiden voyage. They left the camp about an hour later after making final efforts to secure the camper to the truck and tacking up some of the siding that had been damaged in the collapse. 

As for the team, we enjoyed a nice dinner of filet mignon with zucchini and squash marinated in balsamic, sweet onion, and salad followed by a round of cornhole and a great night sleep.

July Fourth, Independence Day, started with a run out and back along Klamath Beach Road while the Helkins took a drive over to experience the Trees of Mystery. As the afternoon developed and the red, white and blue garb was donned, we started tossing bean bags at the hole in the wood while the progressive food was prepared and delivered. It all started with bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers, followed by hot dogs and burgers. The day was festive with one kids parade while we celebrated our nation’s independence at camp.

The next morning, July 5th was cloudy, misty, and the day the Helkins departed to continue their drive north to Coos Bay, OR and beyond while we opted to remain here in Klamath for most of July. It was hard to see them drive off but with all the memories fresh in our mind and the knowledge we’d see them again soon, all was good… except we now had to cook for ourselves.

Our move was easy, a two mile drive back to Kamp Klamath, and a spot to sit for 15 days, a time in one place which we hadn’t done since Christmas 2020 and something we were both looking forward to. A place to relax in the cool coastal climate and enjoy the quiet quirky feel of the place in what would turn out to be our last camping spot with the trailer.

Update: The time since we last unhooked the trailer from our truck until now has been a blur. We traveled east from Portland to Billings where we spent a few nights then south to Golden where we sat for most of August. We split time rig-sitting for the Helkins in their 30 foot motor home and then the remainder of the month based out of the basement apartment of some really good acquaintances. We traveled to Savannah by way of family in Nebraska and Ohio. September has been with family in Savannah celebrating the wonderful life of my mom who passed away last year and a family wedding. Lysette and I enrolled in 4 coastal kayak trips throughout the month. (Note, if you ever get to Savannah enjoy the historic stuff but get yourself to Little Tybee by boat or kayak. It is one of the most special wild places on earth that thankfully gets little attention).

We miss the sloverlanding lifestyle, the speed and pace where you can slow it all down to fully breath in a place. A pace of life where you can enjoy new places, get to know new people, and take the time to experience it all. All the things you don’t get wile traveling fast or with an agenda. We also miss being more organized as currently life without all our stuff feels quite disorganized.

Lastly, we have signed a lease for a condo in Winter Park, Colorado that will carry us over until May 1, 2022 when we’ll move back into our home in Golden. This will give us a winter to figure stuff out our future, ski, and relax in one place for a while. Toohey doesn’t know it yet but we feel he can’t wait for some stability and he loves snow.

Until then…

California Edition 5: Monterey, Big Sur, and the Collector

June 15 – 17, 2021

Lysette likes to say I am a collector of things, to which I disagree. My position is that a serious collector of things would have lots of things, more like Fred Sanford of Sanford & Sons amount of things. A serious collector of things is way more disciplined and organized in approach as to the types of things they collect. I, on the other hand, currently only have a few interesting items from our journey to include a few small unique rocks from various places that I can’t recall, a fish knife found beneath a bush along the banks of the Salmon River in Idaho, a small piece of fossilized wood from a lake in North Dakota, a chunk of drift wood from a beach along the Oregon coast, a deer antler found while riding bikes in southwest Texas, and a rusty old horseshoe I found hanging on a branch in a tree in Utah. These items are scattered about our traveling rig in places ranging from my tool box, the compartment in the door beside the drivers seat, my pocket, behind my seat, in a storage box in the trailer, and on the floor board of the Tacoma.

The relevance to this disagreement began while I was walking Toohey along a dirt road in Cayucos Beach California, a small beach side town we had stopped to have lunch and say goodbye to the Hunt clan after celebrating the nephew’s graduation. I looked down and saw a small plastic toy soldier lying in the grassy weeds, immediately considering it a nice addition to my short list of important artifacts. I noticed as it was lying there that his head was turned to the side and arms straight out extended over his head as if he landed there from a fall. It appeared he had been there for quite some time and based on the position of the arms and hands over his head, I surmised that he was originally accessorized as a toy airborne paratrooper who had lost his parachute. I reached down, picked him up, and carefully turned his head on a swivel back and forth, then slightly moved his arms and legs up and down to make sure everything worked. He was wearing an olive green military issue combat uniform with his pants tucked into his black boots and a red beret hat, which I found a slight contradiction assuming that if he were in fact jumping out of an airplane that he would be wearing a helmet strapped to his head versus a soft red stylish hat. He had a black vest with important stuff secured in attached pouches, binoculars strapped to his chest, and a side arm of unknown caliber tightly holstered to his left hip and tied to his left leg. He wore black gloves and had a tattoo of something that I really couldn’t make out on his left forearm but likely a badge worn proudly from an experience doing something heroic. His face was clean shaven with sharp jaw lines making him appear really fit. I scanned the area around him looking to see any signs of his comrades or other accessories strewn nearby before setting off to finish Toohey’s walk and to rejoin the group. I carefully placed the plastic toy soldier in my pants pocket for security but not nearly giving him the honor and respect he so deserves.

As we strolled the town, I would occasionally make sure he hadn’t militarily crawled out, repelled, or otherwise fallen to another patch of grass. My new association with the plastic toy soldier would conjure up thoughts, stories of his life, the child who had held him previously and who might be searching endlessly for his favorite plastic toy soldier now in my possession. I recalled memories of me as a young boy, staging toy soldier battles all over the floor of my bedroom. I would make gun shot and explosion noises with my voice that sounded as life like as any I had heard on TV or the movies, and as an added benefit, would greatly annoy my older sister. I thought of all the plastic toys I had stepped on with bare feet when my children were young and how in a moment of pain I had tossed many away as junk, now suddenly feeling a sense of guilt. Maybe this was that type of junk to the dad of the boy who had tossed it out of the window. Who knows, but I know it is safe for the moment, the plastic toy soldier tucked into my pocket with all types of stories whirling around in my head. 

Once the clan was in attendance by the pavilion, we moved to a small beach side restaurant called Duckies where we ate lunch at the high top tables equipped with large umbrellas lining the sidewalk. The shade from the umbrellas and tables made a nice place for the dogs to keep cool while we gobbled down our fried cod and potatoes. After lunch, we all slow walked back to the rigs, hugged out a goodbye to the family, and set off. Our plans from here were to caravan with the Helkins up the coast of California for the next few weeks. The first leg being a 120 mile drive north on the 101 into Prunedale, California. To get back to the 101 from the beach, we had to follow the 49 over a low mountain pass and back into the valley. One thing we’d learn about this entire valley area of California is they grow everything here that most of us purchase from the produce department of our local grocery store. We’ve seen kale to artichokes, in fact we drove through Castroville, a small town known as the Artichoke Center of the World then later, Gilroy, known as the Garlic Capital of the World. Needless to say, there is a big agricultural business here but for us it was all eye candy with the various colors of greens in the fields stretching to the horizon and dotted with the colorful clothes of the migrant workers tending to the crops.

We pulled up to our camp site at the KOA, which was AOK. The site sat next to an old trailer and I quickly noticed that it had a few missing accessories and a roof top AC unit with a severely damaged cover, an equally ratted out red jeep parked next to it, and a mother standing outside smoking the last draws of a cigarette stubby while a little boy with buzz cut blonde hair and a really dirty face played about. The mom disappeared inside the trailer as we backed in. As we worked to set up our camp, we would constantly hear a call for Austin (his name has been changed for this story) from the boy’s mother coming from inside the trailer as she would try to keep the curious little boy back in their campsite and out of our way. From then on, Austin spoke to us whenever we passed by, mostly just saying hello. Once he added that they just bought the trailer and another time he was wondering if our dog was nice, short conversations from a curious little guy. At one point we found him squatting next to the camper watching our grey water spill out the pipe beneath our trailer into our red bucket used to collect grey water. We later removed our water hose when we thought he might play with it. He spoke to others who walked by mostly saying hello to them, and as our time here progressed, his happy little face collected more dirt and his pants became more wet suggesting that he valued his curiosity of things outside way more than making it to the toilet inside.

A second lady appeared the next morning, probably his grandmother, and we watched as they played with a bubble machine outside, something he appeared to enjoy as we drove away for our daily adventure. We followed the Helkins for a trek to Monterey to see the main features of The Old Fishermans Wharf and Cannery Row. The place was made famous by John Steinbeck’s book, Cannery Row, and was where our brother-in-law lived while managing a seaside restaurant that served food to local celebrities such as Clint Eastwood. We found it all really interesting, full of all that is touristy, mostly centered on the characters, buildings, and setting. The water off Monterey was once the hub of commercial sardine fishing that brought large fisheries to process the daily catch. The old buildings now range from tourist businesses to concrete slabs and pilings, mere remnants of their industrial legacy. We walked the path between the wharf and Cannery Row seeing harbor seals basking in the sun light in the calm protected waters of the harbor. Our last stop was for lunch at a pub in the small community known as Pacific Grove. All the while, the only thoughts of the plastic toy soldier on this day were triggered by a few funny comments from Lysette that I am becoming a collector of things, to which I disagree.

That night, after returning home, I saw young Austin again with dirt all over his face, his pee stained pants, and the friendly smile followed by hello. As usual, he hung around in front of his new trailer waiting for someone or something to spark his interest. I saw him say hello to a passing couple with a stroller carrying two young children and heard him politely tell them that he liked their babies. He later marched up the steep hill behind our camp where once on top, proudly turned back to look out as if he’d conquered the summit of the highest mountain. Soon after the familiar voice from inside his new trailer would call him back.

Our last day here was the epic drive down the coast towards Big Sur but this time the plastic toy soldier was along for the ride. The scenery was spectacular with ocean blue water as colorful as the sky, a sunny day with a constant mist in the air, and a larger bank of fog sitting over the water off shore. The coastal wildflowers were in peak bloom providing an amazing splatter of color of yellows, purples, reds, rusts, and greens against the sand and rock. I captured a few photos for nostalgia of the plastic toy solider, looking proud and healthy against the coastal scenes of the Big Sur, giving him one last hooyah with us. We finished the southbound drive along Big Sur with a nice lunch with the Helkins on the patio at Nepenthe’s restaurant and stunning views of the coastline.

The next morning I wrote a note with a message to Austin on an old post card that we had picked up in Rachel, Nevada while traveling along the Extraterrestrial Highway. The post card was placed with the plastic toy soldier in a small clear freezer bag. 

I left the package by the utility pole between our trailer sites as we drove off, confidently hoping that Austin’s curiosity will have him happen upon it, thereby repurposing the plastic toy soldier with the mission of bringing happiness to a young boy. Together, the plastic toy soldier and Austin will make a much better team and besides, I am not a collector of things, just stories. 

I know I rambled here but I don’t want you to miss out on the photographs captured by the TWT team while traveling the Monterey and Big Sur.

Update: Sometimes life decisions come easy, as if there were some bigger thing guiding us or maybe just some lucky coincidence in life. I had a text message conversation with an old work friend from Portland while in Kamp Klamath. After briefing him on our plans to sloverland back to Golden when we leave here to fix up and sell the trailer, he texted back that he was interested. After a series of text messages and phone calls to agree on the basics of the deal, a drive to the Portland with a day to empty and clean it, they now own it. Somehow we were also able to squeeze most of what was in the trailer into the already tight space of the Tacoma bed and yes, we are currently homeless until we figure out what we are going to do next. And as of now, our 14 months of camping throughout the USA in the 12-foot hard-sided pop-up has officially come to an end, a material ending to this gap year journey full of amazing memories, but certainly not an ending to our life of adventure. We will travel east over the next few months to visit family and friends, giving pause to the meaning of our experiences, next chapters, and thought to the next blog likely titled, Moochdockingwithtoohey. Please don’t go away as we still have a few blogisodes of our journey to catch you up on.

The next blogisode will feature content on our continued caravan up the northern California coast starting at our interesting Hipcamp on San Pablo Bay and then off to the Redwoods National Park and Klamath, California. Until then…

California Edition 4: San Simeon State Park and Pismo Beach

June 9 – 15, 2021

This bogisode covers our first of what will be many stops along the California coast throughout the rest of June and half of July. The Hunt family interlude represents a big portion of this blog which is a slight stray from the nature stuff but a large portion of what makes life great, especially if you have a wonderful family like we do. Our entire time here included sand, sun, and seals as you would expect along the coast of California. We hope you enjoy.

Travel Journal

We saw our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean as we crossed over the mountain range from Paso Robles along the 46. Not since our time along the Oregon and Washington coast June 2020 had we been to the west coast and it is certainly striking to see, especially from the top of this coastal mountain range. We soon descended to the intersection with the 1 that runs north south along the west coast where we’ll mostly travel for the next few weeks. We turned right and quickly came to the small town of Cambria and then a small beach front parking lot called Moonstone. Since no dogs were allowed on the beach we walked Toohey along the boardwalk and enjoyed taking in the scenes and smells of the ocean. 

San Simeon State Park

We left continuing north to our destination, checked in and set up our camp at San Simeon State Park. The site was an unlevel asphalt pad but with a slight distant view of the ocean across the tree tops. We walked the park to see what all the fuss was about confirming that we indeed had a good spot based on others we saw. After a while our friend, who we had met while camping near Lone Pine and who was the new camp host here, drove up. We shared stories over beers and got all caught up on life. He left us for a while but returned later for some more stories, beer, and a nice camp fire. We shared a phone call with his daughter who we’d also met outside of Lone Pine before turning in for a cool night sleep accompanied with sounds of distant breaking coastal waves. 

We agreed over the fire to go for a bike ride the next day, so we gathered at our camp in the morning. Our host had suggested the ride from camp that extended east, inland from the coast. I initially fought that route suggesting that we ride the coastal highway but I soon caved as I figured we could pick up the coastal road a bit later. We set off east and I quickly was glad I caved as this ride turned out to be amazing. The hilly, winding road took us through ranch lands, a valley with cows, horses and several flocks of wild turkeys. I stopped when I saw a gobbler proudly displaying his feathers, maybe trying to entice one of his crew to mate, but whatever it was it was interesting to see. The morning colors across the fields and through the trees was magical and the hills were a solid workout with short steep grades slightly reminding me of cycling in the English countryside. We rolled through the area with the last few miles stepping us steeply uphill until we finally flew the white flag of surrender, turned, and headed back. The descents were fun but worrisome as the road was pot-holed and with a sun/shade mix making it tough to see the hazards. But fun nonetheless. We got back to camp and wanted more time on the saddle so we said goodbye to our host and set off north along the 1. We rode with a steady headwind until we got to the San Simeon fishing peer where we decided to turn around. We were now heading south with the nice tail wind and the coast to our right side. We stopped in at all the pull-offs to take in the sights which were beautiful. We finally made it back to the pooch, who was sleeping comfortably in the Tacoma while protecting the assets. It was one of our favorite rides with so much scenic diversity, all beautiful, and making us give thought to what a bike packing trip along the coast would be.

Hungry and tired from the ride, we showered and set off for the small town of Cambria in search of food. We found the Cafe on Bridgestreet, a 5-star Yelp place, operating out of a historic cottage with seating outside in quaint funky gardens. I fought really hard not to order the featured hot pastrami sandwich and instead went for the chicken cobb salad which was an enormous amount of food. We recommend you definitely check out this place if you are in the area (https://www.cafeonbridgest.com). 

While driving through Cambria we noticed a sign for Nit Wit Ridge and feeling like I was being called home, made the turn. We drove up a really steep road and found the most interesting house. This California Historical Landmark designated structure is also known as the Poor Man’s Hearst Castle and rumor has it the original owner constructed the house using scavenged pieces from the real Hearst Castle construction. It is privately owned, but uninhabited, as the previous owner sold the water meter to pay back taxes which by law makes it uninhabitable. The new owners allegedly operates tours and have an online a gift shop. You can find more information about Nit Wit Ridge by following the link www.nitwitridge.com

From there, we drove north to see the elephant seals as they sunned along the beach. Along the way we stopped at a pull off by the highway to watch the herd of zebras who were a novelty of the Hearst family. We then drove a short distance down the I where we found the parking lot to watch the seals. They were actually sunning while molting their skin based on this was skin molting season for seals. We saw many seals snoozing with patches of skin falling off their body which was kind of gross. These large sea animals appeared so peaceful, sleeping with an occasional grunt, using their fins to toss sand on themselves as they basked. They would occasionally and clumsily move up and down the beach a few yards before crashing back into relaxation. There were hundreds of these animals and watching them on the beach simply made me tired. 

Our final morning at San Simeon State Park started with a run before we departed. Our camp host friend suggested a trail for us that left from the back of the park. We followed the single track trail as it climbed a hill into a heavily forested area, passing through a recently controlled burn site, and then dropping down into a low marshy area following along a boardwalk. There were spots of wild flowers all along the trail mixed in with poison oak, blackberry vines, and other grasses and trees. We made our way back to our friend and camp host’s site to say so long and then to our camp to eat some brekkie and pack up the rig. 

We enjoyed our short stay in the area of San Simeon and would certainly come back for more exploration. Our time was perfect as with a full day we were able to explore the small town of Cambria and the coastal areas close by. We didn’t venture to the Hearst Castle as it was closed and that really isn’t our cup of travel tea anyway. 

Pismo Beach: The Hunt Family Interlude

We assembled in the community of Pismo Beach to celebrate nephew’s graduation from Cal Poly located in San Luis Obispo aka, SLO. This is the same nephew who met us in Sun Valley last summer to camp for a night with Toby the tarantula. The traveling Helkins and the Huntbaums had adjoining RV sites in a place called Pismo Coast Village Beach Resort. The nephew’s mom, dad, and sister were staying in a hotel in SLO about 15 miles slightly north and inland. 

Being a child raised on Saturday morning cartoons, I believe the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner hour was the absolute best hour watching TV. While walking Price Street, the main drag in Pismo, a sign caught my attention that had a Bugs Bunny quote on it. After a quick internet search I found the following Youtube scene with quote. In all honesty, I don’t remember the Pismo Beach reference in that scene, but do quote the left turn in Albuquerque quite often when we get directionally confused while using my best Bugs Bunny voice, obviously to the delight of Lysette.

The adventure while in Pismo Beach was keeping up with the Hunt Clan while they celebrated one of their owns success so I thought I’d capture our time in some of the characteristics being a part of this family.

  1. Laughter – this family has among them the best laughs of any family and they laugh often. You have to have some pretty thick skin and humility in this group as many times the laughter is at you but what you’ll find is it is meant to be with you. We spent lots of time laughing, sometimes until it hurt, at things that won’t be shared here but are likely not that funny outside the moment. 
  2. Active – they are movers – many times with lots of directional advice that keeps them moving in no certain direction at all, especially when more than one Hunt is taking charge. For example, we went looking for a restaurant in downtown SLO on day one in an area packed with restaurants. We walked in all possible directions in a small downtown with perfectly straight lines and right angles before finding the restaurant we wanted, and of course, it had just closed. Without panic, we simply found the next closest one which was perfect for most of us. The imperfection was not in the food, but in nephew’s sister’s place at the table. She was sitting just outside the umbrella cover and below the butt of a crow who pooped, not once but twice on her leg from 20 feet at about five minute intervals. But I digress. Activity two for the day moved us to a winery just outside of SLO that had peacocks freely roaming around and many patrons with dogs, and of course more laughter. There was a near death experience when a sudden gust of wind caught the large red table umbrella, pulling it from its stand and launching it into the air towards several sitting on the downwind side. Had it not been for the swift response of graduating nephew, grabbing the last inches of the pole in one hand while never losing any wine from his glass in the other. The umbrella would have surely caused severe damage to the family members sitting on the other side of the table. As with everything Hunt, this quickly became a laughable topic of conversation as the day went on. Active in never sitting still while even hanging around camp. There were corn hole tournaments, sing alongs to music by Queen, Jimmy Buffet, and their absent brother’s favorite, The Joker by Steve Miller.
  3. Learning – This is a well educated group who value the opportunity to learn new stuff. One instance of this was the use of the social media symbol #. The eldest Hunt member suggested it is a “hatch” tag. A moment of confusion ensued followed by a quick Google search to confirm it is actually “hash” tag. (No surprise as Lysette still refers to it the “pound” sign.) This new learned nugget was appreciated by all, #hatchtaghuntswillneverforget. 
  4. Food – Eating out has become a normal thing again in California and we did a lot of that. From pizza in SLO to an all you can eat sushi place in Grover Beach, BBQ, and sweet rolls with bacon and maple in Pismo, we ate, drank, and laughed our way through it all. 
  5. Athletics – This is a sporting group of humans who have shown skills on the ski slopes, swimming, cycling, rowing, progressive Pictionary, and urban restaurant orienteering. But nothing could prepare us for their skills at corn hole. One such amazing feat occurred during our round robin tournament where, nephew and dad were on a team. They easily lost their opening round but would later return to the championship match where they needed to win twice to win the tournament. The barely won the first but during the second match to 21 points, dad tossed all four bags in the hole to win it. It was an amazing feat of corn hole history that we now refer to as, the Steve.

One thing taught while camping is what is said around the campfire, stays around the campfire. There were so many individual great moments with plenty of photos and videos with this family but many just need to remain for future campfires. Nuff said.

After four days of togetherness, we all gathered in the small beach town of Cayucos where we parked all the rigs and cars in an old welding shop turned event center just north of town. We walked the dogs down to the beach front and enjoyed a nice seafood feast at Duckies. After hugging it out, a few starfish waves, and a video departure, we set off for a camp in Salina just east of Monterey.

Update: Not to sound like a broken record but yes, we are still on the north coast of California, across the street from the Redwood National Park, and still sitting in Kamp Klamath becoming family with all the work campers, aka hosts. This place has it all with daily temperatures maybe reaching 70 degrees, a greater chance for a tsunami than smoke from a wildfire, and a place jam packed with nature to include wildlife, rainforest, mountains, to the ocean. Well, sun is mostly only an afternoon thing and we haven’t seen anything nighttime terrestrial since we’ve been here. But otherwise it is pretty cool. We will stray from the normal with this update by tossing in a couple of photos, teasers of sorts, so you can see for yourself the wonderment of our current world.

Next up will be our travels along the north coast of California. Until then…

California Edition 3: West to the Coast

June 4 – 9, 2021

This blogisode is one of our shorter editions, as we left the Sierra’s south and west across the state to the coast. An area of Caifornia that doesn’t get the California love as it is mostly agricultural, ranching, and hot (no Elvis surf movies were ever filmed here). It does however deliver lots of nature, culture, and more than likely something you ate on the day you read this came from the soil along this stretch of the US of A. We hope you enjoy our wandering through gold rush towns west of the Sierras, sequoias, and the newest national park. But first, here’s a little something that we observed.

The post-vaccination stage of our journey has certainly had a different feel than the pre-vaccination stage with one of the biggest differences being our ability to dine out. While we still cook breakfast at camp most days, prepared dinners that I cook (those not eaten cold from a can) have become a rare thing. Even getting the small propane tank off the roof of the truck and the grill from inside the truck is a memory. We are also camping mostly near towns or intersections with some level of food service making dining out much easier and more convenient than cooking. (Please note that Toohey has yet to strike on the matter of us not cooking meals as we still give him cookies after dinner since there are no dirty dishes for him to bear proof.)

Last night was one of those easy dining experiences that turned into way more than a delightful culinary event. While staying in the small town of Angel Camp, we decided to drive the 4 miles to the downtown area. Angel Camp has a narrow street with old gold rush era 1800’s buildings lining both sides. There wasn’t much activity this night. With a few cafe-sized restaurants and the usual dive bar along the street, Cascabel was the only restaurant actually opened. We slowly and apprehensively approached the front window to read the menu and heard a voice coming from the passenger seat of a tan Tundra pick-up truck parked directly behind us. The lady, we guessed to be in her early 50’s, told us that the food was excellent. She went on to tell us about the brownie cheesecake, that her niece was the waitress – the only waitress with long braided pigtails, and that their dog, a large yellow lab lying in the back seat, was diagnosed with cancer and will likely be put down the next morning. Her sister was inside breaking the news to her daughter and ordering an undercooked hamburger patty for the ailing pooch. The mood was somber. The sister, who turned out to be a twin, came out of the restaurant to join in the conversation. They gave us all types of ideas on things to do and see in the area. They were kind, giving, and we enjoyed talking with them. And with that sort of introduction, we just had to go inside. 

The inside of the restaurant consisted of one small open room, simple Mexican without all the bright colors and flamboyant furnishings. The staff working the front of the house were two young women and as described by the aunt, one had long braided pigtails. The menu had no photographs of food, combination plates or numbered entrées, but everything ordered al la carte from the main entrees, appetizers, and desserts.  Our waitress, as luck would have it, was the one with the pigtails. She was professional and attractive, dressed in trendy jeans and a t-shirt, keeping a friendly smile while obviously dealing with a small but busy restaurant and having just learned the news that her family dog wasn’t going to make it. We watched on one occasion as her mom came back into the restaurant, moving around as if she owned the place, speaking to other patrons, at one point stopping at a table of three who had a small dog to speak to the dog. On another occasion her mom stepped into the back kitchen to talk with the owners who were the chefs and then she helped herself to the soda fountain normally reserved for the servers. But with all that, it seemed her main purpose was to give her daughter a big hug as she new that even though she wore a smile while waiting on the customers, she was deeply saddened by the news of her dog. As her mom left, her aunt entered and without the confidence of her twin sister, moved to the back near the kitchen where she stopped and leaned with her arms on the waitress counter. As with her twin sister, her point of being here was to give her niece a hug, a long emotional hug that ended with with a swipe of her eyes. An obviously loving family dealing with some emotional toil. The aunt left only to return quickly as she forgot the second most important thing, the dog’s undercooked hamburger patty. 

My radar for watching the room continued as we enjoyed our dinner. I noticed the gentleman of a couple who came in just before us walk up to talk to the waitresses. I thought I heard, maybe a combo heard and lip read, him say something about paying a tab. I continued to watch as after they left the restaurant, the waitress approached the table with three young people and their small dog to tell them that the couple behind them had paid their bill. I’ll never know why, but the generosity was felt deeply by all three. The generosity, the love, and positivity of the dining experience we observed here tonight was more fulfilling than my fish taco’s and fried avocado which were both quite good. An hour of our lives sitting in a relatively nondescript Mexican cafe in the town of Angel Camp California delivered much of what is good about humanity. Hugs, love, giving of ourselves when it is both needed and unexpected. And of course, the undercooked hamburger patty for the ill pooch. 

We paid our bill and left a note for our waitress that we will be thinking of her as losing your family dog is hard and we dread the day that will certainly come with our senior dog. We didn’t get the brownie cheesecake dessert that night but boy we left there completely satisfied. 

Travel Journal

We entered the golden hills of California as we turned south along highway 49. We learned from a few travelers that this is where the history of the state developed with the gold rush. We passed through the outskirts of a few small towns before getting to our destination, Angel Camp. An interesting name that would seem to indicate some Christian spiritual beginning but, as it turns out, was based on the name of a guy named Angel. It prospered with the gold rush and now with somewhere around 3,000 locals, is still a small town in the California foothills. 

You likely have never heard of the town of Angel Camp unless you are a Mark Twain enthusiast or follow competitive frog jumping. You might be surprised to learn that both of those are intertwined in history. Mark Twain was living there in a small cabin when he wrote and published the short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. This was the story that allegedly put him on the map as a legit writer among writers. It also solidified his relationship with the town and its relationship with competitive frog jumping. Competitive frog jumping is a celebrated annual event in Angel Town. So celebrated that the Main Street side walk is embedded with all winners along their Hop of Fame from as far back at 1928. Rosy the Ribbet, who holds the current world record with her jumps over 21 feet, is among those featured on bronze plaques along the hop of fame. Each square listing the winners also honors the distance of the winner’s jump  More information on this event and entering your frog can be found by watching the video below. 

Big Tree State Park 

Learning along the way is something we enjoy and the stop at Big Tree State Park provided such a moment. Among our knowledge gained included understanding the difference between the giant sequoia and redwood trees. The similarity is that they are both huge. Differences start with the sequoia’s being located inland in the western Sierras whereas the redwoods are located along the northern coast of California. Sequoias are shorter but much more stout in the tree trunk whereas the redwoods are taller and thinner in the trunk. Big Tree State Park is a lessor known park than Sequoia National Park but we were told it would not disappoint and it didn’t. That, and with mid 90’s forecasted for Angel Camp, adding a few thousand feet of elevation would certainly mean a reduction in temperatures.

Big Tree State park is located about 30 miles east of Angel Camp in the western Sierras. We passed through gorgeous wine and ranch country the golden hills mixed with dark green vineyards and bushy oak trees. We cruised the trendy little downtown of Murphy about 9 miles to the west with outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the Main Street supporting the wine industry tourism. The last stretch of road was a curvy two lane mountain road with the introduction of dense forested mountain terrain. We pulled into the park and up to the gate where we were met by a masked female in ranger garb. I asked her if the trees were out today, thinking a little dad humor would break the ice. She said it would be $10, never responding to my attempted joke. 

There are two main groves of trees in the park. The north grove sits up front near the entrance and visitor center, has smaller trees, a shorter walk along stroller accessible turf, and because of all that, bigger crowds. We chose the south grove, another 8 miles of slow park roads to the trailhead, a longer dirt trail, bigger trees, and smaller crowds. The drive was beautiful with lush green alpine tundra with many evergreens, deciduous trees of oak and dogwood, and ground cover. Ground cover had been burned off in a few areas for the health of the forest. We arrived at the parking lot which was about 30% full providing options for us to find a nice shady spot for Toohey as dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. After he got a good sniff and time to set his boundary, we secured him in the truck to protect the assets while we ventured into the woods. 

The trail started as a nice cushy soft dirt double track track. It took a mile to get to the start of the south grove trail before it narrowed and where we spotted the first of many large sequoias. The first one was on its side, dead, but left a fun burned out shell resembling a cave. It was tall enough for an average sized man to stand inside its trunk with plenty of head room. There was a family enjoying the moment with the young boys playing inside getting black soot on their clothes and faces while the mom was trying to take photos. Also there were two volunteer rangers who we struck up conversation and in return got a short lesson about the trees. They talked about the sexy reproductive process of these large trees which requires a complex mixture of beetles, squirrels, and fire. They told us about the other types of trees in the grove and a little about what lies ahead of us on the trail. This was a great introduction for us as we made our way along the trail, mesmerized by the size and girth of these trees. Many of the older ones have survived fire during their thousands of years of life. As we learned the inside burned leaving the outside, constructed with less sap and more resilient to fire allowing them to maintain structure and the life of the tree. This left interesting arches and tree caves to walk inside and experience. The last one on the trail was labeled the Agassiz tree. Standing 250 feet tall, 25 feet in diameter at 6 feet off the ground, the tree ranks as one of the largest in the universe. The larger sequoias get to over 300 feet and 32 feet in diameter, out weighing the Great Blue Whale which is the largest animal by 5,850 tons. They were amazing to experience in the relative quiet of the Big Tree State Park.

We left Angel Camp RV Park and headed south along narrow two lane rolling hills. Steep and curvy were the roads, requiring full attention with eyes forward and two hands on the steering wheel at all times. The road eventually flattened out as we drove through what turned out to be large scale commercial nut tree orchards which, by the way, is my name, in German Nussbaum means nut tree. We passed, on the opposite side of the road, what we thought at the time was a large vineyard. We were half right but the grapes were grown for raisins as apparently we were now in raisin country. We skirted the town of Merced, stopping at Target then another 20 miles south along the 99 to Chowchilla, California. When searching interesting things here I found there are two prisons, one being a woman’s penitentiary. Contrary to this image, our stop over was in a swanky RV park. The nicest place we’ve stayed by far, with sites individually owned and rented by the staff when not in use by the owner. We entered through a large ornate automatic metal gate. All sites were landscaped, irrigated, and lined with tall hedges and RV sites on concrete slabs. Some owners have replaced the concrete with brick and even added brick fire places and grill inserts. The park adjoined a golf course which the nightly rate of $55 gets you and your spouse a free round of golf. Nice amenity as the last place for $90 provided us nothing but lousy internet, unloved dirty sites, and crowded facilities. There were flowers blooming, birds chirping, and tall California palm trees. This place could get our attention for a while if we weren’t the low rent rig on the block. In fact, reading rules they forbid soft top pop-up trailers and tents so I guess the hard sides of our rig are something of a status symbol of which we’ve been unaware. 

We spent the afternoon washing the fruit that we picked up from a fruit stand and putting away groceries, talking on the phone to family, and enjoying the day. We ordered salads from the golf course grill and relaxed. As the sun fell the temperatures dropped making it the ideal spot to be outside for the evening.

Pinnacles National Park

We arrived at the entrance shack where we were greeted by a ranger who wore her friendly badge as she was definitely good at customer service. We drove in the last few miles, found our campsite, and set up without any issues. The site was a tent site which here means no electricity. There is community water, an animal proof metal food storage box, and a picnic table. Mostly the ground is void of much but the hardiest green. Thankfully for us the hot temperatures were gone for the past few day so the lack of shade at our campsite wasn’t an issue. We relaxed around camp, walked several campground roads and then drove out the road, about 4 miles, to the end of the park so we could spot the trailhead for our morning run. 

Coming to Pinnacles National Park was sort of a novelty for us. This is one of the newest parks in the system having been designated by President Obama and as protection for California Condor breeding. There are rock features shown on the brochure that give it the name Pinnacles. However, from the start the park is sort of uneventful. From the entrance, the campground area, and all the way to the end there is little to see that is national park worthy. No ahhh moments, striking scenes or large animals and the buzzards we saw were turkey buzzards. In fact, the condor isn’t all that sexy once you see one as they are buzzards with larger wings. We finally did see some rocky features at the end of the road and even those were a bit unremarkable. What did entertain us for the moment were the ground squirrels and the covey of quail wandering through the campsite. The squirrels are pretty daring but the quail are fun to watch as they stroll and scratch their way around camp making noise. The males strut with their crown jewel looping off their head and chirp constantly. They resemble waves moving up and down a beach as the flock moves around, slowly coming out of the trees into the open area then rush in the opposite direction from whatever startles them.

We talked to other campers who commented on the nightly raccoon encounters. The two brothers camping in the next site told us that the brave fools stole their steak out of their cooler so they had to drive 40 miles back to town to get more food. Think metal food storage bin.

Our night was good with no nature experiences. We set off early for the Moses Spring trail that connected with the High Peaks Trail with the return along the Condor Gulch Trail making for a 5.5 mile loop through some of the parks best sites. The High Peak portion of the trail turned out to be the money as it weaved in and out of the large rock pinnacles, on narrow ledges and trails with steps cut years ago by the hardy men working for the CCC. They installed short handrails along side the rock steps to help prevent death due to falls, obvious due to their short height that it was way before standards on handrail heights were established. We also were extremely fortunate to see a few California Condors roosting and flying about, intermingling with their smaller cousins, the turkey buzzards. The bonus of the morning was that few people ventured out this early giving us lots of peace and quiet to enjoy the incredible beauty we found here. 

After some midday downtime, brunch, and short walks with the pooch, we decided on a drive back to the Moses Springs Trailhead for the short mile hike up to the reservoir. This trail turns off the Moses Springs trail just a short distance from the parking lot on the Bear Canyon Trail. The caves which are features of the park were still closed from the threat of COVID but the access to the reservoir along the main above ground trail still was still operational. As it turns out, we found a trail that was one of the best representations of the area with interesting features from start to finish. There were lush fern groves along mossy boulders, some quasi caves, and short caves where you have to stoop to climb in for the cave experience. The edgy areas were equipped with CCC installed stone steps and metal handrail again too short for most but enough to give you support not to fall to your death. As we approached the ressie (Aussie for reservoir) along narrow rock chiseled steps you see to your left large stone blocks used by the CCC to construct the dam still holding back the water. Once on top of the ressie, you see a small body of water surrounded by grasses flowing with blue and red dragonflies buzzing around. There were a few others, some who had hiked in from the west entrance of the park. Most were quietly sitting on rocks along the water edge enjoying the day.

The morning drive out of the park and through the rolling hills was of California ranch land. The golden and yellow hills, some with green vineyards, were eye candy, a neat drive whether you spend time in the park or not. As we descended into a valley the sights changed to large industrial scale farming operations with a wide variety of crops. We passed through the farming community of King City where we met up with the 101 and the coast.

Update: We made the decision to sit for a while along the Northern California coast to enjoy the nice cool weather, the quiet hikes through the redwoods, and the amazing aquatic life that is featured daily along the beach. We have had a few bear encounters and have been able to keep crowds of human tourists mostly at bay. I have also been intrigued by the uniqueness of this area and specifically the character of Kamp Klamath. There is something rich about this place, the people who exist here. The slow pace of things, the lack of urgency. Our plan at the moment is to leave here on July 20th and head north then east. Hopefully by then the inland temperatures will have cooled a bit. Until then…

California Edition 2: The Upper Eastside

May 23 – June 4, 2021

This blogisode features highlights of our wanderings through the Sierra Nevada’s along the 395 northern corridor including June Lakes, Lower Lee Vinings Campground, Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park, Bridgeport, and Grover Hot Springs State Park.

Rest assured that we are chronicling our journey daily through words and photos but we simply haven’t had the down time to complete a TWT blogisode in a while. Our days over the past few weeks have been spent enjoying a caravan slash sloverlanding experience with Lysette’s sister and bro-in-law who are also full time travelers. Together with them, we are enjoying the cool coastal rainforest climate of the northern coast of California, eating as much seafood as we can rustle away from all the seals, sea lions, osprey, and merchants and all the while, not working on the blog. We promise not to try to catch you up in one edition as that would be a novel so as of now, please enjoy our escapades and our final days in the eastern Sierra’s.

I balked for years at John Muir’s comment on the Sierra’s being his favorite mountains, like maybe those were simply the ones he was in at the time when he said it. How could anything compare to the Northern Cascades, Rockies, or Appalachians? But after experiencing the Sierras, it is understandable how he could play favorites to this place. Not only are they awesome to simply see, but there is so much to do here, trails, rivers, huge walls of granite, and wildlife. The TWT team loved the east side of Sierra’s with their striking features and low population. We had so many great experiences running, cycling, hiking the area, making for some incredible memories for us that we’d now like to share with you.

Travel Journal

June Lakes

After leaving Tuttle Creek Campground, we made a quick return visit to the Highlands RV Park in Bishop for needed showers, provisions, and a dinner from the Thai Thai restaurant at the airport. We left just as quickly heading north along the 395. The target campsite was a place recommended to us by a camp neighbor and sits inside BLM, OHV (off highway vehicle) land just across the street from the June Lakes intersection. We easily found the turn and upon arrival, quickly noted the stunning views of the high mountain range sitting in front of us. After setting up camp, we set off for a drive along the 12-mile stretch of road known as the June Lakes Loop. You pass three lakes (June, Silver, and Grant, each with completely different characteristics ranging from alpine, small fishing hole, to larger arid lake with few trees. The first two lakes had small towns, lodges, various campgrounds and were mostly there to support lake life and fishing.  The last one had only boat ramps and the water there appeared low.

The next day we planned to do some hikes in the Mammoth area since it was early in the week and that is the most popular place along this stretch of California, USA. The hikes were recommended by a friend in Golden as iffy – possibly not open due to early season snow fall levels. Of course we didn’t check with the NFS to see if this was the case as closing trails because of snow never occurred to me. In Colorado, they don’t close trail access due to snow as people simply adjust their winter equipment to meet conditions. Well not here. Featured trails, roads to trailheads, and whatnots were all still closed for the season. We stopped at the ranger station but they were also closed, but just on Tuesday and Wednesday, not because of conditions. So we set off to find some other fun. We went in search of Glass Creek Meadow trail which was also recommended by my friend from Golden. After rolling down a forest service road, we found an unmarked trail that we believed to be the right trail but as it would turn out, we chose the wrong direction. Even so, we enjoyed a few hours of hiking along a creek we believed to be Glass Creek. The creek was small with a good flow of water down small cascading falls and the best part was the silence as there was no one else there. In fact, the trail could have been a wildlife trail as it was lightly used and no foot traffic evident during our journey. Toohey certainly enjoyed the opportunity to have free range on the cool water.

We left and moved the team about a mile back up the road to Obsidian Dome. This nasty looking huge rock pile was the result of a volcanic eruption dating back to the summer of 1350. The rock pile is a mix of tan and black pumice rock that could file the calluses off the toughest feet. There was a road leading to the top and once there, all we saw was an endless pile of large boulders and a few rough pine trees that were lucky to find nutrients to survive. If not for several compressed paths of stone, this area would be difficult at best to hike. The other interesting thing is that this huge pile of rocks is bordered by a healthy undisturbed mountain forest. As if the two coexisted with each other over time but developed completely differently. Pretty cool. 

The decision was made during the afternoon team meeting to move camp north to a National Forest Service campground along the 120, otherwise known as Tioga Pass Road. This road is the eastern entrance into Yosemite. Even though we don’t yet have a permit to enter the park, we still have access to lots of trails and whatnots located outside its border and it is only 15 miles from our existing camp. The decision to move was based on our current set up sitting along OHV trails which we thought would get busy and dusty, and the belief that we’d be more comfortable in a campground during the holiday weekend. 

But first, our last night here was the Super Blood Flower Moon featuring a 4AM eclipse, giving it enough descriptive names to be its own flavored coffee drink at Starbucks. The full moon rising was amazing coming over the hills and trees. The moon disappeared behind the shadow of the earth as scheduled at 4AM, turning it a faded red color as if there were a filter placed over it. We quickly resumed cover beneath the warm blankets and slept with temperatures inside the trailer in the low 30’s. 

Lower Lee Vining Campground and Whatnots

Our move to Lower Lee Vining campground was an easy event. To make it easier, the $14/night cost was cut in half when the camp host said we could use our annual national park pass for the half price discount. Any financial relief is appreciated on the Eastside as gas prices were well over $5 per gallon. We picked site 20 in the back loop underneath a large pine tree and surrounded by a grove of small aspen trees. To make matters better, the toilets and trash were just outside our camp making bear-scary midnight walks to the bathroom feel just a bit safer. Our camp host was a good guy and a great source of information from hikes, fishing, to a local spring for the purest mountain water. He also gave us the inside scoop for the holiday weekend about a large group who congregate every Memorial Day. One of their traditions is for the men to parade around the camp fire wearing woman’s clothes by which he was openly disturbed. We then watched as a vendor from Mammoth hauled in rental trailer after rental trailer, totaling 14 in all, and circling them all around us. Our interest and anxiety slowly rose wondering if we’d made a mistake by moving here. We’d later learn from one of the younger members that this gathering started ~40 years ago by 6 men, one being his dad, who came here from San Diego to fish and camp. The “chicken” dance is a tradition that started on the first trip and will occur on Saturday night following their chili cook off.  

With camp set up, we decided to bike up Tioga Pass Road from camp. This is a steep mountain pass road with long sweeping turns and on the return, long straight downhill sections. The road hugs the canyon walls with the Lee Vining creek well below. We climbed the road to the only big switchback where the creek crosses beneath. There was a small sign sitting next to it indicating 9000 feet in elevation. We turned around here with the white knuckle descent ahead of us. It was sketchy, fun, with me steadily feathering my front and rear brake to make sure I always had some control over speed as the edgy, near death drop off the side of the road was ever present. We survived and enjoyed the event, returning to camp for an easy night while watching as car loads of other campers entered.

Our first full day here began with a run on the Saddlebag Lake Loop trail. This was reportedly still partially covered in snow but we weren’t deterred. We set off in a counter clockwise route based on what we could see of the trail from the lake, the west side was more snow covered and exposed than the east side. The first quarter mile was spotty snow, some post holing with water from the snow melt running down the trail. The snow was deep but packed enough that getting over it was no problem. The run started out exposed with no tree cover but soon turned into a high alpine event with trees, snow, and blue skies all while following the lake shore. The mountain scene across the lakes was high snow covered rocky mountains, adding enjoyment to the moment. The smell of fresh evergreen trees being carried by the clear clean mountain air was rejuvenating. The snow fields got larger towards the end of the lake and the river providing fresh water to the lake flowed strong. We did a short hike up the spur trail leading away from the lake but it was a snow covered canyon. As we turned back along the lake, the trail became difficult to find with the snow coverage. We talked to a photographer who said it was all passible for him but it might be slick as the day was warming up. The angle along the trail was steep with only the few boot prints from earlier hikers providing a line for the trail. It all became a bit sketchy. Lysette carried her micro spikes and put them on at this point, but mine were broken so the minimal traction on my trail shoes and my three points of contact were all I had. The movement now was slow while we passed along long stretches of snow banks. I made the decision after a few snow crossings to head down to the shore along an exposed rocky bit, giving me the security that if I slipped, I wouldn’t slide 500 feet to the lake. This was a good decision in the end as I lived, while Lysette stayed on the trail feeling more comfortable with the snow than the loose rocks.

Having survived the day, we drove Toohey up the pass to a dog friendly nature hike around a lake. The quarter mile hike was empty of others but full of fun for the dog. He swam and chased sticks, rolled in the snow drifts, and pooped long grassy things from all the grass he’d consumed the previous day. 

The afternoon event was a bike ride up the small canyon road that went along a few campgrounds beside the Lee Vining Creek to a power station at the end of the road. The ride followed open meadows, aspen groves, and pines so large their trucks were as wide as our bikes. We saw cascading falls and beautiful scenery all the way up the slightly graded road. The return was fast and fun, a manageable descent that you could just let go and not worry about the speed. As we approached our turn for the camp, I recalled the fresh water spring on the other side of the road. We turned left and found it coming out of a pipe on the grassy hill side. The water was clear and cold, flowing heavily. I pulled off my helmet, hat and gloves, and took a quick wash in it which felt amazing against the hot sun. I filled my water bottle to check the clarity and it was as advertised, pure and clear. I was still a bit apprehensive about drinking it with thoughts of the consequences if our camp host was even slightly wrong.

The campground continued to fill through out the day with a combination of the chicken dance party members and others. By dusk, it was full of light sounds of music, the occasional car, a dog bark, and three young kids being loud. The ring leader, a young girl, cussing like a sailor as she ran through the trees, played while their free-roam parents sat quietly out of view at their campsite. The three played hide and seek in the port-o-potties, king of the mountain on the metal trash bins, and ran through the woods around our campsite yelling and chasing. We both almost said something at various times as the conflict over letting this be a public park where kids should play and the annoyance of their loud screams and foul language while their parents had all the peace and quiet grew. In the end, neither of us said anything but wondered whether we should have stayed at the OHV site. 

We set off for Blood Canyon the next morning for a hike we found while driving the June Lake Loop on a previous outing. We asked several locals but none knew much about it which could be good or bad. The hike from Lysette’s research started at the Walker Lake Trailhead and headed up a canyon. And who could resist a name like Blood Canyon. The trailhead parking lot was at the end of a long forest service road in decent condition, through open arid meadows, tall pine tree forest, up and over a ridge. There were only three trucks in the parking lot, one with a camper. The hike started on a short steep uphill of a 100 yards or so to views of Walker Lake way down below. It then went steeply downhill to the lake. And the laws of what goes up must come down work in the same counter direction giving us pause as to what will lies at the end of the day. It was a serious downhill grade to the shoreline of the lake before giving some relief as it followed the river back up into the canyon. There was a river crossing early on with a good sturdy log bridge. The trail gradually wound through aspen groves and pine forest, until it started a steep uphill through big boulders. The river running alongside of us provided a constant sound and sights of heavily flowing cascading falls. There were few footprints and the trail looked as if it were just cleared of fallen trees. Signs pointed us in the direction of Mona Pass which we didn’t expect to make based on time, distance, and the likelihood of snow covering the trail at that elevation. We passed into the Ansel Adams Wilderness and trudged on. We eventual got to a stream crossing with unstable access across. I demonstrate a to and fro passage of the existing tree bridge using three points of contact but in the end we decided it was a good turning point. We got back to the lakeshore and faced the final ascent back up the steep hill which was tough but manageable. We stopped several times to take note of the amazing old large girth juniper trees along the trail. 

We spent some time in the parking lot talking to the couple who were camping in the truck camper. As it turned out, they own and operate a lodge in Mammoth and told us that the gates were now open to the lakes so we should check it out. This worked well with our plans as we were heading to Mammoth for provisions. We drove up finding the gates open and the place crawling. The views from the lakes were beautiful with the Crystal Lake Crag being a notable feature. The area was beautiful and understandable why so many venture here.

The Saturday of a Memorial Day weekend is expected to be busy in beautiful places. Using this as a guide for the day, we chose to drive first and early to the Virginia Lakes area north of Lee Vinings. The information on the Virginia Lake hike suggested that you get a huge bang for your nature buck over a short distance as you climb by a series of gorgeous alpine lakes. All this played out as we passed three lakes along the run until reaching a wide water crossing with an overhanging snow bank on the other side. It was here we decided to turn back to get Toohey for some trail, water, and snow fun. 

We got back to the truck and found Toohey comfortable but willing to take a short hike to the first lake. There he entered the water and waited for the stick toss which soon followed. This repeated a few times before we decided to head into the woods in search of a snow pile. We quickly found one and he headed over, rolled, scratched, and ate snow. His happy thing. 

Our next stop was Lundy Lake and a hike that actually started well beyond the lake, a mile or so up a gravel road. There were six cars in the small parking lot which seemed light for a holiday weekend. The hike started on a single track trail through a damaged old mudslide area then up and over large rocky outcroppings, all following a river with heavy flow. As a side, the rock in this valley and along the Sierras is colorful with this hike having red and brown tints that along with the granite grey, evergreens, and pure blue sky create a nice color pallet. We approached a brisk flowing stream with several logs as bridges near the first large fall. The trail bobbed and weaved through various green foliage, grasses, and trees. There were a few other creek crossings, young and old aspen groves, and an old log cabin. Most of the terrain through here was had a mild uphill grade making for an enjoyable running experience. I eventually came upon the featured waterfall, dropping with enough water and force to wear a significant channel in the base of the rock where the two collided. Looking up the creek, I could see other sections of the waterfall and more layers of earth as it climbed up towards the rim of the canyon. It was here that I decided to turn back. 

We finished the day with a drive down to the Mona Lake visitor center to see what all the fuss was about. The vast lake with blue water, white rim around the shore, and rock features doesn’t appear to attract fisherman or pleasure boaters so we guessed, and would learn correctly, that the saline in the water is too high for most aquatic life with the exception of brine shrimp. We also learned from a ranger about a 10-mile drive to the South Tufa Parking lot with a one mile walk through the rocky, coral like features that are now mostly on dry land because of the water siphoning. Reading information along the walk confirmed that the LA Water District robbed so much tributary water from mountain run off that the water fell to the low levels exposing the fancy rock features. There was a sign posted along the hike telling of how the California Water Board and judge ordered the LA Water District in 1994 to return the lake level to a point that would restore it to proper levels. We were standing high and dry about 200 yards from the shore reading this so they have obviously not followed the order. So much for accountability.

On our way home we decided to stop by the Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner which consisted of their World Famous Fish Tacos. The deli is located in the Mobile gas station and convenience store and is apparently the place to be seen in Lee Vining but has little to do with the town as it sits a mile or so south of town at the intersection of the 120 and the 395. But rest assured, the Whoa Nellie Deli is the real deal and the fish tacos were name worthy. 

Yosemite National Park

National Parks are busy, crowded, with limited access for us dog owning folks, which we fully understand. But those things make going to a National Park as popular as this less enjoyable. Yosemite currently requires a reservation to limit cars as they aren’t operating their shuttle buses. Lysette heard there were reservation cancellations so she checked and low and behold found one for us for May 30th, the Sunday before Memorial Day for $2. 

Our plan for the day was to pass through the east gate at 5:00 am when the gate actually opens for the 90-minute drive to the valley. We made it to the gate around 5:15 with no attendant, but with one impatient dude in a truck behind us yelling and blowing his horn. After letting him go, we easily toured the beautiful and peaceful drive through the park to the Yosemite Valley. We got to the Curry Parking lot, found a parking spot in the rear under a shade tree and ate breakfast on the tailgate of the Tacoma. We followed this up with a short mile and a half walk with Toohey along the paved loop road at the end. Once we passed the campgrounds and turn off where hikers head toward Navajo Falls, we were pretty much alone. Although not a typical large granite rock Yosemite hike, it was nice to be outside with our dog. We left the Curry Parking lot with motorist circling the parking lot in search of a spot. As we drove through the valley, we soon saw a large black bear wandering through a pasture where we participated in the bear jam as we stopped for a few photos. We moved further out the valley stopping along the road where climbers camp to stage their ascent up the face of El Capitan. Oh, and this is a large rock, even larger than we expected to see. We spotted many climbers who looked like fleas moving up the face of the rock, only visible from our position with binoculars. When doing research on El Capitan we found out that the Empire State Building is half the size in comparison. In fact, this piece of granite is the largest in the world. While we watched in amazement with sweaty palms, we saw other climbers hanging around their white vans with all types of gear and equipment organized staging for their assault, something hard to imagine.

We left there with tired necks and the decision to head back towards Tioga pass stopping along many of the road side pull outs that we passed coming in. We laughed at all the yellow road signs warning motorist to watch for rocks as the place is characterized by massive granite rock features, domes, huge chunks of stone everywhere.

We pulled off the road at Tenaya Lake where the water was clear and with views of granite behemoth mountains surrounding us. Toohey swam, chased a few sticks, and we sat lakeside while snacking on lunch. We drove out of the gate passing the half mile long line of cars waiting their turn to enter. We then decided on the peaceful hike to Gardisky Lake. While staging our ascent in the parking lot, three young adults walked off the trail and in my way of striking up a conversation I asked them something like, how strenuous was the hike? They said something like, not bad which lead to a conversation about all kinds of stuff. One interesting thing we learned was that one of the three had been a climbing ranger in Yosemite, had just completed a 9 day ascent up the face of El Cap having to carry all their food and water, and that he had summited it over 54 times to date. We said our goodbyes and proceeded up the trail which was about a mile and a half steep uphill walk to a grassy plateau with two small and one large alpine lake surrounded by open plains of mountain tundra with amazing views. We couldn’t help but laugh at my question about how “strenuous” this hike was after what we learned about this climbers experience on El Cap. Later in the day Lysette found this article on the the dude we crossed paths with in the parking lot of Gardisky Lake trail head.

We returned back to the truck after our strenuous hike to find a chunky marmot willing to pose for the camera and a well rested senior dog napping. We associate way more with these two clowns.

A final word on Lower Lee Vining camp. It provided a great spot to stage outdoor mountain activities in the area, a good position for a day inside Yosemite, but not a great place to be during a holiday weekend. The camp sits next to a healthy creek, is beautifully treed but with facilities that on this weekend were completely overwhelmed by the large number of holiday weekend party goers. The chicken dance itself was a non issue but the shear numbers simply overwhelmed everything. As their rent-a-trailer black tanks filled, the port-o-jons followed. The bears feasted throughout camp the last night on coolers left out, overflowing dumpsters, and anything that smelled of food. These people took great pride in sharing photos of the bears in their camp drinking their rum without giving thought to the carelessness that will eventually cost a bear’s life. We would return there on any other weekend and likely have a completely different, better experience.

Bridgeport, CA

The lay of the land along the eastern Sierra’s is most trails follow a water source from snow melt out of a canyon running west to east. Many trails are at the end of a gravel road heading west, up the mountains from the 395. All that we experienced led up past alpine lakes, water falls, to a summit. The farther north along the 395 the less populated the trails seemed. We chose the Green Lake trail based on comments by others that it was beautiful and given this was a Wednesday after a long weekend, it should be a quiet one.

We found a good spot under a large pine tree and allowed Toohey to set his security perimeter. Now comfortable in the Tacoma with specific instructions to protect the assets, we set off up the trail. The uphills were easier, less steep and mostly not rocky making it a runnable event. There were small stream crossings, aspen groves, pine groves, and only a few people groves. The scenery along the way was great but nothing compared to the view once we got to the lake. It was stunning. The colors of the rock on the opposite side of the lake were a deep green, Savannah green, the color of the shutters on the outside of historic Savannah grey brick homes. The evergreens that lined the shore were another deep green, and the water was a shade of blue green with reflections of the rich blue sky. 

Our return route was mostly downhill along the same trail, getting to the truck to find a happy and well rested old dog in need of a stretch and pee. We moved the truck to a shady pull out along the road that was right next to the creek so Toohey and I could play in the water while small trout scurried in and out of hiding spots in rocks and the grasses overhanging the shore. It was a nice reprieve from the now hot midday sun and a special spot in time for the TWT team. 

Our base camp for this trail was the Paradise Shores RV campground. The campground was an unexpected jewel, a place that gave a relaxed funky vibe, sort of vintage beach feel place. The campsites were elevated so most had views of the lake, meadow, and surrounding mountains which were spring green with colorful wildflowers. The water was really low but the yellow flowers that filled in were spectacular. The camp office and store was a light blue vintage trailer, there were communal areas for all to use, strewn with old worn upholstered chairs for guest to lounge. They had a large fire pit overlooking the lake and a place to cook with either charcoal, grill, or gas burner, all constructed under a large shelter equipped with an oversized picnic table to share with large groups. They offered kayaks and SUPs at no cost and one small trick bike that sat unused. The bathrooms were clean and nicely decorated in festive colors, folk art, and they even provided lotion and q-tips for guests. For the campers who didn’t want to bother with their own travel trailer, they had several set up for rent. Each of these had chairs and grills in their own common area. This place was a treasure in this small community of Bridgeport. 

The campers were equally a nice find. There was a family of four across from us who were traveling from Florida to California while he looked for a new engineering job and she designed her web based business www.asherammanatrualbeauty.com. The young boys were mature beyond their age, gave Toohey lots of attention while learning how to train and command the respect of an old pooch. Mostly with food of course. They were a kind family sharing lots of good stories and information.

The camp manager and his wife had the Airstream sitting just below us and have been fulltime traveling for several years with two young children. He started talking about traveling Baja in the winter which is now a thought for us. The thought runs hot and cold depending on who we talk to as some say its murderous while others say it is safe as long as you are smart. He was nice, friendly and full of great travel information. www.neversaysomedayfamily.com

Grover Hot Springs State Park

We left our funky little campground and the friends we made for Grover Hot Springs State Park just outside of Markleeville, California. The drive along this mountain range continues to deliver amazing scenery while passing through small interesting towns. We made a left turn off the 395 and up the 89 that goes over Monitor pass. Then we dropped down and entered the rural mountain town of Markleeville. We hucked a left there and headed the remaining 4 miles until the road ended at the park and ranger station. We checked in to site 10 and as we pulled up to back in, we noticed our neighbors were also camping in an A-liner towed by an older model Toyota 4-Runner. Weird, strange, and a fun coincidence that would get lots of looks and questions. We enjoyed a nice conversation with them after we set up then relaxed around camp before an afternoon thunderstorm popped up sending us inside for a bit. As the storm was winding down, our appetite was winding up, so we drove into town for dinner at the Cutthroat Brewery and a walk through the two city block town. 

Our only full day at Grover Hot Springs State Park was about our 90 minute reservation at the hot springs pool starting at 10AM. So we got up and did the short run to the waterfalls. The run was along a wide trail that went around the meadow then along the creek for the final push. The falls were a little underwhelming based on our travels but who doesn’t like a waterfall. 

The hot springs were good. There was a hot and cool pool and the best was the warm outdoor shower. We talked to a few other folks there enjoying the minerals who shared stories of travel and life. We left feeling good yet fatigued as if we’d done some big workout. We figured later we were both likely dehydrated from the morning experience. The remainder of the day was a lazy one, reading, napping and hanging around camp. 

The campground was a nicely treed park featuring large pines and a few hills accessorized with large boulders. A creek runs through the middle and behind our site which was perfect for Toohey. Each site came with a bear box (its use required), picnic table, fire ring, and a wooden shelf structure for other camp accessories. These accessories sat some 50 yards behind where the trailer sat making them somewhat inconvenient. There were two toilet structures on our loop with running water and one, farthest away from us, equipped with token showers and outside utility sinks. The smaller one across the camp road from us had running water with toilets and sink with no soap or towels. The best part about this camp was the quiet. Even with the large numbers of sites, it remained peaceful, a good place to relax for a few days with no cell service and quiet neighbors.

Alpine county is known in the state for its road cycling, big mountain climbs, and low traffic. We came to town along one of those roads that included Monitor Pass. We saw only one van and one cyclist giving a good ratio for riding. This pass and three others are linked for the Death Ride, a century bike event located in the area that would be fun to do in another year. 

The TWT team found space and beauty in these mountains, a place to explore and dream, to enjoy the magnificence of the high alpine. We can now see why John Muir would make such a profound statement about these mountains being his favorite. Our drive west and downhill, saw the high mountain terrain change into rolling golden hills, the temperature rise, and anticipation of our next spot to explore increase. As we dropped into the west side of the range we entered a region of California known for small towns that popped up during the gold rush years. Highway 49 was our main artery moving north south through this area and our target of Angel Camp California.

Update: Our travels as of late have been centered around the cool temperatures along the northern coast of California. Daily highs have ranged from the mid 50’s to the low 70’s with mostly low marine layer of clouds and some spotty sunshine. The temperatures just a short drive east are up to and over 100 degrees for the next 10 days. Our current location as of this blog is Kamp Klamath which you might think is a KOA based on the improper spelling of the word “camp” but you’d be wrong. It’s a beautiful rain forest of a place sitting beside the Redwood National Park along a small road about a mile and a half from Klamath Beach. The beach sits at the inlet to the ocean where we’ve watched seals, sea lions, and osprey feast on the abundant fish moving into the river while buzzards clean up the carcasses left by those mammals dying on the beach. The extreme dynamics of the ocean waters meeting the river inlet is simply awesome to watch. Other than that, we are all well fed, happy, and healthy. Until then…

California, The Lower Eastside

May 15 – 23, 2021

The Owens Valley River Basin lies between the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Range and at one time was a lush agricultural and ranching hub with ample water flowing from the snow melt off the Sierra’s. There is a complicated history of the area formed around the battle over the water rights which they lost to the spawning desert city on the coast, Los Angeles, 300 miles away. It is a long complicated story with a whole cast of characters but power and political influence won out in the end. As a result, most of the good land and almost all of the water coming off the mountain snow pack is now owned by the Los Angeles Water District, LAWD. They took away the ability for ranchers to ranch, farmers to farm, and other business interests to use the Owens Valley limiting population growth. The environmental impact can be seen in many earth and concrete structures diverting the water from mountain tributaries leaving natural features like Owens Lake dried up and arid. Mono Lake to the north sits with water levels so low and saline levels so high that little lives in it. In fact, the salt concentration in Mono Lake is three times higher than the ocean. My take after spending some time here is that maybe them taking all that water to build their Eden for millions of people to live in the desert actually saved it from development making this the Eden that now exists east of the Sierras. 

Blog note: The “when in Rome…” principle will apply throughout this blogisode as we refer to specific highways. It seems in Caifornia they don’t refer to any highway as a highway or interstate (I) in conversation but instead insert the word “the” in front of it. For example, they won’t say Interstate 4 but will say, the 4. So for the purpose of TWT California blogs, we will speak California and call highways “the ##”.

Travel Journal

The basic route of TWT along the Eastside of Sierra Nevada Range

We rolled down the west side of the summit leading us out of Nevada with views of Boundary Peak (the highest in Nevada at 13,147 feet) to our left. The views ahead of us were of the Sierra Nevada Range which were simply stunning. They appeared high, rugged, and jagged with snow still covering the peaks, a range like something you’d see in the San Juan mountains of the Colorado Rockies, inspiring thoughts of high alpine funtivities. As contrast, the White Mountains running east of the valley were now more arid, rounded, mostly lower, and with less snow remaining. The valley we entered as we turned south along the 6 was flat and vast on either side with large mountain scenery all around the flat arid land.

Bishop, CA

Our first stop was Bishop, CA, a small town with all the necessary amenities, a nice Main Street lined with hotels, restaurants, movie theatre, barber shop, and other typical locally owned retail businesses. The 395 which is the 4-lane main thruway running north south along the eastern Sierra extends from LA to Reno, squeezes through the small downtown area making it busy at times.

We found our resting place at the Highland RV Park with a site sitting right up front and across from the offices, laundry, and bathrooms. We planned two nights so we could take time to organize our stay in the area as we knew very little about it. We got some good advice from a Golden friend about trails to hike and things to do in Mammoth but we wanted to ease our way in, get a lay of the land, shower, and do laundry. 

Our funitivies while RVing in Bishop included an encounter with a wild herd of cows while on a morning run along an irrigation canal. The Bishop Canal Run, as the name indicates, ran along the bishop canal. There were a few signs stating it was owned by the LA Water District and even a couple posted indicating “sewer” along the way. But otherwise the water appeared clear, fisherman fished, and at one point we ran up on a herd of stubborn, arrogant black cows drinking from the canal. We stopped and waited a bit for them to move as we had a dog that would surely scare them. Our presence, however, only made them stop and stare at us longer to see our intentions and as the minutes clicked away it began to feel like I was having a blinking contest with them. I kindly asked Lysette to move forward and towards their rear to get them to moo’v away from the water and trail while I kept Toohey under control who was now getting nervous at the sight of these beasts. She obliged, and they did moo’v, but up from the water’s edge onto the trail where they stopped again to wait our next moo’v. So I decided to shorten Toohey’s leash and start a direction between them and the canal, sort of taking ownership the space to make them moo’v as the sight of an approaching old dog who barks at cows would certainly do the trick. As Toohey and I moo’vd past the point of being fully committed to this plan, I noticed some of the black Angus were much younger, calves, babies of the larger one who was closest to us, likely their concerned mom, the leader. As we got just about mid flank steak, she circled, lowered her head and started moo’ving, running towards us as though she’d seen a bull fight and wanted to stick us with her horns, which thankfully she didn’t have. As she ran towards us, we dug deep for our extra speed, both of us with our tails and rear tucked tightly in. We quickly outran the cow looking back to see her now eyeing Lysette as she for some reason was still standing back with the small herd. But thankfully the cow, likely out of gas from her short chase, allowed Lysette to pass with a simple motherly glance. The remainder of the run was much more uneventful as we stayed away from the wild black cows.

Our first experience up in the Sierras at higher elevation was a drive to Lake Sabrina. The lake sits just west and a direct shot out of down town Bishop. The high alpine reservoir water level was really low, exposing rocks, trees and snagged fishing lines from previous fisherman. We walked down to the water’s edge, found a stick, and our youthful Toohey magically appeared. He swam, jumped, and gnawed the sticks time and time again. It was fun seeing him with so much energy and happy.

We shared a few laughs with my dad who turned 1,000 months old in May this year. A landmark, sure, but calculating months for a child under 2 years old is cute while bringing this up to my dad wasn’t as entertaining to him. In comparison, 1,000 months old is nothing when you consider that the bristlecone pines are up to 4000 years (48,000 months) old, the oldest living trees in the universe. With this as context, we drove south, then east into the Inyo National Forest on the White Mountain side of the valley to see the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. The drive up the canyon was a curvy, uphill, narrow road that goes high above where most things can’t live, over 10,000 feet. These trees have adapted to life where most can’t. The Great Basin Bristlecone Pines have needles soft to touch but are gnarly in appearance. As we walked along the short trail watching them in amazement we started getting plummeted with graupel (a soft snow pellet that resembles the pellets that fall out of your damaged college bean bag chair) which, coincidentally fit nicely into the holes in the top of my crocs which made my feet really cold.

On our way back to camp we took a short 20 mile drive south towards Death Valley to see what was deathly about it. Our effort never got us to the desert floor but we did happen upon an unexpected strand of Joshua Trees (which are actually succulents) where we stopped so the photograph department could roll some film.

We decided on a gravel bike ride from the rv park the next morning based on advice from the camp host, an avid cyclist. The valley where Bishop sits, is surrounded by large swaths of undeveloped land marked with a river and canals running through it with gravel and paved roads scattered everywhere. Besides the 395, most have relatively low use making them great for riding. We set off after I got directions from the camp host and quickly could only remember the first three rights. From there it was an interesting bit of route finding. At one point while pedaling along a gravel path running alongside a canal in the middle of nowhere, we approached a large bull lying in the green grass just to our left. We took caution before proceeding as the previous day’s cow conflict was still fresh on our minds. But after a brief risk management discussion to include our limited options, we moo’vd on and thankfully he barely gave us a look. Other than that and Lysette getting her chain wedged between her crank and bike frame, nothing much exciting happened. We enjoyed the time out on our bikes with amazing scenery all around. Oh, and the California Wild Rose bushes were in full bloom not only giving a beautiful visual sight but also the lovely fragrant scent. 

One last comment on the town of Bishop. They use an old-school air raid siren to alert volunteer firefighters and first responders. They test it everyday at noon which seemed to have gone unnoticed the first day but that night it woke us around 2AM having us wondering if the cows were stampeding, the weather was turning, or some other emergency alert was indeed underway. The horn is located across the street but sounded like it was on top of us. Apparently, the device alerts the emergency personnel as to what it going on and how to respond. For us, squatting under our dinette at 2AM was a good time to research all this while fearing the worst. 

Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills

Our decision based on weather for the week was to move south to Tuttle Creek Campground. The campground is tucked between Alabama Hills, a well known boondocking spot, and Mount Whitney Recreation area, the main trailhead for summiting the tallest peak in the lower 48. The drive south to the area was about 50 miles along the 395 through the Owens River Valley. The campground sits along Tuttle Creek with arid desert landscapes all around. Some type of purple flowers were in full bloom and red Indian paint brushes could be seen along the wetter creek side areas. Our spot, No. 17, backed up to the creek with a nice little open spot for Toohey to access the cold mountain runoff and a great place to rinse the dust off my legs and feet. Our views from camp were of the massive granite shear rock faces of the Sierra’s to our port side and the arid White Mountains and desert plains to our starboard. In short, it was an amazing place to set up and at the low cost of $8 per night. 

We took a drive up the steep road to the Mt Whitney Trail Parking lot to check it out. Lots of bear warnings based on recent bear activity were posted everywhere. You need a permit to access the trail and a day or two to summit depending on your pace. They also provide free human poop bags for those heading up so you don’t leave any solids which is a great idea based on the high usage of this trail. Even though we didn’t hike the trail we completely enjoyed the views along the road. We took a few more turns along the way back to camp to see the Lone Pine campground which had much smaller sites and cost $22 per night making us feel really good about our choice. We also drove an OHV road out to a point that we thought might give us access to another stream running out of the canyon but the stream was dry.

The remainder of the night was hanging around camp. We talked with our neighbor who was full of ideas for the area, while Toohey played with his yellow lab mix. It was fun to see him running off with her to the creek just being a dog. We watched the sunset and as the night sky fell, saw aircraft lights flying in formations which we presumed were either military aircraft or hold over alien spirits from our time along the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada. It was all pretty cool either way.

Tuttle Creek Bike Ride

Alabama Hills was named for a naval ship during the gold mine rush of the late 1800’s and is an interesting earthly rock attraction sitting between the basin floor and the high peaks of the Sierra’s. The place made its mark as a movie set for quite a few Westerns, so many in fact, that there is a movie museum in the town of Lone Pine. The hills are filled with huge sandstone brownish boulders jetting up from the ground, giving images of the heads of a whales, sea lions, or manatees poking their head up from the water. Cycling Tuttle Creek Road was recommended to us by a fellow camper cyclist as a good, fun ride, providing the quintessential visual experience of the Alabama Hills area along the road. The ride from our camp was all downhill. It was fast, curvy with glimpses of wildflowers blooming along the roadside and the sounds of Tuttle Creek flowing next to the road along several places. We quickly left the canyon as the road flattened out a bit until it intersected with Whitney Portal Road. From there, we rode into Lone Pine then south along the 395 for a few miles before turning back at the Death Valley road and visitor’s center. The cyclist had suggested this as a loop ride ending with the climb up Lubkin Rd but we opted instead to ride back up Tuttle Creek Road to spend a little more time enjoying it. The steep part of the climb was only about 3 miles but extremely interesting to see, slowly and anaerobically. The sights were now of the Sierra’s peaking through and over the spaces between the boulders at various turns in the road, giving a unique contrast to the landscape features of the area.

With wind forecasted for the afternoon, we took care of some business around camp before heading to town to pick up a few items, then a last minute decision to drive up the long steep Horseshoe Meadows Road to Horseshoe Meadows parking lot. The road was reported to us as the number two ranked cycling climb in the state. We found it long, edgy, and steep windy road that introduced us to some high mountain entertainment in the Sierras for the next day.

The Toilet Situation

I have to discuss a situation that occurred, an uncomfortable public bathroom conversation that you are welcome to skip if you don’t want to play along. Using public toilets is a big unavoidable part of our life as our little trailer is without this handy feature. Tuttle Creek CG has 6 or 7 toilet houses with two pit toilets each, scattered among the large campground with doors facing away from the road for added privacy. Since there is no camp host, the BLM sends employees 50 miles from HQ in Bishop to maintain them. The situation involved a disgusting, yet talented, unknown human who somehow placed a beefy turd underneath the back of the toilet seat, only noticeable if you lift the seat which most modern, well-trained men do when using a restroom. I vowed not to enter the room again until it was cleaned, as it was beyond gross.

That afternoon, a BLM truck driven by a young female BLM employee showed up at the toilet house. I watched with anticipation as she spent time at the toilet house, presumably cleaning the toilets to our delight. She left and made her rounds to the other toilet houses. I told Lysette I needed to go number 1, using this opportunity to check to see if the toilet crime scene had in fact been cleared. Low and behold, she must not have lifted the seat as the massacred smooshed brownie was still there, now drier than before and upon further investigation, splatter patterns could be seen on the inside of the seat, but definitely and boldly on display. As I left the toilet room I saw the BLM truck rolling down the road towards me so I waved her to a stop. Adlibbing my presentation but definitely wanting to set a positive tone I said, “this place is wonderful, clean, and wow, the Sierras are amazing.” She responded, “thanks.” I then told her, apologizing first, in the middle, and last, about the crime scene in the toilet. She seemed shocked by the news and said, “how could I have missed that?” 

Side bar: Being a BLM employee has to be pretty cool. You get a neat uniform with a patch, a hat, and you get to drive a nice new Chevy Silverado to gorgeous places like this. Cleaning bathrooms has to be the short straw in the office, a punishment for not laughing at the BLM manger’s joke, or maybe you are simply the lowest BLM rank. In fact, my guess is if they could get a camp host here with the duty of cleaning the duty, they’d never step foot in one of these rooms without their own personal need. So the fact that she responded, “how could I have missed that”, to me was no surprise. My guess is there isn’t a place on their annual performance review on pit toilet cleanliness so why go looking for “shit” like that? Now, back to the story.

I apologized to her again, lying a bit to soften my position as the situation informant, telling her that I assumed there would be a vendor cleaning crew coming in and that by informing her of the crime, she wouldn’t have to personally do the dirty work, all the while knowing it would be her, this cute petite BLM female employee with a long thick flowing ponytail, that would have to deal with it. 

I left her to walk back to our camp to update Lysette on the unfolding story as the BLM employee pulled over to inspect the situation. About an hour went by while we took care of a number of things, carefully watching to see if positive changes were occurring at the toilet house, feeling some level of comfort knowing the truck was still there meaning she was likely letting the large amount of disinfectant to work or scrubbing the equipment. Another car appeared and parked, a nondescript black Jeep Grand Cherokee. Being nosey and certainly providing enough space and time for them to have made significant progress, I decided to walk over. As I rounded the corner of the building I saw the, now two attractive BLM females standing about three feet from the the open door as if there were standing guard over a murder scene. I laughed and said something profound like, “that bad huh.” They, appearing a bit dumbfounded, told me that it had hardened and wouldn’t come off so they didn’t know what to do. I jokingly asked it they were calling in a Hazmat team or something and they said, “we don’t have the tools, you know with COVID protocols” and then she paused before saying it, “there are poop protocols.” We laughed a bit longer, talking about crime scene tape and other childish humor which is right in my wheel house. I walked back to the truck thanking them for their service to the park system and wishing them hazard pay for this. Another 30 minutes or so past before they left and we’d learned their solution. They locked the door and posted a sign saying, “toilet closed”. One toilet down for the rest of us to share for the weekend.

Mountain Meadows

We woke early the next day with images of high mountain meadows nearby so we grabbed necessities for breakfast at the trailhead and drove back up Horseshoe Meadows Road to Horseshoe Meadows parking lot to run Horseshoe Meadows. The plan was an early start to run an out and back along the connector trail to the PCT through the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. The trail passes through a large mountain meadow complete with a small stream full of what I’d learn later were small Golden Trout. The trail went up through the hillside on the other side of the meadow climbing to the top of a saddle where we could see another meadow down the other side and where we decided to turn back. This was also just past the point where the connector trail we were on intersected with the PCT.

We headed back following the same trail down. At one point, I got ahead of Lysette, losing sight and sound of her so I stopped. It also seemed like the perfect place to get a kiss from Lysette, as she never kisses me while in the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. But she wasn’t there and after a few minutes of standing there oddly in the middle of the woods, puckered up for my kiss, I gave a few loud “hoo” calls (“Hoo” is our call to let the other know we are around without disturbing the peace too much). In any event, she never responded. I started worrying while slow running back up trail stopping every so often to give another “hoo” call but with no return. I got to a switchback and just below a trail directional sign, on the other side of a carefully placed large tree trunk to obviously block the trail, I noticed an old trail heading south. My options were to check for her down there or to let her continue to bleed out while lying injured further up the main trail. At that point I decided on one last “hoo” call and I got what I was looking for, her responding “hoo,” seeing her teal green jacket come around the corner up the old, obviously blocked trail. She wasn’t after all bleeding out, she had made the wrong turn after high jumping over the large tree trunk placed to obviously block the trail. She reported that she was running along wondering to herself how I had gotten so far ahead while noticing lots of pine cones covering the trail that she hadn’t remembered on the outbound, so she stopped and checked her trail app to see she was off trail, which she was and so turned back. I got my Golden Trout Wilderness kiss and we continued the run from there together back to the truck.

While getting ready to move the truck to another spot to relax and cook breakfast, we started a conversation with a gentleman who we’d seen at our camp the night before. He reported that he was traveling with his daughter who had just graduated college and they were about to go on a 7-day backpack to a place his dad had taken him years before. She eventually came over to the conversation and was a well poised beautiful young woman who was coincidentally hoping to move to Denver once she got a job. Her father was going to the coast after their trip where he had a camp host job waiting in San Simeon State Park. We enjoyed an easy, fun conversation before we left them to prepare for their trip and for us to cook breakfast. 

We drove back over to the trailhead after breakfast and hiked with Toohey a short distance to the stream running through the meadow. The day provided clear blue skies, a little wind, and Toohey played in and out of the stream as we followed it along through the meadows. It was fun watching the small colorful Golden Trout scurrying to hide as we approached and on occasions could actually see their remarkable colors. It was a good day in the mountains.

Mobius & Heart Arch

This was a short hike inside the Alabama Hills area. We made the drive over to the trail observing the large amount of weekend campers who access this area. Mostly though, the trail was lightly used. The trail winds through interesting boulders, many worn with caverns and holes giving it the feel of a natural play ground of sorts. Toohey enjoyed one of these, surprising Lysette as she walked past. When we got to the arches we shared time with other selfie takers to get the photographs before finishing the loop hike back at the parking lot.

Manzanar National Park, Inyo County CA

  • 1 Camp
  • 36 Blocks
  • 10,000 People

Theodore Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which incarcerated people from Japanese descent into these camps scattered mostly around the west from 1942-1945. Manzanar was one of these places that in total, imprisoned upwards of 120,000 people to include US citizens, business owners, woman and children, out of fear that Japanese, Germans, and Italians living in the USA could be dangerous during war time. In hindsight, this was fear mongering in a time when tensions was heightened based on the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the USA’s involvement in WWII. President Jimmy Carter had a commission research this during his term. The report found that the acts were based on fear and racism. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberty Act of 1988 which officially apologized admitting that it was race based and paid all surviving who where interned $20,000, eventually totaling $1.6 billion in reparations cost.

The park has an auto tour which we did, stopping to go inside several reconstructed blocks that included replicas of living quarters and the block managers office, the woman’s latrine, and a mess hall. There were information signs throughout that provided interesting information, quotes from those living there, giving voice to their experiences. 

This camp had 36 block houses which were initially communal living. There were school houses, mess halls, laundry, gardens, post office, and cemetery not to mention all the housing and building for the government and soldiers. There were eight guard towers armed with machine guns. There was one uprising where the interned people gathered to protest the arrest of a prisoner that eventually ended in a soldier firing his machine gun into the crowd killing two. Other than that, the prisoners lived peacefully through heat, cold, dust, and worse, their treatment as criminals only because of their birth record. It was an eye opening trip learning more about the injustices that occurred to these people, the life they lived while being interned, something that must have been shocking, frustrating, and tough to comprehend. 

Tuttle Creek Hike

We left the internment camp and drove back to Lone Pine where we found a small restaurant for a late lunch. Following lunch we made our way back up through Alabama Hills to the Tuttle Creek Trail Head. This trail runs uphill into the canyon following high above Tuttle Creek. The view down the drainage was a contrasting river of green against the granite rocks, dirt, and spotty green of the foliage up the mountain side. The payoff for the hike according to the ranger who told us about it was a stone cabin called Ashrama. We made it about a mile and half in before seeing it up another steep uphill sitting on overlooking the canyon. With snow steadily falling and a tired dog, we decided to turn back. 

Ashrama was reportedly constructed by a couple and their followers in the 1920’s after they leased the land from the National Park Service. It is quite interesting to read about how they constructed a road and building along this steep canyon with the intent to write, pray and meditate. The place is considered historically significant and is still visited by those seeking solitude and prayer. The link below is provided for further reading on the subject.


The snow was still falling when we returned to camp but soon gave way to a nice sunset and clear skies, giving hope that the day tomorrow will be a nice one to stay outside.