Yosemite National Park, Day 1

Well, I’m seriously behind again.  I just spent a month camping without internet access in New Mexico (at Hyde Memorial State Park near Santa Fe, then El Vado and Heron Lake State Parks in north-central NM) and in Colorado, boondocking near La Manga Pass on Hwy 17.  I could only get online for an hour or 2 when running errands in Santa Fe with Chris, or hiking to a mountain ridge, or driving to the Chama Visitor Center to use their WiFi.  Of all the things I needed to do online when I had the connection (email, banking, campsite research, finding propane, etc.), blogging was lower on my priority list.  Sorry!

I’ve been going through the pictures I took at Yosemite National Park and it’s been a major task to single out a limited number of pictures from the 500+ that I took.  One thing that I hadn’t expected is how the beauty is all around you in Yosemite Valley.  It’s not a park where you have a spot in the campground and drive or hike to the viewpoints.  Half Dome is right above the campground and viewable from all over.  You see Yosemite Fall almost anywhere.  It’s a short, skinny valley with steep walls all around, so the views are always there, wherever you are standing, unless blocked by the tall trees.  Like Bryce Canyon NP and Zion NP, I was taking pictures non-stop.

As I mentioned previously, I stopped at the Escapee park in Coarsegold the day before my 3-day reservation in Yosemite (April 28-30).  It’s located off Highway 41, just south of the Yosemite entrance near Wawona.  I needed to do laundry and the Escapee co-op parks usually have clean, reasonably priced laundry facilities.  Also, I wanted to be sure to have a cable connection or TV signal to watch the NASCAR race that night.  While there I got to meet Lorna, a Lazy Daze owner, former travel blogger and the organizer of the annual Lazy Daze ladies get together (Ladeze GTG).  She isn’t full-timing right now and is enjoying living at the Coarsegold park. Such a neat lady, and it’s always great to meet folks I know from blogs or the Lazy Daze board.  Coarsegold is a nice park with lots of hills and trees.  The sites aren’t lined up like sardines.  I could see myself in a park like that after stopping full-time traveling.

SKP Park Coarsegold

SKP Park Coarsegold

My original plan was to visit Yosemite in mid-May.  Bob Wells had given me a lot of good advice back at the RTR in January, including when to visit for good waterfalls and wildflowers, photography tips, etc., but that I had to book ASAP.  The campgrounds book up within hours of the reservation system opening, and reservations for mid-May had opened on January 15th.  I was able to get 3 nights, May 21-23, but had to book 3 different campsites.  I would have to move each day, but that didn’t matter as long as I had 3 nights in Yosemite Valley.  Back when I was at Lake Isabella it got hot pretty quickly and I decided to check on Yosemite.  The weather was forecast to be unseasonable warm there, too. (Unseasonably warm in Yosemite meant high in the high 70’s and lows in the low 40’s – dee-lightful!)   And, I had read that the rivers and streams were really flowing due to early snow-melt.  I decided to change my reservations to April 28-30.  I expected we would have good weather and low crowds since school wouldn’t be out yet.  It cost about $30 to change the reservations, but worth it.

So, I left Coarsegold and headed up highway 41 to Yosemite’s south entrance.  One of the main things I wanted to do in Yosemite was visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Mariposa Grove Trail

Mariposa Grove Trail

Unfortunately, I couldn’t park nearby.  They had everyone park 8 miles away at Wawona and take a shuttle to the grove.  Riley had to stay in the RV, since dogs aren’t allowed on trails or buses.  The size of the trees are mind-boggling.  It’s a nice area, with a paved trail and informational sources.  And, of course, very shady and cool.  Back at the rig, we headed on up Hwy 41 and enjoyed a really pretty drive to Yosemite Valley.  Friends Steve and Barb Smith back in Texas are from California and told me to be sure to stop for the Tunnel View, that it was outstanding.  After about an hour we got to the long tunnel. Immediately at the end are parking lots on each side of the road for the viewpoint.  I pulled in to the lot on the right side of the road. That was the wrong side, as I found out later the lot on the left side of the road has the RV parking.(Just an FYI for RV’ers.)  Fortunately I am short enough at 22′, and was able (barely) to park in a regular spot.

Tunnel View

Tunnel View. Not great lighting at 3PM. I would visit this site the next day at sunset for better pictures.

It is a spectacular view, with Bridalveil Fall gushing and highly visible, El Capitan on the left, and Half Dome to the back.  Then, the drive to the campground is lovely, cruising along the valley among all the trees in the picture above.  You can’t even tell there is a road down there, it’s hidden in the forest.  When we got to the campsite I got parked and noticed there was a seasonal stream winding along the back boundary of the campground, right behind our site.  It was a great site, very shady with flowering dogwoods.  I could hear the Merced River rushing behind the campground – it was probably just a hundred yards or so behind my site.

Campsite at Yosemite

Campsite at Yosemite

By the time I got parked and set up it was about 4:00.  I took Riley for a walk around the campground and along the Merced River.  It was so late in the day there wasn’t really time to do much, but I decided to hop on the Yosemite free shuttle and ride it around to get familiar with the valley.  There is a stop right at the campground entrance.  I got off at Yosemite Village to visit the general store, then at Yosemite Fall.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Fall

I hopped back on the shuttle and rode around a bit more, getting back to the campsite before dark.  (Note for Yosemite visitors: the shuttle drivers have great little fold out maps of the valley, shuttle stops, and general info.  Ask for one if you don’t see them on the shelf next to the door.)

I have about 45 or so photos of our time at Yosemite, so am dividing into 3 posts for the 3 days of our visit.  Will post day 2 soon.

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Changing Plans and Big Trees

When I left off we were about to leave the Lake Isabella and Kern River area to head towards Yosemite National Park.  Prior to that I was camped with Chris in the wilderness of Mohave National Preserve near Goffs, CA and Lake Mohave near Bullhead City, AZ.  I had a great time but my plans were to head back to California and ease my way up to Yosemite as the weather warmed.  Last fall I had decided on a big trip this year:

I decided to do another trip for 2013, starting in Quartzsite in January.  Then, when the weather warms will go into California where I will (hopefully) visit Yosemite, Sequoias, and the Redwoods.  Also, will visit the Oregon coast and Crater Lake, Washington state, Seattle and Vancouver, and Glacier National Park.

But, I realized a couple of months ago that those plans were a bit too grand.  I would not be able to see all those things in one year.  At least I wouldn’t be able to do it properly.  So, I trimmed it back to Yosemite, San Francisco, and Redwoods in California in the spring, and the Oregon Coast, Portland and Crater Lake during the summer in Oregon.  After my visit with Chris at Mohave my solo travel at Isabella wasn’t as enjoyable.  And I realized that 4-5 months of travel through CA and OR wouldn’t be either if Chris wasn’t there.  So, I decided to just do the things that were reasonably close – Sequoia/Kings Canyon/Yosemite National Parks and San Francisco.  Then I would find a scenic route back to New Mexico by mid-June to meet Chris and then take off for a fun summer/fall of travel.  To paraphrase Billy Crystal at the end of When Harry Met Sally – When you realize you want to spend the rest of your road trip with someone, you want the rest of your road trip to start as soon as possible.  🙂

So, picking up where I left off, we left Lake Isabella on 4/25 and headed down the Kern River canyon to Bakersfield on Hwy 178.  That is one white-knuckle ride in an RV.  Very skinny road with twisty turns and steep grades.  Luckily there were plenty of pull-offs for me to let the faster cars go by.  I ran some errands in Bakersfield, then headed up Hwy 99 to Tulare.  I had a Passport America (50% off) RV park lined up just 30 miles up the road in Kingsburg, close to Sequoia/Kings Canyon NPs.  But, I was renting a car for the sightseeing and I needed to arrive by mid-morning to get the car and have all day for the drive.  So, Tulare was a good, close spot for the night that would let me do just a short hop to the RV park the next morning.  I had reserved a compact car, but they only had an Altima or a mini-van.  I was happy to take the Altima, as that’s the car I own back in TX.  It’s a comfortable ride.

Shady spot at Viking RV Park in Kingsburg and the rental car

Shady spot at Viking RV Park in Kingsburg and the rental car

So, Enterprise picked me up at the RV park, I got the car, loaded up, and headed off through Visalia to Sequoia NP.  I had originally thought of driving the RV and camping in one of the campgrounds in the park.  But, part of the General’s Highway road that leads into the park has a 22 foot vehicle limit.  My motorhome is exactly 22 feet, but it sounded too close for comfort.  I looked at a bit of the road on Google Maps Street View and decided No Way!  Very skinny and twisty-turny.  I was very glad to drive it in in the rental car.  Also, the elevation gain from the Foothills visitor center to the main part of the park is 5,000 feet.  Not fun (to me) in a big, heavy motorhome.

Anyway, we headed out Hwy 198 to Visalia and through Three Rivers, where it starts getting very scenic.  As I was passing through Three Rivers I saw the Google Street View car parked next to the road near a cafe.  Normally I’m enough of a nerd to think that’s cool and want to go back and take a picture, but I had a limited amount of time already with too much to see and do.  So, I kept on, stopping at the Foothills Visitor Center.  I had heard there was a construction spot that only allowed cars through at the top of the hour and half past.  I got the general area of the stop from the Ranger and headed up the road.  I stopped to take a picture of Moro Rock.

Moro Rock

Moro Rock

Down in the valley next to the road was a creek and little tumbling waterfalls. During the snow melt, there are a lot of raging rivers and seasonal streams in the Sierras.

Moro Stream

I just love a pretty forest stream

We stopped at a picnic area for lunch, then got back on the road, getting to the construction spot just as they were allowing the cars to go.  Great timing!  With my one day trip I didn’t have a half hour to lose sitting and waiting for the next passage.

The Giant Forest Museum was still closed for the winter season, so I just headed on to the General Sherman Tree.  It is the largest tree in the world by volume.  There are taller trees, and ones bigger around, but this one is both tall and wide.  It is one massive tree.

From the trail above the General Sherman tree.

From the trail above the General Sherman tree.  It’s the tree in the center with the railing around it.

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree

We stopped at the Lodgepole Visitor Center, then enjoyed the lovely drive on the Generals Highway to the Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.

View of the Sierra-Nevada Wilderness Peaks along the Generals Highway

View of the Sierra-Nevada Wilderness peaks along the Generals Highway

General Grant Tree

General Grant Tree

I thought this was cool:

Inside a Fallen Tree

Inside a Fallen Tree

About the Fallen Tree

About the Fallen Tree

By this time it was 5:30 and I wanted to be back to Kingsburg before dark, so I had a bit of time left to drive part of the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.  They had just opened the road for the season, so I was lucky to be able to drive it.  I got to Junction View (where the Middle Fork and South Fork of the Kings River are viewable) about the time I needed to turn around and head back home.

Junction View site

Junction View site.  River on the left, that’s the road on the right.

Yeah, I was there too.  I wasn't allowed on the trails or by the big trees, but I still like a good car ride.

Yeah, I was there too. I wasn’t allowed on the trails or near the big trees, but I still like a good car ride.

On the way back we headed out Hwy 180, which goes toward Fresno and made a nice loop drive for us.  The parks could be traveled in an RV just from Hwy 180 in, to the Giant Forest Museum, and back to 180 to avoid the 22 foot vehicle limit on the south part of the park.  Hwy 180 is a much easier drive.  I decided I wanted to do the full loop and so got the car.  (Just FYI for anyone that plans to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon.)

Next up was Yosemite.  I would spend Saturday night (4/27) at the Escapees RV park in Coarsegold. It’s just south of the park and would be a good overnight spot before my reservations for 4/28-30 in Yosemite.  I’m still going through all the pictures I took of Yosemite, but will post about that soon.

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Isabella Lake and Kern River

After leaving the heat of Lake Mohave, just north of Bullhead City, AZ, we drove directly to Isabella Lake.  I really wanted some cools, and higher elevation would get it done.  Isabella Lake is northeast of Bakersfield, CA, at the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest.  The lake itself is at about 2,600 feet, but the Kern River upstream from the lake gains even more in elevation.  There is a series of Forest Service campgrounds along the river, some developed and some primitive, allowing free dispersed camping.  I had heard about the area from Bob Wells while at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in January.  We had been talking about my plans to visit Yosemite and he was quite familiar with the area.  He thought it would be a good spot for April, once southern California started getting hot and Yosemite is still pretty chilly.

Anyway, we arrived after a long, 330 mile day.  We set up on the shore of Isabella Lake, which allows dispersed camping at the Auxiliary Dam site.  Camping is free with the inter-agency annual pass, which I had gotten last year knowing I would be going to a lot of national parks.  We got there in time for a nice sunset.

Isabella Sunset

We did get our cools.  The highs were in the 60’s and 50’s the first few days we were here, so that was great.  Bob had warned that it would be windy and he was right.  There was a lot of wind in the area with gusts to 35 mph, and on the lake with no trees blocking you really feel it.

It’s a big lake.  You can’t tell from the picture above.  I was on one small arm of the lake.  The shoreline visible across the lake is actually a peninsula that sticks out, with another arm of the lake behind it.  Then there is another mile or so of lake off to the right.  The lake is pretty low right now due to drought and lack of snow melt.

There were usually clouds on the mountains across the lake.  Mountains make their own weather and it almost always looked stormy over there.  Pretty cool looking actually.

Lake Isabella

Cloudy day over our campsite on Lake Isabella

Also got to watch a couple of windsurfers most days.  I couldn’t get a good picture, as they were way out in the lake.  This is zoomed in.

Wind Surfer

Windsurfer

It’s a big fishing lake and they had a fishing derby April 20-22.  On the weekend before (April 12-14) a lot of folks came up, both for recreation and fishing.  Probably a lot of folks getting an idea of where the fish hang out before the derby.  Anyway, the shoreline was wall-to-wall RV’s.  This was about 1/4 of the line. There were many, many more RV’s over to the right.

Busy Isabella

Busy Isabella

The town of Lake Isabella is just the right size.  Small enough to be easily navigated – one main road through town.  Big enough to have services, including a really nice Von’s grocery store.  One thing I wanted to do was find a place to pick up packages.  I needed to place an Amazon order, but needed someplace besides the Post Office that accepts deliveries.  Found one at Valley Office Emporium.  Also, there’s propane at the big True Value hardware store in town, and a decent laundromat.

Next we moved across the river, below the dam, to the Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area, a BLM site.  It has a lot of trails for dirt bikes and other off-highway vehicles.  Also, they allow dispersed camping.  There is one paved road through the area and a lot of dirt roads forking off.  Many roads I couldn’t drive too far due to ruts/rocks, and some had low-hanging branches that I wouldn’t fit under.  I eventually found a good site right off the road and camped for a couple of days.

Keyesville Site

Keyesville Site

They allow gold mining in certain sections of the Keyesville area.  One day Riley and I were out walking and I met Annie, whose husband Lee is a prospector.  (Also met their dogs Miley and Chelsea.  Wish I had thought to get a picture.)  They are from Salinas, but like bringing their motorhome to Keyesville for a nice trip and to do some gold panning.  They were parked in an area right on the river.  I wasn’t sure my RV could fit under the trees and over the ruts to get there, so hadn’t driven down there.  It looked like a great place to camp, though.

Camping on the river in Keyesville

Camping on the river in Keyesville

Kern River in Keyesville SRMA

Kern River in Keyesville SRMA

One day I thought it would be good to hike across the river and up by the dam to the Forest Service office.  I realized pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be able to cross the river – the road is really busy and the bridge is narrow with no sidewalk or shoulders.  We went across the road to the “Main Dam Campground” which is closed.  I thought maybe somewhere in there we would be able to access a way to go up and walk over the dam.  Walking through the campground it was obvious it had been closed for some time, not just for the winter.  It’s directly below the dam, so I’m sure they closed it due to the devastation that would happen if the dam were ever breached and started flooding downriver.  It’s like an episode of Life After People in there, with nature taking the area back.  (I never did find a way to get up to the top of the dam.)

Main Dam Campground Site

Main Dam Campground site in disrepair

In one of the trees there were 2 HUGE bird nests next to each other.  Must have been raven nests because one squawked at me the whole time I was looking at them.  (Was a female raven, based on the sound of the call on my iBird app.)

Giant bird nests

Giant bird nests

Next we moved upriver to the Thunderbird campground.  When we pulled in I noticed some rock climbing ladies rappelling down the rock face across the road.  On the 2nd picture below I’ve put arrows where 2 are rappelling down the rock and 2 are already down at the base (click to see bigger).  My nephew Kevin is an expert rock-climber.  I’d be too scared, but cool to watch.

Thunderbird Rapellers

Thunderbird Climbers on the rock face across the road

Rapellers

Rapellers

One thing that was cool about the area was the number of fighter jets that fly over the upper Kern river.  I saw one fighter jet fly really low over me at Anza-Borrego.  It came screaming over the mountain, turned on its side, then straightened up and flew over the other mountains.  So cool, but so fast.  Couldn’t get a picture.  Same thing here.  I think they are coming from Edwards AFB south of here.  Most days I hear or see 1 or 2.  On the 18th it was super-crazy with the jets.  I think I saw 12-14 of them on that day alone.  Just screaming up the river, following the road/valley.  One was really low, actually in the valley, maybe a couple of hundred yards up.  Not sure what that was all about, but crazy cool.  Must be having a lot of practice runs, or trainees are getting some fly time.  Sure wish I could get a picture.  They go by too fast to even think of getting out the camera.

On Friday, the 19th, we packed up and moved upriver.  I wanted to see if I could find a site at one of the other campgrounds, like Springhill.  On Google Maps it looked like there are some shady sites there (it was getting a bit warm).  Both Springhill North and South had a lot of sites, but either small or with too many low-hanging branches to be able to get too far in.  Eventually I had to turn around in a small space when the campground road ended.  In the process I somehow managed to drive over a rock in the road in such a way as to lodge my differential on top of it.

Stuck on a rock

Stuck on a rock

Couldn’t go forward or back to get off of it.  Oh no!  I tried my leveling blocks to drive up and over, didn’t work.  I tried chiseling the rock with a hammer and chisel, didn’t work.  Eventually I had to go looking for someone in the campground with a jack.  (I had a nice hydraulic jack on my trip last year, but left it home figuring I wouldn’t change my own tire since I have Coachnet.)  Didn’t find a jack, but found a guy that could help, and when we got back the 3 fisherman with the campsite next to my mishap were back from fishing and able to help.  They tied a rope to my hitch from their van and gave me a tug, which dislodged me and I was able to back it off the rock.  What a pain!  At one point I thought I would have to call Coachnet, but didn’t actually have any signal on my T-Mobile phone, plus my Verizon MiFi didn’t have any signal there either.  I decided to go back down to Thunderbird, where at least I had a decent campsite and Verizon signal.  (And I didn’t want to be without both phone and internet communication.)

Thunderbird Site

Thunderbird Site

Kern River at Thunderbird

Kern River at Thunderbird

On Sunday, the 21st we moved back to Keyesville.  It was hot, Thunderbird had gotten too busy, and I wanted to see if I could get the NASCAR race on the TV.  I hoped we could get the same spot we had before (part of it was shady).  On the way back downriver I was able to see all the activity on the lake for the fishing derby.  Everywhere you could put an RV on the shoreline there was an RV there.  Tents were everywhere you could put a tent.  Lots of boats.  I stopped at a lookout spot and got a couple of pictures.

Derby Campers

Derby Campers

Derby Boats

Derby Boats

The site I wanted was occupied, but they moved out on Tuesday morning, so I snagged it then.  Highs of 85 here lately – need to get shade on the tin can!

So now we are about to move again.  After almost 3 weeks in the area we leave tomorrow to head north towards Yosemite.  I have 3 nights in a Yosemite Valley campground.  On the way we will visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  After Yosemite we head to San Francisco.  So lots of cool things to see coming up.  Very excited!  I’m sure Riley will like the sights and smells too.  🙂  He did enjoy our last Keyesville hike this morning:

Last Kville Hike

Last Keyesville Hike

Mohave and visiting

Picking up where I left off last time, Chris and I had decided to have a meetup midway between us (I was south of Barstow, CA and he was at Alamo Lake, east of Parker, AZ.)  We decided on Goffs, near the Mohave National Preserve.  I figured we would be able to find a site to camp at, since there are BLM wilderness areas nearby, Mohave allows ‘roadside camping’, and they have a couple of traditional campgrounds.  So, on Tuesday 3/19 Riley and I headed off through Barstow, where we dumped tanks and did some grocery shopping.  When we got to Goffs and met up with Chris we headed up Lanfair Road, one of the lesser used roads in the Mohave Preserve.  Most of the visitor stuff is in the middle, off Essex Rd.  We found an old mining road, where there are a few sites that have been used for camping previously.  We set up there and had a fantastic location – perfect climate at about 3000 elevation, not much road noise due to few autos traveling on that road, and great hiking among the network of old mining roads.

Mohave Site

Mohave Site, just off Lanfair Road (the dirt road on the left there)

Each morning we would head out for a hike.  There were so many roads branching off and hills to climb.  We always had someplace we wanted to visit the next day.  One day we hiked up to a high rock outcropping and could see some type of structure off in the distance.  We decided to hike there the next day.

Mohave View with homestead

Mohave View with structure in the distance (the brown bit near the right side of the picture, about midway down)

It turned out to be an old homestead.  There was a crumbling wooden house structure and a foundation from a separate building.  Like a mini ghost town.

Homestead 1

The old homestead

Also, there was a car.  We call it the ghost car.  It looked like a truck, but on closer inspection it was originally a sedan.  They had cut the roof off over the back to make a truck out of it.

Chris and the "ghost car"

Chris and the “ghost car”

Ghost Car

Ghost Car

Anyway, we had a good time in the desert – visiting, hiking, cooking, just hanging.  We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, just some bunnies, a few birds and a couple of impressive lizards.  We heard coyotes, but never saw them.  Lots of desert plants blooming in March.

Lizard1

Lizard1

Lizard2

Lizard2

Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus

Desert Bloom

Desert Bloom

Desert Bloom 2

Desert Bloom 2

Old mining roads make good trails.  Vegetation is slowly overtaking, but you can still make out the path.

Old mining roads make good trails. Vegetation is slowly overtaking, but you can still make out the path.

At about this time my folks were on a road trip to Las Vegas and I thought maybe we could meet up somewhere and have a visit on their way back home since I was so close.  I emailed the suggestion and they arranged to stop in Laughlin, NV for a couple of days, March 27-28.  They got reservations at the Riverside Casino which has an RV park, so I got a site there.  Chris and I headed over on the 27th.  He was going to get a site at Katherine Landing at the southern end of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, on Lake Mohave.  Also, he has family in nearby Bullhead City, so would be able to work in a visit or two while there.

I met up with my folks on Wednesday just after pulling into the RV park.  It was so, so good to see them.  We got to visit a bit, then we got them checked into their room.  They were going to check out the casino and see how was the video poker.  I headed back to check on Riley and finish getting myself settled.  When I got back to the casino my mom had already hit a Royal Flush and won $1000.  Yay!  Then she forced me to take $100 to gamble with.  I hung with them at the bar and enjoyed playing the poker machines.  They had to remind me how to play at first.  Once I got the hang I did OK, only going through $40 over the 2 evenings.  We enjoyed dinners at the casino cafe, and Chris joined us for breakfast on Thursday morning.  I can’t believe I never thought to have one of the waitstaff take a picture of us for the blog.  Darn!!

On Friday they headed back to Texas and I moved over to Katherine Landing where Chris was set up.  He was fishing on the lake with his kayak. There are a lot of power boats on the lake.  It has a marina and gets very busy.  Not great for fishing, unfortunately.

Katherine Landing Campground

Katherine Landing Campground.  Large Oleanders between sites provide some separation, but not much shade.

Mohave Lake and marina, from the Fisherman Trail

Mohave Lake and marina, from the Fisherman Trail

Ski Cove, then end of the Fisherman Trail

Ski Cove, the end of the Fisherman Trail

Chris and Riley at Katherine Landing info station after a hike

Chris and Riley at Katherine Landing info station after a hike

More desert blooms, at Katherine Landing:

Beaver Tail in bloom

Beaver Tail in bloom

Blooming cholla

Blooming Cholla

I had originally planned to stay a day or 2 at Katherine Landing before heading back to CA.  But, I ended up staying longer to hang with Chris.  Probably would have stayed even longer, but it got unbearably hot, up to about 90.  Without hookups and no AC, it was really uncomfortable. We drove around the surrounding BLM land looking for a place with higher elevation but couldn’t find anything suitable.  So, we headed out on Thursday, April 4th.  Chris was going to make his way to Prescott, AZ and his sister’s place, and I headed to Lake Isabella, CA.  It’s at at the southern tip of the Sequoia National Forest and about 3000 feet elevation, so much cooler.  That’s next….

Desert Livin’, Part 2

So, we spent Sunday 3/10 in Indio, running errands.  Wanted to go to Walmart, Trader Joe’s (Everyone raves about TJ’s. Good, but small than expected.) and do laundry.  Also, hoped to be able to watch the NASCAR race in the afternoon.  Got parked at the laundromat, fired up the TV, aimed the antenna and I was able to watch the race and do laundry.  Thanks Dad for installing the great solar setup and new Jack antenna!!  I had originally planned to spend the night in Indio, but we got done so early that I went ahead and headed on. Joshua Tree has overflow parking on BLM land right outside of the park, just off I-10.  So I  pulled in there, near 3 other rigs.  I like to find a good boondock spot right outside the national park so we can go in early and beat the crowds or find an available site in the popular campgrounds (like we did at Zion and Grand Canyon last year), so this site was really handy.

Boondocking outside Joshua Tree

Boondocking outside Joshua Tree

Anyway, Monday morning we drove in to the park.  Turns out there was a big earthquake that morning close to the town of Anza, near where we were camped the prior week. Never felt anything as we were driving at that moment.  Anyway, I visited the Cottonwood Visitor Center and hiked the trail past the Cottonwood Spring. They had a sign showing the mortal holes created long ago, over many years, when Cahuilla Indian women would grind seeds into flour.

Cahuilla Indian Mortar Holes

Cahuilla Indian Mortar Holes

Joshua Tree NP is not all Joshua Trees.  There are 2 deserts that meet in the middle – the Colorado and the Mohave. The Colorado is lower and has a lot of creosote, palo verde, ocotillo, etc. The Mohave begins at higher elevation, and you start seeing yucca and Joshua trees. There is a lot to see when driving the Pinto Basin Road across the park towards the northwest.  Lots of places to stop and read displays and notice the different desert features.

We stayed at the Jumbo Rocks campground and I hiked the trail there – part nature trail, part hike to the Skull Rock.

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks, with climbers halfway up

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks trail, on the way to Skull Rock

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

The next day we drove through the park to Black Rock Canyon campground.  I hiked the High View Trail, which is quite a climb.  Riley stayed home, dogs not allowed on trails.

Driving to Black Rock Canyon we saw a major field of Joshua Trees

Driving to Black Rock Canyon we saw a major field of Joshua Trees

They have the coolest looking blooms

New blooms look like a pineapple or something.  They’re huge.

Full Bloom

Fully open bloom

Black Rock Canyon CG

Black Rock Canyon CG

Bench at the top of High View Trail is much appreciated

The bench at the top of High View Trail is much appreciated

On Wednesday, the 13th, we moved on to Sawtooth Canyon.  It’s a (free!) BLM campground between Lucerne Valley and Barstow on hwy. 247.  It had gotten pretty hot in southern CA, but Sawtooth is just off of a pass between the Granite and Ord mountain ranges, at about 3550 elevation.  So, we would be able to stay cool there for a week or so, until it was time to get water and dump tanks.  The sites are nice, with a covered concrete table area and 2 fire pits/grills.  I set up Riley’s pen and even put out my awning.

Sawtooth Spot

Sawtooth Spot

The campground is really spread out and we walked all over and up to the top of the hill/canyon, where there is a trail for back-country camping.  There were 3 guys with packs going off that way when we were up there.  (More power to them.  I love my Lazy Daze conveniences.)  On Saturday we hiked a big hill that was maybe some kind of road at one time.  Very steep and rocky.

Yeah, we hiked that.

Yeah, we hiked that.

There were a bunch of cars at the 3 sites near us that turned out to be the San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team, having a training campout or something.  So, that was comforting, looking down from the top of the hill.

View from the hill.

View from the hill.

Over the weekend I had been talking to Chris, who I met at the Lazy Daze gathering in Quartzsite in January.  We had parted at Fortuna Pond on Feb. 13th to continue our travels in separate directions.  He was at Alamo Lake in Arizona, enjoying his kayak and doing some fishing.  We missed each other and decided to meet up halfway, which was off I-40 around Goffs, CA, near the Mohave National Preserve.  Also, my folks were about to take a road trip to Las Vegas, and I thought maybe I would try to meet up with them on their way back to TX.  More about visiting in Mohave and NV/AZ in the next post.

Sawtooth Canyon sunset

Sawtooth Canyon sunset, packed up and ready to head to Mohave NP