Monthly Archives: May 2017

Day 38 – Day 40 Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

May 29 pm – May 31 am

We decided to go to Lassen Volcanic National Park next. We generally prefer taking back roads and so we took Highway 89. The road passes through some really beautiful pasturelands. 

The terrain became more mountainous with rivers as you get further north. We stopped at a small rest area with a marker to show where the Beckwourth Trail – Greenhorn Creek Canyon part of the California Pioneer Trail.

Highway 89 runs right through Lassen, but it usually doesn’t open completely until a little later in the season. This year, because of all the snow, a number of different sights on the southern part of the park weren’t open either. But the northern part of the park was open. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

We needed to stop for supplies, which meant driving into Susanvillle. A detour, but not much of one. We needed to resupply after a week staying with friends. 

Susanville seems like a town where lots of people come to resupply. We were able to get all the things we needed. 

The drive into Lassen is really amazing. The volcanic nature of this whole area is very evident.

We pulled into Lassen via the northern entrance. We passed by an unmanned booth. We stopped at the museum/visitor center, but at this time of year it is only open on weekends. That wasn’t particularly helpful. 

The only campground open in the park was at Manzanita Lake. The campground was much more friendly. It was obviously open and in use. 

We drove around the loops and found a nice spot near the middle. 

After reading over the information that we had, we decided to do the Chaos Crags/Crags Lake hike. The description read “Climbs gently through forest before opening to the thinly forested edge of Chaos Jumbles. The trail continues down a steep path to the lake which is often dry in the summer.”

As usual, the description didn’t really describe the experience. It was about a quarter mile from our campsite, so we walked to the trailhead. We had been warned that the trail had not been cleared since the winter and that there were still snowy patches.


The hike started off with trees down over the trail.

Trees cleared earlier.

The hike climbed through coniferous forest requiring the occasional detour for downed trees.

We passed through a section where there had been a forest fire.

The sky was really ominous at one point.

There were a few snowy patches to cross.

The trail continued to climb and the trees thinned out.

Then we were at the top of the trail with a view of Chaos Crags.

And looking down on a beautiful turquoise lake.

We stopped for a break sitting by the lake. It was amazing.

And since we heard other people coming, we started our return via Chaos Jumbles, the slope full of loose rock.

It was a reminder that this was from very recent volcanic activity.

On our way back down, we came across the crew clearing the trail. They had made some real progress and were pretty far along the trail.

We were informed that the park had restrictions regarding use of chainsaws. So they were cutting through the trunks with a huge two-person saw.

We were very impressed.

Once we reached the bottom, we decided to continue our hike by going around Manzanita Lake. 

The views of the mountains across the lake were stunning.

I had put my big camera away, so of course, that is when we starting to see amazing wildlife.

First, a white-headed woodpecker, which I didn’t get a photo of before it flew off.

A beautiful male Scarlet Tanager had just finished bathing and sat preening and straightening his feathers while we watched. I did get a photo of him.

We saw a black-tailed jackrabbit on the trail in front of us. No photo of that either.

Then we watched a Stellar Jay drink from the lake.

It would have been fantastic to just sit and watch the birds, but we were tired and hungry. We stopped at the little store next to the campground for some ice cream. It was the perfect end after an incredible hike.

The next morning, we were heading further north.

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Day 34 to 38 morning – Lake Tahoe

May 25 early afternoon – 29 morning 

We left Marc’s late the next morning. We were going to stay with some friends in the Lake Tahoe Area.

We passed by some beautiful areas on our drive. We took some back roads and stopped at the Donner Summit Overlook.

The bridge should look familiar. It has been in a number of movies.

The view was pretty amazing.

There was still a significant snow pack.

We spent time hanging out and playing with the 8-week-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppy.

In one of her quieter moments.

She likes the snow as a true Swissie should.

We took a walk along the Truckee River between Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows.

The river was running really high.

Although the hike was basically a paved city greenway, we finished at River Ranch Restaurant. So we had drinks and enjoyed the view.

The next day we hiked up the mountain that is the basis of the Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski area.

The trail was flat but snowy and slushy to begin with. The temperatures were in the 60’s so all the snow had gotten slushy, but was still there. 

Then we hit a nice relatively flat section without snow.

Sometimes that is the way the trail takes you.

That hike taught me that I really don’t enjoy hiking on slushy snow, at least not without YakTrax or something else like it to give me added traction.

I really struggled on the steep snow covered slopes.

But the views were pretty amazing.

And how often can you say you were hiking on a ski slope? Especially near Lake Tahoe.

Instead of trying to go back the way we came or trying to go down the ski slope, we opted to go down the other side of the mountain.

It was most certainly not an easy way down, but at least it wasn’t snow.

Jon is in the bottom of the photo.

We did get some incredible views going this way, too.

We didn’t see any bears.

On the walk through the neighborhood to get back to our friends’ house, we did see an example of why you don’t want to drive a golf cart on snow.

I’m glad we hiked it.

We had a great time and I loved playing with the puppy.

Showing off her flexibility and the spirit of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog on her chest

But the road was calling and we wanted to see Oregon and Washington. We headed out on the morning of May 29th.

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Day 32 & 33 – Virginia City and XP Camper 

May 23 & 24

After leaving the campground, we stopped in Carson City for a few last supplies and propane.

We made a detour to Virginia City, Nevada. It is another mining boom town. Not a preserved ghost town like Bodie, Virginia City still has residents and businesses.  Old timey photos, saltwater taffy, etc.

It is pretty close to Reno, so it sees a lot of tourists. Mark Twain spent some time here at the start of his career. A significant number of buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Buildings.

I can’t imagine having to keep a building looking like it was built for about $20.

So the buildings have “character” with a huge dose of commercialism and tourist trap.

But it certainly has charm.

There are a couple of mines you can visit.

The main street area is very touristy, but interesting.

We did find it odd that not all of the businesses were open yet, especially considering it was the week before Memorial Day weekend.

We looked for the Tourist Information Center. We walked down Main Street past houses and a section without sidewalks.

After a block or two of like that, we turned around. A few more photos of Virginia City.

We did eventually pass it on our way out of town. It was quite a bit further out and because of the lack of sidewalks, it wasn’t some place pedestrians could get to easily.

It was really hot. After walking around for several hours, we stopped to buy some ice cream before we left.

After our visit to Virginia City, we headed to Marc Wassman’s home. We were going to camp next to his home and go see the XP Camper manufacturing facility the next day.

XP Camper 

Jon has been there several times, but I hadn’t. XP Camper makes really high quality campers. We are very happy with our camper, but if we were to buy a new one, XP Camper would be on our short list.

Fred and Denise Cook (Diplostrat) flew in on Tuesday to visit Marc also. They sold their Tiger Malayan early in 2017 and are considering buying their next overland vehicle from XP Camper.

Diplostrat Photos

The tour of the facility was impressive. XP Camper does full custom camper builds so has extensive fiberglass, metal fabrication, upholstery, and assembly capabilities.

This was our first time visiting Marc’s house – we had a great time while we were visiting.

Marc is a fantastic cook (he was a professional chef in a former life) and prepared a couple spectacular meals.

We also had one of our unscripted adventures while at Marc’s house.  I posted a message on facebook before we went to bed that our friends took to mean that I was in trouble.  We woke up the next morning to find that the California State Highway Patrol and the County Sheriff were looking for us to make sure that we were okay.  It’s nice to know that our friends care about us and are keeping track of our adventures.  Sorry for the false alarm, but was great to know how much everybody cares.

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Day 31 – Bodie Ghost Town

May 22, 2017


Emily and I love traveling the 395 corridor East of the High Sierra, but for some reason had never made the side trip to the Ghost Town of Bodie – until today.  Bodie is about 13 miles (and a steep climb) off of 395.  The last 3 miles are dirt, with conditions varying from groomed to washed out depending on how the weather has been.  When we visited there were a couple of spots that had washed out pretty badly, but the Parks folks were actively working to improve it.  Take your time and you’ll be fine.


Bodie State Historic Park is a little north of Mono Lake (and a lot higher up), and is a “complete” gold boom town that is being preserved by the State of California and available to tour.  You pay a couple of bucks per person as you enter – definitely worth it.  We also recommend that you purchase the walking tour guide so that you aren’t left wondering what happened at site 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc…

So get the guidebook and wander around.  The town is at 8,379 feet so wear your sunscreen – even if it is cool the sun will get you!

Most of Bodie is available to view without arranging a tour.  The exception is the large Stamp Mill which requires an escorted tour – we didn’t do this, but found more than enough walking around to fill our time.

We spent a good half-day at Bodie and continued on our way north.  After a fuel-up and re-provision at the Gardnerville, NV Walmart we camped south of Lake Tahoe at Crystal Springs Campground in the Toiyabe National Forest.

This is a very nice roadside campground in a deep valley next to (at the time) a very fully flowing stream.  We are generally really pleased with National Forest campgrounds and this was no exception – well maintained with cheerful camp hosts Madonna and John.  We were still catching the beginning of the season so only one other campsite was occupied.

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Day 30 – Bishop to Mono Lake

May 21, 2017

The next morning involved stopping at Pupfish Cafe the next morning for breakfast. The food was awesome. I would highly recommend going there for breakfast or lunch. 

Unfortunately, the bookstore in front of it, Spellbinder, is closed on Sunday mornings. 

Pupfish Cafe in Bishop, CA

We stopped at Erick Schat’s Bakkery for some bread. Definitely safer going there when you aren’t hungry.

We stopped for groceries and gas and headed north on Highway 395.

The highway runs North – South on the east side of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.

At this time of year with a higher than normal snow pack, most of the mountains still have snow on the tops. It is a very scenic drive.

We stopped for the day in Lee Vining, California. We found a great campground, Mono Vista. We chose a commercial campground because sometimes you need the amenities.

Mono Vista RV Park

In this case, it included the RV dump, potable water, laundry facilities, internet access and a site with electricity.

Between the shopping and our need to do laundry, it was a relatively low mileage day.

The campground was really nice. Our site looked out on Mono Lake. 

Views of Mono Lake

We visited Mono Lake a number of times in the past, so we didn’t feel any great need to stop there this trip.

There were lots of birds around. The swallows were doing their best to decimate the mosquito population. They fly too fast for photos.

It turns out that a lot of the great birding locations are that way because there are lots of insects around for them to feed on.

We found a robin’s egg fragment.

The laundry room was clean and all the machines worked. So I spent most of the afternoon working on that. Jon worked online to get caught up on the books and finances.

We had enough laundry that we hung a little up at the campsite.

After laundry and work was finished, we took a walk into Lee Vining. The commercial zone isn’t much more than about a few blocks. It turns out that the Monday before Memorial Day weekend is not a good choice if you want all the Tourist related businesses open. We did walk by one very interesting sight.

How often do you see a vintage single wide trailer? Especially with a sign that says FREE?

We went back to the camper for dinner since there were almost no restaurants open.

We had a nice quiet evening. We are heading North on Highway 395 tomorrow.

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Day 29  – Inyo National Forest 

May 20

As the days went on in Saline Valley, the temperature kept increasing, so we decided to leave on the afternoon of May 20. For me, it loses a lot of its appeal when temperatures are up over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We took the north pass road out. There are several places to camp along the road before you hit pavement. At higher altitudes, it is generally cooler.

The drive was uneventful. We passed up the sites that were in the Juniper-pinon pine forest.


We finally picked a spot in the Inyo National Forest with a view of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.

Except for the bugs, it was an ideal place to camp.

The sunset on the mountains was beautiful.

After applying bug spray, we drank wine by the campfire watching the sky darken.

Dinner was good, too.

I did wake up early enough to catch a photo of the sunrise. But I wasn’t willing to go outside to take one. So, this the one from inside the camper.

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Day 26 to 28 – Saline Valley Warm Springs

May 17 to 19

Jon next to the Saline Valley Warm Springs sign

We have been visiting Saline Valley Warm Springs since we were living in California about 17 years ago. 

Photo from 2002.

The Saline Valley Warm Springs is a very relaxing way to spend a few days.

The problem at this time of year is that it is often very warm. Think over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We were fortunate that it wasn’t nearly that hot when we were there, but it was still really warm.

So most of the daytime was spent at the lawn. Jon had a chance to enjoy his hammock.

We walked around in the cooler parts of the day.

I prepared several nice dinners.

We met a number of very nice people. One of them designs, makes and sells crocheted items.

Crochet by Netanis

I spent most of the next couple of days watching the animals and working on blog posts. No internet, but a chance to at least write a few.

There were the low flying military jets from the nearby base. I was pleased to get a good photo this time.

The wild burros were around as usual.

No matter how friendly they seem, they are wild animals and can be dangerous. Fingers look a lot like carrots.

This little girl was careful not to get too close. 

One of the burros from last year had a three week old foal.

I took a lot photos of lizards. There are at least a couple of different species.

Zebra-tailed Lizards

Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard

I watched the birds and tried to identify them and got other people involved.

I was amazed to see a green heron there. Herons are birds that eat mostly fish. There aren’t lot of fish in the desert.

This time it was fishing out of the outflow of the fish pond. There are wild rabbits around, too.

We saw quite a few yellow warblers.

And brown-headed cowbirds.

And one that had me stumped. Later it was identified as a common yellowthroat.

We did have a four inexplicable birders come out to try to locate a kingbird. They were equipped with expensive looking cameras with telephoto lenses and hand-held radios. They ignored all the people and ran around trying to find the birds. They left after about a half-hour. Keep in mind, it takes most of the day to get to the Saline Valley Warm Springs on really washboard roads. We all found them very puzzling. 

We had a very relaxing few days, but the heat kept increasing, so we headed out on May 29th.

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Day 26 – Driving to Saline Valley 

May 17 

The next morning, Marc and the other XP vehicles were going to continue on the South Eureka Valley Road to Steel Pass and then down into Saline Valley.

We’ve gone through Steel Pass in other vehicles, but the Robinson Fuso is too big to make it through. So we were going to take the Saline Valley Rd. to enter the valley from the north on roads that can handle larger vehicles.

After all of the washboard yesterday, I wasn’t looking forward to the inevitable washboard today. The roads did take us through some pretty areas. There were lots of wildflowers blooming along the road.

We passed through a section of high desert with Joshua Trees.

The road also winds through a Juniper – Piñon pine forest.

We stopped at canyon where there is an old, abandoned mine. Jon took a hike while I took photos of the area and wildflowers.

We were buzzed by a low flying jet. 

The road then drops down into the Saline Valley which means a lot of more washboard. The Fuso began having problems going up the hills. We stopped and Jon discovered that the strap holding the truck’s batteries had come loose. A strap would do the trick for now.

One of the problems with washboard is that all the vibration causes everything tries to work its way apart.

We reached turn off for the Warm Springs. The palm trees are visible from a long way out. We stopped at the Bat Pole for photos of the Fuso with her new look.

When we got to the Warm Spings, it was evident that Marc, Adam and Dean had not made it to the Warm Springs. We set up camp and relaxed.

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Day 25 – Death Valley National Park

May 16

An incredible sunset

Death Valley National Park

The next day we drove through Nevada to reach Death Valley National Park. It required driving through the endless traffic and suburban sprawl.

We stopped in Pahrump for supplies before taking Highway 190 into Death Valley.

It is a good way to get lots of picturesque views of the park.

The weather was very cooperative, too. It was hot, but in the 90’s hot rather than the 100 + temperatures. And it wasn’t windy. A couple of years ago, we were here during a big dust storm. Even once the storm was over, there wasn’t much visibility for at least a week.

The air was clean so we could see all the important features, like Zabriskie Point.

The iconic, vintage Furnace Creek Inn was currently under construction. We stopped at the Visitor Center. Their sign claimed that it was 92 degrees. The displays are interesting.

We stopped by the post office to mail a letter. How many letters have a Death Valley postmark?

We continued north following the Scotty’s Castle Road up to Grapevine where the road to Scotty’s Castle is closed. We continued up the Death Valley/Big Pine Road to Eureka Dunes, our planned campsite for the night.

After following us most of this drive, Marc and the guys went ahead.  It didn’t take Marc and the other vehicles to get out of sight. 

This section of the Death Valley/Big Pine Road is gravel, not paved. As expected, it was almost all washboard. It was a bone jarring experience. Thank goodness the views along the way are interesting, especially from a landscape and wildflower perspective.

We caught up with them, not too far from the turn off onto South Eureka Valley Road. They had been stopping to take photos of the Cube and the other two XP vehicles.

Since the light was fading, we headed out to Eureka Dunes.

The XP vehicles took off in front of us again.

The light on the mountains as we came into Eureka Valley was beautiful.

Eureka Dunes are in an enclosed basin. They are appropriately three miles wide by one mile deep. At over 680 ft, they are the tallest sand dunes in California and among the tallest in North America. One unusual feature is that under the right conditions, they sing.

Eureka Dunes

One of campsites was occupied, but all the others were available. We picked one near the end.

We took several photos of the area.

Marc cooked a very fancy dinner which included filet mignon, asparagus and a grilled Caesar salad.

We all ate and drank well and went to bed.

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Day 24 – Post Overland Expo 

May 14 evening through May 15

We usually go to the BBQ on the last night of the Expo (Sunday). This year was no different.  We find it easier to wait until Monday morning to leave rather than leaving on Sunday. Much less chaos and it means we can make some distance before camping for the night.

After hanging around with friends and talking with vendors, we went to the BBQ where we did more of the same.

We planned on heading towards Death Valley with Marc Wassman and his crew.  However,  the Cube had been having trouble with its wheels because the bolts on the split rim wheels had been over-torqued. The only definitive solution was to replace them all. At about 35 per wheel, that is a significant exercise.

We carry an air compressor and a significant number of tools and equipment. So Monday morning was to be spent on replacing all of those bolts.

As it turned out, it took all of Monday morning and a good part of the afternoon, even with the additional tools.

And those wheels are heavy and awkward to handle. It was a hard day’s work.

Adam and Dean put in a great effort to get it done.

We helped out for a while. I took photos. Jon caught up with some work online and I worked on getting some blog posts finished.

Around 3:00, things had finally finished up. After a few minor delays, we headed west on I-40.

One thing we love about the southwest is the skies.

We turned off at Kingman to head in the direction of Death Valley. Jon found a great campsite on BLM  (Bureau of Land Management) land near the site of Old Chloride, AZ.

It was a nice, relatively flat area near an old mine site.

We arrived just before sunset. The view was beautiful. 

 We all spent some time getting set up and comfortable.

Everyone spent a little time wandering around checking out the site. We saw an owl roosting in the old mine.

There was a huge, abandoned nest in the mining structures.

We had a group dinner and hung out for a while.  It was great to be on our way to new adventures.

We really enjoy Overland Expo, but it is a relief to be on the road again.

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