Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Bump in the Kelly Dave Trail: Collision 2015

The Perfect Conversation Starter
There's no better conversation starter these days than the tailgate of our brand new 2015 Dodge Ram Truck. Since Thursday, October 15th people will stop us in parking lots, and even in the middle of the road to ask what happened. "Did someone run into you, or did you run into something?"

The answer is a bit more complicated. We were towing our POD, taking a left hand turn into an RV Park in Panguitch, UT (i.e nowhere) when someone going 65 mph hit the back passenger side of the POD.  The force of impact shredded the back corner of the POD, pushed the entire POD

Bumper POD
up into the truck tailgate, shredding the front right corner of the POD, bending not only the trailer tongue but also the half inch solid steel hitch,  thereby demolishing the truck tailgate. Or as I like to say, the POD and the tailgate  acted as giant bumpers between a 65 mph car and a stationary truck. The car and the POD both are totaled, the truck made out much better and only needs a new tailgate, some painting, and a new tool box.

The good news is all the people involved are okay, and GEIGO, our insurance company is being extremely responsive and helpful. The truck is in the queue at the auto body shop to be repaired sometime next week.

The bad news is that we now have to shop!  Overnight our day-to-day lives have become much different. I used to joke that we were homeless, now we really are!  Currently we are living in a hotel in St. George, UT (a much bigger town than Panguitch), and eating out and it's getting old real fast. While the last post was on finding the perfect camping spot, since Thursday, our days are filled with phone calls to insurance, storage, tow and repair companies. And shopping. Neither of us enjoys shopping but...we need a new home. 

Prior to the collision we had already been talking about getting a slightly bigger trailer but we hadn't started the research. Now we're deep into it.  There are an awful lot of RV makes, models and options and it's taken awhile to sort through it all. After spending two days visiting seven to eight RV dealers and browsing the internet lists we've narrowed down our choices.  Turns out the one we probably
We'll be back soon!
want isn't in stock around here. Tomorrow we're 'moving' up to Salt Lake City to visit a few other dealers including one that is an authorized carrier of our model. They don't have that particular model in stock but we can at least see the quality of the other models in the line...etc.  We'll also stop in at other RV places, just to make sure we haven't missed anything. Just too much fun.

But I really miss being under the stars at night and the quiet of the woods. It's the thought of getting back to it that keeps me shopping.

KD and SD and the Three Campsites

(This post was written October  14th. One day before The Collision described in the upcoming post)

Once upon a time there were two nomads named KD and SD who lived and traveled in an R-POD. Camping and hiking their way around the county was fun but sometimes it was hard to find a good campsite. One that had great views, great hikes, a nearby town, quiet, and good weather.

Above Yosemite Valley
 Sometimes they found a great campsite, like the Oh Ridge Campground on Lake June in the eastern Sierras. Nearby were two great towns, Lee Vining and Mammouth Lakes, Great coffee shops, bookstores, outdoor stores and a Vons (grocery store). The site was quiet and the views of the mountains and June Lake were stunning. The hikes into lake filled canyons were beautiful and they could and did make a day trip over to the West entrance of Yosemite.

But ... one night the weather changed. It got
Hiking up Bishop's Pass into the Sierras
colder and snowed. The pass to Yosemite was closed and the POD was cold! And so they moved South down 395 to the town of Bishop and then up to the Four Jefferies Campground (7000ft, Jefferies in this case refers to Jeffery Pines. Those awesome butterscotch smelling pine trees that you just want to bury your nose in and never leave.) And it was just right. The next day they hiked up to the Chocolate Lakes and had a great day. But...that night the weather changed. It got very cold. Snow started falling above them at 8000ft, . Even so, they wanted to stay but the battery in the POD was almost empty and solar showers just weren't going to be very practical at 40 degrees. Then it also started to snow at the campground and KD and SD reluctantly headed into town. (They spent a night in Bishop, CA at a RV park with full hookups where they charged the battery, ran the heat, took showers, did two loads of laundry and ate Texas BBQ for dinner and German pastries for breakfast.)

Wildrose Peak Looking Down at Badwater -
the lowest point in the US
Next they drove south and east 130 miles to Death Valley. And again they found the perfect camping spot at the Furnace Creek Campground (elevation -100 ft). That night they sat out in 70 degree weather and watched the stars and the Milky Way . The next day they hiked a perfect hike to Wildrose Peak. A hike they'd actually started 2.5 years ago but didn't have time to finish. This time they made the summit and enjoyed the views down and east to their current campground near the lowest point in the continental U.S. and west to the highest point in the continental U.S., Mt. Whitney, which was still covered in snow. Returning to their campsite they found the valley temperature soaring into the high 90's with an even higher forecast for the next day. It was too hot!

North Rim of the Grand Canyon!
They then headed east toward Zion. Traveling through Nevada and stopping one night at a RV park/Casino where they swam in an awesome pool but declined any gambling opportunities. Having ventured into Zion, they left after less than two minutes as there was a line to get in and all campgrounds were sold out. KD and SD apparently had forgotten it was Columbus Day, better know these days as Indigenous People's Day, weekend.

They then headed even further East to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon were they camped at the
Jacob's Lake Campground just 30 miles from the Park entrance. Camped among the quiet of a lodge pole pine forest at 6000ft, a small store/restaurant/inn across the street, only a few miles from many awesome trails in the Grand Canyon, and it was just perfect.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Oh To Live on Chocolate Mountain!

View from the trailhead
Image four millions of years ago an immense, mostly granite, mountain range lifting from North to South for 400 miles. Then imagine hundreds of glaciers carving out hundreds of those peaks into sharp summits and broad u-shaped valleys full of small clear lakes and fast running streams. Then imagine those fast running streams continuing this sculpting for another millennium. Then imagine that those peaks which rise from the desert in the east contain five different life zones, from the Upper Sonoran Zone to the the Arctic-Alpine zone above 10,500 ft. Then imagine hiking up through all those zones on a beautifully clear mid-fall day.

That's what S.D. and I did on Saturday. But not the imagining, the actually hiking. The 7.5 mile loop
First of the four lakes. Chocolate Peak
is to the right

up into the Chocolate Lakes begins at the 9000ft trailhead alongside South Lake. The aspen were just all yellows and reds, and South Lake a perfect blue. Following the Bishops Pass trail we climbed up through the Jeffrey's pines and into the White-bark pine forests. The Clark's Nutcrackers were busy, and unusually protective of their pine nuts. At 2.3 miles we turned left off the main trail and on to the Chocolate Lakes trail.

In the Arctic-Alpine zone. There are actual
glaciers over in those mountains!
The Chocolate Lakes are named for Chocolate Peak, a lovely 11,000ft brown mountain that does indeed look like chocolate (the chocolate topping is newer dark red volcanic rock that was deposited over an older white granite mountain), and rises over the four lakes. Hiking past them and scrambling up over the pass to Ruway Lake we entered the Arctic-Alpine zone. No trees, just small plants and even more stunning views. A little further on we connected up again with the Bishop's Pass Trail and hiked along Long Lake for more stunning views including a number of small glaciers that are still sculpting these mountains.
Looking West over Long Lake to Bishop Pass

The problem with the hike, the problem with all of the Sierras so far is that they are just too darn beautiful. It's incredibly hard to hike when every other minute you have to stop to take a photo. Even when you try and pace the photos, waiting until you are in the best possible location, you turn a corner in the trail and there is another absolutely fantastic view.

But we preserved. Finished the lovely hike and have more than 100 photos to prove it! (Those you see here are only a small, carefully selected few. )

Thursday, October 01, 2015

From the Sea to the Sierras

The new rig!

It's 6:30 am on Tuesday September 29th. The sun is rising lighting up the eastern slopes of the Sierras in the high mountain desert. Only eight miles south of Mono Lake, a 65 square mile shallow saline soda lake, and forty-five miles east of Yosemite Valley, the Pod and the new truck are nestled under the Ponderosa Pines overlooking June Lake. Only last Tuesday we were riding along the Pacific Ocean with the Pod and Bruce the van. It's been a week of changes.
Logistically the biggest change was swapping the van for a truck. Any misgivings we had on that score were quickly erased last Thursday when we packed up and drove east along steep, narrow, curving roads up 5000 ft into the Trinity Alps. Bruce just wouldn't have made the trip and survived. Hopefully Bruce will find a happy, less demanding home on the California coast. Long may you run!

The truck (and that is spoken in a very deep voice since it's a manly truck) is more than up to pulling the pod, is easy enough to drive and being diesel is getting great mileage.  An added advantage is in the west and mid west diesel is less expensive than gas.  The truck easily ascends the passes and the brakes don't smell on the descents. Only two and a half hours and 2000ft after leaving the coast we were in Redding, California, the high desert. We made a quick stop at the bank, post office, grocery store and in another hour, another foot of thousand feet in altitude (the park campground was at 6,000 feet), we were setting up camp, back in Lassen Volcanic National Park, back in the land of Ponderosa Pine forests and volcanoes.

Saturday we hiked up to Prospect Peak, the capstone hike of any visit to Lassen. From the summit at the North of the park, Mt. Lassen, Choas Craigs, the mud flow, Warner Valley, the Fantastic Lava Beds, the Painted Hills and the Cinder Cone are all visible...and amazing. The view of the Cinder Cone was especially so since Prospect Peak is right next door and looks down into the cone.

Sunday was moving day again. We drove East to Susanville, CA and then south on 395, skirting the Northern Sierras and driving through Reno and Carson City, NV. Back into eastern California and into a totally different world. Our current campsite's elevation of 7000ft, but that's low compared to the 11,000 plus peaks towering above it to the west. The air is dry, the climate technically desert. Where trees do grow, they're Ponderosa and Jeffrey's Pines and in the canyons, Aspen. Sand, sagebrush and rabbit brush cover the ground. The two most prominent features of the area are the Sierra Nevada range, which we'll be hiking and exploring soon, and Mono Lake which we explored yesterday.

Mono Lake is not your usual lake. First of all it's an inland lake. Water drains in, doesn't flow out. Secondly it's salty, and alkaline. Fish don't live here, only brine shrimp (remember sea monkey's - those are really brine shrimp) and a special kind of fly. Lots of them. To eat all the brine shrimp and flies, there are birds. Lots of those too. In addition to all that there are tufta's. Tall pillars of calcium carbonate that form where fresh water springs bubble up in the alkaline lake waters. Where the lake has receded, the tuftas rise out of the plain looking very other-wordly.

The sun is up now. The dry wind is howling through the campsite and up the canyon. Later today it'll reverse and start howling down until sunset. As the sky turns pink and red, the wind will cease, the pines will be quiet again. But for now the Stellar Jay is still scolding me for not feeding him, and there are canyons to hike!

Mono Lake