Another Rocky Point Sunday

First snow_035The air has finally started moving again, and as I look outside the bedroom window I can see the last of the leaves twisting in the breeze.  There is snow on the ground, still, from our foot of snow dropped a week ago, but it is thinning.  Not that bad, really, for mid November. Sometimes during this time of year in our part of the world the air gets still and cold, with fog from the basin around the edges of the lake and smoke from the slash piles and prescribed burns making the First snow_014air murky. It was like this for a week or so, and then a couple of nights ago the winds started blowing, dropping pine needles into the snow like pick-up sticks, and clearing the air. I love the sound of the wind at night.

Check out that great new stain on the house!  The job is finally finished, with the crew coming to put the last touches on the last day before the snow fell.  They did a great job, but we certainly weren’t very happy with the amount of time they spent doing it.  The job was started in late September and only finished on November 3rd.  Sometimes the crew wouldn’t come out until mid afternoon and only stay a couple of hours before leaving.  We live a long way from town and we could never figure out how the contractor expected to make money doing business like that. Maybe he had too many jobs going on at once and was trying to keep everyone happy.  Whatever.  At least the job is finished and the house looks great and we didn’t have to do it ourselves!

the popcorn housemy grandson, ElricOn November 1st, Mo and I traveled west to Brookings for three gorgeous days on the beautiful sunny coast. On Monday, the 31st, Mo turned to me and asked, “Remind me again why we couldn’t leave for Brookings today?”.  Halloween, silly!  I had to be home for Halloween with my kids, actually the kids are only part of it.  The rest of the story is the wonderful tradition of walking on the dark sidewalks filled with happy costumed families on Pacific Terrace, where I used to live in Klamath Falls.  One more time I met my daughter and grandkids to walk through crispy leaves, smell the popcorn that one family hands out every year from their outdoor popcorn machine, and be amazed at all the wonderful decorations that line the street for a mile in each direction.  There is no better place to be at Halloween than Pacific Terrace in Klamath Falls.

Jeremy in the window guarding the MoHoWhen we left Tuesday morning for the coast, the weather was incredible.  Blue skies all the way, without even a hint of fog over the ocean to mar the views. We went immediately to Harris Beach State Park, hoping for one of the ocean view sites, only to discover that those sites were all taken, even on a weekday in November!  Instead, we settled into a roomy spot just across the road from those premium sites, power and cable and water for 22 bucks and still a great ocean view.

ocean view from across the street from our spot in A27Our main purpose for the trip was to get the MoHo settled in to her storage berth, so we immediately went to meet the owner to be sure that the unit was easily accessible.  Turns out that it is just fine, and when we slid the MoHo in on Thursday morning before traveling back to Rocky Point, it was a piece of cake.

In the mean time, we spent a good deal of time looking at possible properties in the Brookings area, but none were just right for what we wanted.  Still, it was fun driving up the Chetco River to look, and then to the north end of town, just hoping for the right combination of view, price, and of course a big RV storage shed to appear. We took some wild rambling roads and were surprised to discover that many roads around Brookings are incredibly narrow and steep.  Saw a spot with a gorgeous view of the ocean, with the words “great for a two story cottage”.  That should have been a clue, since the property was on the side of a mountain with just enough flat ground for a very tiny home, and no space for an RV shed.

Brookings_083Brookings_136We saw another truly beautiful home and giant perfect RV shed with a gorgeous view, and an unbelievable 8 foot deer fence surrounding almost all the property, enclosing 50 roses and some beautiful gardens.  The price was OK, but then there was more than 5 acres that needed subdividing, with some weird garages with no windows and with people actually living in them!  Very strange.  All a bit too complicated, and we laughed and said, “Let’s go find the fish and chips”.  Once more we went to the Chetco Café down in Harbor where the ambience is certainly funky but the fish was as perfect as last time, thin thin very crispy perfect coating on tender, flavorful perfect fish.  Yum.  And a decent white wine at 3 bucks a glass.  Can’t beat it.

We spent the next day relaxing, or I should say Mo relaxed while I went into town to use the coffee shop internet for a work conference. Finally in the afternoon we headed for the gorgeous, sunny beach.  Dinner was a perfect steak brought from home and a great campfire and then a walk that took us to the campsite of some local Rocky Point friends who just happened to be camping there as well.  They invited us in to their fire, offered more wine and conversation, and the evening stretched out to the late hours with fun and laughter. Seems as though Harris Beach is a pretty popular place for most of us.

FS road 23 Bear Camp Road backwayFS road 23 Bear Camp Road backwayOn Thursday, once the MoHo was settled in to the storage unit, we drove north to take the back road route from Gold Beach through Agness and back to Grants Pass.  The road is called the Bear Camp Coastal Route, and is not maintained after November 5 through the winter and spring.  We made it just in time.  Although on the map the road looks like it should be a short fast way back home, in reality, it is steep and slow and absolutely beautiful.  It follows the Rogue River to Agness then climbs the coast mountains before dropping back down to the Rogue near Hellsgate. Even in the Tracker, the road was a bit daunting, especially on the passenger side. It was beautiful, though, and while we may not have to do it again soon, I am glad I finally got to see the famous route over the mountains. Let me just say, DO NOT ever even think of driving this road in any kind of motorhome!

snow getting thicker on FS road 23 Bear Camp Road backwaythe road to GaliceThat morning Brookings was shrouded in clouds with rain coming down and snow predicted for the mountains above 4,000 feet.  Sure enough at the top of the route we ran into some snow, some deer, and even a bear!  I WILL learn to keep my camera in my lap and on, but instead, at the bear moment, Jeremy was snoozing in my lap and the camera was on the floor. By the time we got home, there was fresh snow over the pass on 140 but no snow yet in Rocky Point.  We would have loved to stay longer in Brookings, but too many details awaited us and thank goodness the heaviest snow held off till our Friday errands were run and we were safely back at home. I can’t believe how lucky we were to get in just under the wire with the first really big snowstorm arriving the day we put the MoHo in storage in snowless Brookings.  Perfect.

007-1turning leaves along the creek along the road to GaliceI spent last weekend cutting and sewing strips for my very first quilt.  It was a perfect day to be playing with brightly colored fabric with the dark skies and falling snow. It is just a simple panel, with borders, and I got all the borders on and am now attempting to learn how to do the machine quilting part. Mo is worried that I will now start collecting fabric the way I collect yarn. Hopefully I will refrain from getting too carried away with all this.

I have been knitting, and quilting, and working soil survey stuff, and somehow the time to write has slipped. Winter is here, life has simplified a bit for now, and I am enjoying that a lot.

A wild ride exploring the Lost Coast

Humboldt County Fairgrounds Campground The day dawned brilliant and sunny this morning, without a trace of fog.  But it was COLD and WINDY!  Much too cold to even think of dropping a kayak into the water, so we went with our next plan for a day trip to explore the Lost Coast.  If you look at a map of California, south of Eureka and north of Fort Bragg, you will see a large hump jutting westward into the Pacific. This area is so wild and rugged that in the 1920’s, when they built the Coast Highway in Northern California, the engineers determined that the stretch of coastline through the King Range was entirely too rugged for a road.  This huge expanse of wild land was isolated and became known as the “Lost Coast”.

Lost CoastWe read about the “Lost Coast Loop” in our favorite local publication “101 Things to Do in Humboldt County”.  What the wonderful write-up didn’t include was the rugged nature of the narrow roads leading to our destinations.  In addition to the 100 mile loop, we also wanted to explore Shelter Cove, an isolated paradise that boasted a tea house, an RV park, a lighthouse, and a community of 900 rugged souls.  It is the jump-off point for magnificent wilderness hiking on the California Coast Trail through the King Range, and famous for sea cave kayaking along the wild coast.

clean as a whistle company town of scotiaWe started our day with a simple drive south on Highway 101, stopping in to check out the perfectly pristine company town of Scotia. Even though it is steeped in logging history, (the first company bunkhouse was built in 1884), the town also has a bright future thanks to the ecologically minded folks who are part of the “Town of Scotia Company, LLC” who now actually own the town. Driving through in the morning sun was like stepping back in time to the 50’s, with perfect little houses, clean yards and streets, and well maintained buildings.  This isn’t always the case in this part of California, with the other extreme including a lifetime’s worth of trash as yard art.

wild ride to Shelter Cove We skipped the amazing “Avenue of the Giants”, since we drove that road last fall, and continued on to the town of Redway. While the write-up in the magazine was glowing, the town itself didn’t seem to sparkle enough to warrant a stop before we headed out west on Redway Road to find Shelter Cove. The map showed 21 miles ahead, with what appeared to be a very winding road.  I must say, there wasn’t a word about this being a scary road for RV’s, with an RV park at the final destination, but as adventurous as Mo and I are with the MoHo, we wouldn’t attempt a trip down this incredibly narrow and steep road to the Lost Coast.

the tidepools at sheltered Cove Once at Shelter Cove, the ocean was gorgeous, the skies were crystal clear, and the wind was howling.  We took photos of the 1886 Cape Mendocino Lighthouse, relocated here from the Cape in 1998.  A pictorial history of the relocation is displayed on signs around the lighthouse.  Cape Mendocino is the westernmost point on the coast of  California. It has been a landmark since the 16th century when the Manila Galleons would reach the coast here following the prevailing westerlies all the way across the Pacific, then make their way down the coast all the way to Acapulco, Mexico.

Lost coast (13) We found a small curved bay below the cliffs with seals romping in the surf, somewhat protected from the wind.  We checked out the RV Park and had some great fish and chips at the Shelter Cove RV Campstore and Deli, and laughed at the tee shirts that said “I drove to Shelter Cove RV Park and survived”. 

After our great lunch, we drove around the town toward the Black Sand Beach.  The area is filled with some truly lovely homes, and with a population of 900 people, we wondered just how often those people managed to drive back to town.  It took us an hour and a half to drive that 21 miles to Redway, and that isn’t exactly a destination city. Black Sand Beach was gorgeous, with black volcanic perfectly smoothed pebbles along the upper reaches grading to fine black volcanic sand at the water’s edge.  The wind was still howling, so Mo stayed in the car with Abby while I walked down to the beach for photos.

the sands are truly black  By the time we got back to Redway, it was close to 3:30.  Even though the Lost Coast Loop was estimated to be a 3 hour drive, we weren’t about to miss it.  We had no idea our little foray to Shelter Cove would take up this much of the day. The first part of the route meandered through thick dark redwoods in the Rockefeller Grove, part of Humboldt Redwood State Park.  There were places where the trees were so close to the road we were sure that the MoHo wouldn’t have fit through, but then later we saw a couple of trucks winding their way around, so I suppose it might have made it.

wild ride to PetroliaOnce more we started up switchbacks and grades that were mind boggeldy steep. This part of California is wilder and more rugged than anything I have traveled, including some of the back roads in the Sierra’s.  Offshore of Cape Mendocino lies the Mendocino Triple Junction, a geologic triple junction where three tectonic plates come together. This explains the extreme complexity of the King Range and the wild ups and downs and arounds required to traverse the landscape.

time for a break from the road! I don’t think we have traveled so many ups that required downs, over and over again, anywhere.  Finally we reached the community of Honeydew, with a couple of houses situated along the Mattole River. The road followed the river through the gorgeous Mattole River Valley for 15 more miles before we reached Petrolia.  Petrolia is a place that lives in mythic proportions in my earth scientist soul, since it is the heart of the Triple Junction, and when I watch California earthquakes, Petrolia is always there, popping and shaking, and possibly predicting the big subduction quake that will eventually come.

Petrolia has an estimated population of 300-500 people and is also known for it’s ecologically minded residents and proximity to the Lost Coast Wilderness Area, one of the largest wilderness areas and the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the continental United States. Travel magazines have called this area “too lovely to be believed, perhaps too beautiful to last”.  I would agree with it’s recognition as the top “still wild” place in California.

sure glad we didn't have the motorhome! The Mattole River flows through Petrolia and is one of only a handful of undammed rivers left in the country. Petrolia is five miles (8 km) from the Pacific Ocean, where there is located the start of a 25-mile (40 km) section of beach protected by the King Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, and the Punta Gorda lighthouse, one requiring a rugged three mile hike to even see. The Mattole River is home to a variety of California wildlife, including otters, Roosevelt elk,  black-tailed deer, steelhead trout,  more than 250 bird species, and an endangered salmon that was the subject of Totem Salmon, a book about the community’s attempts over two decades to preserve the Mattole salmon. It is also one of the few remaining areas with virgin old-growth stands of Douglas fir in California.

1171854946_400bdfcb50_b As sunset approached, we wound our way down to a long stretch of road that paralleled the beach and stopped for a photo of Shiprock before climbing a grade that had to be more than 16 percent. There wasn’t a grade sign in sight, and in the dim evening light, a photo wouldn’t have come close to showing just how wild it was. This photo of  Sugar Loaf, at the westernmost edge of Cape Mendocino nearby, was taken from the internet with kudos to the Flickr photographer since I it wasn’t light enough for us to photograph as we passed.

in the middle of nowhere, the gorgeous Mattole River ValleyBy the time we reached Cape Town, just a ranch house in a small river valley leading to the sea, and climbed up another wild grade, the darkness was thickening.  The road followed a high ridge for a long time before dropping like a rock into the town of Ferndale.  It was a surprise to realize that we were just half a mile from the fairgrounds and home.  Mo did the driving to Shelter Cove and I drove the Lost Coast Loop.  I have to say that Mo is probably the better passenger in these conditions.  She didn’t whimper once.

Here’s an article by someone with more time than I have to write about this amazing trip. I would highly recommend it for an view of a wild part of California few people ever see.  I would also say whatever you do, don’t take a motorhome on this road, ever!  Funny thing, as Mo and I were getting close to Ferndale, we saw an older  Class C motorhome headed back the way we had come.  We still wonder if he had a clue of what he was getting into, and it was already dark!  There was no other destination on that road before the 20 percent grade down to the beach.sunset at Cape Mendocino, wildest place I have been to on the California coast

For more of our photos of this day exploring the Lost Coast, click here

Northern California Coast

Eureka to Fort Bragg (15) We have been here in the fog, but even so, the town of Eureka seems rather drab.  There are a lot of interesting people walking around, people who look like they have been in the same mode since the 60’s. Last night we decided to take an evening tour of the local co-op.  North Coast Co-op has a huge mural on the street side facade, and is bigger than most major grocery stores.  I love natural food stores, and while it wasn’t Trader Joe’s, it was bigger than some and filled with amazing stuff.  Mo is at a loss in this environment, so I walked around explaining some of the lingo to her and some of the reasons for buying this or that instead of the everyday brands you get in a regular grocery store. 

The produce was fantastic, and if our refrigerator wasn’t full I would have hauled tons of colorful stuff home.  We can’t eat enough to support all the temptations so gorgeously displayed. We managed to get out of the store with some great looking green tea from China and two bottles of “Our Daily Red”, an organic red table wine with no sulfites.  Keeps the migraines away for me.  I love a good red wine, but will certainly settle for a daily red glass of this good stuff full of antioxidants and other good things.  It was a fun way to spend a dark rainy evening in Eureka.

Eureka to Fort BraggToday we are going to try out the Samoa Cookhouse, the last surviving lumber camp style cookhouse in the west, built in 1893.  The meals are all served family style and breakfast today will be French toast, sausage, and who knows what else.  There is a lumberjack museum with the cookhouse that should be entertaining.  Another treat will be breakfast company, with some soil scientist friends of mine located at the Arcata Soil Survey Office who have agreed to meet us there this morning.  Looking forward to it.


Eureka to Fort Bragg (6) Our breakfast was wonderful, and visiting with Sue Azman made it even more so.  I’m not sure if Mo enjoyed all the soil survey talk as much as I did, but we all had a good time talking about kayaking the coast.  Sue is an avid sea kayaker and we had fun talking kayaks and possible trips.  Back to camp in plenty of time to button up and we actually left the park at 12:01.  Gas in Eureka was a whopping 3.35 per gallon, and we knew that in Fort Bragg it was only 2.99, so we only put 50 bucks in the MoHo to get us on down the road.  Again, our travel day was a short 130 miles or so.  BUT!  What a trip it was!!


Eureka to Fort Bragg (30) We traveled south on 101 for some distance before turning off on the alternate highway that travels 32 miles through the redwoods, called the Avenue of the Giants.  It was a leisurely, meandering drive through huge trees and narrow roads, but with no traffic at all.  Stopping at several of the auto tour sites for photos, and some short walks in the forest was refreshing.  Once more, Abby wasn’t welcome on the trails, even on a leash, so Mo stayed in the MoHo so I could walk through the forest a bit and take pictures.  I had been enjoying the subtle light on a pale yellow vine that seemed to be in many of the trees and wanted to photograph it.  Closer inspection revealed the bane of my California soil survey life, poison oak!  It was creeping at least 40 feet high into the trees, and covering the forest floor, mixed with the ferns and oxalis.  Poison oak is ubiquitous in the Mother Lode where I worked, but I had no idea it was so prevalent in this high precipitation redwood forest.  Ugh!  I am extremely allergic and had to do a couple of hospital visits while working in California.  It was one of the main reasons I was so glad to finally retire and get back home to Oregon.

Eureka to Fort Bragg (86) At the terminus of the Avenue of the Giants, it wasn’t far to our turn west from 101 to Fort Bragg. Although Highway 1 is famous as one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country, this part of “one” crossed the last of the coastal ranges via an incredibly curvy and steep road before arriving at the ocean cliffs a few miles north of Fort Bragg.  I think this may have been the curviest road we have driven in the MoHo, and I’m glad Mo was the one doing the driving.  Jeremy wasn’t too happy about the curves either, and he insisted on riding on the dash board, twisting and turning and trying to get comfortable.  I tend to get car sick when it’s bad like this, but on this trip I remembered to bring my “sea bands”, wrist bands with knobs that create pressure on meridian points on the wrist.  I was starting to get queasy when I put them on, and was afraid they wouldn’t work, but they did!  Amazing little tool, these wrist bands.  On the way down the hill we saw a flare and then a rolled over car with several people trying to turn it back upright.  It all seemed a bit strange because there must have been eight people there and only 2 cars, the rollover and another car.  Hmmm.  Which car had that many people in it?  They all looked a bit sheepish, and a bit strange.  We didn’t stop.

Eureka to Fort Bragg (94) At the bottom of the hill, a pickup in front of us pulled over and a poor girl jumped out and got sick right there.  I realized then that I wasn’t sick at all!  Not a bit.  Thank you wrist bands!  The last few miles of the route followed curving cliffs along the Pacific.  The fog had lifted, and the clouds were heavy but not raining.  On the horizon of the ocean, the light caught in a brilliant band among all the grays of sky and water.

We arrived at the Pomo RV Park and Campground around 4:30, and settled in to our very private, very quiet spot at the upper end of the campground.  Here again we have good TV, good Wi-Fi, and power and water.  All this excitement for a whopping 40. per night!  No discounts here except Good Sam, which we don’t have.  This park is also on the Camp Club USA list, but there are so many restrictions that we probably won’t manage a visit here when we could get a discount.  Camping sites on this part of the coast are few and far between, and most consist of a parking lot surrounded by ugly stuff.  Even the state parks are all 35 per night and don’t have the amenities.  Tomorrow we will drive around a bit and see what is here.  The prediction is for hard rain tonight and tomorrow but sun on Monday.  Perfect!  We can check everything out and plan for another kayak adventure Monday morning.  Again, we are staying 3 nights.  First night to settle in, then two days to explore before we move on to the next horizon. 

Of course I took a gazillion photos, and even managed to delete a good number of them.  You can see them linked here.

Foggy Days in Eureka

Eureka fog (4) Early this morning we woke to see the park lights muted by fog.  As the light came slowly, the fog didn’t lift at all.  Kayaking anywhere around Humboldt Bay requires working with the tides, and high tide was coming in today around 11am.  If we were to get out on the water and back without getting stranded on a mudflat, we needed to be out by 10 at the latest.  At ten, the fog was a thick as ever.  I know we could have gone anyway, but somehow boating unknown waters when you can’t see anything anyway isn’t very enticing.  On to Plan B.


We got a great free publication from the RV manager called  “101 Things to Do Humboldt”. The best part for us was the centerfold map of Humboldt Bay with all the boat launching sites and descriptions of kayaking options.  Still, in the fog, the description of nearby Ferndale sounded much more inviting.  Visiting Ferndale is like visiting the past.  The entire Main Street has been designated a national Register Historic District due to the finely preserved commercial and residential buildings.  Rich bottom land and plentiful grass supports a still thriving dairy industry, which has sustained the community since the late 1800’s.  The ornate “Painted Ladies” were once called “Butterfat Palaces”. 

11_04_20101 There is a fascinating mix of shops, including a real drugstore, the oldest continuously operating drugstore in California. We ambled through town, taking our time looking at “stuff”, some of it beautiful art, and some of it just a bunch of “stuff”.  The only temptation for me came with the yarn shop.  Knitters know that this hobby isn’t about knitting as much as it is about yarn!  I managed to get out of there without buying a gorgeous hank of hand dyed mohair that really called to me.  I have two bins of “stash” including some truly gorgeous wool, silk, mohair, and other amazing yarns, so I practiced self-control and didn’t buy any.

Ferndale (13) In another specialty shop, the owner spent some time laughing with us about how hard it is to decorate a very tall tree when you are very short, and then proceeded to give us the history of the store.  Almost every single shopkeeper asked us from where we hailed.  It was leisurely and fun and I only spent a small amount on a bottle of yummy orange blossom hand lotion. 

Ferndale (34) After wandering the downtown area, we ambled up the hill to the cemetery, one of the most amazing cemeteries I have seen since New Orleans.  It’s on a hill overlooking the town and some of the plots date back to the 1890’s.  The view toward the ocean overlooking the town was beautiful.

Ferndale (45) 

By this time, Abby had been waiting in the car long enough so we decided to drive west to the Centerville beach area.  With the fog lifting a bit, we thought a bit about trying to put the boats in the slough, but the tide was already going out and our timing would be off.  The trip out to the beach meanders along a small road that passes dairies and farmhouses, even a very old abandoned Victorian is total disrepair, a perfect haunted house. 

The beach was open and empty, no other cars or people in sight, and the wind wasn’t blowing hard either, just a nice ocean breeze.  The sun lifted a bit and we got in a great beach walk, which Abby loved as well.  Back to the car, the narrow road led up the hill into nowhere, so of course we had to go check it out.  On the GPS I could see we were near the ocean, but the little car icon was cruising through no man’s land, no road supposedly there at all.  Google Maps on the phone could see some semblance of road, but of course reception was spotty or non existent. 

Ferndale (67)

We traveled on anyway, up and down and around, until we came upon a BLM parking area and a sign for the Guthrie Creek Trailhead.  Yay!  Abby could go with us, and there wasn’t a soul in sight, and no cars parked at the trailhead.  It seems now that with a couple of pricey kayaks on the top of the car we are a bit reluctant to leave it parked in the middle of nowhere.  We figured we were safe enough here, and headed down the trail.  Sure enough, as soon as we set out a man appeared coming up the trail.  We couldn’t figure out where he came from, but he was nice and we visited a bit while he told us he was “camping” on some property he had nearby.  Hmmm.  At least he didn’t have a car to carry off the boats!  We have a bolt cutter proof bike cable and plan to at least lock the two boats together on the racks so someone would have a heck of a time getting them down.

Ferndale (62)

The trail was perfect, not too steep, wide and mowed with beautiful views of the ocean and Guthrie Creek below us. The fog was coming in again and the wind was pretty stiff once beyond the protection of the hills at the view overlook area, so we turned back.  It would be good hike to go all the way down to the beach.  Again, with the high surf and sneaker waves around we thought it might not be a day to actually go down to the closed in beach.

Ferndale (78) We topped off the afternoon with a side trip to the Loleta Cheese Factory.  In Oregon, Tillamook cheese is quite famous, and they have tours of the factory and cheese tasting.  Oregon also has Bandon cheese, in my opinion, even better than Tillamook.  The Loleta Cheese Factory was a real treat, different in that much more of the cheese making process here is by hand.  It is a small, family run business that produces medal winning cheeses and 34 varieties made in small batches using traditional recipes to maintain the old flavors.  I didn’t know until today that the kind of cheese depends on the culture added when the cheese is first made.

Our side trip to taste cheese and watch it made seemed like a great thing to do in an area that owed it’s history and economy to the dairy industry. We arrived late in the afternoon and the cheese makers were just emptying the last vat of cheese, but the young woman at the counter explained the whole process to us while we snacked on tiny tidbits of the tastiest cheese I have tried yet.  Especially wonderful was the organic all natural white cheddar, aged about a year and a half so far, with no hormones or antibiotics fed to the cows.  It turned out to be a lovely day seeing new things and new places.

Ferndale (76)

September 29 To the basins and ranges of Nevada

DuckCreek to Ely (1) I woke this morning to the amazing smell of aspen leaves that are sending out their last breath before they fall.  Sweetened by high mountain air and spruce it was one of the better fragrances on the planet, maybe only surpassed by rain on dry dust in the desert. As we drove west, however, the skies were darkened by smoke from the huge fires in the mountains of central Utah.

Today was another travel day, as the rest of the trip will be until we are back in Rocky Point on Friday.  Again we took back road, avoiding the major interstates and trying to manage a blue dotted road at every opportunity.  Our route today took us through Cedar City and rather than the fast route north on I 15, we went farther west to the Scenic Highway 93.

 DuckCreek to Ely (10) The landscape of Nevada and several other states is the west is dominated by alternating basins and ranges formed by tectonic processes that trend generally northwest.  When traveling directly west, as we did a few years ago when returning to California from Utah, the road was a continuous grade, either up or down, with just a bit of basin between the mountain ranges.  These Nevada mountains aren’t small, either, and the grades can be dramatic. 

Highway 93, however, follows a dominantly northern track through the state, and as a result the grades are few because the road usually follows the edge of the basins.  We took time to stop and enjoy a surprise state park, Cathedral DuckCreek to Ely (17)Gorge, and met some interesting travelers from England who have traveled 49 states in our country, and were showing the west to another couple from England. We took a side road to explore the historic mining hamlet of Pioche, sitting high on a fan above the wide open basin. 

We reached Ely in early afternoon, partly due to the change to Pacific time, gaining an extra hour.  We decided that electricity was on the list of desires for this night with the possibility of cable seductive enough to pay a ridiculous high price for the Ely KOA.  Our pull- through site was too short to keep the baby car hooked up and still reach the utilities, but once I quite grumbling, and we settled inside with the air going, I felt better about it. 

DuckCreek to Ely (53) Before supper we took a little tour of the area, checking out the Ward Charcoal Ovens about 18 miles southwest of Ely on a long gravel road.  It was worth the trip, and the ovens are some of the best preserved we have seen.  The story of converting huge amounts off local wood to charcoal is interesting.  It took 35 cords of wood to fill each huge oven, and then it was burned for 12 days to provide charcoal for the smelters in the nearby mining towns. Until the coming of the railroad and the availability of coke for smelting, the surrounding hills were nearly completely denuded of timber.

Once back home, I poached a chicken breast in spices and chilis, and made quesadillas for supper.  Yum. I was happy for unlimited water for cooking and dishes, and the thought of a hot shower this evening is enticing.  Boondocking and dry camping are great, but it’s fun to hook up and forget about conserving every little drop of water for a night here and there.

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>