10-13- to 10-17 2020 Freedom!

With Covid19 creating all sorts of problems for travelers this year, it has been wonderful to have a way to get out a bit in our own socially distanced space.  The MoHo is the perfect solution to getting away, and the only even remotely unsafe activity is buying fuel in any state that makes us pump our own.

On October 1 we loaded up the MoHo and headed north to Washington State to visit my daughter Deanna and her husband in addition to my grandkids and great grandkids.  I realize that was 3 weeks ago, and I have yet to write the stories. That will come later. I somehow never managed to finish processing the photos before Mo said, “Hey, maybe we can go to Medicine Lake”.

As much as we love Medicine Lake, nestled in an ancient volcanic caldera in the highlands of far northern California, we haven’t been there in six years.  Six.  Looking back at the blog and the photos I was amazed that it took us so long to return to one of our favorite camping spots in the west. As I reviewed the years and went back over our calendar, I saw many factors that seemed to get in the way of our plans, not the least of which was the many years of fires creating smoky skies and closed forests in California and Oregon.  This year wasn’t much different until mid-October, when the rains dampened the mountains a bit and the Forest Service re-opened the campgrounds in the California forests that had been closed for weeks.

We took our chances without reservations.  After all, it is October, and at 7,200 feet nights are freezing and visitors might be few and far between.  Most of the sites at Medicine Lake, in the 3 campgrounds, are on a first come first serve basis, including our favorite, number 43, in the A.H. Hogue Campground. 

We packed up food and warm clothing, loaded the kayaks, hooked up the car, and were on the road south by 10AM.  Fuel is still reasonable in Grants Pass, but we knew that boondocking for several nights would require a full gas tank.  We knew there was a Pilot on our route south near Mt Shasta and Weed,and that would be the last opportunity to top of the tank before we settled into to camp for a few days without hookups.  In fact, not only are there no hookups, we knew from experience that there is no cell service, no internet, no water, no trash pickup, no power, and we were ready for a few days off the grid.  Nice to take a break from all the “stuff” out there going on right now.

We headed south on I-5.  Funny, the map to Medicine Lake on Google shows an almost identical time and distance whether we travel south on the interstate into California, or back over the mountain to Klamath Falls.  We decided to make it a loop, going south on the way down and returning via Klamath Falls.

Highway 89 was pleasant and smooth, without too much traffic, but once we turned back north on Forest Road 44 and then to Forest Road 49 toward Medicine Lake it changed.  There was no traffic, I think we saw only one vehicle in the entire distance, and that was a pickup pulling a boat and trailer that was stuck in a ditch.  Three guys gave us a thumbs up and we drove on.  No cell service anyway so there wasn’t much we could do to help.  The road was very narrow and very rough!  I reminded myself to open the dish cupboards slowly.  After bumpy roads all sorts of things can fall on your head if you open them too quickly.

It was 2:30 or so when we arrived at the campground and to our surprise, it was completely empty.  There are 56 sites in Hogue, a few less in the adjacent Hemlock Campground which was also empty, and a few more in the Medicine Campground where there was one big rig tucked in under the trees far to the west of our campground.  We unhooked up on the main road and drove right to our favorite spot. 

Site 43 is on the lake side of the road, and once in place the rig could be leveled without too much difficulty.  There is a beautiful stone firepit, a nice picnic table, a short easy trail to the water and a 180 degree view of the lake.  We spent some time reviewing favorite campsites we have enjoyed throughout the years, and this is by far top on the list.

It didn’t take long for us to settle in. We put out our chairs and listened to the silence. Took Mattie for a walk around the campground road and decided that we would wait until the next day to unload the kayaks since the breeze had kicked up as it often does in the late afternoon.  Supper was simple, reheating last night’s pizza in a skillet and still had to start up the generator for a few minutes to get it nice and hot in the microwave. After supper we returned to our chairs to enjoy the sunset.

Our sunset was spectacularly unspectacular.  With no clouds, fires, or pollution to create color, the sun dropped behind the mountains to our west with an unceremonious ‘plop’.  It was to be the case for each of the three nights we waited for sunset as we camped at Medicine Lake.  Still, the afterglow on the lake was lovely as the skies darkened.

The first night was the coldest, and when we woke the next morning it was 32 degrees.  The day was clear and gorgeous once again and we decided to spend some time exploring the local roads a bit before unloading and launching the kayaks for an afternoon paddle.  Lava Beds National Monument is just 16 miles north of Medicine Lake on a decent dirt and gravel road that descends from the volcanic highlands to the lava wilderness below.

Information from the website:

“Medicine Lake Highlands is the largest identified volcano (in total area) within California, and is one of the most unique geologic features in North America. Because this subrange of the Cascades is somewhat remote, the fascinating nature of this area is largely unappreciated. The great Medicine Lake shield volcano’s broad, gently sloping profile (stretching some 15 miles from east to west and nearly 25 miles north and south) belies the fact that it is actually larger in mass than nearby Mt. Shasta. The Medicine Lake Highlands Volcanic Area exceeds 200 square miles and takes in portions of three National Forests; the Modoc, Klamath and Shasta-Trinity in Modoc and Siskiyou Counties. On the Shasta- Trinity the area lies within the boundaries of the McCloud Ranger District. It rises east of Mt. Shasta near the south end of the string of Cascade volcanoes that stretch northward from Mt. Lassen into British Columbia. Approximately 100,000 years ago the great volcano underwent a series of eruptions which undermined the center of the mountain and the crest subsided to create a huge crater or caldera. Around the margins of this subsidence, new, smaller volcanoes arose; they are called rampart volcanoes. Medicine Lake now partially fills the crater. Geologists speculate over what events took place that caused the unusual shapes and features to form and how a series of eruptions changed the face of the countryside in the area. One thing is clear, however; more than a million years of volcanic activity have produced a landscape that is perhaps California’s most diverse volcanic field. Furthermore, volcanic eruptions that produced geological features within the Medicine Lake Highlands were no less dramatic than the volcanic eruptions which took place on Mt. St. Helens.”

We had camped in Lava Beds last March and wondered how the campground and surrounding area had fared after the devastating Lava Beds fires that started on July 22.  Seventy Percent of Lava Beds National Monument was burned but we had heard that the visitor center and most of the campground was saved.

Traveling north as we descended to the wild lava covered landscape we discovered the Mammoth Crater site.  As with most of our travels on this trip, there wasn’t a soul around and we let Mattie walk ahead of us on the trail to the viewpoint.  When I declined to continue on the steep part of the trail, I received a very reproachful look.  Mattie won, and I am glad she did because the view from lower point was spectacular.

We read that Mammoth Crater and Modoc Crater are responsible for about 70% of the lava flow in Lava Beds. The lava that flowed from both of these craters is also responsible for the majority of lava tube caves found in the park. Mammoth crater once contained a massive lake of lava that overflowed instead of erupted, leaving behind the empty crater. The lava from this crater was highly fluid and traveled all the way to the northern part of the park, creating lava tube caves all along the way.

So heartbreaking to see this grand old juniper gone and the CCC table destroyed

This what this campsite looked like in March

This what it looked like this week after the fire

Continuing north towards the main park road, we turned toward the campground, excited to see that it was open and that people were camped.  Surprisingly, there were far more people at Lava Beds than up the hill at the beautiful lake!.  Driving through the campground to our previous camp site we were devastated to see that the fire had destroyed another of our favorite campsites.  Last spring I took many photos of the ancient juniper that shaded the magnificent picnic table made of juniper planks attached to huge lava rocks.  We loved the view when we camped last March, but today the view was much more open, but much more devastating.  The park will recover.  Juniper and grass and sage adapt to fire, but there won’t be junipers like this one for another couple hundred years.

As we returned south and up the mountain toward Medicine Lake, we again remarked on the striking and dramatic view of what the fire crews managed to save.  On one side of the road was evidence of serious heavy equipment clearing out the highly flammable underbrush and how the combination of clearing and the firebreak of the road managed to stop the fire.  It was impressive!

The winds were light when we returned to camp in the early afternoon and after lunch, around two, we decided to unload the kayaks and go for a little spin on the lake.  The light winds were tolerable, but one of the things we love most about this lake is the beautifully still, glassy conditions that can make it such a delight to paddle.  By the time we returned to camp after an hour of battling the “light” winds, our arms and shoulders were tired and our bodies were ready for some rest.

Relaxing again with our boring sunset, we made a plan for the following day.  Who knows why we need a plan, but somehow setting a general time for what we want to do feels better when we are in a place where there are no deadlines, nothing we have to do and nowhere we have to be.  It is an old joke for us, and goes all the way back to our very first camp together at Medicine Lake in 2003.  We sat at the picnic table and Mo said, “Well, what do want to do?”.  “hmm…well, we can eat and then we can do something, then we can eat lunch and do something, and then we can eat dinner.”  Ever since, “we can eat and then do something and then eat” has been our inside joke.


 

The morning dawned as still and gorgeous as it had the previous day and even with a temperature of 38 degrees, we decided that waiting till ten to get on the lake would be a mistake.  It was a perfect choice, and while our feet were a bit cold, the early morning sun warmed our backs wonderfully.  We paddled across the lake just in time to see a fat and very fluffy coyote racing across the meadow, spooked out by a woman who was walking with her two dogs and didn’t know that coyote was right in front of her.  We also saw herons and merganser ducks, an osprey, a young eagle, several deer, lots of sandpipers, a lovely family of grebes, and a couple of kingfishers. Our campsite was a virtual aviary of pine siskins, stellar jays, and black headed juncos.  Of course, with only the phone, I have very few wildlife photos and none that are worth showing. I do miss having a great camera with a great telephoto lens.  Every time I try to zoom in with the phone I get a blown-out murky photo that is not the least bit satisfying.

By the time we got off the water two hours later, the winds were rising.  We were so glad we hadn’t waited in spite of the chill.  Lunch of grapes and cheese and crackers was perfect and we settled in for a bit of chair and book time before heading out for our next planned activity.  Mattie loved the sunshine and relaxing part of the day and took full advantage of the freedom to be off leash with not another soul around.

The short hike to Little Glass Mountain is just north of the campground and is about .4 a mile long one way.  It is in a field of pumice, shaded by old lodgepole pine.  I am not a fan of lodgepole, but here they are thick and healthy and quite lovely.  The little cones are just about perfect.

Little Glass Mountain has been identified as the area of most recent volcanic activity about 300 years ago. These eruptions first spread white pumice for miles around. A nearby cinder cone, Pumice Stone Mountain, was completely covered with pumice and a startling, smooth, white dome remains. These pumice eruptions were followed by flows of black volcanic glass, called obsidian. There are other obsidian flows in the Highlands area, some of which are over 1,000 acres in size. Prehistoric people used this material to make arrowheads and spearpoints. Many archaeological sites have been identified, and some artifacts indicate that the Highlands have been inhabited for at least 4,500 years.

The temperature was perfect, Mattie could again be off leash with no one around, and the level path to the glass flow was delightful.  We reached the obsidian, wandered a bit farther toward the west end of the flow and then returned the way we had come.  Once in the past we thought to take off cross country and discovered that the flat landscape and lodgepole forest can be misleading.  This time we stuck to the trail.

Our last planned activity for the day was to take off again in the Tracker and explore a road east of the campground that was marked, “Private Cabins”.  It was a short trip, and a short road, but it led to a surprising number of forest service type cabins and homes that were nestled and tucked away in the thick dark lodgepole forest on the southeast side of the lake.  From the campground, there is no clue as to the number of homes that are hiding there in the trees.  We hadn’t seen them when kayaking on that side of the lake.  It wasn’t particularly inviting to me.  I have lived long enough in a dark forest that I appreciate open skies and sunshine and was grateful that the campground is on the south facing side of the lake.

Our remaining activity of the day was a small one.  Haul the kayaks back up the short slope to the waiting car.  We both discovered that the leg strength required for getting out of the kayaks can be a bit challenging.  Sure hope we can continue to do that for a few more years.  Surprisingly, once we got the boats up the hill, getting them on top the car wasn’t difficult.  Still managing that without much trouble.  Good news.

Saturday morning we woke easily after a night that was a bit warmer than the previous two nights, with a temp of 47 degrees at 7 AM.  There were a few more people around, with two more sites occupied in our campground and a couple more east of us in the Hemlock campground.  We were both really delighted with our Medicine Lake trip this year, and know that we won’t be worried about trying to camp there in the early fall months until the snow flies.

The return trip to Grants Pass through Klamath Falls held a little bit of extra fun.  We had arranged to meet Katie, a good friend of ours, currently a soil scientist at the Klamath Falls office where I worked after retirement until 2017.  Katie is an amazing young woman, full of life and full of adventure.  It was wonderful spending a leisurely patio lunch with her as we caught up on life’s random craziness.  Sorry Katie, I forgot to take photos so I stole this one from your Facebook page.  You and your sweetie!

On the trip home I remembered what I love most about the Klamath Basin.  The thousands, maybe millions of birds are staging for migration.  Klamath Lake was thick with coots, ducks of all kinds, grebes, pelicans, and egrets lining the shoreline.  The aspens were turning on Highway 140 as we approached our old home in Rocky Point.  It was a perfectly beautiful trip without a speck of drama and a lot of quiet time for us.


01-18-2016 Traveling South

Current Location: Desert Hot Springs California at 54 F and clear

Dang.  Open Live Writer refusing to publish tonight, so I am publishing this baby on WordPress.  For all you readers who don’t like this one compared to the blogger version, at least here you get photos….

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-13I can’t really claim the snowbird moniker, but somehow it seems that every year we manage to make our way south.  I think to be a snowbird, you might have to stay for the full winter season and only meander back north when the light and warmth return. Still, it is an incredible delight to slip away from all that cold stuff, the snow plowing, the crashing ice dams, the skating rink parking lot, and land gently back in the desert, with simply a light shirt on in the evening, and feet once again in sandals.  Ahhh.

We took our time this year, leaving later in January, and ambling southward slowly enough to spend some good time visiting friends. visiting friends-26 Mo and I met Laurie and Odel many years ago, when I was a brand new blogger and Laurie was one of the more well known bloggers in the newly minted rv bloggerland.  Later, long after Laurie stopped blogging and they sold their beloved rig Scoopy, we stopped in for a visit to their digs and they took Mo and I to Nevada City and introduced us to their good friends Nickie and Jimmy.  I love how these things work.  As I am writing this, I am remembering just how we all met, and I had almost completely forgotten the details. 

Visiting friends-37Sometimes these kinds of friendships come and go, but in this case, they are the kind that will last a lifetime.  When we get together, in fours or in sixes, it is always so much fun.  This time was no different.  Nickie and Jimmy invited Mo and I to dinner at their place in Nevada City.  The food was fabulous, what Nickie called “comfort food”, but oh my such deliciousness!

visiting friends-19Even better than the food, however, was the laughter.  Nickie has this wondrous inner child that comes out to play a lot, and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.  Mattie thought she was a kick as well, and the two of them slid around on the gorgeous hardwood floors until tiny Mattie knocked Nickie down, or at least that is what Nickie claimed.  So sorry, Nickie!!  I hope your bruises have healed.

visiting friends-27The “Big Plan” was for the six of us to meet the next day in Auburn for some yummy food, and then hike it all off with a great walk along the river and the waterfalls.  The only waterfalls were coming out of the skies, with big dark rain keeping us all inside.  Instead of hiking, the six of us sat together at a big round table at Awful Annie’s and ate and talked and ate some more.  It was great fun being together again.  We have hiked with Laurie and Odel, and with Jimmy and Nickie, but so far haven’t managed a hike with all of us.  That is on the agenda for sure.  What a fun bunch of people to know.  I feel so lucky. 

visiting friends-28Mattie made friends all around, but especially with Odel.  Did she ever love that guy!  I wish I had taken a photo of her looking at him with adoring eyes as he scratched her ears.  Mattie knows a good man when she sees one!

Our trip south this year was almost uneventful, with only a few tiny glitches.  Once again we had to get the rig over the passes, the only way to escape to the south requires driving those passes.  This time I was driving, so instead of documenting all the crazy stuff, I gripped the steering wheel as we rolled along on solid packed snow and glare ice with temps in the high 20’s and low 30’s.  Once again, getting over the Siskiyous was scary, getting past Mt Shasta was even scarier, and once again the ice didn’t clear until we reached the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding.  Sheesh~~ The only good thing is that at least this time it wasn’t actually snowing, but that ice was no fun at all. 

visiting friends-3Beale Air Force Base is just east of the I-5 corridor and Marysville, and only 34 miles west of Nevada City, the sweet little mountain town where Nickie and Jimmy live.  We decided to give the FamCamp a try and it isn’t a bad stop.  The campground is fairly isolated on the base, with long open views toward the east.  I was surprised at how full they were, and we were glad to have made a reservation.  $18.00 per night with full hookups isn’t bad, although the sites were muddy from all the recent El Nino rains.  Still, the gravel pad was level enough we didn’t have to put down the levelers, the power was adequate, and there was WiFi available, but I didn’t try it. My Verizon worked fine on the iPad, and I had no time or need to set up the computers or the MiFi.

visiting friends-7On the way to the campground, we saw an amazing airplane flying low and slow, circling above us.  I love that about staying at an air force base, lots of cool airplanes.  Found out later this was a U-2 plane, and that the woman pilot who flies them at Beale AFB is quite famous.

Once we arrived at the campground, we started our regular routine to unhook the Tracker, only to discover that the battery had gone dead.  Mo is pretty careful about making sure the key is in the right position, but figured she must have turned it a notch too far.  We managed to unhook, turned the MoHo around and jump started the Tracker, leaving it running while we got ready to drive up the mountain to Nevada City.

Everything was fine, and after dinner when we left to go back down the hill, she started right up.  The next day she started up again, no problem, and we drove the back roads from Beale to Auburn and Awful Annie’s. There was no need to unhook the car.  After our wonderful time with friends and food, we headed down I-80 through Sacramento all the way to Lodi on the 5, a whopping 70 miles. 

Didn’t bother unhooking the Tracker because we settled in comfortably to our cozy pull through spot in row E at Flag City RV Resort.  It is a perfect one night stop, half price with the Passport America card, easy on and easy off, and cheap gas at the Love if we needed it.  The next morning, Mo tried to start the Tracker and sure enough, once again it was dead.  OK then.  Where is WalMart?!  As Judy probably knows from her extended stay here last year, it is right down the road about 4 miles.  Within an hour, we had a new battery, installed in the misty rain, and all was running well again.  No problems since.  I guess it was time for a new battery.

We have been really lucky so far on this trip with gas prices being so low.  I filled up in Grants Pass for $1.87. Mo filled at Beale for $2.21, and we filled yesterday at the Pilot on I-5 for just $1.99!  Looks as though things might be a bit more here in the Coachella Valley with the Pilot running $2.69, but hopefully our time in Arizona will make up for that.  I love GasBuddy!  My favorite App!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-9Once the battery was replaced and we were traveling down the 5, everything seemed to settle into place.  I think it takes a few hundred miles before it reallly feels like we are on the road, and that great feeling hit yesterday somewhere along the hills on the western side of the San Jouquin Valley.  Evidence of the drought has lessened a bit, with recent rains turning everything green.  Big signs are dotted among the fruit and nut orchards: “If water is used to grow food, is it really wasted?”  I found myself wondering about this a lot.  California is having huge water issues, with too many people wanting too little water.  If that water is used to let people in the valley have drinking water, which many of them don’t right now, isn’t that better perhaps than it being used to grow nuts for export?  Who benefits from that besides the farmer, certainly not the people who actually need food or water in California.  Lots to think about as you roll down that lonely but crowded asphalt ribbon along the hills bordering the Great Valley that grows a huge percentage of our food.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-7We spent the night last night at the Orange Grove RV Resort  just east of Bakersfield on Highway 58.  I think most every RV heading toward the desert must stay here at one time or another.  It was raining this morning when we got up, but the mist let up in time for us to get the MoHo washed at the free RV wash at the park.  Of course, there are the free for the picking oranges, sweetest ever, and this year the crop is especially sweet.  Add to that free coffee and free truly fresh and excellent donuts for the taking and staying there is a pretty good deal at $39.00 per night.  A good wash of our two rigs usually costs us at least $15.00 in quarters if we do it at a car wash.  And the oranges are priceless!  I just hope I have enough to last until we return by way of Orange Grove RV Park.  I need to stock up again before I get back to the land of grocery store oranges.  Ick!Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-2

The rain started in earnest by the time we were actually on the road and it poured all the way to the summit at Tehachapi.  On the down side, the rains let up, but the damage caused by the terrible flash floods that roared through Sand Canyon last fall was still visible.  By the time we reached the other side and the desert stretched out before us, the skies were opened up and the sunlight was gorgeous and brilliant.  Ahhh…..it is like the world opens up when the sun shines like this, and the desert vistas stretch out before me.  I really really don’t want to live in the desert, but I need it like I need light. I guess that is why I love RVing so much.  That inner need for varied landscapes, the desert, the ocean, the South,the Florida spring runs, the hardwood forests, the Red Rock Country, I wouldn’t want to have to choose to only be in any one of those places forever.  I couldn’t begin to choose which one to give up, which one mattered most.  No need!  I can have it all!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-14We stopped for lunch somewhere along Highway 58 before Barstow, where Mattie got her first taste of desert air and we opened up the slide and let the sunshine pour in while we made a nice lunch and took a bit of a break.  Mo drove the rest of the route, one of our favorites, from Barstow, down Highway 247, winding through the mountains down toward Yucca Valley and then down the big grade to Desert Hot Springs.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-17Every time we come here, I am reminded of the wild, craggy, rocky, mountainous land that makes up this part of Southern California.  It is so incredibly rugged, twisted and tortured by all the tectonic activity, all the faults that folded and uplifted and shattered the landscape.  The desert here is anything but flat and boring, it is a wild world and so beautiful.IMG_5570

With only four days here this year, we won’t be doing as much hiking as usual, but I will treasure every moment of my hot pool time before we continue east.

A Wild Ride to California

Current Location: Back on Old Fort Road in Klamath Falls  and it is snowing

Last fall, when lifetime friend Maryruth asked Mo and I if we would come to Maryruth’s mother’s birthday party, I felt a bit of hesitation.  The party was scheduled for the 19th of December, way too close to Christmas.  But it was Elsie’s 90th birthday, and the celebration was drawing friends and relatives from far and wide.  I really couldn’t miss it.

IMG_5437_thumb3Traveling south on I-5 toward Ashland

Of course, at this time of year, in this part of Oregon, there is no telling what kind of weather we might encounter, so we took our chances and decided to skip making reservations at the Feather Falls Casino KOA.  We like the campground, just minutes from Maryruth’s home, with all the amenities we could want.  Somehow I wasn’t too worried about the park being filled up on the weekend before Christmas.

We now are living in Klamath Falls, 45 minutes east of our former home in Rocky Point, adding that time and mileage to the trip over the mountain to Grants Pass to the west.  The MoHo was waiting all cozy in her big shed, the baby Tracker is already over there, so we just needed to fit everything required for a couple of days in Rocky Point as we travel west, a couple of days in Grants Pass, to load up, do a few small chores, and get ready to go, and a couple of days in California.

I can’t begin to explain how crazy making it is for me to try to think of food for each stop on the way, for clothes appropriate for the various weather conditions we will be encountering, and deciding just what I want to wear to the big Saturday night party.  The truck was filled to the brim with sweats, jeans, some slinky dress up’s, way too many shoes, working clothes, snow boots and coats, lots of hats and gloves, and of course all the gear for the dog.

Mattie is a bit like having a kid.  We have her crate and bedding, her round bed for non sleeping comfort, another blankie since she gets cold so easily, and a bag of “doggie stuff”, which includes her shampoo, her favorite toys, treats, leash, a sweater, and a raincoat.  As I read this, I am beginning to think we are really eccentric parents.  That is a lot of stuff for a very small dog!

Snow-at-Rocky-Point-7-of-17_thumb2When we arrived in Rocky Point, all was well.  When I found out that the power was off for many hours, I was really glad that Mo and I had returned home to the apartments for a couple of days in between trips.  This time the power was on and all was well. 

The next morning we headed for Grants Pass, driving over High Lakes Pass in some snowy conditions, but nothing unmanageable.  The weather predictions were not encouraging, however.  Winter weather warnings were going off every hour for extreme weather impacting most of Southern Oregon and especially the passes, including the route south on I-5 over the Siskiyous.

IMG_5436_thumb2Leaving Grants Pass south on I-5

We waited till Friday morning to make the actual decision, waking up to heavy pouring rain, and reports of temperatures above freezing at Siskiyou Summit.  We hoped we could get over the mountain before the snow levels dropped.  Neither of us have any desire to chain up the MoHo.

IMG_5440_thumb1Siskiyou Summit south on I-5

Sure enough, the snow at the first summit was just flurries and the temps were above freezing, so no black ice.  Whew.  A nice long stretch to Weed and then once again the snow started blowing.  As we passed the turnoff to Mt Shasta City and McCloud, we breathed a sigh of relief. 

IMG_5457_thumb1Slush and snow coming at us near Mt Shasta City

That sigh was a bit premature I guess.  It snowed all the way to the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding and much below the 3,000 foot elevation snow prediction.  It was wet slushy snow, but not so much that it made driving impossible, and no chains were required.  Thank goodness.

Once past Redding, the snow turned to hard pourning rain, not much easier than snow for driving, and there wasn’t a bit of letup till we got to Oroville. 

IMG_5460_thumb1Feather Falls Casino KOA Site 38

Finally settled into our campsite at the only KOA we have ever really liked, we relaxed, knowing that we didn’t really have to think about the drive home for a couple of days.  We could just relax and enjoy the party.

01-party-preparations-6-of-14_thumb1Decorating the winery for the party

Maryruth and her sisters held the party at a lovely small local winery in Oroville, Purple LIne Winery.  The owners are good friends of another of Elsie’s daughters and were happy to share their lovely venue with the 100 or so guests who arrived on Saturday afternoon to celebrate.

02-Elsies-party-7-of-29_thumb1Elsie and Maryruth

I have known Maryruth for 53 years, and of course have known her mother for that long as well.  Elsie was a part of my extended family and I am so glad that Mo and I were able to be there to honor her.  She was genuninely happy with all the attention, something that Maryruth had been a bit worried about.  Today when I talked to Maryruth, she said the party was wonderful for her mom, that it elevated her mood and lifted the bit of depression she had been dealing with because of ongoing tiresome health issues.  Elsie is a trooper, has always been a strong and incredible woman, and some of the issues of aging are extremely frustrating for her, as they would be for anyone.01-party-preparations-7-of-14_thumb1

Gerald built the big block numbers for all the photos

Mo and I managed to get a bit of time to enjoy the casino, which is really quite nice.  I even won enough money to pay for breakfast the next morning and our wine at the party.  We don’t play the slots all the often, but it seems lately that I have been pretty lucky when we do.  Lucky as in tens of dollars, not thousands of dollars.  LOL  I never play big enough to win that big.

After the casino Sunday Brunch with Maryruth and Gerald, we once again tackled the long drive home over the passes.  By the time we left, the rains had started up once again and after getting gas in Chico for 2.15 per gallon at Costco, we drove 99 to the interstate and watched the road cams, the weather warning signs, and listened to 1610 AM radio for chain updates.

IMG_1344_thumb1Radar image for our route to Grants Pass and then home to Klamath Falls.

The predictions were rather scary, and chains were required earlier in the day over the Siskiyous.  We pressed on, hoping that the warm temperatures and rising elevation of the snows would stay with us till we reached Grants Pass. 

IMG_1352_thumb1Again, the snow was wet and slushy, the chain requirement for the Siskiyou Summit was lifted just before we reached that point and by the time we landed in Grants Pass it was just raining.

Neither one of us was really concerned about the drive from Grants Pass back home to Klamath Falls via Rocky Point.  We have driven High Lakes Pass for dozens of years, and the Dakota has 4 wheel drive.  We packed all our stuff back into the pickup once again, put the MoHo to bed, and headed back up the mountain.

UhOh!  That drive took us both by surprise!  There was a LOT of snow on the side of the road from the previous storms, and yet yesterday the temperatures were rising.  We had deep slush and ice on packed snow at the top of the pass, and neither of us could remember a transit as hairy as this one for a long time. 

anitas-van-in-our-road_thumb1Easy Street doesn’t look so easy with Mo’s plow in Klamath Falls

In Rocky Point, the road that Mo usually plows, was unplowed.  The neighbors who live farther up the road than we do don’t have a plow and evidently couldn’t get anyone out there.  We drove up as far as we could and then walked through the deep snow to get to the house.  Don’t laugh.  I have three houses and two vacuum cleaners.  I refuse to buy a third vacuum, and I had taken the main vacuum from Old Fort Road to Rocky Point.  I needed that vacuum.  I refuse to live through Christmas at home without a vacuum!  Ha! 

Back on the road to Klamath Falls, the snows were deeper than we have seen in years.  And that snow just keeps coming.  Sometimes it gets a bit warmer and rains on the snow, and then it dumps some more of the white stuff.  Mo has a lot less to plow here at the apartments, but this thick wet stuff is keeping her busy.

Daytime-Christmas-on-Old-Fort-Road-2Snug and cozy in the apartment on Old Fort Road.

I am glad to be home, glad to have a few days at least to make cookies and fudge, get ready for Christmas dinner with the family members that are close, and play in my craft apartment making cards.  Christmas will come so quickly, and it seems that we didn’t have a lot of time to do some of the small town Christmas things that I like to do, but with the really yukky weather, I really have no desire to brave the storms to try to go look at Christmas lights.  I think I’ll just enjoy my own.

The Solstice has come, the days are getting longer, Christmas is here!!

Writer’s Block

Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon: nice evening after a gorgeous day

I really didn’t want to fall into the trap of trying to explain why I haven’t written.  Kind of like writing in your diary, “Dear Diary…sorry I haven’t written”.  Diary doesn’t care, I am sure.  Every one of us who write these open ended online journals run into writer’s block now and then.  This time it hit me half way home from our last trip.  If you don’t know me from elsewhere, you might think that we are still lost somewhere along the California coast.  If I were to return to my blog a year from now, trying to figure out where we were in April, I might be rather disappointed to see that we possibly beamed ourselves, Star Trek Style, from Eureka to Rocky Point.Trinity Scenic Byway (2 of 36)

There is so much going on at the moment in our lives that travel memories have taken a bit of a back seat, but that is another story.  Maybe I’ll get to it eventually, but not right now.

Trinity Scenic Byway (6 of 36) In actuality, the last two days of our short little vacation were spent ambling along at a snail’s pace.  We decided that Highway 299 would be a good route back toward home, over the beautiful Trinity Mountains and following along the gorgeous Trinity River. Called the Trinity Scenic Byway, the route is the main road that connects the upper Sacramento Valley to the California coast.

Trinity Scenic Byway (7 of 36) When we left Eureka, the fog was still hanging in over Humboldt Bay, but by the time we reached Berry Summit the fog was just a wisp in the wind shrouding the mountain but not obscuring the beautiful views. The day was brilliant, the skies gorgeous, the traffic minimal.  Redbuds were in bloom and the hills were Ireland green.  That springtime green thing in the coast range can be so incredibly vivid.  Like no other green I have ever seen anywhere.

Trinity Scenic Byway (12 of 36) We had a destination in mind, a mere 100 miles over the mountain to the little town of Weaverville, where I had scoped out a small RV park.  We were in no hurry, and stopped along the river for photos and views.  A few miles west of Weaverville, we found a forest service campground and pulled in to check it out. 

Trinity Scenic Byway (15 of 36)Trinity Scenic Byway (33 of 36) Not a soul in sight, and the camp host site was empty, but there were no gates to keep us out and after walking around a bit, listening to the river, we said, “Why not?!”  Our tanks were empty, we had plenty of water and no need for power so we pulled into the sweet little spot, opened up the door to the sunshine and the river and settled in for a lovely evening.  Three bucks with our senior pass.  Much better than that 35 bucks it would have cost in Weaverville.

Trinity Scenic Byway (31 of 36) The next morning we rose at our leisure and ambled on down the road to the sweet little gold rush town of Weaverville.  It was charming in the way that California gold towns can be, with interesting store fronts and historical signs on the buildings. 

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (8 of 33) We visited the Joss House museum visitor center, enjoying the well done displays of the Chinese culture that thrived in Weaverville during the gold rush.  Neither of us felt like waiting around for a tour, so we skipped the inside of the Chinese Temple. 

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (7 of 33) Once again, we were reminded of the great contribution made by the Chinese to the development of the American West.

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (14 of 33) With no desire to continue east to a boring interstate, we turned north on Highway 3, following the western shore of Trinity Lake.  The road was narrow and steep in places, but not unmanageable.  We stopped to view the nearly empty lake and read the non existent signs.  Weaverville and Trinity Lake (27 of 33) Sign vandalism is just stupid.  Although perhaps not as stupid as damming a river and backing up a lake over miles and miles of placer mine tailings. 

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (23 of 33) Now that the California drought has exposed the land drowned by the reservoir, I wonder if people who are users of the millions of gallons delivered annually to the California water project are at all worried about the lead and mercury left in those tailings.  I still can’t figure out the mindset of certain news pundits who say the California water problem is due to the environmentalists stopping the building of more reservoirs.  The ones already there have no water in them!  Talk about a waste of money!  Let’s build more dams so we can have more empty reservoirs?  This drought is long term, and not going to end next week.

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (32 of 33) We did see several warning signs stating that in 42 miles or so, the road would be unsuitable for trailers.  No problem.  We have driven those kinds of roads many times in the past.  After passing the little community of Coffee Creek, where we found nothing at all, we continued north toward Scott Mountain Pass.

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (30 of 33) We ignored the sign that said no trailers once again, and within a mile knew that had been a mistake.  Picture a hairpin turn with a 15 percent grade.  MoHo groaned up the hill and we managed to find a turnout on the very narrow road to unhook the baby car.  Next time we will pay attention.  This is not an easy climb, and definitely not a place to be towing. And no, there are no photos of these few challenging moments.

Mo drove on ahead with the MoHo while I followed along in the Tracker, enjoying the gorgeous views and the beautiful wild landscape of the Trinities.  Descending into the Scott Valley is a treat, with a landscape of ranching and river that is the heart of the old west.

Our evening destination, a mere 80 miles north of Weaverville, was the tiny community of Etna, California.  Just 20 miles south of Eureka, Etna is charming and quiet, and boasts a great little RV park, Mountain Village.  A Passport America park, there were level sites, full hookups, and grassy spaces between rigs.  With the park nearly empty, we enjoyed the late afternoon thoroughly.  For a mere $16.00, we spent our last night before returning to the cottage at Grants Pass the next day.

That leaning oak on the left will have to go when the house is built.  That is where the western wall will extend It has been just over three weeks since that day.  In that short time we spent a few days working at the cottage.  Mo managed to get the 30 amp to the MoHo shed and we mowed the acre that is greening up and growing fast.  My scheduled surgery required a few visits to Eugene and those overnight trips are always more delightful with the MoHo.  The one time we stayed in a hotel we decided, never again.   taking a break from electrical work in the RV shed

After Eugene, it was time to bring the MoHo back over the mountain to her berth in Grants Pass.  We missed having her at home and with winter behind us, it was time.  Of course, the only winter we had this year showed up on Easter Sunday with 1/2 an inch of snow and then again on April 14 with another half inch.  Crazy.

old fort road middleIn the last couple of months, we have made some big decisions about the future, moving toward a final goal of building a “forever”  home on the cottage property.  I also decided that it was time to sell the little house I bought in Klamath Falls back in 2002.  Daughter Melody decided that as a now single mom, she needed a bit less house to manage.  She has lived in the Klamath house since 2008. 

Melody and my granddaughter Axel each now have an apartment at the small complex that Mo has on the edge of town in Klamath Falls.  working at the apartments (10 of 12)Mo and I put some time in refurbishing those apartments, painting and cleaning, getting carpets and flooring installed so they are all nice and fresh.  It was hard work but also a fun project, nice to see the apartments all pretty again.  Renters are not often much fun, and don’t seem to care about how they live.  I am glad that we no longer have to deal with crummy renters who trash the place.

Painter progress (1 of 7) With Melody out of the Klamath house, it was time to spruce it up for sale.  I had renters in there during the time I lived in California for my final working years, and it needed fresh paint when Melody moved in back in 2008!  Again, Mo and I have been busy painting, fixing, repairing and getting the house ready for market.  I am really hoping that the time is right, and that she will sell quickly.

working on Painter (16 of 19) It is a great little historic bungalow in an historic neighborhood in a nice part of Klamath Falls. 

finished13 Early on during this three week process, I got a phone call from the two surgeons who will be working on me, saying that the surgery had to be rescheduled from April 13 to May 4, so I gained an extra three weeks to actually get the Klamath Falls house project done.  At least hopefully.

Mo and I feel like we are working again.  We leave the house every morning to go to one town or another, work all day, and drive home late all tired and worn out.  After surgery I am not supposed to lift anything over five pounds for 3 months!  Crazy.  So everything has to be done NOW or it won’t get done, at least not by me. 

So, writer’s block?  Yeah.  I think I have a reasonable excuse.

 

Lighthouses in the Rain

Current Location: Crescent City, CA 43 degrees F and overcast with more rain coming

The nice thing about planning at least two nights at any spot is the free full day to explore the area.  I am not sure if good weather would make exploring Crescent City a bit more alluring, but in pouring rain, one day was just enough, with time left over for kicking back in the MoHo listening to the drumming rain on the roof.

Crescent City Lighthouse (6 of 15)As often happens, however, the weather gods were with us when we left mid morning to check off the list of “21 things to do in Crescent City”.  The rain let up, and the heavy skies were magnificently interesting as we drove across the highway and down the road a piece to the Crescent City Harbor. 

Marina and Battery Point (5 of 10)On Sunday, all was fairly quiet, and I am sure the inclement weather may have had something to do with that as well.  It didn’t stop the surfers on Crescent Beach, however.  One “thing to do” checked off: visit Crescent Beach. The surfers were determined, in spite of the rain.  Mo and I wondered why they wear wet suits that make them look like seals instead of something hot fuchsia or fluorescent lime.  At least a shark might not mistake them as easily for food.

Marina and Battery Point (6 of 10)We explored the Marina area, including the somewhat dicey looking Harbor RV Park.  Crescent City is still an active fishery and there were many interesting boats in the harbor.  There are informative signs and photos of the tsunami generated by the Japan earthquake in 2011.  The high water mark was haunting as we looked back trying to imagine how far inland the surge extended.  There were several surges with huge damages to the harbor. There were also images of the Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and the devastating effects that tsunami had on the town of Crescent City.

The Visitor Center was closed.  Sunday is not necessarily a good day to visit a small town in the winter season.  By the time we reached the end of the road, the rain had mostly stopped.  The Battery Point Lighthouse view parking lot had signs for “event parking”.  Our timing was impeccable.  The tide was out and people were trekking across the rocks and up the hill to visit the beautiful little lighthouse perched on a rock, only accessible on foot when the tide is out.

Crescent City Lighthouse (3 of 15)We could see folks in the light area, but the main door was closed.  I assumed it was a tour scheduled for the opportune moment of lowest tides. The residence for the lightkeeper is actually in the lower part of the lighthouse, and there are signs indicating that it is a private residence and the occupants shouldn’t be bothered.  I am not sure how one would actually sign up for the tour, maybe the Visitor Center?

Crescent City Lighthouse (15 of 15)By the time we returned to the parking lot, the tide was already coming back up and I was glad for walking sticks and shoes that could handle the water. The rain started up in earnest.  An hour later we would have missed both the low tide moment and the break in the heavy rain that poured most of the day after that magic little moment.

Marina and Battery Point (10 of 10)We drove out the Pebble Beach Road to the end of St George Point, where several signs noted that there was a huge fine for disturbing and archaeological site, but with no information as to why it was considered such.  Searching the internet, I found a few scholarly papers discussing the Tolowa people who once lived in that area.  I would imagine that if the Visitor Center had been open, we may have found more information available.

Marina and Battery Point (9 of 10)The Museum was also closed, and would have provided fascinating stuff, including the lens that once occupied the infamous Point St George Lighthouse, the one we see in the middle of the ocean from Harris Beach in Brookings. 

At lunch, I saw a painting of the lighthouse, with a boat being lifted by a crane to the boat landing above the sea.  An internet search yielded fascinating photos and the amazing story of the wild lighthouse set on a lonely rock with ocean on all sides.  A scary place to be assigned in the days of lighthouse keeping. 

Wiki tells the story a bit, but I would imagine there would have been much more at the museum or the visitor center. According to the internet, the light was decommissioned in 1975, but later relit.  There have been helicopter tours that were available until some kind of regulation problem, but they are in the process of being reinstated. This is an interesting read~stgeorge_rw

We drove south along 101 in seriously heavy rain on the narrow road that led to the Crescent Beach Overlook and Enderts Beach, where we found a wonderful section of the coastal trail leading south along bluffs that rivaled those at Big Sur.  Even in the rain it was gorgeous.  We saw several hardy souls in rain gear hiking, even some young families. The rain was so intense I couldn’t even get out the camera and decided to skip viewing the overlook.  Would love to go back to this spot and hike this trail in better weather.Crescent City Lighthouse (9 of 15)

Before returning home, we ended our explorations with a great late lunch at the Chart Room, off Anchor Road on the Marina.  The restaurant was filled to capacity with people who all seemed to know each other, with many “hi’s” and “how are you’s” echoing around the big room with a harbor view.  The fish and chips were stellar, enough for a full lunch and enough to take home for another full meal for the next  day. For dessert, I finally found a blackberry cobbler that was runny and juicy and not too sweet or too sour, with the perfect cobbler crust.  I was thinking after two misses back in Florence, that the only way I wasn’t going to get a gluey piece of gummy cobbler was to make it myself back home!Marina and Battery Point (7 of 10)

I would have liked to visit both the Visitor Center and the Museum and after our single day of rainy explorations, I think we have seen enough to entice us to return.