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Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Arizona, California, Gallery, Travel | 23 comments

John Steinbeck christened it the Mother Road, and everyone from Nat King Cole to Van Morrison has crooned the catchy tune celebrating the 2400 mile cross-country journey along this most famous of highways. Route 66 is tenacious—almost 90 years after its creation and three decades after it was declared obsolete, this old road lives on in the collective sentiment as a symbol of adventure, freedom and opportunity.

For the most part, it’s a broken down dream, a piecemeal byway lined with fleabag motels, dusty storefronts, seedy bars, out-of-service gas stations, and half-lit flickering neon signs. Nonetheless, every time we near a section of the Mother Road, we’re drawn in, and I begin to hum “If you ever plan to motor West, Travel my way take the highway that’s the best, Get your kicks on Route 66….”.

In late October, our route took us through Williams, Arizona—a small town that proudly proclaims the distinction of being the last holdout on Route 66 bypassed by an interstate. Left to wither on the vine—like every small town along the route when four-lane divided highways left them in the dust—much of the downtown has seen better days. But there’s a revival going on, and unlike many other towns that went belly-up along the venerable old route, Williams appears to be thriving—1950’s era motor courts, mom & pop cafes, scruffy bars, and Indian curio shops share the street with a mix of new businesses (most with a retro twist); and of course, there’s a plethora of shops over-stuffed with Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs. It doesn’t hurt that Williams is also the gateway to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but many people visit simply for the nostalgia of a simpler time—wishful thinking though that may be.

We lunched at the new and attractive Kicks on Route 66, and after making two circuits of the main street to peruse all of the attractions, stopped by South Rims Wine & Beer Garage for a flight of local beers. Had we known that the sketchy looking 1912 Sultana Bar was written up in Gourmet Magazine as one of the best bars in America (seriously??) we would have ventured in. If you’re into Route 66 memorabilia, you’ll love Williams. You’ll find everything to decorate your home, your vehicle, and yourself—from tea towels to license plates to stick-on tattoos—emblazoned with the beloved Route 66 insignia.

About the campgrounds: We found two convenient places to stay along I-40, which also happens to be old Route 66. In Needles, California, Fender’s River Road Resort is a fine little park on the banks of the Colorado River. For the very reasonable price of $14 a night (with Passport America) we had full-hookups, laundry, and good Verizon coverage. We especially appreciated the use of a lovely deck overlooking the river, where we enjoyed G & T’s and unwound after our almost 300-mile drive from Lone Pine.

Another 175 miles the next day brought us to Williams and the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. Although it’s basically a big parking lot, it’s a very nice parking lot, and is conveniently located just two blocks from downtown Williams and the historic district. It’s a bargain at $23 (with Passport America) and includes full hookups, laundry, use of the amenities at the nearby hotel, and good Verizon coverage.

Next Up: An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument

Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Pulling Into The RV Park In Needles

Yep, We're On Route 66

Nice Site At Fender River Road Resort

Sunset Over The Colorado River

On The Main Drag In Williams

Beer Flight At Kicks On Route 66

Last To Fall And Proud Of It

Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum

Service Station Turned Cafe

Classic Autos Abound On Route 66

Elvis, Of Course

More Residents Of Main Street

Every Possible Route 66 Souvenir

Local Color On Route 66

1950's Grand Canyon Pullman Railcar

The World Famous Sultana, Circa 1912

South Rims Wine And Beer Garage

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park

Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66
Pulling Into The RV Park In Needles
Yep, We're On Route 66
Nice Site At Fender River Road Resort
Sunset Over The Colorado River
On The Main Drag In Williams
Beer Flight At Kicks On Route 66
Last To Fall And Proud Of It
Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum
Service Station Turned Cafe
Classic Autos Abound On Route 66
Elvis, Of Course
More Residents Of Main Street
Every Possible Route 66 Souvenir
Local Color On Route 66
1950's Grand Canyon Pullman Railcar
The World Famous Sultana, Circa 1912
South Rims Wine And Beer Garage
Grand Canyon Railway RV Park
Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66 thumbnail
Pulling Into The RV Park In Needles thumbnail
Yep, We're On Route 66 thumbnail
Nice Site At Fender River Road Resort thumbnail
Sunset Over The Colorado River thumbnail
On The Main Drag In Williams thumbnail
Beer Flight At Kicks On Route 66 thumbnail
Last To Fall And Proud Of It thumbnail
Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum thumbnail
Service Station Turned Cafe thumbnail
Classic Autos Abound On Route 66 thumbnail
Elvis, Of Course thumbnail
More Residents Of Main Street thumbnail
Every Possible Route 66 Souvenir thumbnail
Local Color On Route 66 thumbnail
1950's Grand Canyon Pullman Railcar thumbnail
The World Famous Sultana, Circa 1912 thumbnail
South Rims Wine And Beer Garage thumbnail
Grand Canyon Railway RV Park thumbnail

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Play Date In Lone Pine

Play Date In Lone Pine

Posted by on Nov 28, 2015 in California, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 19 comments

We never intended to spend quite so much time traveling along 395—not that we didn’t want to, but we needed to get to Florida by Thanksgiving, and with only six weeks to make the cross-country trip (and having already burned through a week of that) we didn’t have the luxury of lingering.

But there was one more stop along 395 that we just couldn’t resist—a play date in Lone Pine with friends Pam and John (Oh The Places They Go!), fellow full-timers, avid hikers, and excellent trail companions—we first met up with  them last winter in southern Arizona for a hike, and have been plotting to reconnect ever since. An extra added attraction in Lone Pine was getting to see Jodee and Bill (On The Road Abode) again, and meeting up with Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) for the first time. Our planned one-night stand in Lone Pine quickly turned into three.

One of my biggest reservations about traveling full-time was leaving behind our community of friends in Ashland. If I could have talked them all into joining up into one big caravan, I would have. (Believe me, I tried.) Alas, none of them were ready to take to the road full-time. But we were, and despite my worries about being lonely on the road, we embarked on our journey. Little did I realize just how rich this gypsy life would turn out to be.

As we’ve traveled full-time over the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve found friendly, interesting, fun loving, adventurous, and generous people along the way. We’ve developed friendships with people who happened to be our next door neighbors for a night or two, striking up conversations that led to happy hour or a hike, and then to planned meet-ups on the opposite side of the country in our circuitous journeys. We’ve established enduring friendships on Lopez Island, where we’ve camp hosted for five summers. And much to our delight, we’ve made a number of friends through our blog. Our community of friends now extends across the country, and my fears about being lonely in our journey have been assuaged. If anything, our concerns now are more about arranging our travels so that we can join up with the many good friends we’ve made on the road.

And so we found ourselves in Lone Pine, meeting up for a fun day of hiking with Pam and John—first along a four-mile downhill section of the steep Mt. Whitney trail (starting at the portal and heading down), followed by a late afternoon adventure into the Alabama Hills in search of the Whitney Portal Arch. We had a blast! The Alabama Hills are a playground of boulders and arches, with winding paths that lead to beautiful panoramas, rock scrambling, and treasure hunts in search of hidden arches and movie sites. Hollywood has been using this intriguing and scenic landscape for movies since the 1920’s, with films from Gunga Din to Star Trek shot here.

In our couple of days in Lone Pine, Eric and I hiked and explored from daybreak to sunset, visited the interesting little Lone Pine Film History Museum (where Eric reconnected with his childhood hero, Hopalong Cassidy), and enjoyed a sunset campfire and happy hour with the sociable and fun-loving Lone Pine gang at our rustic and beautiful site at Tuttle Creek BLM campground, right next door to the Alabama Hills. It was a delightful diversion in our cross-country journey—our only regret was that we needed to move on far too soon.

About the campground: This is one of the most beautiful campgrounds we’ve stayed in. The amenities include spacious sites, gorgeous vistas of spectacular mountain peaks (including Mt. Whitney, the tallest in the lower 48), a terrific location at the doorstep of the Alabama Hills, dark night skies, peace and quiet, sweetly scented sagebrush, and good Verizon coverage. All this, for a mere $2.50 per night ($5.00 for those not yet eligible for the Senior Pass). The downsides: no hookups, most sites require leveling skills, and although there is supposed to be water available until the end of October, the hydrants were padlocked when we arrived. Which is a good reminder to always arrive with full water tanks! It’s also a good idea to arrive fully stocked with provisions—the only grocery store in Lone Pine is wretched.

Next Up: Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Playdate In Lone Pine

Ready To Hit The Trail

John Keeps Us On Track

Starting Four Miles Of Downhill Hiking

Happy Hikers

Views From The Trail

Like A Watercolor Painting

The Boys In Camo

At The End Of The Trail

Pam Says, "I Know That Arch Is Here Somewhere!"

Whitney Portal Arch

Pam Approaches The Arch

John Preparing To Leap Through The Arch

The Expedition Returns

A Fun Campfire Gathering

Early Morning In The Alabama Hills

Mobius Arch At Daybreak

Same View Mid-Morning

Hiking Into The Alabama Hills

A Natural Playground

King Of Lathe Arch

Trying To Capture The Light

Hunting For Arches

Photographing Heart Arch

The Eye Of Alabama Arch

Two Famous Roads

Beautiful Rock Formations

Eric And Hopalong Cassidy

Lone Pine Film Museum

Thinking About A New Career

A Beautiful Campsite At Tuttle Creek

Sunset Reflections

Playdate In Lone Pine
Ready To Hit The Trail
John Keeps Us On Track
Starting Four Miles Of Downhill Hiking
Happy Hikers
Views From The Trail
Like A Watercolor Painting
The Boys In Camo
At The End Of The Trail
Pam Says,
Whitney Portal Arch
Pam Approaches The Arch
John Preparing To Leap Through The Arch
The Expedition Returns
A Fun Campfire Gathering
Early Morning In The Alabama Hills
Mobius Arch At Daybreak
Same View Mid-Morning
Hiking Into The Alabama Hills
A Natural Playground
King Of Lathe Arch
Trying To Capture The Light
Hunting For Arches
Photographing Heart Arch
The Eye Of Alabama Arch
Two Famous Roads
Beautiful Rock Formations
Eric And Hopalong Cassidy
Lone Pine Film Museum
Thinking About A New Career
A Beautiful Campsite At Tuttle Creek
Sunset Reflections
Playdate In Lone Pine thumbnail
Ready To Hit The Trail thumbnail
John Keeps Us On Track thumbnail
Starting Four Miles Of Downhill Hiking thumbnail
Happy Hikers thumbnail
Views From The Trail thumbnail
Like A Watercolor Painting thumbnail
The Boys In Camo thumbnail
At The End Of The Trail thumbnail
Pam Says,
Whitney Portal Arch thumbnail
Pam Approaches The Arch thumbnail
John Preparing To Leap Through The Arch thumbnail
The Expedition Returns thumbnail
A Fun Campfire Gathering thumbnail
Early Morning In The Alabama Hills thumbnail
Mobius Arch At Daybreak thumbnail
Same View Mid-Morning thumbnail
Hiking Into The Alabama Hills thumbnail
A Natural Playground thumbnail
King Of Lathe Arch thumbnail
Trying To Capture The Light thumbnail
Hunting For Arches thumbnail
Photographing Heart Arch thumbnail
The Eye Of Alabama Arch thumbnail
Two Famous Roads thumbnail
Beautiful Rock Formations thumbnail
Eric And Hopalong Cassidy thumbnail
Lone Pine Film Museum thumbnail
Thinking About A New Career thumbnail
A Beautiful Campsite At Tuttle Creek thumbnail
Sunset Reflections thumbnail

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The Quintessential Sierra Nevada Hike

The Quintessential Sierra Nevada Hike

Posted by on Nov 13, 2015 in California, Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 28 comments

If there’s only one hike that you do in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in eastern California, make it this one. You’ll walk through forests of sweetly scented Ponderosa pines, boulder hop over rushing mountain creeks, cross meadows while gazing up at 13,000-foot mountain peaks, and meander past no less than seven glacial-carved lakes reflecting the surrounding landscape.

The Little Lakes Valley trail—at just under eight miles round trip, including side trips to various lakes—is the quintessential Sierra Nevada hike. Here, you can enjoy an adventure in the high Sierra Nevada mountains without: 1) the rigors of a multi-day backpacking trip, and 2) suffering through a painfully steep high elevation climb. This spectacular hike is so easy (we’re grading on the Sierra curve, mind you) that it almost seems like cheating. Views this grand generally require much more effort.

The trailhead—unappealingly named Mosquito Flat—is the loftiest in the Sierras at 10,250 feet, thus the relative ease of getting high into the mountains. Despite the name, the trail was mosquito-free in late October. The fall is also a good time to enjoy this popular trail sans crowds—we hiked for long stretches without seeing another soul. The chilly temperatures and snowfall from the previous day likely had something to do with keeping people away.

From Mosquito Flat, the trail began with a steep uphill rocky climb, but that soon leveled out and opened up to the first magnificent view of a burbling creek and jewel-like lake fed by glacial melt. Along the gently rolling terrain, one after another lake appeared every 20 or 30 minutes, seductively luring us along. All the while we were captivated by the snow-capped mountain peaks fading in and out of the clouds, and entertained by Clark’s nutcrackers calling raucously from high in the ponderosas.

Don’t miss going all the way to the end of the trail: Lovely Upper Gem Lake is an aquamarine jewel set in a granite bowl, bordered on three sides by mountain peaks. It was the perfect spot for lunch and relaxing by the water. We found the return hike just as magnificent, offering a different perspective of the lakes and mountains. (Many thanks to our dear friends LuAnn and Terry, who highly recommended this hike.)

About the campground: We stayed for two nights at Brown’s Town Campground in Bishop, specifically to hike the Little Lake Valley trail (30 miles away). After a week of dry camping in our travels along 395, we were ready for a couple of nights with water and electric hookups. It was a peaceful stay, Verizon coverage was good, and as a bonus, we got to meet up with fellow full-time travelers Jodee, Bill, and their sweet dog Tessa at the Mountain Rambler Brewery for dinner, excellent local beer, and fun conversation. It was a great reward at the end of our long hiking day.

Next up: Tips for High Altitude Hiking

Little Lakes Valley: The Quintessential Sierra Hike

On The Road To Bishop

Into The John Muir Wilderness

Crossing Ruby Creek

Beautiful Box Lake

Side Trail To Chickenfoot Lake

Along The Shore Of Long Lake

Contemplating The Grandeur

Hiking Through The Ponderosas

Trail To Gem Lakes

Fresh Snow On The Trail

Approaching Gem Lakes

First View Of Lower Gem Lake

Lower Gem Lake

Crossing The Creek To Upper Gem Lake

A Chilly Day At Upper Gem Lake

Starting The Long Trek Back

Stunning Mountain Peaks And Streams

Appreciating The Beauty

Rockwork On The Trail

On The Final Stretch

Brown's In Town Campground

Campsite On The Golf Course

Jodee & Bill At The Brewery

Little Lakes Valley: The Quintessential Sierra Hike
On The Road To Bishop
Into The John Muir Wilderness
Crossing Ruby Creek
Beautiful Box Lake
Side Trail To Chickenfoot Lake
Along The Shore Of Long Lake
Contemplating The Grandeur
Hiking Through The Ponderosas
Trail To Gem Lakes
Fresh Snow On The Trail
Approaching Gem Lakes
First View Of Lower Gem Lake
Lower Gem Lake
Crossing The Creek To Upper Gem Lake
A Chilly Day At Upper Gem Lake
Starting The Long Trek Back
Stunning Mountain Peaks And Streams
Appreciating The Beauty
Rockwork On The Trail
On The Final Stretch
Brown's In Town Campground
Campsite On The Golf Course
Jodee & Bill At The Brewery
Little Lakes Valley: The Quintessential Sierra Hike thumbnail
On The Road To Bishop thumbnail
Into The John Muir Wilderness thumbnail
Crossing Ruby Creek thumbnail
Beautiful Box Lake thumbnail
Side Trail To Chickenfoot Lake thumbnail
Along The Shore Of Long Lake thumbnail
Contemplating The Grandeur thumbnail
Hiking Through The Ponderosas thumbnail
Trail To Gem Lakes thumbnail
Fresh Snow On The Trail thumbnail
Approaching Gem Lakes thumbnail
First View Of Lower Gem Lake thumbnail
Lower Gem Lake thumbnail
Crossing The Creek To Upper Gem Lake thumbnail
A Chilly Day At Upper Gem Lake thumbnail
Starting The Long Trek Back thumbnail
Stunning Mountain Peaks And Streams thumbnail
Appreciating The Beauty thumbnail
Rockwork On The Trail thumbnail
On The Final Stretch thumbnail
Brown's In Town Campground thumbnail
Campsite On The Golf Course thumbnail
Jodee & Bill At The Brewery thumbnail

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Magical Mono Lake

Magical Mono Lake

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in California, Gallery, Travel | 36 comments

Night before:

“I want to shoot Mono Lake at sunrise.”

“No you don’t.”

“What do you mean? Of course I do!”

“I don’t think you really want to. It’s going to be below freezing in the morning.”

“Yes, I do want to. I really do.”

Next morning:

“It’s 5:00! Time to get up!”

“Uh-uh.” Burrow deeper under covers.

“You said you wanted to shoot the sunrise. We have to leave here in 15 minutes if we’re going to get there in time.”

“Changed my mind.”

“No you didn’t. Come on. Your coffee’s ready.”

He was right. I really did want to go. And so we drove to 15 miles from our campground at June Lake to Mono Lake in the dark, traipsed down to the shoreline in the freezing cold and waited for the sun to rise. There were at least twenty other hardy souls on the shore—apparently some kind of photography workshop. Each person had a tripod, expensive camera, and a bag full of enormous lenses. They were fiddling with their settings, discussing exposures and apertures and depth of field. I had my camera in one hand (set on automatic exposure) and my coffee mug in the other. These are the moments when I think I really should get around to reading my camera manual.

We waited. And waited. Finally, the sun rose—but it never got that exciting. I think we got better photos a couple of days previously at sunset, which in my opinion happens to be a much more respectable time of day.

However, I did overhear one of the photography instructors mention that he was going to walk through the tufas to the other side of the lake to capture the sun’s reflected glow on the mountains and water. Out of curiosity, I followed. Now that was worth getting out of bed for. The alpenglow on the mountains, reflected on the lake, was sublime.

Mono Lake is a unique, otherworldly place. It’s a large lake, at 65 miles square, and ancient, at over a million years old. Because it has no outlet, it’s almost three times as salty as the ocean. What makes Mono Lake so unusual are the rock formations that emerge from the water—knobby limestone spires called “tufas” that are formed by the interaction of carbonate-rich alkaline lake water and calcium-rich freshwater springs. The conditions are perfect for tiny brine shrimp and alkali flies, both of which provide nutritious snacks for millions of migratory birds. In fact, Mono Lake is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, and provides critical nesting habitat for tens of thousands of water birds.

It’s magical to see the towers silhouetted against the sky when the sun is rising or sinking; the sky turns various shades of pink, purple, and orange, and the tufas turn to gold at the magic hour just after sunrise or just before sunset. The best concentration of tufa towers is at the South Tufa grove, about 10 miles south of the visitor center, where a stroll through a tufa forest leads to a picturesque view of tufa islands just offshore.

Tufa grows underwater, and the only reason these towers are visible is because of the unquenchable thirst of Los Angeles, which began diverting water from the lake in 1941. In less than 40 years, half the volume of water disappeared, and Mono Lake was dying. Thanks to tenacious citizens who recognized the value of the lake, the area was declared Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area and mandates were established to control how much water can be siphoned off. Since 1994, the lake has recovered to about two-thirds of its original level.

We had planned to kayak the lake during our stay in the area. Alas, the weather didn’t cooperate—it was either too rainy or too cold, so we’ll save that adventure for another time. For now, we’re happy that we experienced both sunrise and sunset at lovely Mono Lake.

Next Up: Little Lakes Valley: A Quintessential Sierra Hike

Magical Mono Lake

Mono Lake Visitor Center

On The Trail Behind The Visitor Center

West End Of Mono Lake

Tufa Formations On The West End Of Mono Lake

Strolling Through The Tufas

Late Afternoon On The South End

Lovely Colors At Sunset

Fire Peeking Through The Clouds

Early Morning In The Tufas

Tufa Silhouettes At Sunrise

Morning Reflections In The Lake

Tufa And Alpenglow

Golden Morning Light In The Tufa Forest

Sunrise Reflected On The Mountains

Warming Up At The Latte Da

Magical Mono Lake
Mono Lake Visitor Center
On The Trail Behind The Visitor Center
West End Of Mono Lake
Tufa Formations On The West End Of Mono Lake
Strolling Through The Tufas
Late Afternoon On The South End
Lovely Colors At Sunset
Fire Peeking Through The Clouds
Early Morning In The Tufas
Tufa Silhouettes At Sunrise
Morning Reflections In The Lake
Tufa And Alpenglow
Golden Morning Light In The Tufa Forest
Sunrise Reflected On The Mountains
Warming Up At The Latte Da
Magical Mono Lake thumbnail
Mono Lake Visitor Center thumbnail
On The Trail Behind The Visitor Center thumbnail
West End Of Mono Lake thumbnail
Tufa Formations On The West End Of Mono Lake thumbnail
Strolling Through The Tufas thumbnail
Late Afternoon On The South End thumbnail
Lovely Colors At Sunset thumbnail
Fire Peeking Through The Clouds thumbnail
Early Morning In The Tufas thumbnail
Tufa Silhouettes At Sunrise thumbnail
Morning Reflections In The Lake thumbnail
Tufa And Alpenglow thumbnail
Golden Morning Light In The Tufa Forest thumbnail
Sunrise Reflected On The Mountains thumbnail
Warming Up At The Latte Da thumbnail

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Hiking Adventures In The Sierras

Hiking Adventures In The Sierras

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in California, Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 18 comments

A picture-postcard landscape of jagged granite mountain peaks, rushing streams and waterfalls, glacial lakes, and groves of golden aspen splashed amongst stately Ponderosa pines and junipers, the eastern Sierras offer an escape into wilderness that challenges the body and nourishes the spirit. This was sacred ground to John Muir, the philosophical environmentalist who mused:

Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed…Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”

On the trails of the eastern Sierras, I feel that freedom and sense of practical immortality, where the only moment is now. It is a breathtaking landscape, both literally and figuratively. With trails starting at a minimum of 7500 feet, we have entered the realm of high altitude hiking. At this elevation, there’s less oxygen for the task ahead—although neither one of us is unduly affected until we get to 10,000 feet and above, we definitely slow our pace on the uphill grind.

I wouldn’t say that there are any truly easy trails in the Sierras, but there are assuredly those that are easier than others. In our four days at June Lake, we chose three nearby trails that offered us a variety of experiences, from pretty darned easy to a bit more challenging. All were gorgeous, despite the frequent rainstorms with which we played hide-and-seek. (“Looks like a break in the weather—let’s go!”) No thunderstorms, though, for which we were grateful.

• Parker Lake

This is the perfect warm-up hike to acclimatize to higher elevation hiking. The Parker Lake trailhead is close to 8,000 feet with a total elevation gain of 600 feet—primarily within the first half-mile. Other than that, the trail is mostly flat and easy. The beautiful four-mile round trip hike begins in sagebrush—be sure to turn around to admire the spectacular views of Mono Lake and Mono Craters when you stop to catch your breath along that first section. The trail then wends along Parker Creek, through a stand of golden aspen, and opens to a magnificent view of Parker Lake, a pristine alpine gem surrounded by tall mountain peaks reflected in the water.

• Devils Postpile And Rainbow Falls

Rising 60-feet out of a rubble pile, Devils Postpile is a unique geological formation of hexagonal columns artfully stacked by an ancient lava flow. In the realm of geological wonders, it’s a rarity, and considered to be one of the finest examples in the world of columnar basalt. Even to a non-geologist, it’s a magnificent sight.

Protected as a National Monument, Devils Postpile is generally open from mid-June through mid-October, depending on weather. An easy and level half-mile trail leads from the trailhead parking lot to view the grandeur of the Postpile; a steep climb then offers a look at the glacier-polished top of the columns. “I wish our stone patio at home looked this good,” I commented to Eric.

We combined the hike to Devils Postpile with Rainbow Falls, continuing on another 2.5 miles, a gradual descent through the Ansel Adams wilderness to the steep canyon that contains the beautiful 101-foot waterfall. The overlooks from the rim of the river canyon are good, but we enjoyed clambering down the trail cut into the canyon wall to the bottom of the falls for a closer look. But wow, those steps were steep on the way out—apparently made for tall people with long legs.

• Lundy Canyon

The 6-mile round trip Lundy Canyon Trail is reputed to be one of the best in the area, with vibrant High Sierra scenery packed into a relatively short, but relatively intense hike. The drive to the trailhead is a prime fall-color attraction, but the real adventure begins when you set foot on the trail.

Beginning at 8100 feet, a narrow path wends past enormous terraced beaver ponds, through a large grove of aspens, and climbs sharply up a rocky path to a view of beautiful lower Lundy Canyon Falls and the canyon below. Don’t stop here—the climbing continues on for another two-and-a-half miles, through grove after grove of golden aspen, surrounded by views of craggy iconic mountain peaks, and leading to another gorgeous waterfall before heading further up the canyon. At three miles in, we ate lunch in the rain beneath the shelter of Ponderosa pines, and then headed back down canyon, slightly damp, but happy.

Next up: Magical Mono Lake

Hiking Adventures In The Sierras

Beginning The Parker Lake Trail

A Distant View Of Mono Lake

Mono Craters On The Horizon

Aspens Among The Conifers

Through A Forest Of Aspens

Lovely Parker Lake

Heading Back On The Trail

The Trail To Devils Postpile & Rainbow Falls

Unique Rock Formations

Devils Postpile From A Distance

Devils Postpile National Monument

On Top Of Devils Postpile

Continuing On To Rainbow Falls

In The Ansel Adams Wilderness

Along The Trail To Rainbow Falls

At Rainbow Falls

Steep Climb Up From The Falls

Hoping For A Ride Back

On The Road To Lundy Canyon

Beaver Ponds On The Trail

The Beavers Have Been Busy

Fall Colors Brighten A Gray Day

Abandoned Miner's Cabin

Lower Lundy Falls

Gorgeous Views In Lundy Canyon

Hiking Deeper Into The Canyon

A Long Uphill Climb

Rewarded By A Beautiful Waterfall

Brilliant Aspens In The Canyon

One Of Several Stream Crossings

Hiking Adventures In The Sierras
Beginning The Parker Lake Trail
A Distant View Of Mono Lake
Mono Craters On The Horizon
Aspens Among The Conifers
Through A Forest Of Aspens
Lovely Parker Lake
Heading Back On The Trail
The Trail To Devils Postpile & Rainbow Falls
Unique Rock Formations
Devils Postpile From A Distance
Devils Postpile National Monument
On Top Of Devils Postpile
Continuing On To Rainbow Falls
In The Ansel Adams Wilderness
Along The Trail To Rainbow Falls
At Rainbow Falls
Steep Climb Up From The Falls
Hoping For A Ride Back
On The Road To Lundy Canyon
Beaver Ponds On The Trail
The Beavers Have Been Busy
Fall Colors Brighten A Gray Day
Abandoned Miner's Cabin
Lower Lundy Falls
Gorgeous Views In Lundy Canyon
Hiking Deeper Into The Canyon
A Long Uphill Climb
Rewarded By A Beautiful Waterfall
Brilliant Aspens In The Canyon
One Of Several Stream Crossings
Hiking Adventures In The Sierras thumbnail
Beginning The Parker Lake Trail thumbnail
A Distant View Of Mono Lake thumbnail
Mono Craters On The Horizon thumbnail
Aspens Among The Conifers thumbnail
Through A Forest Of Aspens thumbnail
Lovely Parker Lake thumbnail
Heading Back On The Trail thumbnail
The Trail To Devils Postpile & Rainbow Falls thumbnail
Unique Rock Formations thumbnail
Devils Postpile From A Distance thumbnail
Devils Postpile National Monument thumbnail
On Top Of Devils Postpile thumbnail
Continuing On To Rainbow Falls thumbnail
In The Ansel Adams Wilderness thumbnail
Along The Trail To Rainbow Falls thumbnail
At Rainbow Falls thumbnail
Steep Climb Up From The Falls thumbnail
Hoping For A Ride Back thumbnail
On The Road To Lundy Canyon thumbnail
Beaver Ponds On The Trail thumbnail
The Beavers Have Been Busy thumbnail
Fall Colors Brighten A Gray Day thumbnail
Abandoned Miner's Cabin thumbnail
Lower Lundy Falls thumbnail
Gorgeous Views In Lundy Canyon thumbnail
Hiking Deeper Into The Canyon thumbnail
A Long Uphill Climb thumbnail
Rewarded By A Beautiful Waterfall thumbnail
Brilliant Aspens In The Canyon thumbnail
One Of Several Stream Crossings thumbnail

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A Glorious Autumn On Highway 395

A Glorious Autumn On Highway 395

Posted by on Oct 30, 2015 in California, Food, Gallery, Travel | 26 comments

We’ve traveled Highway 395 many times over the years, but prior to our full-timing adventure we were always on the way to elsewhere, with only a couple of days to devote to this most enticing roadway. Although not as well known as Route 66, Highway 395 has its own unique claim to fame—in the 1930’s, it was heralded as the “Three Flags Highway” because it linked Mexico, the United States, and Canada. We’ve always appreciated Highway 395 because it offers an alternative to the mind-numbingly boring and traffic-crazed length of I-5 that traverses California.

We plan to pick up 395 in the high desert of eastern Oregon—but what we’re most excited about is a 150-mile section that starts in Bridgeport, California and ends in Lone Pine. It’s one of the most beautiful and interesting stretches of road that you can imagine. Here, Highway 395 traverses the high peaks of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain range, skirts the otherworldly landscape of Mono Lake, and ends in a unique panorama of boulders and arches known as the Alabama Hills.

We begin our Highway 395 adventure at Goose Lake State Park in Lakeview, Oregon. A mere 110 miles from our last stop in Rocky Point, we’ve stayed here several times and always found it quiet and peaceful. This time, we find it quieter than usual—much to our dismay, the park is closed for the season. Stealth camping is not our style (we’re way too obvious for stealth camping with a 28-foot trailer and a big truck). But with dusk falling, we park in the day use area and call it a night, hoping that the sheriff won’t come knocking on our door.

With a very early start the next morning (much to Eric’s delight!) and an uneventful 230-mile drive, we pull into Washoe Lake State Park in Nevada. It’s a terrific overnight spot just south of Reno—no hookups, but spacious, pretty sites set amongst the fragrant sagebrush, and a reasonable $17 per night. Despite the name, there is no lake—with sufficient rain, the lake will reappear, but the current drought has left nary a drop of water in the shallow basin.

Day three and 135 miles from Washoe Lake, we arrive at June Lake, our destination for the beginning of our explorations. A mere two miles off of 395, Oh Ridge campground is nestled into a spectacularly scenic location, set at 7,600 feet in a Ponderosa pine and juniper forest. Surrounded by the high peaks of the Sierras, our site overlooks the lovely lake, which changes from cobalt to aquamarine to silver, depending on the time of day. In mid-October, it’s the perfect time to be here to enjoy the fall foliage.

We spend our five days at June Lake immersed in hiking the nearby trails and visiting nearby Mono Lake. Things are pretty quiet in the tiny town of June Lake, but to our delight, there’s a little microbrewery. June Lake Brewing doesn’t look like much (a renovated garage, perhaps?) but the beer is excellent, and there’s a neon orange food truck (Ohanas 395) in the parking lot that turns out what are perhaps the best chicken, fish, and pork tacos on the planet. They deliver our food to the brewery as we enjoy a Smokin porter while we wait. Everything is so good, we eat here twice.

Should you be here in the fall, take time to drive the June Lake loop, a 14-mile scenic drive that wends through the mountains and past four subalpine lakes strung like jewels on a necklace. It’s a lovely drive at any time of year, but especially fine when the aspens are dressed in their autumn attire of bright gold and orange.

About the campground: Oh Ridge is a beautiful Forest Service campground with no hookups, but with conveniently located water faucets (you can fill your tanks without moving your RV), excellent Verizon coverage, and only $12.50 per night (with the Senior Pass). It’s a great location for hikes in the high Sierras, driving the beautiful June Lake loop, and visiting nearby Mono Lake.

Not all of the sites are RV friendly—most are terribly unlevel and impossible for all but the smallest trailers. The Duck Loop, however has long level sites; as a bonus, some of the sites (27-30) have amazing views of the lake. In scouting around the campground, we also liked sites 158 and 159, above the Duck Loop and with a distant view of the lake. With long, cold, snowy winters in the Sierras, the campground closes at the end of October for the season.

Next Up: Hiking Adventures Near June Lake!

A Glorious Autumn On Hwy 395

Lovely Campsites At Washoe Lake

Where's The Lake?

The First Inklings Of Fall Color Along 395

Faux Finish Dodge

A Silvery Afternoon At June Lake

The Duck Loop Is Popular

Pygmy Nuthatch In Our Campsite

View From Our Campsite

The June Lake Loop

Around Another Bend

Fall Colors And A Dusting Of Snow

A Ribbon Of Color

Fresh Snowfall

Looks Like We're In For Some Weather

Great Food Truck At The Brewery

Just Let Me Eat My Tacos In Peace

A Glorious Autumn On Hwy 395
Lovely Campsites At Washoe Lake
Where's The Lake?
The First Inklings Of Fall Color Along 395
Faux Finish Dodge
A Silvery Afternoon At June Lake
The Duck Loop Is Popular
Pygmy Nuthatch In Our Campsite
View From Our Campsite
The June Lake Loop
Around Another Bend
Fall Colors And A Dusting Of Snow
A Ribbon Of Color
Fresh Snowfall
Looks Like We're In For Some Weather
Great Food Truck At The Brewery
Just Let Me Eat My Tacos In Peace
A Glorious Autumn On Hwy 395 thumbnail
Lovely Campsites At Washoe Lake thumbnail
Where's The Lake? thumbnail
The First Inklings Of Fall Color Along 395 thumbnail
Faux Finish Dodge thumbnail
A Silvery Afternoon At June Lake thumbnail
The Duck Loop Is Popular thumbnail
Pygmy Nuthatch In Our Campsite thumbnail
View From Our Campsite thumbnail
The June Lake Loop thumbnail
Around Another Bend thumbnail
Fall Colors And A Dusting Of Snow thumbnail
A Ribbon Of Color thumbnail
Fresh Snowfall thumbnail
Looks Like We're In For Some Weather thumbnail
Great Food Truck At The Brewery thumbnail
Just Let Me Eat My Tacos In Peace thumbnail

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