Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 8 and 9 Boondocking in the Alabama Hills

Can you see the MoHo tucked away in the boulders?

Photos here

Some time ago, Laurie (of Semi-True Tales) blogging fame, wrote about how much they loved boondocking in the Alabama Hills on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Mo and I tried to get there last fall, but were stymied by a winter storm that closed the passes. This time Mo traveled the desert for a week before I caught up with her in Kernville, and I'll write about that a bit later, but I wanted to share some photos of the hills where we spent two dark and quiet nights, all alone, free of charge.

Funny thing, we found a BLM campground not far away on the other side of Whitney Portal Road, 10 bucks a night, and even at half price with our Golden Age pass, and couldn't for the life of either of us figure out why someone would pay to stay there instead of tucked away among the boulders in the perfect boondocking site.

The hills were a great jumping off point for a couple of days exploring Old Highway 395, checking out the fault slip generated by the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake, driving up to Whitney Portal, and getting as high in the White Mountains and the Bristlecone Pine Forest as the roads would allow, and of course, searching for wildflowers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 7 Kernville and Tilly Creek

Our photos of Kernville are here Visiting Kernville
March 27 Friday

Even though I lived in Kernville back in the late 60’s, I barely recognized anything there. I tried to find the house along the river where I brought my newborn daughter in 1969, and while a house was there, it had been remodeled. I could only tell where I was by turning around and looking across the little park road to the river, where I recognized the view. The house I lived in before that in Lake Isabella nearby was also gone, covered over by a new 4 lane highway, south of the dam. It was still great being there, and remembering how life was when I had four little children under 6 and Melody was an infant in my arms. Time has a way of going by I guess, and I know that is a very trite, often repeated statement, but when you visit old haunts, words fail the feelings. It was good to go there and good to leave.

We camped in a lovely campground almost right in the town of Wofford Heights, Tilly Creek, on southwest side of Lake Isabella. The campground was nearly empty, but the caretaker told us that on the weekend to come, it was booked completely. It seems that there is a fishing derby, and 3 fish in the lake have been tagged with a 10,000 ticket. Catch that fish using specific gear from a specific sporting goods store and they double the prize. It was a bit daunting to imagine that lake covered with boats, all crazy for winning that 10K prize. We were really glad our timing was so good, even by accident. Note: don't plan to camp anywhere near Lake Isabella on the first of April!

March 28, Saturday.

We left early in the morning, traveling east on 178 and north on the great road 395. I know that the Mother Road HWY 66 has its lore, but HWY 395 is truly a magical road leading from southern California cities, through the deserts, along the backside of the Sierras, through the edge of basin and range landscapes, through ancient calderas, new lava flows, huge lakes with no outlets, and wild country. I think there are more rock hounding sites on 395 than just about any road I know. Much of it is just 2 lane, and in some parts of Oregon, you won’t see another car for hours. Great road, but not so much in the winter. I have been in snowstorms on 395 going into Reno in May. You definitely need to plan and watch the weather if traveling that route.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 2 through 6 Wandering the desert

Saturday March 21
Route: south on I-5 to 138, hwy 14 to hwy 18
Photos are here at Picasa, Mo and the MoHo in the Desert

Digital Desert Mojave is a really great website for the Mojave Desert. If you plan on traveling there, it's worth perusing at length. It is filled with detailed information about the landscape, rock formations, and documents the flow of bloom in the desert. After reading about the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve and the promise of gorgeous displays, Mo decided to go there. It was a bit early in the season, but the photos show it can be lovely in spite of fewer flowers in full bloom. Another site along the way is Mormon Rocks, worth a stop and a look if you have the time.

Mo continued on to the southern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. Arriving late on a Saturday afternoon meant that she was really lucky to get the very last campsite available in the Cottonwood Campground, and it took a bit of jockeying to fit the MoHo into that space, even at only 26 feet. When we got this rig, we were thinking that we wanted to be long enough to be comfortable, yet short enough for tight NP spaces.
On Sunday morning the weather was perfect for a day exploring Joshua Tree, enjoying the cholla and ocotillo gardens, and all the amazing granite formations. The park has several routes in and out, and Mo had to exit and then go back in on Hwy 62 to get to the Blackrock CG which is large with many available spaces on this spring Sunday evening. These camps have water only, so it isn't exactly dry camping, but almost. The JOTR website is filled with information about routes, ecology, camping, and hiking information.

Monday morning Mo left the park, following historic route 66 a few miles before going north on Amboy road to Amboy, then north again to Kelso in the Mojave National Preserve. At Kelso there is a nice visitor center in the historic Depot, but Mo thought that perhaps the preserve wasn't very old since there wasn't a great deal of interpretive information in the area other than the depot. After a day of wandering, taking lots of flower photos, and enjoying the desert, Mo camped at the Sunrise Rock Roadside CG in the Preserve. It was again dry camping, with no water, but the hiking area was wonderful and Abby enjoyed the views as well.

Leaving the Preserve on Tuesday morning, Mo traveled north into Death Valley. The flower show was still minimal this far north, so she went on to Tecopa, checking out the hot springs and campground for future reference, and visiting the Dumont Dunes ATV site. After some more wandering,she headed for the Flying J at Barstow, hoping to repeat her boondocking experince from the previous Sunday. Once there, however, she was overwhelmed with the noise and huge number of trucks at this major desert crossroads, and decided instead to head for Kramer Junction at the intersection of 395 and 58. There is a huge solar generating station here that you can see for miles. After settling in for a pleasant evening at a great little wayside with other rv'rs, she discovered to her dismay that a sewage plant was nearby and little whiffs from the fragrant ponds made it less than pleasant.

On Wednesday, the 25th, with just one more day until our scheduled meeting, Mo headed back north on 395 to Inyokern to check out the active ghost town of Randsburg. There were many old buildings in use by small businesses making an attempt at survival in the tourist trade. Back south to Red Rock Canyon State Park and CG where the cliffs are lovely for hiking and climbing through the rocks and canyons.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 1 Wildflower journeys

Freedom. That is what it is all about. Springtime in California, snow in Oregon, a motorhome waiting in the driveway, and time. In the beginning of the trip, however, it was Mo who traveled alone. Unbound by the work world, she decided that it was time to find the wildflowers. we made plans for a long weekend, arranging to meet in Kernville, but before then, Mo traveled unfettered by schedules, free to wander the desert in search of the best wildflower shows, to find somewhere to park at night, to wake when she felt like it and wander off to another field of color the next day. That is what this RV'ing life is all about.
Friday March 20
Route: south on J-59, south on 99, south to I-5
The familiar bumpy route south of J-59 to Modesto gets tiresome, and it seems that no matter where we go, we follow this road. Abby hates the bumps as much as we do, but the poppy show was at its height all through the foothills on this route. Yellow fiddleneck was also prolific, and while fairly common, it still makes for a lovely show.

South to I-5 and once more rewarded with a sea of blue lupine stretching all the way from the interstate east to the foothills south of Bakersfield. It's smart to find a place to "be" before too late in the afternoon and around 4pm the Flying J on the Grapevine at Frazier Park was a perfect place to boondock. Mo said that when she went to sleep after watching a lovely sunset, she was basically alone in the big lot. Morning found her surrounded by 5 other motorhomes who also knew about the great free parking on this major route to and from LA. When in need for a quick and easy night stop, if the truck noise isn't too bothersome, it's worth finding a Flying J.