Sunday, October 16, 2016

The end of our summer camping trip!

     Well, we have come full circle and are back at Chris’s house in Crestline. We will be heading for home on Sunday, October 16. We had decided that we wanted to make this a leisurely trip with less driving and more time to relax and sight see. And we have done just that! And we have seen another interesting and beautiful part of our country.
     On Thursday, October 13, we left the Lake Tahoe area and took the scenic drive on Highway 4 through Ebbetts Pass from east to west. This was another steep, windy mountain road past a beautiful stream (Silver Creek where there were lots of people fishing for trout), and through another pine forest where there was so much color with the trees and plants that were losing their leaves. The pass was at 8700 feet. Coming down from the pass, I really felt like I was in California – the rounded hills were all brown, with little clumpy trees growing on the hill sides. We ended up in Stockton and then headed south on 99 looking for dinner and a place to stay. We spent the night in Modesto after driving a lot longer than we wanted.
     Friday we spent in Fresno where I got to do some more genealogy at their Central Library. We have been here enough times that we have our favorite places to eat and shop. It is in the middle of farm country and buying fruit is another thing I wanted to do. I am going to have to do lots of canning when I get home!

     And Saturday was our longest day of driving as we drove Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley past all the farms – grapes, nut trees, peaches, citrus, truck farms and lots we didn’t recognize. Of course, we had to compete with all of the trucks also going south. We angled off to the east, crossing the Tehachapi Mountains where we saw lots of windmills, and through more brown, dry desert country before ending up in Crestline. Another wonderful trip under our belts!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Virginia City and Lake Tahoe

Tuesday, October 11, we found ourselves in Carson City NV. This is the capitol of Nevada and we saw the silver dome of the capitol building as we drove into town. We have been here before, so we decided to visit Virginia City. Virginia City is an old mining town, now turned into a tourist attraction, high in the hills north east of Carson City. The road is advertised as a 15% grade, so it was a little intimidating driving around. We went through Silver City which is where the largest silver mine was found (called the Comstock Lode), then through Gold Hill where gold was found in the valley below the hill, and ended up in Virginia City. We spent an hour or so walking around looking at the antique shops, jewelry stores, gift shops, saloons, hotels, and museums. There is lots to do, but it was all a little too “Old Westie” for us! We even passed on taking a ride on the shortest train line in the West. On the way down we marveled at all the destruction the mining had created in the hills – abandoned equipment, tunnels, and denuded hills with terracing and deep pits.

On Wednesday we decided to drive around Lake Tahoe. This could have been a beautiful drive – the lake is a gorgeous blue, the surrounding forest was lovely and the deciduous trees were all turning color.

However, this must be the time of year when California and Nevada do their road work (the shoulder season between summer and the winter snows). It started out with the highway patrol pulling all the cars over so a caravan of “Wide load” vehicles could pass. Then we hit the one way roads with flaggers stopping cars. There must have been a dozen spots as we attempted to follow the road around the lake. We found where the Truckee River exits Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City. We drove over the bridge and marveled at how little water was in it considering how much water was in it when we saw the River in Reno. We missed the entrance to Emerald Bay State Park camp ground, but did manage to get into Fallen Leaf National Forest camp ground just outside South Lake Tahoe. They are closing this weekend, so at least we timed that right! Now we are recovering and will carry on tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Visiting Reno NV

Sunday, October 9, we were back on I-80 heading for Reno NV. We decided to take the scenic route past Pyramid Lake which is just north east of Reno on Highway 425. The lake is the last remnant of an ancient lake that covered all of this part of Nevada. It is on Paiute Indian land so they control access to the recreational use of the lake. There is an island in the middle of the lake which is a National Wildlife Refuge. There is also a small island close to shore which looks like a pyramid – hence the name of the lake. It was a beautiful, leisurely drive through the desert which is very brown and scrubby looking in this area.
What we saw of Teska Giga Factory
We got into Sparks and Don wanted to look for the Tesla Giga Factory which is being built to make batteries for the cars. We had to go back east on I-80 to a new exit which goes to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. This is a new development in the middle of the desert and many factories and transportation centers are being built there. We got to the factory, but it was behind a gate so we only saw it from a distance.
We stayed at the River Edge RV Park which was where we stayed twelve years ago when we were here. It was nice just to stop driving and have some down time.

On Monday we finished exploring Reno. It is a gambling city, but much quieter and newer looking than Las Vegas. They have built the Truckee River Walk along the river that cuts through downtown Reno. It has lots of fountains, statues, steps to the river, plants, bridges across the river, and rocks placed in the river to control the flow. It was very sculptural looking. We also went out to look at the Arboretum. I always enjoy looking at plants and trees and trying to remember the names of them!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Our last days in Utah

We spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday meandering around Utah north of Salt Lake City and starting our trip across Nevada towards Reno.
Golden Spike NHS
Thursday, October 6, we headed out to Promontory Point to visit the Golden Spike National Historical Site. That is the spot where the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad met after both lines engaged in a heroic struggle to be the first to reach that spot and join up to form a transcontinental railroad. The CP started in Sacramento. They used Chinese laborers to complete the challenge of crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains via tunnels which were almost dug by hand. The UP started in Omaha and they used Irish and other immigrant laborers to build across the plains through all kinds of weather and fighting the Native Americans while they were at it. We saw replicas of the two steam locomotives that met when the last rail was laid and the golden spike was symbolically hammered in. They reenacted the event with bells, whistles, steam, and the two engines chugging back and forth.

We stayed in Odgen UT which is a railroad town and has a wonderful Railroad Museum in the old Union Station Passenger terminal (they still have a working terminal next door). They had at least a dozen engines on display and all types of rail cars. I was amazed at how gigantic they all looked when you were standing right next to them.
Don and Mickey at the Great Salt Lake
We stayed in Elko NV, just off I-80 on Friday night. On Saturday we did another scenic drive from Elko to Lamoille Canyon at the foot of Ruby Mountain. We saw more spectacular scenery as we climbed up through the canyon which had been cut through the mountains by several glaciers millions of years ago. The mountains were rugged with craggy tops and were covered by aspen trees in their beautiful yellow fall colors. The tops had some snow and there were a few waterfalls. We stopped at several overlooks to see side canyons and hanging valleys also created by glacial action. We walked down a short path to a spring and saw the dams and mound created by beavers. They were gone now, looking for greener pastures, but it was so interesting to see the stumps of all the aspen trees that had been felled by these active woodsmen and the dams and ponds that they had created.
Suzanne at Lamoille Canyon

Tonight we are in Winnimucca NV and will head off to Reno tomorrow.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Salt Lake City UT

We spent two days in Salt Lake City UT, Tuesday, October 4 & Wednesday, October 5. We have been here before and I still can’t say I have seen the city! I wanted to spend my time doing family history research in the Mormon Library, which I did. However, I must say I was very disappointed. The library building is huge with 5 floors – 2 dedicated to genealogy of other countries, 1 to microfilm for US and Canada and the last to computer access for information on US and Canada. So, as soon as I walked in I was led to a computer, logged on to Family Search and found everything I could have found on my own computer at home! I like to look at books, but almost everything is in closed stacks and you need to know which books to ask for if you want to do that. There was no browsing. I must say the DAR Library has them beat!
Other than that Don and Mickey did some exploring around the Temple Square area. I loved the city itself – it is very clean and well organized and the traffic flowed well. We found free parking wherever we needed to go. The city is located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, so we had spectacular scenery all around us. We did tour the State Capitol which is celebrating its 100th anniversary and was totally refurbished in 2008. What a gorgeous building! The three branches of government are all represented in the building (the Supreme Court actually works out of a modern office building) with beautifully appointed rooms with modern equipment housed in the original furniture. They used 3 types of granite – white, brown, and grey. The weather was cold and rainy, so we had an early day.
Suzanne at Salt Lake City Capitol

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A beautiful drive

Monday, October 3 was a beautiful day! We left the National Park and spent most of the day driving to Provo. We went north on 93 to 50. Highway 50 bills itself as the loneliest road in America, but I think 93 can beat it. Both roads were two lane with very little traffic and went straight as a stick – 93 goes straight north and 50 goes east.
It may be lonely, but this was the most beautiful drive of the trip. The Great Basin Desert lived up to its name. We were at 4000 feet driving through a vast plain filled with gorgeous yellow sagebrush. There were a few ranch houses and some cattle grazing.
We turned off on Highway 132 and drove through the tiny town of Nephi to  the junction with FR015. This started the official scenic drive through the Uinta National Forest which rises into the Wasatch Range. We switch-backed up the mountain road to over 9000 feet. We had tremendous views of the desert below, the yellow, orange, and red leafed trees on the hill side interspersed among the many varieties of pines, and snow capped Mt. Nebo. We stopped at several scenic overlooks. At one spot we looked down on red rock formations of hoodoos, cones, and other red sandstone and conglomerate formations. This was aptly named the “Little Bryce Canyon!” We even ran into some snow flurries and there was some snow on the ground.
Don at "Little Bryce Canyon"

Suzanne in the snow flurries
We also saw lots of cattle. They were all over the place and seemed to enjoy snoozing alongside the road. We even saw a few mule deer with their large ears.
We finally stopped in Provo to spend the night before heading into Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Great Basin National Park

We have spent the last two days (Saturday and Sunday, October 1 & 2) in Great Basin National Park. We learned it is called the Great Basin because it is a vast region of sagebrush- covered valleys and narrow mountain ranges in which almost all the water flows inland and none flows to the sea. Therefore it is a region of shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats formed when the water evaporates in the hot desert air. This area is a series of broad basins hung between craggy mountain ranges. The National Park is a beautiful park and I would highly recommend it. Unfortunately, we did not have the best weather – it was quite cold and extremely windy.
The two main things to do in this park are to drive the scenic road to almost 10,000 feet up Wheeler Peak and to tour Lehman Caves. So, on Saturday we did the drive up the mountain. We went from pinyon-juniper woodlands to an aspen lined creek bed.
The aspen trees are all turning yellow and quite spectacular. Other trees we passed were mahogany, Manzanita, Englemann spruce, and Douglas fir. We had vista views into the valleys and of the small glacier still left on Wheeler Peak.
Don at Wheeler Peak
At the top of the scenic drive are several walks. The most intrepid can hike up to the top of the mountain. Others can walk in and see a grove of 3000 year old bristlecone pines or view two alpine lakes. However, we were feeling the altitude and decided to just enjoy the drive.
On Sunday, we got to the visitor center early to purchase tickets for the 10 a.m. cave tour. The hills in the lower elevations are mainly limestone and there are many caves. This one was discovered in 1885 by Ab Leyman and is the most highly decorated. We learned about all the formations – stalactites, stalagmites, columns, helictites (look it up), draperies, flowstone, cave popcorn, soda straws, and shields. We spent 90 minutes underground and it only seemed like minutes. How do you like that – from 9000 feet up to 200 feet under ground!
We also got involved in hunting for pinyon pine nuts. This is the season when the pinyon pines drop their cones which are filled with these delectable treats. Unfortunately, the squirrels seem to have beat us to the best ones, but we did find a few to try. Somehow, it seemed like more work than it was worth and we soon gave up.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Through the desert

We haven’t had much Internet access, so I have not been able to post much on this blog. After taking a break in Las Vegas for shopping, eating, reading, and resting we were back on the highway heading north on Friday, September 30.
            We have never spent much time in this part of the desert, so the trip has been a real eye opener for me. The first few days of our trip were in the Mohave Desert. This desert is mostly in California, but lies between the other two great deserts, the Great Basin Desert and the Colorado or Sonoran Desert. On our trip to Texas last year we were in the Colorado Desert. Since leaving Las Vegas we have been traveling in the Great Basin Desert which extends from Oregon and covers most of Nevada and a little into neighboring states.
            The Great Basin Desert is the most northern of the North American deserts and the highest, being mostly over 4000 ft. It has the coldest winters and mostly shrubby vegetation. The Great Basin Sagebrush is the dominant plant.
            We traveled north on Highway 93 through a fairly flat area dotted with plants – especially a beautiful yellow shrub which grew along the road. It was also a very desolate area with few cattle ranches and evidence of former mining operations.
We found a place to camp in a BLM camp ground at Patterson Pass. It was such a beautiful spot, very quiet, and the stars are spectacular.
            On Saturday we drove to Great Basin National Park. The park was established in 1986 to preserve this part of the desert which has a great diversity of plants and animals. The park lies at the foot of Mt. Wheeler which is known as an island in the desert (any mountain within a desert is called an island because it has such a different type of vegetation and animal population as the desert area). We found a campground in the park and will spend some time exploring it before we move on.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kleinbub camping trip

We left home in our camper on Saturday, September 24 about noon. Traffic was great (remember this for future reference) and we made it to Chris and Murrah’s in about 2 hours. We enjoyed the rest of the day visiting with them.

After spending the night camped in Chris’s driveway, we left to spend a couple days in the Mohave Desert National Preserve. We took I-10 east past the fields of wind machines, stopping at Hadley’s new store near the Morongo Indian Casino, buying dates at a local farm on Dillon Road, and staying overnight in Yucca Valley.

On Monday we wanted to have breakfast at a favorite restaurant, the Carousel, in 29 Palms. Sadly, they seem to be out of business so we ended up at Dennys. 29 Palms seems to be a city of barbers and tattoo shops (due to the nearby Marine base) with few other services for the normal tourist (not even a grocery store we were told). In contrast Yucca Valley seems to be booming.

So, the past two days traveling through the Mohave have been very quiet. One can almost imagine we are back in the pioneer days of horse drawn wagons, miners, and wild West cowboys. The road we were on was almost deserted (it is part of the old Route 66). The vegetation was sparse and brushy. The land was fairly flat with rocks and hills in the distance. We passed through an area where there was a chloride mining operation and even that looked deserted. There are lots of run down one and two room shacks littering the landscape. Don learned that they have been there since the 1930’s and later when the government had a policy of giving 5 acres of land to anyone who would build on it (a homestead act). Apparently lots of people took them up on the offer, but not many stayed! Now some of these properties are being purchased by entrepreneurs and updated to be rented as vacation homes.

We ended up in a campground called Hole-in-Wall in the northeastern part of the park. There were only a few other campers there, but it was a lovely, well maintained campground. The campground host told us that within a week it would be full because hunting season was starting, so we timed it well. This part of the desert is formed from ash from volcanic eruptions, so the rocks are very porous (consequently its name.)

On Tuesday we headed for a land mark called Cima Dome where we could dry camp on BLM land. The campground is behind the WWI Memorial which is a huge rock with a cross on top.

We didn’t do much, just relaxed and walked around and enjoyed the peace and quiet. The weather is perfect, hot and dry with a cooling breeze. We have seen some beautiful cloud formations, sunsets, stars, birds (maybe a condor), rabbits, listened to an owl. The vegetation is actually quite lush – sagebrush, Joshua trees, cactus of all kinds, lots of little yellow flowers, and other chaparral plants.