The last time I wrote about Sedona was two years ago and I still think it is just as magical. The annual southern migration led us there again and it’s a darn good thing we made the reservation at Rancho Sedona RV Park two years in advance because it was booked solid the entire three weeks we were there.
After our 5 day pedal to the metal road trip from Portland Oregon, it was good to put the jacks down and stay a while. It was also really spend time with our fellow full time RV friends Joe and Sharon. It was a different time, as they lost their beautiful boxer boy Cooper last year so our boxer boy Bentley tried hard to fill the empty void. He was so excited to see them and was not shy about barging right into their coach anytime!! Cooper was a sweet boy who sure did like to hike too. Bentley is not that into it, so the last time we met up with Joe, Sharon and Cooper, Bentley loaned Cooper is hiking booties…. we sure miss that sweet boy.
On our last stay we did a lot of touring around the area … there is so much to see and do in Sedona. This stay we spent more time locally, hiking almost everyday and just living like a local! Of course we had to hit some of our favorite restaurants that had patio seating.
Like our last stay, I got to spend my birthday in the land of red rocks. Wally and I had a delicious brunch on the zen patio at the Casa Sedona Inn. Bloody Mary’s, fresh corn muffins and huevos rancheros followed by locally roasted coffee had this gal almost purring!!! Not only is the dining 5 Star at the inn, Casa Sedona was voted # 6 in the US – most romantic places.
After our leisurely brunch, we headed out to do some birding and take a long walk at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve. The preserve is actually 27 acres in a effluent management area located south of the Sedona Wastewater Treatment Facility. I know, sounds gross at first but honestly you would have no idea as you were walking around the numerous reed lined ponds.
The ponds range from very shallow to approximately 4 feet deep to accommodate a wide range of habitat. We saw loads of scat around the ponds so I know there are more than birds hanging out there. Wetland and upland plants are located within shallow water areas and above the water line to provide habitat, attract wildlife, and control erosion. Several islands are constructed within the ponds to provide safe habitat and breeding areas for birds and other wildlife.
According to the website “In addition to effluent management goals, the wetlands also provide habitat for numerous wetland species and serve as a public park with educational and recreational opportunities including bird watching and pedestrian trail walking”. Well, they might want to actually put up some signage on 89A because if you don’t know it’s there you will drive right on by.
We did not go at the optimum birding time but still saw plenty of feathery friends and a few turtles too! Guess they don’t care about effluent management!!! Our sightings included Cedar Waxwing, Phainapepala, Scrub Jay, Barn Swallow, White Striped Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, American Coots, Northern Flicker, and loads of Mallards.
We also took a scenic drive along the Red Rock Loop Road and stopped to gawk at the stunning vistas along the way. Sedona is undeniably one of the most beautiful locations in the state of Arizona. The towering red sandstone rock formations that surround the town are especially stunning during the golden hours around sunset.
The Birthday fun continued, after our birding adventure we joined Joe and Sharon for happy hour with their daughter and son-in-law who were visiting from Texas. RVing is great for social distancing… we sat outside with the warm afternoon sun on our backs and a cocktail in hand!
It was a great day and I truly appreciate all my friends, near and far who reached out to wish me a Happy Birthday!
Our next two weeks flew by, hiking … more friends visiting and general relaxing in this beautiful zen country. Sedona is just one photo opportunity after another.
Sedona’s population today is around 10,000 but that number is insignificant when compared to the three million tourists that flock to the area each year. Suffice to say, because of the large amount of tourism, Sedona is off our list of possible places to live long term but we will still enjoy visiting again.
Our plan to stay a week in Bend morphed into three weeks… For no other reason than we just like it here! Plus, the weather up north in Anacortes still seem drippy so why not just stay put. Hiking, biking, and exploring the area have kept us busy. The Crown Villa RV Resort has been the perfect location with its easy access to the Old Mill District and Downtown. Great location, huge sites with brick pavers, patio sets and a storage shed certainly set this RV park apart from others we have stayed at. The other nice feature is that there is literally a grassy park behind all the RV sites and loads of mature ponderosa pine trees. Our only disappointment was that the pickleball court was closed due to COVID but I suspect it will be re-opening soon.
We have spent a lot of our time here in Bend just enjoying the outdoor life. Hiking, biking, walking and exploring the area have kept us plenty busy. There are no shortage of hiking trails nearby and we have especially enjoyed the extensive Deschutes River Trail system. Hiking along water – bonus points!!! Dillion Falls was one of our favorite hikes and the falls are just beautiful.
The bird watching on our hikes has been fun too. Colorful Western Tanagers, Black Headed Grosbeaks, copious amounts of Red Winged Black Birds, Finches of all kinds, Woodpeckers, loads of LBB’s, Nuthatches, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys and Hawks but our best sighting was a Great Blue Heron contemplating how to fish the turbulent waters at Dillon Falls. Herons take a bit of effort to take flight and seriously, one false move and this dude would have been swept into the water and over the falls.
Yesterday (Friday), we took a walk through Drake Park and Downtown Bend. Shops, bars and restaurants are starting to re-open but there wasn’t much foot traffic for the beginning of a long weekend. Much as I would like to plop myself down in a restaurant with white table clothes and gleaming stemware, a cold tap beer on a mostly deserted pub patio was a daring step out. Man, did it feel good to sit outside by a big fire table , overlooking Drake Park with a cold brew, sun on my back, yep…it felt normal.
While we aren’t partaking of newly opened restaurants yet that doesn’t mean we haven’t been eating well. There is a great produce stand just a few miles away and I even braved a trip to Trader Joe’s. The line was kinda long to get in as they were only letting 20 people in the store at a time, masks mandatory. So it was a thirty minute wait but once inside it was really nice not to be elbow to elbow like it always was pre-COVID. Not sure why the gal in front of me needed to bring her kids but at least they had masks on.
We have had a wide range of meals and I made a batch of triple chocolate brownies with toasted coconut which we have been feasting on for the last week. Tomorrow night the Uuni Pizza Oven is getting fired up…there is homemade pizza dough rising as I type.
We have a few more days to enjoy Bend before the Road House rolls on Tuesday. Tomorrow we are headed out to Tumalo State Park to take a hike and look for a family of owls that someone told us about. Hope you are all sane, healthy and enjoying a bit of normal…what ever that is!!!
It will be interesting to see how these phased re-opening go, will people continue to observe the stay at home orders in counties that are still closed, will COVID cases spike, will small rural counties be able to maintain their low cases if people start traveling again… all TBD.
So here is how day Fifty One through day Fifty Five of our sheltering in place went:
We are hiking or walking everyday…there are so many trails yet to explore!
Monday I made some awesome Elk Burgers. I had recently discovered a package of wild ground elk that was gifted to me last fall in the freezer so that got me salivating for a good burger. Wild Elk is actually very lean so I added some garlic that I had been soaking in olive oil to the meat along with some thyme, salt and pepper. The burgers were served with carmelized onions, homemade sundried tomato goat cheese spread and arugula. YUMMY!!!! I also did not not repeat my failed burger bun attempt…licked my wounds and just bought some nice fluffy potato buns from the store.
Tuesday we had friends from Portland drive over in their Leisure Travel Serenity aka “The Mobe”. We are lucky to have some friends who like to travel as much as we do and have joined us along the way in our travels. In this case, Donna and Steve also share our love of good food and wine so we always have fun cooking together and sharing our latest wine acquisitions. Despite the fact the weather took a rainy turn, we had three days of fun together, hiking, exploring the area and quaffing some delicious wine that they brought with. Since there were no restaurants we could visit, we co-opted some great meals together.
Wednesday, a long time friend, Connie who now lives in Burns Oregon stopped by while she was in Bend. We spent a couple of hours catching up and talking about dogs, so great to see her. Connie is a devoted Standard Schnauzer breeder and our boy Gus was one of her pups. Gus was surrendered to the Oregon Humane Society while I worked there. One of my staffers called me the day he came in day so I went down our medical clinic to take a look at him as Standard Schnauzers are a bit of a rare breed. I kinda fell in love with the dude, fostered him for a few days after he had major dental work done and eventually got him transferred to a Standard Schnauzer Rescue Group. Poor buddy had serious separation anxiety and wasn’t doing well in the shelter.
A couple of days after Gus went home with the Standard Schnauzer Rescue gal, I got a call from her. She told me she figured out who the breeder was (Connie – Von Berg Schnauzers), that Connie was in Portland and that she had let Connie know that she had Gus. Being a reputable breeder meant Connie wanted Gus back and of course I was thrilled he found his way home at almost 9 years old. Long story short, Connie and I kept in touch and some how I ended up going to see him one day and somehow he came home with me!! He was my buddy and my pal, a great dog that Wally and I loved to pieces. He still had terrible separation anxiety which got a bit better over time but he was otherwise fearless, confident and loved to go any where we went. Gus also helped us raise Bentley, another puppy I couldn’t resist at the shelter.
Our second week is flying by almost as fast as the first week here in Bend did. Sadly, we have no more visitors coming by but have plenty of exploring to do still. Donna texted me on her way out of town with the location of a great farm stand where I scored some awesome fresh veggies today.
While it is tempting to go out to one of the many retaurants here in Bend that are re-opening, whats more tempting are all the micro-breweries…sigh. But we are going to continue to avoid crowds of people, do occasional take out, get a growler filled to go and just enjoy the great outdoors here in Bend. Today we ran errands, stopped at the produce stand, went to Petsmart and Ace Hardware. Yep, we are cautiously venturing out so I think this will be my last entry as sheltering in place…I hope….fingers crossed.
We have been here in Bend for week now and loving it. What’s not to like…great weather, friendly people, hiking galore plus we are settled in a nice big site at the Crown Villa RV Resort. Liking it so much, we extended our stay another week. It has been easy to continue sheltering in place, I am still using Instacart to have groceries delivered, utilizing restaurants that offer take out and generally avoiding people as best we can. With a population just under 200,000 Deschutes County has been relatively unscathed by CODID-19 – 85 cases and no deaths. I think this could have been very different if Governor Kate Brown hadn’t shut down the state so early. Bend in particular is a tourist destination both winter and summer so with no big influx of people from all over the US, they have stayed relatively healthy here.
So here is how day Forty Four through day Fifty of our sheltering in place went:
We have been hiking or walking everyday. There are so many options in the Bend area that we can do something different everyday. Monday Kristen and I walked the Bend River Park Trail that starts in the Old Mill District. It is a very pretty 4 mile walk along the Deschutes River.
Dinner was a full spread of Cinco de Mayo eats complete with a pitcher of Margaritas – Thanks Kristen for the great grub!
Wednesday was Kristens birthday so of course we hiked!!! Our choice for a pretty afternoon hike was at the Riley Ranch Nature Preserve. There is a great trail system there with a series of small loops.
Kristen requested that the Wally Brenda pizza duo cater her birthday dinner so that’s just what we did. It was a three course meal featuring… wait for it…PIZZA. Of course, I made the dough from scratch in the morning so it could rise all day. I started the BD girl (Well, and me too) with a French 75 cocktail which I made with frozen meyer lemon juice (from our trees in Palm Springs), gin and prosecco – that’s how you get the party started!!! Head Pizza Chef Waldo started the birthday girl with a Pizza Margherita topped with fresh basil from my traveling herb pot. The second course was a Green Chile Chicken Sausage Pizza and the third course was an Apple Chicken Sausage Pizza with Blue Cheese topped with Arugula. John bought the birthday girl her favorite dessert – Cheesecake which we topped with Lemon Curd and Blueberry Compote. After dinner, we played a round of Five Crowns – it was a fun evening with the BD Girl!!
Wally and I took a day trip to Camp Sherman on Thursday. We brought a picnic lunch and hiked along the Metolius River. This is a gorgeous area and the crazy thing is the head waters of the river. The headwaters of the river are at Metolius Springs, where the river emerges from two clusters of springs at the base of Black Butte. Water flows to these springs from the drainage basin around Black Butte Ranch, several miles to the south. The elevation of the drainage basin is 300 feet above that of the springs, forming a natural standpipe that tends to stabilize the river’s rate of flow. But seriously, how can all that water come out of such a small hole in the ground???
Friday Wally and I headed out to Sunriver which is a city all in its self. It was actually developed in the late seventies and was the first luxury resort community in Central Oregon. The resort community is home to 63 holes of world-class golf, a marina, an aquatic center, stables and its own small airport. In Sunriver, you can spend the day riding bikes along 30 miles of paved trails, going on a guided horseback ride or visiting the Sunriver Nature Center, Oregon Observatory, High Desert Museum or Lava Lands Visitors Center, where the first astronauts trained to talk on the moon. The Village at Sunriver hosts a variety of shops, restaurants, breweries and art galleries. In winter, the Village at Sunriver offers ice skating and Mt. Batchelor with first class skiing is just a 20 minute drive.
Wally and I have spent some time in Sunriver, mostly on skiing vacations so it was fun to drive through and reminisce. Unlike other trips, Sunriver was a ghost town. The Village was mostly shuttered except the Bend Brewing Company which was offering take out. After splitting a burger and fries we needed a good long walk so we headed out to the marina area where we picked up the River Loop Trail. This paved walking/biking path was a great way to burn off that burger and 6 miles later we were both ready for a shower and a cold beverage. We saw a plethora of birds, a big herd of elk which were way off in the trees behind the horse pastures, deer and some ground critters. We met up with Kristen and John back at the RV Resort for drinks, dinner and some time around the fire pit. Persistence won out and we finally got through to Wild Rose Thai Eats – OMG, what a feast we had. Truly some of the best Thai food I have ever “eats”. Sorry, no pictures… we forgot!
Saturday was our last day with the Quaranteam so we loaded up our bicycles, a picnic lunch and headed out. Kristen and John had never been to Mt Batchelor or Sunriver so those were our destinations.
Back at Sunriver, we headed to the marina again and rode the same trail we walked the day before. Kristen brought carrots so we had fun feeding the horses. Seems they are furloughed too and were definitely enjoying the attention and treats. We had our picnic after the ride at the marina by the river – such a pretty day.
Our week together with the Quaranteam in Bend literally flew by and we spent our final evening together on our patio with the fire pit going. Dinner was a light fare, White Bean and Chicken Soup with a Mixed Green Salad which Kristen and I co-opted. Great caravanning and week with our fellow full time RV friends…our paths will cross again soon!!!
The Road House rolled out of Ancortes Washington under bright, clear skies headed for Portland Oregon. The water in Padilla Bay sparkled as we rounded the corner on Hwy 20. I will miss the Beach House and all of our friends in Ancortes but it was exciting to finally hit the road in our new coach.
Our winter destination was Palm Springs but we planned to take a month to get there. Sure we could dead head, put the petal to the metal and get there in 4-5 days but why? Highways and byways can be a lot more fun for exploring rather than staying on the major interstates like I5.
Our first and longest stop was Portland. We haven’t done a stop over there since May of 2018 and then we only stayed 5 nights. Pheasant Ridge RV Resort was our home for the two week visit and we found the location in Wilsonville to be better than expected despite the horrific traffic that has entangled the city of Portland. This pretty little 45 acre resort is not only incredibly dog friendly (the doggies have their own laundry room) but has great amenities which include paved full hookup, pull-thru and back-in sites, onsite grocery, L.P. gas, indoor pool and spa, Wi-Fi (wireless Internet access throughout park) and much more.
The fall colors in Portland were spectacular… the city was ablaze with deep golds, reds and brilliant oranges. It was great catching up with longtime friends and our dance ticket was full every day. Late nights and bountiful bottles of wine left me in need of some serious sleep-in time. Not only that but 5 of those nights I spent in Austin with a friend I haven’t seen in 8 years….more on that later!
I spent my birthday with our good friend Deb and my favorite husband! We couldn’t have had a more perfect day together… picnic lunch, hiking the Trail of 11 Falls at Silver Falls State Park, a gorgeous sunset and a fabulous dinner together. Blackened Hangar Steak, Chanterelle Mushroom Barley Risotto made with duck bone broth (thank you Sharon Harmon), Arugula Pomegranate Salad and a amazing Almond Cake for dessert. Thanks Deb for taking a day off work to hang with us and make my birthday so special!
From Portland, we headed to Eugene for two nights to spend time with dear friends and our god daughter Lucie who has just turned 21!!! It was family and alumni weekend at the University of Oregon so the town was abuzz. We were treated to a pre-game party and great seats in a box for the Ducks vs Cougars game – Thanks Brent and Wendy for a fun weekend!
Next stop was Medford for one night where we honestly just did laundry, went for a walk and ran some errands. I will say the Southern Oregon RV Park at the expo is a great stopover. Just three years old, the landscape has really matured since our first visit and the access to the 20 mile bike/running/walking trail between Medford and Ashland is a bonus.
Our plan was originally to go to Bend Oregon, spend a few days then head towards south on Hwy 97 and catch Hwy 395 which follows the Sierra Nevada’s. The stopover in Eugene, kinda put Bend off the itinerary as we had a deadline to be in Palm Springs by the 6th. Crapola, why would we have a deadline – we are retired right? Well, tickets to see comedian Wayne Brady with friends in Palm Springs were on the calendar so there ya go!
Weather was a concern on the Hwy 395 route as it is getting close to snow season but all the fires in Southern California definitely had us wanting to avoid I5 and the LA basin. As luck would have it, Mother Nature has been withholding rain so the route down the Sierra Nevada’s looked just fine. Not sure how lucky this was/is for Southern Cal – rain is much needed for sure.
Our next planned stop was in Shingletown California as it was close to Lassen Volcanic National Park which has been on our list of places to see and hike. I didn’t make any reservations once we left Eugene as I just didn’t know if the weather would hold. Turns out that was probably a good thing. The KOA we had planned to stay in had no electricity due to the massive PG&E shutdowns. High winds were expected again and the worries of lines sparking fires led to power being turned off all across parts of California.
We can survive with out power as we have a generator but knowing how damn cold it was going to be at night, we decided that while we could run the generator to charge up the batteries neither of us wanted to have it running off and on all night to power our furnace. Thankfully, the Premier RV Resort in Redding had open sites and they aren’t part of the PG&E grid so power wasn’t an issue there. Also, we could still make our day trip to Lassen National Park from there.
Redding is a nice town with loads of outdoor activities, good restaurants and plenty of services. Unfortunately, the rampant homeless/opioid issues are holding the city hostage according to some locals we talked to. This seems to be the number one issue we see and hear about in our travels. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solutions.
Lassen Volcanic National Park was spectacular albeit a bit windy but that didn’t detour us from our day trip. It was a picture perfect day for the scenic 30 mile drive through the park. We had planned to renew our annual National Park Pass at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center but when we arrived it was open but there was no power so no monies could be accepted. The rangers gave us some maps and said “just renew your pass at the next park you visit”. SCORE…so technically admission was free but unfortunately the visitors center audio and media shows weren’t operating and the museum and discovery center at the other end of the park were closed too.
Oh well, despite the wind we really wanted to do some hiking and one trail that caught our attention was Bumpass Hell.
Yep, that really was the trail name and it turned out to be the highlight of the day. Bumpass Hell Basin is the largest hydrothermal area in the park and marks the principal area of upflow of steams and discharge from the Lassen hydrothermal system. The temperature of high-velocity steam jetting from Big Boiler, the largest fumarole in the park, has been measured as high as 322°F, making it one of the hottest fumaroles in the world. A board walk that takes you through boiling, hissing, steaming pots of sulfuric mud…oh, hell yeah we wanted to see that.
Distance wise the the trail was a easy 3 miles round trip but personally I was muttering “kickass hell” under my breath for parts of the hike that had elevation gain … my ocean level body wasn’t used to hiking at over 7,000 feet. The unworldly basin much like parts of Yellowstone National Park was worth the grunt in the wind…glad I had a hat and gloves.
Picnicking on a windy, 40 degree day isn’t for the faint of heart but we found a sunny area out of the wind where we could enjoy our lunch. Bentley had accompanied us on the driving tour but like all National Parks he was relegated to parking lots …well, and this picnic area. Honestly, we maybe saw a dozen people all day so who was going to tattle if he was laying in the sun by our picnic table.
Awesome day trip from Redding and only 144 miles round trip. I would love to go back and hike some more of the back country but really if you only have a day – do the driving tour and the Kickass Hell, Oops I meant the Bumpass Hell hike.
From Redding we headed east on Hwy 44 toward Susanville California where we picked up Hwy 395. There were some steep grades – 9% was the steepest but the new Road House handled them with ease. With six gears in the heavy duty Allision Transmission and the two stage Jake brake, windy hilly highways don’t bother my driver a bit! We were mostly driving on beautiful two lane highway with hardly another car on the road.
Our next stop for three nights was the Carson City area. We ended up at a small, “boutique” RV park near Dayton that had full hooks ups so we could catch up in laundry. Small and cramped must be there definition of boutique but at least it was really quiet at night. Next time we do this route, I will definitely try to get into the Washoe State Park Campground. Situated on the edge of Washoe Lake, with hiking trails and a great wetlands area this campground is a winner.
After being on the road all day, we decided dinner out was in order and we really enjoyed the San Marco’s Grill in Carson City. Great Mexican food, not your typical big plate of bland beans and rice plus the margaritas were da’bomb!
After a good sleep in and lazy morning, Virginia City was our first stop for the day. Like many cities and towns in Nevada, Virginia City was a mining boomtown that developed virtually overnight as a result of miners rushing to the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859. The riches of the Comstock Lode inspired men to hunt for silver mines throughout Nevada and other parts of the American West.
Once a booming town of 25,000, prospectors from all over the world funneled their millions back into the town by building mansions, hospitals, churches, opera houses and schools. They imported furniture, fashions and entertainment from Europe and the Orient.
With more than 100 mines in the Comstock area, seven million tons of silver ore were produced – equating to more than $600 million in both silver and gold in today’s money. Among many things, this money helped to build San Francisco to what it is today as well as finance the Union in the Civil War.
Today mining for silver is a thing of the past in Virginia City but the town is well preserved and well worth an afternoon of exploration. I will say that we were lucky as it is off season and I suspect that Virginia City could be a zoo in the summer months.
After a very sad lunch at the Red Dog Saloon (highly rated but seriously crappy food), we continued on our loop back toward Carson City. Washoe State Park was on the agenda for a good walk in the wetlands preservation area. We knew it was too late in the season to see many of the migratory birds that fly through but we thought we would recon and check out Washoe State Park anyway.
I was surprised to learn that the number of recorded bird species visiting, breeding, or living in the state of Nevada is a whopping 488. During the spring and fall, hundreds of thousands of those birds following the north-to-south path from Alaska to Patagonia—the Pacific Flyway—can be seen throughout the Silver State. However, Nevada is rarely on a birder’s bucket list. In fact, according to the Great Basin Bird Observatory, a nonprofit science-based organization, Nevada is one of the most under-birded areas in the country.
The Washoe wetlands are also an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area (IBA). This classification is used to “identify, monitor, and protect the most important places for birds” according to Audubon’s website. Dangola, guess we need to come back through here in the spring.
Another reason for the stop in Carson City was the close proximity to Lake Tahoe. No snow, meant all the roads around the lake were open. This gorgeous freshwater lake is the largest alpine lake in North American. Lying at 6,225 ft, it straddles the state line between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Casino’s dot the Nevada side and there are two major ski areas.
The lake was formed about two million years ago as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin, with the modern extent being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water, cobalt in color and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. More than 75% of the lake’s watershed is national forest land, so camping and hiking opportunities abound in this area. Since we were visiting in off season, most of the campgrounds were closed despite the fact there was no new snow.
We spent the day driving the 72 mile loop around the lake and also took a side trip to Truckee, the Donner Pass Memorial and Donner Lake. Post card perfect weather made this a spectacular day to be on a drive. Bentley frolicked in the Truckee River and at Donner Lake…he would have been happy to spend the whole day there.
We did a short hike to Upper Kings Falls near Emerald Bay and had a great lunch at the Fire Sign Café near Tahoe City. The only disappointment was that the Heaven Valley Gondola was closed – WAHHH, the views would have been amazing. We did however really enjoy a stopover at Sand Harbor (no dogs allowed, how rude). There is a great walking path and beautiful rock boulder formations at this end of the lake.
There are no shortage of things to do or see in Lake Tahoe and if you are a casino lover, well you might never make it outside to see anything.
Our three days in the Carson City area flew by and soon it was time to hit the road again. Our next stopover was Mammoth Lakes and the drive between Cason City and Mammoth was spectacular. Late fall colors, beautiful blue lakes and towering mountains make this portion of the drive my favorite. Only one crazy deer almost ended its life by bounding out in front of our 48,000 lbs coach. Luckily, it saw us and changed course at the last minute. CARDIO BLAST for both of us and I bet the deer might have dropped a load of pellets too!
Mammoth Mountain RV Park was our home for the two day stopover. After a frustrating time initially trying to get parked in the treed campground, we eventually got settled into the spacious site under the towering pine trees. Again, since it was off season we were lucky to find any place to stay but the upside was this “resort” was virtually empty. The sites are much like being in a state or national park, except there are full hook ups and a big price tag. At $75 per night, I would say they think highly of the place. No off season rates here or any discounts like most RV parks or resorts. Oh well, the area was worth the visit and in addition to all the scenic beauty, Mammoth has great restaurants.
Our splurge meal was at the Mammoth Rock Brasserie…a well rated restaurant situated over the bowling alley. There were plenty of great restaurant choices but the menu caught my eye as did the funky location with the spectacular views of the Sherwin Range and Mammoth Mountain. The website noted that they did NOT offer a children’s menu and expected any children in the restaurant to be well behaved, to stay in their seats and to keep their voices to a normal speaking level. If a child is being loud or disruptive, they expect parents to instruct their children to act appropriately. AMEN to that I say.
We booked an early dinner reservation to take advantage of the views and were not disappointed. A gin martini and Ahi Poke tower to start. Our entrees were delicious and the wine list was first class. The restaurant was on the second floor of a newish, modern mountain building which you would never know housed a bowling alley and fine dining restaurant when you pull into the parking lot. I am also happy to report that there wasn’t a child to be seen or heard…guess all the other patrons took the website warning to heart!!!
After another well deserved sleep in day, we spent the day hiking at Convict Lake and touring the surrounding alpine lakes. There are a plethora of places to hike in this region but Convict Lake struck our fancy because the trail is a 3 mile loop around the lake, is relatively flat (no kickass hell here) which was important since the elevation was 8,438 feet. Plus it has cool history and spectacular views of the mountains. If you are an angler, bring a rod and reel as this lake is stocked with trout. As a matter of fact, bring your fishing gear and a kayak…so many places to use both around this basin. Curious how Convict Lake got its name? Click on the hyperlink and read on!
This trail can be really busy in peak season but on our sunny Sunday hike we saw far more people fishing than hiking. After a pleasant, easy hike complete with bald eagle sightings and fish jumping in the lake, we headed further up into the mountains to check out Lake Mary and Lake George. There is a great bike path and plenty of options to get off road or golf in this area as well. Of course, there is a the ski mountain…and we had a Good giggle recalling a weekend we spent in Mammoth with friends Eric and Carol many moons ago. We went to ski and ski we did but what we really remember is the Spanish Coffee induced clogging and craziness that happened one evening. I am pretty sure we didn’t ski the next day…or did we???
The Mammoth Lakes Basin is so diverse that it really deserves a longer stop over. One could tour Yosemite National Park from here but we opted not to try to do just a day drive to this massive national park. A return trip in the late spring to this area might just be on the agenda.
Our last stop on the souther migration was merely a place to park and sleep. Mammoth Lake to Palm Springs is about 345 miles, totally doable but makes for a long day. We didn’t want to roll in after dark and have to get set up so we opted to spend the night in nowhere Ridgecrest CA.
$22.50 got us a self registration, full hookup and pull thought site with easy access off Hwy 395. After a tour of Ridgecrest we were in total agreement that this wasn’t a town to put on our “future paces to live someday” list. The Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is the reason this nowhere desert town exists.
China Lake is the United States Navy’s largest single landholding, representing 85% of the Navy’s land for weapons and armaments research, development, acquisition, testing and evaluation use and 38% of the Navy’s land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1,100,000 acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. Well, that explains why a newish city of 27,000 plus people is thriving out in the middle of nowhere.
The last 150 miles of our southern migration was uneventful desert driving on mostly two lane Hwy 395. The last stretch merged onto to Hwy 15 in Victorville where we dropped down into the San Bernadino Valley. Did I say uneventful..well yes, uneventful, until the front shade came unscrewed on the passenger side and dropped down obscuring the windshield. Of course that happen right as we were merging onto busy Hwy 15 but thankfully before were were headed down Cajon Pass. As luck would have it, we were able to safely pull over and engineer a temporary fix with gorilla tape and a mop handle.
We rolled into The Outdoor Resort Palm Springs in the early afternoon. Home again, home again!!!
What a awesome road trip in the new Road House, Hwy 395 is a great alternative to I5. We will definitely travel this route again and that my friends is no BS!
I love girlfriend getaways and am always up for one when the question is posed. Being on the road/water full time can make it more of a challenge but hey, I am retired and can do what ever the hell I want. It’s funny but that realization took some time to sink in after we left the 9-5 routine behind. Routine can be a real buzz kill when it comes to spontaneous travel so trust me, I have totally embraced the concept that if I want to do it – I do it!!!
My long time gardening companion, neighbor in another life, walking buddy and “sushi for wimps” eating friend Jane has been doing girlfriend getaways for her birthday for years. We have done some great ones and this year was no exception. While she didn’t actually invite me (to be fair she thought we were off the grid on the boat), I decided to crash her getaway with her sister Sharon in Leavenworth.
We traded some funny text messages about the VRBO rental…
Her: Just sent an email. Originally 4 adults going so there are more rooms or the owner has a warped sense of humor. Two of Sharon ‘s friends cancelled. I am sure 3 of us will fit. BTW… in case I am wrong you get the upper bunk. 😜
Me: Are you sure you have room? Looks like you only have one bedroom and a set of bunk beds? Her: Scroll down. It says it sleeps 6. Me: Not sure where the other two would sleep!!! From the website: “Inside the spacious 1500 sqft garden apartment, there is plenty of room for a family of four. The master bedroom offers a queen bed, and the second “bedroom”/cozy-nook, just off the kitchen, has bunk beds perfect for children.” Her: If you are nervous, come on Saturday morning after we have scoped it out. I swear the woman knows that the original group was 4 adult females. The funny thing is that this was Sharon’s idea. I thought for just 2 nights we should do a hotel and she scoffed at me. The bottom of the site does say sleeps 6 so maybe there is a futon or something. Me: Good thing they all cancelled!!! Maybe she thought you are all okay with sleeping together!!! Hey there are bunk beds so I am game if you are!!! LOL… thinking you and Sharon will be duking it out for the big queen bed. Her: I am game. It will be like being on the Countess again (a yacht we chartered for a previous BD girls trip). I still think there must be another option but am game either way. If this place is a bust I get to rub Sharon ‘s nose in it so I still win. 😇 Me: Let the rubbing begin!!! Going to bring 5 Crowns – a card game I can actually play!!! Her: Well we are bringing wine so it should all work out okay. I will try to remember the box of earplugs just in case you are correct about the number of sleeping spots. 😜 Me: Ear plugs are a girls best friend! And wine!!!
After the trip…
Her: Just looking at my bed makes me very happy. I might need to kiss my mattress. Me: Happy times!!! (a gif of a goat jumping on the bed) https://youtu.be/AWns85BSSO4 Just another funny escapade to add to our long list!!! Her: That goat would have a head injury where I was sleeping.
Well, yes there was only one bedroom and a set of bunk beds. Seriously, what Air BNB owner wants a 50 plus gal climbing a ladder on a rickety bunkbed to sleep on the top bunk. NOT, I repeat NOT happening. Ya think the owner would have mentioned that… she did know there was originally going to be four women on this stay.
Well snap, my friend had the brilliant idea of pulling the mattress off the top bunk, which we drug into the front room. Five star it was not but I actually slept really well, especially after a trip to the hot tub each night and the 7 mile hike/city walk we did on Saturday. Uh, yeah, there was some wine involved as well.
So about Leavenworth…it is a Bavarian-styled village (aka tourist trap) in the Cascade Mountains, in central Washington State. Alpine- style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food line Front Street.
The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries (nope, didn’t go). On the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park is a habitat for ospreys and eagles. The village is a gateway to nearby ski areas and wineries. Gorgeous area, the village is situated in a really narrow valley so you are surrounded by mountain peaks.
Honestly, I am not a fan of German food…bland and boring to me for the most part but Leavenworth has something for everyone. We found a great cider tap room and had a delicious lunch at the Tumwater Bakery. We had a recommendation to try Yodelin for dinner, which is a stylish, rustic joint with mountain views offering bone broth soups, salads, burgers & craft beer but they had the nerve to be closed for a private party on Saturday night. Stay away from Gustavs…just not good food.
The village itself is very cute but can get very crowded…especially on the weekends. I was surprised how many people were there but it was a gorgeous fall day and Leavenworth is a easy day trip from Seattle. A word of advice, visit during the week if you can and try for a cool fall day – the fall colors are awesome.
The area around Leavenworth is a hikers dream… so many great trails and so many scenic vistas. With only one day to explore, we opted to do the Icicle Gorge trail which was a pretty 12 mile drive from our bunkbeds. The 4 mile trail itself is rated as easy and only has a 120 ft elevation gain. Even after a “few” glasses of wine the night before this trail won’t hurt you a bit!
What’s great about it: you’ll be walking along the banks of one of the state’s prettiest creeks, with numerous places to stop, picnic and marvel at the alpine beauty.
We got a fairly early start which meant we didn’t see many hikers until the last part of the hike. We went counterclockwise but most people hike the trail clockwise, walking downstream first, then cross a footbridge in about 0.5 mile and head up the far bank. Either way you go it’s a fabulous hike…lots of photo ops.
A trip to Leavenworth wouldn’t be complete without visiting a few winery’s. There are several tasting rooms in town but we opted to get out of the crowds and headed to Eagle Creek Winery. Just a few miles out of town but an oasis of quiet with beautiful views off the decks where the tastings are set up. We had a great time sipping wine while the winery cat snagged a cute little chipmunk as the birthday girl looked on. Glad my back was to that action.
Not sure what the heck was going on but later that day as we sat sipping wine at the ranch another wildlife drama occurred. We were watch a hawk cause a stir amongst the small birds in a nearby tree. Guess he wasn’t satisfied with the prospect of such a small meal so he swooped out of the tree and picked off a poor robin in the field who had foolishly turned its back to the action. There might have been some shrieking from both of us that time.
Time with friends, hot tubbing, hiking, beautiful mountain scenery, winery’s, great restaurants and not seeing the food chain in action make for a great girlfriends getaway. Only upgrade would be a real bed next time!
Klamath California was our fifth stop on the Hwy 101 Road Trip from Palm Spring CA to Anacortes WA. There isn’t much going on in or around Klamath except raw, beautiful nature. The drive from Cloverdale to Klamath was about 250 miles of gorgeous scenery and pretty decent roads for a big ass coach.
I was really psyched for this stopover having never explored this part of California nor hiked in the Redwoods. We had stocked the frig prior to rolling out of Cloverdale and didn’t plan to eat out much since Crescent City CA is about 23 miles away and is the only place that has restaurants or a sizable store.
There are plenty of RV Park options in this area and for this stopover I choose the Klamath River RV Park. Why you may ask…well, RIVER VIEW, RIVER VIEW, RIVER VIEW!!! Spectacular nature … I truly felt like we had stepped back in time, to a pristine area, unspoiled by nasty humans. The park doesn’t have big amenities like a pool or a hot tub but they do have a very nice little cafe that serves espresso drinks and pizza once the season is fully in swing. They also have big communal fire pits, horseshoe pits, a ping pong table and a great pet friendly walking trail. Want to fish the river…you can do that from there as well or launch a kayak or canoe or float down the river. I will say the river was high and moving very fast when we were there in late April so launching a kayak or canoe would have been an adventure!
There is so much to do in this area, we could have easily stayed for a week or more. Most everyday we packed a lunch, loaded up our backpacks and explored a different area each day.
Our first day in the area we explored the Coastal Drive which starts just minutes up the road from the RV Park. This gorgeous six mile drive follows a 1890’s stagecoach road, winding through redwood and spruce forests, then hugs the Pacific Ocean with panoramic views of Golds Bluff Beach and Seal Split Rock.
Following the ocean road portion we came to a view point where we met a very interesting Native American man. Henry was sitting on a camp chair on the bluff, whale and bird watching, enjoying the views, the sun and being out in nature. He helped us spot the whales surfing just on the edge of the waves and explained about the fishermen we could see on the beach who were saltwater eel fishing. Not only were the humans fishing but so were the eagles and ospreys. It was amazing to see an eagle swoop down into the surf, snatch an eel and fly off. I wish I had captured a photo Henry and of what we saw on that bluff but sometimes you just have to be one with the moment and put your camera down.
Henry also shared some of his life with us we stood watching with wonder all that was going on around us. As a young man he moved out of the area, logged for years, married, raised a family, divorced and ended up back on his tribal lands. In poor health, he had better access to healthcare by living here in Klamath and enjoyed being back out in nature. Reluctantly, we left Henry on the bluff enjoying his day and continued on our drive. I truly enjoyed hearing his stories and was glad we happened upon him.
Further down the road we found this small piece of history hidden away in the forest. The Klamath River Radar Site B-71, is a rare survivor of a World War II early-warning radar station. Rather than using camouflage materials, the buildings of Radar Station B-71 were constructed to resemble farm buildings to disguise their true purpose. Isn’t that clever? The station consists of three buildings: a power building disguised as a farmhouse, an operations building disguised as a barn and a functional wood frame two-stall privy or outhouse, now a partially collapsed ruin. The two major buildings were constructed for the Army by a private contractor specifically for the early warning aircraft station, and consist of block walls roughly two feet thick covered with wood-framed gable roofs with wood shingle finish.
There are a number of state redwoods parks as well as the national redwood park along the 60 mile stretch between Lagoon CA and Crescent City CA. We hiked in both Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks. The trail system in Prairie Creek is far better and more extensive so we found ourself returning there for further exploration and ELK watching.
Did I mention that we saw loads of ELK in this area…ELK!!! Yes, Elk! Okay, I am a bit crazy about elk. So stately and handsome they are. We saw some fairly close up but not as close as the deer that launched itself across the highway in front of the coach on our drive up. Luckily for us and the deer, he was fast, nimble and didn’t freak out and try to reverse course. Yes, our hearts were pounding too! I had a greater respect for the frequent elk crossing signs we saw along the way after that.
The Newton B. Durey Scenic Parkway runs thru the center of the park and is well worth the detour off 101 if you have time for it. But really, you need to stop and smell the roses here..or the elk poop if you are lucky! In addition to camping, the park offers three scenic drives, 75 miles of hiking trails, and a 19-mile bike loop. A must do is some hiking and creek fording in Fern Canyon, which was used as a backdrop for the movie Jurassic Park. We had quite an adventure there, hiking the creek, trying not to fall in, using logs as a balance beam to get to the next dry spot.
We took an afternoon to explore Crescent City and had a great lunch at Seaquake Brewing. After our bellies were full of pizza and craft beer we walked it off a bit with a visit to Battery Point Light House. The first oil lamp was lit on December 10, 1856 and the Lighthouse still serves as a private aid to navigation. Loved seeing a real operational lighthouse! Open for tours, you can climb to the lighthouse tower where a Fifth Order Drumm lens, still operational and maintained by keepers, is in use. The tour of the residence includes looks into each of the residence rooms where original furniture often crafted by keepers many years ago is still in use. Most of the artifacts on display are from Battery Point Lighthouse’s over 150-year history.
The drive through and around Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park winds around the Smith River which has some beautiful glacier pools. We also found a fun short hike though a huge redwood grove. There were so many downed trees that were just mammoth.
Four nights were truly not enough time to fully explore this magnificent area. We didn’t have time to get into the Redwood National Park nor did we have time to backtrack and explore the Eureka area. So note to self, a week here minimum and if you love to hike or bike, maybe two weeks is in order!