Thursday, April 28, 2016

Donner Pass and Colfax

We left Reno kinda late in the day, after running a few errands, and headed into the Sierra Nevada.  We drove through the mountains for a while, (crossed back into California at some point) and then we saw a sign for "Donner Memorial State Park!"  We stopped at the visitors center and the Emigrant Monument, and took a few pictures.
The Emigrant Monument
Right about after we left the park, it started snowing!  That's not a good omen...  Fortunately, we made it over the mountains, and down to a little county park by the river, just outside of the tiny town of Colfax, without eating each other.

It's really pretty around here, kinda feels like somewhere in the Northeast, like New York or New Hampshire.  The weather was really nice while we were here, it's starting to feel like summer!

One of the trails around the county park went through this very pretty meadow
The campground was really pretty, right by the river, and there were some nice trails to walk on.  We did a lot of biking while we were there too.  The campground was at the bottom of a really, (REALLY) long hill, and some of us biked up that and into town.

Nice view!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reno Birthday

Going north out of South Lake Tahoe, we drove through Cave Rock and down to the east to Carson City.  Very pretty drive and good for engine braking going down the hills to Carson City.

We made some new boondocker friends in Reno, they have great sunsets here too, and nice views out across the valley too.

We stayed there outside Reno for a few days, and caught up on shopping and errands again.

A fun errand was getting an ID form for Elliot notarized.  His updated passport card got lost in the mail, and he needs a picture ID for his math test coming up.  We tried a few places first (our bank, 'no, we just do our own bank forms',  a postal service place, 'no, his old passport card is expired, you need a valid picture ID to notarize his signature', "exactly, that's why we're here....")  and the last place said, 'try the divorce lawyer two doors down, they may have different standards'

Sure enough, no problem.  We didn't point out that his card from when he was 5 is out of date, and they didn't mention it.  But they wouldn't let Elliot and Alice divorce each other.

On Alice's birthday, we spent the afternoon at the hands-on science center in downtown Reno.
assembling carbon nanotubes
 It's a nice science museum, and even big kids can climb up in the clouds.  The climber is part of an interactive model of the water system for Truckee / Reno, with the water flowing down from Lake Tahoe through reservoirs and rivers to the treatment system for the city.
the Cloud Climber

I joked that we were going to Reno so the kids could gamble, and we did explore more of downtown too.  But we were all tired after playing at the science center, so we didn't get to walk around or meet a one-armed bandit.  At the grocery stores though we did get to see slot machines....

Our hosts had us over for a great dinner that night, and we brought Alice's birthday cake.  One slice was like three servings of desert:  it was a vanilla layer cake with chocolate frosting, surrounded by a wall of KitKat bars on the outside, and a layer of chocolate Whoppers on top (over the icing).

The next day we packed up the wagon, heading west.  Everything we own in the wagon or on the backs of our 285 GMC horses, and headed west over Donner Pass.   It was cold and snowing up through the pass too, not sticking though.   So we fared better than the Donner party, up and down the other side in just an hour or so;  To 60 degrees and lush green hills outside of Colfax, at the Bear River Campground, a great rustic county park along a river where you're allowed to pan or dig for gold in the river.
is there a care in the world? 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Snow Day!!

We heard there would be rain or snow for the weekend, so we stayed put in the city campground.  A couple of tent campers all cleared out before the snow, and we moved to a site close to the hot showers.  About mid-day Friday it started snowing and we got 3 to 4 inches overnight.  A pretty winter wonderland greeted us in the morning Saturday.

I had finished yesterday making a lid for the box on the tongue of the trailer, just in time, after we heard there would be rain, or, .._shudder_.., snow.  The box has been there for a couple months now, since Big Bend, and it has drizzled maybe once in all that time.

In the morning I climbed up and cleared off the solar panels, the previous day had not recharged the battery much, being cloudy and parked in the trees.  Usually we stay well charged even on a cloudy day, or with partial shade.  Either a couple hours of sun, or most of the day with clouds will still do it.

The snow didn't stay long, it warmed up and all melted by late afternoon.  We did our laundry and grocery shopping, everything we'd need is a couple blocks away.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sun, fun, and ... ... Snow!?!?

We rolled into Lake Tahoe a couple days ago after a stop a Turtle Rock county park.  It was a short drive so we got here early and had time to ride around.

There is a nice city campground in South Tahoe, next to the lake and and essentially in the middle of town.  We can see out to the lake through the trees.

Walking or biking to anything we would need, library, groceries, hardware, and gambling in the next state.  Yeah, the kids are big into gambling...  This is the first time we recall riding our bikes into another state on this trip.
 Lake Tahoe is definitely pretty. 

 I really like the old F250 here, looks like someone's daily driver.

This morning we took another big ride, early in the morning.  A little brisk, but sunny and warm once you're moving.   We rode along the south end of the lake, to the west is a big national forest campground, Camp Richardson.  The campground is being rebuilt now, and the beach there is huge.  There are plenty of good bike routes and trails around the area.

And then mid-day today,  SNOW!   This was just the start, there could be more, it's still coming down.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Obsidian Dome

After Mammoth Lakes, we continued on up 395 toward Mono Lake (it seems to be pronounced 'Moe - No' for us non locals, otherwise we would have been calling it Mono like Bono from U2).   We stopped at Obsidian Dome along the way to Mono Lake.
The volcanic dome has a large amount of obsidian glass and pumice rocks.
From the top, we could see north to Mono Lake.

Annie wanted to get more ballast for the trailer, and we all wanted to climb on it.  They are also alleged to be good door stops at home.  We each picked one, to limit us to 4.

 We climbed up on top, and the kids did some sliding down on the snow.  It would be dangerously exhilarating to use a sled.

After sliding and hiking around, we made it to Mono Lake, just another half hour north, and found a good spot to get set up.

We had some excitement later in the evening, a fire truck with lights all spinning came out to see us after dark.   I thought oh, great, we'll be needing to move on.  But no, they were out looking for a fire.  Nope, no fire here,  and sure you
 can camp here, fine by us. 

This particular land looks to be Los Angeles Water and Power District land.  Some areas we saw between Manzanar and Mammoth were marked as no camping allowed.  Here no signs, and a couple of camp fire rings, so seems to be ok.

This site is described here ,   we went in the road a bit more because it was already occupado, and found this little clearing.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mono Lake / Lee Vining

We left Mammoth Lakes, after almost a week, and drove over to Mono (apparently it's pronounced "muh-no") Lake, right by the tiny town of Lee Vining.  (We did stop at Obsidian Dome on the way, that was fun.)  We found a nice spot off of the main road a bit, on some kinda public land, we never found out what it was exactly.

Our spot

The first night that we were there, we were hanging out in the trailer, eating dinner.  (It was totally dark outside)  Then, suddenly, there were all these red lights flashing outside our window!  We peeked out the window, and there were a bunch of fire trucks outside!  The only reason that we could think of for them to come all the way out here was that maybe there was a fire, and we had to leave, or we just weren't supposed to be there anyway.  My dad went out to talk to them, and then they drove away.  They said that someone had called in, and said that there was a fire, somewhere out here.  But we were fine, so they left, and we didn't see anybody else for the rest of the night.

The next morning, we hopped in the truck, and drove over a little trail by the lake.  The water level is slowly getting lower, but when the water is high enough, there are enough of certain chemicals present for tufa to grow.  So as the water recedes, there's a bunch of tufa left over!  There was a little trail that went down to the water, so we did that.

The water is really green right by the shore, then it gets bluer
After that, we drove up to what we were pretty sure was Panum Crater.  There was a bunch of volcanic activity around here a long time ago, and so it formed a bunch of craters/rock piles, called the Mono Craters.  We had some lunch, and some of us climbed up the crater/pile a bit.

Next, we drove over to check out the tiny of Lee Vining.  We stopped at the visitor center, (where we learned that what we climbed was one of the Mono Craters, not THE Panum Creater) then went over to the library, (which had REALLY fast Internet!) and then back to the trailer for the rest of the afternoon.

The next morning, we drove over to the REAL Panum Crater, and climbed around that a bit.  Then we got the trailer and drove into town to get a few things, and we were off further north!

Friday, April 15, 2016

More Hot Springs - Bridgeport, CA

One of our destinations on the list for a while has been Travertine Hot Springs outside of Bridgeport.  Ever since Big Bend, we've been watching out for similar minimally developed public hot springs near our route, or bending our route to suit.

At Travertine, it is National Forest land, and there is BLM land for camping next door.  We drove or rode our bikes the half mile from where we camped to the springs, a couple times a day.  Hard work, soaking in the springs in this kind of scenery...

 The BLM land is on a hill overlooking the town and a reservoir, and the road continues up to the springs.  We're the tiny white camper near the middle of this picture.

looking north toward the reservoir

A Sierra for the Sierras, it's been doing some work up over the passes

There are about half a dozen little tubs at Travertine.  Large travertine ridges are built up  where the springs have flowed out and run along the ground.

This one is right by the parking area, hot water bubbles out of the ground and runs along a little channel to the concrete tub.  If the channel is not kept partially blocked, the tub gets too hot to stay in.

Further from the parking area is a group of 4 gravel bottom tubs, which are generally cooler, and fed from a channel running down the top of a travertine ridge.   Following the ridge up, the spring flows out about 30 yards up the ridge.
 A little further down the hill, (looking back toward the 4 pools at the end of the ridge),  are two more lukewarm mud pools dug into the ground.  Nice, but not warm enough when we were there.

On our last day here,  we went to the nearby spring for a soak in the morning.  Then while the kids were doing math, I hopped on my bike and went to find another spring called Big Hot a couple miles away.  We wouldn't have known about it, except I was reading a hot spring s book at the store in town.  This area used to be public land, but was purchased and became private and now is owned by some sort of conservation land trust.  The local teenager in the store said it was worth going.  He said most people don't know about it, but locals go there.

There are two big pools, the larger is about 12 by 20 foot, and deep!  The edge is travertine and slopes down at about a 45 degree angle, and goes down at least 7 feet or more in the middle.  Climbing back out can be tricky, apparently I was able to get back out...  It is not that hot, but nice enough on a cold morning.  Warm water and bubbles flow up into the middle in a couple spots.

And there's another tiny little mid pit, with warm water burbling, I just put my feet in here.