Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Taste of Yosemite



We are camped 20 miles from the east entrance to Yosemite National Park. For the past two years I’ve attempted to get reservations in Yosemite Valley during May, but apparently a million others were also trying to book sites and I was unsuccessful. I’ve given up on the Valley, since it’s hot and we don’t want to go there with the hoards of summer vacationers anyway, but being so close to the park we had to at least see the east side.

And we were not disappointed. It is quite an impressive drive over Tioga Pass and into the park. We took our friend Robin’s advice and drove another 5 miles to Tuolumne Meadows and hiked almost 6 miles on the Lyell Canyon Trail, which also intersects with the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails. It was cool, green, not much elevation change, and followed the river most of the way. A good first hike in the park at almost 9,000’. Those mountains are calling us, though. A hike for another day…

We saw quite a few backpackers on the trail. This group of three looked new to the sport. A cooler??


Walked through the Tuolumne Meadows campground to get to the trail. 300 sites, all full, and a waiting list. It looked like tent city. We were so glad to be where we are.

We’ve never seen this before. I read that there has been a lot of recent bear activity in some of the campgrounds, due of course to people leaving out food.


No more words, these photos speak for themselves.










Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Las Vegas to Lee Vining


From Vegas another couple hundred miles took us to Tonopah, NV. We had planned to stay at the Tonopah Station Casino RV Park if it was really hot and we needed A/C, but with dark skies all around us the temperature was quite pleasant. Another casino a half mile down the road had a free RV overnight lot, but it was just dirt and right on the highway, so we continued on another 13 miles west to Miller’s Rest Area.


There were two other RVs when we arrived, but it is a huge gravel lot with room for many. The sign says 18 hour parking limit. Guess if they didn’t have that restriction people would be setting up residence. There is a restroom, RV dump, and several potable water faucets (open in summer only). Nice of Nevada to provide that for free.

About a half hour after we got parked we were hit by a huge dust storm. We could see Hwy 95 out our window, and it was amazing how few cars and trucks pulled over. Visibility was poor and we were pelted with blowing dirt.


The highway is just behind the trees.


After the wind died down and the dust cleared, the mountains came into view and we had a lovely sunset. It was a good place to spend the night.


Yesterday was our last day of driving for awhile, 120 miles to Lee Vining, CA on Hwy 395. It was hazy over the mountains and there was a funny smell, so when we stopped at the Forest Service/ National Park Service Visitor Center, the ranger told us there was a fire on the west side of Yosemite and we were seeing smoke from it. Great! This spectacular scenery and we can’t see it.

The wind shifted and it did clear up quite a bit in the afternoon. We lucked into another great boondock site overlooking Mono Lake with a view of the mountains on the other side. There is a $10 dump at a gas station just a couple miles away, and the Inyo National Forest has a water station about a mile past there on Tioga Pass Road. We plan to stay put for a couple weeks as there is a lot to do in this area. By the way, gas in Lee Vining ranges from $4.79 to 5.09/gallon. Oh yeah, we’re definitely in California!


But views like this for free? Priceless!



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Road Runner RV Park, Las Vegas, NV



We had an uneventful drive Friday from Williams to Vegas, just the way we like it. Spent two nights at Road Runner RV Park, right on Boulder Hwy. Since it was so hot and our air ran 24/7 it drowned out the road noise. And at $16 a night (actually $17.92 with tax), it was a bargain for full hookups.


The sites were too close for our liking, but the power worked well and it was convenient to WalMart and Trader Joe’s. They had a couple of nice laundry rooms where the machines only cost $1.00. And the showers were excellent. By the time we shopped, did 4 loads of wash, took the car to a car wash to get the mud off, dusted, vacuumed and cleaned the inside of the car and the Lazy Daze, we were even too tired to go out to eat last night. Two nights in Vegas and never stepped foot in a casino.


We would definitely recommend this RV park for a Vegas stopover. A few years ago when we came through town we stayed at Sam’s Town Casino RV Park, just down the road. We considered staying there again but just weren’t impressed with the place. And it was $20/night (with tax), which did include a breakfast buffet, though.

We’re back on the road this morning, happy to be out of the big city. Not sure where we’ll spend the night, but we hope to be in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains tomorrow. California, here we come!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lesson Learned



We had a bit more of an adventure than we bargained for early yesterday morning when we tried to get out of our boondocking site in the Coconino National Forest. After many consecutive days of rain, the once previously dry and dusty forest became saturated and there was no place for the water to go. It turned into a giant muddy mess, and the forecast was predicting more rain, so we cranked up the Lazy Daze as the next round of thunderstorms was building in the sky.

We took no pictures over the next couple hours as we attempted to get Debbie’s rig out of the deep ruts of mud. Jim managed to get us out of our site, but he was concerned about getting stuck in ruts as he crossed the road so he went faster than he should have. That resulted in some serious bouncing which caused the corner of the black tank gate valve to go into the muddy ground. Fortunately it only caused some minor damage to the black water pipe. There appeared to be a slight drip initially, but he tightened the clamp and it seems to be fine now. Whew, our full tank would not have been a pretty sight or smell had it broken!

After that we moved on to Debbie’s problem. She had really gotten mired down in the mud, and was almost at the point of calling a tow truck when she decided to go down the road about a half mile to where we had seen some other campers. A toothless guy there had two shovels (we had none, although we have always thought we should carry one). He told her we ought to just go have breakfast and let God and the sun take care of it! She opted to borrow the shovels, which was a much better decision. After we dug out the tires, we put down some sticks and finally got to where we could get a couple Lynx levelers in front of the back tires. Jim did the driving and finally managed to get up on the levelers and get her out. It wasn’t funny, but we joked about how our free campsite could have been very expensive.

This mud was like glue. We were so happy we got out because the rain started just as were were getting onto I-40, only about 3 miles from our camp.


Our plan was to do a long (for us) 245 mile drive to Vegas but we were wiped out, hot, and dirty. Jim wanted to dump our tanks in case he needed to do some repairs so we headed to Williams, just 25 miles west, dumped at an RV park for $8.75, then went to Kaibab Lake Campground, a national forest campground about a mile off the interstate. It had been upgraded a couple years ago, and the road and sites were all paved, which we desperately wanted. About an hour after we arrived the thunderstorms began, and you can’t imagine how happy we were to be off the dirt and mud. With the senior pass it cost $10/night. There are vault toilets and drinking water, but no electric or dump. After weeks of boondocking it was strange to see so many people around, but it is actually a very nice campground with widely separated sites.




If all goes as planned, we should be in Las Vegas sometime this afternoon. We have a lot of cleaning to do. And as much as we liked Flagstaff, we don’t recommend staying in the forest during the monsoon season. Don’t learn the hard way like we did!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Life at the Zoo



For the past couple days our meadow has been filled with a herd of elk. Yesterday the pronghorn joined the party. Along with a big cow. Last night I counted at least 75 elk. What a joy it was to watch the young ones run and play. We may be camping in mud from the daily thunderstorms but this is what makes it all worthwhile.




Last Friday afternoon Debbie heard a click and her solar panels stopped charging the batteries. The display was still reading the battery charge, so she called AM Solar to see if they thought it was the controller. He told her Lazy Daze puts a fuse in the panel, which he thought was unnecessary, and that the fuse probably blew. Unfortunately that meant taking up the solar panel to access it by removing gobs of caulk and screws, not a real easy task.


It rained off and on much of the weekend and they didn’t want to attempt it, but this morning we awoke to brighter skies, so Jim and Debbie got on her roof, lifted the panel, and found the blown fuse. Jim took out the fuse and rewired it so that won’t be an issue for her again. And now if it should happen to us, we know where the fuse is located. Not that Jim wants to have to take up another solar panel.


This will be our last post from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. Here are a few other pictures of things we’ve found near our site. Jim sawed off the antlers for Debbie’s dogs. They loved their treats!




I don’t have a problem with people target shooting in the woods, but they could at least pick up their targets and shells.


Dumping in the forest is not an uncommon occurrence, either.  I doubt anyone gets caught, though, as we have yet to see a ranger.


This is a place we would definitely come back to, although probably not in July during the height of monsoon season. Our plan is to head farther west, in search of a dryer place to spend the rest of the summer and fall. We’ll see how that works out…

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument


We were looking for some place different to take a hike yesterday morning before our almost daily monsoon thunderstorms, so we decided to pay a visit to Sunset Crater Volcano, 12 miles north of Flagstaff.


This volcano was estimated to have erupted between 1040 and 1100, leaving behind a 1,000 foot cinder cone and miles of lava flows.

There are only two short (1 mile each) trails in the park. The Lenox Crater Trail takes you up a very steep climb on a cinder covered crater. At the top it almost looks like a parking lot, the area is so barren of vegetation.


Then we drove a bit farther down the road to the Lava Flow Trail. Volcanoes make for such an interesting landscape.



Especially with all the dead trees.





If you continue another 16 miles or so along the park road, you then come to Wupatki National Monument, which contains the remains of the Wupatki Pueblo. We decided not to drive on since the thunder and rain were already starting.


Speaking of thunder and rain, on Saturday night we had quite the storm. A group of young people were tent camping up the hill behind us, and many of them left during the torrential downpour. I bet they had a fun drive on the muddy road out of here, but I wouldn’t have stayed in a tent during that kind of weather, either.

It was quite a show.



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

All’s Well But We’re Still In Flag



We made our last trip to Scottsdale yesterday for Jim’s appointment with the vascular surgeon, Dr. Money. (Love that name.) He looked at the ultrasound and examined Jim’s legs and said he is fine. The clots are in the greater saphenous vein, which is just a superficial leg vein, even though the name doesn’t sound very superficial. Said the vein had sealed itself off, there is no risk of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism from this, and the vein had done the same thing they would do with the laser or radiofrequency procedures that are done for varicose veins. What great news! No blood thinners or surgery necessary.

Now that we don’t have to be so close to Phoenix and are free to go wherever, we just couldn’t get up any enthusiasm to move on. But we had overstayed our 14 day limit so this morning we drove a few miles from our site on the AZ Trust Land and found another lovely spot in the Coconino NF with a view of the mountains from a different angle. And we still have 4G here.


We really like Flagstaff and wanted to hang around a little longer to figure out where to spend the rest of the summer and fall. Maybe the Grand Canyon, then work our way to the Sierras in California, with a stop in Vegas to visit our former neighbors who are now living there. Plus our friends are still here, so we wanted to get together with them again.

Speaking of Maureen and Eric, we went to check out their campsite and hike a little of the Arizona trail with them on Monday. Maureen found a toad, and even wrote a poem about him. He was very cute.

Their nice looking ‘97 Lazy Daze.


Mr. Hornby. Jim just had to pet him.



On our way to the Mayo yesterday we got a large rock chip in the windshield from a passing truck. Jim took it to be repaired this afternoon but it didn’t turn out well, so they are replacing the windshield tomorrow. Seems like almost every day some little irritating thing like that has to happen.

But Elvis and Sophie aren’t very concerned. They just patiently wait for the next hummingbird.