Mono Lake, CA 2018

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Pleasant Walk Along the Deschutes River

Four or five years ago I would have had lots to to write about a nice five mile walk along a beautiful river on a sunny May day. But today I feel like I have written it all a dozen times. 

Best I can do is to say it was a very good walk. Just the right distance, with no big ups, downs or rough rocks.

The Deschutes river had more twists and turns than a sidewinder going down a steep rocky incline. At one point on the map, it almost crossed itself.

[From Craig]  One of the first times we drove into the park, our navigation screen showed what appeared to be a loop in the river. All of the camping areas are loop roads, but a closed loop in a river is unique! The furthest point in our hike was the conjunction in the river loop. Unfortunately, it was not easy to photograph from our side of the river. In the image below you can just barely see the left side of the loop, while the right side is more obvious. I think the river used to follow the loop, but in some flood year it cut the direct channel in the foreground. In a thousand years, the loop will probably be dry.

From time to time we feel we need to rest. If no bench is available, I tend to look for a stump or flat rock. I have found my Cotton camera vest doubles as a sling for my bad shoulder. I just slip a thumb in a nook behind the camera, and my arm is supported. 

Craig has discovered that he can relieve the compression of his spine, enough to relieve the pain in his back, by squatting like a frog for a few minutes.  

[From Craig] Far as I know, no frog squats on just his feet!

Whatever it takes, we will keep on hiking!

If you want to photograph wildlife, sometimes you have to think small.

We wondered if this tree split as it dried, or if had been struck by lightning. There are no burn marks.

The circle of life.

Walk on!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Walmart Boondock, Summer Lake Hot Springs, and La Pine State Park

We are now at La Pine State Park, 15 miles south of Bend Oregon. Before writing about “now”, I need to go back a few days.

Craig and I rarely boondock, but if we do it is most likely to be at a well-lit parking lot, such as at a Walmart. I don’t like to travel more than 300 miles per day, and our next planned destination, Summer Lake, was almost 500. As it turned out, after a week on the road, there were a few items that are best found at a Walmart, that we needed to buy. Thus it was a logical decision to overnight at the Walmart in Susanville, California. 

We arrived mid-day and there was only one other RV in sight. We circled the lot and parked near the Garden Shop, as recommended online. All seemed good. We checked in with a manager and did our small shop. As evening approached, a number of other RVs also pulled in. We could hear the expected traffic noises, but the night was warm and we left the windows open to enjoy the air.

Just before midnight I was woke by a loud, high pitched, throbbing noise. I looked out and saw a large, refrigerated “semi” had parked near us. It went on and on, and I realized he would be running his generator all night long! We closed the windows, but this only muffled the sound somewhat. I did manage to get back to sleep however.  Then a little while late I woke again and noticed the noise, while still there, had diminished considerably.  A large Walmart semi had pull in between us.  The rest of the night was peaceful.  I guess when the spot is free, you get what you pay for.

Our destination for Wednesday was Summer Lake Hot Springs.

Like many of the hot spring sites, it is privately owned and operated. But one feels it is in a transitional period between being run-down and being rejuvenated.  

The open RV area was a bit rough, but had 50 A full hook ups. Only a few other rigs were there. 

Unfortunately this one was right along the entrance road. It was a bit of an anomaly. Usually when you see a junk site, like this the RV is also a piece of junk, old and neglected. But if you look closely you can see that it is a newer trailer in good condition, hitched to a newer truck. I wondered what the story was.

[From Craig] At first we thought this site was unoccupied, but come evening the resident appeared. First he built a good-sized campfire, and when that burned down he turned on one of those rotating blue-light “sprayers”. So he has resources for fun, just not for neatness. I bet he is recently split from a significant other who made him keep things orderly.  

There was a lot of construction going on. There were several new cottages that have been stuccoed recently, and were awaiting painting. In another area several wood units were available for overnighters, and one could see new wood and repairs on the older barn and storage buildings.

The metal building that housed the 20’ X 30’ hot pool is the oldest such structure in Oregon and designated a Historic Site. Much of the interior wood was old, but the overhead supporting beams were newer.

It was difficult to take a picture of the pool because there were so many reflections on the water from the windows and skylights. The pool was cement bottomed, with a constant flow of hot mineral water and a depth of 3’ - 5’. The mineral water temperature was about 100°, and no chlorine or sulfur smell. I enjoyed two long soaks on the day we were there. One when we arrived, and a second after dinner. Craig joined me for the first.

There were also three small outdoor pools. I could imagine a dark night soak looking up at the stars, but for a day visit preferred the deep water of the main pool.

I’m not sure we would stop here again, but it was interesting for a one-day visit. It would be great for someone coming home from a ski trip!
And I understand it is a favorite “after Burning Man” party place. 

We will be at La Pine for a week. As I’m writing this on Saturday, and I see that the full hook up sites are all full. When I made our reservation several months ago, I looked on Google Earth to see if I could find a satellite-friendly spot. I did, however, our Verizon reception is weak, and since it is our hot spot, so is the internet. I’m wrote this in Word and posted it down at the library in town.

On Friday we visited the High Desert Museum, just south of Bend. 

      One of several life size bronze sculptures outside the entrance.
In addition to some very good displays of things belonging Oregon Trail pioneers and the Indians, they had some very healthy live animals on exhibit. We were told than they are rescues that cannot be returned to the wild. It didn’t feel like a “zoo” , and the critters looked peaceful.

My favorite were the Porcupines.  

They look so soft and cuddly, which is of course deceiving.

This is the fattest Bobcat I have ever seen. He seemed happy, and in his enclosure he had toys and a big cardboard box to explore. What cat doesn’t love a cardboard box!

Can you do this?

It was a treat to see this Red Tailed Hawk up close at the "Raptor Encounter talk.

We see so many flying and perched on fence posts as we drive country roads. 

This bird was a rescue and is just getting used to being in front of a crowd. 

In the next few days we will be taking some walks in the park and enjoying some cool, quiet forest nights.

I’ll post when I can.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Travertine Hot Springs

Over the years we have visited several hot springs. Most have been commercially operated with large pools and some facilities. Last year I decided we would try to visit some of the more natural springs on our 2018 trip through the Northwest. 

We tried our first one Monday.  The Travertine Hot Spring is about 25 miles north of Lee Vining just off of Highway 395. It is on National Forest land, but it is free to visit. 

The access road is about a mile of gravel with some washboard areas. It ends at a parking area with a pit toilet for a dressing room if you need one.

From there the walk is quite short, but rocky and was hard to walk on when we returned with wet rubber sandals. We wore our swim suits, and I seriously wished for at least one of my trekking poles. 

Each of the four sequential upper pools will accomodate two soakers if they are friends. The first was too hot for anyone, and the next two were occupied, and the last was not very warm.

We were directed to another pool across a muddy area. There were no defined paths. As we crossed this space there were a few places where the mud was covered with water. As I crossed, my rubber sandals kept getting stuck in the muck and I was very much afraid of doing a spectacular face plant in the mud. Then I had an "Ah-ha" moment, and took them off. Bare feet in squishy mud.  I felt like a kid. Fun! 

In this picture, the rocky depression is the actual hot spring that filled  the front pool, which ranged from one to three feet deep with a foot of silky mud on the bottom.

The temperature of the water was about 100° in the middle and about 106° at the top of the inlet. Once in, the silky muck felt rather therapeutic. I slathered my shoulder with mud, and although I did not submerge it, I did scoop lots of hot water over it.  My other old joints: knees, elbows, hands, felt pretty good. Hey, don't they charge big bucks to get a mud bath at a swanky spa?

All in all it was a fun experience. Next time we go to a natural hot spring I'll carry my trekking poles to help me get in and out if necessary.  I'm just not very flexible anymore and find that since I hurt my shoulder I am leery of falls. Getting old!

We finished the day with a very nice lunch at a little Mexican restaurant called "Three 95 cafe". It got five stars on Yelp about Bridgeport. Well deserved for such a small town.

Wednesday is a travel day. Our destination is the Walmart in Susanville CA, after a fuel stop and shopping at Trader Joe's in Reno.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Mono Lake - Hiking Panum Crater

We have been reading news stories about the eruption of the volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, that has lava flows burning through residential neighborhoods.

On Sunday we hiked the rim trail of the Panum Crater, the youngest of the 20-30 volcanic cones to the south of Mono Lake, which are themselves the youngest mountains in the US.

It is just a baby Rhyolitic Plug-Dome Volcano, having had its last erruption only 650 years ago. 

Much of the hike was quite easy, along a loose gravel path that ran along the top edge of the outer ring of the crater. The air was crystal clear and the day was pleasantly warm. To the west we had a beautiful view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains.

As we came around towards the lakeside edge of the rim we had a bird's eye view of Mono Lake. Friday it looked blue. Saturday it looked green. From this vantage point on Sunday, it looked both blue and green!

We could see the tufa that we visited the day before. Because the day was quite windy, a white line of breaking waves appeared along the top line of submerged tufa further out in the lake.

At this point we are about halfway around the rim, and the Sierras are coming back into view.

The lava in the center of the cone looked as if it had just cooled and crumbled last week. 

But at the same time, there were a few trees bravely growing at the top. The ground on the outer rim was covered with sage brush, pink pear, and other desert plants.

Although most of the hike was easy, there were a couple of rather steep climbs. We both were puffing from this exercise in the altitude.

The gravel road we drove in on and the parking lot

As always, the best view of any hike is the sighting of the parking lot below and our faithful Jeep waiting to carry us home.

When I planned our route north this year, I hoped to be able to get diesel fuel for the Alfa in Nevada. We filled her in Las Vegas and will top off in Reno as we travel up 395.  We did have to get gas for the Jeep today. There are two stations in Lee Vining. This was the more expensive. We went down the block and only paid $4.49.

I have always noticed much higher prices near the entrances to National parks. The east entrance to Yosemite is quite near. I just checked Gas Buddy and Regular is $3.39 in San Diego and $3.25 in Reno. 

But we are here and want to tour some tomorrow, so we bought 5 gallons.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Mono Lake Tufa

I was very glad we had our Jeep Wrangler at Mono Lake today. Although certainly passable by any car, I felt more confident on our drive down the one mile gravel road that took us to the Mono Lake Navy Beach to see the sand tufas, than if we still had our old Hyundai Accent.

I could write lots of words at this point, but I would rather just let the pictures speak for themselves:

Eagle tufa

Our next stop was back up the gravel road and down another to the parking area of the South Tufa for a guided walk.

We learned about the many birds that use Mono Lake as a safe place to nest or rest on migration. 

Osprey nesting on tufa
Although there are no fish in the lake because it is too salty, osprey nest on the high tufa towers and fly to other lakes and streams to fish.

The sky was a bit overcast, but the air was a perfect 75° without much wind. Today the lake looked more green than blue. We learned this is because the water contains lots of algae.

We think this is the tallest tufa

Algae form the base of the food chain at Mono Lake.  Two creatures form the next level higher, that feed on the algae.  Brine shrimp are the less numerous but more economically important form, because they are harvested for home aquarium food. The more numerous form is called alkali flies.

They had just started to appear for the season.  Native Americans would harvest their pupae and dry them for food.  To this day, local people and tourists are amazed by how good they taste!

We have many more pictures, but they will have to stay in our own files. The Mono Lake history and how the lake was almost lost to the water demands of Los Angeles is an interesting one, but you will just have to read about it, or better yet come here yourself to learn about it.

[From Craig]  I took this image while walking behind Merikay by the tufa today.

In the last two weeks she has discovered pants like these at Walmart.  I think they are called Capris, which is a name I recall from when we were young. Who would have expected that Walmart would be the source of garments that could make a lady in her 70s look this good? I'm proud to be her partner in Merikay's Dream!

From Merikay: if I look good to him, I'm happy.

The End

Friday, May 4, 2018

On The Road Again!

The first few days of our 2018 summer travels have been ever so nice!

When we sold our house and took off in an RV, I secretly wondered how long it would last.  Well, we are now over the five year mark, and we have not had a single regret. Oh, we have had some pretty rough moments, and there have been times when we wished we could have separate rigs. But those kinds of difficult times would probably happen in a house as well. We are human, and we have been married 52 years!  At the same time, good times seem better, and travel keeps us mentally and physically challenged and alert.  

Every time we have headed north from Southern California in the past, we have taken the fastest and easiest route, straight up the central valley on I-5.

This time I routed us on the east side of the Sierra Mountains. New roads, new sights.

Before heading north, we decided to go to Las Vegas to visit our good friends Joe and Betty. We met them several years ago at an RV park west of Yellowstone. We have kept in touch and meet up for dinner from time to time. They also have an Alfa, but have recently put it up for sale. They feel it is time to "hang up the keys." I only hope we have as many wonderful years as they have had. 

Our destination out of Las Vegas was Mono Lake, back in California. I remember driving past it once as we were returning from a ski trip to Mammoth Lake, and wishing we had time to stop to see the area.  Now we will have a few days to take in the sights, and the weather is more suitable.

One of the joys of RVing as retired people is we can take our time. Mono Lake is about 400 miles from Las Vegas, so I decided to make it a two day drive. Our first stop was at Tonopah Station, just an overnight in a parking lot behind a casino.

We really enjoyed the desert and mountain scenery going north. 

Below are two images taken through the windshield. There were more interesting views, but there were no good turn-outs to stop at with a large motorhome towing a Jeep. 

Alkali Silver Peak was in Mineral County (but this is not it)

This mountain had numerous road tracks. We think there was mining involved. 

We arrived at our RV park at Mono Lake just after noon giving us time to go over to the Visitors Center to see the exhibits, talk to a ranger, and watch the movie.

We also took a short walk along an educational nature walk that overlooked the lake.

There was just a bit of haze in the air, but the water was silken smooth. I have never seen so many shades of blue.

There were other things to see beside the lake, including baby swallows in their nests under the eaves,

and the pretty pink blossoms of Pink Peach bushes.

The ranger gave us some good suggestions for some easy hikes. 

Time to get these old bodies of ours moving again!

One last picture for the day: 

I really don't like to have a camera strap around the back of my neck. That is why I bought my COTTON 3G Camera Harness System, but I didn't have it along for this short walk.

Craig caught me taking a rest.

I also see I need a hair cut!

Tomorrow: ranger guided walk on the shore at 1:00 PM.