Glory Hole (2)

img_7826For explanation of the name of the place, see here. Otherwise, we shall ignore and move right along. This was our second visit, and the second time we had tried to reserve in the Iron Horse loop, only to be moved when that loop got closed. This time it looked like it was just for the sake of compacting campers during off season months. I did not see anything about renovations or upgrade work. They moved us to a fine site, so no complaints, it’s just a little odd we never seem to be able to camp over there.

img_7746I must say, driving Highway 4 past Copperopolis in the dark is not my favorite thing to do. That highway is a 50 mile stretch of two lanes with no marked turnouts or passing lanes. About 8 miles of it, before you get to the junction with 49, is pretty narrow and twisty, which is fine in the daylight, but not something I wanted to rush after sunset. So, to the string of cars behind me, I’m not going to apologize. I was driving at a speed that ensured I would not crash and ruin everyone’s evening, even if it might have felt frustrating for you. No one honked or did anything obnoxious, mind you. I just projected feelings onto them that may or may not have existed. But the important thing is, we arrived safely around 7.

img_7753Saturday Richard biked, following 49 to Parrots Ferry Road, then up Red Hill Road. About 2 miles of that was gravel, but he said it was a nice shortcut. I spent much longer than usual writing a report. When there is too much cell service, it’s not always a good thing. as I tend to get distracted. He didn’t get back until the late afternoon and we decided to go out to dinner in the cute little historic town of Angel’s Camp at a Mexican restaurant called, Cascabel. That was very fun! You can tell this is a town that is booming with tourists in the summer time, just by how many amenities and good restaurants there are along Main Street. There is even a movie theater. I would have totally opted to see the new “Terminator” movie, but Richard remembered that the entrance gates to the recreation area close at 9pm. That was really really lucky, because I had missed that sign completely. We would have found ourselves walking 2 miles from the kiosk to the campground, in the dark, probably complaining about how not worth it that movie was.

img_7773Sunday we got to explore nearby attractions because of the three day weekend. First we drove out to the trail head for Natural Bridges. This is a 1 mile, descending trail down to a cavernous water passage that continues underground. They say you can swim to the other side and that it’s about 250 feet to go all the way through. We didn’t try that, but we did quite enjoy the cave-like formations and constant showers of water coming through the ceiling. It was very beautiful and definitely worth the mile back uphill.

img_7776After that, we drove over to look at the bridge on Parrot’s Ferry Road. Apparently, it was one of the first ever built to use a light weight kind of concrete, which allowed its span of 650 feet to become one of the longest prestressed concrete bridges in the US. You can see the section in the middle that started to sag after it was built, but they reinforced it, and is supposed to be just fine now. We didn’t drive across, but that was not for fear of collapse.

img_7809Our last stop for the day was at the Moaning Caverns Adventure Park. Though they boasted an impressive zip lining course, we opted to stay on ground. At least for the moment. We did sign up for their tour of the cavern and were warned that it was 235 steps down, plus the same back up. I was thinking regular stairs. It turns out the first 65 or so feet is very small steps through tight cracks, leading you to a landing that overlooks a huge space, and a drop to the bottom of another 100 feet. That part is accessible only by traveling down a unique, 10-story, metal spiral staircase, constructed in place back in the early 1900s. We were reassured lots by the tour guide that it was welded, super safe, and carried millions of tourists every year. img_7804So we went for it. Obviously, going back up was another story, but at least it was worth the sore thighs of the next morning. The cavern is truly awe inspiring. There are plenty of beautiful cave formations to look at and the more adventurous people can even continue downward on the Expedition Tour, using ropes. Nope. We’re good, thanks.

img_7840Monday we reluctantly departed for home and the only noteworthy thing is that we took an alternate route, along Marsh Creek Road, behind Mt. Diablo. I’ve lived in this area 25+ years and have never been on that road. It was lovely, though a bit narrow and windy, and definitely not faster than taking 4. Still, kinda cool to see new roads in my own back yard.

Wonderful three day weekend! We will definitely look to go back during winter months when it’s not hot.

Total miles: 118.9, 16.1 mpg, 3 hours 30 min. Site 100 Big Oak. Nice site and level too. Great solar, view of the lake, no hookups, strong LTE for both of us. Good dump on site. They ask for $8 fee, honor system.

Clear Lake SP (3)

img_7697Ooooooooh spooooooky….. are we at a cemetery? Has the zombie apocalypse finally begun and there are no humans left? Or is Halloween weekend just a really unpopular time to camp?? We’re guessing the latter and this weekend made for a striking contrast to the jam packed camper experience from last Labor Day.

img_7692As noted in my last post, the past two weeks have been rather a lot. And to round out a school week that started with no power on Monday, and Halloween on Thursday, I decided to take a day on Friday and make it a three day weekend up at Clear Lake. That was a really good call. It meant that we hit the road on the day of Halloween and didn’t arrive until well after dark. We did see some trick or treaters on our way through the town of Kelseyville, but that was the last we saw anyone else. There was no one at the kiosk, which was to be expected, but literally NO OTHER CAMPERS in the entire park. Not even a campground host. It wasn’t until late in the day on Friday that we saw anyone else at all, for a grand total of two state park rangers and one other camping family.

img_7696Richard had to work all day Friday, but we got out for a little hike in the afternoon. Still no one around besides the numerous birds on the lake. Saturday we finally got people coming through for dog walks and fishing. Can you guess where the fishers decided to set up? That’s right, they set up on the apparently non private beach right in front of our site. My silent voice said, “seriously??” but my mouth said hello. Then I stretched out in my Nemo chair and basically bird watched, gave Alto tours to the curious dog walkers, and napped all afternoon while Richard circumnavigated the lake on his bike.

img_7715I had two Blue Apron meals to catch up on and that was a lovely way to do dinner with a lake view at sunset. There are so many White Pelicans on the lake right now, you can spend all your time watching them commute back and forth, in long stretched out lines, just skimming the surface of the water. Every once in a while, a group will decide to congregate nearby and you can watch them do their fishing frenzy dances in unison. Great fun!

img_7717Sunday we went home via Highway 29, just to remind ourselves why we don’t take that route. It’s about an hour longer to go up 5 to 20, but it’s much easier driving, especially in the dark. On the way home I think 29 is fine. There is a ten mile stretch that is very twisty, with about 3 of those miles consisting of back to back 180 degree turns. It’ll drop you right in the heart of Napa Valley, and once there, it’s a lovely and peaceful drive home. We noted the disappearance of one of our favorite lunch stops: Dean and DeLuca. Apparently, they are closing down all the retail stores except for the one in New York. This is sad, but I guess all we ever really buy there is high end sandwiches and extremely expensive designer chocolate truffles. But it’s a tradition we’ve enjoyed, so we’re sad it’s gone.

img_7728Nothing much else to report except Dory’s rear stabilizers are making knocking sounds. Richard is confident that’s an easy replacement job. The time change happened this weekend, so it’s into the winter camping season from here on out for a while. Extra blankets come out, down puffies replace thin fuzzies, and propane levels get checked more frequently. But that’s about it for us; no winterizing required. All we have to deal with is fires, power outages and earthquakes.

Total miles (via 505 to 5 to 20): 167.2, 15.5 mpg, 3 hours 58 min. To home via 29: 120.8, 15.9, 3 hours 7 min. From the campground, there are about 40 miles of easy driving. Then 3.3 miles twisty uphill, 3 miles nonstop 180s downhill, then another 3 miles twisty down to Calistoga. Site: 58. Still my favorite, despite communal beach. Good dump, nice bathrooms, no hookups but fairly good solar.

Wright’s Beach (6)

img_7639So I wasn’t going to actually post about this one. It happened two weeks ago, and for multiple reasons, I wasn’t feeling like writing anything up. However, because of my fake OCD (cause I do realize there are people living with real OCD, and I know that mine is just more like being weirdly stubborn, rather than genuinely impacted), I am going to backtrack and catch up.

img_7649
Premium Site #5

We referred to this weekend as “Angry Wright’s Beach” because I did not get a premium site this time and our goal was to assess whether I could still enjoy the place, or just sit there, bitterly staring at the people with ocean views. I’ll go ahead and say I was fine. I still got to stand at the beach at sunset on Friday and let the power of the ocean cleanse away the week’s stress. It was still close to our standby dinner place, and it was still the same beautiful drive. So yes, in a pinch, I can be non premium and not be ridiculous about it. Saturday it sprinkled the entire day, so we wouldn’t have been sitting out in our site anyway. I will say that I noticed site 5 was empty all weekend and I did not pursue the idea of moving into it. That’s gotta count for something right?

img_7629The end of the weekend wrapped up with a day’s worth of feeling the fragility of mortality. There was a health related concern that came up, which could have been nothing, or could have been something. WebMD assured me I was definitely dying. Note to self: stop looking at WebMD. We left Sunday with an appointment scheduled that afternoon at urgent care to get it checked out. In the end, it was something that was not a bad something, and not at all life threatening, so that’s all good. But it did give me pause, and for sure knocked out the motivation to write up the weekend.

img_7658The following weekend, we were home for a planned social gathering. I was going to go back and write it up at that point, but then the state of California burned down again, like it does. We had a closer than normal call, with two fires going in our town. Friends and coworkers were evacuated. The power had been turned off the day before. Fire planes and helicopters flew low overhead all day. img_7660We got Dory packed and hitched, ready on the street to go at a moment’s notice if need be. It was a day’s worth of feeling the fragility of home and all the acquired stuff.

Again, it was more of a scare than the serious possibility it could have been. There are lots of Californians facing that right now, and I surely feel for them. I guess it’s just one of those times in life when everything feels quite temporary. I’m working on noticing that, like my mindful friend would say. And I feel gratitude in the mix with all the anxiety. It’s just not the dominant feeling a lot of the time. I’m working on that too, Rita. 🙂

img_7657On a purely practical note, it is awesome to have a 12v fridge and espresso machine available during blackouts. Also, we have an abundance of solar or battery powered light sources. Since this seems to be a regular thing that happens in California, we have started thinking seriously about how to make these events less impactful. And I’ve got to figure out what to do about all the photos. There is just no way I’m going to be able to save all the albums. Ugh. I know as long as I’ve got the family and the kitty, and Dory, we’ll be fine. But I did think a lot about the pictures. Maybe another reason to keep up the blog; at least these pictures won’t get incinerated.

Didn’t take data, but it’s the same as usual. This time site 23, non premium. #survived

Butano (4)

EHnIJ928SieS46F926yo2gFollowing the events in California this past week, I had one recurring thought: I really wish we had a flat driveway. Power went out for most of the state at varying times and for varying durations in an attempt to prevent fires started by trees blowing into power lines. Without debating the pros and cons of PG&E’s plan, one thing I was thankful for was Dory. While the need did not arise, because we lost power for less than 24 hours total, it was nice to know we had a place to put a couple months’ worth of our daughter’s insulin and have it not go bad. Dory’s fridge will run just fine in the garage, the only downside being the lack of ability to recharge the battery using the solar panels. I knew we could have powered up the generator if need be, and I suppose we could have parked her in the driveway. She would have just been very tippy. Much more fun would have been the option to move in until power was restored. For that, we needed the weekend, but by then the “breezmergency” (a term coined by an awesome fellow teacher), had passed.

oOEoHywdTmqC7tdleJ4ftQWe were pleased to see that camping continues with, or without, power. The Butano State Park ranger in fact told us that the town of Pescadero loses power all the time. So they were generally unfazed and well prepared. Butano is not the place for solar recharging though. This is a deep redwood forest campground. It is mostly populated by tent campers and most of the sites are not too trailer friendly. We’d been in #2 before, but it’s a challenge backing in uphill, avoiding various stumps and trees, all while remaining on the narrow road. I failed the first attempt and ran Bruce’s driver’s side tire into a ditch. It is also not not like you can just pull forward a little and try again. The road in front of site 2 is super steep. So, to come at it again from a better angle, I had to go all the way down the road until I could make an unadvisably tight U-turn. Then, I had to drive all the way back up, past our site, around the campground loop again, and back to the site, hoping my center of the road position would do it. I was prepared to break out the Caravan Mover if necessary, but the second time proved successful.

Hk7Ht4EnSQ2daErPHO0NJAThankfully, we had stopped at the little market in Pescadero, Arcangelli, on our way and had picked up dinner just before they closed at 6. With darkness falling and nerves on edge, a hot pesto chicken sandwich with pasta and potato salads, and olallieberry pie for dessert, really hit the spot.

IMG_3099Saturday began with the usual: a bike ride for Richard and a report for me. There is absolutely no service in the campground, but there is really good wifi down at the Visitor Center. After I’d finished writing, I drove down and used the wifi to pull up some other reports and do some thinking. Richard wasn’t too far away at that point and we met back up at Dory for a change of clothes (for him) before heading back down to Pescadero for lunch.

4qP4VkghTumClP5Gp2pdHQSaturday afternoon was spent poking around the tide pools at Bean Hollow State Park, Pebble Beach until sunset. We saw all kinds of anemones and little hermit crabs. There were seals sunning on rocks and big birds congregating atop white, bird poop covered, outcroppings. The timing for both sunset and low tide coincided, so we got to wander out quite far, taking care not to break legs on the slippery seaweed.

The sunset was beautiful. The plentiful cloud cover turned all kinds of pretty colors after the sun went down and I enjoyed the task of trying to catch the splashes of waves, back lit by the setting sun. One of them came out pretty well.fullsizeoutput_1354

hs%Xu829S0+m3nIHTC5yFQDinner Saturday was at a fifth grade teacher favorite: Duarte’s, in Pescadero. This is the go to place during camp week, and the “half and half” cream of artichoke and green chile soup is the thing to have. It is not on the menu, so don’t bother looking for it.

Sunday we dumped tanks at Half Moon Bay SP while I reminded myself that yes, I really do need to go to the Professional Development Day on Monday. “Are you suuuuuure?” was the question that got repeated all morning, by both of us really. The sign at the kiosk said “campground full” anyway and I didn’t let Richard double check. So we dumped, had some lunch in the day use area, and it was home again home again.

Wonder what next week will bring the Golden State?

Total miles: 76.4, 15.0 mpg, 2 hours 52 min. Site 2, challenging but doable. Very tippy. No hookups, no solar, no service. Good wifi at the Visitor Center. Bathrooms are fine. Crumb clean campground.

 

Bodega Dunes (4)

5ctXuQWiSRSTbHNiwW+FeAWe’re repeating campgrounds for sure. But at least we tried a different loop this weekend. So that’s not entirely boring. And it was a weekend of perfect weather, so even it that is boring, it’s in a good way.

The upper loop at Bodega Dunes has some nice solar sites. We were in #9 and besides the fact that the picnic table area was kind of behind us instead of on the door side, it was a good site. Plenty of space between us and other campers, and enough of a level pad at the top so as not to be too tippy.

omHxB9SdQCqULx%S2Qk5mAWe did our usual things: report, bike ride, dinner at the Mexican place. Plus, we walked down to the beach in the afternoon and caught a sunset after dinner. I spotted a seal in the water, but that was about it, besides the humans.

TOXCCJjORsO6a1d5eqblDQSunday I got the chance to hand out three of my new calling cards as we were packing up. I stole the idea from other Altoistes, who in turn had stolen the idea from someone else. It is the perfect thing for spontaneous tours because it has all of the online addresses for people to get more information. Upon handing out the third card, the person said, “Do you give a lot of tours?” Laughter all around.

H9YLzJZeR1iXtkWUroHNiwAfter dumping, we headed down to the day use area for a quick lunch at the beach. We parked behind the cute T@B we’d noticed in the campground. I haven’t a single regret about not getting one, but I still find them to be very cute little trailers.

On our way home, we witnessed a very near miss accident where some jerk in a truck nearly ran a towed car off the road. You know how those big RVs sometimes tow little cars behind them? We were a couple of cars behind one where two lanes were merging into one. This guy in a big pickup must have thought the towed car was just tailgating the RV and not letting him in. He got more and more insistent about trying to cut between the RV and the towed car.  He must have come within an inch of hitting that car before the RV quickly pulled off to the side of the road to let him pass. It was then he must have realized the situation, plus the fact no one was driving the little car. He did not pass, but instead waved the RV to go ahead. I hope that was a lesson for him on road aggression because it would have been a really embarrassing insurance claim.

Nice weekend, another ocean sunset, short post, all good. Drive safe out there, people!

Total miles: 81.6, 15.4 mpg, 2 hours 33 min. Site 9, no hookups, good solar, good LTE for both of us. Nice bathrooms, good dump.

Lake Solano (3)

LMT1xbEQRCCyr%sbTrlsQQIt doesn’t get much better than this. River side site, electric and water hookups, kayak launching from the site, herons and geese and tons of birds, plus river otters! I will admit there is road noise in this campground, and you can see cars clearly on Highway 128, right across the river. Small price to pay, in my book.

Though we could have run the AC this weekend, the temperatures were just about perfect, so no need. Richard went on a nice long bike ride Saturday and, with the help of the cell signal booster, I got a whole lot of work done. No complaining here. I got to stare at the river birds and play music and feel better about things that were starting to get ahead of me.

nxRT94U0QfygevMAbenGyQI almost felt too lazy to get my boat in the water in the afternoon, but man, am I glad I fought the sloth and launched! First off, it was a gorgeous day and the river was alive with all kinds of birdsong. And goose honking. And goose butts, which always amuse me. I went downstream this time and made it all the way down to the actual “lake” part of Lake Solano. I never had known what that was, but really it’s just a widening of Putah Creek to the point that there is no current and it looks lakeish.

EiUUjbs+TKy3QQg9hfBnqAOnce I got away from the campground, cell service came back. I’d been looking pretty carefully along the shoreline to see if I could spot an otter, because this just seemed like the kind of place they would live. As luck would have it, once I’d reached my farthest point from the campground, Richard texted me to say he was looking right at an adorable family of otters directly in front of our camp site. I wanted to tell him to keep them occupied while I paddled as fast as I could back his way. Short of throwing them fish we didn’t have, I wasn’t under the impression there was anything he could do.

Image 9-29-19 at 3.53 PMBy the time I got all the way back, they had moved on, but I wasn’t ready to give up. Otter spotting determination runs strong in my blood. I went upstream, past the campground by just a bit, and there they were, frolicking by the bank! I parked myself against the opposite shore and just stared at them playing in the water for a good long time. Not a single picture came out, but I did get some videos and grabbed still frame shots from them. Even so, none of the footage captures the adorableness of an otter head popping out of the water with a full open mouth fishy chew. Image 9-29-19 at 3.56 PMI could even see their cute little chompy teeth as they yum yummed, then blooped back under water. I think there were four and at least two of them seemed pretty little. Omigosh, what a good day!

For a county park, this is a pretty sweet spot. For some reason, there are peacocks wandering around. That brought repeated comments from us, referencing the “A Story” couple in Extreme RVs, “Who has a peacock near their RV? Me! I do!” sTevlg3%RxeJqQV7VCgTngWe were entertained every time we said it.

The bathrooms are rustic, but the toilets flush and water comes out of the tap if you push the little button a couple times. There is even a shower, but it’s the kind that makes me glad Dory has a shower. I didn’t get in to Winters this time, but Richard says there was a “carnitas festival” happening. I have a little regret about not finding out more there.

Fun place. I’ll book again and remind myself I won’t be guaranteed another otter sighting. But I’ll bet we’ll get peacocks and herons.

Total miles: 54.5, 17.2 mpg, 2 hours with Friday traffic. Site 25. Electric & water. Good solar, river side. Good dump on site. LTE for Verizon, really spotty ATT – either no service or 1 bar of 5g. Just a little outside the campground, there was LTE.

Pinnacles (4)

EAnkGl%2RwKj16UogneJHQSome trips we plan just to test out gear. That was definitely the case with this return trip to Pinnacles NP. Over the summer we discovered just how lame our headlamp gear was when we did lava tubing in Lava Beds NP. That led Richard to extensive headlamp research and the frequent recitation of lumens numbers, even though I did not know what that word meant.

YS54uEp0RRGyVaIB82M3ZAHe landed on the Olight H2R. Doesn’t hurt that the head strap has blue accents, but I swear that’s not why we got it. This little light can go from super bright, like “I’m scared and inside a cave” level, to “moon light” mode so you can walk around the campsite and not blind people. It’s also really easy to use without reading the instructions. We tested this out in the Balconies Cave on Saturday and were both really pleased. Now we are cave people and need to start searching out other caves we can explore.

Saturday night we attended a ranger talk about nocturnal animals and that was fun. The especially fun part was that I could hear the ranger even though we were sitting in the back. One of the exciting things that happened this past week was that I got new hearing aides. The others were quite old and there’s a huge improvement in quality. I kept turning to Richard whispering, “I can totally hear her!” It’s the simple things.

Screen Shot 2019-09-19 at 7.28.42 AMThe other exciting thing that happened was the long awaited airing of our episode on Extreme RVs. It has been well over a year and a half since we filmed it and we thought they were never going to show it. Richard, in fact, was pretty sure our footage alone was so terrible, it had caused them to cancel the entire season. We were relieved that it didn’t look as bad as we thought it might, but were prepared to hit the road and assume new identities if it had been really embarrassing. Only our neighbor friends were allowed to witness the first viewing and I’m thankful they did not post footage of all the screaming, doubling over, and face hiding.

fullsizeoutput_1325But back to Pinnacles. Besides the caving, we saw a condor at a distance and a tarantula up close. That was pretty cool. It is apparently tarantula migration season and they are not an uncommon sight. Pretty sure that was my first wild sighting though. A whole group gathered around to look, including a park ranger with a sense of humor. Just as one person was leaning in really close to get a picture, he casually mentioned, “They can jump up to ten feet.” Then after the person jumped nearly that distance backwards, “Just kidding.”

The dump there is still awkward to use, with a big concrete curb around it, but they have added wifi for purchase at the Visitor Center. This is a big plus for us. It’s a one time lifetime fee of $10 and you can use it any time you come back. This saved us from driving about ten miles out of the park to do a check in. It only reaches as far as the immediate area around the Visitor Center, but that is just perfect.

All we need now is to figure out an alternative to 101 on a Friday.

Total miles: 128.2, 17.0 mpg, 3’58” with terrible traffic on 101 South Friday. Only about 2 1/2 hours to get home. Site 98, electric hookups. The bathroom is located in the tent loop. We noted that site 15 would be closer and more private, but would not have hookups. It would have good solar though. NO cell service until about 10 miles north of the park. Terrible dump, but at least it’s open now.