Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tranquility and pavement.

After enduring the 6 mile gravel road from hell to leave Butte Lake Campground, we have transitioned to a quiet, peaceful campground with paved roads and paved camping pads.  What a difference a day makes.  We are now comfortably set up in the woods of Tahoe National Forest at the Cottonwood Creek campground. 

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Another reason for the “tranquility” is we basically have had the place to ourselves.  When we arrived there was one other “camper” (more about him later).  We made a trip around one of the loops looking for site 40, which I had reserved.  Not finding it on our first circle, we were about to try another loop when I noticed a tag with our name on it on site 2, just inside the campground entrance.  The tag said we could camp here “or any open site”.  So we went for a walk and found a beautiful spot at site 17.  I thought it might be a little tight getting in there, but we should give it a try.  I am still underestimating the size our our camper.  We barely made it on the narrow, curving paved road to site 17.  After 10 minutes of trying to back into the site, I gave up and we returned to site 2 and set up camp.  This is a perfectly fine campsite, large and level, but we could still hear some traffic noise from the highway. 

After we set up, it became clear that the Verizon coverage map on the Verizon web site was wrong, because there was no cell phone service here.  So we drove back down the highway 6 miles to Sierraville, CA.   We stopped for fuel at the only gas station/grocery store in town.  While I was filling up the truck, Rosie went in the store and came back out saying they had very little to offer (definitely no bags of fresh salad) and what they had was very expensive.  So we backtracked another 13 miles to a much larger store that had, among other things, fresh salad.  On the return trip to the camp site, I found a strong enough Verizon signal to pick up e-mail and put a comment on Facebook.

On our arrival back at the site, we were greeted by the campground host, a really nice gentlemen who was camped a couple of miles away and managing 3 local forest service campgrounds.  After getting through the paper work, I inquired about the other camper.  This camper was a gentleman sitting in the passenger seat of a blue sedan.  No tent, no camper, to chairs, nothing outside of him sitting in the car.  I learned this guy comes up here every year for 2 weeks and sits in his car and uses the pit toilets.  Nobody knows why, but he appears to be harmless.  By now there was one other camper, a single lady in a minivan.

Monday morning we went for a walk and (wouldn’t ya know it) Rosie found a trailhead.  The trail started gently over a couple of bridges across the creek.  Then there was a fork in the trail with a sign indicating a loop back to the campground (level) and a hike to the “summit view” (not level).  Of course we took the summit view fork and proceeded uphill for a mile or so.  Took some pictures and returned to the site.  I went into town to make an e-mail connection and found the local cafe had a wi-fi connection.  So for the price of a cup of coffee I was able to get my internet fix.

Tuesday morning, after my trip to town for an internet fix, I returned to the site to observe our other lonely camper emptying the trash from his car to the dumpster.  The trash company had just emptied all the dumpsters, so when I went to make a deposit, I observed that his trash consisted of 2 empty box wine boxes and one large champagne bottle along with one pair of men’s underwear.  There are no showers in the camp, so I guess this guy doesn’t bathe for two weeks and just discards his underwear after it becomes uninhabitable.  No evidence in the dumpster of what he might be eating for food.  It is an interesting world.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, we move to Twin Lakes Campground near Bridgeport, CA.  On Friday, our daughters will be coming up with their families to join us.  I am looking forward to a little one on one fishing time with my grandsons.

Here are some pics from this site:

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Rosie found the trail.                                          Best pals.

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Can you feel the stress??                                      A babbling brook.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Paradise at the end of the road from hell

First, an Annie update; we took her to a vet in Alturas, CA, who diagnosed her having “stress” from the long travel days leading to a possible mild ulcer of the stomach or esophagus.  He prescribed some antibiotics and provided 3 cans of a bland dog food.  She is doing much better.  The hacking cough is gone and she is eating better and not throwing up.

IMG_3233 The forest service campground at Butte Lake in Lassen National Park, California is heavily wooded with huge sequoia trees.  The lake is placid with hardly a ripple except from the oars of kayakers.  It is very peaceful with generator use permitted only from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.  The problem is getting there.  The 6 miles of gravel road from Highway 44 is 40% washboard.  Average speed pulling the camper was about 15 miles per hour, and that was too fast.  A lot of “stuff” in the camper came off the walls and out of shelves.  I am going to leave here at a more judicious pace.

The tribulations did not abate upon our arrival.  The site that I had reserved and paid for was simply not suited for our camper; not big enough and not accessible.  The campground host was not in his trailer.  We drove around and found a suitable site that did not have a reservation tag on it and partially set up, but did not unhitch from the truck.  We started the generator to charge up the batteries on the computer and cell phone and our neighbor scurried over to inquire if we were going to “run the generator continuously”.  We told him about 30 minutes should do it and he seemed relieved.  When the camp host returned, we learned that the site we were in was reserved starting Friday.  He and I rode around until we found a suitable site that was available for 4 nights.  I then had the task of informing Rosie we had to move.  She was not a happy camper at that point (but got over it fairly soon).  In positioning the rig in the new site, the front bumper shroud came into conflict with a large rock and the rock won.


But we eventually got settled in to our site and even fairly level. 


By this time we realized there was not even a hint of cell phone coverage here.  That meant either ignoring possible customers to my internet business site and being out of touch with the world for 4 days or making at least one trip over the road from hell to check in with the universe.  Thursday afternoon we decided to head into Susanville, the nearest town about 40 miles away.  We got a cell phone signal about 20 miles down the road and found no customer requests on the web site.  So we sent out the previous blog and I uploaded my last work report from my business in Twin Falls.  Found some ice cream at the local Rite Aid and enjoyed that special treat.  Filled up with diesel and headed back to the campground.  We decided that we would just “tough it out” (like it is real rough here) without a connection to the world until our departure date on Sunday.  So we have been reading, walking the pooches, eating and generally leading a very quiet existence.  It is Saturday morning as I write this and the campground appears to be full.  We have a group of 4 or 5 twenty somethings that are here on a work trip (maybe geologists or forestry types) who study maps every morning, don backpacks and head off into the wilderness to return about 5:00 pm.  They are living in tents; making us really grateful for the comfort of our camper.  The days are in the 80’s temperature wise, but the nights drop down to the high 50’s, making for good sleeping weather with windows slightly open.

This is our longest “boondocking” experience.  We are really grateful for the generator and 4 batteries.  On a side note, the generator “crashed” on Saturday afternoon before our departure.  I was fortunate to find an Onan Generator dealer in town that was willing to come in to his shop to work on it on a Saturday.  Ended up replacing the carburetor and a few other miscellaneous parts.  The electronics in the old carburetor was sending bad signals to the fuel feed, causing it to flood out and leak gasoline, not a good thing.  We are so fortunate we discovered this before we left, not after we arrived here in the boondocks where it would not have been possible to repair.

Two unusual events on Saturday.  First, a butterfly seemed to take a liking to me.  It came and settled on my hand while I was reading and stayed on my hand while I walked to the camper to have Rosie take some pictures.  It came back four times and settled on my hand during the next couple of hours.  I don’t know if this is unusual or normal, but I have never had it happen before.  The intricacy of the color patterns on the wings is impossible to describe.  Unfortunately, my camera does not do well on extreme close ups.  Second, all of a sudden we started hearing helicopters.  I looked up to see a red chopper carrying a water bucket.  I thought that this could not be good news so I went to see the campground host.  There was a Ranger with him.  I learned there was a “little” fire on a hill some ways away and they were dipping water out of the lake.  They seemed confident an evacuation would not be necessary.  The vision of everyone in this campground loading up and heading down the road from hell; all at the same time, was not a pleasant one.  As it turned out the fire was out in a couple of hours and peaceful tranquility reigned once again on our little slice of paradise.

Well, we are departing this morning for our next forest service campground; 3 nights in Tahoe National forest near a stream.  The Verizon Coverage Map is reassuring that coverage is good at that location.  It is also very near the highway, so no more roads from hell.  I will send this out this afternoon.  Here are pictures from our stay.


The whole family in the woods.                         Note the boulder nestled in the roots.

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Through the tall grass.                                     Butte Lake.

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Butte Lake.                                                     My butterfly visitor.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chickahominy Reservoir


We arrived at Chickahominy Reservoir west of Burns, Oregon on Tuesday afternoon.  This is a BLM site with designated and undesignated camping.  There are no hookups.  It is also only $4 per night for us Golden Age Passport holders.  We were the first ones here about three in the afternoon.  By the time it got dusk, several others had arrived, including tent campers and a small travel trailer.  There is not a tree in site of this location.  However, it does have it’s own beauty.  The reservoir was very low, about 1/2 full by my estimate.  There is a good variety of waterfowl, including cranes and large white birds that resemble a pelican.  Sunset was gorgeous, with cranes standing on one foot reflected in the water cast in a warm orange glow.  It was so quiet you could hear the bird chatter from a good distance.  Several trails made Rosie and the puppies very happy.  Annie is not feeling well.  She has a hacking cough and threw up 3 times this evening.  But, she has plenty of energy.  We will try to find a vet on Wednesday on the way to our next stop in California.  Here are some pictures from the day.


All alone.                                                               White pelican like bird.

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Grillin’ and chillin’                                                     Great rock arrangement


Cranes at sunset.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Our first stop on our long journey through the western US is a small State Park just south of Mountain Home, Idaho.  I have started to search for State Park Campgrounds because they tend to be reasonable in cost and uncrowded with spacious, level sites.  This campground has electricity and water hookups with paved camping pads.  When we arrived on Sunday, we were the only ones here and it was getting hot.  By 5:00 pm, the temperature hit 101 degrees.  We were grateful for the 50 amp hookup because we needed both air conditioners going to stay cool.  After getting set up, I had a chat with the Park Ranger who said he did not expect many campers during the week because of the heat.  As of this morning, Tuesday, there are about 4 other camping trailers and 5 or so tent campers.  There are flush toilets and showers available.

On Monday, I had some business to take care of in Twin Falls, about 90 miles away.  I got back to the camper about 2:30.  We drove around the park to explore some of the sites.  There is an Observatory here, along with 2 small lakes.  The campgrounds are away from the lakes.  This is a high desert area.  It was cooler Monday, down to about 88 degrees.  Fortunately it cools down to the high 60’s at night so sleeping is comfortable without air conditioning.  Today we are headed west to Chickahominy Reservoir west of Burns, Oregon.  Here are some pictures from the last few days.

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The Park entrance.                                     If there is a trail within a mile, Rosie will find it.

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A view of the campground.                               This little bird was singing his heart out.


The end of the day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kelly Island Campground

We are wrapping up a 3 night stay at a BLM Campground about 15 miles from home.  Kelly Island is a well developed campground with 14 sites; no electricity or any other hookups are available.  The sites are nicely arranged with a level graveled pad, picnic table and a fire pit with firewood piled adjacent.  The toilets are clean and the Snake River is about 60’ from the front door of the camper.  When we arrived on Tuesday, we were the only campers here so we got to choose the very best site; a very long pull through facing the river.

This was another test run for the camper; the last one before the big trip starting July 18th.  We had some battery problems during our last campout.  I took all four batteries in for testing and discovered that one of the batteries was stone cold dead.  The interesting thing about that discovery was the dead battery had been purchased less than a week before the trip.  So that battery was draining the other 3 batteries, not allowing the battery bank to get above a 50% charge.  Good news.  With the new battery in place, all is working well.  During our time here the batteries did not get below a 50% charge and that was with the fans frequently going for air circulation.

Fishing was not great.  I caught one small rainbow.  The river is high and fast.  Many float boats going by with high paying clients sending flies in and out of the water.  There is a large boat launch site directly across the river, so we had the opportunity to see many boats coming and going.

Wednesday we started getting neighbors and it is expected to get crowded later today (Friday, the 2nd of July) for the 4th of July weekend.  We experienced a generator problem yesterday evening.  The generator appeared to be “flooded”, based on the strong odor of gasoline when I opened the generator compartment.  Fortunately one of our neighbors is a skilled engine mechanic and he took one look at it and stuck his finger on the choke lever, completely releasing the choke and it started right up.  We did not have a problem this morning, since the generator had a chance to cool down overnight.  Another lesson learned.  He suggested I get a spare spark plug and a spark plug wrench to carry with me; also to use some gasoline additive to clean the carburetor on occasion.

Thursday evening, our friends Joe and Ann brought us dinner, broasted chicken and accompaniments including desert.  We had a great evening with good food and good conversation.

Here are some pictures from our trip.  Ending with a great sunset picture from Wednesday night.

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The site.                                                            My fishing buddy Joe and Rosie

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Joe and me fishing the Snake River.


Sunset on Wednesday.

We will post again when we start our trip on the 18th.