Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alabama Hills and Mount Whitney


We had heard so much about Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills from other RV Bloggers like RV Sue, Paint your Landscape, The Lowe’s RV Adventures, and Wheeling It, that of course this had to be stop on our journey down US 395. The Alabama Hills are a well-known Boondocking site and we had planned on camping there. But first, we needed to dump and get water, which for $5.00 can be done at the BLM’s Tuttle Creek Campground. Tuttle creek is only a couple of miles from the Movie Road turnoff into Alabama Hills. When we got there we found a mostly deserted campground. In fact, on the southern loop there was only one other camper. So, we decided to stay and camp at Tuttle Creek. We knew that in the more remote sites in the Alabama Hills cell service was spotty. I needed to catch up on some work and in Tuttle Creek we were getting very good Verizon and AT&T cell service. Besides, with our senior pass it was almost free at only $2.50 per night.

Even if you have never been to the Alabama Hills, they are more than likely very familiar to you. They have been a popular filming location for movies and TV productions since the 1920s. They were extensively used in the 1940s and 1950s in Westerns featuring such icons as Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger. There were also such classic TV series such as Bonanza, and Gunsmoke filmed there. If you are too young to remember these, more recent filming has included the Gladiator, Star Trek Generations, and even Iron Man.

A hike or drive through the Alabama Hills, it is easy to see why they have been a favorite Hollywood filming location. The hills are in themselves fascinating and a bit otherworldly. 

Yet, they lie at the foot of Mount Whitney and the surrounding peaks of this magnificent section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, which makes the whole setting… well, like it was taken right out of the movies.

There are 70 plus arches in the Alabama Hills but perhaps most famous is Mobius (or Natural) Arch. JoAnne and I took the 1 mile hike and were rewarded by this much photographed view. That is Mount Whitney framed by the arch.

More photos here.

The views of Mount Whitney from the Alabama Hills and the drive up Whitney Portal Road are spectacular. The drive takes you to Whitney Portal and the start of the Whitney Trail. 

No, I didn’t climb Mount Whitney which at 14,505 is the highest peak in the lower 48. But if you are so inclined, know that you need a permit to hike the near 22 mile round trip from the portal to the summit and back.

Living in Colorado and having hiked around and climbed several 14ers along with spending the last two summers in Glacier National Park we are used to seeing spectacular mountains. Whitney is special… nuf said.

More Photos here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Death Valley National Park….a refresher!


After leaving Tinnemaha County park outside of Big Pine we headed south to Lone Pine and the Alabama hills area. (More on that in a future post). Lone Pine is about 50 miles from the the East entrance into Death Valley. So, we decided to make another visit to this land of great extremes, more of a “refresher trip” so to speak. Years ago (no, we don’t remember exactly when), we had visited Death Valley, except we do recall it being at the height of the tourist season and extremely hot, hot, hot. Not this time, as we had the roads and sites to ourselves and the temperature was in the high 80’s.

Coming into the park from the west side enabled us to see some things we didn’t see the first time when we came in from the east. New sites included, The Father Crowley Vista Point, Mesquite-Flat Sand Dunes and Stovepipe Wells Village. We also got to re-experience previously visited sites such as Harmony Borax Works, Furnace Creek. Once again got to stand in Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and get up close and personal with Artist’s Canyon. 

To top our day, as we were driving out of the Park, we see a very familiar face to all of you! 

It was a full, full day…yet a fun one! Gosh…we love to travel!!!

More pictures here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Manzanar War Relocation Center


One of the things we like to do while traveling is stop and see places or things that interest us. They could be National Parks, Historic or local Sites or just pretty areas, places or things.

One of special interest to us, are the ten Japanese Internment Centers that were erected during WWII, between the years 1942 – 1945. Over the years, we have visited other such sites.

No need for a history lesson here. We may not completely understand, but we all know the debate behind the process of relocating the lives of over 120,000 men, woman and children, residents of the United States, (about one-third of them being actual American citizens), were without any due process, moved to relocation centers.

In our attempt to have a better understanding of the process, we visited Manzanar. It is located in the Owens Valley in California, at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Mountains. The site has now proclaimed the best-preserved of the former camp sites, and is a National Historic Site.

It is a heart-tugging experience walking through rooms that echo the voices, laughter and cries of the inhabitants, seeing through pictures personal accounts and films of their daily life. Driving along the 3.5 mile self guided auto tour of the well maintained grounds one can only imagine the harsh and imprisoned life of the 12,000 inhabitants. The visitor center has an excellent film with the story being told by the voices of the internees.

It was point in time, a historic time, and a very sad time. 

October 19. 2013  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yosemite National Park


We had originally planned on camping in Yosemite but had to change our plans with the government shutdown. Good news though, we were still in the area just 80 miles south of Tioga Pass and the west entrance to Yosemite when the shutdown ended on Thursday October 17. Yeah! Our plan was back on, except for the camping in the park part of it.

I will admit upfront that trying to see all of Yosemite in a day is foolhardy – and we knew that. Yet, we had never been there and really wanted to see it. So, on Friday we decided to make a long day trip in our Honda Fit – we packed a lunch and off we went. A couple of days before on our drive south on US 395, the hills had been filled with fall color. But the extreme cold of the past couple of days put an end to that. Still the drive up Tioga Pass into Yosemite and along Tioga Road to Yosemite Valley was spectacular all the same. The drive down into the Valley yielded one breathtaking view after another.

Getting to see Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls (even without much water) was extraordinary. We stopped at the visitors’ center and caught a well-done, visually beautiful movie covering the history and sites of the park. Because of the shutdown the park was not very crowded and for that we were thankful. In all honesty, we can’t imagine what it must be like (and don’t want to experience it) at the height of the tourist season.

While we would have loved to spend a lot more time exploring this magnificent park we were very happy to have spent the day getting a brief glimpse of the wonders it has to offer – I am sure we will be back.

Like in some of our recent posts the pictures will tell the rest of the story.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Really Old Pine Trees


October 17, 2013

On Thursday the Shutdown ended which meant that we could visit some of the previously closed sites – For instance the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest which was about a 45-minute drive from our campground. We had no idea what to expect. What we found was a 25-mile journey up a typical mountain road (sharp turns, big dips and steep inclines) along Hwy 168 and White Mountain Road to Schulman Grove - named after the Dendrologist (look it up) who found this spot. Actually, after spending most of our time in and along the Sierra Nevada Mountains it was interesting to get a view of the Owens Valley from the White Mountains which form the eastern boundary of the Valley.

The visitor center was still closed but we were able to walk a couple of the nature trails and view some of the oldest living things on the planet. The trees here are between 3 and 4 thousand years old. Actually, the oldest is a tree named Methuselah, which is 4,841 years old. We did not actually see Methuselah as its exact location is kept a close secret. Believe it or not in 1963 the forest service gave a researcher permission to cut down an even older (4,900 year old) tree! So what was going on in the world in the 4th millennium BC? This was the beginning of writing and the Bronze Age. The world population was about 10 million. 

Why, you may ask, are the bristle cone pines in this spot so old? Basically, they are resilient! They have learned to adapt to a very harsh environment and in the process have become resistant to the insects and diseases typical bristle cones pines would be subject to in more favorable environments. Who would have thought that some old trees would be so interesting? 

JoAnne surmised that being a tree would be a hard life and boring. Stuck in the same place with the same view your entire life. And while you have lots of company sometimes your friends die and fall on you. Not to mention freezing in the winter, heat stroke in the summer and bruising winds. Then there is man…well you get the idea. 

More Pictures here.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fall Color, Tufa’s and a Special Guest


Traveling Hwy 395 is a new experience for us. It has been on our bucket list for a couple of years and we are excited to be finally here. We joined up with 395 at Mono Lake, CA and from here will travel south to Hwy 10 on our way to Sam’s.

On Tuesday we arrived at Mono Lake and the Government Shutdown was still in effect (no open BLM or Forest Service Campgrounds). It was also predicted to be very cold (14 degrees) that night so we elected to stay at the Mono Vista RV Park. As soon as we got parked, we headed out for a trip around the June Lake Loop. Timing is everything and we arrived at the very peak of a dazzling display of fall color. There is no sense in my trying to describe the beauty. Even the pictures don’t do justice to what we saw…but here they are.

On the way back to the RV park we headed east on Hwy 120 to see the Mono Lake South Shore Tufa’s. Weird and bizarre are words that come to mind. These strange limestone formations are a result of calcium and carbonate chemical reaction. Originally, these formations were under water but the water level has dropped dramatically in the last 50 -60 years leaving them exposed. Again, I will let the pictures tell the story

On Wednesday (after we warmed up) we headed to a lower elevation and the Tinnemaha County Campground south of Big Pine. 

We had learned of this spot from a blog post by RV Sue. She was camping there and we hoped we might have a chance to meet. For followers of RV Blogs RV Sue is somewhat of a “rock star”. So, what a treat it was when Bridget and Sue showed up with Spike bringing up the rear. We have been following Sue’s blog for a years and it was really great to get a chance to meet her and the canine crew. 

To be continued…