3. Utah, Nevada, California & Colorado…May/June/July.2018

Day 19 6.8 
Right around the corner from my campsite was a twisty dirt road to the Inyo Craters Trailhead.  It was a short trail to two different craters…one filled with water; the other with trees. 


It wasn’t a spectacular hike, but good to get my legs moving early in the morning.  After getting back to the car, I drove up to June Lakes…everyone has suggested I stop here.  The lake was beautiful with a big driving loop around multiple lakes.  


I stopped for a bite to eat & a beer at the June Lakes Brewery…a good double IPA & the food truck in the parking lot provided yummy food—tacos.

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Then I decided to go for a hike…sometimes I wondered if this was a good decision after just having a big beer, but I eventually walked it out of my system.  

The hike was to Parker Lake. I could see a giant waterfall in between the two mountains, but didn’t know how to get to it…it looked like a long, pathless hike around the lake.  So, after snapping a few pics & hanging out for a bit, I headed back the way I came. 


I’d seen a really beautiful waterfall as I was driving along the June Lakes Loop but couldn’t figure out how to pull of the road to get a pic of it. So, I headed back the way I’d come hunting the waterfall.  I eventually found it, but not without a few wires in the way.


After eating, drinking, & waterfall chasing, it was time to find a campsite.  I found one just a little way back south on the 395 & backed in for the night…or so I thought.  I went to get out my camp chair & realized I’d left it at the site I was at last night. It was a cheap $5 red camp chair that I’d had FOREVER…I’d even made a ‘Glamping’ cover for it for Sisters on the Fly Events.  But now it was gone.  Should I just let it go or go back after it?  Would it still be there?  If it was, & I didn’t go back, it would be like leaving trash in the campsite.   I decided to go back.  I drove the 10 miles back to the site.  The site was empty…totally…my chair was gone.  I backed in, deciding to spend the night there anyway.  But I can’t tell you how sad this made me.  I know…it’s just a chair.  A chair that has been with me on most of my road trips; a chair that even went to the kids soccer games years ago.  It had a small hole burned in it from one of my campfires & it always made me smile when I glanced down at it.  I mentally & verbally beat myself up about such careless neglect but by the next morning, I had to let it go (first world problems, right?).  I had Danny’s chair with me...but I really hate his big ugly heavy chair (he loves it though).  (I know you’re wondering how could I forget & drive away without seeing a bright red chair?  I’d put it away from the car in the sun while talking on the phone that morning.  So, when I packed up, I just didn’t see it.  I went a little crazy that night wondering if I’d left anything in it that I was also missing, but it looks like it was only the chair gone).

Day 20 6.9 
During the night, I could feel a migraine starting to attack.  I took some tylenol & drank a bunch of water.  In the middle of the night, I repeated that.  When I woke, I still had a headache, but I thought maybe I’d avoided the big one.  But my stomach was funky…this has been happening the past year or two, when I take Tylenol with gobs of water.  I’d rather have the stomach issue though than the headache.  I certainly was not up to jumping on a trail and besides that the wind was killer crazy this morning.  Loud & ferocious!  I drove back into Mammoth Lakes & went to the grocery store.  NOTE:  All along the 395 there hasn’t really been a nice grocery store.  This one was great…pricey, but awesome.  I went in for ice & water & found….A NEW RED CHAIR!  Practically just like my old one but just a tiny bit smaller…which was great with me.  I’d still crazily miss my old chair, but I was super happy about finding it’s twin & so soon after stupidly loosing the old one.

But I still felt like crap.  I went out to a little breakfast place called Life is Good Cafe & ordered eggs & bacon…maybe a little protein would get me back going.  After breakfast, I drove up to the scenic drive to Mary’s Lake.  It goes around several beautiful bright blue mountain lakes.  The wind was brutal!  Everyone wearing a hat out taking photos, ended up chasing their hats.

I drove to the Emerald Lake trailhead.  I could either go find a camp & sit there all day doing nothing but trying to feel better, or I could start hiking.  I chose Emerald lake because it was a short hike so I could be close to the car.  My stomach was at about the same ICK factor as my head now.  So, what seemed in slow motion, I got ready for my hike…water, sunscreen, boots, camera, pack & poles & I started up the trail…super slow.  But the beauty of the place took my mind off myself.  And I just kept walking.  I made it to the lake & sat down awhile…my stomach & head fighting for my attention.  The lake was really pretty though.


It was still fairly early, so I considered continuing on the trail, but my body told me to head back down.  So I did.  I’d read about another trail, just across the same parking lot that was supposed to be much less crowded buy way more beautiful (how does that happen?) & not very long.  When I got back to my car I drank some ice water & sat for about 30 minutes.  Then I went across the lot, & headed up the trail to Heart Lake.  This was such a beautiful little hike.  So much to see on the way up…& I never saw one other person on this trail…going up or going down (I’d seen about 30 on the Emerald Lake trail.)

There was a big waterfall & a great view of the mountains!



And then I got to this sweet little lake.  I think it’s heart shaped if you hike around the lake & scramble up on some boulders, but I certainly didn’t feel like doing that.  

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But just sitting there, it was so perfect.  There was one duck swimming in this tiny mountain lake…it seemed the only other critter there besides me.  I sat there a long time.  I found a spot where I was a little bit blocked by the ferocious wind & started to feel better.  I was so grateful…for everything.  For the opportunity to hike, the time to travel & explore, this little gem all to myself, & for my stomach & my head to be feeling back to normal.  Then I hiked backed down, enjoying the views all over again.  

At the bottom of the trail (or the beginning) there was an old gold mine & part of the company buildings that owned the mine.  I’m always so torn when I see these places…is it history?  or is it just more crap that  rich company owners have left lying around for someone else to clean up?  It’s always interesting to see these places, but so awful to see all this stuff littered around.


By the time I unloaded at my car, I was feeling so much better!  Yay!  I drove back down the mountain needing to get gas….YIKES! $4.09 a gallon.  So far the highest I’ve paid (most gas in CA has been $3.79).  And ICE…at the store I’d paid $3.99 for a 7# bag….robbery.  At the gas station I picked up another bag for $2.79…reasonable for CA prices.  Then I drove up to Minaret Vista for a wonderful view!

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I said good bye to Mammoth Lakes & drove out to the campsite where I discovered I was missing my chair the night before; I hadn’t actually stayed there yet & it was on the way to my next stop tomorrow.  The wind had been howling all day…sounding like a freight train.  I needed to cook dinner, but was camping in a huge forest….dry pine needles all around.  I’m probably too paranoid, but I don’t want to be that person that starts a fire.  So, I set my table in between my two car doors to block the wind & made a fast dinner.

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I was so tired of hearing the noise of the wind, after dinner & packing everything away, I crawled into my 4Runner & read.  Later in the evening, before dark, the wind just stopped.  It was so quiet & it turned out to be a beautiful but chilly night.  The sky was clear & the stars were out.

Day 21 6.10 
Mono Lakes is an amazing color…kind of a pale green blue.  Hard to describe & even more difficult to capture the true color in photographs.  This morning I drove to Mono Lake to hike around the south side of it & check out the Tufa’s…formed by some sort of limestone.  A lot of the Tufa’s are on land, because this lake used to be a lot larger.  The city of LA seems to suck water from most parts of California, which has caused this lake to lower significantly.  But efforts are underway to restore the lake levels.  But it was very interesting to walk to close to these weird geological formations.

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The other trailhead that’s close is to the Panum Crater.  This is a 200’ deep crater that’s filled with rock…mostly Obsidum.  Which is a black shiny rock…some of these were huge pillars & boulders & others were tiny.  The trail was mostly this tiny rock, which made the whole trail glitter.  It was pretty cool. There were two trails…one that went on the inside, which I took first so I could get a great look at the rocks.

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Then I took the 2 mile Rim trail…or almost.  This trail is really cool as it appears to be a perfect circle… the top rim of a huge crater with awesome views of Mono Lake.

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Except, once around the end of the crater & the trail went down, there were two trails. One that continued up to the rim, or another one & that looked like it went around the bottom.  I knew if I followed the one that went up, I’d have to hike back down to the parking lot, so I followed the lower trail. Big Mistake.  I stayed on the shrub sided trail for about 1/4 mile as it got more & more faint, then finally disappeared.  I was picking & lightly stepping my way to where I thought I should be going.  Every once in awhile, I’d see other foot prints, but then they’d disappear.  I always had my bearings right, but I knew I was stepping on things I shouldn’t be stepping on.  After what seemed too long, I was sweaty, hot & kind of wondering  where I would end up.  If I turned around, I’d have to pick my way back & hope to find the trail.  The crater was on one side of me, so I never thought I would die out there, but I wondered how much longer I’d be hiking in this heat & not feeling like I was getting to the end of the trail. I started staying really bad bad words.  And then I spotted the parking lot; right where I thought it should be, it just took me a little longer to get there than I wanted.

It was time for a treat!  The next town I was coming to was called Lee Vining & it’s motto is “The Gateway to Yosemite”, because it’s where Tioga Pass begins….the eastern entrance into Yosemite.  I’d read about a Mobile Gas Station that had a place to eat called Whoa! Nellie Deli & it was supposed to be awesome.  I first drove into town & the Visitors Center which I’d also read sold local artist jewelry, pottery & lots of good unique interesting things.  I asked the girl at the desk a couple of questions, bought my Claire postcard & realized I could neither afford or needed any of the cool stuff they had for sale.  But I was going to buy lunch.  Whoa! Nellie Deli is right as you pull onto the pass.  It was packed with cars.  I went into the place to see typical gas station stuff sold:  bottles of everything to drink, some tourists t-shirts & trinkets, chips, candy, etc.  But they had a big food counter.  I ordered the Mango Margarita & the World Famous Fish Tacos.  They called my number, I got my food & went outside to eat under  beautiful sunny blue skies with a great view of Mono Lake.

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The drink, served in a plastic cup, was just ok.  But the fish tacos…were the BEST I’ve ever eaten!  They were fried but in the lightest batter I’ve ever tasted, no grease at all & the fish was fantastic.  You got two…one with mango salsa & one with ginger slaw.  Wowie!  These were so great!

After I ate, I drove back down the highway to the same campsite I’d had last night.  One thing I forgot to mention that happened last night…after I’d dozed off I was awoken by headlights & fast moving car pulling in very close to mine.  I was surrounded by about 100 huge pine trees.  But, when I heard this noise & saw this bright white car with ONE tree separating us, I was kinda shocked & pissed.  I know it was late & I know it was dark & I know it’s hard to find your way through the forest on these crappy roads late at night…but seriously, it was like being parked one space away from someone at the grocery store.  Two people got out & threw up tent, talking quietly.  I finally just went back to sleep convinced they were German (yes, I have a few prejudices…whenever something eye rolling occurs in nature around me, the people are usually German—the time in Yellowstone a German girl climbed out on the edge of Yellowstone Falls; the same time in Yellowstone a German girl went walking up to a buffalo; the time in the Grand Canyon a German couple was letting their toddler climb around on the rocks above Devils Corkscrew & I have more stories like that...).  I certainly didn’t own this forest, but it really isn’t nice to park that close when you’ve got so many other choices. But this morning when I was up reading in my wonderful new red chair drinking coffee, two young white american girls crawled out of the tent laughing & talking.  We all smiled at each other & that was that.

So, tonight when I went back to my spot, I parked a little differently…mainly farther from the one tree that had separated us last night.  They weren’t there, but I wanted to avoid the same thing happening again.  Before dark, the white car came speeding up the dirt road & parked in the spot they had last night…only a few feet farther away.  I didn’t care by this time.  I made my dinner, read my book, swatted a few mosquitoes, made some hot tea,waved good night to my neighbors, then went to bed.

Day 22 6.11 
Today, I was going to spend the day on Tioga Pass.  I’ve been to Yosemite at least three times before.  And I was sooooo tempted to go in to the park today…but: It would require to me to buy a new annual pass (no big deal); I had no place to camp & I know they book up a year in advance & the walk in sites are gone by 8am; the crowds this time of year are super crazy…no places to park & hour long waits for the bathroom…BUT…seeing Half Dome again?  the Merced River?  Yosemite Falls?  El Capitan?  I was sooooo close.  But I’d have to blow in & out in one day…or multiple days.  In the end, I decided I would just play on the pass & explore & enjoy…so that’s what I did.  Time is such a wonderful gift & I’ve had a lot of it on this trip.  People tell me all the time I do things too fast (it doesn’t usually come out as a compliment), but it’s true.  And I do think, especially when you travel & even more so when you hike, you need to find your own pace.  That’s one of the things I think is great about solo traveling…everything is generally your pace & if it’s not, it’s usually because something out of your control has happened to change the time you have.  In that case, you “get to learn” to be a flexible person (or at least try to not be an angry one!)  So, today I told myself, would be slow & sweet.  I drove up to right before the entrance of the park & pulled a U-turn into the first pullout.  I made myself a second cup of coffee (I rarely do that) & just sat & looked around.  It was a wonderful place to do that.  I wasn’t alone…there was a couple of women from another country in a rented Jucy Van & one girl reading at the next picnic table…but everyone was enjoying the scenery.

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My next stop, when I started moving, was a short nature walk alongside of the road.  A nice way to stretch my legs.  I’d read about a hike around Saddleback lake…4 or 4.5 mile loop, but that some of it might still be covered in snow.  I think this was also the TH to  20 lakes basin…a long hike that takes you by 20 lakes, but I figured most of that was still under snow.  The TH started at 10,000’ & it is only June, so snow wasn’t a surprise.  I drove up a long narrow dirt road & found the first parking lot.  There was a couple getting out of their car so I asked them what they knew about the hike.  Not much more than me, other than they were starting the loop on the right side, where it seemed there was less snow.  I could only see the beginning of the left side of the trail which was still all covered in snow & it was going around the side of the mountain, which means the snowfield needed traversed.  You can go up snowfields, go down snowfields & across the top of snowfields.  But when you have to traverse or go across the side of the mountain, horizontal, it feels much more scary.  If you fall going up or going down or just walking across the top of snowfield, falling doesn’t seem so bad.  But crossing it horizontally, means if you slip & fall, you’re much more likely to slide down the slope….yikes!  I’m getting chills just thinking about this.  I’ve done a couple of these traverses before & they scare the crap out of me.  I watched as a couple started on the snow trail & then they disappeared around the bend of the mountain.  I got all my stuff ready & followed the couple from the parking lot onto the ‘dry’ trail.  Which was kind of a joke.  This trail also started out snow deep, but not too bad.  Once the snow begins to melt, then the trail is filled with water…like walking through a small stream.  Then as the trail begins to climb out of the water, you get to walk in mud.  Then eventually, you hit dirt again.  

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This trail was offering it all….but I didn’t really care because the view was blowing my mind!

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This water was so blue & so still, the reflections of the mountains were spectacular!  The couple in front of me stopped for a rest & I continued on.  Nearing the end of the lake, I saw a junction that led up the mountain to another lake.  Well, if I couldn’t see all twenty, maybe I could at least see two or three, but I had no idea how far up the mountain the next lake was.  I followed the dirt trail, then mud, then snow, but I could see a different couple ahead of me & their foot prints in the snow.  Then I came to a huge snowfield to walk across.  I made it a little ways then caught up to the couple strapping on snow shoes.  They asked if I’d take their photo & in return they told me a little about the lake I could barely see over the snowfield & down into a canyon…it was called Lundy Lake.  I snapped a photo (you have to really look hard to see the lake!)

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It was time for me to turn around.  I saw a couple more unnamed lakes as I hiked back down to Saddleback lake.   When I got to the junction, I kept going around to the very end of the lake where I thought there was another small lake.  But I had already decided, I was going to back to the TH the way I came.  With the hot sun shining down on the snowy return trail, it would only be more slick.  I didn’t need to conquer the loop, I just needed to get back in one healthy piece.  In a short time, I was at Steelhead Lake…another fantastically beautiful high mountain lake…I never get tired of seeing these pristine blue waters!

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As I started to leave this last lake, the couple who I saw go on the snowy part of the trail hiked up.  I asked them how it was.  The woman said terrifying! and the man, about 62 said at times he was up to his crotch in snow.  He said it took them two hours to go two miles.he agreed with his wife it was awful.  I told them they would love this trailjust a little snow, mud & water & they’d get to look up at the amazing views while hiking instead of down at their feet!  

I used to turn my nose up at out & back hikes, always looking for the loop.  But, I really enjoy them now;  things do look different going back; you can’t really get lost on an out & back & can always just turn around if you’re tired; & since I seem to be hiking without a map or much knowledge of these California trails (a no no for sure) out & backs feel kind of safe when you’re a clueless hiker.

The thing I noticed most going back, were the icebergs in the water.  I love to see these!  When you can still see the ice under the water, it gives off this beautiful mesmerizing color….this lake had several & I was entranced by them!

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I really enjoyed this hike!  I drove back down the slow road to the Pass road & stopped at several pullouts to take photos.


Toga Pass…that line in the middle of the mountain is the road.


I’d read about a primitive free NFS campground called Lower Virginia Lakes.  The NFS website said it was closed, but a lot of times there is dispersed camping in the area, so once off the pass I drove up 395 to find the road.  When I saw the gate to the campground was open, I drove in.  WOW, This was the best NFS campground I’ve seen since I’ve been in California & this one was free!  It was 1.5 miles long & had only 17 sites…thats awesomely spread out.  They had pit toilets, fire rings & bear boxes…no picnic tables & no cell service, but it was awesome.  I drove almost to the back of the campground & found a sweet spot!

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About dusk, the campground host camp by to visit.  He looked like he was a couple of years older than me, but he was in his late 70’s & he told me his story, which was great!  We visited for about 25 minutes, then he moved on to check on the other campers.  PS:  He told me not to tell anyone about this special campground, but since only about 5 people read this website, I felt comfortable posting about it!

Day 23 6.12 
My first stop this morning was at the National Forest Service office in Bridgeport to ask about hikes & hot springs.  Then I backtracked down the highway to Green Creek road to hike to Green Lake.  The Ranger had told me the map says this hike is only 2 miles to the lake, but she told me everyone says it’s really 3.  So, I was ready to hike 4 or 6 miles.  But this trail…it went up & then you’d see blue sky opening up between the trees & hear water…sure signs there was a lake…but then the trail would wind back into the forest.  This happened over & over & over.  At 2 miles, no sign of a lake.  Then I hit a long trail of mud that was swarming with mosquitoes…they were attacking me like crazy.  I really hate hate hate to put on repellent because when I use it, I use the super poisonous kind…to me & the mosquitoes!  So, once I was out of the muddy trail, I pulled off my pack & layered on the deet.  My body needed a shower before this, so now I felt super-icky-nasty!  And, that lake seemed like I’d never get there.  I passed mile three & then the trail was suddenly under water….the stream I’d been following was overflowing onto the trail which meant…the trail was going through the water.  YIKES.  It was only about knee deep but with a fast current. 


I walked down stream to find another way around it.  There was a sketchy log jam that I wouldn’t cross, but the water by that was shoulder deep if I fell in.  I started to turn around but I knew that lake was right on the other side of this raging creek.  I could see the trail on the other side of the creek, but knew I wasn’t crossing there in the water. Then I walked up stream, off trail, over some rocks & found a sturdy jammed log over about 6 inches of water.  I crossed that, scrambled up the rocks & FOUND THE LAKE!  I was no where near the trail, & I wasn’t going to get to it without going thru water, but I was able to see good enough.


Some friends of mine who live out of their truck camper & disperse camp most of the time & know this area well, told me about Green Creek road camping & there was a lot of nice places to camp, but it was too early in the day for me to camp.  I’d noticed a couple of signs stating I needed a NFS permit just to use my camp stove.  So, on my way back through Bridgeport I stopped for the second time today at the NFS office & got a permit.  Then I went into the tiny town of Bridgeport to buy food…I was having to eat the same thing over & over so I need groceries.  This town was not impressive.  They had one tiny store with not much in it & the produce looked liked last years goods.  Everything in California is more expensive, but the prices here were crazy.  So, I decided to just eat what I had & only bought a postcard….it was normal price.

There have been a couple of hot springs I’ve bypassed on this trip…it’s just been way to hot when I’ve been there.  But, I had heard about one called Buckeye just outside of Bridgeport & there was dispersed camping close by.  I found the road, which had “One Lane Road” sign at the beginning.  Most of the time you see these signs, the roads are a little wider than that or they have lots of pullouts for passing.  But not this one!  It was narrow, dirt/gravel & in 8 miles there were about 5 wide spots.  There were lots of blind curves.  I also knew that after the dispersed camping part of this road, I could take it another 4 miles & get to a paved road.  So, while driving in on this road, I already decided I’d take the other road out.  4 miles of this slow going hoping not to meet another car was way better than 8 miles.  

I finally made it to where I thought the hot springs were.  A parking area (Yay!  wide spots in the road!) with a trail that dropped straight down along side a raging river.  There was a family that had just come up from the springs, & the little girl told me I needed to go to the third ‘pool’….because it was ‘just right”.  I changed into my board shorts & shirt & carefully made my way down the steep trail.  I walked by the naked guy coming out of the 1st pool, & like Goldilocks went the for pool that was ‘just right”  & it was!  It’s always so awesome to sit in this natural springs warming up your body & once in awhile the freezing cold river water would trickle in.  These pools were actually sitting a little lower than the river which was also really  cool to lay back & watch the river go by.  Naked guy left & a young couple came in next.  They were trying all the pools & I offered to share mine…the girl thought it was “just right” too!  She & I visited for about 45 minutes & she told me about some places to hike & camp as I’d get nearer to Tahoe.  It was time for me to climb out of of my perfect pool, literally climb my way back up the to the parking lot & find a camp spot for the night.  No pics of the hot springs…that’s not cool when other people are there.

I found a great spot to camp in about 20 minutes & made dinner.  My neighbors were two women about my age, each in their own RV & a little dog.  They were walking the dog & came by, introduced themselves & we chatted for a little while. They also gave me some places to hike near Tahoe.  The one lady was from Santa Rosa, so I mentioned Russian River brewery.  She started asking me a ton of questions about the place then about craft beer.  She admitted she wondered what all the hoopla was about, but just didn’t want to ask anyone.  Kind of funny.  They were nice & looked like they were having fun together.

Day 24 6.13 
I woke up to another beautiful day, started my coffee & then heard my stove die.  Ummm…my fuel was gone. I thought (wrong) that I’d just changed canisters about 1.5 weeks ago so this shouldn’t be out yet.  I looked in my food box, but didn’t see any other fuel (wrong).  Dang…no coffee this morning.  And, I didn’t think I’d be anywhere for the next two days to buy fuel.  I packed up my stuff & headed out towards the 4 mile road that goes out towards a resort called Twin Lakes…maybe they would have some fuel.  I made it up to this residential area & then to the resort where quite a few fisherman were already out this morning.  I parked in front of the general store, but they weren’t going to be open for another 40 minutes.  I stood by my car thinking.  A fisherman drove up, & tried the door.  I pointed to the “hours” sign.  He asked what I was wanting & I said fuel for my backpacking stove.  He got so excited….”I have some I have some” & went digging in his truck.  I said "no thank you, I’ll find some", but he kept digging.  He brought out a bottle of propane & looked so sad when I told him I needed a different kind of fuel.  He said, "I really wanted to do something nice for someone today”…I said he already had just by offering it to me.  There are so many nice people in the world!  

Then I drove back down into Bridgeport.  There was a sporting goods store on main street & it was open.  I found my fuel, but when he rang it up, I almost had a heart attack…$9.89!  Most of the time fuel is around $5 a can.  I went to the city park, & made my coffee.  Then I needed about 1/2 tank of gas, not wanting to get caught on one of these back roads with no gas.  So I pulled into one of the gas stations & filled my car…at $4.89 a gallon.  I was not a fan of Bridgeport!

The hike I was going to today, would take me on the Pacific Crest Trail.  This trail used to be on my bucket list & I think I’ve read about every book written about hikers experiences on the trail…I still read them, am apart of the PCT Facebook group & follow a couple of hikers hiking the trail this year.  But, more on that later.  I thought it would be so cool to have something to give any thru hiker I might see on the trail.  I don’t have much money to spend on this, so I went back to the icky store & asked them how much their tootsie pops were.  First the girl said $1.25 each, then she said, Oh, I think  maybe .75 cents each….crazy!  Any hikers I saw would just get a smile I guess.

I drove up Sonora Pass which climbs up above the Walker River….it’s sooooo incredibly beautiful.  But it’s steep!  When I first turned on this road, this is the sign I saw:

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Yeah…I was glad I wasn’t driving that truck on the sign.  I’m sure I’ve driven roads this steep before, but seeing that sign just plays with your mind. But, wow!  it was a beautiful drive.  I stopped at the top of the pass, although there’s only a couple of steep pull offs on one side of the road & one on the other side of the road that was occupied.  It was a PCT trail angel.  She had a table set up with sodas, candy (bet she doesn’t buy it in Bridgeport), food, water & who knows what else.  There were two guys sitting lawn chairs drinking soda.  I went over to see where the trail went from the pass & talked to them.  They looked just alike, so I think they were brothers.  Probably in their early thirties & German.  They had started about 2 months ago at the Mexican border.  I asked about the water crossings…they said no big deal, it was the snow.  The snow was hard.  It was slick, & deep & hid the trail.  This year mountains along the PCT got much less snow than normal.  But last year as I was following along, there was record snowfall along the trail & it was deadly.  The stories I read about some of the water crossings were horrible.  

So, this brings me back to why the PCT is no longer a trail I want to thru hike.  #1…I really don’t think I could physically or mentally do it…backpacking everyday for 5 or so months; #2 And this is a biggie…the logistics of figuring out & mailing all your food & retrieving it sounds like way too much work & #3…the permit system is crazy.  But I will always admire & be astonished at thru hikers, I will probably always follow them as the season starts & still read any new books that come out on the subject…a definite ARM CHAIR PCT person.

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After I visited with the hikers, I loaded up & hit the trail.  They were trying to hitch a ride into town (hope they didn’t need to buy groceries there). Right before I put on my pack, they caught a ride…I was cheering for them from across the road.  They gave me a big smile, threw their packs in the back of the pick up & rode down the mountain.  

I went north from the pass…for about 20 minutes.  Until I hit snow…messy slick snow.  And I turned around.  Another woman had hiked the south side trail & was parked by me & said she didn’t even make it 20 minutes before she hit a big snowfield.  Yes…neither one of us would make a thru hiker.  But on my way back, I looked far up on the mountain & saw at least two hikers moving down the mountain…actually it was two specks moving down the mountain.  So in the pic below, see the low saddle to the right of the pointed mountain?  Theres a line coming staring down in the snow…that’s where they were coming down.  It looked terrifying!  I know most of the hikers where micro spikes or crampons & carry ice axes once they get to the mountains, but that looks super scary!


The pic below is zoomed so you can see the two hikers….scary, scary, scary!  I’m not sure any tootsie pops would have made them feel better after all.

So, my time on the PCT was super short.  I stopped to see Levitt Falls on the way down & it was really pretty!


The Walker river snakes through the valley below & it’s just gorgeous!

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I pulled off the road when I saw as trailhead sign for Levitt Meadow hike.  I got my stuff together & hit this unknown trail.  There was a bridge to take me over the water (yay!) & then the trail just parallels the river along side the mountain.  It was a fairly easy hike & I just went as far as I wanted, then turned around & headed back to the car.

I drove through Walker Canyon which parallels this raging river.  For some unknown reason, I thought I could maybe pull out my tube or at least take a quick dip in this river.  I’d seen a photo of a woman sitting in her camp chair in the river, but I think I might have gotten this big freezing cold violent river mixed up with the little Walker river…which I never saw but sounds more like something you could sit in, right?   I pulled over to the day use area (where I thought the picture had been taken) & realized there was no way I was getting anywhere near that river…there was no side I could see that looked anywhere close to mellow.  Time to change plans.  I kept driving north on the 395 looking for someplace to camp, but all of a sudden, the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains seem to disappear.  I was still surrounded my mountains, actually they were very close to the road, but they were big dirt ones….not the amazing one’s I’d been seeing for past two weeks.  

I guess this is the end of my CA395 exploration.  

And then, I was in Nevada.  I landed in Gardenville.  Which happened to be very convenient.  See, I’ve driven at least a couple of thousand miles since I left home & my wonderful 4Runner needed her oil changed.  I really didn’t want to drive into Carson City or Reno, but didn’t want to pay Lake Tahoe prices for an oil change.  I had called a Jiffy Lube from the road & got all the details I needed.  I hit the Visitors Center first, since I knew they’d be closed if I went for the oil change first.  Then the nice guy at Jiffy Lube got me right in, & got the job done in no time!  I was really hungry & he’d suggested a Mexican restaurant a few blocks up, so that was my next stop.  I sat at the bar, drank a margarita & ate a taco, an enchilada & a super yummy tamale…it was good!

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After my HuMuNgUs dinner, I filled my tank to the brim with Nevada gas ($3.19), went to the really nice grocery store & bought a bunch of food (for me anyway), water & cheap ice!  Then I was headed back across the border into beautiful California.  Two people had told me about camping in a place called Hope Valley & it was so pretty!

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Day 25 6.14 
I arrived at the Visitors Center in South Lake Tahoe before I even saw the lake.  The older man at the desk listened to about three of my questions, then pulled out a general map, & in a monotone voice, didn’t answer my questions, but gave me a spiel & circled things on the map.  He never looked up, but just gave me a ‘speech’, then sat down.   This happens once in awhile at a VC, but usually the people that work there are lovely, knowledgable & happy to answer questions.  I just stood there.  A young girl behind the desk came up to me & answered my questions.  She told me about several hikes & helped me pick out a topo map to buy that had all the info on it.  A couple of times, the old man would grunt at a question I had or an answer she’d give…but she was great.  The main strip was crazy…lots of people, lots of noise, lots of traffic…it was driving me a little insane. I stopped at a sporting goods store & bought 2 canisters of fuel…less than $5 each…yay.  Then I was off & heading up the mountain on a narrow winding paved & very crowded road.  I pulled into a NFS campground & drove thru it to the trailhead.  As I drove through, I noticed a couple of empty campsites.  I parked, then walked down to find the host.  He was an old but very nice guy…told me to pick out anything that didn’t have a yellow tag on it.  The girl at the VC had told me all the campgrounds in town book up a year in advance.  She must have meant all the Commercial ones with hook ups; or maybe this one was first come/first serve.  I found a sweet spot & backed in,  & took my money down to the host.  He gave me a Seniors discount, so I bought 2 nights for a total of $18…a bargain.  Now I wouldn’t have to drive back & forth to Hope Valley—the trails I wanted to hike for the next two days were all up on top of this mountain.  I put my yellow sticker on my post, grabbed my pack & hiked up & down to Cascade Falls.


This was the view from about 3/4 way to end of the trail.  Here’s a thing about hiking to waterfalls…unless you hike to a point below them, you can’t really see them.  I’ve hiked all the way to the top of Yosemite Falls before, but to be honest, it’s most spectacular from the bottom.  I made it to the end of this short trail & this was the best pic I could get …I wasn’t willing to go out any farther to the edge.


So, then I hiked back to my camping spot.  I had a list of stuff I wanted to get done this afternoon in camp…first thing was to clean out the 4Runner.  I took a bunch of stuff out, including my food box & sorted through it…& found….my extra canister of fuel I’d overlooked the other day!  UGH!  I didn’t need to buy that expensive one after all!  It had been turned upside down so the silver part was facing up, & I think I just thought it was one of my Stanley stainless steel containers.  I finished cleaning out the car & organized some more things & threw my trash away in the oh-so-convenient trash containers they had at the campsite.  They didn’t have any water at this campground, which I could have used, so I’d have to watch my water usage for the next couple of days….there were no stores anywhere close by.  

At this point, I’d just seen glimpses of Lake Tahoe.  This is my third attempt over the years to see this lake, so I was anxious to get more than a peek.  A couple at the TH told me Inspiration Point was right across the street from my campground, so I grabbed my camera & crossed the road.  

WOW!  It’s so beautiful!  I was standing above Emerald Bay & looking far out into the Lake.  This lake is sooooo big!


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There were a gazillion people around me, but everyone was looking down at this gorgeous blue lake.

I hadn’t intended on building a fire, but I found some kindling & had one large log sitting next to my fire pit.  There’s currently no burn ban here & once the sun gets low in the sky, the temps plummet.  My fire was good for about 30 minutes, then I decided to put it out & had to use some of my precious water.  It might be the only campfire I have all year, since Colorado already has a burn ban  & before too long I bet California will too.

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Day 26 6.15 
Didn’t sleep very much last night but I got up made coffee, made my breakfast burrito (pbutter & honey), packed some tuna, filled up my water & took off.  I was leaving all my food behind in the bear box at my campsite so I needed to make sure I had everything I needed in my pack before I left camp.  I drove about 10 miles to Meeks Creek TH which was part of the Tahoe Yosemite trail.  The girl at the VC told me of a nice hike to take up here.  First I’d have to get off the highway & drive a 1.2 mile dirt road.  But when I got to the road, it was closed.  I think it’s been closed to the public for years.  I think once in awhile a Ranger might use it.  This was going to be a 8+ mile hike without walking the road…now it would be even longer.  The first part of the trail was the old road, so it was flat & easy to walk & filled on one side with wildflowers…tons of Lupine!


It was really beautiful!

Then I came to the actual trail & started heading up, but eventually the trail flattened out.  It was still pretty early in the morning, & I had the feeling I was the first one on the trail this morning.  I always wonder if this makes me more apt to run into wildlife or not?  The trail took me into the Desolation Wilderness…I’d heard about this area for a long time & wanted to get a taste of what it was like.  Whenever I’d come to fairly closed in forested spot, I’d find myself slowing down & peeking around the corner until I could see farther up the trail.  I was looking for bears.  I’ve been hearing so much about bear activity I was a little cautious.  So, I was hiking normal, then slow, then normal, then slow depending how far ahead on the trail I could see.  My goal was two lakes at the top of the trail, but then this trail went much much further into the wilderness…there are a lot of backpackers that hike into the wilderness from here. It was really a nice hike under a beautiful sunny sky with cool temps.  I had just finished a water crossing when I ran into a backpacker coming down the trail.  He was wondering how far he had to go before he got to the parking lot.  He & some friends had dropped a car at the lot, then hiked in from a different trailhead.  We visited for a few minutes & he told me I had about another mile to the first lake.  I never saw his friends, which I thought was odd, but he did mention they’d all gotten a little lost at some point, so maybe his friends went back to their original trailhead.  I hiked on, through a big open forest & next to the creek until I arrived at Lake Genevieve. 

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I hadn’t seen anyone else on the trail, so I enjoyed some time at the lake by myself.  But as the cool wind picked up, so did I & I hiked on to the next lake which was just about 1/2 mile further.  It was called Crag Lake…I’m sure named after the huge rock shape that sits behind the lake.


The hike had gone fast, but I still had a long way to get back to the TH.  I left Crag Lake & hiked backed by Lake Genevieve.  Right as the lake was out of sight & I started to head down the mountain, I heard some huge booms.  I stopped.  I heard them again.  Then the wind picked up, then I was close to the stream & couldn’t hear them.  Then the wind stopped & the trail had moved just far enough away from the water it was quiet again…then BOOM!.  There’s been two other times I’ve been hiking when I’ve heard thunderous booms before…both were huge rockslides from across the valley.  But these rocks were ginormous….I couldn’t imagine slides at this time of year with rocks this big.  About that time, the first hikers of the morning were coming up the trail.  A young couple going to backpack up to a third lake.  As we passed on the trail, I asked them if they had heard the booms….they had! Yay…I’m not crazy.  We stood there visiting for a few minutes (the girl told me about a hike to take when I go exploring the north end of Lake Tahoe) & then I looked up in the sky & saw white streaks in the sky.  It must have been some kind of big sonic jets or something flying over….at least that was all we could figure out.  After I left the hikers, I never heard another boom.  Every 10 or 15 minutes I’d pass more hikers/backpackers coming up the trail.  At least I didn’t have to worry about bears on the trail with all the people traffic & noise they make.  By the time I got back down to the road, I was tired!  Someone had told me about a waterfall to go check out “just down the road a little further’…so I trudged down there.  It was obvious after about 1/2 mile, this end of the road doesn’t get hiked very often.  I finally heard some water, but didn’t see a fall.  I went off trail & saw a teeny tiny one, but that was it.  I turned around & headed back up the road about 1.5 miles at this point.  When all was said & done & I’d made it back to my car, I’d hiked about 12 miles.

I drove back to my camp just wanting to put my feet up & read for awhile in my hammock.  But when I saw my spot, it was filled with a mini van & there was a big tent already up & my yellow sticker was gone.  I buzzed by & back down to talk to the host.  He said hed take care of it, so I drove back up to my site to see if all my food & cooler was still in the bear boxit was.  I was needing food at this point because I’d only eaten part of my pb/honey & none of my lunch or snacks, so I pulled up the 4Runner, got out my food & started eating at the picnic table.  The host found the couple down at his site, waiting to pay.  He asked them to move to another site; that this one was already taken.  It would have been easier for me to move, but I really liked my site.  It was away from everyone else & the one available was in the middle with people on three sides.  The guy came up & said he was sorry, I said no problem & he moved his car & then I backed mine into the site.  He walked backed up & took down his tent & I told them I was glad there was another site available & I hoped they had a good time on their trip.  They were German.  The host came by about 15 minutes later & asked if all was good & I said it was.  I set up my hammock, put my feet up & finished a book.

Day 27 6.16 
An extremely popular hike up here is called Eagle Falls.  Yesterday, when I’d driven by the trailhead on my way to Meeks, the parking lot to the TH was already filled by 8 am.  So, this being Saturday, I knew I’d have to get there super early to get a parking space. I was up before my alarm went off & headed about a mile up the road to Eagle Falls trailhead.  The trail is only about a mile long & I never saw anyone on it…not the whole time.  I guess being on a trail at 6:45am is early enough…even on a Saturday.



But even prettier than the falls, was the view of the lake.  But, the early morning sun had risen over the lake, giving it a brightness not great for photography, but I still loved it!


Now it was time to drive down off the mountain, get ice (mine was all melted…oh no!), water (almost gone!) & see the Lake.  I wanted to explore the beaches & even though it’s a Saturday of Fathers Day weekend, I was hoping it would still be a good experience.  There are two beaches along the highway in this part of South Lake Tahoe; both run by the NFS.  But first I needed to get ice.  As I was driving through the forest into a much more populated area, the highway ran between two campgrounds.  I was going about 35mph & brown bear was running across the road in front of me heading into one of the campgrounds.  I stopped & tried to grab my camera (there was no one behind me), but I saw the bear go up to the first big RV which had a bunch of stuff sitting out beside it.  The bear raised up & was about ready to tear into their stuff, so I gave a loud honk on my horn.  This sent the bear scurrying further into the campground.  By this time I had a truck coming up behind me, so there wasn’t anything to do but drive on.  I laughed as I remembered my big hike into the wilderness yesterday & how I didn’t want to run into a bear on the trail.  And, then I see one as I get into town!

I ran my errands then drove to Baldwin Beach & checked it out.  After about an hour, I drove closer to town to Pope Beach.  It was hopping with large families bringing tons of food & toys onto the beach. I’d asked the woman at the entrance station where the quietest part of the beach was & she told me.  I ended up with my own nice size spot & hung out for the morning.  The water was freezing cold (I got in the water, but didn’t go swimming), the air temp was about 65 degrees, but the sun was blazing hot.

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Everyone was having a good time…paddle boards, kayaks, frisbees, tour boats way out on the lake, people picnicking too.  The water is so clear & so many colors of blue…it was easy to stare at the rest of the morning.

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But then the sun got way to hot for me.  I packed up & headed to the Rec Center where I’d called earlier to see if they sold showers…I was pretty much in need of some soap & hot water.  It was great…$3 & lots of hot water & soapy suds.  I felt spectacularly clean when I was done.  It was time to head to one of the breweries in town & get something to eat & drink.  Cold Water brewery turned out to be a lot of fun.  I sat at the bar & ordered one of their double IPA’s which was good.  The two bartenders were so nice & one recommended the fried chicken sandwich with asian slaw.  This is too long of a story to go into great detail, but I had some very interesting conversations with my fellow bar mates: 1) a young woman there for a bachelorette party in which the partygoers ended up leaving a day early except her.  She had the AirBNB  including the hot tub all to herself until Sunday afternoon & was currently enjoying sampling all the beers Coldwater makes….she was fun to talk to; 2) a young couple from Chico, where I happen to be headed soon, was there for a concert.  They asked me a ton of questions about my travels & I asked them questions about Chico.  Before they left, the guy gave me his business card with both of their names & phone numbers listed on the back & he said to give them a call when I came through town.  Turns out, he’s the Fire Chief in Red Bluff, just outside of Chico…it had been a great conversation; 3) then there was a local kind of loud guy at the bar visiting with everyone.  When he stepped out to get a pain patch out of his car, the bartender told us he was a really nice guy, but he’s had several head injuries…snow boarding, surfing, biking, etc.  The guy came back in  (wearing a giant patch on his neck) & before too long, most everyone from the bar had gone, but I was still working on my beer & my huge sandwich & fries.  So, he began to talk to me.  To sum it up:  I learned about the Morman migration (Emigrant Road here in Tahoe), he is Nit (sp?) Romney’s nephew, he was a professional snowboarder at 16, he’s now forty, he owns three houses,  his family is big time Mormon (as he was drinking beers & doing shots), & he hopes to get to heaven some day. I’m sure there was more…it was very entertaining.  

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The bartender & the monkey guy (thats what the head injury guy called himself) both told me about another brewery that served big stouts…& that there was a laundromat right across the street from that brewery so I could wash my clothes & have a great stout at the same time.  

My next stop was Sidellis brewery, which once I sat down, I found out they didn’t have any big stouts on tap at the moment.  I ended up drinking a barrel aged sour which was good.  The bar had several people at it, but when the two guys on the left side of me left, I heard  “Hey Kansas!”…I looked over & the head injury guy was there.  I waved hello & he started a new conversation with the person to the left of him.  The young guy to my right had a dog with him & soon the dog was nudging up to me wanting to be petted…I complied.  The young guy started to visit with me & that conversation was very interesting too.  I’m amazed by my kid’s generation…I feel like we’ve screwed things up for them so much.  This young 28 year old guy, was currently working construction near San Franscisco, then coming to Tahoe on the weekends to work the Bungee Ride downtown.  He said he was making a ton of money between the two jobs, but he had another plan.  He would work until next winter then he was headed to Alaska or Norway…his goal is to see the Northern Lights…no matter what.  Then he was enlisting in the Navy for 10 years, so he could retire with a pension & benefits.  I asked him how he would take the strict authority that the military demands.  He thought it would be fine.  The hard part would be not being around his dog all the time.  He had someone to take good care of it while he would be gone.  The guy had plans & he was interesting to visit with.

By the time I finished my beer, I didn’t want to do any laundry.  I had clean clothes on a clean body today & still some clean clothes in the car.  I was ready to go find a campsite & enjoy the evening.  I drove the 12 miles or so back south to Hope Valley & found an awesome spot.  The temps were down into the low 50’s already, so the minute I got there, I changed from hiking skirt, sandals & tank top, to pants, pakboots & my down jacket.  The sky was still blue, so I opened my hatch & crawled in the back of the 4Runner & watched evening fall.

Day 28 6.17 
Happy Father’s Day Danny!   (although I feel really bad he’s home alone…he’s probably loving it though!)

I slept late this morning.  I was all warm & bundled up…it had gotten down to about 38 degrees last night, so the air was cold.  I was slow starting for sure.  My neighbors, whom didn’t seem that close to me last night, started their generator…I’m sure they wanted their heat on, or their TV going or something.  I jumped in the front seat & drove off.  The weather forecast today was 40% chance of rain & sky was looking iffy.  There are two small resorts about 6 miles from where I’m camping, other than that, there is nothing around here.  I drove to the one called Sorensons…I’d read they have great food.  I ordered the waffles & coffee & enjoyed looking around.  There were all couples or families there & I envy those that can take huge family trips all together.  The coffee was good & hot & the waffle crispy & tasty with real maple syrup.  I’d planned on going on a hike to Echo Lake, but when I looked at the map it was not very close.  The only other hike I’d wanted to do was on the Tahoe Rim trail starting at the Big Meadow trailhead.  While I no longer want to hike the PCT, I have considered doing the Rim trail.  It’s a loop for one thing…so logistically easier to get back to my car.  You do have to have a backcountry permit, but it’s not the crazy system that the PCT requires.  It’s also a whole lot shorter; only 165 miles.


I drove to the trailhead & wearing pants, a long underwear top, my rain jacket (but I’d also packed my down jacket) & a wool headband. I headed up the trail, looking up to the cranky sky frequently.  This was a nice forest hike…it definitely went up, but it wasn’t brutal. This is also a mountain bike trail (I think you can bike the whole Rim trail??) which I always love to see mountain bikers.  As I’ve said before these are some of the most athletic people, but also some of the happiest & most friendly.  The trail was supposed to go up to a big view of the mountains & the lake.  There had been a family of four with a big black dog that left the parking lot about 15 minutes before me & 4 mountain bikers along the trail fixing a flat.  I was soon passed by the happy bikers.  I enjoyed the hike in this open forest with huge light gray rocks scattered around.  The temperature wasn’t warming for sure, but there were times the climb was making me sweat…then the wind would blow & I was chilled again.  I passed the 2 mile junction & took the trail to the left that would take me to the view.

Soon I came upon the family of four sitting on both sides of the trail just talking & laughing.  Their dog, a big standard poodle was laying in the middle of the trail.  As I approached-- still aways down the trail, I said hello to the family.  At that point the dog jumped up & ran toward me barking & barking.  I stopped & with a dog loving voice told the pooch I was friendly.  He came within about 4 inches of my hands (his head was at my waist) & barked & barked…not in any sort of happy way.  The owners all just sat there & told me what a friendly dog he was as he continued to bark at me.  The guy finally came over & grabbed the still barking dog by the collar & pulled him away assuring me how friendly he was.  The woman told me she thought my hiking poles were intimidating the dog (my poles were at my sides, bottoms to the ground).  Intimidating?  I was thinking that this big loud barking in my space dog was pretty intimidating.  I smiled (but it was a fake smile for sure) & hiked away.  I run into trail dogs constantly & most of them are wonderful as are their owners…but I also run into ‘friendly’ ones like this from time to time & their owners always act like I shouldn’t be nervous or afraid just because their dog is acting like Cujo.  As I climbed higher & higher on the trail, little bitty teeny tiny white things were coming down from the sky…it wasn’t rain, or hail or snow…sky dandruff?  I got to the 4.2 mile mark & the trail took off farther into the forest but in the direction that was not the view.  I could see some mountains & Lake Tahoe in between some of the trees, but the sky was milky so the view wasn’t clear.  I bet on a clear day, this would be a wonderful hike!


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So, with even more darkening skies, I turned around & hiked back down the trail to my car.  I had a long visit with Danny then drove back towards Hope Valley to find another new spot…even better than the last two.  I made dinner, then hot tea & found a place in the sun to read for a bit, but it wasn’t long until 50 degrees got too chilly to sit outside.  I headed into the 4Runner to download photos & worked on the website.

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Good night; sleep tight.

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