The Sierra Nevada mountains & California!…August, 2021

Day 1 8.9 
So, if you read the last post, you know it was miserable hot last night.  I went to Starbucks early & bought coffee then headed to the Lake for a morning dip & to wash off most of last nights sweat.  The water felt good, but I was anxious to get back on the road.

I crossed the California border in 5 hours driving through the Mohave Desert…God is it hot!  I wanted to visit a town I’d heard about called Kernville which is off the 395 & is one of a few towns that loops around a lake.  My first stop was at the National Forest Service office to get a permit for my backpacking stove.  This is the only state I’ve ever camped in that it’s required, but it’s free & good for a year in the whole state.  They have a burn ban on currently but the stoves are permitted.  There are fires raging again this year in California…so awful.  They have so much beautiful forest & public land & so much of it is so remote & practically impossible to get to.  I had a friend once compare Texas public lands to California public lands arguing Texas doesn’t burn because they keep better control of theirs.  Seriously????  There is no comparison.  I wonder if the guy had ever even been in the mountains of California, Oregon, or Washington.  Oh well…I’d rather hike than argue.

Across the road was the Kern River brewing company which I’d also heard about.  I had a burger & a beer.  The beer was compliments of a regular at the bar…he bought everyones beer that was sitting at the bar by him…thank you!

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On my way out of town, I drove by the Kern River, which had a bunch of people playing in it on this super hot day.

I drove up a narrow mountain road looking for dispersed camping for the night.  Turns out, I’d missed the turn off for the right road…but in a way, I still ended up on the “right” road…the story continues…

So, I’m 30 miles out on this mountain road, not finding my camping spot because I’M ON THE WRONG ROAD, when I see a NFS truck with two guys in it coming in the opposite direction.  I wave them down & ask about the camping.  Funny, they didn’t know the area that well, but motioned to under my 4Runner where some liquid was gushing underneath.  UH-OH!  I hate it when I have car problems.  Danny will tell you I struggle to remain calm for the first few minutes….or few hours.  The dreaded phone call I make to him is when some random light comes on, or I hear a funny noise or smell something (I always hear car noises & I have the keenest sense of smell —eyeball rolll) or any conversation I begin with …”well, there’s this….on the 4Runner”….but, the story continues…

The guys think it’s something with the radiator.  I take a peek at my heat indicator & sure enough it’s rising to the hot side.  They tell me to shut off my A/C, blast my heater as much as I can, turn around & they will follow me back to town.  I did that & my hot indicator went right back down.  It was a long & super hot 30 miles.  Once back in town, I thanked them & they said there was a mechanic in the next town over.  It was 4:05.  I drove to the next town.  The young guy & another mechanic said they probably couldn’t fix anything today, but they could look at it.  It was a broken radiator cap…about the best radiator problem you could have. They called an auto parts store in the next town over & told me where the store was.  The young mechanic was worried about me taking off the radiator cap & putting in more radiator fluid.  He lived over in the next town & told me he’d meet me there after he was off work.  So, I drove to the next town & bought the goods.  In about 15 minutes, the mechanic showed up, showed me where to pour in the fluid & put on my new cap.  He never charged me anything…just showed me a huge amount of kindness.  I gave him some cash, said thank you about 20 times & refrained from giving the guy a big hug.  Now, I have a gallon jug about 1/2 full of radiator juice living in Camper…but I’m so very very very grateful it was an easy & cheap fix.  And, so thankful for the fact there are so many good people in this world willing to help someone in a jam…super grateful.

I camped right on the edge of town near the dam.  Once the sun set, the temps fell & it was a lovely night.  Thank goodness!

Day 2 8.10 
Today is Claire’s first day of First Grade!!!  I miss those little girls sooooo very much!

On my way back to the highway, I found a spot of shade off the road & pulled over & made this mornings coffee.  Then I finally made it back to the 395 & stopped early in the morning to do this little “falls” hike in this volcanic area.  This is the 3rd time I’ve done this short—just stretch your legs hike- & it’s never had any water in it.  I can’t even see a water source unless it’s some type of spring.  But, I really just wanted to stretch my legs this morning & have some time to think about what I would hike along this beautiful highway.

The scenery is normally, so breathtaking!  But, I could see some smoky haze off to one side of the highway.  Originally, I was going to spend almost a month here, getting to know more of the Sierra backcountry, but my schedule has changed & these smart bears don’t make it easy when you travel with practically your whole life in your vehicle.

So, for today, I’d repeat a hike I’d done before up to Lone Pine Lake.  I first stopped at the Visitors Center to buy a day hiking book & a couple of postcards for Claire & Emma.  Then I drove in then out of Lone Pine & up the Whitney Portal road.  Most of the hikers on this trail are trying to summit Whitney…the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.  One you need a permit for, but it’s super popular.  I was just going up to the lake & just beyond that, is where you need a permit.

I found a spot in the parking area, made & ate a salad & then began to unload all my crap into the bear box…I took up 1/2 the box with my cooler, my shower kit & the top drawer of my kitchen.  What a pain!

I love these huge granite mountains….they are so different from the Colorado Rockies.  These are just ‘in your face’ big & make you feel so small in this world…love this!  I was so so so happy to be back on the trail!  

A little waterfall along the trail.

Reflections in Lone Pine lake.

Look how clear this mountain lake water is!

Looking back down at part of the Whitney Portal road.

Once I was done with my hike, & back down the road (of course staring almost non-stop at my high temperature gauge which stayed right where it was supposed to) I stopped in a local gear store, asked a couple of questions, then went to find camping.

I love camping in the Alabama Hills which sits right below Whitney.  It’s made of huge rocks…a lot of them are bigger than houses! Many western movies were made here.  The city of Los Angeles owns part of the area out by the road, actually the City of LA owns anything & everything with any water along the 395.  They have signage everywhere to stay off their property.  But on the interior of the Alabama Hills, is BLM land.  This is third time I’ve camped here, & I always pick the same spot.  It’s close to the paved road, because the roads back in here can get sketchy, but nowhere is there cell service.  My spot where I park Camper wasn’t shaded yet, but one of the huge rocks provided lots of shade which was plenty cool.  Just get out of the sun & even high temps can be comfortable.

So, I popped open a beer & worked on my website.  I still had all to do for my Grand Canyon trip & I loved doing that writing & looking back over all my photos. What a trip!

After a couple of hours, a young guy drove up to the campsite that sits off the same little road as mine.  I was used to people coming up there because many of the tourists are just looking for where a certain scene was filmed in a certain movie (there’s a pamphlet showing all the movies made in the Alabama Hills & where the scene shots were filmed).  And, there’s usually a camper in that spot.  

Trip magic!  Taylor was his name & he was originally from Olathe Kansas where his parent still live (it’s about 30 miles from my place).  He was fortunate to escape & now lives in Golden, CO (good for him! lucky guy!)  We visited for about 2 hours.  He was going to summit Whitney in a couple of days & had just come from Zion & other cool parts of Utah.  So fun to visit with him!  He was a little apprehensive when I mentioned he’d have to lock up everything in a bear box once up at Whitney parking lot…he had a long list of things to get done before his climb & figuring out everything you need to pull out of your vehicle just got added to that list.  Smart bears are a pain as well as the idiots who leave all their food out which trains the bears to be aggressive where food is concerened.  

The sun set & I felt so grateful for another day on these lovely trails, a wonderful place to camp, an interesting conversation with a Kansas escapee & my 4Runner feeling healthy again.  And me too.  I’ve had some weird but not serious but sometime mysterious health issues since May, but they have all gone away.  My 4Runner & I are both showing our miles, but with a little luck, we’re going to keep going, going & going & exploring & adventuring.  Now we just need Danny to join us!

Day 3 8.11 
I was up with sun this morning….& it’s lovely to watch it shine on Whitney & the surrounding mountains.

So, I hadn’t had service last night to try to figure out todays hike.  At this point, with my time limited, I thought I’d be happy doing some of the same hikes I’d done before.  I remembered a super hard hike that takes you up to an old cabin (It was Lon Chaneys) then to a series of gorgeous lakes.  When I had service, I quickly scrolled through my 2018 website to see where it began.  Evidently, I scrolled too fast, because I missed the fact that the trailhead I thought was the right one, had been the day before’s hike.  I am fast at doing so many things…sometimes too fast to actually get the facts right.  So, the story continues, with me being clueless…

I remembered being at this trailhead before, so I found parking, & unloaded my crap from the 4Runner & into the bear box (which, btw, is about 20 degrees hotter on the inside than the already hot temperatures on the outside.  Your ice will melt in record time!)

Then I started on the trail towards Kearsage Pass…which I thought I’d remembered was a turn off from my trail.

Amazing how a tree can grow from what appears to be out of a rock…Nature is magnificent!

I was just happy to be hiking & remembering these lovely waterfalls & views…even above the smoky skies.

My little 4Runner is down there somewhere!  But you can see a layer of thick smoke below me.

I kept hiking higher & higher past this sweet little lake.

But, then I kept hiking….still higher & higher.  I checked the time…I should have come to one of the big lakes by now & where is that cabin?  I knew there were a couple of red flag moments, but I was on an out-&-back trail, so I knew I was fine.

I knew the last time I hiked this trail, it was hard & a lot of elevation, but now it didn’t look familiar.  At some point, I knew I was on a new trail, but couldn’t quite figure out what went wrong.

Not what I was expecting, but gorgeous!  And, I knew I’d never seen this lake before.

I hiked up to the basin below  Kearsage Pass.  Well, it was fine, but I didn’t need to make the trek up to the top of the pass; I probably should have, but didn’t.

Part way down, I finally figured out what happened.  I’d scrolled too fast combining two different days hikes into one…But, I still enjoyed the hike, quit thinking about the stupid mistake I’d made, let it go & just enjoyed the trail & its views.

Once back to the 4Runner, I unloaded the bear box & made a salad.  I hadnt eaten much this morning & needed some food & the cold ice water tasted great!  I also popped a go to pick me up when super hot & tired.

When I got back down into town, the temp said it was 101 degrees.  I found a little community park with a tree & picnic table & pulled out my laptop to finish up my Grand Canyon trip on the website.  Even in the shade, my laptops fan ran the whole time & I was trying to keep the dripping sweat off my keyboard…Yikes it was hot!  My next go to spot was the local library which easily found in this tiny town of Independence. But when I walked in with laptop in my backpack & asked if there was anywhere I could sit & for a couple of hours, they told me they were under construction (which I could easily see as everything was piled in the entryway).

So, I drove to the next town, the biggest along the 395 which is Bishop.  I went the Mountain Rambler brewery. Which had air conditioning, beer, a burger & wi-fi.  I happily & cooly finished my website & a double IPA which made the day even better.  

But I needed a shower & a camp spot.

I went to find camping along Buttermilk road which is a climbers haven for this area.  There’s a road off there which has several dispersed camping spots.  But, when I pulled off the main road towards the camping area, there was a small orange cone in the middle of road just past the first campsite.  I saw one big Sprinter van parked back in one of the camping sites.  I drove past the cone & pulled into the small campsite.  A guy, about my age, from the van was at my 4Runner by the time I got out.  I asked him if he knew what the cone was about (I was thinking washed out road??)

The story continues & the story pisses me off…big time.  He said he had all the campsites reserved for his friends which would be coming tonight & tomorrow night.  I said “the whole road of campsites?”  He said sorry but yes.  I said well, I’m only here for one night.  He said, well sorry, but I need them all for my buddies, as their little yippy dog barked & barked in the background.  At this point, another guy came over & told me I could drive about 40 minutes up the mountain to find more camping.  I just stood there dumbfounded at these selfish, egotistical dickheads.

I said ok, I could camp in the first spot, before the cone.  He said, No, that was for their toy hauler.  I mouthed the words “bullshit” at the two of them, got back in 4Runner & slammed the door.  I know what battles to fight & when to walk away.  A solo woman is no match for a group of asshole men, but I doubt they’d have had the balls to tell any man what they had just told me.

I drove out of there & found the perfect spot across the road & just down a bit.  I could still here their dog barking & barking.  But, this spot was great!  Better than the one their friend would be in tonight.  It was big & I had privacy.  I got out my shower & enjoyed every drop of water it cost me.  Then in clean, dry & fresh clothes, I opened a beer, got out my speaker & my hoop.  I blared my music & hooped as the sunset & the darkness came.  I could no longer hear the dog …just my music!

What a lovely night…I wouldn’t let anyone, including the conversation in my own head ruin this beautiful night.

Somedays you have good guys that follow you down into town & help you get your vehicle fixed.  And somedays, you have assholes.  

Day 4 8.12 
Interesting story about this hike the last time & first time I began at the Mosquito Flats trailhead.  I was supposed to be hiking to a lake called Chickenfoot.  But, when I got to the trail sign, it didn’t mention Chickenfoot, so I just kept going.  I’m really bad about hiking without a map on these Sierra out & back hikes.  Once the trail took me up high, high, high, I could look down over a series of lakes.  I ran into a couple of guy about my age & they said I was on the trail to Ruby Lake which was very beautiful, but at that time the trail still had quite a bit of snow on it (it was earlier in the year & a snowier year in 2018).  So, I thought since I was already up there, I’d see what Ruby was like.  It turned out to be one of my favorite lakes in the Sierra that year.  I had to posthole in the snow to get there, but I loved it.  And it seemed all the hikers, were on the trail below, because I had the lake to myself for about 30 minutes until the old guys showed up.

So, today, I wasn’t on the wrong trail, but still the unpopular trail, up to Ruby Lake.

The waterfall next to the trail that comes from the lake.

Wow…something about this lake just gets to me.  And, the solitude is amazing.

My favorite lake…Ruby.  No snow here this time.

I hadn’t intended to add on the other lakes on the popular trail, but I felt good by the time I got down to the intersection, so I hiked all the other lakes….

But finally stopped when I got to Chickenfoot.  I’d eaten my ‘emergency’ bar, drank a lot of my water, was tired & still had to hike all the way back.

It was only about 2:30, but the trails were practically empty.  I bet about 50 people had been on this trail earlier today…now it was just me.

After my hike, I drove into Mammoth Lakes.  I knew this popular town would be busy, but I had a hike I wanted to do here tomorrow.    I’d camped near the town before but couldn’t exactly remember how to get the road.  I was on the phone with Danny, took a wrong turn, then he directed me back to the right place using the map he was looking at back in Kansas while I was driving.  And, look where he took me!  A guy who knows me so well!!

Adding to my healthy diet at Mammoth brewery (it was Danny’s fault).

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Camping spot along the Scenic route just outside of Mammoth Lakes….where is everyone?  No service again tonight, so I read & read & read & then went to bed.

Day 5 8.13 
Today is my Mother’s death day…always a day that gives me pause as it’s the worst day that changed my life forever.  Over the many years since she was killed in a boating accident, I try to forget the nightmare of that day & the days following, & remember her spirit, her love of fun, the ways she showed me about women friendships, her feistiness, & how she raised me while being a single parent & all the lessons I learned from her.  She gave me such a great childhood & I know that while it was too short a time to have her in my life, she gave me so many gifts while she had life.  And, she gave me a gift in her death also….the knowing that time can be short.  That a life fully lived is better than sometimes a just a long dull life or a life filled with wishes but no experiences   That we need to grab everyday & try to make it the best & fullest that we can.  That memories are sometimes all we have left, but somedays they feel like everything.  I always wish that she could have met my children & my grandchildren & that we could have known each other as adult women.  So, today I hike with her especially on my mind, knowing she would have loved to adventure with me in my world.

The last time I was in Mammoth Lakes, Devil’s Postpile National Monument & Rainbow Falls was closed.  This time around it’s open, but there are mandatory shuttles you need to take to the trailhead.  Unless you get past the gate before 7am.  I understand the need for National Parks & overcrowded places to do this, but I really like to have all my stuff with me in the 4Runner & not be constrained by time & schedules.  Plus, with this shuttle, unlike most National Parks that require one, they have contracted to an outside provider.  So, in addition to the park fee (which I have the pass) there’s a ridiculous $15 per person charge for the shuttle.  

My alarm in my forest campsite, went off at 5:15 am.  I made coffee & took off for the trailhead.  I was in the lot by 6am, with only one other car in the lot.  I finished my coffee, changed clothes, brushed my teeth...not in any hurry to get on the trail.  After being so damn hot for days, it’s was 48 degrees up here this morning.  I finally loaded up my pack & took off down the trail before the first shuttle filled with hikers arrived.  

I don’t understand the geology of Devils Postpile, but understand that it’s super unique & very cool to look at.  It’s a short hike from the parking lot to this rock feature, but pretty amazing, huh?

Love the bright green moss growing on the dark rock.

Past this, the trail continues another 2.5 miles to Rainbow Falls.I pulled off the main trail to the falls where everyone else was going to this little trail to Reds Meadow.   I passed two thru hikers then spotted this little sweetie in the meadow this morning.

Reds Meadow…a place I’ve read about in every book (& I’ve read a ton of them) about the PCT & the John Muir Trail.  I wanted to eat breakfast in this middle-of-nowhere place, but it was crazy expensive & huge portions.  I settled for a bagel & cream cheese which tasted great.  I have one about once a year & this was a good place to eat it.  The thru hikers always talk about the milkshakes here.  I’m sure they’re great & big, but they’re $10.50 each.  A slam to a hikers budget for sure.

I thought I might have to backtrack all the way to the main trail, but found another trail that would take me to the falls.

Rainbow Falls…really beautiful!

As viewed from the bottom…trying not to get the scores of people hanging out photobombing everyone’s photos.

I took the main trail back towards the Postpile, because I wanted to hike to the top of the monument & see the rocks from above.  This was so cool!!  I loved seeing this & made the whole feature even more incredible.  A rock honeycomb!

I tried to hike another trail to Minaret Falls, but halfway there, some other hiker told me there was no water there.  I was hot & wanted to dip my Buff & my head into the water.  I turned around & hiked back to a stream I’d crossed earlier, then got wet.  Then I hiked back to the trailhead, got in 4Runner & headed to the grocery store for ice, water & a bag of salad.  

I found a little community park & had my Friday FaceTime call with Jill.  Sadly, she is still struggling with heat effects from the Canyon trip.

Then I went in search of the “best margarita” in Mammoth Lakes which was also Happy Hour at Robertos Cafe.  You know, in addition to my Cubano Sandwich Research project, I’ve also conducted an long, long term & extensive, PhD sort of research into Margaritas. This one failed..miserably as did the two tacos I had.  

Back at the same camping spot I was at last night.

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