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Well, the trip was amazing. Things were a bit busier than I was expecting, but then I realized it was hunting season. Ran into a few hunters in both the Mojave and the Grand Canyon. I had literally just got done lecturing my kids about how important it was to keep an eye out for snakes when I stepped on this baby rattle snake. Thankfully it was 06:30 in the morning and 50 degrees so I hurt him before he hurt me. I didn't even realize I stepped on him until my daughter, who was behind me yelled, "Dad, there's a snake!" So I went up to where she was and realized that was exactly where I stepped on my way down the mountain. Not the best feeling I've ever had in my life on several fronts. In the Grand Canyon, we were rewarded with a 01:30 wake up call from several elk bugling around our campsite. Freaked my wife out because she'd never heard an elk bugle before but it was pretty amazing. Weather was perfect! South Rim of the Grand Canyon was as beautiful as ever and ran into a little sheep minding her own on the Bright Angel trail. Grand Canyon was as far East as we made it, then we circled back towards Cali to visit friends who moved to Bullhead City. Now it's back to the daily grind...here are some photos:
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Discussion Starter #22
We never made it down into the canyon when we went a few weeks ago. I tried talking my life accomplice into going down South Kaibab (to avoid the crowds on Bright Angel) just to Ohh Ahh but she balked.I've run/jogged/walked across and back a few times so I wasn't missing out on anything.
 

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Thanks for the details. I'm planning the route for a Kansas City to NorCal trip with biking along the way, hopefully starting early next week. Current thought is KC - Denver - Bergen Park to Mt Evans summit by bike - Cortez - St George, UT - Whitney Portal - Yosemite Valley - home.

Weather looks like it'll be good enough for that route, at least at the moment. I hope to camp most of the way, though that'll be contingent on buying enough goods in KC to take sponge baths and washing my cycling kits along the way. 🤪
Last summer we drove the rv around the country and we only spent one day in KC, we ate at Q39 BBQ. That place was amazing!
 

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Just back from 5 days in the Eastern Sierras between 7 and 10,000ft, exploring abandoned mines.

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Same SOP as with all of our trips. Main meals were pre-cooked and frozen. These went into the cooler along with chilled drinks and fresh stuff but we use no ice. The last meal was still frozen and the remaining drinks were still chilled when we arrived home 5 days later. We used 1lb of propane, for cooking and heating water for washing. We used the solar shower twice and arrived back with 10 gallons remaining from the 27 we took (14 gal under the van, 8 gal in the shower and 5 gal emergency reserve in a jerry can.
 

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Howdy All,

Great trip reports! I don't usually post anything about the places I go because I like to protect the little bits of lonely I manage to find out there. However, our last trip was all through places where plenty of people go so I thought I would add to this thread.

These reports are written for the four grandsons, the oldest of which is 6. We send them via radio when we are out and about for their parents to read to them. The coordinates are included so they can follow us on the map and use satellite views to see the actual spots that we stay. I only changed one name and omitted one coordinate to protect the innocent. I really should take more pictures.


Dateline: Clear Creek CA, elevation 2,684 feet, coordinates 36.367895 / -120.752284

Howdy Boys,

Well, Moby rides again! We are taking our first medium length trip of a week and by golly is nice to be on the road. While I do love a short trip it is so good to be out an about with days and days of fun ahead. It feels like standing on a mountain looking down at an endless view of Adventure!

As they say, man proposes and nature disposes. Originally we had planned on going over highway 89 over Monitor pass and then spending time in the Slinkard Valley wilderness and the working our way down south towards the Alabama hills. However, the weather intervened and snow was forecast for the area. While I don't mind driving in the snow, being at almost 6,000 feet on a snow covered dirt road 30 miles from anywhere didn't seem wise.

So it was time to punt. As is our usual starting point we broke out the BLM map and started musing. I have always wanted to go to the Anza Borrega desert and a quick weather check showed stellar conditions (pun fully intended) for telescope viewing and that skies would be clear. Anza Borrego is a long drive from Albion so we decided to look for something along the way to break up the drive. Using the BLM map we found Clear Creek and neither of us had been that way. So that decided the first leg of the trip. We continued mulling over the map.

So now, the plan is to go from here to Anza Borrega for a couple of nights, head north along the Salton Sea, turn east and check out the Chuckwald and Sheephole wildernesses for a night apiece and then up to the Alabama Hills. We night also head out into the Mohave and see the old beehive charcoal kilns which are sorta near Stovepipe Wells.

According to plan we hit the road at about 5:30 AM and made it through the Bay Area without too much traffic. Once we got off of highway 280 the drive got pretty and after Hollister it got outstanding. Classic California ranch country with some interesting rock formations as well. The road was paved but rough and we forded our first creek in Moby! The water was only 4" deep or so but it was still fun. The road went to dirt and we started looking for a good place to camp.

We found a lovely spot under some juniper and pine trees, got Moby situated in a nice level spot and went for a walk. The creek was very nice with all sorts of jade to be found. We hiked for an hour or so, mostly uphill, crossing the creek about five times. Each time was an opportunity to get our shoes wet but luckily we made it across and kept our feet dry. Before we headed back we checked our elevation and each made a guess as to how much we had climbed along our walk. Rio guessed 1,000 feet and I guessed 800. When we got back to camp we were chagrined to find we had only climbed about 400 feet! Getting old I guess.

If all goes as planned we will be using our awesome new telescope in some dark clear sky tonight. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Dateline: Just over the border into the Anza Borrego, elevation 2,400 feet, coordinates 33.224136/-116.454785.

After a long drive through traffic we made it technically into the Anza Borrego desert. We were both getting tired and as we were driving down a long hill into the desert we spotted a small dirt road snaking off into the desert. Perfect we thought! So when we got there we took the road. Quickly we discovered that horrors of horrors THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE!! As you guys know, we tend to go places where there are no people. However, we were beat and it was dark and heading off into the desert in the dark was just too much. So, we compromised our principles, made a tasty dinner and went to bed. We got up early and made coffee, then got ready to head out.

Today we are heading towards Blair Valley, out in the desert proper, I hope that we don't have to rename this The Crowded Desert!

Dateline: Blair Valley, Anza Borrego Desert, elevation 2,707 feet, coordinates 33.036711/-116.390164

As we left Blair Valley we quickly saw that we could have found a spot where there weren't so many people. We were tired and gave up to easily. Next time we will keep on keeping on until we find a lonely little spot. We drove to the visitor center and talked to a very nice and knowledgeable woman who suggested we go to Palm Canyon. It is close to the visitor center and a short hike, about 1.5 miles. We hiked our way up and got to the little palm oasis up the canyon. We were hoping to see some long horn sheep but had no luck. We did see a pair of ravens calling to each other and then playing games in the tops of the palm trees. We heard an eagle but didn't get to see it although its call was loud and strong. Such a wild noise!

Unfortunately, you can't go down to the base of palm trees and see the spring because some idiot started a fire there last year and they closed it off. Nothing to burn for miles around and some idiot manages to set it on fire. The palms are tough though and while the trunks are burned the tops are just fine and there are plenty of little ones growing. In some ways the fire may well have regenerated the grove. On our way down we sure were glad we had gotten and early start as there was a parade of people hiking up.

Once back in Moby we headed out to Blair Valley. This is supposed to be one of the best spots for a telescope in the area. To the north and west are the pinion Mountains and the Vulcan mountains which block the lights from Los Angeles and San Diego. So it should be a dark clear night tonight! I forgot to mention that we got an AWESOME new telescope just a couple of weeks ago and this will be only the second time we have it out!

As always, we wish you guys were with us and can't wait until we can go on Adventures together!

Jonathan

As usual, this email is sent the proper way, by radio. No cell service here!

Hi! Grandma here. Palm Canyon was beautiful. I keep thinking of the little creatures though. The palm trees survived the fire just fine, but I feel bad for the birds and other small animals. The fire burned all the dead palm fronds that hang down against the trunks and create tall homes for the little ones. They are like huge apartment buildings. But it takes years for the trees to recreate those frond homes. May the Palm Canyon "Housing crisis" be over soon!

Love,

Grandma Rio

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Palm Oasis. Look at the moron induced burn damage.

Dateline: Blair Valley, Anza Borrego Desert, elevation 2,713 feet, coordinates 33.0366/-116.3901

A quick reminder: If you reply to these emails PLEASE do not include the quoted text. It makes it take FOREVER to download over the radio. We do love hearing from you though!

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Drone shot from our campsite in the Anza Borrego.

Howdy Boys,

After leaving Borrego Springs we went over Yaqui Pass to get to Blair Valley. We were dismayed to see a Conga line of camping type vehicles all along highway 78. Every possible type from large RVs to trucks towing dune buggies and dirt bikes. Yikes! Hopeful that just maybe there would be less people, we headed out Little Blair Valley road. Road is a bit of an aggrandizement, really it is a cart path through the sand. It is easily passable though so onward we went. We were not too surprised to find quite a few people out here but we did find a good little spot to set up camp in. We could see two types of campers, the regulars and the what we decided to call the Covid Campers. The regulars you can tell do this all the time. Their vehicles are dusty and their equipment is too. The Covid campers were easy to spot because their vehicles and gear were all brand new and they just didn't have that air of being at home out in the desert.

Everything prickly lives in the desert. The ocotillo, the cholla cactus and everything else has evil, sharp, nasty stabbers just waiting for you. One must be careful when hiking, let alone when "taking care of business"! Yikes! In spite of constant vigilance you still wind up with stickers in your socks or pant leg or even in your bed! When we swept Moby out in the morning we were dismayed at the number and wide variety of stickers on the floor. Overall though, it is a small price to pay to enjoy the amazingness of the desert.

We went for a hike up a little canyon and climbed to the top of the ridge and got a fantastic view of the Blair Valley and could just see Moby off in the distance. I flew the drone we brought with us and snapped a few pictures. If they come out I will send them along when we get back to so-called civilization. As dark approached we got the telescope set up and ready. In all honesty it wasn't all that dark and I have seen much more of the Milky Way from my backyard. I guess that folks from L.A. and San Diego consider it to be dark but even when it was fully dark you could still see well enough to walk around. Back home without a flashlight on a dark night you aren't going anywhere! Still we got some great views of Saturn, including one of the moons and Jupiter and Mars.

In the morning we decided to head out to the Chuckwalla Wilderness. Chukwallas are a kind of little lizard. To get there we were going to cut northeast through the Borrego Badlands. Perhaps we should have taken the name as a sign because by golly we wound up having an Adventure! We headed towards the badlands on highway 78 and were amazed at the unending train of camping vehicles headed west. I have never in my life seen such a cavalcade of campers! Way, way worse then highway 128 up near us on the 4th of July weekend. Really crazy.

We got off the highway on Buttes Pass road. It seemed like a nice little desert track. We were in about 3-4 miles when we started down a hill that was getting pretty sandy and soft. However, there was no way to turn around so on we went. When we got to the bottom there was a deep sand pit!

Always remember the first rule of holes, which is: Stop digging! So, as soon as Moby bogged down I stopped spinning the wheels. Along with a sigh, the realization that we were stuck beyond any sort of tow service range struck home. Getting out to survey the situation we saw that Moby was indeed mired pretty well. The sand seemed bottomless and walking around it only got worse as you went further down the road. There was a small group of young mountain bikers there but they were pretty much intent on performing crazy stunts. Fortunately as we were contemplating what our next move was a Jeep and a 4Runner pulled up and three guys got out. Meet Ron, his son Conner and one guy who's name we missed. They were cheerful, helpful and happy to give us a hand.

We scouted ahead and found the best option for a turn around. We hooked a tow strap to Moby and connected to the 4Runner. We did some digging in front of Moby's tires. The first step was to get turned around. With some help with from two of the guys pushing on Moby we managed to get moving. It was a little crazy doing the turn around as we had to off to the side, avoiding rocks and bushes, all while doing the turn. We darn near made it but got bogged down again just as we were pulling back on to the road.

So now, we hooked the Jeep to the 4Runner which was hooked to us. A rescue train in the sand! In this configuration we managed to get under way again, but only for a short time. Right in the same place we got stuck at first we all bogged down. We tried some digging and putting rocks under the tires for traction but to no avail. Time to try a different tactic, adapt and overcome! The 4Runner had a winch so he backed up about 100 feet and we ran the winch cable out and hooked it to the tow strap. He started pulling and I started giving Moby a little gas and we started inching forward. After we got close to the jeep we stopped, he backed up another 100 feet and we did it all over again.

At this point we were starting to get a little grip on the road. Not a lot but enough that if we didn't stop we might be able to keep moving. So, we got the 4Runner out of the way, the guys gave Moby a push and we managed to get moving! When we got to the hill I drove like a scalded dog, no way I was letting off the gas until we got to the top! Which we did! Whew!

We took the tow strap off and the guys came up to get it. We tried to offer them some cash for the help but they waved it off, saying "not going to happen" and "your money is no good here". With many profuse thanks and smiles we bid them adieu. As we were about to take off and older gentleman in a car came along as was about to head down the same road. While there was a bit of a language barrier we manged to warn him and he wisely turned around, saving our new friends from some more work. On the way out we met another couple of cars and warned them as well, although most of them were headed to a slot canyon where the road is OK.

Happy to pull back on to some asphalt, we headed east on highway 78, went up past the Salton Sea and up towards the Chuckwalla Wilderness. On our way we stopped at the modern-ish ghost town of Desert Central. Rio looked up a fascinating history of the area, which I highly recommend looking for. What does Desert Center have to do with with the medical juggernaut Kaiser Permanente? Do some reading to find out. We saw the Cafe and Market building both of which were falling in on themselves in that kind of slow motion decay one sees in the desert. Hilariously the market had a "sorry we're closed" sign. Like with all the windows broken and the roof caving in you couldn't tell. May I buy some milk please?

After Desert Center it was a short drive to the Chuckwalla. When we arrived there were a few people here but we found a nice little spot by ourselves. There is a dying palm grove here and they are not sure why they are on the way out. The tamerisk trees seem ok. We made dinner and had a nice chat with friends from back home on the radio. Sure wish we could talk to you guys on the radio!

This morning we are on our way to the Alabama Hills by way of Joshua Tree. Should be an lovely drive.

Jonathan

Wow! WHAT AN ADVENTURE!!! I, too, was fascinated by this dying oasis, and looked up an article by a ecologist who put forward some interesting theories, including the possibility that seismic activity could be causing the water level of the spring to fall out of reach of palm roots.

Love,

Grandma Rio

Dateline: Alabama Hills, elevation 4.711 feet, coordinates 36.60828/-118.134058

Howdy Boys,

After packing up and heading out from the Chuckwalla Wilderness (we never did see a chuckwalla) we headed back out to highway 10 and headed west. When we got to the road that leads to Joshua Tree we headed north. While it was a much longer drive that way, boy did it turn out to be worth it! I had never been to JoshuaTree and was glad for the opportunity. To be honest I generally avoid national parks as they tend to be full of people but I do make exceptions as they are generally in amazing places. As we drove up through the Cottonwood pass, to the left were the Cottonwood Mountains and on the right the Eagle Mountains. As we drove the desert started to change and as we reached the top of the pass we could see the Pinto Basin stretching off into infinity.

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The variety of the desert never ceases to amaze me and as we went down into the basin it was once again completely different. The yucca were much taller as were the cholla cactus. The colors of the rock had changed once again and the rock formations as well. We drove along until we saw some rock formations that were so cool we just had to stop for a hike to check them out. Off in the distance Rio spotted a rock formation that looked like a giant's armchair so we decided to go and take a look at it. Once we got out there it didn't look like an armchair but it was an interesting little habitat. While checking the wide variety of lichen and marveling at how cool the shady area was compared to the sunny side we found a little shelf that a rat, probably a Kangaroo rat, uses as it's dining room. You could tell from the large collection of poop there. He must carry his food up to the little perch and enjoy the view. Can't blame him a bit, it is a nice little spot.

We kept driving and started to see Joshua trees. We stopped at a few spots where they have interpretative signs and decided to go up to Keys View and take a look. From up the there you can see Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley and snow covered Mount San Gorgonio. Breathtaking view and we both saw a Kangaroo rat, the first one we have ever seen. As we drove we went through an incredible forest of Joshua trees. It isn't like what one would normally think of as a forest as Joshua trees like their personal space. The trees are well apart from each other but the overall effect is one of a forest and certainly the greenest area we have been through in the desert.

Joshua tree was, as expected, full of people. But they are of a distinctly different sort than the type we saw in the Anza Boreggo. Instead of dusty campers and off road vehicles it is clean fancy cars with clean well dressed people and expensive SUVs that have never been off the pavement. While I can relate more to the dusty type I am glad that people are getting out of the cities and enjoying the Great Outdoors. I have to admit though it makes me appreciate the small lonely bits we manage to find even more.

After leaving Joshua Tree we headed towards the Alabama Hills. One thing that sucks about traveling in The Time of Covid is that one can't stop at all of the cool little places and museums that you see along the way. As an example there was a crazy looking cafe in Lucerne Valley. It had this Gothic, Mad Max look to it and normally I wouldn't have been able to hit the brakes fast enough to stop for some grub and to check it out. Sadly, I may well never come this way again and so I shall just have to wonder. A pity!

When we finally got to the Alabama Hills area it was getting close to dark. We went down Tuttle Creek road which is a very narrow, twisting road along the creek. We found a little spot and pulled over to camp. In the morning we headed out to the Alabama Hills proper. Once on Movie road we went for a driving tour of the area. So many films have been made here and while there are spots marked on the map where famous films were made you really can't tell that anything every happened there. Once again there were quite a few people here but pretty much all of them were the dusty regulars.

The eastern side of the the Sierra Nevada mountains are simply stunning. As the sun rises the colors, shading and relief of the mountains changes minute by minute. Someone (maybe John Muir or Ansel Adams?) once called it "the Range of Light". I couldn't possibly come up with a better name for it. You can sit there, transfixed, and watch it change like a kaleidoscope.

During the day we found a nice camping spot and went for several hikes. On one of them there was the Mobius Arch of rock that you can see Mount Whitney through. There were also many little caves and passages that you guys would have loved to explore. Some day we will have to come here with you for sure. The landscape here is deceptive, it looks like just a jumble of rocks in many places but if you explore there are little paths and crevices. If you follow them you end up in really cool places and get much further than you thought you would.

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As the afternoon progressed the wind started to really pick up. By late afternoon it was blowing a hard, gusty gale and so no telescope and no cooking outside for us. That is where it is nice to have Moby, our little home on wheels. We snugged up inside, had dinner, read books aloud and listened to the wind make the radio antenna howl.

We have one more night to spend on the road. It went so quick! We haven't fully decided yet but we will tell you about it later. Until then,

Jonathan

Grandma Rio here, with a short humorous addition:

California Covid Camping: not recommended for misanthropes.

Clear Creek BLM: Very nice, but more people around than one would expect.

Anza-Borrego: Absolutely amazing, but very crowded.

Chuckwalla Wilderness: a stark beauty, but too crowded for comfort.

Alabama Hills: Spectacular, but all camping spots filled.

So, there you go!

Love and more love,

Grandma Rio

Dateline: Little River CA.

Howdy Boys,

Whew! We are back at home after 1934.6 miles of road trip. 200 more miles and we could have driven to Chicago!

We left the Alabama Hills after deciding to head down south again and take highway 178. Neither one of us had ever been that way and we saw a spot called XXXXX Creek, near XXXXX Peak. The drive along highway 178 turned out to be more than we could have hoped. We drove through the Kiavah Wilderness and were surprised to see Joshua trees again, many of them. There was a forest of them almost as good as the one in Joshua Tree! Not only that but as we dropped down through Walker Pass we saw a crazy collision of various desert ecosystems. This must be some kind of environmental sweet spot as we saw large pine trees with Joshua trees beneath them with cottonwood and oak trees nearby. Tons of sagebrush too. Very unusual and very cool to see.

We found our side road and headed up a dirt road with a lot of washboards, the kind that will rattle the fillings out of your teeth. We began to climb up the stark eastern Sierra mountains and eventually the road was a narrow track cut into the side of some very sheer cliffs. We reached a pass that cut across (I think) the Pacific Crest Trail and started down into another valley. As we headed down we came to some patches of snow on the road. We stopped and scouted ahead. Although the patches of snow weren't that big we could see there was likely more ahead. The weather report had also mentioned the possibility of showers (which up here would be snow) and there were some pretty dark clouds coming in. So, we decided to turn around and change plans again.

One thing you may not know yet is that your Grandma Rio is the biggest map geek I have ever known. This comes in very handy when scouting for places to see and stay. So she went into geek mode, poring over our wide collection of maps and we came up with several possible places to stay along the way home. In the end we wound up in a quiet spot in the far southern tip of the Sequoia National Forest. No sequoias here but a nice view of the Kern River. We got up early and hit the road.

There was some gusty winds coming up Interstate 5. Moby is tall and big and gets shoved around by the wind quite a bit. I was expecting quite a wrestling match when we got to the Altamont Pass but in the event it was no big deal. I was thankful as the last time we came through here with Moby it was quite a workout!

While there is nothing we enjoy more than being on the road it is always good to get home, especially when you live somewhere you love. It was so good to see the redwood trees and all the signs of the 2" of rain we got while we were gone. But the best part of getting home was: Hot Showers!! We hadn't washed our hair in a week and did it ever feel good to emerge from the shower squeaky clean.

Today is clean up Moby day. And do we ever have our work cut out for us!

Until the next Adventure,

Jonathan

California is truly amazing, but be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Love,

Grandma Rio
 

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thanks for that! read every word and pictured myself on the trip!
 
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I want to get the Van just half-built and drive up to Nova Scotia and cross Newfoundland to test out if we can survive in the winter. We need to work out the bugs.
Atlantic Canada has been off limits to the rest of Canada. Even when (if) the Can-US border opens up, I'll bet that Atlantic Canada will still be off limits for a while. Enjoy Bermuda!
 

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Great to see that people are getting out and still heeding precautions to keep everyone safe. We’ve only had our van post-COVID but dispersed camping has been our thing for years, and very easy to do here in the West. And more comfortable in a van than in a tent, though I’m still adjusting to where the Transit can or can’t go compared to our 4wd Tacoma.

We’ve taken two trips to the Eastern Sierra, and were able to get Fall colors without any snow or sub-freezing nights. And even avoided most of the smoke. No insulation or heater in the van yet.

The moonlit picture is on BLM land near Bodie.I usually don’t like to share camp site locations, and I’ll leave finding a good spot up to you, but the general area is accessible and yet private, and avoids the camping restrictions near the State Historic Park. We even had a clear creek running past our site, great for cleaning up after a dusty mountain bike ride.

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Picked it up in germany, went through poland and to Lithuania. Doing the build now and hoping to make it to Portugal by Jan
 

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Took a short trip from the Bay Area to Eastern Sierras in October. Bridgeport area along US-395, by way of Sonora Pass. Objective was to test out two people sleeping in the LR wagon and the minimal equipment I have so far. Worked out pretty good. Discovered that the van provided about 8 degrees of insulation against 32-degree overnight temp (~7,000' elevation).

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