Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mt. Whitney update

Thanks to Janis and Nancy, and for those of you who are interest I now have some more pictures (mostly of yours truly) posted to the Mt Whitney blog entry.  

Joining up with the WINs

                                      Beaver Creek on a foggy morning.

After leaving Sandi and Bob's we ventured up to Logsden  just northeast of Newport to join up with the WINs.  The stay at Mill Creek Ranch for several nights was enjoyable.  Connecting with the WINs is always fun because there are always options on what adventure to pick.  We explored the little town of Toledo and their street market;explored an old logging museum;  had lunch at the Chowder Bowl at Nye Beach (great chowder and much better than at the popular Mo's in Newport);and took a great scenic drive by some oysters beds where some WINs purchased oysters. 

                                      Oyster beds near Nye Beach

                                    Oysters must be pretty popular here

True to the WIN acumen we went for a short paddle down Beaver Creek, south of Newport.  Corey and Kirt had already scoped out the paddle which was through beautiful marshes and beyond.  Some chose to paddle out to the ocean.  However, I opted not to because the tide was low and I didn't want to beach.  

                                   All lined up so Caroline could take pictures. 

                                   Sharon and Deannie having fun

                                   Old foot bridge across Beaver Creek

                                    All cozy under the bridge waiting for mom 

                                     The water lilies were beautiful

                                   Corey, Kirt, and Caroline head out to low tide. 

                                     And this is what happened!

Alas, our cross country adventure has come to an end. Very, very early (6:30) on Thursday morning we headed out of camp and  blitzed towards California.  John dropped me off Friday morning in Sacramento, where I had parked my Jeep, and he continued on to Frazier Park, California. I'm back in Verdi/Reno area for a while, but the weather is really hot (high of 97) and cooler temperatures beckon me so most likely I won't stay here for long.  

Monday, July 20, 2009

Heading West....Again Part II

                                      Columbia River.  See the early morning fisherman.

John and I continue to "dead head" towards Oregon and ended up camping on the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge on Thursday evening.  We were able to find a perfect campsite right on the river without too much road noise or train noise.  The evening brought lots of hot wind, but by morning the winds calmed down and it was very pretty.  

                                         Early morning on the Columbia Gorge

                                      Mt Hood, Oregon as seen from the Columbia Gorge

The next day we had an easy day with less than 300 hundred miles to go so.  The truck wash beckoned John and his rig became instantly clean...after paying $1.00 per foot for scrubbing and washing and then some more $ for washing the roof and then some more for spray waxing.  It was a lesson for me as I have been putting off taking my rig to a truck wash, but now I see it is relatively painless as well as effortless and not that expensive.  John also opted to do a little maintenance and get the oil changed. As you can see life on the road is not all about fun...there are some chores that must be done.  This little stop didn't take all that much time and we were on our way to Sandi's in no time and arrived at Sandi and Bob's campsite on the Umpqua River mid-day.  Wow were we in for a treat. 

Sandi and Bob were located on several acres next to the river with no neighbors and noise.  The only thing around was a pasture of sheep.  We chose to camp several hundred yards from Sandi so as not to disturb them with our generator due to the heat, so we were near the near the sheep pasture.  What fun to wake up in the morning and listen to the baaa of sheep.  Made you feel like you were out in the middle of now where.  However, the best was yet to come.  

The next day, we loaded the kayaks up and Bob drove Sandi, John, and I up the river so we could do a float down the river.  The plan was to float all the way back to camp.  We had ideas of paddling all the way back to camp thinking it was going to be a 10-15 mile float.  Up riverthe  river front property is on private land and  public access is limited.  We did find a nice put-in place on private land which charged $10.00 and was part of an organic farm. We all launched and began our journey down the river, which none of us had paddled before.  The Umpqua winds around, and around, and around.  I think five miles on the road is probably 15 miles on the river.  

                                     Paddling down the Umpqua River

The river is absolutely gorgeous!  There are very few houses or signs of man a long the river, except for the "Keep Out" signs posted by the Big K Ranch.  We talked we several groups trying to find out mileage back to town and camp and the best information we could get was that it was "18 miles down to the second bridge and to watch out for the rapids just before the bridge".  We were told we would probably have to portage around at least two sets of Class III rapids and that it was at least ten miles past the second bridge back to town.  I'm thinking, its a good thing I brought the cell phone because we may need to call Bob to come get us andthat  an over night float of 28 miles wasn't in the plans. 

                                     Sandi and John enjoying the Umpqua River

As we talked to more people (all Big K Ranch guests and guides, I'm sure), information on the rapids varied as did the mileage.  We encountered lots of Class I & II rapids and then we came upon the last set of Class III.  We had been told early on by one group you could paddle around the rapids to the right.  But by the time we got to the rapids it was too late to take the alternate route.  We got out of the kayaks and looked at the situation.  This was not a short rapid.  It appeared to be several hundred yards long and really fast.  If we dumped at the beginning it could be bad.  I volunteered to paddle back up river a little ways and see if we could find a way to paddle around the rapids.  There was a clear route on the right, as one of the locals had indicated and  with a few little fast shoots which we elected to take.  The thought of a 1/4 mile portage just wasn't very appealing.  

                                  The heron wanted us to believe he was ignoring us.  
We all made it though the shoots and to the second bridge.  It this point, John's GPS indicated that we had been paddling for 14 miles and we were told by a fisherman it was probably another 10 miles to town.  We landed and called Bob to come get us.  The next challenge was to get the kayaks up the steep, sandy, narrow, over grown trail to the pull-out near the bridge.  With the assistance of the local sheriff(on duty a performing an local assist...bigs thanks to him) a fisherman, Bob and ropes, we pulled the kayaks up the trail, loaded  them on the car and were merrily on our way to get some well earned local burgers and tell stories of shooting the rapids. 

                                    John coming through the rapids

Lesson learned:  Always talk the locals before you put-in.  Always load the GPS with the appropriate maps. 

The two days we spent with Sandi and Bob were great, but time wa ticking and we decide to head up north a little ways and catch up with the WINs near Logsden, Oregon before heading back to California.  On the way we stopped at the Sea Lion Caves and visited the Umpqua Lighthouse. The coast is beautiful and at this time of year it is also very crowded, even on a weekday.  The caves were really interesting and suppose to be the largest of its kind in the world.  It was worth the visit.  

                                      Sea Lion Caves

                                    The King!  He is huge!  Amazing how he gets up on the hill.

                                     The caves are located 200 feet below us.  

                                                 Umpqua River Lighthouse

                                       Oregon Coast, near the sea lion caves

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Heading West.....Again, Part I

Badlands NP, South Dakota

Let's see  it's Wednesday, so we must be where? I have to stop and think because I've been going at warp speed for a few days.  I was back in Verdi, NV, one week ago today, doing laundry, catching up on mail, washing cars, cleaning the rig, recovering from Mt. Whitney ...all in two days.  Saturday morning, very early, I jumped on a plane in Sacramento, CA,  heading for Pittsburgh,PA. This will be the second time this summer I have headed for Pittsburgh. However,  this time my return trip to the West will be in John's motor home, instead of my little Class C.  John  drove from Clearfield to Pittsburgh to retrieve me from the airport so I could join him on his journey back to S. Cal.  My mission: to act as a relief driver,  co-pilot, part-time navigator, and  subtly nag him to remind him  not to get too tired, and to have fun on a his mini vacation  during his sojourn back to Southern California.  We are going via the most practical northern route (trying to stay out of heat and tornadoes) and then  on to Central Oregon to pick up his Kayak and then on to California. It may take a little longer, but after pushing through 95 degree temperatures in Iowa and Nebraska a few weeks ago, it just seem more prudent to try and avoid the heat. 

So far  since Saturday, we have blitzed through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming and are currently in Montanta ..somewhere..I think Bozeman. Dorothy,  we aren't in Kansas anymore, thats for sure. Its been awesome watching the countryside zoom by In John's big rig. It's a whole different perspective sitting up much higher and looking out of the huge bus type window  than an my little Class C.  I have been amazed it how green South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana have been.  Apparently the late season rains have really contributed to all of the greeness and abundance of wildflowers. 

We have stayed in free camping...Flying Js and Walmarts along the way.  After all,  and there is no point in paying big bucks at an RV park for a nights rest when you have all you need in your home on wheels .But there are drawbacks.  On Sunday I  programmed the Garmin to direct us to a Walmart in Iowa City only to be navigated through the heart of this old college town to a parking lot behind a health club.  We decided to stay forgetting the next morning was a Monday, and it being Monday health fanatics most likely would be going to the gym early.  John had a knock on the door and the proprietor of the health club  politely asked him to move the rig a head slightly in order to clear the way for parking.  Needless to say, we were on the road by 5:30 A.M. or so that morning.  The glories of a home on wheels.  Just turn the key and go.  Also, a lesson to confirm the address the GPS gives you.  

John and I are both morning people so we have been up and at'm before the sun has a chance to rise too far.  Sunday and Monday were both  600 mile days.  We switched drivers every 100 miles or so  and we managed to make it to The Badlands National Park just east of Rapid City, South Dakota late Monday afternoon.  We spent the next day sight seeing including a loop through the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and the infamous Wall Drugs at Wall, South Dakota. Mount Rushmore was  O.K. There is no charge to get into the mounument BUT they charge $10.00 to park your vehicle.  We opted not to contribute to the concessnaire and were able to take pictures and see the monument just fine.  I think $10.00 is a little much for parking. I wish we had more time in the area.  There is easily a weeks worth of stuff to see and that could be easily stretched to two weeks if you like to hike or mountain bike.

                                      North Dakota Badlands

                                     Badlands NP.   Amazing how green everything is.

                                        Early morning in the Badlands. 

                                    Its very windy.  Note the wind breaks. 

                                    Mountain sheep and good food in the Badlands. 

                                    Checking out the vittles

                                      Friendly Prairy Dogs

                                      Mt Rushmore.  They look pretty serious. 

                                     Profile of you know who.  

Wall Drugs started out as a small drug store in the early 1930's in a one horse town called Wall.  The owner's started offering free ice water to travelers in order to drum up business and it worked.  Today its a multi-million dollar enterprise....(ummm tourist trap).  They still offer free ice water and 5 cent coffee as well as a bazillion tee shirts, nic nacs, Christmas stuff, food, etc.  You name it you probably can find it here.  I was so overwhelmed I didn't take any pictures.  

Now we are dead heading for Oregon to see Sandi and retrieve one of John's Kayaks as well as take a few days off.  If we are lucky, we will catch up with the WINs and/or take a float or two down a nearby river.  Stay tuned.  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mt. Whitney, July 5,6,7, 2009

                                      Mt Whitney beckons in the early morning

Last year, Nancy, Janis, and I applied for Mt. Whitney hiking permits. Permits are issued by lottery only.  You have to apply and mail the application by February and are notified in April if you "win".  Unfortunately, last year we did not win, so this year we reapplied specifying we would be willing to accept any three days during July.  Well,  in April we were notified we won...over the 4th of July weekend.  Timing was not all that great... my mind visioned masses of humanity and frozen snow fields. Never the less, we had our dates and started planing our trip.  Permits are hard to get and we didn't want to reschedule for another time nor put our trip off for another year. 

 I drove into Lone Pine from Reno on the 4th of July, thankful Janis had made arrangements to spend the night in a hotel rather than camping.  It was 95+ degrees so the AC was very welcome.   Nancy, Janis and I headed out early on  the morning of July 5 after spending the previous evening arranging our packs and trying to distribute the loads evenly between the three of us.  The bear canisters are the biggest pain in the *&^% to pack and always present a challenge.  I am the shortest one of the group and have the smallest pack but for some reason always end up with the most weight and the bear canister. 

I will digress a little here and add that the three of us backpacked from May Lake in Yosemite NP to the Valley floor last year.  We went over Clouds Rest and camped at the base of Half Dome and then climbed Half Dome and then on down to the Valley Floor to catch a shuttle back to our starting point on Tioga Pass.  This was a two night trip which included about the same amount of gear as our Mt. Whitney trip.  Two days later the three of us were car camping at the base of Boundry Peak (the highest peak in Nevada) and continued on to climb that peak .  I add this only to show that the three of us aren't your typical "flat lander" novices heading out for an stroll on a mountain.  We are pretty experienced backpackers and hikers and take our trips seriously.  

Anyway, back to Mt. Whitney.  July 5, we arrived at the trail head parking and to our amazement found a parking spot pretty close to the trail head.  We loaded up our packs and headed out. At the Portal we weighed our packs.  You guessed it, mine was about 5 lbs. heavier.  So we shifted a little more gear to try and even things out.  Janis and Nancy agreed to carry my crampons and tent stakes but I don't think that added up to 5 lbs.  I guess I could have dumped some water but was reluctant to do so as it was already pretty warm.  We took our first steps toward the summit by 8:00 A.M.  on a beautiful clear morning.  Our goal: to reach Trail Camp, about 6 miles and a 4000 ft. elevation gain,  in time to set up camp and relax a little.  

                                    Starting out.  Wow we sure look clean and fresh.  

All a long I had been worried about my conditioning due to the nerve injury to my back  in April.  I hadn't been able to hike  regularly and the hikes I had been able to do recently were not at high elevations.  So when the first mile up the mountain seemed pretty calm, my spirits and confidence heightened considerably. The trail was well maintained and the accent mild, even though it was warm.  There were lots of small stream crossings due to the snow melt and the wild flowers were blooming.  The days had been getting warmer and the streams and water falls were pretty full. We leaped frogged along the trail with other adventurers, some planning to camp at Trail Camp; some at Out Post Camp; some getting a late start as  day hikers.  Yes, some people hike this all in a 24 hour period (its about 22 miles round trip) although, it's recommended that you start at 2 a.m. We later met some folks that started late in the afternoon and hiked in the dark to make the summit by sunrise.  One group we continuously leaped frogged with included a father and son.  The son, Grant,was 8 years old going on 9 soon.  We later found out he had previously climbed Half Dome with his father.  Wow!

                                                 Janis and Nancy crossing one of many streams

                                                  Water fall on the way to Out Post Camp

Our first stop for water and long rest was at Out Post Camp.  Up to this point,  the trip had been as expected: the trail footing good,  the incline not too bad, and the altitude was  not bothering us. With only a little more 2 1/2  miles to go,  we felt we would make Trail Camp by 2:00.  We filtered our water and enjoyed the rest period which included a view of  a beautiful waterfall . We headed out for the final accent to Trail Camp well hydrated and rested.  

                                                 Water fall near Out Post camp

The accent to Trail Camp turned out to be the hardest part of the trip (at least in my mind).We were now in the John Muir Wilderness.   The trail became rocky, with tricky footing and very steep in places.  It wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been carrying a 40# pack.   The temperature seemed to rise along with the altitude.  We had to stop more frequently to catch our breath and survey the trail to determine our footing.  The scenery was spectacular!  Flowers blooming; water running; huge partially snow covered peaks in the back ground.  We were now starting to encounter snow fields that buried the trail and would have to detour over them. At this juncture, I was really liking my hiking poles.   Fortunately, or unfortunately, there had been a bazillion people preceding us so the detours were easy to find. 

                                     Abundance of wild flowers along the way 

As we trudged up the mountain we were now meeting day hikers and some back packers coming down from the summit.  This gave us a chance to talk to them about the ice and snow conditions they encountered.  We were concerned about the infamous cables on the 97 switch backs on the way to Trail Crest.  The reports were encouraging. The snow was softening and if you left Trail Camp at the "right time" you wouldn't encounter to much ice and snow at the cables.  No one could define "right time". Most agreed we would not need crampons.  I had thrown mine in due to the consensus of the group we could somehow share them if need be.  This was in lieu of renting them at $16.00 per day in Lone Pine.  The trail seemed to get steeper and hotter as we trudged along.  We kept a close eye on the GPS so we could gage our distance to Trail Camp.  It seemed we were crawling along at a slow snails pace, which we were.  We arrived at Trail Camp at 5:00 only to meet up with what seemed like gale force winds.  This was something we had not prepared for at camp.

                                                  Trudging up the mountain at a snails pace

At this point we were all too tired to really scout out the camp area and find the perfect site that may offer some protection from the wind.  Basically, we wanted to get the tents up and just crawl in them and collapse for the night, and not even think about fixing something to eat. However, we managed set up camp in the wind which was relentless, fixed dinner(fresh pasta with pesto, a luxury backpacking meal), and went to bed. ..early. The wind howled all night long.  The tent fly flapped and the whole tent moved with the wind.  Good thing I had extra stakes and guy string.  I wondered if they would hold if I wasn't in it.  The wind continued through out the night and was still blustering in the morning.  

                                                  Cooking dinner..

July 6. D- Day!We rose early,  5:00 A.M. to a spectacular sunrise.  The sun made Mt. Whitney glow invitingly.  We fixed breakfast in the wind and hoped the wind would not continue.  Janis commented she slept OK because she had ear plugs! Who would have thought of bringing ear plugs?! Also, she had the most cosmetics we had to stuff in the bear canister at night. We had plans of being on the summit by noon and possibly returning to camp and packing up and heading back to Whitney Portal if the wind continued. 

                                                 Early morning at the camp site

 We headed out with our day packs about 7:00 A.M. (so nice not to have to carry 40#) to conquer the first 97 switch backs and the infamous cables on the way to the Trail Crest.  The 97 switch back turned out to be a peace of cake.  The section where the cables were located wasn't too bad.  There was a group ahead of us and we watched them negotiate the snow and cables  and they waited for us to make sure we made it OK.  This was one of the groups we had leaped frogged with and I think they were surprised to see us up and out so early.  They cheered us on.  

                                                     Traversing the cables

                                                Snow crossing near Trail Crest

                                      Heading towards the summit

We reached Trail Crest, altitude of about 13,500 ft feeling pretty confident after conquering the dreaded cables, icy trails, and snow.  To our dismay we now would trek to where the John Muir trail intersects the Mt Whitney trail with an elevation loss of about 500 ft.  Yes, the down was nice but I wasn't looking forward to having to make up the elevation  loss up and then continue on up to the top.  When we started to make up the elevation loss,  that's when the altitude started to effect me.  I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the summit.  We had several miles to go and I was stopping every few feet to catch my breath.  Janis seemed to be flying ahead and Nancy wasn't too far ahead me.    


I finally called "uncle" and told Nancy I need to rest and wasn't sure if I would make it to the top.  If you have ever ran a marathon  you are familiar with the term "hitting the wall". Well, I felt like  I was hitting the dreaded "wall".  I could see the final snow field we had to cross and it looked treacherous from the distance  and seemed like miles away and, I didn't know if I had it in me to cross it.  I kept thinking how I had gotten past the wall when running marathons step at a I continued on.  It didn't get easier, but it didn't get any harder and I pressed on.  All of the sudden we were at the final snow field and the crossing didn't seem so bad. So many hikers had been through it, it was  trench like, and there really wasn't any way you could slip outside the trench and slide down the mountain, which was my fear from seeing it from a far.   Hikers coming down commented we were almost there... sure.. where I have heard that before?!  Well, they were right, and voila..we were there!! 

What a sight!  The peak looks totally different when you are on top of it.  We had had a great view of the front of the peak  from our camp site, but the back side and peak are not as dramatic.  We hopped around the top, took pictures, and congratulated each other on a job well done. We had endless views of the valley on one side and Sequoia National Park and the John Muir trail  on the other.  We were literally on top of the world. 

                                           The summit!

                                     Hut on top of summit. Enter in case of lightening.

Janis of course had been at the summit waiting for us for a while.  The party that had encouraged at the cables sited us and were truly happy to see that we made it.  We later saw little Grant (the 8 year old) and he made it to the summit.  What an accomplishment for an 8 year old. Also, what an accomplishment for us senior ladies. We made it to the summit pretty close to noon, which was great. The camaraderie with strangers on the mountain is hard to explain.  I guess everyone shares in the accomplishment.  

The next step was to make it back down to Trail Camp and determine if we have enough stamina left to pack out.  The trek down was really easy, of course, except for the area where we now had to make up a 500 foot elevation loss.  The ice had melted and the snow packs were now slushy..even the area where the cables were located, now in the shade, was easy.  We now had time to enjoy the scenery because we didn't have to watch our footing for ice patches.  We we reached Trail Camp around 5:00, and thankfully, the wind had died down to a nice  gentle breeze.  None of us had it in us to pack up and head back down to Whitney Portal. We fixed a quick dinner and rested in anticipation of the fast trek down the hill in the morning. 

                                      Claudia and Nancy heading back to Whitney Portal

The nasty wind returned sometime around midnight, and again I didn't get much sleep.  We were all up before the sun and fixed coffee and breakfast; packed up; and were on the trail by 7:00 A.M. At this time early hikers heading up to the summit were trekking past our camp site.  Some had been hiking as early as 1:00 A.M.! The trek down to Whitney Portal  was fast, except for the area I previously had had a hard time coming up.  This time we had more small streams to cross due to the rapid snow melt and run off. There was a cool breeze, and there were more wild flowers out, which made the decent go by fast.  We even had time to shed our packs and took a short side trip to Lone Pine Lake, which we had viewed from the top on several occasions.  The water was way to cold to swim in...darn!  

                                       Lone Pine Lake

                                                  Field of flowers on our decent,

                                      Near Whitney Portal (8000 ft) we saw this.  Amazing. 

We arrived at Whitney Portal in time to peruse the store and order giant hamburgers and french fries for lunch.  While we were enjoying our burgers, the group that included the little boy, Grant, showed up.  Grant seemed no worse for wear, and was anxious to play cards with his father.  We learned that this was an eclectic group consisting of a 40 year old woman who was doing this as her 40 year celebration, a few cousins, all arranged by a church member. I gather they sort of knew one another, but not really, but now they had formed a strong bond, which such adventures do to its participants.  

 We returned to the hotel and luxuriated in hot showers and tackled unpacking our packs and sorting stuff. We contemplated dinner, but were to full from lunch.  So, we did what normal woman due when they are not very hungry.  We went to the grocery store and bought our cream! Nothing better than ice cream for dinner. Nancy and Janis were to fly out of Las Vegas the next afternoon and  needed to leave in the early morning for the 4 plus hour drive.  I needed to leave early to get back to Reno in time to retrieve Sadie from the doggie hotel; unpack; do laundry; and prepare for the next saga.  

I'll be jumping on a plane, early Saturday morning, July 11, to fly to Pittsburgh, PA to meet up with John and help him drive his rig back to California.  His treatments are going well, but he does get tired and I am looking forward to joining him on another adventure and listening to his funny comments about the world.  We will be taking a northern route to hopefully avoid  the tornadoes and heat I encountered previously in Nebraska and Iowa on my way back to Reno earlier and see some sites along the way. There is some talk of retrieving one of his kayaks in Oregon and doing a float or two. 

Check back in a few weeks for more pictures.  Janis and Nancy took lots more pictures than I did and will be sharing them. And of course the pictures I took don't include me.  As  soon as I receive them I post some more.