Gray Road Adventures
So tired of this heat wave we are experiencing in the San Joaquin Valley. Summer feels like it has been six months long. Unfortunately, the first wet winter we have had in years is also wreaking havoc on our high country roads, limiting our ability to get to high altitudes on our short getaways. So many trees are downed from the snow, roads are torn up from the unusual run off this spring and summer, and State and Federal workers are working extra hard to get just the most used and main thoroughfares drivable.
So, Matt searched his Rolodex of previously visited places and we headed for Graeagle, CA area. Although the altitude is lower than our usual stomping grounds, there are some incredibly beautiful lakes to hike to, including Smith and Long Lakes.
First stop was at Frazier Falls. Oh yes, stop there this year if you can. It's been some time since the falls were pumping like this and the cascades are worth viewing. It is also handicapped accessible and a short distance to the renovated viewing platforms, so a great stop for all travelers.
We boondocked nearby and enjoyed a very cool night, and glad to have blankets. It was heavenly!!!
Summer temps on this trip were still mid 90s, but it was still a comfortable temperature with light breezes, and still warm enough to take a swim in Long Lake by midday. We hiked up to Long Lake on day one. Since water is plentiful this year, streams are flowing that haven't carried water for years, and the flora is abundant
Later on day two, we moved into the NF itself, exploring Butt Reservoir area. Day three, we headed on to FS Road 308. Our FS map listed Robber's Roost, so of course we had to make camp here for the night. We can't resist funny names. . But, it turns out that this was a perfectly secluded place, all to ourselves, and a great evening hike to Eagle Rocks area.
Graeagle is off CA Hwy 89 near the Plumas National Forest area.
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Beautiful country! Matt and I had a short “weekend” with just 3 days before I had to go back on duty. Since time was limited, we opted for a drive over our beloved Sierra Nevada range to the eastern slopes. We had remembered a place we wanted to return to, Buckeye Creek area outside Bridgeport, CA. An even shorter stay at the Forest Service Campground in 2012 had been worthy of returning for more exploration.
So excited to get back to the mountains and our adventures, we packed up OGRAVE and left early morning, July 5th. Our travel over the mountains was perfect, leaving the summer heat wave of the Valley behind. We arrived at Buckeye Campground in early afternoon, found the perfect place to set up camp, close enough to hear the creek all night, but far enough away from the few campers left. Excellent!
Hmmm, No Potable Water in the entire campground, and no posted reason? Good thing we had a full H2O tank and love boondocking. Yet, paying full price for a Forest Service Campground without any potable water seems silly. Thank goodness for the America the Beautiful Access Pass and a 50% discount. Oh well, we were not dismayed, the peace and quiet would be worth it.
The temperatures were warm, in the high 80s, but since home was breaching the 110 degree mark, 86 degrees seemed like heaven. We had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon, early evening dinner and then an evening stroll to the trailhead.
Now here’s where things got sketchy. We love to read the maps, learn the trail and what to expect of the terrain. We also love to follow the signs, cairns, blazes and paths when hiking or backpacking. Our evening scout trip revealed a single sign with an arrow pointing to the left that said “trail”. Wonder where all the other signs were that we had read about from previous hikers? Maybe the harsh winter had displaced the signs? We are sure that the Forest Service will have other trail markings ahead to mark the path appropriately.
We started up the “trail” to check it out for tomorrow (it was really a Road for the first 2 miles). What did we run into? Has anyone ever heard of Harris Ranch? Better yet, have you traveled Interstate 5 in Central California and smelled Harris Cattle Ranch? Harris Cattle Ranch
We had found it’s olfactory competitor. But, since we were headed up trail to the Hoover Wilderness tomorrow, how much of this would we be seeing and smelling, really? The base of Eagle Mountain is just right there beyond the meadows. The trail heads off to the Wilderness, so we should be in good shape.
After the best sleep in months, we were up early. With daypacks loaded and donned, we started our Buckeye Creek adventure.
Three miles later, we had slogged through four wet meadows and were up to our shins at times in sloppy, biodegradable pollution.
But look, there’s Buckeye Creek in all it’s winter-thaw glory! Let’s go Fishing!
Hmmm, not a single strike, although the creek appears to have the perfect scenario to find a Brookie or two. Looks like we will just head up the trail when we find it again and check out the wilderness area. We’ll definitely catch something on the way back, for sure.
Another mile up the poorly marked trail, we spotted our first Blaze, and were excited to be out of the meadows and up on the base of the mountains. Ohhhh, nevermind, just over that ridge we were again slogging through yet another bovine-infested meadow. Not to be deterred, we found another creekside stop begging for the casting of the rod, and we were going to need to filter some water soon.
Packs off and casting began. Hmmm, still no bites, not even nibbles…interesting! We’ll just take off our boots, cool our heels in the creek and enjoy this beautiful weather. Ahhhhh, that is some cold water, but feels so good.
Then, as if on cue, we hear it: “moooo”; about 10 yards behind us come the trampling cows and their calves, through the meadow and now splashing across the creek, leaving their generous amounts of manure along the path for all of us to enjoy. And in case we thought we might be able to filter some precious water for the trip back down the trail, two of them suddenly stopped mid creek and added their own flavor to the water for us.
Understand please, I grew up in Ranch country, and understand the necessity of grazing cattle upcountry. We often reap the rewards supplied by healthy, grass-fed animals, including dairy products and ribeyes to sustain our carnivorous tendencies. I also have an affinity with ranchers who provide this Country with the products we need. We believe 100% in sustainability and self-sufficiency. But, We do not think that routing a recreational wilderness trail through grazing grounds is a healthy or responsible endeavor.
With that said, we implore the USDA and Forest Service to think about re-routing wilderness access, trails and any other recreation areas to avoid the lands used by our local ranchers. There are several points to be made here, and I’m sure there are other “scientific” reasons that a lowly little street paramedic is unaware of, but consider these:
We are preparing for our Summer of 2017 Epic Adventure. By epic, I mean the “next epic” adventure because each time we think we’ve had the best adventure ever, we are wrong. The next comes along EVERY next time we travel. We have become so addicted to finding what lies ahead and experiencing the new that we can hardly stay home when we have to.
Today, I will share our journey to finding the perfect RV for us. We are a couple who appreciates simplicity and we have no complaints about leaving the comforts of home at home. So for years we traveled light and tent or truck camped, backpacked, cooked on fire pits or cook stoves., sleeping bags and pads were our staple of comfort. But we talked about getting older (yes, it really does happen) and expected that we would one day want to enjoy some of the comforts of home while out on the road.
With the last child off to college and work loads not as strenuous, we started making plans for our first month-long vacation, and thought we would do what we had always done… Tent and truck. But just two weeks before departure, we ran across a fully self-contained cab-over camper that was the perfect size for our current Super Duty truck – and there you have it, we became RV converts right then and there! Now we had both been “truck camper” owners in the past, but believe me when I say that neither of us expected what we found.
Imagine the possibilities! We could shower in our own private shower, use our own toilet, NO MORE CAMPGROUND SHOWERS AND FLIP-FLOPS. We could put food in our Refrigerator, AND our Freezer. Oh my, we imagined the chilled beer glasses and cold beer that would be waiting for us at the end of a long hike, and wait…no more buying bags of ICE!!!
That didn’t even begin to cover the storage available, the cooking space, propane oven and stovetop, AIR CONDITIONING, AND FURNACE, all topped off by a queen sized mattress. We had landed in Glamping Heaven. Best of all, we could carry our home on the truck and we didn’t have to sacrifice the accessibility we so dearly coveted in the sometimes treacherous mountain areas we sought out.
SOLD!!! We were the proud new owners of a 2001 Fleetwood Caribou11j, monster-sized truck camper with slide, 2 awnings, generator, and all the modern conveniences of home except laundry and whirlpool bath. Two weeks later, we embarked on a month-long adventure that sparked the passion that is our driving force today.
Fast-forward four years. We have loved every trip in our Caribou11j. We have had some great and some not great “RV experience” over the years, and learned a lot about the maintenance and care of RVs, as well as the importance of maintenance from Day 1 of ownership. Buying a used RV was risky and not without problems. So, after vacillating for many months, we decided to retire the Caribou and purchase a new rig that we could care for from the start, knowing that proper care and maintenance would be done, minimizing long term problems.
Now, with the decision finally made, we now had to decide if we were going to purchase the same rig setup we have, or jump to a trailer or fifth-wheel type of rig. We already knew a motorhome would not fit our needs. So, we started research of all types. We read, we YouTubed, we toured, we talked, we studied, we read more, we must have looked at nearly 1000+ RVs. We finally decided upon the perfect rig for us and our continued adventures.
We chose the Ford F-350 Dually with the Arctic Fox 1150. The truck was really the only choice for us, but we had to make some big decisions regarding the camper. The comparable Lance product was absolutely impressive and the two RVs were neck and neck in our decision-making process. But, the tie-breaker was the headroom designed into the Artic Fox, very important for people over 6-feet (I definitely do not have that problem). The 4-season insulation and durability were major factors and both brands were highly rated.
So, here we are again, preparing for our upcoming exploration of the far North. We will share our route, important information for future travelers, and likely a few (ok, many) pictures along the way.
This Storm was absolutely Amazing - and in just about an hour, Leavitt Fall became a torrent. Nature is so Incredible!
On my recent travels to the Midwest...I had complete reaffirmation that society no longer has customer service skills, and that the idea of such a notion is foreign to so many Americans that it is customary to behave as though your customer is "bothering" you when they are invoked to perform their service.
CASE IN POINT - I worked for Budget Rent-A-Car many, many years ago as their bookkeeper, but worked relief for the CSMs at the counter for their breaks and vacations. Our Customer was our life-blood...and we were expected to treat them as such. On my trip to Dayton, Ohio this past week, we were shuttled from the airport to the off-location Dollar car rental agency to pick up my reserved and PREPAID car for the trip. On arrival, we were greeted by a gruff employee who walked past us, told us she would be with us in a "while" and left the room. No other CSMs were in the room at this time. When she returned, she asked the lady who had just walked in and stood next to us if she could help her, and she promptly helped the new lady. After a 15 minute wait (the new lady had some issues with her reservation), another CSM came out of the back room and asked how our day was, to which we replyed that we were fine, and he added that his day was at least getting better (really...did I need to know that? but being said, I'm glad it was getting better). The paperwork was taken care of without delay and we were handed a set of keys. Now, we were told, we were to walk to the back of the lot (in the 2 degree weather - and that's in Ferenheit), find the car by clicking the remote control and looking for the taillights to light up, and then we could exit the parking lot at the other end. So, we promptly picked up our luggage, trodded through the snow and ice to the back of the BACK 40, and located our car at the very farthest end of the parking lot...AND BLOCKED IN BY AN ENTIRE ROW OF CARS PARKED BEHIND IT, AND THE SNOW PLOW THAT HAD OBVIOUSLY NOT BEEN USED SINCE prior to the current snow of four days ago. So, my partner started the car and loaded the luggage while I trodded back through the snow and ice to the front desk to ask the CSMs to move the snow plow and at least one of the cars blocking us in so we could depart the lot...it is absolutely AMAZING to me that the response was a shrug of the shoulders, and a now very cross CSM almost stomping his feet and telling me I will have to wait while he finds a coat, hat and gloves because it is below freezing out there ---- ARE YOU KIDDING ME? AS IF I DIDN'T NOTICE?
What happened to the days of pulling the car up to the loading zone, warming it up so that the customer doesn't have to walk through the ice and cold to load the car, offering to help with luggage, and doing a routine inspection and quick orientation to the car? And all in a "thank you for being our customer" tone? Without the shoulder shrugs?
This is just one of many, oh so many, recent experiences I've had with CSMs (or rather the lack of CSMs). It's so sad that now when I run across a waitress, salesperson, telephone representative, or any other customer service person who provides merely ADEQUATE service, I am happy. And, on the EXTREMELY RARE occasion I come across a true Customer Service Provider, I have made it a point to tip extra, leave a special note, or compliment them to their manager because it is truly a unique experience.
So, after all my notations on our lack of customer service, I hope that one day we will be rethinking our attitudes and behaviors towards our customers - I know that will be my focus with my customers this year...Welcome to 2013!
Finally...2013 is here. Out with 2012 trials and tribulations. On to new adventures, new prospects, better choices and remembering to cherish all the good things a little more.