Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lone Pine, California

Mount Whitney and Alabama Hills

Roger here...  It was a two-day drive from Sedona, Arizona to Lone Pine, California.  As you can see from the two photos above, the two days of driving were well worth the effort.  

We spent our first driving day at Blake Ranch RV Park and Horse Hotel just outside of Kingman, Arizona.  It was a really nice park.  I had trouble finding a decent place half-way between Kingman and Lone Pine.  I ended up settling on a KOA near Barstow, California.  It was pretty much a pit -- and an overpriced one at that -- but it was the only show in town.  

Awesome Dog Park!

Boulder Creek RV Resort in Lone Pine is great --- very busy and hectic, but also very nice.  The dog park was huge, almost as large as the one at our home at Retama Village in extreme south Texas.  We intended to spend two nights here, but we extended our stay to four nights (more on that later).

We only had a general idea of what we wanted to do here.  We had been here before, and knew we wanted to drive through the Alabama Hills again, but the rest was up in the air. 

 The people at the visitor center in the picture below were very knowledgeable about backpacking and issuing backpacking permits and taking reservations for climbing Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states).  However, we were interested in day hikes --- no sleeping on the ground for us.   We bought a book with suggestions for short day hikes, bought a detailed map of the area, and listened carefully to their advice for us.

Memorial Day Photo from  Visitor's Center - Lone Pine, California

One of our favorite stops was at the Alabama Hills Cafe.  I had read about it on the internet.  When I asked about it at the visitors' center, a young twenty-something guy took over the conversation.  He told us we HAD to eat there, even if there was a line.  I am not sure I have ever received a more enthusiastic recommendation.  It was easy to find, so we waited outside in line for a table, and ended up sitting at the counter.  We both ordered delicious breakfasts.  Dianne also ordered a piece of berry pie, which she gobbled down before her breakfast arrived.

Alabama Hills Cafe & Bakery - Worth the Wait!
Pie Before Breakfast for Dianne

California Eggs Benedict

Dianne's choice.

Camper's Skillet

My choice.  Dianne gave me her avocados, and I scraped up Dianne's leftover Hollandaise sauce with my homemade wheat toast.  No lunch that day for us, not much supper either. 

After breakfast, we headed for the Alabama Hills, located just outside of town.  This is such an interesting place --- filled with gigantic eroded boulders that are stacked on top of each other at the base of  Mt. Whitney.  Many, many movies and TV shows have been filmed here.  John Wayne movies, science fiction movies (Tremors and Star Trek Generations), Gunga Din, The Way West, and....

The Lone Ranger!  Look at the photo below and let me know if you find Tonto.  I was not able to find him.  Our original plan was to dry camp (overnighting without hookups) in the Lone Ranger Canyon.  However, when we saw the weather forecast that called for temperatures in the 90s, we booked two more nights at the Boulder Creek RV Resort.  We would not have had air conditioning and neither one of us sleep well when we are sweating.  It would have been fun --- another time.

Lone Ranger Canyon

Back at the campground, we enjoyed this sunset from the front window of our motor home.

Mountain Sunset


We could see the zig-zag road in the picture below from our campground.  During our visit a few years ago, we wondered where it went.  A lady at the Visitors' Center told us that the road was paved (really?) and that the views were amazing.  My newly purchased hiking book indicated that there was an easy 2.5 mile hike through Horseshoe Meadow at the top.  Since we had some extra time in Lone Pine, we decided to see what we might find. 

The slow drive to the top was as memorable as the hike to come.  Our little Matrix performed admirably as long as we stayed in third gear (occasionally 2nd).  It took over an hour to reach the summit.

The trip to the top was 19 miles (more than we anticipated).  The temperature dropped from 82 degrees at 9:00 a.m. to 58 degrees.  Dianne, as predicted, began worrying about the car's brakes failing when we traveled back down the mountain.  I assured her that our car's engine (in low gears) would be doing almost all of the braking.   (Dianne was also hoping against hope that there would not be an earthquake while we were on that road, or we would have been squashed like bugs -- D.)

It was after Dianne took the picture below, that she announced that she would no longer be looking over the edge.

Getting Close to the Top

As we neared the parking area for the trail head, we were greeted by this sign.  We still do not have bear spray, but we do have a hand-held air horn.  Oh, and since bears tend to stay away from us humans if they know we are there, I was prepared to sing a repertoire of bear-related songs --- much to Dianne's chagrin.

Horseshoe Meadow was surrounded by a very tall pine forest and snow capped peaks.  58 degrees there.  No sweating on that day.

Horseshoe Meadow

The dogs really enjoyed this flat and easy hike in the cool mountain air.  So did Dianne, except that she was tiring easily and breathing heavily.  The 10,000 foot elevation was the culprit.  Fortunately, it was not a long hike.

We enjoyed looking at this gnarly dead tree trunk just before we returned to the parking area and retrieved snacks that we had stored in one of the provided bear canisters.  Peanuts for us.  Treats for the dogs.
Gnarly Downed Tree

The photos above and below show the beginning of our descent in 2nd gear.  The swirly lines in the bottom picture are roads.  We were really up there.

We pulled off the road several times to take photos.  The lupines in the picture below were everywhere.

The photo below is very scenic, but it is also quite interesting.  If you look carefully, you can see pockets of water in the valley.  At one time that valley was a gigantic lake.  Years ago a Mr. Mulholland from Los Angeles conceived an idea to transport the water from that lake to L.A. through a series of aqueducts.  That project did indeed take place, providing drinking water for Los Angeles residents.  Mulholland (of Mulholland Drive fame) is still not very popular in this part of the woods.

As we neared the bottom of the return trip, familiar sites came into view.

View of Lone Pine, California from Mountain Road
Alabama Hills from Mountain Road

It was lunch time when we re-entered Lone Pine.  Dianne wondered if the Alabama Hills Cafe might have any of those cinnamon rolls that we saw in the bakery case the other day.  They did!  We brought two back to the motor home.  Dianne made this a healthy meal by taking a vitamin and pouring a glass of milk.

"Nutritious" Lunch from Alabama Hills Cafe & Bakery

Tomorrow, we travel 60 miles up the road to the town of Bishop, where more adventures and two special visitors await.

The pet picture of the day was taken at one of the photo stops on the descent from the mountain.  The dogs are on full-alert because a Belgian Malamute puppy is running around at the pull-out AND Dianne is actually petting this intruder.  By the way, the owner of the dog had three hang gliders on the roof of her car.  She was on the way to Yosemite to use them --- a very nice lady, a very brave lady.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona and Dianne's Day

Roger here...  We saved this 3-mile one-way (six miles total) for our last hiking day.  It was one of those early morning days, since we needed to drive all the way through Sedona and an additional ten miles along the winding road of Oak Creek Canyon to get to the trail head before all the parking places were filled.

Speaking of parking spaces, the West Fork Trail parking lot required a $10 fee.  Exorbitant --- especially for a trail operated by the U.S. Forest Service.  We discovered that our National Park Passport which is good at all (well I guess not all) National Parks, Monuments, and Forest Service venues was not recognized here because this particular parking lot is run by a private concessionaire.  Filling the tills of a private company to enjoy a public land just does not seem right --- especially a fee that is unreasonably steep.
We almost turned around to find another hike.  There are literally hundreds of them in the Coconino National Forest; however, we were pretty sure that Bandido would love splashing around in Oak Creek.  Rant over.  

The hike started on a wide trail that quickly descended into the canyon and the edge of the clear waters of Oak Creek.

The rock formations reminded us of others we had seen in the Sedona area, except that they closely guarded the flowing water.

I need to rant a little more.  I know.  I lied.  When we arrived at the creek, the trail appeared to go in two directions.  There was no directional sign or cairn that indicated which way to go.  You would think that some of that $10 fee could be used for better signage where the trail is not clear.  Of course we chose the wrong path.  In fact, we crossed the creek and ended up negotiating a rock slide before deciding that we made an error.  When we got back to the scene of our mistake, I was ready (for a second time) to find another trail. Had it not been for Dianne's patience and encouragement, we would have missed a very unique experience.  Rant over, again.

Going the correct way, many of the formations that were next to the water were eroded in a way that caused them to look like crashing waves.

During the down-and-back hike we crossed the creek 24 times.  Sometimes hopping from rock to rock was easy.  Sometimes not.  I slipped (or was bumped) into the creek several times.  I was wearing hiking shoes that were designed to get wet.  Dianne brought a pair of water shoes that she changed into about half-way through the hike.  The dogs did not mind getting their feet wet in the least.  In fact, they loved it!

You may have noticed that I was carrying hiking poles in the hand that did not have a dog leash.  We should have left the poles behind as they really did not help us with the crossings as we thought they might.  Actually, they had the opposite effect, creating an imbalance.  If we take them on hikes with the dogs again, I need to find a way to attach them to our packs.

Take note in the picture below, that even though I had my ugly (no-sun) hiking hat attached to my neck, I did not have it on.  The heavily wooded canyon  with its high walls deflected most of the sunlight.  

You might also note the somewhat stern look on Bandido's face.  In his own way he was saying to Dianne, "I am loving this hike.  If dad had made us turn back, I would not have licked his hand for a week."

The oak-maple forest with interspersed pine trees gave an entirely different feel to this hike.  The red rocks were there, but they were enhanced by all the green trees.  

A (now happy) man and his dog

Lush Fern Carpet

As we neared the end of the hike, the canyon widened and the scenery opened up.

One of Dianne's favorite flowers is columbine.  At our last two homes in Indiana, she planted columbine seeds that her grandmother had given her.  She was thrilled to see columbines along the trail.

Wild Columbine
As with all of our hikes here, we were tired and hungry when we crawled back into the car.  Fortunately, Sedona is a very dog-friendly town.  We were able to enjoy a delicious pepperoni pizza at the Sedona Pizza Company while the dogs napped under the table.  Excellent.  Dianne had a glass of chianti.  I had a bottle of Oak Creek Ale --- locally brewed and delicious.

Sedona Pizza Company

The dogs did not get a scrap of the pizza, but don't feel too sorry for them.  Whiskers Barkery was next to the pizza restaurant.   We purchased a small bag of bacon/cheddar "cookies" for the dogs.   We also had a nice conversation with a couple visiting from Australia, who recognized our dogs from those they'd seen in Australia.    

Back at the motor home I noticed that I picked up a little dirt along the trail.  No, that is not a tan line.  Getting the dirt off my legs required some soap and some scrubbing.

Dianne's Day

Dianne encourages me to do all the planning while we travel.  Sometimes I guess correctly about what she would like to do.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes she emphatically gives hints that I guessed wrongly.

I insisted that she pick the activities for our last day in Sedona.  I promised that I would not make any attempt to control her decisions (that does not work, anyway).

We slept in.  We walked the dogs and fed them.  We hopped in the car and arrived at the Chapel of the Holy Cross early enough to get a spot in the parking lot.  

We love the architecture of this place.  It is stark and simple.  It is literally built into the side of the red rocks.  

From the parking area a ramp meanders around the rocks up to the chapel.

The view from the chapel of cathedral rock seems appropriate.  The house in the picture below (also red) looks palatial.

This mansion has a view of both cathedral rock and the chapel

The interior of the chapel was just as stark as the outside.  The views through the windows were majestic.  Unfortunately, workers were making repairs on the day of our visit.

View from the chapel

Bell Rock
Cholla Flowers
We did not take any pictures of the rest of Dianne's day, but we did have a nice and relaxing day.  We checked out two hiking stores.  I bought some bungees that I might be able to use to attach our hiking poles to our packs.  We wandered around a Whole Foods store and bought expensive but delicious groceries.  We drove up to the old mining town of Jerome and enjoyed the views of the valley below.   We then enjoyed a cup of coffee on a sidewalk of a small mountain town.  It was a good day.

We are on our way to California --- spending a night outside of Kingman, AZ.  The pet picture of the day shows Bandido in his favorite traveling spot.
Somebody thinks he's a lap dog....