California is incredibly diverse. This route through the southern part of the Sequoia National Forest was so green and lush – a bit of a contrast from the Nevada desert.
March 25 – April 7, 2019.
Recently someone on one of my traveling Facebook groups asked the question, “How do you decide where to go?” She was just beginning her journey and felt a little overwhelmed by all the incredible destinations out there.
I was feeling a bit of this when we got back from Mexico. Where to go next? East, north, west – there was so much I wanted to do in all directions, I felt a little overwhelmed myself. After some thought, I decided to take the same advice I gave to the Facebook querier and pick one really great thing and then see where the route along the way takes you. After some discussion, Greg and I decided that that thing would be our friends, Beth and Tom, who lived in Clearlake Oaks California – almost 1000 miles away from where we were staying at our friend’s Julie and Jason’s in Tucson, AZ.
Planning the first few stops was easy. We had a friend, Terry, who was camping in Quartzite, AZ that we hadn’t seen for a while. He had just been reunited with his lovely fiance, Marcela, who had just arrived in the US from Peru. We had a good evening with them, trying not to leave Marcela too much out of the conversation by speaking a little broken Spanish every now and then.
Our next stop was also to meet up with friends – new friends, Lisbet and Mark, who were camped out in Lake Havasu City. You can read about them in our last post. From Lake Havasu City, AZ we followed Lisbet and Mark up to Lake Mojave, NV for a few days before we parted ways in different directions.
We continued north stopping at Seven Magic Mountains. I had seen this site out the van window as we had passed by on the highway last year and had made a note to stop next time around.
What next? I wondered if there was a National Park in Nevada that we needed to visit. I consulted my National Park app and sure enough, there was – Tule Springs Fossil Beds. Greg loves rocks and fossils and the site was along our route. But where to stay nearby? I looked at some of my usual camping resources and only came up with high elevation sites – too cold! I went to the Tule Springs’ website and checked their “Things To Do” link. There I found three suggested public lands sites for camping. I checked each of them out for proximity to our route, elevation (warmth), and cost of camping (free) and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge checked all the right boxes – bonus they had a great visitor center and more fossils!
From the NDWR we needed to start heading northwest towards the California border. I used a couple of different apps for our next couple of destinations – Atlas Obscura and Roadtrippers. Both apps are excellent for finding weird and interesting stuff and one or both of them led us to The Goodwill Open Air Museum where I also found the ghost town of Rhyolite.
From Rhyolite we just needed one more place to stay before we did the last long trek to Clearlake Oaks. I pulled out my camping app, iOverlander, and websites, Freecampsite.net and Compendium.com, to find the best spots. I came up with two – a longer drive to Walker Lake in Nevada with a shorter drive to Clearlake Oaks the next day or a shorter drive to Kern River in California with a longer drive to Beth’s house the next day. The Kern River site would mean an almost all day drive to our final destination but after we looked at our weather app Kern River won out for warmth.
After 11 days we finally arrived at Beth and Tom’s. It is always wonderful to arrive at a destination – especially if you have welcoming friends at the end!
* Click pics to enlarge and/or open into a slide show.
We camped near Kern River. This was a site for placer mining. (One camper was panning for gold. He got a couple of flakes.) These holes were cut into the rock to help with the mining process.
The view from Beth and Tom’s back porch of Clear Lake. The area they live in is gorgeous – unfortunately, it was cold and dreary almost the whole time we were visiting although we did get out for a few day excursions.
On one of excursions, we ended up at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA. The institute is a 12-acre solar-powered campus. They conduct solar workshops, demonstrate sustainable living, sell off-grid living goods, and have a cannabis dispensary on site. There are several self-guiding tours of the campus.
Aquaponic garden at SLI. Tank on the left houses fish, which fertilize the water. On the right, water is pumped through filters which lead to the spiral-shaped garden. The spiral tank is full of water. Plants grow in holes on a thin floating surface.
The grounds at the Institute are gorgeous and art abounds everywhere.
Greg creates energy as he pedals. When the first pole lights up he is pedaling enough to power 3 cell phones, at 35 watts lighting up the second pole means you have created enough electricity for loud music playing on a good stereo, and as the third pole starts to light he could be powering a laptop.
Grow-through Cars. Five muscle cars from the 50s and 60s demonstrate that left unattended nature will eventually take back whatever humans create.
Beth is a family friend who I met in St. Louis almost 40 years ago. She dated my brother for a while and then became good friends with my mother. We first visited her two years ago on first van trip out west (I have yet to write about that trip yet – look for that story this summer when I resurrect our Many Moons Ago series of posts.) She has continued to have an open invitation for us to come visit and we keep coming. (Regrettably, Tom was down with a nasty cold for a good bit of our visit and didn’t join us on either of our outings).
This Hobbit Hut at SLI is a Palletable Cabin. It utilizes recycled and natural materials – built with used heat-treated pallets, insulated with straw, and covered with an earthen cob plaster. It has a living roof which provides extra insulation. It is one of the many structures on the campus you can book a stay in.
Our second excursion out was to Fort Bragg and Glass Beach on the rocky CA coast. For years until 1967 the beach area north of here was a dump site. Over several decades afterward, there was a cleanup effort. Whatever was biodegradable disappeared and metal and other items were either collected and sold for scrap or used in art projects. What was left was the glass and pottery which tumbled into small smooth pieces. Because of the rocky coastline here these small pieces are prevented from being washed out to sea and cover the beaches.
We had read the rumor that all the glass was gone – pocketed by souvenir hunters. But I’d had also read that this wasn’t true. it was a pretty hike along the coastline whether we found any glass or not.
Flowers at Sea Glass Beach.
And then we found the glass.
Close-up of sea glass at Ft. Bragg.
Bonus we spotted some Sea Lions! This guy twists around to give us the eye.
Sometimes a cool wave disturbs your sunbathing.
A trio of sea lions.
Western (Glaucus-winged) Gull sits on her nest.
From Ft. Bragg we went to scenic Mendocino.
Coast at Mendocino.
Driftwood sculpture in Mendocino.
After our visit with Tom and Beth, we headed out back towards Nevada. We Stopped at the Whitmore Hot Creek near Mammoth Lakes, CA. Catch and release trout fishing is allowed on our side of the river. Spring heated by magma is on the other side. There are lots of warnings here about shifting grounds, changing water temps, and arsenic.
Steam rises from the Whitmore Hot Spring. Heated water drains into the snow melt of the river.
We thought we were going to camp near the hot spring but we didn’t count on the snow. The road was closed to the spring so we hiked a couple of miles in the snow to the site and back again and then headed for a warmer spot in Nevada.