Big Bear: July 12-16, 2021

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Amelia killing it on Grays Peak Trail on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear, Mammoth, South Lake Tahoe, Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Durango, and Steamboat Springs: they are all touristy little mountain towns with the same cast of characters living a fraught and resentful symbiotic relationship. There are locals, the vacation homeowners, and regular tourists.  Go into the grocery store and you can easily lump everyone you see into one of the three groups.  It’s really obvious.

Big Bear is in the San Bernardino Mountains, about three towing hours away from our house. Yes readers not from SoCal, we have mountains. And they are quite rugged and steep.  The San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains are the two main ranges in SoCal.

And here is where I admit that this is only the third time I’ve been to Big Bear.  The last two times were in the 70s.  That’s what happens when your younger brother moves to Mammoth in the early 80s.  Mammoth became the focal point.  Mammoth folk, including yours truly, looked down upon and even scoffed at Big Bear.

Now at sixty-one years old, looking back, man, we had a lot of dumb notions.

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Or as our friend calls it, Fartin Blats, is where we stayed. It’s actually a really nice National Forest Service campground. The downside is it’s close to the main road, Highway 38, and a long thirty minutes from Big Bear.

Glamour shot and reality. We couldn’t believe how close the dumpsters were. It really wasn’t an issue though since the campground was more empty than full the entire time.

 

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California Primrose: there were a few of these beauties scattered around the campground.

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It looks like a forest to me.

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The Skyline Trail: a popular South Shore ride. All the trails we hit in the Big Bear area were excellent.

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Grinnell’s Beardtongue

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This is the upper part of the Santa Ana River Trail (SART). It was accessible from our campground. Some sections were quite sketchy with the trail eroded in the corners with long steep drops. I was by myself without a soul in sight, so I cut the ride short. I like to think I’m getting smarter in my old age.

Blue Sage: an aromatic plant. Once you got a whiff of it there was no doubt it was a sage.

 

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Drought stricken Jenks Lake: this was a nice mile and a half hike from camp.

 

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Free high pressure hot showers, no dogs allowed.

 

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The showers might’ve been free, but they wanted ten bucks to dump! And that’s after paying thirty three dollars a night. Some smart guy invented this contraption. Once you pay your ten bucks you have sixty seconds to open the sewer cap, so you better be ready or it will close on you and you’ll be S.O.L.

 

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Big Bear Lake view from Grays Peak

Mt. Laguna: June 23-25, 2021

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Sweet single track in Laguna Meadow.

Sometimes we fail to appreciate our own backyard.  We just kind of take it for granted, or perhaps worse, forget about it.

Our local mountains are beautiful, yet this was only our second camping trip there.  That’s going to change.  The scenery is magnificent.  The single track biking trails are fast and flowy.  Mid week the crowds are minimal and here’s the kicker, it’s only sixty miles away! A mere seventy-five minute drive.

We reserved three sites in the Lilac Loop of Burnt Rancheria campground for R, Jen & Ang, and ourselves. It was like the good old days, socializing unmasked.  The five of us ate breakfasts and dinners together, played card games, Chinese checkers, and had a few drinks.

San Diego County, what an amazing place: mountains, desert, beaches, and even another country all just a short drive away.

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Ok, let’s get this pic out of the way before we get to all the beautiful scenery shots. What the heck is going on here? This was on the bathroom stall door. Amelia said it’s an actual thing.

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Site 15, surrounded by Black Oaks and Jeffery Pines.

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A beach bum named R.

We saw more flowers than expected including the Montane Woolly-Star. .

The beautiful and appropriately named Summer Snow flower was in most of the shaded openings and as bright as snow.

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Amelia + single track = smiles for miles

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This memorial plaque is at Kwaaymii Point. Richard M Zadorozny died here in a paragliding accident. There are dozens of memorial plaques, but only a few of them are from deaths at this spot. Of all the locations for stunning views in San Diego County, Kwaaymii Point might just be the best. It’s located on the Sunrise Highway, mile marker 30.3.

Kwaaymii Point video

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Strawberry Moon: the last super moon of 2021

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The land is Cleveland National Forest, so it’s common to see cows grazing in the pasture. Sometimes you just have to be patient while they pass. They haven’t harmed the trails yet, but beware there are plenty of fresh cow patties.

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I went out at seven in the morning for a quick solo ride before we left. It was pristine, chilly, and magical.

Subaru Road Trip: June 11-13, 2021

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Snow Plant aka Snow Flower, Tahoe Rim Trail

This is the first time since we’ve had the Airstream that we’ve taken a road trip without it. Our niece was getting married in Minden, Nevada. Normally, this time of the year Amelia would be out of school, and we’d make the wedding a part of a longer Airstream trip. The pandemic changed all of that, and school started two weeks late. So, we blasted up in the Subaru on Friday. Then Sunday morning, we pulled the southbound hammer down routine back to San Diego.

Boy, oh boy is it different not towing. It’s less stressful, but you aren’t traveling with a kitchen so you make poor food choices and eat out too much. I never seem to sleep well in a hotel room and they are not cheap, but the gas mileage on the Subaru is three times better. Like everything in life, there’s pluses and minuses. We prefer the Airstream. It’s comforting having your second home with you.

It took a lot of sweet-talking, but I convinced Amelia we should bring our bikes.  How could we drive past Lower Rock Creek and also be in the Tahoe area and not ride?

We saw our first Fuck Biden bumper sticker while in Nevada. Of course, it was on a big pick-up truck with a lift kit. The woman driving it looked bitter and angry, no doubt pissed off that Biden stole the election. She’s probably counting the days till Trump gets reinstated to the presidency in August. I wonder what her and her pals are going to do when that doesn’t happen…hopefully not have another insurrection. Unfortunately, one thing is fairly certain, they will believe the next lie told to them.

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Geeking out on our reflection at the Crystal Geyser plant in Olancha, California.

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Mulholland and his pals sure did a number to the Owens Valley. If you haven’t read or seen the Cadillac Desert, it’s worth checking out. It details how Los Angeles got the water. I’ll never get used to seeing City of Los Angeles Private Property signs three hundred miles from Los Angeles.

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The bottom of the second leg of Lower Rock Creek. That road is the old 395 between Paradise and the top of the Sherwin Summit.

 

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The start

 

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Such a beautiful trail.

 

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Amelia wasn’t too happy about the climb, but as you can see from her smile, the descent made her super happy.

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We stopped for a picnic along the Walker River with the new Playmate cooler! I still feel horrible about ruining her original one on our last trip, but this one works so much better.
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The beautiful Walker River

Carson Valley Inn, second floor. If you can’t have fun, what can you do?

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I bet she’s got some Glen Campbell stories. RIP Glen


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Amelia on the Tahoe Rim Trail


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Scenic Lake Tahoe


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Snow Plant: a flowering springtime parasitic plant that derives nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to tree roots. What a treat to see so many of them.

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The happy newlyweds: Jackson and Alex


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Father daughter dance. It was truly a special moment.

Wildflowers of Rancho Bernardo: April 15, 2021

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California Poppies

This year the desert was a complete bust for wildflowers. Much of the Southwest is in a severe drought.  San Diego’s rainfall is below average for the season.  However, we still received enough rain for a pretty decent wildflower display…if you know where to look!

All these pictures were taken on a 1.4 mile hike in the San Dieguito River Park by Lake Hodges in Rancho Bernardo. And of course, with my trusty iPhone 7.

Enjoy the beauty of nature!

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Goldfields

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Field of Goldfields

Bushmallow

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Purple Owl’s Clover

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Golden Yarrow

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Baby Blue Eyes

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Johnny Jump-Up

 

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Prickly Popcorn Flower

 

Bush Sunflower

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Purple Nightshade

 

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California Sun Cup

 

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Caterpillar Phacelia

 

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Deerweed

 

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A dying Blue Dick.

 

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Common Sun Rose

 

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A lonely Cream-cup.

 

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Bush Rue

 

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Fiddleneck

 

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California Milkweed

 

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Yellow Bush-Penstemon and my big paw.

 

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Wild Canterbury Bells

 

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Here’s the last one! Something I’ve never seen before, Chinese Houses.

Spring Break ’21 Amboy Crater: April 1-2

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Amboy Crater

Friends have been asking us, “Where’s Amboy Crater?” My smart-ass answer is always Amboy! It’s actually south of the I-40 between Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. You get to drive on Route 66 for a little bit! It’s a nice free one night stop.  It’s also a really good for stargazing.  All the clouds cleared out and at 10pm it was a spectacular celestial display.

On our way home we drove through a little community called Wonder Valley. That was a real eye opener….

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It was just us and another guy in a little Casita trailer. We never even said hello to each other. He was definitely throwing off the “I’m not social” vibe.

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From the Airstream it was a half mile on road to the trailhead. Then we did four miles on a dirt path getting to and from the crater as well as exploring the inside and the rim.

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Make no doubt about it, it gets hot here in the summer.

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A closer view

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It reminded us of Craters of the Moon National Monument.

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The ubiquitous piece of toilet paper 😢

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Inside the crater

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This put a smile on the heart rock collector’s face.

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We walked half way around the rim. There are rumors that occasionally a Marine chopper pilot from Twenty Nine Palms will land in the crater at night.

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Western Fence Lizard

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Looking east from the rim.

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Finally, a decent sunset!

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you freight trains run all day and night, so keep that in mind before spending the night. It didn’t bother us though.

Spring Break ’21 Furnace Creek: March 28-April 1

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Amelia, awestruck by one of the slots in Sidewinder Canyon.

Pro tip: If you are visiting Death Valley be prepared to drive a lot!

We boondocked twenty miles east of Furnace Creek at a spot known as “The Pads.”  It used to be a company mining town until 1995 when Death Valley became a National Park and mining operations ceased. There are over forty concrete pads, where I’m assuming singlewide trailers used to sit. There’s also a huge pad where the clubhouse must’ve been because it’s next to a swimming pool filled with dirt. At times it felt haunting knowing that people used to live their life there. I would rate “The Pads” as a great boondocking spot. The only negative is zero cell phone reception.

At this stop we experienced a real wind event. On Monday evening while waiting for the moon to rise, Amelia’s phone blasted a weather alert noise. It startled both of us, especially since there’s no cell reception. Amelia grabbed her phone, and on her screen was: Tormenta de Polvo (dust storm).  When she tapped it thinking she could read the rest it disappeared.  We had no idea why it was in Spanish.

Thirty minutes later the wind became strong and the mountains to the east were shrouded by a huge dust cloud. We collapsed our chairs and table, brought in all our shoes, and hunkered down inside the Airstream. It was noisy. Anything that could rattle did. We ended up closing all the vents. The wind continued until sunrise.

We went outside to assess the aftermath. Our large patio mat was still staked down but covered in dirt and small pebbles. The chairs only moved a few feet. However our recycling bin was two hundred yards away stuck under someone else’s trailer!

Once we saw a person emerge from the trailer, Amelia went over to get the recycling bin and pick up as many scattered cans as she could find. That’s when she met Thelma. There were two gals traveling together and they referred to themselves as Thelma and Louise.

Thelma was probably in her late fifties, super chatty and proud of her 2001 Suburban.  After they exchanged pleasantries Thelma says, “I hope this doesn’t offend you but I’m a deplorable.” God bless my non-political wife, she had no idea what a deplorable was.  Then Thelma launched into a diatribe about stolen votes.  “Millions of votes were sent to China, Germany, and Iran.  Can you believe that?  I Ran!!” She quickly calmed down and said, “I don’t blame people for not knowing. The problem is everyone gets their news from the same major networks. You have to dig deep to get the truth.”

Finally, Amelia was able to escape. An hour later Thelma and Louise hitched up, drove by our spot, honked and waved.

You meet the most interesting people while traveling!

 

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We got a picture of a tourist at the fancy sign!

 

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, quite a bit smaller than Eureka, but still beautiful.

 

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Footprints

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There were a bunch of little basins between the dunes were water would collect and dry out.

 

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Zabriskie Point

 

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We did the seven mile Zabriskie Point, Badlands, Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch loop hike.

 

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The beautiful entrance to Gower Gulch.

 

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Here’s a perspective shot on the tall canyon walls.

 

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Bend over Rover! The station is unmanned on Tuesday and Wednesday. We were there on Tuesday. I inserted our debit card, did all the steps to begin fueling, but the regular unleaded 87 wasn’t working. Nothing came out of the nozzle. The other travelers were experiencing the same issue. They were out of 87! We badly needed gas, so I reinserted the card and starting pumping the unleaded plus 89. It got to $1.34 and stopped! The 89 was all gone. On to the premium unleaded 91. I inserted the card and it was denied, because it was already inserted twice! Shit! Good thing I carry two credit cards, especially since Amelia forgot her wallet at home. I inserted the new card and tanked up with the premium for $105.00.

 

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Love the tortoise sign on the road to Dante’s View.

 

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Dante’s View of Badwater Basin

 

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What a trippy place! It just has a feel to it.

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Early morning at Badwater Basin.

 

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Be smart and wear sunglasses. It is a bright white.

 

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Mosaic Canyon. The walls are polished marble.

 

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Towards the end of Mosaic it gets real tight.

 

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We drove up to Grotto Canyon. It’s the most technical canyon and as we expected, it was over our head. But not all was lost, on the drive out we saw three Bighorn Sheep. A ram, ewe, and lamb. We saw the lamb go underneath her mom and latch on to a teat. Eventually they all sprinted across the road. This is the ewe and lamb.

 

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A good look of “The Pads” during the evening. Our Airstream is the furthest one away.

The swimming pool

 

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Definitely not a super bloom year in Death Valley! There were hardly any flowers. This is a Desert Stingbush.

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Velvet Turtleback

Our favorite hike was our last one; Sidewinder Canyon. Amazing would be an understatement. It’s a wide canyon with six side slot canyons. Some of the slots just keep going and going. Here’s some pics.

 

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Oops! We had a casualty from the dust storm. The little Playmate cooler was stuck under the Airstream. I didn’t see it and completely forgot about it. As we were leaving there was a loud noise. Amelia put on the brakes. I looked under the Airstream. Shit! I felt horrible. Amelia has had the cooler since she was a teenager and had the nickname AMP for Amy Marie Perkins.