Zephyr Cove – Pyramid Lake
Waypoints: Zephyr Cove, South Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Pyramid Lake, Black Rock Desert, Trego Hot Springs, Pyramid Lake
Miles hiked: 1.3
Miles driven: 309.9
Break camp: 20 min
Make camp: 30 min
Camp type: Primitive camping no services
Camp cost: $15
I finally prioritized sleeping in, and, with the help of a sleep mask, didn’t get up until 7:30. I made the poster board curtains for one side of the car. Sara took the first shower while Beans and I broke camp. I had just finished breakfast when Sara returned, and we switched. A campground with hot shower is much appreciated after a day or two with no services. We stopped by the lake shore before heading back into South Lake Tahoe to explore for the morning. Sara got a new coat at Patagonia to replace her many layers of coats used before then.
With strong winds and snow approaching, we opted to get over the mountains into Nevada. We drove over to Carson City to look at the Carson City Mint that was there in the late 1800’s. the winds were quite heavy as we walked around.
On the walk into the wind back to the car, we were both momentarily halted in place from a strong gust. We passed through Reno and resupplied at a grocery store. We headed north to Pyramid Lake.
We drove the shore around and turned to go up to the Black Rock Desert. We drove about a half dozen miles out onto the playa before turning back to the highway, where we grabbed a map from the box on the sign board.
Sara had looked up Fly Geyser, and even though its closed to the public, knew it was visible from the highway. We drove up and could just see it in the distance.
We began to scope out our options for hot springs. Online info said the Trego Hot Springs were a 30 mile washboard dirt road drive out from Gerlach. Sara was certain that we could get there by crossing the playa. She scoured google maps and found a crossing of the railroad tracks right net to the springs and she steered the car in that direction.
Surrounded by dust, we followed tracks across the dry ground. We were going about 40 mph when we crossed a perpendicular rut with a light thump. 40 mph was not a comfortable speed for me as a passenger. We slowed a bit and watched the mountains on the far side resolve themselves as we drew closer.
We found the road out and drove in the dry tracks along side the ruts. We crossed the tracks and navigated over a steep blip of a trail to bypass the muddy spot just before the parking area. With strong winds already there and and weather expected overnight, we had Trego Hot Springs entirely to ourselves, and could not have asked for a more wonderful visit.
The waters were warm then cold then hot. We explored a bit to find the hotter sections and kept our arms stirring to prevent hot pockets from overwhelming. After drying off, we headed back across the playa and headed south as the sun finished setting. I bought a permit online for distributed camping on tribal lands around Pyramid Lake. As we approached the lake, a fox did a dance in the beam of our headlights. Sara braked and the fox back peddled and retreated out of the roads. We passed around the bottom of the lake and began up the west side looking for camp. We found a space a few hundred feet from shore, set up for the evening, and watched a movie while it rained.
Lookout Mountain – Zephyr Cove
Waypoints: Lookout Mountain, June Lake Loop, 168, Lake Mono Tufas, Travertine Hot Springs, South Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove
Miles hiked: 1.7
Miles driven: 164.6
Break camp: 18 min
Make camp: 17 min
Camp type: Developed campground with water and showers
Camp cost: $28.50
I woke to twilight and layered up to start the day with sun rise on Lookout Mountain! After averaging 6 or so hours sleep every night this week, I decided a nap would be in order later. For now though, there was a sun rise to watch.
Sara watched sun rise the warm way, from in bed with the car door open.
I took photos till my hands were stiff with cold and the morning light had lifted. After warming back up in bed, we packed up and headed down to the June Lake Loop. We pulled off at the June Lake Beach for some photos. I changed into my swimsuit and took a plunge in the lake.
We found a trailhead at Yost creek and started a group hike. As we ascended a steep half mile, we crossed more and more snow. An avalanche track crossed the trail at a steep slope. Not anticipating conditions would improve on the other side, we turned back before crossing.
We pulled off at another trailhead. I read the signboard and reported back to Sara that a 4 mile round trip hike would lead us up in the direction I pointed. Without breaking eye contact she restarted the car. We looped the rest of the way out of the June Lake Loop.
We pulled into the gas station looking for lunch and found it closed. Sara drove up 168 towards the road closure looking to see how far we could go.
We headed back down to the Mono Lake Tufa SNR.
From there we hoped to head to the ghost town of Bodie but were met with a road closed gate. We headed on to Travertine Hot Springs and walked around for a bit.
Reading about them online, we had been warned that these were often crowded because of how easily they were accessed. The warm pools were all filled with some characters.
We zipped up to South Lake Tahoe, and had dinner looking up a giant casinos from a tap house on the California side of the street that aligned with the Nevada border. Taking much of the food to go, we headed back into Nevada to a campground that we discovered at the gate was closed for the season. We drove north a bit more around the east side of the lake. I tried researching campgrounds from my phone and was discouragingly met with closed camp after closed camp. Sara remained optimistic that we could just drive for a bit and would find something. We found something a few miles later in Zephyr Cove, NV. We grabbed a pay tent site in the RV Park, set up camp, and walked across the street to watch sunset over Lake Tahoe.
Bishop – Lookout Mountain
Waypoints: Bishop, Druid Stones, Schat’s Bakery, Hot Creek Geological Area, Mammoth Lakes, Lake Mary, Lookout Mountain
Miles hiked: 6.2
Miles driven: 76.2
Break camp: 55 min
Make camp: 18 min
Camp type: Dispersed camping no services
Camp cost: $0
My plan had been to catch up on sleep but 5:30am found me awake and getting things togeher for a hike. I had picked out the short and strenuous Druid Stones hike just south of Bishop. I watched sun rise as climbing out of the Owens Valley.
I called my mom for part of the walk down and drive home. I stopped into the famous Schat’s Bakery for some cheeze bread. At the hotel room, Sara worked while I did laundry. I also opened the two experimental jars of olives I had started curing in December. I did a taste test against store bought Kalamatas. Jar 4 was still quite bitter because I had skipped the step of slicing into the olives before soaking them. Jar 2 was almost right but still bitter and needing more salt. After cleaning up, folding laundry, and checking out at 11, we drove across the parking lot to the hotel barbecue area to work for a bit. Around 12:40, I went to the car and cleared a spot for a curled up nap. Since I hadn’t given Sara a heads up, about 10 minutes after laying down, I woke to her opening the car door ready to leave.
We went back to Schat’s Bakery for a to go sandwich and cookie. I drove while Sara worked. We went to see Hot Creek Geological Site to eat our lunch.
The pools were robin egg blue with a bubbling vent.
We went for a short walk along the creek and saw many people fishing. Sara had fun with her cookie.
We continued up to Mammoth Lakes. While Sara tried to finish up the work week, I went into the NPS visitor center and got great recommendations of where to hike on snow that afternoon and to take the June Lake loop on the drive north.
Sara needed another hour to complete her work, and I went for the snow hike to Lake Mary. The road is closed to vehicles in winter but there is a public access corridor for walkers along side the resort cross country ski track. I had an alternating brisk walk / light jog to 8900’. The snow covered lake brightly reflected sunlight. It was a very gorgeous look into the mountains.
Back on the road, we grabbed firewood to accompany our plans to finally set up camp before dark! We took the Mammoth Scenic Loop aiming for camping. Our first destination was met with Road Closed signage. We continued down to 395 and a forest road continued off the other side. Sara wanted to check it out. She had her mind set on a camp site with a view, and we found it on the summit of Lookout Mountain.
The road up was rutty but passable with a bit of care because it was dry save for a few snowy spots near the top. We set up camp and prepared a fire. We then took lots of sun set photos and then had our fire.
This campsite was phenomenal, and both of us were looking forward to the next two days where Sara would be free to fully enjoy.
Bishop Volcanic Flats – Bishop
Waypoints: Bishop Volcanic Flats, Bishop
Miles hiked: 1.0
Miles driven: 7.3
Break camp: 15 min
Make camp: 30 min
Camp type: Hotel
Camp cost: $91.34
The strong windstorm and cold front made for a much chillier night. I woke around 4 and didn’t get back to sleep. I wound up cutting my phone on and off to take notes and even had service enough to research all the potential dog friendly options in Bishop for the start of the work day. Given that the day called for 20mph winds and highs in the 50’s, pet friendly patio seating didn’t appeal. We would have a few hours charge to potentially work from the car on our hot spot. From bed, I browsed for dog sitter options and dog friendly hotels. I watched the crescent moon rise and layered up with all the lightweight clothing I had available (most heavy jackets were in the rooftop bag). I then got up and fed beans. It was high winds and in the low 40’s. I had waited until a bit closer to sunrise to start walking, anticipating the cold winds would make for a less than leisurely walk. I shuffled down the road looking to get around the ridge and have a view of the light on the sierras. In a few moments, I saw white caps peeking over the ridge. The wind was hitting me directly once I was in the wide open table land and wide open views to the Sierras were the reward. After a lot of pictures, I hustled back to the car and grabbed the nice camera. I topped the ridge and took some more photos before getting back into bed to warm up.
We then broke camp, again doing as much from inside the car as we could. We headed into town, got Sara a coffee, and were able to check into the pet friendly Vagabond Inn just after 9am. We settled in, cleaned up and worked the day from our room with a Mountain View. Sara also watched a drug bust at a room across the parking lot. After the work day, we went to Kmart for a few car organization items. We went back to Upper Crust Pizza for pasta (it was next door to the inn). We watched a little tv and went to bed.
Alabama Hills – Bishop Volcanic Flats
Waypoints: Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Merry Go Round Restaurant, Big Pine Carrol’s Grocery, Schulman Grove Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Bishop Upper Crust Pizza, Bishop Volcanic Flats
Miles hiked: 6.5
Miles driven: 116.8
Break camp: 27 min
Make camp: 24 min
Camp type: Dispersed camping no services
Camp cost: $0
I woke to twilight again around 5:30. I grabbed my pre-made hiking bag and then fed Beans. I then took photos of the pre-dawn view at the car for a while as a crescent moon perched low in the sky.
I watched the sunrise color slide onto the Sierras through Mobius arch. I bounced around between a few photo locations.
After a while, I took the unnamed trail away from the parking area. A bird of prey glided low over the scrub. The view and lighting remained beautiful as I walked parallel to the mountain range. I wanted to stop and take photos often. This was balanced with the mosquito entourage that seemed to follow in my wake awaiting such an opportunity to prod me further.
I followed the trail a few miles until I met up with the road. On the mile or two road walk I typed up a bit of the log of previous 2 days and resurfaced the idea to make a spreadsheet to accompany the log in the same style as my hiking log.
Sara had just gotten out of the camper and had started making the bed when I arrived back from the 5.5 mile loop at 8:11am. We took the time to tighten roof straps for travel and headed into Lone Pine. No restaurants with patio seating opened until 11am. We parked in the shade and worked via hot spot in the car for an hour and a half. At 11, we moved to the patio of the Merry Go Restaurant and had a Chinese food buffet from the quaint 17 sided building. After lunch, we drove a short ways north to Big Pine. There in front of Carrol’s Grocery, we found a table next to the soda machine that had 2 outlets to charge our computers while working in the shade. By about 3:30pm, the sun had moved enough that we were no longer in the shade. We shortly thereafter wrapped up work and made a second run into the Grocery to pick up sandwich materials, 2 apples, and a box of cereal.
From there we headed up to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest! This place has been on my list of spots to visit for a few years. They are among the longest lived species of tree on earth (individual trees that are 5000+ years old). The extreme conditions of their habitat makes for a very short growing season. This results in slow growth of wood that is very dense and resinous, which makes it very resistant to fire and pests. It was 43 degrees and quite windy at Schulman Grove. Sara and Beans opted to enjoy the trees from the car while I took a quick jog of the Discovery trail. I definitely want to return here for a longer visit.
The wind had been picking up all afternoon as a cold front moved in. Overnight called for 30-40mph gusts in the valley and 70-80mph gusts at higher elevations. We had originally thought of camping at Grandview campground after the visit but given that it was at 8500′ elevation, we decided against. The view was quite grand. The sky looked a little ominous and it was a tad windy but absolutely worth the trip up. Our brakes got a bit hot on the long steep descent. We stopped to feed beans and take a few photos and gave them a chance to cool off.
We had picked out a destination of Sage Flat Campground to the west of Big Pine. On the drive down, we decided instead to head to Bishop for pizza. On the way into town, a police checkpoint had halted more than 40 tractor trailers that then lined the highway shoulder southbound. They were held from continuing out of town because of the strong winds. We continued on to our to go margherita pizza from Upper Crust Pizza, and I got a few items from the grocery next door while waiting. We picked out BLM lands just north of Bishop to camp for the night. GPS estimated a 10 minute trip out there, and we opted to drive over before eating the pizza. While it did take 10 minutes to arrive at the entrance, it took a total of 25 minutes until 8:15pm over a bumpy dirt road to arrive to an unoccupied site. We ate in the front seats and then set up camp. With the strong cold winds, we did as much of the arranging from inside the car as we could. The site we found was on the leeward side of a hill, which we hoped would reduce some of the wind. I did some writing and then went to sleep.
Next Post: Day 4
Point Mugu – Alabama Hills
Waypoints: Point Mugu, Oxnard Walmart, Oxnard Honey Cup Cafe, Thousand Oaks Apple, Hook Burger Simi Valley, Alabama Hills
Miles hiked: 5.2
Miles driven: 272.7
Break camp: 45 min
Make camp: 13 min
Camp type: Dispersed camping no services
Camp cost: $0
I woke up pre-dawn and went for a hike. I watched the crescent moon rise while an abundance of birds began their day. There was a prolonged sunrise color display over the jagged ridges of Boney Mountain Wilderness. I took many photos, did Wim Hof breathing exercises, and continued my climb to an ever improving view inland.
Nearing the top of my small loop, I could see both sunrise and, in the other direction, the ocean. I jogged down the fire road to the beach overlook and took more photos before descending back into camp.
Immediately on arriving back at 7:28am, I opened the trunk and started to slide the roof bag in under the shelf as Sara suggested the night before. She protested only because she was still trying to sleep there (though she had asked to leave early and get to a workable location asap…). Breaking camp involved a bit of shuffling and took 45 min of rearranging, dressing, and adjusting. We stopped in the day use area. It was cold so only I walked down to the beach underpass and watched the waves. The night before, I had killed my computer working in the car only to realize my computer chargers had both been boxed into our moving pod. The nearest option was Oxnard Walmart for a usb-c charger. We headed to a pet friendly coffee shop near the beach for breakfast and work. The new offbrand laptop charger was struggling to power my computer and was only slowing the battery loss while plugged in. Once it died, I left it charging next to Sara and took a 1 mile walk on the beach with a view of the Channel Islands. There were pebbles mixed in with the sand, and I was looking at Airbnb options for the night after the poor charging experience at the coffee shop. I took a few calls. We alternated between the shady and sunny outdoor seating where we could either be cold or hot. By the end of the working day, we were feeling a bit burnt and we headed to the Apple store in Thousand Oaks for a proper computer charger. We drove a little further to Hook Burger in Simi Valley to stop for dinner and sit out the rest of rush hour traffic.
After dinner we set our sights on Alabama Hills. It would be 3.5 hours away from our 6pm start, which is later than ideal for arrival but how could we not? A place as excellent as it was worth pressing on. Lighting is best there in the morning anyways, which made slowing down and watching sunset there the following day was less appealing than arriving late and getting a sunrise. We had struggled through the day to get enough power to our laptops in pet friendly locations. We are very familiar with making pet friendly (ie patio seating) work and with staying powered but not quite so much when layering the two. Fortunately, our Ford Escape has a standard 100v ac plug! I had always shied away from charging laptops in cars but at Sara’s insistence did more research to realize, we were good to go and can now recover laptop power while driving. We rolled onto Movie Flat Rd and began looking for a place to set up camp. I was a little timid in picking a spot and found fault with the first few (that the next day we recognized would have been more than fine). Part of the learning curve. We found one about a half mile past the main parking area to the Mobius Arch trail. Camp set up from 10:15-10:28, which included 7 min of partially strapping the black roof bag to the roof. We locked ourselves in for the night & then set the car alarm off at 10:32 with Sara’s assertion: “See just open the handle-” We got settled in and played 15 min of an audiobook, which I immediately passed out to and slept until pre-dawn. Sara let me know the next day she had a bit of trouble sleeping because the wind was shaking the car and roof bag straps that had only been partially secured.
Next Post: Day 3
Irvine – Point Mugu
Waypoints: Irvine, Point Mugu State Park
Miles hiked: 0
Miles driven: 100.7
Break camp: N/A
Make camp: 33 min
Camp type: Developed campground with water
Camp cost: $45
After working from home for the day, we loaded the car and turned in our keys! We have everything needed to live and work indefinitely from our SUV. I have 10’s of thousands of photos on my phone from thousands of miles hiking and the road trips surrounding them. I rarely have taken the time to sort them into something that can easily be reviewed or reflected on like I do with my mileage log. For my own records, I am shaping a day to day log of RV ramblings and will also share it here for any family or friends who care to follow along.
To provide context, I start here with an overly detailed overview of our gear. In our SUV, we have a sleeping platform, which is the $27 RV that I originally created for weekend trips. We have 2 blankets, 2 pillows, and a sheet set. We have a sun shade shelf to store light items above our legs while we sleep and to use as a counter when standing at the tailgate. We have a 2 gallon water jug with spout. We have 2 Tupperware bins for the floorboard (one has toiletries the other has pantry items). We have a 24 liter electric cooler that runs from a 12v plug. We each have one bag of clothing and one backpack. I have one track bag with hiking items. We have a small crate with non-food pantry items. And for the moment, we have miscellaneous items like the supplies for the yet to be completed curtain project, a few half gallon jars of olives from my self curing project in Irvine, and two other grocery bags of pantry items that remain to be paired down. We also have Beans’ spaceship carrier, which houses her food and supplies.
We also bought a rooftop car carrier to house non-daily items. This includes: my fully packed backpacking pack, Sara’s backpacking quilt for colder climates, snow chains, 4 pair of shoes, a few ziploc storage bags of extra clothing for Sara (including her clothes and snorkel for the Hawaii trip), jumper cables, a battery pack to jump a car, and I think that’s about it. At the trip outset, we loaded this in the car to increase fuel economy. It was loaded day 1 behind the passenger side because I had already packed blankets and such under the shelf.
Arrangement while driving is basically cooler behind the driver seat (for access by passenger), a pillow right in between the front seats for beans to sit when she is not in a lap, one food bag and non-food pantry items in reach of passenger, and all else piled in without obstructing the view out the rear windshield.
We made a pit stop for me to garden with my sister before leaving town. Sara ran a few final errands, including getting and installing heavy duty velcro to secure the shelf top onto the cross members. We had dinner while gardening. We drove straight to Point Mugu. We watched sunset from the highway in Malibu and arrived to our site at twilight.
Fee camping of $45/night is steep but it is secluded from most road noise yet still has the sound of waves crashing. It also has access to great trails. Camp set up took 33 minutes. This consisted of unloading everything to the picnic table and lots of digging for what was needed.
I packed a hiking track bag for the morning and got some snacks out. I added my clothes bag into the black roof bag, which was locked and left on the picnic table overnight. All other items were tucked into floorboards, shelf, or front seats. We talked trip logistics for a bit, planned to leave for town early to find a place with signal for work, and listened to 15 min of Folks this Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin as we fell asleep.
Next Post: Day 2