Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mono Lake

Continuing south on US 395, we stopped at the Mono Lake viewpoint for our first look at the famous lake.

If you stop at the viewpoint, be sure to have a sticker to paste on the guard rail.  It seems to be the thing to do.  You have to wonder how these things get started.

These are the rules for boondocking around the lake straight from the Forest Service website:
In general, the area from Mono Lake south towards the Crestview area 
and east of Highway 395 is open to dispersed camping

Here is the lovely site we claimed.

And the opposite direction.

Mono Lake is famous for the limestone Tufas that formed underwater, then were exposed when the lake level dropped over the years.

It really looks like a scene from another planet.

Some form picturesque islands.

They just encourage you to take way too many pictures.

This one Ron and I agreed was a little bear climbing, but there we disagreed.  I said he was climbing a tree and Ron said Momma Bear.

Due to the fact that there is no outlet for the lake and a lot of evaporation in this dry climate, the lake has 3 times the salt content of the Pacific Ocean.  Like the Great Salt Lake in Utah, brine shrimp thrive in these waters.  But in addition, Mono Lake is the breeding ground for the Alkali Fly which attracts migratory shore birds.  This California Gull is loving the feast.

The lake also has Tufas formed from sand, which I didn't know until we visited the visitors center.

Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bodie, Bodie, Bodie

Ghost towns are not really my thing, so I previously passed right by Bodie State Historic Park. This time I was lured in.  It was pretty interesting, but at $7 per person (not per car), it's rather pricey.  Then to add insult to injury, they charge for the information booklet and the guided tours.  We just walked around and used our imaginations.

Gold was discovered here in 1859.  A mill was established in 1861 and by 1880 there were an estimated 10,000 residents in the town of Bodie .  In 1962 it was made a state park and is maintained in a state of 'arrested decay.'

Everywhere you look, you see curious visitors like these two gentlemen peering in the dirty windows to get a glimpse of the past.

And sure enough, there it is.  One is transported back to Bodie's heyday.

It appears that the inhabitants just departed, leaving behind everything they couldn't carry.

Amid the peeling wallpaper and broken furniture, are the whispers of long ago dreams.

The children attended school . . .

And the adults tried to live a normal life among the saloons, brothels, and gambling halls that spring up in any mining town.

But on to cheerier things.  This house looks move-in ready with some nice yard art.

Ron checked out the used car lot.

The bank walls seem to have disappeared, but the vault is still standing with this cool safe inside.

I liked this really big flywheel.

Oh, and here's the mill that was closed to visitors due to safety issues unless you pay for the guided tour.  Hmmm

I couldn't find a rusty hook to take for my father (family joke), so I settled for a dusty jar.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back in CA

Continuing south on US 395, we soon crossed back into California, but first we filled the gas tank in the RV.  Those California gas prices will kill you.  Utilizing my favorite, I directed Ron to the cheapest gas station.  I never thought to take pictures, but it would have made interesting blog fodder.  Because the canopy over the pumps was not high enough to clear the air conditioner on the RV, he carefully pulled in the end spot, staying far enough away that the air conditioner was outside the canopy, but close enough for the hose to reach.  Everybody was watching.  We were the entertainment for the day.

Soon we were on our way.  We were surprised when five Ferraris passed us.  I caught the last one passing us in a no passing zone.  Maybe those petty laws don't apply to them.

Part of our trip was through a pretty canyon along the West Walker River.

Oh-oh.  More snow.

After meeting back up with Diana and Phil. we went to see the pretty Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport.

Personally, I'm not a fan of hot springs, but I did stick my feet in.

And Ron felt compelled to do a little work on one of the pools.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Carson City, NV

Leaving Sparks, we looked up and there it was - snow!  Oh no!  Did we wait too long to hike in the mountains?

Our move was pretty short, only 30 miles to the RV lot of the Carson City Nugget Casino.  It's pretty small, but nice and level anyway.  It's also within a couple of blocks of the Capitol building.  Nevada will be celebrating their 150 anniversary of statehood next year.  Ranked 7th in size, it's only 35th in population (most of that in and around Las Vegas.)

We walked over to check out the Capitol building, built with Nevada sandstone.

Since it was Sunday, the doors were locked, so we pressed out faces to the door.  That looks like a pretty interesting statue.

Nevada is nicknamed the Silver State and the building's domes celebrate that fact.

Near our parking spot was this building with an unusual bell tower.  In addition to the traditional Westminster chimes every 15 minutes, it also played a tune on the hour.  But the unusual part was the type of songs.  When we first arrived, we heard B-I-N-G-O and She'll be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes.  I don't remember any others, but they were all children's songs.
Happily they stopped at night.

We walked around in the evening and found this cute train mural.

From 1870 to 1893, this building was the site of a United States Mint, producing $49,274,434.30 in coinage.

What is going on over the Capitol dome?  It looks like some kind of alien invasion.

We went back to see the interior of the Capitol on Monday morning and found out the statue was Sarah Winnemucca, a prominent Native American activist and educator in the latter 1800s.  We really liked the fringe on her dress.

But walking around, we were confused.  The Assembly room was empty and I don't mean of people.  There was no furniture.  And there was a museum in the Senate.  There we saw a cool beaded version of the State Seal.

And an interesting bit of history - In the 1970s the building was gutted and totally rebuilt.  Wild.

But that didn't answer our question.  Where is the legislature?  Well, it turns out that a new building was built nearby in 1970 and the three branches of the government each have their own building.  The new building is very modern looking.

Interesting fact - Regular sessions of the Nevada legislature are held on odd-numbered years beginning with the first Tuesday in February and are limited to 120 calendar days. Now there's a good job.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lake Tahoe

From Susanville, we continued south on US 395 to Sparks, Nevada, where we parked at Baldini's Casino. We met up with sister Diana and Phil whom we will be joining on a trip along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern California.  We plan to do a lot of pretty hikes so we spent a couple days running errands and stocking up on supplies.  I even bought a pair of Merrell hiking shoes - brand new, not from a thrift store! You can tell I'm serious.

We also crossed paths with Sandie and Jim whose blog both Diana and I read.  They also winter down in Arizona near us and we've joined them for a couple of outings there. The six of us had a nice dinner at the Black Bear Diner, probably distracting the other diners with our hilarity.

But one day Ron and I made the trip over the mountains to Lake Tahoe.  It was a gorgeous day, although a bit windy.  Ron snapped this of me in front of the lake.

Some interesting facts about Lake Tahoe, billed as the largest alpine lake in North America:
Area - 195 square miles
Circumference - 71 miles
Maximum Depth - 1644 feet
Natural Elevation - 6223 feet

Tahoe City is a cute, touristy kind of place.

Although they seem to have a bear problem.

Here's something I found interesting. Since Lake Tahoe is a natural lake, the dam only raises the water level a maximum of 6.1 feet.  Now I realize six feet in a lake that huge is a lot of water, but look at the cute little dam that controls the output into the Truckee River.

The day we visited, they were releasing 100 c.f.s. (cubic feet per second.)   They are required to maintain minimum flows of 50 c.f.s. from October to March and 70 c.f.s. from April to September.

The dam is 100 years old this year and, just like the Hoover Dam, access is restricted.

But, although I didn't question it, I really wondered why Ron wanted to make the 100 mile round trip from Sparks to Lake Tahoe.  Finally, the reason was revealed and here it is.

When Ron was here 50 years ago, he was amazed by the giant trout that hung out just below the dam.  Well, he says they've gotten smaller.  Although these fish were well over a foot long, they were nothing like he remembered.

Also, see the shadows at the bottom of the picture?  The bridge we were on is called the Fanny Bridge.  Some say the name was to honor a woman named Fanny, but it could also indicate what the motorists crossing the bridge see when everybody leans over to watch the fish below.  Your choice.

One more picture of part of the shoreline around lovely Lake Tahoe.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lassen Volcanic NP

Since we were staying only about 50 miles from Lassen Volcanic National Park, we decided to take a run over there.  We tried to visit the park in June two years ago, but most of the road was closed due to snow. (To see our snow-covered trip from then, click here.)  This time the weather was perfect and the roads were open, although I did miss the snow on the mountains.

We came in the south entrance and stopped at the visitors center.  They had an excellent 20-minute movie introducing the park and various volcano types.  But there's nothing like getting out there and exploring.

We drove higher and higher, past pretty Emerald Lake.

And stopped at the highly recommended Bumpass Hell trailhead (first by Diana, then by the park ranger.) The view from the parking lot included this errant glacier rock.
Speaking of views, the Bumpass Hell trail had the best at every turn.  To the north, we saw Lake Helen and Lassen Peak, one of the world's largest plug dome volcanoes.

That large outcropping on Lassen Peak has a feature known as Vulcan's Eye.  Can you see it?

Ron says it looks like a whole face turned down and to the right.  He sees a nose and mouth along with the eye, a full head of hair, and bangs.  I told you he's good.

It's a gradual climb for a mile along a well-used trail.

The view to the west includes Brokeoff Mountain, Mt. Diller, and Pilot Pinnacle, remains of a large composite volcano called Mt. Tehama which began to collapse into itself 10,000 years ago.

To the south, the rim of the resulting caldera broke and leveled.  Otherwise, I wonder if this would be another Crater Lake.

At the end of the mile is the dramatic view of Bumpass Hell to the east.  Yellowstone is not the only place to have sulphur springs and mud pots.  Even from the top of the hill, the sulphur smell was strong.

The trail continues down and along the boardwalk visible in the picture, but I have to admit we turned around at this point.  BTW, the area is named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, whose leg had to be amputated after it broke though the crust above a boiling mud pot.  Poor guy.

On our return trip, I took another picture of Lassen Peak.

Now this isn't much of a picture, but that meadow in the foreground is full of lupine.  Imagine if they were in bloom like the ones we saw in Wyoming.

On second thought, we don't need imagination when we have computers.

Whoa!  Giant lupine!  Maybe I better just come back when they're in bloom.

We only made a couple more stops on our way through the park, including this one at Hat Lake.  Hmm, I don't see any lake, but it's pretty anyway.

It was about a 150 mile trip by the time we drove through the park and circled back home, but I'm glad we went.  Now we've seen it green and vibrant as well as covered in snow.