16 September — Ashland, Oregon

On our last morning in Crater Lake we decided to give the lake one more try. It was still smoky but we could see a little more of the lake’s beauty. Unfortunately we were missing so much more. We vow to come back for a day during our time in Ashland–it’s just a 2 hour drive.

We head off for Ashland about 12:30. The drive is pretty (very forested with lots of signs for sights to see and trails to hike) until you reach civilization in Medford. We arrive at our new home about 1.5 hours earlier than we are scheduled but the cleaning lady is just completing her work and we are in!

Our house is a pretty, yellow, Victorian-style, 2-story place–I’d estimate it is turn of the century.

Helman Street House
Helman Street House

There is a bedroom on the second floor and a bedroom and 2 bathrooms on the first floor. The kitchen is very workable and whatever is lacking in kitchen items we can find in Diana–including a coffee maker and toaster which were inoperable when we arrived. The dining room has a large oak table with additional leaves but we’re not going to be doing any entertaining for a crowd. The living room would not qualify for House Beautiful but it’s comfy. There is a lovely front porch and adjacent deck. The landscaping is very pretty with lots of flowers and herbs. There is a grassy front lawn that is completely fenced. The dogs LOVE it! They especially love people watching and people barking. There is soooo much activity on our street: people biking; people walking their dogs; people with baby strollers; and people taking a stroll. We are a short walk to the historic Railroad District with great restaurants and shops. The Food Co-op is a 10 minute walk at the most. The dog park is about a 30 minute walk. It is a really homey place. Hey, maybe I’d like to live here!!

The negative is that we are on a very busy corner with commercial operations just across the street. Those truck back-up beepers can get pretty annoying. We have air conditioning so we can close our bedroom windows at night. The mornings are very chilly but after noon it gets pretty warm and we close up and turn on the A/C. But, truly, the weather is really nice. It is great to sit on the porch and read or watch the world go by…and tell Toby every 5 minutes to STOP BARKING!

The people walking or riding by are just a likely to be senior citizens in Lycra shorts riding what look like expensive bikes as they are to be kids with long dreadlocks on skate boards screaming “Hello, brother!” The vehicles seem to be long on (old) Volvos, big trucks and jeeps and short on BMWs and Mercedes.

 

Our sleeping experience reminds us of France: we are in a queen bed with 3 small, white bed hogs.

White Bed Hogs
White Bed Hogs

I’m tempted to sleep in Diana but the driveway is fairly steep and we would not be able to get her leveled. It’s equally no fun to sleep at an angle.

The washer and dryer worked over-time the first 2 days–boy, we were a dirty group. But now all the people clothes and dog bedding has been washed as well as the people and the dogs. Poor Lucien was shivering like he was snow-bound after his bath. I had to get out the hair dryer to finally get him comfortable.

About 10am today we headed off to the dog park with the 3 dogs. Howard took a reconnaissance mission with Lucien yesterday and the two of them deemed that the group was ready for the mission. We estimate that it is about a mile walk. These Ashland neighborhoods are very interesting: commercial operations next to residential homes; million dollar homes across from a shack; horses nose-to-nose with doggies through the fence. Many places have abandon cars and other detritus littering the lawns–apparently there is no code enforcement or maybe no codes to enforce.

The long walk downhill to the dog park was too much for short-legged Lucky. He’s short-legged in 2 ways: short a leg and short legs. He gets to be carried about half the distance. When we arrive the big-dog area is pretty populated and there’s no one in the little dog’s park. Toby is immediately interested in the big dogs–watching them and running along the fence as they go by. We decide to give him a chance to “run with the big dogs.” We figure it’s a 50:50 chance that he’ll try to kill one of them. But Toby steps up to the plate and scores a home run! He has a great time! He lets the big dogs sniff him and he sniffs them and he is off. We are surprised that Lucien and even Lucky seem to enjoy running around.

On our way back up-hill Lucky walked the entire way! I think his dog-park romp energized him. I think we ALL are going to be in better shape at the end of this month in Ashland.

There is a B&B across the street from us. A lady staying there has a very handsome grey miniature poodle. She left about noon and the poor dog has barked inside all day. I’m going to try to catch her and suggest she leave the dog with us. I suspect she is on business here and we know how hard it is to find good dog care. Of course she may be concerned that we are poodle-nappers but we’ll try to convince her we are good people. We are going to have a similar problem tomorrow night–our first play. We considered hiring a sitter but Howard wants to try the dogs on their own. We just met the ladies next to us. I think I’ll ask them to tell us if the dogs caterwaul the entire time we’re gone.

We are going to try to finish up some great leftovers. I made a pasta salad and Howard is going to do something special with our leftover lamb chops and filet mignon.

13 September — Crater Lake NP

We can’t wait to finally see the lake since we didn’t get to see it last year due to fog. It is supposed to take your breath away! The lake was formed from the collapse of Mount Mazama after a major eruption about 5700 B.C. It is the deepest lake in the US and it is only fed by rain and snow (no rivers or streams). The lake is considered the cleanest large body of water in the world.

So off we go! As we drive up the mountain we begin to see that there is LOTS of haze. But surely not enough to obscure the lake! The stop at the first viewpoint dashes our hopes; there is a faint blue under the haze but that’s all. We later find out that the haze is actually smoke from 2 fires. It appears there is no hope for us to see Crater Lake.

Crater Lake Smoke
Crater Lake Smoke

The couple at the Lava Beds campground told me to not miss The Pinnacles. It’s about a 7 mile drive off the main road. Maybe that will save the day! The road was just recently paved but it is already a mess! I have to drive slowly and look ahead for big dips and huge potholes. In the end it IS worth it. What a sight! There are lots of 100 foot “spires” on the sides of the gorge. They are “fossil fumaroles” where volcanic gases rose up through a layer of volcanic ash, cementing the ash into solid rock.

Pinnacles
Pinnacles

We arrive back at camp in time for a light lunch. We will relax and watch the couple across from us pack and repack their truck like busy little bees.

Dinner will be a one-skillet meal from leftovers a la Howard. Tomorrow we arrive in Ashland!

12 September — Lava Beds NM to Crater Lake NP

We wake up to another incredible morning red sun. The weather is lovely and we make coffee on our little Coleman stove on the picnic table. We took 2 short camping trips in July and August (Palomar Mountain and Idyllwild) and afterwards Howard said we wanted to get a one-burner stove to use outside of Diana. During these discussions I said: WHY? We have a 2 burner range in the galley. Why do we need another stove for outside?

Well, Howard was right! It is really nice to have a one-burner stove. It gets us outside to have coffee or eggs and bacon (yum) or even to make a side-dish for a BBQ dinner. I honestly did not think that one-burner stove would add such a new and nice dimension to our outdoor experience. I’ll say it again: Howard was right!!

We have an easy breakfast and break down camp. We are off to 2 caves that have pictographs. There is a .5-.75 mile walk from the parking area. Howard goes first (I stay with the dogs) because he is the photographer. (And maybe I’m lazy? Or actually my arthritic knees are a continual problem.) He comes back in record time! He’s caught the pictographs on “film”

Pictographs in Great Painted Cave
Pictographs in Great Painted Cave

and I’m anxious to see them. He suggests I take a 5 minute walk to see an incredible site where lava tubes collapsed. It was worth the walk!

Collapsed Lava Tube
Collapsed Lava Tube

As I make the walk I act exactly like Lucky. On his walks he stops every 5-10 steps and looks behind him. I guess he wants to make sure no predictor is following him. Well, I have the same spooky feeling! I guess I’m not as tough as I think I am!

The ranger on the way out of Lava Beds NM is very nice. We ask how we liked the park and what we did. He compliments the dogs. He left a lasting impression on us about people who care about our wilderness areas. The ranger gives us one last bit of advice when we tell him Crater Lake is our next destination: drive clockwise around the lake. Otherwise you will have the cliff drop-off (with no guard-rail) on your right as you drive around the lake. Thanks, Ranger!

So off to Crater Lake NP we go. We drive through Merril, OR, just over the border. We get gas because now I’m paranoid about filling up. I really want a burger and fries!! So much for my healthy eating commitment. We stop at a quintessential drive-up burger place. I should have ordered a milkshake with my burgers and fries but I guess there is a limit to my unhealthful eating.

We visited Crater Lake a year ago when we first stayed in Ashland for the Shakespeare Festival. On that trip we could not see the lake at all; fog completely obscured the view. So we are hopeful that this time we will enjoy and appreciate the grander of this incredible lake. Crater Lake is the deepest, purest lake in the US.

The Crater Lake campground is about a 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Lava Beds NM. We reach the south entrance to the NP but the campground is maybe 20 minutes further. The road follows a huge gorge; I cannot look down at it because it is too scary. Fortunately there is a good bit of distance between the road and the edge of the gorge.

We arrive at Mazama campground and find an electric hookup site (F26) and settle in about 2pm. It’s a nice campground but a little close to other campers. We set up the “dog pen” in the configuration that allows us entry into Diana directly. (If the sun is such that our awning won’t shield us from the sun, we set up in the shady part of the campsite.) I use the door screens because there are flies and bees here. Lucien wants to stay inside but later decides otherwise. So he uses his nose to undo the Velcro at the bottom of the screen on the door and slinks through the opening he’s created. Very ingenious!

One event always happens when we arrive at a new campground: Lucky humps Toby. We think sweet Lucky says to himself: I’m bored; I think I’ll hump Toby. Lucky is at least partially deaf. We have tried to imagine what sign language we would use to tell the little guy that humping is not good. So if you, readers, have any suggestions please pass them on to us.

Toby is getting much better about barking like a banshee when he sees people and dogs. But he still has his moments. Earlier in this trip he was especially bad and I threw him in his collapsible crate and zipped it up. I was startled to discover that I had thrown him in on top of Lucky! That little crate rocked back and worth several times and hopped up and down before I realized my error.

Our hamburger and fries lunch filled us up so we only have a liquid dinner. You know what I mean…

11 September — Lava Beds NM

We woke up about 7am to an incredibly red sun just coming up from the horizon. It stayed red for a long time. We suspect the unusual color is either from pollution or wildfire smoke. We have encountered visible and disturbing pollution in the 2 national parks we’ve visited this trip. But we’re not surprised because visible pollution has been evident in all our travels in the western US even in the wilderness.

After breakfast I ride my bike to Mushpot Cave; Howard stays with the dogs back at camp. It is an uphill ride and I am out of shape! I walk the last bit. Mushpot is the recommended introductory cave. It is lit and has interpretive signs showing cave formation, ecology and cave climate. It is 770ft deep. I’m the only one in the cave. I have to say that I wish I were not alone! It’s a little creepy and this cave is lit! I don’t think I am going to be comfortable alone in any of the other caves–they will be completely dark with only my flashlight to guide me.

The cave tour is less than 30 minutes and I have a fast bike ride downhill back to camp. Howard doesn’t seem any more enthusiastic about exploring dark caves than I do. I chat with a couple from Eugene, OR while I walk the dogs. They have just been to Crater Lake NP. I ask how far to the lake and it’s just 2.5 hours. So we decide to leave tomorrow morning for Crater Lake. On the way out of this park we can see 2 short caves with pictographs and stop at a petroglyph site on the edge of the park. Sounds like a great plan!

Howard just took off for his tour of Mushpot.

Mushpot Cave
Mushpot Cave

The dogs and I are ensconced in Diana. Even though it’s fairly hot outside, we have a nice breeze coming through the screened windows and doors. We’ve put up sun shades to limit the heat on the sun side of the vehicle–it’s amazing how comfortable it is. A few of those bad flies sneak through a couple of places where the screen velcro is loose but I have my trusty fly-swatter handy!

We’re having sausages for dinner. I think I’ll make potato salad and we’ll sautéed up some onions and bell peppers. That sounds good!

10 September — Lava Beds National Monument

It’s 3pm and we are enjoying a little snack under a big Juniper tree at Lava Beds National Monument. I think we got the best campsite (D27)–lots of shade and there is a nice breeze.

Lava Beds campsite
Lava Beds campsite

This place is way the hell out in nowhere. In fact we were shocked to see anyone else here although there aren’t a lot of other people. It is much warmer–about 80 degrees. And lots of flies!!!!! (I am sorry to find out later that they are biting flies!) But Diana is fully screened and we have these mosquito repellent devices (ThermaCell) that seem to keep most of the flies away from us too.

On our way here from Lassen we drove through a huge area that was devastated by wildfire. We suspect it was the most recent fire that was in the news so much a month or so ago. We did see in-tact homes in the midst of devastation. We did not see any partially burned structures; I hope there were none. It truly was a horrible sight. After that we drove through lots of farmland interspersed with high hills of evergreen trees. We occasionally saw other areas hit by fires.

We really had no idea what to expect of Lava Beds NM but there is a lot more here than we ever could have expected. There are over 700 caves that were formed by lava flows 10,500 to 65,000 years ago. We will probably only explore the caves rated “least challenging.” The ranger recommended 4 caves that are within 3 miles of the visitor center. The length of those caves ranges from 580 ft. to 3,280 ft. The longest one is highly developed (paved path and high ceilings) so it will not be as difficult as it sounds. It should be easy to do the “one at a time” exploration (one of us stays with the dogs while the other explores). We plan to be here 4 nights so there will be plenty of time to see the sites.

There are 14 species of bats that live and nest here. The visitor’s center screens and educates guests about white-nose syndrome. That is a disease killing bats across the world in large numbers. To think of a world without bats makes me start to itch–bats eat an incredible amount of insects including mosquitoes. The rangers ask you what other caves you’ve been in including caves in Europe. And then they want to make sure that you will not be wearing gear into these caves that you wore in other caves.

We stopped at a cute little town for provisions. The name of the town was Burney–we thought that was not a very good name in wildfire country! I found some great looking lamb chops so that’s our dinner tonight. We’ll also use up some leftover lentils in a salad with feta and cherry tomatoes.

9 September — Lassen Volcanic National Park

I just got back from a short walk to Summit Lake. Our campsite has a view of the lake.

View of Summit Lake
View of Summit Lake

When I took the dogs out for their morning “constitutional” I thought I heard geese but there were none to be found in the lake. We haven’t seen any water fowl–but we sure see and hear a lot of crows! I hate crows!

Actually the birds we see the most are Steller’s Jays. They are pretty noisy birds too. Several of them are keen to get at the dog’s food in the dog pen. One yesterday was a brave little guy. He got right up to the fence and poked his head through the slats to get at the food bowl. But the bowl was just a millimeter out of his reach. He tried several times and was probably mystified that he was unable to grab a morsel.

Our campsite was suggested in Sunset Magazine’s special camping issue as a particularly pretty site. We are right next to the neighboring campsite but it’s not too bad when you get further back in the site. The lake is a couple hundred feet away but we can still enjoy the sight of the water. The clouds yesterday were particularly beautiful. I told Howard that I think I’m a mountain lake person–maybe we should search for a place on a lake. We remembered how much we liked Spoon Lake, a place outside of Glacier National Park in Montana. We stayed at a little A-frame cabin there and it took a lot of effort to pry ourselves away from the lake to see the park

We were lazy on Sunday. Howard put up his hammock and we just sat around, enjoyed the views and read. We had hamburgers and salad for dinner. It does get chilly about 5 or so we head off to spend the evening reading in our comfy “living room” in Diana. I’m embarrassed to say what time we go to bed. Most people are just starting dinner as we are snuggling under our down comforter.

Yesterday we ventured to Manzanita Lake,

Manzanita Lake
Manzanita Lake

an easy 20 minute drive north. We gassed up–even though we were only down a quarter tank, I’m not taking any chances! And then there was laundry to do. Maybe I’m being a clean freak (I don’t think I am) but, between the dogs and us, we track in a lot of debris. The floor and throw rugs get awfully dirty and it drives me nuts. I need to find rugs that just don’t show the dirt and then I’d be fine.

While I was trying to get 3 loads of wash started before anyone else arrived at the laundry (there were only 4 machines and one was in use) a couple about our age asked about our RV. They had a Ford van that was not really set up as a camper; it only had a bed. I had to give them a tour of our Diana. They could not believe how much of a home can fit into such a small vehicle. The tour was completed and so was the laundry.

We enjoyed grilled scallops (from our little freezer) and quinoa salad for dinner.

So that was yesterday. Today we got up and took our time hitting the road. For breakfast I had a couple of hard-boiled eggs I needed to use. I also had some pre-cooked bacon. So bacon-deviled eggs it was! Not bad but I used too much bacon–if that can be possible.

We journeyed back to the park entrance to visit the visitor’s center. The hydrothermal features in Lassen are not as fantastic as those in Yellowstone but there are many incredible volcanic-related sights to see. I bought an informative booklet featuring a guided auto tour (using road-side posts) of the park. The Sulfur Works with its steaming fumaroles, hotpots

and brightly colored soils

Sulphur Works
Sulphur Works

and rocks; the sapphire blue Lake Helen; and King’s Creek were just a few interesting stops on the tour. “Bumpass Hell,” a roundtrip, 3 mile hike through a hydrothermal basin, was also on the tour but the 3 hour hike was too long for just one of us to go. (One of us needs to stay in the RV with the dogs.)

We arrived back at camp about 1:30 and had a snack of smoked fish (thanks to our neighbors), cheese, excellent grapes and potato chips (bad!). The wind really picked up and it was too cold even with our fleece jackets on to stay outside. So here we are reading, writing and relaxing in Diana.

Tonight is grilled chicken thighs, grilled potatoes and homemade pesto to spice those treats up. We leave for Lava Beds National Monument near the California/Oregon border tomorrow. It’s about a 3 hour drive.

 

7 September — Lassen Volcanic National Park

Our drive yesterday to Lassen was not bad at all. It was 3 1/2 hours to the entrance and then another half hour of slow switchbacks to the Summit Lake South campground. We arrived a day early and did not have a reservation for last night. We decided to stay at the same campground (site D-12) in which we have reservations for 09/07-09/10 (site D-10).

We get settled by 3pm and decide to have an early dinner. We open what turns out to be a terrible bottle of wine (purchased at a warehouse discount grocery store in Redbluff) and get started on a one-dish meal of sautéed chicken, corn pasta, tapenade, cherry tomatoes and jarred artichokes. Can you tell we were putting this together with what we had in the pantry?! It was delicious! The weather got a little windy and cold so we spent the rest of the evening in Diana.

6 September — Lassen Volcanic National Park

Here we are in Lassen NP. There’s a long story about how we got here a day early. The plans we made on 09/04 were not to be!

Our kitchen sink has been leaking. We asked our RV storage place to fix it before we picked Diana up for this trip. When I arrived to pick her up, they said they could not find a leak! How can that be when a huge puddle appears under the coach every time we drain the sink?! I was not happy to leave on our trip with the sink leaking but I couldn’t do much at that point. So, on our trip I was trying to not use the kitchen drain. I filled up a container to wash dishes and another container to rinse them. Then I would put the water down the bathroom sink. I did not want other campers to be concerned that our sewage was making that big puddle at our campsite.

On the morning of 09/05 before we were scheduled to leave for the Azalea campground in Sequoia, I washed the dishes and, as I started to throw the wash water down the bathroom sink, I decided it would be a better idea to put it down the toilet–we were going to dump the tanks that day and more soapy water in the black tank, I figured, would be a good idea. As I poured the water down the toilet I saw my dishcloth slop into the toilet and disappear down the drain!!!!!! Now, that is pretty much a disaster because our tanks do not empty by gravity flow; they empty using a macerator that grinds everything as it pumps out the tank. Anything like a dishcloth will plug up the macerator. I was in big trouble!

I rode my bike to the ranger kiosk and asked if there was an RV service/repair person we could call. No luck! I called the RV Park that we originally planned to stop before Lassen thinking we could stop there for a night or 2 and have someone come to the park to retrieve the dishcloth. They said they did not have anyone to come to the park but they gave me the number of a repair shop that does some RV repair. (All of these calls take place at the visitor center pay phone using MANY quarters; our cell phones did not have service here.) The man I spoke with at the repair place said I need a “black water tank specialist” and he knew just the man. Just at that point my time on the pay phone ran out! So I had to run get more quarters. As I was doing that he called the tank specialist and discovered he’d moved to AZ. He suggested that I look for a repair shop in Fresno, the city at the bottom of the mountain from the park.

So, with long faces, we packed up and headed down the hill. At the bottom we pulled off when we had cell reception and started searching the Internet for “RV tank specialists” with NO luck. Howard thought there might be a chance he could fish the cloth out of the tank if he had some bailing wire. He plugged in “hardware store” in the GPS and found an Ace Hardware within a mile of where we were at that moment. (We were in the town of Sanger just outside of Fresno.) As we made the turn on our way to Ace, I saw a sign that said “RV Service and Repair.” I actually could not see a building so I thought it was probably an old sign. But then we saw a driveway that looked to be the way to the RV shop.

With pleading eyes and lots of begging, Frank, the owner, said they could start right on it. So Howard and I and the dogs decamped to the unairconditioned office and crossed our fingers that they could do this. We watched “D,” the repair guy, carry all sorts of tools and materials out to Diana. The toilet gets removed; the vehicle is jacked up; Howard says there are a million flies in Diana–I HATE flies. After 3 hours they must have decided that desperate times call for desperate measures. They drove Diana to an adjacent dirt lot and apparently opened up the underside of the tank and dumped the whole mess on the ground!!!! And there was the dishcloth! (At one point about 2 hours into the work Howard asked me if I was sure a dishcloth went down the toilet–I had to think real hard on that question but I was sure it had.) We don’t care if they created a toxic waste dump; we were happy that it was done. It took a bit more time to put everything back together and 4 hours and $480 later, at 5 pm, we were on the road. We tipped “D” $50 because the poor man had to work in 100 degree heat and in a stinking mess.

It was 2 1/2 hours to the RV park so off we go. The park is in Lodi and is called the Mokelumme Beach RV Park. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely place? NOT! The beach is actually a dirt stretch on this pond that looks out to the homeless camp across the water. There are only 3 sites for visitors; all other sites are rented long term. It was an incredibly sad looking place right next to the freeway with LOTS of freeway noise. And it was only $35! (Note the tone of sarcasm.) But it served the purpose of getting us within 4 hours of Lassen and here we are!

That night when we were finally able to relax at the “beach resort” we enjoyed rosé champagne. Howard made a quick dinner of soft tacos using left over grilled turkey thighs, feta cheese, salsa, sour cream and arugula.

We take our time getting on the road this morning. I wash up the dishes and ask Howard to look to see if the sink is still leaking. They were supposed to fix the leak yesterday along with the tank problem. It’s still leaking! Oh well–the most important thing got fixed.

4 September — Sequoia National Park

Howard said Lucky was restless last night and so Howard did not sleep well but I did! We closed up Diana (that’s our rig’s name–Diana “Rigg”) and used the down comforter so Howard and I were cozy. The dogs, however, were not. I woke up about 5am and poor Toby was shivering. I hoped it was just the cold and not some sort of ailment but he calmed down after a time under the comforter. I need to remember to put on their cute little sweaters at night.

Sequoia with burn scars

We took a long walk yesterday about 3pm. The dogs had many admirers along the way. Our destination was the visitors’ center for suggestions for sights to see. The ranger said that the Giant Forest is not to be missed. That was the area we passed on the way up the hill–the place where my attention was not focused on the sights; it was focused on the gas gauge. So we plan to go today. The dogs are not permitted on the trails so one of us will take a hike while the other relaxes in Diana with the dogs.

Tonight is our last night scheduled in this campground. We have 2 more nights before our reservations in Lassen National Park. I had originally planned to stop halfway to Lassen at a full hookup RV site. The Sequoia NP website said there were no dumps here and we will need to empty our tanks and fill up on water. But there IS a dump site at this campground. So we have decided to spend tomorrow and the next day at a campground about an hour north of here. There are other spectacular Sequoia trees there. Then we will drive directly to Lassen–about a 7-8 hour drive. That’s longer than we like but I think it will be worth it to spend 2 more days in Sequoia.

We had a nice dinner last night. We finished off some delicious, leftover pasta (including lobster ravioli!) from our lunch out the day before we left. I made a cucumber salad and Howard grilled Asian-marinated beef skewers. Amazingly, we got the beef from Target and it was delicious.

3 September — Sequoia National Park

Greetings from Sequoia National Park! We arrived at Lodgepole Campground about 5pm yesterday after driving about 6.5 hours. I had not realized that the campground was an hour-long, hairpin curve drive from the entrance. And to make it an even more hair-raising journey, we arrived here running on gas fumes. The drive up the mountain took way more gas than I had anticipated. The nearest gas station is 22 miles from here and I don’t think we have enough gas to make it!

There are 2 options as we see it. We can call AAA or we can ask our neighbors to use the gas in their gas can and replace it when we fill up. Or maybe a third option–we can steal the gas while they’re sleeping! HA! I’ll talk to the neighbors later today.

Our campsite (#176) backs up to the forest and is quite scenic. It’s not really secluded but certainly more secluded then the sites in the interior of the campground. It’s quiet and peaceful. We had a nice, easy and delicious diner last night: crab-stuffed avocados.

There are many signs indicating that there is wildlife in the area. At the check-in kiosk there was a group reporting bear activity in the campground. They were eating at their picnic table and a bear approached them. Yikes! Our doggies might look tasty to the resident bears.

The bears won't find us here
The bears won’t find us here

We drove through forests of giant sequoia and past a cave on our way here but I hardly noticed since my eyes were glued to the gas gauge. Once we get gas we can spend time seeing the sights. Howard would like to get some dedicated photography time in.

The days, and especially the nights, leading up to our departure have not been calm. I guess we have been unsettled about leaving. We both have awakened at about 3am in the nights leading up to our departure and remain awake for hours. One night I had so many “to do” items marching through my brain that I got up 3 times to write them down. I suppose partly it’s because we will be gone 2 months but in large part it’s because we are leaving our niece, Patty, once again (the first time she was abandoned was this past spring when we spent 3 months in France). This is Patty’s last chance to get serious about school. If she gets any grade below a B or drops a class, the “Ducey Dorm” is closed. School started 2 weeks ago and she has had periods of intense study interspersed with too much job time. She is working 37 hours a week which is TOO MUCH. My pleas for her to cut down work time fall on deaf ears. I am tired of being a nag so I am happy that we have left. She will either sink or swim on her own.

So after many sleepless nights we enjoyed a wonderful, restful night here. It was a little colder than we thought it would be; we made the bed up with the blanket instead of the down comforter and left one of the back doors open. We were confused about the weather. When we checked the forecast prior to, leaving it said that we should expect temperatures of 100 and hotter! Now that we’re here we surmise those temperatures were for the park entrance; the campground is at 6,700 feet. It is much cooler here. I also think our new, memory-foam mattress topper aided in our restful sleep last night. It’s very cumbersome and it takes a lot of effort to make up and tear down the bed (and to store it during the day) but we both said it was much more comfortable than the mattress alone.

It’s 9am. We have enjoyed our morning coffee and some delicious yogurt with sweet nectarines and we are relaxing in the “dog pen.” The dogs have on their sweaters because all of them were shivering and they are now snuggled in their crates. The neighbor has been running his noisy generator for quite a long time now–what on earth could they need that for? Maybe it’s for the dishwasher. HA! I’ll tell him that in exchange for listening to his generator, he needs to loan us some gas!

Later: Our neighbor came through!! The gas station was a mere 22 miles but it took us 30 minutes. We NEVER would have made it on the little gas we had left. Thanks goodness for good Samaritans. We gave him a gift of a full gas can and some tasty snacks.

We had a delicious salad for lunch: greens, arugula, tomatoes, tuna, avocado, feta cheese, cucumbers and the grain Farro. The avocados I used last night and for lunch are “Nabal” avocados. They are about 3x the size of Hass avocados and they are incredibly yummy and buttery. Our resolution on this trip is to live a healthier lifestyle. Wish us luck! We have already started the increased activity part: our campsite has quite a hill to climb to reach the picnic table and the area where we’ve placed the dog pen. We must hike up that hill 20x a day. And the high elevation is evident!