Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Backroads Are the Only Ones that Get You Anywhere...

I prefer, truck or bike, to roll on the backroads. The little, two lane... or sometimes better the almost two lane tracks through the mountains...

*The road to McGee Creek Campground*

The cacophony and commotion is left behind and below... your senses can come alive. You hear the wind, smell the sage and the pines...

Once in a while you get an unexpected view of a  curious neighbor...

Backroads lead to the places most often not on the maps... Spots as yet undiscovered by the hoards of tourists rushing from attraction to attraction starred on their AAA trip itinerary.

The quiet and slow pace sinks into your spirit and that pressure in your chest recedes. You stand on a bluff above a lake... or along the bank of a creek deep in a desert canyon... and know... for sure and for certain that THIS is your home... THIS is where you belong...

...and if you're drug back into that cacophony from which you fled... your heart will wither and you shall surely die.

A short drive above us is a road that leads back into the Sierras and a small place called Convict Lake...

Now, this is one of those "middle ground" places. It's a place not quite unfound. The fishermen flock to it in pursuit of the Rainbow's and other treasures hidden in its depths...

But fishermen make little noise... they aren't jumping around to the beat of pounding rap racket... they stand quiet or move in slow rhythmical motions... in a way they generally contribute to the spirit of the places you find them.

Even their boats move slow and quiet, trolling the waters...

We walked the three miles and a bit along the trail that took us 'round the lake. From sage into tall pines, maybe a Sequoia or two? ... into Aspen and back into the sage... all nestled just below 8,000' in a glacial valley.

*Through the big trees at Convict Lake*

*Convict Lake*

The snow melt is still running. It comes in through the Aspens below the high peaks at the west end of the lake... the rushing of the water carries across the lake...

The stony beach there is a nice spot to sit on a log for a while and just soak up the high country sun.

The light on the mountain changes as you circle around, seeming to give you a fresh face every few steps. Care has to be taken that you don't lock your eyes on the glorious peaks around you and step blindly off the narrow track.

Up in Mammoth Lakes, as you leave the town there's a sign that to me is an echo of John Muirs words; "The mountains are calling and I must go." ... it says; "Going to the Mountains is going home."

*Convict Lake, California*

I remember Yogi Berra was once quoted; "When you arrive at a fork in the road... Take it."

*Take the fork...*

I'd advise that you listen to the man... it just might take you down some glorious Backroads...

... and home again to some soft sunsets...

Find your road... and follow it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Opening Day of Fishing Season on the California Lakes

We were a bit confused. We've been seeing fishermen dippin' their lines in just about every pothole and drainage ditch in California for the past month and more. But they've been talkin' for days that this weekend is the "Opening Day" of fishing season.

Heidi finally asked a gal at the Forest Service Visitor center up to Mammoth Lakes; "what's the deal".

I guess it's that those more southern waters are year round but these more Northern Lakes and streams are seasonal.

Well the quiet empty lake ain't so empty any more. There must have been two hundred boats, maybe more plyin' the waters of Lake Crowley in search of trout and whatever else is hiding in these waters yesterday morning.

You couldn't quite Walk across the lake on the boats as one guy boasted... but if you were a good jumper you might could have made it with dry feet. ;)

Dale rode up from Lone Pine and joined us here a few days ago... he's the drifting biker living on his Honda Nighthawk. You think ya'll ain't got enough to live on the road? He's free in the wind on less than $1000 bucks a month... I'm leavin' him a bit of privacy by keepin' his bearded visage un-published. ;)

Sure, he's living pretty austere, but he's figured a way to live that fits him and he had the cajones to reach out and grab it.

In the late morning yesterday he joined us for a partial circuit of the lake in the truck to get a different perspective of things 'round here. The "road" is one lane... if sage nearly scrapin' the doors is indeed a full lane. Here and there you have to slide off the side crunching the brush to let somebody goin' the other way pass by.

*Lake Crowley, California and the Sierras*

They started sneakin' in all around the lake late Thursday. There was even some skyrocket fireworks takin' off from the northern shore! :) By Saturday morning the passions of fishing season were on full display.

There's boats from lil' skiffs to one I saw that might look more likely in the bay at San Diego. There's folks on every accessible beach... and some even on the beaches that can really only be arrived at from the water...

From the other side of the lake you get a nice perspective of this camp we're set up in now as well... It maybe gives a clearer idea of the space a drifting boondocker can enjoy between the Mississippi and Big Sur...

That's our camp, just right of center below that "notch" in the high mountains... from a lil' bit different angle...

... One of the Fish Camps appears below us and you can see our camp... right above, and a touch left of where the snow capped peaks are shining off the lake... still can't see it? :) It does kind of start to makin' a guy feel a lil' bit insignificant to see how small he is in the whole scheme of things.

They had a fishing tournament running last weekend down at Lake Isabella, while we were down at Tuttle Campground in Lone Pine... This weekend the tournament schedule came up here. How'd you like to be one of the people draggin' a fish tagged to net you $10,000 buckeroos if you haul it out of the water! :)

I have to say it... in spite of the "Rap" that California gets 'cause of the politics of a "few" folks down to L.A. and San Diego... the people of eastern and northern California are a tee total different sort. They are no relation to the "Stereotype". Their voices just get drownded out by the weight of the population in the big towns.

The people we've met along the Eastern Sierras and in past trips through the north section of the state from Sacramento north are more akin to Wyoming and Montana natives than the picture that comes to mind when somebody says "California".

It's live and let live and mind your own affairs for the most part... and the country itself is some of the most gorgeous a fella could ever wish for.

*Road down to the Lake Crowley Dam in California*

That's maybe the best part of traveling into places you've not been in a while, or never been at all. It doesn't take goin' to foreign lands either. Right here at home in the U.S. or even Canada... Prejudices you may have picked up generally can't survive travel. Your eyes get opened by the realities of the world you wander through.

You'll discover that the "News" you hear on the propaganda box is material best applied to your garden to provide plenty of proper fertilizer. Yup... if it's a talking head on the tube... or a politiking Statesman WANNABE... what they're spouting at you is 'bout 1% truth (so they can point at it for credibility) and 99% unadulterated Bull Feces.

The best people to listen to are the handymen in Lone Pine, the carpenters outside of Missoula, the rancher near Sheridan, the fisherman on a boat from Anacortes, the trucker at a rest stop east of Wilcox... The PEOPLE that live each and every day just trying to live their lives...

That's the very BEST part of this life I am now blessed with. I can see what FREEDOM looks like, un-tarnished by the stench of never ending loads of bull feces from wannabe's  and their enslaved followers.

~ Pack Your Bags
~ Wander
~ Shake the Dust of Prejudice Off Your Boots

Friday, April 26, 2013

Stretching the Boundaries of "Staying in Camp"

After a camp moving day and two days of motorized tourista scouting of the "new" local area 'round our Crowley Lake camp, we thought we should spend a day in camp getting some work done.

Now, lazy as I am that don't mean I just sit in camp building up fat for the coming winter. Staying In Camp doesn't really mean we outlaw stepping across the camp boundaries... Only that we leave the rigs parked.

I've also found that my word stringing is improved if I get out and get the blood pumpin' once in a while...

There's a road that takes off behind the camp toward the mountain. Heidi and the dogs had walked it a short ways, so we took off for a morning walk to explore it a bit farther.

I'm one of that sort that says; "Well, since we're this far might as well look 'round that next bend."

Now... for those of you who think I'm just the genuine infallible western hero... take a look at these two pics and see if you can spot my lil' photographic OOPS!

Either I've one leg shorter than the other... or there was a big ol' earthquake between shots that I missed! ;)

What can I say? I like both pics... but  finding ONE of those Mountains is gonna be a tough chore! :)

We got I'd guess maybe a mile and a half above camp and I look up and there's a saddle on the ridge to the north... It was so close, and the wonder of what it looked like... just over that ridge pulled me up. Sound familiar? :)

Heidi says; "I'll wait for you down here. Or I won't. If I'm not here when you come down... I went back."

The sage is thick... and that brush with the pink flowers is pretty thorny so it all worked to dampen her ambition for bushwhackin'.

But brush don't bully me none! I got up into that saddle, with a lil' bit of wheezin'... and then, as long as I'm this far might as well climb up on that knob to the west... right?! ;)

*The slope doesn't look so steep from below*

...and since I'm here... that next knob ain't that far either... So... I ended up climbing that first lil' knob that makes the left shoulder of the saddle... and then the next one to the left of that...

*Mountain Valley Behind Crowley Lake Campground*

Which gave me the views that nobody down below is ever gonna see! That is the payoff for the effort. :)

The good part of such a hike is that once you push up to the top... the hard part is behind you. It's all down hill from there! ;)

On the way back I looked over my shoulder and spotted this zoomy...

 Don't see him? Look up in the top left corner...

Some sort of a para soaring setup I don't believe I've ever seen before. I don't know if he jumped off a mountain or got dumped out of an airplane. Just as we spotted the outfit, he caught a thermal and woosh! He must have climbed 500 feet. Pretty cool!

But, as always, all good things must one day end... so I hoofed it back to where herself and the dogs found a comfortable rock to wait out my exploration, and then on to camp where I spent the rest of the afternoon punching buttons, trying to catch up with all the "improvements" the various software outfits keep dumping on us slow learners... but I gotta do what I gotta do to make a living right? ;)

Cost of the day; Breakfast - $1.50, Lunch $2.00, Supper $2.00, camp fee $2.50... Hike ZERO dollars. Suh-Wheet!

Living high wide and handsome don't have to cost much!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mud Season Has Its +'s and -'s

We tend to swing by the High Traffic tourista meccas... the more crowded National Parks and such in the "shoulder" seasons... between the big rushes.

That allows us to see the place in a more relaxed fashion... not getting pushed off the sidewalk by a bunch of "furriners" payin' no attention to where they're goin'... and they wanna talk about the Ugly American?

Ha! We got no corner on THAT market. People in crowds have the etiquette of hogs at the trough; and it don't matter, not one lil' bit if they come from China, France... or America.

So the benefit is a lot more serene opportunity to actually see a tourist spot without acquiring any fresh bruises and psychological infections.

Buuuut there's trade offs...

Like, yesterday we rolled back into Mammoth lakes to let her do a lil' window walkin', toursita shoppin' and to also find a place for a B-day meal for herself. Wanna know how many shops and eateries Aren't open in the mud season in Mammoth Lakes? ... Most of 'em! :)

*Wire and Steel Bear sculpture at Mammoth Lakes*
 It's pretty pleasant just the same. You can stroll through Mammoth Village in the sunshine without the hassle of crowds and such. Enjoy the art and feel of the place...

... and since the shops aren't open you have no worries about doin' something dumb that you can't afford! :)

The place she finally picked wasn't open for lunch so we had to let our bellies rub on our backbones till 4 O'clock... which gave us plenty of time to wander around and find all the other shops that weren't open. ;)

While we were doin' that we made the short lil' drive up to Mammoth Mountain ski area, and watched the skiers doin' their thing on the last of winters snow...

The first thing you see is a critter you don't expect to find high in the sierra snow...

How'd you like to be out for a Sunday stroll with your poodle and find that sucker comin' around the mountain?

We found another couple of likely restaurants up there... 'course, they weren't open either... 

Then we checked on the penalty to ride their gondola and discovered it costs a drifter $25 bucks! I guess we got spoiled by the "public transportation" for nada gondola in Telluride. ;)

Soooo we just watched the people payin' to slide down the mountain...

I guess to each his own. Today they had purt near the whole mountain to themselves. But when I've seen slopes before, it looks like the mall on skis... a couple of hundred folks, payin' a hundred bucks a day give or take, to get hauled up the mountain on a rope or a lounge chair suspended from a cable...

Just so they can come a bouncin' an' bumpin' down the hill tryin' to avoid each other and trees, so they can turn around and go up to do it again. ;)

The fun was watchin' the snow boarder guys tryin' to impress the gals with their daring do...

Whhhhhhheeeeeee.... SPLAT! ;)

I'd say 'bout half of 'em landed... well... All of 'em landed... Just, half of the Landings were a crumpled body with a multi colored board stickin' out! :)

They've got one of those 1/2 pipe setups too... I'd guess more than 1/2 of those jumpers were making KERSPLATT! sounds...

Though I was too far away to hear the "Landing"...

Anybody know what sound a body makes when it lands on the hard packed frozen snow from 12 or 18 feet in the sky?

Is it KERSPLATT! ??? or kerWHUMP! ??? I wonder if any of that is prefixed by a mumbled; "Aw Crap!" ;)

Truthfully though, I was impressed that any of 'em could even concentrate enough to do their flips and tumbles in amongst the confusion of other skiers, gondolas and lifts! The distractions would have me makin' sounds ain't nobody ever heard before if I was foolish enough to strap a 2X12 to my feet and jump off the side of a mountain!

A bit later we wandered over through the main lodge. I especially like some of the architecture/details of the interior of the Lodge up at Mammoth Mountain. The rock work, lamps and such give it a really comfortable feel...

... For what I expect you have to fork out to live there for a night... it better! ;)

We sat by the fireplace with a hot chocolate while herself built a postcard to the grandkids...

Back down in town, though the snow is hangin' on under the trees, spring is workin' hard to come along...

To use up some more of the afternoon waiting on her choice of eateries, the Smokeyard BBQ, to open up we made the short run out as far as another road would allow... to another Lodge out in the direction of Lake Mary.

Of course, the restaurant at this place wasn't open on on Tues/Wed for the next three weeks... which was a bummer 'cause it looked really good to us... :(

Aw well... maybe if we stay in camp a lil' more and don't burn a lot of fuel... we can treat ourselves to another meal out... even if it ain't somebody's birthday!

Workin' hard at not workin' hard...