Our first chance to have a "Winter Break" Vanagon Vacation together in over six years! Lolli was busy taking care of her mom and that put winter vacations on the back burner for a while but now, once again, we are heading for the Vast Wilderness. The "plan" is to go to Death Valley and if the weather doesn't cooperate we will head on down to Joshua Tree or even Anza Borrego. Whatever it takes. We'll see.
December 16th, a Monday and we are out of Fort Bragg by 10:20 and in no time are stopping for a pee break at a park looking out over Clearlake. Perfect weather!
We are happy. You can see the Vanagon has a load of firewood in the overhead rack.
Evening coming on in the Central Valley as we hammer down Interstate 5.
We have our secret camping spot near Firebaugh Road and check to see if it is still accessible.
Morning and the setting moon. Our secret spot is far enough from the Interstate that we have a peaceful, quite night.
Breakfast at a Subway and then back at it.
Hours and hours driving south on Interstate 5 to the Arvin turn-off just south of Bakersfield. I prefer to take the Arvin exit so I can avoid the stop and go through Bakersfield.
Arvin is a bit different but..,
It has an Internet cafe!!
And it has a Dollar Tree which is perfect for those last minute items.
Leaving Arvin we drove past vast Orange Groves and did a quick check to see if they were any good.
Oh Man! This is how real Oranges are supposed to taste!!
And then to the serious business of driving towards, up, and over the Tehachapi Mountains!
Down the other side to the town of Mojave and a few miles beyond to see if Sarah's dog bowl was still there. Yep! We drove right to it! This is where we buried our good old traveling dog and left her dish as a marker.
Amazingly, Lolli found dog ball twenty feet away and we put it in the dog dish!
Onward to Barstow and a final, really final, shopping visit to Von"s'
Out of Barstow on Interstate 15 hammering north with all the gamblers and tour buses heading towards Las Vegas but, when we reached the town of Baker it was time to start our disappearing act!
First a stop at the Mad Greek for "take out dinner" and then north towards Tecoupa. We knew that about twenty miles north of Baker there is a dry lake bed and it would be perfect for our second night.
Pushing the exposure but yep, Dry Lake Bed and rising moon.
Morning and we can see where we really are!
Pack up and on to Tecoupa to take showers and enjoy the hot springs. Perfect!
Then into Shoshone for gas. Not so perfect! I also check the wi-fi at the Shoshone Museum. It turns out to be "dial up" and useless. I step out of the Museum to call my brother and there is no cell signal! We are now leaving minimal civilization and heading to one of our favorite camping spots in the Vast Wilderness near the Ibex Dunes.
First we need to do the required washboard wilderness driving.
And, the crossing of the Amargosa River.
Finally, our camping spot looking out over the Ibex Dunes.
Interesting clouds form in the evening.
Followed by a wild sunset!!
Followed by a Lolli dinner in the Vanagon!
Morning sunrise. Our camp setup; table, chairs, solar panel and Shady Boy awning.
Also the portable shitter. We're gettin' old ya know. Not as easy to squat as it usta be.
I wander off a ways to see how we look. Perfect!!
Out with the Petanque bouls for a game of what I call "Kandahar" Petanque. Amongst the rocks, sand and sagebrush!!
Truth be told, all together, during this trip, we played ten games and tied!! 5-5
Unbelievable but..., a mosquito!! Neither of us ever actually got bit but we could hear them buzzing near our ears when we were trying to sleep. We slept with the slider door open to the wonderful night air. Turned out to be 40 degrees at night and 70 during the day. Day after day after day!!!
Each day we would do a two hour walk-about. This time heading over to the Ibex Dunes. The Dunes are in a protected Wilderness area and there are no motorcycles, dune buggies, horses or even bicycles allowed. Just foot prints. Our own.
And the foot prints of a... beetle?
Back to camp for the evening and the chrismess present my brudder sent me; solar powered chrismess lights which I have in a small box. There are no trees or significant bushes to hang them on!!
After four days and seeing two people it is time to move on. We stop by Saratoga Springs and then rattle out to the highway and up to Tecoupa Hot Springs to freshen up.
Then a quick trip over to Pahrump, Nevada to buy some groceries and gas. Then a hasty retreat to the Vast Wilderness again. This time up over Salsbury Pass and down to McGirk's cabin by Rhoades Spring.
By night fall we are set up and the chrismess lights are strung up again.
We discover someone has laid out a seven hole putting range and left a putter, a six iron and a dozen golf balls! We play a round but we both agree our game is Petanque!
Petanque, reading, and hiking around. That be us!!
Here's a few photos from inside McGirk's Cabin.
The refrigerator is to store stuff you don't want pack rats hauling away!
The inside of the front door! This cabin has been here since the early 1900's.
We prefer camping in our Vanagon.
Out for another walk-about. This is a hand dug well I first happened upon in 2005. It is still there, of course!
I took a photo of our camp spot by McGirk's using full zoom.
And this one with no zoom. The Vanagon is about one and a half miles away!
We did see cacti.
Some kind of flower blooming in the dead of winter!!
Christmas Eve. Evening fire in the fire pit up by the cabin.
It is amazing how the desert seems to hold its breath just before first light.
Christmas Day! Awesome weather.
It is time to do my ride from McGirk's turn-off to Badwater, the lowest point in the United States!
And, away I go! It is eight miles of down, averaging 25 mph before I come to the rise up to Jubilee Pass. That slows me down!
But once that is taken care of it is down, down, down into Death Valley.
Lolli drives the "Sag Wagon" ahead in five mile increments and reads a book or writes postcards waiting for me to show up and take a break.
This is at the end of the 6th, five mile segment!
It is always a treat to see Lolli and the Sag Wagon!
Finally, Badwater and, Holy Smokes!! Gobs and gobs of people!! They are even standing in line for the restrooms!!
It is such a shock after seeing only three people, momentarily, over the course of eight days!
We have decided we have had enough. Hard to believe I actually said that but..., we have decided to get home before New Years. Lolli has things to do to get ready for her upcoming class and I can do nutting at home as well as I can in the desert! So, onward.
We spent our one and only night in an "official" campground at Panamint Springs Resort.
Then on to Lone Pine on Hwy 395.
Found an internet cafe and caught up with my brudder. Lone Pine is where a lot of westerns were filmed and a poster of Tonto and the Lone Ranger was on the wall.
Also, there is a most excellent Hardware Store in Lone Pine. The clerk said "If there is any breathing room it is time to restock"!! Sweet!
Onward into the hills by Mono Lake and, dare I say it..., snow!!
We took HWY 50 over the Sierra and meet the crowd heading for Tahoe and Reno. Friday evening ya know!!
Another awesome sunset and soon we found a stealth camp off the highway just a couple of miles beyond Strawberry Lodge.
In the morning we returned to the Lodge for Breakfast and by 4:00 in the afternoon we were home in Fort Bragg.
A most excellent trip! Our next event? Spring Break in late April!