After a lovely three-day drive down through Oregon, Nevada and California, we landed in Death Valley National Park, the first destination of this year’s travels.
Despite its reputation for inhospitality, Death Valley is an unbelievably interesting place to stay, especially in the spring, before the high heat of the summer arrives. The main basin is at or below sea level, but it is surrounded by multiple mountain valleys and dunes, with plenty of wildlife (and wildflowers at the right time of year), beautiful vistas and more. Like many of the larger national parks, it’s just about impossible to see the whole thing in one extended visit. Continue reading →
As I write this, the rising sun is just touching the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevadas to my west. We’re in Washoe Lake State Park, a lovely campground between Reno and Carson City, having our morning coffee and leisurely preparing to head down towards Mono Lake, on our way to tonight’s camp in Bishop, California. Our 2017 adventure has commenced, quite beautifully.
Two days ago, in the midst of yet another Portland rainstorm, we turned in our house keys, left the majority of our belongings in storage, loaded the Escape 19 and headed out on the road. The Escape will be our home for the next few months, and our first stop is the desert: Death Valley.
Our first day’s drive—through the middle of Oregon, down past Klamath Falls and into California—was an attempt to run away from the unrelenting gloominess that has been the hallmark of this year’s winter in Portland. Normally, Northwest winters don’t get me too bothered, but this one did. After a bunch of snow and ice in December and January, we had a spate of heavy rains and gray skies that ran headlong into March. Susan and I were each ready to leave the Pacific Northwest behind us for now and head south.
Tuesday’s weather turned quite nice towards the end of the day’s drive: as we crossed into California, the skies opened for good, and we ended the day with a lovely sunset at the pretty little RV park we found in Tionesta. That night we drank some great vintage champagne (Fleury 1990) saved for the occasion, and had an amazing steak dinner cooked out on the grill. We slept in a bit, and enjoyed a quiet morning before heading back out on the road (to keep ahead of the rain, which was still headed our way).
On Wednesday, we headed through the mountains towards Reno, with the skies finally clearing of any potential rain. The trip was quiet and uneventful, at least until that point late in the day when a very nice couple drove us by on the highway, frantically gesturing that our awning had deployed. (Deploying while driving = VERY BAD!) We pulled over quickly, and, after a few frantic minutes, were able to return the awning to its closed position with only a few scrapes (and a few unfortunate, but hopefully minor, rips in the awning).
We’ve heard of this happening to others, and as bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse: the awning’s bars didn’t bend or break and the rips are small. We’re not quite sure how it happened; we have a few theories, but to be sure, we’ve strapped the awning bars to the trailer and have added an extra set of items to our pre-drive checklist in the morning, making sure that all the awning parts are locked down.
We have two days of driving to go before we get to Death Valley, and the weather forecast is nothing but sun and warmth. Our friend Hudson Henry is going to stop by for a few days after his climb of Mt. Whitney nearby, which should be fun. We’re expecting to spend about a week in the area before heading south to the desert around Anza Borrego, an area we visited briefly last year and put on our ‘return’ list.
The Escape and the FJ are packed to the gills—there are five cases of wine in the storage compartment underneath the bed, and a freezer full of awesome meat from Lonely Lane Farms, of Mt. Angel, Oregon—and we’re quite ready to be out on the road for a while. We’re loving the new trailer (except for the unexpectedly deploying awning bit), especially the larger fridge and freezer, queen bed and solar hook-ups.
We have a loose itinerary this spring. We’ll stick to the deserts of the Southwest and Utah through April, hoping to spend at least another week in the Moab area. After that, we’re going to work our way to Minnesota, where we’ll park the camper for a bit, visiting with family there. We have a (flying, not RVing) trip to Ithaca in late May, and after we return to Minnesota in June, we’ll figure out where the rest of our trip will take us.
We won’t be taking the Escape further east (to the dismay of our relatives, we know); the idea of driving the trailer in the dense East Coast just unnerves us right now. Plus, we need to head back west, to find our next home. We’re not sure about where that will be; Portland has lost a lot of its appeal to Susan and me, and, if my book publishing work pans out, we can live pretty much anywhere. We have a few ideas, but I’ll wait to talk about them until we’re closer to making a decision.
We’ll post again after our time in Death Valley; I’m not expecting much connectivity during our stay there.
Today is our last day at Lake Cahuilla. After two weeks in one place, we are ready to move on. Yesterday, we cleaned up camp, washed the trailer, did laundry, and reprovisioned supplies in preparation to head up to Joshua Tree.
Our time here has been fun. We’ve gotten a chance to see how we do in close quarters for an extended time (pretty good, we both say), met some great people, and had a whole lot of good time with Eric and Diane, Susan’s brother and sister-in-law. We have had a lot of laughter, expeditions into the desert and great meals with them over the past two weeks, and they’ve given us a few ideas of where to go in our travels.