Monday, October 8, 2018

Eastern Sierra Fall Foliage 2018

It is that time of year for the colors of fall leaves. Yes, we do have fall foliage here in California.  We just have to travel to see it. Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierra Nevadas offers many places to camp and take in the colors of fall. Veronica and I headed out on Monday 10-8-18 traveling through Yosemite National Park. Even on a Monday in October you will find traffic driving across Tioga Pass in Yosemite and the park enforces a 25 to 45 MPH speed limit. But this is a drive to be enjoyed. Leaving the parks east entrance at 9943 feet we see some of the first aspens of the trip. Surprisingly still a lot of green even at this elevation.

You drop almost 3,000 feet to Hwy 395 and lunch at the Whoa Nelle Deli. We have stopped here many times and will continue to, the food at the gas station is just so good.  They did not have our favorite Mushroom Sherry soup so the Ceaser Salad with Strip Steak will have to do. You really need to stop and try this.

I wanted something lighter so I tried the Chicken Salad, good but the steak is better.  After lunch, we had a short drive to our campground for our first night, Gull Lake on the June Lake loop.  Normally the June Lake loop would have a fine show of yellow aspens on both sides of the road. Today they were green and the color was only seen far up the mountains.  We turned into Gull Lake Campground and found all the lakefront sites were taken and all open sites backed up to the main highway. Back to plan B and on to the June Lake Campground. Here we found a nice site and set up for the night. 

After we set up our camp it was time for a walk. The Village of June Lake was close and we headed out. Shops offered fishing tackle now and were changing over to snow skis and winter gear. Veronica spotted a pottery shop off the main road.
Horseshoe Canyon Gallery was fun to visit and the potter Kenny Willingham gave us a great tour. Veronica did find a bowl to bring home.  Nice to meet and talk with the artist who made the bowl. We walked down the hill and by the lake as we headed back to our camper. The camp host told us it was 21 degree in the morning so we knew our heater would be running the following morning.

After our walk, we enjoyed the afternoon sitting out until dark. Reading our Ipads and listening to NPR on the radio.

Dinner was a sandwich and chili we purchased at the Whoa Nelle Deli. Hit the spot on a cool evening. Normally I leave the heater programmed to come on at 6:00 AM and warm the camper to 70 degrees when we get up. I asked should we leave the heater off and sleep in. Veronica said yes we should sleep in. Nature call at 4:00 AM and I get up. How damn cold is it? A quick look at the indoor/outdoor thermometer and I find it is 33 degrees inside. When on the heater will keep the camper at 45 degrees overnight and I turned it on before returning to bed.

The next morning we found frost and ice outside. We were warm and toasty inside our camper. We had our normal camping breakfast, coffee,  homemade muffin, yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg.  We planned our day and headed for Mammoth Mountain.  It had been over 20 years since we went into the city of Mammoth Mountain, what a change. Found a Starbucks for coffee and to use their wifi.  We also stopped at the NFS information center and picked up information on the area and asked where to drive and see the fall colors in the area. We were told to drive Sherwin Creek Road.  Nice drive on a dirt and gravel road near the base of the mountains. Still not a lot of color, we were a week early.

Sign on the gate said NO CAMPING!     I just don't like LADWP. 

After Mammoth Mountain, we headed up Rock Creek Canyon. This was a new area for us and had some great color as we got higher up the canyon.

Rock Creek gave us our first good color of the trip bright and dark yellow with touches of red.

Rock Creek's parking area was 10,240 feet elevation and this is before we started to hike.  We decided to hike to the closest of the lake. Later we found out we could have gone just a little farther and seen several more lakes. Well, that will be our next trip.

We did find snow on the trail in several places. There was a storm 3 days before and the night time temps are in the teens at this elevation. 

My iPhone showed 10,410 feet as the highest we reached on our hike.  Thank you 24-hour fitness and Silver Sneakers.

When we got back to our camper we popped the top and made lunch. Had several people stop by and ask about our camper. Always glad to give a tour and pass out my travel card.  One gentleman said he played at the Wawona Hotel and to stop by if we are ever over there. He also said he was going to Woodland to check out FWC and Sacramento to see ATC.  We parked next to an FWC Hawk and there was an FWC Gramby and another Hawk parked not far away. Popup campers are showing up everywhere.

We headed back to Hwy 395 and followed the directions on the Mono County Fall Color Map.  It showed a Lower Rock Creek Road just down Hwy 395. We took the turn and found many aspens by the creek. All were still green. But the road was fantastic, smooth turn after turn. Will have to take this road the next time I am up here on my motorcycle. Lower Rock Creek dropped into the town of Paradise.  I did not know there were two towns named Paradise in Californa. Back on 395 we headed to Bishop for a gas stop and to look around. Eric Schats Bakery is always crowded. Tuesday was no exception, this place makes so much bread it is hard to believe they sell all of it in Bishop. We got some goodies for dessert later and headed for our next campground Convict Lake.

We have been to Convict Lake before but have never camped there. We also had not dined at The Resturant at Convict Lake. Several people have told us about it, all said we should eat there. Also, we were told to get a reservation.

We found a site near the bridge that crosses a creek to the restaurant.

Time for a little relaxation. Used to carry a book to read now we download from Prime or the local library.  Have to say it does work well.  The picture on the left me perfecting my relaxation.

Veronica reading and relaxing. We are getting good at this retirement stuff.

We did a walk by the lake before dinner. There was a wedding on the shore you can just see in the picture. This was on a Tuesday afternoon with around 40 people. Must have been a special place for the wedding couple. 

Dinner at the Resturant at Convict Lake did not disappoint. We both had the 1/2 Ceaser Salad and the fresh Trout.

The trout was a generous portion and may be the best trout I have ever had in a restaurant. Excellent service and we did not have a long wait even with the wedding party having dinner at the same time.  A solid 4-star white tablecloth restaurant at a campground. Be sure to stop if you are in the area.

After dinner, we headed back to our camper and dessert from Eric Schats Bakery.  Chilly walk back so we did turn the heater for the night. Made a big difference keeping the camper at 45 degrees and the heater coming on in the morning.

Coffee is a necessity in the morning when camping. Susan Noack, a good friend who I worked with for 30 years gave me her aunts vintage Revere Wear coffee pot. We use it every morning camping and think of Susan every time we do.  We had planned to spend the night at Lundy Lake. Listening to the weather radio we found there was a small storm front coming through overnight. Rain lower and snow where we would be camping. A decision was made to have a long day and be home tonight. We again used the Mono County information to plan the day. Back Road tours of Mono County showed Dunderberg Road off of Virginia Lakes Road. We would do this drive after Lundy Lake.  First, we wanted to go back to Convict Lake for the morning sun.

We found the lake still and giving us a reflection of the mountains and aspens. 

As we left Convict Lake we decided to take a drive around the cabins they rent. We were treated to a family of deer walking around. They looked to be locals who knew where to find food. Not frightened by our truck at all.
Goodbye Convict Lake we will be back. 

Our next stop would be Lundy Canyon and Lundy Lake. First, we did another stop at the Mammoth Lakes Starbucks.  Good coffee and free wifi to catch up with our email.

Lundy Canyon was a new spot for us to check out. We had planned to spend the night before the change in the weather report.

The drive up Lundy Canyon was a nice paved road with aspen trees on the sides. At the Lundy Lake Campground, the road turned to gravel for the last 1 1/2 miles to the trailhead. Not much parking at the trailhead just small spots between trees.

Our goal on the hike was the overlook of the Lundy Creek Falls. This hike was just under a mile.

Our selfie overlooking the Lundy Creek Falls.

As we were taking in the scenery there was a young lady walking up the trail. We visited for a short time, she came from the San Francisco Bay Area and was spending the week looking at the colors. I gave her one of my travel cards and asked if I could take her picture. I told her I would include her in my trip report.

The walk down was just breathtaking. Aspens from side to side in the canyon. Lundy Canyon may be the best color of our trip.  Next time we will camp and walk farther up the canyon and over the crest. We were told there is a big grove of aspens just over the top. Not enough time this trip.
I did a short video showing the trail and view walking down Lundy Canyon. You can see the marsh area below.

Veronica taking pictures from the marsh area below the falls.

Our next stop was Virginia Lakes Road. We did this road two years ago and found the great color we were looking for.

This year we found most trees past their peak. Many with their leaves stripped from the wind.

The Back Road tours of Mono County showed Dunderberg Road off of Virginia Lakes Road as a good drive. This was our next stop, just a short drive down from Virginia Lake to the turnoff.

The road ran through the middle of several aspen groves. Unfortunately, most of the leaves were gone.

This area must have been at its peak two weeks ago. If we would have been earlier the view would have been fantastic.

As we drove down the hill toward Hwy 395 we could see several aspen groves some near peak to past peak.

After we got back to Hwy 395 we head north to Sonora Pass and home.  Clouds are getting thicker and dark, rain cannot be far away. 
We took Sonora Pass so Veronica could see the damage caused by the Donnel Fire. This is all that is left of the Dardanelle Resort. I took this picture on an earlier motorcycle trip. The NFS now has no parking and keep out signs everywhere. Sad to see all the loss. 

Our last stop in the Sierras was the Donnell Lake Vista. From here you can see where the Donnell Fire started in the picture below.

As we dropped in elevation the sky opened up and the rain started. This made us feel better about cutting our trip a day short. We were about a week early to hit the peak color in most areas. Some of the higher areas that were open to the wind were already stripped. We hope next year will be better and we will return.  Our next trip should be Death Valley in the winter.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Swiss Alps motorcycle Tour September 2017 - Part Four.

Thursday 9/14/17

Part four - final report.

Got on the road at 9:00 AM  weather report shows a storm coming in where we are headed.   Slight breeze as we leave, not as cold as yesterday.  We had a fine time in St Moritz but it is time to head north to Stein am Rhein. 

Up and over Julierpass, seems to be a shorter ride leaving St Mortiz. Much warmer than when we came in two days ago. Still hitting the stops at the constructions zones. 

The sun is breaking through lighting the green valleys.  The trucks and buses were still using all the
road as we went over the pass. Warm enough when we reached the village you see in the picture, we needed to pull over to take off our jacket liners. Stopping for constructions again so no time was lost. There are
still dark clouds but the sky was clearing. Hope the weatherman is wrong on the weather up north. 

Because of the distance and weather we will be taking Hwy 13 north that runs along the boarder with Liechtenstein.  As we got near Liechtenstein  the wind came up. The strongest wind in the 50 years I have ridden.  Trucks were pulling off the road, wind speed may have been 50 MPH+    Wind was swirling like a small tornado stripping leaves from green trees, we watched the leaves swirl in front of us as we ride on.  I slowed way up and took the next exit to get some shelter. I did a screen shot of the wind at lunch (red dot in the picture). We drove through a border, I thought we were in Liechtenstein. Found a small Pizza restaurant and stopped for lunch. We both had soup for lunch which was good and just what we needed in the wind. When it was time to pay I found out we were in Austria, needed Euros to pay and we only had Swiss Francs. The proprietor took a 20 CHF note. His elderly father seem concerned that we were going to ride into the storm, he followed us out and watched us leave.  We had stopped for close to an hour and the wind had died down. Just a few miles up the road the rain started.  We then rode over two hours in heavy rain. After about a half hour  of the rain it got cold and we had to stop and put the liners back in our jackets.  I pulled over to a rest area without any shelter and put our liners on in the rain. Veronica is a real trouper to ride with me in this weather. 

Still raining when we got to our AirB&B in Stein am Rhein. Found the room key and got out of our riding gear.  Only our gloves were wet, jackets and pants did their job. I would not want to think how cold we would have been without the riding gear.  Heat was off at the Air B&B so we found a coffee shop to warm up.

When we got back we met our host and asked about some place for dinner she recommended a fish place on the water.  The wind was blowing but not as hard as earlier. The good news is the sky was clearing.  

The fish was very good.  Veronica had her's with noodles and I had the rice.  This was going to be an early night we are both tired from today's weather. 

The restaurant was right on the Rhein River. We had a great view as the sun set. 

Friday 9/15/17

Last day on the bike. Got up early and went out for coffee and yogurt.   Had to walk around to find a place open early. Found a small bake shop with the classic Swiss mix of yogurt, muesli and berries.  Just what we wanted for our last breakfast before heading back to Basel.

In 2004 Stein am Rhein reminded us of Disneyland. We passed many of the same buildings on our way to breakfast that we saw in 2004.   

The Swiss have flowers everywhere. Flower boxes in windows are the norm. 

After breakfast we walked down to the river. The skies were blue and it was just a fine morning for a walk. 

A light fog was rising off the river making for a picture perfect morning. 

The Rhein is almost crystal clear. Look close and you can see the fish in this picture. 

Like most towns in Switzerland there were fountains with Crystal clear drinking water. Great place to fill your water bottle.  

Our host suggested going to the castle on the hill. You can just see it over the building in the picture on the left. Going to make a quick run up there before loading the bike. 

We walked around the castle, still amazed that buildings as old as this are still standing. The trees around the castle were over grown blocking the views below. 

We did stop part way down the road where we could get a clear view of Stein am Rhein below.

Veronica and I came to Stein am Rhein in 2004. Happy to see it is still a nice small town and has not got commercialized. It is time to pack up and head to our next destination the Rhein Falls. We also visited the falls in 2004.

This has turned into a beautiful day to ride, some of the best weather of the trip.  The GPS (Gravel Pointing System) still had one more surprise left for us. The GPS took us down a gravel bike path to get to the falls. When it turned to a single track we turned around. Took avoid highways off the GPS and all was good.    

Unlike Stein am Rhein the falls has been commercialized.  All except a few area now require a ticket. Not a big deal, just sad that it was not the same as in 2004.  We had a sausage for lunch before heading for Basel and turning the bike in. On the way we crossed into Germany.  Roads just as nice, big change was the speed limits.  In Switzerland maximum limit off the highways is 80 kph or 49.7 kph  in Germany it goes to 120kph or 74.5 mph big difference. 

When we got to the Toff Center to return the bike something was going on. Tables with pretzels and the smell of sausage cooking. And bowls of Swiss Chocolates on the tables.

A full selection of beers.

An expresso machine if you did not want a beer.

And a large kettle of Brats.

The women were wearing the  traditional Dirndl. The men were wearing lederhosen.  Sorry I did not get a picture of Felix the owner in his lederhosen.

Yes it was Octoberfest. The Toff Center sure knows how to have an Octoberfest sale. 

Well that concludes our motorcycle tour of the Swiss Alps. Except for the two hours of rain and the high wind it was a great week.  Might do it again next year.  

Hope you enjoyed our trip
Bill and Veronica.