Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Highway 395 to the FWC Rally.

Last year we did a trip to Utah after the Southern California FWC Rally. This year we decided on a short trip down Highway 395 before the Rally. We left on Wednesday, up and over Tioga Pass in Yosemite NP. This time of the year all the high campgrounds and Tuolumne Meadows Store are all closed for the winter. Still a lot of  people going over the pass. Remember click on any picture to enlarge.

Our first stop was Olmsted Point over looking Half Dome. With a scope you can see the climbers on the cables. Weather and sky were perfect.

We are working on our selfies.

Tenaya Lake below Olmsted Point.

Lunch was at the world famous Whoa Nellie Deli. I get up here at least twice a year on motorcycle rides. It had been years since Veronica had been here. She had the Caesar Salad with strip steak (my usual). They had Sherry Mushroom Soup on the specials menu. I have not had it in 3 years, it is a meal and so good.

We drove south on Highway 395 making the turn to the June Lake loop. We were told the fall colors would be great here and they were. This was our first time here, we were surprised at the amount of houses in the area.

Normally we just drive down Highway 395 without stopping, on our way to somewhere else. This time Highway 395 and the eastern Sierras was one of our destinations. Our next stop was Bishop CA. 

First stop in Bishop was the forest service to see where we should camp. We were given several options on where to camp. Decided to go west of town 15 miles up into the Sierras. I love camping in the high sierra. You just can't go wrong with Smokey's advice.

Bishop is known for its many murals and we drove around looking at all of them. These are two of our favorites. 

We drove 15 miles west of Bishop up route 168 to the Bitterbrush Campground. 

Our camp at Bitterbrush

Sunset over our campsite. We were the only campers this night. The ranger did come by to make sure we had paid. It cooled off at night. I set my programable thermostat at 40 degrees at night. The heater came on! This would be our coldest night.

Our table at camp. The only thing wrong at our site, the vault toilet was the cleanest one I have ever seen. Not even any graffiti inside.

Sunrise was just as nice as the sunset. What you see is the start of the Sierra Wave, we would see more if it on our way south.

The next town south on Highway 395 is Big Pine. We have stopped here before to have lunch at the Copper Top Bar-B-Que. If you go through at lunch time be sure to stop and eat. Independance was our next stop to see the Eastern California Museum. But just north of town we saw the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery.

Built in 1917 "to match the mountains, last forever and be a showplace for all time". This is where they started raising the California Golden Trout.

Driving into Independence we spotted Jenny's Cafe and Bakery, we just had to stop. Took pictures and had coffee and a muffin.  Sent the pictures to our daughter Jenny.

The Eastern California Museum was on our must see list. I did not take any pictures inside. The exhibits were well done, covering the history of the area. The demise of the Owens Valley by the Metropolitan Water District was well documented. Along with how the water was moved, I was surprised to find syphons were used and not pumps over some of the mountains. There was also a fine exhibit of indian baskets and other artifacts.

Outside of the museum were large exhibits covering everything. Old outhouses, a blacksmith shop, general merchandise store, wagons and machinery.

If you are in the area a stop at the museum will not disappoint.

Leaving Independance we saw the Sierra Wave forming. We would follow it all the way to our camp for the night. This cloud formation would give us one of the best sunsets I have seen.

Along the way we saw some signs for "points of interest" decided to stop and see what was there. I found the misplaced sidewalk something that Huell Houser would have liked.
Veronica standing on the misplaced sidewalk.

 Our next stop was the Manzanar National Historic Landmark.  This is a sad part USA of history. There is a large indoor exhibit with pictures and descriptions of life at the camp. As we walked through I looked at the large list of names and thought I might know someone on the list. As I moved to another exhibit of those who had joined the service from the camp I did see a name I knew. Frank Sakata, not sure if the same person who I worked with when at Tillie Lewis Foods years ago or not. Frank would have been the right age.

After the inside exhibits we did the 3 mile self guided tour around the 1 square mile camp.

We left through the old main gate. The guard house was build by one of the camp members who was a highly skilled mason. 70 years later it is still if great shape. If you are in the area you should stop to remember what happened here.

On to Lone Pine and our camp for the night. We drove through town looking for the sign for Alabama Hills and Whitney Portal. Did not see a sign but did see a forest service visitors center on the south end of town. Smokey was full of information on where to camp, he told us to turn west at the only stop light in town and gave us a map of the area.  Had recommendations to stay at the Alabama hills, but we also wanted to check out Whitney Portal.

Driving west there was a layer of haze that started half way up the mountain. Could not get a good picture of it.

We decided to drive on Movie Road where many old western movies were filmed. We are not into the old westerns so this was not a great draw for us. We did scout out some camping spots for the night. There were campers everywhere  from tents to large class a motorhomes. Loved how the hole in this rock formed a heart.

The Whitney Portal is just over 8,000 feet in elevation. The road from Lone Pine climbs 3,000 feet in  just 14 miles. As steep and narrow a road as I have driven on, and well worth the trip. There was a great campground that we drove through. All around the campground were small private cabins, all looked well kept and boarded up for the winter. At first we thought of camping here for the night. The icy wind changed our mind. Even this late in the season the parking lot at the portal was 1/2 full of hikers cars who were on the trail.

The road up was like driving into the sky. Steep and beautiful views all the way up

The road down was just as steep, used 2nd gear up and down the hill. No guard rails and dropped all the way to the valley if you missed a turn.

We decided on a spot to camp where we could watch the sun set over Mount Whitney.

With camp set up it was time for an evening hike through the rocks. Veronica leading the way.

Spotted a lot of lichen growing on rocks in the area. As we learned at Lassen NP some of the varieties of lichen will break down the rock over time.

Our camper through the rocks over our campsite.

As the sun started to set the Sierra Wave we had followed down Highway 395 began to glow. The wind was also picking up.

The later it got the redder the sky got. We were lucky to see the Sierra Wave in it full glory. As the sunset the wind died down and we had dinner. After dinner it was dead calm and by 8:30 totally dark. The Milky Way was out already, did not bring a tripod so no picture this time. Had to be 20 degrees warmer than we would have been if we had stayed at Whitney Portal.
The next morning we were up and on the road early. This would be one of our long drive days, tonight we would be at the FWC Rally. We had two stops on our way. 

Our first stop was Fossil Falls, a mile off of Highway 395. A small but interesting place. 

Veronica watching the climbers dropping into the canyon. There was a half a dozen climbers going into the canyon. Did not see any climbing back out.

Top end of the canyon at Fossil Falls. You could really tell where the water had carved the rocks. Since 1913, the Owens River has been diverted to Los Angeles, causing the ruin of the valley's economy and the drying of Owens Lake. I am not sure if this area had water before 1913 and the diversion by the MWD.

From Fossil Falls Highway 395 drops quickly to the desert. I know many people love the desert, I am not one of them. This was the first time we had been on Highway 395 below the Highway 14 junction. Lots of brush and not much else, until you get to Victorville and the start of civilization. The temperature also rose to 95 degrees.

Our last stop before civilization was the semi ghost town of Randsburg.  Many of the shops were closed when went through, most looked like tourist traps.

Civilization in a Southern California kind of way means TRAFFIC and we found it. With the camper on I set the cruise control at 62 MPH, much better gas mileage. Kind of fun to set in the slow lane and watch the other drivers dive in and out of traffic. We also hit two toll roads, this was new to me in California. No toll takers only fast track and cameras taking pictures of license plates. Big signs saying if you do not have fast track you need to go to and pay the toll to avoid the fine. We did this on Veronica's new i-phone when we got to camp. No way to pay on a phone call, I wonder what would happen to someone without a smart phone who was just driving through?

After a long day of driving we arrived at San Onofre State Beach. This was our camp for the next two day at the Sam Mateo Campground. This was our second year at the Southern California FWC Rally. Fun to talk to some of the people we met last year and meet some new people.  I felt the turn out was down a little from last year. JimRC did a great job of organizing the ally, but as he said it was more of a gathering than a rally. Tom from FWC was not here this year, I missed his words of wisdom on the FWC company. Stan from FWC did attend and really did a good job with the food and socializing.

I have made the pictures below small to save some space, remember you can always click on any photo to view full size.

Two generations of campers in this campsite. A 2004 and a 2014 FWC Hawks. Grandparents, Parents and children.

Veronica visiting with one of our friends from last year Janice.

The pot luck dinner as great. Someone brought brownies made with Jack Daniels and Bacardi. The warning was needed, a couple of them and you would be DWI.

Stan the man from FWC. I did not get a picture of JimRC, feel bad as he did so much work. One of the highlights of the rally is the tour of the campers. Everyone has theirs set up a little different.  One of the people who looked at ours was Mike who was a local fireman with a FWC Hawk. He came over just to look at the campers. Visiting with him we asked about some campgrounds we were looking to stay at Sunday night. He suggested Jamala Beach, a county park we did not know about.

After breakfast Sunday we said our goodbyes and headed up the coast. There is no question that the San Diego area has some of the best weather in the world. This great weather continued as we drove north.

Lunch time hit somewhere around Ventura. We hit the Garmin looking for a good place for lunch. Found a little hole in the wall Fish and Chip place. Special of the day was fresh Halibut fish n chips. May be some of the best fish I have had.

The restaurant was right on the beach. The weather was just as warm as it looked. Now if there was just not so many people living there.

We headed north leaving the crowds behind. Stopped at Whole Foods in Santa Barbara  for provisions. Took Highway 1 north toward Lompoc.  It has been years since we have been this way, much better scenery than I-5.

Found the road to Jalama Beach 14 miles from Highway 1. Small road that reminded me of the road over Mount Hamilton.

Veronica loves the beach even in the wind. She is taking pictures of the wind surfers.

It was windy and the wind surfers were making the most of it. For a Monday the camp was 1/2 full or more, all of the beach sites were taken.

Our camp for our last night away from home. The surf was high and you could hear it all night long. Except for when the wind was blowing. See the video below for how hard the wind was blowing.
Video of the wind ;-)

We did go out to see the sunset. That is an oil rig and not a ship in the picture.

Veronica capturing the sunset pictures.

The next morning the wind had died down. We did have a strange noise on the roof, what was it?  I opened the door just in time to see this gull jump off our roof. They were almost to tame; barely got out of the way of cars driving through.

Sometime after we were in bed an ATC flat bed camper pulled in next to us. I did not get to talk to the owners as all the curtains were still closed when we left. Notice the chimney at the rear, must have been some type of wood stove. They had a Colorado plate so a long way from home.

We took a walk along the beach just after breakfast and before the sun was up over the hills. Great view as the sun painted the hills around the beach.

These little birds chased the surf in and out. Must have been something good to eat when the surf was out.

Every now and them you could smell crude oil as we walked down the beach. This rock was covered with a thick dry tar, I wonder how old it was.

By the end of the week we got the selfies down.

In a futile attempt to keep sand out of the camper I brushed off my shoes.

On the way out to Highway 1 we passed a group of small coast deer enjoying the morning.

This was our second long day of driving, time to get home. The coast hills were covered with fields of strawberries,  raspberries and other crops. The sky was blue and warm, I love California.

This was our eighth trip for 2014. If we get a warm spell on the coast we will head for the north coast. I hope you enjoyed my trip report.