Since leaving Portland (whew!), we've been slowly making our way south through Oregon and California: Williamson River, Mt. Lassen NF to US 395 South. Drive, camp, repeat. Not long driving days as yet (300 miles at most), but we had one white-knuckle windy day that felt much longer. We hoped to camp in the Mammoth Lakes area that night, but most the campgrounds were still inaccessible due to snow! We settled for Convict Lake, which was nearby and met my request for an Instagram-worthy view out the van back doors.
A visit to the Public Lands office in Bishop the next day led us to a campground much more our style (Grandview in the White Mts). Also recommended was the hike through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest just up the road. Since we had inadvertently acclimated ourselves to higher elevation with our previous few campsites, we went to check out a bunch of 3000-4000+ year-old trees at 10,000 feet with views of the Great Basin, northern Death Valley, and the Eastern Sierras. Loved this campsite and this hike!
Side note: It seems that we spend a lot of time admiring trees. Ponderosas (my favorite) surrounded our first few nights' campsites in the Cascades, then aspens in the Sierras, then pinion pines and junipers in the White Mountains. Yesterday I saw my first Joshua trees driving through the Mojave Desert and we’re now sitting under orange and palm trees in an LA suburb. Pretty amazing that we’ve camped in so many of California’s ecological zones in just a week. Also, I needed a title for this post and couldn't resist the alliteration. There you have it – the theme for this post is trees.
Next we were on to the Alabama Hills, an area of rounded granite formations (with no trees at all) in the valley below Mt. Whitney. We went for a short hike to see some arches and found a nice camp spot nestled among the boulders out of the seemingly incessant wind. Another short driving day and we’ve arrived in Redlands, CA. Thanks to my Uncle David for hosting us for a few nights! We are very glad to have a comfortable break (hot running water!) after a week on the road. Especially before our first border crossing in a few days!
We're still working on the best way to show our route as we travel. For now, here's a map of our tracks since we left home and our campsite locations. (Minus the last section to Redlands. Turns out we had loaded too much info into our GPS and it ran out of memory.)
Miles driven: 1154
Driving time: 23:40
Average MPG: 20.1
Highest elevation (ft): 10,050
... Yeah, ok, it's now June 6. I wrote the following entry and then neglected to post it so I'm doing it now, surely in violation of some blogger code. Anyway, TODAY is departure day! For real.
Haha, just kidding. We’re not going anywhere today.
We had actually been hoping to hit the road a day or two before June 1, but our plans were derailed by the van’s check engine light. Scott’s research of the error code (from our handy ScanGauge) led him to believe it could be an easy part to replace. He told our mechanic about it when he went to pick up some spare parts and found out that it could be something more serious. We dropped off the van last Thursday to have it checked out aaaand the van’s transmission had to be totally rebuilt. Seriously. Converter and clutches and steels and seals and other words that mean absolutely nothing to me in this context. Huge thanks to Elliott and Dave and the crew at Upscale Auto. They've gone out of their way to squeeze us into their schedules and keep our costs down, while still making sure we’ll have a reliable rig. We should get the van back tomorrow and are now aiming for a June 4 departure.
We are fully aware how lucky we are to have this happen now instead of down the road but, damn. We’ve both been suffering a strange combination of preparation fatigue and departure panic, the only cure for which would be to. just. leave. already. But a few extra days to wrap things up isn’t a bad thing, so we’re keeping busy with house cleaning and yard work. Thrilling blog material, I know.
And speaking of lucky... over the last few weeks, our friends and coworkers have shown us so much love and have been so supportive (and a little jealous, they’re not ashamed to admit :) that we’re even more appreciative of this unbelievable travel opportunity. And once we finally do depart (in what should be a completely invincible van after all the work that’s been done to it over the last few months), we’re now more motivated to keep everyone up-to-date on our adventures. Which will not include tales of mopping floors or weeding garden beds. Promise.