We left Gun Creek Campground and Illinois, crossed through Kentucky (with a pit stop at a customer’s plant), and spent 2 nights in Clarksville at Clarksville Campground. This gave us a weekend to relax and sight-see nearby at Fort Donelson National Battlefield.
This battlefield sits on a hilly overlook on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, just east of Clarksville.
The site has been well preserved, is very quiet and informative. There are beautiful river outlooks, a national cemetery, and the preserved Dover Hotel which was the site of the battle’s surrender.
On Sunday, we picked up and headed for Nashville and Grand Ole RV Park and Thanksgiving with the family!
We hugged Drew enough to hold us all until we could be together again and drove south and east from Lake Tahoe, back over Carson Pass and toward Gardnerville. It had snowed overnight in the upper elevations and left Carson Pass looking like the beginning of a great snow-boarding season!
We hoped to drive a few hours east and then due south to Lee Vining, California for a 2 night stay. Lee Vining is a tiny little town between the shores of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a “jump off” spot to Yosemite. Mono Lake is an ancient saline lake that has no fish; instead it is home to trillions of Mono Lake Brine Shrimp and Mono Lake Alkali Flies. Freshwater streams feed Mono Lake, with forests of cottonwood and willow along their banks.
We found Mono Lake RV Park and backed into our site. This is a small private park with less than 40 sites, but full hookups and 50 amps! Most of the other sites had coaches, 5th wheel’s and campers with vacationers, hunters and fishermen staying here. The town is small but had good places to eat and tourist-y shops with Native American goods. I think it would be hard to get a place to stay here in the summer as this town sits at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
After some wonderful star-gazing (the Milky Way was just perfect!) and a good night’s sleep, we awoke to freezing cold temperatures and snow above us in the mountains. We had hoped to spend the day in Yosemite, but the entrance was closed due to heavy snow in the mountains. The alternative would have been to drive back to Lake Tahoe, then drive south from there to the western Yosemite entrances, a journey of 8 hours…..so we waited. We had a good breakfast and drove about 2 miles toward the entrance to scope it out and found people parked along the roadside, waiting for word from the park rangers about opening the road.
I hiked a bit up a campground road there, found a running mountain stream and a grove of aspen, and returned to the road to wait also. About noon, a park ranger drove down from Yosemite and opened the gates!! We could go in, but had to watch the time and the weather, if it started to snow again, they would close this entrance and we would have no choice but to take the 8 hour journey back around to the RV.
Neither of us had ever been to Yosemite and had really no idea what to expect. We have seen the photos of El Capitan and Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, but this does not really prepare you for actually seeing it in person. We drove up over the mountains, following switchbacks that were just clinging to the side of mountains before the terrain changed completely. Tall pine trees with snowy branches filled the sky and then the ground became huge flat and rounded stone surfaces. It looked like a commercial for Jeep where they drive them out and off-road. After about 45 minutes, we dropped down and into Yosemite Valley. Seriously, I am not going to have enough adjectives to describe the valley, a canyon cut between mountains with a running river at the bottom and the road hugging the mountain all the way down.
Around a turn, Yosemite Falls came into view. It is tall and majestic and awe-inspiring, even at the end of summer when it was at its driest. There were lots of places to park and we stopped to admire that cascade of water from the mountain snows. This time of year the tourist season was not at its height and we were able to navigate the entire valley easily.
A little further on we spotted El Capitan across the valley from Yosemite Falls. With my camera and long lens, I was able to photograph two people climbing from a sleeping platform about 1/3 of the way up. I personally could not climb a sheer mountain face or sleep on a board attached to it!! (Sadly, 2 days later, a 13 story size slab fell off the mountain face and several climbers were killed. I pray that the 2 we saw were not killed.). We wandered around Yosemite Village for a bit, bought a few souvenirs, grabbed a very expensive deli sandwich and headed back out of the Valley and toward Lee Vining.
We stopped at the lookout for Half Dome on the way back and marveled at the beauty of this entire area. If you love history as we do, take some time to read about Yosemite and John Muir and his campaign to “save” Yosemite from development for the enjoyment of future generations. The National Park Service owes a huge debt to John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt for the formation of that organization and the designation of Yosemite as one of America’s first National Parks.
As we exited the park gates and headed back to Lee Vining, we both agreed that Yosemite is definitely worth a 2 week stay on our next western trip! We said goodnight to the Milky Way and fell sound asleep dreaming about the wonders of Yosemite and planning our next visit!
While in South Lake Tahoe, we both had different days to explore the area. One day, Barry and Drew left to go trout fishing. They went south of Carson Pass to fish in mountain streams still open — the rivers in Tahoe were already closed for the season. The cooler mountain air and cold water were great for Barry and he enjoyed the chance to have some Dad/son time and practice his fly casting.
While the guys were fishing, I took the Corgis to the Upper Truckee River nearby to hike a bit……these Corgis love the water and after that initial cold shock, I had a hard time keeping them Out of the water!
Another day we drove all around the lake to show Barry the sites along the way. Our first stop was in Tahoma to explore the Hellman-Ehrmann Mansion. I.W. Hellman bought about 2,000 acres on the lake for his vacation home and built the mansion in 1903, using mainly local materials. Isaiah W. Hellman founded the Farmers and Merchants Bank of California as well as the University of Southern California! He named the property Pine Lodge and boated most of the visitors to the property.
We drove all the way around the lake, visited Tahoe City for lunch, and returned back through Cave Rock (remember the tunnel that our Garmin routed us around?).
Later that night, as we returned to the coach, there was a visitor at the campground. Seems like the management here would go to greater lengths to prevent bears from dumpster diving; as the month passed and the campground cleared out, the easy access dumpsters were re-located away from all the parking sites.
This entire trip from Missouri west has had 2 main purposes: Pack Expo in Las Vegas and to visit our son, Drew, in South Lake Tahoe. Today we realized the visit with Drew!!!! We headed southwest on U.S. 50 from Fallon early in the morning; it is labelled one of the “Loneliest Highways in America” and we could see why. There is very little traffic on this road and not much to see…….until we got closer to Carson City and headed south toward Gardnerville. This long lush valley is full of huge cattle ranches with green grass and herds of cattle along the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was refreshing to be in so much green-ness for a change!
Along this trip, Barry & I have worried and planned the route carefully, to the point that we bought a Garmin RV 660 at Cabela’s and down-loaded the www.lowclearances.com product. (Here is the link if you want to get it: http://www.lowclearances.com/amember/go.php?r=4611&i=l0 ) We have been specifically worried about a tunnel at Cave Rock just before South Lake Tahoe that may be less than 13’9″ (our RV is 12’9″ but we want to give ourselves as much room as possible). So, our Garmin with the uploaded clearance info routed us south on U.S. 395 to Hwy. 88 in Gardnerville toward Carson Pass, then east on Hwy. 89 over Luther Pass to Myers and north on U.S. 50 (again) to our campground in Tahoe! Whew!!! Altogether it was not bad driving, but Barry is Super Nervous about mountain passes, both up and down, and his anxiety is obvious as I drive. The RV handles both up and down hills just fine!
We arrived safely in Tahoe at Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground and found our site #109; it was a 30 amp site about 15′ from each neighbor with storage campers behind us. That would not do. I went back to the office and complained that I had paid for a Premium Site and expected such and we were moved to site #431 which was Not a Premium site, but had 50 amp FHU’s with lots of space. I’m not sure about the “Resort” label here; they do have a pool, but closed it after Labor Day, tennis and basketball courts, a playground, and big shelters for group meetings, but everything looks tired and worn out. The roads throughout are terrible, rough and poorly marked; the edges of the road were not well defined and, with the heavy pine needles everywhere, everyone drove off the roads frequently. The staff were worthless. Sadly, it is one of the few FHU campgrounds in South Lake…..sigh….
Everything was unpacked and we jumped out to explore! This is Barry’s first visit to Lake Tahoe and the route in did not bring us by the Lake; we headed toward the famous views of Emerald Bay.
We met Drew for dinner with lots of hugs and kisses all around and made plans for our 2 week stay! Fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, just hanging out together!!! It is So Very Good to see our middle son; it’s been at least 2 years since we were together!
We dropped Drew off for work and headed back to the coach to get some work done before dinner……..3 hours later, this happened:
It slowed and stopped, then began again……
It started up 3 times, with progressively larger sizes of hail each time…..pea-sized, dime-sized, then quarter-sized! Our A/C shrouds on the roof were original to the coach and very brittle; the hail beat them up very badly. RV Parts: 2 new shrouds = $400……
Tomorrow we are going to drive around the Lake and sight-see all along the way! Hopefully the weather won’t repeat the hail!
We left Flaming Gorge and headed west and south to Wasatch Mountain State Park Campground.
This park is just south of Park City, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The campground is in Midway, Utah and is not easy to find with online maps, we had to drive through a couple of neighborhoods to find it! The town has a large Swedish community and lots of cute painted buildings!
The campground is in a large state park that includes a golf course, and, nearby Wasatch Mountain. The campsites are paved with full hookups and 50 amps of power, each nestled into the trees with a little stream behind. They have very nice paved patios with fire rings set down into the ground and are easy to use. The sites are nice and clean; we would certainly stay here again!
We stayed here for just 2 nights to give Barry a chance to get some work done after the Labor Day weekend. That gave me an entire day to explore the area so I headed up into the mountains! The road in the park was newly paved and an easy upward drive; my first stop was a nice lake with hiking paths around it.
Did you know that one aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism? A stand of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system. Before a single aspen trunk appears above the surface, the root system may lie dormant for many years until the conditions are just right, including sufficient sunlight. In a single stand, each tree is a genetic replicate of the other, hence the name a “clone” of aspens used to describe a stand. Ref: https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/tree-profile-aspen-so-much-more-than-a-tree
I continued up, turning left and right around switchbacks, driving past the park boundary and into the Park City limit where the nice road became a very rough road (due to the loads of snow and plowing in the winter). At the very top was a nice parking lot with multiple trail heads for me to choose. I picked the shortest one that lead to the summit and headed upward following a heavily trafficked gravel trail.
We had such a nice relaxing time at Wasatch, catching up on work, exploring, hiking and relaxing. We would certainly return here for a longer stay! Next stop: Tahoe!
When my parents volunteered at Dinosaur National Monument, we came out for a long visit. Our boys were younger then and we relished our first ever visit to the High Desert area of our country. We loved exploring and learning about the dinosaurs and the archeological digs in the area, watching beaver across the Green River, and exploring all the canyons and meadows. One of our favorite trips then was to Brown’s Park and the John Jarvie Ranch site north of Dinosaur NM on the Green River.
Since we were so close to it today, Barry agreed to drive the 20 (or maybe 45) miles to revisit the site. Thankfully most of the road was paved, but there were several teeth-grinding unpaved miles that made him question my motives!
John Jarvie was a Scotsman who built this ranch property in 1880 to serve as a store and post office for the local travelers and residents in this remote area. He chose it for the natural river crossing here that had been used by Native Americans and fur-trappers for years. He was the first postmaster for this area and later operated a ferry over the Green River, he was also a rancher and miner.
The history of the Brown’s Park area is filled with names of the famous and infamous; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the Wild Bunch, outlaws such as Isom Dart and Matt Warner, and “Queen” Ann and Josie Bassett…….if you like Wild West history, just look them up online! The Wild Bunch spent quite some time in this part of Utah; there are so many canyons to hide away!
I hope you enjoyed this historic memory detour as much as I did!
We continued our westward travels, left Ft. Collins, CO, spent a couple of nights in Rawlins, WY, and then moved to McKinnon, WY for Labor Day weekend. We stayed at the Red Desert Rose Campground in Rawlins, this was our first experience at a “western” campground; dry, dusty, treeless! They have a fenced dog park, but it had very little grass. There is sagebrush all around town, I kept my eyes open for wildlife, but to no avail. The staff here were ever so nice. Although the sites were all gravel pull-through’s, we did have full hookups and took this time to catch up on laundry and and life! From the middle of June, Barry has been working a ton, both here in the RV and traveling around each area making lots of calls; this is our first stop to just settle down and catch our breath. Rawlins is an interesting old town, lots of cowboy references and old “Mom & Pop” type motels; it is the first exit off I-80 to Jackson, WY and further on to Yellowstone NP, it is also a shipping location for cattle and some historical sites are here also.
I made reservations earlier this spring for a campsite on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming for Labor Day, this was our next destination. My parents were NP Rangers at Dinosaur NM just south of Flaming Gorge in the early 1990’s and we have not been back to this area since that time; I could not wait to relive some of those memories! We pulled into Buckboard Campground on Friday and prepared for a weekend of sight-seeing. This is a State Park Campground, again, dry and dusty with very few trees and little clam-shell covered picnic areas. We had a 50 amp, electric only site that was not very level but had a little look at the reservoir from the front. There was also a full hookup private RV park nearer the water for only a few dollars more; I would have rather parked there had I known in advance. We also found the Lucerne Campground further south on Flaming Gorge that will be our first choice the next time we visit this area.
Saturday was the start of the College Football Season (notice that is all caps?!!) and we spent the entire day watching all the games we could possibly see! But, in the afternoon, I needed a project and took that time to work on the bathroom backsplash. (Refer to my post RV Life, April ’17 –http://corgishopperblog.com/2017/04/27/rv-life-april-17/ ) I had found a product called Smart Tiles online, purchased them at Home Depot, and decided to apply them today. All-in-all, it was an easy finish to this project; I used my math skills (whaaat?!!) and lots of measuring before cutting, but ended up with great results, can’t wait to finish the rest of the coach with it!
Sunday was going to be all about traveling around Flaming Gorge……..please enjoy these photos that brought back so many memories for me!
So many more photos and memories from this area!!! It was so good to be back!