Snow, snow, snow and more snow all over the Pacific Northwest. It looks like we left Whidbey Island just in time! We are in “mission travel mode.” It’s definitely not our preferred travel mode – we take the quickest route to our destination; boon-dock sites are usually rest stops, Cabellas or Home Depot. When we have an appointment at a destination that can’t be missed -that’s ‘mission travel”. We rarely travel this way but if we have to we always try to make the best of it and enjoy ourselves along the way. This “mission” involved 2 destinations; Mesa,AZ for our CTEK installation on February 11th and Moab, UT for our camp host gig on February 18th.
Our first challenge was to make it over Siskiyou Pass before the snowstorm hit, and thank goodness we did. The road was fairly dry, the weather overcast and windy.
The ride down I5 through Oregon was uneventful, we’ve done that route so many times. We looked over our map and checked weather conditions and decided that taking 89 out of Shasta would get us off of the freeway yet not delay our arrival in Mesa. Hello and good bye to Mount Shasta !
Highway 89 immediately turned into a Winter wonderland. No more semis blasting by like crazy ! The first spot we pulled off to for a leg stretch was Snowman’s Hill Summit. It was so pretty, there was a slight wind that was blowing the snow off the trees into wisps of sparkling diamonds-so magical. The sun was shining and there was no one else around. We let KitKat out to stretch her legs and discovered she is crazy about the snow. She was running all around and sniffing and jumping through it. I could almost hear her laughing and saying “snow snow snow, I’m in heaven “!
Snowman’s Summit has an interesting story-it used to be a very popular ski and sled run before WWII. Founded by a group called “Snowmen”, they built up the hillside and ski jumping became incredibly popular. Then when the war came, the hillside was deserted and everyone was off to war. Now it stands as memory to Winter fun from the past. From the tracks off the park lot it seems to be popular with cross country skiers, snowboarders and sled riders. Good that someone is enjoying a spot that brought so much joy to people in the past.
As we drove through Lassen National Forest we had our eyes peeled for a camping spot. Wait-what’s that campground on the right we just went past ? Cave Campground, directly across from the Subway Cave in Lassen. The campground is closed but the parking lot is large enough that we can pull off the road quite a bit and enjoy the snow and silence-so we did. It was freezing cold, about 16 that night, but again we were nice and toasty with the heat from our Espar diesel heater .
When we awoke in the morning we discovered another camper had joined us during the night. Off we go headed towards Bishop, good bye Lassen and your beautiful snow coated landscape.
The ride through the Eastern Sierras and into Bishop, CA was incredibly beautiful. We were very thankful that we missed the storm that had created the snowscape and also grateful that we were ahead of the snow storm that would dump even more on the area.
If you get a chance, take 89 and Highway 395 in the Winter. You will never forget the beauty and majesty of the mountains, valleys and forests that those highways take you through.
Once again, we had no idea where to camp around the Bishop area since the side roads we would normally pull off on were pretty snowed in. So we drove around town and discovered the Dog Park adjacent to Bishop Park. While Bishop Park was our first choice there were very large signs that warned against overnight parking.
So we pulled off into the doggie park lot to look at the map. We sat there and looked around the dirt parking lot, lined with cottonwood trees, hmm no signs here, hmm looks pretty quiet, hmm I think we found our overnight spot. It was quiet all night and no sounds of traffic or bright lights, perfect for a one night stop.
As we left Bishop, CA we stumbled upon the Manzanar Internment Camp and a small museum. It had such a haunted feeling for me, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the parking lot and go into the museum. I felt very sad and very ashamed that I lived in a country that allowed this to happen. These photos I’m sharing with you are courtesy of my sweetie who did go into the museum.
When we left Manzanar we looked at the map and realized we were a little ahead of schedule and that our timeline allowed for a two day overnight stop-wahoo! Look what’s up head-Joshua Tree-so off we go.
Joshua Tree has always been one of our favorite spots – it’s desert beauty is astounding and it has always felt like a very spiritual place to us. We never expected the crowds we encountered-we figured everyone was safe and warm at home. Turns out this is climbing season in Joshua Tree and a great time for people to do the drive through the park , only stopping at the exhibits or trailheads for a few hours of hiking. All the non reservable campgrounds we came to were filled. And we had no signal to make a reservation at the ones that were reservation only. We had one last stop at first come first serve campground-“White Tank”. It was dark when we pulled in and drove through, it looked full and the sign we saw indicated the same.
But wait, campsite 1 was empty, did people miss it because it was across from the fee station and they thought it was a parking lot? So we pulled in and as Jim set up I went to place our fee on the post-oh no-there was a fee paper there already-the residents were just out somewhere. I sadly told Jim we couldn’t stay and as we were getting ready to leave the folks who were staying in the sight pulled in. We apologized, explained we thought it was available and we would be getting out of their way so they could pull in properly. When they found out all the other campgrounds were full, they invited us to share their site for the night. What a sweet surprise and an even sweeter family we discovered in the morning. Ryan, Lacy,Hatcher and Atigan from Alaska. We couldn’t have found a nicer family to share the space with-we felt blessed.
They were on their way to Baja to spend a few months away from the Alaska winter-smart move. We talked about van conversions, showering on the road, challenges of traveling with small children, everything “vanlife”. We exchanged information and were saddened to see them leave in the morning. We ended up staying a total of 3 nights instead of 2 . The weather was perfect- sunny with blue skies – a bit chilly as the winds whipped through the campground, but the sun felt so good on our faces. We knew our next stop was the big city so we enjoyed the time we spent at Joshua Tree.
As we left the park and started a small descent into the valley , we discovered the desert was starting its Spring bloom. I wish I could attach the fragrance we inhaled when we pulled off for pictures of the flowers. It was so incredible, fresh like a Spring Rain with hints of lavender and vanilla. Another memory to hold dear and remember when we are stuck in a traffic jam in the big city !
Mesa, AZ here we come. We got very lucky in where we chose to boon-dock at the Bass Pro Shops at Mesa Riverside. One section of the parking lot was like an RV park-everyone had the same idea. But the parking lot lights were not giant glaring lights like a Walmart, but pretty old fashioned lantern types that cast a beautiful glow. And the best part was we were only 3 miles from Sierra Expeditions where we needed to be at 8am on Monday-score ! I would definitely add this to your city boondocking spots-access to shops, movies, restaurants, a little river walk-and all walkable.
It only took about 3 hours for the folks at Sierra Expeditions to install our battery boost system. They were wonderful, Will the owner told us stories of his beginnings in the expedition business and Kyle with his assistant Dave did a super job on the install, Thanks guys!
We made a quick grocery stop for bread and bananas and decided NOT to take the interstate towards our next destination -Moab. Instead we headed towards Payson with the intention of cutting over to Flagstaff somewhere along the way.
We had lived in Phoenix many moons ago and used to spend most of our free time camping, either up on the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff or on the Mogollon Rim outside Payson.
Wow, 30-40 years away from a place really leaves an opportunity for it to change ! We did not recognize Payson, nothing looked or felt familiar, what a strange feeling. Yes I know, “progress” but it is strange to know that things won’t be the same and yet when you see the “progress” it is still shocking !
Okay, goodbye Payson, Flagstaff here we come. Our goal in Flagstaff was just to find a decent boondocking spot. Remember, we are “mission driving”, no time for tours or sightseeing. It was getting close to dinner time when Jim spotted the forest road off of Highway 89.
Perfection-we drove about 3 miles back, parked and sat back and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the San Francisco Peaks.
Where to next on the way to Moab? We are not sure. It depends on weather and road conditions. Our options are the direct route up Highway 191 or the roundabout route through Glen Canyon, Bryce, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. Hmm, which way do you think we will go?
Happy Trails my friends and safe travels, And if you are socked in at home by the snowstorm hitting the Pacific Northwest or anywhere else stay warm-leave the snow shoveling to the kids and have a large cup of hot chocolate !