Fri 26th – More Redwoods, and Crater Lake

One more picture of the cabin in the woods, just because I can:

I started today with Howland Hill Road through Jedediah Forest.  Totally amazing.  I was in two minds whether I’d take the curvy slow road through the woods or the main road, but I’m so glad I bothered to take the scenic route.  You make your way through suburbia (very very small town suburbia) and then suddenly the road peters out into a narrow one lane track (with two way traffic!) through these amazing woods. Coastal Redwood trees that seem like they’re miles high, really green and lush.

Thankfully the road has lots of pullouts, and demands you drive slowly, because this is as wide as it gets along most of its length:

But what an amazing place to be!  It was really quiet, and unless a car was really close you couldn’t hear anyone else.  And you COULD hear birds, the wind in the trees, and some scuttling wildlife occasionally.  And of course that wonderful damp forest smell.  Really lovely. 

After that I headed for Grant’s Pass just over the border in Oregon, where the local camera store advised me that they don’t stock Olympus, and maybe I should try (the town) Bend.  All well and good, but Crater Lake is between here and there, so that first.  But before I even got there, there were wonderful views such as this – the road more or less follows it for a time.  I’m pretty sure it’s the Smith River.

I saw a sign at the side of the road pointing to a lookout over the Rogue River.  OK, I’m up for that!  And this is what I found:

The river itself runs through a really deep gorge and though you could see it pretty well, it was hard to take decent photos.  Apparently it runs through old lava tubes, some of which have collapsed over time, leaving the river in this really deep gorge.  Very pretty!

It was getting pretty late by the time I got to Crater Lake National Park.  I was actually worrying about it being dark by the time I got there, but I timed it perfectly for sunset.  I drove the East Rim – the longer route between the South (east) entry and North entry.  I was lucky I wasn’t a day later – they were closing it late this evening so bicycle riders could have it to themselves tomorrow.  The road in this park basically has a loop all the way around the crater, with a few entrances and exits going off it like spokes from a ring road.  The lake is the caldera of a volcano that over time has filled with rain and snow.  It has no flows out, only evaporation.  It’s still active (as are most of the volcanoes in this area, Mt St Helens isn’t far away).  But incredibly beautiful:

It finally got so dark (and foggy) that there was no way I could take more photos.  Plus: COLD!  The car reckoned it was 36F outside- just over 2C.  I’d believe it!

I again hadn’t booked any accommodation, so needed to get creative to find somewhere to sleep.  Everywhere in and around the park was either booked full or closed for the season (I’m encountering more and more of that as I go along).  So I headed north, I figured I’d find somewhere sooner or later.  I’ve been relying on hotels.com quite a bit to book accommodation, but being out in the boonies here there was no internet coverage.  So, driving it is until I either find a vacancy sign or an internet connection! I ended up finding a Marriott hotel in Bend – after another hour and a half on the road.  That was further than I really wanted to drive, but never mind.  It’s less that I need to do tomorrow.  Thankfully I don’t feel the need to backtrack like I did at Yosemite – it’d be a long way along a very boring road! 

One small fun bit along that road – I can totally see why people think there are UFOs.  The road leading to Bend is dead straight and slightly uphill. With only occasional traffic, cars coming the other direction (and those ahead of you, too) look like their lights are floating in the air and not moving!  VERY weird thing to see. 

Thurs 25th Redwoods!

Today’s been a great day!  I left Eureka late morning – I’m really struggling to get up and about at a reasonable time.  Hopefully camping tonight (more on that later) will help tomorrow morning.

It was only about an hour’s drive from the hotel (or should that be Inn?) to the first visitor’s centre for the redwood state forests.It’s odd – the visitor centre is at the beach!  But that’s because the whole ecosystem runs from the ocean high up into the hills – the trees depend on the moisture coming in from the coast.  They absorb a lot of what they need direct from the air, they only suck a proportion up through their roots (which is a good thing, given how high up they have to pump it from ground level!

I got my bearings, and a map, and was off on a couple of scenic routes (getting me off route 101, which though very pretty, is busy and there’s almost nowhere to pull over and admire the view and/or take photos).  First stop was Elk meadow – where I saw one male who promptly sat down – so all I could then see is his antlers moving amongst the ferns(?).  I waited around for about 10 mins, but he was apparently very comfortable and didn’t move.

Second stop was more successful:

So successful in fact that he got so close I couldn’t fit him in my frame anymore! I’m glad I was in the car – it’s breeding season and apparently they can get aggressive (although there wasn’t another bull around so that probably helped).  After he’d crossed the road in front of me and disappeared into the forest, I went for a wander.  Those trees really are gorgeous:

 That last one was a lookout from where you could see the whole ecosystem – ocean to forests.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good shot of the whole thing.

And look where I slept!  A cabin in amongst the trees. 

Fantastic.  And complete with campfire:

I toasted marshmallows, too – or rather, I went local and made ‘smores: toasted marshmallows, partly melted chocolate, on sweet crackers.  Yummy!

Weds 24 – Eureka and chores

Not much to report today – I did some laundry, tried to get my camera (or lens?) fixed, replaced, or something – but the local camera store doesn’t do Olympus.  And frankly, they don’t look like they’ll be in business much longer.  They recommended I try a store in Grant’s Pass – that’s a couple of days up the road, most likely, given the rate I’m traveling.  Eureka has a cute touristy downtown area that looks like it’s doing OK although it was quiet today:

But the rest of it is still very economically depressed.  The older part of town has every second shopfront up for rent, and the newer shopping mall at the end of town has likewise got more empty shops than occupied ones.  And noticeably few customers anywhere.

Economic wise it does seem better overall now than in 2010, except for the drought effects.  Towns seem overall better, and there’s a huge amount of roadwork going on everywhere.  One of the things I noticed that last trip was that the roads were well designed and built initially, but had been really neglected recently.  But now there’s repairs happening everywhere.  Sometimes frustrating (like when San Francisco shuts down one of its major intersections for 12 months) but badly needed.

Tomorrow I head for the Redwood national park just up the coast – the taller skinnier relatives of the Sequoia trees in Yosemite.  Yay!  I’m feeling much better now that I’ve rested and I’m out of the big city.  I don’t know where it comes from, but despite being born in Amsterdam and living in Sydney, I’m apparently a country girl at heart!

Tuesday 23rd – From San Francisco to Eureka

I was frustrated with San Fran (especially since all the hills meant Bertha was of little use, on top of the impossible traffic) so I decided to get out of town.  I had planned to do some shopping first, but gave it up when multiple road closures made the traffic even worse than usual.  But it did give me a slow-mo tour of Chinatown when a very frazzled traffic cop was attempting to merge 6 lanes of traffic down into one.

After I survived that I headed over the Golden Gate and stopped at the viewpoint just over the far side of the bridge – together with every other tourist.  I like San Fran a lot better from a distance!

I then went for a drive around Marin headland where I took this:

 And then through Sausalito – a very pretty, very expensive little town.  From there it was full steam ahead to Eureka (no, not that one unfortunately) – here’s my route

I think of San Fran as being pretty small – but it’s amazing how long it took to get totally out of town/suburbia.  Basically all the way to Santa Rosa it’s suburbs, and even after that it’s a lot of little towns.  After that it gets pretty – wineries, then LOTS of trees, it really starts to feel like the northwest with endless pine trees.  I really enjoyed this part of the drive.

Very curvy roads in parts, and not easy driving for the last bit.  I was tired by the time I got to Eureka.  I’m staying in the Eureka Inn –

A lovely historic hotel, with a great big room – they upgraded me so I wouldn’t have to climb the stairs – the lift was broken.  But it was still a long walk from the car to my room.  And I’m feeling a bit silly but I’m using not only my own pillow, but also towel and doona – no tiny scratchy towels, and no sweating under polyester doonas!

I’ve decided to camp out here an extra day to rest up and do some laundry.  They’ve got OK wifi so the plan was to catch up on blog posts – you can see how well that’s working, I’m still a week behind!

Mon 22 Sept – To San Francisco

First up my map for today’s driving.  I didn’t leave Merced till about noon – I slept and rested.  I’m finding it hard to balance lots of sightseeing with getting enough rest – I want to be out there doing things, but at some point I just need more rest than the average human, and it’s frustrating.

From Merced it was a pretty straight run up the freeway and into San Francisco.  But lots of traffic, especially the last bits, and confusing despite having a Tom Tom and also google maps.  And traffic in San Fran itself (ie after I crossed over the Bay Bridge onto the peninsula) is terrible.  Tiny streets, lots of cars, lots of hills.  But when the traffic does move it’s lots of fun – like driving a roller coaster with all those hills.  Every intersection is horizontal, but there’s a steep hill in between each.  Once I got to the hotel I got myself out onto the waterfront, and did some fun touristy shopping at Pier 39. 

And remember the saying about restaurants with views not having to provide good food?  Well, it holds true here too.  I ate at a place at the end of the Pier, overlooking the sunset behind the Golden Gate bridge.  But the seafood platter was mushy and tasteless (I could tell the prawns because of the tails, but otherwise couldn’t tell what was under the batter).  But still, this was pretty awesome:

Alcatraz:

Sunset behind Golden Gate:

Sun 21 Sept – Back to Yosemite for Wawona and Mariposa Grove

 So I woke up this morning (having arrived in the dark last night) and thought I was back in Australia:

But an hour back up the hill to the park apparently not:

Wawona is one of the early settlement areas around Yosemite.  There’s this lovely covered bridge and a bunch of other historic displays.

I mostly loved the river – I sat on one of the big boulders with my feet in the water – listening to the water burbling, birds in the trees, watching dragonflies flit past, and the smell of the pine trees (or is it the redwoods? Either way it’s lovely).

A lovely peaceful way to spend some time!

From there I went to Mariposa Grove – beautiful Sequoia trees a little further down the mountain.  Neither my legs nor Bertha would get me to the largest trees – it’s a rough track – the walking track dirt with roots etc, and another was a gravelly road which was pretty steep in places.

 Lots more people here than at Wawona, but still just lovely.  Those trees are just amazing:

And something a bit more artistic that I’m trying out:

From here I’m San Francisco bound.  I didn’t make it all today – just too far to drive after having spent a large part of the day sightseeing.  Once down the mountain I powered up the freeway, and got as far as Merced (I”m going to try to remember to put in maps for driving days: see here for today).

On the way there I apparently visited Holland:

Three continents in a day – pretty awesome.  Central California around Merced is pretty depressing – there’s a bad drought, so not many jobs available for agricultural workers who are living on tiny incomes even when there is work.  This has been one of the few places that I was careful about where I parked, slept, etc.  I parked the car right under my hotel window and made sure I took anything even vaguely tempting looking out of the car.

Saturday 21st – More Yosemite

Blog note: OK, I apologise – I suck at keeping this updated.  Much as this trip would be totally do-able if I could fill every day to the brim – I can’t.  So I’m stopping when I’m tired, and at that point I’m too tired to write any sense.  I’m in Bend, Oregon right now, and have more than a week of blog to catch up on, but also have to (want to) keep traveling.  And I don’t always have energy for both 🙁

Anyway, on with the blog:

It was hard to get up and get moving this morning (ie Sat 21st), especially since I don’t know where I’m staying tonight.  All accommodation in the park is full (including this place that’s just outside) so I’m going to have to find somewhere else.

But first up:  A tour of Yosemite valley floor (by car and Bertha).  It’s impossible to not get good photos around here:

From there I headed out to find somewhere to sleep – but got distracted by Glacier Point – a lookout on the south side of the park.  A bit of a drive but totally worth it:

Thankfully the stormy weather stayed to the north of the valley, but the static on the south side was enough to have my hair literally standing on end!  VERY weird feeling, that.  I’ve since discovered that my camera (and one lens in particular) didn’t like it much either.  I’ve been chasing replacements all week but there aren’t many local camera stores left – and even fewer that stock my kind of camera/lens…

After all that I drove out of the park about an hour before finding a little motel by the side of the road to sleep in – run by a Vietnamese lady.  A bit dilapidated but totally clean.  The TV and shower managed to defeat me, though – thankfully I’m the only one who’ll notice if I’m a bit smelly!

Fri 19 Sept – Photography day with BillNeill

Bill picked me up at 6 o’clock this morning – not exactly my favourite time of day!  But it was more than worth it.  We spent a few hours at three different sites in Yosemite valley taking photos – and once the light got a bit harsh at about 11 o’clock we retreated to the cafeteria to look at what I’d taken, review older photos, etc.  Some of the results:

 

And see the long shadow just to the right of the jutting out part of El Capitan?  This is what I saw when I zoomed in:

Ripples in the river between two rocks that were causing the interference pattern below.  Pretty neat!

It was a fantastic day.  I got some great shots, learnt a lot, and was reminded of a lot of things I’d been neglecting of late that I’m now paying more attention to.  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up, and increase teh elvel of creativity in my pphotography.  But I’m certainly inspired!

During the afternoon smoke from one of the bushfires (wildfires here) came over the valley and we got that eerie red light that we sometimes get in Sydney when there are fires around.  But I was too exhausted to take advantage of it – I took one quick snap of smoky light over trees – it turned out pretty well!


When Bill dropped me back at the hotel I went to bed – and didn’t get up again for 16 hours!

Thurs 18 Sept: Over Tioga Pass to Yosemite

So, lots of driving today.  I’d wanted to do this drive back in 2010, but I was here in February that trip, and during the winter the pass is closed due to snow (it goes up to 3031m).  I particularly wanted to see the high alpine meadows, but due to the drought, the time of year (generally dry in late summer) and also lack of accessibility for Bertha, it wasn’t as much as I’d hoped for.

Still, it was a lovely drive overall with some impressive views:

And finally, Half Dome:

I’m staying just outside the park – all accommodation in the park is booked out on Friday night and I couldn’t face moving hotels twice in two days – especially since I’ve got an all day class with a professional photographer tomorrow.  So I drove all the way through the park from West to East and out the East entrance, my hotel is another 20 mins or so beyond there.

And photography all day tomorrow!  Woohoo!

Weds 17 Sept – Bodie ghost town, Mono Lake

So, it turns out that I’m staying in a ski town!  I thought the name rung a faint bell but I didn’t recognise it, but it’s impossible to miss now that I’m here.

I’m pretty tired – not sure if it’s the heat, CFS, jetlag or the altitude (almost 2400m) but I’m taking it a bit slow today.  I’ve decided to stay here another night – I couldn’t face having to load and unload the car YET AGAIN.  Especially up in the mountains.  Most hotels in other places I’m just pulling a few things inside that I need or that need to be secure – basic clothes and toiletries, electronics and my passport. Everything else can take its chances in the car.

But up here you can’t leave food or anything that smells like food in the car because it attracts bears.  They’ve been known to do this.  And of course apart from destroying the car and contents, it’s bad for the bears, too.  So that means my esky, cutlery, plate, snacks, etc. all have to come inside.  Plus ALL my medications, toiletries, etc, since the scents in those are attractive too.  Which altogether is just a hassle.

After a good sleep in this morning I headed out to Mono Lake – a very salty, alkaline lake with no outlet.  Because of the quality of the water the chemical reactions grow calcium carbonate towers called tufas.

As the photographers among you know the middle of the day isn’t the best time to take photos – the light is very harsh and coming from straight above – not flattering to anything, especially out here in what’s effectively desert.  I wandered around the visitor’s centre, bought an annual pass to the national parks, and looked at a photography exhibition, including a couple of actual Ansel Adams prints.

So I headed off to Bodie first – a ghost town about an hour up the road. It was an old gold mining town with its heyday in the mid 1800s. It finally died out altogether in the 1940s.  Sometime since then the government decided to keep it in an “as is” condition – they’re not letting it deteriorate, but not “fixing” anything, either.
 

And that includes the interiors, which are apparently as the residents left them, including whatever they chose (or were forced) to leave behind them.

 I spent about an hour there – I could easily have stayed longer but Bertha wasn’t coping well with the rough dirt “roads” through the town – no pavements here!  And I wanted to get back to Mono Lake for sunset.  Which I just managed, but I didn’t leave myself enough time for the earlier good light, and it wasn’t a terribly spectacular sunset (often the towers glow with spectacular colours).

And one more photo from Bodie for good measure: