Posts Tagged camping

Yosemite National Park-Part I

Yosemite

Let the hiking commence!

Jeff was a Californian for the first 23 years of his life and one of his most shocking statements was that he has never been to Yosemite. Being a mid-west girl myself, I have a much better excuse why my eyes have never gazed upon El Capitan, Yosemite Falls or Half Dome. But to live within 90 miles of this National treasure and never to have seen it. Well, that’s just plane hard to believe!

Yet here we are, California surfer dude and Illinoisan tomboy, taking in this place together for the very first time. It was spectacular! That first view of Half Dome and El Capitan will forever be engrained in my mind. It’s emotional and spiritual and amazingly beautiful!

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WOWZA!

Being in Yosemite this year is especially spectacular since El Nino’ dumped abundant snow. Its spring and the snowmelt has added volumes of water to all of the falls in the park making for waterfall-palooza everywhere you look. Even the parking lots have incredible views!

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Sams loves El Capitan!

It being Memorial Day weekend, I had made a weeks reservation at Yosemite Ridge RV Resort a couple of months in advance. Though the National Park entrance is just 13 miles from the RV Resort, it was still another 30-some miles to Yosemite Valley floor making our commute 45-60 minutes one-way.

We spent our first day (Friday) taking a drive to the Valley floor to get the lay of the land and get information for hiking Half Dome. Then we purposed to avoid the valley floor Memorial Weekend. What a good decision that was! By the time we were driving back to the RV Park each day the lines into the park were backed up for 3 miles.

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Hike to Mirror Lake

We stuck to perimeter hikes out Hetch Hetchy to Tueeulala and Wapama Falls (5 miles round trip). The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir provides water to the Bay area and is so pure, no filtration is required. A ranger told us that they cannot tell you its ok to drink out of it without filtration, however, it exceeds EPA standards. The spray from the waterfalls over boardwalk trails were a real treat since it was getting really warm that day.

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Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

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These falls are big!

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We are about to get wet

The next day we hiked to the Toulumne Grove from Hodgdon Meadows (10 miles). This is where a grove of Sequoia Redwoods stand. We were virtually alone until we reached the grove on this trail, which was on an old paved logging road and part of the original road into the valley.

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Tree Giants

The really cool part of this hike was seeing the Tunnel Tree that was carved out of a fallen sequoia around 1881 as a tourist attraction. The park entrance road drove right through this tree and a toll was collected! Things like this triggered the National Parks ranger program to prevent future destruction of the majestic redwoods and park resources. Because of the discovered Sequoia grove, the park entrance road was later re-routed to where it is today.

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Tunnel Tree at Tuolumne Grove

One of our bucket list hikes, second to The Grand Canyon, has been Half Dome. It’s a long day hike (16-18 miles RT depending on where you park) with the last 500 feet of climb up “the cables” to reach the summit.

A permit is required from Sub-Dome and above. There are only 300 permits issued per day with 60% of them available via online lottery up to 6 months in advance. The other 40% are issued via lottery a day in advance.

Since the 60% permits were already issued during our time there, we took a chance and tried the other 40% permits by diligently applying online DAILY at a $4.50 fee with each try…only to receive our Dear John letter every night at midnight.

Since that wasn’t working we found out that there are additional Half Dome permits available, but only if you apply for a backcountry camping permit. These are very limited also and are given out at 11AM on a first come first serve basis for hiking the following day.

In order to have a chance with this strategy we arrived at the backcountry office at 6AM to claim our spot in line and hope they had permits left by the time we reached the desk. Even at 6AM we had 12 others ahead of us and it wasn’t looking good.

But fortunately we had two groups ahead of us that were offered to start their hike THAT DAY which freed up 6 spots for the following day…and we got the last two permits!

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SCORE! We got the last two permits. Sorry folks!

WE GET TO HIKE HALF DOME BABY!!!!

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Hello beautiful!

 

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Nearing the End…Only the Beginning

Carriage Domani

Dreams Do Come True!

For 21 years Jeff and I have been dreaming and planning on buying a 5th Wheel RV. Our thoughts of camping were seeds that were planted by our Grandparents. All those trips we took as kids made a major impression on our souls.

My family started camping when I was just a baby (so the story goes) after my Grandpa converted an old, very small, school bus to a camper. He worked as a mechanic at Ford for 40 years and had some serious skills! He built it with his grandkids in mind with bunk beds for my two brothers and a crib for me. The earliest memory I have in my life was in that old school bus!

Grandpa

Grandpa’s Converted School Bus (1965)

I’m not sure how long it was until my Grandpa got rid of the school bus and bought a Jayco popup camper with all the “modern” convenience. Mom and Dad slept on one end and my brothers were on the other end. Grandma and I slept on one of the tables that converted into a bed and my Grandpa slept on the other.

It was certainly cozy quarters, especially when my Grandpa’s snoring could scrape the bark off a tree. But I didn’t care. WE WERE CAMPIMG!

My Grandpa loved to fish, so most of our camping was done around lakes. One of the first things I would do when we got to a campground was to walk the shoreline looking for a straight stick and old fishing line that some poor fisherman had gotten tangled up in some brush. I would proudly run back to Grandpa who would tie on a brand new shiny hook.

I caught so many fish with that primitive setup. It didn’t matter how small the fish was, Grandpa would clean it and fry it up as if it were the catch of the day.

I could go on for days about camping stories like melting styrofoam cups in the campfire, skunks hanging out under our camp chairs…while we were sitting in them, tornados and grandpa stepping in the pee bucket (were we the only ones who had a bucket to pee in during the night?).

Grandpa

Moving on to the “modern” Jayco pop up

I saw my first mountain in that camper when we took an epic trip out west. We started in St. Louis and headed north to see Mount Rushmore. Then traveling west we stopped at Yellowstone and watched Old Faithful shoot her water high in the air.

Somewhere on that trip a ranger gave me a piece of petrified wood, we ran into a band of gypsies at a campground. Grandpa thought our tires would be stolen by morning so we quickly left. And, I saw Casper the Friendly Ghost.

After seeing the West, my wanderlust was born!

Though Jeff and I started out with tent camping after we were first married, we didn’t buy our first RV until 3 years ago. We bought a 2010 Heartland Edge 21’ travel trailer. It wasn’t the 5th wheel we had been dreaming of, but it was something to dip our toe into the lifestyle. In the last three years we have been all over the mid-west, New Orleans and on our own epic trip out west.

Truck Camping

Camping in the back of our truck…those were the days!

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Hanging with Yogi the Bear at one of many RV shows

For us, the last three years has been about gaining confidence and affirming that we were committed to the RV lifestyle with plans to live full time on the road.

That brings us to our Carriage Domani 5th Wheel. Now that we have made it to the other side of some major heartburn of renovations, we are just so thrilled with our new-to-us Domani.

But what is even more exciting is that this 5th wheel is the fulfillment of a 21-year dream of ours. It has been our single vision all these years that we have based our major decisions on. With that single vision, we have asked ourselves through the years whether or not a major purchase, a job change, even a lifestyle would take us closer to our vision or take us away from it.

Pinch me…we are finally here!

Now that our RV renovations and upgrades are nearing the end, we are excited about our new beginning. The beginning of our life on the road in the “home” of our dreams.

We couldn’t be more thrilled!

Sam-A-Lama-Ding-Dong

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Map. Darts. Our Next Destination.

Searching the Arizona BLM map for free camping

Searching the Arizona BLM map for free camping

Jeff and I are having a hard time deciding where we are going next. I know…tough problem, right?

This RV travel planning was easy when we had events on our calendar. But once the Rim2Rim/Rim2Rim2Rim at the Grand Canyon and Ironman Arizona in Phoenix was over, we found ourselves in a “throw the dart” moment on where to point the RV.

So, how do you decide where to go when you don’t have to be anywhere?

Mesa AZ

Visiting a highschool swim buddy in Mesa, AZ.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Caught the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!

Here are some things that helped us finally hitch up the RV and go.

1. Just pick the next stop. We got stuck trying to figure out the next 2 months at one time. So rather than throwing darts (which I don’t recommend in a small RV…you’ll poke your eye out) draw a 150 mile circle around your current location to narrow your choices on where to stop next.

2. If you don’t like the destination, hook up and move.

We had another RV’er tell us, “we have wheels under our homes for a reason and we can use them any time we like!”.

Too hot…hook up and move. Neighbor with loud music or barking dog…hook up and move. Don’t like the local ice cream…hook up and move.

There is comfort in knowing that if you don’t enjoy your destination you can leave and go somewhere else…unless it is your Mother-in-laws house for the holidays. Then it’s best to stick around as long as your wife says.

Mittry Lake, Yuma AZ

Mittry Lake, Yuma AZ. Moved earlier than planned due to swarms of mosquitos at 5pm sharp every day!

  1. Look at where others have gone before.

Consult your favorite RVing blogs to see where they have gone. This helped us find our current free BLM campsite in Yuma.

  1. Check out a cities calendar of events on their website.

Once you narrow down your search, pull up the cities calendar of events to see if they are doing something that interests you. We saw that Lake Havasu is having a festival of lights, lighted boat parade and an ugly Christmas sweater 5K in December. Who wouldn’t want to run a 5K in the dessert in a hot ugly Christmas sweater?

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  1. Look for inspiration

A relative’s birthplace, a memorable childhood camping trip, a place you have always wanted to see. For us, Jeff’s Mom was born in Yuma. We felt a pull to visit while she still had some memory and stories of the place that would bring the town to life.

Surprisingly, picking our next destination has been the hardest and biggest surprise so far about full time RVing. But with a little bit of thought, research and inspiration we have managed to pull up the jacks and move on down the road 150 miles further.

Now, where did I put those ugly sweaters?

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The Beauty of the Dessert Is Cast Low

Nothing to see here folks

Nothing to see here folks

Jeff and I have been on the road now for 4 months. We tend to gravitate towards trees, hills or mountains and higher altitudes so that we have natural air conditioning to keep us comfortable.

But as November comes into view and talk of a Polar Vortex descending out of Alaska, we made a run for the flats of the Arizona desert.

 

Jeff adding a bit of color to a sea of brown

Jeff adding a bit of color to a sea of brown

But after the first evening at Lake Pleasant, AZ, what I discovered was that the real beauty of the dessert is found in the sunrises and sunsets as the sun casts low on the horizon.

Hills and mountains begin to glow red, pink , orange and purple and cacti cast dark humanlike shadows. The sky is big and unobstructed and the complete darkness allows you to see galaxies beyond. Throw in a yipping coyote for good measure and you have the making of an incredible, surprising western experience.

Oh yes…the dessert. I am now a huge fan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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