Friday, October 7, 2011

And we're back

Squeak is back from his Great Adventure. And an adventure it was. After months and months of wonderful warm temperatures, the weather decided to...change...the week we were going on our trip. First, "they" predicted one day of rain and some snow in the mountains, then two days, but not a lot on the first day, then "they" just gave up and said that there would be a "precipitation event" sometime in the middle of the week. In the end, we had wind, rain, snow, hail, thunder, lightening, and who knows what else. This is where the RV was a life saver (literally). If we were in a car/tent we would have been dead. Or, more likely, in a motel somewhere.

Our planned itinerary was to spend two days at Caples Lake in Kirkwood, then two days in Mammoth Lakes areas and then drive home over Tioga Pass in Yosemite. Nice relaxing trip, only about 500 miles of driving total, lots of hiking, fishing, and relaxing. We brought a grill, camp chairs, and lots of beer, expecting to sit outside in the evenings and chill after Nick went to bed.

It all started reasonably well. We picked up the RV, marveled at its super awesomeness, and then set out on a drive to Kirkwood area on Sunday morning. The first snag hit when Polly totally LOST IT when the RV started moving. She could not process in her tiny little brain why the whole HOUSE suddenly started rattling, bumping and moving down the highway. She tried to hide under the driver's side seat, bumping Kostadis's leg on the gas pedal, and in general almost causing an accident. She was promptly crated after that, and spent the entire four hour drive panting and drooling.

Let's not tell anyone about my little "incident" ok?

Caples Lake campground was very pretty and also very empty. We had a good half of it to ourselves, which meant the dogs and baby could run wild.
View from the campground

High altitude BALL.

Next morning, it was cold and windy, but we set out on various value-added outdoor activities anyway.
Really? We are going hiking in this weather? You people
are insane. Are you sure I am related to you?

We found lots of mushrooms, none of which were unfortunately
edible. This is one of many false bolettes that we saw.

Kostadis, in the meantime, tried to provide us with dinner by
fishing. He didn't succeed either, so we all had pasta.

Upon taking a closer look at the sky, which was getting covered with ominous-looking black clouds, we decided to get off the high mountains a day early so that we don't get stuck on snow-covered roads. Once we got into the desert, the temperatures went back into the seventies and everyone was much happier. We stopped for lunch at Topaz Lake Park, which was closed for the season, so we were the only people there. Dogs and baby were happy to play in the water.
Ah, this is a much more acceptable lake!

The Eastern side of the Sierras was spectacular, as always, with some areas starting to show some fall colors already.
Somewhere near Sonora Pass.

Mono Lake.

For the night, we stopped at Grant Lake in the June Lakes area just north of Mammoth. Although it rained in the evening (canceling our plans for grilling, sitting outside, and beer), it had cleared up some in the morning allowing Kostadis to throw some more food to the fish.
This is why it's called "fishing" and not "catching".

Grant Lake in the morning. No clouds. That will change soon.

After a nice breakfast of pancakes (RV has a full kitchen, awesome huh?), we drove a short distance into Mammoth and up to Lake George where we saw...snow. Apparently what came down as rain where we were had been snow at the 8000 foot elevation of Lake Mary and Lake George which is kind of where we thought we'd spent the night. Um, ok, maybe we'll just go for a hike then. The hike from Grant Lake to TJ and Barrett lakes was spectacular and quite well received by all members of the group, although Polly probably had the most fun swimming in all the lakes.
Uphill from Grant Lake

Nick and Kostadis contemplate the situation

Polly demonstrates that labradors were bred to swim in icy cold water.
With the threat of snowmageddon upon us (we were able to check the weather in Mammoth and the forecast ranged from six inches of snow to "you will all die"), we decided to spend the night in town in an RV park so we could use the electrical hookup to run our heater. That turned out to be a wise idea since in the morning we woke up to this:

What the F***? We were supposed to sit outside and
grill sausages and drink beer!

We tried to put Nick snow clothes on and take him for a walk in the blizzard, but that's when his patience for putting up with our crazy ideas ended. He yelled bloody murder until we took him back inside.

The snow was still coming down hard, and all passes over the Sierras that would get us home (120, 108, or 88) were...closed. For an indeterminate amount of time. Roads through Tahoe were open, but with chain controls, and could also close at a moment's notice. Under the section "driving with chains" in our RV manual it simply said "Don't do it." Uh, ok. So cannot go north at all. So, in a fit of desperation, we decided to go home through the south. Meaning drive all around the mountains, through Bakersfield, and then north on Hwy 5, about a 500 mile trip. Not quite what we had in mind when we decided to have a "low mileage" RV vacation, but oh well. It's a very pretty route, and we could spend the night somewhere near Lake Isabella to break it up into two days. With that, we fled the snowy Mammoth Lakes to head out into the desert again.
Get us out of here before they close THIS road too!

After a nice lunch at Shat's Bakery in Bishop (excellent raisin bead, as always), we took a short break to walk around in the high desert near Lone Pine. It was warm. Warm was a good thing!
Nice and sunny here, still stormy up in the mountains.

It's sunny! I like it!

We stopped for the night at Lake Isabella, where we were again the only people at the campground, allowing for lots of BALL playing. It was not raining (well not a lot, at least), so Kostadis declared that he Will. Grill. Sausages. Dammit! Which he did. They were delicious. And we had some beer too, but inside the RV because it started raining again.
Lake Isabella. It's not raining, but those clouds are awful close!

The next day, our last day of the trip, the idea was to wake up early and go for a hike along Kern river. We were delighted to see sunny skies in the morning and were looking forward to a nice walk in the hills. By the time we drove to the trailhead at the mouth of the Kern Canyon, it, you guessed, started raining again. Did we offend some weather gods? Didn't sacrifice enough furry animals? I don't know.

Thankfully, that particular patch of rain was small enough (just centered right over the trail we wanted to take) that we were able to stop about an hour later and walk, swim, fish in the Kern river for a while.
Polly thinks all bodies of water, large and small, are for swimming.

Tony thinks they are for drinking.

After that it was a long boring drive up Hwy 5, punctuated only by the stop at the Harris Ranch restaurant for some very good steak and burgers.
Kostadis and Nick contemplate smoked tri-tip.

The summary? Trip, super awesome. RV, very cool. Weather, totally sucked. Everyone is sleeping off all the excitement now.

Complete set of pictures from the trip is here.

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