June 7. Time to go on a wildflower hunt. I had seen photos of some amazing Lupine blooms, so we set off to see what we could find. On a suggestion that we explore North Oak Creek Road we ended up at the Baxter Pass Trail Head. It was a chilly day with drizzles of rain off and on, but the dark sky added some drama and some nice soft light for some interesting photos.
We found quite a bit to photograph including wild roses, prickly poppy and paintbrush.
There seemed to be endless photo opportunities with the dark and stormy clouds and the patches of color. Eventually we grew hungry so we headed back down the mountain to the Old Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery were we found a picnic table to break out our lunch.
There’s always something to see in the Eastern Sierra and Carson enjoyed some off-leash time in the mountains.
We arrived home on the afternoon of March 28 having logged 3012 miles over the course of 23 days: three of us, Joann, myself and our dog Carson. We were a little concerned about taking the dog, but Baja turned out to be quite dog friendly. Along the way we had some amazing adventures which I will share in the days ahead as I sort through the many photos I captured.
Before we could obtain our Mexican Tourist Cards (FMM) we had to make a stop in San Diego to renew our passports. If you are planning on traveling to Mexico, check your passport. You need to have at least three months on your passport to apply for an FMM. We discovered this just a few weeks before our trip and we had to scramble to get our passports renewed.
On the trip south we decided to take a quick detour to Anza Borrego to check out the wildflowers. We were not disappointed.
Our traveling rig consists of a Fourwheel Pop-Up Camper on a Toyota Tacoma. The camper is outfitted with a refrigerator, heater and cook top. There is no toilet or shower on board, but we’re comfortable taking a shovel out in the woods (or desert) if we are boondocking or taking advantage of facilities including showers in established campgrounds. We also have the rig set up to carry two kayaks.
For planning, both prior to the trip and on the road, we used the app iOvelander for locating facilities and Maps.Me for route planning. We discovered a hack that let us import the iOverlander pins into Maps.Me, which proved to be quite useful when we were offline without cell phone signal or Wi-Fi. We also found the Baja California Road and Recreation Atlas from Benchmark Maps useful as well as Google Maps, when we had a cell phone signal.
And of course, sharing travel information with fellow travelers is also fun and informative.
Some of the highlights along the trip included a fabulous lunch with a bottle of wine at Encuentro Guadalupe shortly after crossing the border, camping in the cactus gardens near Catavina, and whale watching in San Ignacio Lagoon.
We had our share of fabulous sunsets and sunrises and we managed to get our kayaks on the water at Bahia Conception and Gonzaga Bay.
Over the course of the trip, we spent 23 nights in camper. The southern most point in our trip was Playa Coyote on Bahia Conception. Three weeks is just not enough time to see much of Baja. We’re already thinking about our next trip. On a couple of nights, we were happy to have the camper as protection from fierce winds. Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more in the days ahead.
We wanted to spend two nights in the vicinity of Catavina. The Cirios and cactus here are fascinating and, along with the rock formations, I thought this would be rich with photo opportunities. I figured two nights would give us opportunity to experience two sunsets and two sunrises and time to explore the cave paintings.
There are plenty of places to boondock in the desert here. We picked a spot that iOverlander identified as “Cactus Wonderland.” We found one other camper here, but we simply drove around to the other side of a rock outcrop and found a quiet spot to camp.
The next morning we walked to the cave paintings. Rather than walk on the highway, we decided to follow a dirt road that appeared to parallel the highway. This worked for a while until we started heading away from the highway. Using a GPS track on my phone from a previous trip, we were able to make our way over some rocks and head in the direction of the cave. Going over the rocks we encountered a rattlesnake hidden in the rocks. He let his presence be known with an alarming rattle.
We kept our distance and continued on to the cave. The cave is a bit of a climb up from the road and the parking area. We were happy to spend a few minutes in the cool respite of the cave since we were feeling the heat of the desert on the hike. As the crow flies, the walk to the cave was just over a mile. We managed to turn that into a four-mile round trip hike with our meanderings.
True to expectations, this area provided many fascinating photo opportunities. The Cirios, or Boojum trees, sometimes called Doctor Seus trees, were quite interesting and fanciful. More photos are available in an online gallery.
On July 18 we found our way to Golden Rose Ranch where we spent the night in some beautiful red rock country. This was another camping find we discovered through Hipcamp. Definitely off the beaten track. Dry camping with no facilities which suits us just fine.
There are three campsites on the ranch but we had the place to ourselves. In the evening the cliffs catch the late afternoon light, which was cause to bring out my big camera (the Nikon D850) and tripod to capture some long exposures. In the morning we broke camp and spent some time exploring the petroglyphs and wildflowers. Golden Rose Ranch was a delightful overnight stop on our return from New Mexico.
Continuing on our road trip to New Mexico, on the afternoon of July 10 we left Highway 80 near Elko Nevada and drove 35 miles up into the Ruby Mountains. Our campsite at Thomas Canyon Campground was situated at an elevation of 7,600 feet. While most of the drive across Nevada is arid desert, Thomas Canyon is in a lush grove of aspen surrounded by wildflowers. We spent two nights here, giving us one day to take a delightful hike up the canyon.
We were happy to find that fires were permitted and we bought firewood from the camp host. These days one isn’t guaranteed a campfire, given dry conditions with high fire risk. The next morning we fired up the Dutch oven for a breakfast of hash brown crusted quiche. A delicious breakfast before we set off on our hike. The hike goes 2.25 miles up the canyon, so up and back we logged 4.5 miles.
The hike climbs from about 7,600 feet to 8,900 feet through aspen groves and meadows of wildflowers, following Thomas Creek for much of the way. Here’s the track of our hike.
In the evening I took my big camera out and grabbed my tripod to see what I could find in the late afternoon light. Lo and behold I found a sunlit grove of trees that looked like fall color in the last rays of light. Some of these image will be in my art store shortly. You can view more photos in an online gallery.
So here we are on July 9 ready to hit the road for our 17-day road trip to New Mexico. Check out my Stars and Stripes hat. Our motivation for the trip was to attend a family reunion in Angel Fire, New Mexico. We decided to take our time making our way to our destination. I decided since we’d be hobnobbing with cowboys at the reunion, I needed an appropriate hat, and with the Fourth of July recently passed this seemed to be an appropriate statement for driving across Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.
We covered 3,000 miles on the trip, and I’ll be breaking up some of the highlights into several blog posts. I’d like to start with some thoughts about trip planning. While I’m quite happy to hop in the truck and see where we end up at the end of the day, my wife, Joann, likes to plan ahead. For this trip Joann spent hours and hours of research and prepared a folder with our itinerary, copies of all the camping reservations including photos of the facilities. Much of the trip was planned using Google Maps and a host of other online resources such as iOverlander, The Dyrt, Hipcamp, and other such resources. All of these are great.
Then a day or two before the trip we pulled out some printed maps and we discovered all the places we were missing. I had a flashback to the days when we used to spend hours pouring over maps looking at the sights along the way. Google Maps is great for getting from point A to point B efficiently, but it won’t suggest you make a quick detour to check out Mesa Verde or take the Turquoise Trail. And for much of the trip we were out of range of cell service, which meant that trying to use an iPhone to look up camping, or even use Google Maps for routes, was futile. What do you do when you come to a fork in the road, and Google Maps is silent and you don’t have a map of the area? Another reason to have printed maps available while on the road.
Our first night we stayed at Logger Camp on the Stampede Reservoir not far from Truckee. This was a lively camp full of families enjoying summer fun. Since our route would take us through some hot country, we planned our stops be at elevations where we would not suffer from heat; we do not have air-conditioning in the camper.
When we travel, I like to have occasional access to the internet. I don’t want my clients thinking I’ve abandoned them, so an occasional stop at a coffee shop with WiFi was in order. And then in Mancos we visited with a good friend, Kayla, a neighbor that our daughter grew up with. We foraged in her garden and, as a professional cook and caterer, she hosted an exquisite dinner.
Once we were in Angel Fire, it was time for the reunion. And no Sundt family reunion would be complete without watermelon and the dinner bell’s call to eat on the C and S Cattle Company Ranch. By the time we reached Angel Fire it was also time to replenish our water supply. We were looking forward to taking showers with our outdoor shower.
Our return trip took us through Taos and Flagstaff. We spent one night Boondocking in the Coconino National Forest just outside of Flagstaff. There we were treated to a spectacular thunder and lightning storm that dumped rain and hail on us. We also stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park which turned out to be quite interesting. I’ve never seen so much petrified wood in such a large area. And, of course, we had to venture on to a section of Route 66 where we encountered Burma Shave signs. Stay tuned for more episodes of our trip.
A week in Baja California is not enough. And even a week’s adventures are hard to condense into a few blog posts. But alas, with a new year, it’s time to close the book on 2021 and make way for new adventures.
Of course, one of the things for which Baja is famous is racing. I couldn’t resist this VW bug shell propped up on some giant tires, a tribute to Baja racing. I captured this image with a Sony RX100, my preferred camera for travel when I don’t want to set up a tripod.
And food and local color are also worthy of note. Stopping in roadside cafes, interacting with the local people, and eating delicious home-cooked food is a treat.
We spent two nights at Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. One evening I put my drone in the air to capture some images of our campsite. Here’s one of my favorite drone photos. Close to dusk I flew the drone out over the water and captured this image of our campers on the beach and the mountains in the background. Gonzaga was also our first opportunity to put our boats in the water.
Here’s a photo of Joann on the water with the stark, rugged desert and the calm water reflecting brilliant blue sky and clouds. This was captured with an Olympus TG-5, my preferred camera when I want a waterproof camera on the water. I also captured some footage with a GoPro while paddling. My previous post covered our paddling experiences.
And then there’s the legendary Coco’s Corner. This is located on Highway 5 where we turned off for Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. It now bears a sign Nuevo Coco’s Corner, having been relocated when the new highway went in. Coco invites all visitors to sign his guest book. While this is basically a shack in the middle of nowhere, it draws thousands of adventure seekers from around the globe. It’s all about getting your name in Coco’s book. I invite you to view more photos online. Photos of Coco’s Corner are in the gallery Part 2. Gonzaga. After signing Coco’s book, I had to photograph this truck cab nearby with a dead Christmas tree sticking out of the top. Something about this is uniquely Baja.
The landscape and plant life offer some truly dramatic photo opportunities. The Boojum Trees (called Cirios in Spanish) or Doctor Seuss Trees are otherworldly, and we had some sunsets and sunrises that were stunning. That’s when I pulled out the Nikon D850 and tripod. A few of these images are available as fine art photographs in my art store, store.treve.com.
On December 1, we hit the road for a two-week trip to Baja California, returning home on December 15. A whirlwind tour with many stories to tell and photos to share. Rather than write one long blog post covering the entire trip, I’m writing several posts to cover various aspects of the trip. We’ll start with this YouTube video. Joann recreated the trip in Google Earth with slides for each stop along our trip. We’ve animated the map and video so take a moment to follow along.
After getting a late start we decided to scrap our original plan which would have taken us to Red Rock Canyon State Park. So where to spend the night? I have several apps on my phone I use for trip planning. I fired up The Dyrt and started looking at options. It seemed like whatever itinerary I dialed in, The Almond Tree Oasis was the suggested stop. There are not many options for boondocking, let alone camping on the route to Southern California. The Almond Tree Oasis suited our needs. In the morning we fired up the Dutch Oven and cooked up some Mushroom and Brie Breakfast Strata, one of our favorite breakfasts.
Joann preparing Breakfast Strata, aerial view of our camp at Joshua Tree Ranch LA.
The second night we camped near Lancaster at Joshua Tree Ranch Los Angeles, going from an RV camp with full services to boondocking in a lovely grove of Joshua Trees with no services whatsoever. We were happy to pay for the right to camp in this spot, having again relied on The Dyrt to find a site.
Then it was on to Ocotillo Wells SVRA where we joined up with 134 other Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers for their annual rally.
Treve explaining his lift system for popping up the top of the camper with kayaks on top; touring fellow camper’s rigs; Bob explaining radio operation.
It’s always fun to see how people have tricked out their rigs. Following the rally, we continued south to join Bob Wohlers and his Off-Road Safety Academy for a tour of Baja. We had 11 rigs in the caravan. Bob gave us all radios to use for the duration of the tour and with his guidance we managed to cross the border, negotiate our way through Mexicali and along the narrow highways and dirt roads of Baja. We spent one night at Pete’s Camp, two nights at Bahia San Luis Gonzaga, and two nights at Bahia de Los Angeles which was the southernmost point of the trip.
Camp at Gonzaga Bay; Cowpatty Cafe; rainbow at Playa La Gringa at Bahia de Los Angeles.
For the return trip we crossed the peninsula, driving up the Pacific side with overnight stops at Quinta Cristina near El Rosario and Punta Banda. Once back on the US side of the border we headed for Agua Caliente County Park, which I had located using another favorite app, iOverlander.
On the beach with our kayaks on the Sea of Cortez; sunset over Bahia de Los Angeles; camp at Quinta Cristina.
At this point in the trip, we were looking for water and electricity, having depleted our water supply and suffering from a dead battery in the camper. With a dying battery, we were without refrigeration and heat. We’ll be upgrading our camper soon, moving to Lithium (LiFePO4) batteries. We’ll also be replacing the shocks and adding airbags to the rear suspension to help balance the load. The camper is a big load for the Tacoma. Over the course of the 15 days we logged 2268 miles. You can find more photos from the trip online. I’ll be adding to these galleries as I work through the photos in the coming weeks.
April 21. I arrived at Eureka Dunes at 4:47 PM. The wind was howling and the sand dunes were alive with moving sand. I tied a hefty rock to my tripod to keep it from blowing away and captured a few seconds of video. Mind you, the recorded sound alone is intense.
I popped the top of the camper up and climbed inside to get away from the blowing sand. Inside, the front roof vent was loose and it was making a tremendous racket banging up and down in the wind. I had visions of a sleepless night.
It wasn’t long, though, before the wind let up. With the sun low in the sky and about to set over the mountains to the west, I decided to go for a walk. I left my big Nikon D850 in the camper since I did not want to expose it to the flying sand. I grabbed my trusty Sony RX100 and went out to explore the dunes with the late afternoon light.
As I ventured out on the dunes I realized this was a rare opportunity. The wind had scoured all the footprints. My experience photographing sand dunes is that they are rarely free of footprints. The clean sensuous lines of the sand ridges in the angle of the sun resulted in some stunning images. This didn’t last long. While I was photographing the dune and sky image you see above, another party of hikers came by and and the clean lines were no more. As the sun sunk over the ridge the lighting became too soft for my liking and I retreated to the camper to fix dinner.
The next morning I was out of the camper at 6 AM with my big camera and tripod to see what the morning light had to offer. One of my favorite images from this trip is the one above with the light and shadow playing on the dunes and the bushes in the foreground. This image and a few others are available as fine art prints in my art store.
The early morning light revealed many interesting compositions. Light and shadows and texture. It was 9 AM when I returned to the camper. At that time I was no longer seeing compositions that I found interesting.
I must say that the campground was not too busy. If you look closely at the photo of the valley you can see my camper alone in the distance with no other vehicles near by. There were three vehicles in the campground representing six people.
Eureka Dunes is located in Death Valley National Park. To get there requires a long drive on a washboard gravel road. It can be slow going if you are in a passenger car. The campground is dry, with no drinking water available. Campsites have picnic tables and there is a vault toilet.
You can see more photos from the Eureka Valley trip here.
A month ago, on February 6, I left home along with my wife Joann to drive over the mountains to Big Pine. Along with taking grandma (Joann) over to spend a few weeks providing child care, I had the added mission of taking time in the Eastern Sierra to pursue some landscape photography. For me this means chasing the sun . On previous trips I have explored the ghost town of Bodie, the Alabama Hills, and the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains, all locations that are quite accessible from Big Pine and offer stunning photo opportunities.
For this trip I decided to explore locations close to Big Pine. Why spend time driving when you have the majestic Sierra in your back yard? And with a trip home in the middle of the month I had ample opportunities to chase the sun further abroad.
My first sunrise venture took me to a location just off California State Route 168 with a view of the town of Big Pine and the snow capped Sierra to the west. The town of Big Pine was lost in the shadows but when I switched to a longer focal length I captured the image of Birch Mountain you see above. Just a few minutes later from a location along the Owens River I captured a image of Mount Sill, the image on the right.
A week later I pointed the camper home and spent the night near Mono Lake. Here’s a photo of me on the morning of February 17 captured with my drone. It was 11 degrees when I stepped out of the camper. My dog Carson was not going to leave the camper at that temperature.
The evening before, while I was exploring the environment near Mono Lake, I was struck by an otherworldly landscape with the black branches of burned shrubs against a blanket of white snow. A few days later on the morning of February 22, I was again camped at Mono Lake on my return back to Big Pine. This time I found a better vantage point to capture some color in the sky over Mono Lake as illustrated in the photo above. Also shown is an image captured along the Owen’s River featuring a bare cotton wood tree in the morning light.
Once back in Big Pine I continued my search for photo vantage points close to town. Here’s a photo of Birch Mountain and the surrounding peaks from the shoreline of Klondike Lake.
One of the things that fascinated me on this trip were the limbs and branches of the bare trees against the blue sky. Whereas the morning and sunset photos are captured with a Nikon D850 on a tripod, often blending multiple exposures, during the day I’m more likely to use my point and shoot Sony RX-100, which captures amazing photos. The back and white image of the trees was captured on a morning dog walk. I applied some post-production wizardry to make the trees and the snowy mountains stand out.
For my last sunrise venture I put the drone in the air to capture a photo with part of the town of Big Pine in the foreground and Sierra Nevada mountains just starting to capture the morning light. Here’s a link to a larger collection of photos from this trip. Some of these images will be available shortly in my art store. Feel free to contact me or comment.