Hot Creek

East of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, not far from Mammoth Lakes is an area known as the Long Valley Caldera. This is a geologically active area with steam vents, geysers and hot springs, the remnants of an ancient volcano. I’ve been visiting the Eastern Sierra for several decades and only this year decided to check out the area known as the Hot Creek Geologic Site.

My plan was to scout the location with the intention of returning in the morning when the steam from the many steam vents would be visible in the cool morning air. As it turned out, we had some dramatic weather with rain and hail and that was enough to appease my photographer’s eye.

There are a number of trails you can hike in the area with signs warning you to stay out of the water. Some of the pools are boiling hot. Despite the warnings we did see several people in the creek.

From the Hot Creek site we decided to head for camp. Our intended camping site was a spot referred to as Laurel Springs on iOverlander, a “wild” campsite site just off of Highway 395. In trying to locate the site we apparently drove past it. Rather that turn around we decided to follow the forest service road to see if we could find another suitable spot to park our rig. It wasn’t long before the road deteriorated a bit and I shifted into four-wheel drive. Then as the road got a bit rockier it was four-wheel low. You can see a photo of my shadow on the road looking east with Crowley Lake in the distance. We climbed up a valley to a ridge and there at the end of the road was a campsite with a picnic table and an incredible view. On one side of the ridge we could look east with a view of Crowley Lake, on the other side was a view of Convict Lake. In the morning I put the drone in the air to capture a view of our rig with Laurel Mountain and Convict Lake in the background.

The next morning, October 11, we broke camp and continued our journey home. We made a quick tour of the June Lake Loop, stopping at Gull Lake to walk the dog and admire the view. We found quite a few pockets of fall color, but for the most part the aspen were still green.

Our route home took us over Tioga Pass on highway 120. Near the summit we stopped for one last peek at the fall color on the mountain side. Then we drove down into Yosemite Valley thinking there might be a remote chance of camping. We were impressed by how busy the valley was. No luck on finding camping so we headed home. More photos are available online.

Dazzled by Yellow

After three days of chasing fall color I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I felt like I had to give my eyes a rest, and yet we’d find another grove of aspen in full splendor, I’d grab my camera and start snapping photos. And then I’d be asking myself how the image I’m capturing differs from the many thousands of photos I’ve captured over the past 50 years. In any event, every photo is another adventure and the magnificence of the changing seasons never gets old. I’m always looking for a way to create unique photos that celebrate the glory of God’s creation.

Fall color in the Eastern Sierra usually starts in mid to late September with the aspen at the higher evaluations changing color first, and the color progressing down the canyons over the course of several weeks. I usually start to watch the fall color reports in mid September. This year October 4 was the earliest date we could get away, so we stocked the camper with food for a week and hit the road.

From our home in Albany, CA, we decided to take California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass. After passing the summit we stopped briefly near a grove of aspen, admired the view, and then decided to head to our intended camping destination on Green Creek. We were hoping to camp at the Green Creek Campground. Why? Because we wanted to fire up our Dutch Oven to cook dinner; for that we needed a fire ring in an established campground. The campground was closed. There are plenty of places to boondock along Green Creek so we found a comfortable spot to park our rig. We implemented “plan B” for our menu which did not require a fire ring. I was a little annoyed though when campers not too far away from us lit a campfire, something that’s prohibited in the dry conditions. I was too shy to confront them. What would I say?

We were so impressed with the fall color along Green Creek, we decided to spend a second night although we moved our rig a mile down the road. The road into Green Creek is a dirt road. For the most part it is navigable by passenger car, although close to the campground it get’s a little rocky.

From Green Creek we headed towards Bishop by way of Dunderberg Meadow Road. We admired the aspen along the way and set up camp at the Sabrina Campground in the afternoon. The fall color was about peak there. In the morning we drove to North Lake where I spent some time with my camera and tripod capturing fall color. We also gave our dog Carson the opportunity to hike with us off-leash.

From Bishop Creek we drove to Bishop where we spent the weekend with family. Then we headed home after spending one night camping on a ridge overlooking Convict Lake. We had intended to spend more time on the road but the furnace in our camper was not working and getting up in the morning with the temperature in the 30s was wearing on us.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Golden Rose Ranch

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,

The Turquoise Trail

On July 17 our route took us through Taos, where we stopped at Ranchos de Taos to see the San Francisco de Asis Catholic Mission Church; always a notable stop with the abode buttresses and surrounding architecture providing plenty of photo opportunities in both color and black and white.

Then we passed through Santa Fe, making a brief stop for ice cream. On consulting the map we notice an alternate route, so rather than blasting through on I25 we headed for Highway 14, also known as the Turquoise Trail. The drive took us through several small towns. We stopped Los Cerrillos, where we explored the grounds of the church and some of the colorful buildings around town. The town was very quiet during our visit, but it was clear that a number of art galleries and artists would make this a busy spot when tourists are out.

We had to to a double take as we passed a herd of colorful origami horses. Having driven past we had to do a U-turn to take a closer look; something that’s not uncommon, and one of the reasons we like the less travelled routes. I wouldn’t even think about doubling back if we were on a four lane divided highway. The Outside the Box Studio was closed, but we had a clear view to look over the barbed wire fence.

Continuing on we were struck by a small church near Golden, and again stopped to take a few photos.

Then it was back on the main highway, I25 to make our way through Albuquerque and on to our camp site for at The Golden Rose Ranch near Prewitt New Mexico.

On to Angel Fire

On the afternoon of July 13 we arrived in Mancos, where we spent the night camping in Kayla’s driveway. We stopped at a liquor store in Mancos to get a bottle of wine to share with dinner. I had to capture a photo of this mural on the side of the liquor store. Kaya is a professional cook and dinner was scrumptious. Here’s a photo of Kayla harvesting some greens for dinner. You can see our camper in the background. Then it was on to Angel Fire. Our drive took us through Durango, Pagosa Springs and Chama and on to Angel Fire. Check out the Stick Library for dog lovers in Pagosa Springs.

In Angel Fire we spent three nights at the Enchanted Circle Campground. The campsite was on a secluded knoll on a private ranch. Joann found this camp through Hipcamp. Given the wide open space I decided to put the drone in the air to capture a view of our camp site. This site was perfect for our needs, quiet, secluded and with wide open skies. One evening a few of the ranch horses decided to check out what was cooking.

Of course our reason for being in Angel Fire was to attend the Sundt Family Reunion. Reunion activities included a picnic dinner on the C & S Cattle Company Ranch, a 130,000 acre spread, and browsing through family scrap books. The family is divided up into 12 “tribes” with each tribe having it’s own scrapbook. The tribes represent the children of MM Sundt. We had 110 people including a family member from Norway. As you can see the scrapbooks are huge and chock full of photos and memorabilia. So much fun to browse through.

Many of the family members are ranchers, and being cowboys they know how to spin a yarn. The family dinner was not shy for story tellers, with various brothers, uncles and nephews correcting each other and embellishing the stories. There’s even a bear story where it took 40 years for the campers that were spooked by a bear to learn that it wasn’t a real bear. You can see more photos in an online gallery.

Best of Baja

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.

Back from Baja

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.

Fall Color Review

So here it is late November and I’ve finally made it through the photos from our Eastern Sierra fall color trip. On September 27, having spent several days with family in Big Pine, it was time to go hunt for fall color. We left Big Pine in the morning, and that night we camped at the Bishop Creek Campground. We were lucky to have some relatively clear air since smoke from wildfires had been plaguing us off and on at lower elevations. Bishop Creek is always a good prospect for fall color.

Here we are with our Four Wheel Pop-up Camper rig parked for the night in a very pretty aspen grove. In the morning we drove up to North Lake and did a short hike to a location I had scouted for a view overlooking the lake. Then it was off to Rock Creek. We made a quick stop at Mosquito Flat trailhead. We did a short hike and, while it was a lovely hike, I was not inspired to take many photos. We moved on to Sagehen Summit Road. Here the aspen were a little past prime but with plenty of photo opportunities.

I found a grove of aspen with a panoply of colors from green to yellow to black. This is my favorite image from this trip and it’s available in my art store. With the sun about to set, we drove the short distance to Mono Lake where we set up camp in the dispersed camping area near Mono Mills.

The next morning we were off to Virginia Lakes, where we did a three mile hike to Frog Lakes. Most of the aspen here were past prime, but we did find fall color in the willows.

From Virginia Lakes we took the Dunderberg Meadows Road, pulling off in mid-afternoon to set up camp. Here I put the drone in the air, you can see the image looking west over the trees. We found some lovely aspen groves along the Dunderberg Meadow Road and made a note to include this drive on future trips. Before heading back to the pavement we took a detour to explore Green Creek and discovered some very nice camping opportunities. Then it was back to the the pavement on US 395 and up and over Sonora Pass for the drive home. We’ve made many stops near Sonora Pass on previous trips, and on this trip we did not stop for photos. You can view more photos from the trip here.

The Mojave Road

The Mojave Desert is a huge swath of land in the Southwest corner of the United States, much of it located in California. It occupies close to 48,000 square miles and is noted for the Joshua Trees that grow only in this desert. The Mojave Road runs across part of the Mojave Desert and through the Mojave National Preserve, a unit of the National Park System. The road was originally a trail for Native Americans stringing together a series of watering holes and providing a route for trade between desert and coastal dwellers. Later it became a route for Spanish missionaries, explorers, and settlers from the 18th to 19th centuries. Today it’s an iconic four-wheel drive road. We spent four days driving the road with a caravan of Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers.

For part of the tour, I had a GoPro camera on the dashboard of our truck. Here’s four days of touring condensed into 10 minutes. Make sure to watch the water crossing at 8:52.

Our tour started at 7:30 a.m. on October 8 in the parking lot of the Avi Resort in Bullhead City. There we met our tour guide, Bob Wohler of the Off-Road Safety Academy. Bob gave us a briefing and provided a radio for each truck to use for communication while touring.

Once we were off the pavement, we stopped to air down our tires. I’ve driven off-road periodically for over 20 years and this was the biggest eye-opener on the trip for me. Less air in the tires gives a much smoother ride. As Bob would say, sympathy for the passengers, sympathy for the equipment, and sympathy for the environment. Our tour passed a number of interest points, the first being Fort Piute. Then it was on to our campsite for the night at School Bus Camp, noted for an abandoned school bus that marked the location until a few years ago when it was removed.

There are numerous points of interest along the road, including a tin can into which you can drop a penny for good luck, the Mojave Mailbox where you can sign your name and leave a comment, and a collection of gnomes and frogs. You just have to see it to believe it. The terrain ranges from sandy flats to rocky road to a dry soda lakebed, traveling through some magnificent Joshua Tree forests along the way. The road has worn down at several points so that you are driving in a canyon so narrow that the vegetation is brushing against the sides of your vehicle.

Once across the soda lake you arrive at a pile of rocks. Bob had instructed us to pick up a rock earlier in the trip, and this is where the rocks are deposited—at Travelers Monument. There is actually a monument buried under this pile of rocks. If you scramble to the top of the pile you can read the plaque. We were sworn to secrecy regarding the words so you’ll just have to plan a visit to read it yourself.

A highlight of the trip was the lava tube, and also the water crossing at the end. We ended up driving the last section of the road from east to west because we helped some travelers who got their vehicle stuck in the sand. Time was an issue, so we took a detour to Afton Canyon Campground for our last night. The next morning two rigs decided to cross the Mojave River with Bob’s coaching.

More photos are available here, and I’ve made a few select images available as fine art prints in my art store.

We logged 180 miles on the tour, some of it on side trips off the Mojave Road. Elevation ranged from 500 feet at the start of the tour to 5,700 feet at the high point.

Bound for Home

As we turned the calendar to July, it was time to leave our temporary post in Big Pine and head for home. We decided to make the trip a two-day drive with an overnight near Ebbetts Pass on State Route 4. This is one of the lesser-used passes crossing the Sierra. It’s a steep, winding, narrow road with one lane for a good portion of the time. Suitable for our rig, we figured that with throngs of people heading to the mountains for the Fourth of July weekend, it was a likely route on which to still find camping. And since we were driving midweek on a Thursday, we figured we’d have the jump on the campers coming up for the weekend.

Our route crossed two passes: Monitor Pass at 8,314 feet on State Route 89, and Ebbetts Pass at 8,736 feet on State Route 4. Just before cresting Monitor Pass, we stopped to admire the view. I was intrigued with the clouds and grasses on the high plateau.

Once over the passes we had plans to check out Hermit Valley for camping, but when we got there we decided to move on. Not far down the road we saw a sign for Pacific Valley Campground that looked promising. We found plenty of camping available along a lovely mountain stream.

In the morning we decided to explore the trail leading up Pacific Creek. Our dog Carson was happy to be off-leash once we were out of camp, and happy to cavort in the creek’s cool water. We manged to hike about six miles up the creek and back, and returned to camp lamenting the fact that we couldn’t stay longer. We had a commitment for a family Fourth of July get-together.

We broke camp and headed down the mountain passing Mosquito Lakes and Alpine Lake, which were quite busy. There was absolutely no parking available along the road. Every conceivable spot had a car parked with many more cruising looking for parking.

Despite the weekend crush of visitors, we were inspired by our overnight at Pacific Valley. We’ll be returning to explore more of the Stanislaus National Forest.

%d bloggers like this: