|I will probably never tire of this view, so I served it mercilessly to our visitors as well.
|At he edge of the sun-burnt desert, our little wooden town dwells...
I thought that if we set out on Friday afternoon, we would manage to slip out
of the Bay before the evening jam happens, but I was wrong.
Time in the morning, which I had devoted to checking goat pen's rework,
we later lacked in the mountains. We reached Strawberry after almost five
hours — it usually takes us three and half
— and I had to order a dining stop. We had been playing audio books during
our journey (InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire),
but even so there was much traffic stress. Leavitt Meadows
appeared with dusk; fortunately the lower campsite was now, by the end of the
season, dry and available, and we did not have to figure out any alternatives,
and encamped in peace. The end of the season also brought negative
effects — the Marines had removed their convenient port-a-potties,
forcing us to squat behind bushes.
And since days got properly shorter, we would go to sleep early, but
nobody minded that. With no real electricity available, your sleeping bag
sees you with the chickens. But still, to stretch our legs after a half-day
sitting in the car,
we hiked up to the viewpoint over Leavitt — by then it was
dark and we puzzled for a relatively long moment, why would anyone keep their
head-lights on in the meadow? After some ten minutes we realized the crazy
shine behind a grove was the Moon, reflecting in the river.
|Local (historic) fire station.
|A modern car (not even hundred years old).
We had planned Bodie for Saturday — a gold-mining ghost town, which had
accommodated ten thousand people in 1880 and sported sixty five bars, where gold
miners could spend their hard-earned wealth on alcohol, opium, loose
women, or gambling in dens. Undertaker was the town's busiest professional
— he dealt with one murdered person a day on average. During subsequent
forty years all gold was extracted, town got raked by a fire — and people
deserted this inhospitable high desert place. Often carrying only what they wore
on their persons of managed to load on a horse — and thus in the remaining
hundred and seventy houses, you can see not only period furniture, but also
dishes, clothing, and other artifacts of regular life. It's a completely
different category of a historic monument, contrasting with sterile cathedrals
of Europe — and thus we recommend it to all our visitors.
I've got a much less lofty story from Bodie for you. When I needed to use
an outhouse there, I put my mobile phone down on a box with toilet paper, being
an old hand at this, to prevent it from otherwise inevitably dropping from my
back pocket into the pit of said facility. Eventually, I marched back to
my car, found a snack, and waited for Pepe and Sarah, who enjoyed Bodie with
a greater deliberation than I. Having noticed my missing phone only after
another half hour, then rushing back to the port-a-potties, I got stopped by
a group of people, who (correctly) concluded that I must be the right person
who had left her phone in the booth. Fortunately for me, they had also logically
concluded that if they wait a bit, I would return for it, so they did not
figure to carry the phone off to deposit it at some office. (There is no phone
signal/service in Bodie, which preempts possibilities of seeking the phone or
the owner by calling from/to it.)
|Visitors need to get on horse back.
|Sarah and Oggi.
From Bodie we drove to the northern rim of Mono Lake, which sports a beautiful
park with benches and picnic tables, and from which a wooden path leads to the
edge of the lake with a view to a few tufas. There we sat down and chatted, and
walked the path. It was funny that we met the group from Bodie again, who had
found my phone. Driving to the southern lake end ensued, to join thousands of
tourists there, walking the most famous tufa exhibit. Only Pepe went along with
me there, as Sarah got hit by a case of jet-lag and apparently altitude sickness
(we live at sea level, Leavitt Meadows are above seven thousand feet, Bodie is
above eight thousand feet, Mono at some six thousand), and we had to leave her
behind with head aches, indigestion, coffee and pills at the car.
Our original plan included ascending the Panum Crater, but given the prevailing
heat and Sarah's head ache, we opted for retreat to Whoa Nellie's Deli. They
have not only coffee there, sandwiches and burgers, but also decent draft beer
and lures like teriyaki sesame seared tuna sashimi. Given the fact that Pepe's
colleagues had scared her with stories about getting horribly fat in America
from eating exclusively McDonald hamburgers, we had to take a picture of this
menu item — with a note that this was an American gas station fare (yes,
Nellie's Deli is a gas station cafeteria). By the way, my phone rescuers
reappeared again; they must have copied my itinerary.
|Crazy cold and windy.
We crawled into our sleeping bags more or less with dusk again — on the
following day, our high-point awaited — a horse-back ride to Secret Lake.
I was a bit worried that I would get issued Roscoe and experience another rodeo,
but got Splash instead. A (new to the pack station) wrangler told me that it
was a spooky horse; my impression after first twenty minutes was that he was not
spooky but that he had a bad sight. He turned his head here and there and
— understandably — reacted more sensitively to sounds (I frightened
him most by wheezing suddenly). Otherwise Splash offered a nice ride, and is an
old guard, having lived at the station for years. Which showed in tricks he
tried, pretending to scratch just to surreptitiously grab a bite of green grass.
It was interesting that when returning him, his owner confirmed Splash to truly
have a bad sight. Proves I'm not crazy.
After horses, I ordered us into hot springs — I felt it was time to
perform a bit of personal hygiene, especially after having sweated on horses
riding through clouds of dust. I was secretly hoping that by this time of late
Sunday afternoon, Buckeye would be less beleaguered, but there were several
groups hoping for the same thing. When I spotted the mass occupation of the
lower pools by the river, we slid into upper springs near a parking lot.
We spared ourselves ugly descent and climb of a ravine, and had more privacy
there. Upper pools cool faster on colder days, but on a sunny September day
they had the perfect temperature. As a full stop of a beautiful sentence of
a day I decreed a visit to Mountainview BBQ in Walker, where we overstuffed
ourselves on Texas spuds (with meat, sour cream and green onion), and topped
it off by a strawberry short-cake (with ice cream).
|Obsidian rocks on crater's rim.
Monday morning was very windy, but sunny. Even so I was glad we had ridden
horses in the still weather of the day before; wind makes horses nervous.
Then we packed our stuff and tried for a second round at Mono Lake, this time
with Sarah. Then we chose a polar expedition to Panum Crater — two days
earlier, it was too hot for the crater, and now a crazy wind howled and it was
too cold despite our windbreakers — desert climate in full display.
Meanwhile, a caffeine withdrawal syndrome announced itself — imagining
to have to drive through whole Yosemite and continue home, I forced the girls
to Nellie's for coffee. And to worm up a bit, I ordered chilli fries —
thinking it was a breakfast portion, but even with Sarah's and Pepe's help I
could not finish it.
We got out of the car in Tioga Pass, to take pictures of local pools, and then,
natrually stopped at Olmstead Point, with a view to Half Dome. By then gusts of
wind were so strong that it was a problem at times keeping the vertical.
Furthermore, traffic was surprisingly heavy — horrible jams prevailed
despite this being a Monday. Past Olmstead Point we got caught in a closure
alternating traffic in one and then the other direction. It was the last spot
with wind but also sunshine. A bit past North Dome it started raining, slowing
all traffic to walking pace. I reckoned that in those conditions (cars crawling,
poor visibility) our visitors would hardly ever see El Capitan. Even so, our way
home got quite long, nevertheless improved by a stop in Mexican El Agave.
|Visitors may not appreciate a locally unusual natural phenonmenon - it RAINS in California!
|Golden Gate in fog.
As soon as we descended from the mountains, the wind stopped and we found
ourselves again in boringly dry California autumn. And since it was necessary
to boringly spend time with family and schools and goats again, we sent our
visitors off to a three-day stay in Monterey, while we caught up what
"got neglected" again. On the following weekend we took our visitors
on a car trip around the Bay — across Golden Gate, which defeated us by
hiding in fog, across Richmond bridge to the eastern side, and there to Alameda,
to see USS Hornet. In Alameda, we had to get extracted from a navigational trap
by a random bystander — we just could not figure out how to find an
entrance to an underwater tunnel in the maze of local one-way-streets, detours
Air carrier USS Hornet had served since 1943, having participated in actions of
second world war in the Pacific. In 1969 Hornet pulled up aboard astronauts of
Apollos 11 and 12, and was finally decommissioned in 1970. Today she anchors at
Alameda, and acts as a floating museum.
And if you're lucky, it can happen that your guide
would possessively mention "his" Combat Information Center and
"his" flight controllers. We were this lucky this time, thus we spent
many hours aboard Hornet, until they closed — and still we probably missed
|On flight deck of USS Hornet.
Then on Tuesday I just loaded Pepa and Sarah up, and dropped them off in San
Francisco, for their trip back home. This one was such a pleasant visit, because
it just merged with our lives, and besides a greater number of coffee mugs in
the dishwasher, we actually never encountered any big waves in our family
routine. Therefore we home that our visitors, too, had fun during their vacation
— the girls covered a lot of ground — balloons and horses, ocean,
sequoias, mountains, lakes, a volcanic crater, a gold-mining camp, a mission,
museums, a lighthouse, an aquarium, and an aircraft carrier. Quite a few things,
in less than four weeks, is it not?
And as is the custom, you can find more pictures in the