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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Arizona to Alaska and Back through 24 National Parks: The Mother of all RoadTrips!

    This thread will be a day-by-day accounting of a 13,000 mile RoadTrip that took place in the summer of 2015. That’s a lot of miles, so this is going to be a long report, which I’ll be posting in sections, stretched out over the next several weeks.

    ***Maps will be created by Tom Herbertson using the RTA Custom Maps program and dropped into the appropriate place in the thread.

    Due to seasonal road closures (snow, mud, road construction, etc.) some of the maps displayed in this thread are not displaying properly or you might see pop-up windows reporting errors found with the route. Unfortunately, the map data used to create these maps enforces these "Time-outs" if a particular road segment is closed. In the case of the pop-up windows (alerts), please click the "OK" or "Close" button and the rest of the page will display properly. In the case on some of the maps where the route seems all jammed up -- reloading the page where the map is displaying seems to solve the issue. All of these problems go away once the winter closures of the roads end. So, everything will look fine in the North American summer months.

    Beginning at the beginning:


    There are a number of events in a person’s life that mark a major point of transition: your first driver’s license, your 18th birthday, your graduation from high school or college; your first real job; first love; first marriage; first child. Most of those once-in-a-lifetime mileposts flash past us when we’re young, but there’s a big one that’s reserved for older folk, and because it’s something that requires a significant amount of long-term planning, it’s perhaps the most anticipated single event in the life of the average working stiff. I’m talking about retirement! That’s the day you get to throw away your alarm clock, because if you’ve done it right, it’s just like winning the lottery: every month, they send you a check, and you don’t have to do a darned thing to earn it.

    As for myself, I had a career with the federal government that lasted almost 35 years, and by the time my own retirement date rolled around, just before my 65th birthday, I’d had a WHOLE lot of time to ponder the glorious potential of this new state of being. I wanted to kick it off with a celebration worthy of the occasion, and the first thing I wanted to do was a RoadTrip—a really BIG RoadTrip. I wanted to drive to Alaska on the Alaska Highway, and I wanted to see Denali, the biggest mountain in North America. I could go north by one route, and return by a different route, stopping at every national park along the way.

    I moved back home to Arizona from Washington D.C., and I started planning in earnest, consulting maps and guidebooks, shopping for camping gear, servicing my Jeep, and soliciting everyone I knew in hopes of finding a co-pilot for this journey, which I’d dubbed “The Mother of All Road Trips,” (MOART for short). I was likely to be gone as much as two months, and that killed the whole deal for just about everybody. Even retired people are hard pressed to free up that much time all at once, and that meant that if I was going to do it, I’d have to do it alone. That wasn’t exactly ideal. I have a bad back that limits me in a lot of unfortunate ways; if the strain of all those hours behind the wheel threw it out of whack, I could get stuck in the middle of nowhere, in too much pain to keep going. With nobody to take over the driving, what the heck would I do?

    It had been decades since I’d attempted anything remotely this ambitious, and, being brutally honest with myself, I really wasn’t sure if I was still capable. There was a lot at stake, and I knew I’d regret it forever if I didn’t at least give it a shot. I figured it would be best to start off slowly, with a sort of a trial run. First, I’d drive to Yosemite National Park, which was pretty exciting all by itself, because I’d never been there. Then I’d zip over to San Francisco, where I’d spend a few days visiting an old friend. The two of us would do some camping in the Redwoods, a perfect way to test out my new gear, and if all that went well, I’d head toward Alaska, one national park at a time. If my back gave me too much trouble, at any point along the way, I’d turn around and head for home. With that thought in my pocket, I started packing.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    This map (above) shows Rick's route between Phoenix, Arizona and Lee Vining, California. Rick completed this route in the summer months so his route included the June Lake Loop and over Tioga Pass (which we can't build when those roads are closed due to seasonal closures.) When the roads reopen we'll update this thread with new maps showing the routes over the roads that are closed now.****

    Day 1: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

    My Jeep, empty: plenty of room in there with the seats folded flat.

    I packed all my stuff in watertight plastic tubs, which made it easy to unload on those nights when I skipped setting up the tent and just slept in the back.

    Everything fit neatly together in a configuration that became VERY familiar by the end of the trip!

    Locked and loaded, ready for launch!

    That first day, I managed a 9 AM departure, despite a lot of last minute scrambling, organizing my gear and triple checking all my lists. The first leg was all too familiar; Interstate 10, west to California. No surprises on that route, aside from fires and smoke on the mountains to the west of Indio, a blaze on the back side of one of the peaks putting out a billowing column of smoke that made the semi-conical peak look like an erupting volcano.

    (Yet another) California wildfire, west of Indio.

    Just past Riverside, I turned north, and made my way onto US 395, heading toward the Sierras. This was new territory at last—a road I’d never traveled! The old Joshua tree forests were blighted by new development, and the two lane highway was clogged by long lines of slow trucks and RV’s, interspersed with impatient idiots who simply had to pass everyone else, regardless of risk. I did quite a lot of passing and being passed, as I held to a steady speed. I have an indicator on my dash that calculates my average MPG, and I watched that number climb from 15 or so, which is what I get in the city, all the way up to 20.2! My Grand Cherokee, with its V-8 engine and full time four wheel drive, has never been even remotely fuel efficient, especially when you factor in my customary lead foot. With thousands of miles of road ahead of me, in a region where fuel prices are notoriously high, I was pleased to see that it was possible to do better, simply by adjusting my attitude (and keeping my RPM’s pegged on about 1800).
    The landscape started getting much more interesting as the Sierras closed in, entering the Owens Valley, and by the time I got to Lone Pine, whoa, baby! We’re talking serious beauty, especially around Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

    California’s Sierra Nevada, from US 395

    I continued on to Bishop, mile 600 for the day, and plenty far enough. I bedded down for the night in an EconoLodge, $75 plus tax. It was a little shabby, but acceptable, and clean enough. My back was holding up better than I expected. I had a good lumbar support cushion, and I’d taken plenty of short breaks to stretch out my stiff muscles. So far, so good!

    (Up next: Yosemite!)
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 01-18-2022 at 02:38 AM. Reason: updated closure alert explanation

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Rick Quinn -- wearer of many hats

    I think we are going to enjoy this field report.

    The author of this thread is also the author of Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips and you can read more about his book here.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 01-19-2019 at 01:27 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Yosemite!

    Day 2: Wednesday, June 24th

    From Bishop, the road climbed steadily to much higher, cooler elevation. Someone had suggested a short detour, a loop that passed by June Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake.

    Due to seasonal road closures (snow, mud, road construction, etc.) some of the maps displayed in this thread are not displaying properly or you might see pop-up windows reporting errors found with the route. Unfortunately, the map data used to create these maps enforces these "Time-outs" if a particular road segment is closed. In the case of the pop-up windows (alerts), please click the "OK" or "Close" button and the rest of the page will display properly. In the case on some of the maps where the route seems all jammed up -- reloading the page where the map is displaying seems to solve the issue. All of these problems go away once the winter closures of the roads end. So, everything will look fine in the North American summer months.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map
    (This map shows Rick's route between Bishop and Yosemite Village, California.)

    June Lake, just off US 395

    Grant Lake (a bit on the dry side), off CA 158

    Took some good pictures, and then drove on to Lee Vining, where I snapped more pictures of Mono Lake—beautiful, but the photos weren’t that good because of haze, and poor light.

    Mono Lake, near Lee Vining

    Next, the road went west toward Tioga Pass, climbing to an utterly breathtaking 9,945 feet, and the eastern, high country entrance to Yosemite. My coveted lifetime Senior Pass got me a smile and a welcome to the Park at no charge (best ten bucks I ever spent). Drove to the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor’s Center, where one of the Park Rangers answered a few questions for me.

    1. Are any of the camp grounds tents only? (I have a thing about tent camping amongst a herd of RV’s). Answer: Two: Yosemite Creek, and Tamarack Flat, the latter being closer (though not by much) to Yosemite Village. Both had space available as of that morning.

    2. If I only have one day, and I don’t really want to hike, what’s the best things I can see? She then recommended the Olmsted Point Overlook, just up the road, as well as Yosemite Valley, which is a must see despite the crowds. Last but most important, she said, was the drive to Glacier Point, atop the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. It was a bit of a drive, at least 45 minutes each way, but well worth it for the spectacular views.

    My first view of Half Dome, from the Olmsted Point Overlook off Tioga Road

    I had to skip Tuolumne Meadows, a major attraction in the park, because it would have required a bit of a hike, and I was determined to avoid foot travel (lest I overtly strain my tenuous back). Olmsted Point proved to be fabulous, and provided my first view of Half Dome, off in the distance. Beyond the overlook, there was road construction that caused delays of about a half an hour—typical in summer. Past the construction, after first passing the entrance and then making a U-Turn, I found the road to Tamarack Flat and drove the three narrow, winding miles to the campground, hoping I wouldn’t meet another car going the other way, as there were sharp, blind corners and there was very little room to pass. The campground was nearly deserted, so I approached the bulletin board to see about reserving a camp site for the evening--$12 per night standard fee, or $6 with my senior pass. As I was filling out the reservation ticket, a young couple that was packing up their camp asked me how long I planned to stay. “One night,” I replied.

    “We’ve already paid for tonight,” they explained, “but we’re moving on, and you’re welcome to use this space.”

    Sounded good to me, so I thanked them, and left the campground to go out and explore the park. It took longer than I expected to reach Yosemite Village. I made numerous stops along the route to take pictures, and after one of them, just past a series of tunnels carved into the mountain, I started the car again, but the AC mysteriously failed to come on. Then I noticed the radio had lost power, and the electric windows wouldn’t roll down. Temperatures were mild, but it got very warm in the cab of the Jeep, very quickly, like a greenhouse effect, and I was immediately miserable with no ventilation. That got worse as I approached Yosemite Village. The crowds were extremely heavy, and traffic was a total mess, barely crawling along. Parking near the visitor’s center was a nightmare—way too many cars, not nearly enough parking spaces, and a ton of tour buses lumbering about. Most people park their cars in or near the Village, and do their traveling around in the buses; I could certainly see why! I was beyond exasperated, sweating bullets in the stuffy interior. I finally found a parking spot, and shut the thing off. I assumed I’d blown a fuse, at minimum. I was using my inverter to recharge all my electronics, as well as my heated back cushion, as well as the AC, and the load must have been too much for the Jeep’s electrical system. (That wasn’t true, as it turned out, but it was my best guess at the time.) Either way, I needed a mechanic, ASAP. Were services like that even available in Yosemite Village? If they were, I shuddered at the thought of how much they were likely to cost me. As for alternatives, how far would I have to drive my quasi-disabled vehicle in order to find a repair shop outside the National Park? This was a potential trip killer, if only for the potentially outrageous expense if the problem was anything more serious than fuses.

    One of the volunteers at the visitor’s center recommended a place called the “Garage”, just up the road in the Village, so I walked over, found it, and talked to the mechanic, who agreed to take a look at my Jeep. I moved the Jeep to the Garage from my hard-won parking spot, fighting the ridiculous Yosemite Village cross traffic at a chaotic four way stop. The friendly mechanic checked all my fuses—must have been 30 or more altogether, two plastic boxes in the engine compartment, and another in an awkward spot under the dash on the driver’s side. None of them had blown. He asked me for my key fob, inserted it, gave it a twist, and started the engine. Bing-Bing-Bing-Bing! Everything that had been dead came miraculously back to life! The mechanic surmised that I had indeed overloaded my electrical system, causing the non-critical accessories to shut down. When I stopped the vehicle, everything cooled off, and the problem self-resolved. Amazingly, there was no charge, not even for the time he spent checking my fuses, so I wasn’t about to argue with him; he was the mechanic, and presumably knew more about these things than me! I drove away with seriously mixed emotions: relief, because everything was working again; joy, because the incident hadn’t cost me a penny; and worry, because I still wasn’t quite sure what had happened, and I was afraid it might happen again.

    Yosemite Valley

    I puttered around Yosemite Village and got a sandwich, took numerous photos from the Valley floor of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the big waterfall that’s, like, right there! Next, with the AC, windows, and radio working again I drove up to Glacier Point, a distance of 30 miles or so. There was a ton of traffic on that road—mostly big RV’s and rental cars. Nobody knew how to drive on steep grades—they were going too slow, or too fast, and using their brakes WAY too much. Stopped first at Washburn Point overlook, and saw an astonishing sight: Half Dome, in all its glory was actually below me. I could see the whole of Yosemite Valley, along with two perfect waterfalls springing from the distant mountainside behind the iconic peak.

    Washburn Point Overlook: not one, but two waterfalls!

    The lookout area was surprisingly uncrowded, even though the view, as it turned out, might well be the best in the whole park. Glacier Point itself, perhaps a mile and a half further up the road, had a similar view, but only one of the two waterfalls was visible from that vantage point. Worse: Glacier Point was outrageously crowded, the huge parking area strained to capacity with sedans, SUV’s, RV’s of every description, and—the main reason for the crowd—tour buses—lots and lots of tour buses. I parked and made my way to each of several overlooks. It was quite a challenge, trying to snap pictures that did not include the herds of tourists, their children, their eagerly extended cameras (most commonly, cell phone cameras mounted on selfie sticks).

    Half Dome, as seen from Glacier Point

    I was pretty darned satisfied. I’d taken some wonderful pictures, and I was completely blown away by the beauty that was all around me. With a very big grin on my face, I made my way back down the mountain. At a wide spot along the route, a number of cars were pulled over, people pointing excitedly into the woods. I figured it had to be a bear, so I stopped as well, and came away with a great series of shots of a brown bear grazing among purple wildflowers.

    Yosemite Traffic Hazard

    At the bottom of the road, back in the valley, crowds had thinned dramatically—it was getting late in the day, 6 PM or so, and it was easy to stop wherever I liked to snap more photos of El Capitan and the other geological wonders in this extraordinary place. Back in the Village, parking was a breeze. The hamburger stand with the $13 cheeseburgers was closed for the day, so I went into the market and bought a turkey sandwich, my dinner for later. Then I studied my maps, and concluded that I really should use my free camping spot, rather than trying to drive out of the park in search of a motel. To that end, I drove toward the western park exit on the same road that eventually forked and hooked back toward the high country, where I’d been earlier in the day. I was making good time, cruising right along, but at one point, all traffic ahead of me stopped dead. I inched along for at least 20 minutes in a traffic jam reminiscent of big city rush hour, wondering what the cause might be. And then I came upon the explanation: off to the side of the road, just across the Merced River, a young bear had climbed a spindly pine tree and was swaying at the top, putting on a bit of a show. There was no proper place to pull over, so cars traveling in both directions simply stopped in the middle of the road while people got out and took their photos (mostly with cell phone cameras) oblivious to the other drivers, who were all waiting impatiently to do the same thing themselves. Once I got past that obstacle, I sailed away pretty quickly. The road to the campground was much farther than I remembered—my gas gauge was dipping pretty low, so I stopped and bought five gallons at inflated National Park prices ($4.39 a gallon, a dollar a gallon higher than most stations were charging in other parts of California that summer), and by the time I got to the turn off (with some relief—I feared I’d passed it) it was getting quite late, close to dark.

    The sign at the turnoff to the campground said full up, and I was afraid someone might have stolen my space, so I hustled down the narrow, curvy road. Thankfully, all was well. As I started setting up, a young woman approached, asking me if I knew any alternatives for staying the night, any other campgrounds or hotels within driving distance, since it was getting late, and nothing around there was available. The camp ground rules allowed up to two vehicles and as many as six people per campsite, so I offered to share mine, a simple gesture that didn’t cost me a thing and was very much appreciated. One of the girls was a wildlife biologist who had just received her Master’s degree. I told them I was headed to Alaska to see Denali, and she brightened. Seems she’d been to Denali herself, the previous week, no less, so we had a great conversation about Alaska and about travel in general. One of the best things about traveling alone—you’re more inclined to reach out to strangers, if only to have someone to talk to, and you can meet fascinating people that way. I removed the tubs from the Jeep, set them out, and covered them neatly with my tarp. (I wasn’t expecting rain that night, but it seemed like a good idea to make a habit of using the tarp, which doubled as a ground cloth for my tent.) Then I blew up my Megamat, a $200 air mattress that I bought from REI, and I slept in the Jeep for the first time. Not too bad! The night started out too warm; I tried sleeping wearing jeans and T-shirt, no blanket or bag. Then it started to cool down so I covered up with a sheet, and before long, I had to un-stuff my down bag and climb into that. Slept fitfully, but well enough, after my first full day exploring an amazing spot I’d never been before.
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 01-18-2022 at 02:39 AM. Reason: updated closure alert explanation

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Good stuff !

    Lovely pictures Rick and I'm enjoying reading your memoirs, they are bringing back some of my own fond memories.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Interlude

    Day 3: Thursday, June 25th

    I was up at 6 AM, and hit the road, driving out the west entrance of Yosemite on Hwy 120 toward Manteca. It was a beautiful curvy two-lane road, rolling down out of the mountains. The route was reasonably straightforward, but I still managed to get lost passing through Manteca, where several freeways come together. I passed up the onramp that I should have taken, and then ran into a second freeway quite a bit later, after passing through random neighborhoods. From the signs, it sounded wrong—like it was going to take me in the wrong direction, so I pulled over and checked maps, decided to go for it, and ta-da, it all worked out. I think California freeways, the signage, the way it all looks on maps, it’s all deliberately confusing! I ran into a terrible mid-day traffic back-up on I-580, surrounded by mostly trucks in a frozen river of vehicles that was barely moving. After a very long time I finally inched my way to the source: the far left lane was closed for a work zone, and two lanes had to merge, causing the whole artery to clog to a dead halt stretching twenty miles back. I made it through Berkeley to the Richmond Bridge, and, just like that, I was in Marin County. Pulled over and called my friend for precise instructions, then drove to his house in Mill Valley—a stunning three story home on Panoramic Highway, at the top of a high ridge near Mt. Tamalpais. The house had an elevator from the garage to the eagle’s nest (the third floor, where they mostly live), and an unobstructed view of beautifully quilted green and tan hills, rippling down all the way to the sea, along with another view, just across neighbor’s rooftops, of San Francisco Bay and the Richmond Bridge.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map
    (This map shows Rick's route between Yosemite Village and Tiburon, California.)

    Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley

    I had a very nice reunion with my old friend Carl, who I’ve known for more than fifty years. It had been a very long time since we’d last seen each other, so we had a lot of catching up to do. We spent a lovely afternoon driving local roads in Marin County, taking in beautiful ocean views which are often cloaked in fog--but everything was perfectly clear on this particular glorious day. And I had to admit—sleeping in Carl’s guest room was a whale of a lot more comfortable than sleeping in the back of my Jeep!

    Days 4-5: Friday & Saturday, June 26th & 27th

    Beautiful sunrise from the deck!

    Right after breakfast, we hiked Muir Woods, the easy way: we left the Jeep at the bottom of the mountain, near the park entrance, and then rode tandem on Carl’s little motorcycle, up to the top of the mountain. We left the bike up there near the trail head--easy enough to come back for it later--so our entire hike was downhill—five miles or so of beautiful redwood forest and a burbling creek with ferns and mossy boulders. That was the longest hike I'd taken in years, and I felt great!

    Muir Woods National Monument

    We saw huge crowds going into the park that morning—a constant stream of people. By the time we finished our hike, all parking lots were full, and every road for a mile or more in every direction was lined with the spillover, cars parked nose to tail as far as the eye could see. Despite that huge influx of humanity at the park entrance, coming in the “back way” as we had done, we didn’t encounter all that many people, not until we got to the area nearest the park entrance. Most visitors, it seems, don’t go all that deep into this forest and they’re really missing out! Afterwards, we drove to Bolinas, had a couple of beers at Smiley’s—the oldest bar in Marin, followed by an evening of stimulating conversation, hanging out at my friend’s beautiful house.

    The next morning, we tossed a couple of bicycles into the back of Carl’s old green mini-van, and drove to Tiburon. Biked around the area—something I hadn’t done in quite some time—then stopped by the wharf, where the ferries dock for tours of Angel Island, or back and forth to San Francisco (an alternative to the busier San Francisco to Sausalito ferry). Had ceviche and guacamole and margaritas at an overpriced dockside café, then rode back to the van, drove around a bit more. I was starting to loosen up in a major way, and, so far, at least, my broken back was behaving itself.

    San Francisco and the Bay Bridge from Tiburon Harbor

    Tiburon (a bit like an homage to the coast of Italy, on San Francisco Bay)
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-16-2019 at 08:29 PM. Reason: Added map description

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Interlude: Part 2

    Days 6-7: Sunday & Monday, June 28th & 29th

    I started the day at the street fair in San Rafael, an annual event that attracts artists from all over the world. Several downtown streets are painted with a fresh, smooth coating of blacktop, marked off into a grid. Local businesses sponsor squares of various sizes, and each artist is assigned to a square, where they create amazing chalk drawings on the smooth black surface. The theme for this year was Carnival, and most (but not all) of the art reflected something to do with costumes and celebrations.

    Chalk artist drawing on the street in San Rafael

    A number of local women in elaborate costumes reminiscent of the court of Louis the XIV paraded slowly down the main street, holding jeweled masks in front of their faces, twirling for the crowd, moving to the tune of Bach Concertos played over loudspeakers.

    Street fair in San Rafael

    Due to seasonal road closures (snow, mud, road construction, etc.) some of the maps displayed in this thread are not displaying properly or you might see pop-up windows reporting errors found with the route. Unfortunately, the map data used to create these maps enforces these "Time-outs" if a particular road segment is closed. In the case of the pop-up windows (alerts), please click the "OK" or "Close" button and the rest of the page will display properly. In the case on some of the maps where the route seems all jammed up -- reloading the page where the map is displaying seems to solve the issue. All of these problems go away once the winter closures of the roads end. So, everything will look fine in the North American summer months.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map
    (This map shows Rick's route between Tiburon and Mt. Tamalpais, California, via the Mendocino Coast.)

    We were already packed for camping, so from San Rafael we drove north to the Anderson Valley, following US 101 to CA 128, eventually arriving at a town called Boonville. The town is fairly well known for two things: a local brewery that puts out some highly regarded craft beer, and a unique language, more of a jargon, called Boontling, which is spoken nowhere else in the world. We stopped off at the former (the brewery), and while we slaked our thirst, we chatted with the bartender about the latter. He told us that Boontling has about 1,000 unique words and phrases, and that it’s in danger of becoming archaic, as there are no more than 100 people, all Anderson Valley residents, who still speak it. The odd lingo got started in the late 19th century as a language game played by the children in this isolated farming community; the point to it was to allow the youngsters to speak freely in front of their elders, without being understood. (This explains why a disproportionate number of the odd sounding words have, shall we say, naughty connotations.) Along with the linguistic history lesson, the bartender gave us a fabulous tip on the best place to pitch a tent: a Mendocino County campground called Indian Creek, near Philo.

    He wasn’t kidding about the campground: the place was fabulous, nestled among magnificent 1,000 year-old giant redwoods, and we darned near had it all to ourselves: only 3 of the 10 spots were occupied. We set up my new SUV tent, which had never been used. The crazy thing was huge—10’ x 10’ and 7 feet tall, with an elasticized boot that attached to the back end of my Jeep. I’d practiced the set up in my driveway at home, so I knew more-or-less how it worked. For one person, it’s extremely awkward, but with the two of us, it was a breeze, and it turned out to be quite a comfortable space. The rear hatch stays open, so the cargo space in the back of the Jeep becomes a very convenient, up-off-the-ground extension of the tent, eliminating the need to unload our gear and carry it back and forth. We had a great spot near a creek, and there was no sound out there but burbling brook and bird song. A nearly full moon diffused by high thin cloud made the sky glow all night long. Someone had left a stack of firewood at our campsite, so we made a great fire and stayed up yakking until almost midnight, enjoying the beautiful night sky through the huge mosquito-netted windows of the tent.

    Camping in the redwoods in Mendocino County

    Next morning, we broke camp, had a good breakfast in Boonville, and then drove across the mountain toward the coast on a Mendocino County byway called Mountain View Road. A beautiful drive, but it was a little hairy. In some spots, the road was too narrow for two way traffic, but there were logging trucks loaded with giant redwood carcasses coming fast around the curves from the other direction, so I had to really stay on my toes, and there were a few heart-stopping moments.

    Point Arena Lighthouse, Mendocino coast

    We ended up at the Mendocino coast by the Point Arena lighthouse, then followed PCH (California Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway), making at least 20 stops along the way. Great pictures, beautiful clear day—rare in that place in this season. Had oysters and beer and crab and fish tacos in Bodega Bay, then back to Carl’s.

    Days 8-9: Tuesday & Wednesday, June 30th & July 1st

    I woke up seriously ill with what must have been food poisoning, apparently from a bad oyster. That was actually a good excuse to spend a quiet day at the house, doing laundry and catching up notes and photos, and planning my route north. As dusk approached, we drove up Mount Tamalpais to the abandoned Mill Valley Air Force Station, a relic of World War II, up at the very top. We watched the sunset, followed by the rise of the full moon. Puffy banks of fog filled the valleys between the ridges, obscuring all but the very top of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Foggy Golden Gate Bridge

    Back at my friend’s house, we had a simple dinner and I hit the sack early, still pretty queasy.

    The next day, I took advantage of Carl and Laura’s hospitality one more time, and spent a second day in recuperation mode. I focused on serious route planning, did a little more photo processing, worked on my correspondence, sending Yosemite photos to all my friends. I went into this journey with no fixed schedule or itinerary. I still wasn’t sure how far I’d get—but now there was a possibility that Carl might endeavor to join me along the route--most likely when I return south, the leg through the Rockies in both Canada and the U.S. That meant I was going to have to plan a bit more specifically, break the trip into sections and keep to an approximate schedule. It would be wonderful to have a co-pilot along on any portion of the upcoming drive, so I was more than happy to make whatever adjustments might be required. In late afternoon, we took a short hike up Mount Tam to watch another great sunset. Spent a quiet evening in the eagle’s nest, had healthy food for dinner, and I was in bed by 10 or so.

    Sunset over San Francisco Bay

    Next up: North to Oregon!
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 01-18-2022 at 02:40 AM. Reason: updated closure alert explanation

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Over the River and through the Redwoods

    Day 10: Thursday, July 2nd

    Hanging out with my friend was a wonderful interlude, but now it was time to get on the road for real. I was recovered from the food poisoning, and (knock on wood) my back wasn’t giving me any serious trouble. I figured I could drive to Oregon, maybe even as far as Seattle, and by that point (hopefully) I’d know if what I wanted to do was truly feasible. I didn’t start loading the Jeep until 9:00, so I didn’t pull out of the driveway until 9:30, and I didn’t hit the 101 until almost 10:00.

    Due to seasonal road closures (snow, mud, road construction, etc.) some of the maps displayed in this thread are not displaying properly or you might see pop-up windows reporting errors found with the route. Unfortunately, the map data used to create these maps enforces these "Time-outs" if a particular road segment is closed. In the case of the pop-up windows (alerts), please click the "OK" or "Close" button and the rest of the page will display properly. In the case on some of the maps where the route seems all jammed up -- reloading the page where the map is displaying seems to solve the issue. All of these problems go away once the winter closures of the roads end. So, everything will look fine in the North American summer months.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map
    (This map shows Rick's route between Mt. Tamalpais, California and Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.)

    I spent the rest of the day driving north by northwest up US 101 to Crescent City. This was the real Redwood Country. I wanted to stop at Redwood National Park, so I deliberately skipped all the California State parks in Humboldt County--but then I either missed or misinterpreted the signs in Orrick that would have led me to the section of Redwood N.P. known as the Grove of Tall Trees. By the time I realized my mistake, I’d driven too far to turn around, so I took very few pictures on that stretch. That was disappointing, but not a huge big deal. In truth, it’s almost impossible to do justice to the biggest redwoods with an ordinary photograph. Surrounded by their brethren as they are, there’s no easy-to-get-to place for a photographer to stand that would provide a proper perspective on these magnificent beings, upwards of 2,000 years old, the largest living things on earth. Just driving up the Avenue of the Giants—a 20 mile long scenic alternate that runs parallel to the larger road south of Phillipsville, was breathtaking.

    Avenue of the Giants, Redwood National Park

    I followed the beautiful rocky coastline to Crescent City, then veered northeast on Route 199, not even realizing that I was traveling through the heart of the northernmost segment of the national park. (There were no signs to indicate that fact). I did, however, appreciate the beauty. Pretty much the entire drive up to that point was spectacular—duly humbled in Humboldt County!

    I entered Oregon at some indeterminate point—I didn’t see a Welcome sign to mark the border, just a gradual shift to a predominance of Oregon license plates on the other cars sharing the road. I drove on to Grants Pass, where it was hot (106 degrees!), dry, and dusty. Cheapest rooms in my AAA guide were in the $90 range and several were on the same street, the main drag through town. I whipped in to a Knight’s Inn that looked okay from the outside (if the quality of the other cars parked in the lot is any indication). The man at the front desk was from India. He was friendly enough, and offered me a room for $69 plus tax. “Same rate as Motel 6,” he assured me. The room proved to be just fine. Wi Fi and ice machine didn’t work, but that was hardly a deal breaker; all I needed was a bed--and air conditioning! I went to a supermarket instead of getting fast food for dinner—ended up with a fresh made sandwich, a six pack for my ice chest, and some fantastic fruit—fresh-picked cherries, a huge bag full that lasted me several days. I had covered 430 miles, altogether, on some very curvy roads, so my back was definitely a little sore. Once I stopped for the night, it loosened up well enough. So far, so good! My only regret for this day: I didn’t take enough pictures!

    Next up: Crater Lake
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 01-18-2022 at 02:41 AM. Reason: updated closure alert explanation

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Crater Lake National Park

    Day 11: Friday, July 3rd

    Got up early, rolled out of Grants Pass, and drove 85 miles or so up into the mountains, to Crater Lake. Got in free (Yay Senior Pass!), asked the Ranger at the entrance about camping possibilities, specifically, about tents only campgrounds. There was just one, he said, Lost Creek Campground, but only sixteen spaces, and this is the fourth of July weekend! Spaces are first come first served and can’t be reserved, so I took a chance and headed straight to it. I got lucky, and scored a great camp site by a creek, for just five bucks. (Senior Pass Price.) Camp site secured, I spent the rest of the day exploring.

    Crater Lake is an old favorite of mine. I saw it the first time on a family vacation in 1962, on the way to the World’s Fair in Seattle (the event that was marked by the debut of the iconic Space Needle). I saw it again in 1987, on a vacation with my wife and daughter, and on both occasions, I was totally blown away. It’s a place that’s best described in superlatives: the deepest lake in the United States, the clearest water in the world, and the most extraordinary shade of deep, rich blue that you will ever see.

    Most visitors to the Park come in the same way I did, on Highway 62, which leads right to the Visitor’s Center. There’s a rim drive that circles the entire lake. The overlooks closest to the Rim Village, where all the concessions are located, is to the left, so 95% of the vehicles head that way, and continue on around the crater in a clockwise direction. My campground was the other way, so I went to the right from the Village, and after I secured my campsite, I made my first circuit of the lake in a counterclockwise direction, stopping at overlooks every couple of miles. Traveling in the opposite direction from the herd put me a little bit out of synch with everyone else, and that was a good thing. I actually had some of those overlooks all to myself, especially on the east side of the park, and that was on an intensely busy Fourth of July weekend. I took hundreds of photographs; I’ll let them speak for themselves:

    Wizard Island, a cinder cone that rises from the waters of the lake

    The deep blue color comes from the purity of the water, said to be the cleanest and clearest in the world!

    Sunset at Crater Lake

    Day 12: Saturday, July 4th

    I woke up early after a very restless night in the back of the Jeep, very cold and cramped. I was beginning to realize that my tent was far more comfortable, so even though it was quite a bit more trouble, I promised myself that I’d use it in preference whenever possible. The mosquitoes by my little creek were voracious; I really shouldn’t have chosen a spot so near the water! I packed and took off early, stopped at several overlooks and took more beautiful photos of sunrise over the lake.

    Sunrise at Crater Lake

    Due to seasonal road closures (snow, mud, road construction, etc.) some of the maps displayed in this thread are not displaying properly or you might see pop-up windows reporting errors found with the route. Unfortunately, the map data used to create these maps enforces these "Time-outs" if a particular road segment is closed. In the case of the pop-up windows (alerts), please click the "OK" or "Close" button and the rest of the page will display properly. In the case on some of the maps where the route seems all jammed up -- reloading the page where the map is displaying seems to solve the issue. All of these problems go away once the winter closures of the roads end. So, everything will look fine in the North American summer months.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map
    (This map attempts to show the route described by Rick between Crater Lake NP and Randle, Washington. Rick's actual route followed a road (NFD 25) that is closed every winter due to snow.)

    Distracted by the view, I passed the exit the first time, and had to retrace. The Rim Drive runs 33 miles, altogether; I think I drove the whole thing three times on this visit! I drove out to highway 97, stopped in Chemult for eggs and hash browns, and finally caught up on texts and such, as I hadn’t found any stable cell service at Crater Lake. Drove north through Bend, then across an Indian Reservation toward Portland. There were great views along the way of the Three Sisters, Mount Baker, and Mount Hood.

    Mount Hood, from US 26

    I drove into Portland, arriving in Gresham, an eastern suburb, at about 2:00. Between my AAA book and Siri, I managed to find a decent enough Super 8 for $89 plus tax. I spent the afternoon working on my gorgeous photos from Crater Lake, crashed early to the din of nearby home-style Fourth of July fireworks—loud and relentless until almost midnight.

    Next up: Columbia Gorge and Mount St. Helens
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 01-18-2022 at 02:41 AM. Reason: updated closure alert explanation

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Columbia Gorge and Mount Saint Helens

    Day 13: Sunday, July 5th

    Got up in no particular hurry and rolled out of the motel around 9:00. Drove east on I-84 along the south side of the Columbia Gorge. It was beautiful, but it was a freeway, so thank goodness for the 7 mile scenic alternate with several waterfalls and trailheads for hiking. Parking was a problem, as the area was very crowded with city dwellers out for day trips on this holiday weekend.

    Multnomah Falls, Columbia Gorge

    At Multnomah Falls, a place I remember from my solo hiking trip through this area way back in 1970, many signs warned against leaving valuables in your car, and broken bits of shattered safety glass in one of the parking spaces near mine confirmed the danger. That made me nervous, so I didn’t really enjoy the waterfall; didn’t hike up to the bridge, for example—just took some quick pics and beat feet out of there. Drove as far as Hood River, and managed to find the toll bridge ($1.00), which took me across the Columbia River into Washington State. Drove back west again for a bit, noticing a whole different feel on that side of the river. It wasn’t a freeway, so you could stop anywhere you liked, and I did just that. I ran across a windsurfer camp, which looked a bit like a hobo jungle, and took some pictures of the river. Turned north on a small road that I’d traced on my map, but once I got to the nearest town, there were no signs anywhere, so I had to ask a guy who was out watering his lawn which road led north to Rainier. The guy seemed surprised. According to him, people on that road often ask how to get to St. Helen’s, but nobody had ever asked him how to get to Rainier. I showed him my map, and after studying it for a minute, with a quizzical frown on his face, he conceded it would work. “Should be a pretty drive,” he said, “but you’ll be glad that you’re driving a Jeep; some parts of it are pretty rough. Head down the hill and turn right at the fire station. After that, just keep going north.”

    The road was indeed terrible, narrow, dipsy, curvy, steep, and fraught with frost heaves, buckles and wide cracks in the asphalt, plus chuckholes big enough to swallow a front wheel. I thought it was great fun, driving that road, and I actually went airborne once or twice, flying out of unexpected dips. Fortunately, there was very little traffic! As promised, the road led past the back side of St. Helens, and I got some great views when there were breaks in the trees.

    Mount Saint Helens

    Unbeknownst to me, a side spur off the road I was driving led to the best spot in existence for viewing the blown crater—but, shame on me, I hadn’t done my homework in advance, so I didn’t know it was there. Note to self: plan ahead, at least a little bit! (Dummy!) Once I got to Randle, I was finally back onto normal highways. It was already 3:00 PM, too late to move on to Rainier, so I holed up in a funky motel outside Randle. The place was kinda cute, and reasonable, but they had no AC, and it was an abnormally warm 95 degree day. I spent most of the afternoon and evening sitting in front of a fan on high speed.

    Next up: Mount Rainier
    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-16-2019 at 08:33 PM. Reason: Removed extraneous backslash

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    I'm thinking that small town where you turned north to try to find your way to St Helens and Rainier, might have been Carson? The way you describe that road, I'm pretty sure we took that many years ago -- a forest road, if I recall correctly. You're right, it was beautiful! We did it just a few years after the crater blew -- can't imagine it, now!


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