San Francisco

While much of Route 1 up the California coast sustained damage during the winter rains, the section from Monterey Bay to Pacifica was open so we took it, stopping along the way to admire the view and buy some huge strawberries.

We got to Pacifica and camped at the San Francisco RV Resort, which was effectively a parking lot next to the coast, but it had grocery and hardware stores nearby, was close to the city and had a laundry (always nice when you’re on the road).

We change our water filters once a year and decided to buy the top of the line, which was to remove nearly everything, except pure water. We found out the pressure drop across the magnificent filter was too much for our water pump so we replaced it with the basic water filter once again.

Between Uber and the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) we didn’t need to drive the Roamer anywhere once we got to Pacifica. We met up with Tom for four days of fun in the city. Pam is now an Uber expert.
The first day, Tom taxi’ed us just north of the city to Muir Woods National Monument for a nice hike through the redwoods there.

We then drove up into the hills above UC Berkeley for one of the many incredible views of the city we had during the trip. He lives just south of there in Oakland. We had a nice dinner on the Berkeley pier – more seafood.

The next day we met Tom in the city and rented bikes. We had breakfast at Mel’s Drive-In and rode past the Palace of Fine Arts.

We then made our way by Crissy Field and to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We rode across the bridge. It doesn’t look it, but it’s uphill nearly the entire span going north – into a headwind. We rode all the way to Sausalito and took the ferry back into the city.

We then grabbed a bite to eat and then took another ferry to Alcatraz Island. We had the “behind the scene” tour, which provided a lot of interesting history of the island, and we got to see some cool places.

After the tour we were supposed to do an audio tour, but blew it off and got another informal tour around the island with one of the park rangers. There are a lot of birds on the island, which makes sense since its name was “La Ilsa de los Alcatraces” (Pelican Island in Spanish). We stopped at a place that had Snowy Egrets, which make a very funny noise while roosting.

We also caught the sunset from the island looking towards to Golden Gate Bridge.

We also got a great night time view of the city from the island on our way back.

The next day we walked the city. That’s when you appreciate how hilly the city really is. We started near the Peace Pagoda and had a great lunch near there – more seafood. Pam had crab-stuffed grilled artichokes, possibly her favorite meal.

We headed to Union Square, where Macy’s was having a spring flower display in the store.

We then made our way to Chinatown.

.. and the Cable Car Museum, which is where all the engines that run the current cable cars reside.

We ended the day with a nice Korean BBQ dinner with Devin, who now lives in the Bay Area after graduating from U of A.
Our last day there we met Tom for some clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at Boudin’s to start the day. They had their own version of “bread beasties” on display. The thought of eating the sourdough teddy bear was pretty grizzly, almost unbearable – lol.

We ended the day with drinks in one of the tall downtown buildings looking out over Alcatraz for a great city tour.

We headed home the next day, but blew another tire outside San Jose. Luckily AAA was nearby and the change-out went smoothly. New tires are in our future. We stopped at Pacheco State Park for lunch and all of the reservoirs in California seem to be near capacity.

We got a tip on a great place to camp from a guy who stopped while we were changing our flat tire. It was Red Rock Canyon State Park, just north of Mojave, CA. He was right, it was a great place to camp.

We drove the next day back into the Valley of the Sun. The Roamer needs a new pair of shoes and its yearly service call before he head out for the summer. It was a great trip and a good Roamer shakedown for the upcoming summer.

The Mojave Desert in Bloom

If you like interesting drives, ask Google Maps to give you a route and select “avoid highways” on the route option. It won’t be the quickest or easiest way to any destination, but it may turn out to be the most enjoyable.

We took off for San Francisco to visit with our eldest son, Tom, who now works in the city by the bay. Our first stop was Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which lies east of San Diego and west of the Salton Sea. We passed by Glamis, CA and the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area. The dunes were covered with all kinds of sand vehicles, but the wind was also howling at about 30 mph so we didn’t stop.

We camped the night along the Fish Creek wash. The primitive campground there was full so we just found a spot along the bank to spend a quiet night alone in the desert.

The next day we wanted to hike at the park in Borrego Springs, but it was packed with folks out for the weekend to see the Mojave Super-bloom. We didn’t see many flowers around, but we were a few hundred feet below sea level. However, around Borrego Springs were gigantic metal sculptures of all kinds that were very interesting to see instead.

Rather than stick around until the crowds left we decided to make our way north around the east side of the Salton Sea, stopping at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge for a nice hike. You could still see the snow cap on the Mt San Jacinto above Palm Springs across the sea.

We ended up camping on the north shore of the Salton Sea for the night at Mecca Beach CG.

I always wondered where the Colorado River carried all the rock from the Grand Canyon. Thousands of years ago, the Gulf of California extended north all the way to where Palm Springs is today. The Colorado River dumped all that sediment south of there, creating the current north end of the Gulf. Over the last thousand years the northern section was then a huge lake, Lake Cahuilla, which rose and fell depending on the Colorado River flow. It eventually dried up in the 1300s, but in 1905 the Colorado River raged and blew through a few dams and levees, and for 18 months the river was effectively diverted to this area, creating the Salton Sea, until they fixed the dams. Most of this area is at least 100 feet below sea level and the Salton Sea is just a fraction of the size of the original Lake Cahuilla. There is some geology trivia for those that find it interesting.

We then headed north on a road that parallels I-10 and runs through Sky Valley and Desert Hot Springs, gaining altitude all the way out of the Coachella Valley. The drive was peaceful and beautiful, with snow visible on top of San Gorgonio Mountain and clouds attempting to roll over the rest of the San Bernardino mountains.

We camped the night at Sawtooth Canyon CG, a hidden BLM spot just south of Barstow, CA. Now at about 3500 feet, the Mojave desert was in bloom and greener than I ever remember.

We then drove across California through Bakersfield and Paso Robles. The area was lush with growth, both in the farms and along the grasslands, with flowers everywhere.

We hit the coast at Morro Bay , camped at Morro Strand State Beach CG, and headed into town for some good seafood.

Next stop – San Francisco.

Sedona with Friends and Blogging Again

Wow, it’s been awhile since the last blog update. Before we start our 2017 adventures, I need to update ultimate campsites from our 2016 trek for the campsites we would definitely return to, and add them to the list. In reviewing the 2016 trek, we camped in 77 different locations in the west over the summer from June to October and an additional 19 during out tour of New Mexico in May.

The new places we camped that we would definitely return to were:
Surgarloaf CG in the Medicine Bow mountains of southern Wyoming – a beautiful spot up at about 10,000 feet that provides some unique arctic beauty in the lower 48.
Wheeler CG in the Great Basin National Park – a real surprise of a National Park and campground that is within hiking distance to bristlecone pines and beautiful vistas.
Echo Park CG in Dinosaur National Monument – the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers that is really beautiful.
Chaco Canyon CG in New Mexico – the ancient crossroads of the southwest.
Black Canyon CG along FR150 in New Mexico – a remote site that is enjoyable just getting there.
Navajo National Monument CG in Arizona (the dirt road side of the park) – a hidden treasure in northern Arizona that we passed by for years, but is now a great stop.
Middle Fork CG in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming – a small campground next to a stream tucked in beautiful hills.
Fossil Butte National Monument and the BLM spot above the park – a secret camping spot above the NM that has incredible views over the area.
Land’s End CG above the John Day National Monument in Oregon – a private campground with its own aircraft hangar and charm that is a must see.
Blue Spruce CG on the Hells Backbone Road in Utah – a nice campground along the beautiful drive, hidden in the hills where deer are very numerous around camp.
Fiddlers Lake CG in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming – a remote campground with beaver lodges, and another great place to drive.
Beaver Creek dispersed camping in Montana near Yellowstone NP – a hidden spot for great free camping along the river near the bustle of Yellowstone complete with local moose.
Cave Falls CG in Yellowstone National Park – a nice campground along the river falls in a quite corner of Yellowstone.
FR611 dispersed camping just north of Gran Canyon NP – a great vista over the entrance to the Grand Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs on the north side of the rim.

Places we revisited in 2016 that are still great places to camp are:
Fire Point in Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim – still an awesome spot on the north rim you can call your own.
Ruby Mountain CG in Colorado – the campground was improved and is even now better than before.
Hwy 150 dispersed camping in the Unitas Mountains in Utah – a beautiful stretch of road with many places to pull off and enjoy nature.

All of these places hold great memories of beautiful scenery, great hikes, awesome night time stars and wildlife in the great outdoors. If you get to any of these places, let us know what you think. However, it’s now 2017 so we need to see more of the US and North America.

Our first trip of the spring was to the area between Cottonwood and Sedona, AZ. There is a forest service road 525C that has many spots to pull off and enjoy the beauty of central Arizona. We met up with Lou and Nancy there for a great weekend of hiking and camping. The desert was in bloom all around us.

We hiked 7 miles from our campsite to Robbers Roost, a cave in the rock that once served as a hideout in the old western days. Now it’s just a cool place in the shade with a spectacular view.

The next day we hiked 8 miles to a stream nearby, admiring the beautiful rocks that make the Sedona area a sightseeing destination.

We cooked some awesome meals under the stars, where the Milky Way and planets were just jaw-dropping clear. We headed off in different directions after the weekend, but it was a great start to 2017.