We didn’t expect to stop in California but we saw a sign, literally, that put Sacramento onto our trip itinerary. We were driving along I5 when we saw a billboard advertising that the Western States Horse Expo at the Cal Expo center would be in Sacramento the next day. We made a last minute decision to go to Sacramento for the night to attend the Expo. This would give me a chance to see a number of different horse breeds and talk with horse breeders, riders, and experts about what it really means to own a horse.
We went for the first day of the Expo and I attended a couple of seminars but the best part of the day was talking with the exhibitors at the Breed Revelation. I heard first hand from the breeders and owners about the characteristics of the specific breeds and why they chose their breed of preference. Before the Expo I was only familiar with the Quarter Horse, Clydesdale, Mules, Arabians and Mustangs but here I had a chance to see some new breeds that I’ve never heard of like the Halflinger, Gypsy Vanner, Percheron, Peruvian Paso and Tennessee Walking Horse.
Here are some photos of the above breeds that were taken during their breed show events.
There was an event called the Ultimate Super Horse where riders went through a series of challenges that were unfamiliar to the horse. The rider would demonstrate their control over the horse and the successful horse would navigate these challenges with little or no resistance. Below are a few photos of these challenges. Some examples of challenges not pictured include where a person with a bicycle would run with the bike weaving next to the horse and rider and another where a person dressed as a hiker would walk out in front of the horse waving their hat and making a wide gestures in front of the horse and rider. All of the riders that we saw made it through the stations but some horses were more hesitant than others to go through them all.
Later in the day we watched the draft horses in action pulling wagons either individually or as teams. The Percherons were my favorites! Here is a video of a team of six galloping through the arena.
At the end of the day we spent some time talking with Lynn of the Gypsy Rose Ranch. The Gypsy Vanner captured my interest so much that I made plans with the breeder to stop by her ranch in Lodi, CA on our way through California later in the month.
We only spent one day in Yosemite on this trip but we have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend many, many days in Yosemite over the years. Living in the Bay Area we were only about 4 hours from the park and we took advantage of the proximity to this valley. One of our first trips to Yosemite was to climb Half Dome during a full moon. That was an experience we’ll never forget. From the top of Half Dome we could see flickering embers of distant controlled burns and the valley glowed with the moonlit granite monoliths. It is one of my favorite memories of Yosemite. Our other favorite times to visit the valley is after a snow during Christmas or Thanksgiving when there are only a handful of tourists around. The park is transformed by the snow making it feel like your own little winter wonderland.
On this visit we arrived just before midnight during the height of the tourist season which also meant that there were no campsites available. We didn’t have any reservations and the only place to stay in the valley was at Housekeeping Camp which was our most expensive campsite of the whole trip for a slab of cement, three walls covered by a tarp and a cot with no bedding to sleep on. It was the last place that I wanted to stay given that a few people contracted hantavirus from the accommodations. It’s a deadly virus spread by mouse droppings. I didn’t sleep well that night with dreams filled of mice climbing the walls and crawling on me.
We spent our day in the valley visiting Yosemite Falls and walking up to Lower Yosemite Falls. We watched a few people jumping off the bridge into the Merced River then relaxed near El Capitan. I was able to put my new binoculars to use by spotting climbers inching their way up the massive granite face. We’re pretty happy with the binoculars which I purchased at REI. I wanted something of a reasonable size that I could take on our hikes in Alaska in the hopes that I can spot some wildlife at a safe distance. We settled on the Nikon Monarch M511 8×42.
We left our favorite valley sometime in the late afternoon continuing toward Oregon via Sacramento, CA to Ashland, OR.
After picking up my license from Crowley Lake we went back north to Mono Lake. This is just north of the junction of 120 and 395. It’s one of the bluest lakes that I’ve ever seen. Set against the backdrop of the barren eastern sierra makes the blues of the lake pop. Along its edges are tufas which are made of calcium-carbonate crusts.
There are brine shrimp and alkali flies that birds feast on during their transcontinental migration along the great flyway. It’s a magnet for photographers who arrive by the van loads to capture the landscape in the softer evening light. We left at about the time they arrived and didn’t capture the sunset. We still had a lot of driving ahead of us to get to Yosemite Valley and we still had to stop for dinner. Our time at Mono Lake was short but as always, it was a lovely way to spend the late afternoon.
After Bishop we started our drive north on 395 toward Bodie. The plan was to buy me an annual fishing license since I purchased only a day license earlier. Darryl already had an annual one knowing that he would want to fish later in the trip. After Crowley we would spend the night on the BLM land outside Mammoth. We stopped at Lake Crowley just long enough to purchase the license and take a few photos.
We camped a few nights on the BLM land outside Mammoth last December during our trip to visit the hot springs. There are about 5 hot springs in the area and we visited all of them during that earlier trip. The hot springs didn’t sound as appealing in 100+ degree weather so we skipped them on this stop. The area is a popular place for campers considering the popularity of the hot springs which can get a little crowded at times but the views make it well worth it.
This evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset with rainbows and storm clouds that threatened rain but never delivered.
The next day we stopped into Mammoth for breakfast then did laundry. After our morning of errands which included laundry and buying me my fishing pole and lures we found a little fishing spot along the Mammoth Creek so Darryl could give me a spinning lesson with my new pole. I managed to catch the weeds right next to me, the bushes across the river and a tree and then a brown trout! It was only abut 4 inches long so we tossed it back into the river to continue its journey.
After my fishing lesson we went to Bodie. We love this ghost town having visited it once before almost 15 years ago. We overheard a waitress describing Bodie to a customer a few nights earlier saying that it’s kinda boring and if you go, you might stay for about 20-30 minutes. Well, we were there for almost four hours! If you like history and taking photos of interesting scenery with beautiful backdrops, this is the place for you. If you don’t like that sort of thing then maybe skip this side trip. Bodie is a typical gold rush era town growing from a handful of people to over 10,000 in just one year. There were some interesting characters that lived here back in the day. The town’s reputation for lawlessness is evident from this quote from a child’s diary after learning she was moving to Bodie; “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”Evidently the law did rule the business relationships when James Cain sued Standard Mine, the largest gold mining company in town, for drilling on his mine. He won the lawsuit and ended up owning the trespassing company when the resulting fines broke them.
You won’t find any services at Bodie except for a few porta potties. The state park service maintains the town in a “state of arrested decay” which I think means that they do the bare minimum to preserve the town’s structures. There are quite a few tourists that come through but not so many that they obstruct the photographs. It’s only about 30 minutes north of Mono Lake off of Hwy 395 up a well maintained dirt road. We recommend taking the time to make a short side trip if you like this sort of thing.
On our way back from Bodie I noticed that I forgot my drivers license at Crowley Lake. So instead of camping at Mono Lake we headed back down to Bishop so that I could pick up my license the next morning. It’s a good thing we don’t have a set schedule!
Now that we arrived in California, our next destination was Bishop, CA. We heard that Bishop was a nice town in the Eastern Sierra popular for its fly fishing and hot springs among other activities. We decided to stop through there on our way to Mono Lake, Bodie and Yosemite. Bishop is a small town with a lot of character and we fell in love with it! Our quick drive-by became a 5 day layover. Mammoth is a small town of about 8,000 people. The town lies within the Owen’s River Valley backed up against the mountains with nearby Mt. Whitney. Just the sort of place to spend a few days to get to know its character and the perfect spot for us to explore some new hobbies.
Photography is one of Darryl’s interests and he was familiar with the work of the late Galen and Barbara Rowell. Their studio is Mountain Light Photography gallery located in Bishop. They were able to capture moments that the majority of us with cameras never see. There were stories alongside many of the photographs explaining how the photo was composed, the time of day and the inspiration. These photos didn’t come by chance, they were planned and their patience paid off. They traveled the world for their photography and we’re looking forward to seeing many of these places along our own journey.
Our time in Bishop turned into an experience of personal discovery for us where we indulged in our personal interests one of which is fly fishing. During the past year we started looking into the sport and in the fall of 2013, we spent a day with the late Bill Lowe of Sacramento, California. He was a fly fishing guide and a wonderful teacher of the sport. We had a great time on the American River where Bill taught us the fundamentals of fly fishing, casting, how to read the currents and a basic intro to entymology. The day piqued our interest enough to purchase the gear and put our very basic skills to the test as we travel.
Our next stop in Bishop was at the local fly shop to get recommendations for fly fishing guides in the area. We were fortunate to find Beryl Rhea of The Trout Scout and she was able to fit us into her schedule at the last minute. She took us up to Upper Intake 2 along Hwy 168 for an afternoon of fly fishing. I loved it! I even caught a few fish! Mine were small brown trout and rainbow trout but Darryl managed to catch a respectable size rainbow of about 4 pounds! We left all of our fish in the lake but came away from the afternoon with a heightened interest in learning more about this sport. We hope to have many more opportunities to practice fly fishing but we bought spinning reels if we actually want to have something to eat for dinner. 🙂
In the spirit of exploring our interests, Darryl encouraged me to call on one of the many horse trainers in the area. Like many little girls, I was obsessed with horses when I was growing up. My dream was always to own a horse but I never pursued this dream. I had lots of excuses for not doing so like too much work and not enough time. Darryl pointed out that I don’t have these excuses anymore so why not reach out to really learn about what it means to be a horsewoman? I found a horse trainer, Linda of the Double L Ranch, and gave her a call fully expecting that she wouldn’t have time to answer my silly questions. To my surprise, she spoke with me for almost 20 minutes giving me some advice on how to pursue this dream while traveling! She also introduced me to the idea of owning a mule instead of a horse. I have never heard of such a thing and learned that mules are 15x smarter than a horse and are more sure-footed than horses on the trails. Mules also tend to establish a stronger bond with their owner than a horse does. This was all very intriguing to me.
We stopped by the Double L Ranch to see if she had time in the next couple of days to give me a riding lesson. She had time right then but I didn’t have the proper boots to wear. So instead, she spent the afternoon showing me how to groom and tack a horse and then had us stay to watch a riding lesson. She walked us through the basics of what she was looking for and what she was asking of the rider. It was a wonderful introduction into this world! But I really wanted to get onto a mule so she sent me to the local horse riding outfitter to buy some proper boots to wear and agreed to give me a lesson the following day. Here are some photos from the ranch.
The next day I arrived ready to start my lesson and Linda introduced me to Max, their champion mule. We thought that I would have a chance to ride him but he wasn’t very interested in being led to the riding area. Since this is uncommon behavior for him, Linda looked him over very closely and found that he had a sore on the back of his leg so we put him back and pulled out Jazz, a chestnut quarter horse.
After our time at the Double L Ranch we drove up into the mountains to cool off. We stopped to enjoy the view at Lake Sabrina.
Before leaving Bishop, we drove through Fish Slough to find the petroglyphs that we heard were out there. Darryl read about them but it was difficult to find any information on their exact location. It seems that there has been much vandalism to the petroglyphs. Vandals have written over them while others stole some of the pieces and in the process they destroyed some of the panels. He did find the coordinates for the petroglyphs which were on the main road out to Fish Slough.
We had a wonderful time in Bishop and look forward to returning sometime soon after our trip. If you get a chance to go, check out the Burger Barn! We ate there twice while in town. The menu is a riff on the plain burger with dozens of options for your toppings. They get the fundamentals right starting with fresh food sourced locally and prepared well. It wasn’t anything fancy but oftentimes I find that fancy is overpriced and they under deliver. This place makes a reasonably priced meal that tastes great.
We only spent a day in Anza-Borrego but this park deserves much more time than we gave it. We arrived late so had a quick dinner and then we set out for an evening hike in the moonlight.
The next morning, we took our time with breakfast and eventually made it out for a short hike. The nature trail included a self-guided tour with numbered posts along the way pointing out various plants and interesting points along the trail.
It was in the mid-90’s during our hike and completely exposed. We could see the oasis off in the distance but we were walking through this beautiful desert landscape.
I kept looking up in the hills hoping to see the elusive big horned sheep but I never saw one. We continue to see signs along our travels telling us that there are small herds of big horned sheep in the area but we have yet to see any. I need to invest in some binoculars and then perhaps I could find one! All I found along the way were these beautiful lizards and one tiny toad.
Anyone that has been out on a trail, in a car or on a bike ride with me understands my very limited directional skills. This is perhaps why my loving husband felt it necessary to tell me which direction to head even though the state park had a sign posted as well.
Our destination! It was worth the short 1.5 mile hike to get here. We spent a short time wandering through the oasis and enjoying the shade. There was a stream through here that ran over some boulders creating little waterfalls. We turned around at this point but you can continue up the canyon where there are hundreds of palms throughout. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of green against the desert landscape. There’s much to explore here which will have to wait for another visit.
After our two kayaking experiences in Baja we decided that it would be wise for us to take some kayaking lessons to gain some proficiency in this sport. We really enjoyed our time on the water but we spent a lot of energy during these short trips. Since it’s a sport that we’re interested in pursuing we decided to invest a little time and money getting some tips from an expert. We found our expert at Aqua Adventures Kayak Center in San Diego. Jen Kleck, the owner, was our awesome instructor with Paul as her co-instructor. Jen is a patient instructor with an impressive background. In 2009 she was the first American to reach the highest coaching standard within the British Canoe Union. We had a great time out on the water learning various paddling strokes for steering, bracing and propulsion. We also learned some very important skills related to capsize recovery. I’m pretty confident that Darryl or I will tip over at some point giving us the opportunity to put this particular skill to the test. Darryl scored extra points by doing a double capsize recovery where both kayakers tip into the water and have to recover both kayaks and paddlers. I learned how to do a self-recovery by using my paddle with a flotation devise attached to the end of it as a brace and pulling myself into the kayak. Our lessons were in a protected marina setting so now we need to practice these recovery techniques in a real world situation out on choppy, moving water.
After our lessons, we spent some time exploring the San Diego area and driving along the coast up to La Jolla. We really enjoyed out time in San Diego. We camped at Campland on the Bay which is an RV type of campground that allowed tent camping. It was nice to have hot showers every night although we camped on the asphalt in the parking lot. The campground is just a few blocks from Pacific Beach so we spent a few days exploring the neighborhood and walking along the coast.
One of the goals for this journey is to find our new home. When we find a place as wonderful as San Diego, we explore the neighborhoods to try and get a sense of the place. This would be a great city to consider except that the cost of living is almost on par with the Bay Area. We are looking for someplace where the cost of living is less than the Bay Area and more low key. San Diego definitely felt less stressful than the Bay Area, especially in the Pacific Beach neighborhood but there is still the high energy city vibe going on that doesn’t fit our vision. However, it does have a pretty awesome dessert place to satisfy my sweet tooth! We had to stop at Extraordinary Desserts one more time before we left.
The biggest highlight of all during our stay here was seeing our good friend Renee. She recently moved to San Diego so this does add to the city’s potential as a new home. We’ll keep the area in mind but would likely try to find someplace in the surrounding area that is a little more economical. The search and the journey continues.