Monday, September 05, 2011
Labor Day Dustman Camping Trip
Reminder to self, when driving Neal (my Toyota Tacoma with 265,000 miles, named Neal because it’s 220,000 miles to the moon and we’re currently driving back), not to run the A/C when going from a couple hundred feet elevation to 7000 feet of elevation.
Our trip started out with an almost disaster (or disaster if you’re not me, even though I’m a corpsman, I have a degree in automotive electronics). If you’ve ever been to Sequoia National Park, it’s a small winding two lane road that hugs a bunch of cliffs and climbs out of the San Joaquin Valley by way of the 198. Currently there’s a 3 mile stretch of the highway where the construction crews are doing road construction and the road shrinks down to one lane, there are traffic signals that allow small groups of drivers go every half hour or so.
I had just missed the prior group and had just stopped at the light when the lower radiator hose popped out of the radiator with a loud bang and a cloud of steam. It sounded like a bomb, making me, the bride and the people in the cars in front of me jump. I got out, with a rag on my hand, took off the radiator cap (it was okay to do, since all of the pressure was coming out of the line that was hanging out the bottom). Then popped the hose back on and tightened clamp holding it in place and with my head (wearing sunglasses as eye protection) well away, started pouring water back in the radiator. I had a crowd around by then exclaiming, “holy crap”, “it sounded like a bomb”, “I don’t know what I would have done”. So I poured water in until it gushed back out, let it settle then poured some more in, turned the engine over so it would not seize up. This is where I made my mistake, instead of filling it all the way up, I filled it out till the water gushed out again which allows for cavities of air in the engine.
The light turned and I thought it was okay for a while and made it half way and the temperature topped out and I knew exactly what was wrong and pulled over under a tree where the construction guys normally parked. I guess they had Friday off. We sat in the shade, and let it cool until steam stopped coming out my overflow tank then pulled the release pin letting the pressure equalize. When it had, I started pouring water in till it started hissing again, waited for 15 minutes, added more water until it was full. Two park rangers came by and offered help but I told them I had it under control and I did. After an hour of letting it cool off, got behind the next group and drove the final 15 miles to Lodgepole Campground and check into the campsite that my wife had reserved.
We pulled in a bit late so all we did was set up camp and I made chili from scratch, yes, here is a picture if it if you don’t believe me.
And drank a few stress beers and was whipped at Scrabble, whew, what a day!
View of the night sky at Lodgepole
Over Huntington Lake
In case you don't make the drive
Lake Thomas A Edison
Pretty in the wild too
A few tidbits about Lodgepole, there are flushing toilets but no showers in the campsite itself. If you’re planning on reserving a spot on a holiday weekend, do it months in advance in order to reserve the specific campground you would like. (There is a website which contains information for all federal campgrounds. Each campground also has a link to information about that site, including maps of each individual camp site so you know if you are close to a river, or right next door to the port-a-potty!) Expect all sorts of traffic on holiday weekends for non-reservation campgrounds, the back up was easily 2 miles. Hint: arrive early to those so you are not left homeless for the night.
The next morning, we got up, broke camp and made our way to the to the next camp site at a place called Lake Thomas Edison and I would gage Neal’s health on the drive down the mountain and if he was still doing alright, if not, make a side trip home to get another car (or get towed because I was wrong). Neal was fine, according to Google maps, Lake Thomas Edison was 146 miles away, we had to drive down the 180 into the edge of Fresno and then back up into the Sierra Nevada’s by way of the 168. Go ahead and Google Map it, that will give you an idea of what the drive is like, that that idea and add in 22 miles of a single lane road, going along the sides of cliffs, around hairpin turns and through rocks at ten miles per hour dodging traffic and loggers and to hit the summit of 9500 feet then up and down a few other smaller mountains and eventually back to 7500 feet. Not my brightest move considering Neal almost bit it the day before but I’ve never been known for my brightness but made it we did.
I’ve driven some crazy roads in my day but this road took the cake, in matter of fact, they even sell tee shirts that say I survived the drive to Lake Thomas Edison. We checked in at the Vermilion Valley Resort (at Lake Edison) and once again set up the campsite.
I'm not the only one who thought the road was crazy
Top of the hill
Made it to the top, half way there
Night Sky at Lake Edison
This place is out in the middle of nowhere, it’s used as a stop off point on the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail and is the most remote camp ground accessible by automobile. Advice before driving out here, make a reservation, camp sites are 19 bucks a night, there’s a general store and a beautiful lake and Mono springs where you can hang out in hot water. Fill up your gas tank at the bottom of the mountain and top it off again when you get to Shaver Lake at a place with a big sign that says Gas right before you hit Shaver Lake, it’s cheaper. There a lot of climbing up and down big steep mountains before you reach your destination and believe you me, you don’t want to be stuck out here.
We woke up Sunday morning and after that drive, decided to stay another day. We went to the lake and played in the water with the dogs, washed the brides hair and that afternoon went on a hike up to the top of some local mountain and ended the day with a game of Scrabble (I won) and ended the day typing this long overdue blog post. Typing in front of the camp fire, two dogs at my side, a beer and a bride the other. This is the life.
She's rushing me to shake herself
Margot checking out what's under water
Gatsby gets treated like the Honey Badger (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look on YouTube)
Tomorrow, we hope to make it back to civilization with a little under a half tank of gas, if you’re reading this, it looks like we did.