Girls Gone Mild Again

The previous trip only whetted my appetite for another Lone Pine adventure, so two weeks later I persuaded Sally and her daughter Jordan to join me in a four-day Girls Gone Mild adventure. I re-packed the trailer, replenishing my wine supply with TWO bottles this time.

The girls and I hit the road bright and early, feeling rather optimistic as the car was outfitted with new brakes and shocks and the trailer had new tires. Sally and Jordan would follow later in the day when they finished their work day. We encountered a detour, got stuck behind a slow-moving truck, and came upon an accident that required a change of course on a dirt road, but otherwise had clear sailing.

About an hour from our destination I saw a sign saying, “Fossil Falls” which piqued my interest. But being eager to find a good campsite in Lone Pine, I vowed to check it out on the return trip.

The Lone Pine Campground was technically closed for the season but there were a few first-come-first-served sites available and they were free of charge as all of the water faucets were shut off to prevent freezing. Thankfully the pit toilets were open. I selected a site and prepared to back the trailer in when the man camping in the next site walked over to greet me. He kindly offered to guide me into my spot which I gratefully accepted. I’m not exactly proficient at backing and it usually takes me a few tries to get the trailer exactly where I want it. Once I was where I wanted to be, he went back to his own site while I set up the Wanderlust.

Dusk in Lone Pine Campground

Evening falls early in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and by the time I had the trailer level, the refrigerator turned on, and my camp set up, it was growing cool. My new neighbor (Jeff), seeing that I was unaccompanied (other than the dogs) came over and invited me to join him for dinner. He was making pork loin and grilled asparagus. I paused for the briefest moment before accepting his invitation. I offered to contribute salad and wine but he assured me he had it all covered. I had time to take the girls for a short walk before dinner would be served.

Moonrise over the Alabama Hills

By the time we returned, Jeff had his picnic table set for two though I had offered to bring my own plate and flatware. Dishwashing isn’t my favorite task when camping so I didn’t expect him to provide the meal AND do the dishes but he explained that he was a sea kayaking guide by profession and was quite practiced at feeding groups from his camp stove. And sure enough, he effortlessly laid out a four course meal fit for royalty. I offered to do the dishes but he waved me off and by the time I’d gone to my trailer and slipped into something more comfortable (polar fleece pants, a down jacket, and hat), he had everything washed and stowed away in the bear box. He built a fire and offered me dessert, a pudding cup, but I declined.

By 7:30 we were in bed…he in his tent, me and my dogs in my trailer. I couldn’t help but wonder at how different things would have gone forty years ago when we would have lingered around the fire until we had finished a bottle of wine. But now even a man eight years younger than I was no temptation.

Sally and Jordy pulled in around 10:00 by which time the girls and I were ready to make a restroom run. They decided it was too much trouble to set up a tent in the dark, besides it was really COLD; so, they folded the back seat down in the SUV and slept in the car.

Sunrise on Mt. Whitney

For the next two days we explored the area around our campground, beginning with breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a favorite with the locals and tourists alike.

Jordy examines a cactus in the Alabama Hills
Sadie the Wonder Dog

We invited Jeff to join us for a dinner of spaghetti and salad which he accepted. We ate inside the trailer because the breeze was cold and the trailer was snug and almost warm.

Tea and Story time

The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail begins at the campground in scrub brush and ascends through several climate zones in just four miles.

Owens Valley Overlook
Looking up the Whitney Portal
Crossing Meysan Creek

By the end of the day the dogs were ready for bed.

As always, it was time to head home long before we were tired of exploring. It helped that we had one more place to stop on the way home. Fossil Falls is a former river bed that once flowed through the volcanic rock at the southern end of the Owens Valley. The river has long ago changed course but the channel carved by it remains.

I found this in my drafts file and figured I might as well post it as I just received a notice from Valley of Fire that my campsite reservation for next week has been cancelled due to the threat of Covid-19.

Gettin’ My Mojo Back

It takes a bit of adjustment to get used to life without caring for my mom. And just when I feel like I’m over losing both parents in just three months, something comes up, like a call from my step-sister telling me that the attorney is ready to settle my Dad’s estate.

His estate was of no consequence but we shared some thoughts about having been caregivers for a parent and then having them no longer depending on us. We agreed that their deaths were somehow easier for us to accept than they had been for our siblings who were more distant. We were intimately acquainted with their discomfort and failing senses and so, we could celebrate their demise without shame or regret. Our challenge was to fill the gaping hole in our lives where their care had been. To that end I embarked on a couple of mini-vacations…. I suppose that’s your surprised look.

My favorite cousin (MFC) Mila rode the Amtrak Southwest Chief from Chicago to San Bernardino, two days and two nights of clackity-clack, not- quite-romantic, rolling not-quite-prone through the American countryside, to spend a month in sunny California visiting family – brother, son, grand kids, and lucky for me, cousins.

To meet MFC Mila is to suddenly feel like you’ve just met your kindred spirit; and when you get to know her, you realize that she’s actually more related to the person you would LIKE to be. Her sharp mind is camouflaged by a ready smile and a mellifluous chuckle. No stranger to loss and grief, she was the perfect confidant. So, when she proposed a road trip to Nevada to visit the property her brother Dan had purchased in Goldfield, Nevada, I was all for it.

As you may recall, the Wanderlust was all packed and ready to hit the road for the ill-fated trip to Lone Pine, so it took little effort to get ready.

Goldfield, Nevada

Goldfield was once the largest city in Nevada. As the mineral wealth ran out, the population declined and most of the town burned down…twice. But thanks to an eclectic assortment of eccentrics, the town is being not so much preserved as hoarded. Oh, there are a few buildings in various stages of restoration, but most of the remaining structures are being used to shelter “collectibles” that remained after the mining industry collapsed. I use the term “shelter” loosely as there was at least one small, barn-like building that was packed so full that the crumbling building had settled onto its contents, unable to fall to its rightful rest.

One of the few buildings actually being actively restored.
The brick fire house has been preserved.
The courtroom in the upstairs of Goldfield City Hall.

The Goldfield City Hall houses everything a city needs, hall of records, assessor’s office, motor vehicle department, courthouse, jail, you name it. One of the clerks boasted that the infamous Virgil Earp (older brother of the notorious Wyatt Earp) had once been deputized here. One requirement of the job was not to have ever shot someone in the United States. Good old Virgil Earp was suspected of killing many bad hombres in Arizona, but Arizona was a territory, not a state at that time and so, he was hired.

We parked the Wanderlust at the back of a replica saloon, owned by Randy, a friend of cousin Dan. Randy was a most gracious host and enthusiastically showed us around his antique shops and the saloon which has two bedroom suites upstairs, each of which has two doors to suggest a bordello. A sign on the wall admonishes, “Ladies, please solicit discretely”.

Randy’s replica saloon and bordello
The Wanderlust docked

We spent two happy days and nights poking around Goldfield and meeting some of its inhabitants, all of whom know Randy. We had breakfast at the Dinky Diner where the owner welcomed us like old friends. Then I took the girls for a hike up a canyon just outside of town where the local distiller (yes, of course Goldfield has a distillery) told me I would find a spring. Before finding the spring, we found evidence of the local wild burro population. Lots of it. The spring was a trampled mud puddle.

Sadie spots a small herd of wild burros.
Brittlebush – evidently not a favorite of the resident burros.
Our host entertained us.
Mila and Randy enjoy some flan for dessert.

After two days of the most amiable company of Dan and Randy, it was with some regret that Mila, Sadie, Molly, and I bid a fond adieu and headed west towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Lying between the Nevada desert and our destination was another mountain range, the White Mountains. Composed of dolomite, and towering 11,000 feet above the Owens Valley, they are the home of an ancient bristlecone pine forest, some 4,000 years old. The environment is so dry and inhospitable that I couldn’t help but wonder what would entice a tree to take root there, much less set up such a permanent residence.

Our detour into the Bristlecone Pine Forest Protected Area made our arrival in Lone Pine a bit too late to find a good camp site so we settled in Portagee Joe Campground, just outside of Lone Pine, next to the California aqueduct.

California Aqueduct

I took the girls for an early morning walk, hoping that Mila would be able to sleep for a bit as she had been up most of the night reading. Like most of us post-menopausal women, she has trouble sleeping; but unlike most of us, she takes it in stride and doesn’t complain about it. She truly is a most affable travel companion. Whenever I would ask, “Do you mind if…” she always replied, “Not a bit”.

Testing the limits of her affability, I suggested a hike up the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail. This trail ascends about 2,500′ in just four miles. We had climbed about 3/4 of a mile when Mila felt an inconvenient call of nature. The trail offered plenty of places to discretely take care of business but they did not offer any place to sit. The 500 feet of climbing we had just done had taken a toll on her legs and when she squatted behind a bush, her knee objected strenuously. We pushed on but it became apparent that the offended knee was not going to do its fair share of propelling her up the trail. Fortunately, there was a side trail that was an easy walk to the Whitney Portal Road where I was able to pick her up in the car.

We continued up the Portal Road in the comfort of the car, ascending a couple of thousand feet on a road carved into the side of the mountain. My flat-lander cousin remarked on the lack of guard rails on this precarious road. The waterfall at the top was flowing impressively even for a connoisseur like Mila who described it as “the icing on the cake”.

This little adventure whetted my appetite for another trip and I vowed to return to Lone Pine before winter.