Today marks one full week on the road. It can serve as a kind of microcosm of the RV life. We had a terrific first 4 days, but then some of the realities began to set in. After getting packed up, we started out last Sunday and traveled up to Red Bluff. Not very far, but away from San Francisco. The temps went from about 65˚ to 90˚ in the 2 hours of driving. We found a nice little RV park and settled in for just the night. I immediately began walking the park looking for potential subjects to photograph, but it is virtually impossible to tell who is full-timing and who are merely vacationeers without asking. Sometimes it is fairly easy to tell. I look for the more unusual rigs. Not the standard trailer/toy hauler/5th wheel type vehicle. There were a couple of potentials here, but I’m not quite up to my boldest self for knocking on doors and asking. Plenty of time for that though.
Day 2 we arrived at Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park. We were so happy to find the place relatively peopleless. Oh they are here, but thin in comparison to places like Yosemite. The best part is at the upper elevations, it is still spring here! At the 6-8000′ level, there are still tons of wildflowers and green meadows and even snow in and around some of the lakes. In fact, a number of areas still have not opened up due to snow cover, and may not open at all this year. Several of the hikes are treacherous because of remaining snow, but we managed to find time for three really great ones. We camped at our reserved campground at Summit Lake for four days. The space was quite sunny and provided plenty of exposure for the solar panels – bonus! After getting set-up, we took a short hike around the lake watching kids play in the water and grown-ups acting like kids. The spot is very peaceful.
Day 3 we took our first hike. We planned a short hike to Crumbaugh Lake, but realized it was shorter than we thought at 2.5 miles, so we added another 4 miles to a place called Bumpass Hell. This was a place of steaming fumeroles, mudpots and boiling waterholes – a mini Yellowstone. Overall, the hike had a good mix of up and downhill sections. It was all so beautiful – green meadows, cool streams, lots of wildflowers. It was hot in the sun, cool in the shade. Really couldn’t ask for better. As we arrived at Crumbaugh Lake, my phone told me I had new mail. There is almost no reception here, but for this moment at this spot, there was. It was a note from Patty Felkner from Viewpoint Gallery saying they were offering me a 2 person show in the main gallery. I had submitted work to them early in the spring and was losing hope I would get an offer. Last year, selections were made much earlier, so I though I had missed the cut for this year. But no, I made it in and I’m very pleased to be showing work in 2012 with them. It was a little strange being notified while hiking in the seeming wilderness. But very little real wilderness remains in the U.S. these days. I’m not complaining though. Usually it is an agonizing wait between e-mail downloads where I have to franticly try to catch up. I do love the expanded access my iPhone has provided – so far.
On Wednesday we did a bit of driving to see more of the park. On the way in on Monday, we passed several places we would have liked to stop and explore, but with the motorhome and towing the Rav, we kept going – with plans on stopping another day. So today we stopped at Helen Lake. It was still quite frozen – it is at about the highest road elevation in the park. The trails to Lassen Peak were still closed due to snow here, but we were still able to photograph the wonderful abstracts of ice and snow and water the lake provided us. We also stopped for a short but hot and steep hike to Kings Creek Falls. The water was flowing well, but we were there at the wrong time of day which made for too contrasty of conditions. Along the way, we met a women who was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I asked when she started, her reply was she started in Mexico in April and her destination was Canada. She was stopping off here for a few hikes because she had always wanted to see Lassen. My guess was that she was in her late 40’s, maybe early 50’s. She was a thin but tough looking character. I think she will make it. As for us, we returned to camp for the splendor on Jeff and Betty’s home made lemoncello. Ahhhhh life is good!
Thursday, another hike. This time to Paradise Meadow. We were told the wildflowers in the meadow were still not at peak so we took the uphill trail for the 2.5 mile trek. For the entire hike up, we were the only ones on the trail. In several places, it paralleled the stream and we enjoyed the wonderful rush of cold clear water as it cascaded downward. About halfway up to the meadow, Mary quietly called out to me. We had both heard some noises off the trail about 25 yards, but Mary spotted the bear first. It was hard to see through the trees and brush, but it was very interested in the base of a tree stump. It scrapped and dug and tore up the stump. It jumped all around it, but thankfully not interested in us. We watched him for a while, then moved on. Up at the meadow, we discovered it was in fact a bit past prime. There were still loads of flowers – we just had to move around the meadow a bit to find them. After returning to our car, we went back up to Helen Lake to check out the afternoon sun. It was amazing how much ice had melted since earlier in the day. Still nice, but less so.
Back in camp, we met out neighbors who were traveling in a 36′ “diesel pusher” (they look like busses). They were in their late 60’s and when they pulled up on their motorcycle, we had a nice chat. They did two of the three hikes in one day that we did in two. Their energy was amazing and I was thinking they were perfect for my project. Alas, they were not full-timers – just on vacation from Temecula in So. California. They did know about, and regularly participate in, the gathering at Quartzsite.
Still later that evening, after dinner and a bottle of wine, there was a tapping at the RV door. Some new campers had just arrived and were wondering what we were doing in their reserved campground. We had the space reserved for three nights starting Monday, but decided to stay an extra day. The reservation board at our site showed no one coming in for 3 more days, so we asked around if we could stay another day. No official in the park had any idea what to tell us. Eventually it was figured that if no one was scheduled, we could pay for 1 more night and stay. The only problem was someone had dropped the ball and didn’t bother adding the new reservation which the new campers had apparently made the previous Sunday. You need to reserve 3 days in advance and they had just gotten in under the wire. So we had to move. Not a terrible consequence but still a hassle. There was another open site right near ours, so we took it but worried a bit if someone else would drop in after midnight sometime.
That was the first problem. The next day we left Lassen and motored to Hat Creek and found an RV park. It was only about 50 miles away, but we were interested in seeing the waterfalls at McAurther Burney Falls State Park. After setting up, we discovered the power to the RV from the site was not working. We tried several different power ports at several sites but our surge protector would not allow the power to move to the motorhome. I tested the power at the pole, inside the RV, the power cord – in short, every place I could think of. I finally determined it was the surge protector that was bad. In order to replace it, I had to drive to Redding 75 miles away. Well I did that and when I replaced the old one, the new one reacted the exact same way. So now it seemed either the power at the park was bad or there was something wrong with the wiring in the RV or the new surge protector was also bad. The only thing I could think to do was bypass the surge protector. I did this and suddenly power is restored. It seems clear that the surge protector was bad. Back to Redding to get my money back. But wait a minute, no returns on electrical purchases, and only the owner can override this. Am I out $300.00 dollars? This is on Saturday. The owner won’t be in till Monday, so the trip was wasted and I have to wait before I can even talk to him. It doesn’t sound good, but I did managed to get the clerk to keep the surge protector and hopefully the owner will relent when I call him on Monday and he will credit my card. I don’t want to make a third trip to redding. 300 miles is enough.