Sunday, July 1, 2018

Cruising Hwy. 395

Post by Henry
Photos by Loretta

I know.  You've been wondering, "Where the heck are they?"

We are, and have been in California.
The Golden State.
Traveling up the eastern Sierras on Hwy. 395.

When we last left you, we had narrowly escaped the volcanic destruction happening on the Big Island of Hawaii. (It's gotten much worse since then.) We had stored the Rambler in Yuma while we were gone and had to spend several more days getting situated to continue on our journeys. Each of those days in Yuma was hovering around 105 degrees!
The locals call that spring.  I call it torture.

Our first stop in California was in the San Diego area at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. Other than being in the flight path of jets landing at the San Diego airport, it was a nice campground and good base for exploring the area. While there, we spent time checking out the various beaches, our favorite of which had to be Ocean Beach.

Free Spirits at Ocean Beach

Amazing Beach Art at

We also got in a couple of days of bike riding on the Bayshore Bike Trail and Mission Bay Trail.

Biking Along the Silver Strand

Or next stop was a place we've been to before, the Jojoba Hills Escapes RV Park in Aguanga. This is one of the best RV parks in the USA with amenities such as a pool, hot tubs, sauna, exercise room, pool room, extensive book and movie library, and Loretta's favorite, the sewing room - complete with a long arm quilting machine. Loretta took full advantage of the sewing room during our week stay, almost totally completing a beautiful quilt. (She's getting pretty good at this quilting.)

Henry took full advantage of the surrounding mountains and trails, getting in several good hikes, including one along the Pacific Crest Trail out to Eagle Rock.

Eagle Rock

Next, we moved up to the eastern Sierras along Hwy. 395, with our first stop outside the town of Lone Pine at Tuttle Creek Campground.

Scenic Campground

Our View
Looking at Mt. Whitney

This campground has no hookups, but sits at the base of the mountains, with in-your-face views of the snow capped Sierra Nevadas. Oh, and with our senior pass, this campground cost $4 a night! This was the first place we were able to use our new portable solar panels to keep our batteries topped off and it performed flawlessly.

The Beautiful Sierra Nevadas

This area has some of the best hiking anywhere. Whitney Portal was just down the street where most folks end their hike of the famous 221 mile John Muir Trail. (This one is on Henry's bucket list.) This is also the location of the Mt. Whitney Trail to the top of the highest peak in the lower 48.

Trailhead to Highest Point in US Lower 48

Lone Pine Lake Up The Mt Whitney Trail

Nearby is the Alabama Hills. This unique boulder filled area is most famous for being the filming location of many movies, including over 100 westerns. We learned a lot about this at the little museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine.

The Alabama Hills
Where Early Westerns were Filmed

The Last of the Singing Cowboys

John Wayne

The Lone Ranger

Next, we moved up Hwy. 395 to the town of Bishop for a few nights. While here, we made a day trip to the ancient bristlecone pine forest. These are the oldest living trees on earth, with some reported to be over 4,000 years old! They have a very nice looking visitor center there that we would have liked to check out, but for some reason, it was closed.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Visitor Center
Among the Ancient Bristlecone Pines

While in Bishop, we stopped off at the Mountain Rambler Brewery for a tasty beer and lunch.

Moving further up Hwy. 395, we spent 8 nights dry camping at Oh! Ridge campground on beautiful June Lake.

Oh! Ridge

June Lake

Here, within easy driving range, was Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake and Yosemite!

Mono Lake is an important nesting area for many birds. We learned about how Mono Lake was being depleted quickly as a water source for Los Angeles before some people with common sense formed the Mono Lake Committee. They were able to negotiate an agreement with L.A. that has allowed the water level of the lake to slowly rise again, while still supplying some water to the city.

Mono Lake
from High Above

Mono Lake, Tufas and Mountains

Tufas in Mono Lake

The Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite had just opened for the season a week or so before we arrived in the area. We had never entered the park from this westernmost side, but we remedied that with several trips into the park.

Tioga Pass Entrance

Most of the services (campgrounds, visitor center, lodge and store) were still in the process of opening for the season. This seemed to temporarily keep the throngs of tourists away, which made for some less crowded exploring of this part of the park. We took advantage and spent a few days hiking and just enjoying the magnificent beauty of Yosemite.

Hiking to May Lake
Yes, that's snow in June!

May Lake in June

We topped off one day with a visit to the Whoa Nellie Deli. This unassuming gas station/gift shop/restaurant serves up some mighty tasty chow after a long day in the park. Great cold local craft beers on tap, too, all with a view overlooking Mono Lake.

Majestic Yosemite

Whoa Nellie Deli for the Belly

Moving further up Hwy. 395, we spent a few days at Washoe Lake State Park, which is actually in Nevada. This was another scenic campground with no hookups located between Carson City and Reno. We used this campground as a base to explore Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, and with a depth of 1,645 feet, it's the second deepest in the USA after Crater Lake in Oregon. There's no doubting the beauty of Lake Tahoe, but it was a bit too crowded and touristy for us.

That gets us mostly up to date on our travels so far this summer. We have gotten a little lax on updating the blog, but gee, we're kinda busy having fun!

Rolling on Down the Scenic Highway

Monday, May 7, 2018


Post by Henry and Loretta
Pics by Loretta

Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii!

Aloha Shack

Hawaiian Lava Beach

Well, actually, we recently returned from Hawaii and just in time! (More on that later)

Yep, we just returned from a month long stay on the Big Island. We celebrated our 10th anniversary back in November and both of our birthdays are in April, so we decided to splurge a bit and go on a special 'vacation'. We spent two (2) weeks on the west side of the island and then two (2) weeks on the east side, staying in VRBO's (Vacation Rental by Owner).

So how would we describe our four (4) weeks in that paradise called Hawaii?

Cloudy and wet! It was un-Hawaii-ish, but we had a great time. We talked with many locals that told us "this is the wettest spring I can remember". We probably had four (4) blue sky days during our entire stay. We did have plenty of breaks in the clouds to allow us to 'catch some rays', but really nice blue skies were few and far between, making for some 'milky' photos.

Our first two (2) weeks were spent on the west side of the island. The (ahem) dry side.

The VRBO we stayed in here was near the town of Captain Cook on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean 1,000 feet below. It was sitting on a large, heavily foliaged piece of property full of avocado and papaya trees and new birds we'd never seen before. We spent every morning having our coffee on the lanai (Hawaiian for porch) watching the birds and gazing out towards the ocean.

Our View from the Lanai
Pacific Ocean in far Distance

The Back Yard
and Rainbow

This side of the island is the Kona side and this is big time coffee country. There are coffee farms everywhere. We took a tour of the Greenwell Coffee Farm, which they claim is the oldest on the island, with coffee trees dating over a hundred years old - that still produce!

Greenwell Farms

Learning about Coffee

Coffee Beans

The tour was very informative and it ended with a nice selection of various roasts of Kona coffee samples. Quite yummy! Kona coffee is VERY expensive, selling for $30 per pound and UP!

Greenwell Coffee Selection

Another crop grown around here is Macadamia nuts and they are delicious! We also toured the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. You follow the road for about 2-3 miles through the orchards of Macadamia nut trees to arrive at the packaging factory. Surprisingly, it was really not a very big operation.

Macadamia Nuts

While here on the Kona side, we got in a few hikes and did some snorkeling. We saw Green Turtles swimming in the water and snoozing on the beach.

Green Turtle

Still Sleepy
Green Turtle

We visited some historic sites and learned a little about early Hawaiian culture. A lot of it was rather brutal! We're talking human sacrifices!

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau
National Historic Park

Part of the Great Wall
Constructed over 400 Years Ago
12 Feet Tall

Canoe House

We tried to visit every beach we could, relaxing in our chairs, listening to the waves, and smelling the floral laden fresh salt air.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

Everywhere we went, we were birding and like mentiioned earlier, seeing NEW birds we'd never seen before. And identifying these birds was relatively easy, as the variety of birds way out in the remote Hawaiin Islands is limited.

Saffron Finch

Gray Francolin

Yellow Billed Cardinal

Pacific Golden-Plover

Java Sparrow

Yellow-Fronted Canary

After two (2) weeks, we moved to the eastern side of the island, the (ahem) wet side. As we drove closer to our eastern side location, you could tell that this was the wet side as the vegetation was even more lush. That being said, the whole island is incredibly lush with vegetation so thick, it felt at times like we were at Jurassic Park. We didn't see any dinosaurs, but they did film parts of the movie in Hawaii.

Our VRBO here was located outside the small town of Pahoa, two (2) blocks from the ocean. Our mornings on the lanai here were accompanied by the sound of the waves crashing violently against the rugged, rocky coastline.

Crashing Waves

This being the wet side, there are numerous waterfalls and we visited a few of them.

Rainbow Falls
(Without the Rainbow)

Akaka Falls

We walked around the town of Hilo and checked out many of the small parks nearby.

New Land

What we did the most, though, was visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The Hawaiian Island chain was formed by volcanoes. The Big Island of Hawaii is made up of five (5) volcanoes. The two (2) volcanoes with the most recent eruptions are located in the national park. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, which sent lava flows towards the town of Hilo.

Lava Flows to the Sea

Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983, and this is where the action was happening while we were there.

Active Volcano

The Jaggar Museum observation area overlooks the 950' wide lava lake located in the crater that is inside the caldera of Kilauea. This crater is called Halema' uma' u. The observation area is 1 1/4 mile from the lava lake. So, basically you have the Kilauea Caldera (biggest hole), then the Halema'uma'u crater (mid sized hole) and finally, the lava lake (smaller hole).

Jagger Museum

Halema'uma'u Crater
Lava Lake Inside

The way it was explained to us, this lava lake was not visible since 2015 as it was located deep within the crater. All that was visible was an orange glow at night. The lake had been slowly rising and about the day before we arrived, had risen enough to be able to see the surface with lava being blasted into the air in various and ever changing locations across the lava lake. This is what we were able to observe the day we arrived and it was so mesmerizing, we stayed until after dark, when it became totally awesome!

Close up of Lava Lake
with Lava Action

The Lava Lake at Night

Lava Lake
To try to explain this further, most of the surface of the lake is a crust of cooled lava floating on top of the hot, liquid lava. At night the surface looks like a spider web of orange cracks in the crust, along with the spots of liquid spitting and splattering red hot lava, which reached up to 50 feet or more into the air, then crashing back down into the lava lake. It was such an incredible sight to see.

Over the next few days, the lake continued to rise and then overflowed into the Halema'uma'u Crater raising the crater floor an estimated 25 feet! The lake then fell out of sight and then rose again several times.  It was alive and breathing - it was Pele', the Goddess of the Volcano! All of this happened during our two (2) weeks of visits to the park.

Jagger Museum Observation Deck
The Day the Lava Lake Overflowed

And then.....

There is another active crater on Kilauea in a more remote location, which is off limits to the public, called Pu'u'O'o. Things really started happening at Pu'u'O'o when it's crater floor collapsed due to increased seismic activity on Monday (4/30) afternoon. Two days later our vacation was over and we flew out of Hawaii on Wednesday (5/02) night at 9:00 p.m.

The very next day on Thursday (5/03), there were stronger earthquakes and cracks formed in the ground in the Leilani Estates subdivision, which is located just 5.3 miles from the VRBO rental we had been staying at in Pahoa. Conditions continued to deteriorate from there, with more cracks in the subdivision roadways and lava starting to spew from the cracks, leading to mandatory evacuations and bigger earthquakes, including one on Friday (5/04), rated at 6.9, which is the strongest earthquake to hit Hawaii since 1975! If you've seen the latest news headlines, you know the situation continues to deteriorate.

I guess we timed that just about right, wouldn't you say?


Hawaiian Volcano Goddess