Thursday, March 31
I said goodbye to my friends and their adorable kitties as they pulled out on Monday and hooked up and pointed Bertha’s nose into the coming windstorm. I don’t think the gusts got up to 65 mph like the weathermen were predicting, but the Casita was rocking. That night was only one during my stay at the dry lake bed when there weren’t any tent campers, I can’t imagine why…
Tuesday and Wednesday were chilly with a chance of rain. On Wednesday evening a fellow in a pickup drops by while I’m changing my propane tank out. “Its going to rain, and you’re in a flood plain.” I tell him I’m keeping an eye on the situation and thank him for his concern. While there were visible showers both days, most of the precipitation never made it to the ground. It sprinkled just enough to get truck and trailer dirty.
Today my 14 days are up, it’s time to leave Joshua Tree, CA. Bertha creeps down the dirt road out of the BLM area, past the solar farm into an endless blue sky. It looks like a great day to travel.
The town’s namesake is in great evidence as I motor west on highway 62. In Yucca Valley, I turn north onto 247 which curves to the west, skirting around the San Bernardino mountains. The joshua trees vanish and creosote bushes spread as far as the eye can see. Snow capped peaks float behind the nearest ridge of brown rock. Houses disappear and the desert becomes empty and untamed.
Lucerne Valley is the next sign of habitation, a small and dusty town. Here 247 curves north again, climbing to a pass at 4,100 feet. On the north side of the pass, the road glides down into Barstow, but I’m not going that far.
Sawtooth Campground sits at 3,500 feet, tucked back out of sight from the highway down a one mile dirt road. This is an old rock climbing destination, and was called New Jack City in the past. A couple years ago, the BLM started renovating the campground. Every site has a fire pit, grill, and pagoda shaded picnic table. It’s small, only 15 sites including the camp host spot, and one of them is a group site. Camping is first come first served.
It’s free for now, but won’t be for much longer. A BLM worker is painting the bathrooms when I arrive and she says the paperwork is in to make it an official paid campground, but it takes some time to go through. There are two pit toilets, no other amenities. Garbage is pack in pack out. There are signs all over stating no fireworks, shooting, or off road vehicles, for which I’m glad.
It’s beautiful though, I can see why it got such good reviews online. The sites are all near masses of brown boulders, offering privacy and something interesting to look at. Many of them are also recognized climbs.
After the dry lake bed, the place seems to be teeming with life. Songbirds abound, and rabbits hop through the brush. Most of the people who stay here are tent campers who come out for the rock climbing. Most of the sites here could fit a smaller RV, but not all. Numbers 4-6 and 10-11 don’t have much parking area and are close together, I’d avoid them.
Numbers 2, 3, 9, and 14 are ‘single’ sites that don’t share a driveway with any other sites, I like them best. 14 is my favorite, a pull-through with a window in one of the rocks behind it, but it was taken when I arrived.
I went with #3, which is a good second choice. It’s a large pull-through that just about any size rig could fit in, but whether you could get it level is another matter.
The sun sets behind the ridge to the west, casting an orange glow on the thin clouds. Morning doves coo in the distance, the stars come out, and it’s a peaceful night.
Saturday, April 2
Yesterday I spend the morning writing, and the afternoon taking a trip into Barstow for internet. The 3 gb data plan that I have through Verizon for all of my online needs is usually enough, as long as I ration it carefully. In March I failed a little at that. Today though it has reset and I’m connected to the outside world from the comfort of my RV once again.
I also got that phone call I’ve been waiting a week for. It looks like from here I’m going to be heading toward L.A., but plans are not finalized yet, I’m still waiting on more information.
In the meantime, there are mountains to climb. There are several hiking trails around the campground, marked on my smartphone’s GPS but not noted on signage anywhere. Maybe it’s something the BLM hasn’t gotten to yet. This one is called, according to my phone, Bighorn Buttress Trail, which leads into Dike Wall Trail, it’s off the west side of the campground near the Mojave Desert interpretive display
Without any signage to guide me, I have no idea what to expect. At first I’m not even sure I’m on a trail, as the desert terrain makes it hard to tell. But through a combination of looking at my GPS and watching for footprints, I edge up the rocky slope.
The sort-of-trail winds around a bend into a small canyon, and follows a wash up. It’s not long, but the elevation gain is significant. At the top, I’m rewarded with a nearly 360 degree view. The campground stretches away one direction with Barstow in the distance, and on the other side of the ridge lies the valley Lucerne is in, the snow just barely visible in the mountains beyond. What a find, this is quite the gem of a campground.
* * *
A friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to put a little blurb up for Rock Creek Lakes Resort where she is going to be work-camping this summer, and I agreed. This is the place I almost ended up at this summer myself, I spoke with the Kings over the phone back in September and they seemed like a great family, and you can’t beat the location. If you’re not looking for a summer job I’ll see you next post, but if you are, read on – even if your rig isn’t self-contained or you don’t have an RV yet this is a viable opportunity because there are facilities right there. Here’s the info Rayn sent me:
The employer we worked for last year is searching for crew members for the summer, and asked me to get the word out that they need a few more folks for the season.
Rock Creek Lakes Resort is a family owned mountain getaway at 9,700 feet in the Eastern Sierra between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, CA. Crew members work in the general store, cafe, and cleaning rental cabins. 40 hours per week, 2 consecutive days off each week, and all hours paid, plus all your food is provided. This job would work for those with or without housing; there are trailers available on site, and a parking area for RVs. The only “hookups” are access to a 15 amp outlet, but there is a nice employee bathroom, shower, and kitchen for use. Closest dump station (and internet service) is 9 miles down the canyon.
The King family owners need dependable, hard-working folks from May-October. The work is intense and physically demanding, but the perks are awesome, with the whole Sierras right in your backyard. We loved working there, and are returning for our second season.
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