Crowley Lake and McGee Campgrounds

Thursday, June 2

Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. The past two nights I’ve gone to bed in shorts with all windows open and still felt warm, not to mention what the days have been like. Record high temperatures are expected this weekend.

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That settles it, time to go.

Heat like this isn’t conducive to working or sight-seeing. There’s still things I want to see in the Alabama Hills area but that’s alright, this way I’ll have stuff to write about next time I come through!

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A haze lies over Owens Valley north of Lone Pine, there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Bertha’s thermometer is already reading 82 degrees and it isn’t even 10 yet. The snow in the Sierra is visibly diminished from when I arrived just over a week ago.

395 winds along the valley floor, smooth and constant through the scrub and occasional planted field. Every now and then a road breaks off to the west, advertising a campground or fishing. One road heading east has a Forest Service sign for a Bristlecone Pine forest. Maybe it wouldn’t be too far to come back this way for a day trip once I’ve dropped Cas off at my destination.

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When an area of trees break up the tans and gray-greens of the desert, you know you’re coming to a town. Independence is the first, then Big Pine and Keough. Abruptly, I find myself going through a bustling downtown area, buildings stand shoulder to shoulder. This would be Bishop, the only city in Inyo county. From what I see it’s a cute place.

North and west of Bishop, the climbing begins. Bishop is at 4,150 feet, Toms Place 24 miles away is at 7,090 feet. Bertha dutifully tows Cas upward into an open forest of juniper and pine.

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At exit 252 I get off onto South Landing Road, and Google Maps lands me into a bit of trouble – directing me on what looks to be a back road and shortcut but is actually a series of driveways and private property. I reach a dead-end where one of these driveways is blocked by the owner’s car and am thinking I’ll need to find a way to turn around on the narrow one-lane track but the owner is outside doing yard-work and has sympathy for my plight. He sees my South Dakota plates and tells me he’s from North Dakota, and we have a nice conversation, at the end of which he graciously moves his car so I can exit onto a public road.

My destination isn’t far beyond that, Crowley Lake Campground. I’ll tell you all about it, but first, let me describe the proper way to get here. If you’re coming from the south and take exit 252, stay on South Landing Road until it meets up with Crowley Lake Drive. Don’t try to cut across on what is labeled as Willow Brook Road.

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Crowley Lake Campground is BLM managed and $5 a night. All sites do have distant water views of Lake Crowley to the north, but 395 and power lines running between does diminish the beauty somewhat. The Sierra mountains are close to the south and the White mountains are visible far to the northeast. There is no shade to be found here, but the scrub is greener and denser than near Lone Pine, probably owing to the higher elevation.

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The dump station is at the entrance and costs $5, there are 48 sites of varying lengths, 4 pit toilets, and 2 water spiggots. Dumpsters are near the host site.

The ten sites on the outer side of the western loop are pull-throughs that can accommodate any size rig, but they are quite close together. Generally the sites on the inside of the loop are small and best for car and tent camping, a couple can fit smaller RVs.

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I choose site 32 where my back window will look on the mountains, I think sites 30-38 are my favorite for that reason. The sun descends in the west and a stiff breeze brings cooler air with it. Ahhhh. If I’m going to have to endure record high temps, I’d rather have it be 85 degrees here than 95 farther south!

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Friday, June 3

As far as morning views go, this one certainly isn’t bad.

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While I type away on the computer several campground denizens stop by for a visit. A rabbit is the first to show, while the sun is still low on the horizon. It disappears as the morning progresses and likely won’t appear again until evening. Two chipmunks chase each other through the brush, and as the ground warms lizards come out of hiding to sun themselves. A ground squirrel eyes the trailer while seated on a post, chewing on something gripped in it’s paws.

After lunch, the itch to explore takes hold. I continue west about a mile on Crowley Lake Drive and come to McGee Creek, which boasts a lodge, bakery, and RV park. McGee Creek Road follows the water uphill into the mountains. Sure, why not?

Before long, I’m looking down on Lake Crowley. The creek tumbles below, lined with tall pine.

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The tops of RVs appear over a ridge, I’ve found another campground. McGee Campground is managed by the Forest Service and $21 a night. Pads are paved and there are shelters over the picnic tables. Some sites are large enough for big rigs.

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It’s dry camping with the same amenities as Crowley Lake, but the nearby creek and trees (and distance from 395) do make it more attractive I suppose. Several of the sites are reserved for the coming weekend.

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Site 9

Farther on, the road becomes gravel. I know there must be something down here yet because I’m seeing the occasional car come past. Between the brush, clumps of yellow, purple, and red flowers hide, spots of color that pop occasionally from the green.

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crowley-lake-mcgee-campgrounds (14)A paved parking lot is at the end of the road, along with a pit toilet, a table and charcoal grill, and signage for the John Muir Wilderness. This is McGee Creek Trailhead, a door into the backcountry of the Sierra. The squiggles of trails covering the map are extensive. Someday, I need to get backpacking gear.

Not having prepared for a hike, I don’t wander more than a couple yards down the trail. I do take a peek at the creek, which is flowing strong and fast over an uneven bed. I won’t be wading in to cool off here. Wind rustles through the leaves, the air is refreshing and clean in the way that only mountain air can be. The thought crosses my mind once again, oft repeated since I started RVing: I’m glad I came.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

41 Comments

  1. Lawrence "Larry" Cutting on June 10, 2016 at 9:45 am

    I just came down the 395 after a couple of days in Yosemite in my 2000 Chinook Concourse (class b). Near the Mammoth Lakes area, off the 395, I stayed in Hartley Springs Campground for a few days. It has lots of nice pine trees and shade. It has about 15 – 20 sites and a couple of pit toilets. Very nice site. There was no cost (at least that I could see) and I was one of the very few campers there. My little mutt, Pookie, enjoyed chasing squirrels and romping around. If you come down the 395 again, you may want to try it. It’s cooler (temperature wise) than Crowley and environs. Take care. P.S. Am enjoying your blog. I will be going full time shortly.



    • Becky on June 10, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      I’m at Hartley Springs tonight Larry, scouted out this and three other free FS campgrounds in the area and liked this one best. Of course now the heat wave is ending, but I was heading north anyway. Safe travels and happy trails!



  2. Jim on June 8, 2016 at 8:50 am

    If you’re petrified of the mountains, head west to the coast somewhere in California, then follow Highway 101 north until Seaside or Astoria and then head east. Although you’ll still encounter mountainous travel, it’s not bad going that way. The coast range isn’t as as steep or scary as the I-5 route. I’ve crossed over on every road and the easiest for people with mountain anxiety is the Astoria route. It follows the Columbia river so hardly ever gets very mountainous. Traveling CA-299 from Redding over to the 101 is a nice road now that the construction is pretty much done.

    The trip going via I-5 can be kind of nerve racking because of some very long and steep sections…but it is a modern 4 lane freeway with many stop off places where you can recharge your psychy. Also, it cuts several hours off the trip by avoiding having to go to the coast. The mountainous travel begins a bit outside of Redding and continues to south of Ashland, where I-5 drops into the Willamette valley and stays mostly flat all the way to Portland from there.

    Hopefully, you have electric brakes on your trailer. If you don’t, use engine compression to slow your descent. Just downshift when you top a rise, and let engine compression help keep your speed down. Never ride your brakes, just tap them every so often. That way you won’t overheat your brakes. Don’t let other drivers around you cause you to drive too fast. Keep it slow.

    Good luck, and you’ll love Oregon!
    Jim recently posted..Fall River Fairgrounds & more…My Profile



    • Becky on June 8, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks for sharing Jim, this sounds exactly like what Theresa was looking for.



  3. Theresa on June 6, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Hello, I’m a first time travel trailer driver, I’m petrified of mountains, I know I’ll get use to them, but do you have any advice? Or even where to avoid driving? I’m in Fresno ca area planning on going to Oregon first. It would be much appreciated



    • Becky on June 7, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      Hmm, maybe taking a RV driving course would be helpful Theresa? And starting with flatter routes and working from there?

      I haven’t been to Oregon yet so I have no personal advice to give on the route. I’ve taken the 5 and the 99 only as far as the Stockton area and I know both are flat up to there.

      I know there are books and phone apps that will show the road grade on various mountain passes, possibly some of the higher-end GPS units will as well. If you don’t want to pay any money though, you can always go to a forum like rv.net and ask for advice, I’m sure there will be people on there who are familiar with the routes and can offer advice.

      Hope this helps.



  4. Vanholio! on June 6, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    That heat wave is over here, too, in southern Utah and northern AZ. I drove a ton of miles to get to a high elevation camp. It’s hot here, too, but at least bearable at about 90.



    • Becky on June 7, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      Yikes, stay cool Vanholio. Hopefully it’ll be over soon.



  5. Tuan on June 6, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Hi Becky,
    Hope you are having a nice day. Can you tell me about the temperatures in Yellowstone? I know you were there last summer and I want to know if you had to run your AC at all. From what I’ve read, Yellowstone has very cool summers compared to the rest of the country. I’m curious how you will handle the summer heat boondocking without AC if you decide to stay in the Southwest.

    In one of your post, you said you enjoy reading inspirational/motivational sayings, so here is one:

    “Sometimes, simply by sitting, the soul collects wisdom.”



    • Becky on June 7, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      Heya Tuan, nice quote.

      Summers are cool in Yellowstone and I ran the AC on perhaps three afternoons where it got to 80, but mostly it’s 60’s and 70’s up there.

      I won’t be staying in the southwest, I’m already working my way north following spring and hope to stay ahead of the heat.



  6. Brad Blackburn on June 6, 2016 at 10:30 am

    I’m in Hawthorne NV at the moment on a three week vacation from Missouri.. It was too warm at Walker lake so I opted for an rv park to run my AC. I was at that same CG last year in April. The road continues up the hill past the solar powered water system for the CG. I rode my dual sport motorcycle up there to a locked gate. I recall stopping to look at GPS and 5 deer were having breakfast while staring at me. There’s an earthquake fault up beyond Mammoth Lakes. Bodie is awesome.Like others said there are numerous hot springs out on the desert floor. Pulky’s pool, Crab Cooker (way too hot for me but cool to see) Hot Creek is worth a visit too and Bertha should be able to go there. Lots of roads so GPS/map is your friend.



    • Becky on June 7, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Yeah seems like much of the west is cooking right now, bet that AC feels good though!

      I’ve seen vehicles go farther up that road behind the campground, in fact a tow truck brought a truck camper down the other day, poor guy I bet that wasn’t a cheap bill.

      Been busy working and haven’t had a chance to check out the hot springs near Mammoth Lakes, although I have a general idea where they are. Thanks for the tips.



  7. Jodee Gravel on June 6, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Glad you found cooler temps – Mammoth Lake and June Lake should be even cooler. Such a pretty area, with so much to see. With the temps warming up there can be snakes so just keep an eye open.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..A New State At Last!My Profile



    • Becky on June 6, 2016 at 9:30 am

      So far I haven’t seen a snake yet this year Jodee, knock on wood. It’s definitely different up here from the Alabama Hills and I’m enjoying it!



  8. Dickie Barrows on June 5, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Loved the honesty and reality you shared about the dog adoption story. It is rare to read stories that aren’t just smooth sailing.
    What resource do you use to find BLM campsites and other nearly free campsites?
    Thanks,
    Dickie



  9. Rachel on June 5, 2016 at 4:50 am

    Hi- I just started reading your blog and watched your video. I also just bought your book! I am a very independent and adventurous sixty, leaving in less then two months in a used twenty foot trailer with one old dog, one young dog, and parrot. I have never done this before, and since I”m on a tight budget, look forward to reading your book today. I’ve also never had a blog, so setting that up too. Will be living full time traveling, so your book will really help me with things I don’t even know I don’t know.
    I’ll be sure to leave a review soon.

    I look forward to reading about more of your journeys-

    Rachael



    • Becky on June 6, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Hello Rachel and welcome to IO! Thanks for purchasing my guide and I hope you get a lot of use out of it.

      Best of luck to you on your upcoming adventure, RVing is a fun way to experience more of the world. Safe travels and happy trails.



  10. Alan Belisle on June 4, 2016 at 10:06 am

    As long as you are glad you came, it is all worthwhile. Happy Trails.
    Alan Belisle recently posted..Walla Walla WA 5/26 – 5/31My Profile



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks Alan, same to you.



  11. Jim on June 4, 2016 at 10:00 am

    You’re still in one of my favorite areas and if you head due north, you’ll get to visit Mono Lake. One of the most interesting sites along 395. The city of LA pretty much drained the lake for the water over the decades but hard work, several lawsuits, and persistence have paid off and by law, the lake isn’t robbed of water as much as in the past. It’s slowly filling back up. Luckily, it wasn’t ruined beyond repair. To the delight of the tens of thousands of birds that call that lake their campground…it’s on a major flyway. You might consider stopping by and hiking the trails. Very interesting and only takes a couple hours…and the photos you’ll get! Spectacular.

    Then further north is that huge ghost town, Bodie, maintained by California State Parks, one of your readers mentioned a few weeks ago. That’s worth nearly an half a day to explore, maybe more. I took some photos of Bodie and Mono Lake back in 2011 and you might glance at them to give a reference point of how low the water was, that is if you visit the lake soon. The link address is below…
    Jim recently posted..Leaving Rosamond, and on to Oregon…My Profile



    • Jim on June 4, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Well, WordPress didn’t display the address I was trying to link like I expected, so if you don’t mind, I’ll put it here in this comment: http://chaos.goblinbox.com/2012/04/06/on-to-bodie-sp/
      Jim recently posted..Leaving Rosamond, and on to Oregon…My Profile



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I saw Mono Lake ever-so-briefly on the whirlwind tour Julie and I took into Yosemite two falls ago, I do hope to actually be able to stop and see it this time.

      There are so many things to do on 395, I won’t come close to hitting it all on this trip, guess I’ll just have to re-visit the area again later!



  12. Gary Brooks on June 4, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Hi Becky, have been following your travels for a number of years but never posted ( except to locate you in Alabama Hills). You are now traveling in one of my favorite areas. If you have time, a day trip into Convict Lake and a hike around the lake makes for a great outing. Also the hot springs near the airport is another spot not to miss. Thank you again for all of your interesting and informative posts. I always enjoyt them and learn something new. Take care – Gary



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      You’re not the first to suggest Convict Lake as a day trip Gary, it sounds like it’s really something. I’ll continue heading north from here so I think that’s a trip I’ll make from my next camp, we’ll see how things go.

      Which airport are you referring to for the hot springs? I do want to visit some hot springs while I’m in the Sierra (once the heat wave is over) but they aren’t the easiest things to find on a map, it seems to be a lot of word-of-mouth.

      You’re welcome and take care!



  13. Jerry Minchey on June 4, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Becky, Your book, “Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget” is up to #5 in the Solo RVing category on Amazon. Congratulations.

    Fellow readers — Becky needs some reviews for her book to get it to rank even higher. If you’ve read her book, take a minute and go to amazon.com/dp/B00W30OFCE now and leave a review. If you haven’t read it, go download the eBook, read it, and then leave a review. Whether you’re an RVer or an RV wannabe, you’ll find a wealth of information in Becky’s book.

    Becky won’t hound you for reviews of her book, but I will.
    For all of the work she puts into writing these interesting and informative posts for us, the least we can do is take a minute and post a review on Amazon for her. It will help her book sales a lot.



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      Aww, thanks for thinking of me Jerry. 🙂

      The boost in sales is from all the new IO readers who came over from Bob’s blog following that video interview I did with him. I hope all of you new readers are enjoying my blog, and I hope all of you who’ve purchased “Solo Full-time RVing on a Budget” have gotten a lot of use out of it!

      Take care.



      • Maria on June 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm

        Becky, I can’t believe how much I look forward to reading your blog. I save it until the evening when I can savor the amazing pictures. I am curious if you know about any groups of rv’ers that full time and travel together? I think that would be a really fun thing to do for a while.
        Keep living the dream, my dear!



        • Becky on June 6, 2016 at 9:25 am

          I know they exist Maria but I haven’t gone looking as I prefer to travel alone, do a search on Facebook or Google and I’m sure you’ll find some. 🙂

          Glad you’re enjoying my posts, thanks for reading!



    • Maria on June 9, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      I purchased becky’s book after reading this and just posted my review. GREAT book, becky. Excellent for us dreamers and planners. Now where can I find this interview with Bob everyone keeps talking about?



  14. Dawn in MI on June 4, 2016 at 5:30 am

    Looks like a lot of really interesting places to explore! I can’t wait to see more!



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      There does seem to be a lot to see along 395 Dawn! I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you readers.



  15. RGupnorth on June 4, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Looking like another good decision. Hard to beat altitude when it gets warm.



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      You got it RG. 🙂



  16. Judy Blinkenberg on June 4, 2016 at 3:46 am

    I think your posts are interesting and informative, and I enjoy them very much. I always look on a map to see where you are! Thank you for taking the time to post. They are helpful for future reference. We are in the foothills on highway 88 about one hour from Mindan, NV. We will be traveling down 395, I believe, toward the end of this month. Headed to Texas, pulling a boat. I’m thankful for AC. Take care and thanks again.
    Judy Blinkenberg recently posted..Quilt AlongsMy Profile



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      You’re welcome Judy, thanks for reading. I do try to keep things as informative as I can to help other RVers, after all I learn about most of the places I visit from others. 🙂

      Have a good trip to Texas! It sounds like it’s been raining a lot down there so the lakes should be in good shape for boating I’d think. Take care.



  17. Jay on June 3, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Becky,
    it,s been 6 years since I drove down 395 and I’m enjoying your time in the Sierras.
    If you have enough battery you could run your fantastic fan to pull air in to help cool things down. I believe that you said in your last video that you don’t use your awning ! when it is hot and the sun hitting the refer side vents it a good to put the awning out to shade the vents, this will help the refer to not work so hard and hope that it will help it to last a long time.
    When you have the awning out don’t go off and leave it as strong winds could start up and destroy it, I only leave it up while in the campground area.

    Here in the Medford, Oregon area is 97 today and 100 + until Tuesday than a cool down.

    Thank You for the great write ups and the photos. Jay



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      For me the awning is more trouble than it’s worth Jay, I’d always be worrying about the wind damaging it especially as windy as it is out west, but I park my Casita so that the refrigerator is out of the sun. I do use my Fantastic Fan of course.

      You’re welcome, glad you’re enjoying these posts and I’m also rather glad I’m not in Medford, OR right now. 😉



  18. Jeff on June 3, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    You’re doing great along the 395 route!, making good time and enjoying sites along the way. The Grandview Campground within the Bristlecone Pine Forest is 8500′ with some shade. Might be cooler, but returning will be warmer. … tough choice you had to make! You’re in a great spot now for awhile.



    • Becky on June 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Yeah returning would be warmer Jeff. Hoping I can make a day trip out there although I don’t think there’s going to be time. So much to see, so little time!



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