Monday, June 20
It’s been a quiet several days at Hartley Springs Campground, near June Lake, CA.
After the excitement of Convict Lake on Wednesday I spend the weekend at camp, writing during the day and taking long walks in the evening when the sun slips below the treeline and my solar power peters out.
A great thing about camping on public land, there are ATV trails and dirt roads everywhere, making for ample walking opportunities. One day I take the trail up the ridge behind the campground, signs say it connects Mammoth Lakes to June Lake. I don’t walk all the way to June Lake, but I spend a good hour on it. The moon rises as I’m heading back, the forest is silent and peaceful.
Tuesday, June 21
Today feels like a good day to move camp. I pull out of Hartley Springs and it’s less than a half-hour to to my next destination, by noon Cas is settled. Wow, this is nice! It’s already warming up though, this camp is at a lower elevation. Well, I could sit inside Cas and be uncomfortable, or I could take a drive somewhere and enjoy the A/C of the truck. I’ll take door number two, Alex.
There’s another boondocking area not terribly far away that I want to check out. Unhitched, I continue north on 395 to the town of Bridgeport, which is surrounded by flat fields of lush grass and grazing cattle. Twin Lakes Road steers west into Toiyabe National Forest, where my cell phone signal drops like a rock. That doesn’t look promising, but might as well go the rest of the way.
Turning right on to Buckeye Road, Bertha climbs into the Sierra. The road is dirt, but in reasonable condition. The view from the passenger window looking down over the valley is quite spectacular.
The boondocking spots start where the road follows the curve of the mountains into a little canyon. Trees provide shade and privacy, but sadly the Verizon signal is only 1 to 2 bars of 1x. Closer to Buckeye Campground, the boondocking spots are all full. There’s a hot spring around here somewhere, and I imagine it’s a pretty big draw.
Buckeye Campground ($18 a night, dry camping) has no signal at all, but it is pretty.
Some sites are more shaded, some are sunny. I see the parking lot for the hot spring but there are cars parked there and I don’t want to be disturbing people so I don’t go take pictures.
Buckeye Road continues to follow the edge of the mountains. Turning around would be the faster way home, but there’s something to be said for taking the long way around. Coming back out of the little canyon, the trees vanish again. A lake appears ahead, that must be Bridgeport Reservoir.
The skeletal remains of Juniper dot the hillside in places, evidence of a fire in the past. Abundant grass makes everything look fresh though, and clumps of yellow wildflowers further enhance the scenery. Yep, the drive was worth it.
Eventually Buckeye road descends back into the valley and meets up with 395. A sign announces that 120, 108, and 89 (passes that lead through the Sierra) are all open. That’s good, as I have intentions of visiting one of those roads soon.
So, have you guessed where I’m camping yet? From the title it should be pretty obvious. Heading back south on 395, the road climbs and and offers an excellent view of it: Mono Lake.
This boondock is off of Picnic Grounds Road, just south of the Lee Vining Airport. There’s not a lot of room for camping here, just one pull-around that can fit up to 3 larger rigs or maybe 5 smaller ones (in most boondocking spots the pull-around would be considered one site, but here the lack of space makes sharing a necessity), and two other small spots that can fit just a vehicle or small Class C. Reviews say it gets pretty busy and is often full, but arriving early on a weekday paid off.
If the downside is no privacy and close quarters, the upside is a unimpeded view of Mono Lake at no cost. I park in the narrow side of the loop close to the lake, so that even if I get neighbors, I’ll still have my view.
But I don’t go back to camp right away. A county park on the northwest end of the lake catches my attention. The picnic area and playground are nice, with a view of the water.
But the boardwalk out to the tufa towers along the shoreline is the best part. Mono Lake is quite unique. Besides being truly ancient (nearly 3 million years old), it’s at the western edge of the Great Basin, a geographical area that does not drain to the sea. Water coming out of the Sierra flows downhill into the lake, and from there the only way it leaves is through evaporation. As a result, it’s very salty. Great Salt Lake in Utah is similar, on the eastern edge of the Great Basin.
But that doesn’t explain the tufa. Calcium-rich springs flow up through the bed of Mono Lake, where the calcium bonds to carbonates in the water – making limestone. The limestone slowly builds on itself around the vent, creating a tower. When the lake level goes down, these tufa towers become exposed and stop growing. Pretty cool stuff.
A sign says South Tufa is the best place to view these formations, and my campsite is less than four miles away, sweet. I stop at camp quick to check on things then continue on to South Tufa.
It’s $3 a person to take the boardwalk trail, or if you have a National Park Service pass (like my $80 Interagency Pass) that counts too. I leave my pass on the dash as proof and eagerly set off down to the lake shore.
Neato! It’s getting on to evening now and a stiff
ocean salty lake breeze cuts the heat of the day. The tufa come in all shapes and sizes, some running in lines like a wall, some tall and thin, some squat and sturdy. I even find an arch.
California Gulls make a ruckus out over the water, there are dozens of them around. An informational sign explains their presence, up to 80% of the state’s population come to Mono Lake to nest on the islands, safe from predators. There are no fish for them to feed on in the lake, but there is a specialized species of shrimp that is salt-tolerant that they like. Mono Lake is a refuge or stopover for many species of bird that feed on the brine shrimp and alkali flies.
The sun disappears behind the Sierra a couple hours later as I sit out in my yard, no one else has come to share my spot. The last touch of light turns the distant mountains behind Mono Lake pink. It’s not a dazzling sunset, like some I’ve witnessed since I started boondocking, but it’s just as special. One more million-dollar view had for next to nothing. Another brilliant snapshot of the wonders of our country that I never would have experienced had I not taken the chance and gone full-timing. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember how far I’ve come from the girl who hated her job and dreaded waking up in the morning, so I’m thankful for every sunset – extravagant or simple. Tonight I’ll go to bed satisfied with my day, and tomorrow I’ll wake up eager to see what’s next.
* * *
Going full-time RVing was a big goal on my bucket list. So was writing a book and being a paid performer at a renaissance festival, what’re yours?
There’s something you’ve always wanted to do. A dream, but not just the ordinary, everyday kind of dream. An unrealistic, crazy sort of dream that makes your heart sing, and brings a little light into the dull routine of your day.
Or maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do. You just feel restless, beat-down, or lost. You know something needs to change, and dream of what it would be like to truly enjoy your life.
You pull that dream out when you’re having a bad day, and tell yourself someday it’ll happen – a promise of future happiness. But deep down, you doubt it. It’s not practical and you have responsibilities, Happily-Ever-After will have to wait until retirement, or until you have more money, or until you can spare the time – it’s just a dream, after all.
But it’s not just a dream.
It’s a glimpse of the life you’ve always wanted to live, but told yourself wasn’t possible. A life that you wake up happy to face in the morning, that leaves you feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.
Living your dreams isn’t a fate reserved for just a lucky or talented few. It’s obtainable by everyone, no matter your past or current circumstances.
When I wrote Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget, it occurred to me that a lot of IO’s readers were already on the road, or wanted to go full-timing but their situation was vastly different than the audience I wrote that guide for, or were done with the travel phase of their lives and had moved on to other things, or were years out from being able to go full-timing, or are content to be arm-chair travelers with no desire to travel themselves.
That’s a lot of people left out from the first guide, and I wanted to write something that would be beneficial for everyone.
My blog is essentially about two things: full-time RVing, and deliberate living. The Little Guide To Dreaming Big focuses on the later topic, echoing some of the very first blog posts I wrote for IO in 2011 before I hit the road, but greatly updated with all the experience I’ve gained since then in checking items off my bucket list.
It will benefit anyone who is looking for a more meaningful and fulfilling life, but it is especially for those who have a big dream and are looking for help to bring it to fruition. The advice and tasks within can be applied to just about any big dream out there from switching careers, to exceeding at a hobby, to growing a community, to starting a business, to changing your living situation (yes, it can be applied to full-time RVing, even though it isn’t specifically about it).
And it’ll be available one week from now on Thursday, June 30th. Next week I’ll give more specifics on the subjects covered in the guide and answer some questions I anticipate people having about it.
For those who aren’t interested, that’s perfectly fine. I’ll be continuing my travelogue posts as usual so you’ll still have plenty to read.
Have a good weekend everyone!
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