Wednesday, June 22
The sun rises soft and mellow in a cloudless cornflower-blue sky, a light breeze brings the scent of sage into the trailer. A person couldn’t ask for better weather for a day trip!
I’m up bright and early, throwing the things that I’ve packed into Bertha. 120, known as Tioga Road, is the eastern entrance into Yosemite National Park, and it’s only minutes away from camp. It would be a shame to stay near Lee Vining, CA and not take a drive in to see it.
Tioga Road is not the easiest drive. A sign at the bottom proclaims “Steep grades, difficult for trailers”. They aren’t kidding.
In the fall of 2014 I towed Cas up this road into Yosemite, then back down it a few days later. The eastern side of the Sierra is much steeper than the western side, and there’s an 8% grade for six miles. Going up Bertha did a bang-up job creeping along at 30 mph. Coming back down, I feel like I must have lost one of my nine lives. The brakes were definitely hot (and smelly) by the bottom – and this with the truck in second gear. Maybe I should have tried in first.
Without the trailer it’s still not a quick ascent, but much easier. At the top, a stunning view of Ellery Lake is the reward for motorists who braved the climb.
This isn’t Yosemite, the park starts eleven miles farther west at Tioga Pass. This is Inyo National Forest, and it’s much less crowded, a fact I’m enjoying now that schools are out and vacation season is in full swing. Gone is the brush of lower elevations, here at 9,000-something feet conifers dominate, sheltering grass underneath.
Campgrounds flourish as well. On my way to the first hike of the day I pas Junction Campground ($16/night, 14 day limit, dry camping). Like most of the forest service campgrounds up here it’s small with tight turns, not ideal for RVs, but I do see this interesting little trailer parked in one of the spots near the entrance. It looks like a truck camper but has a tongue for towing, the top is a hard shell that appears to pop up.
I have no idea what to expect from today’s hike. I looked at Google Maps and saw that there was a trail that goes around a lake nearby, and randomly decided to hike it. My first surprise is that Saddlebag Lake Road is not paved, but perhaps I should have expected that. It follows Lee Vining creek up alongside Tioga Peak at a considerable slope. It’s well maintained but narrow for two lanes, with frequent pullouts for people to pass one another.
It still being early in the morning, I don’t see another car going up. At the top is another campground, but it’s still closed due to snow. That should have been my first warning…
There’s a concession store up here where boats can be rented, but it’s not open yet. Saddlebag Lake itself glitters like a gem between mountains at a cool (literally) 10,000 feet. There’s a dam at one end, but the water level is so low that the lake hardly touches it right now. It is a beautiful area though, and I’m glad I randomly chose this spot for today’s hike.
The lake sits right at the tree-line, the divide between sub-alpine and alpine. A few ambitious fisherman are already out along the shore, trying their luck.
My luck is not so great. I decide to circle the lake counter-clockwise and and soon my trail is a doing a great impression of a stream-bed. Water runs merrily along the course where countless feet have packed the surface lower than the surrounding ground. I’m soon scrambling across rocks and through dense thickets of brush beside the trail to keep my feet dry (haha, if only I knew).
I begin to wonder if I really want to try to go all the way around the lake, but man, that view is awfully inspiring.
With a sigh of relief, Trail Creek becomes simply the trail again, climbing up through a field of scree (which is just a fancy term for “loose rocks”).
Now, take a look at this next picture. The flowers in front of the fathomless deep blue of the lake, with rugged mountains behind makes for a great photo, and I’m chortling with glee as I get down on my hands and knees to capture it. But note the northern aspect of the slope behind the lake. See how snowy it is? Saddlebag Lake has two lobes, and that snowy slope is not visible from the trail-head. From the trail-head, the lake looks quite free of snow. It’s a lie. Do I notice all that snow when I take this picture? Nope, my attention is focused on lining up a good shot, and thinking about how much you all are going to enjoy this picture. I hope you do enjoy it.
Here’s one more flower picture, this one looking towards the dam.
It’s going to be hot down in Lee Vining, but up here in the mountains the temperature is perfect for hiking – cool and crisp. The trail winds through a stand of pine at the neck of the lake between the two lobes. I’m contemplating the beauty of the day when a break in the trees brings me face-to-face with what’s in store. “Oh, that’s a lot of snow.”
But it’s too late to turn back now. Besides, this will make a better story, right? On the plus side, I’m not to the snow yet, and there’s still a lot to see in the meantime.
At the end of the lake farthest from the trail-head, a sizable stream empties rushes down from the mountains. It’s running high, naturally, from the snow-melt. Somewhere in here I lose the trail, and can’t figure out where I’m suppose to cross.
Following the stream upriver, the channel is narrower, but deeper. In places, drifts of snow still hang over the water, melting freely into the torrent. I bet that’s cold. The brush on this end of the lake is barely starting to bud, the branches are brown and stark.
But there are a few flowers already in bloom.
Somewhere around here, there has to be a crossing. But it’s not here.
Eventually I find it: a series of half-submerged logs hidden in brush. Water rushes over them, and there’s a considerable gap between the ends and dry ground, given the flooding. Goodbye, dry feet.
I lose the trail again, in the marshy ground on the other side of the stream. As soon as the snow starts it becomes obvious, a trail through pristine white. I don’t get many pictures of this part of the hike because I’m too focused on trying to keep my footing. Step off the compacted path, and it’s possible to sink up to your knee in the snow because of drifts and the irregular nature of the ground underneath. In places where the snow is thin, the scree underneath becomes an additional slip hazard. And it is slippery, it’s well above freezing and the snow is slushy. I’m panting half-way through, but only fall on my butt once!
Finally the snow ends, phew! I’m almost back to the trail-head, and the sun has come up quite a ways, illuminating the water. This end of the lake is more shallow.
One more bend and the dam is in sight, I’ve made it! It’s only 3 miles round trip, but it seemed longer with all the obstacles. It was definitely challenging. Still, what a fun hike!
Back on Tioga Road, I get lunch at Tioga Pass Resort, a turkey melt which tastes amazing. I’m so hungry that I’m not sure if it’s actually amazing or not, your results may vary.
At Tioga Pass sits the entrance to Yosemite. I go in without the intention of staying long. I enjoyed my time at the quieter end of 120 better but still feel obligated to make use of my Annual Pass since I’m here. Consulting the park map I get at the toll booth, I pick Dog Lake as my second and final hike of the day. It’s 2.4 miles round trip (out and back) and not nearly as scenic as Saddlebag Lake, but I guess they can’t all be amazing, huh? Most of the hike is through Lodgepole pine…
But the lake itself is pretty enough.
Friday, June 24
I peek through my blinds in the morning to see if the van that pulled in last night is still there. It is.
The morning is sunny and bright. Birds sing invisibly from the sage, welcoming a new day. It’s so beautiful out! Blah blah blah…
Behind my neighbor’s Vanagon, the sky is a wall of sickly brown haze. Smoke billows on the side of the mountains near camp, creeping out in tendrils to consume Mono Lake. I don’t swear very often, but sometimes the occasion calls for it. For instance, when a wildfire springs up near home overnight. It’s been so hot here the past few days, this is bad.
A half-hour of careful viewing assures me that I’m not in any immediate danger, the wind is coming out of the west and I’m more to the south. But it must be close to Lee Vining. An hour or so later the fire makes the news: 395 is shut down, Lee Vining is on standby for evacuation.
Today’s going to be an interesting day.
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In real-time it’s Monday night, and obviously I end up getting through the Marina Fire unscathed because this post is going up (so no need to worry). You can read the exciting conclusion to the fire story on Thursday, but in the meantime, I owe you all some more information about The Little Guide To Dreaming Big!
The big launch date is Thursday, June 30th as I mentioned previously and I hope to have everything ready by around 10 am MDT (noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific) but it will depend on how quickly Amazon gets the book up on the Kindle store so if it isn’t ready right at 10 am, please be patient. Yes, the PDF edition and the Kindle edition will be releasing simultaneously this time around and both are eligible for the introductory launch price!
The Little Guide To Dreaming Big will be available from the 30th until July 4th at 6 pm (Mountain Daylight time again) at the special price of only $3.99. What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with a guide designed to free you from the status quo? America is the land of dreams, after all.
After 6 pm on the 4th, the guide will continue to be available, but at the standard price of $5.99 so if you want that launch price, act before then.
Now, some questions and answers:
Q: Which guide should I get; or if I already have your other guide, do I need this one too?
A: If the big dream you’re currently contemplating is going full-time RVing, Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget will likely be a better fit, especially if you’re the target audience I wrote that guide for, namely: if you’re planning to travel solo, are working-age, interested in small RVing, and/or are on a budget.
For all other dreams (or if you don’t know exactly what your dreams are yet), this guide will work the best.
But, as most people who are interested in RVing also have other dreams and goals, having both guides is certainly beneficial. I wrote them to compliment each other, and this guide can be applied to full-timing as easily as any other dream. There is a little overlap in the money section in both guides, but 95% of the material is unique to each so it isn’t a waste to own both.
Q: Is this book more philosophy, or more how-to?
A: There is some philosophy in it by necessity, but it is mostly a how-to guide and thus there will be work involved on your part. In many of the sections are highlighted tasks that call for an action to be taken. These tasks usually involve writing something down, guidance is provided. Having tasks (instead of worksheets) gives you the most flexibility to tailor the guide to your own dreams.
Q: Won’t everything covered in this guide be things I’ve already learned from your free articles?
A: Nope. It’s true I’ve talked about fulfilling your dreams on IO, but the original dreams series was the very first thing I published in 2011 and is quite out of date. Some of these sections are completely new including discovering your guiding values, staying motivated, and finding your tribe.
Q: It’s a bit cheaper than your other guide, why is that?
A: Two reasons. First off, marketers will be familiar with the term “perceived value”. Namely, the price of something should not based off how much time or effort it took to make or how much worth it has in an objective sense, but by how valuable the customer perceives it to be. In this case, because Solo RVing is priced at $7.99 for 56 pages a customer would expect this guide, at 45 pages, to cost less. It should be noted though that 45 pages is still a lot of information, especially since it has been condensed down into a no-nonsense format without filler text. For a little perspective, 45 pages is the length of 21 of my average blog posts.
The second reason is that I wanted this guide to be more financially accessible so that it’ll appeal to a broader audience, because I feel the message is very important. One of my most popular blog posts of all time ended with this paragraph, which I’ve received a lot of comments and e-mails on: Full-time RVing is only a Happily Ever After for those people whose personality is compatible with it. Often when strangers tell me “Gosh, I wish I could do what you’re doing”, I think what they’re really saying is: “Gosh, I wish I could be as happy as you are.” And what makes me happy, won’t make everyone happy.
So this guide is my offering to those of you who didn’t fit the mold for the first one, something useful no matter who you are or what your dreams for the future look like. Full-time RVing is near and dear to my heart, but in the end, going full-timing sprung from my desire to live a happier life, not the other way around. If I should have to get off the road tomorrow I would be sad, but I have other dreams, and I could still live a good life without my RV. Heck, someday I probably will stop full-timing. But I’ll never, ever go back to letting someone tell me the way life ought to be lived, and that’s what I’m trying to get across here: whether you’re interested in full-timing or not, live life on your own terms. You’ll have no regrets.
Q: What formats does it in? Will others be available later?
A: Currently, the guide is available as a PDF and for Kindle. To read the PDF format you’ll need a program that reads .pdf files such as Adobe Acrobat or iBooks – most computers and devices these days seem to come with one. To read the Kindle format you’ll need a Kindle e-reader, or to download the Kindle reading app on your computer or device.
Note: If you’re debating between buying it as a PDF or for Kindle, I’d appreciate it if you bought the PDF directly from me, and help support an independent author (Amazon takes 30% of the purchase price from the Kindle version).
As for other formats, it’s possible there will be a print edition eventually, but it’ll be more expensive than either e-format and there will not be a special introductory price for it.
Q: How will purchasing/delivery be handled?
A: For the PDF version, E-junkie is handling the shopping cart and product delivery, which will come through e-mail. They’re a commonly used service and are well rated. PayPal is handling the money – again a very secure, safe system. You’ll be able to pay using a PayPal account or a credit/debit card, same as with the Donation button on the side of my site.
For the Kindle version, you’ll be buying the guide direct from the Amazon website, and they’ll handle payment and delivery to your device.
Q: How do I know this is really the right thing for me?
A: Listen to your heart. If your dreams have been calling, isn’t it about time you answered?
That being said, I’m not going to try to hard sell you. What I will do is give you a peek of what’s inside to help you come to that decision on your own. Below is the Table of Contents with all topics listed, and a couple sample pages (PDF version shown, click for bigger image).
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