"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best Campgrounds of 2016 & 2017 Plans

Placerville, CA
Storm Valley Ranch

Before 2016 ticks away, I want to say what a great year it was!  We had so much fun in SW Colorado where we spent most of the year.  Our favorite spots are below with detailed info on all of them after and at the bottom our plans for 2017.

Here are our favorite camping spots of 2016 (in no particular order):

1.  Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, AZ
     Beautiful, sparkling clean campsites, nicely spaced with a spectacular view of the Superstion Mountains and great hiking!  $30 to camp, some spots have electric and water.
Lost Dutchman State Park.  We stay here each year.

2.  Boondocking in Mancos National Forest, Mancos, CO
     Great camping with lots of choices, right off the highway, easy to get to and level with lots of privacy.  Close to Mesa Verde National Park and Durango. Durango/Silverton Railroad is here.
Mancos, CO. We stayed here twice.

3.  Boondocking at Hecla BLM, Salida, CO
     Nice, private spot in a little box canyon just off the highway.  Close to Salida and Buena Vista.  Gorgeous mountains to hike (many over 14K ft. elevation), rivers to fish, bike paths and dirt roads.
Hecla BLM.  Stayed here two different times.

4.  Boondocking in Leadville National Forest, Leadville, CO
     About 2 miles out of town.  Level, easy access, surrounded by pines, mountains to hike, bike paths, and much to explore in the old mining town.  Great 4th of July festivities!
Leadville, CO

5.  Boondocking in the San Isabel National Forest, Nathrop, CO
     One of our very favorites.  2 miles off the highway, level, easy access, lots of pines, more hiking/fishing/biking in the surrounding mountains, lakes and rivers.
 Nathrop Area, we stayed here twice.
6.  Thistledown National Forest Campground, Ouray, CO
     Gorgeous spot, level but up a steep gravel/dirt road.  On the river.  Just outside of town with endless hiking and 4-wheeling and a cute town.  Small fee to camp, no water or electric.
Steep climb to get to this tiny campground, but worth it!

7.  Rio Grande National Forest Campground, Creede, CO
     Right off the highway, level spots with decent access.  Right on the river.  Hiking, 4-wheeling and lots of dirt roads and nearby mining towns to visit.
Near Creede, right on the river. Gorgeous!

8.  Boondocking in the San Juan National Forest, Silverton, CO
     Tie for our favorite.  1 mile off the highway, easy access, level, park right next to the river.  Hiking, fishing and lots of off road fun.  Durango/Silverton Railroad is here.
Right on the river!  Another winner!
Not surprising, all but 2 were boondocking for free.  We had good internet in all of these places.
This is the types of camping spots that WE love.  Some we get from other RVers, Apps and friends and some we luckily stumble upon.  We look for privacy, easy access, gorgeous views, on or very near water for fishing or kayaking, nearby hiking and biking trails, not too far from towns for amenities, entertainment, good food and water/dump.  We also love areas with history, breweries and other fun things.  Again, might not be what others like, but these are right up our alley!

For those that might be interested, here's a breakdown of all of the places we stayed, and the costs:
The boondocking includes BLM, National Forest, LTVA and family.

                                      Stays                 Nights                     Total                 AVG (per night cost)

Fairgrounds                     5                         31                      $508.50            $16.40                     
Boondocking*                 12                      149                       $80.00                  .54
Private Parks**               8                          56                      $435.00              $7.77
State Parks                      7                          51                    $1200.00             $23.53
County Parks                  6                          26                       $556.00            $21.38
Casinos                           2                            5                         $44.00              $8.80
National Forest***        3                          22                       $342.00            $15.55
Forest Service                 2                          15                       $307.00            $20.47
National Rec. Area         1                            7                         $22.00              $3.14
Other****                       2                            4                              0                    0

* Boondocking includes dispersed camping in National Forests, BLM, my brothers ranch and a one time BLM LTVA fee of $80 otherwise all boondocking would've been free.

** Our time at one of the private parks ended up with us having 8 days free.  See the "Hurley Incident".  Normally nice private parks will be $30 or $40 and up.  This skewed the numbers.

*** National Forest, these were fee campgrounds within the NF.

**** This includes 3 nights at a free parking lot and 1 night at a Walmart (we usually have several of these for quick overnights).

AND FOR 2017??

Our main destination is Maine!  While we've been here before, it was when the kids were little and not with the 5th wheel.  We will be spending time in Virginia with Steve's family and attending his 40th class reunion.  We chose a route that will take us through the mid states as we have spent the least amount of time there.  Also we will have a "theme" this year.  We are going to hike the highest peak in each state we are in.  That's about 28.  The lowest is 448 feet in Deleware and the highest at 8749 in Texas believe it or not.  That's higher than any peaks in the Appalachian.  Surprisingly Kentucky, Kansas and Nebraska have peaks around 5,000!  Most will have trails but some are piles of rocks in the middle of a potato field on private property.

This is an aggressive route and since I've only started the planning, we may not actually be able to hit them all.  Some are grouped somewhat together so we can hit 3 states within the same campground.  This will give us about a week at most campgrounds and sometimes 2 or 3.  We will most likely wing most of it with very few reservations in advance.  Just like we like it!

Happy New Year Everyone!!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Where the Wild Things Roam

Placerville, CA
Storm Valley Ranch

This cold foggy, morning found us roaming at sunrise as we were on the hunt to be "First to Find" on a cache 30 miles away.  Are we crazy?  Kind of.  It's very difficult to be the first one to find a geocache as there are people who will go out no matter the time or weather or location.  We're not that crazy, but we did want to find this one and spend the day doing some hiking by Auburn.  So with a Starbucks and breakfast sammy, we were off. 

The fog and the sun danced and created beautiful scenes all around us.

The last of the fog lifting over the American River.
After several false starts, due to the cache owner publishing incorrect coordinates, we were finally on the correct trail.  Luckily she responded to our questions quickly as we got up awfully early to find this cache.  She felt really bad about that.
Loved the color on this twisted old Manzanita tree.

There are a lot of large, colorful mushrooms growing this time of year in the dampness.

We covered about 5 miles on the trail before we found it!  YES!  A blank log!  We couldn't wait to sign it and claim it as First to Find.  Problem was we dropped our pen somewhere along the way.  Oh no!  What to do when you don't want to hike back to the truck to get another?  You sign with an acorn of course!  OL 12/16 is all I had room to write as I didn't want to tear the paper and I wanted it to be legible. Our geocaching name is Outdoor Lover.  We also put a note to the cache owner letting her know what happened and to leave proof we were actually there.
On the drive back we did several more caches.  One took us near the Foresthill Bridge.  It is the highest bridge by deck height in California, and the fourth highest in the United States at 730 feet above the river.  It opened in 1973 and spans the North Fork of the American River.  The bridge can be seen in the beginning of the 2002 film XXX in which Vin Diesel's character, Xander Cage, is seen driving a stolen red Corvette off of it, then jumping from the car mid-flight and parachuting to the bottom of the American River Canyon.  Unfortunately it has also been the site of more than 70 suicides since its construction in 1971.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article85417052.html#storylink=cpy

"X" Marks the Spot was another cache.  Almost.  Turns out someone had stolen it so we'll have to wait for the cache owner to replace it.

More hiking and caching with my friend Tina brought us to a mudslide along the trail with Placerville's lovely red soil.  We planned another stop at Timmy's Brown Bag afterward to try out another sandwich. 
The Apple Corned Beef was another winner!
Tina's husband, John, was promoted to Grand Master of the Placerville Masonic Lodge.
Congratulations John!  Thanks for inviting us to the ceremony! They hope to go fulltime as well in the near future.
Our niece, Courtney, works at the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary.  What's the difference between a Zoo and a Zoo Sanctuary you ask?  Well Courtney informed us there are no breeding programs at a sanctuary. 

They were having a special Festival of Lights at the sanctuary so we went to see our niece at work.

Here is Courtney by the Tiger enclosure telling us all about Misty.

The bear is very well trained and knows this command, UP, means he gets some nutritional treats.

Henry, the bear, knows to put his snout part way through the cage.

This is the best picture I could get of one of the wolves as he was pacing back and forth so quickly and my iPhone just couldn't keep up.

This little guy was so stinking cute!  Too bad I could not get a good picture of him at night.  he is a Kinkajou.  They are tree dwellers and related to raccoons.
And back at the Ranch, this hen Mallard named  Quackers is quite spoiled!  She'll follow you around and she loves to come in the house and watch TV.  My brother is a duck hunter and poor Ruger, his black hunting lab, has had to learn to put up with the duck which has decided she loves to sleep in his doghouse too.  Oh the shame of it!

Merry Christmas to all my faithful blog readers!  Soon it will be New Years and then we'll be back on the road with so many other fulltimers heading to warmer locations.  For us, that's back to Arizona.    Here is an appropriate Travelers Blessing:
May the wind always be at your back
the sun always upon your face.
May the wings of destiny carry you aloft
to dance with the stars.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Friend Time and Beach Time at Santa Cruz, CA

Placerville, CA
Storm Valley Ranch

November was a busy month back home and December seems to be following right along.  Lots of places to go and people to see.

More geocaching.  This big rock looks like a bear if you view it from the right angle.  The head and snout are in the upper right.  Funny we lived here for 15 years and are seeing this for the first time.
A bit of hiking and caching with Tina.
I always love going through the old pioneer cemeteries.  Another cache was hidden nearby.
Further down the trail was a bigfoot hide.  There were even footprints that led part of the way.  It was hidden in a fern covered, rocky area.  Perfect bigfoot hiding place.
We had lunch in town at a new place called Timmy's Brown Bag.  They only make sandwiches.  About 15 of them.  But these are no ordinary sandwiches!  They all have several crazy ingredients that you'd never think would go together, let alone in a sandwich!  Above is the one Tina and I had.  They are large so we split it as well as an order of Truffle Fries.  You can also get Truffle Tater Tots.  Amazing sandwich!  You can taste all those ingredients.

We later met up with new Full-timers, Ron & Rene.  They run their own plastics business.  Our kayak is in their care right now getting some repair work done on a couple of stress cracks.  You can check out their blog of their travels on the road so far HERE.

Rene & Ron

We had dinner at Dave & Busters.  It's a combo beer/game place.  The food was great and we all played some games in the back too.  Then we did a little night caching.  I think we have hooked another couple on geocaching!
A trip one other weekend took us back to San Jose.  It was a 3 hour drive one way, but worth it to see my great friends Debbie and Chris that I've know since we were young kids.  A dinner at El Burro, one of my favorite Mexican places is where we ended up.  Then a few beers at Rock Bottom Brewery.
Me, Steve, Debbie & Rooty.  Chris had to leave before I got a picture of her.
While we were still in San Jose we wanted to go to the coast and spend the day geocaching in Santa Cruz.  It's only a half hour drive over the mountains to get there.  The day was a little cloudy but warm.  We walked on the pier, snacked and had a really fun day.  Once in a while I do like a beach day.

The pier at Santa Cruz (above) and the Boardwalk below.

The famous wooden roller coaster.

A very interesting water brass water fountain on the pier.

Playful Seals.  Excuse my hand in the corner.  I had a deathgrip on my phone as I was leaning over the railing and so worried I'd drop it.

 I loved the smile on this guys face! No worries, be happy!

Lots of fresh fish, crab and lobster.

We settled for some Ahi Poke which was very good. 

 The "official" surfing monument was commissioned and dedicated in 1992. Titled "To Honor Surfing".  A nearby plaque in the tiny park reads "dedicated to all surfers, past present and future."

These tight growing Aloe plants were very colorful.  And thorny.

As we drove along the coast down East Cliff Drive, we stopped in one of the parks where the Monarch Butterflies are.  Monarchs are known for the mass migration that brings millions of them to California and Mexico each winter. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that make this massive journey, up to 3,000 miles. They must migrate each fall ahead of cold weather, which can kill them if they take too long.  They arrive usually in December and leave in March.

If you come on a warm day in March you will see them flying around by the thousands!

Only monarchs born in late summer or early fall make the migration, and they make only one round trip. By the time next year's winter migration begins, several summer generations will have lived and died and it will be last year's great grandchildren that make the trip. Yet somehow these new generations know the way, and follow the same routes their ancestors took.  Sometimes even returning to the same tree.
They love to rest in the Eucalyptus trees.  See the darker clumps on the center branches? 

In the picture above, you can see their orange color.  The grayish-brown underneath are the large clumps of butterflies.


Even though cooler temperatures are coming with winter, there are still some beautiful gardens blooming.  Love the many styles of homes here too.

Sea shells above the windows.


It always fascinates me to discover something I'd never seen before, even though I've been to Santa Cruz many, many times over the years.  Once again, geocaching brought us to the Court of Mysteries built in the mid 1930s.  It is the remains of an old yoga temple.  With it's granite domes and inlaid mosaics of abalone shells from the local abalone processing plant. 
The entry arch became the Gate of Prophecy with the addition of a triangular plaque with a celestial chart in abalone mosaics. It creates a celestial alignment between the plaque and temple's chimney, signaling an apocalypse before the "Age of Peace."

A triangular statue called The Guardian.

Our last cache before we headed back home was guarded by this cute little baby salamander.