Saturday, July 04, 2015

U.S. 50

US 50 across Nevada is promoted as "The Loneliest Road in America." Which made it pretty much a must do for me. I've actually driven this road before, but it had been a long time, when road trips in desolate places were still novelty and had not yet become nostalgia.

Stokes Castle in Austin
Shoe tree east of Delta
There's not much - in terms of people or water or vegetation - between Carson City, Nevada, and Delta, Utah. Just 470 miles of mountains, desert scrub, and dry lake bottoms. There are towns: Austin, Eureka, Ely, Baker. There are gravel roads heading off to ghost towns and mines. There are remains of Pony Express stations used for a brief season or two in 1860-61 before being rendered irrelevant by the telegraph (the original one of which ran along this route). I love this kind of road, bolstered by air conditioning and my confidence in the reliability of modern automobiles.

Sand Mountain
US 50 runs from California to Maryland (or vice versa?). It is the old Lincoln Highway, at least through California and Nevada (the Lincoln Highway followed US 30 east from Salt Lake City). Originally I considered driving it all the way from Sacramento to St. Louis, then driving north to Minnesota, but decided to mix it up a little. I did take 50 from Lake Tahoe to Colorado and on the return trip we took 50 from Lake Tahoe westward down to Sacramento.

In planning this trip, I had been determined to find a new route from Seattle to Minnesota, or at least one that differed significantly from the routes we've taken across Montana and the Dakotas so many times in the last few years. I guess I wanted to see if I could drive to Minnesota without driving through Missoula or Gillette or Dickinson!

I joked that I was adopting the "repositioning" used by cruise ships and airlines, spending the first of the trip relocating to California and opening up a whole new series of route options.  We also returned two weeks later from Minnesota (Wisconsin, actually) via San Francisco, doing the same basic thing (different roads) on the way back.

Grimes Point

Just east of Fallon on U.S. 50 (within a few seconds in an F-18 from the Naval Air Station) is Grimes Point. Thousands of years ago, this promontory used to jut out into Lake Lahontan (when it rained more than it evaporated here in the Great Basin, filling up the valleys with large lakes) and native Americans made their camps here on the marshy shorelines and tagged the varnished boulders with abstract designs and images of creatures both real and imaginary.

Sometimes I am amazed that any of these prehistoric sites survived the torments of vandalism and target practice and archeological pilfering, but maybe it says something about just how many of these sites there must have once been that some still remain relatively intact.

Castle Gardens: June 2012

Lake Tahoe

I knew one of the few spots on this trip where I could collect beaches would be Lake Tahoe and I had planned for weeks to spend a long half day circling the lake.  But as always happens, there's rarely enough time to all everything we plan and we never plan adequately for construction, traffic, missing key turns, and spending longer in some places than expected.  As a result, I only managed to work my way along the Nevada side in the time I had, but that was perfectly okay.

I'd seen Tahoe before, and certainly was familiar with its scenic reputation, but I hadn't had a chance to really look.  Between the mountains, the color of the lake, and the rounded granite boulders at the water's edge, it's easy to see why this place attracts folks. Of course, that attractiveness, along with other summer/winter recreation and Nevada's lax gambling regulations, is why the north and south ends of the lake are so built up and congested.

I visited Kings Beach, Sand Harbor, and Nevada Beach. I also got as far south as the Starbucks in South Lake Tahoe before turning around, climbing back over the ridge on Route 50, and heading down the long hill into the desert. I had dinner at Red's 395 Grill in Carson City and found a relatively cheap hotel room in Fallon.

Keddie Wye

I must have ridden across this trestle on the California Zephyr back in 1963 on our first family trip west. It's located on the old Western Pacific (now Union Pacific) at the top end of the Feather River Canyon.

Like many classic railroad viewing spots, it's not a terribly safe place to watch trains. The road turns sharply around a blind curve, although at least there's a guard rail to separate pedestrians from log trucks and RVs.  And the classic camera shots are on a scree slope that drops over the roof of the train tunnel. I waited a little hoping to catch a train, but with no luck.

The northern branch of the wye is the "Inside Gateway" route to northern California, although I thought there was some confusion on railroad history sites about its importance. But regardless, it's a cool spot for those of us who love railroads and trestles.

Lassen Peak

I had eight days to get from Seattle to the Minneapolis airport to pick up M and I spent the first day and the first 629 miles heading south. The rationale should emerge over subsequent posts. This was certainly the longest day of the trip east.

I never actually saw the top of Lassen Peak, so the title is a little of a misrepresentation, but I got glimpses of its base and the weather away from the peak was very nice.

I got into Cave Campground in Lassen National Forest, just north of the National Park, around 8 PM and paid my $16 fee with a $20 bill. I woke very early, packed my wet tent (it poured for an hour or so during the night), then drove into the Park. I had the Park pretty much to myself - I saw only a couple of cars during the drive through. I had thought that if it was perfectly clear I might try the hike to the top - apparently snow levels this year make that reasonable - but it wasn't perfectly clear and I settled for a short stop at the trailhead parking lot.

Until 1980, Lassen held title to the largest historical eruption in the Cascades, exploding spectacularly on May 22nd, 1915 (almost exactly 100 years ago).  Much of the landscape is still recovering a century later and there are still plenty of signs of magmatic heat stewing below the surface.

Lassen is the southern most of the active Cascades, not coincidentally lying pretty much due east of Cape Mendocino and the southern end of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

This is the first of roughly two dozen posts from this year's June road trip - I'm hoping to crank the others out over the next week or so.

Thursday, July 02, 2015


Back to Division III Ultimate Nationals in the midwest again. The second year for me, the third for M, and the fourth for D and Carleton GOP. This year they arrived ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack and wound up the tournament in fifth place.

It's amazing how many parents showed up - some from the region, but many like us from farther away.

Last year: DIII Nationals in Westerville OH

** Although Nationals was the third weekend of May, this is only getting posted on July 2nd. I spent the spring spiraling into computer hell as a hard disk gradually failed and I finally replaced the computer just the day before our June road trip. Now I've got a lot of catching up to do. As I've noted previously, I try to maintain chronological order, but posts are rarely live and in this case, not even fresh.

This also means that this post will be rapidly buried by a couple of dozen posts from the trip!

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Midway is a remarkably compact airport, squeezed into a super-sized city block, every inch of space put to use. It's pretty much all Southwest Airlines now and that's how we arrived, landing low over the Giordano's at the southeast corner (Cicero and West 63rd). And that's where we ended up for dinner after picking up our rental car.

We weren't quite as impressed as we were with D on earlier trips, but maybe there's just something special about the downtown locations. We still ate well, and then hit the road and Friday evening traffic for our drive up to Rockford.

On Sunday afternoon, we had enough time to swing along the lake and down Michigan Avenue before heading back to airport. Our sightseeing was limited to windshield views and quick photos from stop lights.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Oyster Dome

I figured if I went hiking Saturday morning, I wouldn't spend all weekend working on the house. Which technically was true. It just meant I had to squeeze two days of chores into less than a day and a half.

I parked along the shoulder of Chuckanut Drive across from the trailhead. At 8, there were already more than a dozen cars lined up, but nothing like the zoo a few hours later. The trail itself was in good shape and pleasant on a cool morning when this forested western slope is still all in the shade.

From the top, the view west across the San Juans was crystal clear. I was seeing the same hills that we were seeing from the Canadian side in the previous post. Going back down was like a weekend morning on Mount Si - with a constant stream of people heading up. Three times, different young men responded to my "morning" with "morning, sir". This has never happened before. Maybe they were all part of a church group. Or an ROTC class. Or maybe young people are politer than they used to be. I can't imagine what else it might be! At least they didn't offer to help me down the trail or ask me where I left my walker.

By the time I got back to the car around 11:15, there were cars strung out for a quarter mile along Chuckanut.

This was my first significant hike since Mount Si one year ago. The plantar fasciitis that emerged last May has been a huge disincentive to walking - but it seems to be finally going away.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Gowlland Point

Saturday morning, we checked out the Farmer's Market at the Community Center and then wandered through the permanent flea market they call Nu to Yu. We didn't buy anything, but I appreciate that on a small island, it's nice to have a place that keeps the old stuff circulating.

But after lunch, the sun came out, and we headed back to South Pender. We did the short hike out to Brooks Point and then followed the trail back around to Gowlland Point. This is a great spot see the northern U.S. islands, like Sucia, Waldron, and Stuart, as well the higher points on Orcas and San Juan Islands.  It's also a good place to see orca, but only when they're around.  They weren't, although we did catch a few on the way back to Tsawwassen on Monday afternoon.

South Pender

Apparently, North and South Pender Island were more attached to one another before 1903, when the Canadian government (at the behest of a private steamship operator, I believe) excavated a canal through the low connection, creating two distinct islands.  We crossed the bridge many times, commuting back and forth from the rural southern island to the more urban :-) northern one.

South Pender extends east almost as much as it extends south, and I spent our long weekend thinking I was looking south when I was actually looking east (pretty much directly at Mount Baker, or the spot in the clouds where Mount Baker typically is found).

Besides our lodgings, South Pender was also a chance to explore Brooks and Gowlland Points, Mount Norman, Poet's Cove, and several small beaches. Some of these are covered in separate posts - or over on Gravel Beach.

Mount Norman

On Sunday afternoon, M agreed to join me for a walk up to Mount Norman, the highest point on the Penders and not far from where we were staying. It was a relatively easy trail to the top and nice views, despite the lack of sunshine. We had the trail to ourselves, although we intersected with one other couple on top who had apparently come up the other way.

The views west and south were great, including Salt Spring and metropolitan Victoria. I suppose on a clear day, we would have seen the Olympics and a lot more of Vancouver Island.

Boundary Passage Drive

The cabin we rented was near the southeast tip of the island, just a couple of miles northwest of the U.S. border. It could have held more people, and could have supported much of our own cooking, but we were perfectly happy on our own and eating most of our meals out.

We looked out over Plumper Sound to Mount Warburton Pike on Saturna Island. We even had a recently cleared pocket view of Mount Baker, although I doubt the cedars appreciated being topped to accommodate it. It was a short walk down the hill to either of two public shore access spots.  And we got pretty good at the winding drive back up South Pender and across the bridge to food and coffee.