Lighthouse Road Trip – Epilogue

Ann Delfin sent me the group photo that our PleasureWay RV group took of ourselves on the last night of our nine-day rolling rally. Here it is.

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally - Group Shot

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally – Group Shot

Here is a map showing the lighthouses and RV Campgrounds we visited.

Lighthouse Rolling Rally

And here is the whole trip starting in Anacortes compiled into a 25-minute YouTube video.

Thanks again Tim O’Malley for organizing everything.

Death Valley, not a great place for an old dog.

A trip I intended to last five days turned into a three-day dash to, through, and from Death Valley. Annie, my fourteen-year-old corgi, did not do well in the heat, which is why I cut the trip short. It was still an amazing get-out-to-see-my-country experience. Here’s the vlog.

And here’s the route.

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Pinnacles National Park

 

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I intend to visit all the National Parks in the contiguous US within the next ten years. The US has fifty-eight National Parks. Hawaii has two and Alaska has eight, which leaves forty-eight parks in the contiguous US. Until last week, I had seen only two of them: Yosemite and the Channel Islands. Last week  I visited my third, Pinnacles National Park, leaving me forty-five to go. Pinnacles is about 3.5 hours south of my home in San Rafael, small, and uncrowded.

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Pinnacles is the nation’s newest National Park. In 2013, Congress upgraded it from National Monument. It is known for it’s rock formations (duh!), the place where the California condor was released, and for the largest amount of species of bees in the world. It is supposedly a rock climber’s paradise, but a rock climber I am not. With my National Parks Senior Pass, I got 50% off the campground site and free entry to the park. I paid $18/night for the campsite.

California was still having a heat wave. Daytime weather fluctuated between 102 and 108 degrees during my two-day trip. The air was also hazy from all the wildfires in California and Oregon. Not so great for taking photos.

I left civilization after driving through Gilroy, known for its garlic. I passed this industrial area with a line-up of trucks full of the pungent bulbs …

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… followed by a block of market stands selling garlic braids and other local produce. I bought a basket of Bing cherries thinking I was supporting the local farmers. Turned out they came from the state of Washington. Oh well.

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The road from Gilroy to San Benito County, where the park is, consisted of farms and golden fields of grassland.

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I passed the San Benito County fairgrounds, where, interesting to me, there was a sign saying that RV parking was available.

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A sign as I entered the tiny town of Tres Pinos (population 500) let me know it was the last place I could purchase gas. I had already tanked up at the Costco in Gilroy.

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After more grassy hills, I came to the RV campground, which is not within the pinnacles, but about a mile east. I pulled into the parking lot of the visitor center and parked right next to a Roadtrek version of Ramsey.  Roadtrek is the major competitor to PleasureWay, the company that built Ramsey on a Dodge Promaster 3500 truck chassis. The Roadtrek was also built on that chassis. You can see they are cousins!

2444-RamseyRoadtrekI checked in at the visitor center with my Senior Pass in hand. It was blissfully air-conditioned in there.

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It was about 1:00. The park let me in earlier than their formal check-in time. Annie and set up camp at spot number 106, which was the far eastern end of the loop.

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Then we returned to the Visitor Center, this time with my National Parks Passport in hand. One ranger held Annie’s leash while another ranger took this video of me stamping my first National Parks stamp in my passport.

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After that, we returned to the rig. It was so hot, there was nothing more we could do than crank the air-conditioner to full speed, read, and eat the cherries, which had been cooling in my fridge.

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Around 4:00 we took a tour of the campground. I looked through the telescopes that aim at the hills where the condors live. Placards explain that the difference between the condors and the turkey vultures is a white patch under their wings. I saw a lot of dark blobs in the trees, but nothing I could clearly identify as a condor.

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The ranger said wild turkeys often roam the camp but I saw none. I did spot this deer and a wild hare. Quails scurried everywhere.

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It being too hot to take a hike, I purchased an ice cream sandwich at the visitor center and sat on the porch to people watch. The dog friendly visitors kept Annie well petted.

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From the east end of the campground, it is possible to hike to the pinnacles area. There are two major places people hike. One is a shortish walk through Bear Gulch that takes about 45 minutes. The other is to the highest pinnacles known as the Balconies. That takes much more time. There is very little parking, maybe ten spaces, at the beginning of the trails. Most people take a shuttle from the Visitors Center to the trail head and hike from there. The shuttle leaves every 20 minutes, starting at 9:00 in the morning.

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Pets are not allowed on the trails. Since I didn’t want to leave Annie in the rig and take the shuttle, I decided to take my chances and drive Ramsey to the parking lot by the Bear Gulch trail head early in the morning and leave her there. We left at about 8:00 am.

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The parking lot was mostly shady, and the temperature cool and overcast. I felt secure Annie would be comfortable.

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My destination was the small Bear Gulch Reservoir, which one reaches through a trail encrusted with boulders and caves. My three-year old grandson, who loves to climb steps and rocks, would have been in Paradise. Bats live in many of the caves, but the areas where they breed are closed off at this time of year.

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Fortunately, I had learned ahead of time that I would need a flashlight for some of the caves. There were a few that were completely dark.

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I climbed the steps in the photo above and came out to the pretty little reservoir.

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The clouds began to clear, which meant time to head back before it got hot inside Ramsey.

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A few more caves and I was on the road for home.

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Balancing Rocks — Culver, Oregon

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Relatively recently, I became interested in early man’s efforts to communicate through rocks and rock drawings or pictographs. I had no idea how many ancient rock formations are sprinkled around New England. Some, such as the structures at America’s Stonehenge in New Hampshire, have been carbon dated to over 2000 years old. I joined the NEARA (New England Antiquities Research Association), went to one of their conferences, and learned more about analyzing, finding, and preserving these often ancient and mysterious structures.

One type of rock formation common in New England is balancing rocks. When I learned there was a field of balancing rocks in Culver, Oregon, which I visited to watch the solar eclipse, I just had to see them. (They are also called the Metolius Balancing Rocks, even though you get there from Culver.) No one knows who positioned these rocks, how, or when. The National Park service has marked them on their maps, provided detailed instructions on how to reach them from one of its campgrounds (directions inserted below), and built a path for us to walk out to see them.

Still, finding the rocks was not easy. I made many wrong turns before reaching them. I started my search by asking the locals at Culver’s coffee shop, “Do you know how to get to the Balancing Rocks?” Most of the people I talked to confused them with a structure known as Shipwreck. “They are only 20 minutes away,” they told me. Wrong. It takes 35 minutes to reach the rocks from Culver. The drive itself is an adventure.

PathToBalancingRocksCulver is on a vast plain. It looks flat as far as you can see. (That is Mt. Jefferson in the background.)

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But the Crooked River (aka the Metolius River, a tributary of the Deschutes River) has cut a mini grand canyon that has two forks. After driving along the flat roads, you suddenly plunge into the canyon toward the Billy Chinook Lake, part of Cove Palisades State Park. The lake formed when people built the Billy Chinook Dam across the Crooked River. Sorry about the bug splats on my window.

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I knew I was supposed to skirt the lake for a while until I came to a bridge. This bridge had two lanes.

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On the other side of the bridge, I skirted the lake for another quarter mile then climbed the canyon wall and came out on the land between the two forks of the lake. I wove through some low, rocky hills and came to the Deschutes Campground, where a ranger gave me the written directions I needed. From the campground, the drive is 13.9 miles west. I wound my way to the the second canyon and plunged down once again, where I crossed the fork of the lake on a single lane bridge. That meant I had to make sure no one was coming from the other direction. Or if there was a line for the bridge on the other side, I had wait for my turn. I was the only one around. Point is  — this was not a well traveled road to an important tourist destination.

On the other side of the bridge, I climbed out of the canyon, then followed straight roads through flat wooded, desert and dusty land. Again, you can see Mt. Jefferson in the distance.

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I made right angle turns, as you can see from my map above. At milage point 13.5, the pavement ended and Ramsey bumped along a gravel road going up a hill. My RV does not have four-wheel drive, but I only had .4 miles to go. I could see Road 1170 marked on the left, the only landmark that told me I was in the right place. A turnoff on the right served as a three-car parking lot, marked by the first sign I had seen saying “Balancing Rocks.”

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A path obediently led from the parking area. My directions told me to look for the Balancing Rocks to my left about a quarter mile down the path.

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Sure enough, there they were.

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The path led to the right around the top of a ridge, from where I could climb down to the area of the rocks. I noticed from this angle that the pillars seemed to form an arrow. I checked the compass app on my iPhone and learned that the arrow pointed north. Mt. Jefferson is to the left, almost due west of the rocks. I would love to visit again during a solstice to see if the sun comes up any where near Mt. Jefferson.

Most of the balancing stones, which were shaped as rough arrow points, also pointed north. (These stones were shaped by breaking, not worn away by water.) When I reached the stones, I walked around with my copper divining rods, but I’m not very experienced at using them and they didn’t make any interesting movements.

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These next four photos were taken on the other side of the ridge from the main cluster of stones.

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Faithful hound, Annie, waited patiently while I snapped pictures. The photo of her gives you a close up of the rock bed. The balancing rocks seemed to be of a darker stone than the pillars on which they balanced.

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Time to go home. I followed the path back along the ridge away from the stones.

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I took these two photos from the path along the ridge as I walked back to the parking area, the second by zooming in.

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On the way back to Culver, I passed the rock formation that I assume is called Shipwreck Rock. It is indeed about 20 minutes from Culver.

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I climbed back up the canyon after crossing both bridges again. From this point, I could see one canyon from the other.

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I crossed the RR tracks as I returned to Culver.

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One web article stated that the rocks were for a long time hidden from the public even though the National Forest Service rangers knew about them. A forest fire in 2002 revealed their existence to the public. That same article stated, “The rock spires were created by one volcanic eruption, while the balancing slabs on top were created by others. Because of their differing sedimentary make-up, the rocks eroded at different rates.” After studying the New England balancing rocks, I don’t believe that statement for a minute. I think people purposefully created these structures to state a message, which probably has something to do with the agricultural calendar and the celestial bodies.

If anyone reading this can support my claim, I would love to hear from you.

Here is a website about other balancing rocks around the world:

http://www.waymarking.com/cat/details.aspx?f=1&guid=4480cfa2-58a5-40b0-9a18-14811fc24a3a&st=2

As promised, here are the directions to the Balancing Rocks from the Deschutes Campground — as given to me by the State Park Ranger service. These structures could have been formed by man thousands of years ago. Help us preserve them.

Essentially, you follow the main paved road for the first 13.5 miles. It turns to gravel for the last .5 mile. It is passable by passenger vehicles, although it includes steep curves. Easy parking is available for two passenger vehicles (not trailers). Allow 1/2 to 1 hour driving time one way.

Mile 0 – Turn left out of the campground onto Jordan Road, proceed to the Deschutes Bridge.

Mile 1.5 – Carefully proceed across the one land bridge and follow Jordan Road to the top of the canyon.

Mile 5 – Bear right to stay on the main paved road.

Mile 7.1 – Pass the Three Rivers Recreation Area on the right.

Mile 10.5 – You will enter the National Forest Land. Stay on the paved road. You will see evidence of forest fire.

Mile 13.5 – The pavement ends.

Mile 13.8 – Road 1170 will head off to your left. Continue on your path.

Mile 13.9 – Take the first turnoff to the right. This is the parking area for Balancing Rocks.

Park your can and hike about 1/4 mile down the dirt path. Look for the Balancing Rocks on your left.

Have fun and stay safe.

 

Muir Woods National Monument

While my daughter and her two boys visited me in August, we took a walk through the Muir Woods National Monument, which is 30 minutes on a super-curvy road over the hill from my house. My third grandson, who is four months old, pushed in his stroller by his mother, joined us.

Important to my quest to see the National Parks, I obtained some useful items from the Visitor Center.

1) A Senior Pass. Cost for my lifetime: $10 (going up to $80 in October!) Three adults can accompany me on this pass. The children are free.

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2. My National Parks Service Passport. I bought one for each of my grandsons, too.

3. A stamp on my passport. Muir Woods isn’t a National Park, so this doesn’t count for my quest, but the passport is a start.

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The trail loops up one side of the narrow valley of tall trees and back the other. The loop is connected by frequent bridges across the valley. There are also trails heading out from the loop, but we stuck close to the entrance. There isn’t much more to say about the woods that you can’t see in the photos.

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