Last day of summer

When trying to sneak up on people, it’s best not to broadcast your location on Facebook, lest they decipher your plans. Alas, our friends Dave and Max made the classic blunder last week when they checked in at South Lake Tahoe, thereby alerting us to the fact that they were most definitely going to be coming past us. (It also helps that we know our topography: with all the mountains in this part of the world, there’s only a few roads heading north and south. If you’re north of us and heading south, you will most definitely be taking 395 right past our door!)

Dave and Max are dear friends, forged over the crazy summer when we worked together as camphosts in Southern California. Conveniently, their home base is in Temecula, CA, an area we frequently pass through as we move from summer to winter. They spent the summer in the public lands of the west, working for a company that surveys BLM roads for the US government. They were giddy with the prospect of being off work until spring, and ready for some socializing. We didn’t have much time to hang out, since they were headed to an RV service appointment, but we did manage to get together a few times.

Please enjoy the official photos of the convergence, in which I very creatively arranged them exactly the same way over and over:


Fall is quite here, with all the aspens turning into glorious golds, oranges, and reds. We have a chance of snow the next couple days, with a predicted high of just 37 tomorrow. JJ and I plan to hike up to a grand overlook of the whole valley today, to enjoy the fall colors in panorama while they last, and before strong winds blow in. Thankfully, the weather is supposed to improve before Saturday, when Amy and Steve are getting married! (Full report available next week!)


In other weather news, a wildfire started up about 20 miles northeast of us this week. This canyon seems to be a magnet for smoke: last year, when there was a fire 30 miles southwest of us, we got tons of smoke, and this fire, in the exact opposite direction, is doing the same. California is so organized with fires that you can check current updates on CalFire, and get details like acres burned, percentage contained, and estimated extinguishment. It’s scary to check the updates and see the fires growing exponentially, but very reassuring when the size remains steady, and containment increases. This fire seems to be under control, and should be out pretty soon. Mary went down the hill the day it started, and got some pretty dramatic pictures from the side of the highway.

Lou and Mary Jane visit: hiking, hot springs, and naked ladies

One of my favorite full-time RVer blogs is Wheeling It. Nina, the author, is a fantastic photographer, and writes thoughtful, detailed entries on everything from travelogues to mobile living how-to. Her site is chock full of information, ideas, and dreams, and she gets a ton of online traffic. Once, she subtitled a blog post about a trip to a hot spring as “and a naked man”, because she included a very G-rated picture of her husband au naturelle, with anything objectionable hidden below the murky water. Still, thanks to the powers of Google and the human instinct to seek out the titillating, that blog post has gotten more hits than any other. (And I assume that the folks who find it are most disappointment in the lack of smut!) In that vein, I present the account of a visit from our Ohio friends, Lou and Mary Jane, with the promise of something eyebrow-raising somewhere in this post.

JJ first met Lou when she was his teacher in massage school in 2005. Then, when we were looking for a rental house, we came across one that was right next to her. Lou put in a good word for us with the owner, and vouched for us as decent people (albeit with 3 cats), which allowed us to score a great place to live. Lou and her partner, Mary Jane, were so much fun to have right next door. We went to a lot of parties there, and spent many evenings just hanging out and chatting. They eventually moved to another part of Columbus, but not too far, so we kept hanging out, and we got closer and closer as friends. This couple is a true inspiration; they are strong, adventurous, funny, and open-hearted, and generally who we aspire to be as we get older and wiser.

Lou and Mary Jane were coming to Santa Cruz for a wedding, and realized that they would be awfully close to us, (with just a little mountain range in between!) so they planned to pop over for a few days after the festivities. We only had a short time together, but we managed to cram in a whole lot of visiting, and a good amount of activities.

Monday, we got off work a few hours early, and they came by the Resort for lunch. After gorging on burgers, crumbles, and ice cream, we headed up the windy canyon to hike Little Lakes Valley Trail. The weather has taken a sudden turn recently, and the warm summer days are over. We had to hang onto our hats and turn away from the dust blowing in the strong gusts to enjoy the views. But, as always, the sights in our backyard are spectacular, and we enjoyed introducing them to the splendors of lakes surrounded by high mountain peaks.

That evening, at sunset, we drove out to the BLM land outside of Mammoth Lakes, to soak in the natural hot springs. Some of the pools are quite small, more like hot tub sized, and considered “private”. That is, because they are so small, if anyone else is already in them, the etiquette is to move along to another tub. Alas, the private one near the highway was taken, so we headed to a “public” tub down the road. Wild Willies is about the size of a big backyard swimming pool, and it was pretty packed. But, the crowd was congenial and friendly, and we were able to find a corner that wasn’t taken. We watched the sunset, and frankly, also ogled the butts of the hordes of tanned, fit climber folks, who mostly did not have on suits. It’s probably the most tame time one can have while naked!

Yesterday, with the threat of snow at 9000 feet and above (that’s us!), we proposed a trip to lower elevations. We hiked a portion of Rock Creek that starts in Paradise, at about 5000 feet, and follows the water up the desert canyon. The area right next to the stream is a green paradise, with stark lava flow walls all above you. We were trying to get to a cool rock formation that’s the same as Devil’s Postpile, but light rain and a clap of thunder turned us back. We drove down even lower to Bishop, to eat lots of fries, and peruse the retail establishments of the town. We poked around in the outdoors stores with very expensive gear, enjoyed a photography gallery of scenic wonders, and ate giant tubs of fro-yo. We ended the evening with snacks and drinks at Lou and MJ’s Air BNB, whose host is the mother of my boss’s tattoo artist. (Got that?) It was much too short of a visit, but we got a awful lot of hugs, hopefully enough to tide us over until we see them again.


We had a bit of a scare when Soupy had a hiking accident today. She was out with JJ, hopping across the stream, when she overshot a jump and landed in the ice cold water. In her haste to get out, she cut her foot and was bleeding badly. Luckily, we were able to get her right in to the vet in Bishop, who pronounced her OK. She tore off a pinky nail, but the skin all around it is fine, and the nail should regrow with no problem. She got a long-lasting antibiotic shot, which was probably the worst part of the whole ordeal, in her opinion. She’s going to need to stay in for a few days to heal the wound, but she’s already begging to go back out. Kids!

How I learned that I talk stupid and (unrelated) a hike to Blue Lake

Travel is great for exposing you to new ways of being, and living somewhere different for an extended period of time really highlights those points. After residing in California for almost a year now, spread out over 2 summers, I have finally conceded to a painful reality: all this time, I thought that JJ and I talked like news anchors, with no real accent, but we actually say a lot of words, well, maybe a bit stupid.

I had inklings of this issue last summer, as soon as apricot season started. Customers would order an “APE-ri-cot” pie and I would confirm their dessert as an “APP-ri-cot” pie. They would ask for a glass of “MELK” and I would serve them a cool glass of “MILK”. They took “THE” 395 up to Mammoth Mountain, to ride the “gon-DOH-laa”, whereas we took my sister on a trip up the “GON-du-luh”.

This summer, though, I realized the extent of it. JJ and I love to say “Hold on, hold on” in the style of our niece, Jordy, as she interrupted a family dinner with the exclamation. Once she had our attention, she simply wanted to recommend that we just skip to the dessert she so wanted. And the way we use it now is just the way she said it in her little 2-year-old accent “Hoed on, hoed on!……..Ice keem!” The thing is though, I never understood that JJ and I say words like shoulder, hold, and cold just the way that little Jordy did. We don’t pronounce the “l”, and they instead come out like rhyming with “goad”. In the case of “shoulder”, it’s more like “SHOW-der”.

Once our co-workers noticed this, they started trying to get us to say those sorts of words, just for the amusement of it. Yes, it has been rather “cold” in the mornings here, but I describe it as “coad”. I had a lengthy discussion about it with a few of the folks at the resort recently, and partway through, I realized they were just getting me to say “cold” for funsies. It’s all good, though, as I tease them mercilessly about orders for “MELK”, when I’m pretty sure the customer wants “MILK”.

I know that there’s no real right or wrong way to pronounce anything, but I have to admit that it’s easy to get a complex about your speech when you are away from the land of your people. Whenever I feel self-conscious about my words, I remind myself that we are in a world of Philistines, who don’t even know the definition of a candy buckeye, Johnny Marzetti, tree lawn, or what we mean with idioms like “two shakes of a lambs tail” or “a fart in a skillet”. Plus, these people think 60% humidity is awfully high and expect to see the sun throughout the winter….how can you reason with someone like that?!🙂


The exploits continue for the Tuesday Morning Adventure club, as JJ, Mary and I hiked up a canyon outside of Bishop. The trail to Blue Lake was only 6 miles round trip, but it was a whole lot of up. I’ve done a lot of hikes in this area, but this was definitely one of my favorites, because there were constantly great views, and the sights were always changing. At the end of the day, we tried out the pie at Lake Sabrina Marina, which was pretty darn good!

Love the lake names around here:

Fall colors starting everywhere!:

I really loved this montage from when Mary accidentally took about 30 pictures in a row, like gunfire, and I come after her to stop it:

First views above Lake Sabrina:

Amazing viewpoint panorama:

Blue Lake:

Peach and blackberry pie:

Til next week!

Rock Creek Lake

I just don’t feel much like writing a blog post this week, so please enjoy photos of our lake instead.

Luke waits for his dad, Jim, the owner, to clean the rental boats in the morning.


Fall colors starting:

Can you see the little mammal?

Til next week!

Bodie, CA Picture Post: buildings that would really prefer to be lying down

Bodie, CA is a National Historic Landmark, and a honest-to-goodness ghost town, just an hour north of us.  JJ and I visited when we first drove on 395 two years ago, but Mary had never been, so we kind of considered it our duty to show her this amazing spot.  Bodie is great for photography, with her structures in a state of arrested decay, and many open for perusing on the inside as well.  The vast majority of the buildings look rather like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, at a jaunty angle, and are only erect by means of the huge wooden support beams outside.  Bodie may be a bust as a gold town, but it’s a fascinating place to visit!

Phone fun

I’m not a complete Luddite, but I’m hardly the first to be up on hot new technologies. I was perfectly happy with my couple-year-old smart phone until the last few months, when it really started to misbehave. At totally random times, it would start to act up, and generally be a giant PITA. I was starting to get seriously annoyed when it would decide to shut down in the middle of whatever I was doing, and then take a half hour to reboot to life again. My plan was to just deal with it until it completely died, but JJ had another idea: how about considering a new phone now, before the old one gave up the ghost entirely?

And that is how I find myself to be the owner of a brand new Moto X Pure Edition, which is approximately the size of the graphing calculators I had in high school, but definitely has a few more handy features. I’m loving the increase in storage, all the better for holding podcasts and audiobooks to listen to in the middle of the night. The very best part is the amazing camera, which is making picture taking even more fun. It captures light just the way you actually see a vista, and even adds a little something extra that makes my shots sparkle. The only downside is that big screen; it doesn’t fit easily in my pocket, or in the little phone pocket in my purse, and it just barely fits in the place I usually tuck my phone in my daypack. Still, I’m extremely happy with my purchase, and it’s great to have a phone that doesn’t die at inopportune times.

Here’s a photo essay of scenes from around the Resort, through my new lens:

Did you happen to notice anything in that last photo? Yep, the leaves on a few aspen are starting to change, barely 2 months after they first came out for the season. Summer is a fleeting season up here, and in the last week, it has started its retreat. It will soon be sweater season, and we’ll need the furnace on overnight. I love the fall colors, but I also love the fact that we will then be on our way to the land of winter sun, rather than many months of dreary cold!

The colder temps inspired Mary to make a Thanksgiving-flavored dinner the other night!

Speaking of warmth, we recently talked with our friends, Ann and Nathan, who just moved to Tucson from Chicago. They are loving the city, and hearing their excitement makes us all the more stoked about our decision to spend the winter there, too. JJ and I have been discussing our options for the winter, and I realize that I have inadvertently locked myself into the very kind of thinking that I’ve been working so hard to avoid. We planned to leave California, make our way quickly to Arizona, and then find work right away. It’s the schedule we’ve had the last two years, but it’s by no means the only option. I’ve been having some strong “hitch-itch”, really wanting to have some time off and travel. And there’s no reason that we can’t combine the two plans! We might travel in November, move to Tucson for a few months of work, and then travel a few months again in the spring. Nothing is settled, but it was helpful to recognize the sensation of plans being stifling rather than constructive. Even in the midst of a very unconventional life, I need to be aware of times that I’m falling into old patterns of “the way things are done”, and examine them to see if they are what I actually want. It’s continually liberating to remember that we all have options, all the time!

Mary’s days recently changed, and we now share Tuesdays off. We decided to form the Tuesday Morning Hiking Club, and take an inaugural hike this morning. We got more than a bit lost, but found a stunning overlook of our whole canyon. I’m looking forward to lots more fun on these outings!

Panoramic of the whole view!

Crazy time, quiet time

I remember getting ready for school each year, buying new Trapper Keepers, pens, and the required box of Kleenex for the classroom, psyching myself up that this year was going to be different. In the late summer, after a couple months to forget, I would plan that this year would be the one where I always worked on assignments well before they were due and generally be a completely different person than the one I was the year before. I guess that some things never change, because I thought that this year at the Resort would be a whole new ballgame in comparison to last year, even though I knew what was coming. I planned to continue my exercise routines, get in lots of hiking, and some sunbathing, too. I was going to “DO IT ALL!” (Spoiler: your heroine has a revelation, and does not, in fact, do it all, or even most of “it”.)

This past week, I finally surrendered to the fact that this job is really hard, both mentally and physically, and I was just starting to feel completely beat. August seems to be a tough month when you work in the hospitality industry, with a totally different crowd that requires a lot of energy to handle. Tourists seem much more frazzled right now, perhaps because the kids have been out of school for a couple months, and the whole family is trying to cram in those last minute trips before they return. I’ve been continuing to do a lot of personal reflection, and I finally came to grasp with the reality that I just can’t continue to provide the same level of service under those stresses, and also fit in all the other “shoulds” that I think I should be doing. Even though the extra things I’d like to be doing are technically good for me, nothing is beneficial when you hate doing it, or just feel too tired to do it.

So, this week, I gave myself permission to drop everything that didn’t sound good, and just focus on relaxing activities that restore me. I took a lot of walks, did yoga, and put away my phone after about 7pm, relying on my body to tell me when it was time to go to bed. The week was still crazy, but I felt a lot better at the end of the day. The biggest revelation was how much relaxation I get from nature photography. I have a ton of trouble being still enough to meditate, but I think I get the same effects from a slow walk in beauty, capturing the scenes that speak to me. I read that you don’t need any books or tutorials to take good pictures; just stop when you notice something that catches your eye, and capture the part that makes it interesting. Right around the Resort are a couple short trails that follow the lake shoreline and the stream that flows out of it, and I never fail to see something new and gorgeous. When I’m in the moment of taking a picture of what speaks to me, the loud parts of my brain go still, and I feel a lot of peace.

Here’s the highlight reel from the views that fed my soul this week.

Frosty morning:

Same lake, two days:

Our friends from our first year of Amazon, Buddy and Judy, came up for a quick getaway last week. The point of the visit was much more about conversation than any specific activity, so we just enjoyed each others company while taking a long walk, dining at the Resort cafe, and cooling off our piggies in the lake. These two are soon headed off to Spain to hike the Camino, and I can’t wait to hear about their adventures!

A word on the hot new drink around these parts: tintos de verano as they are known in Spain, or wine coolers as it was called by the customer who introduced them to us. Here’s how you make it—first, a glass all filled with ice, then a good splash of red wine. Finish it off with a generous pour of clear soda (Sprite, 7Up) until it’s the perfect mix of sweet and earthy. I’ve decided that I’m mostly an opportunistic drinker, and since a box of red wine was left behind in a cabin this week, and crew gets one soda each day, it’s been my drink of choice after work. After the box runs out, I probably won’t have one again for a while, but it’s been just the thing after a long day of work.