It’s been a while since my last post, and for good reason: I have been in the wilderness for most of the previous week. Saturday night I spent in Shenandoah National Park for a friend’s birthday, and the past two nights I have been camping out on my cross country car ride; all with no internet access. Since I was unable to make it across the country by bike, I decided I will now do the American thing and drive it.
Say that 3 times fast! After a long night in Dolly Sods, I hit the road early and arrived in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio around noon. I don’t know how, but Hocking Hills State Park wound up on my list of places to explore; and I’m glad it did. I don’t think many people think of Ohio as a destination for natural wonders, but this is a real gem.
After departing the Hocking Hills I decided, probably similar to a lot of people driving across the country, to put in some heavy miles through the heartland. The interstate and flatness of Indiana and Illinois encourage you to keep driving. I found a spot to stay for the night for a whopping $5 in Montrose, IL.
The only other time I have visited Colorado was when I changed planes in Denver. Does that count? I only spent about 24 hours in Colorado this time around, but that was enough to make me want to come back very soon. From my Kansas campsite, I took Kansas route 25 to Leoti for some coffee. $1, what a deal! This was one of the few towns on the high plains that actually looked inhabited. Departing Leoti, I turned west on route 96 which parallels the railroad for a good distance.
I started my day early in an attempt to beat the crowds at Arches National Park. It was still the weekend so I assumed it would be crowded. I drove about 1 1/2 hours from the BLM Westwater campsite to make it to the Arches entry gate around 8:00. I planned on spending only a few hours here. The main attractions are of course the natural sandstone arches, of which there are over 2,000 inside the park boundaries. It’s about a 45 minute drive to get from the park entrance to the far northern end of the park, the location of Devils Garden, which contains a concentration of arches including the iconic Landscape Arch. Of course there are several places to stop along the way to Devils Garden, so it took around 2 hours for me to get there. There are two major offshoots of the main park road. The first offshoot is just past Balanced Rock, the road is about 2 miles long and takes you to The Windows Section where you can see Turret Arch, the North and South Window, and Double Arch. The second offshoot road is a few miles farther down the main road where the primary attraction is the also iconic Delicate Arch.
After crossing into Nevada, I stopped at the gas station/hotel/restaurant just over the border. I had about a quarter of a tank of gas left, but the distances around these parts are awfully long. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t stranded in the desert over the next two days. While I was filling up, a bicyclist rolled into the station. I asked where he was coming from and he stated that he was finishing up a 35 mile ride around Baker, his home town. I said that I thought he might be going across the country, although he didn’t have much cargo. He said no way that he would ride on route 50 to Delta (the direction I had just come from). He said that the climbs are long and the ride to Delta is flat and grueling for 40 miles. He had ridden to El Paso before. I’m assuming he did take route 50 to start (it’s basically the only way out of town). It’s funny because once again, this was the route I planned to take via bike. And after the following day driving through Nevada, I can’t imagine biking it.
I had a couple of days to kill before meeting my buddy Lenny and his west coast friends on the 4th of July for our backpacking trip through Stanislaus National Forest. One place on my list that happened to be nearby, is Bodie, California. Bodie is a California Gold Rush town located on the eastern side of the Sierras. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Tahoe to Bodie. Route 89 takes you out of South Lake Tahoe and over the Sierras which made the first half of the drive extraordinarily scenic. I turned off of US 395 onto route 270, which basically exists just to take you to Bodie. There is a sign as soon as you turn onto 270 that states that the road is rough after 10 miles. My GPS said 14 miles to Bodie, so the final 4 miles are gravelly. As soon as I got to the gravel section, some cars started turning around due to the rough road. I could only manage about 10 miles an hour with a lot of slowdowns for ditches over the last 4 miles. Eventually I crested the final hill and the tiny former town appeared in the distance.
After departing from Bodie, I stopped at the nearest active settlement: Bridgeport, CA. Bridgeport is a cool little town. There is not much going on, but Lenny (who I was meeting to backpack with in the Hoover Wilderness a few days later) recommended that I stop for a burger at The Barn. I was so hungry after a long day of driving and walking, I got a burger and then walked around the corner for a milkshake at Jolly Kone. Needless to say I didn’t need to make dinner after that.
This post covers 5 days of backpacking in the Hoover Wilderness, part of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. I divided up the days onto separate pages. This will also allow you to stop reading earlier if you tire of my tale since the pages will be shorter. I still hope you make it through the whole thing.
It seems likes everything is bigger in the Sierra Nevadas. The highest mountain in the lower 48 states is in the Sierras. I think the biggest waterfall in the US is in the Sierras. And the biggest trees (by volume) are in the Sierras. While we were wrapping up our hike in the Hoover Wilderness, I asked the guys if they knew of any place(s) to see nearby after our trip was complete. I think everyone I asked said “Big Trees” at one point. If you haven’t been to the Sierras, you would probably have the same reaction I did: “Big Trees? There are all sorts of big trees.” The Big Trees they spoke of is Big Trees State Park near Murphys, CA. It’s a beautiful park only about an hour or two from where we split off in Twain Harte.
After driving out of Sequoia National Park and through the Central Valley, I stopped in Paso Robles to get an early dinner at Jack in the Box and inquire about campground availability near the coast. The answer: there wasn’t any. I called the San Simeon Creek Campground which would be the first one I passed once I got to Route 1, and they said they didn’t have anything available. I then talked with an employee at the Morro Bay location and he said “sorry we don’t have anything from here to Santa Barbara, the entire coast is booked”. It was Friday, it was the weekend in July, but I thought there would be something open!
I met a guy (an avid outdoorsman) a few months ago who told me the best place he had ever hiked was the Lost Coast in California. I had not heard of it before, but it’s one of the most rugged sections of the west coast located between Eureka and Fort Bragg. The Coastal Highway was actually diverted inland due to the terrain. I was excited for the challenge (and opportunity) since I was planning to drive up the coast, however I checked online and a few years ago the Bureau of Land Management instituted a permit requirement to hike the trail. Only 5 permits are issued per day, with a maximum of 60 people permitted to begin hiking the trail each day. On the 22nd, I checked the permit availability for hiking the Lost Coast Trail. There was one permit available the following day on the 23rd, and another available on…August 1st! Oh man, talk about lack of preparation on my part. I had heard that the trail is popular, but the scarcity of permits made it almost impossible for me to get on the trail in time (and it turned me off of the idea a little bit too). I had to be in Vegas on August 2nd so this wasn’t going to work unless I made the drive the following day to get the permit for the 23rd.