Have you heard the sport's commentator talk about a long-distance runner "hitting the wall"? Perhaps you have even experienced that point when the body and mind are in disagreement over continuing the effort. Well, after seven years and 117 National Forests we did it - we hit the wall.
We realize there are people who think what we do, five to six months on the road visiting and camping in National Forests, is closely related to a "vacation." And for the first few weeks it is. But, once you have relearned bathing (including washing hair and shaving) in 5 or less gallons of water, experienced a half-dozen eye watering vaults (outhouse toilets), and lost all contact with the outside world, it doesn't feel like a "vacation" anymore. Okay, it is still fun, so it can't be work but as July began, it just wasn't all that much fun, either.
The Southern California's national forests of San Bernardino and Angeles weren't exactly a disappointment each is more an urban playground than natural forest so we weren't expecting much. But the crowds, heat, dirt, and constant hum of humanity was really getting to us. Than Tory got sick really seriously, this-could-be-the-end, sick. But we were lucky to have camped near the tiny community of LeBec, California. In this tiny hamlet lives a wonderful vet who has a magnificent staff and a delightful modern clinic. Between her and our vet, Dr. Ames, in Douglas, Arizona, Tory's ailment was identified as Old Dog Vestistular Syndrome. A night in the clinic on IVs, a week of bland diet, and lots of rest and Tory began her recovery. As July comes to an end, although she still tires easily, list a bit to starboard, and sometimes wobbles a little, we are happy to report Tory is doing just fine.
Right after Tory's illness, we returned to the Los Padres National Forest. It a forest we started about five years ago. We managed to do all the campgrounds along the Pacific (Kirk Creek campground is still a favorite) at that time but couldn't get inland due to snow. So, we picked up the missing campgrounds this time around.
While collecting our research in the Los Padres, we discovered a winery called Scheid just outside of King City, California. Started as a tax-shelter and private vineyard about 25-years ago, it is now publicly owned and traded on "the Market" who would have thought! They produce a very nice selection of red wines and, if we understood them correctly, as a stockholder, you get a discount on the wine. Considering what the Stock Market has been doing, it sounds like a bottle of good red wine while reviewing ones portfolio is just the ticket. We only had time to visit this one winery but were a dozen in the King City/Greenfield area. It is an amazing sight to see miles upon miles of dark green vines laced up on these complex networks of poles and wire stretching over, around, and through the golden hills of this desert environment.
It was about here we started to feel the "wall" begin to crumbly. When we saw the Sierra Nevada mountains at the far side of the San Joquin Valley, we knew we were going to be okay.
To reach the Sierra National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the coast you must cross the San Joquin Valley. If the Midwest is our country's breadbasket, the San Joquin Valley must be its vegetable bin. We drove for more than two hours through one field of ripening vegetables and fruits to another tomatoes, beans of all types, cabbage, peppers, almonds, peaches, and the list goes on. Truly amazing. And all of it was as flat as a kitchen table!
It felt good to start our climb into the Bass Lake area at 3400 feet elevation. Last year, "Sunset" magazine identified Bass Lake as one of the "Best in the West". It is nice but, as a mecca for power boat enthusiasts, Bass Lake isn't our cup-of-tea. After a week at Bass Lake we moved on to a sweet little campground called Soda Springs on West Fork of Chiquito Creek. A wonderfully quiet place where the creek lulled us to sleep each night under a bright full moon and the whisper of wind through towering Ponderosa pines and Incense cedars was our wake-up call. After a few days there, we moved on to Shaver Lake and ended the month at Huntington lake. If you have seen pictures of Lake Tahoe, you will know what these lakes are like but on a smaller scale and more developed. Plus Huntington Lake is a sailboat mecca - Fred is happy. Suzi's comment about these lakes is, "If Sunset magazine thinks Bass Lake is one of the best lakes in the West, they really need to get out more." Both are very attractive and either would make a great vacation spot and a great place to end this month's adventures.
Perhaps it was the change of scenery that helped us get through "the wall" or maybe it was the people we've met these last few weeks. People like Sam of CLM (California Land Management), assistant to operation for Sierra National Forest, Northern Unit, or Bill, formerly Pacific Gas and Electric heavy equipment mechanic and currently host at Soda Springs campground, or Susan, the Sierra NF's Supervisor Office's Recreation person, or a handful of other folks that helped us get through "the wall". Or maybe it was a series of adventures (or rather positive misadventures) that pulled us through it all. You know how we enjoy challenges, right? But, we are now ready for August, the Sequoia National Forest and beyond!!!
Suzi and Fred