Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1, 2009 – Oakland to Crystal Springs Campground – West Fork of the Carson River

The day broke overcast and cool, with the fog swirling around the trunks of the redwoods trees just outside our bedroom window. Beads of dew and mist clung to the window panes but the birds still managed to sing and announce the beginning of a new day. Swinging my feet out of the warm bed onto the cold wood floor I poked them around hopefully for the slippers I vaguely remember stashing by the bedside last night when I so absentmindedly collapsed into the sheets.

Today was destined to be a good day – a travel day – a day to depart from the City and head out to destinations not yet decided upon, but decidedly non-urban, and hopefully warm. We had researched a handful of locations in south western Utah – all well suited to our desire to be free of snow and fog and precipitation and surrounded by unobstructed vistas and big open sky.

By the time we had made our final preparations, and closed down the house it was 2:00pm, but with a freshly baked loaf of banana bread filling the camper with a rich, soothing aroma, and our sights set on two weeks of adventure we gladly joined the stream of building traffic departing the Bay Area heading eastward.
The windshield was plastered with pounding rain, and the coastal hills looked green, moist, and a bit stunted after an unusually dry spring, followed by an intense heat wave, followed by this week’s chill. Wooded fences and sides of farm buildings showed their weeping stains as the water saturated the upper portions, leaving the bottoms pale by comparison, anticipating a drenching like a parched desert explorer within sight of the lake’s shore. The cows lounged peacefully, but equally waterlogged beneath the outstretched arms of the Live Oak trees – I think hoping the rain would bring new life to the fields they had already pastured in.

Driving at 60 mph, heading out with a purpose felt good after two weeks at home. Once my ski patrol work had been completed, we had returned to Oakland and a house quietly whispering deferred maintenance wishes in my ear. Before the first afternoon at home was over I had begun dismantling the front steps redwood railing in an effort to determine why it was so wobbly. Before dinner, I had a pile of rotten railing wood stacked all akimbo against the garage wall, three neat round holes in the dirt where the posts used to be, and one pesky water leak from a decrepit pipe running to the ever drippy hose bib in the garage. Almost a week later, I had managed to fill two of the holes with fresh concrete and shiny new post bases, but the third hole remained a raw wound in the landscape, with its troublesome, still drippy pipe just on the side in an adjacent hole. No magic instant hardening covering, patch, wrap, paste or putty was up to the task of bonding to a 60 year old rusty water pipe. This project had turned sour, like milk in a cat’s bowl left out in the sun for too long and there simply was no easy way to get this angry genie back in the bottle. I put all the tools away, swept the dirt off the stairs, and walked away from the whole thing – promising to deal with it once I returned from this trip.

As we crossed over the Altamont Pass, even the carbon fiber and aluminum windmills looked waterlogged and droopy, hanging still in the motionless air. Each one seemed turned a different direction, as if they were seeking the smell of the cooling west wind that more often sweeps these grass covered passes and which would bring them life and purpose.

We tuned into the local weather forecast on the radio, studied the map as we drove, and called the highway department in an effort to plan how best to cross the Sierras. This storm was a cold one, bringing buckets of rain down low and snow at the higher elevations. Having wintered on Donner Summit near Route 80, we were determined to cross over to Nevada via some alternative roadway. We selected Route 88, which crosses Carson Pass just beyond Cables Lake at over 8,500 feet. The National Weather Service called for increased precipitation as the day progressed with temperatures falling well below freezing at the higher elevations. Our original plan was to spend the night right at Carson pass on a forest service road spur near Red Lake, but with fresh snow accumulation of up to 12” expected, we did not want to get snowed in, or stuck, on our first night out. With no real views to be had near the summit anyway due to the low clouds, fog, and heavy rain, we continued eastward right over the pass, dropped a few thousand feet and stumbled into the empty and freshly opened Crystal Springs Campground (recommended to us by the campground host at Hope Valley) right on the shores of the now swollen Carson River.

With outside temperatures hovering just above freezing, we warmed the cabin cooking quesadillas, and enjoyed our fresh banana bread for desert as twilight turned to darkness. The rushing river sounds drown out any road noise from the highway across the valley. It is good to be out on the road again, and I look forward to falling asleep to the patter of rain on the skylight window right overhead.
Tomorrow we continue east to wide open spaces and will select a small road on which to cross the Owens Valley. We are hoping with distance from the coast, we will achieve the warm temperatures and sunshine we are seeking.

From May 2009 Crystal Springs

From May 2009 Crystal Springs

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