Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Week in Northern California

The balloon rally was great fun, but it was over, so on Sunday, September 23rd, soon after the first-timers’ initiation, we hitched up the car and headed further south to Redding.  It wasn’t far, so we were checking into the Mountain Gate RV Park by 1:00 p.m.

Monday, September 24th was mostly a non-eventful day.  Full-timers need to take a break occasionally, so we spent the day hanging out and doing some errands like grocery shopping and a haircut.  Later we wandered through Turtle Bay Exploration Park and walked across the Sundial Bridge.  It was just beautiful!  Too bad I didn’t have a camera along…

On Tuesday, the 25th, we drove north to see nearby Shasta Dam.  The tour was interesting and we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch in the shade afterwards.



On Wednesday, we headed back up I-5 to Castle Crags State Park.  We started by walking the one mile “Indian Creek Nature Trail”.  It was a beautiful wooded area with cool wood and stone bridges.



Next we drove up to “Vista Point” which was beautiful.  Easy to see where the park name came from…



When we got back to the parking area, we ate our picnic lunch before heading on up the road to Highway 89 where we circled around to see McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.  We took the Falls Loop Trail.  Beautiful…




We even found the Pacific Crest Trail!!


Long way to Canada…and even further to Mexico!


Long day, but very nice!

We definitely wanted to see the Redwoods again, but didn’t want to drive the rig over to the coast, so on Thursday, September 27th, we hopped in our trusty little car and headed west on Highway 299.  We checked in to the Holiday Inn Express in McKinleyville and then headed north on 101 to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  First we did a little hike through Lady Bird Johnson Grove near Orick.  It is truly difficult to describe the majesty of these trees which are the tallest in the world…



Then we wandered a little farther north to Gold Bluffs Beach, which offers access to Fern Canyon., which was used in the filming of Jurassic Park II.  There are 50 foot walls here covered with rare ferns and mosses.  Very cool place – literally!



And, no – I didn’t rotate this photo.  The ferns really do grow straight out from the canyon walls!



Wonderful fairy-land place!  On the way out to the highway, we saw lots of the resident Roosevelt elk.  Nice ending to a magical afternoon!


On Friday, September 28th we headed south to Humboldt Redwoods State Park and drove the 32-mile Avenue of the Giants.

We did a short hike first and wondered at these huge trees and the way they survive fires.


This is what’s left of ONE tree…


Next we stopped and walked the 1/2 mile trail through Founders Grove.

Founders Tree might be a bit difficult to climb if being chased by a bear.  Note the distance to the first branch…


It was fascinating to learn about “nurse logs” and how they contribute to the long-term health of these forests.  Apparently it can take 400 or more years from the time a tree falls to when it becomes incorporated into the forest floor.  Wow.


The “Dyerville Giant” fell on March 24, 1991.  It probably stood for as long as 1,600 years and was at least 362 feet tall – comparable to a 30 story building!  Can you see John down by the roots?


We walked around it and were amazed at how huge it looks on the ground!


We were also quite disgusted at the carving that had been done on it…


Loved how the light filtered down among the trees!


Time for lunch!  We found a picnic table at the Visitor Center just south of Weott and then enjoyed touring the center where we found the most amazing RV!




Cool, huh?  We’ve come a long way, baby!

Time to head home.  We went back to Redding by way of Hwy. 36 and had quite the fun listening to our dying GPS.  “She” apparently didn’t think much of Hwy. 36 and continued nearly all the way back to I-5 trying to get us to turn around and go back via Hwy. 299.  Guess it’s time to start looking for a replacement…

Saturday, September 29:  Good thing we get such good gas mileage with this little car, ‘cause we sure are covering some ground these days!  Today we are off to Lassen Volcanic National Park (established 1916).

We entered the park at the Manzanita Lake entrance and headed for Hat Lake, about 9 miles down the road.  We’d spent quite a bit of time in the car the last few days, so it was time for a hike.  The Paradise Meadow hike was 2.8 miles and was between 6,440 and 7,140 feet in elevation so we figured we could handle it. 


We had a nice picnic lunch at the end where there was a pretty meadow view and then we headed back.


Felt good to do a real hike again!  Now time to head on down the road and see the rest of the park.


Lake Helen…


…and the Bumpass Hell overlook.



Interesting stop at the “Sulphur Works”…


…and a gorgeous sunset on the way home.


Tomorrow is a move day, so need to get some sleep.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heading for the Balloon Rally

Early in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 19th, we left Junction City and headed south about 165 miles to Valley of the Rogue State Park near Gold Hill, Oregon.  Beautiful spot that we’re pretty sure we stayed at back in October of 1996 on a tenting vacation.  Did a bit of laundry and called it a day.

On Thursday, the 20th, we left about 9:45 am and crossed into California on our way to the Montague Hot Air Balloon Rally.  We had made prior plans to meet “Class of 2007” friends, Howie and Norah, in nearby Yreka where we had lunch and picked up a few more groceries.  We all got parked at the balloon launch site early in the afternoon with the Escapees Chapter 37 folks and got set up for the longest boon-docking stay that we’ve done so far.  Howie and Norah had some helpful hints – thanks, guys!

Note: If you are new to our blog, the “Class of 2007” is a group of Escapees RV Club members who all started full-timing sometime during the year of 2007.  Whenever two or more are in the same area at the same time, you can bet that there will be a lunch, happy hour or excursion of some sort, as everyone keeps in touch by internet.

The next three days were busy and really fun!  Our parking spots were right at the edge of the launch sites and we enjoyed meeting other RVers from the northern California and southern Oregon area.  There were a couple of meals at the local community center and a happy hour every afternoon with the Chapter 37 group.  Mornings were early as the balloons launched at sunrise. 




Here’s our home: right in the middle of the action!


The skies were filled with bright balloons!


One day this balloon landed right behind our rig, so I could take pictures right out the bedroom window!


We spent the rest of the daytime wandering around, visiting with folks and checking out the activities in downtown Montague.  On Saturday, the 22nd, Howie and Norah, who are from this area, showed us around for a few hours and we had lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant.

The highlight of the entire event was Sunday morning when John and I got to go for a ride in one of the balloons!  Our pilot was amazing and her crew was lots of fun!  We watched them blow up the balloon…



…and we hardly knew when we left the ground – it was so smooth!

Here’s Howie (waving) and Norah (photographing) bidding us good-bye!  (If you double-click on the picture, you can see that I’ve circled them in red.  Then hit the back button to return to the blog post.)




…and higher…


and then lower – right over downtown Montague!


These deer were quite interested in us.


Here’s the view up into the balloon.


Our chase crew had fun talking to the horses while they waited to figure out where we were going to land!


Wonderful views as you float through the sky…




Landing was just as smooth as the take-off…


…and everyone pitched in to get everything packed up.


Here’s “our” crew – great job, gang!  We loved it!!


Later, there was an initiation ceremony for all first-time balloonists.  And, no – we’re not praying…


…just trying to pick up and drink the champagne without using our hands!!


Great weekend and wonderful time with Howie and Norah!!