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Avoiding Groundhog Day

A year ago Kelly and I completed our longest tow day ever – 11 hours on the road only to go nowhere.  I’ve detailed events of that fiasco previously, but suffice it to say, I do not advise towing a fully provisioned trailer along a very crowded HW1 on the 4th of July, especially without a campground reservation securely in hand.

Determined not to make that same mistake this year, Kelly and I finalized holiday weekend reservations at Pinnacles National Park well in advance.  This would be our second visit to America’s newest national park and our plan was to spend a few relaxing days hiking the trails we didn’t complete during our visit last fall.

Knowing the weather would likely be hot, our plan was to be on the trail by 7am each morning in order to be back at the trailer a few hours later, before temperatures rose to triple digits.  Just as planned, the following morning we arrived to the trailhead around 8:30am.

Bathroom at the trailhead

Bathroom at the trailhead

I’d categorize the first trail as ‘ok’.  The trail took us through rolling sections of tree cover and skirted some cool ravine areas before arriving to sketchy  stairs carved into a rock face leading to a giant reservoir … which as far as I could tell, was inhabited mostly by snakes, frogs, and turtles.  But mostly, the trail lacked in ‘wow’ factor.  Perhaps I’m starting to become spoiled with the abundance of ‘wow’ scenery in California, but for me, this hike – while certainly pleasant, wasn’t the best I’ve seen, nor the best the park has to offer.

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Headed over there somewhere

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Kelly pauses for a look

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climbing up towards the reservoir

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Reservoir low on water – another victim of the severe drought conditions

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Lots of snakes relaxing under the warm sun

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Pinnacle rock formations

Day 2 started off a bit better – that is to say we arrived to the trailhead by 8am, but still sufficiently late for our 7am target (hey, it’s vacation, cut us some slack please).  Anyway, our plan was to complete one of the larger loops which would take us to what one park ranger referred to as the “money shot” section of the park.  Having seen the western side of the park during our last visit, I concur with the spirit of his comment – the area is stunningly beautiful, but I would prefer that ranges refrain from describing anything as being a money shot when conversing with me.

The weather seemed to be warmer than the day prior, and with no cloud-cover in sight, we knew to expect high temperatures for much of this unshaded hike.  However, before we would face any of the high heat, we first had to navigate through one of the park’s three caves.  Technically, these are not caves per se, rather  hundreds … perhaps thousands of boulders which have toppled onto themselves, creating a cave-like effect.  The result is a section of trail that is completely dark, damp, and very cool (temperature-wise).  Oh, and a lot of fun.

The park literature and signage approaching all of the park’s caves strongly advise the usage of a headlight(s).  Myself, I cannot imagine attempting to navigate the caves without lighting, but I’m sure some dumb-ass has tried.

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Approaching the cave

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

The picture below was taken using a flash, but trust me, it’s absolutely dark in these caves.  Note the guide arrow (pointing to the right) above Kelly’s left hand.  Also, check out the size of the boulders – they are  huge!

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Once through the cave section, the trail winds through a series of giant boulders and other rock faces before opening onto an expansive meadow.  We then connected to a trail that winds atop some of the higher points (2500-ish feet) of the park, affording fantastic views.  Total hike was about 8.5 miles.  July isn’t the best time to visit – it’s crazy hot, dry, and much of the plant life is burnt to a crisp.  With better planning on our part, I would expect springtime to be glorious … wild flowers blooming everywhere.

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BIG rocks wedged everywhere

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Transitioning from caves to meadows

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More pinnacles as we hike towards the highpoint of the trail

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Not long after we returned to the trailer, the air conditioning failed.  Quickly, the inside temperatures of the Airstream soared to a sweltering state, but we managed to make the best of the situation … including Kelly’s usage of an ice pack to cool her aching head.

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Turns out that the failed AC was caused by a tripped GFCI bathroom breaker … probably due to heavy load.  Foolishly, I failed to consider this simple fact as part of my troubleshooting, so we had no choice but to sweat it out with many others for hours until the temps broke.  Fortunately, I did notice GFCI after work today (Monday), which was easily reset with the push a button.

So it turns out the misery you see in the photo above could have easily been avoided had I noticed tripped outlet.  Sorry Kelly.

 

12 Volt Twins

Having spent the month of May without full shore power, Kelly and I have been functioning exclusively via solar power.  For the most part, the lack of shore power has been largely a small nuisance, but during this time we’ve come to learn a lot about our power consumption habits and system constraints.

At purchase, our trailer was equipped with an inverter upgrade which allows us to use a subset of electrical outlets since they are powered directly by a pair of house batteries.  Largely, this solution of works well, but does have some gaps – mainly a lack of 12-volt sockets (similar to cigarette outlets, but with greater power capacity) which can be used to efficiently charge various electronics (phones, tablets, etc.) with less power consumption than traditional outlets.

Most annoying is the lack of 12-volt sockets in the bedroom – specifically near the bedside nightstands.  Always looking for a project, today I decided to add a socket to each of the bedroom nightstands.

My first order of business included a trip to NAPA auto parts and Ace Hardware for a few required supplies.

A variety of supplies needed for the project

A variety of supplies needed for the project

Once all parts were organized I began prepping the cable runs.  I wired-in a 15-amp fuse for each of the negative leads, and added heat shrink over each joint.

Positive cables prepped

Positive cables prepped

Initial wiring of the positive and negative cables was straightforward and didn’t take too much time.  When I completed this task, I began thinking about where to locate the sockets.

Kelly’s chief request with this project was that I locate the  sockets discretely, away from plain view.  Our 27′ FB floor-plan situates the bedroom close to the forward storage area … an easy location for tapping into power.  Once I finalized the socket location, I used a hole saw to bore an opening for each socket.  The first image below is taken from the garage (under) bed storage, while the second is taken from inside the trailer after I had completed seating the socket into place.

I repeated this process for Kelly’s side of the bed, then shifted my attention back to the wiring.

One of the holes awaiting the 12volt socket

One of the holes awaiting the 12-volt socket

The socket installed under the bed, next to the nightstand

The socket installed under the bed, next to the nightstand

With the sockets in place, I could then determine how much wire would be needed to reach the buss bars I’d be tapping into for power.  As seen in the picture below, I consolidated the positive and negative wires from my nightstand side of the bed into protective split loom before anchoring the bundle up and out-of-the-way.

Wiring from the far side nightstand

Wiring from the far side nightstand

Kelly’s nightstand is really close the DC (12-volt) electronics bay, negating the need for split loom.  This being the case, I finalized the wire lengths and attached everything remaining into place … doing my best to keep things “tidy” despite the mass of existing wires already in the area.

Then, using my trusty multimeter, I confirmed both sockets were fully powered “hot” at 12.5 volts and ready for use.

Kelly's socket entering the electronics bay.

Kelly’s socket entering the electronics bay.

A spaghetti mix of wires.

A spaghetti mix of wires.

Theoretically, my work was complete at this point – all that remained was to test both sockets.

Power!

Power!

While I forgot to snap a picture of the partition wall which protects the electronics from all the junk I keep in the “garage”, I reinstalled this divider, effectively concluding the project.  Satisfied with my accomplishments, I rewarded myself with a very satisfying beer.

All in, I’m out about $60 in parts, which I suspect will prove to be money well spent.

 

 

 

 

PCT

Kelly and I both took Friday off from work, and amongst other things, our plan was to find a nice morning hike.  Following an unnecessarily lengthy review of potential candidates, we settled on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Sure, the logistics of driving only 15 minutes to the nearest trailhead could not have been easier, but in actuality, its hard to feel that we actually ‘settled’.

The PCT is the most widely used north/south long-distance hiking trail on the western portion of the United States,  and  those who choose to follow its path will view some of the most beautiful scenery there is to be seen.

 

Map of the PCT

Map of the PCT

With Canada and Mexico as bookends, the trail spans 2,663 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington and is closely aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.  Not in a position to hike the entire trail on Friday, we spent three hours exploring an out and back section.

The trailhead we used for access was just off an old logging road and I’m guessing receives moderate usage.  We saw only one other party (two people total) which made for a very enjoyable morning on the trails.

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The Joy of Dumb Luck

For the past few days, Kelly and I have been relaxing in a national forest just outside the small town of Mt Shasta, which is located in far northern California.  The town sits in the shadows of its namesake – Mt Shasta volcano (elevation 14,197 ft).

Looking east towards Mt Shasta

Looking east towards Mt Shasta

Having driven past the mountain many times, we’ve often admired it from the car, but have never stopped until this week.  The mountain happens to sit in the midst of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the largest forest system in California.  Combined the mountain and the high elevation forest seemed like a combination we felt would make for a nice resting place for a couple of days.

It was me who picked Fowlers Campground as our landing spot.  And I didn’t have much time to complete a lot of advance research … so if the place sucked, it would be me to blame.   As luck would have it , the past couple days here have been fantastic.

Sometimes a guy is just lucky.

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Wednesday, we arrived to a mostly empty campground … it’s primitive, has two loops with roughly 18-20 spacious sites per.  Not sure what the crowds would be like through the weekend, we opted for a site off to itself and with the added bonus of a spacious grassy area opening up to a hillside.

Now, having seen the entire campground now in more detail, I think we have the best location … and Kelly deserves all the credit, as I was thinking about another one elsewhere.  As an added bonus, our spot is proving to be a great point of entry for deer and other forest critters … which has provided plenty of excitement for Lilly.

Our site

Our site

Lilly keeping an eye on things

Lilly keeping an eye on things

There is nice river with three waterfalls near the campground.  Conveniently, our site is adjacent to a connector trail which links all three.  We’ve seen two waterfalls thus far, and plan to view the third before leaving in a couple days.  The trails here are nice and since this is a national forest, dogs are welcome on-leash – not so in California State or National Parks.

Once the trailer was set-up, we went out to find the “Middle Falls”, the closest of the three to our location.

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The trail to Middle Falls

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The trail to Middle Falls

Middle Falls below…

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Stopping to admire Middle Falls

This morning (Thursday) we went looking for Lower Falls, which made for a great morning hike – this one following the river.

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The river is a local favorite for fly fishing, and provides plenty of access points to the water.  Lilly wasn’t interested in the fish, but could not get enough of the rocks – climbing all over them (and only slipping into the water a few times).

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Eventually, we arrived to Lower Falls (above).  While this particular falls is not much of an attraction per se, the general area is gorgeous.  It’s so nice to be back at high elevation and in amongst the trees.

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Eventually, we began making our way back to camp.

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Along the way, I wanted to grab some firewood and decided to split this felled tree with my knee.

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Upon arrival back to camp, it was time for lunch.  The remainder of the day was spent … lazy.

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