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6: how it went

Updated: Feb 27

Dear Friend,

How was your week? The end of January, the beginning of February, a message from a woodchuck, and the completion of a moon cycle. That is a lot. I hope that it has been a week to remember with fondness.

I’m writing this on Sunday, a full moon day. Such things may or may not be on your radar but they have been important to me for a very long time. I don’t look for things to be different on a full moon day, I just take note and send gratitude to the moon just for being itself. Good job and thanks for all the gravity!

Last week at this time we were on the road, Highway 80 to be precise, heading East over the Sierras. It was not an easy drive and I’m really not kidding when I say that Frank is an outstanding driver and we are here, on this side of that, because of his skill and experience.

It was quite a trip from Auburn California to just east of Bishop California on January 29th. As was predicted, there were snow showers leaving Auburn heading East on Highway 80, then we took Highway 395 south out of Reno. Snow fell the whole way. There was a 3-car crash closing the road at the town of Walker. After an hour, work crews, Fire Engines and CHP cleared the road and flagged us forward.

As we passed the crash site, on an icy turn, we talked about how quickly everything has suddenly changed for the families involved in that crash. Everything can change in less than a heartbeat. Still, there were drivers taking those icy roads into blinding snow, wind and frozen fog at well over 50 mph. Perhaps they have some sort of heat seeking vision, or something.

Out of Mammoth there is a long downhill, and that day there was also a blizzard. Frank calmly told me that our brakes were frozen and demonstrated… Yep, they’re not working. A moment or two before that, a white work truck had passed us, he wasn’t going that fast but the visibility was such that his tail lights disappeared into the snow ahead. We couldn’t see more than 30 feet in any direction; Frank drove onward. Hoping that no one was stopped ahead of us, we both leaned forward toward the windshield to try to scan the road as if that extra 8 inches forward was going to help us see any better. We passed several empty vehicles that had spun out and had been abandoned. The white work truck wasn’t among them. The wind, the snow, poor visibility and an iced-up road all seemed to go on and on. Our brakes came back before we needed them, thank goodness, and the snow kept falling.

Most of the day, the temps averaged around 23 degrees Fahrenheit which was lowered substantially by wind chill so after eleven hours on the road, as we approached Bishop in the dark, even though the snow had finally slowed to a soft drizzle, we opted to stay at a Travel Lodge.

The next morning was windy and 29 degrees, sunny and clear blue skies. We took in the views from the parking lot of Travel Lodge in Bishop CA, snow covered mountain peaks in all directions. The Whitney range was especially stunning. We wanted to camp, to be out in it, so we decided to head south to a hopefully warmer camping spot. We spent a good part of the day in search of this Warmer Spot, and again wound up at a hotel. Yes, we felt terrible about spending money on comfort but the cold wind won. We stayed in a clean and cozy Best Western Hotel in Lone Pine.

This winter has brought snow to the mountain ranges along Highway 395, and even the hillsides, too, frosted with such beauty, but because of the strong winds, the temps reached down into danger range for our camping set up. We decided not to put ourselves through it quite yet.

So, the next morning, we left our comfy, warm, free-breakfast, Lone Pine Best Western Hotel and continued south on 395. Then we turned left onto Highway 136 (to 190), headed into Death Valley National Park, and pitched our borrowed tent at Stove Pipe Wells. The first night might not have been above freezing, but we lived. And as soon as the sun rose above the mountains the next morning, the temps climbed to 45* almost instantly.

We felt at home there in our tent / truck set up. Frank would leave at 4:00 am and walk by moonlight two miles through the desert to photograph sunrise on the dunes. I’d boil water for coffee on our little two burner Coleman stove, get some writing done, and then walk into the desert to meet Frank on his way back from his shoot. During the day, the temps reached 64* and the wind nearly stopped. In that still, comfortable, quiet, I read out loud, practicing to produce my audio book. Frank played the guitar and did some writing. We made dinner early, before the sun went down, (as we usually do when we’re on the road), then we’d take walks into the desert in the moonlight.

Stove Pipe Wells has lodging, a little store, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, and you can purchase a pass to take a shower for the low, low price of $5.00. Death Valley National Park entrance fee cost us nothing because of our America the Beautiful Senior Pass. And tent camping at Stove Pipe Wells cost us $7 a night (with the pass).

We could have stayed at Stove Pipe a lot longer but decided to make our way south and pick up some more water and supplies on the way. Maybe we could shop 25 miles down the road in Furnace Creek (on Highway 178)…

Maybe. Not. A gallon of drinking water in Furnace Creek is $4.99. So, we continued south, and took Highway 15 to Baker. We thought that we’d shop in Baker, maybe even do laundry. The town of Baker … another story. We pressed on to Barstow and did some thrifty shopping at Stater Bros in Barstow. 5 gallons of water for $2.50. Thanks, Water Dispenser Friend.

And then, after groceries and our freshly filled water container were crammed into the truck, Frank asked the cell phone: Where can I camp near Barstow California? … Up popped Owl Canyon Campground. We love owls, and besides, we only had another couple hours of daylight left, so we arrived at the nearly empty campground 25 minutes later and pulled in to number 22 to set up our camp for dinner.

There really is an Owl at Owl Canyon Campground; it hoots right around 7:15 pm. We haven’t seen it, we’ve only heard it, right on time, two evenings in a row. Owl Canyon hiking trail is about 3.6 miles long. It is considered a moderate hike through a gully-type canyon in Rainbow Basin. Right now, there are still puddles from the last rains a couple weeks ago. Boulders that had (at one time) rolled along in the raging waters, have become lodged in the canyon, blocking the usually dry and sandy pathway, so the trail does involve some scrambling up and over obstacles like that.


The weather was absolutely beautiful yesterday. No wind, warm 60* and sunny, just perfect for the hike into the canyon and for writing and studying. That was yesterday. Today the wind is gusting to 40 mph into tomorrow morning, and though the rain came and left quickly this morning, temps are expected to remain pretty brisk outside.

We are fortunate to have just been invited to stay overnight with a friend in Temecula CA. Her home is less than three hours from here. It will be wonderful to have this time for a visit with her before our next stop. We are very grateful for the invite!

That’s it for now, we’re packing up – until next week, thank you for all of your good thoughts, and please don’t hesitate to write to me to let me know how you are doing!

Gently Be,



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