Some of you already know our plan: Our goal is to live like this for two years, including at least a year in Europe, but we promised each other to do this for three months no matter what in order to give this life a fighting chance. (Set your clocks with a start date of September 1, 2011.) But this stop had the Night Kit Almost Called It Off – Three Months Be Damned.
We arrived at the Lower Lee Vining campground having been assured by the Ranger that, yes, it has no drinking water on site and yes, it is the only campground open on Highway 120 (the eastern entrance to Yosemite), in time to fish for dinner. Alan caught a nice 11”er in the creek alongside the camp and we had a lovely evening with the dogs running free (we were almost the only campers), a great fire with lots of free wood and, of course, the trout.
Having known about the water situation, we had filled up the fresh tank before arrival. The Ranger mentioned that there was an “RV Filling Station” just two miles west of the campground, which we saw on our way in, so we figured what the heck, we’ll just take our 5 gallon jug and fill it up every day at the filling station. What we didn’t know was the state of Salt’s batteries: Having been dry camping the night before in Mammoth (New Shady Rest Campground, NFS), in a true-to-its-name shady spot, Salt’s batteries were not at 100% when we pulled in.
Unconcerned with the batteries at this point (thinking the sun would charge them up during the day) we took off the next day for a nice hike around Saddleback Lake (unattractive) to Greenstone Lake (gorgeous) up in the Twenty Lakes Basin. We did a lot of fishing but no catching until the very end of the day when Alan caught a trout, too small to keep. We arrived back at Salt tired and too cold to go back outside for a campfire. (Yes, the time has come for me to stop being fashionable in my ¾ length hiking pants, and start being warm in some full length ones!) Knowing we had to use the heater all night, we checked on Salt’s batteries: Not good, they were only at 60%, so we sat in the near-dark eating left-over soup before crawling into bed.
Thus began The Night Kit Almost Called It Off. I could not sleep which, lately, is nothing new for either of us. (You can often hear loving comments like, “Your elbow is in my eye socket” or, “Don’t punch me in the throat”, coming out of our tiny bed.) But this night was even worse: The heater is very loud and every time it came on I woke up. Add to that my fear that the heater would completely kill the batteries and we would end up frozen to death in the no-water campground and you can almost hear my panic approaching. Somewhere in the dark, cold night, with two terriers on the bed (Rosco underneath a spare pillow he was so cold), unable to move my limbs, I thought, “Three months be damned, I am not living in this dark, freezing capsule another minute.” Having made my declaration, I promptly fell asleep.
Morning dawned sunny, but not enough direct sun was hitting our panels; they started the day at only 9%. I plugged in the Pepper for a while so we could have some light for breakfast before we took off for Yosemite, saying to Alan that if we returned and Salt’s batteries were below 75% that I would vote for going to the RV Park back down on Highway 395.
After all the freedom and beauty of the wilderness areas surrounding Yosemite, the park itself was a bit of a let-down for me. First of all, coming from the east is surely not as grand as coming from the west (at least I hope.) But also, although they will take your money at the gate, there are no services open inside the park this time of year (the west side might be an exception.) The Visitor Center was closed, there were no restaurants (we didn’t pack a lunch, thinking we would be basking on a sunny patio eating fries and drinking beer), not even a vending machine was to be found. So by 1:00 we were starving and, (ahem) simply to keep from passing out, we opened two bottles of Mammoth Brewing Company’s Double Nut Brown Ale which fortified us enough for some fishing.
By 3:00, Alan had caught five Brookies (two went back in—exceptionally small even for a Brookie), and we headed down the mountain. Too hungry even to stop at Salt, we buzzed right on by and right on into the Whoa Nelly Deli, recommended by Bobbie (the delightful former occupant of Site 86 in French Camp) at the junction of Highways 120 and 395. Alan had the baby back ribs and I had the famous lobster rolled tacos—both delicious, but not nearly as good as the chocolate layer cake which tastes like heaven and feels like mousse. (The deli is closed now for the season, our luck having led us there on their last day, but worth a stop next April if you are in the area.)
We stopped at the RV filling station for water only to find that it too had been closed for the season. No more fresh water for us! (Neal, are you laughing yet?) Returning to Salt and finding the batteries at only 50%, we knew we’d be heading to the Mono Vista RV Park for the night. But not before some fishing! Within an hour we each pulled out a nice sized trout (10-11”) which were cleaned and refrigerated with the Brookies to be had for dinner some other time (we were still too full from that late lunch.)
Packing up Salt in record time, with the motorized hitch barely running enough to connect to the Pepper, we arrived at the delightful Mono Vista RV Park by 5:00 p.m. Showers! Laundry! (Fully dried, I might add) And a delightful and helpful host in a pretty RV Park. (Closed now for the winter.)
So where did I change my mind about calling it quits? Not quite sure . . . somewhere between the drive through Yosemite, the river fishing on the way home, or catching my own dinner, the Aventura spirit caught up with me again. Good thing, as the next day promised to be our biggest adventure yet: Heading out to boondock “somewhere” in Monitor Pass . . . a DITL coming soon to a computer screen near you!