Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Second stop on our high-topped National Park tour is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Since it is a hefty drive from Lassen area to our campground, Potwisha, in the southwest part of Sequoia, we stopped for two days in El Dorado Hills to visit with family and restock the shelves and refrigerator.  Sequoia is fairly remote with the only access to gas and food being in the small town of Three Rivers, a drive we want to avoid making as much as possible.

After 4 miles of winding NPS road (which we read later does not recommend trailers over 24ft…ooops), we arrive at Potwisha to discover it is accurately described in its online reviews.  The campground is quite hilly with lots of rocks and curves to maneuver around.  Fortunately, Andrew takes it slow and handles it like a pro.  Happy to have large pull-through spot, but the hills make the site so unlevel (front to back) that once put the leveling blocks in the Rosie sits so high off the ground that Ame and I must jump to reach the bottom step, always adventure entering and exiting the trailer (luckily no spills). 

With reports of snow on the horizon, we decide to try the 80 mile drive through Sequoia and Kings Canyon.  While the campground sits at about 2000ft, we have a quick elevation gain to 6720 feet , the road is narrow and winding up to the Giant Forest.  Along our drive, we stop for a few quick photo ops and a hike down to the General Sherman Tree.  We continue on until we arrive at the first overlook for Kings Canyon.  Due to heavy fires this year, the road into Kings Canyon and its campgrounds have been closed.  This overlook is the furtherest we can go without exiting the park, so with the SUV in low-gear we make our way back down our curvy road.

One thing we learn quick about Sequoia is that it is a driving park, meaning one must drive great distances in order to experience the true value of the park, including hikes, views and other activities.  For our second trip into the park, we try the more remote and ever intensely curvy, Mineral King Road, which is not recommend for the faint-of-heart or height-phobic.  The road starts in a Three Rivers neighborhood and quickly winds up to over 7000 feet, ending in the meadows full of trails for Crystal, Franklin, and Monarch Lakes  Towards the end of the road, many small residential cabins and Silver City village store can be found. 

For our last day in this park, Andrew and I left Ame at home as we hit a few trails back up the winding Generals Highway.  First stop, Crescent Meadow.  This short trail loops around two meadows, Crescent and Log, which are intertwined with many old, massive sequoia.  From Crescent Meadow, we want to stop at Moro Rock and climb the 400+ steps for the view; however, the clouds are low and no visibility.  Instead, we drive back down to the Giant Forest Museum and Big Trees trail. 

Another week quickly passes.  Time to move onto Yosemite National Park.

Views from overlook, Sequoia National Park
Views from overlook, Sequoia National Park
Our friendly little campmate
Our friendly little campmate
Sequoia and Boulder Merging, Sequoia National Park
Sequoia and Boulder Merging, Sequoia National Park
Bridge along Mineral King Road
Bridge along Mineral King Road
Rosie at Potwisha
Rosie at Potwisha
Tharp's Log (the original tiny home), Sequoia National Park
Tharp’s Log (the original tiny home), Sequoia National Park
Sequoia Root scale with Andrew, Sequoia National Park
Sequoia Root scale with Andrew, Sequoia National Park
Ame with her favorite toy
Ame with her favorite toy
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon
General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park
General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park
Tunnel Rock, Sequoia National Park
Tunnel Rock, Sequoia National Park

The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance

Disclaimer: Andrew hasn’t written a book report in about 25 years.

We have been living on the road for the past two years, but haven’t been Airstreaming for much longer than that, so we appreciate all the advice we get from the fabulous community of Airstreamers and RVers.  When Rich gave us the opportunity to review his latest book, we jumped at the chance!  After having learned so many lessons the hard way, we can honestly say that we wish he had published it two years ago! It would have saved us a good amount of money, and not a little blood, sweat, and maybe even a few tears.

Andrew was not much of a handy man when we started, but being on a fixed budget and on the road in remote places, forces you to be more self reliant.  This book makes a handy field guide for those who want to save money and time by doing the basics themselves, and a gives good idea when to turn things over to the experts.    The guide is not a step-by-step how-to, but gives enough information to build up your confidence if you are not used to DIY, and also makes a great reminder of things you should do if you are a seasoned DIY camper.  The guide is quite complete, it covers all but one issue we have had in our 25,000+ mile journey!

It is impossible to cover every aspect of troubleshooting, the one item missing from the guide was the problem with our ATS, the Automated Transfer Switch that allows Rosie to safely switch between using the front AC power socket (usually for our generator) and the main AC inlet on the curb side of the trailer.  If it fails nothing in the trailer will work even though the pedestal or generator is perfectly fine.  That said, the guide is Nearly Complete.  Even items not in/on your Airstream, like the towing setup, are covered with good depth.  There are excellent sections on the water heater and refrigerator which are common problem areas for many.  The section on tires is thorough, but stops short of Andrews absolute love of LT truck tires.  The guide dedicates more than 15 pages to complex subject of plumbing, and the Inspection section provides excellent advice with about the same number of pages.  The section on storage is not one we can comment on, as we have lived in our Airstream since we bought it, but it will come in handy when (if?) we decide to get off the road.

Our only other point of personal contention is with the very short coverage on water filtration.  The guide appropriately warns about potential dangers with the AC power you can get at campgrounds, but almost ignores water safety by saying campgrounds should (Andrews emphasis) provide safe, clean water.  We have lots of evidence that many do not!  This is water you may drink, shower, wash, or prepare food with, and I strongly recommend campers take water safety even more seriously than they do the safety of their AC power.  An NSF certified water filter goes a long way to ensuring you are not introducing pathogens into your camping experience.

Without a doubt this is the most complete guide to maintenance we have seen.  It will remain in our small on-the-road library with very few other hard-copy references we find necessary when we lack Internet.  The guide covers everything Becky could think of, and has reminded Andrew of several maintenance tasks he needs to do, but hasn’t researched yet.  This is a definite time saver and will save us money as we cover more and more of the preventative maintenance ourselves.  If you currently feel better leaving it all up to “the experts”, we heartily recommend picking up this guide and use it to build the confidence to do at least some maintenance yourself, it is part of the Airstream experience!

 

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Lassen Volcanic National Park

October begins our month long journey through three of California’s high elevation National Parks which we want to visit before the snows arrive.   Our first stop is Lassen Volcanic National Park, home of Chaos Crags, Lassen Peak, and Brokeoff Mountain. It is famous for its’ eruptions from 1914-21, which created new craters and left massives amounts of ash throughout the area. 

Manzanita Lake Campground, one of the few park campgrounds open this time of year, was our home for a week long stay in the area.  Andrew and I were thrilled to find our site #A22 is one of the very few solar friendly spots in the largely forested campground.

Wanting to stretch our legs and take Ame on an adventure, we plan to hit the surrounding national forest for our first day.  We begin with a stop at vista point, which really isn’t a view but displays several information plaques about the forest growth.  Next stop the Old Station’s US Forest Office to pick up a few maps for the area.  For a picnic lunch, we make our way back into the park at Butte Lake.  While the lake, which has drasticly low water levels and no views, isn’t worth the side trip, but the Butte Lake Campground is a great place for anyone looking for a little solitude in nature. 

On our way back to Lassen, we decide to check out a few places highlighted at the US Forest Office.  The first place, Subway Cave, is a 1300 foot lava tube just north of Old Station.  This cave is free and open to the public, just remember to bring a flashlight.   A short trail leads down a flight of stairs into complete darkness.  After leaving the cave, we stop at Spattercone Trailhead.  This 1.5 mile hike offers an great introduction to the effects and remnants of volcanic activity by highlighting lava tubes, spattercones, and various lava rock.  We (Ame included since it is a dog friendly hike) agree this is the best stop of the day. 

A few days later, Andrew, Ame and I head out along the 29 mile parks highway to explore Lassen’s surroundings and views.  One hiking stop is Bumpass Hell, a 3 mile trail leading to sulpheric hydrothermal area.  Upon reading the information plaque, I quickly learn that Bumpass is some poor unforunately fella’s name (pronounced Bum-pas) and should not be pronounced in my southern way as bump-ass.  These sulpheric pools are similar to Yellowstone, without all the crowds.  Other highlights along our drive are Sulphur Works, which is directly next the highway, Lake Helen, a nice picnic spot that overlooks Lassen Peak, and Upper Meadows pull-off, which offers expansive views of distant mountain peaks and lakes. 

We rounded out our week  with a hike around Manzanita Lake.  This well maintained trail follows the lakeside offering views the Crags and peaks. The lake is the only opportunity we have for wildlife views, sighting eagle, water fowl and deer. 

Butte Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Butte Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Subway Cave,
Subway Cave,
Spattercone Trail,
Spattercone Trail,
Spattercone on Trail
Spattercone on Trail
Spattercone Trail
Spattercone Trail
Views, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Views, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park