Monday, April 28, 2014

Bridgeport California Area – April 2014

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The Road to Recovery With Old Friends

The weather turned back to winter Friday morning. Snow levels dropped early in the day and it snowed. The trees were soon draped in white but with the warm ground temperature it wasn’t until afternoon that the local roads were affected and the carnage began. The truck and camper were ready but joining in with the Friday evening travelers, most without a clue about winter mountain driving, was unnecessary. We would take it easy and launch in the morning.

During dinner the snow came down harder, putting about 6 inches on the deck. The Lady attacked it with the snow shovel and also unloaded the snow from our retractable awning.

The house was filled with the smell of fresh brewed coffee at 4:30 am. A check of road conditions on the web claimed all controls were lifted. We set off. The report lacked a bit of accuracy as Luther Pass still required chains or 4x4 with snow tires with a speed limit of 25 mph. But, the roads were almost empty in the early morning as dawn revealed a winter mountain wonderland with broken storm clouds above and snow shrouded mountains and valleys below. We dropped into the Carson Valley and the Lady started her ritual of counting roosting hawks – five red tails and one golden eagle.

Breakfast at Bridgeport’s Hay Street Café – yes we are creatures of habit – and we were ready for the next stop on my road to recovery, a sure fire cure.

Travertine Hot Springs was deserted. This late season storm had worked its magic in thinning out weekend travelers. The skies were clearing and yes, it was delightfully cold.

The classic pools are marvelous with the source water flowing down narrow slots in the mineral deposits……………………………

………………………………..and falling into the pools below.

We partook of the restorative hot spring waters. How could we not?

We were curious about access into Virginia Lakes with this year’s extremely low snowpack. It appeared that the road has been open for quite some time with only this storm’s dump as packed snow and ice on the pavement. We easily reached the parking lot at road’s end with between 6 and 8 inches of new snow here.

Most people were out on the ice fishing.

I did point out to the Lady a couple of big guys sporting Green Bay Packers jackets. It just seemed to fit. Although the ice fishing activity was interesting, it was this that caught our eye –

The tracks indicated one person on wide boards setting a track up into a sheltered high basin.

With the passing storm front the winds had turned to out of the north. Snow plumes were sailing off of Dunderburg Peak.

The Lady scoured the terrain with her see mores. She worked her way up following the narrow ski track. “There he is! I found him!” she cried. “Where?” I asked. “Oh, I hate this,” the Lady said, “Trying to explain or point out where something is.” “But it is a good exercise,” I said. A USFS employee stopped. “Is there a skier up there?” he asked. We answered and he continued, “But wouldn’t it be dangerous for avalanche?” “No,” I answered. “I’d think this would be a good green or go day. We have about half a foot of new powder on a pretty solid base. I think that skier is going to have a great run with rare powder conditions on a spring day. We wish we had our skis with us, especially since that guy is setting such a nice track we could follow. My concern for avalanche hazard would be areas of snow deposition from these north winds up high or if we get a rapid rise in temperature.” I left out that the skier was breaking one of the commandants about traveling in avalanche terrain – skiing alone. If caught in an avalanche, there was no one to rescue him.

“So where is he?” the Forest Service guy asked.
“The bottom edge of the high bowl has a line of trees. Below the line of trees it is open a short distance until there is another line of trees. On the right side, between those two lines of trees you can see a single skier working his way up.”

We headed back out. It was single lane downhill on packed snow on gravel the first quarter mile so we made sure the way was clear of upcoming traffic. We wandered about. Lower Lundy Lake Campground is partially open. The Mono Basin Visitors Center is open. This was opening day for kill season for trout. Much of California trout waters for the last couple years are now open year round for catch and release single barbless hook fishing. This time of the year the local east side economies are still driven by this annual opener with sales of hardware, garden hackle, and salmon eggs. This will continue to change as we move to healthy, sustainable wild trout fisheries and leave the age of concrete trough raised factory fish behind.

We had asked the Forest Service guy how far up Green Creek the road was open. He said he had just heard you could make it to the end. As we headed back north on 395 we turned on Green Creek Road. We figured if conditions were good and there weren’t many opening day meat fisherman about, it just might make a dandy spot to spend the night. We were delighted to find only a few vehicles around and only one evident overnight camp set up. This was absolutely great! The Lady asked about the possibility of mosquitoes, remembering early summer hordes. “Still a bit cold, I think,” I answered. “I bet the high up here was maybe 35° today and with this stiff downslope wind, the wind chill is probably around 0°.” “Oh, good then, it will be great with no mosquitoes!”

The weather forecast was for another front to pass through quickly overnight. The peaks on the crest were already shrouded in clouds.

It was clear off to the east with beautiful late afternoon light as we sat outside.

After dinner we walked the length of Green Creek Road down to just above the bridge, back up to the trailhead, and then back down to our camp at around the half way point. It was bitter cold on our faces as we walked up into wind. Good rule, if there is wind; end your evening hike with the wind at your back. We were delighted to get a quick glimpse of a black crowned night heron at day’s end. We had seen one up here one time before.

The foam mattress pads that All Terrain Campers supplies with their campers are quite comfortable. We have no need to replace or enhance. With our large sleeping bag with fleece sheets that I’ve mentioned in previous stories, we look forward to climbing up into the overhead and finishing out another wonderful day in the outdoors.

Sleep came easy. The sound of the wind mingled with the sound of the moving water of Green Creek. The wind gently rocked the camper.  Our solitary spot, surrounded by the grandeur around us; we were in heaven. What a wonderful night!

Clouds were to the east as day began.

Morning sun hit the Sierra Crest for only a moment, sneaking under the cloud deck.

The overnight low was around 24°. There was ice on the water.

There has been, as I recover from surgery, two or three days where I woke up feeling remarkably improved. This was another of those mornings. Nothing hurt. Movements, twists, and reaches that had reminded me there was still a “hitch in my get along” were now completely normal. I felt strong, really strong. I felt great. I told the Lady I was declaring myself cured, recovered, healed. She looked at me with her knowing eyes and said she was so happy I’m doing so well.

We enjoyed coffee on a long morning walk and returned for breakfast along Green Creek. This was glorious. Travertine Hot Springs was so close………………………………….it called to us. We partook of the healing, restorative waters.

We wandered up to Twin Lakes. Mono Village, at road’s end is fully up and running. There was one large fishing camp in the Buckeye Creek area but we were surprised to find no one at Buckeye Hot Springs, usually a busy place. The hot spring water cascades down a dome of mineral deposits and falls into small pools on the edge of Buckeye Creek. We had never found this empty of people.

We partook of the restorative waters.

It was incredible how lucky we were finding places, old friends, relatively deserted, and ours to enjoy. It had a definite feeling that this was all meant to be.

Only one thing remained to make this a well rounded quick trip to the east side.

Walker Burger is a family owned old fashion road side burger joint. The owners live in the house behind and seasonally employ many local kids. We are not fast food people but here the meal fits. The atmosphere is nice with the well kept grounds. There is evident care and pride of ownership.

Walker Burger is an institution, a step back to simpler times, and a reminder of the best of rural western communities.

I partook of the restorative burger and fries. The Lady had a grilled chicken breast sandwich and gobbled up most of my fries.

Quick weekend trips should all be as wonderful as this!


  1. Congratulations on your delightful and _restorative_ trip! Just curious, do they consider something like the BFG A/T tires as good as snow tires? They're not, but the tread is pretty aggressive. Not that I expect to find myself in that position anytime soon ;)

    Great photos as always. Amazed by the water troughs through the mineral deposits - never saw that before.

  2. Thanks again for your inspirational narrative and photos that make me miss the outdoors...even though i was just up there. I already miss it....Love you guys