Thursday, March 31, 2016
There are only 16 sites in this campground but most of them are really nice – very big, fairly flat, nice views, and enough trees and bushes to provide privacy. The lake is small and the road down to it is very steep.
None of the sites are marked as accessible but most are usable. The ground surface is fine, crushed stone so wheeling around is a little difficult. The vault toilets are accessible.
Campground 37.3771, -113.64488
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
In the 1800s before the railroads stretched across the country thousands of emigrants headed west - walking, riding in wagons or on horseback. Mormons seeking religious freedom in Salt Lake City, men with gold fever going to California and families wanting a new life in the fertile valleys of Oregon all followed the same trail for almost 1,000 miles. Their paths diverged at Fort Bridger, a supply post in what is now Wyoming. Some travelers bound for southern California followed the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City and continued south through Utah territory. This was the path of the Fancher–Baker party, a loosely formed group of families from Arkansas, on their way to California. And this is where all of them with the exception of 17 children were murdered.
The reasons behind the massacre have never been completely clear. It may have paranoia over a perceived threat of invasion by the federal government, it may have been misguided revenge for previous persecution or it may have been simply a desire to obtain the cattle and possessions of the Fancher–Baker party. Whatever the reasons a group of local militiamen ambushed the party as they were camped in Mountain Meadow. After a five day siege members of the militia approached the camp bearing a white flag. The Fancher–Baker party was promised a safe escort if they would give up their weapons. Instead, after separating the woman and children from the men, all of them, except for the 17 young children, were killed.
The Mountain Meadow National Historic Landmark consists of four sites spaced about a mile apart. Each has a monument and signs with historic information. The original monument at Mountain Meadow was built by the US Army. New monuments have been built by descendents of the Fancher–Baker party and members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. All have parking lots that are large enough for RVs.
None of the four sites are completely accessible. The men’s and women’s massacre sites have paths with loose gravel. The overlook and the Mountain Meadow site have paved paths with very steep sections.
Monument 37.47553, -113.64291
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Cathedral Gorge State Park is small, only 2 1/2 miles long and less than a mile wide but it’s very scenic with tall spire formations and little slot canyons. The spires are a combination of silt, clay, and volcanic ash sediments from an ancient lake. Erosion from rain water and melting snow has carved through the soft material.
The park has six short trails. None of them are accessible due to soft ground. Wheelchair users can get close to the spires with a bit of help.
The visitor center was closed when we visited. We did not check out the campground.
The parking areas are large enough for RVs.
There’s a $7.00 entrance fee per vehicle. If you’re just passing through and don’t want to pay the fee stop at the overlook 3 miles north of the park for a nice view into the canyon. Room enough for RVs to park and turn around.
Park 37.80372, -114.40744
Saturday, March 26, 2016
The little high desert town of Pioche boomed when silver was discovered in 1869. The boom lasted for seven years. Another boom came with lead-zinc ore mining in the 1920s but by the 1950s the mines and mills had closed. Today the buildings on the town’s main street are mostly deserted. The museum is filled with all kinds of stuff donated by local residents but unfortunately nothing is documented. Free newspapers and other reading materials are available if you want to learn a bit of the town’s history.
The museum is not accessible due to steps.
RVs can be parked on Meadow Valley Street.
A small free campground is located on 4th Street across from the city park. Each site has water and sewer hookups but not electricity. The sites are long enough for any RV.
Museum 37.92908, -114.45224 Campground 37.93788, -114.45162
Friday, March 25, 2016
Ash and Crystal springs, located north of the refuge, form an oasis in the desert and supply the water for two small lakes, marshes, and wetlands. This is an important migration stop for waterfowl. Our visit was a little too early in the year and we saw very few birds.
A visitor center is located a few miles south of the campground. Trails circle the lake, travel through the marsh, and go to the visitor center. The visitor center has RV parking spaces.
Fourteen free campsites are strung along the shore of the upper lake. Some sites are large enough for any RV. It’s a very pretty spot but there’s a little highway noise from US 93 which parallels the campground road. US 93 is elevated above the lake and campground road so it’s not super intrusive.
Three accessible sites are located at the end of the campground road. Only one site is wheelchair accessible with a paved sidewalk that has a wide section for lift deployment and a path to an accessible table and a grill. The grill is facing in the wrong direction which would make using it awkward.
The visitor center is accessible. A short trail at the visitor center is accessible. None of the other trails are accessible but there is a very short paved trail from the accessible site that travels along the levee. We also were able to go a short distance on the emergency exit road, located directly across from the accessible site, before it became too difficult due to loose gravel.
Refuge 37.2872, -115.11871
The Alien research Center is at the southern end of Route 375 which is also designated as the Extraterrestrial Highway. The center is a gift shop with a small display of life size alien figures representing the ones who were killed when their spaceship crashed. ;-)
Another building which may actually be a research center wasn’t opened when we visited.
A slab of concrete at the center’s entrance is raised a few inches off of ground level. It should be possible to park and deploy a wheelchair lift directly onto the slab.
The parking lot is big enough for any RV.
Center 37.5329, -115.24251
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Rachel is a strange little place. It has a population of less than 100 people and is over 50 miles from the nearest gas and groceries but it attracts visitors from around the world. It was all BLM land until a federal program in the 1960s brought homesteaders. One of these was D.C. Day who amassed a large amount of land and decided to subdivide it. When Union Carbide reopened a tungsten mine in the 1970s housing was needed for the workers and the town of Rachel was born. The mine closed in 1988 and the population plummeted.
So why do people come to this little desert town? It all stems from the mysterious, top secret Area 51 just a bit southwest of the town. Area 51 is where experiment aircraft are tested. Captured Soviet planes are also tested and evaluated against US planes. But the most interest came after Bob Lazar claimed to have seen and worked on alien spaceships stored at Area 51. As more and more people came to Rachel to search the skies for flying saucers they congregated at the only place to eat and sleep in the little town, a bar, restaurant and motel which quickly changed it’s name to the Little A’Le’Inn.
The restaurant has a limited menu but the food is pretty good. The hamburgers are a bit skimpy but tasty and the french fries are perfect, hot and crispy. The motel is a group of mobile homes. There’s also a campground with water and electric but no dump station. RVs may dry camp for free in the parking lots. Free WiFi is available in the restaurant and may work in the parking lot too.
We didn’t see any flying saucers or even any low flying jets. ;-)
Littele A'Le'Inn 37.64686, -115.74613
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Laws was a railroad depot along the narrow gauge track that ran from Mound House, near Virginia City, Nevada to Keeler, California. The small town that grew around the depot went into decline when the railroad and local mines closed in the 1930s and 40s. When the museum was established in 1966 the depot, the agent’s house, the oil and water tanks and the turntable were the only things left. Additional buildings have been relocated to form a little town. Some of the buildings are furnished with period pieces and some hold collections of donated artifacts. The train cars can be entered. There’s also a collection of farming equipment and a gold mining display where volunteers start the equipment to demonstrate how it works.
Almost all of the buildings have ramps but there are some access problems such as high thresholds or steps between the rooms. Approximately 2/3 of the buildings are completely accessible. The area with the farming and mining equipment is not accessible due to loose gravel and rough terrain.
A lot across the street from the museum is large enough for any RV. Overnight parking is not permitted but you can drive up Siver Canyon Road for a couple of miles and camp on BLM land. We parked near the foothills. This area is not suitable for large RVs but we did see some RVs parked on the flat lands.
Museum 37.40045, -118.34643 Boondocking 37.40522, -118.31679
Thursday, March 17, 2016
The Owens Valley has always been sparsely populated and thanks to the city of Los Angeles it will probably stay that way. The valley was first settled by the Northern Paiute and the Shoshone tribes who built canals to irrigate their fields. By the 1860 homesteaders were raising cattle, poultry and fruit. Meanwhile a couple of Los Angeles businessmen and city employees, realizing that the city needed a good source of water if it was to continue to grow, began quietly buying up land and water rights in Owens Valley. By the time Owens Valley residents figured out what was happening it was too late.
From 1907 through 1913 a 233 mile aqueduct was built capturing the Owens River water and delivering it to reservoirs near Los Angeles. It was quite an engineering feat. The museum has several exhibits covering the construction of the aqueduct and the water wars that followed.
Other exhibits include a large collection of beautiful and intricately woven baskets. Local residents have contributed artifacts and photographs for additional exhibits. The outside display area has a group of relocated buildings (not opened) and many pieces of mining and farming equipment.
The museum is accessible but the grounds are not due to loose sand and uneven surfaces.
RVs should be parked along the street.
Museum 36.80169, -118.20387
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Imagine being notified that in a few days you must leave your home and report to a evacuation point. Imagine leaving your business, your pets, your friends, your whole life behind, taking only what you can carry, and boarding a train that stops in the middle of a barren desert with rows and rows of tar papered buildings surrounded by barb wire fences and guard towers. This is your home for an undetermined amount of time. Hard to believe that this could happen in the US.
But it did. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 paranoia from both the government and US citizens lead to the rounding up and relocation of 127,000 Japanese who lived along the west coast. 2/3 were US citizens, born in the US. The rest were immigrants barred from becoming citizens due to anti –Japanese laws. 10,000 of them ended up a Manzanar and were held in the camp for three years until the war ended.
The museum describes the whole ordeal, from the initial round up to the day that the last people left the camp, using personal stories, artifacts, photographs and news articles –very well done. Several barracks have been rebuilt and furnished. A three mile driving tour circles the perimeter of the camp. It also possible to walk the grounds.
The museum and theater are accessible. A paved path leads to the barracks. There’s also an accessible parking spot at the barracks. The two barracks buildings have ramps and are accessible. We did not realize that the mess hall was opened so we didn’t visit it. The path to the mess hall is sandy so it may be difficult to access. The mess hall building has a ramp.
The parking lot is large enough for any RVs. RVs may be driven along the tour route.
Museum 36.7283, -118.14696
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Most of the movies filmed in the Alabama Hills and at other locations around Lone Pine were made during the golden era of westerns from the 1920s to the 1950s. We didn’t recognize a lot of the actors or the movies but we still enjoyed visiting the museum. Besides 100s of original movie posters the museum features props, clothing worn by the actors and movie memorabilia.
Everything is accessible except for the small stunt man exhibit which has a step up.
The parking lot is large enough for RVs.
Museum 36.60069, -118.06135
Monday, March 14, 2016
In the 1920s Hollywood film makers discovered these beautiful and dramatic rock strewn acres on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas and featured them in 100s of films, mostly westerns. By the 1960s the popularity of cowboy movies had waned but the area is still a good backdrop for commercials and has been used in more recent movies such as Tremors, Gladiator and Star Wars.
But the best thing is this is all BLM land and therefore is open for 14 days of free camping. There are dozens of beautiful campsites with amazing scenery in all directions. You might be camping where the Lone Ranger and Silver rode but hopefully not on top of a sand worm tunnel!
Boondocking 36.60512, -118.12118