More Volunteering and a Rainy Day

The last couple of days have been much busier here at the campground.  For the first time in years on Thanksgiving weekend they are nearly booked and we have been at around 80% capacity every night leading up to the holiday.  They must have known we would be here! It doesn’t really matter how many people are here though, so much as how they sign in, from a workload perspective.   Every morning, rain or shine, I go into the ranger building and check the overnight envelopes.  If people fill them out correctly the morning rounds are easy and our first few nights here that was the case.  The last couple of days though it took a little longer.  Sometimes folks put the wrong site number down and then when I see an “open” slot with people in it I have to look at the license plates on the sheet and try to find them.  If there are no matching license plates, which is now happening 2-3 times per walk, I have to knock on the car window and wake people up.  I carry envelopes and change with me and basically stand there until they pay.  Most people are pretty gracious about it, but twice we have had people say they didn’t have the money and once two young girls swore they paid and I sent Lee back out once I double checked the drop box.  He said he would have to call the ranger and suddenly the money appeared. The mom approach didn’t work so I sent the Dad in and he has tons of experience with raising girls!! Those situations are the exception though.  Mostly these people are getting in late and don’t want to mess with the envelope. I get it, but what they don’t know is this buys them a cheery wake-up call at 7am from yours truly.

I have been really surprised by how many people are staying here with just a car.  It’s not really creepy, they are mostly 20 somethings and the hotels around here are few and far between and expensive, but there are a ton of them.  Maybe this happens everywhere and I never noticed it before or maybe it’s a California thing but it seems like a pretty unpleasant way to spend the night.  These folks are almost always the ones who don’t use the pay envelope, but thankfully not one person has been hostile during the morning wake up visit.  They generally look sheepish because they know they shouldn’t have blown it off.  In my mind we provide the most value in the morning because I am sure some of those folks would skip out without paying.  We have also been trying to be here by 4pm on the days when only one person is working because 4-5pm can be a little busy.  We have gone over a couple of times and sold some wood or answered questions when they really got backed up.  Once the regular staff leaves we flip over our sign and we are “on duty” until 8 or 9pm.  Most nights we don’t see anyone, but one particularly nice night we sold 5 bundles of wood.  That’s been the easiest part of the job since it is dark and we would be here anyway.  People seem surprisingly hesitant to bother us and I have gone so far as to put a lit tiki pot over by the sign to make sure people know we are available.

So the work itself is fine, but the general ambiguity around the position is still tough for us.  When working for Stan we only had to keep Stan happy and he was great about communicating.  Here, we are dealing with multiple people and it’s not really clear who is in charge.  The normal volunteer coordinator is taking some time off, so she handed us to the ranger John who is new at running this area so he is deferring to the support staff.  They unfortunately all have a slightly different take on things so we can sometimes get different answers to the same question.  It’s also hard to get real feedback on how good a job we are doing, because none of them feel it’s their responsibility to tell us what to do.   I am trying not to let all this  make me crazy, but I have never been great at dealing with no one being in charge.  I talked to my friend Kelly about this though and she is working the split shift at Amazon and she has to change the way she does things when the night manager comes on in the middle of her shift because he and the day manager can’t agree.  So it could be worse.   My favorite person here is Helen,  who reminds me of my grandmother.  She is no nonsense but kind and has been here for 5 years so I try to keep her happy.  And no kidding, as I was writing this paragraph Lee came in the RV and said Helen was impressed by us this morning because we had finished our rounds so early in this heavy rain.  So we must be doing something right.

The weather here has been surprisingly good.  Usually they get 50-80 inches of rain in the winter, but we have had several sunny days.  Not that you can really see it in the grove.  We have a small patch of sun in the back of the rig, but it’s pretty dark here most of the day.  The lack of sun was getting to both of us so we decided to take our first day off and go to Eureka, but it rained pretty heavily on Tuesday so I stayed and worked.  Although these volunteer jobs  usually expect 20 hours a week we tend to work whatever makes sense.  You can ask for and receive specific days off, but the staff are not really fans of that in both places we have been and prefer you just let them know when you won’t be available and ask that you try to schedule the time when they aren’t busy.  The way we think about it, it’s a good gig and we are not going to get super picky about the hours but many people feel differently and like a set schedule.  I don’t recommend that, however, as several people have shared their feelings with us about volunteers who are “rigid” and it is generally not well received.  That doesn’t mean you need to feel taken advantage of, though.  If we give more hours or days than expected, I take the time when the weather is right or we have something planned.  We just try to schedule those activities when special events are not happening.  For example we volunteered to work thanksgiving since almost everyone else is off.  I have had jobs where I worked holidays before and since we don’t have anything special planned with friends or family, why not?  Provide a little extra value here and there and it is much appreciated.

Even on duty days there is still time to pop out and see things.  I really like the visitors center next door (one of the nicest ones I have seen) and we went to Big Tree Grove and saw the Tall Tree.  We also drove down to the horse campground, which is closed now, and picked some apples.  Lee’s philosophy, which I am adopting, comes straight from All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.   You work a little and play a little every day.  It’s a pretty good philosophy.  So really overall it’s a pretty good gig.  There is absolutely no antenna TV so missing my football some and the ATT signal is on the low side, but we definitely would have never been able to stay here without this gig.  We found out that they only like to have 30 foot or less RV’s.  Some of the sites are plenty big enough, but they worry about the road getting to them.  Experienced drivers would have no issue, but they strongly discourage the larger rigs.  Even the horse camp, which has tons of space, is on a road that is very narrow and not recommended for large RV’s,so you can’t get to it.   There are some private RV parks in the area though that a big rig will fit, but it’s a shame when most full timers can’t fit in a place.  In this case, though, the only way to make the road bigger would be to cut down trees and I can totally see why they would not want to do that.   

View of the visitors center from the back of our site

View of the visitors center from the back of our site

 

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Great display of local animal

Great display of local animal

Redwood RV!!

Redwood RV!!

Had a bed and everything

Had a bed and everything

The drivers seat...loved the bear

The drivers seat…loved the bear

Even had windows!!

Even had windows!!

 

Tall Tree Stats

Tall Tree Stats

Big Tree Grove , the tall tree

The Top of the tall tree is above. The pic below is the bottom

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Big Tree Grove

 

The horse campground

The horse campground

 

Tons of Deer because of the apple trees

Tons of Deer because of the apple trees’

They let Lee get pretty close

They let Lee get pretty close

Lee picking me apples

Lee picking me apples

Recipes

Crazy Marinated Pork Chops 

This recipe has an unusual combination of ingredients, but totally yummy flavor.  I am not a huge fan of pork chops, but loved this and Lee who really likes pork chops loved it as well.  You do have to marinade overnight though to get the full effect which requires some pre-planning. 

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 TBL Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBL lemon juice
  • 1 TBL prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops
  1. Combine all ingredients except pork and blend well
  2. Place pork in large Ziploc bag, add marinade, shake to mix well in place in refrigerator overnight
  3. Drain and discard marinade
  4. Grill covered over medium heat 4 minutes per side
  5. Y101Let meat stand for 5 minutes before serving——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

 

First Time in the Redwood Groves

All throughout Humboldt State Park there are groves that were bought and protected by different groups.  It is a testament to how much of a difference a small group can make if properly motivated.  The signage on the groves is not the greatest, so I definitely recommend stopping at the visitors center and getting a map, and each one requires a walk into the woods to get to.  The first one we looked at was sponsored by the Women’s Federation League.  These are very magical places and walking through them was a very spiritual experience for me.  This particular grove is a Day Use area in season, but the gate was closed in November.  No problem, we simply parked the truck (being careful not to block the entrance) and walked through.  The pavement was in excellent condition and we had the entire place to ourselves.  At the end there is a beautiful hearth which was designed by on of the few female architects in the 1950’s.  The hearth has four fireplaces with the most beautiful inscriptions in the stone above.  There is also a very nice picnic area and seating by the river. The walk was very pleasant and totally accessible to anyone.

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The hearth

The hearth

Loved the fireplaces

Loved the fireplaces

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Even the water fountain had an inscription

Even the water fountain had an inscription

This burl on a tree reminded me of a jaguar face

This burl on a tree reminded me of a jaguar face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also along the Avenue of the Giants there are some places to stop where large trees have fallen.  The size of these fallen trees is so huge it is hard to believe which is why all the pictures have a person inside to give you some scale.

This tree was as large as a cave

This tree was as large as a cave

I am near the back and at 5'4" can still stand upright

I am near the back and at 5’4″ can still stand upright

On another day we went to Founders Grove which was absolutely amazing.  It is a half-mile stroll along a flat wide path and there are the most amazing trees there.  They have gone to great trouble in this grove to let nature take its course and some of the best parts are the huge trees that have fallen.  They also have the absolutely best pamphlet (50 cent donation requested or return after use) that I personally have ever seen that gives information about what you are seeing.  If you visit here and do nothing else, see Founders Grove.  It was really amazing.

Stats for the Founders tree

Stats for the Founders tree

No way to get a complete shot of this . Hopefully it gives you an idea though

No way to get a complete shot of Founders Tree . Hopefully it gives you an idea though

Lee loves the walk in trees and there are several of these

Lee loves the walk in trees and there are several of these

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It's amazing that these can have such large holes in them and still be alive

It’s amazing that these can have such large holes in them and still be alive

Beautiful walk through the path

Beautiful walk through the path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trees are so tall they have three different climates and the needles at the top are different than the bottom because the air is much dryer

The trees are so tall they have three different climates and the needles at the top are different from the bottom because the air is much drier.  There are plants an animal that spend their entire life in the canopy in particular the Marbeled Murrelet bird which flies to the ocean during the day and nests in the trees at night.  The only downside is because they are protected no drones are allowed anywhere in the Redwood Forest by state law.  Lee was really bummed when he discovered this was a drone free area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the trees fall over 4000 species can live on or near a downed log. that is why they let them fall and then decay naturally

When the trees fall over 4000 species can live on or near a downed log. that is why they let them fall and then decay naturally.  the younger trees nearby are  dormant until a big tree falls and then they get their chance to grow in the sun.  The process is called plant succession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991. It was 362 feet tall, weighed about a million pounds, and is comparable to a 30 story building

This is the Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991. It was 362 feet tall, weighed about a million pounds, and is comparable to a 30 story building

I tried to take a picture from the end, see if you can see Lee way down at the other end. when this fell the noise could be heard a mile away and it fell because one tree knocked another which knocked it over.

I tried to take a picture from the end, see if you can see Lee way down at the other end. when this fell the noise could be heard a mile away and it fell because one tree knocked another which knocked it over.

Some of the pictures have burl sprouts growing on them. A seed can germinat in one of these sprouts and if the tree falls can use the mature root system of th tree for nutrients and stability

Some of the pictures have burl sprouts growing on them. A seed can germinate in one of these sprouts and if the tree falls can use the mature root system of th tree for nutrients and stability

Sometimes a burl forms at the base and so many sprouts occur that a "fairy ring" is created

Sometimes a burl forms at the base and so many sprouts occur that a “fairy ring” is created

 

 

In addition to the groves there are a few places sprinkled throughout where for a few dollars you can see a tree tourist attraction.  These sites are old and pretty cheesy but for a few dollars we just had to try them out.  The first advertised itself as “the famous drive through tree” and although this isn’t the same drive through tree you see in all the pictures it was still pretty cool.  The truck could make it through so we parked outside and walked in, but luckily I caught a car driving through so I could get some pictures.  This attraction also had a couple of redwood tree playhouses, which Lee and I went into.  One even had a tight set of stairs and a second floor, which was very fun. Again super cheesy, but for $6 total we had fun with it.

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The tree was kept in place by numerous iron cables

The tree was kept in place by numerous iron cables

The view up from inside

The view up from inside

 

Another view

Another view

I thought this burl looked like a reclining angel

I thought this burl looked like a reclining angel

 

Really cute tree houses

Really cute tree houses

This one has two stories inside

This one has two stories inside

Lee climbing up

Lee climbing up

My face in the window

My face in the window

 

We also stopped at the Immortal Tree which was free to view and next to an amazing wood shop called Burl N Drift.  I liked the tree because it shows clearly how the tree survived the woodsman’s axe, fire, and the 1964 flood.  Many of the trees have fire damage but continue to live and in 1964 there was a huge flood in this area and you can see water marks on many of the trees.  The flood waters were at least 20 feet high in some areas, which is amazing when you look at the Eel River now, which because of the drought is barely a trickle.  Anyways, I loved the gift shop, really unique redwood products made right there (which I wanted but the budget didn’t allow for) and I got a great T-Shirt for only $13.95.  They also had some leftover pieces of wood for a few dollars and I picked a great one for $2.

The stats on the Immortal Tree

The stats on the Immortal Tree

Lee in front twith the Axe showing where the tried to cut it and could not and the fish shows the water line in 1964

Lee in front with the Axe showing where the tried to cut it and could not and the fish shows the water line in 1964

Beautiful Burl sculpture outside the shop

Beautiful Burl sculpture outside the shop

Inside the shop

Inside the shop

 

These bowls were amazing but out of my price range

These bowls were amazing but out of my price range

My very cool piece of wood

My very cool piece of wood

 

And along the route there are breaks in the trees with some places you can see the surrounding hills.  It’s been a great couple of days and more to come.  Are you tired of tree pictures yet 🙂 Oh and after numerous tries I found a really good recipe for flank steak (often on sale for $2.99 a pound) which I have listed below.

The Eel River

The Eel River

This is also the Eel river and all this dirt is usually water

This is also the Eel river and all this dirt is usually water

Recipes

Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak 

  • 1-1/4 lb flank steak
  • 1 TBL finely ground coffee
  • 1 TBL light brown sugar, packed
  • 1-1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients (except state) in a small bowl and blend well
  2. Rub coffee and spice mixture onto one side shaking off excess when complete, turn over and repeat
  3. Preheat gas grill to high, oil grill grates
  4. Cook for 3-1/2 minutes then turn over and cook for another 3-1/2 minutes
  5. Let steak REST for 5 full minutes before slicing
  6. Cut in thin strips at a diagonal

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First Time Volunteering in a State Park

There are some differences between volunteering on BLM land and in a state park, but although I know my sample size is small with only 2 work kamping jobs, there are definitely patterns emerging.  I know folks are curious about what an average day looks like (I certainly was) and now that we are settled I will walk you through our day, but please keep in mind that every one of these jobs is different and to some extent what you make of it.  Because you are volunteering for the site, most people are hesitant about asking a lot of you.  Plus I don’t know what type of people they have been getting, but more than once Lee and I had been described as “mellow people”, which if you have met us will crack you up.  It’s not so much that we are mellow as professional and I have to wonder who they are comparing us to.  We are polite and friendly to customers and full time staff alike, always keeping in mind that we are visitors, but they have to live here.  It’s a pretty simple formula really.

So, details about this job.  We found it on the State of California volunteers webpage.  There were tons of opportunities out there, although the website can be outdated a bit so it took some legwork on Lee’s part.  First, he emailed all the ones we were interested then and it took weeks in some cases to hear back.  Then we had to get a background check (cost to us: $10 each) and fingerprinted, and send 20+ pages of application to the state.  California may be worse than others on the paperwork, but again this all took some time so some pre-planning is called for. Also, the back and forth communication was a bit vague.  Despite all of the pages of paperwork, we walked into this not knowing exactly what we were going to be doing.  That was partly our fault because we didn’t ask the right questions, but the communication was not great.  Once we go here, the people have been very friendly.  Keep in mind they don’t know what they are getting into either and there is a bit of a period where everyone is checking each other out.  Once they figure out that you’re going to help, and not make their lives more difficult,  things go much smoother.

We have been told at both jobs that “we want you to have a good time and explore the area” and the schedules allow for this.  This camp host job has us checking the overnight box in the morning for people who came in late and paid.  I then take the information and write it on a clipboard.  While I am doing this Lee puts the flags up (weather permitting) which he really likes to do.  Brings back his ROTC days.   Once he’s done,  we walk the campground loop making sure no one slipped in without paying, and everyone is in the site they stated on the paperwork.  It’s dark at night and sometimes people move around, which is fine, we just need to change the sheet.  If there are any reservations for the upcoming day, we put a little sign out so people know those sites are not available.  The “worst” of it is that if anyone did not pay, we am supposed to wake them up and have them pay.  Apparently this is pot harvesting season (yeah, who knew?) and lots of folks with tons of cash are traveling through.  But according to the staff they don’t want to pay.  Now, this is where it gets interesting.  We can’t make anyone do anything and the amount of pressure we apply is totally up to me.   So I feel about this the way I felt about people smoking pot in the BLM day use area in Susanville.  I am just not getting into all that.  Ask people politely once to do the right thing and if they refuse, document it and move on.  First of all, I think the state of California can afford the $35 if someone refuses to pay, and secondly we don’t escalate with people.  Lee taught me that.  It never leads anywhere good and that’s where being a volunteer comes in handy.  Since I am not getting paid, it’s ultimately not my responsibility.  When I explain my philosophy the full time employees and rangers seem relieved.  We are not trained to deal with these situations and they would much rather we left it to them.

Oh, one more thing.  There always seem to be some locals that you need to be a little wary of.  Either they are big shots in the community or activists who like to push the envelope.  In both places we have been we have been given detailed descriptions of folks we needed to “be careful with.”  I get it.  We lived in a small town and some people like to throw their weight around, but thus far our professional and courteous stance works just fine for those folks too.  Actually Lee is awesome at dealing with those people.  All those years of running the local public access station in the small town of Keene have made him eminently qualified for dealing with these situations.  I, coming from a corporate environment, had more trouble with it at first, but there are always people in every corporation who have power beyond their title and require special handling.  I just put these folks in the same category.  And thankfully I have had minimal dealings with the “crazies.”  My general stance in life with folks living on the fringe is to speak softly and respectfully and give them as wide a berth as possible. The first morning we didn’t have any walk-ins who didn’t pay, but the second morning we had three cars on two sites that hadn’t filled out the little envelope and put money in it and dropped it in the iron ranger. It is a little unsettling to knock on a car window at 7am, but my experience as a mother getting children out of bed to go to school definitely comes in handy here!  It’s all about unrelenting cheerfulness, which is particularly obnoxious at 7am. Hey, if they don’t pay the fee, fine, they are going to be inconvenienced.  I was definitely glad Lee was with me on these wake ups as he just stood there and looked official and I gently got people to pay.  The first car was full of 20 somethings from France and I told them how sorry I was about what happened in their country.  They paid, but needed some help with the paperwork which I gladly did.  The second car only had 30 dollars and I am pretty sure the name “Jones” was a fake one, but I took their money cheerfully and said “OK” when they said they would return with the other five.  I resisted the urge to tell them to make sure they left their campsite clean, again, years of experience with kids and mornings, and we went on our way.  It was kind of fun actually, except for that initial contact, and definitely woke me up for the morning.

Regular staff is here every day from 10-6 so we have the day to ourselves to work from the rig or explore.  We try to be back by 4pm  to help with the walk ins and we are then “On Duty” until we go to bed.  They have an Iron Ranger station (drop box with envelopes where people register) so we are available to answer questions and sell firewood or make change for people.  Two days in we have had no one see us at night, but we will see how the weekend goes.  We do have two days off, not sure when those are yet, but the expectation is 20-25 hours per couple.  Mainly though we are here as a presence.  As Ranger Thomas stated, folks might rethink mischief if they know there is a Camp Host on duty.  And again, since this is off season, so far we are only getting 5-6 campers per night. Oh and no restroom cleaning here.  They have a maintenance staff that cleans the restrooms and showers and empties trash, so that’s cool.

So after hearing all that you might be thinking, “Well, why bother?”.  You might have income coming in, and you don’t need to supplement your income.  Well, it turns out there are numerous perks that might make it worth your while, the financial benefit aside.  Some of these we have experienced, and please don’t expect these because I am sure they won’t be everywhere, are:

  1.  An “All Access Pass” – We get keys,  and so far, in both of the places we’ve been, the keys have allowed us access to areas where the general public can’t go.  This allows us to drive our truck on roads less traveled and really absorb an area.
  2. Having the place all to yourself – We love the shoulder season.  Yes, the weather isn’t optimal, but the places are largely deserted which lessens the work load and gives you tons of opportunities to be the only people experiencing a place.  Totally worth the trade off in our mind.
  3. Getting a full hookup site in a place you couldn’t normally stay – This is a big one.  This campground for example has only one site we could squeeze into and at $35 a night for no services at all  it is unlikely we would have ever stayed here. Thus far our two sites have been big with great views and the water, electric, etc have all worked great.
  4. Getting to really know people in the area – Folks have gone out of their way to get to know us and spent time educating us about the area.  They want you to like it, because they want you to come back. The free education has been wonderful, plus when people are super passionate about where they work, it’s infectious.   Really enhances the experience.
  5. Access to extra services – Here they have a full kitchen, small library full of books about the area, free wi-fi, a giant maintenance area with tons of tools that we can borrow, a woodworking shop, and one of our favorites: free firewood.  Since these jobs don’t pay they often offer extra little perks to sweeten the deal, because again, they would like for you to come back.  And why not?  Repeat volunteers make their life easier, plus give them some continuity of volunteer staff.
  6. Being part of a community – Part of how we travel is to go to an area and learn how the people live.  This is much easier when volunteering because people go to a lot of trouble to introduce you to the locals, give insights on the best businesses in the area, and basically make you feel more like part of the community.  You can pass through an area and see it, but our goal is to experience it which is different.  Experiencing an area involves getting to know the people a little bit as well. So volunteering is a short cut to meeting people.
  7. Giving a little back – Even though we are getting something for volunteering, we are giving something back to our wonderful parks system.  Volunteering was something I rarely had time for when I was working, going to school, and raising kids and it’s a nice feeling to contribute, even in a small way.  Being thanked by people for picking up trash or giving information goes a long way towards making it feel less like a chore and more like something of value.

So that’s my summary thus far.  Again, it’s a small sample size but I feel pretty confident about what I am seeing.  I’ve shared some pictures from our tour below.

forgot to share a picture of this delicious chinese buffet we ate at. first decent Chinese food in a year and the sushi boats were awesome

Forgot to share a picture of this delicious Chinese buffet we ate at our first night in.  First decent Chinese food in a year and the sushi boats were awesome and only $12.99 for dinner

Me and Ranger Tom in front of a Burl that was stolen and recovered. These are used to make clocks and the street value is $1K the retail is $5K. The rangers protect the forests from people poaching them

Me and Ranger Tom in front of a Burl that was stolen and recovered. These are used to make clocks and the street value is $1K the retail is $5K. The rangers protect the forests from people poaching them

Lee admiring the crazy big chain saws

Lee admiring the crazy big chain saws

There are lots of these little houses that summer workers stay in

There are lots of these little houses that summer workers stay in

This tree was at the visitors center with tags on what was happening at the different rings

This tree was at the visitors center with tags on what was happening at the different rings

The center was 912 AD so I had to touch it. Crazy old

The center was 912 AD so I had to touch it. Crazy old

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Here's our site

Here’s our site

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First Time in the Redwoods

It’s been a very busy week and sorry I didn’t write sooner, but I think you will see why once you read this.  Wednesday we started to button things up in preparation for leaving, but Lee made time to  watch the Veteran’s Day parade downtown.  It was a small town parade, but Lee enjoyed it and afterwards he ran several errands.

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I stayed back at Hobo Camp and did one more big clean prior to leaving.  Emptied all the trash, ultra filled the toilet paper, and scrubbed things down one last time, basically left it as I would want to find it.  Once we leave Hobo Camp they don’t open the gate at the road again until spring, but folks still walk and horseback or bike ride into the park and the restrooms do get used on occasion.  It was a very nice day, so I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and get it done.  Thursday was our day to pick up the truck and it wasn’t done until 4:30.  We decided to go ahead and keep the rental until the following morning which was a good call because Lee heard a knocking noise in the engine after just a few miles, and the check engine light came on.  We decided to take the truck back in the morning and although we were very anxious about it, there was really nothing we could do.  Plus, Stan was having us to his house for a goodbye dinner so we did the best we could to put it out of our minds.  I hadn’t met Stan’s wife Beverly yet and was looking forward to it, but we were surprised by the number of cars at the house when we pulled up.  Stan had invited some of the young people who work at the BLM, and what a great evening we had.  It is really great talking to people who are passionate about what they do and they were all really interesting.  Plus we had some songs (about trains!) and the food was really great.  It was so sweet when Stan stood up and gave a little speech about the work we had done and then gave us a picture of ourselves in a frame.  It really meant a lot to both of us, and was a wonderful way to cap off our time at Hobo Camp.  Plus one of our readers has signed up to camp host there next fall, so it’s great that Stan will have another nice couple next year!! He was very excited about it.

Listening to Folsom Prison Blues

Listening to Folsom Prison Blues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really nice group of people

Really nice group of people

Stan telling a story!!

Stan telling a story about Lee!

 

 

Out framed picture...so sweet

Our framed appreciation picture…so sweet

Friday Lee got up first thing and was at the dealer when it opened.  Now we were feeling the pressure because the weather was forecasting 2-4 inches of snow on Sunday and we really wanted to leave on Saturday before the snow, to drive through the mountains.  We had no idea though what would happen with the truck and again just took some deep breaths and thought good things.  At noon Lee drove back and the tech had found the problem.  One of the fuel injectors had been mis-programmed and was causing the engine to miss. This would have caused fuel economy problems, a loss of power,  and noises so it was a good thing Lee had them look at it and didn’t just ignore it in a hurry to get out of town.  John the technician (who has been terrific through the whole process) was very apologetic and Lee drove the truck back so we could take our test drive.  We knew we needed to drive at least 200 miles before towing (learned that from when Howard and Linda had their engine replaced) so decided to drive to Reno for dinner and a movie.  We saw Spectre which was incredibly disappointing.  Lee is a huge James Bond fan and has been waiting for this movie for months and it was really awful.  But then we went to Red Lobster (where we had our first real date) and managed to eat dinner for under $40.  Lee got the 4 course meal for $17.99 and I ate the add-on crab legs and his soup.  Plus we got waters and I used my packet lemonade and we had an appetizer.  Their prices have really gone up and I was thrilled at the $39 check before tip.  The good news was the truck ran very well and although we still were a little concerned about towing through the mountains with a brand new engine we both felt a lot better.  By the way the total bill on this was $16K with our part being the $1K deductible.  So please, please put your finger on the word diesel before pumping fuel, assuming you have a diesel vehicle!

Saturday morning we were up and moving by 7:30 because we needed to go to the tire place.  We have not been able to get new G rated tires because of our schedule and Lee was determined that we weren’t leaving without them.  So he ordered them from SimpleTire.com, and had them delivered to a UPS store and they were sitting in the rental car. The day before we had dropped the tires off right before returning the rental and since it was first come first serve at the tire place we wanted to be first in line.  Thankfully we were and they jumped right on it.  I do want to mention that when they were done the manager came out and checked it and two tires were under torqued and the pressure was low on all of them.  So if you get a tire replaced double check the work and ask for a supervisor to check.  That could have been very bad if a tire would have come off.  But Lee was on it and again we felt relief at having finally taken care of that problem.

Getting the tire fixed

Getting the tire fixed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Done!!

All Done!!

Immediately after the tires were done we were off.  Lee had done extensive research on the best route to the Redwoods and unfortunately both roads going over the mountains were on the scary side.  So we decided to go all the way south of the mountains and then back up on the other side, and take two days instead of doing it one. The drive down was good, with some icy roads in the beginning but mostly it was an easy drive.  There aren’t many places to stay near San Francisco, where Nick lives, unfortunately, so I ended up picking a KOA in Petaluma.  Wow. I had forgotten how crowded those could be.  The place was packed, the sites super tight, and the price was the most we have ever spent ($58 for one night water and electric only).  They did have some nice features for kids such as a petting zoo and a huge bouncy bag, but for us it was not where we would choose to stay.  We were also pretty disappointed that the camp itself wasn’t clean when we pulled in (beer caps in the fire pit, ad cigarette butts and small litter everywhere on the site).  For that kind of money the place should have been spotless.  Then when we called Nick he was still two hours away and could only meet us halfway in the city.  I didn’t have it in me to handle San Francisco on a Saturday night so we took a rain check and went to bed early.

The next morning we were up and out early and looking for a Walmart.  We wanted to stock up on food prior to hitting the Redwoods and Lee had found a Walmart neighborhood market close by. I hadn’t seen one of these since Florida and was excited to go there but the parking lot was very tight so we headed about an hour up the road and went to a “Super Center” in Ukiah.  It was not a huge Walmart but had a decent selection and some really good deals on meat so we filled the freezer and cabinets and walked out $300 poorer.  Since we got killed in Glacier going to the local stores I wanted to buy a months worth of everything I could, but we will see how this impacts the budget overall.  I am hoping I can get away until the end of the month with minimal trips to the grocery store.  Since we were only a couple hours away from the campground we just put away the freezer and fridge items and left everything else out.  In retrospect I don’t think I would do that again, however, because it really made my setup time longer especially because I had to rearrange most of the cabinets to get everything put away.

Also up until that point the scenery wasn’t that great.  I had a mental image of the Napa/Sonoma area but the parts we were seeing along 101 looked more like Central Florida.  Suddenly though, around Geyserville the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.  So many vines it boggled the mind and the rolling  hills were beautiful in the background.  Unfortunately I don’t have pictures because there were not many places to pull over and it started to rain but the views were amazing. As we got closer to the Redwoods the terrain became more hilly.  Lee called the road “relentless” as it was very twisty and turny.  There were two 6% grades and a 7% which I am happy to say the truck handled beautifully.  Lee was a bit stressed though, new engine, new tires, challenging road, but overall he did great.  Finally we left 101 and drove on the Avenue of the Giants.  We are staying at Burlington Campground at Humboldt State Park and it is very close to many of the important groves like the Founders Grove.  We didn’t really know what to expect, but aahhh the trees!

When I was a little girl my mother scraped together money to buy me the World Book Encyclopedia set which came with a set of Child Craft books.  I was an only child until I was 12 and we moved around a lot so I spent a lot of time with my nose in a book.  I loved that Child Craft set (still have them, couldn’t give them up in the purge) and each book was on a different subject.  One was on Plants and Trees and I loved the pictures of the big redwoods.  So as we were driving down the Avenue of the Giants I flashed back to those pictures and how much I wanted to see the trees as a young girl.  Here I was 40 years later making that dream come true.  And the trees do not disappoint.  They are so big, that it’s hard to capture them in a picture, although I have tried and when you touch them they feel soft and almost spongy.  Some of them are more than 2,000 years old and they are only still here today because a dedicated group of people in 1913 rallied people to protect certain spots against the loggers.  Rockefeller donated $2M during the depression to protect a group of trees and other groups paid money to protect a grove. So it was with wide eyes and an open heart when we pulled into our campground, but my bubble was burst a little when no one there was expecting us.  We had spoken to John the Ranger who said it was fine if we came in early to avoid the snowstorm, but he was off until Wednesday and hadn’t told anyone we were coming.   Because we are 40 feet they were concerned that we wouldn’t fit in any other site and the current hosts were not leaving until the next day.  After the volunteer coordinator called around and tried to find us a spot, we finally took a piece of road in a closed section of the campground and boondocked for the night.  It actually worked out ok, we just used the generator and some solar and it was very easy to back into our camphost site the next day once Shane and his husband left.

Shane was great.  He spent a chunk of the morning walking us through everything we had to do and was very organized.  I am so grateful to him, because without him we would have been a bit lost.  It’s not that uncommon when volunteeering at a State campground for responsibilities to be a bit vague.  Since the rangers seemed pleased by what Shane had done, we decided we would follow his lead and were lucky enough that he was generous with his time. He and his husband volunteer frequently at State Parks and say the disorganization is pretty common.  His advice was to stay busy and people would be happy.  There are ranger staff at the kiosk from 8-4 every day so we just handle helping people after hours and in the morning.  This will leave us during the day to explore the area and he also gave us all the cool places to see.  He loved it here and would have stayed if they needed him, and I felt much better Monday morning about the situation.  Plus I took a walk around the campground and, oh my.  The whole front section that we are in is closed and there is hardly anyone in the back.  So beautiful and since it is off season all ours!!  Plus we have keys that work on all the gates throughout the entire park so we can take our truck anywhere, even areas that are closed for the season.  Super excited and can’t wait to get settled and start exploring.  Will let you know how everything goes.  Oh and I hope you like pictures of trees because you are going to be seeing plenty of them 🙂

View from our camper

View from our camper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To give you some scope of the size check out our truck next to that stump

To give you some scope of the size check out our truck next to that stump that’s behind those three “baby” trees.

the canopy is beautiful . I am going to get a crick in my neck :)

the canopy is beautiful . I am going to get a crick in my neck 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right across the street from us

Right across the street from us

 

The Ranger Station we work in

The Ranger Station we work in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So so pretty

So so pretty

I love the stumps. this one was over 10 feet tall

I love the stumps. this one was over 10 feet tall

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was my favorite. Had so many burrels it is like a living sculpture

This was my favorite. Had so many burrels it is like a living sculpture

Huge living tree you can walk inside

Huge living tree you can walk inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from inside so cool

The view from inside so cool

This was at least 20 feet tall and you can walk inside it also

This was at least 20 feet tall and you can walk inside it also

Nice campsite!!

Nice campsite!!

 

Here's are sign!!

Here’s our sign!!

 

Y049

Lessons Learned

  • Put you finger on the word diesel before pumping fuel or you could lose your engine
  • Get higher rated tires.
  • When getting tires replaced on your rig ask the supervisor to come check the work and double check the pressure and torque yourself!!
  • Some things in life live up to their press

Campground Review  

Petaluma KOA 20 Rainsville Rd 2 out of 5 pine cones

The sites are super tight and only one vehicle could fit.  We have a forty foot trailer and it was close that we weren’t in the road.  Very expensive at $58  water and electric only.  $75 for full hookups pull through.    They did have some nice features for kids such as a petting zoo and a huge bouncy bag, along with a pool and they certainly make the most out of the little space they have.    We were also pretty disappointed that the camp itself wasn’t clean when we pulled in (beer caps in the fire pit).  For that kind of money the place should have been spotless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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