Thursday, July 13, 2017

Doubling back a bit.....

We lifted off at Llano Grande on March  25th, headed to an overnight in San Antonio with Tim and Jane and their own special form of hospitality.  Besides, we needed to see them before heading north for the next 9 months.  We caught dinner at our fav. San Antonio Italian restaurant.
 and off to bed in preparation for a very early liftoff.  Normally we get up and get going as it suits us, but in this case, with reservations at Hueco Tanks State Park 
near El Paso ( a full 9 hour drive), sleeping in was not an option.  At 4 AM we rose and hit the pavement, making it to El Paso in record time.  We decided to blow right past Hueco (it was only a $16 reservation) and settled that 1st night out at Rockhound State Park 

 by catching the last open campsite. It was a nice place.

Here is a good place to mention how nice the Texas roadside bathrooms are
Not only are the murals interesting and fun, the bathrooms are clean....way to go Texas!


An evening walk and it was CRASH and burn time.

Another early day with Cave Creek, Scottsdale, AZ and dinner with Don and Lisa in our crosshairs.  Dinner with our besties, in their new home, would be a special event whenever it occurred, but this day the anticipation was elevated by knowing their oldest daughter Kristen, her husband Jordan, daughter Peyton and son Logan (whom we had yet to meet) would be there as well:-)

Nice campsite, too bad we couldn't stay longer
The springtime bloom was in full swing!

Dinner was scheduled for 6 PM, so another early start would be wise.  Arriving late afternoon, we had time to settle in at Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, AZ before climbing back into the (now unhitched) truck to make the 30 minute drive to Whetstone's West.

Bill and Don

Tessa was definitely jealous of Logan

Peyton, one of my fav people
Some Mexican food and a lot of camaraderie was shared before we stole off into the night, heading home to get ready for the REALLY busy (but no less special) day that was to follow.You see, Phoenix, and its environs, is host many of our family and friends as full-time residents.  Some of whom we have not seen for a very long time.  This is why, the next day was looking like a whirlwind of activity, what with us pulling the 5th wheel (just adds an extra interesting dimension), having lunch with our old friend Pat (who's husband Dick had been Bill's bean counter and friend for many years).  It was at Pat and Dick's cabin in monotonous, WI that I fell in love with the north woods in winter!  And Summer, spring and fall, which was the right time to hit the blueberry bog and fell some trees.
James (20 years ago) and Brett
The day also held plans for dinner with Bill's "Phoenix" cousins,Nancy, Judy and Teddi (whom Bill had not

seen in 40 years.

Seeing these old friends and family is always a special treat and worth every bit of effort.

After eating and socializing the way thru our day, we headed toward Salome, AZ  where we would overnight overnight with Debi and Molly, Dick Borden's family.
Debi and I checking out Dick's memoriam

After an overnight, we went out to breakfast/brunch with Debi and a visit to Dick's brick at the 

airpark where they live(d)and we were off, 

heading to our fav. California campground at Joshua Tree.

Black Rock CG in January

As this was just a short jaunt (5 hours), we arrived in time to squeeze in a dinner with our FAV Joshua Tree friends Connie and Jerry

Dinner with Connie and Jerry

Staying at Black Rock CG as a visitor is quite different than staying as the Camp Host (which we have now been, twice), but still quite enjoyable   We had planned to stay 2 nights that we might see other friends, Ranger Janice 

Ranger Janice with "Ranger Doug"

 Kathy and George

And Harvey.  

BUT, events at Yosemite were evolving and I realized it would benefit us is we arrived a bit early.  NOW, talk  about the need to hit the road early?  Yikes!  Pulling our home, which adds maybe 25 % more time to each trip, made it look like it should be about 9 hours.  Not wanting to arrive after dark, we pulled out of J. Tree about 8 am and headed north.  Driving Southern California to Northern California was a visual treat all by itself.  

The Golden Poppy (The CA State Flower) was in full bloom,

 making the otherwise long drive less monotonous.


Further north yet, the highway was lined for miles 

and miles with vineyards and citrus groves.
And then we saw it!  The mothership of all Halo lovers!This is how simple our life is....we get excited by such things!  Yep, it was a pretty fun drive!  As we rolled on northbound,  began to drift in and out of sleep.  The effects of 3 early days catching up with me.  Later in the drive the naps became a required defense mechanism:  flat lands, stretching forever, became rolling hills, became steep switchbacks and narrow lanes on the edge of oblivion.It was out of one of those naps I was just registering consciousness when I saw a sign that said "10'8" at curb".  My curiosity aroused me fully and I said "what does that mean?".  Just as those words were out of my mouth we rounded a curve, and the answer was revealed:  

  We were heading straight into this, which seemed an impossibly low clearance for our RV with the rooftop AC and vent's.  The sign  was saying 1 thing, but what it meant was "hey you, the ones with the 12'6" high RV, you better center line it!" (and pray for the best)  Not to even mention hoping no one would be coming from the other direction.  No one was, and make it we did, with only an upset stomach to show for it.

Prior to this above mentioned nighttime adventure, we made a stop about dusk in Oakhurst, CA.  Notable to us as the home of New Community United Methodist Church, pastored by my childhood friend, 

Gayle Basten.  

 One of the (then 4) 5 Basten sisters who were mine and my  sister's best buddies when we were leading an idyllic childhood in Wildwood, IL.  
The house I grew up in, Wildwood, IL
With only 29 miles to go to reach the Yosemite Valley at 8pm, I figured it would be a piece of cake!  Right?  Well, not so much....those final 29 miles from Oakhurst to Yosemite were a real nail biter for 2 reasons:A:  like I said, it was dusk when we pulled out of Oakhurst andB:  those 29 miles were carved out of mountainous terrain.  For example....the next day when Bill said something about "the boulder in the switchback which had caused me to apply the brakes HARD and veer dramatically" I had to dig further.  As I had been napping (thank you Lord!) I had not been privy to this action, but when I heard about it from Tessa the next day, I knew there was a good reason God had allowed me to sleep so much of the way.  Tessa was the one who threw Bill under the bus:-)  And then he had to confess:-)We arrived safely at 9:30 pm, met by our fearless leader Larry and his wife Mary who guided us into our space with a little 2 person can can dance.  Looks like we're going to have fun here!We hit the ground running the next morning with Mary providing a guided tour of Yosemite (our 1st time here) while Bill and I, heads hanging out the window, eyes as big as saucers, rubbernecking dangerously and our jaws at risk of hitting the pavement.  All over this lovely land, called the U.S.A. , and we have never seen anything like this.  I had to agree with some campground visitors, who have been coming to Yosemite for many many years....." if I had to describe Heaven, I would describe Yosemite National Park".  I couldn't agree with her more, and we've only been here a half day.

In camp for 1 day
, less tour time, and it was time to explore our new home for the next 6 months.  The 1st thing I noticed was our view of Half Dome:  

Over time we would get to know the many "moods"

of the monolith known as "Half Dome".  #2: Tenaya Creek (named after a Yosemite Indian Chief- Tenaiya) a tributary of the Merced River, runs along the north side of the North Pines Campground (where we live).  The creek can seem so placid at the surface

 but watch a tree branch fall onto it's glassy surface
and you will quickly understand why so many water related deaths occur at Yosemite every year.  #3:  when was the last time you saw one of these????...and they work! 

  Settle into our campsite we do, making fast friends amongst our fellow retired Law Enforcement Officers:

Jean and I at her campfire next door to us, clicked right away.  She's a retired LE, AND, we share a birthday!

With the best campsite ever! it did not take us long to get comfy.  But, soon it was time to learn the job.  And our training began in earnest.  When you think "training", I am sure many of you will immediately think of us sitting in a classroom somewhere, with some dry guy at the podium flipping thru a Powerpoint presentation.  That would not have been unexpected by yours truly, except that Alan was giving this particular seminar on PSAR (Preventive Search and Rescue) and this is where the classroom was

Our motley crew: L to R= Stephen (intern) me, Larry (boss), Mary, Alan (teacher) Steve, Jean, Theo and Ed

right on the exquisite approach to Lower Yosemite Falls

and we were all acting like tourists
Alan with Marijuana left on the ground.

until, being California and all, we found a baggie of marijuana someone had dropped.  This is California after all:-)  Anyone lose their medicine?

Thus began our orientation to Yosemite.We have a very nice temporary office.  Our newly remodeled office is scheduled for completion by the end of June.

And though the view will still be good, it couldn't possibly be this:  

And it won't have this

As it turns out I am currently in need of a sewing machine like this.  I am about ready to make 2 new "Vera Bradley" type bags.  Why would you need such a machine?  You made your 1st Vera bag on your home machine!  Why do you need a "commercial" sewing machine?  It turns out, the heavy material required to make the bags, threw my home machine out of whack in the tension department.  Tension is everything in a sewing machine.  I had to have it repaired.  Could I  make the bags on my home machine?  Sure, carefully.  But, now the the other "wrench in the works".  I purchased some material online to make one of the bags, the exact pattern I wanted....Horses!  I love the print, the colors.  The downside, and why this commercial machine will come in very handy, is the material is of such high quality that it is a bit heavier than what I am used to using.  In home sewing machines "a bit heavier" means my little Singer may not be able to handle the job.  So, you can imagine how thrilled I as to see this Industrial machine and get permission to use it.

Yosemite is world renown location for experienced rock climbers.  My son James is well on his way to becoming one of those.  I think he has visions of climbing at Yose.  After all, he did enjoy climbing at Joshua Tree.

So, I hope he makes it here during one of our Yosemite sojourns.  Lord willing, we will return for the summer of 2019.  
It is one of our particular pleasures to be able to open up opportunities for our friends and family to visit places they might never have thought of going to, or be able to provide room for those visitors in a park that is often listed as "full-no vacancy".  There is also a distinct pleasure in having the opportunity to give our visitors an "insiders" tour, and do all of this while saving them some money.
The icing on the cake is our work schedule:  ME...3 days on (6:00 am to 8:30 am Bear Patrol  

and 2 days -10:00 am-4:00 pm as Desk Officer
 1 day, 10:00 am- 4:00 pm on PSAR)


Sometimes PSAR looks like PR when we're asked to take family photos.

Bill... 3 days on (6:00 am to 8:30 am Bear Patrol....2 days on 10:00 am -4:00 pm PSAR- preventive search and rescue) followed by 6 days off.  
Maybe I should explain some of these cryptic terms before I go on:  Bear Patrol= 5:45 am to approx. 8:30 a prescribed route consisting of parking lots and campgrounds, looking for A: signs of a bear break inB:  Food storage violations=food left unsecured, tat will attract bears, andC: morning campfires = campfires hours at this time of year are 5 pm to 10 pm...Special note here:  as lifelong campers and big fans of campfires at any time of day, as well as creating memories for children, there is no worse feeling than having to walk up to a roaring campfire at 8 am, raw bacon just beginning to sizzle in the skillet, and several children hovering close in the chill morning air, while you tell their parents "I have to put this out, no morning fires".  YES it does rip your heart out when some cute little 5 year old says "bye bye fire" while sadly waving  a bye bye his hand.  Yes, Yes, the rules are well advertised,and it should be a reminder when no other campers have a fire going, but it still makes us feel bad when children are involved,PSAR- preventive search and rescue: mean we hike around the park, or sometimes stand near a trailhead, providing directions, safety advice, assistance for emergencies and try to prevent the activation of the real search and rescue guys.  We do that by suggesting to people doing really unsafe stuff to stop doing it.  Now, mind you, we cannot make them stop, so Jean has perfected this suggestion:  "Please come back here" and when they don't.....she adds "could you stand still so I can get your picture, so we can identify the body".  I will use this line every chance I get.  Te hardest situation to address, once again involves children.  Parents putting their children in precarious situations, usually to "get the picture" IE: on the edge of the rapids or trying to feed the , very domesticated, park deer.  NOTE: the only person killed by wildlife in the park's history was not killed by a bear, it was a young child killed by a deer he was trying to feed, while his Mom got  a picture.
Back to work...... Bill and I both being overachievers, and will always volunteer for extra duty.  At Yose that looks like this:  Bill spends much of his PSAR time and off days restoring the Parks wooden signs.    

 Before After





 I spend some of my free time doing additional PSAR and/or helping Alan, the PSAR Coordinator.  Alan gives a Search and Rescue talk every Thursday night at the Half Dome Village Ampitheatre.  I volunteered to assist Alan periodically.  Now Adam (a new intern),

arrived on scene with lots of energy and an overwhelming desire to do the program.  Initially Adam and I tagged teamed the presentation, but I quickly realized that was not going to work if we wanted to maintain a seamless program, so we are currently giving the program every other week.

Bill, on the other hand has a real challenge getting this very large trail sign rebuilt.  It is too large to do it in place, too important to have down for a week and too historic to completely rebuild, so on the Government we wait.
The nice thing about pulling extra duties lies in its flexibility: we can work if we want to, but we don't HAVE to....take, for example, traffic control for the helicopter rescue team.  

The SAR (Search and Rescue) team was practicing rescues from the sides of the mountains.  It was fascinating to watch the helicopter come and go all day with a "rescuer" and/or a "litter" hanging on a line, 100 feet below the chopper, as the machine flies away toward it's prescribed goal, to pluck some unlucky hiker off the side of one of these sheer, granite cliffs
  As I watched, I couldn't help but feel that these "hero's", many of them volunteers,  were willingly subjecting themselves to what is my
worst nightmare, and sometimes die in the process.  They are worthy of our grateful expressions of appreciation.

Like the finely tuned team of SAR  .....

....When you work with a group of like minded people, well, that makes it all the more enjoyable.  We have always gotten along well with our fellow volunteers, but here at Yosemite, in the Desk Officer program, we have found a real group of like minded people, in harmony with each other.  All of us retired LEO's (Law Enforcement Officers), and our spouses (which, in the case of Steve and Jean

is one and the same), have a like-mindedness not before shared by Bill and I with any other group of volunteers we have served with.

So, the fact that the nearest real grocery store is 75 minutes away is not an issue when everyone going in to town checks to see if anyone needs anything.  This cohesiveness allows us to stay "in the valley" for 2-3 weeks at a time, and it is also that teamwork spirit that has allowed Bill to switch many of his PSAR days for sign painting days.
YUP, these folks have quickly become a fiber in the fabric of our lives.....campfire every night at 5:00 PM (attendance optional)
Larry, Theo, Ed and Bill solving the world's problems
Potluck at Mary and Larry's once a month (campground hosts included)

And any other excuse we can find to get together.

Despite the campfire dousing, our early morning jaunt exposes us to new camping technology, as we slowly cruise thru the grounds...we just never thought we would see anything like this:

and every one of these was slept in last night

or this:

The guy actually restored this old bus by hand, including a bump-out slide and his TOAD (a vehicle pulled behind an RV that can be unhooked at campgrounds ad driven around while you leave the RV in place).

This stuff is cool, but my fav part of our early morning Bear Patrol is seeing the early morning light filtering thru the forests:  

 The new day greets Tessa, home at North Pines CG.....

and "Boys Town" NKA (now known as) Half Dome Village.

and "Housekeeping" Camp

We enjoy these extra details a great deal (otherwise, why would we do them?), but some are more fun than others.  Late one evening a large tree came down at Lower Yosemite Falls, partially taking out the bridge handrail.  Three of us Me, Steve and Linda were assigned to keep people off of it.  With Linda posted at the base of the trailhead, Steve taking the busier (and much wetter) side and me, the quieter side, I quickly became pretty bored.  I did have a few people come by my side, but they quickly realized the view they really wanted was over by Steve.  And, despite the bright yellow tape and orange barrier saying "do not enter" at each end of the bridge, along with Steve and my presence, somehow a girl made it across, only to be met by me and my wrath.  No, no one made it from my side to Steve's because almost nothing was happening on my side.  Steve's side, on the other hand was so busy and crowded and wet and busy with so many people doing so many stupid things.  It was impossible for Steve to be everywhere at once, and when he spotted this girl, just jumping the yellow tape, he couldn't get through the crowd to stop her.  This happened twice.  

While Steve was getting wetter and wetter, I was making a friend:
Yes, I know "do not feed the wildlife!"

He was just too cute, and keeping me company, so  I went against all the rules (do as I say, not as I do).  I do not recommend this, and I would not do it again, but it was fun.

Amphitheater Falls
Upper Yosemite Falls

Random shots we just enjoy:

Half Dome
One thing our temp office has that our new one will not, is this!
Half Dome in clouds
Near Mirror Lake

Stairstep Falls

The Dogwoods were in rare form this spring

Jan's 1st bear sighting
The 1st bear sighting may not seem important to you, but it is to ME!  You see, the Desk Officer group has an informal "contest" each year.  The 1st person to see a bear "wins".  Now, the prize isn't much, but so worth it.....BRAGGING RIGHTS!  This year they're mine, so I will!

Bill saw his 1st bear:  
Bill's 1st bear was "stomping" on the log to get to the grubs under the bark
A few weeks after I saw the 1st bear of the season.....

The next bear we will see was seen by the both of us, at the same time, and MUCH more up close and personal....but more on that next edition.

The day the trees fell in Backpackers Camp, it sounded like a bomb went off....1st a loud "ripping" sound......then a noise not unlike a sonic boom.  Af first we thought it was a rockfall and Tessa and I went looking for it.  I do not know how Bill (not even outside when it happened) knew where to send us to look, but he did.  We found the mess just across the Tenaya Creek at the river's edge of Backpackers Camp, on  the opposite bank of the river from us in North Pines CG.   Along the way I (we) had to wade thru the swollen Tenaya to the tune of just over my knees and over Tessa's belly.

 The current was still pulling aggressively, 30 feet from the "normal" riverbank, making the 44 degree water not only unpleasant, but a little scary, and Tessa and I turned back at the bridge.  Tessa was in full agreement with me on this maneuver.  The area looked like this at that time,

and like this the next day,

so I never did figure out what that initial noise was.  A total of 3, 40  inch X 150 foot tall trees had come down and taken another, river's edge, group of 6 smaller trees
When I was working with the 5th graders and going to "Taft", roots like these were called think I could remember?
with them.  Since then several other trees along the riverbank have fallen, likely due to the massive amounts of snow and rain this year.  The roots were upended in backpackers camp and the tops were resting in North Pines CG  
(where we live).  Important to note: No one was injured from this "act of God".  A week later maintenance had cut up what they would, in order to, for the most part, leave nature to itself.

  And speaking of birding has had to take a backseat for awhile, as I learn the park and computer system, but this guy was so obnoxious I had to capture him....
  I was standing quietly at the back of our truck, tailgate open, focusing on some small detailed task, when my attention was drawn to the front of the truck bed.  There he was, foraging around for something, and chattering away at me, angry that I was in his space....HIS space!  Oh he was mad, but I went along with my business, and he with his.

Now entering our 3rd month, things are settling into a routine.  The computer skills are learned and the navigational skills are coming along thanks to a special training class we had:

 I would have had my new found compass navigation skills down if I had practiced right away, but alas, I did not.  Now with a brand new compass
in hand I will be refreshing my skills soon.

In honor of my son James, who is a new graduate of the Greeley, CO fire fighting academy:
"success is not the inevitable result of being fearless, but the earned result of persistant courage"

            Restaurant of the monthIf the number of times we have been to a restaurant in a month was the only standard for making it to "Restaurant of the Month" status, then 2 visits in 2 months would take "Happy Burger" in Mariposa 

right to the top, especially for people who only eat out about 2 X's/month.  Order the burger...nuff said.  My cardiologist would not approve!

Bible Verse of the Month
Matthew 7:13-14
"Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it".

Cutting this short, as I am so far behind...Coming sooner next month!

In the meantime:  Vaya Con Dios!

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