For my first longer trip I chose to travel up to Lake Tahoe with my dog Bhumi, a one and a half year old labradoodle. I had meticulously planned the route I would take, what I would do and where I would park my van each night weeks in advance. I thought I had it all mapped out, but I quickly learned that these sorts of trips rarely go as planned.
I set out on June 23, and after a seven hour drive I reached my destination: Hot Creek, a bubbling thermal stream just south of Mammoth Lakes. Near that area there are hot springs, waterfalls, towering mountains and crystal clear lakes to explore.
After staying near Hot Creek for several days I began to make the drive up north. Lake Tahoe was beautiful, however it was also extremely crowded when I arrived. Wanting to take a dip in the lake with Bhumi, we drove around for nearly two hours looking for a parking spot but to no avail. Eventually we decided to move on for the day, the lake was just to busy to enjoy.
From Tahoe, Bhumi and I went to visit a family friend in Folsom for a night, then came back down to spend the rest of our trip at Hot Creek, exploring hot springs and nearby trails in the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness.
What I learned from this trip
The biggest takeaway from this journey was to go slow and enjoy the places you camp. At first I had wanted to go all the way from Coronado to Shasta on this trip, all in a week and a half. While driving up there in that time span is possible, it would have been rushed, and would prevent me from really being able to explore along the way. Gas is, of course, also a big factor, and moving on from place to place quickly can be expensive.
As for repairs, duct tape was quite possibly the most valuable tool I brought with me on this adventure. While my 20 year old van did fine mechanically, the side door and the blinds on its window broke, making it tough to open from the outside. Using a roll of duct tape I was able to make a temporary repair that could hold me over until I got back to Coronado.
Points of Interest
While the entire trip was amazing, these are a few of my favorite spots in the Eastern Sierras:
Devils Postpile National Monument
Located right next to Mammoth Lakes, Devils Postpile is not only home to a unique rock formation, but also allows you to access trails leading to stunning lakes and waterfalls. While there is a $10 fee to get in to the National Monument, it’s totally worth it.
Only a 15 minute drive from where I was staying in Hot Creek, this crystal clear lake sits at the base of towering mountains. There you can rent out boats, paddle boards and kayaks. There is also a short and easy trail that you can take to walk around the lake.
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
While there are lots of hot springs in this area, Wild Willy’s was easily the best I found there. It’s comprised of three large, hot pools that can be accessed from a boardwalk. You will have to drive on a dirt road to get here, however it is fairly easy and most cars shouldn’t have trouble on it.
Being out in the wilderness allows you to almost forget about the pandemic at least for a little while. The contrast between being nearly alone while van camping under the stars to coming back to a crowded Coronado on Fourth of July weekend is striking, and being out in that wilderness really feels a lot safer in these times.
In a little over a week I’ll be embarking on a longer trip all the way up to Seattle. I look forward to asking my interview questions to those I meet, and to sharing the experiences I have along the way with all of you.
Next stop: Seattle!
Learn more about Morgan’s Vandemic Adventures here.