Tripping without a plan, summer 2010


Getting started

Folks keep telling me to write a trip report for this one. Write a trip report?? I’m still not really sure how it happened. 12,000 miles and 24 states later and I’m just now sorting it out, kinda. If I HAD had a plan, I don’t think it could have been a better trip. Plans mean expectations, no plans mean surprises.

I enjoy the trip reports on this site the most, so I’ll share some pics and a few stories. It may take awhile. Some of ya’ll were involved in this trip, and lots of others influenced where I went from their trip reports – thanks to all. But somehow my list of “must see” places is now longer than when I left. Hmmm.

So no real plan. But there’s almost always the itch to go, and the itch was getting bad. We had a reasonably rough winter here and a bunch of snow. Commitments kept me near home thru much of the spring, with only a few jaunts out to keep the itch at bay. Not cutting it. Hello, stir crazy.

I’d been going back and forth between San Diego and a little town west of the Sierras near Yosemite helping a friend move after 30 years in the same house. Now that’s a lot of stuff, and it took a few trips. I wanted to spend some time on the east side of those mountains without packing tape or boxes, babysitting movers or hardware store runs. So the Sierras were calling.

Last March after reading HMR’s build thread, I noticed that my Tiger was having some itches of its own. It wanted a 4” Overland Vans lift, and it wanted new shoes too. First things first, right? Do the lift, then get the tires, keep the Tiger happy. As we all know, keeping the vehicle happy is important. Uhhh, right.

After some PMs with T.Low and talking to Dan at Overland Vans in April, I’m waffling about exactly how much I want to keep the Tiger happy. And what the heck am I thinking – this is an RV after all. No lockers, no winch, no lights – not even AWD. It’s never gonna be an offroad beast. But it sure is comfy, and it’s in the driveway. So fine Tiger, here’s your new shoes (BFG ATs) - let’s see what you can do for me now. Maybe after a bit, we’ll talk about a lift. Or our future together.

As luck would have it, right after the new shoes was this gathering in AZ. On a last minute whim off I go to Overland Expo, just gonna break in the leather, camp and gawk at the goodies, see some friends and hang out. Woah!!! Major sensory overload, and the itch got WAY worse than before. I almost left directly from there for points north and east, but had some things to take care of at home.

Early July, commitments mostly complete, but something always comes up to delay my starting. A good friend in town who’d agreed to watch my house and recently planted vegetable garden said “Linda, if you wait until everything’s done, you’ll never go.” Now I know wise words when they’re beaten over my head with a stick, really I do.

So the next day I printed a few things about the eastern Sierras, packed some clothes and tools, threw all the tech toys in a backpack, changed the oil, and tossed my dog in.

Off we go up 395, east of the Sierra Nevadas.


395, eastern Sierras

395 is a start and stop kind of road, with a ton of history - slowing for the small towns and plenty to look at. It’s the perfect road to set the pace for this trip. This time there isn’t an actual destination, just some ideas of things I want to see and do along the way.

Heading north, the Owens Valley is bounded by the eastern Sierras on the left, the Inyos on the right. Passing by the Olancha Café where I’ve met many folks for ventures into Saline and Death Valleys, I’m struck by how much water is around. Blown away by the brilliant blue of what I think is a reservoir, followed by the blinding white of the salt flats and Owens Lake leading into DV. Amazing greens in the valley, was a wet winter, and so much snow still on the Sierras.

A stop in Independence to let my pup Pepper out to romp:

Past Bishop, I pull out at a scenic overlook to munch some dinner. To the right are the most amazing clouds making rain somewhere on the Inyo mountains. Raggedy cloud bottoms are changing the light near sunset, shadow and bright dancing across the mountains facing east. I snap some shots, which don’t do justice.

And then I turn around. Well OH – that’s the scenic overlook to the west. The majestic Sierras.

By now it’s getting late and time to find a CG. I recall Dave/Yoshi’s recent trip up this way and head for Tom’s Place, the landmark on 395 where there’s a turnoff to camping. Spent the first night cool and comfortable at ~8200ft with deer prowling and coyotes howling at Iris Meadows CG.

Found this rig, a Pinzgauer keeping watch at one campsite.

I’m sure there’s more up this road (Rock Creek Rd). It’s a long road, lakes and snow and ... but it can wait.
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Little hike in Little Lake Valley and Mammoth without crowds

I know some folks who know this area well, but I don’t. Turns out this is Little Lake Valley, these are the White Mountains and Rock Creek Rd ends at several hiking trails, and a CG named “Mosquito Flat CG”. More info on this area here.

Rock Creek Lake:

Road to Mosquito Flat:

At the end of the road, we start a little hike but quickly turn around to break out the bug juice and re-think this. Lesson learned - if it says “Mosquito” or “Alligator” or “Swamp” right in the name, it’s probably pretty accurate. But the juice is working – I use the Cutter’s stuff with aloe, less stinky than some and works pretty well.

With a 10,000+ ft start, we hike for a bit passing beautiful lakes on the way. This one is called Marsh Lake. We made it to Heart Lake and turned around. I don’t know how they rate hikes, this is mostly just a stroll.

A little lunch and we’re off to Mammoth Lakes. Seems like every time I’ve been here before has been because of an event, which means lots of people. So it was nice to just wander into the visitor center, without battling the ski-crazed masses. I picked up a free 2-CD set of narration of the geology and history of this area. Great idea, I’ve often wondered as I’m driving through an area what that mountain range was or how did people get here? So even though it’s a limited intro, I liked it – wish more places did this.

I was looking for a book I’ve seen folks talk about online – a history of the whole 395 highway. Couldn’t find it, couldn’t even remember what it was called. I did mention this trip started without a plan right? Anyhow, I’ll find it eventually.

I wanted to go to Devil’s Postpile but the logistics of getting there with a dog didn’t really work for me. There’s a bus into the monument, and dogs are welcome, but you have to buy a muzzle and keep it on them.

So I opted for a ride in the gondola up the mountain, with our own private Pepper-flying pod.

She got to roll in snow in July, nice.

Borderline chilly up here, but the sun is out and we’re having fun. The views go on forever.

It’s getting late so we eat some dinner and find an empty spot off Dry Creek Rd to camp. Turns out there are lots of roads off 395 that go up the east side of these mountains, not surprising.


Some of our best trips are the unplanned! of course some of our planned trips get changed up into a totally different direction. Those pictures are amazing! Keep going, you're not nearly at 12000 miles worth of story yet!:lurk:


Two of my favorite not-yet-met east coasters! Happy to oblige, it'll come in bits and pieces as I sort through all the pics.

Jim, I really enjoyed your beach camping in the forest TR, and thought about you when I was in OBX. You're right, doesn't really matter where you wind up as long as you have fun getting there :sombrero:


Mono Lake area

Off to Mono Lake, and a quick stop at the visitor center near Lee Vining. I’d heard about these volcanic craters just south of here and wanted to check out Panum Crater.

Mono Lake is over a million years old, and has several input sources from the mountains, but no outlet. The water evaporates and has become super salty, and is home to very specifically adapted plant and animal life, mostly flies, little worms and brine shrimp. I enjoyed reading Mark Twain’s entertaining account of the area.

This is the largest nesting/brooding ground for seagulls in the west, over 80% of all seagulls in CA are hatched here. Supposedly. I mean really, who counts ALL those seagulls? :coffee:

This is an aerial shot of Panum Crater, stolen from a government website and similar to the one I saw at the visitor center.

I drove over to the trailhead, and the sun was roasting overhead.

Confident I could find the crater, I started out. The trailhead is clear, but the trail is poorly marked. Only one sign that says “Rim Trail” and “Plug Trail”. Opting for the “Rim Trail” I ran into a mother and daughter and we spent over an hour clambering over rocks to the next ridge. We were all lost.

OK not lost, just confused – we weren’t getting it. We could see the lake from various views but how could we miss something that big?
We backtracked a totally different way to the lonely sign and started the “Plug Trail”, here’s a shot from there:

Another hour or so climbing over rocks and we started feeling like ants who could never see the anthill. Oh well, didn’t matter. Pepper got a nice long walk, but was starting to melt in the heat. Cooled her down and started out for the tufas, clouds rolling in.

The South Tufas were easy to find and a short hike over to them:

There’s a sand road that goes all the way around Mono Lake and primitive camping allowed, but the ranger had said they’d pulled 2 4WD vehicles out the previous day, so didn’t seem like a good idea. Pretty windy and hot down there anyhow, even with the cloud cover.

So off to find a CG, this is heading north and looking back south at Mono Lake from 395:

Pepper was beat. This deer strolled through our county CG on Lundy Lake Rd and she snoozed right thru it.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Linda great to read your trip report and always cool to see pics of Pepper enjoying the outdoors.
The pics are really good and I like who you put the trip together, please keep posting up anything you guys get out and do.
Oh and the Tiger is looking very cool!


Thanks everyone, the replies help keep me motivated to continue.

Lance, Pepper started the trip out crazy as ever hopping around the Tiger herding the cars - you know... but at 3800 miles she finally figured out she could lay down.


Headed back south on 395 a bit to drive the June Lake loop, I could spend a week on just this part.

Gull Lake:

Furniture for sale at Gull Lake Marina, some of it was even comfortable:

Delicious lunch at Eagle’s Landing restaurant, part of the Double Eagle resort with Horsetail Falls in the background.

Spent the day playing around Silver Lake and Grant Lake, and did some fishing with a borrowed pole, a relaxing afternoon.



Bodie is a historic ghost town, now a state park. I came in on Bodie Rd (route 270) which is an easy dirt road. A little washboardy in places but nothing painful, there are several 4WD routes into the same place.

We got there early and it was mostly empty, by the time we left the parking lot was full. I could’ve spent all day here and not seen everything. I’ll bet the lighting at sunset is awesome, but anyhow here’s a few pics.

Bodie looking east:

1927 Dodge Graham truck:

Standard mine where the mayhem started:

The general store:

Leaving the park:

And the road out, looking west at the Sierras:

It’s almost the weekend and I give my friend who was moving a call. It’s just over these mountains. The 1100 lb safe has been delivered, the 12 ft buffet didn’t fit in the house (surprise) and the 20 ft long bookshelf is sitting in pieces in its intended room.

“So would you like some help unpacking? “ “Hell no, I don’t care if I sit here for six months with my boxes, I need to sleep.” I totally understand, on to plan B.


Dave Druck [KI6LBB]
Linda, looking great so far.... i can't wait to see the rest. We were so jealous when we watched you make this epic journey. Thanks for taking the time.

Tucan viajero

12,000 miles and 24 states!

Great trip! But seeing those figures, it looks more like an expedition to me!

I wonder how long did it take.