Sunday, August 28, 2016

Boondocking - Inyo National Forest Edition

I have never taken so many photos of trees in my life. For that matter, I have never spent so much time surrounded by trees in my life. Still, most of the photos were actually taken in an attempt to capture the amazingly vibrant blue of the sky.

Green trees Blue sky Forest road
I remember when we first started coming to live in Vegas so many years ago, I noticed that the sky was a much deeper blue than anything I'd ever seen anywhere else. Not growing up in the South, not living in New York or Los Angeles as an adult, not traveling to the many points north, south, into the islands or across the Atlantic. Even driving through the Canadian Rockies, I don't remember noticing the color of the sky.

Well, after being the fastest growing city in the United States for a dozen years around the millennium, Las Vegas has a sky like everywhere else. And even San Diego, home to my favorite climate, doesn't have me stopping to stare upward. But holy cow, up in the mountains near mammoth, I couldn't stop craning my neck and hitting the shutter button.

Which is how I came to have more photos of trees and sky
Huge fallen logs
than any sane person would need. 

So, that was the background for our lovely time at Inyo National Park. We were so happy there. It was beautiful, and peaceful. Mostly. Considering how many people came up there to ride the several available trails on ATVs, it was actually amazingly quiet. Not only did everyone obey the listed quiet hours, but there wasn't even much noise during the day.

And it was packed the whole time we were there. I'm not sure that there was ever a campsite that went vacant overnight. We arrived just before noon on the Friday after 4th of July weekend, and feel that we were extremely lucky to find a good spot open.

Forest creekThe most incredible thing about this place is that the campsites are free. As I mentioned in my last post, my sister Martha and I wanted to boondock in free spots until it was time to head back to Vegas, and we were hoping to do so in nicer spots than the usual casino and big store parking lots. In our opinion, the campsites at Inyo National Park are the boondocking gold standard.

Of course, the bear warnings were to be expected, and they

kept us from venturing off the paths after the early afternoon hours. The park ranger said they were most often sighted in the very early morning hours and around dusk. 

Bear boxes were provided at every campsite, but there were still signs warning that citations would be issued for carelessly leaving food around.

The plague warnings, on the other hand, were a little disconcerting.

Though there are numbered campsites, they had no hookups. This meant we had to be very careful with the water and we only had what electricity the dedicated RV battery had to offer, which was mostly the lights and two DC cigarette lighter outlets.

Martha had USB adapters for both DC  outlets, so we were able to charge our phones and tablets without any difficulty. But we had no power for the AC, microwave or my laptop. We had to run the generator when we needed those, which wasn't often while we were there.

The stove and fridge are both propane powered, so we ate well. I bought extra gas to run the generator for an hour to charge my laptop on the days I had to work. I also had to buy extra cellular data for the same purpose. Even if I still had unlimited data on my phone, I wouldn't have been able to use it as a hotspot for my computer. 

So, adding gas to travel and small fees for water and dumping, it wasn't a whole lot cheaper for me than staying in a regular campground with cheap electricity and free wifi. But as it turned out I only ended up using half of my data, and AT&T was gracious enough to cut the charge in half accordingly. 

I also ended up only needing half of the hours I'd estimated for the generator, and Martha graciously allowed me to deduct it from our last gas stop. So I actually saved about 25% of our usual monthly expenses. Fortunately, we'd stocked up on food before taking off, because everything is SO much more expensive up there. Gas, for instance, was almost a whole dollar a gallon more.

We really used very little in the way of resources, so while we were not completely off the grid, it was pretty close. It was two weeks of a simple, peaceful life, and we enjoyed the hell out of it.

Picnic table in forestIt was unfortunate that there were more flies than we felt comfortable with hanging around our picnic table, so we didn't eat outside nearly as often as we'd have liked. And there were the odd couple of days here and there that got a bit warmer than our optimum comfort levels. 

But there was usually a delightful breeze flowing through the big RV windows. And if anyone happens to be wondering what my all time favorite climate looks like, it is perfectly captured in this screenshot from the weather app on my phone.

We walked through the campground on an almost daily basis. Martha was much better at this than me, often walking twice. Still, I managed to get out more often than I had in quite some time, and I loved wallowing in surroundings.

I have to admit that, by the end of two weeks, I was ready for some more urban activity. We'd gone into Mammoth to replenish our water supply, the RV tanks lasted about 6 days for the two of us, and stopped at the shopping center to pick up something at Von's. When I spotted a movie theater, it seemed to us like a perfect place to spend a couple of hours, and Ghostbusters had just come out. But no, it was only showing two movies, and neither of us wanted to see Tarzan or The Secret Life of Pets.

This is why I don't like staying too far from urban areas for too long. I can be as reclusive as the next person - actually, way more than most people - for weeks at a time. But when I come up for air, I want all the conveniences and entertainment of a decent sized metropolitan area. 

Inyo National Park has a 21 day limit on their free campsites. I thought it would have been lovely to stay the maximum amount of time, but I would have been wrong. It seems that 14 days is my limit. I was more than ready to head back to civilization at the end of two weeks, and I think Martha was too.

Still, the park is almost surreal in its beauty, and it's free. We were fortunate enough not to have any encounters with bears, and we managed to escape without being exposed to the plague. Personally, I don't think you could ask for much better than that.

Cabin in the Woods
There are cabins for rent at Inyo National Forest
We cannot recommend this place highly enough. It was like heaven there. There seem to be a few cabins available, too, for those who don't have RVs and don't like to tent camp.

Hammock in the Woods
Hammock in the forest.
When I spotted this hammock, I was immediately sorry we didn't have one. But now that I think about it, we would have had to constantly take turns and the flies that kept us from our picnic bench would probably also have tortured us in the hammock.

No matter what, though, we really loved this place. It was such a beautiful and serene vacation, unlike any other I've ever had. 

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