We weren’t expecting to make this trip. Like most of you we were busy with our day-to-day lives back in February. Cate was very busy at the studio with commissions and a whole new series of paintings, while also working for Travel Grants Pass. I was gearing up for a busy season at the winery in my new role as event coordinator. Our next excursion was tentatively planned for the fall. We kept a careful eye on the news as the pandemic worsened, and we watched as one state after another closed down. Living in a state with a history of putting people first, we assumed we would be under stay at home orders sooner than most. We were not wrong. Soon I was laid off, and event cancellations piled up. It only seemed logical that, being in the unique position of living in our Argosy, and Cate’s ability to work from the road that we could shelter at home, but our home could could move around. Additionally, Cate suffers from severe asthma and it seemed like relocating to sparsely populated areas could be a lifesaver. We made arrangements, and I informed the Vineyard that I would be available upon reopening. Cate gathered art supplies, I prepped the camper, and Frankie……ate grass.
We decided to head towards Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. North of Ketchum/Sun Valley, the Sawtooths are remote, rugged and gorgeous. Of course we couldnt just go directly there! Where’s the fun in that? Our first “stay” would be at my fathers newly acquired piece of property near Wells, Nevada. With the exception of our national park visits, our excursions generally do not include being around other people. We like to find the hidden gems in our travels. We do not stay in campgrounds or RV parks, instead opting to “boondock” on forest service roads or BLM land. About the only contact we have with others are gas stops and grocery stores. Perfect for social distancing, with an added bonus of hopefully entertaining any of you, our friends, that do not have the chance to escape.
Departure morning arrived quickly after our week of preparation. We pulled out of Marty’s Farm at noon. We debated attempting to make it all the way to the Lassen, California area, but instead opted to stop at one of our favorite places on the planet, Mt. Shasta. Across I-5 from Shasta City, we drove up Castle Lake Rd. to a small dispersed camping area. It afforded sweeping views of Mt. Shasta, Black Butte, and the town below. We made the half mile or so trip to the end of the road to Castle Lake, a small, shallow, crystal-clear alpine lake that reflected the surrounding snow covered cliffs. Frankie bounced around the rocks and rubbed against trees while Cate took photos.
We made our way back to camp for sunset, cooked dinner on our Cobb Grill, and enjoyed our first “on the road” fire in our new Solo Stove. In the morning we went back to Castle Lake to spread a few of Maggie’s ashes, she loved this area so much. As we were about to leave, a strange sound drifted across the water, and we spied in the distance someone playing a singing bowl. I wondered to myself if she was trying to summon the Lemurians. Under the morning glow of Mt. Shasta we hooked up the argosy, and began our journey towards Wells. We drove Volcanic Legacy Highway through the Lassen National Forest, passing many closed gates, parks, and campgrounds. We connected with one of our favorite highways, US395, and travelled south to Reno before turning onto I-80 towards Winnemucca. Cate had found a potential stopover 2000 feet above town at a place called Water Canyon. It was only a few miles outside of city limits. We arrived just before sunset to find the rec area gates closed. We were not entirely suprised, however there were many BLM roads that snaked around the treeless sagebrush hills with plenty of camping opportunities. We settled on a flat section at an intersection, surrounded by grazing cows and long range views of the mountains. As the last light faded, we took our slumber, and listened to Jay talking on his phone across the hill.
The next day we again stowed anything that might move on a bumpy dirt road and headed into Winnemucca for a last sewer dump and gas fill-up, only to find a clog in the system….camper constipation if you will. After purchasing a snake and completely filling the black water system ( the poop tank for the uninitiated) with water to no avail, we opted to cut our losses and sally forth. We would deal with this later.
Onward we charged, through Carlin, where we had camped on the way back from the Balloon Fiesta, and through Elko, finally meeting up with the folks and being escorted to their new property. An acre of Northern Nevada desert with unbeatable views of the snow capped Ruby Mountains, huge skies, and incredible clouds that would be our home for the next several days….