Our Oregon Trail

The Road Less Traveled

The map below highlights our proposed route to Klamath Falls, Oregon:

From downtown  Winnemucca to U.S. 95 North…

The street sign above coincidentally reflects the Garmin’s opinion of our route. But more on that after I share a few pictures of Nevada’s landscape as we drive through the middle of nowhere from U.S. 95 to State Route 104 West.

Now is where the malarkey sets in. The Garmin, we call her Gremlin, does not like our choice of taking Route 140 West just south of Denio.

For some reason, Gremlin does not want us to take 140 through the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

We take it anyway. It’s a scenic drive and more of a direct route west. Too bad the RV windshield isn’t cleaner. Can you tell which pictures I took from my opened window?

After crossing into Oregon we understand why Gremlin wants us to avoid 140 West. (Look, Ma! No casinos at this state line.)

We encounter a stretch of road that is an 8% decline down a narrow passage with no guard rails.

The pictures above just don’t capture the height and width, though. But soon we level out and breathe again.

Jeff’s driving skills and comfort levels sure have been tested on this trip west from Colorado!

We know we are in Oregon because it starts getting greener.

A dirt devil crosses the road.

Adel, Oregon to Lakeview…

The scenery is becoming  lush and green.

And there are traces of the remaining snow.

We still have about 100 miles to Klamath Falls where we spend the night at a KOA Campground.

A long day and an adventure on scenic Route 140… Happy campers!

A Great Day On The Road

Interstate 80 West

The Pony Express RV Resort in Salt Lake City is beautiful but we have to leave as we are already one day behind schedule. Port Orford, Oregon is waiting for us.

But before we take off I need to show you some of the niceties here.

Each site has a paved pad, a grassy area, picnic table, and a flowering pear tree.

There are several fenced in dog areas, soccer nets, a giant chess game, and access to an over 50 mile running/walking/biking path.

This RV Park is appropriately named a Resort. Most of the RVs here are new and in impeccable condition. Our 2015 Forest River Georgetown Motorhome almost pales in comparison, especially with our shorn off awning.


Today is just a straight shot west on Interstate 80 from Salt Lake City to Winnemucca, Nevada.

We cross the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake and notice this magnificent building.

A quick search on Google identifies this edifice as Saltair, aka The SaltAir, Saltair Resort, and Saltair Pavillion.

According to en.m.wikipedia.org, the building is a resort located on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, about 15 miles from Salt Lake City.

In 1893 the Mormon Church and the Salt Lake-Los Angeles Railway jointly owned and built the first Saltair. The resort was a family place providing a safe and wholesome atmosphere supervised by Church leaders. Saltair was a popular and appropriate spot to take a date in those days.  A young Mormon couple could conveniently take a train from Salt Lake City and spend the evening dancing, chaperoned by trusted members of the community.

Besides a dating and dancing venue, Saltair was one of the first amusement parks, the western counterpart to Coney Island in New York.

In 1906 the Mormon Church sold the resort. Then a fire destroyed the pavilion in 1925. Prominent Mormon investors built a new resort but the advent of motion pictures and radio and the interruption of the Great Depression competed with Saltair’s popularity. It’s huge new dance floor, however, recreated the resort into a dance palace featuring the likes of Glenn Miller and other traveling bands.

More fires, receding lake waters, the Second World War, and other entertainment options closer to home forced the resort to close in 1958. Arson destroyed the second Saltair pavilion in 1970 but in 1981 a third Saltair was constructed a mile west of the original. But once again the resort could not compete with other larger venues more conveniently located, until several music industry investors purchased the building in 2005 to hold music concerts of popular acts and it has now evolved into the Great Saltair.

The Great Salt Lake…

The Morton Salt Refinery… I wasn’t quick enough to get a good shot of the iconic logo so I circled it in the picture below.

  addison.com

More salt piles…

The Great Salt Lake Desert…

All along the drive you can see where people have stopped to spell messages in the sand with rocks and beer bottles.

Then this sculpture pops up.

I later find out this concrete “trunk” supporting 6 spheres coated with natural rock and minerals native to Utah is called Metaphor: The Tree of Utah. It was created in the 1980s by Karl Momen, a Swedish artist, who while traveling across the salt flats had a vision of a tree. In 1986 he donated the sculpture to the state of Utah and returned to Sweden. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

So, there you go. Who would have thunk it?

The Nevada border… Out of a desolate landscape casinos emerge and then disappear again.

Continuing west on Interstate 80…

At the end of the day we pull into the Winnemucca RV Park.

Tomorrow we depart Interstate 80, head north on I-95, and then continue west on Highway 140.

Viva Las Vegas

We are on the road again. Today’s destination is an RV Park in Henderson, NV about 10 miles from the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip.

Leaving CA we take the 215 to the 15 passing through San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Apple Valley, Victorville and through the Mojave Desert.

From the highway we catch sight of the world’s largest thermometer in the town of Baker.

As soon as we hit the state border, we know we are in Nevada:

Around 3:30 we arrive at the Desert Sands RV Resort in Henderson where we can spend the night for only $25… full hookup and 50 amp.

By 5:30 we are on the Las Vegas Strip.

We park in the nearest self-parking garage and walk around. Not all streets have cross walks or connecting sidewalks so elevators and/ or stairs take you up, across, and down again. The skywalks also lead into casinos and shops.

Around 7:00 it starts getting dark.

The Strip comes alive. The sidewalks get crowded. People sip beers and tall colorful alcoholic beverages. Discount show ticket kiosks pop up, the smell of weed passes by, and outstretched hands pass out cards for hooking up, and not the kind I usually refer to when I talk about the RV.

We take an escalator up to a food court and grab a quick bite from Panda Express. Then we head down to the Bellagio’s water show.

Bristlecone Grove Interpretive Loop

Great Basin National Park

The bristlecone pines are the oldest living trees in the world. Some are nearly 5 thousand-years old! Their great age is due to their unusual ability to adapt to their environment. They often live in isolation where trees of other species cannot survive.

The growth of bristlecone pines is extremely slow. Their wood is fine-grained and resinous which makes the tree highly resistant to decay. Instead of rotting, these trees are eroded and polished by the elements. After death, they may remain standing for thousands of years. (plaque at entrance to grove)

The tree below lived for 1500 years, from 100 B.C. until 1400 A.D.

These roots, in the picture below, are entwined along the trail. They remind me of a giant serpent.

We continue our hike around the loop…

The remnant below is 3,000 years-old. Born in 1300 B.C., it died in 1700 A.D.  Part of the tree died in 1100 A.D. and the rest continued growing for 6 more centuries.

Bristlecone pines have a sectored architecture, which means that sections of a tree are supported and fed by their own large roots. That’s why part of a tree can die and the other sector keeps growing. (nps.gov)


So, how do scientists date the age of these ancient trees? There’s a plaque for that!

They use a tool called the increment borer to obtain a core sample of the tree. The core is a cross section of a portion of the tree’s annual growth rings. Use of the increment borer makes it unnecessary to cut down a tree to count its rings. The hole left behind does not harm the tree because within several hours the tree seals itself with its own resin.

 Born: 1150 B.C.

 Born: About 100 B.C.

 Still living since 1230 B.C.

Wheeler Peak overshadows the loop trail.

I learn how to distinguish a bristlecone…

…from a limber pine tree…


The Glacier Trail continues beyond for another steep and rocky mile.

                                            picture from the trailheads information plaque

Nestled beneath the summit of Wheeler Peak is an alpine glacier that is mostly covered in rocks and minerals.

desertsurvivor.blogspot.com


But we head back.

And I take one last picture of these amazing ancient trees sculpted by Mother Nature…

But wait… just one more as we exit the trailhead and drive out of Great Basin National Park…

Bristlecone Trail

Great Basin National Park

The Bristlecone Trail is a moderate, roughly 3 mile rocky hike at an elevation of 10,000-feet. It leads to an ancient grove of pine trees that have lived up to 5,000 years.

Bristlecone pines can live thousands of years in harsh environments. Exposed to extreme conditions, such as high winds, driving snow, ice storms, and freezing temperatures, they often assume fantastic assorted shapes. (plaque at trailhead)

Early on the trail we encounter an example of what can happen to a tree in extreme weather conditions:

I wish you could experience the heavy scent of the pine trees throughout the forest! Hundreds of pine cones, like the ones below, line the beginning of the trail. (As we continue they get smaller.) I pick some up and they leave their fresh, clean fragrance on my hands. Sap oozes from tree trunks and roots we have to step over as we continue.

So many multi-colored rocks!

Higher up, trees that cannot survive the harsh living conditions, litter the ground.

But the bristlecone still stands proudly.

Wheeler Peak peeks out.

And the rocks continue leading us in the right direction.

As we approach the ancient grove, we get a preview of what’s waiting for us.

To be continued…

Great Basin

 National Park

Great Basin National Park is just a small portion of the much larger Great Basin region stretching across most of Nevada and parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, and Utah. The Basin lies between the Sierra Nevada and part of the Cascade Range in the West to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains in the East.

 en.m.wikipedia.org

Geologically, as the Pacific Plate pulled away from the Continental Plate, the earth’s crust stretched to such an extreme that blocks of crust loosened and dropped off. The deepening valleys created a linear series of elevations running north to south.  So, it’s not just 1 but many basins, separated  by narrow parallel mountain ranges in succession. Over time the valley basins filled with sediment from the eroding mountains, forcing the water from rivers and streams to collect inland, where shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats evaporated.  (usu.edu and park brochure)

If this sounds similar to the geology of Death Valley, you are correct, as Death Valley is a part of the Great Basin!

I was good at memorizing facts for tests in school, thanks to my Catholic upbringing of learning to answer Catechism questions verbatim. But I never really understood the “big picture”, until now as I try to remember and share the beauty and goodness around me as we travel across the United States. It becomes more than just a journal of living and traveling full-time in an RV. I have to read, research, and make sense of all I see. And then explain it in a simple way. Visiting the National Parks, taking the back roads, and staying or passing through towns and cities along the way… A priceless way to learn history, geography, and geology! Thank you for coming on this journey with me.


The entrance to Great Basin National Park is in Baker, Nevada. After passing the Great Basin Visitor Center, you turn right toward Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

We stop here to purchase tickets for the Grand Palace Cave Tour. Unfortunately, this tour was completely sold out into next week. We should have made reservations when we left Port Orford, but everything I read didn’t imply there would be such a problem.

Despite the name, Lehman Caves is a single cavern extending a quarter-mile into the limestone and marble base of the Snake Range, an example of a mountain island surrounded by desert. The south-central portion of this range is included within the National Park. (park brochure)

Disappointed, but not defeated, (I find out Jeff gets claustrophobic in caves…) we head up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.

Wheeler Peak, within the Snake Range, is the tallest mountain in the Great Basin with an altitude of 13, 063-feet. From sagebrush at its base, the 12-mile drive proceeds through pinyon-juniper woodland to spruce and fir communities and a sub-alpine forest. The trees highest up on the Snake Range, the bristlecone pines, can live for thousands of years. (park brochure)


So, up we go…

At 10,000 feet we arrive at the end of the drive and go exploring… We cross a babbling brook…

…and take the trail up to the bristlecone grove.

On to Great Basin National Park

 A 3-Day Journey

Friday, july 14,2017

Hitched, tied, packed, and secured we say goodbye to Mike, Maryann, Rose, and Gil with plans to meet back at Camp Blanco RV Park in Port Orford next summer. We have reservations for April 15th-September 1st, 2018.

We take an adventure-filled route today, heading south on 101 to Gold Beach where we head east on Jerry’s Flat Road through the town of Agnes over a road closed during winter and not recommended for trailers… Oops!

It’s a bumpy, twisty ride filled with patches of sunken grade road and gravel. The cabinet over the kitchen sink flies open, spewing bowls, dishes and small cooking gadgets. Then, a crate on the dinette bench topples over spilling pots, pans, cooking utensils, and all of the soil from a potted plant!

After passing through the town of Merlin, we reach I-5 near Grants Pass. With shattered nerves and scattered belongings we pull over in Rogue River City and stay the night at Bridge View RV Resort overlooking the Rogue River. It’s a hot 98 degrees, a big adjustment from the coast’s daily highs of the mid 60s.!

Saturday, July 15,2017

We pass into northern California and pull over to enter the Border Protection Station, an agricultural inspection stop established in California in the early 1920s to prevent the spread of invasive species. Store-bought produce was okay, but cherries were not. We passed.

As we approach Yreka and head toward the city of Mount Shasta, a snow-covered mountain appears on the horizon to the right.

It’s Mount Shasta, a dormant but potentially active volcano that flanks the city with the same name.

It is the 2nd highest peak in the Cascades and the 5th highest elevation in California.

We exit I-5 and turn southeast on 89 towards Lassen Volcanic National Park…

…but when we are only 14 miles from the NP we take 44 and pass through the high plains of Lassen National Forest…

In Susanville, we pick up 395 and spend the night at Days End RV Park in Standish, California.

Sunday, july 16, 2017

We pick up Route 395 in Janesville and pass by Milford, population 70.

In Reno, Nevada we catch I-80 and then outside of Sparks,

we pick up the Nevada portion of Highway 50, nicknamed “The Loneliest Road in America.” Many Pony Express stations were along this route.

We will be on this road for the rest of today and all day tomorrow as we cross the Nevada desert.

In Fallon we notice names spelled out with rocks in the sand along the highway.

A sea of sagebrush and sand, valleys, rolling hills and mountains in the distance…

One hundred ten miles away is Austin, Nevada, population 192.

Austin is a “living ghost town”, a well-preserved example of an early mining town. According to local history, a Pony Express rider’s horse kicked over a rock and silver was discovered here. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

We spend the night at a small Baptist Church RV park for $25 cash placed in an envelope… the honor system.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Back on Highway 50, Eureka, 70 miles away, pops up for a couple of blocks.

It’s another 77 miles to  Ely.

A working steam engine, the Nevada Northern…

Ely has a population of a little over 4,200… so this is big time civilization! Founded as a Pony Express stagecoach station, copper was discovered here in 1906. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

It only takes a mile or 2 for the scenery to change again.

And in the early afternoon we spot our destination for the next 3 nights.

We’re here… The Border Inn Motel, Casino, Cafe, Convenience Store, and… RV Park! We literally are on the border. I circled the Utah Welcome Sign. Walk beyond the sign and the time zone changes to Mountain Time.

Check this out… a 5th Wheel with a patio that folds down like a drawbridge! That looks to be a sliding patio door and I bet there’s an outdoor entertainment system and grill behind those storage compartments.

A beautiful sunset…

Good night!