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No Land like Groveland

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

We took off from Sharon’s house and headed south down Highway 101. We made a quick stop in Petaluma to say goodbye to my mom. We were heading to Yosemite and were planning on staying outside the park in Groveland. Yosemite is one of my favorite places to visit even if it was going to be a quick passing through. The drive should be around 4 hours but with my potty stops we got there at about 3pm.

We found a campground at Pine Mountain Lake. My friends Walt and Susie Bales live on the lake. I was hoping to see them but since it was a last minute idea, they weren’t home. The campground was almost deserted except for another Airstream camping on the lower road. There were hiking trails and we walked around a bit when we got all set up. We explored the campgrounds and found a cool tractor to climb on. We entertained ourselves until dinner time and since we were back on the road the next morning we did as much as we could in the few short hours we were in Groveland.

We didn’t get to drive through the valley as we were heading over the Tioga Pass. I was feeling a bit under the weather. I started to get the cold Michael passed along to me so I didn’t do any driving. It was a pretty narrow road with a fair amount of travelers so I took the day off. I got to be Looky Lou! We made a bunch of stops so I could take pictures. The scenery was beautiful and I just love all of the Rocks!! We made a stop to see Half Dome from another angle. It’s been a little over a year since Larry, Michael, Greg, Selena and I hiked to the top. What an amazing adventure to share with such great people, We also stopped on the side of the road to see this spectacular lagoon. The colors were simply amazing! We met two young men (in their mid 20’s) that were traveling from Southern California and chatted with them a bit. They had an interesting story about being friends from kindergarten but now one lived in New York and the other in Los Angeles. They still make time to see each other every year. They asked us what we were doing. We explained that we were traveling from Canada, through the United States and Mexico for the next 8 months. They thought it was awesome and said that we are the coolest parents they’ve met. Brandon is in a band and going on a European Tour in November. His band is called Hayfitz and he is putting out his first solo album in the spring. His childhood friend Ari is an Aerospace Engineer and is working on building small satellites.They both love being in nature, playing music and traveling. It was a very interesting conversation and after we left, I felt that the world is truly good and safe. I don’t know why. I plan on keeping in touch with them as they seemed like my kind of folks!

Groveland to Bishop was supposed to take a little over 6 hours but with my stops, took about 8. We stopped for lunch and I let Larry take a little nap. He seemed a bit over tired from driving. Later we found out he was getting sick too. Even though I was sniffly and the drive was long, I really enjoyed the road and all the beauty. We did have a little excitement going down the steep grade off of the pass, our brakes got hot!! We pulled over and took a break. Larry adjusted the trailer brakes and we carried on.

We rolled into Bishop about 5pm. It is the largest populated town in Inyo County but looked pretty small. It had 2 campgrounds listed on the internet and we were hoping to find one. We were still not making reservations at places and having good luck. We drove around for about 10 minutes looking for one of the campgrounds and got very frustrated. We took a break and then found it the next time around the block. It had a small tiny driveway between a world famous bakery, Erick Schatt’s and someone’s house. We usually pass these ones at least twice before we figure out what is going on. We finally made it and they had room for us to stay 2 nights. We needed to rest for a bit after 2 days of driving. I was really feeling my cold come on at the end of this day.

We stayed at J Diamond Mobile Ranch on main street and it was not a bad price. This park has mainly permanent residents with about 20 spots for RV’s and trailers. We didn’t see any tenters. The sites were super small, think parking lot style. We had neighbors on both sides. On the right, we never saw them. On the left, a young couple with 2 small kids. Criers. The couple was friendly. They were heading to Death Valley next, like us, but were waiting on her parents. Her dad is a retired professor from Sonoma State University. OMG!!! Small world. I got to meet him the next day when they arrived.

We walked to the store to pick up some groceries for the next few days and made something fabulously delicious for dinner. Larry always has seconds! I know we both were super tired and went to bed early. The next day, we went into the Ranger Station right on main street. It was a short 2 blocks away to get information about hiking in the area. The Ranger was super friendly. I could tell he really enjoyed his job. We told him we were interested in hiking and asked for his suggestion. He gladly shared his favorite hike with us. He likes to hike to Chocolate Mountain on the Chocolate Lakes Loop Trail and gave us directions on how to get there. We forgot to ask how long the hike was or the difficulty level. Something we tend to do often, much to our disappointment. It was easy to find the trailhead off of Highway 168. It only took us about 35 minutes to drive from town too. I was pretty sick with my cold and had to bring a lot of tissues. Larry was very low on energy but we started out strong hiking. The trial was very good but a little steep at first and the elevation was about 5500 feet. All of this and 2 sick people but we plugged along and I took lots of pictures. It was very cold and we saw patches of snow here and there. That made Larry grumpy! We almost didn’t have enough warm clothes but I was smart and brought mittens. Yeah me! The trees helped block the wind so I was thankful for that. We got to where we could see the Chocolate Mountain from these amazingly large rock formations and we decided that we would turn around. I just felt that after almost 2 hours of hiking up and we still needed to get down, I had enough especially with my cold. When we got down, we stopped at South Lake where there were lots of people fishing and we had a snack. This is where the wind really kicked our butts. It was very close to miserable so our snack break was short.

Back in the truck, we decided to look at a few campgrounds in the forest, maybe for next time. I think we will be back to this area to do more hiking but we really only had 2 days to stop here. We made one stop down highway 168 to see some beautiful fall colors on the hills and then we were going to look for some hot springs that my friend Julie recommended that we go see. Larry was excited about hot springs…..the cold and snow are Not something he wants to visit or hike in…...apparently. LOL

We headed back into Bishop and down highway 395. It was only about 10 minutes from there to Keough Hot Springs road. There is a resort up the road but we opted to go to the Hot Springs Ditch. This was very interesting. I had read a bit online about the place. We were ready for some public nudity, etc. The road to the Hot Springs ditch was bumping and had lots of potholes to drive around. We just found it by looking for some cars. It was a spring with several larger holes of water to soak in. There were lots of signs saying it was private property belonging to Los Angeles county water district and not to trespass. But we did. Then we saw the signs about the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. It is a brain eating amoeba, that enters your system through your nose and there is no cure.

I was a little hesitant to get in the water. Larry was braver and hopped right in. I finally got in but had a hard time relaxing. I worried that somehow with my cold that I would get that little fuckin amoeba up my nose and have my brain eaten. I was doing ok until I saw some creepy things moving around in the water. It was probably only mosquito larvae but I was done! It was a very short soak in the Keough Hot Springs Ditch. Would I recommend it? Hell ya!!! Just put on your brave girl/boy pants before you go.

We got up early on Sunday to pack up and move on to Death Valley and warmer weather. Larry’s cold had really taken hold now. I wanted to treat him to something yummy and sweet…….So we went to Erick Schatt’s World Famous Bakery just before we hit the road. I thought he would be happy but it seemed to frustrate him a bit. There was so much yummy bakery foods!!! This place had the biggest selection that I’ve ever seen. It had to be over 2000 square feet of baked goods! Larry said he would need the whole day to select all the things he wanted but we didn’t have that kind of time. In the end, he only choose 3 items because he was so overwhelmed!

Tough Life Larry!

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