May 12, 2012

CALIFORNIA and the San Bernardino National Forest

We spent a miserable night camped outside of the Hacienda Casino. The daily high temperature had been over 100 degrees, and at night, the coolest temperature we saw was somewhere in the mid-80s, and that was at 4 in the morning. Because we were boondocking, we had no outside electricity source, and couldn’t run the AC (oh the joys of boondocking sometimes!) We also decided to wake up early so that we would make the drive through the Mojave Desert as early as possible. Waking up at 5am wasn’t hard, mostly because I never went to sleep to begin with. Thankfully, around 4am, some strong winds picked up and it cooled the trailer down somewhat (yes, to that wonderfully cool 80 degrees, things are relative).

The strong winds also brought in some lovely smog from Las Vegas. This is what we saw over Boulder City on our way out of town:

A measly 50 miles later we were in CALIFORNIA!!! We are mildly obsessed with the golden state, and so for us, crossing the border into our eighth state was somewhat of a grand event. We drove into the Mojave desert and started the ugly, hot slug through. This has to be one of the ugliest ways you can enter California. We watched the outside temperature climb to 99 degrees, and it was early morning!

Driving through the Mojave Desert
We drove through mostly flat desert, and then came the climb into the mountains. At the bottom there was a sign that the next few miles would have a varying grade of 8%-16%. Oh, wonderful! Its 99 degrees outside, and you’re saying we have to climb these steep u-turn curves at a 16% grade. 30 minutes of very sweaty hands driving later, we finally crested the mountain and drove into the San Bernardino National Forest.

We pulled over at the top to give Fiona a quick breather (although she performed wonderfully the whole drive, I’m pretty sure she was completely maxed out in terms of pulling power on some of those turns). The Pacific Crest Trail happened to cross the highway we were on right where we’d pulled over, and just then, a hiker stepped out of the woods. This trail is comparable to the Appalachian Trail and kudos to anyone attempting to hike the whole way from Mexico to Canada! One of the things we’d wanted to do in Cali was be “trail angels” on this trail, help out someone hiking the trail by offering them food, a ride into town, etc. Well, here was our chance; the guy needed a ride into town!

The PCT hiker
We stayed the night in Big Bear City at the St. Joseph Community Church. We’d been hoping to find dispersed camping in the national forest, but there was very little to be found here. Big Bear Lake is an alpine lake in the middle of the city. We took a stroll on the city trail along the lake with the pups right at sunset, and it was a pretty sight. The temperature difference between the desert valley (99 degrees) and Big Bear City (79 degrees), was pretty amazing, given that they were only 20 miles away from each other.

Big Bear Lake
Oh, according to the visitor’s center in Big Bear City, we’d driven the steepest highway grades in California. That’s comforting, knowing we won’t have to drive them again!

The following morning we drove down highway 18, also aptly named the Rim of the World Drive. We were so high in the mountains that we were higher than the clouds in the valley. The scenery on the way down into Orange County was unbelievable. These are the views from the road:

Find more pictures of the drive click here.

Happy Rim of the World driving,


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1 comment:

  1. 1. As the first real drive that we did, 395 up through the Mojave has a special place in my heart. I recognize a lot of the sights in those photos.

    2. Generator time?