We are back from our non-Burning-Man adventure. We got within two hours of the playa with no intention of going there. We imagined our friends out there in the dust, dancing and laughing and having fun. But we were on a different mission - communion with nature and exploration of the mountains.
We left Prescott on Sunday a week ago and drove to Independence, CA in the Owens Valley. We camped by a creek in the desert but there was an unusually cool period of weather at that time so it was very pleasant. Then we blasted up to Nevada City so I could show Nita the area. We couch-surfed with some locals that have lived there for 30 years so we could get the inside scoop on the region. It still looks extremely promising as a relocation destination. Lots of trees, cool people, rivers with water in them (how unusual), and reasonable distance to major metro (Sacramento) and to the high Sierras and the desert on the other side. 3 to 4 hours to the bay area as an added bonus in case we want to enjoy cultural adventures in one of the more cutting-edge cities in America.
We spent a couple of days in Nevada City looking around, driving rural roads, putting our feet in rivers and picking blackberries that grow wild along the roads everywhere. Then we headed north on Hwy 49 to the California gold rush highway town of Downieville, a super cute little mountain town on the North Yuba River in the middle of gold rush country. It seems that this town is a conclave of members of the Ancient Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. There is a tiny park with a big commemorative plaque to "Clampers" (what members of this group call themselves). After we visited Clamperville, I mean Downieville, we camped a night near Sierraville next to a creek surrounded by huge trees and then drove through Truckeeville and then through Renoville on our way back south down Hwy 395 -ville.
For the last three or four days we have been camping in the high Sierra, accessing it from the east side. We camped for two nights in the Virginia Lakes basin, right next to Trumbull Lake. We saw deer, beaver, trees, birds, rocks and sky and had to protect our food from bears. People were catching so many trout that they were giving extra fish to us. When we turned off 395 to drive up to the lakes we had no idea of the elevation. It turns out that the spot we turned off the main highway was over 8000 feet and the lake we camped at was at 9500 feet. We were thinking were were just out of shape until we found out how high we were. We spent most of a day hiking up to higher lakes and enjoying the awesome beauty. I was attacked by chipmunks, managed to fend them off, Nita took a dip in a nearly freezing lake, and then we had lunch.
Our last night (Saturday) was spent camped next to Big Pine Creek near the base of some 14,000-foot mountains. We were only at 7900 feet, though. Still pretty high. We did a tiny tribute burn that night. I made a little man out of sticks and set it in the fire pit. We faked the sound of thumping techno, faked a fire conclave show, burned the little man, and then danced around the fire pit one time. We laughed the whole time. Just the two of us.
Yesterday we drove home, crossed the Colorado River in mid-afternoon with the mercury at 111, and pulled into our driveway just after sunset.
It was just the vacation I needed. I got to visit an old and deeply loved friend, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we endured exactly zero dust storms, unlike our friends in the Black Rock Desert. I heard that there were some crazy dust storms on the playa this last week. Probably no worse than any other year, though. I expect to start hearing reports from the Burn soon, as people straggle back to the default world.