Slab City, California

Slab City is a pretty interesting place and since we are meandering east on our way to Austin for Christmas we decided to stop for a few days.

It’s am unregulated encampment on the site of an abandoned Marine barracks where 150 or so permanent residents and 1,000 or so folks in all manner of RV’s camp in the Sonoran Desert about 150 miles east of San Diego. The “Last Free Place in America” say the signs.

Slab City has fancy new RV’s, old abandoned RV’s that haven’t run in years, art, religion, live music, a 24 hour library, piles of trash, and many interesting characters. We have been here three nights and have barely scratched the surface of the place.

At the entrance to Slab City is Salvation Mountain where Leonard Knight spend about 35 years building an elaborate adobe, straw, and paint religious monument. Leonard passed away in 2014, but a foundation carries on his work. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a previous trip here in 2007.

The East Jesus art installation was an interesting stop too. It’s not religions but refers to East Jesus as in the middle of nowhere, which pretty well describes Slab City.

Oceanside, California

Sunset at Oceanside, CA.
The sunset at Oceanside, CA.

Last week we traveled from the chilly mountains near Idyllwild, CA to the warmth of the Pacific Ocean and Oceanside, CA.

First stop was Guajome County Park for a few pleasant nights and a shakedown of the RV. Fortunately the Guajome Park was near a Home Depot store since the RV needed some minor repairs. We fixed the leaking kitchen sink drain, wired up the portable solar panel, replaced the tv antenna, and fixed the broken screen on the bathroom vent fan. We also organized and repacked the RV and can actually find most of the things we need now.

From Guajome Park to Oceanside Harbor is about a 20 mile round trip on a lovely bike path and we made the trip twice on our new folding bikes. Neither of us have been biking much the past few years but it was great fun and good exercise.

We hosted dinners at the RV for some of our friends from Oceanside and San Diego.

For our final night we moved to Oceanside Harbor which allows overnight camping in a parking lot right on the beach and what a spectacular sunset. Deb had a little mishap with the machine that dispenses parking permits and accidentally purchased two $28 permits but that got sorted out without too much trouble. It was a surprisingly relaxing and peaceful place considering we were in a parking lot.

RV Life

The Winnebago Aspect motorhome.
Our new Winnebago Aspect motorhome.

We recently purchased a motorhome and will be exploring the country in our tiny home on wheels for the next year or two. The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity as we purchased the new (to us) RV, moved out of our rented cabin in Idyllwild, downsized our belongings, sold my car, and moved everything into either storage or the RV.

The RV is a 2005 Winnebago Aspect. It’s 26 feet long, which is mid-sized by today’s standards. We wanted a comfortable space to live, but still small enough to travel to out of the way parks and other places. The dining area slides out on the left side of the RV which adds a lot of room when you are parked.

As we moved out of Idyllwild the weather had turned cold and was dropping into the mid 20’s at night. We spent two chilly nights in the RV at the County Park in Idyllwild as we packed up the cabin and traveled to the warmth of Oceanside, CA.

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Note: It’s been awhile since I updated the blog. I’m not still hiking the Colorado Trail. Back in August I ended the Colorado Trail hike after 300 miles when I came down with a chest cold that slowed me down quite a lot at high elevations. The Colorado Trail was a great hike and I’m looking forward to finishing the final 180 miles someday soon.

Salida

Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak
Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak

We have now past the halfway point in our Colorado Trail hike and will be taking our first day off from hiking in the small town of Salida, CO (13 miles east of the Colorado Trail).

Hiking has been great and the weather good (except for last night’s rain, but that mostly happened after we set up camp).

On Saturday we stopped for a meal and hot shower at Mt. Princeton hot springs because it was 50 feet off the trail. On a Saturday the place was busy, busy. Deb found the women’s shower room packed with about 25 women and children – she recommends you try to get there on a weekday instead. The market had sandwiches and burritos making our resupply easy.

Our hitch into Salida was so easy since we talked to a mountain biker on the walk down to highway 50 and he offered a ride without being asked. We are staying at the Aspen Leaf motel for the same price as the private room at the hostel (which had no availability for 2 nights.)

Water has been plentiful with many more seasonal streams running that are not listed in the data book, so we’ve been mostly carrying a liter at a time.

We are happy, well, and having lots of fun.

Twin Lakes

Greetings from the small community of Twin Lakes, Colorado. We have now hiked 175 miles of the Colorado Trail with 309 miles remaining.

The hike is going well and the weather has improved. It’s been three days since any significant rain has fallen.

We saw a red fox this morning from our tent site, Deb’s second sighting of a red fox since she saw one strolling through the town of Breckenridge.

Last Saturday on our second day in Breckenridge we slack packed from Copper Mountain, 14.4 miles back to our hostel room at the Fireside Inn (a great place to stay!) The day’s 10% chance of rain turned into 100% by the time we had 6 miles remaining to make it back to our room. Thankfully we had a shower and hot tub waiting for us! We both really liked Breckenridge and talked about a longer stay there someday.

We still haven’t seen any moose or elk or cougar or bear. The alpine meadows have been mostly quiet.

The Colorado trail itself can get quite steep, especially in the wilderness sections where the grades don’t have to make the mountain bikers happy (bikes are not allowed in the wilderness sections.) Deb is nick-naming the trail the “calf-burner.” The other oddity of the trail is the high treeline – it seems we have to be higher than 11,000 feet before we have expansive views.

Breckenridge

Today we passed the 100 mile mark in our hike and we arrived in the resort community of Breckenridge, Colorado.

The Colorado Trail gives up any pretense of being a wilderness experience here as the trail drops down from the mountains between a mobile home park and a condominium complex to a bus stop on the outskirts of Breckenridge. (The mobile home park was nicer than any I have seen with many of the mobile homes built like log cabins that surrounded a small lake).

Feeling it best to adapt to our new surroundings, we checked into the lovely Fireside Inn Hostel, showered, washed clothes, and sampled one of the many restaurants. Deb has made plans for us to “slack pack” the next 12 miles of trail.

Slack packing is hiking without carrying a heavy backpack full of camping gear. Tomorrow we will catch the free shuttle bus to the Copper Mountain ski resort and walk the 12 miles of Colorado Trail back to Breckenridge for another night of luxury at the Fireside Inn. On Saturday we will resume backpacking from Copper Mountain.

The past few days have not all been luxury. A few days ago we crossed over the Continental Divide for the first time with a long strenuous climb to just shy of 12,000 feet.