Saturday, August 8, 2020

~ Riding West ~

"All good things are wild and free".  -  Henry David Thoreau


A few days ago, Christa Neuhauser Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel asked me to write an article for their upcoming Special Collector's Edition.  She asked if I could select a small, lesser-known National Park Service area on the West Coast.  I was honored and came up with some possibilities. She quickly let me know that she wanted other options. 

She agreed with the area that I selected and asked if I could meet a short deadline.  While I can't yet reveal the area, it is a small NPS area located on the West Coast. The Special Collector's Edition will be published soon and should be loaded with awesome pictures and stories.  Keep an eye out for it at newsstands. 

It was a fun assignment allowing me to turn wheels and feel the wind in my face along with some quality camping at Basalt Campground at San Luis Reservoir.

It has been a while since I've ridden my Indian Springfield for a story and this is just what the doctor ordered.  I camped once going to this park and once coming home.  A quick, yet rewarding trip.

Going home, I rode Highway 1 past Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing.  The fog was thick and wet.  The views were limited, though I could hear the crashing waves.  The sun did peek out for a bit as I stopped to stretch my legs.

Here are some pictures of that quick trip.  Enjoy.



My most important item for this trip

Yup, my bike, and flag are ready to go.






Sleeping bag - check.  Water - check.  Gloves - check.  Charger - check.  Face mask - check.




Basalt Campground, San Luis Reservoir.  80 sites total and 78 available.  My million dollar view.



Tonight, I grabbed the upper suite.



Nature takes great selfies



I love a campfire after a long day.


On my way back from the West Coast, my site was still available. The ground floor was perfect.


Cowboy boots make ideal windbreaks when cooking breakfast.


Leaving the campground, I stopped for three Tule bull elk that crossed in front of me.
These bulls ran for 1/4 mile before they felt safe from my iron horse.


The sun finally came out along Highway 1 south of Santa Cruz, CA.


It seems like corn is the crop this year in the San Joaquin Valley.  Perfect rows.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

~ Reflections ~

"Live close to nature - climb the mountain, treasure the woods, the flowers, the rock-giving strength to body and soul." - John Muir


Sawtooth Peak stands majestically on the horizon.


It was our first pack back trip in the early 1970s into the Sierra wilderness of Sequoia National Park.

Once we began our ascent of Sawtooth Pass in Mineral King, I'm not sure that we would survive.  It was a sketchy, cross-country trail at best.  I had never been here before and I relied on a topo map with scribbled notes from an earlier ascent by friends.

She reluctantly follows as we leave the established trail at Monarch Lakes to ascend the cross-country route over the 12,000' peak.  The steep granite slabs quickly begin to drain our energy.  The route is slow and difficult.  Each step is deliberate.  Our packs are heavy, our steps unsteady.  Near the summit, we pause to rest and assess the route before us. The views far below stretch for miles and we spot two mountain lakes; I think the map showed them to be Little Five and Big Five Lakes.

Honestly, I wasn't sure if we could make the first lake before dark.

We didn't have the latest camping gear.  Our backpacks were aluminum with heavy cotton sleeping bags.  We didn't have a full tent.  Our open tube tent was our shelter and the dark clouds concerned me.  The light rain quickly turned into a typical Sierra storm.  Sleep is poor as our tube tent provided a modest relief from the storm.

In the morning, the sky is clear and we quickly dry out our gear.  We fish at the first daylight and catch a few trout.  Denise and I are in awe of the wilderness before us.  The pristine lake warms our souls.  Wilderness and the sound of solitude was deafening.

We continued with our adventurist cross-country trip back to Mineral King via Hands and Knees Pass. The name perfectly describes our grueling descent back into the Mineral King valley.  The weather had turned bad and our visibility was a mere 10 feet.  I remember setting up our tube tent and heating some hot chocolate, waiting for the weather to improve.  It never did.  We descended hoping to hit Mineral King valley.

We did make it out!  Reflections.


Those are my thoughts, some fifty years later, as I gaze fondly towards Sawtooth Pass.

Today, we are spending the night at friend’s rustic cabin in Silver City.  We did hike the 3 1/2 mile Cold Springs Nature Trail absorbing the tranquility of Mineral King Valley from the shimmering aspens to the peaceful mountain stream and an occasional mule deer.


Small steps, big moments, Sawtooth Peak in the background.


We stop for lunch next to the cool East Fork.


Our steps are slow and deliberate. She has made remarkable progress since her stroke on April 29, 2020.  We share a few pictures and memories over Sawtooth Pass.


Dinner at an awesome outdoor restaurant.


Dinner today was a great improvement over a camp dinner years ago.
The Foxglove Cabin at Silver City.


Reading about the history of Mineral King.

Coffee in the serenity of Silver City soothes the soul.


We bid Mineral King valley farewell.



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

~ Just this side of Heaven ~

Today is a free day. 

There are no doctor appointments, no physical therapy, no occupational therapy, or no anything else structured. 

So when she asked, "Do you want to go into Sequoia National Park for a picnic?"

My answer was immediate: "Yes."

The day is perfect for hiking some of the Giant Forest trails.  

We push further up the High Sierra Trail at about 7,000', higher than I want, but the panoramic views of the Great Western Divide are rewarding.  We hike slow but with purpose.

We share some pictures from this first day of July.


Lupine grows before a Giant Sequoia.



Giant Sequoia Trees stand well beyond our time.



Moro Rock in the background.

The Great Western Divide is itched in memory.



Delicate flowers with Moro Rock in the background.




Not riding my bike today, but awesome moments at Crescent Meadow.



Great sign on a Government car.

We saw two bears today.

The NPS has done a great job communicating an important message.

Nature comforts the soul.



Friday, June 19, 2020

~ 49 Degrees East ~


Eastern Sierra, Mount Whitney.   


Every day, every single moment, causes me to pause. I’m the lucky one. 

You see, on April 29th Denise suffered a stroke.

Any stroke is serious, but when it occurs during Covid-19 well, your world is quickly turned upside down. I use to count moments in life. Today, I count ¼ moments. Honestly, time slowed down to a crawl.

My priority, my goal, my mission is her. Nothing else matters.

The good news and short version are that she is making a remarkable recovery. Her physical therapist, occupational therapist, nurse, and you have contributed to her recovery. I was impressed with their compassion and single focus on her rehabilitation. They do this daily, yet they performed their tasks like it was their first day at work.

Like millions around the world, we have stayed at home during this pandemic. We are thankful to the many friends who delivered home-cooked meals, freshly baked bread, flowers, cards, calls, emails, and visits.

To celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary on June 14th, we prepare our North Star camper and head off to the eastern side of the Sierra for some quality time. We plan to camp at the Lone Pine Campground and the dispersed camping in the Alabama Hills. 

The pictures that follow are part of that journey, if only at one ¼ time.



Denise experiencing life below the watchful eye of Mount Whitney.


Our North Star in the Alabama Hils near Mount Whitney.


Our camper lost in the landscape as we search for the infamous Arch Rock.


We attempted the 3-mile hike in search of the Arch Rock.

Slow and steady.


When I said, "This is far enough after a 1 1/2 mile of a 3-mile hike." 
She replied, "If we quit now, they will never know we made it."  Without discussion, we continued.



Arch Rock. Well worth the 3-mile hike. Our 1/4 moment in time.  Mount Whitney perfectly framed.



Reading at camp the biography of Spruce Springsteen.

Our camp far below, what a view to behold.

Plenty of spare tires if you have a flat in the backcountry.

Saying goodbye to Mount Whitney.

Thank you, for helping me along this road.


Dramatic clouds, on our last night, say farewell.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Great Basin National Park ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness: Great Basin National Park" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 6/3/20.

On the path that leads to Nowhere I have sometimes found my soul.” – Corinne Roosevelt Robinson

Rarely do I ride 1,800 miles just because a stranger suggests an awesome ride, but I had just met a fellow rider, Scott, in Springerville, AZ, and he was already persuading me to take a ride near his home in Utah. He called it the Nebo Loop, but it’s also known as the Mount Nebo Scenic Byway. It’s near Spanish Fork, UT. I had never heard of it.
Honestly, I thought I’d never see him again, but fate has its own ways of correcting our misjudgments. So, 900 miles later, I was looking for Scott’s Fly Shoppe, where we had agreed to meet. Scott is a professional fly fisherman and is known for his quality, hand-tied flies. It was a treat to follow him as our motorcycles climbed higher into the surrounding mountains.
Toward the end of our mountain ride, we stopped for our final pictures and farewells. He pulled out a map and led me west. “On your way back to California, travel on US 50 along America’s loneliest highway and camp at Great Basin National Park [in Nevada],” he said. And with his fading words, this story begins.

MILES FROM NOWHERE

I stop for fuel early, not knowing how far the next gas station is along this sparsely traveled road between Lynndyl and Delta, UT. I’m sleepy, so I buy a cup of coffee at the gas station. “I’m heading for Great Basin National Park,” I tell the woman behind the counter. “Can you tell me how many more miles?” She replies instantly: “I don’t know. There is nothing out that way anyway.” What she describes as “nothing” is low-level desert along sage-covered foothills that touch the mountains with patches of snow. I don’t see many cars on this road, but I feel so connected to nature.
Not far from the Utah–Nevada state line is a comforting road sign: Great Basin National Park, 6 miles ahead. At the small grocery store in Baker, NV, I buy one ear of white corn and a rib-eye steak. Tonight, I plan to camp at either Lower Lehman Creek or Upper Lehman Creek campground. However, both are full. In another hour, it will be dark.
The park map shows that Baker Creek Campground is located about 3 miles away on a dirt road. Surely, a site will be there. As I circle the campground for the second time, hoping to spot an empty site, a young biker flags me down. “All of the sites are full,” he says. “You’re welcome to camp here at my site.” Tired, and thinking that it could be miles before I found a suitable campsite in the dark, I thank him. I had forgotten it was Friday.
“My name is Jim, and I’m coming down from Oregon, heading for Florida,” he says. In his mid-20s, Jim is riding a cool-looking Harley-Davidson; I call him “Easy Rider.” Apparently, he doesn’t enjoy camping alone. I’m glad I took up his offer. We share tales and a few beers.
He turns in early as he is planning an extensive 15-mile hike to Baker and Johnson lakes the next day. As I lie in my sleeping bag, the stars are brilliant. The night sky is dark and alive. The Big Dipper is my compass, pointing to the North Star. In the morning, I leave Jim a note thanking him for sharing his campsite.
I fire up my motorcycle to experience the diversity of the Great Basin along the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. This 12-mile paved road hugs the mountains of the South Snake Range and provides sweeping views of the Great Basin Desert. By 8,000 feet, I begin to see pinyon and juniper trees. At 9,000 feet, there are groves of white fir, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine. At an elevation of some 9,000 feet, with patches of snow, the Mather Overlook provides panoramas of Nevada’s 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak. The road snakes higher to about 10,000 feet, where you enter a subalpine forest dominated by the white-bark aspen tree. There are ample pullouts along the way for pictures. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a must-do ride. The views take your breath away.
The rain clouds are forming and thunder rolls across the sky. A flash of lightning persuades me to leave. It is impossible to outrun the rain, so I brace for the worst. The scent of rain is imminent. In seconds, the storm turns south and is behind me. Relieved, I continue west along lonely US 50 toward Ely, NV. My camera tries to capture the moments while my mind simply repeats: Adventure. Gratitude. Alive.
I begin to hum a favorite song by Dwight Yoakam, “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” and I ponder the lyrics:
I’m a thousand miles from nowhere / Time don’t matter to me / ’Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere / And there’s no place I want to be.

Planning a Visit
Great Basin National Park, established in 1986, is located in eastern Nevada. This 77,100-acre park contains rugged peaks and underground caverns and supports a vast array of plant and animal life. The Great Basin bristlecone pine grows in the craggy mountain slopes near the tree line, where it can survive for about 4,000 years under extremely harsh conditions. A unique feature in the park is Lehman Caves, which extend a quarter-mile into limestone and marble and are most famous for abundant shields, relatively rare disc-shaped mineral formations, with graceful stalactites and other mineral deposits hanging from them. Weather can change quickly at any elevation; it is important to be prepared for rain or snow storms at any time of the year. GPS devices sometimes give inaccurate directions in this area, so keep a park map handy and pay attention to signs. Some roads are inaccessible in winter.

To Do

Options include day hiking, ranger-led activities, visitors centers, Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, fishing, stargazing, camping, birding, wildflower viewing, and more.
Lehman Caves can be visited only on a guided tour. Tours regularly sell out; reservations though www.recreation.gov are strongly recommended.

Hours

Great Basin National Park is open year-round. The Lehman Caves Visitor Center and Great Basin Visitor Center are open daily except for major holidays. Hours vary by season.

Fees

Admission to the park is free.
www.nps.gov/grba

Text and Photography:
Robert Griego

Monday, May 25, 2020

~ Remembering our Fallen ~



This Memorial Day we thank you, and untold others, for honorably serving our country  * * * * * *



My uncle, and my mom's brother, * Valentin Moya ~ WWII



Nancy Moya (mom) and *Sebastian Griego (dad) at their marriage ~ WWII



My best friend, *John Lopez (part of the Yamaha Gang) ~ heading for Vietnam




My best friend, *Gene Christianson (part of the Yamaha Gang) ~ heading for Vietnam



Denise Griego's uncle and Lucille Saldivar's brother, *Merle Longnecker ~ WWII



My Three Rivers friend, *Vince Roleter ~ WWII