Highway 395 in California

We recently returned from our annual summer road trip and California was the destination this year. Little Mister (he’s not so little anymore so I probably need to come up with a new name) has been wanting to visit Alcatraz for years so we centered our trip around Alcatraz. Per usual, I then added on as much as possible within driving distance from said destination. I am fairly certain the family has a love/hate with this tactic but I don’t care. 🙂

Our first destination was Lake Tahoe and we took Highway 395 to get there. If you’ve not taken a trip down 395, add it to your list. Not only is the scenery gorgeous, there is so much to do! We only stopped a handful of times but we will definitely be back to explore the area further.

Our first stop was the town of Randsburg for a soda from their soda fountain. Randsburg is about a mile off the highway so it didn’t add too much time to the day. It’s an old mining town and has some cool looking buildings and a jail you can explore. The Randsburg General Store serves food, sells groceries, and has a soda fountain that has been in operation since 1904. I tried the lime phosphate soda while The Husband tried the root beer. Both were good and it was neat to experience a bit of history.

Old fashioned sodas from the Randsburg General Store

At this point we had been driving all day so we spent the night in Lone Pine at the Boulder Creek RV Resort. I was rather impressed with the campground. The sites are nicely spaced and clean and they have a well stocked store. They also have quite a few fun things to do on the grounds. There is a pool, playground, birds, desert tortoises, and a handful of swings to relax in. We didn’t spend much time at camp but it made for a nice place to stay on the way up the 395. The only downside is you have to actually call to make reservations. I run into this every so often and it boggles my mind.

Our next stop was the Hot Creek Geological Site. A chamber of magma lies below the surface causing boiling hot water, colored pools, fumaroles, and occasionally geysers. It’s a couple miles off the highway and easy to get to. The first two miles are paved and the final mile is dirt but well maintained. There is a short, steep paved path down to the river.

Hot Creek Geological Site

You cannot go in the river or walk over to the pools but you can get close enough to see the steam coming off the pools. That blue color is really incredible.

The Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes was a little farther of a stop than I expected but the area is beautiful and the fault was cool to see. Technically it’s a fissure but it was caused by an earthquake and you can see how the two sides of rock go together. Aside from the neat history lesson and geology, the forest is gorgeous and the trees are huge. I’d love to come back to this area to camp and ride bikes.

Earthquake Fault – Mammoth Lakes

Our final stop on the 395 was Bodie Historical State Park, a gold-mining ghost town. Bodie is a little farther of a journey off the highway, about 20-30 minutes each way, but definitely worth a stop. Because Bodie is a state park there is a small entrance fee. Additionally, for $2 cash, they sell a brochure that tells the history of each building. I would recommend getting the brochure. It made walking through the town more exciting because we knew what we were looking at.

My favorite stop in the town was the bank, or what’s left of the bank. I spent many years working for a bank and have a soft spot for all things banking.

The only downside of driving the 395 was the gas prices. We paid $4 – $5 a gallon in all of California, but the highest prices were definitely along the 395. It’s a collection of small towns so high prices are expected but it definitely hurts the wallet.

If you are planning a trip to this area check out California Thru My Lens. Josh has tons of information on all the stops along the 395.

Rainbow Rim Trail

I have been waiting to ride the Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for years. We finally made it happen and had the best time. The Husband and I left the kids at home and headed north for a long weekend. It was just the two of us, the camper, and our bikes. ❤️

Rainbow Rim Trail

The Rainbow Rim Trail is a 22.6 mile trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail is not in the national park but rather on Forest Service land right next to the park. The trail is open to hikers, horses and bikes but I think it sees bike traffic the most.

The Kaibab Plateau, where the North Rim is located, had a wet winter and it was still snowing the week before we arrived. I was freaking out a little bit because the trail is 20 miles down a dirt road and the ranger station was unsure of the road and trail conditions even the day before we arrived. They told us to stop by the station on our way to the trail and they would hopefully be able to give us a better report. When we stopped at the ranger station, as they told us to do, they referred us to the North Rim Country Store because they know the trail conditions better. Um, what? The Country Store is right across the street from the turn off to the Rainbow Rim so it wasn’t out of the way and it ended up being a great stop. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly and did indeed know the road conditions. One of the employees pulled out a big map, showed us a few things, and answered all the questions the ranger station was not able to. It still seems strange that the ranger station was less knowledgeable but whatever. The Country Store also has a coffee trailer and they make the best latte’s. Seriously. If you are headed to the North Rim be sure to stop in the North Rim Country Store and give them some love. They’re good people.

We planned our trip for early June and due to scheduled kid activities and vacation days at work changing the dates was not possible. We had everything necessary to live off the grid for a few days, so we figured we’d make the best of it and see what happened. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, the roads were mostly dry, the trail was dry, and we had the best camping spot.

The trail winds up through the forest and back down along the rim. The rim views are gorgeous but you spend a lot of time in the forest. I actually enjoyed riding through the forest more than along the rim. The aspen trees were just getting their leaves, the pine trees were huge, and the wildflowers were just starting to bloom. It was absolutely gorgeous.

I was surprised by the size of the size of the trees in this area. There were a few times I felt like I was riding amongst the redwoods. This particular tree was so tall we couldn’t get the entire thing in a picture. Every time we rode by it we stopped to take in its grandeur. Our itty bitty bikes are at the bottom to help with the size reference.

The trail is not hard, but it is at 7,500 feet, there is some exposure, and the grade is a tad steep in some areas. The first day we rode I was questioning my life choices until I adjusted to the higher elevation. I may or may not have stomped off the trail on day 1 thanks to items 1 and 3 mentioned above. Fortunately, after taking a break and eating a snack I regained my sanity and got back on my bike. Days 2 and 3 were much more enjoyable.

The clouds were constantly rolling in and out and we were continually treated to incredible scenes.

One afternoon a rainstorm rolled in so we decided to hop in the car and head to the Grand Canyon National Park North Rim.

If you don’t get a sign picture did the trip really happen?

Our first stop in the park was a coffee shop because it was cold and there is something wonderful about drinking coffee and staring at the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Lodge has a lovey patio with Adirondack chairs and high top tables perfectly positioned so you can relax and stare off into the canyon. There is also cell phone signal in this exact location so we able to check in with the family which was a bonus.

From this spot you can see Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim as well as the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. It’s pretty incredible.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon looking south

After spending a few days basically by ourselves in the forest, all the people and tour buses at the North Rim were getting to us so we retreated for the car and headed back to our little slice of heaven in the forest.

Home sweet home

One of the things I love about the Grand Canyon is that every time you look at it it looks different. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful and we walked to the rim, which was 10 steps one direction and probably 50 in another, every chance we had.

I had the best tacos of my life on this trip. They weren’t anything different than what we eat at home but they tasted 1,000 times better. Mountain biking + high elevation + camping + gorgeous dinner views = amazing tacos.

We were gifted a very nice bottle of wine and brought it with us. We’ve been saving it for a special occasion and decided this fit the bill. And then we proceeded to drink it out of plastic cups. #classy

We had the best time camping and riding the Rainbow Rim. This trip definitely tops my list of favorite trips and we will be back. If you like mountain biking, camping, and gorgeous views I’d recommend adding the Rainbow Rim to your bucket list.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

We visited McDowell Mountain Regional Park in April and it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. 2018 was not my favorite thanks to a nonunion fracture in my foot but I finally feel like I’m getting my life back. Hallelujah!

A rainbow on the way to the campground – a sign of a good weekend ahead.

A couple years ago we attended a bike demo at McDowell Mountain and have been wanting to go back ever since. Well, we finally made it happen. The park is located east of Phoenix and the campground sits in the middle of tons of mountain bike and hiking trails. Literally, almost every single campsite had mountain bikes so I take it most visitors come to ride bikes. The trails are my favorite kind – fun, flowy XC trails. The Husband wasn’t as much of a fan – he prefers more technical riding but Little Miss and I were in heaven.

The makings of a good weekend!

My new favorite Friday night camping hack is to pick up a pizza on the way to the campground. We used to pick up a rotisserie chicken to make Frito tacos but pizza is so much easier. My favorite pizza restaurant has locations in Phoenix and Sedona and it happened to be on the way to the campground. Score!

Saturday morning The Husband and I got up with the sun to ride bikes. Teenagers aren’t fans of early morning anything so we let them sleep in. We had an enjoyable ride but it got hot fast. I don’t have much of a heat tolerance so that probably didn’t help matters but it was hot – truly. We finally made it back to the campground and I checked the temperature. 64. 64 degrees is how hot it was. I still call boloney. It felt so much hotter than 64. The trails do not have any shade so there’s that and the sun was intense. I’m not sure if that’s normal for Phoenix heat but I don’t feel that way in Tucson usually. Fortunately, I lived through the ordeal.

It did get hot in the middle of the day so we hopped in the car to explore the park and the visitor center. Turns out, the visitor center has a small exhibit of animals you may encounter in the park. Think rattlesnakes, scorpions, spiders, and gila monsters. Every couple of weeks they feed the animals and we just happened to be there on feeding day. I’m still a little creeped out by the experience but it was a good learning experience. The herpetologist taught us about the animals as she was feeding them and then we watched as they did their thing.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park Visitor Center

Saturday evening we went on a sunset bike ride – my favorite type of ride!

One of our favorite camping activities is playing cards at the end of the day. Our new camper has a longer table and we are enjoying the extra space. More room for snacks!

Sunday morning The Husband wanted to go on a longer ride so he went his way and Little Miss and I went on our own ride. We found a connector trail right off the campground that connected with a sweet, easy downhill trail and we spent probably two hours just riding laps. It was so much fun!

We finished up our ride by hiding in the shade of our camper because that’s what you do in the desert.

The campground has a really cool playground and we spent some time playing on the toys. I mean, how can you not slide through the middle of a rattlesnake? Or sit on a saguaro cactus? These might win the award for coolest toys ever.

Overall, the campground was well maintained and the bathrooms were always clean. The sites were spacious and not on top of each other. If I were to stay here again I would probably try to get one of the sites on the northern end of Rock Nob Road but only because they’re right next to the connector trail we enjoyed riding. The campground is not that big so it really doesn’t matter where you stay though.

Happy trails!