Question: If a bear shits in the woods at 9,000 feet elevation on a side of a mountain, how long does it take for a 11 year old loving chocolate lab to find it and begin snarffing it down (at least 4 bites make it) before his owner catches up to him?

Answer: about 3 minutes.

The fun continues in our plan.  Today is a SPECIAL DAY for both of us.  This is the actual date that we set (7-17-17) to be completely untethered and experiencing a new life out on the planet…moving across it (albeit slowly) and soaking in all that we can.  We talked about it for years and then, on a birthday camping vacation near Cambria, we decided to stop talking and PICK A DATE.  Boy did that help us a lot.  Every single motion, action, penny…energy… we could focus it on our goal.  When things would get hairy and unfun, we reminded each other:  71717.  Then we’d laugh off the problem knowing that we were going to make this goal happen and dream about what was next.  

On that note, it is NOT exactly what we were dreaming.  Well, factually I can only speak for myself.  Randy will have to get his blog rolling with his thoughts.  I know he is having a great time (except for Kona eating bear poop this morning) because he is so dang relaxed, calmer than ever, anxious to be productive and do a good job at our current employment.

Back to “not exactly what we were dreaming”.

The Vet and his Assistant were INCREDIBLE. I will post their info later.
Zoey on the rebound. Had to use one of my headbands for a body suit to help her stop scratching.
That has everything to do with our beloved pets.  

Having two dogs and cat makes it difficult (especially when we were baking in Bishop on stand-by for Lake George).  Zoey got really sick and we had to visit TWO vets within a week.   The heat was just too much for her and we couldn’t find much relief (carrying her is a joke – she’s way too big for a backpack….we tried) so we can’t go far distances.     Piper (the cat) was bored to TEARS in Bishop so we began taking her with us on our visits up to Mammoth.  Come to find out:  SHE ACTUALLY WOULD JUST PREFER TO SLEEP ON THE FLOOR NEAR THE COOL AIR THAN JOIN US ON A TRIP.  Kona is just Kona.  He has one marble in his brain and when it falls out of the socket for “balance” and “good choices” we are doomed to find out the repercussions (thus giving us ANOTHER lesson in the same subject we are schooled in over and over and over).  We decided to leave him in the travel trailer (in Bishop) with the air blowing and a movie on (Uncle Buck).  We just needed to get groceries and stop for Wifi use at the only local brewery in town.  The entire living room, kitchen, den, office (sounds big, right? It is about 20′ by 30′, furniture included) was strewn with the trash that WE FORGOT TO TAKE OUT.  I think our brains were fried and that had to be why we made such a dumb mistake.   Took look at it on the bright side:  we had talked about making a checklist of things to do when leaving…and that got done THAT DAY.  Haven’t had the problem since.

Now we’re up in Lake George where it is 5O degrees cooler!!  50!!!  I am glad I kept a few long sleeve shirts.  Zoey’s recent trip to the vet was not cheap but it has resulted in a happier pup just bouncing around enjoying herself again.   

Our jobs are officially titled CAMP HOST.   

We have our travel trailer parked at the entrance area of the Lake George Campsite.  Question for our experienced RV friends:  WHEN WILL BACKING A TRAVEL TRAILER BE EASY AND STRESS FREE?  This one was super tough.  We did not have much room for error at all.  It took us about 8 attempts but we/Randy got that sucker tucked between giant pine trees, next to a bear box and picnic table PLUS far enough in to connect up the water, power and sewage.  Yep, he’s getting STUD POINTS in my book.  That. Was. Not. Easy.  I’m thankful we won’t be doing it again for a while.  

We work for a company called California Land Management (or CLM).   I have learned that the National Parks (I hope I am getting this straight) contract private companies to manage the campsites.  Just want to give a SHOUT OUT to these companies because I am now learning how much work is involved with giving you (the camper) an excellent experience.  I am halfway through our company handbook and I’m just amazed.  I had no idea what it took and now that I’m part of it I want to beg you: BE KIND TO THE PEOPLE MANAGING THE PARKS (whether they are at a private company or working for the Forest Service, National Parks…whatever). 

While it sucked waiting in Bishop to begin, the fact is that it was NECESSARY so the place would be absolutely SAFE for visitors to camp at our site.  The winter dropped 20 (at least) feet of snow on the mountain and it is still there melting.  The forest service people that I’ve met have been really professional.  I got to see a tree chopped down (John) and the inside of it was hollow.  Now I’m not going to be sad when a tree is chopped down “for a good reason”.  That tree would have killed someone and it was right near the pathway.  Those Forest Service people have their jobs cut out for them.  The water is another situation that had to be handled.  You can’t just  drink the water!  Well, you CAN but it is risky.  There is a government entity that actually takes responsibility for this being safe and as annoyed as anyone wants to get: they aren’t going to let you poison yourself.    I met another Forest Service worker yesterday named Jack.  He was getting the potable restroom cleaned then trying to get the bear boxes working (they were bent closed and no matter how hard I tried I could NOT get it open for a Day Use person who was trying to abide by the “don’t leave food in your auto” laws.  (Hey Johnny!)

Our Digs

Lake George was supposed to open up on June 1st.  That got bumped to end of June.  Then it got bumped again to “mid-July”.  A lot had to happen between the day we applied to be Camp Hosts to the day we got ourselves settled up there.  I think CLM runs 12 different sites and they are doing their best to get them all open (refer to the paragraph above).  Actual humans have to get things done and there is only so much time in a day (and Mother Nature doesn’t really care about routines, schedules or plans).  Everyone with reservations had them cancelled (for the reservable sites) until the 27th of July.  I was told that they were all notified but of course there are people that do not read their mail and showed up with their entire rig and families to be turned away.  It would make sense that there would be emotions pouring all over.  Guess what: the CLM workers had to take that pain and they just kept working as hard as possible to get the place open.  
Which brings me to THE PEOPLE running the camp sites at CLM.  Seriously COOL PEOPLE that just want one thing: you to have a great experience.  I’m not kidding either.  I’m still learning the ropes and the rules and expectations but the seasoned men and women I’ve met have been SO HELPFUL getting us rolling.

Our Boss: Dillon

Service and Maintenence Team:  Mike, Justice and James

D/Ops Manager (I’m still learning): Cindy 

Recycleables Manager: Wendy (I think)

June Lake Host: Karen

Coldwater Camp (I think) Host: Betsy 

Lake Mary Host:  Mona

We met the Operations Manager for INYO (Justin) back in April when we came up to see about what things looked like (and it was covered in snow and we snowshoed out to Lake Mary. 

Dillon visited us to get us rolling.  Cindy gave us all of our paperwork and also helped Dillon give us quick training so we could open.  At 3pm on July 14th we were allowed to have a camper!  Our FIRST camper!  It was sincerely exhilarating.    

We have one book to read between the two of us and it is about 3 inches thick of rules, guides, tips…etc.  Randy finished it on Day 2 in between helping people and our tasks.   I am mid way through it as of yesterday.  
OUR ROUTINE

We need to make rounds in the camp three times every day.  Depending on the circumstances (like a bear came around on our first and third day) we do this at 7:00am, 2:00pm and 7:00pm.   We cannot work more than three hours each and it is a scramble to make that happen.  I think the biggest task is maintaining good relations with the campers answering questions.  We also get people from the Day Use Only area coming over with TONS of questions.   

I don’t have it memorized but our goal is to work with the US Forest Service to help the citizens enjoy this beautiful park. People need to feel welcome!  That means having awesome conversations with anyone and everyone that wanders to our trailer.  I think I’m going to go into town and pick up a few area maps or something to help them find the trails (we are no experts on these trails at all…and we got lost (that pic at the top is of Randy trying to figure out how to get us to Crystal Lake…the trails still have snow covering them).

People are up here to camp, fish, hike, picnic and enjoy the weather. 

BEARS!

Our first night (July 14th) we had a bear sighting by a camp guest in the morning.

We were told a few stories about how bears ๐Ÿป behave in these parts and they were PROVEN last night.

A lady was making bacon for her family on the grill and a bear walked into her camp site and up to the grill and took all the bacon and at it right there while she was frozen.

A family was eating their dinner at Lake Mary and a bear came up (without Reservations!) and ate all of their food while they screamed and yelled (and probably took their phones out taking pics) helplessly.  That was at dinner time!

Last night at about 7:00pmwe had done our final rounds and I was preparing dinner.  We planned to eat our on our picnic table with a fire going.  There was a Father and Son that had joined us from Germany and did not speak a lot of English.  When I checked them in I noticed they did not have a lot of food and I thought they might be hungry.   Randy encouraged me to walk up and invite them over for dinner so I started up the hill to their site (which is #8, the best view of the lake).

Lake George Campground Map
I was about halfway up and it was dusk.  I was wearing my progressive glasses, not my contact lenses.  Distance isn’t the greatest. Dusk doesn’t help either.   The moon was out and all I heard was the flip and flop of my sandals.  I breathed in deep enjoying the space and glancing around the sites as I passed them.  Then I heard it, “GET OUT OF HERE!!” Over and over.  Site 10 (at the top of the campground) nicknamed “Utah” (he was a dad from Utah) was dealing with a bear blowing through their site toward my German Family site! 

I stopped and tried to remember WHAT TO DO.  Mike (maintenance) had just told me what to do but I was panicking and could not remember.  I saw the shadow of the bear moving along the ridge toward my other sites.  CRAP!!!  I had to protect my people! But HOW!?  I squinted again toward where the yelling was coming from and realized it was only 30 yards away from me.  I could not turn and run away (but boy did I want to).  Then it hit me:  MAKE NOISE.  They don’t like it (and I’m sure it is more like a mosquito buzzing around them because technically they could squish us like bugs) and move on.  This was a new bear just recently kicked out by its mama and trying to survive I was told later.  

Site #8 Lake George Mammoth Lakes. Tent only. First come, first serve. View of Crystal Crag. DOESN’T SUCK!!
This is right before I walked up to Site 8.
One of my MOST IRRITATING qualities is that I can make noise.  I learned how to whistle and it impresses (read: irritates) anyone directly in front of me.  I began to whistle over and over to warn Randy and hopefully help get the bear moved on.  I was really worried it would decide to head in my direction then I’d have to figure out what to do next (stand there and whistle?).  I heard Utah yelling at the other sites to STAY IN YOUR TENT over and over.  In a flash I realized that a tent was really not much of a protective dwelling – especially if there was food in it!  Those bears have a keen sense of smell and you really can’t outsmart them. 
Then the bear disappeared over the side of the mountain toward the lake.  I ran up to the site and talked to Utah.  He was one of the campers that was disappointed he’d missed the last bear pass through (it was a rumor).  He wanted some ACTION and he got it!  I think he slept better than any other night satisfied he’d gotten his wish.   I approached Site #8.  “My German Friends!  Are you OK!?” I yelled out.  There was the sound of a zipper and out popped Dad.  They were fine (whew).  I asked if they were hungry and that I had extra dinner if they wanted some but they’d eaten and were just settling down for the night.  Well OK then, everything was good (except my heart was racing from all of it.

Well, that’s the latest (as of last night) and I’m sure I’ve missed a lot.

We are on a break in town and I’m sitting at the public library using the wifi trying to get things updated on my phone through iCloud which has been a complete JOKE. 

I sent out the beginning of my Wanderlust Leaf envelopes.  Please let me know if you got yours.  I sent out a bunch of post cards and letters over the past two weeks but I have no idea if people are getting them.  The Post Office here has low ratings and all of the reviews are because they lose things.  Fingers crossed my stuff wasn’t lost!   I can’t even remember who was in my last batch of post cards:  JK? Neema? Anitha? Manzoor?
EXERCISE

Running at 9,000 ft elevation is a REALITY ADJUSTMENT.  We are getting up early every day to squeeze in a little true heart-pumping exercise.  

We ran from Lake George to Lake Mary and were going to head into town (go right) but there were three deer on the path on Lake Mary Road so we turned left toward Horseshoe Lake.  Getting up and out before 6:00am helps you see some pretty amazing stuff.  

We hiked toward Crystal Lake (photo above) in the afternoon and got lost plus we had to hurry back to get our final walk through of the site done.  AND mosquitos were suddenly buzzing around.

We rode to Horseshoe Lake and tried to ride Mammoth Lake Pass but it was WAY too technical for me and ruddy so we opted to do the Horshoe Lake path.  It was covered with snow, water crossings AND on our way in a hawk dive-bombed Randy coming INCHES from his head as we rode past.  I could NOT believe what I was seeing!   When we finished that out-and-back we did some push-ups on a log in the empty parking lot (and helped a lady that let her dogs off leash and they were running around in those dead trees…which are all dying because the CO2 is elevated in this area…pets have to be careful!).


IN CLOSING…FOR NOW…

This has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

You can do this too.

No matter what your circumstances there are plenty of roads to travel and places to explore.  Don’t wait until you are too old, too weak, to tired…DO IT NOW and feel the energy of this beautiful planet fill in so much good space and squeeze out the negativity!

Do things because you want to, not because of someone else’s ego!  That’s key in my opinion.   Read or listen to (even better) Stuart Wilde.  He is a philosopher with a great accent and an even greater sense of humor.

Currently we are slotted to work until our trip to Ireland which is mid-September.  Our pets will be living with their Aunt Cherril in Simi Valley while we are away. 

That’s the plan as of today and it isn’t solid and it might change and I’m OK with that.

I love and miss all of my family and friends!

๐Ÿ™‚ xo Sarita
PS: I’m posting this and I think it will go to Facebook.  I cannot get to Facebook at all and only get an hour here and there when we come into town for groceries.  SO: if you want me to see your comment please leave it on my blog here.   Also, our address is still the same.  PO Box 9158 Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546-9158  (make sure you leave the -9158 on the zip).  

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