California Road Trip Days 7, 8, & 9: Bodie Historic Ghost Town, Lake Tahoe, Russian Gulch State Park

Day 7 – October 4, 2016

After some delicious craft brews and a peaceful night in June Lake, we headed North up Route 395 along the Sierras toward our next stop in Lake Tahoe.  First stop?  Breakfast!  We had very few restaurant meals on our trip since our campervan’s kitchen setup made it so convenient and easy to cook ourselves.  We splurged on a lazy morning and a breakfast (and delicious coffee) made by somebody else with a view of Mono Lake at the Epic Cafe in Lee Vining.  It was fantastic and we highly recommend it.  For a tiny place, Lee Vining sure has some great places to eat!

We hit the road, heading along the eastern Sierras toward the Bodie Historic Ghost town. To the East was Mono Lake, which is a giant salt lake.  We took in the views but didn’t stop here.

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Our big stop for the day was Bodie Historic Park.  Bodie is an old mining town from the late 1800’s that was eventually preserved and turned into a state historic park in 1962.  If you are headed this way, I highly recommend reserving a few hours to check out Bodie.  The mine and the buildings that are left have been preserved and it is a fascinating window into the past.  Many of the buildings still have furniture, clothing, food tins, and other personal effects still inside.  If you like history, photography, or just looking at cool things…. it’s a must see.  Well worth the $8 entry ($5 for kids, under 3 is free).  There are guided tours of the mine, but we didn’t make one of these.

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From here, it was onward and upward (literally!) to Lake Tahoe!

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Our next campsite was at D. L. Bliss State Park on Lake Tahoe. This campground is definitely a little on the pricey side – but we felt it was worth every penny.  We were able to drive right in and were one of TWO people in the campground.  Seriously.  A peacefully quiet beach spot with stunning lake views.  Let’s hear it for the off season!!  It was the last week campground was open, the temps were nice (but freezing – in the 20s at night), and it was PERFECT.  Plus, we got to take real showers.  I can’t even imagine what kind of a zoo this place is during the summer, but it sure is stunning.  I’d even consider braving the crowds to come here in the warm months…. maybe.  I was dying for a swim in that pristine water but hypothermia really isn’t my thing.  Next time.

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Day 8 – October 5, 2016

Since we only had two days in Tahoe (not enough!  We definitely plan to come back for a longer stay here to explore more), we opted to explore from the campground and just kick back, relax, and enjoy it there.

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The hiking, mountain biking, trail running options are practically limitless (*see above – Must. Come. Back.) After waking up to a crisp (F’ing freezing) morning (thank god I packed my down sleeping bag… and jacket… and took the extra duvet offered at the van pickup) we bundled up and headed out on a trail run.

The Rubicon Trail leaves from D. L. Bliss State Park and winds along the lake to Emerald Bay State Park.  We opted to run from D. L. Bliss out to Vikingsholm and back, a 9 mile round trip.   The route was so beautiful!  I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an easily accessible moderate hike/run with some beautiful scenery.

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Vikingsholm was pretty wild.  Sadly, it had closed just before we arrived.  In short – it is a former vacation estate built in the 1920’s and designed after Scandinavian castles.  It is now a state park, so anyone can visit.  It’s unique architecture, wood work/carving, and stained glass details are fascinating – Someday we will be back to check out the inside as well!

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We also spent some time wandering the park, and found the balancing rock… I think he looks like a turtle – right??

Day 9 – October 6, 2016

After one more relaxing and chilly night in Tahoe it was time to hit the road again.  We stopped for breakfast at Fire Sign Cafe, which was AMAZING (thanks again, Yelp! -Anthony is still raving about the breakfast burrito) and then hit the road for the long drive across the state.

We made a stop at Donner Memorial State Park  and took in the visitor’s center, which had a nice exhibit about the ill-fated Donner Party (a wagon train of pioneers trying to make it to California in the 1840s – spoiler alert:  It didn’t go well), as well as local Native American history.  Confession:  I am a huge geek about this, because I did a big History Day project on the Donner Party in high school.  I may or may not have planned this portion of the route so we could stop here.

From here we hit the road, across the state on route 20 to set up camp for the night at Russian Gulch State Park  in Mendocino.  What a difference the coast makes!!!  Damp, chilly, and full of slug buddies!

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Up Next….. Fort Bragg’s glass beach, Mendocino, Wine, Beer, Redwoods, and Shipwrecks – oh, my!

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