One Year In

Today marks the first anniversary of our emancipation from gasoline. A year ago – on December 4, 2018 – we brought our Chevrolet Bolt EV (for “Electric Vehicle”) home from the dealer. We have not driven a single inch on fossil fuel since. And I have not had a single regret.

The Bolt beside our garage, one year ago

A scorecard: During its first year, our Bolt has traveled 12,469 miles and used almost exactly 2900 kilowatt-hours of electricity, much of it generated by our solar panels. We have made four overnight trips of 300 miles or longer – the longest was 800+ miles – and countless day trips into our surrounding mountains, including travel to trailheads as much as 100 miles away. A few of those trailheads have required a mile or two of travel over roads marked for 4-wheel-drive only. Aside from two flat tires (neither of them the car’s fault) and a single tire rotation (time for another), we have not seen the inside of a service garage. Electric cars require almost no maintenance.

Some observations: first, the car is incredibly enjoyable to drive. It’s not just its ability to pass gas stations – it can pass almost everything else on the road as well. 200 horsepower and all the torque you can handle, available instantaneously, means we are usually the first away from stoplights and have no problem passing on hills. Cornering is excellent, due to the low center of gravity provided by the “skateboard” of batteries the car sits on. Driving really is fun again.

Second, the car is bigger than it looks. It’s a full five-passenger vehicle. Rear-seat legroom is about the same as we had in our Ford Escape – a medium-sized SUV – and greater than any other car we’ve owned in recent memory, probably back to the 1954 Kaiser we started married life with in 1967. The floor is flat. The luggage space behind the back seat looks tiny, but we got all of the luggage we needed for a week away from home – including a guitar and a laptop computer – into that space, with a little room to spare, in mid-July. The back seats fold flat if more space is needed. There are really very few restrictions on what we can carry.

Charging with a twin in Winters, California. That’s ours in the back.

There aren’t many restrictions on where we can go, either. Ground clearance beats anything we’ve owned recently except the Escape (I’ve already mentioned the 4-wheel-drive roads). Refueling problems on the road have been over-hyped. Range varies with conditions – very cold weather can drop it by as much as 20% – but during the warm-weather travel season it is generally 250 miles or more, the same as a 25 mpg gasoline-powered car with a ten-gallon tank. Stops can usually be planned around meals, so the hour or more it can take to refill the batteries at a DC fast charger isn’t often an issue. And many motels are putting in so-called “destination chargers” – you can plug in before you go to bed and wake up with a full battery in the morning. There are still places without either of those options, but they are getting fewer. And we’ve invested in a portable 240-volt charger, so we can charge in just about any RV park or in any home garage wired for a dryer.

Plugging in at the Last Resort RV campground on the North Umpqua River.

It’s been a great travel year, and we’ve been extremely pleased to do it without producing any greenhouse gases. I’ll grab a few of my favorite pictures from earlier posts and repost them below to show you some of the places we’ve gone without gasoline in the course of the year. Enjoy – and if you’re thinking about a new car but are hesitant about going electric, talk to me.

Our most recent picture of the Bolt, at the trailhead for the Split Rock trail in the Siskiyou Mountains on November 9.
Sunset over the Pacific at Crescent City, California.
Crater Lake in the snow.
The Applegate Valley from the East Applegate Ridge trail near Jacksonville, Oregon. Snowy peaks of the Red Buttes Wilderness in the left distance.
Ice on Shoalwater Bay on Klamath Lake – Oregon’s largest natural lake – near Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Mt Shasta from Lower Panther Meadow, near timberline on northern California’s highest mountain.
Upper Ruffey Lake and Etna Mountain, Klamath Mountains near Etna, California.
Kangaroo Lake from the connecting trail between the lake and the Pacific Crest Trail, Klamath Mountains near Callahan, California.
Meadows in Grouse Gap at peak bloom, Mt Ashland, Siskiyou Mountains near Ashland, Oregon.

Farewell to the High Country

November on McDonald Peak

McDonald Peak from the knoll.

Snow has not yet come to the high country of the Siskiyous. This is worrisome for the winter we are about to have, but it is also an opportunity. On November 6 we took advantage of that opportunity, with a ramble along the Split Rock Trail from Road 20 to the summit of McDonald Peak.

The Bolt at the Split Rock trailhead.

The Split Rock Trail begins at a tiny parking area just west of the ridge that forms the west wall of Grouse Gap, the large basin west of Mt Ashland. It ends at the summit of Wagner Butte, five miles to the north along the same ridge. A “use trail” for many years, maintained by hikers’ feet, it has recently been adopted into the Rogue River-Siskiou National Forest trail system, and now rates a trailhead sign and occasional maintenance. McDonald Peak is roughly a mile in. It is 7226 feet high, but that is less impressive than it may sound; the trail goes almost directly over its summit, and the entire route from trailhead to summit stays above 7000 feet.

I suffer from Reynaud’s Syndrome, which cuts off the circulation to the tips of my fingers if I get too cold, so we didn’t leave the house until after noon. The drive up was uneventful (although I do wish Road 20 would get some proper maintenance for what are developing into some pretty bad potholes), and we were on the trail by 1:30. There was haze in the valleys, but we were above most of that, and the views were glorious, stretching from Mt Shasta to the Crater Lake rim and almost everything in between. A flock of bluebirds swirled past as we climbed the south slope of the small knob we call “Little McDonald Peak” near the trailhead: they flew in 15s and 20s, fifteen or twenty feet in the air and then fifteen or twenty seconds on a convenient rock or red-fir limb. Near the same spot we found a few sulphur flowers still partially in bloom.

Western bluebird.
Sulphur flower

The actual summit of McDonald Peak is a rock outcrop about fifteen feet high, which the Split Rock Trail bypasses on the west side. It’s an easy scramble, so of course we summited. This was the site of the “geezer climb” my old friend and former climbing companion Cliff Olin and I made together in August 2017, roughly 50 years after our last previous climb together (and a lot easier than that one was!). Being there brought back pleasant memories of that trip.

The summit of McDonald Peak.
One lone phlox in bloom just below the summit.

Right: Cliff Olin and me summiting two different mountains. The top photo was taken on Sacajawea Peak in the Wallowa Mountains in 1966; the bottom photo is from our “geezer climb” in 2017.
Looking west from the summit.
Above and below: two views of McDonald Peak from the Split Rock trail.

It was still early when we got back to the car, so we added the half-mile round trip to the top of the gentle, nameless knoll west of McDonald Peak along the main crest of the Siskiyous. The electric propulsion system of the Bolt performed its magic on the way home, actually adding fuel to the battery instead of using it up as we came down the Mt Ashland Ski Road and the stretch of I-5 between Siskiyou Summit and Ashland, so we reached our garage with about the same charge showing on the range indicator as it had shown at the trailhead (just try to do that in a gas-powered vehicle). What I hope is the first of our winter storms is expected to come through at the end of this week, so this was probably our farewell trip to the high country for 2019.

Mt Shasta from the knoll.


Fleabanes (pink) and asters (violet) beside Road 530 on Hershberger Mountain.

The real attraction was Beckie’s huckleberry pie, but we needed an excuse. I thought of Hershberger Mountain.

Hershberger sits on the divide between the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers, high in the southern Oregon Cascades and just a dozen miles or so from the border of Crater Lake National Park. It is remote – getting there involves nearly an hour’s drive on winding Forest Service gravel roads after you leave the highway – so it gets only a few visitors each year. Those who go are drawn primarily by the flowers. Hershberger is one of the premiere wildflower sites in Oregon, with floral meadows that are often compared to Mt Rainier’s Paradise Park. Peak bloom is always well past by early September, but I thought there might be a few stragglers still around. And the turnoff onto those winding gravel roads from Highway 230 is only a few miles past the Union Creek Resort. Which includes Beckie’s Cafe.

Beckie’s is a treasure. Nestled in towering firs a couple of hundred yards from the rushing Rogue, the small, rustic, immaculately kept cafe is little changed since Ed Becklehymer opened it in 1926 to serve early motorists traveling to Crater Lake. The building has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places; the pies have earned rave reviews since Becklehymer’s wife began baking them right after the place opened. Among those pies, the huckleberry pie is way out in first place. Made from huckleberries picked by restaurant employees and others in the mountains surrounding the resort, it is served only from Labor Day weekend until the berries run out. Last year, that was just two weeks, and we didn’t manage to get up there before they were gone. This year, I was determined not to do that again. Labor Day weekend itself? No – that would be uncool. We would go the day after.

Morning light on the Rogue River beside the Hershberger Mountain road.

As we backed out of the driveway, I noted that the Bolt’s range indicator was estimating 347 miles. Comforting, even though I knew the real world wouldn’t give us that much. We turned onto the Hershberger Mountain Road around 9:20 AM, and after a brief stop along the Rogue near the road’s beginning and a somewhat longer stop at the base of the twin volcanic plugs known as the Rabbit Ears, we reached the turnoff to Road 530 – the spur off Road 6515 that leads to the Hershberger lookout – at 10:30. I turned onto 530, and immediately wished I hadn’t. We had been warned by the ranger at Prospect that this already-terrible road had been made much worse by the Pup Fire, a wildfire that had burned through the area in 2017, but I had hoped that, with the backwoods-driving skills I’ve honed over 60 years, I could ease the Bolt up it anyway. Within 150 feet, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. We would have needed at least a foot of ground clearance to make it across the ditches and exposed boulders in the roadbed; the Bolt has seven inches. Carefully – torturously – I backed out again. Even with the support of the backup camera, it took about ten minutes to cover those 150 feet backwards. I parked on the shoulder of 6515, on the edge of a lovely green meadow, and we started walking.

Hershberger Mountain from Road 530. The photo at the head of this post is a telephoto of the lookout, taken from this same place.

The Prospect ranger had told us that the walk along the road to the Ackerman Divide trailhead, which we intended to use, would be about a mile. It was a very long mile – nearly two miles, it turned out, when we checked the distance later at home. The Pup Fire had turned the forest around the mountain and its meadows into a mosaic of burned and green trees. The flowers, as expected, were mostly past, but there were remnants here and there of the glory that must have been present a month ago, including one very special find: Mazama collomia, a rare endemic that is found only in Crater Lake National Park and just a few other places within a 30-mile radius of the lake.

Clockwise from top left: mountain owls clover, Scouler’s bluebell (yes, it’s supposed to be white), bleeding heart, Siberian candy flower.
Mazama collomia, aka Crater Lake collomia, Collomia mazama – found only within 30 miles of Crater Lake.

We reached the trailhead around noon. Two trails begin here: the Ackerman Divide Trail, which drops steeply into a meadow called Pup Prairie, and the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail, which stays more or less level for two miles before plunging into a cirque named, aptly, Hole-In-The-Ground. We had been planning Pup Prairie, but in our already-tired condition, more or less level won out. We took the Rogue-Umpqua Trail through the burned-over woods for a mile and a half, far enough to get a good view of the impressively rugged hulk of Highrock Mountain. A quick scramble to a ridgetop meadow – which yielded no views – and we headed for Beckie’s. We arrived home several hours later, with 141 new miles on the odometer and just under half the battery still available.

Highrock Mountain
The Bolt’s back window became opaque with dust. This photo was taken at Beckie’s before we brushed it off.

And oh, yes, the huckleberry pie was delicious. So delicious that it disappeared before I thought to photograph it: I had to borrow this picture from Beckie’s Facebook page to show it to you.