Sarah and I are too cheap to pay for two Berkeley neighborhood street parking permits (screw those money-grubbing jerks anyhow!). And so, Doris the Finkasaurus resides in front of the Carlton St. apartment of our dear friends Sivan (the Eldar) and Anicia Timbahlake.

Also in front of their apartment: a telephone pole with a sign on it reading "Have Van - WILL Travel."

An auspicious sign, to be sure! We decided to take its advice...

2/3 of the cast of the current misadventure (from l to r): Andre "am I supposed to be watching the road?!" Mount; the left side of Andre's head (w/ear); and the disembodied, floating head and hair of Sarah A. Carsman...

(photo: Timberlake)

...and the third: Anicia, seductively sporting her prized-est possession, a puffy trucker hat proclaiming (in equally seductive green lettering): "Bonch."

(I won't go into too much detail about what a bonch is. Let me simply quote one of the tamer (yet rhyming) definitions from Urban Dictionary and say that "it's close to your heini and on girls it's tiny.")

For once, seeing as how Anicia likes to take pictures herself, there're more photos of me on this trip than the obligatory oh-shit-I-should-probably-include-some-record-of-myself shot I stick in at the end.

Take a look at this gem, for example. Note the stylish hat found in the "Free" box outside In Your Ear (Boston, MA) and the I'm-going-camping cowboy shirt.

(photo: Timberlake)

A toothy grin.

(photo: Timberlake)

Anicia is hereby permanently invited on ALL future van trips. She cooked all of our dinners and for each one made an exquisite feast out of modest beginnings.

Night 1: Chinese chicken with black bean sauce

Night 2: tacos with marinated chicken

Night 3: pasta with fresh veggies

Awesome.

Yuba County politicians are not afraid of a well-placed campaign pun.

(Apparently it worked! According to the Yuba County government website, Hal is currently the 5th District Supervisor. Congrats, Hal!)

(photo: Timberlake)

Andre and Sarah are looking for the nugget.

(photo: Timberlake)

After several hours of putzing around Tahoe National Forest campgrounds only to realize that we came too early in the year and that most of them were closed, we spent a lovely night at Carlton Campground on Route 49. Nice little spot right on the river, but we didn't hang out there too long...

We were off to the Oregon Creek swimming hole we'd read about. As a result of this sign, you won't see any pictures of us at the hole!

(I know this makes me an asshole, but I find myself continually amused at handwritten signs with spelling mistakes. It seems like if you're going to go through the trouble, you'd might as well do a little research and development first. Here's another.)

Holy shit.

Imagine everything that could make a swimming hole great...

...deep pools with crystal clear water...

...smooth granite rocks for sprawling out on...

...rocks of varying heights next to said pools, perfect for jumping off of...

...a small bottleneck right next to a diving pool that you could shoot through on your way downstream...

..."Sierra jacuzzis" (That's what the cool kids call these small hot-tub sized pools that are constantly being churned by little waterfalls. Here's a stack of three in a row!)...

...a small slide into the deepest pool (Sarah refused to try it out...what a wussy. Then again, there was no way I was getting stuck in that narrow slot either!)...

...and even a small waterfall-fed pool, perfect for cooling off your picnic beers in.

Oregon Creek swimming hole in all it's glory!

(The sun was really bright, so a lot of these pictures came out slightly underexposed when I tried to compensate.)

Up at the top of the falls, I found a small, underwater passage! Had the water been warmer (that was the only downside of the swimming hole, at least that early in the season), I would've spelunked right down through it.

Venturing upstream, I encountered this fearsome beastie. (No bathing suit on this guy! It must be a "newdt"! Get it?!)

...and some sage advice.

And, in the other direction, the stream mellowed out into a totally idyllic wilderness scene.

The large granite rocks up near the main swimming hole were very slippery. A girl walked in front of us at one point on her way down the jumping rock and totally ate it. She started sliding down towards the cliff, and I had a pang of "to-the-rescue?" shoot through my body. I was just about to spring into action when she skidded to a stop, inches from the edge, and stood up and shook it off.

These rocks downstream were covered with moss and much softer. You could spring from one to the other without a care in the world! (Save the mosquitoes... which seemed to dig the cooler microclimate.)

Another shot of "Sarah slot."

(Personally, I think she woulda fit.)

Seeking shelter from the sweltering sun, this little feller found a nice hiding spot. We, on the other hand (at least pasty Andre and Sarah), were hell bent on getting as much sunburn and vitamin D as we could get!

After lunch, I took a little trip further upstream.

It's crazy... The swimming hole itself was at the bottom of a steep-walled canon. The path down was pretty treacherous just walking. Forget about getting mining equipment down there...

But when gold fever sets in, I guess it leads people to take risks. I found this wheelbarrow right next to the stream.

(The view from the abovementioned wheelbarrow.)

It might have been because it was so early in the year, but the whole area was very lush.

I guess we'll have to go back in August to confirm...

Oregon Creek

They're kind of hard to make out in this picture (damn ripples...), but there were some strange larval pods in the calmer parts of the creek.

Sigourney would've freaked out!

She got in again, but was perpetually mustering.

...in the end, however, the chute between the rocks was overwhelmingly attractive.

Bonchtastic new profile picture.

(With awkward dangling claw hand.)

Sarah Carsman: Queen of the Vanagon Photobomb

For night number two, we vanagoned on over to a different spot. We'd heard that you can camp for free on Bureau of Land Management land and were eager to try it out.

When we got there, however, we found out that this wasn't quite the case. The price per night was just a little more expensive than free.

(We probably could've found a spot to pull over that wasn't in the campground and stayed there for free, but given the pervasive mountainous-ness of the area, we figured five bucks weren't bad for a nice bit of flat land and a couple of trees to tie the ol' hammock to.)

Eastbound motorcyclists and ghost jeeps are not conducive to the preservation of natural values.

We picked our second campsite according to some well-rated nearby swimming holes along the South Yuba River. As it turned out, Day 3 was overcast and remarkably chilly. We figured it'd be worth to hike on down to do a little swimming-hole recon just the same.

And what a hike! When you first hear about BLM land, you start thinking that it might all be boring and ugly. But some of the views along this hike would've given any national park a run for its money.

(And wildflowers t'boot!)

The so-called North Canyon swimming hole is right at a big, 150-degree bend in the South Yuba River. It took us a little while to find the path down, but once we did we were rewarded with a killah-dillah picnic spot!

A well-fed Sarah, legs a danglin'.

The water was flowing pretty strong and, unlike Oregon Creek, the South Yuba is fed by meltwater.

In other words, nards-freezing cold.

I figured that, since I'd already been in an iceberg-laden alpine lake, this would be no problem. I stripped down and jumped in...

...and right back out. Daaaaay-um!

Behold! The icy sneer of the California Mountainhipster (bayareus bonchhaticus) in its unspoilt natural habitat!

I wasn't quite ready to split...

After my misadventure in the river, I decided my energy would be better spent panning for gold. I'd meant to bring one of the aluminum camping mess kits we brought in the van, but having forgotten that had to settle for a salsa-encrusted plastic lid.

They laughed at me when I told them what I was doing, but then were all smiles and compliments when I returned with a satchel-ful of gold dust. But ain't a-sharin' mah riches with no one! (*maniacal prospector cackle*)

Not only were there wildflowers on the way in to North Bend... There were flowers on the way out as well!

(Not surprising, I suppose, since we were retracing our steps.)

What's this?! Another photonerd?!

She promised to send us prints, but as of this writing (June 27, 2010), I haven't seen a single one.

Frosty looking pine trees across the canyon.

The snarling mascot of UC Santa Cruz rears its fearsome head!

This was a little further down the trail from the "natural values" sign shown above. It's as though they were anticipating people interpreting the phrase "CLOSED TO ALL VEHICLE USE" as meaning "well... Vespas are still ok, I suppose..."

(I like the little peace-signed-out "O" of "OF.")

And, to top it all off, a magical waterfall!

(No gold... I looked. I did find a frog, though, and decided that the best course of action would be to poke it with a stick. Which I did.)

Nearly back to the van, we happened to look to our left and noticed a large mound of swarming ants! These ants do not look like the friendly kind of ants.

We were thinking of spending another night at the BLM campground. But then, given the cloudy chill, thought about just heading home after two nights.

In the end, we decided to split the difference and find a campground somewhere along the way. And boy were we glad we did!

We ended up spending our last night at the Mineral Bar campground on the North Fork of the American River. (The awesome-er-ly named Ruck-A-Chucky campground sounded too hard to get to.) And what a spot it was!

Sarah/Anicia quickly got to work grading papers. Andre quickly got to work throwing rocks in the river...

...and there were plenty of those around.

The campground itself was gorgeous. One of the best I've seen in California. It being the off-season, there were only two other occupied sites, leaving us to enjoy the place in peaceful bliss.

The campsites are all along the east bank of the river, separated from the water by a thick moraine of small boulders. It looks manmade, but I can't imagine why they would've stuck all them rocks there.

There was a cool old decommissioned bridge there too. We decided to cross it once it was completely dark out, so as to maximize the scariness of the raging American River rapids.

There were some fine stars to be seen as well. (Or so I'm told... I need to visit the eye doctor.) At one point, we heard a gentle rumbling and looked up to see a train, way in the distance, slowly curving around a nearby mountaintop. What a sight!

Tons of blackberry bushes too! Though it was too early for there to be any fruit for the picking.

(The orange effect is the result of a fortuitous slip of the finger in Photoshop. I thought it looked cool, so in it stays!)

Like the infamous Stonefish, the California Canfish waits patiently for unsuspecting victims to step on its venomous spines. Here we see it lurking menacingly on the bed of the American River.

The girls, smiling at having carpe-ed the shit out of a series of diems.

Bonch indeed.

Trip stats:

Gourmet meals cooked/consumed: 3
Closed campground misfires: 3
Open campground direct hits: 3
Weirdly shaped whitewater rafts spotted: ~6
Bestswimmingholeevers discovered: 1
New favorite American shit beer (step aside, PBR!): Hamm's
Nards frozen: (do girls have nards?)
Planned date of next trip: ASA(MF)P