Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Heat Wave and an Airstream

And the Dometic A/C has been on all day

And the Dometic A/C has been on all day

Like the record low temperatures experienced in January 2013, the high temps of June 2013 are something to learn from during my first year full-timing in an Airstream.

These past couple of days have been unusually warm for northern Nevada. Well, what would you expect for being in the throes of climate change? And isn’t it interesting to be aware of climate change, and to see it unfold? OK, anyway, it’s hot.

It was 100 degrees an hour ago and now it’s 99. The humidity, for your folks east and south of the Rockies, is 16%. Yesterday: 100; tomorrow: 101; Tuesday: 102. You get the idea. It’s hot!

Because I’m not so fortunate as to have a job where I can just work from home, I’m not on my way to the coast. I have an office to show up in tomorrow so here I am, but at least it will have a proper air conditioner and insulation. Not so in an Airstream.

It’s probably much like being a foil-wrapped baked potato, but with electricity and a bathroom. The aluminum walls are classic looking, but boy do they suck in whatever temperature you don’t want outside to the inside.

During the frigid winter, while the air inside was warm due to the heater being on, the walls had frost on them. Well, the summer is worse and it would likely be unbearable with the slightest wisp of humidity.

For the past two days, the Dometic 13.5k A/C has been running non-stop from 8:00AM to 8:00PM. The aluminum walls, when checked with my handy Raytek MT6 laser thermometer came out like this:

  • Next to the door, in shade – Exterior 101.5 — Interior 89.0 degrees
  • Interior ceiling, between the skylight and ceiling fan, no shade – 102.0 degrees
  • Floor – 77.0 degrees
  • A/C duct – 52.5 degrees
  • Next to bedroom window, in shade – Exterior 101.0 — Interior 92.5 degrees.

From these numbers, we see the interior walls are 9 to 12 degrees cooler than the outside temperature with the A/C running all day. Yes, all day. The temperature of the air inside ranges between 85 and 89 degrees when the outside temperature is (still) 99.

The A/C has been on (again, all day) and there’s almost no humidity, but just 10 degrees cooler? I expected better.

I’ve come to find the single biggest problem with Airstreams: a modern insulation system is non-existent. My model is a 2012 25′ Flying Cloud FB. It still has the pink fiberglass insulation which was tossed in Model Year 2013 for some more environmentally friendly insulation. My guess would be it likely performs about the same as any improvement would should have been heralded by Jackson Center.

Starting in January when I moved in, I’ve used to good success 24″ x 10′ sheets of foil-backed bubble wrap branded Reflectix. I use it primarily in the windows and ceiling openings where it really makes a difference.

Interior wall next to the window (in sun)

Interior wall next to the window (in sun)6" to the left behind Reflectix and the curtain

6″ to the left behind Reflectix and curtain

The temperature at the interior wall (12″ from my head) is 98 degrees. With the Dometic 13.5k A/C running since 8:00AM. Yeah, I know.

The sun is low in the sky and it’s 99 degrees according to NOAA. The wall, on the inside where it has been cooled since 8:00AM, and being signed off as insulated by the Airstream factory, is 1 degree cooler. Yikes.

Move the temperature gauge 6″ to the left and it hits the curtain by the panorama window which, like the wall, is in direct sun. The difference is the window has little insulation factor, but there’s a sheet of Reflectix between the window and the curtain. The temperature reading is now 86 degrees. That’s 12 degrees cooler for Russ’ Relectix and only 1 degree for Airstream’s system.

It it wouldn’t look so silly, I’d be tempted to cover the entire inside of the trailer in Reflectix!

I wish I could order a Flying Cloud with that bubble wrap instead of the factory solution. That would be slick.

And I have a plan for the factory Dometic 13.5k A/C that’s only been used for 30 hours…

 

Tuolumne Meadows – Yosemite

 

Tuolumne Meadows - 8,900'

Tuolumne Meadows

The natural magic and sheer immensity of Yosemite National Park goes far beyond gazing up at Yosemite Falls and El Capitan from the valley floor. That part of the park is about 11 square miles in size – 11 miles long and an average of about a mile wide. Of course, that’s the area of the park that draws the crowds and rightfully so. It is breathtaking.

However, the entire park makes up a vast 1,169 square miles making the magnificent valley floor seem, well, like 1% of the park.

As a comparison in size, Rhode Island, according to Rhode Island, is 1,045 square miles, and Washington D.C. is about 69, so Yosemite is larger than United State’s 13th state and all of D.C., combined. Lots of hiking to do.

Yosemite has several sections which include the famous valley floor, the Mariposa grove of sequoias, Badger Pass ski area, and the north half, Tuolumne Meadows, where John Muir herded sheep in 1869 as a recent immigrant from Scotland looking for work. That’s the half of the park I visited.

Getting There

I live in Minden, Nevada which is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range about 100 miles north of Yosemite. These’s a back entrance to Yosemite from the east on Highway 120. The highway begins at the little town of Lee Vining, California on Highway 395. That’s right at Mono Lake for those who like landmarks.

8% Grade

8% Grade

The trip up Highway 120 to the Yosemite entrance gate is beautiful, but not for the faint of heart. Lee Vining is at 6,780′ and the Tioga Pass entrance of the park is 9,945′.

The road  climbs 3,200 feet in just 12 miles. That’s an average grade of 5%. A 6-mile stretch of the road is inclined at 8% which is way steep if you’re in search of a technical term. The Jeep with its Mercedes-Benz diesel engine pulled the 25′ Flying Cloud with all my belongings and a load of water up that grade at about 35 miles per hour. I was impressed.

Going back down that grade required some old truck driving skills and great brakes which is exactly why I use Hawk HPS brake pads and racing brake fluid to prevent fluid boiling (and thus no brakes).

Camping

The horror stories of getting camping reservations at Yosemite are generally true, at least if you’re trying to get a spot on the valley floor at Upper Pines, Lower Pines, or North Pines campgrounds. There are other campgrounds around the park, but due to their locations on the valley floor, these campgrounds are usually booked within seconds, yes SECONDS, of being offered for the spring and summer months.

Tuolumne Meadows campground where I stayed is different. Reservations are reasonably available though there are no site-specific accommodations. You can sign up for a certain size of trailer or RV or tent and the rangers will assign a site when you arrive. Not sure I liked that part as I like to find my own piece of heaven rather than let someone else choose it for me. A minor detail.

Tuolumne Meadows campground hasn’t seen a Federal dollar spent on it since 1963. Or so it seemed. The road to the little check-in shack was rutted, dirty, and poorly marked. The rangers were friendly, as most rangers are, and I checked in with no problem. They decided I would stay in site number B-35. This site was heavily wooded with Tamarack pines and backed up to the staff canvas cabins behind the gas station. The two roof-mounted Zamp solar panels were able to gather enough sun to keep the batteries charged.

The sites was not as bad as it sounds, but the road to get there was fierce. Potholes galore; the road appeared to have been washed out repeatedly over the years and never repaired. It was maybe one-lane wide and sporadically lined with occasional orange cones.

The campsites have never seen a tractor or grader and no one had a level place to pitch a tent or park a trailer. The campground was old, neglected, and poorly managed. This was at the second most visited National Park in the country.

For the price of just one U.S. Education Department conference, one General Services Administration conference, and one IRS conference, the whole campground could be rebuilt and made amazingly beautiful for you and me – U.S. taxpayers. A rebuild would have lasting value for Americans for years, quite unlike these government morale parties the bureaucrats like to throw.

A sternly-worded letter to the Department of the Interior and my U.S. Senators will ensue.

Hiking

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center built in 1933

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center – 1933

On Friday morning, I loaded my daypack with a bunch of water, camera gear and all the usual emergency stuff one might need if they get hurt or stranded in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. My destination was a high mountain camp called Glen Aulin.

Part of the trail was the Pacific Crest Trail which felt kind of good for no other reason than to know I was on the PCT. The trail started near the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center and crossed the Tuolumne River heading north. A little log hut marked the location of Soda Springs where animals and years of visitors stop for the mineral water’s medicinal properties. I didn’t stop.

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To Glen Aulin June 2013

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Tuolumne River

The trail follows the Tuolumne River and is an excellent path. It’s all wild in this part of the park and is essentially undisturbed since forever. Yeah, but I expected more from the non-wild campground; I’ll save all that for my letters to D.C..

The river’s channel crossed amazingly beautiful territory and then started falling. The falls roared like continuous thunder. There were falls for what seemed like miles – one after another. The sensation was just “riveting” (a little AS humor…).

Tuolumne River

Tuolumne River

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At the first bridge

The trail dropped in elevation along with the river and around each bend the sights were worthy of a photo. I did take pictures with the hog camera (Nikon D7000) and they will be posted in the Gallery section as soon as I get that part figured out.

 

All photos were taken with an iPhone 4s.

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Glen Aulin Falls

 

As I approached Glen Aulin, the falls seemed to have extra power. The picture here is of those falls though it just doesn’t do them justice.

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Pack mules

Glen Aulin is a high mountain camp where folks can stay in some comfortable surroundings. The camp is supplied by pack train which travels back and froth on the same trail I hiked. It was exciting to see a pack train going up and down the trail, but dodging the “mule exhaust” was never pleasant.

Lunch Falls

Lunch Falls

I hiked past the camp for about a mile and found a beautiful hideaway on the river. You cannot seethis from the trail, though the falls can be heard. I was getting tired by this point and knew I had 7 miles to go to return to the Jeep. I stopped for a lunch break and named it Lunch Falls.

On the way back, I found more beauty and kept taking pictures. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trail as I did. Please try to go to Tuolumne Meadows. If the campground is in good condition you’ll know the letter writing campaign helped.


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Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!