Archive for August, 2007

September SNU newsletter

The September 2007 Newsletter has been posted. Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found at that link.

September news topics include:
* Upcoming Berlin rally
* Review of the rally at Twin Lakes
* Membership anniversaries
* Welcome new members
* President’s Ramblin’s
* Time to renew your SNU membership for 2008

>> Berlin Ichyosaur State Park in Central Nevada
See the museum, visit the old mining town of Berlin, enjoy central Nevada in the fall.
Don’t bring any eggs. Diane will have enough fresh eggs for everyone.

Note: The photo galleries for the Twin Lakes rally are not completed yet. Keep an eye on what’s new. Don’t forget that an RSS feed is available, too!

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Sweetwater Summit

On the route from Yerington to Bridgeport you head towards Mason on Nevada route 339 and then through Wilson Canyon. At Smith you hit route 338 bypassing Wellington and leaving the West Walker River. That follows the Dalzel Canyon to the Sweetwater Summit at 6812′ and then down to the East Walker river. The route becomes California 162 at the border just before the Bridgeport Reservoir. It is a scenic drive with signs that caution drivers to keep an eye out for bicyclists. The grades are gentle and it is a nice two lane road.

There are a number of ranches along the route but most is part of the Humbolt Toiyabe National Forest. There aren’t any defined campgrounds but dispersed camping is allowed. The area has old stage routes, ghost towns, and scenery. Here are some links to explore to find out more:

RWIS Station Data for Sweetwater This is the weather station right at the summit. No data is available right now.

Sweetwater2007 Desert Rats Rally pictures at the summit.

cLocations Google map – click on satellite or combined view and you can see the NFS landing strip and a parking area for the trail head to backwoods trails. That parking area might make for a good rally spot.

4WD trip from Nye Canyon to Rockland, via Dead Ox Canyon, Nevada – Four wheel drive trip starting in Nye Canyon, north through Dead Ox Canyon over Pine Grove Summit to the ghost town of Rockland, Nevada, in the Toiyabe National Forest… – this is a rock by rock journal of a trek through this country.

Nevada Appeal – Sports Carson City Daily News PSA about a Fishout to be held at Rosachi Ranch just down the grade on the dirt road to Hawthorn along the East Walker.

FatAtlas – more Google map links to Long Doctor Spring, Sweetwater spring, Sweetwater guard station, and other nearby features.

BlueRibbon Magazine – On Line BRC Ambassador Del Albright does a blow by blow on the Sweetwater mountain trail

Nevada Atlas of Panoramic Aerial Images: Lyon County – like flying over the country from a few thousand feet. The home page so you can look at similar pictures for other counties is the Nevada Atlas of Panoramic Aerial Images: Introduction.

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Lunar eclipse next week

If you are one of those who likes to watch the sun rise you will have a special show on August 28. this year’s second lunar eclipse will be something to see by looking up starting at about 2 in the morning. It should be good viewing for those in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin area.

you’ll see the Moon’s edge begin slipping into the dark part of Earth’s shadow very early, at 1:51 a.m. PDT. Totality, with the Moon completely in shadow, runs from 2:52 to 3:23 a.m. PDT, and the last partial stage of the eclipse ends at 5:24 a.m. PDT. At that time the Moon is still fairly well up in the southwest and dawn is perhaps only beginning to break.[Sky and Telescope]

This eclipse is where the earth shadows the moon. “How dull and dark, or how bright and colorful, will the Moon get this time while in Earth’s shadow?”

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SNU Twin Lakes Rally update

If you are heading up to join the SNU on Thursday, keep in mind that you’ll need to find your own campsite for that night. The host says there shouldn’t be any problems finding a spot in the Craigs and Matterhorn campground. The group area is designed for parties rather than camping but will usually serve 5-10 rigs over the weekend with a bit of judicious parking. If you come up Thursday, look for Airstream rigs and introduce yourself!

Reserve America was not responding this morning and neither was the government website. Others links to peruse to find out more about the area include Twin Lakes Resort -|- total escape twin lakes or Bridgeport -|- panorama pictures -|- area map (head out rt420 up Robinson Creek to Craig’s Campground) -|- Sierra Web things to see and do

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That’s Jupiter above Antares in the southern night sky

If you look south (and a bit west) just after sundown, you’ll notice the bright star. That is Jupiter and it is just a bit above the star Antares in the constellation of Scorpio. Tonight (Aug 20), the first quarter moon will be to the right of Scorpio. On Tuesday the moon will be near Antares. On the 23rd it will be in the middle of Sagittarius. On the 24th, the moon will be full and off a bit to the southeast. See Sky and Telescope for more about what to see by looking up after dark this week.

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Washboard roads

Anytime you get off the pavement onto a well traveled and maintained dirt or gravel road, you will probably encounter the dreaded washboard surface. It’ll rattle your teeth. A roll of toilet paper on a shelf above the bed in the RV was vibrated round and round making a nice stack of paper on the bed below during the short off pavement trek to Obsidian Dome. A nice long stretch of severe washboard is that stretch of road from Dayton to Fort Churchill along the Carson River by the test facility. These are often known as ‘Nevada Highways’ as much of Nevada is only accessible via dirt road.

Some say it is due to a bad road foundation – not having the right depth and kind of rock and soil under the road surface. Others think it is due to a lot of traffic and frequent maintenance. Science News Online reports on a study by Stephen W. Morris of the University of Toronto and his colleagues Nicolas Taberlet and Jim N. McElwaine of the University of Cambridge in England to find out why washboard roads form by using simple experiment.

One way to avoid washboard roads is to limit traffic to walking speeds. This is why those roads suffering lack of maintenance often don’t show the phenomena. It is difficult to travel at more than a walking speed when driving over potholes and boulders.

But when there is traffic, there is a demand for maintenance. Potholes are filled in and boulders removed. The road is scraped smooth. Traffic speeds up to jogging speed or faster, and the washboard forms.

Any bed of dirt or sand, even a very smooth one, has minuscule irregularities that slightly jog a rolling wheel. Each time the wheel hits a bump, the computer simulation showed, it pushes the dirt forward a bit, enlarging the irregularity. Then, as the wheel passes over the top of the bump, the force of its descent pushes dirt forward into the next bump. Repeat these actions a hundred or more times and the familiar pattern of ridges appears.

It has little to do with substrate. It has little to do with maintenance – that is correlation and not causation. What it does have to do with is the fact that it is a dirt road and the dirt, rock, or sand on the surface is easily moved as tires roll over it. Once those tires get to moving fast enough to push the material to a berm in front that it has to bounce over, washboard will form.

Modern highway vehicles are not designed to go slow enough to avoid washboard formation. You need deep gears to be able to idle along that slow. The difference between 5 and 15 mph isn’t much from the driver’s seat but can make a significant difference in time on a 5 mile driveway to a campground. Once the washboard forms, even walking speed isn’t slow enough to keep from getting rattled.

Think Independence Lake off CA 89 versus Obsidian Dome. At least up to the visitor area, the Obsidian Dome road is well maintained and has enough washboard to unroll the toilet paper. You can drive an RV there without worrying about bottoming out or getting stuck on a grade. Independence Lake is another matter. To get there you have to crawl over boulders and cross streams and worry about ripping off the back bumper (as Roger did on one backroads jaunt) or scraping the hitch.

Washboards are a fact of life on unpaved roads. Those are the roads that will get you to some of the more out of the way camping spots. There isn’t much you can do about it except make sure everything is tied down (e.g. a rubber band around the toilet paper), take it easy, and check all the nuts, bolts, screws, and rivets to make sure they are tight for the next trip.

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Water to drink

There are two ways water can become unsafe to drink. It can be contaminated by either bugs or poisons (or maybe both). It used to be that you didn’t have much choice – you avoided water that tasted bad to avoid poisons or toxic contamination and you just hoped there weren’t any bugs you weren’t already accustomed to. People are a lot more aware of water safety these days and have a lot of ways to improve the odds of getting safe drinking water.

One reason the Chinese railroad works suffered less sickness back when building the transcontinental railroad is because they drank tea rather than water, like the other workers did. Boiling the water for tea tended to keep the water safer. This is the same reason the navy ran on beer and booze then as you couldn’t store water for months without it becoming unsafe to drink.

In the United States, the risk from a public water supply is now very low. At Ramhorn Springs the water used to be available for drinking. The springs were covered and a pipe led the water to a convenient tap. New water safety regulations have caused that tap to be removed and the water now flows only to the creek. The BLM could not afford to meet the testing requirements necessary to keep it available as a public water source.

Water straight out of the ground, like from a spring, is usually safe to drink. This is the well water or spring water used by many ranchers and others in private water supplies.

Surface water from rivers and lakes has had a chance to collect things so it isn’t so safe without purification and treatment. Keeping surface water from getting less safe is one reason there are regulations about waste disposal within 200 feet of any water on federal lands.

There are three basic ways to make water safe to drink. You can filter it or chemically treat it or boil it. The OA Guide to Water Purification is part of The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis. It describes each of these methods and discusses their benefits and problems.

Water purification is a big business. Many times safety is used as a sales point. In the US, it is very seldom that anyone needs water purification unless they are looking at backwoods backpacking or emergency preparedness. Often, filtration and other purification techniques are more for enhancing water taste.

Distillation is considered by some to be the ultimate in safe water and by others as a hazard due to some myth or other. Some links to peruse for distillation include: Water Distillation Principles — A make-your-own solar water distiller — a wood fired distiller. — A steam distiller — and the technology overview of how to get water from air or sea or land.

Distilled water is good for your battery but much of this water purification stuff is probably overkill for most of us, at least as far as safety is concerned.

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Swimming pool toys have other uses

There’s a lot of stuff in the hardware store not designed for RV’s that can be re-directed. The swimming pool section has a number of items of particular interest. One of these items is the foam tube intended as a flotation toy. These things can serve as bumpers on things sticking out of your RV or as spacers or as warning indicators. Here are some ideas in a photo gallery.
Foam tube pool toy as RV safety device
See the photo gallery!

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Early Airstreams and other RV’s

Pee Wee has another gallery! See some memorabilia from the early days of the travel trailer experience.
51 crusette airstream
See the photo gallery.

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The e-mail storm and ETD

You may have noticed a whole lot of e-mail messages lately about someone sending you a greeting card. This is spam trying to get you to load malware on your machine so it can use your machine to send out more spam. InfoWorld reports on the Record-breaking ‘Storm’ Trojan linked to spam surge: Bot Trojan becomes the most prolific e-mail-borne malware ever

Storm started to gather steam near the end of June, when several spasms of mail posing as greeting cards reached users, and reach critical mass just before July 4, when holiday subject lines tempted even larger numbers of users to click through. “Storm’s using more of a ‘pull’ than a ‘push’ model now,” said Masiello. Earlier Storm bot-building campaigns had come with attachments that when run hijacked the targeted PC. More recent attacks simply offer up a link in the e-mail; when users click on the link, code on the ensuing site — actually, often several exploits that try several vulnerabilities until one works — snatches the PC.

I have a friend who is very careful about ETD (e-mail or electronically transmitted diseases) but he checked out one of these greeting card invitations. — whoops! — it can happen to the best of us. These ETD depend upon accidental contact. It is getting so bad that you have to practice safe e-mail all the time, you have to get frequent health check-ups to make sure you aren’t infected, and you need to take prophylactic measures to make sure that you can squash any ETD you might get.

Your ISP, the company that provides internet access, is very interested in helping you stay healthy. They have ETD trapping systems between you and the internet to catch many vectors but you have to use their traps properly. Your ISP also probably has prophylactic software, anti-virus and spam catching software, that you can install on your machine to help prevent ETD but, again, you have to use it properly.

One way you can help prevent ETD is to lock down your computing behavior. If you use Windows, the most common target, make sure you take advantage of its features to prevent malware. The new Vista was designed particularly to help with this. The new IE for Windows also has features to prevent ETD. You can also use other browsers such as Firefox or other e-mail clients such as Thunderbird that will help prevent ETD. You can also use Linux or Apple machines to reduce your ETD risk profile.

It is important to realize that there is a plague raging the Internet planet. You may only see its impact in your inbox and not realize that you are contributing to it. Unless you practice safe e-mail, and even then, you may be contributing to the ETD plague. Take care, take precautions, and do what you can to help squash this plague.

Update: Google is offering a pack of free software that includes Norton Security Scan, Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, and a lot of other good stuff including Firefox and Star Office (the commercial version of Open Office). You might check it out to help prevent ETD as well as a convenient source of some ‘good stuff’ integrated with the Google search engine.

Update II – Operation Bot Roast: Strategy Page has an entry on the FBI operation to quell the Storm invasion.

Meanwhile, the FBI announced that Operation Bot Roast had, so far, identified over a million compromised PCs, in scores of botnets. The FBI is trying to get in touch with as many of these computer users as possible, and direct them to organizations and companies that can help them clean the zombie software out of their computers. Help can be had for free, although many of the compromised PCs were found to be clogged with all manner of malware (illegal software hidden on your machine to feed you ads or simply track what you do).

Most owners of zombiefied computers didn’t even realize their PCs had been taken over. Some with heavily infected machines, do notice that the malware slows down the PC, and there have been cases where the user just went out and bought a new computer. Usually, reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling your software works, and is a lot cheaper. But most computer users today don’t know how to reformat a hard drive, or even get someone to do it for them.

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Independence Lake off CA 89

Independence Lake is one of those Sierra reservoirs maintained by the power company. It has camping and boating and scenery but getting to it is another story. Steep grades strewn with rocks and other hazards mean you need to know what you are doing and have the right equipment to do it safely.
Independence Lake, CA
See the photo gallery!

Here are some resources to peruse for those interested in the lake:

Hiker Central: Independence Lake Campground, Northern Sierra Nevada, California

California Department of Water Resources listing of basic Reservoir Information.

Friends of the River: California Rivers – Independence Creek

Tahoe Region Basalt Sources will get you started on why there are so many boulders in the road!

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The long, long, Airstream trailer (needs work)

Ever see a 42 foot long Airstream trailer?

Back in the day, Airstream did some custom jobs. There is one made for railroad crews quarters at the Portola Railroad museum. It needs restoration work.
42' Airstream
See the photo gallery!

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Tears of St. Lawrence

August is a month for looking at the heavens. This year there is a special treat.

What a fantastic month for skywatching. On August 12th, we’ve got the Perseid meteor shower. On August 28th there’ll be a total lunar eclipse. And on September 1st, there might be another meteor shower to enjoy: the Aurigids.[Aurigid Meteor Shower, September 1]

Space.Com says that the “Perseids Provide Practice for September Shower.” Every year we can see the Perseid meteor shower but the Aurigid shower expected this year is a rare event.

As for the story of the Tears of St. Lawrence, see ‘Great Show’: Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Sunday Night .

On another topic, if you have wondered about giant insects, such as in the fossil record or exaggerated in SciFi films, the Engineer Online reports that: “In the late Paleozoic era, atmospheric oxygen levels reached record highs, which caused some insects to evolve into giants. When oxygen levels returned to lower levels, the insect giants went extinct.”

So if you stay up late, this will be the time to wish upon a falling star, but not worry about giant insects.

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July 2007 SNU Rally at Obsidian Dome

One way to get out of the July heat is to camp at elevation. Obsidian Dome is at 8,000 feet and that does make for nice cool nights. The SNU spent a weekend there again this year. See the photo gallery!
Obsidian Dome SNU

Thanks to Roger, Randy, Dave, and others who contributed pictures.

For a photo gallery of the work gang at this rally, see the blog entry Always leave the campsite in better condition than when you found it. There are a number of blog entries you can peruse for previous events, announcements, and photo galleries by doing a search on Obsidian.

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ARDF Championships

There are folks who make a hobby out of finding hidden transmitters. They have a big contest planned for the woods south of Lake Tahoe.

From September 14 through 16, radio-orienteers from around the country and visitors from abroad will gather once again for the USA and International Amateur Radio Union Region 2 ARDF Championships. This year’s sponsors are the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club and the Los Angeles Orienteering Club. The site will be just outside the village of South Lake Tahoe, in the Sierra Mountains near the border between California and Nevada.

K0OV will fill you in on what Homing In is all about. It is an international hobby that runs the gamut from civic service to hard core contests. The civic service side includes tracking animals that have locater collars to finding criminals misusing radio transmitters. The contests can include a few folks trying to find a friend in a ‘hide and seek’ game to those such as planned for South Lake Tahoe this September.

The Seventh USA National ARDF Championships and Fourth IARU Region 2 ARDF Championships will be based at Camp Concord, a typical summer camp facility near South Lake Tahoe. The event will be one way to test your map reading skills, enjoy the Tahoe Forest ambiance, and strut your technical stuff.

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Out of the past

TCM recently aired a classic 1947 film noir featuring Robert Michum and Jane Greer titled Out of the Past. The locale is US 395 starting in Bridgeport. The SNU rally attendees might note this same sign on their way to the Twin Lakes rally!
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The hero is first found fishing at the lake, where he meets up with his girlfriend. They get interrupted by the boy from the gas station. A stranger has come to town and wants to see the hero.
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From there, it takes off to Lake Tahoe and San Francisco before it gets back to Bridgeport and the Twin Lakes.
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For those who want to see what it looked like in the late forties and compare to what it is today, this movie might be a place to start.

Hat tip to Anita, our film expert for finding this one!

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The urge, and demand, to organize

Burning Man started as a campfire on the beach with a bunch of friends. Now it is a commercial organization whose focus is a large boondocking rally at a remote desert location. The story of its airport is one that illustrates how the organization of human activities is both an inherent urge and often a demand of circumstances.

An Air & Space magazine article by Chad Slattery, Magic Airport tells the story. “Watch the Burning Man revelers pull an airport out of the desert…then make it disappear.”

Burning Man migrated to Black Rock in 1990, and pilots immediately began flying in, drawn to the stretch of hard clay surface, known as playa, scrubbed smooth each spring by wind and rain. …

The lakebed’s 27-mile length is the only break that aviators get. It sits nearly 4,000 feet above sea level; when triple-digit temperatures heat the thin air, lift diminishes as density altitude …The featureless desert floor reduces pilots’ depth perception during landings. Winds constantly batter the aircraft, injecting fine alkali dust into every unprotected vent and inlet. … Capricious playa weather further complicates flying. Past Burning Man events have experienced hail, 70-mph winds, drenching rain, 120-degree heat, and zero-visibility dust-devil curtains blowing across the runway. “Storms are sudden and violent,” warns one aviation Web site, “and hospitals are far away.”

Despite all this, the airplane crowd continued to show up at Burning Man. Their gift, in return for the privilege of being allowed to use air transport to attend, was to provide rides for others. They provided site seeing tours, opportunities for couples to join the mile high club, and ran errands when cold beer was needed or other such needs occurred.

As time passed, more than 100 airplanes started showing up at the festival. In 2003 there were two fatal crashes. Coordination was needed. Education was needed. The urge for organization became a demand.

Pilots are accustomed to expecting certain levels of organization, safety, and procedure at airports so building the infrastructure to meet the demand for organization at the Burning Man airport only required a bit of volunteer effort. After the accidents, the volunteer effort took on a defined structure.

Over the next year, Shoun, Ryan, and a cadre of experienced pilots hammered out procedures to increase the safety of operations, culminating in a dense 12-page airport operating plan. The test came during the 2004 event, when FAA inspectors showed up to observe the air operations.

What they found was a triple-tier information system designed to ensure that pilots fully understand traffic patterns, UNICOM radio procedures, and the difficulties of flying in high deserts during summer heat. … The first of the three tiers is the advisory information on the airport’s Web site … For the volunteers, Ryan wrote a 21-page Radio Operators’ Handbook. The second tier of safety … Once on the ground, … inform pilots that they will not be allowed to fly back out until receiving the mandatory safety briefing, the third tier of safety guidelines.

Not all your RV owners will have bragging like an “Antonov An-2 (“Beats an Airstream,” quipped owner Douglas Fulton)” or the special safety needs and requirements for handling aircraft.

If you do gather in groups you will encounter the urge to organize so people can work together and compliment each other’s efforts. As the group grows, this urge for organization may become a demand so that arguments are more easily resolved, safety is enhanced, and everyone’s needs are addressed in a fair and equitable manner.

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Peace and quiet

Have you ever noticed the silence?

One reason people get in their RV’s and get away from it all is to find the sound of silence. Dave Mosher, LiveScience Staff Writer listed suggestions for how we can all help make the RV experience sound different from our everyday experience in Shhh! 10 Ways to Quiet Noisy National Parks.

Chirping birds and wind rustling in the trees are among the few sounds that penetrate the peerless silence of national park wilderness. That is, of course, until a 747 jumbo jet roars overhead, a stereo blasts from a nearby car or a snowmobile engine revs in the distance.

As the U.S. population grows and more noisy technologies are developed, managing noise pollution becomes an increasing headache for park officials and visitors. But next month, at the Acoustical Society of America’s national meeting in Salt Lake City, researchers will discuss 10 ways to put a lid on the unwanted racket in national parks

Where you will most often notice silence is when a persistent noise shuts down and the silence becomes deafening.

The key issue is that noise is something we take for granted. We tend to do noisy things because that is what we normally do at home or because what we want to do out in the woods requires a noisy motor or something. Silence starts with us and our respect for our neighbors when out in the woods.

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Always leave the campsite in better condition than when you found it

It is the golden rule for campers: always leave your campsite in a better condition than when you arrived. At Obsidian Dome, the SNU got together with NFS personnel to help clean up some old campfire rings and set up some vehicle routing reminders. Dave Gmur took some pictures – see the photo gallery! – July 2007 SNU service project at Obsidian
Obsidian Dome cleanup

This is a dispersed camping area at the start of a very high risk fire season. Campfire rings need to have ash and debris cleaned out on occasion and it is best to collect large piles of ash and debris to move them out to an appropriate waste facility. In the fire danger circumstances, it was also good to completely remove any evidence of a fire ring to inhibit building new campfires, which were prohibited.

The urge to blaze new trails can be a problem, especially with the capabilities of modern ATV’s, in many areas as new trails can damage vegetation and scar landscape or cause other problems. One way to help encourage use of existing trails and defined areas is by artful placement of boulders and other obstacles. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find obstacles that a determined trail blazer will figure isn’t worth the effort to move.

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SNU August 2007 Newsletter

The August 2007 Newsletter has been posted – see Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in the newsletter/

Topics include:
* Upcoming Twin Lakes rally
* Stories from Bodie
* Review of the rally at Obsidian Dome
* President’s Ramblin’s
* Time to renew your SNU membership for 2008

>>Twin Lakes Rally
Note: Fire restrictions in effect!
Thursday – Sunday August 23 – 26 2007 Twin Lakes Crags USFS campground group area – off US 395 south of Reno near Bridgeport, CA 3 day Rally, members & guests welcome. Special Day Trip & picnic lunch to Bodie on Saturday Arrival time – anytime after noon on Thursday August 23 Thursday Note: The SNU has reserved the group area for Friday and Saturday nights. Members coming to Crags on Thursday can stay in the group area but will need to pay an individual campground fee just for Thursday night. That fee is $17. Friday and Saturday the standard SNU Kitty Kall donation of $5 per night is all that will be necessary.
Don’t bring any eggs. Diane will have enough fresh eggs for everyone.

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