Road Trip Time: Lake Davis, CA

I’m not sure if this should actually go in the #screens-aars thread or not, but …

Just about every year, the EinsteinEP extended family (father, brothers, sister, nephews, cousins, close friends, etc.) spends Memorial Day weekend up at Lake Davis, CA for fishing, boating, feeding the local mosquitoes, and creating long-lived memories. Like of that one time we all got completely decimated by mosquitoes. Ah, memories.

The man-made lake is typically well-stocked with hungry trout although the illegal introduction of the Northern Pike in the early/mid 90s pretty much destroyed fishing there for a good fifteen years. Active efforts to remove the pike, including poisoning the lake, were eventually successful, however, and fishing has been good for the last few family trips.

Here Grandpa shows my nephew one of his hauls from a trip in 2013.

Although there is a “resort” at the lake (e.g., a partly-finished poorly thought-out hotel with odd-sized rooms, a dirt parking lot, and one “suite” that has a hot-tub crammed into a room that is only a few inches larger than the hot-tub itself), we typically camp in one of the sites’ first-come-first-serve campgrounds. There are also cabins for rent in the area, for those that would rather not do the tent thing but, for us crazies, tent camping is a large part of the experience.

This particular site has been a regular spot for us. I’m hoping we pick it up again this year.

Road Trip

The trick for me is the travel. For the rest of my family, Lake Davis is a 3 or 4 hour drive. For me, it’s a 15 hour ordeal of trying to stay both awake and sane while driving across some of the flattest and most barren parts of Nevada. There are some real gems of scenery along the way - I do enjoy the stark chiseled look of Nevada mountains - but trying to set up your tent for the night after being wasted from driving all day is just an awful way to start a camping trip.

Oh look, more…flat…spots…zzzzzzzzzzz

To combat this, I’m going for the “get-there-fast-come-home-slow” route.

I’ll be trucking out of here at o’early’thirty on Thursday, 5/26, and hope to make it all the way to Tonopah, NV. A little overnight rejuvenation then I’ll be at Lake Davis after just a 4 hour drive: plenty of time to stake out a good campground, go get some refreshments at the local general store, then set up our camp site with plenty of time before dark.

Lake Davis’ Grizzly Store has just about everything you could possibly want. Except wifi - there is no wifi. But there shouldn’t be any wifi when camping.

Connectivity in this part of the Sierra Nevadas is practically nil, so any updates I make will be either from the trip there and back, or afterwards when I’ve had a chance to filter through all the pics and videos.

#The Return

Since everyone else on the trip lives a skip and a hop away, they’re usually out of there Monday afternoon, so they can clock in to work on Tuesday. Since I’ve got a two-day drive ahead of me anyways, I’d rather get a better travel-time-to-fun-time ratio so I always try to make a scenic return. Here’s my plan this year (subject to change):

I’ve still got to work out the details, but the area around Bishop, CA is simply gorgeous. I’m worried the area will be just chock full of tourists this time of year, which I’m not looking forward to. I recognize this is kind of hypocritical, being a tourist and all, but it’s not that I mind the tourists: I just hate it when the narrow winding Sierra Nevada mountain town streets are so backed up with rubbernecking Californian BMWs, H3s, Audis, and Escalades that it takes 20 minutes to go through a single intersection. Hotels are usually overbooked (learning that you don’t have a room, despite having a “reservation”, is a frustrating experience, especially at 11pm at night with a tired toddler), and restaurants have an awful time keeping up with the surge in demand.

Anyways, I hope to have some new stories and pics to share with you guys this year!


One of my big challenges is going to be the weather:

Here in Tucson, we’re used to much warmer weather, even the water freezes at 50 degrees, so it’s not like I have a closet of warm clothes to pick through. Or any idea of what I need to wear in 30 degree weather. Is that layering t-shirts and a sweater? Or do I need to break out the parka? At what point is it not a good idea to wear flip-flops anymore?


Nice pictures, thanks for sharing!

I had to chuckle once though, because I misread the caption of that first picture.
(“Here Grandpa shows my nephew one of his hauls from a trip in 2013.”)
Not sure if that only sounds funny because my English is too bad or if it is really ambiguous, no offense in any case!

In my mind the situation was like this:
Your grandpa: “look, I caught this fish back in 2013”
Your nephew: “Ewwww, that’s disgusting!”


Also cool to see real Nevada pics, it seems ED really did a pretty great job with that DCS terrain.

That is a big trout…wow!

What a great trip. Thanks for posting. That is indeed a nice size fish.

Executive summary: Road trip was great, camping was ok, fishing was awful.

I always love a road trip, but this trip went remarkably well. Traffic was light (except for a mild slow down in Vegas on the way up and in Phoenix on the way down, I was cruising at or very slightly above the speed limit the whole time), the car ran almost perfect the whole way (my AC has a tendency to stop working when we need it the most - luckily this didn’t happen until we were practically home), and good times were had by all.

I typically change wiper blades twice a year – they don’t last long in Tucson weather! – and I decided to change them early this year for the trip, and I’m glad I did!

Packing for a camping trip with a lot of unknowns is always tough – do I need to bring my stove and lantern this year, or will Dad bring his? It will get chilly at night, but will it be two sleeping bags worth of cold, or only one? Do I need a large cooler, or just the small one? – so I just pack enough until it starts getting hard to see out the back. Not the best backpacker’s mentality, but space and weight are practically free in car camping.

The soundtrack makes the road trip (which I’ll have to compile the playlist for later), but good scenery doesn’t hurt either. Luckily we have plenty of the latter in the Southwest.

Picacho Peak. Legend says a man tamed a wild ostrich right at the base of this mountain.

Personally, I think they nailed the scenery in DCS World 2.0, but I do think the clouds could use some love. Anybody think DCS:REX would be a popular module?

Per the plan, our first day of travel was “go fast and get far”, but my son was getting a little car-crazy, so we took a quick stop at Walker Lake to stretch our legs.

Discourse doesn’t like my panoramas.

Sometimes you have to spend a night in homicidal-looking clown motel right next to the town cemetery, just to test the strength of your soul.

This little gem in Tonopah, NV, is one of the cheapest and still clean motels in the state, and carries a little character to boot. I wish I would have gotten some photos of the impressive clown collection they have in the lobby - porcelain figurines, dolls, statues, paintings, even a lego Ronald Mcdonald worth of at least 5 years of nightmares.

The drive from Tonopah to Lake Davis, CA was thankfully quite short, a mere 4.5 hours, so we could arrive at the camp ready to set up camp.

Portola, CA is about as quintessential mountain-town as you can get in the Golden State.

Before going to camp, I decided to make a quick stop at one of the lesser known gems of this Sierra Nevada hide-away: the Western Pacific Railroad Museum. More than a museum, the site is an active rail yard with working locomotives, engineers, rolling stock, and cursing mechanics (there’s a warning sign at the entrance for the faint of heart).

There are 30+ acres of railroad equipment, but we could have spent all day in the garage. There are museum-quality displays of railway gear and walls of photographs and news clippings of major events in the Western Pacific timeline.

In addition to the acres of equipment to oggle, for the right price ($175 or $200 per hour), you can actually drive one of the locos.

No, seriously, the WPRM will pair you up with a real-live engineer who will teach you how to run either a switch engine or a road engine (or both for a skosh more cash!) and then help you run up and down the yard.

I wish I had known about this opportunity ahead of time - I would have included it in our adventure. Maybe next year.

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Rail-fanning complete, we head up to camp, but not before taking our annual glamour shot at the Davis Dam.

Water level is way up from last year. Should be a good sign for fishing…right?

Panorama of the camp setup:

Every year there is an osprey nest somewhere around the lake that enthralls the kids. This year, a pair of bald eagles decided to join the party, just a few hundred yards from our campsite.

There was always a parent on guard duty, looking down at us as we walked around the site. One brave camper brought his pitbull up to the tree and tried to get his dog to bark up it. The bird just looked down his beak as if to say “really, buddy?”

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If you’re one of those people that measures the quality of a fishing trip by the number of fish caught, this was an awful trip. Luckily, I’m not one of those people.

Grandpa is tying on a flasher for my son, just as he did for me so many years ago.

I would like to have more pictures to show you guys. Pictures of the lake at midday, while the osprey dove down in the water, and the bald eagles grabbed rabbits from the grassy beaches. A shot of the lake boiling with trout at sunset would make you all question our fishing ability: how can you NOT catch a fish with so many hungry mouths at the surface? I was just too busy fishing.

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Three days of tent camping is just about enough. One or two days is hardly worth the effort of setting the tent up, where as the grime and grit start to really build by day 4 and 5. I’ve spent 8 days in the Sierra Nevadas in a tent before and while I enjoy the memory of the experience, I remember not enjoying it at the end.

At this point in the trip one of our camping mates was very frustrated from the lack of fishing success and his sour attitude rubbed off. I was eager to get home so I didn’t bother to chart another leg of our adventure through the thickets of tourists at Yosemite and instead opted for a quick trip home.

Beatty, NV was as far as I made it that day. Beatty has an amazing candy store - confections of all sorts, sizes, shapes, colors and tastes. What makes this huge candy store all that much more amazing is that there isn’t a single clothes store in town. Not one. If you want to buy so much as a pair of socks you have to make a one-hour drive. Crazy.

Speaking of crazy, I saw this little vehicle in the parking lot when we got up in the morning.

@BeachAV8R, you never could stand being away from me for long.

Those of you following along at home may have noticed that I passed by Creech AFB on this road trip. On both trips I happened to notice a few strange-looking aircraft operating in the area. On the way back I managed to grab this photo, which doesn’t do it any justice really at all.

You can barely see the MQ-9 Reaper in this image, but it’s on short final. This and one other aircraft were making touch-and-goes, probably helping ensure a desk-pilot kept his recency.

A little resentful that I made a quick decision to rush home, I decided to stop by the Hoover Dam on the way and add a little adventure to the trip.

An impressive piece of work, the Hoover Dam is elegant and overwhelming. Even standing at the edge, looking over the side, it’s difficult to comprehend the sheer massiveness of this dam.

After spending $10 just to park, I didn’t feel generous enough to give another $30 for my son and I to walk around the visitor center, so we did the self-guided top-of-the-dam tour and got back in the car for home.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, the scenery the same as on the way up. We stopped at a Dairy Queen, bought some awful roadside-gift-shop knickknacks for the ladies at home, and eventually rolled into our driveway right at supper time, glad to be home.