We were up at 5am to drive the remaining 2 hours on Hwy 120 to the North West entrance of Yosemite NP ! Arrived at the famous valley floor by 8:30am to beat the crowds & packed buses! (by noon it’s a zoo – especially on weekends) Jessica loved the art and images in their extensive gift shops and we bought a couple of great pictures as life-long mementos from the Ansel Adams gallery & we were off to take some pics for ourselves. The valley & sheer waterfalls were hanging off the amazing granite cliffs ( El Capitan & Half Dome etc) rising like the arching walls of a prehistoric and sacred cathedral!
The feelings they inspired… were good and resolute, severe and serene as they allowed us to gaze up into their presence and soak in their timeless strength. It felt like we were being granted a special gift to see this place... like GOD himself was inviting us to taste and see that he was GOOD. Felt like we were standing in a scene out of Genesis. This was my third visit, and Jessica’s first. It still makes my pulse quicken and my “little-boy” heart explode inside me…
If you have not been to Yosemite…it’s not a cliche’ to say it is truly awe-inspiring ! The jaw dropping vertical view of all it is and holds and hides…comes dangerously close to hypnotizing for any who get the privilege to visit… the unique walls of raw stone are just pressing in, towering down at you from all sides of the valley and it’s mammoth grace crammed into this relatively tiny area in which a peaceful river road winds among the trees and flowers. Pictures DO NOT capture a fraction of its power and impact.
Driving it with the tourist’s and their kids combined with the world class- heart stopping views and photo-op’s at every turn is like an ultimate obstacle course for navigation. There are literally thousands of visual distractions and dozens of steel roadblocks… mini-vans or campers suddenly stopped in the road… with open-mouthed drivers who all just saw the “perfect” shot and are literally “stopping” where they are…to get it!
They do so regardless of the traffic or the presence of vehicles around or more importantly…behind them. Part of you get’s seriously torqued off at their stupidity and part of you totally understands… the views above and around Yosemite just overwhelm your senses and suddenly it can seem a secondary matter to be careful or “safe” in the presence of such beauty.
We avoided plowing into or being plowed into by any other drivers as we kept stopping ourselves for pictures. We were heading south to the famous Glacier Point, following the winding 25 mph roads, patiently believing that the coming vista’s would be worth the extra effort! It was. We saw the 5000+ foot cliff faces from above & the unparalleled views of the valley and high sierras! WITHOUT A DOUBT…One the best mountain views and vista’s in the world 🙂
Finished the day driving North out of the park via the Tioga pass.. A beautiful & less trafficked road of high alpine vistas & serious layers of rock & stone. Late Late Lunch (4:30pm) at the Tolume meadows as we drove south out of the park into the beautiful eastern edge of the Sierras ! Stayed at a great little Travel Lodge hotel in Mammoth Lake CA ! (cheap & old, but super friendly – and a great basement with FREE foosball & coin laundry on site – met a hilarious chihuahua named “cheech” who lives with the owner & tried to join us in,our room )
Beautiful lakes & snow-capped peaks of the high Sierra’s surround the town at over 8,000 feet – cool crisp air 50F and high desert pink sunset capped off another “perfect” day on this Epic Roadtrip!
After pizza and diet cokes we drove up to the twin lakes vista parking area to watch the stars at 9500 feet and no city or artificial lights at all. The glory of the sky at night is a lost treasure for our modern time… But the reward is well worth the effort ! Amazing to see the diversity and panorama of a clear alpine sky in the pitch black of a natures night. Dazzling…and almost impossible to see near any city.
Wednesday June 13
Woke up to 45F and a cool but sunny dawn. The road north was Hwy 395 and just north of the Yosemite Tioga pass road we saw a sign for a California State Historical marker… An old mining Ghost town named Bodie. If you have the time ( 2.5 hours minimum) I highly recommend the 16 mile one way drive off the Hwy.
The last 3 miles get rough and have rutted dirt & rock instead of pavement, but remain passable at very low-speed.
The State has an amazing historic site set up around this abandoned 1880’s era Gold rush town. Dozens of old saloons, schools, churches, houses and mining stores, motels and mine buildings and machinery are preserved in their “arrested state” of decay. For history buffs this is a “must” to visit. High plains desert with amazing views of the snow-capped eastern Sierra’s frame the setting for this once booming town of 10k. Jessica loved it and at over 8500 feet in elevation walking its old streets can literally take your breath if you’re not acclimated and well hydrated ! Fascinating morning “surprise” for us as we had only made the trip on a last minute “whim”. ( $10 to get in) If you go… be sure to bring your camera, jacket and a hat -sunscreen 🙂 SUNNY is the word.
After taking pictures and exploring the sights we drove on north to see the famous Lake Tahoe ! Beautiful and crystal clear… It’s borders surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks that carry a snow pack year around. Downside is the thousands do tourists and locals who flock to its shores in all 4 seasons.
Very commercial on the Nevada side with casinos and condos built on top of each other blocking the views. Best bet is to hit the visitor centers and North shore beaches if you can for unobstructed views and a chance to climb some rocks on the lovely shoreline !We took the scenic route north of Tahoe to Lassen National park in the wilderness of north east California… about the only route was via Hwy 89, a very excellent drive. Almost no traffic on its winding path as it crosses mountain streams and massive mountain valleys filled with horse and cattle ranches. Full of dense pine forests and peaks for over a 100 miles, remote and rugged…but beautiful. We decided to crash on the North shore of Lake Almanor near Chester, CA. when we saw the sun starting to dip.
A quick drive north (25 miles on Hwy 89 ) after checking into our hotel would put us in the Lassen Volcanic park in time for sunset and then give us the option for more sunrise pictures..if we wanted? I wasn’t prepared for the rugged beauty that awaited and the complete absence of people or traffic. If you are a high mountain and snow year around kind of guy ( like I am) this is the place for you! We drove up after dinner to catch some sunset views and lingered long enough to see the 15 foot snow banks and frozen alpine lakes at 9000 + on its north facing ridges! Wow !
Take your camera and be prepared for rapidly changing weather year around. We were there in mid- June and was cold after the sun dipped below the peaks. Already in the 40’s by 8pm and freezing by dark for sure. The temperatures at the base were in the low 70s and had been in the low 90s that same day. A place of contrasts and extremes including active thermal geography and a deeply rugged landscape that will evoke memories of Yosemite and Yellowstone tied into one unique locale. I loved it ! Had a snowball fight with Jessica before reluctantly heading back to Chester and our stay at the Best Western…. tired. 🙂
Tomorrow… fun at Crater Lake and southern Oregon!