Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Over the Hill and Through the Woods ~ Sept 27, 2013

It's clear, sunny and 42 degrees. After breakfast we head over the Kingsbury Grade and down to the Carson Valley and Hwy 395. This is a road that needs to be experienced: quintessential high desert, open spaces, and few travelers. Spring and Fall provide magical miles of color. This corridor has been used since the California gold rush and was known by several names including El Camino Sierra and it provides access for the highest point in the in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley.
 Hwy 395 north of Lee Vining
It's about a 100 mile drive to Lee Vining, the doorway to Mono Lake and Yosemite. We're headed for Yosemite today, but next time we come this way we plan to check out Bodie, Mono and June Lakes. Just outside Lee Vining we pick up Hwy 120, the eastern route into Yosemite. There is more fall color as we begin the climb towards the Tioga Pass (elevation 9,943 feet).

Hwy. 120

Tenaya Lake Elevation 8,150 Feet

Part of the drive takes us along the south edge of the Rim Fire area. You can still smell smoke. The fire started August 17th and as of this writing is 95% contained. What is fascinating is the capricious nature of how wildfires move. Some areas are burned, some simply scorched from heat, and in other spots there are unscathed patchs of green. 

As we drop down into the valley some of the iconic landmarks come into view: Cathedral Rock, El Capitan and Lost Arrow Spire.


The Yosemite Valley is not the way I remember it. It's more closed in and shadowed; buses, cars and people dominate the landscape at eye level. What's wrong with this picture? Oh wait! My last visit was 55 years ago. Trees grow a lot in half a century. One of the rangers told me the valley has lost 80% of its meadows in last 100 years. This explains a lot. Regardless of changes, it is still a magical place.

As usual we hadn't made plans regarding lodging, so we're flying on a wing and a prayer. First stop Yosemite Lodge and no rooms available. But, as I chatted with the hostess, she said "OMG, wait a minute, someone just cancelled". Serendipity rules!

Once settled we took a walk along the trail that skirts Yosemite Falls, now dry as a bone with only a small seep showing down near the base. Next stop is an excellent dinner at the Mountain Room and early to bed, we're headed to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks tomorrow.

Breaking News: There will be a short delay in this adventure's blog updates. We have a chance to check something off the proverbial bucket list and are headed for Las Vegas, NV for the PBR (Professional Bull Riding) World Finals tomorrow through next Tuesday. The last time we were in Vegas was 27 years ago. We got married in Gold Hill, NV and the day after headed south to see my folks in Yuma. We spent a "honeymoon" night in Las Vegas at the dive of all dives, the Pink Elephant Motel. We were too dazzled by the lights on the Strip and too tired from the road to make any reasonable decisions. Rod always promised he'd take me back so now he's making good on his promise.