After Las Vegas our next stop would be the Newmar 2017 International Rally …… but first, we had to leave Las Vegas and head East, quickly!! As Pack Expo ended on Wednesday, I packed up the coach, met Barry on Interstate 15, hooked up the car and headed north-east toward Interstate 70 at the Utah border. We drove until sunset, stopping along the road to boondock somewhere along the way in Utah for the night.
Next morning, we rose early, grabbed breakfast and determined to drive as far as possible.
We passed so many places to stop and explore but had to ignore each place with our goal in mind.
Crossing Colorado and the Rocky Mountains would be brutal, but we kept driving.
Side Note: Int. 70 across Colorado is Horrible, rough and broken in so very many places, Aunt Betty, Barry, the dogs, and I were just beat up driving it.
We drove over 1,400 miles, but finally made it to Sedalia in 3 days; memo to self: don’t do that again! Side note: We actually lost one of the big Newmar hub caps somewhere in Colorado and had to buy a new one when we got to the Rally!
We hugged Drew enough to hold us all until we could be together again and drove south and east from Lake Tahoe, back over Carson Pass and toward Gardnerville. It had snowed overnight in the upper elevations and left Carson Pass looking like the beginning of a great snow-boarding season!
We hoped to drive a few hours east and then due south to Lee Vining, California for a 2 night stay. Lee Vining is a tiny little town between the shores of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a “jump off” spot to Yosemite. Mono Lake is an ancient saline lake that has no fish; instead it is home to trillions of Mono Lake Brine Shrimp and Mono Lake Alkali Flies. Freshwater streams feed Mono Lake, with forests of cottonwood and willow along their banks.
We found Mono Lake RV Park and backed into our site. This is a small private park with less than 40 sites, but full hookups and 50 amps! Most of the other sites had coaches, 5th wheel’s and campers with vacationers, hunters and fishermen staying here. The town is small but had good places to eat and tourist-y shops with Native American goods. I think it would be hard to get a place to stay here in the summer as this town sits at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
After some wonderful star-gazing (the Milky Way was just perfect!) and a good night’s sleep, we awoke to freezing cold temperatures and snow above us in the mountains. We had hoped to spend the day in Yosemite, but the entrance was closed due to heavy snow in the mountains. The alternative would have been to drive back to Lake Tahoe, then drive south from there to the western Yosemite entrances, a journey of 8 hours…..so we waited. We had a good breakfast and drove about 2 miles toward the entrance to scope it out and found people parked along the roadside, waiting for word from the park rangers about opening the road.
I hiked a bit up a campground road there, found a running mountain stream and a grove of aspen, and returned to the road to wait also. About noon, a park ranger drove down from Yosemite and opened the gates!! We could go in, but had to watch the time and the weather, if it started to snow again, they would close this entrance and we would have no choice but to take the 8 hour journey back around to the RV.
Neither of us had ever been to Yosemite and had really no idea what to expect. We have seen the photos of El Capitan and Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, but this does not really prepare you for actually seeing it in person. We drove up over the mountains, following switchbacks that were just clinging to the side of mountains before the terrain changed completely. Tall pine trees with snowy branches filled the sky and then the ground became huge flat and rounded stone surfaces. It looked like a commercial for Jeep where they drive them out and off-road. After about 45 minutes, we dropped down and into Yosemite Valley. Seriously, I am not going to have enough adjectives to describe the valley, a canyon cut between mountains with a running river at the bottom and the road hugging the mountain all the way down.
Around a turn, Yosemite Falls came into view. It is tall and majestic and awe-inspiring, even at the end of summer when it was at its driest. There were lots of places to park and we stopped to admire that cascade of water from the mountain snows. This time of year the tourist season was not at its height and we were able to navigate the entire valley easily.
A little further on we spotted El Capitan across the valley from Yosemite Falls. With my camera and long lens, I was able to photograph two people climbing from a sleeping platform about 1/3 of the way up. I personally could not climb a sheer mountain face or sleep on a board attached to it!! (Sadly, 2 days later, a 13 story size slab fell off the mountain face and several climbers were killed. I pray that the 2 we saw were not killed.). We wandered around Yosemite Village for a bit, bought a few souvenirs, grabbed a very expensive deli sandwich and headed back out of the Valley and toward Lee Vining.
We stopped at the lookout for Half Dome on the way back and marveled at the beauty of this entire area. If you love history as we do, take some time to read about Yosemite and John Muir and his campaign to “save” Yosemite from development for the enjoyment of future generations. The National Park Service owes a huge debt to John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt for the formation of that organization and the designation of Yosemite as one of America’s first National Parks.
As we exited the park gates and headed back to Lee Vining, we both agreed that Yosemite is definitely worth a 2 week stay on our next western trip! We said goodnight to the Milky Way and fell sound asleep dreaming about the wonders of Yosemite and planning our next visit!
Before we left this beautiful area, I wanted to take the dogs out, alone, back into the mountains to breathe the mountain air and fill my soul. Drew recommended I drive out to the Blue Lakes off Highway 88 (Carson Pass Highway), along Hope Valley Road.
This road follows the West Fork of the Carson River through a wonderful valley and past a few mountain homes finally giving away to complete wilderness. It’s a 2 lane highway past running water, lots of trees, and along a cut between Markleeville Peak, The Nipple, and Jeff Davis Peak.
We reached the end of the road at the Blue Lakes and drove along Lower Blue Lake. The land here is made up gigantic smooth rocks with trees growing up through the cracks, it’s a great place for Corgis to run around!
The wind has twisted most of the trees out here over the years.
Back to those Corgis….. they loved running around on the large flat mountain rocks, chasing each other and barking as much as they wanted! In the photo just above, you can see a tree and a bunch of bushes growing at the water’s edge and Zeplyn running along the top of the rock. Well, the Corgis are not accustomed to big smooth rocks that drop of suddenly — sure enough, first Ratchet fell down into those bushes, then, while I was trying to figure out how to get him back up and out, Zeplyn slid down there too! Now I had 2 dogs scrambling around on the branches just above that water and about 4’ below me trying to figure out how to get back out. Zeplyn is still young enough (he’s only 8 years old) and was able to claw his way back up the rock and onto the top. Ratchet is 11 and a bit heavier; no way was he going to scramble up that rock! I finally figured out how to approach it from the tree side, coax Ratchet over to me by climbing over the branches, and carry him back to the upper side of the rocks! Whew!!!!
We returned to the car and headed back to Tahoe, snow was coming! We are leaving tomorrow and I’ve got some packing to do!
We hiked several days into the Sierra Nevada Mountains around Lake Tahoe. One day, Barry & I drove out to Kirkwood Ski Resort and had lunch and took a long different way back to the coach.
Another day, Drew & I left to hike out with my backpack loaded to get used to carrying it packed. We parked off Highway 88 at Carson Pass, loaded up and set off toward Winnemucca Lake.
In the background of the above photo is a mountain called, “Elephant’s Back”….it does look like the skin you might see on an elephant!
Today we hiked about 10 miles round trip, climbed about 2,000’ in elevation, and needed about 4.5 hours with all my stops to rest. Drew was so very patient with me especially on the return trip out when this happened: