During my third week on the road, I traveled mostly in California and am now 4,200-miles into my 10,000-mile road trip. This past week has taken me from South Lake Tahoe to Bodie, to Mono Lake, Yosemite National Park, Fresno, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, Death Valley, and finally to Pahrump, Nevada where I am writing this blog post from now.
I left South Lake Tahoe last week Tuesday and drove over the mountains into Nevada which was really pretty and a good workout for my transmission. I stopped briefly at Topaz lake before crossing over the border again back into California to explore the ghost town of Bodie. The road to the park is paved the first 10-miles but the remainder is a somewhat rough gravel road. Even going as slow as I could, it was still quite the beating to my trailer. I’m glad I pushed on though because the ghost town was bigger and more interesting than I thought it would be. I wish I had more time to explore but I had to get to the RV park in Lee Vining before 5 pm or else I’d lose my reserved spot so I hightailed it out of there with a little time to spare and I’m glad I did because I came across the best overlook of Mono Lake on the way. It was very high up so I could see the lake, the mountains, and roads in all directions. After getting situated at the RV park, one of the best in which I’ve stayed yet, I went back out for a bit to check out the Mono Lake Visitor Center to see if I could get some nice pictures. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t right so I headed back into town, grabbed some food at the Epic Cafe and brought a piece of their Epic Carrot Cake to eat back at my site. After eating the best carrot cake ever, I met a nice couple who were adjacent to me at the RV park. Originally coming over to say hello to Cole, we got to talking and the man showed me a video of his and his wife’s trip to Olympic National Park and the North Cascades, where I had started my journey. They also recommended some campgrounds in Yosemite which was really helpful.
The next morning, I headed out early to explore the South Tufa at Mono Lake. On my way there, I found Panum Crater and stopped to explore that a bit before continuing on to South Tufa which is an area that really drew me in. I was enamored with the strange rock formations and how they interacted with the landscape. I spent more time there than I was planning so I got a bit of sunburn since I had left my sunblock at the RV park and there was no shade by the lake. Once I got my fill of photos there, I headed back to the RV park to pack up and hit the road for Yosemite. Driving into Yosemite was both beautiful and scary at the same time. There is an 8-mile stretch shortly into the drive that is super windy in parts and ascends to 9,000 feet elevation fairly quickly. Once into the park, the drive got easier, and I headed straight to the campground to make sure I could get a spot before trying to explore anything. Lucky for me, there were plenty of spots available so I was quickly able to get situated, drop my trailer, and head back out to explore the east side of the park. That night was my first night camping in a high bear activity area. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night because I was worried I may have missed putting something important into the bear box. Although I heard a few noises throughout the night that made me believe someone in the campground had bear contact, I had no issues by me. On my second day in Yosemite, I drove into the Valley and Glacier Point and was really impressed with both areas. My camera got a good workout that day. That night while camping, I had a hard time sleeping again and around 2:00 AM, decided to brave the cold and possible bear encounter for a bathroom break and I’m happy to report I saw no bears. In the morning, I had to break out my hat and mittens just to pack up camp before heading to Fresno. That was definitely the coldest night so far on this trip.
Upon arriving in the much warmer Fresno, I checked into my Motel 6 and got ready to settle in for a couple of days of rest, showers, laundry and errands. While there I met a nice lady next door to me who filled me in a bit on the area, where to stay away from and the comings and goings of the hotel staff. She and her daughter were longer-term guests there as they waited to wrap up a house sale or buy a house, I can’t remember which. The mother was disabled and couldn’t work but has dedicated her time to doing cat rescue and had several cats with her in the hotel. While in Fresno, I did laundry including the bedding in my trailer, downsized supplies by shipping some stuff home and donating some stuff to Goodwill. I still had the receipt for a few items I originally purchased from Walmart in Oregon and was able to return them to the Super Walmart in town. I wrote my second batch of postcards from the road and got my car washed and detailed. At night, the town turned into a totally different place and the main street in front of the hotel got overtaken with street racers. My neighbor said the police arrest people when they can but it just keeps happening anyway.
After two nights in Fresno, I hit the road, freshly cleaned and packed and headed to Kings Canyon National Park. The canyon was full of beautiful colors and fun and slightly scary roads to drive which at times hover high above the creek below with steep dropoffs on one side or the other of the road. After driving as far as I could in the park, I turned back and visited the General Sherman Tree before finding a campsite on the north side of Sequoia National Park. The site was nice enough but my neighbor had a couple of loud and crying kids which seemed to be aggravating more than to just me. The site also had more of those aggressive bees that I love so much so I ate my sandwich for dinner in the car. When getting things settled for the night, I found a weird beetle in my car and combined with the dustiness and having to load everything up in the bear box, I was more than ready to call it a night early. Since I had no cell signal, I decided to start reading one of the books I brought entitled The New American Road Trip Mix Tape by Brendan Leonard, highly appropriate for this trip. I’m really happy with it so far. The next day, I saw my first bears and in exactly the way I wanted to, in the safety of my car while driving down the road. Two cubs crossed the road up ahead of me as I was making my way to leave the park and I was able to stop and get a little video of them going into the forest. My camp neighbors, the one with the loud children, got a much closer look at a bear that last night while I slept. Apparently, they forgot to put a dish sponge into their bear box and it attracted the attention of a big bear just outside of their tent and my trailer. Luckily, it was easy for them to scare the bear away. All they had to do was unlock and lock their car with the remote and the beeping noise was enough to send the bear away. I’m thankful I slept through it all otherwise I would not have gotten much sleep that night either. While leaving Sequoia National Park, I drove through some really neat big Sequoia trees and extremely curvy roads but didn’t stop since there weren’t many vistas or places to pull over and everything that was interesting required hiking a bit which I couldn’t do with Cole so I decided to just head on over to the next stop, Death Valley.
Driving to Death Valley required going through some fairly remote places but I saw a lot of pretty landscape. I stopped in one town for gas and as I was leaving, saw how dilapidated the occupied houses were. I’m not sure what happened there to result in such living conditions but I was happy to be on my way to a place with the name of Death Valley, which says a lot. Driving to Death Valley was desolate, hot and the roads clearly suffered from the heat. Once officially into the park, one must drive up a long, steep road. Signs warn of turning off your air conditioning to avoid overheating. I decided not to tempt fate and followed the sign’s suggestion which was easy to do because the temperature dropped drastically as the elevation rose so our comfort level didn’t suffer at all. Unfortunately, the closer we go to the campground I planned on staying at, the lower the elevation went and the higher the temperature. Once we got to sea level, it was 101 degrees, far different than the 76 degrees my weather app said it would be. I stopped at Zabriskie Point to use the bathroom, a vault toilet. I’m not one to usually be overly sensitive to smells but I can assure you that I have not smelled anything as bad as a vault toilet in 100+ degree temperature for days on end. Needless to say, I was quick with my business and bolted for the car, equipped with hand sanitizer and air conditioning as soon as I was done in there. I had no cell service in the park and the sun was quickly setting so I decided to head toward Las Vegas until I got a signal and then figure out where I would stay for the night. I didn’t have to drive long for my signal to return and I found a cheap hotel room in Pahrump, Nevada. As I drove to Pahrump, I saw lightning off in the distance which was really neat. Once checked in, I worked on unloading my stuff I would need for the stay. While walking Cole around later, I noticed the frog-size crickets all over and the random large black beetles. Luckily, every bug kept it’s distance so we are all getting along well on that front. After a shower and a good night of sleep in a very comfy bed, I spent today reworking my upcoming trip route, taking weather into consideration, while enjoying the air conditioning in the room. I opted to cut a couple of things out of my trip so I think my California journey has officially come to an end for now. I also processed photos from the past week as well as relaxed a bit with Cole in between tasks today.
Tomorrow we’ll stop at the Hoover Dam before making our way to the Grand Canyon. After that, we’ll explore northern Arizona and southern Utah a bit, make a quick stop in Colorado and New Mexico before heading back south for a house/pet sitting gig outside of Phoenix. While there, I’m looking forward to connecting with some friends and taking my time to explore the surrounding area. The timing is looking good that after I’m done in southern Arizona, I can make my way to Albuquerque for the annual Balloon Festival, something I’ve been wanting to see for a very long time. It is reputed to be one of the most photographed festivals in the world — what better place for a photographer like me to find herself? Even though things did not go exactly as planned during the last section of this leg of my trip, I’m happy how things are shaping up for the next segment.