Yosemite National Park
The ride to Yosemite National Park was through the Stanislaus national forest via some of the most beautiful roads I have yet experienced. In fact the few days I spent riding through this part of California remains one of my favorite parts of the trip. Riding up to higher altitudes meant cool, fresh mountain air, the snow still melting on the sides of the road, creating beautiful streams and pristine lakes every few hundred meters. The forests were thick and green however and the sun was out, and I was on my way to one of Americas most beautiful and visited national parks.
It took me longer then expected to reach the park so I was forced to spend a night about 30 miles east which ended up being a great night under the stars. I managed to find a superb spot to pitch my tent, on a hill overlooking Don Pedro Reservoir. If you take highway 120, once you reach this lake, pull in the second vista point. There, if you look close enough, you will see a narrow overgrown trail that leads to the top of the hill. I was actually able to maneuver the bike up the trail to find a patch of perfect flat grass up top, far way from anyone and with an incredible view of the lake; and the sunset.
Next morning the lady at the expensive campsite down the road let me wash up which was a great treat. I managed to lose an hour however, looking for my keys which I had absentmindedly stuck in a wooden post while on the phone with Kawasaki. Some people doodle over stuff while on the phone, I however discover incredibly clever ways to loose my keys. At least the news with Kawasaki was positive.
Continuing to the Yosemite valley you will ride through beautiful nature and thick forest finally emerging on top of the iconic valley. As I came out of a turn from which one is able to first see the magnificent valley bellow my breath was taken away. I was warned this might happen but wow was it a beautiful sight. Entering the park you will ride down a steep mountainside passing a few waterfalls and tunnels finally to arrive below in the middle of an incredibly beautiful valley with huge granite monoliths on either side each adorned with its own waterfall falling for hundreds of feet. The park is absolutely beautiful and I would have loved for a chance to explore a bit more although the traffic of tourists was just too much to take. The park is simply overcrowded with tour buses and people everywhere, making it difficult to enjoy the magnificence of the place in solace.
I pulled over in a picnic area however where it is possible to take a dip in the river running directly through the valley and this is where I struck a conversation with Doug Hanson. He was there with his wonderful family, all munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A biker himself he invited me to the table and as the conversation progressed I eventually learned that he has a brother in Salt Lake City fighting a rare form of leukemia. Before we parted ways I took the mans name, Tracy Hanson, promising to visit him in a few weeks when I ride through Utah.
A little frustrated from being stuck in traffic trying to leave Yosemite, my mood immediately brightened as soon as I continued north through more perfect wilderness. Melted snow trickled down the road gutters and perfect little lakes were encountered every few kilometers. The fresh, cool, mountain air in my lungs, picture-perfect scenery like form a Thomas Kinkade painting and the cloudless sky up above put me in a state of ecstasy. After an hour however I was starting to panic a little bit being that I was now running low on gas. I remembered not wanting to top off outside of Yosemite where the prices were almost $6 and now that decision looked like it could cost me. But luck was on my side and the road soon started to lead down and out of the mountains; The long and steep descent down the last few eastern miles of the beautiful Tioga Pass led me me all the way down to the small town on Mono Lake called Lee Vining where a sole Shell gas station awaited, packed with Jolly tourists enjoying a drink at the outdoor beer garden. I topped off this time saving a whole dollar on the gallon. I saw a man there, his head deep under the hood of an older, brown Volvo station wagon that looked as disheveled as I did. I asked if there was any trouble and if I could but the man was just checking his oil. Immediately he started proudly boasting that the car has over 600k miles on it and has never gave him any problems. But what was even more incredible was that John, this smiley man of extraordinary positivity and energy was living with not one but two cancerous tumors. After a wonderful conversation we said goodbye.
My plan was to find a place to pitch my tent somewhere around the Mono lake on the east side of the city park and it happened to work out great. While searching for a place down the dirt Cemetery Road I came across two bicyclists, hauling a small trailer and obviously on a tour of their own. Being that it was clear we were all after the same thing, we joined forces in our search for a camping spot finally pitching our tents next to a small stream. It is never ideal to make camp directly on the sandy shores of a river or stream because for one the sand is wet and cold, sucking heat away from your body, and secondly, what is especially true in the spring and summer, is that water level could rise suddenly due to melting of the snow.
But being that there was nothing but rocks around and being that fatigue and the dark were setting in fast, we decided to risk it; I did however build a small dam with brush and stones to at least divert some of the water and buy me a few moments in the case of a flash flood. We enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and conversation that night and with the rising of the moon in the clear sky above our open ( & separate, of course) tents we all fell into a deep and much needed slumber. One more beautiful and completely satisfying day was through. My next destination was Bodie State Historical Park, once a booming gold rush settlement, now Americas best preserved ghost town.
So Yosemite; a must!