blogging kp!

some of my travels with random musings & silliness mixed in

Tioga Pass to Mammoth Lakes, CA September 10, 2010

Today started off at 5:00am with a Happy Birthday text from my mother. Funny thing… not only did she forget the three hour time change… she got the day wrong! (I promptly went back to bed for a little while!)

My goal this time in Yosemite (YNP) was to spend time on Tioga Pass. I have been to the Village, the Valley and Glacier Point many times…. but I haven’t really spent anytime on the pass.

Valley View Turnout

So, I packed up the bike and went into Curry Village for breakfast. A breakfast burrito at the taco shop, a nice big coffee and I was off. As I sat sipping my morning coffee, I met a couple who had rented a Street Glide from EagleRider Motorcycle Rentals. We started talking about riding and Yosemite. I explained that I had been to Yosemite many times by both car and bike. Before we had finished talking, I had given them pointers on the sites in Yosemite they should see as well as the best time of day to see them. I also gave them information regarding riding over/down to Glacier Point. I suggested that if they had the time they should go over Tioga Pass and see Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadow. If they really had the extra time they shouldn’t miss Mono Lake. They actually asked me if I wanted to join them and be their tour guide. Unfortunately, I was trying to get home for my birthday party and was unable to.

Thought: How great would it be to be a motorcycle tour guide?

I rode off through the Village and started down the valley. The road (Northside Drive) is two lanes that travel in a one way direction… out of the valley. It meanders amongst the trees, meadows, cliffs and past El Capitan. There is one last lookout before you have to head out of the park or turn right on Big Oak Road to catch Tioga Pass Road/SR120. This lookout (Valley View) is alongside the Merced River and offers a great view back into the valley… and… there is one of the last restrooms for awhile.

Tioga Pass

The ride over the pass is roughly 60 miles +/- and without stops you could conceivably be in Lee Vining in two hours. But how could you not stop???

I pulled out of Valley View Lookout and headed up Big Oak Road. This is pretty breathtaking in it’s own right… the climb is somewhat steep and the view is fantastic. I particularly enjoy the tunnel… especially now that I have my new pipes on the bike! The road meanders along through some forests and the occasional river. Also, hidden among the trees are some small lakes. I pulled over and hiked down to one. (I forget it’s name.)

Eventually, I turn onto Tioga Pass Road. Did you know? Tioga is an Iroquois and Mohawk word meaning “where it forks” and is the eastern entry point to YNP. It is the highest highway pass in California. The elevation is 9,945 feet (3,031 m).

Awesome!

Next stop… Tenaya Lake… or so I thought…

Before Tenaya Lake there are a number of turnouts that offer views of the granite domes and the Sierra Mountains. Once again I stop, grab my camera and climb up one of the granite slopes and take many photos. I sat there for awhile with a bottled water and just relaxed. I am a fan of people watching and there were tour buses full of people to watch!

Tenaya Lake is named for Chief Tenaya (Awahneechee). The story (unconfirmed) goes that when he heard the lake was being named after him… he protested that the lake already had a name: Pie-we-ack, or “Lake of the Shining Rocks.” As a compromise, the dome east of the lake is now named Pie-we-ack… to honor the lake’s original name.

Trail from a Olmstead Pt.

At 8,150 feet (2,484 m) Tenaya Lake sits amongst the granite domes between Yosemite Valley and Tuolomne Meadows. The lake was created by an offshoot of Tuolumne Glacier as it passes through Tenaya Canyon. Tenaya Creek (the principle inlet/outlet of Tenaya Lake) as well as a many other creeks and springs provide the lake with it’s waters.

After an hour of walking around and taking pictures, I decided to continue on down the road.

The next major landmark of Tioga Pass is Tuolumne Meadows… this meadow is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. Early spring/summer is the time of year to be here when many wildflowers bloom. (I imagine a blanket of flowers!)  The Tuolumne River winds it’s way through the meadow. You can also see the many peaks and domes that rise above the meadow. I suggest taking some time to stop and enjoy the beauty and the quiet.

Before heading down the pass, you exit YNP via the “kiosk”. I was cold so I put some gloves on and put a fleece shirt on top of the layers I already had on. No picture taking from the bike on this road!! Once out of YNP, the pass loses more than 3,000 feet (914 m) by the time the road reaches U.S. Route 395 at Lee Vining, CA.

Once I reached the bottom of the pass, I stopped at the Mono Market in Lee Vining. I needed to remove some layers and grab a quick bite to eat. For a small fairly remote town, this grocery store is loaded with some great goodies. I contemplated stopping at the famous Whoa Nellie Deli but I was pressed for time. If you have a chance… you should definately stop here for a bite. The Buffalo Meatloaf is insane! Sometimes, they have a band too!

Tenaya Lake

I left and rode on to Mammoth Lakes to spend the night. I skipped Mono Lake on this trip and opted for the June Lake Loop. Absolutely beautiful! I will have to spend more time exploring this 30 mile / 3 lake loop with ample camping and some cute hotels. In all honesty… I wish I had gone to Mono Lake and stayed on the June Lake Loop instead of going to Mammoth.

East Entrance Kiosk to YNP

NOTE: SR 120, Tioga Pass Road (east entrance into Yosemite Park) is normally closed from November to late May of each year due to a heavy snow pack. During these months, there is no access to Yosemite Nat’l Park via Tioga Pass from US 395 on the Eastern side of the Sierra.

ONE MORE IMPORTANT NOTE: Gasoline is NOT available in Yosemite Village. Fill up BEFORE going into the park OR take your chances on being able to get to Wawona, El Portal, Crane Flat or Tuolomne Meadows… and all are expensive!

LINKS:

Whoa Nellie Deli: www.whoanelliedeli.com

Yosemite National Park : www.nps.gov/yose

 

Yosemite National Park September 9, 2010

For someone who is not a fan of big cities (me), I had a pretty awesome trip to San Francisco. Hanging out and reconnecting with Cindy and her family after 15+ years as well as meeting her husband and son was great. But it was time for me to head home.

I decided to ride over to Yosemite, cross Tioga Pass and head down the 395 back to home. This time, however, I was going to spend less time in the Village and around Glacier Point. My goal was to camp in Curry Village, get up and spend my day going through Tioga Pass.

Last time I was in YNP, it was late afternoon and SUPER cold, so, my goal was to get over the pass quickly not sight see!!

Half Dome at Sunset

So, I set off around 12:00ish and headed east on the 580 and followed the signs to Manteca. I stopped and grabbed a coffee… because… coffee is the nectar of the gods (behind Captian Morgan, of course)!  I then hopped on the 120 East to Yosemite and cruised for a few hours. I must admit, I didn’t find anything particularly stand out as far as scenery or roadside stops along the way. The whole trip from San Francisco took about three and a half hours.

Yosemite. It is one of my most favorite places in the US. Funny. I have been there at least a dozen times… winter, spring, summer, fall… and I am always mesmerized by it’s beauty! I must admit that since I purchased this bike, I have been back many times in three years after a five or six year hiatus. It never gets old and to be on the bike in YNP is pretty amazing. I have been trying to get my friends to join me but … no takers. Talk about missing out!

Housekeeping Camp #156

Before I pulled into Curry Village, I stopped at Housekeeping Camp. I went into the office and was lucky to get a spot for the night. If you are not familiar with Housekeeping Camp it is an “H” shaped concrete structure with a heavy canvas roof and doors. Each half of the “H” has a double bed, a set of bunks, some shelves and electricity. All you have to do is walk in and make the beds. No tent pitching. Each half also has a picnic table, fire ring and a metal shelf outdoors for cooking, eating and storing your food. YOU MUST USE THE BEAR BOX!

Quick note: Housekeeping Camp rents bed linens and camp stoves. The cost is minimal and might be a great option instead of packing a lot of gear. HC also has a small camp store and laundry room… and of course showers!

As most of you know… I love camping. So, why Housekeeping Camp instead of Upper or Lower Pines? I have never been able to stay there and I wanted to experience the “tent cabins”. As I mentioned earlier, I have been trying to get my friends to ride to Yosemite with me as well… I want to experience the different lodging options.

Diggin the reflection on my saddlebag!

Once settled in, I went to Curry Village for dinner. They have a pizza joint (long lines), a dining room, a coffee bar, a grill and a taco stand. I ordered a burger and fries and sat down in the BAR! Woohoo! I stayed for a few hours & talked to many nice people.

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES:

If you are going to Curry Village from Housekeeping Camp… walk or hop on the bus! Yosemite Valley is surrounded by one way roads. You can only drive into the Valley on one side and out of the Valley on the other side.

Your options from Curry Village back to Housekeeping Camp are: You drive the wrong way on a one way street (not recommended) or drive through the Village, part way down the Valley, make a u-turn and head back up the Valley to get back… which is a little gnarly on a motorcycle in the PITCH BLACK with the chance of critters or animals crossing your path.

 

Lee Vining, Mono Lake & HAULIN ASS May 25, 2009

  

Despite the cold, I got down Tioga Pass. Part of me wishes I had come down in a car. I really wanted to look around and take it all in but being on the bike I couldn’t. The drop off was long and steep and there was no guardrail.

WOW! Check out the cloud!

WOW! Check out the cloud!

I pulled over once I got into town so I could Google map my hotel, the Lake View Lodge & Cabins. A weird thing happened, Google maps told me to ride 15 miles north and make a u-turn back four miles. This struck me as odd. Why not just go 11 miles and turn left?? So, as I was standing there perplexed and looking around, I saw a sign for the Lake View Lodge… guess what??? It was right across the street!!

Technology is great but it is certainly not foolproof! Good thing I keep maps or guidebooks with me.

Needless to say I crossed the street and checked in. The Lake View is a cool place. It is part hotel, part RV park and it has cottages & cabins to rent. I checked into a cabin. It was super nice! A few steps above a KOA cabin in that There was a kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker and a few burners. There was a small flatscreen tv with satellite, a nice bathroom and a front porch. I cranked the wall heater cause I still had a chill from my ride.

After unpacking the bike and a quick wash up, I headed out for dinner.

Mono Market

Mono Market

My first stop was the market. What a great market! If I had had the energy, I would have just bought the stuff to cook in my cabin. One block away was Bodie Mike’s BBQ. The girl at the hotel’s front desk said it was pretty good. I had to wait about 10 minutes before I was seated. I quickly ordered the salad bar and a bowl of chili. The menu had plenty of traditional BBQ but the chili caught my eye and it sounded warm. There was a decent selection of veggies on the salad bar and the chili turned out to be pretty good… though I would have preferred it spicier.

On my way out of the restaurant, I ended up chatting with two guys who just pulled up on their bikes. Wow. The amount of stuff on their bikes was amazing! Turns out they’ve been riding the US for awhile and began in Michigan/Missouri. They had just come down the pass….Brrrr.  Trevor and Jim were wondering where to go around the area, so I gave them some ideas… Bodie, Mono Lake or the June Lake Loop.

I started walking back to my cabin. I stopped in one of the stores next to the laundromat. (This is the same laundromat that I stuffed my little brother into a dryer in back when we were kids. LOL & RIP little bro.) The store was filled with country western shirts, Indian rugs and jewelry, boots, cards, etc. There were some paintings by the artist Tom Schultz. The expressions and details of the faces in his paintings was wonderful.

Looking toward the June Lake Loop

Looking toward the June Lake Loop

Monday Morning… I got up and futzed around for awhile, showered and packed the bike. I decided to take 395 South and stop at Mono Lake. I stopped for a picture of the mountains on the June Lake Loop. I really wanted to ride the loop but time was short and the 10,000 ft elevation, a projected high of 42 degrees and 30% chance of rain convinced me to come back this summer. While I was pulled over taking my pictures, Trevor & Jim stopped to say hi. They were on their way to Mono Lake as well. We talked about our plans for the day and decided to go to Mono Lake together.

Mono Lake… What a strange place! From Lee Vining head south on 395 about five miles. Turn left at the turnoff and go about another five miles…. Left at the entrance… Go slow it’s gravel! The fee is $3 unless you have one of the park passes. Mono Lake is like something from the moon. Weird eerie strange… But super cool! Mono Lake is one of the oldest lakes in North America and is three times saltier than the ocean!! Talk about being buoyant… if you swam in it. The lake has two islands and “spires” called tufas. Tufas are created when underwater springs that have calcium come up from the lake’s bottom and mix with the saline water from the lake. For you treehuggers…There is a very interesting story about the lake and conservation efforts to keep it’s water levels up since a few of the streams that feed the lake were diverted to the California aqueduct…you should check it out. Anyway, we walked around took some pictures and then headed off in our different directions. The guys went back to Yosemite and I headed home.

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Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well… I checked my watch… Noon… I wondered how long it would take me to get home.

Bishop… Not much to say about Bishop mainly because I didn’t explore it. Grabbed a salad at Jack in the Box and kept going. Now that I knew I was done sightseeing I was on a mission to get home.

Independence, Lone Pine & Big Pine… They looked like great places for pictures of old signs and run down buildings. I will have to check them out next time.

At the Junction @ 190 to Death Valley… There was a very busy jerky store and gas stop. I stopped for gas and some Gatorade. On my way into the gas station, I almost got pulled over. I was doin 90 in a 65 (oops)… but someone was on side of road with the hood of their car up obviously having car troubles. The CHP definately eyeballed me but stopped to help the people that needed it instead. Phew!!

After that there really isn’t much to report. I just hauled ass home and pulled into my garage at 8:15pm.

 

Some Links:

Lake View Lodge:  http://www.bwlakeviewlodge.com/

Mono Lake:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=514