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Visiting The Sierra Nevada Mountains

Over the years I have heard countless praise for the Eastern Sierras, but have never had a good opportunity to visit.  Specifically, I’ve been itching to spend time wandering the highly acclaimed Hwy 395 (California) corridor, which travels from suburban Los Angeles northbound through Oregon before terminating at the US-Canada border.   Over a distance roughly 560 miles, this scenic  byway boasts some of the most beautiful mountains in the west.

On the heels of a stay in Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows, our first stop was the popular Oh Ridge Campground, a national forest campground adjacent to June Lake.

Descending Tioga Pass

Descending Tioga Pass

I’d heard that the descent out of Yosemite along Tioga Pass can be a bit harrowing in tow.  As this was my first big mountain decent with the Airstream, 12 miles of mostly shoulder-less, steep grade with just enough sharp turns included had me sufficiently stressed out.  In end, the descent wasn’t too bad, but I was plenty happy to have that portion of the trip behind me.

Tioga Pass road officially ends at Hwy 395, but on a strong recommendation from my neighbor, we stopped a bit short of its termination point in order to spent a few hours hiking through Lee Vining Canyon.

Winding next to a small creek, the canyon trail connects a number of wonderful forest service campgrounds.  Primitive, quiet, solar-friendly, and offering cheap prices (especially if you have an interagency pass), these campgrounds are a jewel.  Given their close proximity to Yosemite’s east entrance, coupled with a fraction of the crowds, you can bet I’ll likely stay at one of these sites when I next visit Yosemite.

Lee Vining Canyon

Lee Vining Canyon

Lee Vining Canyon

Lee Vining Canyon

Lee Vining Canyon

Lee Vining Canyon

Brother-in-law Chris, Kelly, and Dave

Brother-in-law Chris, Kelly, and Dave

Arrival to Oh Ridge was about as easy as I could hope.  The park was nearly empty and excluding the handful of direct waterfront sites, we had our pick of the campground.  Oh Ridge is lovely and I’d highly recommend it as a “home base” for many excursions.  Within an hour’s drive to the north or south, many day hiking options are available across a wide variety of terrain.

Our Oh Ridge Campsite

Our Oh Ridge Campsite

Playing with Lilly in June Lake

Playing with Lilly in June Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Brodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town

Brodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town

Brodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town

Having concluded a few nights at Oh Ridge, it was time to push about 1.5hrs south to our boondocking site north of Bishop. Using social media insights from other bloggers, we narrowed into a section of BLM land and snagged a great site about 15 minutes north of town.

Bishop Boondocking Site

Bishop Boondocking Site

Bishop Boondocking Site

Bishop Boondocking Site

I’d heard a lot of good feedback regarding the town of Bishop, but I’m still not sure if I can give a strong endorsement.  That said, the surrounding area is A+ and for that reason, I’d highly recommend Bishop, less for the town, but more because of the abundant surrounding outdoor playland.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Tyee Lakes Trail

Also, there is a Ford dealer in Bishop, which provided me an opportunity to test-drive a new truck.  I was very pleasantly surprised with the ride quality of the new diesel-powered F-250, which now has me thinking upgrade …

Glen Aulin High Sierra Trail

The Glen Aulin trail leads to one of five High Sierra Campgrounds in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.  Starting  from the east end of Tuolumne Meadows the trail follows the Tuolumne River downstream to the Glen Aulin campsite.

Just over 13 miles round-trip, the path starts next to small, colorful pools known as Soda Springs, before winding through rolling woodlands as the Tuolumne River winds across meadows, providing spectacular high country views.  Quickly, the trail transforms to a boulder-strewn granite slope, forming river falls, cascades and deep, clear pools, as the terrain on most sides becomes steep and mountainous.

The views are awesome.

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Tuolumne Meadows – Yosemite National Park

Last week Kelly and I spent a few days camping at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, our second visit to this wonder nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada’s Mountain range.

Our spot 37A

Our spot A36

Open only during the summer and fall, the Tuolumne Meadows area is far less crowded than the very popular Yosemite Valley.  With fewer people come fewer amenities, resulting in a more rustic camp setting.

Tuolumne River next to our site

Tuolumne River next to our site

Tuolumne River, Lambert Dome in the distance

Tuolumne River, Lambert Dome in the distance

Dave / Kelly selfie at Tuolumne River

Dave / Kelly selfie at Tuolumne River

For the first few days we would be camping alongside fellow Airstreamers Advodna, before being joined by Kelly’s brother.  Having never camped with the Advodna crew, it was nice to spend a couple of days with them. With two small children in the mix, there were no epic hikes with them, but we did spend time relaxing at the campsite, walking dogs, sharing good eats (and beer).

My little pal, Advodna Wynne

My little pal, Advodna Wynne

Of course, the real catalyst for our visit to Yosemite was to spend some time hiking trails in a mountain setting.  Living steps from the ocean is fantastic for sure, but Kelly and I love the mountains and were excited to be at altitudes in between seven and ten thousand feet.  Once Kelly’s brother arrived, the hiking began in earnest and Yosemite in Autumn does not disappoint.

Chris, headed towards Dog Lake

Chris, headed towards Dog Lake

Kelly, Chris, and me wishing we had Kayaks

Kelly, Chris, and me at Dog Lake wishing we had Kayaks

Overlooking Tuolumne Meadow from the top of Lambert Dome

Overlooking Tuolumne Meadow from the top of Lambert Dome

Early morning frost at Tuolumne Meadow

Early morning frost at Tuolumne Meadow

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Ellery Lake

Tioga Pass as sunrise

Tioga Pass as sunrise

Mt Madonna County Park

This past weekend, Kelly and I used the holiday weekend as an opportunity to put some miles on the Airstream and escape to Mt Madonna Count Park.  Located about two hours south of HMB and nestled in the midst of a forest of Redwoods, the park seemed like a must visit spot.

Knowing the holiday weekend would likely draw big crowds, we decided to arrive Thursday afternoon in hopes of enjoying some quiet … a bit of calm prior to the storm’s arrival.

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Our sweet corner spot #104

When booking the reservation, I tried to pick a spot that looked to be the most private.  Often, campground reservation systems can be misleading, making it difficult to know what type of site to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival.  Our spot was very private, which coupled with my not so welcoming placement of the truck, did a fantastic job of completing the “please do not disturb” vibe we were looking to passive-aggressively establish.

A 3,688 acre county park, Mt Madonna is dominated by the giant redwood trees typical of the Santa Cruz Mountain range.  On an otherwise hot and sunny Labor day weekend, the tree canopy provided nearly 100% shade coverage which kept temperatures cool and the outside lounge time quotient high.

Internet connectivity was a bust, but I did ok with limited over the air TV reception … the onset of college football being an added bonus.

Big trees at the campsite

Big trees at the campsite

TV time

TV time

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Lilly on the move

The park contains miles and miles of shaded, rolling terrain – perfect for long dog walks.  The trails are well maintained and provided loads of exploration opportunities.

Kelly also tried to find time for catching-up on yoga, but Lilly had other ideas.

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During one of our walks, we visited the ruins of the summer home of Henry Miller, one of the largest cattle barons in California history.  Born in Germany, Miller immigrated to New York in 1846 (during his 20’s) with only $6.  By 1858 Miller had migrated to San Francisco and built a thriving butcher business.  Shortly thereafter, Miller and his business partner shifted emphasis from meat products to cattle raising, and soon became the largest cattle rancher in California and one of the largest landowners in the United States – owning 1.4 million acres and controlling nearly 22,000 square miles of cattle and farm land in California, Nevada, and Oregon.  At the time of his death, Miller was worth an estimated $40 Million.

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Remains of the ballroom

Wandering the remains, I had a sense of familiarity – something about this place felt odd.  I was convinced that Kelly and I had been to this park before, but I couldn’t remember a details.   Initially, Kelly thought I would cuckoo but I insisted that we’d been here previously.  Once back at the camper I checked my email archives and confirmed what I had suspected … we’d been there in April 2012 in our previous camper, only three sites down (#101).

I’m still not sure how it was we didn’t immediately recall the previous visit.  But memories of this visit (and the accompanying documentation) should last for a while.  Mt Madonna is a great park close to HMB and I’m sure we’ll be back.

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