Death Valley… Dead Dog: Vegas To Yosemite

After lots of whatsapp chats with friends we decided our route to go up the west coast. We were going through the Death Valley which is a vast dessert which drops from 5000 feet above sea level and 70f temperature to 400 feet below and 104f temperatures. It was a roller coaster road passing scarily named places such as furnace creek. The names are not inviting enough but we saw a few cars and camper vans once in a while. We stopped at a vista point where wind was blowing hard and dust hitting our bodies. The land was so barren that there was a shone off to, making it look like a shallow gleaming lake. There was no sing life of animal or bird life. It would be a perfect location for the kingdom of a very cruel king in game of thrones, who would have a prison built at the lowest point in the valley and leaving prisoners dry in the parched lands. We drove carefully so as not to overheat the engine. There is no cell network in most of such ‘parks’ in USA and being deserted they are not ideal places for car breakdowns.


A Kerry man no less

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We stopped for the night at a town called bishop in California. Located between the Inyo forests and Mount Whitney,  it is guarded on both sides by walls of mountains. They looked like shadows. Quite unreal! Surely this town would get some part in game of thrones as well!

Sierra Nevada to our left
White Mountains to our right

This was our first time at a hostel on our travels and California Hostel was very homely. The owner Matt was very friendly and trusting of his guests. For the first time on the roads we got our hands dirty and cooked a proper meal – well cooking pasta with ready made sauce and broccoli is proper cooking right?

Beats campfire noodles
Beats campfire noodles

We sat at the dinner table chatting with Matts dad and Eddie talking about how this hostel has become a popular spot for rock climbers and PCT hikers. Eddie was hiking the pacific coast trail (pct) and had to come out because of a bad snow storm. He was waiting to get his snow gear and the storm to pass to get back on the trail. Matt’s mother was on the trail too. We knew about PCT from the movie – wild and documentaries. Eddie had gone 12 days without seeing another soul. Lots of stories were shared and we went to bed feeling like newbies to the traveling world. He’s also writing a very interesting blog of his adventure here.

I went for a small run to just see the town and came back to Ollie sipping his coffee on the porch. We fueled up and stopped at Schatts bakery which was massive with hundreds of types of breads. Quite a lot for such a small town.
We came to Tioga pass which was going to shut at 4 pm for the snow storm. We had read about the dangers of this pass which is open only 4 months in a year and of course we still had the storm chasing us. The views were stunning and it was not as bad as we thought.  Or we had just been through rougher roads.

Tioga Lake
Tioga Lake
Stunning Route to drive
Stunning Route to drive

We reached Yosemite just in time and somehow managed to get what the Rangers claimed to be a one of their best camping sites. This was my first time to the park and I had not known about the abundance of bears who at times like to join the Yosemite party. There were huge bear-canisters to store all your food and fragrant objects including toothpaste all over the park and on all camp sites. We set up our tent by the running creek behind which was wilderness. It was laundry night with instant noodles which are not so instant to cook on the campfire.

Bear Cage and Bear in a Tent
Man makes fire!

We had picked up a second sleeping bag to keep Ollie warm. Wrapped up like burritos in our cheap sleeping bags, we slept directly on the cold earth and my feet got very cold. I finally fell asleep only to be woken up by what sounded like animals fighting and growling very close. It sounded like the bear or wolf was winning and a dog becoming his dinner. We heard footsteps in the water of the creek and we were sitting up shivering in our respective sleeping bags. With unblinking eyes we just stared at each other. When the dogs whimpering noise died down, Ollie peeked through the tents window and saw a rooster like animal sniffing near by campfire pits. At least one animal survived the massacre! We drifted in and out of sleep till it was bright outside. We spoke to our sleep deprived neighbors who shared our almost-scary story.

Tired, we had coffee and lots of peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. We packed up our tent and decided on a hike. With what seemed like hundreds of rocky switch backs we went up the Yosemite falls trail. We saw the stunning upper falls close and we had not even reached the top. It had started to rain and the trail was becoming slippy. With not much confidence in the soles of my worn out sneakers we turned around. We looked back to see the falls disappearing behind the fog sliding over it. There was mist  coming down the mountains and fog rising up. The whole park was covered in fog and looked like a wonder place from a fairytale. We were happy to be in a crowded cafe as the rain poured down and everyone was looking for a dry spot for the afternoon.


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A misty & challenging exit
A misty & challenging exit

We hit the road and touched the coast by dinner time. Ollie believed that we were on the west coast only when we could see the Pacific Ocean. After a week of the storm chasing us, it finally caught up with us with a very foggy exit of the park and a seriously strong storm along the CA-41. Bad for us but great for the Southern Californian farmers who have been dealing with a bad drought of late. After a delicious dinner at juju cafe by the water, in Morro Bay, we turned in for a good night sleep on a comfortable and warm bed.

Ollie went for a run and I took up a yoga class.It was an hour and a half of much needed stretching and soothing oil smells. We took our coffee and banana to the rocky beach watching the surfers enjoying the waters. Chased by hungry squirrels, I finished my breakfast in the car and started our drive north.

Hello West Coast, great to finally meet you again!
Hello West Coast, great to finally meet you again!

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