Laughlin and I aren’t fancy people, if you haven’t figured that out yet. We don’t need a fancy truck or camper to keep us happy as we progress down the Pan American Highway. Typically, a beer, mostly Budweiser, is our beverage of choice after a long day’s drive but we decided we couldn’t come to California without trying some wine. After some research (read finding a town close to Fresno) we decided to look for some wine near Madera, CA. When we approached the city, Laughlin pulled up some vineyards and we went to the first one on the list. Fortunately for us, the vineyard, Ficklin Vineyards, was the first vineyard in the United States to produce Port which happens to be the only type of wine they bottle and our favorite type! Score! After a bit of tasting, we bought two bottles and hit the road.
We needed showers badly as we wrapped up our first major camping stretch. Between Seattle and Fresno we camped seven nights with only a sponge bath in between and we were counting on Laughlin’s aunt and uncle, Betsy and Peter, to help us out. Not only did they provide a shower and a bed for us, another home cooked meal was ready when we arrived! Talk about service!
Fresno happens to be about two hours from Yosemite National Park, and since neither of us had been, we had to take some time to visit. Following a quick breakfast, we headed north toward the park. Surprisingly there was a lot of traffic for a Thursday and to slow things down even more, the Park was taking down some hazard trees next to the road which held us up quite often.
Yosemite Valley was our first stop in the park as the Glacier View Point was closed for the season. We jokingly discussed driving around the road closed sign but decided we had avoided the law up to this point and headed north. After pulling out of a long tunnel, our eyes were filled with nothing but a beautiful valley with granite faces and waterfalls all around us!
I used my bird hunting skills for this one….
For the first time since Billings, MT, we saw another Alaskan camper which we leapfrogged through the Park. We didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner, but he was eyeing us as much as we were eyeing him. The cult following of Alaskans is alive and well!
We parked the truck near the visitor center and after walking around for a bit, we hopped on the shuttle bus, which was a bit of a struggle for us Wyoming folks. After a few stops, we realized that this was truly a shuttle bus and there was no sightseeing at all. Oh well! As we began to run out of daylight, we opted for a quick hike to Mirror Lake then headed to the west side of the Park for our camp spot.
We didn’t know how the shuttle worked.
So far on our trip, we haven’t paid for a camp spot. We will do a blog post summarizing how we were able to do so and what our thoughts are when we wrap up the U.S. leg of our trip. Just outside of Yosemite, we found directions to our spot right off the road but seemed a little sketchy. One van was parked there and we decided to go for it after circling a couple times. Shortly thereafter, we kept hearing more and more vehicles pull up and by the morning, there were about 8 other people camping in the vicinity!
Right after starting the truck to let it warm up, Laughlin noticed that Tioga pass on the north end of the park was closed which was where we were planning on visiting on our second day. Crap! We headed north towards Hetch Hetchy Reservoir instead. When I was in college, I took a conservation of natural resources class which discussed the importance of Hetch Hetchy in the conservation movement, so I was happy to see this area. It wasn’t a complete bust for our last day in Yosemite. We headed back to Fresno and were surprised by another home cooked meal and shower!
Here are some thoughts on our visit to Yosemite:
- Two of the major roads were closed because it was after October which really limited the areas we could see.
- There aren’t many roads in the Park but there are hiking trails all over the place. Next time, we will plan ahead and plan a few day hikes to really get a feel for the park.
- In the bottom of the valley, we were in the shade most of the day due to the large walls which was a little strange. It seemed later than it was nearly the whole day. It was very chilly in the shade, but I’m sure it is quite nice in the summer.
- There were tons of construction projects, hazard tree falling, etc. going on while we were there which is probably just do to the time of the year we were visiting.
- The sights are more spectacular than photos portray so everyone should try to visit!