Scenic Drive Part Two

image Lee Vining to Lone Pine

Yosemite National Park ends after passing through Tioga Pass.

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As we descend the Pass, we notice a haze… Clouds? Fog? Smoke?

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Highway 120, Tioga Road, empties into the town of Lee Vining. According to suburbanstats.org, only 222 people currently live here.

We intersect U.S. 395 and head south.

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There’s that haze again. Our eyes start burning. It even smells funky.

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I get online to investigate, and sure enough, in late June a wildfire broke out north of Lee Vining, closing parts of 395 as 819 acres of pinyon and brush burned. (mynews4.com)

img_4685 my4news.com

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And here we are today, just shy of 3 months later, seeing, feeling, and smelling the smoke!


Fires can be beautiful and ugly. Fires can bring restoration and destruction. And whether or not they are caused by nature, carelessness, or malice, dedicated and courageous men and women risk their lives to keep us out of harm’s way.  So, hug your favorite firefighter today!

I am not being ungrateful or sarcastic. This is a pic of my "grandson-in-law" at Halloween. His Dad is a firefighter, EMT, and Paramedic.

I mean no disrespect or sarcasm. This is a sweet pic of my “grandson-in-law” at Halloween. His Dad is a firefighter, EMT, and Paramedic.

Once again, I am reminded that wildfires are serious threats and affect the lives and property of real people and places.


We leave the mountains and fire residue behind and finally arrive in Lone Pine where we will pick up Highway 190 into Death Valley.

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The Most Beautiful Scenic Drive

image Tioga Road through Yosemite

Fasten your seatbelt and join me in the passenger’s seat as we take the 39+ mile route that crosses the Sierra Nevada through Yosemite National Park.

Oh wait, I don’t have a seatbelt! And Forest River doesn’t care… But that’s a topic for another time…

Our destination is Death Valley. So, sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery, along with me, on this 8 hour ride. You won’t be disappointed!

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This drive past forests, meadows, lakes, and granite domes ranges from 6,200 feet to almost 10,000 feet in elevation. The Valley offers spectacular views but this less crowded road is just as magnificent, if not more!

Yosemite National Park

image The Valley

From the Big Oak Flat Entrance to Yosemite National Park, it’s another 20 miles to reach the Yosemite Valley. This means from Yosemite Pines RV Resort, where we are staying, Yosemite Valley is 48 miles away, unless you are lucky enough (or not) to secure a reservation to camp in the National Park. Even then, the National Park brochure urges visitors within the park to use the free shuttle buses to sightsee. But, so far, we enjoy our first glimpses as we approach the Valley.

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OMJeezaloo it is crowded here! Luckily we have a small car and can squeeze into impossible spaces.

We park and step out to get a view of El Capitan, the 3,593 foot granite monolith. (Yosemite National Park Visitor Guide)

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Along the way in the grassy meadow, a bright blue bug sparkles in the sunlight.

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We meander our way to the Valley Visitor Center only to get stuck in construction traffic and detours, not to mention all the bikers, and pedestrians, and babies in strollers.

I keep looking up to snap more pics just to keep my sanity. It is so crowded here! It takes forever to go from Point A to Point B but we make the most of it.

We backtrack south and head east to catch a view of Half Dome.

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We see the sheer granite cliff of its backside first.

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We circle a campground parking area until we pull into a space immediately after the previous car leaves. Before we walk  across the street we catch a glimpse of the 3 smooth and round sides of granite that give Half Dome its name, rising 4,737 feet above the valley floor. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

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The surrounding granite cliffs against the blue sky are impressive as well.

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Glacier Point overlooks Yosemite Valley but it’s another 30 miles away. The 1 mile round trip hike to the scenic overlook is the best place to view Half Dome. But because of the crowds and distance, we opt out. The best I can do is share the following picture from yosemitehikes.com:

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The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is 36 miles south of Yosemite Valley but has been closed for restoration since July 6, 2015. Below is a photo from June 2012 shared on paintyourlandscape.com. The building dwarfed by the trees is the Mariposa Grove Museum.

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So… we leave the valley, relieved to get away from all the congestion and slightly disappointed. Have we become National Park snobs? Or are we just used to enjoying nature when most of the tourists stay home? Apparently Yosemite is always crowded unless you want to visit during November through April. (I read that somewhere…) I mean, we tried in June to get a campsite reservation for September with no luck. But I’m not sure staying within the park would make me change my opinion. I really can’t see myself taking shuttles to see the park along with a bus load of other tourists now that I am retired. Yeah, I am a full-time RVer snob! 😬

We head back 20 miles to the Big Oak Flat Entrance and remember seeing the road to Hetch Hetchy, an out-of-the mainstream drive. According to nps.org, this peaceful place is a vast wilderness of stunning views, hidden canyons, and remote lakes. It is also the starting point for many wilderness trails.

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Hetch Hetchy is also a Reservoir supplying drinking water and hydroelectric power to San Francisco. ( Yosemite National Park Visitor Guide)

It’s another 20 miles though. So we just return to Yosemite Pines RV Resort where our dogs, Casey and Murph are waiting for us another 28 miles away.