Our 2017 Annual Drive to Yosemite NP was billed as an “epic” drive and it did not disappoint!
by: Don Chaisson. Photos by Don Chaisson,
The drive started from the Starbucks in Escalon and headed up CA 120 toward Yosemite National Park. The first interesting part was the drive up to Groveland. Part of the caravan chose to go up “Old Priest Grade” road, while the rest continued on “New Priest Grade” road. Make a note, the folks that went up the “old” road had more fun. There were slow cars on both, but the old road has a bit of charm that the new road lacks. After stopping in Groveland, we continued to the park entrance, finding the customary queue at the ranger gate. Make another note: when at the ranger kiosk and the ranger asks for your pass, make sure you give them the correct pass. Seems that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the particular “pass” I pulled from the glove box and when the ranger asked for my picture ID, she said, “… Ahem, you are NOT Diane!” Whoops, “my” pass was the other one in the envelope. One suggestion was to offer your “pass” and “picture ID” together so the rangers don’t immediately think that you are trying to get in on someone else pass! After everyone cleared the entrance and took the opportunity to use the services, we set off into the park proper.
Our route continued on CA120, veering away from Yosemite Valley proper and up on the Tioga Pass Road toward Tuolumne Meadows and to our “photo op” at Olmsted Point lookout. The lookout point, itself, was pretty crowded and didn’t allow our caravan to park together. So we headed up the road, just a bit, and took over a turnout. The other side of the road was a granite rock face, but of a very shallow slope. So, like the kids we are, a few of us scampered up the hill for a photo looking “down” on our cars. David Dunn took a stunning image of our cars, more at ground level with ‘Pywiack Dome’ and Tenaya Lake in the background. Hopefully we will see that photo in Panorama as David is planning on submitting it for “From the Regions”.
The run into and through Tuolumne Meadows had a lot of opportunity for sightseeing and remarkably traffic free motoring!
After driving to the East Entrance to Yosemite Park and its over 9900 foot elevation, we dropped down toward CA395 and Lee Vining. And “dropped down” is an apt description, loosing over 3000 feet in less than a few miles. Great vistas with Mono Lake, with its Tufa mounds in the distance. These Tufa formations are an interesting point of geology in the region and if interested, click here for a like to a Wikipedia article.
At the bottom of the hill was our lunch destination: the Whoa Nellie Deli. You wouldn’t be faulted for missing it, because it is slightly off the road and marked only as a Mobile gas station. The Whoa Nellie Deli has been highlighted for its way-above average food service. The Deli itself is a large “quick mart” but with a great deli counter. Once inside the “quick mart”, you get in line (two lines offered) and order your meal, then wait for your order to be called. Then off to enjoy your meal on benches overlooking Mono Lake. Not what you might expect if you didn’t have forewarning of the establishment!
After a long lunch “hour”, we set off on US395 toward Bridgeport. Then west on CA108 over Sonora Pass. Of the three trans-Sierra roads, CA88, CA4 and CA108, Sonora Pass might just be the most fun to drive. I think that CA108 is better than CA4 (which collapse down to 1 1/2 lane wide in places) and CA88 which is pretty open in that it offers a good road surface, great scenery and challenging driving. We finished in Jamestown at about 4:00 PM. All in all, a great day, if not a bit long.
This was the first “tour” that we ran with radios for the Lead and Sweeper cars (also had a radio mid-caravan) and it helped keep the tour “together”. Did I mention that it was a long drive? I’m thinking that we may only do such a long (EPIC) drive every couple years, although, if you are interested, watch for the Zone 7 multi-day tour in 2018! Hmmmm….