Wednesday, July 8th [Day 35] – Yosemite

We had a great day at Yosemite. We left the cabin at about 7:15am. It was difficult getting Emily going. I got up early and loaded the bikes the in the truck. I should have made some sandwiches but at least I packed a six pack of water bottles and two bags of Cheerios.

The total distance from the cabin to the Yosemite Valley floor in about 75 miles. The drive started pretty easy. Down the mountain on CA 108 to the junction with CA 49 heading south. CA 49 then leads to CA 120 and moves quickly until the Priest Grade. 8 miles of slow, steep and windy road. Then things moved fast again through Groveland… which reminded me of Sweeney (was he Grandpa Barrios’ brother?). I also remember the adults making a trip to the Iron Door Saloon from Family Camp one time. We passed that too.

After the turn off for San Jose Family Camp (I wish we had had some extra time to take that detour) the road got a bit more windy and you could still see plenty of evidence of the Rim Fire. The park entrance is about 20 miles from the valley floor. I got the newspaper they hand out and a map. It is a windy drive down into the valley, but very pretty.

Once down on the valley floor, I pulled into parking which I thought was the Visitors Center. The drive had taken about two hours. After we parked, we started walking to find the bathrooms prior to going to the Visitors Center. Then I saw a sign that said the Visitors Center was a 10 minute walk along the bike path, or you could take a shuttle bus. I realized we were just in a parking area – no where close to the Visitors Center. Back to the truck and we unloaded the bikes. We were off.

After a short ride we arrived at the Visitors Center. We got our National Park Passports stamped and the Junior Ranger worksheets. I also got a map that showed the bike trails around the valley floor.

We then hit a nearby deli and got sandwiches…. as breakfast was kind of skipped in an effort to get out the door. Once fueled up with a bit of food, we took our bikes over to Yosemite Falls. Emily was really excited to see the waterfall. You can’t ride bikes up too far but after we parked them, it was a short hike with a pretty view of the lower falls.

Back on the bikes, we swung across the valley floor and crossed the Merced River on a bridge. When we were coming up behind people on the bikes, I gave my little bike bell a ring to get them to scoot over.

Our next stop was Camp Curry and their General Store where we got ice cream and took a quick break. Then we continued on to the Mirror Lake trailhead. We made a short hike to the lake (which looked much different than I remembered it), found some rocks, took a break and drank water.

Back on our bikes and heading down the road, we saw a small black bear just off the side of the road. He was on a fallen log, pulling it apart – probably looking for grubs. The bear was about 20 feet away.

After more riding, we stopped at The Ahwahnee – the fancy resort hotel on the valley floor. We got water there and rested a bit. Nothing we could live without in the gift shop (lots of fancy stuff).

Back to the Visitors Center. We worked on the Junior Ranger worksheet, then attended a Junior Ranger program conducted by one of the rangers. After that, the girls got their Junior Ranger badges. In recognition of their achievement, we took a trip to the gift shop where Sarah got a Yosemite Half Dome baseball cap and Emily got a puzzle with a picture of a black bear on it.

A short bike ride back to the truck. The parking lot was PACKED. I am so glad we took the bikes. After I packed up the truck (now 3:30pm) we made our way back out. Cars parked everywhere. I am glad we got there when we did.

The drive back had more traffic than the drive there.

A great day – the girls had a lot of fun.

Friday, July 3rd [Day 30] – Sparks,NV to Mi-Wuk, CA (300 miles)

The Donner Pass ended up not being too bad. Nothing compared to the Teton Pass. As I made my way over I-80 and down the western slope of the Sierras, I decided to take CA 49 south, following the foothills of the Sierras to Sonora. Mistake! Major mistake! It was twisty, hilly, with some serious grades. What was I thinking.

I arrived in Placerville and headed west of US 50 towards Sacramento. From there I picked up CA 99 south. CA 99 is a multilaned road traveling parallel to I-5. But wow! Californians drive like maniacs! Swerving, darting in and out, speeding. When I completed drivers training in California, we covered a device called the blinkers… what you use to indicate a lane change. Apparently this has been dropped from the curriculum.

CA 99 leads to Manteca and CA 120. CA 120 travels east (all the way to Yosemite) but we made the turn on to CA 108 south of Jamestown. After passing through Sonora, we headed up CA 108 gaining a bit of elevation. We made it to Mi-Wuk Village with the only trouble of backing the trailer into the driveway of my dad’s cabin. The driveway was smaller than I remember. So were the residential roads. After a few attempts, I got the trailer spotted on the driveway. We had made it to California.

Thursday, July 2nd [Day 29] – Twin Falls, ID to Sparks, NV (460 miles)

In the back of my mind, I am starting to think about crossing the Sierras west of Reno. Well, not so much thinking about it as stressing about it. I had researched the Donner Pass. First – it is a well maintained, year-around US interstate (I-80). It is just that I have never driven the pass before. I am from California and have driven in and out of the state more times than I can remember. I have taken I-5 north (and never liked the steep part around the northern border). I have driven out of the state from the south on I-8 and I-10. One time I took I-40 west coming into California. The thing about California is that you have to pass over some type of pass to get into it. With my trailer, I was worried. But I still had another full day to worry about crossing Donner Pass.

The morning started early in Twin Falls and we got on the road heading south on US 93 to Wells, Nevada and I-80. US 93 was not too bad, no real elevation changes. There were parts that had no shoulder or lane to allow me to get over and let faster traffic pass.

We gassed up in Wells, NV and turned west. The Nevada dessert was hot but the Tundra performed flawlessly. The temp gauge never moved. I kept my speed at a solid 65 miles per hour. For lunch and gas, I decided to stop at Winnemucca. Apparently, everyone else decided to stop there as well. It was a nightmare getting through the gas station adjacent to the McDonald’s and then finding a place to park. Lesson learned, on the way back east I found a travel stop on the western edge of Winnemucca… easy in, easy out with a Subways for lunch.

The afternoon heat continued as we continued to make our way west. No significant issues, just a long day of driving… a bit over 450 miles. Well over what I like to do in a day. We arrived at our destination, just east of Reno at the Sparks Marina RV Park.

Check in was easy and the RV park looked like it had nice facilities. I dropped the trailer in our slot and headed to a nearby Jiffy Lube for an oil change. I was due. Good thing I did as I was low. Dinner was at Applebees. The RV park had a nice pool which I took advantage of with the girls. We slept soundly, with the AC on low.

Wednesday, July 1st [Day 28] – Grand Teton National Park to Twin Falls, ID (290 miles)

Wednesday was the day to depart Grand Tetons National Park and begin our travels west to California. I was unsure about the best route to take. In hindsight, I should have asked around a bit more to get a better idea of what route to take.

US 29/89/191 heads south out of the park following the Snake River. After passing an elk preserve, US 191 leads right down into Jackson, Wyoming. After making my way through Jackson, I took Wyoming Hwy 22 west. Wyoming Hwy 22 is called the Teton Pass Highway. The road crosses west over the Snake River and then starts making its way up.

I think what I should have done is have driven south through Jackson, staying on US 191 until it branches off west and becomes US 26, generally heading west, and passing the Palisade Reservoir as it passes into Idaho. Heading over the Teton Pass from Jackson to Swan Valley, ID is about 46 miles. Heading south and west on US 26 is 65 miles. The Teton Pass reaches a height of 8,400 feet with a grade of up to 10%. Hoback, Wyoming, which is along the south and west route, looks to be at about 6,000 feet. Again, all great data I should have really looked at before.

I made my up way the Teton Pass. The road was in good shape and the Tundra was doing a solid job hauling the trailer up the mountain. I reached the top of the pass and pulled over. After a brief walk around the truck and trailer seeing that everything looked okay, I continued my way west a down the pass. Needless to say, I was using my lower gears and brakes. At one point I could definitely smell my brakes. I found a place to pull over and rested the truck for a bit. I had my trailer brake controller maxed out. Wyoming 22 turns into Idaho 33 at the state border. Eventually I made my way down to Victor, Idaho got gas and checked the truck and trailer again. I had survived the Teton Pass.

After Victor and heading west on Idaho 31, the highway turns into a two-lane roller coaster. Despite blind corners and double line medians, I still had vehicles passing me. Crazy. I took my time… drive to arrive. Idaho 31 leads to US 26 which makes its way to Idaho Falls and Interstate 15. After hitting I-15, it was easy driving to Pocatello and I-86 – making my way to I-84 and Twin Falls. In all it was 289 miles and took about 8 hours. We stayed at the KOA outside of Twin Falls which had a pool. I took the girls to the pool because they had done a great job putting up with my stress over the Teton Pass. For dinner: Pizza Hut wings (delivered to the trailer). With an early start the next morning, we headed to bed shortly before sundown.