Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mountain View CA to Mammoth Lakes CA

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Today might have turned out better if we had made plans but I seriously doubt it! After our wonderful visit with one of Ben’s best friends from high school and his wife we headed east from San Francisco area. Seemed strange to be looking for the highways going East when we have been coming West for 3 weeks. Today is 3 weeks on the road!  We finally got a photo of the famous Solyndra plant as we left Mountain View.
Might Be a Good Bargain
The traffic was very heavy leaving San Francisco and we laughed they were probably all going to Yosemite!  We were planning to cross the Sierra Mountains on the Tioga Pass road which goes through Yosemite. We were going to see how things looked when we arrived to decide whether to go into Yosemite Valley or not. Since this was Memorial Day weekend we were not too sure what we would find. We knew there was no camping available in the park.  So we just were going to see what happened. There are several roads across the Sierra and as we got closer we noticed signs that Sonora pass was closed but Tioga was open. Good we planned for Tioga.

Leaving San Francisco
 We stopped at a cheese factory in Oakdale and had a great grilled Gouda cheese and ham sandwich. Watched the guys in the factory a few minutes and drove on to buy gas. We bought diesel in Escalton for $4.33 a little less than the $4.49 we paid in Mountain View. On we drove – again we have come through beautiful foothills with dairy farms and various types of agriculture through the valley.  We continued through very steep but graceful mountains to reach Groveland. We saw the huge water pipes that bring the water from the mountains to fill the needs of the San Francisco area. There was a reservoir and 4 huge pipes as well as some sort of pumping station. The road climbed several thousand feet with wide switch backs. Groveland was a mini-Gatlinburg and full of people.  We continued on since it was only 2:30 and we thought we would continue and drive through Yosemite.
Winding switchbacks as we climb to Yosemite
 We stopped at the first visitor center and got a passport stamp. There was a little skiff of snow on the ground here and there and Dogwoods blooming as we drove along. As we climbed there was more and more snow. The trees were like a fairy land. It was really quite beautiful and with no snow on the road (well there were a few patches of slushy stuff but nothing much).  We were able to see many of the huge rock formations and the lakes…but no far off views as there was frequently fog or sometimes blowing snow. The temperature ranged from 40 to 28 and we climbed from 2,000 to 9,945 feet to reach Tioga Pass.  It seemed the most snow was around the 7,000 – 8,000 feet range and when we stopped at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center for a stamp and to use the restrooms – it was in the low 30’s and snowing a good bit.  The campground here was closed. We did however see many hikers and backpackers out all along the way. This would no doubt be a beautiful area in the summer.

Ben says to include a word or two about how well our Sprinter is doing. We remember driving the Prelude once to 9,000 or 10,000 feet and it had a hard time with the altitude. The Sprinter takes to the mountains like a goat and with the variety of gears is able to save using the brakes too much.
Coming down from the pass was very different than the ascent. We came out of the snow to sunshine and stark dry rocky mountains. We continued down steep switchbacks to the valley floor and road 395 that we will follow south to Death Valley – this road continues 350 miles to Los Angeles but we will not go that far south.

We looked for a place to stay in two small towns and decided to come on to Mammoth Lakes which looked larger to find a room for the night – while the sun was out it remains cold – 28 degrees!  We did not plan for this cold of temps and did not bring the heater…so we looked for a room.  We tried 2 motels and no luck – finally on the 4th call to Tamarack Lodge we found a room....their last…well they do have a $399 per night cabin left but that is a little out of our price range.This is a 1924 Ski Lodge with a lot of cabins and dormitory type rooms in the lodge. We have the last of the dormitory type rooms. It is knotty pine, with a sink in the room, a really great bed, a couple chairs, and the bathroom down the hall. The main room of the lodge has old furniture and a huge fireplace….great place to sit and warm up! 

Our cozy warm room
We drove back into town (3 miles) and had a great Greek Salad and a Pizza.  Would have eaten here except the soonest reservation was 9:30 PM!  We were too hungry to wait that long! Snow was falling like in a snow globe as we sat inside and ate dinner - interesting. The folks say it was 70 last week here in Mammoth Lakes.  The literature says they get 400+ inches of snow each winter so I guess this is a great snow and ski area.

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