Buckle up for the last of Yosemite before we hit the road and head on out!
Day 5 – October 2, 2016
After our SUPER exciting (and long, and tiring) day on Half Dome we took it nice and easy. We walked over to Half Dome Village and grabbed some coffee and then hit the campground reservations office when it opened. The forecast called for snow and we didn’t want to get the campervan stuck on the long, windy road in/out of Tamarack Flat campground (our initial plan), so we reserved an open spot in Crane Flat. The park staff were all extremely friendly and helpful – Thank you!!
We packed up and spent the day exploring the valley before making our way to Crane Flat campground for the night. We stopped into the visitor’s center and museum before taking a short walk up the trail to the base of El Capitan to watch some rock climbers. I can’t imagine spending DAYS on the side of a freaking rock wall. DAYS. In-Sane. The average group takes around 5 days to climb it. I just can’t.
After tooling around the Valley we climbed about 2,000 feet in elevation to our campsite in Crane Flat. It was definitely chillier up a bit higher!
Day 6 – October 3, 2016
This was a busy day! The morning was cold, but no snow…. yet. We packed up and hit the road early. First stop – Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias (The larger Mariposa grove is closed until Fall of 2017 so this wasn’t an option).
It is about a mile or so walk down a paved path to the start of the grove (it’s all downhill to start… you’ll be walking uphill the entire way back to the car. FYI). If you’re a relatively fit/experienced hiker this isn’t a very difficult or strenuous hike at all. There aren’t many of the Sequoias here but they are impressive! There is a path to walk with a few informational signs about the trees. You can’t get too close to most of them (their root systems are very superficial which makes them pretty delicate – getting stomped on over and over would damage them). There is a little tunnel tree for the obligatory picture and some downed trees that you can climb on/in to get a better look at these massive creatures.
From here we headed up and over Tioga Road. Once we climbed a little bit higher (around 7000 feet?) the snow started. It was light, but the wind was blowing and the skies were gray. Our plan to stop off for a possible hike in Tuolumne Meadows was scrapped, and we decided to stop to check out Tenaya Lake and then continue on over the pass. We really didn’t pack adequate gear for a cold/damp/snowy hike at elevation. The lake was beautiful! Sadly, the clouds kept us from seeing any of the views on our drive, but it was still pretty and there was plenty to take in.
Info to know…. Tioga Road closes if there is snow. There is a phone number to call for road updates, and you can check the website as well. Once winter arrives for real, the road is shut down until spring/early summer, depending on conditions. Also, many of the campgrounds were already closed or on their last few days when we were there. There are a few that stay open year round (at lower elevations), but not many! Check out the campgrounds page for info on opening/closing dates if planning a trip. Road alerts will also be posted on the main page.
Once over the pass we stopped for lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli. This was recommended all over the place, on yelp and many, many websites. They are all right. Yes, it’s in a gas station. And yes, you should stop here. And yes, you should get the fish tacos. The food was FANTASTIC. And not just because it was indoors and cooked by someone else. Good beer selection too. We loved it!
From here we were winging it. A quick google search and look at the map led us to the June Lake area. What a find! This was an absolutely beautiful ride down Route 395 along the eastern Sierras. There are a ton of campgrounds, as well as some hotels if you’re into that sort of thing ;).
We drove the loop and settled on the June Lake Campground, which is one of the forest service campgrounds that is a short walk to the town. Given that it was a week day and solidly into the Fall, we had no problem finding an empty site here. The views of the lake were beautiful, and some of the trees had turned a golden yellow. We set up camp and took a walk into “downtown” June Lake. It was very quiet but a couple of shops were still open, and we stumbled on a local brewery, June Lake Brewing – hooray! We both got tasting flights (very good beer, I was impressed. Don’t skip it if you are a craft beer drinker and are near this area). After our stroll and beers it was dinner time back at our campsite and then lights out.
Up Next… Route 395, Bodie Historic Ghost Town, and Lake Tahoe!