When last we checked in, the hardy travelers were in San Francisco. That wasn't our penultimate destination, however; we had been dreaming of Yosemite since last December. What awesome scenery--this is a case when the word "awesome" is not an overstatement.
I call this one "Two Half Domes."
We camped for two nights at Yosemite. Originally, we had reserved three nights, but we decided to leave a night early for a couple of reasons--one, it was pretty darn chilly to a bunch of Southerners! and two, a family with a toddler boy camped beside us (and the campsites were practically on top of each other). The toddler boy was not a happy camper, let me tell you. So we packed up and drove over Tioga Pass Road. The big tourist attractions are down in the Yosemite Valley, but I believe I was more wowed by the starkness and immensity of the landscape going over the mountains. Incredible.
This picture is from a case of serendipity. When we were thinking about leaving Yosemite early, we asked a guide at the pioneer village on the southern end for his advice as to whether we should go to Glacier Point. He suggested if we left Yosemite early, we should go a little out of our way to see Bodie State Park. After going over Tioga Pass, we took a jag to the north and east into some pretty desolate countryside to the state park, which is a true ghost town, not a commercialized site. Bodie was a gold mining town that apparently had a very rowdy reputation. In the mid-twentieth century, it just dried up and everyone left. The state of California bought the town site years later and just left things the way they were. For our family, it was a stop worth making. You can't really get in any of the buildings except a small museum, but it is cool to wander around and peek in windows and see the stuff people left behind (and some of what they left was surprising).
We drove along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, then spent the night in a hotel in Lone Pine, CA, a little town near the edge of Death Valley. Our plan was to hit the road early in the morning and cross Death Valley before it got hot. I suppose we were successful; it was only 107 degrees when we got to the visitor's center on the eastern side.
Death Valley was really not what we had expected it to be. I think we had visions of a huge, sandy desert, something like the Sahara. Instead, there were lots of really stark mountains. I keep using that word "stark," but that's what it is.
We hit two of the national parks in Utah, Zion National Park and Arches National Park. The scope of the arches is unreal.
Our last major stop along the way was Mesa Verde National Park. We really wanted to go back here because we had visited Mesa Verde in 2000, when my daughter was only 18 months old. Back then, just as we got to the highlight of the tour (the Cliff Palace), Lily got fussy, and I carried her out of the area to keep from ruining the tour for everyone else. How on earth did I carry a toddler up those narrow, steep ladders?? Anyway, she was much better behaved this time.
This last picture is not a selfie, but it marks one of the most memorable moments of the trip. Another of the sites we visited in 2000 was Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico, which has some dinosaur footprints that were uncovered when the lake was being built. We had taken a picture of the kids by the prints, and we thought it would be fun to recreate that picture 13 years later. Well, as we were driving to the middle of nowhere to get to Clayton Lake, a big storm was building. We had driven through some hail and extremely heavy rain earlier in the afternoon, so we knew this was a severe storm. We got to the park and started trying to find the footprints. They were about 3/4 of the way around the lake on a nice hiking trail--nice, that is, if you're not watching a severe storm get closer and closer. We finally got there, hurried up the picture, and headed back around the lake. That's when we started seeing streaks of lightning. Lily and I ran most of the way back around the lake--not an easy thing for a 50-year-old woman, let me tell you, but definitely preferable to being caught out in a storm! The landscape out there is so huge, though, that we got back to town, got some food, and headed out of town to spend the night in Oklahoma before the storm arrived. But as we drove across that extremely flat landscape, my husband and son swore they could see a funnel cloud dangling out of the front edge of the storm.
I hope you enjoyed the selfies, and I hope you will take some of your own and share them with me!