Monday, August 13, 2007

From Tahoe Lake to Yosemite El Capitan

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today I left Squaw Valley on Hwy 89 just north of Lake Tahoe and headed south around the lake. Earlier this summer there had been a serious fire on the south side, and I saw some of the scorched areas. The residents had signs up everywhere thanking the firemen for helping.

My plan was to follow 89 all the way to Hwy 395, the same route I had taken last year on the Harley, and then turn west into Yosemite National Park. For pictures of Hwy 89, you can go to my post from last year, My Love-Hate Affair With Hwy 89.

This time, as last, there were bike riders doing the big climb up and over Monitor Pass. It looks like it would be a great, but killer, bike ride and I’m itching to do it sometime.

From 395, I turned west into Yosemite and drove up the road into the mountains. Somewhere around 7 or 8 thousand feet, there was a large lake with a narrow band of sand upon which sun bathers had laid out their blankets and towels. And, yes, some people were swimming. I didn’t stop to check the water, but because the sun is so intense, shallow depths are heated to an enjoyable temperature.

Along the way, I was struck with the desire to pull over and sit by the stream that ran alongside the road. I even sunned out on a rock like a lazy turtle.

I stopped to take pictures of some climbers on this sheer rock face. Definitely not my cup of tea. Look carefully: they are in middle of the pic…maybe you can “blow up” the shot to better see them.

I reached the bottom of the valley and began heading up and out. Of course I wanted pictures of El Capitan (which was behind me) so I pulled into an overlook. Now, this vantage point proved to be a real challenge because buses kept pulling in and vomiting hordes of Japanese who very aggressively ran around with their cameras, jumping in front of my car, my camera view, and even my very person.

The road leaving Yosemite was perhaps the windiest I have ever been on. Heck, even driving I was close to become nauseous. I did pull over and take a picture of a Yosemite burn. You might be aware that the concept of fire management for forests has been evolving from a no-burn policy to a policy that recognizes the importance of fire in preserving forests. Letting underbrush build up without regular clearing by fire, and letting trees grow too close together actually contributes to even worse fires in the future. Now, steps have been taken to thin forests out so that they more closely mimic what would have been there had we not tried to put out all fires. The goal is to let nature takes its course with only a light hand of management.

But, eventually, I exited the park on Hwy 41 and headed for Fresno. The land was dry…god, it was so dry. A single careless cigarette would light the West up like a roman candle.

At Fresno, I started east on Hwy 180 toward Sequoia National Park, thinking I’d see a hotel. As I passed mile after mile of orchards sprouting out of the parched soil (this so very much reminded me of my home in McAllen, Texas, where they used to grow wall-to-wall orange and grapefruit orchards covering hundreds of square miles), I realized I needed to go back to Fresno to bed down. And I did, uneventually. Oh, yeah, I had to stop two places to find someone who could speak English and tell me which way to the hotel strip.

To bed...tomorrow is Sequoia National Park.

Mike Sledge

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