Thursday, February 15, 2007

Day 7 - Death Valley to Yosemite

For my last morning in Death Valley, I decided to catch the sunrise on Zabriskie Point.

The previous afternoon, I had taken a fun little 4WD road called the 20 Mule Team Trail, so decided to drive it once more. I'm not sure what the rocks are, but they leave a chalky dust around them, and when you're driving in between these little hills you really do get the feeling you're on another planet. Nothing looks earth-like here!

After that fun drive, I went back to the campground to hook up the T@B and start my drive out to Yosemite. To get out of Death Valley, on either side, requires a 4000 foot climb out of the valley. On the west side, the climb is straight and uphill. They position these large tanks of "radiator water" every few miles. I'd never want to be here in the 120-degree summer heat!

I thought alot about pioneers trying to cross these valleys on their way to the California gold rush country on the other side of Yosemite. If they somehow managed to drive their horse-drawn wagons across the hot, dry Nevada desert, and then through the torturous heat and elevation changes of Death Valley, can you imagine their utter hopelessness of finally surviving and crawling out from Death Valley only to see this? (the 14,000 foot Sierra Nevada range!). I honestly don't know how they did it.

Since the Sierras were still filled with snow, I had to drive south and around them to get to Yosemite-- down through the Mohave desert and up the San Joaquin Valley through Bakersfield and Fresno.

The final drive out of the Mohave desert just east of Bakersfield was interesting. On one pass is a giant wind power plant (dozens of large windmills). It's very cool to see some new alternative power plants being built. It apparently was positioned on the last of the "arid" hills, because as soon as I went over them, the landscape suddenly changed to lush green grassy hills. Very weird.

The San Joaquin was busy as usually with it's endless line of semi trucks hauling fruit and vegetables, and almost half the radio stations were all in Spanish!

I finally reached the entrance to the south end of Yosemite as the sun was setting. On the park brochure was a piece of paper stapled on warning that all drivers were required to carry snow chains with them in the park. Yikes! I didn't have any. But crossed my fingers that the weather would be warm as forecasted. Fortunately, it was.

One nice thing about camping at Yosemite in the off season--- you easily get spots at the primo campground in the Valley itself. Here's the T@B at Upper Pines campground, a gorgeous place.

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