Home > Uncategorized > On the road to Yosemite

On the road to Yosemite

I could see ranching here...

September 7/Day 52. There is no finer feeling than having a good truck under you and a beautiful stretch of highway in front of you. I end my short stay in Tahoe by descending Hwy 89 toward US Hwy 395 and the high desert. Within a couple of hours I’ll ascend once again, this time toward Yosemite, deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The truck is running perfectly, an obvious concern following my earlier misfortunes, and ahead is a quick scenic lope of 160 miles.

I pass through BLM land, national forests, and ranch land, through small towns with only a post office, a general store and a church. The scope, variety and strength of our country’s outback are truly inspirational. It strikes me that the real source of our strength all begins with someone laboring outdoors: the timber cutter, the rancher or farmer, the highway builder, the oilfield roustabout, the fisherman, the carpenter, the roofer—nothing is possible without their toil. I’ve witnessed all of them and more on my journey.

Beautiful aspen trees in foreground

In the early 1980’s, William Least Heat-Moon’s book Blue Highways: A Journey into America seized my imagination. In the old days before GPS, the back roads and byways were printed in blue ink on those devilishly-folded paper maps; I still keep a large box full of them at home, a collection I’ve added to for decades. I make it a principle to choose the blue highway whenever possible, avoiding the Interstate and the big city unless absolutely necessary.

Mono Lake lies along no Interstate. It’s a large, saline, shallow lake at the base of the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada near the hamlet named Lee Vining. Geographically, it

A sliver of Mono Lake under sky

also sits on the western edge of the Great Basin. Having no outlet, the only way it loses water is by evaporation. I’ve always imagined it as a weird anomaly, and indeed it has the surreal aspect of a Salvadore Dali paining, so I stop by its shores for an hour to stretch my legs and absorb its unique ambience.

Then I pass through Lee Vining, stopping long enough to buy fuel and some fresh produce. From Lee Vining, I take the Tioga Pass Road as it rises steadily up the eastern buttress of the Sierra Nevada to Tuolumne Meadows, my next camp.

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