San Francisco---Yosemite National Park---Bridgeport---Bodie---San Francisco
Spent two Thanksgivings ago out at my pop's place in Arizona with the intention of driving back up on the 395 and then coming west through Yosemite. Somewhere near Fresno old bluey started spraying a fountain of coolant and overheating way up in the red. Luckily, we were close to a motel which was located even more fortuitously next to an auto mechanic. Unfortunately, it was near to 1 a.m. and the next day was Thanksgiving. Since there was no getting the part for a few days, we rented a car and went out to the ranch in AZ for the holiday, then came back for the car and essentially made the trip in reverse going through Yosemite first. All very interesting, yes, I know.
Driving at night is my favorite, especially through the desert where there's no one else on the road.
Sometimes it gets spooky and you find yourself waiting for something macabre. Too many David Lynch films, perhaps.
Made it into Yosemite with just enough time to start a fire and set up camp before darkness fell.
Woke to cold, frosty air and set about exploring Yosemite's major points. Visited quite a few times while growing up and it seems very little has changed. Someday we'll save up and stay at the Awanhee.
You've probably seen this before.
That doesn't stop Frankie, though.
Back in the car we headed west on the 120 towards the Tioga Pass. They usually close it in late November, so we figured we'd be fine, but it turned out they were closing it that afternoon and we just barely squeaked through.
Old bluey's jam box.
Its an old and pretty roadway through the trees.
Coming over the Tioga Pass can get a little hairy, but its really beautiful.
Down the hill you run into Highway 395 and Mono Lake. You can turn north or south at this point and we went north.
Mono Lake has amazing tufa formations. Made of limestone, tufa is like an underwater stalagmite that forms as the carbonates in the lake water mix with underwater springs high in calcium. They can only grow underwater and are currently visible because of the water diversions that began in 1941.
Don't know anything about that? Go watch "Chinatown".
Back on the 395. Its such a great highway if you like old signs.
Up at Bridgeport we found Buckeye hot springs and climbed in for a soak.
There are two pools right at the river's edge and another farther up the hill, all filled with hot sulphuric water to ease away the aches. We got there just as someone was climbing out (or maybe she got out when she saw our sunless winter bodies) and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. A light snow started to fall and it was like heaven, until we realized we had to drive out the dirt road before it go too mushy.
Woke to another cold morning's sunlight, this one made slightly less crisp from the foggy headedness caused by a warm room and a night's whiskey and wine.
The evening's culprit, a restaurant connected to a bar. It was actually the only of either that was open, most of Bridgeport having shut down for the winter. The bar was only open til 10, but that gave us ample time for shots and a couple games of Tron. They may have had Ms. Pacman as well.
Turned around and backtracked a bit so we could pay a visit to the ghost town of Bodie. From the 395 there's a partly paved, partly dirt road that leads out to the townsite. Its about 13 miles from the highway and also closes in winter.
Neat stuff along the way.
Bodie. Don't worry, it deserves (and is soon to get) an entry all to itself.
Back on the 395 it was northward to the 50 which would lead us west and home, the smaller passes in between having closed already.
Pretty snowy going over the hill by Tahoe, especially with only one windshield wiper.
Its always a good idea to have chains just in case. Its also good to have someone along who knows what to do with them.
Ready for the second half? From the bay area, Yosemite can be reached in under 4 hours by taking the 580 east to the 205 east to the 120, also east. If its not winter time you can continue on the 120 through the park and over the pass to the lovely 395.