Our journey north through California’s hills and mountains continues. Another favorite – Yosemite. Seeing old friends. Meeting new friends. A little bit of snow. A whole lot of beauty.
Yosemite National Park and More Friends
Yosemite, for me, is a top favorite place. We stayed at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, just a few miles from the entrance to the park. This was, by far, one of my most favorite RV parks. We were lucky enough to get a spot right on the Tuolumne River. Right next to us was another Airstream housing a full-time family. Lisa and Brent have three elementary-aged children, and they have been full-timing for about a year. They are hoping to settle in or around Bend, Oregon when Brent goes back to work in June as a Southwest Airlines pilot. On the other side of them, we met another full-time couple from Savannah, Georgia—Georgette and John. They are friends of another full-time couple we met in Washington last year (Liz Amazing), and it was fun to connect with them through that acquaintance.
Fun fact about Yosemite Lakes RV Resort … it has no cellphone or TV service at all. Our TV antenna wouldn’t even pick up a signal for PBS! The laundry room, however, had a strong wifi signal, and people would often congregate up there with their laptops and cellphones! There was usually a crowd.
Late Spring to early Summer is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park. We were there a little too early because one of the main roads was still closed due to weather. Otherwise, it was a fabulous time to be there. The river was flowing, the waterfalls were full, the climbers were climbing, and, although busy, there were still places to park! From what we read, the waterfalls diminish over the Summer and become practically nonexistent by the Fall. We will definitely be going back to explore more of Yosemite. [Check out our blog, Reservations Required!, about Yosemite’s ticketed reservation entry for the busy season!]
One bonus excursion we did while in Yosemite … My friend, Cherry Lea, who owns Dancing Moon Books & Gifts in Raleigh, was born in Ventura, CA but moved east to Georgia when she was in her 20s then to North Carolina. Her younger brother, Sheridan, still lives in CA but moved to Mariposa in the mid-80s. She sent me his contact information, and Carl and I visited him one afternoon. He has a little slice of heaven just outside of Mariposa. Two ponds, an artesian spring, a small orchard, peace and quiet. His grandson, Shane, lives with him and helps to maintain the property. It was a definite highlight while we were at Yosemite.
A side note for travelers… Route 49 between Coulterville and Mariposa, called the Golden Chain Highway, is squirrely! A winding road with tight curves, steep grades, and few guardrails. We were just in our truck, not pulling the Airstream, and the tires squealed around the curves even though we were going slow! It is not for the faint of heart, and we strongly recommend NOT pulling an RV or driving a large motorhome on this section. In fact, from the West, there are three main ways to get to Yosemite—J132, 49, and 120. We arrived with our Airstream via J132, we drove 49 to Mariposa, and we took the other end of 120 back to Yosemite after our visit with Sheridan. We thought J132 was tricky with our Airstream, but after driving on 49 and taking the other way on 120, J132 turned out to be the least troublesome! Our new friends, Georgette and John, were pulling their fifth wheel up 120 to Yosemite, and their axle broke. Their rig had to be towed to a nearby town for repair. Carl does an excellent job researching routes before we pull our Airstream somewhere, and his work pays off regularly.
Sacramento, Donner Pass, and Lassen Volcanic National Park
As we continued north after Yosemite, we took a one-night side trip to Sacramento, dry camping in a Walmart parking lot, to visit our friends’ son, Zach. We haven’t seen him in years, and we had a wonderful visit with him. He moved to CA when he was 20, and has lived here about seven years. He has thrived in the California environment, and we were thrilled to spend a little bit of time with him.
Funny story … while we were sitting inside of our Airstream visiting with Zach, two different people within 20 minutes drove up to us and asked if we were selling our Airstream! This is the first (and second!) time this has ever happened. We decided that if a third person drove up to us, we would put $100,000 cash price on it to see what happened. Luckily, that didn’t happen, and we still have our Airstream.
Donner Pass is a historic area in California but not far from Reno, Nevada. It used to be a treacherous road to drive, but a new bridge has been built making it a more pleasant experience. Carl read about it several times while researching different routes and wanted to drive through it. The bridge is a great vista point for Donner Lake below, and the Donner Pass road goes through some adorable resort towns. [The picture opening this blog was of Donner Lake.]
We arrived at our boondocking spot, Hat Creek Trailhead, a few miles outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park just a few days before a big weather system moved in. We camped in a quiet setting off of a national forest road. We entered the national park from the south entrance and were only able to drive 10 miles in. All of the informative signs were still down (they are taken down in the winter because of the amount of snow the park gets), so we didn’t know what we were passing as we drove in. We came to a point where the main road was closed to cars for the next 19 miles (most of the park), but it had been plowed and bikes were permitted on it. So we road our e-bikes for part of it. We were the only ones on the road, going straight up toward the summit most of the way (pedal assist is awesome!) and flying downhill coming back. We passed snowbanks that were as tall as us and saw some beautiful views. When we arrived back at the parking area, we saw people wearing ski boots carrying skis back to their cars. Apparently, it is a thing to hike in one’s ski boots up Mount Lassen and ski down it. I’m not a skier, but I have worn ski boots in the past. I am not sure how they managed an uphill hike in ski boots, but that takes serious commitment in my view!
Mount Shasta, Weed, and Crater Lake
As we left California ahead of a snow/rain system moving in, we passed by Mount Shasta. At first it was covered in clouds, which is what we were expecting, but as we started moving north of it, the clouds cleared away giving us a perfect view of the snow-covered mountain. Weed is a small town not too far away from Mount Shasta, and it is one of those places we will need to go back to when the weather is better.
The same is true for Crater Lake, although I’m glad we took the drive to try to see it. Crater Lake National Park is in Oregon, and was not too far off our route as we made our way to Bend. We didn’t get to see the actual lake because of dense cloud cover and an incoming snowstorm, but we did see the most beautiful winter wonderland and snowdrifts so high that the buildings were only visible by their rooftops. Crater Lake averages 49 inches of snow in April. Who knew? Most of the park was closed because of snow, but the south entrance was open up to the rim. We look forward to going back some future summer to actually SEE the lake!
Enjoy the sun when it shines. Enjoy the rain when it falls. Enjoy what makes you happy.