It was quite a relief to watch the arid and bleak scenery of Death Valley melt away into the green smatterings of plants here and there. Before long, the views along the roadside had fully transitioned into lush, rolling hills, sprinkled with rocky outcrops and dotted with trees. Seeing the green grass rustling in the wind made me realize just how long it had been since we had seen real grass, not just a tiny dot of it that comprised of the dog runs in Vegas or the fake grass that people roll out in front of their RV’s. This was thick, green, and full of life. I wanted to run out into the middle of any number of the passing fields and roll around. It seemed like an eternity since the ground had been anything but baked earth or the red dusty sand that had grown so familiar these past few months. Brown and white cows were in abundance, casually meandering through the picturesque landscape as they chewed their cud. Little calves pranced and jumped about in joy, playing as their mothers watched over them. It made me smile as I looked out over the hills as far as the eye could see with clouds rolling across the sky promising rain. The initial phase of the journey to Yosemite was comfortable and smooth with the promise of a new environment.
It was a long day working our way south of the Sierras and back up again. Nearly eight hours into our ascent our journey took an unexpected turn. A man, a truck and a sign all indicated the same thing – “Road Closed”. Despite the lack of warnings on the roads leading up to this junction, the DOT employee was able to explain to us that the entire corridor up ahead was washed out. The unusual amount of rain that California had received over the past couple weeks had wreaked havoc on many of the area roads and bridges. Unfortunately for us, this meant we would need to turn around and take a detour that would add a couple hours to our trip. The detour led us directly into Yosemite instead of skirting the western edge as we had planned. While the views were of course incredible, it had already been a long day and now the sun was setting. More than once I thought the RV was going to scrape against the edge of the cliffs and rock faces that had been carved out to make way for the road. The constant winding track, inclines, and steep downhills made the wheels of the RV send up small billows of smoke as we slowed our descent around precariously tight corners. Several hours past our original time for reaching our destination, and we had finally reached the RV park. Brandon took out his phone to check for cell coverage and/or WiFi only to discover that there was absolutely no connection. No internet means no work which forced us to have to make a new set of calculations.
Without data coverage we were limited to what information we had cached on our offline maps. We suspected that if we headed west we would increase our odds of cell coverage as that was the only direction where there was any towns of substantial size. Half an hour later we were starting to get limited coverage and decided to pull off and call around to see if we could find someplace else to spend the night. After a few phone calls to the different campsites around the area, we learned that not just the roads were flooded out but also the majority of the nearby towns and campgrounds. The best suggestion any one had was to head to the town of Sonora as it was high enough up to avoid most of the damage. It was another hour away from Yosemite but without any better options, it was our last hope. After doing a bit of research we learned that there are no RV parks in Sonora. At this point though, we needed a place to stay so that Brandon could work in the morning and decided to start calling hotels. We found a Best Western in Sonora that was pet friendly and had space for an RV, our two key requirements. The hour was more of an hour and a half with the RV due to the steep, winding roads leading out of the western edge of the Sierras. By the time that we arrived we were thankful to be done for the day, even if that meant leaving our house in the parking lot. We packed up our electronics and setup a worksite in the hotel figuring we could spend the remainder of the week working from the hotel before moving back up to the campground for the weekend.
Sonora was a nice little town with a large variety of restaurants and luxuries that we had been lacking while out in the more remote parts of the desert. On Tuesday, after Brandon had finished work for the day, we headed back up to Yosemite to spend the late afternoon and evening in the park. The drive was infinitely easier without the RV and we made good time, but it was still a two hour drive to reach the places we wanted to be inside the park. This arrangement was less than ideal and meant that our visits into Yosemite were considerably less viable than we had originally planned. We came to the conclusion that we would have to wait for the weekend for more thorough excursions into the park. The rest of the week seemed to meld together as we kept ourselves cooped up inside the hotel until the weekend. The one major benefit of this was an opportunity to catchup on going through photos and a bit of relaxation.
Once Friday rolled around we were eager to get everything packed away and loaded up into the RV to get back to things. The drive back up to our original RV accommodations was rather grueling, and again spent much of the time wondering if we would leave some paint on the abundant, jutting rock faces. Once we were settled into the campground and got situated, we realized it was one of the nicer ones we had been to. There were a very limited number of campsites, but they had plenty of room, a small plot of grass for the dogs to enjoy just outside our door, and the peace and quiet of the outdoors. Saturday we spent the day traveling throughout Yosemite, taking our time to get pictures of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and another attempt at some sunset photos. It was surprisingly busy in the park throughout the weekend which we later learned was due to it being spring break for all of the schools in California. Despite the mix of sunny and cloudy weather we were still able to sneak in a few shots in the handful of sunny moments that existed. Next year, I suspect we will be coming back but will have a better idea of where we need to stay and can plan a little better. We will also know to avoid spring break so we can enjoy the park while it’s more empty.
Sunrise the next morning was long and drawn out. Although we got up at 4:30 AM to make sure we would make it in time for the sunrise, we ended up waiting until almost 7:30 AM before the sun finally managed to burst forth and spread its light over the valley. There was a long line of photographers patiently waiting with their cameras fixated on the horizon. Darting in between you would find couples trying to grab a quick snap or selfie before getting bored and moving on. After the sunrise we made a final loop around the park and took a few more shots of the primary falls as the light began to illuminate the cascading water. It was beautiful to see how the shadows of the water falling down the rock face morphed and swirled in the shifting light.
Back at the RV, we packed things up and prepared to hit the road. Due to our experiences over the past week we decided that we would be better off finding a location that was more centralized to areas we could shoot during the week. Instead of spending the next week holed up in the hotel again, we decided to head to the California coast just north of Monterey. This would give us opportunities to visit with sea otters, whales and other local creatures before continuing our journey ever northward.