A Great month in California's Sierras -- Fall 2009!

Exploring Great Western National Parks California's Sierras

A full day drive from Denver had us at Great Basin NP for three nights. We hiked to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, enjoyed a viewpoint of the only glacier in Nevada, lounged by some alpine lakes, and then contemplated a view of Mt Wheeler from our campsite.

We then had another long drive over the loneliest highway in America to Bishop, California for lunch and a visit to the National Forest Ranger Station. We then headed up to another Ancient Bristlecone Forest in White Pines NF where we enjoyed several hikes among the twisted gnarly trees. We may have photographed Medusa, the oldest one in the world but we don't know exactly where it is located. A few nights at Mt Whitney Portal got us away from the late season heat that the valley was experiencing. We found the film location for 'High Sierra', 'Gunga Din', and 'Charge of the Light Brigade' along with all the ambush rocks in the Alabama Hills. More sobering history was found at Manzanar NM, a Japanese internment camp. I didn't realize that Ansel Adams had photographed there and was friends with Chiura Obata, a Japanese artist who did some wonderful work while interned there - they both had a Yosemite connection as well.

The weather was perfect at Devils Post Pile NM - even though the two nights there got a bit chilly. We shared a campfire our second evening with "L.A. Bob" who regaled us with tales of the music industry while pouring us shots of Mezcal. We took a day off driving as we hiked around the park, enjoyed sketching by the waterfalls, and dragged our chairs to the river. That is the purpose of vacationing…to have time to relax and contemplate your surroundings.

On our way to Yosemite we spend some time photographing Mono Lake with some very interesting reflections. We had the three nights in Tuolumne Meadows and it was everything I had dreamed about. The best ranger talk was about the Coyote Spirit of Mono Lake - complete with a coyote mask that seemed to come alive in the flickering campfire. Our full day hike around the two Cathedral Lakes was just absolutely gorgeous. We then cooked dinner at a picnic area along Tenaya Lake before catching sunset at Olmsted Point – amazing, then making it back for the ranger talk on bears. Then the second day we hiked Lambert Dome before hanging out in the Meadows - making dinner at camp before seeing a near perfect sunset in the meadows, a campfire talk at 7:30 and then a star gazing with another ranger at 9. Unbelievable amount of stars – and the Ranger's laser pointer was a very neat modern touch. The next day on the way to the valley we hiked to North Dome, which looks directly across the valley from Half Dome - unbelievably picturesque as well as challenging terrain. The valley was warmer than we expected but we enjoyed a leisurely day of absorbing the grandeur, hanging out at the Awahanee Hotel. We spent our 6th night at Glacier Point and had another ranger star gazing talk from there. We spent our final Yosemite night at Mariposa amongst the Giant Sequoias.

Kings Canyon NP was all right but couldn't really compare to Yosemite. It was in the 90's down by the Kings River - the rangers were saying it is about 10 degrees warmer than usual - that is quite a bit! It was really too warm to enjoy it and there were still quite a few bugs. Henry pointed out a rattlesnake on the trail, which caused Pam to jump back – but the rattler was more afraid of us. We haven't seen much wildlife – just a lot of paranoia about keeping food in the bear boxes. We enjoyed more giant trees here and through Sequoia NP ranger showed us a piece of wood with the acorns drilled into it - quite amazing. He said the woodpeckers have a way of knowing how much they need to store for the winter so there are people working on trying to figure out how and what the birds know.

After a night in Bakersfield, where we chatted in the pool with a nice couple from Holland, we left with clean clothes and decided to skip Death Valley – where we would probably succumb to the heat of about 114 - and cruised the strip of Las Vegas without stopping, through St George and into Zion NP. Even thought they said no campsites available (we had forgot about the time change) the host found us a decent site, for which we were very grateful. It was close to 100 degrees each day but we cooled off with dips in the Virgin River after our hikes. We went on a couple long hikes, enjoyed the scenery, went to some ranger talks, and relaxed. Zion had changed the most of any park we had previously visited – with a new visitor center, the tram being the only way to access the trails, and a new museum.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was where we saw the most fall color, as it is higher in elevation. We had a full day of actually just sitting at the lodge porch gazing across the canyon - pretty cool way to spend a day. We did walk out to the inspiration point, listened to a ranger talk on geography and another on the history as well eating our lunch while enjoying the view. We went to two evening programs - one on geology and the other on history but different than the day talk as there were slides. After Grand Canyon we spent a night at Lake Powell and had a good sunset with full moon rising - quite a beautiful sight. Along the way we got to experience some of the Vermillion Cliffs and Grand Staircase NM.

There is something about camping that makes you appreciate how little you really need to exist and to be content. We appreciate having the time to explore the national parks and seeing more corners of America.

California's SierrasCalifornia's Sierras
Sunset Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite NP
California's Sierras Area Images - Click on an image to view large version

Ancient Bristlecone in white Pines NF

Pam in the Ancient Bristlecone Forest

Mt. Whitney from the Alabama Hills

Lava Formation - Devil's Post Pile NM,

Pam & Henry near Mammoth Lakes - High Up in the Sierras

Henry at Rainbow Falls - Devils Postpile NM

Mono Lake Calcium Formations

Looking over to Half Dome from North Dome

Henry on Lembert Dome Overlooking Half Dome

Four Hiking Boots at Sentinel Dome - Taft Point Hike

Henry At Taft Point Overlooking Yosemite Valley

El Capitan Reflected on the Merced River

El Capitan from Yosemite Valley

Cathedral Peak from John Muir Trail

Pam Cooling Her Feet under Cathedral Peak - Yosemite NP

Tuolumne River at Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite NP

Henry at Taft Point High Above Yosemite Valley

Henry with Mini Going Through Tree Tunnel - Sequoia NP

Pam and Henry on Observation Point Hike - Zion NP

Sunset over North Rim - Grand Canyon NP

Henry at Point Imperial - North Rim Grand Canyon NP

Pam Enjoying Lunch at Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim Grand Canyon NP

Pam Overlooking Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River near Page, UT

Red Toadstool Formation - Staircase-Escalante NM


Itinerary Highlights.

Fun things to do.

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
6 September 2008 7 8 9 10 11 12
Denver, CO 640 miles/10 hrs

Low Temp: 37 Vail

High Temp: 95 Dry Bed, UT

Lunch Green River, UT

Great Basin NP, NV

Wheeler Peak Campground Site #37

No Driving day!

Hike Bristle Cone/Glacier & picnic Teresa Lake

Great Basin NP, NV

Wheeler Peak Campground Site #37

Hike Baker Creek – 4-mile

Visitor Center

Great Basin NP, NV

Bakers Creek Campground View Milky Way

Up @ 4:30 am

350 miles/8 hr drive

11 passes! 165 Miles No Gas!

1,000 Miles on the MINI

White Pines Natl Forest

Bristlecone Pines, CA

Grandview Campground

13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Hike Ancient Bristlecones

Interagency Visitor Center

Mt. Whitney Portal, CA

Whitney Portal Campground Site #16

Day trip: Manzanar & Alabama Hills Mt Whitney area

Mt. Whitney Portal, CA

Whitney Portal Campground Site #16

Shop in Bishop: gas, food, & air mattress

Mammoth Lakes

Devil's Post Pile NM

Devil's Post Pile NM, CA

Devil's Post Pile Campground

Walk-in site #B-3

No Driving day!

Devil's Post Pile NM Hike Rainbow Falls

Devil's Post Pile NM, CA

Devil's Post Pile Campground

Walk-in site #B-3

Mono Lake Visitor Center

Lunch Tioga Pass

Hike Soda Creek

Hike Tuolumne Meadows

Ranger Evening Talk - Coyote

Yosemite NP, CA

Tuolumne Campground #15

Not much Driving day!

Hike Cathedral Lakes (9:15 – 4:45 Awesome)

Sunset Olmstead Point

Ranger Evening Talk - Bears

Yosemite NP, CA

Tuolumne Campground #15

Not much Driving day!

Climb Lembert Dome

Hike Gaylord Lakes

Sit in Meadows for Sunset

Ranger Evening Talk & Stargazing

Yosemite NP, CA

Tuolumne Campground #15

20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Hike North Dome to Half Dome overlook

Yosemite NP, CA

Indian Flats Campground

Yosemite Valley – HOT!

Ahwahnee Lodge

Yosemite NP, CA

'Hell' Flats Campground 8-Miles West of Yosemite

Glacier Point - Sunset & Stargazing with Ranger

Yosemite NP, CA

Bridalveil Creek Campground Site #69

Hike near Bridalveil Campground

Ranger Jackson walk @ Mariposa Grove

Yosemite NP, CA

Wawona Campground Site #47

Coffee with Ranger Jackson


Kings Canyon Visitor Center

Kings Canyon NP, CA

Azalea Campground Site #64

Hike end of road Kings Canyon NP – avoided 2 ½ foot Rattlesnake

Kings Canyon NP, CA

Azalea Campground Site #64

Sequoia NP – Hike Moro Rock

Hike General Sherman – Giant Sequoia

2,0000 Miles on the MINI

Bakersfield, CA

Quality Inn

27 28 29 30 1 October 2 3
All day drive – HOT!

Drive-through Las Vegas strip

Ranger Evening Talk - Insects

Zion NP, UT

South Campground Site #75

Hike Observation Point

Are we still having fun?

Ranger Evening Talk - Zion NP, UT

South Campground Site #74

Hang out Day

Riverwalk & Emerald Pools Swim

Ranger Evening Talk – Fossils

Zion NP, UT

South Campground Site #74

Breakfast Kanab BLM Visitor Center

Time Change

Grand Canyon North Rim: Imperial Point Road & Ranger Talk – Colo River

Grand Canyon NP, AZ

North Rim Campground Site #23

Cold Overnight Front

No Driving day!

Hiking to Lodge: 10:30 geology talk

Angle Point1:00 History Talk

Grand Canyon NP, AZ

North Rim Campground Site #25

Lees Ferry

Glen Canyon Dam Tour

Dinner & Sunset on Lake

Page, AZ

Lake Powell Campground

Sunrise Lake Powell

Toadstool Hike, Staircase Escalante NM

3,000 mile on the MINI

Lunch @ Brice NP

Very long drive day

Full moon

Green River, UT

Green River State Park Campground

4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Up and on the road with gas & coffee by 6:49 am!

Denver, CO

Happy Travels,

Pam and Henry