Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yosemite Trip 2013 - Part II

This post will cover day three of a trip my dad, Jacob, and I took at the beginning of September 2013.  We had spent the first couple of days making our way to California and then crossing over the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  I was excited to start the day since we were finally going to experience some national parks!

Day 3 - 198 miles

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First up was Sequoia National Park.  Just outside of Three Rivers we found the entrance, paid our fees, and began our ascent into the western foothills.  The views were astounding, when we didn't have the sun in our eyes.  That problem disappeared when we finally reached the shade of the giant sequoias.  We were surrounded on either side by trees that defied belief.
Ahhh, just what we needed, natural sunscreen.
My dad, putting these trees in perspective.
So we're tooling down the road and I see a sign for General Sherman, but it says you have to park and catch a shuttle to see it.  While I didn't know exactly what General Sherman was, Yes I figured it was a big tree, I assumed there'd be plenty more of them down the road.  The thought of getting on a shuttle didn't appeal to me, at the time, since I was having too much fun riding.  It's at this point that my dad catches up to Jacob and I and gets us to pull over.  We spend the next five minutes discussing whether or not we should go back before my dad finally makes an executive decision that we're turning around.  Good thing that he did, otherwise we would have missed the worlds biggest tree.  Here's Jacob and I in the parking lot.  Turns out the shuttle was only for people who didn't want to walk a 1.5 mile trail to the General.
Jacob kept stating he could make out some Ewoks hiding among the tree tops.  We had to explain to my dad what an Ewok was.
Ladies and Gentlemen, General Sherman!  The largest tree by volume.  The circumference of the base is 102ft or 31meters.  My dad and I had to wait for our turn to get our picture taken.
I took this picture while we were waiting.  I tried to put some people in it and get the entire tree.  No luck, it's too big!
The walking trail wound around and in-between these mighty trees.  My dad and Jacob posing for effect.  When we reached out and touched the bark, of the Sequoias, it felt soft and sponge like.  I expected them to be hard like pine trees.
After spending some time exploring the trees we were ready to ride again.  We continued heading north, deeper into the park.  We would occasionally pull over at scenic overlooks and admire the views.  The peak in the center of this picture is Spanish Mountain.  While the higher peaks, between the trees on the right, are Mt. Reinstein and Mt. Goddard.

Next up, we started our decent into Kings Canyon National Park.  An amazing road for motorcycling!  You switchback your way down 8200 feet and eventually end up heading off into the canyon on the right, where you ride along the Kings River.
Panoramic from the same location above.
About half way down you'll find the King's Canyon Lodge.
We pulled over because my dad spotted these above ground pumps.  Turns out they're America's oldest operating gravity pumps.  You could buy 91 or 87 octane for about $6 a liter if I remember correctly.
There was also a huge bear trap hanging off one of the lodge beams.  Wouldn't have wanted to get caught in one of those back in the day.

Heading farther down we eventually reached the Cedar Grove Lodge, where we bought some hotdogs for lunch.  I walked down to river to wet my bandana for the ride up.  Down it the canyon it was a lot warmer, probably upper eighties.
There's only one road in, and one road out, of Kings Canyon, so we headed back the way we came.  On our way out we had to stop and check out the General Grant tree.  Currently the third largest tree in the world, President Coolidge declared it the nation's Christmas tree in 1926.

The parking lot was full, so Jacob and my dad decided to make their own parking spaces seen below.  I was concerned about parking tickets so you can barely make out my bike above the red SUV in the center. 
Everywhere you looked, more huge trees!  You never really get tired of looking at them.

And here's General Grant.  They believe this tree is somewhere around 1650 years old.  Absolutely amazing!

An older trunk that had fallen down quite some time ago.  One of the signs stated early settlers used this trunk as a make shift shelter before building the Gamlin Cabin.
I was born in 1972, so I was staring at something that was built 100 years before my time.    I always assume that reality didn't start until I showed up on the scene.  This blows my theory out of the water.

The day was starting to get get late and we still had a ways to go.  So we pressed on.  We descended back into the western foothills of the mountain range.  As we dropped in elevation the temperatures started to rise.  This was overlooking Pine Flat Lake, an artificial lake created back in 1954.  You could tell Southern California has been experiencing a drought by how low the water line was. 

When we did stop, it wasn't for long.  The moment you didn't have a stream of air flowing over you, you'd begin to sweat.
Luckily for us the place we had planned on stopping that night was the town of Shaver Lake, with an elevation of 5600 feet.  The perfect elevation to get us out of the heat.
I had called ahead, for reservations, at a place called Shaver Lake Village Hotel.  It was a good thing that I did.  The owner had already closed by the time we arrived, but had left an envelope pinned to the door with our room keys.  This place was great!  If you're ever in the area this is where you should stay:)
After unloading and getting settled we walked down the road to find some grub.  I thought this truck load of bears was pretty cute.  Stand back! They look pretty vicious!
We found the local pizza joint, still open, and decided to give it a chance.
Their pizza was amazing!  We ordered up a pitcher of beer and took a look over our route for the next day.  I think this ended up being my favorite night of the trip.  Just a good time right in the middle of a great adventure.
Next post Yosemite!  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Yosemite Trip 2013 - Part I

At the end of August I took a road trip with my Dad, and good friend Jacob, through the Sierra Navada mountain range.  This trip was concocted over instant messenger while at work.  I believe it started off with Jacob stating that if he didn't get out on the road he was going to lose his mind.  The sad fact is that Jacob lost all his marbles a long time ago.  Luckily for him it's not hard to talk me into a road trip, so I didn't have to argue his sanity situation.  Dates were picked and our primary goal was to visit Yosemite Valley.

This was before all the fires broke out in California.  As we approached departure day it seemed the only stories the news would run was how bad the fires had become. I kept checking the online fire maps and our planned route led us right to them.  After much hemming and hawing we decided to continue with the destination, but we'd play it by ear and detour when necessary.  So on August 31st my dad and I left Tucson for the long haul to California.  I was in a non-photographic mood when we left, so I don't have any pictures of departure morning or the Shell station in Gila Bend.  Please see any of my previous posts, where I headed west, to get the gist of Day 1. 

The only hiccup was when we reached the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.  The plan had been to cut through the park and come into Yucca Valley from the east.  Unfortunately a bad storm had rolled through the area and washed out the road.  The southern entrance to the park had been closed.  So we continued west on I-10 through Indio and Palm Springs.  This was a nightmare scenario.  Never venture into the Palm Springs valley, on a motorcycle, in late August, in the afternoon!  My dad's bike registered the ambient temperature at 113, but my own personal recollection was somewhere closer to 220 degrees! Luckily we climbed in elevation heading into Yucca Valley and by the time we reached the hotel the temperature wasn't too bad. Even so, we had to jump into the hotel pool to bring ourselves back to normal.

Day 1 - 417 miles

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After cooling off we headed over to Jacob's dad's place for dinner.  I had met Mac (Jacob's dad) earlier in the year when Jacob and I had explored the Yucca Valley area.  You can read about that trip HERE.  Mac was as cool as ever and it wasn't long before we all had cold beers in our hands and discussing our plans for the next few days.
Our only mode of transportation for the next week.  Jacob's Connie 14, my Bonnie T100 and my dad's Explorer 1200.  Anyone with any motorcycling experience will immediately pick out the Bonneville as the best looking bike between the three.
I gave my dad the tour of Mac's property while teriyaki steak was being grilled to perfection by Mac himself!
Overhead, interesting cloud formations drifted by, as the temperature turned perfect and it ended up being one of those amazing desert evenings.
Dinner was served outside, and it was just what we needed after a long ride!  We gave our complements to the chef!
Purry, the cat, mentioned that we didn't have to clear our plates.  They'd be taken care of....
The setting sun provided us with an beautiful light show.  My dad and I said our goodbyes and we headed back to the hotel.  The next morning the three of us would start our trek into the mountains.

Day 2 - 330 miles

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The next morning we met Jacob at a gas station, outside of town, and proceeded to head north.  Once we reached Red Mountain we pulled over so my dad could call some old highschool friends of his.  We were going to meet them in Inyokern and then follow them up into the Sierra's for lunch.
We met up with Duane and Greg, you'll meet them later, but they were nice enough to buy us some Subway sandwiches at this Shell station.  I'm including the picture as you'll notice the mountains in the background.  These are the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada and we headed straight up from here on a road called 9 Mile Canyon.
As we were following Duane and Greg I didn't have a chance to stop for photos.  I found this picture, posted on Google maps, showing the road winding up into the hills.  It was an amazing ride up.  If you're ever in the area be sure to check it out.
Greg's brother has a cabin at the top of 9 mile in a small community called Kennedy Meadows.  We stopped here for lunch.

Jacob checking his bags to make sure he hadn't lost any luggage after all that canyon carving he had just completed. Well, he _would_ have been canyon carving if he hadn't been trapped behind me the entire ride up.
Ahhhh! it's finally nice to get out of that desert heat!
The inside of the cabin looked like a 5 star resort.  If we didn't have a schedule to keep it would have been nice to kick back with a roaring fire and a few beers that evening.
As we made short work of lunch my dad caught up with Greg and Duane.  We heard quite a few stories of the old days.
After lunch we headed west on Sherman Pass road.  Greg and Duane asked if they could following along for awhile.  We welcomed the company.  This is at a overlook just south of Sherman peak.
The mountain off in the distance is Olancha peak. 12,192 feet in elevation.
There were a group of foreign visitors here who had rented Harleys for their summer vacation.  They asked if my dad could take their photo.

Since we were taking group photos it was only natural to grab one of the three amigos.  It doesn't get any more rugged or chiseled looking then this.
From the pass we dropped back down in elevation to where Sherman pass road meets up with the Kern River highway.  It was Labor day weekend and this spot is a big recreation area for the locals of Kernville and Bakersfield.  The parking lot was packed but the park rangers allowed us to squeeze the bikes into a no parking zone so we could go grab some photos.

Looks pretty relaxing down there.
From here we made our way down the western foothills on some very nice back roads.  I wouldn't had found them without the Butler maps I brought along.  This was my second trip with the maps and I don't think I ride without them now.  A lot of cool country was seen but I didn't take many photos.  We were in a rush to make camp before nightfall.  We finally made camp in the town of Three Rivers.
That evening we walked across the street and grabbed some burgers at the We Three Restaurant and Bakery.  It was a great day of riding but I was eager to see the Sequoia National Park the next day.
Part II coming soon.  Stay tuned.  Thanks for reading.