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GoF West 2009

June 22-26, 2009, Squaw Valley, California

Page Five of Six

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Day Eight

The next morning, we made the short drive up the mountain into Virginia City.  We arrived on the early side, and finding it mostly deserted we parked our cars right along the main boulevard.  The women got an immediate start on shopping in the various stores through town while the men… well… ok the men shopped too.

Afterward, we took a guided tour of the town and then a ride on an 1800’s steam train which took us down the mountain to some old mining facilities and back up again.  All the usual tourist stuff was included – tunnel spiders, witty jokes, etc.  There were lots of old rusty trucks sitting along the tracks to keep my interest during the trip.  Many residents in the town had old trucks as well, and one even had pieces of them adorning her garden.  My kind of gal!

Back in town we found ourselves in a tourist whirlwind.  The place had become very busy with lots of rent-a-bike Harley riders trying to get around town without falling over.  After a break for lunch (and the obligatory ice cream), we took a tour of an old mine (complete with yet more typical tourist stuff – gold thieves, turning the lights out, more witty jokes, etc) before leaving town.

After refueling, we were back on the road again heading South toward California.  These roads are some of the greatest open highway in the western US as you travel along the dramatic Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Numerous 14,000-foot peaks reach for the sky, devoid of any sign of life due to their height and lack of oxygen.  It was late afternoon when we reached our designated stop for the night in a sleepy little town at the base of the mountains.

After a rest, a few of us took an evening drive into the mountains, stopping at a remote alpine lake for a slice of pie.  It was a great end to a beautiful day of driving.  I suppose it seems funny to take a break from a driving trip by going for a drive, but we never claimed to be normal.

Day Nine

The morning saw our group head south along the Sierras for a distance before taking a break at an overlook with views of Mono Lake and the Central Sierra. We then headed down from our perch and into the Owens Valley where we made a right turn onto Tioga Pass. This is a road which climbs the steep face of the Eastern Sierra to nearly 10,000-feet in elevation before dropping down into Yosemite Valley. Here we would struggle to maintain speed as we climbed steeply into the thin air. Near the top of the pass we took a break at an alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Then it was further up and over the pass, eventually reaching the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of land on the planet, and being in an open car makes it that much better.

One of the most unfortunate things about visiting this incredible place is “tourist season”. There is only one road in the valley, and on the weekends it sometimes becomes clogged with tourists to the point of gridlock around the most popular sights. We didn’t waste much time getting through since we had seen the sights many times before, but we did stop for a break in the heart of the valley to walk through the meadows and watch rock climbers ascend El Capitan. Even with the traffic problem, it’s hard to complain when you have these kind of views.

After leaving the valley, we decided to visit Glacier Point. This spot overlooks Yosemite Valley from an elevation of 7,200 feet. First things first however… we needed ice cream. We soaked up the views and then headed back down to Wawona, a historic hotel near the park exit. Eventually we left the park and stopped for the night in a nearby town.

On to Page Six…