01 August, 2012

Day 25, 614km: Yosemite Park

Hello everyone,

An overdue update! So, last episode I just crossed the Death Valley and camped in the loneliest place around. Day 25, the objective was to reach Sacramento, where I would stay with Lisa and Ben (friends of Willie). Thanks again Lisa for hosting me!

So the day started with un-mounting the test. Thomas, Helene you requested the "setup camp" video. Due to unexpected nightfall, here is the "pack camp" video. Enjoy.

(The video stopped halfway because the memory card was full...)

My laptop isn't really up to the task for video editing and rendering, plus Windows Movie Maker can't open Gopro videos (although that can't probably be fixed with the right codec). So it takes a lot of time to do basic, crappy stuff as above ... Anyway, what happened once I packed?

Start of the day
So I starting driving north in whatever-it's-called valley towards Bishop, California. I have loaded into my GPS a worldmap of the astronomical observatories (thanks to Nausicaa Delmotte) and saw there was a radio observatory almost directly on my way.
So I stopped at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, as far as I could go. It seemed there wasn't anybody onsite that day, the place is probably operated remotely anyway. Still, it's cool to know that science was being done there. There were 4 antennas (that I could see) on the site. One of them is actually part of the world's largest radio telescopes array (10 antennas across the world working together as a gigantic antenna).
That allows us to get cool images like this one and an impressive list of experiments/findings.

Mono Lake, 
Continuing up north, I reached Mono Lake, which was recommended to me by Gary in Las Vegas. Fun place. The plaque reads:

During the cold war, Mono County was home to one of many remote facilities used by the US military to test new weapons and weapon systems.
A "secret military installation" operated by the US Navy was located along the south shoreline of Mono lake.
During the 1950s and 1960s several branches of the US Armed Forces utilized this test facility to conduct various research. Numerous top-secret exercises were actually performed here during what was called "Seismic Testing." However with the expansion of other nearby bases, growing public safety and environmental concerns, this facility soon outgrew its usefulness. In May 1962, all operations ceased and soon thereafter the facility was abandoned.
Although many scientists, technicians, soldiers and sailors worked at this installation for many years, all that remains today of their activities are a few remnants and the name "Navy Beach."
This monument and plaque dedicated as a California sesquicentennial event.
Seismic Testing. Right.

Mono lake and Navy beach
And then I was off to Yosemite. Now I don't really know why but the place is famous for me. Mostly for its sequoias, so that's what I was looking for.
The road to the park (CA HW 120) was great, with views such as the one below.

Entering Yosemite from the east
Below is a sample of the road that crosses the park. It was Sunday so ... lots of people.

(On process ...)

The sequoias taller than 600m are between 500 to 3,000 years old. Amazing.
For the first hour in the park I was driving thinking that at some point there would be a "sequoia" sign or something, letting me know where to find these majestic trees. After not seeing any for a while I stopped and looked on the park's map. No "sequoia" to be found. Surprising. Then I red the park's information and found the keyword that was missing from my vocabulary: "grove" a small wood. Oh. Then I realized that there were probably half a dozen groves and that I passed many already.

So I stopped at the next one. And there I was surprised to see Oliver and Amelie again, the german couple from Dortmund I met a 4 days before at Hite (day 20). We talked more and Oliver told me he's actually ridden an Africa Twin across Lybia and Tunisia, and pretty much everywhere in Europe. Amazing. It's really cool to see that everyone has amazing stories to share. They were then headed to Sacramento and Los Angeles ... we were doing pretty much the same trip! Wish you both a safe return to Germany and hope you had fun!

Worth it
So then I visited the grove. It was a 1 mile hike. So 2 miles round-trip. I still had boots, jackets and pants but thought I wouldn't get 100 opportunities to see sequoias in my life. Got blisters on both feet but it was worth it. These trees are beasts, the picture above really doesn't do it any justice. Just try to imagine the tree was probably 5 meters wide and 50-80 meters high. A monster.

Then I was pretty much done with Yosemite, that was the only thing I came to see! Although there was apparently numerous incredible landscape there, most accessible only by hiking. The place seems to be a hiker's paradise.

California's back country
Then I was into the Sacramento basin, last 150km across an incredibly nice back country. Cool mountain road too, the temperature went up to a nice 30-35 degrees C in that region.
I was driving towards Lisa's apartment in Sacramento, into the sunset again.

Nice little towns along CA HW 49
Made it at her place at almost 9pm. On Sunday. Sorry! We had dinner with Lisa and Ben. It was nice having long conversations again, not just the usual 5 minutes highway break. And catching up on the Olympics too! Thanks both of you for welcoming me.

Then off to bed I went (in my own bedroom!).

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