Leaving Nevada, turning off the Reno road near the infamous Area 51, I’m soon dropping down into the unforgiving desert that is Death Valley. The scenery changes from a dry endless desert into a weird moonscape where nothing seems to grow. Checking the days temperature as soon as I get Wi-Fi I find that at the time I was there it was 46c – pretty hot by any standards.
Death valley is the lowest point in the USA, in fact I get down as low as 190ft below sea level at one point – The lowest I’ve ever been in my life. Its a weird feeling to actually be lower than the sea, but still be miles from any water at all.
I keep driving through until sand dunes appear on my right side – A walk in the heat takes me out to them where a few other tourists and myself bake in the sun while trying to take photos. The scenery here is just epic. Its one place where a photograph just cant explain the weird eerie feeling of the landscape.
A bit further on and I start to climb back out of the valley to the town of Lone Pine. Here there are great views of The lower 48’s highest mountain – Apparently at some points you can see the highest and lowest places in the US at the same time – though I was in a hurry to move on before sun set.
I keep driving up the spine of the eastern Sierra Nevada until finally I make it to my stop for the night, Mammoth Lakes. A hugely popular ski town in winter – in fact there was still some snow on the mountains, weird when essentially I was in the middle of a desert. I spend the night having a well earned beer with some tourists in a out of place Tiki bar – I was drinking Sierra Nevada, what else!
Next morning I head towards Yosemite national park via California’s highest mountain Pass. but first stop off at Mono lake to check out some weird rock formations. Calcium comes out of the springs in the lake and mixes with carbon to form rocks which grow like deformed stalactites out of the lake. all with an amazing mountain backdrop.
Crossing the Tioga pass takes you up to nearly 10000ft, and as soon as you get there the scenery changes – From arid desert to high alpine meadows and huge granite formations – This is Yosemite, one of the most spectacular national parks on earth.
I spend the day driving through the park taking in views, enjoying the sunny weather and the fresh mountain air. There is something truly magical about this place. Its so big, so different from anywhere else I’ve been. Then coming down into the Yosemite valley I get my first view of El Capitan, a huge granite monolith, just sticking out above anything else, commanding so much space. finally at the end of the valley I get to see the world famous Half Dome, Like some giant tooth, so different from the other mountains, so unique.
I leave Yosemite wishing I had more time there. It’s one place I’ll definitely be back to. The rest of the day I spend leaving California and heading to Oregon where I plan to spend the night.
Next part 4 – The End