We were sent off by a few young bucks as we rolled underneath El Cap this morning. The initial uphill included three tunnels but, fortunately for us, one lane was closed for construction for a few miles, including the stretch through the tunnels. We never saw any construction, though, just a bunch of orange cones and a flagger at either end, so we figured they might just be trying to control the traffic flow.
Once we had 2,000′ under our belts for the day, we stopped at a convenience store for second breakfast. While there, we met Matt, who, coincidentally, is from Bozeman, MT (where Rachel’s family lives). His trip started down the coast to San Francisco from Portland, then eastward to Yosemite, and, eventually, to South Carolina (or possibly the Florida Keys!). Good luck with the rest of your ride, Matt; it was nice to meet you!
After breakfast #2, we continued with the steady climb to 8,300′, albeit with a few dips. We pulled off to the side of the road and sat on a rock in a wide open section of shady forest to have wraps for lunch at that elevation before making the final push upward to Tioga Pass.
About an hour later, we came upon Tenaya Lake, which was absolutely beautiful, and not nearly as crowded as we expected. It was tempting to keep our momentum going with only 1,000′ of climbing left, but we couldn’t resist stopping to soak our piggies for a short while.
A little further down the road, we entered Tuolumne Meadows, which is one of the largest high elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada range, as well as being the northern boundary of the largest contiguous roadless wilderness in the continental United States (that’s why we needed to keep going in and out of the mountains to ride North through the Sierra Nevada’s). While there, we saw a small black bear running through the meadow, and we made another pit stop at the general store, which is a very popular stop for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail & John Muir Trail. We also met a pair of hikers traveling a trail known as the High Sierra Trail, which involved long sections where there was no trail at all, and they had to rely on a map and compass.
From there, we continued up to Tioga Pass, which is also the northern entrance to the park.
This may have been the most climbing we’ve done in a single day, but it was all gradual, which made it very tolerable. The descent from the pass was steep and extremely windy, which made for some very fast sections (I hit my top speed of the entire trip, 51mph! ).
Towards the bottom, we met another world traveler on a bike. He was from Italy and has been on the road for 5 years. He just recently entered the US from Mexico, and said so far he is loving it.
After the final descent into Lee Vining, we rode past a gathering at a truck stop at the foot of the mountain (it was much nicer than it sounds). There was live country music, barbeque food, and plenty of people who seemed to be enjoying the party. We learned later that it’s a very well known stopping point for travelers coming and going from Yosemite, as well as locals looking for a good time. From the truck stop, there was a great view of Mono lake, which is a large saline basin for the surrounding mountains, and apparently has an unusually active ecosystem for a desert lake (migratory birds, brine shrimp, etc.). It was beautiful under the waning daylight.
We opted out of the truck stop party, since we were very tired after a long day of climbing. Instead, we settled at the campsite next to two motorcyclists who were on their way back to WA from the Sturgis rally, and got to sleep.
Trip stats, to date (Day 89)
Yosemite Village, CA to Lee Vining, CA
Daily mileage: 73.7 mi ; Trip total to date: 5,260.4mi
Daily riding time: 7hr 35min; Trip total time: 459hr 36min
Daily ascent: 8,899 ft; Trip total ascent: 279,138 ft
Flat tires: Rachel – 4; Chris – 6