As our time in America comes to a close, we had left the most famous national park until the end of our visit. We stopped off for a few days in Sacramento for some impromptu repairs; basically when we had our brakes replaced in the grand canyon they had put the wrong sized pads in! This had led to weeks of rattling, and mechanics ignoring the issue. This time we pressed we were sure it was the brakes and when they finally took them apart they saw the issue, and we had shiny new (correctly fitting) brakes replaced under warranty free of charge.
Next we headed to Lake Tahoe. We would be driving up to an elevation of 7,000ft which has been a struggle in the past! So we gracefully held a line of traffic whilst climbing the mountain highway at 30 degrees, but avoided any engine issues. We’ve learnt how to drive mountains now without setting our engine on fire going up and brakes on fire going down!
We always seem to arrive at tourist hotspots on weekends, and this was no different. Arriving on a Saturday the town was busy but we managed to sneak into a parking space and enjoy a nice swim (wash) in the lake. The water was stunningly clear, and we found some secluded space for ourselves. Mikey went for a run but struggled with the altitude as we’ve spent so long on the coast recently, so it was quite a short one.
The next day after camping about 10 minutes from the lake we drove to south lake Tahoe and visited a beach. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a coastal beach given the soft sand and clear water, but it was almost nicer that there was no salt in the air and no waves. It was perfect place to relax before driving to Yosemite – another big hill drive!
Yosemite was always high on our list of things to see while we were here, but a huge fire had actually left the park closed for a number of weeks. As we arrived it had only been open 5 days, so we weren’t sure about how busy it was. With this in mind we started our day at 5:30am (!) and headed into the park to avoid the crowds – we landed in a completely empty car park! We probably overshot the early start, as the park stayed fairly empty throughout the day, as most likely a lot of holidays and been cancelled far in advance.
On our first day we wanted to visit the iconic mirror lake – a lake with beautifully flat water which gives a perfect reflection of the background on its surface. We discovered as we arrived however that in summer it turns into a meadow, and the mirror effects are… a little disappointing! After checking in with the visitor centre it turned out the 8 hour hike to the large waterfall resulted in a dry waterfall as well so clearly running water wouldn’t be a big part of our trip.
We decided on a different hike which we did very early the next day. It was a 3,000ft climb up to Glacier Point – a viewpoint over the whole of the park. It took us 2.5hrs to get up there and was pretty gruelling, with absolutely no respite from the hill on the way up. Safe to say though, the view was wonderful and definitely worth it! Seeing into the whole valley with an up close of half dome was priceless. it also transpired that the walk down was harsher on our legs than the walk up, something easily forgotten!
Our next stop was Sequoia National Park – our last visit to a national park in the USA. We decided to run through the park in a day and fit everything in as we were itching to get across the border. As we arrived in the visitor centre we learnt about the bear issues there. The first campground we drove through reported they had 4 car break ins by bears in the last week! You assume your car or van is safe but if they smell or see any sight of food just a small push with one paw will smash a window, and they’re in. We didn’t fancy emptying our whole van of food which would have taken a long old time, so parked at the visitor centre and walked the extra distance to our first hike to a waterfall. We saw a marmot on the way which was a first, however as we’d come to expect by the time we got to the waterfall it ran dry!
Next we visited the giant forest – and the biggest tree in the world! Not by height, or width but actually by volume. General Sherman weighs 4 million tonnes! After a wander through the giant forest we headed out of the national park system for the last time, and on towards San Diego – our last stop before crossing the border.