Mileage 430 Miles, States - California, Nevada
I nearly had to bribe Jane* our GPS into routing today's portion of the road trip. We needed to cross the Sierras. We've done the Tioga Pass, through Yosemite, many times and traversed the Sonora Pass, the next pass to the north, a few times as well. We were out to explore America, not drive the same old roads all over again, though they are stunning. We set off intending to find additional stunning!
Having forced Jane to map us along Hwy 4 and the Ebbetts Pass, we hit the Western Sierra foothills and were met with poor visibility and the stench of smoke. We checked the Cal Fire website and saw a few fires come up on their map, but they were miles away. Aware that the smoke can travel a long way, it was still disconcerting that we were traveling on a road that we knew nothing about with patchy connectivity, in fire country, in fire season, and during a massive drought. Most of the pictures were taken from a moving car - apologies for the less than perfect composition - though I did have a chuckle at the beer can that showed up in this one!
There were two girls working in the gas station. When they greeted me with a cheery welcome, I asked them if they knew where the fires were. They said that the smoke was from the Butte fire further north and that there were also some burning in Yosemite. They asked me which way we were traveling. I told them I was taking the Ebbetts Pass. They said they would check the road conditions for me. Then, as I stood there, one of them lifted the phone and called the sheriff. In a few short minutes she had the answer - all clear. I was extremely impressed at their willingness to help keep a total stranger safe. That's what I call a full service station!
The Eastern Sierras did not disappoint. I love the wide open vistas. The barren landscape tugs at me in a way I find difficult to explain - a mixture of awe and terror. Despite its beauty, I can't help trying to imagine having to survive in this harsh and unforgiving terrain without the modern conveniences!
However, this route delivered several surprises. We loved the Wilson Canyon on Route 208.
This heap of gravel was beside a huge (I mean gigantic!) pit right beside the road. It was the size of the nearby hills. If it wasn't for it's flat top and perfect symmetry, one might think it was another mountain or cinder cone.
Just when all the desolation was starting to overwhelm, a shimmer appeared in the distance. A mirage maybe? Not this time. Walker Lake is a 50 square mile natural lake. I liked the shade provided for the picnic tables - not a mission of getting a tree to grow here!
It's a been a long and interesting day and tomorrow we are set for Zion via the Extraterrestrial Hwy - not sure how much excitement I want along that road - find out if I meet ET in my next post.
*Click here to find out why we call our GPS Jane