After leaving Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park and visiting the four campgrounds just outside the park, I headed east on CA 120 and down Tioga Pass.
The road drops about 2500 feet in 8 miles but there are no switchbacks, just a big curve down to US 395 and Lee Vining. If you have an RV or are pulling a trailer make sure your brakes are in order before heading down. Heading up plan on a top speed of about 20 mph. There are some viewing areas where you can take photos and wonder what was going through the heads of the brave people that made this road. There is a spot just east of where I took the photo above where a bridge is bolted to the side of the mountain. Straight drop of, oh, about 2000 feet.
I made it down to the 395 and turned left towards Bridgeport. Here is a tip. The cheapest gas in the area is at the Shell station on the right just 1/2 mile after you turn north on the 395. Before that on the left is a small grocery store attached to a trading post that offers lots of tourist items as well as some handmade stuff that is pretty neat.
It's about 25 miles from Lee Vining to Bridgeport and smack in the middle is the Virginia Lakes Recreation Area and Trumbull Lake campground six miles east off the 395.
The resorts in the area offer food and showers and the campground was nice. Several spots are close to the lake.
The fishing is great here because it is stocked unlike Yosemite. I prefer catch and release with barbless hooks for native trout but the planters make it fun for the kids.
Bridgeport, CA is one of my favorite places on the edge of the Eastern Sierras.
There are some historic buildings here as well as some good food. It's fun to walk around and check them out. The yellow looking place behind the RV at the end of the road in the photo above is another Shell gas station. Turning left just in front of it puts you on Twin Lakes Road and leads to some of my favorite campgrounds in California.
But before we explore that area let's back up three miles and head east to Bodie State Historic Park. A Ghost Town.
Set in the high desert, Bodie is often the coldest place in California. The 13 mile road is unpaved but well worth the journey. It's quite amazing what went on here.
From the web:
"In 1859 William (a.k.a. Waterman) S. Bodey discovered gold near what is now called Bodie Bluff. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. It started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! By then, the town of Bodie bustled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, prostitutes and people from every country in the world. At one time there was reported to be 65 saloons in town. Among the saloons were numerous brothels and 'houses of ill repute', gambling halls and opium dens - an entertainment outlet for everyone."
Sounds like a party. Here is what it looks like now.
And, of course, our boy Glenn.
Anyway, from Bridgeport I turned west on Twin Lakes Road and drove 9 miles to Paha campground.
I normally zoom in on the sign but the background, although it is blown out picture wise, is worth a look. Fresh jagged mountains are the highlights in this area. I thought the campground would be close to empty near the end of September but I was wrong. I snagged the last creek side spot for two nights, Wednesday and Thursday, 9/26 and 9/27. Hey, I know that is a while back but it's Part Two of this post. Here is my campsite.
Robinson Creek is just to the right and in fact the best fishing hole was 10 feet from my campsite which was site number nine.
I saw many full stringers of trout being taken out of here. There are four campgrounds in the immediate vicinity of the Twin Lakes. Robinson Creek, Paha, Crags, and Lower Twin Lakes. Crags did nothing for me.
Suitable for large RV's and not on the creek, you can still walk to Lower Twin Lake from there. Plenty of sky for the satellite dishes as well.
Robinson Creek is adjacent to Paha. Half of the campground was closed for maintenance while I was in the the area but it will be fully opened next year.
There are some gorgeous creek side campsites here. Number six is a good example.
The creek is just behind those trees where I took these photos below.
The last campground in the area is Lower Twin Lake. This is where I camped the day after I bought my latest canoe in 2006. It's a small campground with only 15 sites so make your reservations as soon as they are available. It's the only one with direct lake access.
All the sites are good but 6 and 9 are my favorites. Here is 9.
The creek is just behind,
and within 100 feet you have this boat ramp. Obey the speed limit.
They say this place is where the high desert meets the mountains. Check out the photo below at Lower Twin Lake. I think it explains it better than words.
But wait, there is still more in this area. In fact, the State record Brown Trout was caught in this lake. Close to 30 pounds. 1/4 mile away from Lower Twin Lake you will find a laundromat, showers, and a store.
Keep driving two miles until the road ends and you will find one of the best resorts in California.
Mono Village has cabins, tent and RV sites, boat rentals, a café and gas that is 40 cents cheaper per gallon than Bridgeport.
Friday 9/28 I headed back into Yosemite, passed through it actually, and spent two nights at Yosemite Lakes (a Thousand Trails campground) where I made the last blog post. Heading west allowed me to capture a couple of different views of Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows.
That's Lembert Dome in the lower middle and in springtime the meadow is a vibrant green. I'll have to come back and check it out.
I will be spending five nights in Yosemite Valley which will be in the next post, probably broken in two as well. There is so much to see.
Which brings me back to the the Bear Necessities. A Park Ranger came by on horseback when I was setting up camp in Tuolumne Meadows. I asked about the bear situation and he said there was only one "clinger" that they had to put down earlier in the season. A "clinger" is a bear that won't go away. See, they don't bus bears out of the area anymore. If one gets a taste for people food, they kill them. No matter how far away they relocate them, they come back to the food source. That is our fault. There is not a bear problem, there is a people problem.
Below is a photo from a few years ago at Lake Mary campground in Mammoth Lakes when someone decided that a bear box would be better used as a table.
Wrong! Momma came sniffing through the campground in the middle of the day. Her kids were playing but make no mistake, this is serious stuff. You don't want to get in between them.
And do not think that leaving your coolers in the car at night will help. Bears know what they look like and will easily gain entry.
That's my Element in the foreground and here is a closer look.
The Stellar Jays were picking at the leftovers. Bears are strong...I heard this happening while I was in my tent 20 feet away. I didn't come out.
I will leave you with this story from Lower Twin Lake campground. It was my birthday morning in 2006. I had arrived late the night before to set up camp in site # 6 after picking up my new canoe. Around 5:00am as the sky was slowly turning to pastel pink I heard some noises around my tent. I thought it was a deer so I unzipped the window part on the door to my tent.
I was face to face (about 10 inches away) from a bear. I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and said in a loud voice, "It's my birthday, It's 5:00am, I am going back to sleep. Go away!"
There was a snort, almost a grunt, some yelling from both of us and the bear left. But not without a parting shot. He gave the bear box a whap before he sauntered off. That was my birthday card and I liked it.
Regards, Park Ranger