Visiting Uncle Sam – Part 3

Hi there,

welcome back to my blog! In this post, I’m going to tell you about the rest of my trip in California.

In the previous post, I was leaving San Francisco. The next stop is Yosemite national park.

Map of Yosemite National Park:
https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/maps.htm
This park is quite famous and is not far from San Francisco. As I hit the road quite early in the evening, there’s not so much traffic and I arrive at the park entrance at the beginning of the afternoon. As I plan to visit a couple of national parks in the next days, I buy the US national parks annual to spare a few dollars entry fee, get a map and a newspaper presenting the hikes and drive to the first destination: Glacier point. The weather is very nice and the road is very scenic.
Arrived at the top, the view is absolutely amazing. The Yosemite valley, the half dome and the Yosemite falls are appearing very clearly.
After some minutes taking pictures, I take a seat at a picnic table to make a break to drink water and eat some fruits.
As my neighbours see me starting reading the newspaper, we start discussing about the possible hikes. They recommend me to go to the top of the half dome. It is supposed to be the best view on the valley. The problem is that it’s a bit too challenging for me (10-12 hours walk, 14 miles=22,5kms, +4800ft=+1400m elevation). Moreover, you have to get a special pass to access the trail and they draw only 100 per day.
As I am not sure about my actual physical condition, I choose the medium to the top of the Vernal falls (2 hours walk, 3miles=4,8kms, 1000ft=+300m elevation).

After about 2 hours enjoying the view from Glacier point, I drive down to Yosemite Valley where I’ll spend the night at the housekeeping campground. As I don’t have any camping equipment, I go for a permanently installed tent (which is actually a simple bloc). The campground is very well located: in a forest next to the river and at the beginning of the principal trailheads.
(daily miles 238, cumulated miles 1499)

On the next day, I wake up quite early to start the hike before it gets too warm. The trail to the bottom of the Vernal Falls is quite flat and easy.

The difficulty starts on the way to the top of the Falls. Due to the wind, the water is pushed to the trail which makes it very slippery. I arrive at the top completely wet. My camera, which was in my pocket also suffered from the humidity and refuses to start for some time. After a few minutes drying, I can start it again, just in time to take pictures of the squirrels hanging around the hikers to get some food.

The way down is slippery but still ok and once I’m back in the valley, I start the next trail to the Mirror Lake. This one is very easy (2miles=3,8kms flat). The view on the lake at the end of the trail is very cool. The water is very clean and reflects very well the surrounding mountains.

Back at the car, I drive to the next destination in the park, the Tuolumne Grove. There’s a small trail there where giant Sequoias can be seen. It’s a good alternative for me, as I won’t have time to visit the Sequoia national park.
The trees are very impressive and it’s actually daunting to think how old they are (more than 3000yo for some of them).

I finish the day by a drive to Bridgeport, a small city on the way to Death Valley where I’ll spend the night in a small motel with a super view on the mountains.
(daily miles 101, cumulated miles 1600)

After a good night, the first destination on the next morning is Bodie, a ghost town located near Death Valley.
This town boomed in the middle of the 19th century after gold was discovered around but declined in the beginning of the 20th century till it was abandoned and declared ghost town in 1915.
Walking around in this village is really strange. The houses are really well conserved and the inside of some houses were left intact. I have the feeling that time was freezed and that people just left recently.
The main buildings and businesses are still in good shape. The school, the grocery store and the saloon are quite cool to visit.

After about 2 hours, I jump back in the car to drive a bit down to Death Valley.
Maps of Death Valley National Park:
https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/maps.htm
The first kilometers in the park are very impressive and sometimes even scary. Roads are endless lines and sometimes I am completely alone in the middle of the desert. The landscape is absolutely magic. Everything looks very dry and the only thing I can see till the horizons are rocks and yuccas.

To visit a bit before going to the motel I booked for the night, I chose to go a bit offroad to the Eureka Dunes. The unpaved road is about 16 miles one way, which is about the same distance I drove to Mount Sunday in New Zealand. However this time, the road is very bad, with bumps and holes and as my car is quite low, I start having doubts that the suspensions are gonna survive and as soon as I see the dunes after 10miles, I chose to make a U-turn and go back to the main road.

I spend the night in Beatty, not far from the entrance of Death Valley national park.
(daily miles 293, cumulated miles 1893)
As my time is quite limited, as I want not to arrive to late in Los Angeles in the evening, I chose to follow the recommendations of the motel owner in Beatty and will visit 3 main points of interest.
The first one is called Badwater. It is the lowest point in the park and is a huge salt lake. The area gets only a few drops of rain during the year and is the point where the highest temperatures are recorded.
After a few minutes walking around to take pictures, I do like all other tourists and jump back in my car sweating like hell to enjoy the air conditioning 🙂

The next stop is called artist pallet. It is a small mountain in the middle of the desert with a lot of different colors. This color mix is due to the different minerals present in the soil that were transformed during the last hundreds of thousand years by temperature and pressure changes.

Finally, my last stop is the Zabriskie point, where I enjoy a nice view on the desert.

After my visit in Death Valley, I hit the road to Pasadena near Los Angeles, where I’ll spend some days at my friend Johnathan (aka John from Creteil) and his family. John and I worked together a long time ago in Munich and he is now working to bring people back from Mars at the NASA 😉 I haven’t seen seen him for almost 10 years!
(daily miles 248, cumulated miles 2141)
After a nice evening catching up, I start the second day by visiting the botanical garden in Pasadena. The park is huge and have very cool areas like the rose or the japanese garden.

In the afternoon, I meet some people in LA downtown to sell tickets to the EDC Las Vegas Festival that I bought almost 7 months ago. As I wasn’t sure to be there at the right time due to my travel constraints, I chose to skip it for this year.
In the evening, I meet John and his family in little Tokyo to eat some good sushis 🙂
(daily miles 51, cumulated miles 2192)
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The next day is a pure touristic day. In the morning, I spend some time in Hollywood to see the famous Walk of Fame and the chinese Theater. As it’s a bit too crowded with tourists for me, I choose to move on after having taken some pictures of the big Hollywood sign from Hollywood Boulevard.

The next stop is Santa Monica. From there I will walk along the beach to reach the famous Venice Beach.
Venice Beach is known as an eccentric part of LA and is the location for many TV series (Baywatch, Californication, also home of McGyver) or movies.
I spend some time there to watch people training in the skate park and the few surfers enjoying the waves.
(daily miles 69, cumulated miles 2261)

On the next day, I spend some time doing paperwork for my trip and after lunch, I leave LA to visit my friend Bertrand in Irvine. Bertrand is a friend I met when I was a student in Belfort and after several stops in different countries in the middle East and in Asia, he is now living in California with his family. We spend a nice evening eating seafood and catching up.
(daily miles 48, cumulated miles 2309)
13428534_10209164834735291_3305471039533246496_n
On the next day, I decide to make a shot trip to San Diego. As I don’t have much time, I limit my visit to the very nice old town,

followed by a short stop on Mission beach and the La Jolla area

(daily miles 156, cumulated miles 2465)
After 2 nights in Irvine, it is time for me to say goodbye to Bertrand and his family and to restart my exploration of the national parks.
My next stop, which will also be my last one in California is the Joshua Tree national park.
Maps  of Joshua Tree National Park/
https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/maps.htm
This park, which gave its name to one album of the famous rockband U2, is composed of 2 deserts and is the home of a lot of yuccas tree.
The landscape along the road crossing this park is simply stunning.

My first stop is Ryan Ranch, the remains of an old ranch in the middle of the desert.

After that, I’ll stop to take pictures of different rocks, which are a nice play field for climbers, the most interesting one being Skull Rock.

Finally I’ll stop at the White Tank campground to spend the night. Thanks to my friend John who allowed me borrow his Coachella Festival equipment, I have now everything necessary to camp in the middle of the parks.
(daily miles 130, cumulated miles 2595)
The sunset on the desert is an unforgettable experience. The moonlight on the rocks and the chilling music of the neighbours in the evening make me reach a state known by the psychologists as the flow. This is a state of mind where everything in the environment seems in harmony, people seems completely immersed in the present and feel a flow of pure positive energy.
Unfortunately, this moment is interrupted by a kid nearby, who keeps crying because he wants to go with his dad on a night hike, which I can understand, as the atmosphere in the desert at night is so magic.

After a super good night in my tent, I finish my visit of Joshua Tree in the next morning by a short visit in the Cactus garden.

In my next post, which will also be my last post about my road trip on the US West coast, I will take you through different national parks in the Utah, Nevada and Arizona states.
Stay tuned!

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2 responses to “Visiting Uncle Sam – Part 3

  1. Pingback: Argentinian amazing nature – Part 1 | .: Follow Saypra around the world :.·

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