So, remember when I said Lake Tahoe had the most impressive scenery and extreme driving requirements to match? Scratch that, because Yosemite National Park now takes home top honors. I think I spent the entire weekend with my eyes wide open, grasping for a description of the sights. The one word that came to mind was “grandeur”.
The first part of Yosemite actually started out a little rough. I left Tahoe with a full tank of gas, a gung-ho attitude, and a campground reservation just on the other side of the park. By the end of the day, all three were in short supply. After a relatively easy drive through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, as I got close to the entrance of the park, one particular mountain peak caught my eye. I kept thinking, “I really hope I don’t have to go up that. I really hope I don’t have to go up that.” But it kept getting closer, and closer, and closer, until I found myself going right on up it. With the engine revved almost to the max I didn’t even stop for a photo, fearful I wouldn’t be able to climb from a complete stop. I maintained a pretty steady 45mph on the straightaways, and finally reached the friendly ranger at the Tioga Pass Entrance to Yosemite with an elevation of 9,945 feet! It is apparently the highest mountain pass in the entire state of California. I drove the length of the park and then began my descent back down towards my campground. With the endless curves, cliffs, and cars, by the time I got down to the other side, I was absolutely 100% spent. All I could think of was a nice spot to relax and spend the night.
So, back to the campground. I have stayed in a wide variety of sites; some incredible, and some, not so much. Even though I was exhausted, even though it was a holiday weekend, even though I had no internet access to find another campground, I quickly decided to ask for a refund and hit the road. Why, oh why, do you ask? My reserved spot, the one and only spot left in the entire campground, was about the size of a VW Beetle. There were two big dogs chained up next to it, and a large group of people overflowed from their spot into my reserved spot. It was basically the sweatshop version of a campground. To be fair, the manager was completely apologetic and gave me directions to some other possible options.
I drove to the tiny town of Mariposa, California and stumbled upon the Mariposa Fairgrounds that just happened to offer a 24-hour self-registration area with full hookups. Call it complete luck, call it divine intervention, call it whatever you like, but I decided to call it home for two nights. It ended up being absolutely perfect! The next morning I left the Airstream behind, and went back to Yosemite with just the Touareg. As I traveled the exact same route, I couldn’t believe I had done it with 23 extra feet and 6,000 extra pounds just the day before. Completely safe? Yes. Completely insane? That, too.
I explored Yosemite all day, took some great photos and video, and came back to find the 4th of July Fireworks for the whole county set up a feet away from my site. It may not have been the biggest, brightest, or longest fireworks display of all time, but it was definitely the most convenient! It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.