Background: My mother was one of the four Mason
sisters, born and raised
in northwest Ohio. Three of them moved to California, while the
fourth lived all her life in a small city in Michigan, 20 miles from
where she grew up. Between them they produced eleven children.
late Aunt Vivian, who lived in Poway near San Diego and then retired to Lake
Elsinore in Riverside County, took it upon herself to host family gatherings, which
ranged from two of the families to all four, with varying numbers of
the cousins being able to join in as they grew up, moved
apart, and produced children of their own.
last time most of us were together was some time in 1990, when
Vivian was suffering from terminal cancer, and again a few months later at
seen my sister and all my cousins at least once since I retired in
2002, but some of them have not been in touch with each other during the 25 years
since those 1990 gatherings. Several of them had asked me during
visits if we were ever going to have another
"cousin convention," and it became obvious that for it to
happen, someone had to get it started. Late last year we began a
series of email "discussions," with the ultimate result
being that we reserved a block of rooms at the Hotel Elegante in
Colorado Springs for June 12, 13 and 14, 2015.
plans were made, dinner reservations arranged, and during a week of
unsettled weather in mid-June, nine members of our generation, plus two
spouses, made the trip to Colorado Springs from Minnesota, Missouri,
Oregon, Texas, Michigan and California.
11: I'm two days into my journey to Colorado Springs, and two
very different days they were. Yesterday it was warm and dry
everywhere I stopped, although I started early enough that it was
actually very pleasant. Even places in the Mojave Desert that
usually offer a hot wind provided a cool breeze instead.
got up yesterday at 5 a.m., a time of day I barely knew existed, hoping to
leave by 6 a.m. I ate a good breakfast, did the final packing and
loading (mainly the ice chest), and actually got under way about
6:20. I had reservations in St.
George, Utah, a drive of 513 miles, much more than I usually am comfortable with.
of the route was all too familiar - down CA 99 to Bakersfield, east
on CA 58, and northeast on I-15 through Las Vegas. Leaving Nevada,
the interstate goes
through a corner of Arizona before entering Utah, and St. George is
just past the state line, so I traveled in four states. I stopped
two or three times for brief naps, a usual practice for me, and ate
lunch in Baker. Since gas is $4.15 per gallon and candy bars are $2
there, I was glad I brought my own sandwich and didn't have to pay
whatever lunch prices would have been.
day was brightened considerably by a billboard I saw in two places,
advertising a Las Vegas show, "Puppetry of the Penis."
Honda will go over 400 miles on a tank of gas, so I didn't need to
fill up till I got to Las Vegas, where it was $3.23, less than
Fresno but still not great. I stopped at Mesquite, the last town in Nevada,
to set my GPS for the motel in St. George and do some quick
grocery shopping. The roads were in good shape, construction zones were
no worse than usual, traffic was fairly light, and I arrived at my
destination around 5:30 - not as late as I thought it might
are red sandstone cliffs around St. George, so it's a scenic
location, although fairly low in elevation and therefore quite warm.
long after I got settled in, there was some thunder and lightning,
and a short rain storm, all before bed time.
morning I got up at a more normal time, although still fairly early
since I am in the Mountain Time Zone, and got on the road about
8:30. I had watched the weather forecast, and it showed rain and
flood warnings over my entire route, which was north on I-15, then east
on I-70 to Grand Junction Colorado.
was rain on and off most of the day, sometimes fairly hard, but
never lasting more then ten or fifteen minutes before there was a
break, and no thunder or lightning. Most of the last 100 miles was rain-free.
From St. George
I-15 climbed up into a long, green valley with crops and cattle, from
a few miles south of Cedar City all the way to the I-70 junction,
where I turned east.
This route went over a pass a short distance then down into the
Sevier River Valley, where the largest city seems to be Richfield,
and where agriculture again predominates. East of here the
road enters true Colorado Plateau country, with spectacular scenery
most of the way to Green River. There are plateaus and mesas, and
dramatic canyons; as well as places where a seemingly level stretch
gives way to yet another drop down through rugged canyons.
Green River, and the rest of the way into Colorado, the country
flattens out, but still with some cliffs on both sides. Near the
border the road begins to parallel the Colorado River all the way
Junction, a long, narrow city strung out for 12 miles or
more along the highway and the river.
stopped for lunch at the Subway in Green River, saving half my
sandwich for later, and finished it off tonight. Now it's time to
wind down the day in preparation for the final 300 miles tomorrow,
and a busy weekend with family.
12: Once again I had a lot of nice scenery to make the
drive go quickly. Just east of Grand Junction the highway follows
the Colorado River into a narrow gorge, rising very slightly and
giving no hint of the major elevation climbing I knew was ahead.
Along this route, in the town of Silt, I saw a tree growing out of
the top of a silo.
One of the most dramatic
sections in this area is Glenwood
Canyon. A primitive road
ran through this area in the early days, and a Colorado politician
of the time expressed the hope that someday it would be extended in
both directions across the country.
foreshadowing of the Interstate Highway system must have seemed
overly optimistic at the time, but of course, that section is now
part of a road that reaches from central Utah to the east coast. In
the Glenwood area there was not room to build a ground-level
so imaginative engineering came to the rescue. Much of the westbound
route is a raised causeway, immediately adjacent to and sometimes
slightly overlapping the eastbound lanes. This "stacked"
approach made it possible to build a road to interstate standards in
a place where it was thought to be impossible. There are some great
this section the Colorado River turns north, and I-70 follows various other
waterways to the east. The highway rises quickly, first going over Vail Summit
at 10,662 feet, down hill for a while, then back up over the
Continental Divide through the Johnson Tunnel (westbound traffic flows through
the Eisenhower Tunnel). From here it is a mostly steep descent into
Vail I noticed a paved bike trail running along I-70, starting somewhere near
the town at 8,022, going up over the summit and down to the next town...at least 12 miles. There's a center line, and sometimes
the bike trail is between the freeway lanes.
the route gets close to Denver, several signs warn that the downhill
section is not yet over: " Truckers don't be fooled you still
have five miles of 6% downgrade"...."You're
not down yet...still 2.5 miles of steep downgrade."
warning probably should also say, "don't expect to whiz through
Denver," since it was here I encountered the only really bad
traffic of the trip. Speeds got slower as I-70 went east through
Denver, then really slowed down when I turned south on I-25. This
route runs through the city for many miles before getting out into
the country, but once there it was a fairly fast-moving and quite
Springs the highway goes past the sprawling US Air Force
Academy, and the village of Manitou
Springs, with Pike's Peak
looming above. Slightly south the rugged but lower elevation
Cheyenne Mountain rises above the big city, home to over 400,000
I left Grand Junction in the morning, there was heavy rain on the
east side of the Rockies, with flooding in downtown Denver, and
major thunderstorms in CO Springs. I was concerned that I might have
bad weather all the way, but in fact, there were only a few misty
drops at Vail Summit. All the rain was over by the time I got over
arrived at the hotel around 4 p.m., got checked in, and was
immediately given my exercise assignment for the day. The Hotel
Elegante is in essence a high-rise hotel that has been squashed down
to three stories, spread over a huge area with wings angling off in
various directions. Later during our visit, I counted 270 steps from
my room to the lobby, about .15 mile. However, there are many
outside entrances, and I was able to park within 30 feet of a door
that was only a few steps from my room.
bringing my stuff into the room, I began calling to see who was
there. Eventually six of us met in a cafe near the lobby and began
the process of getting re-acquainted, some of us not having seen
each other for 25 years or more.
had talked by phone to my sister, who drove from Duluth; she and her wife
Anne had stopped to eat in a town not far from Colorado Springs, and
they soon joined us. The other three were arriving later and I would
not see them till the next morning.
returning to our rooms for a short time, six of us met in the lobby
and went out to eat at Paravicini's,
an amazing Italian restaurant in Old Colorado City, a tiny place
tucked in between CO Springs and Manitou Springs. If we had not
chosen to sit on the patio, we would have had an hour wait, but the
weather was perfect for outside dining, and we all had more than we
needed, all of it delicious.
June 13: Saturday morning we managed to get the entire group together for
breakfast, although as one cousin said, "it's like herding
cats." First there was debate about walking or driving, since
the Denny's was about two blocks away. One of our party has trouble
walking, so a small contingent went by car, while the rest of us walked, which
included going up and over a ramp that took us across a very busy
assembled company was as follows:
Estel siblings: Myself (Dick) from California, and Linda, and wife
Anne Tellett from Minnesota
The Hall siblings: Don, John and Diane Davenport Hall from Oregon;
and Jim and wife Gayle from Missouri
The Drefke siblings: Nancy Drefke Teets from Michigan and Darlene
Drefke Elston from Texas
The Leary sibling: Patti Leary from California. Her sisters, Mary
Leary Defilio from Florida and Katie Leary from California, were not
able to attend.
we all greeted Patti, who had arrived late and had not seen anyone
till she got to the restaurant; then we had one of several
wide-ranging conversations, all of which included a lot of
reminiscing about previous visits, trips between Michigan and
California when all but the Drefkes lived in the Golden State, and
of course, the various gatherings hosted by my Aunt Vivian Hall at
Poway and Lake Elsinore. Also discussed were some of Grandma Mason's
visits to California, when she would come out by train and stay for
several weeks with each of the three daughters.
had made plans to visit the Garden
of the Gods after breakfast, an area of red sandstone
outcroppings next to Manitou Springs; a public property owned and
managed by the city of Colorado Springs. When we were here for a
hockey tournament in early 2014, my daughter Teri and I hiked in the
Garden, and were much impressed.
thing we quickly learned was that there are LOTS more people
visiting in June than there were in February. We entered from the
south, driving through a residential area where there are homes
among the sandstone outside the park, including one house that uses
the rock as a wall. We went through three trailhead parking lots that were
filled to overflowing, so decided to go to the visitor center.
Traveling in four cars, we all managed to park there, since people
are coming and going more frequently than at the trailheads.
spent about 45 minutes at the visitor center, looking at the
exhibits and taking some group pictures, then decided to try again
for trailhead parking. I rode with Nancy, Darlene and
Diane, and we
managed to find a parking place at the second lot we came to. We
hiked a short but fairly rugged trail there, one that goes up a hill
with some good views down in to the Garden, then loops back down.
During my previous visit all our walking was on paved trails, so I
did not wear boots or bring my hiking poles, but I could have used
both on this trail.
then went to the parking area for one of the main trailheads, where
you can follow the paved trail in a loop, with various connections
to other easy trails. This route went through the best parts of the
park. None of the others had been there before, and and greatly
enjoyed the hike and the scenery. We were considering an additional
side trail when we realized that we were running out of time, since
we had planned for a 4 p.m. dinner at the hotel, so we started back.
Traffic getting out of the area was very slow, but we made it back
in time to freshen up a bit before dinner. At this time we learned
that none of the other groups stopped to hike, but all enjoyed their
drive through the park, and got to see the major features.
were predicted for about 4 p.m., and we had a few drops on the
windshield at 3:30 driving back. Right on time a hard rain arrived just as
scheduled, but we were all back inside by that time. It only lasted
about 15 minutes, and I did not
hear thunder nor see lightning.
the pre-planning stage we had made reservations for Saturday dinner
at the hotel's Rustler's Cafe, the only advance planning of more
than a day that we did for meals. We had an alcove that was off to
the side of the main dining room, but with 4 p.m. reservations, the
place was mostly empty . We had a very nice dinner with good
service, at prices that we agreed were quite reasonable. We took our
time, enjoying the food and the company, with lots of time for the
one more "scheduled" event we had planned.
dinner we gathered in my room, and I showed a collection of photos
featuring all the families. These included some baby and childhood
pictures, photos of our parents as very young adults and then later
in life, and the "famous" photo
that was taken by a professional photographer of all the sisters,
husbands and kids with their mother, our grandmother Opal Mason, at
the Hall's place in Poway in 1962. This inspired Nancy to propose a
group photo in which we would take the same positions as the
original photo, which we accomplished Sunday night.
the photo viewing was over, everyone went off to their own pursuits
for the rest of the evening. This was also the theme for the next
morning - "on your own" time during which all were free to
follow their own desires with whichever group members wanted to join
morning I had breakfast in my room, yogurt and granola that I had
brought along, then contacted several people to see what their plans
were. One group had already decided to visit the Air Force
which would include a 9:30 chapel service. I learned that Linda and
Anne were planning to drive to the top of Pike's
Peak, so I joined them, along with Don Hall.
first stopped in downtown Colorado Springs for breakfast, where
Linda and Anne had learned there was a very popular breakfast spot,
Over Easy. Popular was an understatement - the wait time was 45
minutes, but fortunately there was a less famous but very good
establishment right next door, where we were seated immediately, and
had a perfectly good breakfast. Actually, since I had already had
that meal, I chose dessert - a milkshake to provide energy for the
how dominant and obvious the mountain is, getting to Pike's Peak
proved much more difficult than it should have. The GPS on two
different phones proved to be singularly unhelpful, leading us first
to the Pike's
Peak Cog Railway station in Manitou Springs. We had only a large
scale state map, which did not clearly show the local roads we
needed to follow. We finally used human ingenuity and instructed the
GPS to take us to Cascade, a small town that was obviously located on the
correct route to the peak.
frustrations lay ahead. When we got to the entrance station, we were
informed that a thunderstorm had dropped a quantity of hail on the
road. They were awaiting the arrival of a snow plow, and there was a
75% chance that we would eventually be able to get to the top. Since
we could not know how long "eventually" was, we chose to
turn back, and instead went to the Manitou
Cliff Dwellings, which proved to be a worthwhile use of our
former residence of the ancient Anasazi
is a row of
rooms, once three stories high, through which you can
walk and take note of the small entrances and rooms that were used
for various purposes. There is also an excellent museum, with the
obligatory gift shop. Here I was most impressed with their pottery
collection, some of of it nearly a thousand years old.
enjoyed our visit here, but we were on deadline for the evening's
activities, so after a little less than an hour, we headed back to
Colorado Springs. Don had arrived a few days early and stayed in a
motel near downtown, where he discovered an excellent Mexican
restaurant. He ate there at least twice, and we had agreed that it
would be the spot for our Sunday night dinner. Don knew the
location, but did not recall the name, so we drove to it, and I went
in to make reservations. They normally do not do this, but when I
advised them there would be eleven of us arriving at 6 p.m., they
decided it would be best for everyone to have a table ready.
had previously decided to meet before dinner in the lobby for group
photos. This included the re-creation of the 1962 photo, such as it
was with all the older generation missing, as well as various family
groups and whatever other combinations we came up with. At this time we
learned that the group that went to the Academy also went to Pike's
Peak. The very top was covered with clouds, but they were able to
get a good view in the parking area just below the summit, and they
found the road "exciting."
the photography session was finished, we drove to the restaurant, where we
had good food and good service. All agreed that Don had made a wise
this time some of us had discovered that each room had a booklet on what to do in
Colorado Springs, and that it contained a coupon for free breakfast for two at
the hotel cafe. We decided to meet Monday at nine a.m. for a final
meal. Don got off to an early start and was not with us, but the
other ten all made it, and we enjoyed a last hour together before
saying our final goodbyes.
While some were heading home that day,
seven of us had additional activities planned. Don had ridden his
bike, and planned to take a different scenic route home. Linda and
Anne were heading for Estes Park in the Rockies north of Denver,
then to Cheyenne WY. Gayle had a granddaughter graduating in San
Diego, so she and Jim were driving to Denver, then flying to
California from there. Darlene had a consulting job in Irvine CA,
where she would spend about a week. I was headed west mostly on US
50, with a visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on
June 15: Before leaving home I had made reservations for two
nights in Montrose CO, on US 50 near the Black Canyon National Park.
From Colorado Springs I drove southwest on CO 115, through hills
at first and then in open rolling country to Cañon
City. Near there I
picked up US 50, which follows the
Arkansas River for miles; starting up into the mountains past the
town of Salida. Driving into the mountains, I saw lightning off to my right. There was
a valley in that direction and another to the left with sunlit snow-covered
mountains beyond, so the road could go either way. I was hoping it went
left; it did and I had just a few
raindrops through this area.
the road moved away from the Arkansas River, it mostly followed
Monarch Creek to Monarch Pass, through heavy forest with snow pretty
much covering the ground under
the trees. Over the pass, it went down into open, nearly treeless
country, with marshy flat land next to a creek
but high desert above that. There were snow-covered mountains
visible off in the distance nearly everywhere on the drive.
last miles into Montrose were more typical Colorado Plateau country,
with canyons and cliffs. Highway 50 crosses a large reservoir on the
upper Gunnison River, then drops down into a big flat valley with
mountains all around. This is the location of Montrose, and driving south through
town, I had a
good view of the snow-covered San
had brought stuff to make sandwiches, so I ate in the motel room,
then went out to get ice cream at a Russell
Stover. Although their
emphasis is on candy, many stores, including this one, have a good
ice cream selection. I managed to get my purchase back to the motel
so I could eat it in comfort, while watching the last game of the
Stanley Cup final, won by the Chicago Blackhawks.
June 16: Today was my day to visit Black
Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The section of the canyon that
runs through the national park is deep, steep and narrow. The cliffs
rising up from the river range from 1,800 to 2,400 feet high, while
the distance across from rim to rim is only a few hundred feet. The
north rim is less accessible, with only dirt roads leading to it,
and traveling from one side to another takes about two and a half
hours. I back-tracked on US 50 a
few miles to Colorado Highway 347, the paved road into the South Rim, which was
less than 15 miles from my motel.
into the park I didn't notice how far up in elevation I was going,
but it became obvious when I drove back down at the end of the day.
The South Rim at the campground is 8,320 feet, while the town of
Montrose is just over 5,600.
a stop at Tomichi Point, the first of many overlooks, I
continued the short distance to the visitor center, where I got some
information on hiking trails. Before hiking, I followed the walkway
from the visitor center to the Gunnison Overlook, just below the
building. It turned out to be one of the best viewing spots in the
at the map and talking with the ranger in the visitor center, I
discovered a two-mile loop trail that looked like something I could
do. It starts with the Rim Rock Trail, which is a fairly level route
close to the canyon rim, then connects to the Uplands Trail, which
goes into the brush and juniper country just above the road. This
hike started and ended great, but in between there were some
challenges. I had not walked more than a quarter mile when a wind
came up and it started to rain. I took cover next to a large
juniper, which blocked most of the horizontal rain, but did nothing
to stop the wind. I had a poncho, which I haven't used for
years, and it started splitting down the front as I put it on. With
the wind blowing it up, it did not provide much protection.
wind died down a little and I started down the trail, only to be
driven back to my juniper as the rain and wind increased again. Once
the storm backed off enough for me to continue my walk, I went down the trail a little
farther, but turned back where it reached Tomichi Point, about a half
mile in. By the time I got back to the starting point at the visitor
center, rain and wind were done, and it was actually hot in the sun.
for my trip I had read the description of the Oak Flat Loop trail,
and decided it was not for me. It was described as strenuous, with a
300 foot elevation drop below the rim, and a series of switchbacks
and other steep areas back up. However, my first "hike"
was just over a mile, including the Gunnison Overlook walk, so I
decided I would start out on the Oak Flat Loop and see how far I
was not long into this hike before the steep down hill descent
began, and once down to the lowest point, it seemed that it would
not be that hard to continue on and do the entire trail, which I
did. I was glad I made this decision, since the best views of the
canyon were along this trail, much of it was in shade, and it did
not seem all that strenuous. There were lots of trees and shrubs,
and I saw over 20 species of wildflowers. A few short stretches went
along the canyon with a drop-off to one side, but it was not
dangerous or difficult.
the trail is two miles long, I made it longer, first by going back a
quarter mile or so to the car to get my hiking poles, and at the end
by back-tracking another quarter mile or so to find my hat, which
had fallen off my pack.
back at the trailhead, I took another look around the visitor
center, then started out the road that parallels the canyon for
about eight miles, with ten more places where you can stop and walk
out to the rim for a view. These walks ranged from 100 to 1,000
yards, so I kept track of my mileage here also, and ended up with
over four miles of walking for the day - and that was without
stopping at every overlook.
final view, where the road dead ends, is more or less the end of the
major canyon area, and offers a view off in the distance where the
canyon opens up and the river flows through a wide plain, with low
cliffs on each side.
the return trip I stopped and enjoyed more
views at two places I had passed on the way in,
then continued out of the park and back to town. Coming down the
road just outside the park, I was treated to a spectacular view of
the San Juans.
was not tempted to hike down into the canyon, especially after
reading this on the park web site: "There are no maintained or marked trails into the inner canyon. Routes are difficult to follow, and only individuals in excellent physical condition should attempt these hikes.
"Hikers are expected to find their own way and to be prepared for self-rescue. While descending, study the route behind, as this will make it easier on the way up when confronted with a choice of routes and drainages. Not all ravines go all the way to the river, and becoming "cliffed out" is a real possibility.
"Poison ivy is nearly impossible to avoid, and can be found growing 5 feet tall along the river. Pets are not allowed in the wilderness. Inner canyon routes are not meant for small children."
are they meant for 75-year old casual hikers.
back in town, I
stopped at a pizza place and got pizza for dinner, taking it back to
the motel. Once again I was forced to visit Russell Stover for
17: I did not decide on my final homeward route and
stopping points till I got back from the Black Canyon Monday night.
I wanted to return by a different route to the extent feasible, and
did not want any more 500+ mile days. Since my next scheduled
activity was not till Saturday, I had three days for the journey
from Montrose to Clovis. With a little help from the Internet I did
some city to city distance calculations, and decided to mostly
follow US 50 and US 6.
made reservations for Delta UT and Tonopah NV, both places where I've
stayed before with the trailer in RV parks. This gave me two
days with 300+ miles each and a final day with less than 300. I
would take US 50 from Montrose to Ely NV, then US 6 into California,
and CA 120 over the Tioga Pass into Yosemite Valley, and CA 41
down to Fresno.
from Montrose to Grand Junction is a gentle
down hill run for 30 miles. About half way through this stretch, the
Gunnison River crosses US 50 at Delta CO. From here it is a broad, shallow valley instead of a gorge.
The road parallels the river, but mostly a half mile or more to the
east of it, and after crossing, I did not see the actual river
wondered just what is so grand about Grand Junction. Well, it lies
along I-70, with US 50 coming in from the southeast and US 6 from
the northwest. In addition, the Gunnison runs into the Colorado
River here...grand enough to justify the name.
am trying not to backtrack, but going west from Grand Junction to Salina UT, US 50 is the same as
I-70 for 210 miles, so that
section would be a repeat. At Salina US 50 heads northwest, then is contiguous
with I-15 south for a few miles, finally heading west across the
rest of Utah and into Nevada. From Delta to Ely US 6 and US 50 are
the same. Fortunately, the repeated section is through some of the best scenery
anywhere, and the views are noticeably different when heading the
There are about five
view points, all worth stopping at. Going east I had a fairly late
start and a long drive, so I didn't stop as much as I would have
liked. Today with only 337 miles to go and getting on the road at 8:08
a.m., I stopped at all the places I missed, napped several times,
and took lots of pictures.
east from Green River UT, the land is fairly open and level, with
low mesas on the north. This ends abruptly at the San Rafael
Reef, which is the eastern edge of the San
Rafael Swell. It's worth reading up on this remarkable
geological feature, but in brief it marks the beginning of a rugged
area of amazing rock formations - valleys, canyons, gorges, mesas and buttes.
The reef and the adjacent maze of tangled, twisted canyons to the
west presented a formidable barrier to early travelers, who detoured
20 miles north to get around it.
a remarkable feat of engineering, I-70 was built through the reef,
and a narrow passage where a man could stand and touch the walls on
both sides was widened to interstate standards with the removal of
3.5 million cubic yards of rock. The vista point for this is only
accessible to westbound traffic, but west of here the eastbound
route offers many views of the rugged country that is the main part
of the San Rafael Swell.
of the better
views, with stopping points in both directions, is
Eagle Canyon, said by early settlers to be "so deep an eagle
can't fly out of it." Heading west, this was just one of
several magnificent vista points I enjoyed.
driven this route previously, but I think in the past I missed the
point where US 50 goes northwest at Salina
UT, and ended up going
southwest on I-70 to I-15, then had to cut across to US 50 via state
and local roads. This time I paid attention and exited at Salina,
where I had lunch at Mom's
There's an old saying, "never play poker
with a man named Doc, and never eat at a place called Mom's,"
but it does not apply in this case. I had a good hamburger and
excellent French fries. The
building dates back to the 1800s, and has been Mom's for about
Salina the highway goes about 20 miles northwest to I-15, then
south a short distance before striking west to Delta UT.
Driving through some hilly country before reaching I-15, I learned
that Utah does not have passing lanes....they are "climbing
lanes." I had stayed in Delta twice in the past in the RV
park with my trailer, and also went through here last summer
but did not stop. US 6
joins US 50 here and they are contiguous for many miles to Ely NV.
It's a flat section at the lower end of the Sevier River Valley,
with various crops surrounding the town.
arrived about 4:30, with the temperature a warm 90 degrees. Since I had a big, late lunch at Mom's,
supper was not an issue, but I had a snack and got in some reading,
plus a short walk in the warm evening.
319 mile drive, from Delta to Tonopah, did not offer the dramatic
scenery of the previous day, but it was still an interesting and
enjoyable journey. West of Delta I kept a sharp lookout for loco
cows, since this is the area where I hit one with my pickup in 2004.
Most of the "open range" is now fenced, but there's 60
feet or so of land on both sides of the road before the fence, and
cows have been known to escape.
of the way was through the Great
Basin, which means driving up over
passes that are mostly above 6,000 feet, then down into broad
basins, often ten to twenty miles across, and up over the next pass.
At the Utah-Nevada border, I was looking at the Snake
location of Great Basin National Park, which I visited during my
summer. This was one of the more scenic
spots, with quite
a few patches of snow still visible on these mountains.
first few passes are heavily forested with piñon and juniper in the
higher elevations, while sage brush, grasses and other small plants
mark the lower reaches. Two of the later passes did not go up high
enough for heavy tree growth, but I found an excellent lunch stop at
the top of one pass - a trail head with shaded picnic
tables and a strong breeze. I was not tempted to follow any of the
trails, since they led into mostly open country, and even with the
breeze and the elevation it would have been very warm very quickly.
one point I came over a pass and spotted a pickup parked off the
road, and a highway patrol car with flashing lights coming slowly toward me, partly in my lane. It was followed immediately by another
patrol vehicle in my lane, and the officer signaled me to pull
over. He then explained that a wide load was coming, and we were to
"sit tight." It was about ten minutes before the load
arrived, preceded by another patrol car and a "wide load"
pilot car. I was trying to take a picture of the big
vehicle, so did
not get a good look at it, but it took up nearly all of the two-lane
road, fully justifying the efforts that had been planned to clear
gained back a lost hour at the Nevada border, I arrived at Tonopah a
little after 3, but actually had about the same amount of travel
time as the previous day. I checked into Tonopah Station, a hotel,
casino and RV park, which is also where I stayed with the trailer on a
had eaten part of my leftover pizza from Montrose for lunch, and
finished the rest for supper, heating it in the communal microwave in the
hall. At least I have my own refrigerator, and unlike many travelers
of a century ago, my own bathroom.
June 19: Today's drive offered the only scenery that
surpassed the Utah canyon country - driving through Yosemite
I had about an hour of driving through more Nevada basin country to
the state line. Just after US 6
enters California at the town of Benton, I turned on to California
120, which goes through some mountain country and into a lupine-covered plain,
then over some more low mountains through the largest pure stand of
Jeffrey Pine in the world. The lupines in some places form 100
square foot patches of
blue, and line the road for a mile or two.
This variety has a very compact flower cluster, making for an exceptional
intensity of color.
the road goes through the pine forest, I stopped at the site of Mono
Mills, where lumber and firewood was cut for the mining town of Bodie.
A railroad ran from the mill to the town, but the only things left
are a few rotting timbers from the mill complex. There is a very
nice viewing platform, with informational signs that include some
this location Mono
Lake comes into view, and the state road soon joins US 395 and runs north contiguous with it for a few miles,
before turning west to go over Tioga
From the junction the road rises steeply to the 9,900 foot pass,
which is also the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. From
there the road goes down to Tuolumne Meadows. In this area cars were
parked everywhere there was room, there was pedestrian traffic along
the road, and it was a slow, crowded area.
this spot there is a vista point which I believe is second only to Glacier
Point - Olmsted
Point. At this large parking area along the road, you are
looking south across a canyon to 9,900 foot Cloud's
Rest. To the west of it is Half
Dome, seen from an angle that is so different from the classic
valley view, that you might not recognize it. And to the east, you
can see Tenaya
Lake and the granite domes that rise above it. From the
blue waters of this
lake, Tenaya Creek flows down a canyon to
Yosemite Valley, where it joins the Merced River.
were fires in the Sierra foothills, and there was a slight smell of
smoke at Olmsted. The view was slightly hazy, but not too bad.
Olmsted the road continues through a long stretch that is fairly
consistent in altitude, with no significant up or down hill. Along
this route I sometimes traveled a mile or two without seeing another
car. Then I came to a construction zone, and saw lots of cars,
sitting in line. The wait here was about ten minutes. I remained in
the construction zone for many miles, although with no stopping for a while, then
had one more short wait.
one place where there was a large paved pullout, I stopped, set up
my lawn chair under a big fir tree, and enjoyed a sandwich for
here the road starts down into the valley, going through three
tunnels, and offering a variation of the classic Yosemite Valley
view, with El Capitan and Half Dome. After crossing the lower end of
the valley, I climbed up to the Wawona
Tunnel, which goes through nearly a mile of solid rock, and is
the longest highway tunnel in California. At the east end there
is a large parking lot, and it is here where you see the most famous
view of the valley. It is near but slightly lower in elevation from the spot where the
Battalion became among the first Caucasians
to see the valley, while chasing a band of Indians accused of
raiding James Savage's trading post.
view here was even more hazy than at Olmsted, and I felt bad for the
many tourists there, some of whom who were no doubt making the only
visit of their lives to Yosemite. Even so, all the major features
were visible. Bridalveil Falls was just a trickle, the level we
expect to see in late August.
here I ended my tourist phase, and made the 90 mile drive back home,
stopping only to use the restroom at Chinquapin.
I got home around 4:30, having added 2,531 miles to the Honda, and
satisfied that both the family gathering and my sight-seeing
activities had been a success.
Estel, June 2015