Eastern side of Tioga Pass
This was taken at about the 9500 foot level. That is the Mono Valley in the background and Mono Lake is in the middle of it. You can see the highway slicing along the mountain side in the background on either side of the tree.
This was another day of straightforward driving. I wanted to get to Bishop, CA in time to see Galen Rowell’s gallery, ‘Mountain Light’. It wasn’t a difficult or long drive and I arrived in Bishop at 2:30pm with lots of time for visiting the gallery.
On the way I traversed Yosemite Park on Hwy 120 which is called The Tioga Highway because it goes over the Tioga Pass. That was a neat road to drive and would have been a lot of fun on a motorcycle for sure. There weren’t too many cars and the road surface was in perfect shape.
The road climbs out of Yosemite Valley on a steep hill, through tunnels and switchbacks, rising to around 10,000 feet at the pass. The car had to work pretty hard all the way as evidenced by the rate of fuel use which is displayed on the dash. You can count the pennies as you drive.
The road seems to follow along the top of a high ridge rather than down in a valley. There were lots of tight corners where I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road to look at the view because there were
Yosemite Park on Hwy 120
This is the kind of mountain structure that is common to the pass. Not something we would see in the Canadian Rockies that is for sure. This was only one. There were the shapes of granite all along the pass road.
no guard rails and the drop off was almost like a cliff. Every little lake or waterfall had a collection of tourist cars parked and people out wandering around with their cameras. It was pretty, but pretty common for us who live so close to the Rockies.
What was unique was that the mountains were made of that hard granite that I encountered in Yosemite Valley. The peaks were high, but most with rounded tops. I imagine that Half Dome looked like these before the glacier sheered off half of it.
What I didn’t realise until I was coming down the other side into the Mono Basin, was how high I was on that drive. Ten thousand feet is a long way up. At the top of the pass it was 15C, but by the time I got down to the bottom of the east valley at Leevining, CA it was 25C but that was still at 7000 feet. When I got down to Bishop at 4150 feet the temperature was just over 30C.
I must say something about Mountain Light
Galen and Barbara Rowell conceived this gallery to handle Galen’s print and book sales. It opened in 1983 as a business and over the years has grown significantly. The gallery grew out of peoples interest in Galen’s photography and became a branch of the business.
Sadly, both were killed in an airplane accident in 2002 while returning from a workshop that they ran in Alaska. Barbara, a skilled pilot, was not flying. They had chartered an airplane. The plane stalled on their approach into Bishop, their home - pilot error. The crash killed everyone on board. What a waste. It is a testament to the quality of their work that Mountain Light is a successful business even today.
The gallery is huge and the images stunning. You can see some of them on line, but to see the real prints is a unique experience, believe me.
I found Bishop to be a very friendly little town. I was in a very clean and quiet motel and had a good meal nearby. One of those places I won’t soon forget. Interestingly, they know that people travelling in the area will want to be up and going early to avoid the mid-day heat of 100F plus. The breakfast was laid on at 6am and all the gas stations in town were open then as well.
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