Journey to Badlands and Beyond

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June 2nd 2011
Published: June 24th 2011
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It's a pretty safe bet that in driving through Death Valley National Park we were going to make it out alive - but still, the name sounds ominous, especially when backed up with a range of sites including: Hell's Gate, Badlands, Devil’s Golfcourse, Starvation Canyon and Dead Man Pass. It’s one of the hottest, driest places in America, and at 86 metres below sea level, the salt-encrusted Badwater Basin, is the lowest point in the Western hemisphere. Lucky for us, we weren’t trail-blazing pioneers and we were well equipped with water, shade and gas, so we could relax and marvel at the technicolour mountains wrapped around us, and venture out onto the salt plains of the evaporated lake bed. The worst we had to contend with was a sand storm that swirled around us, engulfing the car and causing the road to disappear beneath us.

We had hoped to cross into Yosemite from the east via Route 108 but arrived at Bishop to discover that due to heavier than usual snowfall, the pass had not yet been opened, and the Sonoma Pass to the north was closed also. As it was approaching sunset, and we were facing a mammoth 10 hour detour via Lake Tahoe, we resignedly decided to stay put in Bishop for the night. Turns out Bishop on Memorial weekend goes off with the Mule Days a long weekend tradition since 1969, that mixes rodeo, racing, roping, driving, with cowboys, barbeques and live music. Although we arrived there at the end of the 5 day festival, and consequently missed most of the action, the smell of mule dung still hung heavily in the air. Our forced diversion paid off as the next morning the Sonoma Pass was reopened and we were able to cross the Sierra ranges. We drove over the snow covered ranges through the Stanilaus National Forest on the thin ribbon of a road that had been carved between luminous icy walls reaching over 3 metres in some points.

Yosemite National Park with it’s granite cliffs, redwood groves and gushing waterfalls is one of the most popular and celebrated parks in the United States , and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We “camped” the night in the Park at the ‘housekeeping’ quarters, a collection of permanent concrete and canvas tents that are located along the River Merced. Though it was pricey for what you got, the location right in the park, on the river under the goliath trees was worth it. Our neighbours Julia and Morgan (from San Francisco) proved to be awesome company and we enjoyed an evening under the trees, swapping tales around the campfire.

A couple of weeks back D MJ Binkley from Travelblog who live in San Francisco contacted us, and very kindly invited us over to their place for dinner. Dave and Merry-Jo spoilt us with some delicious and hearty home-cooked Southern fare: juicy meatloaft, peas and bacon served with lashings of mashed potato and gravy. We not only enjoyed the meal and wine, but also their company and a chance to talk travel adventures with two other explorers. Thanks guys – it was our first “Travelblog hookup” and it was very enjoyable!

The next morning we rose early and crossed the Golden Gate bridge in order to head up to Muir Woods National Monument, which is home to some old-growth redwood trees. The morning started off gloriously in Sausilito sipping on hot coffee and freshly-baked danishes, before heading up to Muir Woods for opening. Perhaps the biggest bonus of getting up at sparrow’s fart (aside from the delicious danishes) was that we were the first to enter the forest, and enjoyed some tree hugging and woodland solitude all to ourselves before the noisy hoardes arrived.

We met Jen while rafting in Nepal back in 2007 (see blog: Gerbil in the Plumbing, Frog in a Blender and Carnal Knowledge of a Deviant Nature) and caught up again whilst we were living in Ireland, now she’s living in San Francisco so some catchup drinks in San Francisco’s North Beach were in order. The perfect end to our road trip.

Additional photos below
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24th June 2011

Great Pictures
These pictures are amazing. I hope you guys are enjoying your travel and having great time in Mexico. Hugs from Victoria!!
24th June 2011

We love your writing style
You have an excellent way with words. If you get back to SF while we are here we'd love to hook up again. It is good to know we were in the presence of a guru! We are glad you made it to Muir Woods....being in the presence of those great trees makes you ponder the universe. Happy travels. Keep in touch.
25th June 2011

Thanks guys!
We miss you too!!

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