September 15, 2019.
It was 2:00pm when I parted ways with Pops in eastern California - our relaxing trip into the Sierras just the start of a 3 week journey for me. The next two weeks would be adventuring to - and then through - Wyoming and Colorado with some of the normal folks - Mike @Digiratus and Monte @Blackdawg (and his dad Steve), and also a new face to me - Brett @Squeaky Penguin.
I've been wanting to meet Brett for quite some time now, so I was definitely looking forward to the opportunity. But here I am getting ahead of myself already - first, I needed to make my way east. I'd save myself 18 hours or so by leaving from California vs. going home before heading east - but it was still an 18-hour drive to our rendezvous in Rawlins, WY.
With 24 hours to get there, I figured I would be just fine. Plus, the first leg of the journey would be amazing - I was driving through Yosemite National Park!
My route through Yosemite took me up and over Tioga Pass - one of the most scenic drives in the park if you ask me - and shortly after starting the climb, I was rewarded with a spectacular view. There, in the distance - El Capitan and Half Dome. Wow.
I continued my climb, the speeds slow due to both traffic and park speed limits - but I didn't care. This was the first time I've been through Yosemite in 25-30 years or so, and I was happy to soak it all in!
Eventually I found myself at Olmsted Point and figured that I this must be the pinnacle of the experience - the distant and foreground views of granite so stunning as they unfolded before my eyes.
Little did I know that I was only just starting to see the wonders of Tioga Pass. Here, on the upper plateau, many gems awaited me along the next several dozen miles of road, starting with a rather distant view of Tenaya Lake and the surrounding mountains.
Glad I'm headed that way!
Not knowing that I'd be lucky enough to get to the lake's edge, I was like a kid in a candy store when I discovered that not only did the road skirt much of the lake, but there was almost no one out and about at the lake itself. Well, no one but me that is.
The color of the water - and clarity - was spectacular. Blues and greens. Oh, I could have spent many more hours enjoying this spot - but as it was, I knew that I had a limited time to make my journey...and Google Maps hadn't allocated me much time for sight seeing!
I continued on - noting the vehicles parked on the side of the road as granite faces rose around me. These were climbers, and having recently watched the movie Free Solo, I was doubly mesmerized by their daring heights.
From Tenaya Lake, a turn here and a hill crest there spit me out at something I thought I'd missed entirely: Tuolumne Meadows. A stark contrast to the granite and trees I'd experienced so far, the bright yellow of the fall grass was like a magnet, pulling me across the highway for a closer look. A hike here would have been special, and is something I will return for in the future.
By this time, it was already 5:00pm and while my GPS assured me that I'd only lost about 17 minutes on my overall journey, I was starting to feel the pressure - after all, I still had to make it through the rest of Yosemite, Nevada, part of Utah, and a bit of Wyoming before rendezvousing with Monte and his dad.
So as I came upon Dissappearing Meadows, I did the only thing I could - I stopped to soak it in again. Who knows - if this place really is disappearing, and it takes me another 25 years to return...I may never see it again. At least, that was my justification.
From here though, the park boundary wasn't far - Tioga Pass itself marking the beginning of my descent towards the Nevada border. If I've ever seen this place before, I have zero recollection of it - a fact I was thankful for as I got to experience it for the first time (perhaps again).
Out of the park and onto more traditional freeways, my speed increased dramatically. Or at least comparatively. Cruising along at my standard 62mph, I pressed east. My goal for the evening was to make it across Nevada to near the border with Utah, somewhere around the town of West Wendover. From there, I figured it to be around six more hours to Rawlins, WY - something I could accomplish after a few hours sleep.
As the sun set behind me, I pushed on. Stopping only for food and fuel it was between 1:00am and 2:00am when I pulled of I-80 onto a gravel road and wound my way up into the hills.
A few miles from the highway I found what I considered to be a reasonably good spot to stop. A bit of wind break from some junipers, and a barely-there road were enough for me to feel confident that I wasn't going to see any other folks in the few hours that I'd be resting, and I turned the wheel in order to maneuver the truck into a more level position.
Except that I'd missed a rock that was below my line of sight. Within seconds, the front skid plate bounced up the rock and came to a stop on top of it, all four wheels still on the ground, but traction such that I was essentially high centered.
Yeah, go ahead an laugh. I know I wasn't.
I tried a few different things - forward and reverse obviously, but also various combinations of lockers. Nothing was getting me off that rock. Ultimately, I busted out the Hi-Lift and used it to lift the passenger side of the truck via the slider, so I could then roll backwards on three wheels, away from the rock - hoping that the Hi-Lift would fall away from the truck as I came down.
It worked a charm, and with only my ego bruised, I set up the tent and promptly fell asleep.
- - - - -
September 16, 2019.
I was up just before sunrise, knowing that since I was about an hour shy of West Wendover. With a 2:00pm meet time in Rawlins, I knew that I'd be cutting it close. Luckily, it was a meet time with Monte - so I figured I probably had a couple hour buffer as well!
The miles ticked by as I crossed vast fields of high desert. Windmills, churning around and around broke up the skyline as they generated clean power for thousands of homes.
I think it was around lunch time - at least for me - when I crossed into Wyoming. This was a sign that's become familiar for me the last few years - many of my trips seemingly making their way through this underappreciated state.
As I pulled into Rawlins, it was a little before 3:00pm. The truck needed fuel, I needed a restroom, and soon we'd be on our way to new sights and experiences. I found a nice spot in the shade and set myself up to relax while I waited for Monte and Steve to arrive from the north.
Little did I know that what was shaping up to be a splendiferous trip would turn into something that none of us could have ever expected!
The Whole Story