Lake Tahoe to Mariposa
We had set ourselves the goal of driving from Lake Tahoe to somewhere near Yosemite National Park today. If we had all got up a bit earlier we would also have driven around the lake but we are late risers at the moment. We were originally thinking of Sonora as destination but went for Mariposa, quite a bit further south. This involved some strenuous driving near the end of the day (see below). First though we had to head over the state line into Nevada (part of South Lake Tahoe - the part where all the casinos are - is in Nevada). This took us over the mountains into a gorgeous valley of farmland on a high plain (admittedly not very fertile looking) surrounded on four sides by mountains. From there we had to head over the Carson Pass (8576 ft). Somewhere in there we had lunch at the Kirkwood Inn (est. 1864!) in Kirkwood (pop. 96) up in the mountains at almost 8000 feet. We just stopped there by chance (well it was also the first place for miles...) and it turned out to be great. To judge by the clientele it's a great Sunday meeting place for respectable bikers of a certain age (the soundtrack was all late '60s...) We could hear them meeting up and bidding each other adieu so it was clear they had biked in from different places.
At lower altitudes once more we turned into what appeared to be rolling farmland, although what could be farmed in those temperatures besides cattle I can't imagine. We passed through an old mining town called Angels Camp. This is the home of the annual frog jumping competition, in homage to the (apparently) well-known Mark Twain story "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", set here. The temperature was 105F and we had to seek refuge in air-conditioned stores.
The final stretch of the road towards Mariposa was very winding and tiring after a day with so much driving. On this photo you can just see the beginning of the road in the top centre and also a few of the bends that we had to negotiate:
On arriving in Mariposa we discovered that the direct road (Highway 140) to Yosemite had been blocked by a major rockslide since March and that it was still active, i.e. rocks are still falling. It seems that at one point they feared that it was going to block the Merced river and flood places round about. Due to this we will have to make a large detour tomorrow of at least 50 miles and we are a bit afraid that the roads will be like the one pictured above.
At least the motel was worth driving for. The Mariposa Lodge was a very pleasant place which, even if it had the obligatory large asphalt parking lots, was also decked out with a gazebo and lots of borders.