Sawtooth Canyon & Yosemite

Sawtooth Canyon BLM
Nights: 3
Hikes: 1

After our truncated stay in Death Valley we needed to find somewhere to hang out before heading toward Sacramento to get new tires on the Airstream. Between us and that other valley lay the Sierra Nevada mountains and everywhere we looked still had a chance of snow, so we opted to head south before heading north. With several BLMs to choose from near Barstow CA, we picked Sawtooth Canyon because someone compared it to the rocks of Joshua Tree. Plus it was only one mile down a dirt road and the other BLM was four.

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We drove in to find a beautiful campground surrounded by the dark, jagged rocky hills that give this campground it’s name. We saw several spots where climbers were honing their skills, and even though this is BLM, there were designated sites with tables and fire pits, many already occupied. We nestled the Airstream against the rocks.

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There was even a dinosaur playground!

With Chuck nursing a sore knee (an old injury aggravated by twisting his ankle), I climbed to the top of the rocky hill behind our trailer on my own.

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The next day I made my way up one of the higher hills to see the views.

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View back toward the campground. Our trailer is by the white patch in the middle.
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Not sure why someone piled these rocks like this.

I was disappointed to find that on the other side was a valley much like the one we had come through, but excited by all the wildflowers and budding cacti I found hiding among the rocks.

Our last night a Subaru and small trailer splashed with graphics pulled up next to us. They were Subaru/Leave No Trace traveling trainers (lnt.org) and spend nearly 250 days a year on the road camping. They were in town to lead training at the local BLM office and for local students. We got to chat a little and swap favorite camping spots. Cool that these campers are spreading the word about treading lightly on our beautiful lands.

Park of the Sierra Escapees Co-op
Nights: 3
Highlight: Yosemite, our tenth national park!

Along highway 99 in southern CA there are not many good spots to camp. We didn’t want to venture too far toward the mountains because the weather was predicted to get cold. We finally settled on another Escapees park in the foothills, figuring we could crank up the heat if necessary. As a bonus it was just an hour outside Yosemite.

Leaving Sawtooth we headed west and near the town of Mojave we saw lots of commercial airplanes. Surely there couldn’t be a busy airport here in the middle of nowhere. Googling it later, we found out it was an airplane graveyard where they store old planes for parts because of the dry desert air. We also started to see wind turbines. As we climbed through the pass there were hundreds of them in various designs, big and small. Then we hit the other side of the pass we started to see rolling green hills scattered with oak trees and lichen covered boulders. Definitely a change of scenery from where we’d been. These were the rolling hills I remember from my youth in California.

Going over the pass on highway 58 was not bad (yay, no snow!), but heading up highway 99 we found the going tough. The road is crumbling, the onramps are short so we were nearly squashed between semis, and the towns are sketchy. By the time we arrived we were worn out.

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Love that redbud tree in bloom behind us!

This park was very different from the other Escapees parks we’ve visited. The sites are spread among hills with mature trees giving it a bit more of a campground feel. We could see signs of spring everywhere with daffodils, iris, and wildflowers in bloom. Our spot was at the top of a hill with views of the green valley to one side and the distant casino to the other. We pulled in just as it started to rain, then hail, then the sun came out. Yep, it’s spring.

The next day was slated to be sunny so even though we would have liked a day to rest we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and visit Yosemite on Thursday and do laundry on rainy Friday.

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Driving on highway 41 we curved back and forth climbing up and down hills. I tried not to look at the drop off as we saw signs for 4000, then 5000 then 6000 feet. Funny, less than a week ago we had been sweltering in Death Valley and now we were staring at snow on the side of the road. I was glad we hadn’t left too early or there would have been ice on the road. Chuck was glad we weren’t towing the trailer. In spite of all this, it was a great way to approach Yosemite. We came through the famous tunnel to a spectacular view of the valley that took our breath away.

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It looked almost unreal, the sun bringing everything into sharp focus: El Capitan, Half Dome and several waterfalls gushing with spring rain. It was amazing!

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El Capitan

We took a short walk to the viewpoint for Bridal Veil falls. You could feel the spray coming off like rain even from a distance and we decided not to get any wetter.

Even on this weekday in early spring the park was busy and we were glad we did not wait until summertime to visit. Parking lots were already full so I can’t imagine trying to find parking then. Visiting Yosemite Village we walked through the visitor center, the Ansel Adams gallery, the old post office, and the museum. Everywhere you turned there were spectacular views of the cliffs and waterfalls.

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Upper Yosemite Falls
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Love all that mist!
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Half Dome
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Yosemite Falls

Taking a different route out of the park we found highway 140 covered by a slide. It looked like it had been there a while as they had installed some pretty serious one lane bridges to detour around it. With the length restrictions for the detour our trailer would have been too long so I guess we lucked out that I hadn’t been able to find a campground in the park.

I’d love to make a return trip to Yosemite when we can take a hike and view more of the wonderful sights, perhaps during fall when the leaves on the trees would color the hills although a spring visit will be hard to beat with the gushing waterfalls and magenta red bud trees popping against the green hills.

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I got to put our 10th sticker on the map!

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