Summer ’86: Part XIII

I had my usual “roady” breakfast of a banana and milk, and shortly merged with the “mother lode” road, CA 49, passing through little towns with indigenous names such as Chinese Camp, Moccasin, and Mount Bullion where I took CA 140 into Yosemite National Park, my first visit ever to California’s Pride and Joy.  And was it ever!

Once inside the park, I saw nary a one out-of-state license plate.  Suddenly I felt like an intruder in the middle of all that California congestion of every imaginable motor vehicle.  It reminded me of my sojourn through Yellowstone in a sad sort of way.  Nonetheless, there wasunbelievable beauty to behold. It was as if God Himself had clawed out a valley in the middle of the Sierras.  Of course, the most recognizable geological feature in the park was the spectacular granite outcropping known as Half Dome, which was made a natural icon by photographer Ansel Adams in the 1940s with his landmark black and white photos.

As I exited Yosemite, the park attendant said, “I notice you have Colorado plates. I’m not surprised you didn’t find a campsite. People just in California have to make reservations six months in advance.”  I was content in finally finding a roadside rest area just outside the park where I didn’t have to nudge lug nut-to-lug nut in between RVs.  With the temperature in the 60s, I nodded off into never-never land.

I was starting my 32nd day on the road with about 5,650 miles behind me as I headed south on CA 41 back out into the fertile valleys of central California.  I stopped for gas in Fresno (pop. 515,210, elev. 296) and traveled due east on CA 180 for a first-time visit to the Sequoia National Forest.

At first glance, I was petrified (no pun intended) at the incredible heights (somewhere between 200 and 300 feet) that the trees had sprouted to in around a thousand years.  I stood at the base of one of the giants, which had a trunk of at least ten feet in diameter, and looked straight up through all the branches.

Dimensionally, I felt about two feet tall.  It was impossible to photograph a giant Sequoia in one frame, so I spliced a top and bottom half with me standing at the base in the latter frame for scale, done with the tripod and ten second timer.  I had to sprint some 30 yards to get into position before the timer clicked. I wanted to record on film how miniscule we humans were in the grand scheme of things (my photo later proved my point).  I left the forest realizing that I had just encountered the most magnificent arboreal creations on the face of the earth.

I headed back west to Visalia on CA 198 where I merged with southbound I-5, bypassing Bakersfield and cresting at the 4,183 ft. Tejon Pass.  About an hour later, I was officially in Los Angeles when I passed a city limit sign reading: pop. 2,966,763, elev. 130.  Obviously, that figure only represented L.A. proper with the entire metropolitan area having a population of over 6 million.

It had been a long day of driving (almost 300 miles) and the sun was getting low on the horizon.  I had no intention of going any further into the City of Angels, so I at my first chance I exited onto a rural road into the Big Tujunga Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains.

There were no picnic or rest areas indicated on the map, so I had to fend for myself to find a suitable spot to spend the night.  As luck would have it, I finally found a niche carved out of the side of the mountain with an oak tree to park under – it was perfect.  Before retiring, I spotted a California condor circling overhead.  Being of the vulturine species, I was hoping it wasn’t an omen that I was going to die in bed that night so it could feast on my carcass.  Oh yeah, I left the skylight open, not just for ventilation, but so the bird would have easy access.

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