Friday, 5 October 2012

Alpine to Sea Level

Oct. 3rd - Wednesday

It was a day of extremes.  Pulled up camp with a bit of cold morning and drove through the Sierra Nevada alpine (High Sierra they call it) and really enjoyed the views up on top. The exposed granite, the immediate mountain tops right there in front of us, at eye level was really cool. We were seeing the exfoliation of  rocks and "erosion" with pines growing right out of the  granite. We saw the "onion effect" that the visitor centre talked about. Just really neat to see it so close instead up gazing up at it. As we drove out of the granite, we entered different rocks - volcanic material which had a totally different hue and look. We got through the Tioga Pass at 9945 ft (3031metres)  and then the steady and sometimes steep decline took us right down to the dry eastern edges of the Sierra Nevada (Mono Lake).

see the moon?

I love images of the boys in motion

Look out point back down Yosemite Valley -
can see Half Dome on the  far right

Glaciers have been here - left a few things behind.

Different geological forces leaving a different look -

reddish rock from volcanic action -
Sean finding rocks for our growing collection

We had crossed the 9945 ft - Tioga Pass
and now on the east side of the Sierra Nevada range
 and the downward portion.
Mono Lake
(lots to explore around this area too..but no time)

We had our sights on sleeping in Death Valley National Park, so we kept trucking (heading south) and the terrain shifted to flat, arid and just scrub.  
Hwy 395 south - hot, dry, flat

Death Valley National Park entrance
We had it in our mind that Death Valley was going to be flat but we hadn't really thought about the mountains we had to cross to get to the "valley" portion! .. so the poor van had more climbing before it was done for the day and it turned out, it was a bit too much. We overheated about 1/2 hour before our final destination ( Stovepipe Wells) and just as the sun was setting! So, before the day was done, we had a bit of an adventure. The kids and I  hunted for rocks while Eric unpacked the back, and let the engine cool. The kids were good.. we ended up eating cookies and Chek Mix for dinner and took it all in stride. 

heading  towards the Valley (but little did we know it wasn't "the" valley)

see the road.. and the range on the other side?
That is where we are heading

in the valley but not "the Death Valley"..
still need to climb on the other side

Over heating at sunset

clearing out the back and opening up the engine to let it cool down

boys hunting for interesting stones

Eric - still able to smile ..
despite the worry stirring beneath

It was  bit nerve recking.. the thoughts of our poor van dying in Death Valley, with a blown engine..  we still had some climbing to do.. we had to pull over one more time (the van was in 2nd gear going up!) and for this stop we got Pj's on, teeth brushed and read some of our Roahl Dahl book (Witches) as we waited for the sizzling sound from the engine to stop.  It was full on nighttime  at this point and oh.. the night sky! It was absolutely amazing seeing the sky sooo full and bright with stars and the milky way was so evident. A natural planetarium! Sean was busy trying to pick out the constellations and mentioned a few (which I think he learned about from our Science North visit 3 months ago in Ontario! I was so happy to see the learning being connected to real life! )  The rest of the drive was down hill (into The Death Valley and we pulled up at Stovepipe Wells village to find out that the RV sites were all taken! But.. by then I was really just going with the flow on things and there was a very basic National Park camp (basically a parking lot with restrooms) and so we camped there. But.. the Stovepipe Wells Village is really just a tourist stopover spot - gas, general store, motel and that's it.. but.. for just $4 each we could make use of the pool and showers! So, before the day was over, we all had an evening dip in the pool (the air was so hot and dry.. it was just perfect) and the moon was rising at this point so we could just make out the desert outlines as we set up camp. 


  1. Another great story to wake up to! Wow...great writing...I have not bothered to read my book for a while as yours is much better! Great photos, I loved the one of Eric unloading the van in Death Valley! I can only imagine how wonderful that night sky was...I remember one like that when I was in the Australian desert...just fabulous. I am already looking forward to your photos and stories from South America! Stay Brave....I am soooooooooo proud of all of you!


  2. Thanks Dave! Keep the compliments coming.. I love it!