The Sierras have my heart

August 15, 2019

Annie, the sweet old lady that ran the campground, made me coffee and fruit for breakfast. I took a slow morning since I was at the base of Conway Pass already. I was happy I’d pushed the extra five miles yesterday.

I made my way up Conway Pass, feeling moody, homesick and intimidated. I was cursing the hill, then recognized what an inefficient mindset I was in and stopped for a snack. While I was stopped, I noticed the flowering sagebrush, and how overwhelming it smelled on this road. Other wildflowers lined the road and provided a colorful foreground to the red and grey mountains in the distance. From then on, it was a joyride to the summit.

The road dropped and dramatic views of Mono Lake took my breath away. At the bottom of the hill, I stopped at Mono Lake. A plaque read that I was on the westernmost edge of the Great Basin. The east edge is the Wasatch. I thought about the miles that stretched between me and home, but how little this world is.

Temperatures were rising and I stopped in Lee Vining for cold brew, lunch, and a nap on a porch swing. I still had some hours to kill in the heat of the day and biked to the Mobil for their world famous fish tacos. The tacos didn’t disappoint. Two employees kept coming by and chatting, very impressed by my trip. One brought me a piece of carrot cake, telling me I deserved it more than anyone else. I really appreciated the cake.

At about 4, I gathered my motivation and started cycling up Tioga Pass. It had been intimidating me for days, and I threw myself into it. I was going to make it up, even if it meant walking the bike. My knees hurt, my gearing was too hard, but I pedaled what I could and walked the rest. The road was cut into the side of a mountain and the steepness was unforgiving.

You know you’re fucked when you see this

It took a while, but I made it to the top by 6:30 and had a dance party at the summit. I took a downhill into Tuolumne Meadows Campground and was greeted with hugs by my friend Hailey at the Yosemite Search and Rescue site. I ate the carrot cake from the Mobil and fell asleep in a canvas tent, happy my knees held up for the 5000’ day.

August 16, 2019

Rest day. After breakfast, me and Makayla, a gal staying at the YOSAR camp, went to scramble up Lembert Dome. We ran up the sticky granite slabs and enjoyed a 360 view of Tuolumne Meadows from the top.

I stopped by the general store and picked up a salad kit, cherry tomatoes, and a beer. Back at camp I ate my veggies and rolled my legs out while sipping beer. The sun felt amazing on my skin.

I looked at maps, made more coffee, ate Milano cookies, lounged, nibbled on snacks, and lounged some more.

Lembert Dome

Once I was bored of lounging, I took a hike up to Dog Lake and sat down on glacially-polished granite in a clearing. I pressed my palms into the granite and felt connected to this ancient, special place.

I biked back to an empty camp and cooked alfredo for dinner. It felt unusually lonely, so I took a walk around the campground and ran into Jeff and Sharon. Together, we walked over to a ranger talk. He was talking about the idea of home by comparing it to bird migrations, and he followed up with singing and guitar. His words touched ideas floating around my head, too abstract to really catch, but I teared up a little.

August 17, 2019

I had a slow morning, drinking coffee and laughing with the YOSAR camp folk. I got on the bike, assuming it would be a downhill, low mile day to Yosemite Valley. Wrong!

I looked at my map and realized I had 60 miles with considerable elevation gain. Not what I expected. There were some big hills and I struggled to get my mind into a state of acceptance of the situation. I felt beat down and tired.

After the biggest of the hills, I ran into Jeff and Sharon. We hit a nice downhill, and they peeled off to take a hike. I stopped at the only gas station for miles in the national park for a burrito and a whole bag of chips, then took a nap in the woods. Right as I woke up, Jeff, Sharon, and Alfonso rolled in. I saw Alfonso around camp last night, but we just met now. He’s an older, very animated, Austrian man on a recumbent bike with tasteful glasses. He’s still learning English, so talking to him is very fun. Lots of charades.

I set off in front of the three on a huge downhill into the heart of Yosemite National Park. Giant granite walls came into view and soon I caught sight of the beautiful Merced River and El Capitan. Wow, it was big! I laid down in a meadow and looked up at the rock, taking in every single flake and water streak. I think I’ll climb that thing someday.

Down the road, I stopped at the Yosemite village market and my jaw dropped at all the fresh produce. I left with a salad kit, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and chocolate. I rolled my way over to the backpackers campground and found my three bike friends and met another solo bike female, Ashley, and some guys doing the John Muir Trail. We all had dinner together and talked about our tours.

August 18, 2019

Alfonso, Ashley, and the others took off early this morning. I went on a hike with Sharon and Jeff to Mirror Lake. Half Dome loomed over us and the lake reflected the surrounding monoliths. After our hike, we made our way to Yosemite Village to get WiFi and figure out a plan to get to the coast. We found a bus to take us to Merced, and it would take our bikes too!

We hopped off the bus in Merced, and immediately it reminded me of Yakima (not in a good way). But thankfully I had friends this time to cycle with. We found a nice motel to spend the night, catty corner from a McDonald’s. Jeff was excited about that! We had dinner at Maccer’s (Aussie for McDonald’s) and finished it off with a soft serve cone. Back in the room, we fell asleep watching Wonder Woman. It felt good having a proper bed. Aaaah, the spoils of the city!

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