**Click the links below to visit all of my galleries from my Western Trip or to purchase a Seth Berry Photography print:
Yosemite National Park | Death Valley National Park | Sequoia National Park | Kings Canyon National Park
Mono Lake, CA | Bodie, CA | Nevada Deserts | California | San Francisco
Some of my favorite parts of my trip were spent on the road. I'm the type of guy who enjoys a nice long drive through the country or in the mountains with my windows down and music playing. I knew going into our trip we were planning to do A LOT of driving (we did about 1,500 miles to be exact)...but it didn't bother me. That's what a road trip is for, right?
I could spend days driving through parts of the country I've never seen before and would be perfectly content and comfortable...which is what we did! Driving through Death Valley surely gave us a road trip experience that was rather unique. But Monday really gave us a true taste of a good ole fashion road trip through the West! Starting out in Lone Pine, CA where we slept the night before, we got a crack of dawn start to our 150 mile trip up the High Sierra Nevadas to Mono Lake, 30 mile trip to an authentic western Ghost Town, 40 mile trip to Tioga Pass in the high parts of Yosemite National Park, and 70 mile trip to Yosemite Valley where we would sleep for 3 nights!
Needless to say, we had a jammed packed schedule on our 3rd day of our Western Adventure with a vast variety of things to see!
Before our trip, we had prayed that we would not only have a safe and incredible adventure, but also have a spiritual experience as we stood in awe of all of God's Wonders! Monday, I believe, we had the first taste of that spiritual connection as we drove through some of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. You'll see further down in this blog post when we began our drive 9,000 ft in elevation on Tioga Pass to Yosemite, the right song and the right time came on in our car. It was as if God was telling us right then and there, "Look, look at all of this that I created. I AM your God and love you." Each of us didn't say a word but just enjoyed the ride, overwhelmed with God's beauty around us. We can only imagine what Heaven will be like that day...
Press play on the song below and listen as you look at these blog pictures - and know that He is God and be blessed.
Monday morning we woke up to the most beautiful view of the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States - Mt. Whitney - with an elevation of 14,505 feet, right outside our motel room. I spent some quiet time out in the field beside our motel, taking sunrise pictures of the huge mountain range. The pail blue morning sky against the bright white mountain cliffs was simply astonishing. Then as the sun came up, the white cliffs turned red.
We enjoyed a hearty continental breakfast in our Western movie themed motel with a nice view of Mt. Whitney. I would love to go back to visit Lone Pine again, because its the location of many old western movies and even Kevin Bacon's Tremors! The little town had a western movie museum and in each place we went into they had old western movie posters and pictures with autographs everywhere. It was a very interesting town, but unfortunately we had to pack up and hit the road to Mono Lake, CA! After the beautiful sunrise pictures of Mt. Whitney, check out the gorgeous drive we took north on US Route 395 up the High Sierras.
Below: Gorgeous views along the scenic US Route 395:
Its a surreal scene when you're driving up US Route 395 with some of the most beautiful huge mountain cliffs on one side and desert lands on your other side, then all of a sudden you approach a massive lake in the distance. The still calm lake is like an oasis. Robbie and I were looking forward to seeing this incredible lake because of it's unique features. This ancient lake, North America's oldest, is nestled in the basin without any outlets. Since it has no outlets and salts and minerals have washed into it from the High Sierra Mountains, it is about 2 1/2 times as salty as the ocean and very alkaline (referenced from Mono Lake Tufa SNR). The high levels of salt in the water over the years have created towering formations in the water called "tufas", which are calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. The lake doesn't have any fish in it, but is home to brine shrimp and a huge migratory of birds. So this is a VERY interesting lake. And like so many people have said, it gives you a feeling as if you're in another world when you observe the lake and listen to the still quietness surrounding you as birds flock in the distance.
Check out the slideshow below and see for yourself!
After spending an amazing time hiking around Mono Lake, we hit the road to get to our next destination of the busy day. However, this would be the roughest road we would encounter the whole trip! I was very excited about going to this location, as we got to drive off the paved road and on 13 miles of dirt mountain roads to get to the secluded and abandoned gold mining town of Bodie - a Ghost Town in the Bodie Hills of California. This sure was an adventure! Thankfully our rented car was a 2013, so we weren't too worried about popping a tire...but I think we came close a couple of times! Bodie was an awesome experience seeing an old western town that was founded after the discovery of gold in 1859. But like the end of all ghost towns, when the gold rush ended and everyone out greed or killed one another, the town was left abandoned. Such a neat place to walk around and imagine how it was back in time.
The only thing I took from this ghost town were my pictures you'll see below, cause after reading about the "Bodie Curse" we made sure not to take anything else! Supposedly records and witnesses have said that if you steal anything from Bodie, later down the dirt road your car would either breakdown, have a flat tire, or you'd run off the road! Do you believe it? Well we surely weren't willing to test it out...
Check out the slideshow of pictures from Bodie below (don't miss the awesome sand tornado we saw out there!)
Below: Driving out of Bodie on rough mountain dirt roads. See patches of ice/snow on top of the mountains ahead of us:
Below: Driving out of Bodie...watch out for cow/bull crossing!
Below: Driving away from Bodie and back towards Mono Lake on US 395.
Below: Mono Lake in the distance from US 395:
Now for the destination we were all waiting for...Yosemite. For sometime now, Yosemite National Park was at the top of my bucket list of things to see in the United States. I couldn't wait to see some of the classic views that were so popularized by the great photographer Ansel Adams. A lot of its visitors always explain how amazing and breathtaking it is seeing some of the largest granite rock cliffs in the world sky scrapping over you making you feel so small. Yosemite National Park, though, is a huge park with 3 main sections that we spent time in...the Tuolumne/Tioga Pass section in the north, Yosemite Valley, and the Mariposa Grove section in the south with the forest of Sequoia trees. Our roadtrip had us entering in the northern section of the national park at some of it's highest elevation via the only road - Tioga Pass. This amazing drive gives you some of the most incredible vistas of the High Sierra Nevada mountains as you're traveling at 10,000 feet elevation with mountains above you at 13,000+. But what also makes this road so amazing is the meadows and lakes it has to offer at such an high altitude.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, when we first entered the Yosemite gates on Tioga Pass, we were overwhelmed with God's beauty surrounding us. It truly was a magnificent place and a spiritual experience. Take a look at my pictures as I show you one-by-one our journey on Tioga Pass before we made it down into Yosemite Valley.
Below: The view behind us as we're entering Yosemite National Park
Below: Amazing views as we drove on Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park
Below: Getting the full effect with the sunroof up. The views were incredible on this road!
Below: The start of our hike in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park
Below: Soda Springs in Tuolumne Meadows. This red spring was filled with carbonated water that would bubble up from the ground. You could taste the water, which I did and did not like! That's the same reaction the pioneers had when they first discovered the place.
Below: The next series of pictures are of the gorgeous Tenaya Lake in Yosemite. The lake at 9,000 feet elevation painted a beautiful reflection of the towering domes above it and the stillness of the water was peaceful like none other.
Below: The next series of photos gave us our first glimpse of the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. This view was from Olmstead Point. Such an amazing place!
The Half Dome...formed by glaciers
Below: On our way down Tioga Pass as we got closer to Yosemite Valley, we began to see more wildlife, including some deer fawn. I didn't get a good photo of them though, but did get the larger deer!
Finally after driving through Las Vegas, Death Valley, Lone Pine, US 395, Mono Lake, Bodie, and Tioga Pass, we made it to our main destination - Yosemite Valley. This is where we stayed the next 3 nights during our amazing Western Road Trip Adventure. Up until this point, the trip couldn't get anymore better than it had been! But it did! When you enter into Yosemite, you witness the iconic and famous view called "Tunnel View". This amazing scene literally takes your breath away as you see the gigantic granite cliffs towering over the valley. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the amazing waterfall in the iconic scene since all of the snow had melted during this time of year. But it was still an amazing sight! After stopping at Tunnel View and taking in the amazing view, we drove down through the valley passing a lot of the landmarks we would see the following days. We finally made it to our camp at about 8:00 PM - Camp Curry in Curry Village. It was time to go camping!!
Except, this camping was in a white tent canopy that was already supplied. A ton of the white tents were lined up in the valley under the trees and huge rock cliffs. It was an amazing setting for a camp. Inside our tent we had 4 camp style beds with mattresses, one light, and nothing much more. But it was plenty enough for us! To frighten you a little, you were forced to take all of your food out of your vehicles and bags and secure them in the bear locker in front of our tent. Tons of signs were everywhere you looked about being careful with your food and the bears. Unfortunately we never saw a bear during our whole trip, and we were hoping we would!
Enjoy these last scenes and photographs I took during our first evening in Yosemite Valley. Check out the last ones...at night we went and laid on a boardwalk in the middle of a meadow with many other campers and watched the stars and meteor shower that was going on, while surrounded by God's gigantic rock cliffs. Enjoy!
Below: Tunnel View / Yosemite National Park
Below: Stargaizing in Yosemite Valley with the Milky Way in full force above us
Below: Curry Village in Yosemite. These are the tents that we stayed in for 3 nights in Yosemite Valley
Below: Inside our Curry Village tent. Home sweet home :)
Like I said, Day 3 was an adventurous packed day. We sure were exhausted after all that we did, but it was very worth it. After grabbing some pizza in Curry Village, it didn't take us long to fall asleep (of course, after we watched the stars). The next two days in Yosemite National Park were going to be amazing. I look forward to telling you about them in my next blog posts! Stay tuned until then!
*Side note, be in prayer for the horrible wildfire that is out of control in this section of California right now. If you haven't heard the news, it is impacting this section of Yosemite that we were fortunate to travel through. I hope they can stop it before it destroys anything in this amazing park!