Day 14: 29 June 2013
Only 118 miles to cover today – if there are no distractions! Of course it does entail massive altitude changes. Again!!
- Carrantuohill in Kerry is the highest peak in Ireland and it is 3,406 ft (1,038 metres for those of us on the metric) high.
- Mammoth Lakes at 7,880 feet / 2,400 m. is more than twice as high as Carrantouhill.
- We descend to Mono Lake: 6,383 ft / 1,946 m.
- The Tioga Pass is really high at 9,943 ft. / 3,031 m. The Tioga Pass is so high that it is usually closed for more than half the year due to snow.
- Yosemite Valley (not today) is relatively low at 4,000 feet / 1,200 m. Still higher than Carrantouhill though!
We start by driving the June Lake Loop and then drive past the town of Lee Vining and on to the excellent Mono Lake Visitor Centre. Pádraig is interested in the lake’s Tufa spires. These are created by minerals in the lake. We tried to get closer to the lake, but we take a wrong turn and end up on a dirt track. We see a walking trail to a Tufa Spire and Pádraig takes a walk down to one.
We lunch back the road slightly in a great diner in Lee Vining.
We are conscious that we should take the TripAdvisor advice to drive Tioga Pass in the afternoon to avoid sun glare on the descent. Most people say that the drive over Tioga Pass is challenging, but has spectacular views. While the latter is correct, we didn’t find it particularly challenging, especially after doing 20 Mules Canyon or Artists Drive in Death Valley and far less challenging than the Valley of the Gods. Maybe we are just used to mountain roads like the old Conor Pass drive near Dingle. Anyway, we have an enjoyable journey. The scenery is beautiful and changes around every bend. One minute you have rows of mountains, and then you are at a lake. There are many domes along the 39 mile way, including Fairview Dome just to make us feel at home. Tioga Pass is closed for much of the year due to snow cover but there was still snow below us as we climbed into the heat.
Yosemite is a national park, so we used our trusty annual pass again – excellent NPS maps / guides were provided as usual. After passing Tuolumne Meadows and paying a visit to the Visitor Centre, we stopped at Tenaya Lake. Pádraig went for a paddle to try to cool down the blisters on his feet. We drive on through the park stopping along the route for pictures and to take in the views, especially after a little bit of rock climbing at the fabulously scenic Olmstead Point (below).
But we are both a bit wrecked from the lack of sleep (due to the heat and loud fan at Mammoth Lakes) as well as (we think) the heat and all the altitude changes, so we decide to go straight to Groveland to the B&B – Red Tail Ranch.