Friday, May 29 - Flight Düsseldorf – Los Angeles
upon arrival: sunny
Our flight with Air Berlin to Los Angeles departed on time. Flight
time was 11 hours. We spent the it watching movies: „Kingsman“,
„Taken 3“, „American Sniper“, „Birdman“. Lunch was the usual chicken or pasta
including free alcoholic drinks. Later a snack and dinner were
served. We saw snow-covered mountains in Greenland, and we flew
right over Grand Teton National Park, the Great Salt Lake and Las
Vegas. We arrived 30 minutes early at 3:40 p.m. which was 1.40
a.m. German time. Immigration was quick, customs took a little
longer. After 45 minutes we boarded the shuttle to the rental car
center. We had booked a 7-seat Cadillac Escalade with Hertz. This
was a bargain. The car was brand-new with just 5 miles on it, 400
hp, and it had 4-wheel drive. But it was huge! And it needed a lot
of gas. At 4:50 p.m. we were ready to go. We took Interstate 405
north. On Friday afternoon we couldn’t avoid the traffic jams. It
was 25 miles to our hotel, the Americas Best Value Inn & Suites
Granada Hills. It took us 1.5 hours to get there. At $83 plus tax it
was a good price for a room with king bed. We got ourselves a snack
from the gas station with food mart across the road. Went to bed at
Miles covered: 26
Americas Best Value Inn & Suites, Granada Hills ($83 plus tax)
Saturday, May 30 - Murals in Exeter, Sequoia National Park
Weather: 28 °C, sunny
We woke up early and left the hotel at 5 a.m. Sunrise was at
5:40. Traffic was low at this time of day on a Saturday. We followed
Interstate 5 and reached Bakersfield at 6:20 a.m. We did some
shopping at Walmart and had breakfast at Denny’s: scrambled eggs
with hash browns and bacon including blueberry pancakes with
strawberries for $21 plus tip. At 8:30 we continued on highway 99 to
Visalia. At 10 a.m. we stopped at Exeter to see the murals around
At 11 we passed through Three Rivers where we
will spend the night, and soon arrived in Sequoia National Park. The
entrance fee is $20, or you can buy an annual pass for all parks at
$80. As it was Saturday, traffic on the park road was quite busy.
After 16 miles on a winding road with 130 curves and 12 switchbacks
we reached the main area of the park. Here we hiked the 2 kilometres
long Big Trees loop trail. The giant Sequoia trees that only grow
here are truly impressive. On the way back to our car we saw a black
bear sleeping in the woods. At 12:45 we continued on our way.
We parked again at Lodgepole Campground and started on the
Tokopah Falls trail – 2.7 kilometres one-way. Now at 1:15 p.m. it
was quite hot in the sun. The trail climbed slowly along a stream
with some beautiful cascades and we saw a deer crossing our path!
The valley ends at the waterfall which tumbles 365 metres from the
top. It took us an hour to get there. We also saw a marmot hiding
between the rocks, and on the way back a young black bear was
rambling through the woods! At 4 p.m. we were back at the car.
We drove back to the Giant Forest Museum and boarded the shuttle
to Moro Rock. On weekends you can’t take your own car to the
trailhead, or to Crescent Meadow. It is 4:30. After 10 minutes on
the shuttle we descended at the trailhead and climbed the steep path
to Moro Rock. After 15 minutes we were at the top. The 360° view was
amazing. You can see the High Sierra and Generals Highway. The last
shuttle of the day is supposed to run at 6 p.m. so we had to get
back. The tour continued to Tunnel Log and Crescent Meadow and then
back to the museum. By now private vehicles were allowed back on the
road. At 6 p.m. we were back at our car and drove back to Three
We checked into the Comfort Inn & Suites. For dinner
we went to the Mexican across the street where we had a burrito with
shredded beef but it wasn’t too good. Including soft drinks we paid
$27 plus tip.
Miles covered: 258
Animals: 2 bears, 1 deer,
Accommodation: Comfort Inn & Suites, Three Rivers ($107
Sunday, March 31 - Sequoia National Park
Weather: 22 °C,
We had breakfast at 6:30 a.m. They offered small pancakes,
sausages, waffels, toast, muffins, bagel, cereal, fruit, yoghurt. We
checked out and drove again to Sequoia National Park. At 7:45 on a
Sunday there was not much traffic, and instead of 1 hour as
yesterday, it took us just 45 minutes to reach the main area of the
At the Giant Forest Museum we took the Moro Rock Road
which was now open until 9 a.m. when the weekend shuttle service
starts. First we drove through Tunnel Log, then we walked a short
trail of 0.4 miles to Huckleberry Meadow hoping to see bears but
there were none, just mosquitoes. Next we parked at Crescent Meadow
and put our food into the bear-proof storage boxes. There were no
bears on Crescent Meadow either but we took the path to Log Meadow
and then we saw them! two blond black bears and a black one, feeding
on the grass in the meadow. When we continued on our path, the black
bear walked towards the hiking trail – not good! Still we got closer
looking left and right for the bear. When Volker climbed a rock to
get a better view, the bear was just below! But he was more afraid
of us then we of him and he darted off into the woods. Then he stood
there making funny noises. The other two bears continued to eat and
ignored us. One of them came very slowly closer. We continued on the
path watching the bear and taking photographs. By now the second
blond bear had disappeared as well. Finally we reached Tharp’s Log,
a small cabin in a fallen Sequoia. We finished circling the meadow
and walked back to our car. It was 10:30 a.m.
We drove back
to the main park road and saw some people standing to the side of
it. There was a park ranger as well and a young bear! The ranger
carried a paintball gun to chase the bear away from the road. We had
a picnic lunch at Stoney Creek Village and followed a sign to the
Horse Corrals and Buck Rock Tower. It was 5 miles to the fire
lookout. The last part was on a narrow dirt road and then on foot.
The fire lookout sits on a rock like an eagle’s nest. We climbed up
the stairs and ladders to reach a small hut with a bed and 360°
view. The tower was constructed in 1926. Today it includes a small
souvenir shop. We had a chat with the rangers and enjoyed the views
to the high sierra.
At 1:40 p.m. we were back on Generals
Highway. Our next stop was at Buena Vista Trailhead, just across
Kings Canyon Overlook. The trail was approx.. 1 mile and it took us
30 minutes to reach the top of a rock with 360° view. In the
distance we could see the Buck Rock Tower on its steep rock.
At 3:15 p.m. we reached Grant Grove Village where we had booked a
cabin for two nights. This is part of Kings Canyon National The
rustic cabin with two double beds costs $100 a night. There is no
private bathroom but a shared bathhouse. Cabins with private bath
are also available and I would recommend these as the communal
facilities were not very clean.
We decided to walk to General
Grant Tree but it was a bit further than we thought. This giant tree
is the second largest tree in the world. From here we walked to the
visitor center where the restaurant is located. At 6 p.m. it was
getting busy but we were lucky to get a seat. We had the burgers and
unsweetened iced tea. Overall we paid $25 and it was quite good.
Miles covered: 70
Animals: 4 bears (some squirrels and birds)
Accommodation: Grant Grove Cabins Kings Canyon National Park ($100
Monday, June 1 - Kings Canyon National Park
Weather: 24 °C, sunny
At 2000 metres elevation it cooled down quite a bit at night with
just 14 °C in the morning. We had cornflakes and bananas for
breakfast in our room.
At 7 a.m. we hit the road towards Kings Canyon.
It's 37 miles to the end of the road at the bottom of the valley. We
made a stop at a couple of viewpoints and we found some hummingbirds
at Kings Canyon Lodge. We also stopped at Grizzly
Falls and Cedar Grove Village.
At 9 a.m. we reached the parking
area at the end of the road and started on the trail to
Mist Falls. The hike is 4.6 miles (6.3
km) one-way. We followed a sandy path at the bottom of the canyon,
then the trail led into the forest and followed the Kings River. At
the bridge over the river the path starts to climb uphill. Here
Volker had a close encounter with a rattlesnake!
At 11 a.m. we reached the bottom of the cascades and the path became
steeper with great views back into the valley. Finally we reached
beautiful Mist Falls which deserve their name covering you in mist
when you get close to them! We went a little further up to get a few
of the top of the falls.
At 12 p.m. we started to backtrack and found a harmless but
beautiful California Mountain Kingsnake on the trail! Don't mistake
it for the poisonous Coral Snake! Remember:
„Red touches yellow, dangerous fellow. Red touches black, friend to
Jack.” Or “Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. Red touches black,
venom lack.” At 1.45 p.m. after nearly 5 hours we got back to our
After a short break we drove to Zumwald Meadow and
followed the 1.5 miles trail around the meadow. We heard people say
a bear was seen in this area that morning but we didn't have any
luck. We saw another hummingbird and some swallowtail butterflies.
We made another stop at Roaring River Falls, before heading back to
We got there at 4:30 p.m. After a shower we had dinner
at the Village
Restaurant again. This time we had the Chicken Marsala. Including
two soft drinks, it was $36 plus tip.
Miles covered: 71
Animals: 2 snakes (plus a few hummingbirds and
Accommodation: Grant Grove Cabins Kings
Canyon National Park ($100 including tax)
Tuesday, June 2 - Yosemite National Park
Weather: 22 °C, sunny
This morning it was just below 7 °C. We had breakfast in our cabin
and checked out at 7 a.m. After an hour's drive we reached Fresno,
did some shopping, and shortly before 11 a.m. we arrived at the Sugar Pine
Railway at Fish Camp where we watched the old steam train leave the
Shortly afterwards we reached the entrance of Yosemite
National Park. As our Annual Pass was still valid from last year we
saved $30. We turned off onto Glacier Point Road. It was 1 a.m. when
we reached Glacier Point after 16 miles. We enjoyed the view into Yosemite Valley,
towards Half Dome, Vernal
Falls, Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls and the snowcapped mountains of
the High Sierra.
Then we parked at the trailhead of the Sentinel Dome
and Taft Point hike. It was already quite full and we were lucky to
find an empty space. 2 p.m. was also the start time of a
ranger-guided tour. As we had the same destination, we decided to
join. It was interesting to listen to the ranger's explanations
about the area's vegetation and the ongoing drought. Instead of
30 minutes it now took 1.5 hours to reach the top of Sentinel Dome (2476 m)
with a 360° view into Yosemite Valley, towards Yosemite Falls, Nevada Fall
At 4 p.m. we continued on the trail to Taft Point.
The connector trail between Sentinel Dome and the Taft Point trail
miles long which took us an hour. Then it's another 0.6 miles to Taft
Point which offers a great view into the western part of Yosemite
Valley. After another 1.1 miles which took us 30 minutes we were
back at our car.
At 6 p.m. we drove down into the valley to
our accommodation at El Portal. We had booked a room at Cedar Lodge
for two nights. For a large room with two Queen beds we paid $159
plus tax per night.
Wifi costs extra. The motel has an indoor and an outdoor pool, a restaurant
and a bar with grill. We had dinner at the grill. For two burgers
with soft drinks we paid $32.
Miles covered: 195
Animals: 1 deer
Lodge, El Portal ($159 plus tax)
Wednesday, June 3 - Yosemite National Park
Weather: 28 °C, sunny
We have cereal and fruit in our room with a coffee. At 7:30 a.m. we
are heading back into Yosemite NP. It's a 10-minute drive from the
lodge to the park entrance at Merced River. We find a parking space
at Curry Village and take the free shuttle bus to stop no. 16 "Happy Isles"
where the Mist Trail starts.
a.m. At the Vernal Falls
footbridge we get a first view of the falls. Then we climb the 600
steps up along the fall (97
metres). The falls are quite full and we get sprayed in mist
including a beautiful rainbow. After an hour we reach the top of the
falls where we have a little break in the company of hungry
squirrels. After crossing another bridge at Emerald Pool it's a 30-minutes
hike to the bottom of Nevada Falls (181 metres). The trail follows
some switchbacks up alongside the falls. After 45 minutes and a
total of 2.5 miles with 610 metres elevation we are at the top of
11 a.m. and we're up for a break, enjoying the view. Then we're
taking the John Muir trail which leads us in 4 miles back into the
valley with great views of Nevada
Fall and Liberty Cap. We see a small garter snake on the trail.
After 1.5 we're back on our original trail which is completely
crowded at this time of day. From here it's a short way back to the
trailhead. After 5 hours we're back at the shuttle bus stop.
It's 1:45 p.m. We take the next bus to stop no. 17 "Mirror Lake" and
take the short one-way trail to the lake.
The next shuttle takes
us to Yosemite Village where we visit the
Ansel Adams Gallery and have a coffee and icecream. With the next
shuttle we continue to Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead.
It's a short 30 minutes to the falls but it's very crowded. Back at
the bus stop we walk across the meadow to the other side of the
one-way road to get the next shuttle back to Curry
It's 5 p.m. when we get back into our car. We see a
few deer on the way out of the park. It takes us another hour to get
back to Cedar Lodge. We have dinner at the Canyon Bar & Grill
again: two chicken strip
baskets and soft drinks for $29. The food is simple but good.
Miles covered: 41
Animals: a snake, 3 deer (and some squirrels)
Lodge, El Portal ($159 plus tax)
Thursday, June 4 - Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass, Mono
Lake, Devil's Postpile
Weather: first sunny, then clouds, then rain, 10 °C
After breakfast in our room we checked out at 8:30 a.m. Back in Yosemite NP, we
Tioga Pass Road. The road is often closed due to snow until late in
the year. This year it opened on May 4th. We stopped at Olmsted Point
with a view back into Yosemite Valley
and towards Half Dome. Here at 9000 feet (2700 metres) eleveation,
it was just 10 °C.
It was 11 a.m. and not far to Tuolumne Meadows. We stopped at the Visitor Center
to ask about hikes in the area. The ranger recommended
Dome from Dog Lake parking area but we shouldn't linger too long
as there might be thunderstorms in the afternoon. The trail is quite
steep but after 45 minutes we reached the top with a 360° view. At 12:45
p.m. we were back at the parking lot. According to our GPS we
covered 3.2 kilometres with
240 metres elevation.
We had a picknick lunch at the foot of Lembert Dome. By then it
was cloudy and as we were leaving
Yosemite NP through the east entrance at Tioga Pass, it was just 5 °C
and starting to rain.
At Mono Lake it looked a little better
at first. It was 2 p.m. when we got to the South Tufas which are
included in the National Park's pass. We saw dark clouds in the
distance which were quickly getting closer so that we headed back to
the car soon.
Then we hit the road towards Mammoth Lakes. It was 4:30 p.m. when we
got there and decided to visit Devil's
Postpile National Monument. The mandatory shuttle was not
running yet so we were able to go with our own car. It's a narrow,
The weather didn't look too bad in that direction. The trail to the
basalt columns is a short 0.4 miles. Too bad the sun was not shining
but at least it wasn't raining.
When we got back to Mammoth
Lakes we checked into Motel 6. It was 5:40 p.m. The motel had
remodeled rooms. It was $71 plus tax for 2 double beds plus $3 for
wifi. We had dinner at the Good Life Café which had good reviews.
For the New York steak with baked potatoe and Mahi Mahi with rice
and steamed vegetables plus two drinks we paid $38 plus tip.
Miles covered: 158
Accommodation: Motel 6 Mammoth Lakes ($71 plus tax)
Friday, June 5 - High Sierra
Weather: a.m. partly cloudy,
p.m. rain, up to 24 °C
We had breakfast in our room with
Cornflakes and fresh fruit. The reception provided fresh coffee. It
was 7 °C when we checked out at 7:15 a.m.
We went south and made a short detour to Convict Lake. At Tom's
Place we turned onto Owens Gorge Road that took us to the
Columns via a dirt road. With our big 4-wheel-drive car it
wasn't a problem. At 8:15 we parked on top of a hill and followed a
narrow path down to the beach. The columns were larger than expected
but at this time of day they were still in shadow. At 9 a.m. we were
We stopped in Bishop for some shopping, then we took
the untarred Chalk Bluff Road to the unofficial trailhead to
Sky Rock. It was 10:40 a.m. We met an
American couple on the way up the steep hill. Then you need gps
coordinates for Sky Rock or you won't find it between the rocks. We
saw a snake when we climbed up. It was a challenge to get up onto
the rock which is best seen from above. Then we searched for the 13
Moon Panel. It was 12 p.m. when we got back to the car. It was 24 °C.
We drove back a short way and turned north on Fish Slough Road
to see more petroglpys such as Chidago and Red Canyon Petroglyps.
Meanwhile the sky had darkened. There was fresh snow on the
mountains. Thus it was better to leave the dirt roads behind. At 1:30
we reached Benton Crossing Road just in time before it started to
rain. We took another detour to Benton Hot Springs where we found a
ghost town but no hot springs.
On the way back to Mono Lake it was pouring down with thunder
and lightning. Temperatures had dropped to 10 °C. At 2:30 we were
back at the South Tufas, again in the rain. We had lunch in the car
and decided to skip Bodie which we already visited in 1998. It was
3:40 p.m. and we still had some driving to do to reach Carson City.
At 4 p.m. we crossed Devil's Gate Summit at 7500 feet (2300 metres)
elevation. It was 4 °C and we had some snow flakes. Just before
crossing the border to Nevada at Topaz Lake, the rain stopped. We
had a coffee at Starbucks in
Gardnerville. Then we turned off to Genoa, Nevada's oldest
settlement of 1851.
Shortly before 7 p.m. we arrived at Motel 6 in
Carson City. For $50 plus tax we had a room with two double beds,
fridge, microwave, and free wi-fi. We had dinner at Applebee's.
Miles covered: 281
Animals: a snake
Accommodation: Motel 6 Carson City ($50 plus tax)