After a few nights sleeping in a tent it feels good to wake refreshed in a bed with sheets. I’m up at a civilized hour in Lone Pine for the return drive north along hwy 395. As always though, I have to stop for coffee in downtown. Thankfully, I’ve found that excellent coffee is available in some of these smallish towns. In Lone Pine, Espresso Parlor buys their coffee beans from Alpen Sierra, a Lake Tahoe-based roaster. I’ve loved their coffees for years and even mail ordered their beans while I lived in Coral Gables, Florida.
Rather than drive back to the Bay Area today, I’m breaking up the drive by heading to Lake Tahoe where I’ll spend the night and then drive home on Saturday. This allows me a relaxed pace of driving as I make my way up the spine of California.
It’s hard to estimate how many more Eastern Sierra road trips my trusted 1997 4Runner has left. Right now it’s still going strong, but it does have 219,000 miles on it. The paint is fading and when I fill out registration forms at motels, under vehicle color I now enter Oxidation and Dirt. But it’s been a wonderful truck and a dependable companion on countless trips to the mountains since I bought it in 1999.
I continue on highway 395 past Tioga Road and drive past Mono Lake, Lee Vining, Bridgeport and then follow the Walker River towards Topaz Lake. I spend Friday night in South Lake Tahoe. Still a little tired from my 12 mile hike the day before, I retire to my room early with some fantastic BBQ from Womack’s just across the street from my motel. I watch the Giants game while savoring every bite of a brisket sandwich, cornbread and sweet potato pie for dessert.
In the morning, I start the drive home by turning off of highway 50 toward Luther Pass via route 88. From Luther Pass, I drop down into Hope Valley and stop at the east fork of the Carson River. Even on a summer morning, at this elevation it’s cold enough for ice to form in some of the shaded areas along the bank. Hope Valley is where I traditionally visit in the autumn to photograph the changing colors of the aspens. For now, the aspens are vibrant and green. I make another stop at Blue Lake to take pictures of mist rising.