Just four hours east of the city, the landscape drastically transforms. The hills of San Francisco turn into Central Valley farmland and then into steep mountains with winding switchbacks until you reach the gates of Yosemite National Park.
When we arrived at the gates, we learned that it just so happened to be National Public Lands Day, which meant free park entry! We took Tioga Pass through the park, crossing over Yosemite’s park boundary on the eastern side on our way to Mono Lake, but didn’t hesitate to stop to take in the views along the way.
Mono Lake (pronounced MOH-no) is a large, shallow saline lake in Mono California that formed at least 760,000 years ago. Because it lacks an outlet to the ocean, dissolved salts make the lake very alkaline and saline thus forming tufa towers (too-fah). After tasting the water, we can vouch, the water is very salty and all the salt makes the water feel very slippery. The tufas made a beautiful addition to the already stunning scenery.
We were able to reserve a campsite in Tuolumne Meadows, the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada at an elevation of 8,775 feet.
We set up camp and went for a hike to soda springs. On the way, we saw a family of deer and were surprised at how close we could get without ever scaring them away (if only we had one of the guns with us…).
We hiked around for the rest of the afternoon (assuming we can consider walking around with a beer in hand “hiking”) before settling into our campsite for the night.
Yosemite is one of the many reasons we love living in northern California. It’s surprising what you can find only a few hours away from the city. We are so lucky that a gorgeous national park sits a few hundred miles away for us to explore!