There was a secure feeling to waking up in Snow Play, a place we’d all camped several times before. Though, I also felt uneasy as I had been in touch with our great friend, Gavin, to meet up with us the night before but he’d lost service and was unable to find us. We began disassembling our tent and were getting ready to hit the road. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw the trusty sprinter roll up near our campsite. I ran to it with full excitement to realize that Alex had secretly tagged along as well!
Gavin supported my first bike century to Big Sur a couple months earlier, now here he was refueling us with food and treats before the big pass—Tioga. And Alex has been a huge help throughout our journey—updating our website and resupplying us multiple times! We ended up relaxing and catching up for a couple hours before getting back on the bikes. Sadly they couldn’t join us into Yosemite because cars need a reservation to enter the park this summer. A huge thanks to Alex and Gavin for giving us a moral boost before our biggest pass of the trip!
So onward we flew, on a road we’ve collectively traveled so many times before. It was as if we’d watched the movie repeatedly but were finally reading the book and gained a enhanced perspective on the scenery, smells, and it’s history. Eventually we made it to the tunnel and all of a sudden we were dropped into arguably the most beautiful valley on the face of the earth—Yosemite.
View of Yosemite after the tunnel!
We were ecstatic to be in The Valley and were committed to enjoying the view for some time. We headed down to the Merced River to take a dip and relax for awhile. We even drank an afternoon beer, which led way to a long and well deserved nap!
Views from the Merced River!
After waking up in quite a daze, we decided to take one last dip in the river and do the entirety of The Valley loop... because how could we not! We then took a detour to our favorite water source in California—Fern Springs (if you know, you know). It was there we drank as much water as we could and refilled before heading up the 120 to set us up well for the next day—what was supposed to be the biggest day of the entire tour!
Views while biking through The Valley Loop!
After climbing a few miles we stumbled upon one of the best stealth camping spots of our lives. There we were hidden from the road, perched on a ledge with a view of The Valley and Half Dome! We hid our bikes, cooked our meals, swatted away mosquitoes and nestled into the ledge for an early night sleep. The plan was to get up at 5 am to begin our ascent to Tioga Pass!
Views from the campsite!
We arose to a sunrise glowing up Half Dome in the distance and warming the colors of The Valley floor. That imagine will forever be engrained in my memory as I think of Yosemite and all its beauty. I think it also made us anxious to start the day as so much pristine nature awaited us. We quickly packed up our few belongings, ate some morning snacks, and took some much needed electrolytes.
We hopped on our bikes and began the best ride of our lives. We were ascending most of the morning but our bodies had been well trained after tackling the climbs of Sequoia! The entirety of the climb that had given us a bit of a scare when looking at the map was nothing but enjoyable. Additionally, the reservations into Yosemite led to little cars on the road and if felt like we had the place to ourselves as we passed view after view! We realized this was a once in a lifetime ride and tried to enjoy it to the fullest.
A snack break at Olmsted Point!
Lunch and swimming at Tenaya Lake!
Views while relaxing at Tuolumne Meadows!
Even with all the breaks, we were making great time as we approached Tioga Pass. Directly before the pass, we took a random stop by a quaint lake overlooking Mt. Dana and Joe made a remark about the breathtaking view. Then, out of nowhere an old lady responded, “isn’t it just beautiful”. Hiding behind the only car in the pullout was a masked elderly women, sitting in a beach chair painting the view before us. We had an inspiring socially-distanced conversation about the state of our world and the importance of still needing to get out and enjoy nature. The moment reinsured goodness and hope to our cause and journey during these troubling times. She wished us safe travels and the conversation gave us the last bit of motivation we needed to reach the pass!
A silly Joe and I at the Pass!
Before long, there we were at Tioga Pass—9945ft! It was to be the highest pass of our tour and we joked about climbing a small hill to get over 10,000ft but the downhill ahead of us was much too enticing. We went straight for it and had adrenaline rushing through our veins with cliffs to our right and curviest of turns down the steepest of grades. We hit speeds of 55mph even as headwinds slowed us down just enough to ignore our brakes. It was an epic downhill journey that led us to the better side of the Sierras—the East Side.
Right before the intersection of the 120 and the 395 lies a great Mecca of the outdoors—the Lee Vining Mobil. Our descent down from Tioga Pass naturally lured us into this Mecca where the outdoor community, during normal times, come together to eat, dance to live music and camp. While this wasn’t exactly the case this time around, we were thankful the Mobil and Whoa Nellie Deli were open for food and we ate our first large meal in days! We even ended up heading into town for milkshakes to top off our hungered stomachs.
Dylan entering a food coma.
Upon returning to the Mobil, Joe ran into long lost friends from his time of working in The Valley and I ran into an an old friend from college! Even one of my best friends from high school, Brenna, ended up meeting us to camp as well! The allure of the Mobil was still thriving and in these parts you’ll find the true representatives of the outdoor community. Not just the narrow definition of the “outdoorsy” people that the outdoor industry and media have created. We must bring about the stories of the underrepresented individuals of the outdoor community and create a greater sense of inclusion. The outdoors and it’s associated activities are a foundation to a multitude of cultures and the eye-opening experiences it provides should be central to all outdoor justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.
To learn more about underrepresentation in the outdoor community please follow Unlikely Hikers, they are a “diverse anti-racist, body-liberating outdoor community featuring the underrepresented outdoorsperson”.
The best and probably only Mobil camping spot in the country!