two week journey across the 39th parallel exploring the geology of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, we were finally to the last stage, the last mountain range between us and home in the Central Valley. It was the Sierra Nevada of California
It's no small barrier: the Sierra Nevada is the largest single mountain range in the United States, and for 400 miles it rises as a nearly inaccessible wall of solid rock. It has been a barrier to human and animal travel for thousands of years. Along the highest part of the Sierra Crest, from Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park, a distance of least 150 miles, only one throughgoing road crosses the crest, at Tioga Pass where we started our journey two weeks earlier. We crossed Sage Hen Summit, and the mountains came into view. Even though it was late July, snow still covered large parts of the high country. It had been that kind of year (compare to the extreme dry conditions we are seeing now).
We came across Highway 120 and wound our way around the north side of the Mono Craters (above), and stopped to enjoy a panorama of the Sierra Crest on the east boundary of Yosemite National Park. The prominent peaks in the picture below are Ritter and Banner, two spectacular mountains that were left outside the boundaries of Yosemite. I suspect the reason involved possible mineral sources in the metamorphic rocks (they are protected from development by their designation as a wilderness area).
And then Mt. Dana, the second highest peak in Yosemite (below). We were close to our home territory, and it might have been quicker to go home the way we came two weeks earlier, but we still had a sense of curiosity about the other pass, Sonora, a little north of Yosemite National Park. We were tired, but we still wanted to explore...a little bit.
The road climbs steeply and becomes a narrow byway. If you have one of those RV's don't try this one! We passed meadows and waterfalls that had an air of familiarity. We were almost home. We had had a good trip, and seen a great many new places, and seen familiar places in a new way. But it was time to wrap things up.
We crossed the pass and started down the canyon of the Stanislaus River. In two hours the vagabonds were relaxing once again in their own home. The dog and the cat were certainly happy to see us again. It was good to be back, but it wasn't a week before we wished we were on the road again.
For those of you who have been following this series, I hope you have enjoyed the journey!