Saturday, February 7, 2015

Yosemite Bound - Seattle to Lee Vining

AUGUST 1, 2014

The thought of another thru hike was lingering on our minds for quite a while. Ever since we completed the 93 miles Wonderland Loop in August of 2012 we had our hearts set on a longer, bigger adventure. We just loved being out there exploring places where your usual weekend warrior does not have the time to set foot on and experiencing the nature in more solitude then hikes closer to civilization can offer.

John Muir Trail seemed to have what we were looking for. Amazing scenery, plenty of sunshine, and its length of 211 miles (+ few extra miles to walk back to civilization from the sumit of Mt. Whitney) was a nice step up from the 9 day thru hike of Wonderland yet it was not a completely overwhelming number.

Seattle Light Rail Station

Dave was in charge of transportation. We briefly considered driving to Yosemite or Lone Pine and use local transportation to shuttle ourselves between the trailheads. The advantage would be that we could stop at interesting places along the way but after quick reality check we realized that we didn't have enough vacation time for any extra stops and quite frankly a 17-hours drive home after completing a three-week walking trip was not that alluring either. In the end we decided to take a flight from Seattle where we live to Reno, and from there hop on a bus operated by East Sierra Transit (ESTA) to Lee Vining, small town along Hwy 395 with a connection shuttle to the Yosemite Valley. Taking this way we arrived to Lee Vining in mid afternoon and since the Yosemite shuttle YARTS run only in the morning, we spent the night in this quite interesting little town.

Waiting for ESTA bus at Reno Airport

ESTA bus to Lee Vining

We chose the El Mono motel mainly because the good price and positive reviews. It was a simple accommodation but the room was cozy and clean and for a thru hiker really a luxury. We were little groggy after the hours of traveling but we summoned our energy and set out to check the town out.

Room at El Mono Motel

Lee Vining is located close to Mono Lake, large shallow saline soda lake formed more then 760,000 years ago that is known for its beautiful tufa towers. Tufa is a variety of limestone and the tufa columns are usually associated with saline lakes. The main tufa viewing area was at the other side of the lake, 8 miles out of town but the marina, which was about 2 miles away provided just as spectacular views.

Dave walking towards Mono Lake

Sunset at Mono Lake

Sunset at Mono Lake
Tomorrow we will arrive at Yosemite Valley and have our first California bear encounter.

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