A lesson for the road: do your research, and if you don’t do research, do flexibility.
It was early in the morning and we were packing up our Yosemite campsite when I pulled up the best route to get to Sequoia National Park and Death Valley. I had planned to head East out of the park and head South, but I was surprised to find that road closed for the season (it was scheduled to open in May, just a few days after our trip ended). I also didn’t realize that there are very few passable roads through the Sierra Nevadas, especially in the Spring. These closures added many hours and many miles to our trip. I could have known all of this if I had dug a little more into my research, but because I didn’t, I had to be flexible. We made the tough decision to skip Sequoia National Park and hightail it to the desert.
The van was rolling before I even made it out from under the covers. It was going to be a long day. We weaved out of the winding roads of Yosemite National Park in the sleet and snow. When we were mostly out of the mountains, we stopped in a town called Oakhurst and ate breakfast at a local diner called Pete’s. On we went past Fresno and Bakersfield, then it finally started to warm up and a desert landscape started to form. We spied red rocks and Joshua Trees more and more frequently the further we went. We stopped in Tehachapi for groceries and passed a massive windmill farm.
It wasn’t very far past Tehachapi when we decided we probably wouldn’t make it all the way to Death Valley that day. Death Valley only had first-come-first-serve campsites open and boondocking is illegal throughout the park, so our logic was to arrive early in the morning as folks were pulling out of the FCFS sites. We expected it would be busy and the sites might be full in the evening– it wouldn’t be much fun to drive all that way and have nowhere to park for the night. We started to keep an eye out for places to spend the night. We found a little dispersed camping site called Jawbone Canyon which looked promising. We stopped there for lunch and decided that although we would keep driving in search of something else, this was a solid backup plan.
Boy, we are so glad we kept driving. When we stumbled on Red Rock Canyon State Park, we were immediately impressed and so excited. The campground was nearly empty, so we could pick any site we wanted. For only $25, we were sold. We chose a spectacular little alcove within a massive rock wall. It felt other-worldly.
We set off to hike the ridge of Red Rock Canyon, even though our bodies were still sore from Upper Yosemite Falls. Today was day eight of our trip, and I was ecstatic to finally wear my shorts. The view was spectacular– I’ll say it again: other-worldly. It was so fun to climb amongst the rocks and make our own path. I was only a little nervous about snakes, but luckily we didn’t see any. For the remainder of the evening, we enjoyed watching the stars, having a campfire, and BBQing some burgers. Then it was bedtime; Death Valley awaits.