Yes, this post has been a long while coming!! But I did want to record this wonderful weekend where we did our first little bit of exploring in California. For most of 2011, I have been commuting weekly to Los Gatos (just south of San Jose) while Chris (and Cooper) remain in Minneapolis. It's been challenging at times but all of these new places to explore make it fun.
Chris had been out for a weekend in the spring but this was the first time we planned to get away and camp for a few nights. We were en route to Badwater to crew for Divesh, before heading onto Vegas, and then Utah for our own race, so taking in Yosemite along the way seemed like the perfect start to the trip. Not to mention, it was Milly's first road trip!
Chris flew into San Jose Friday morning and we hit up the Zombie Runner store in Palo Alto, picked up a few supplies including Chris' first pair of Hokas (I tried a pair just to be "open-minded"). Then we battled with traffic for a few too many hours before finally making it to Big Oak Flat. We didn't really have a specific plan for the weekend's adventures other than we had to be in Death Valley Sunday afternoon. I had found a great route for a long run in the Tuolumne Meadows area (thanks to irunfar.com) but hadn't quite factored in the trail still being under a foot of snow! Friday night we camped just outside the west gate. Having picked up our free fire permit, it was very cool to just be able to drive down a side road in the forest, find a quiet spot (just a cow for company), set up camp and get the fire going. It was odd camping without Cooper though.
Saturday morning we drove through the park – breathtaking - reconfigured our run plans thanks to the very helpful park ranger, headed out the east gate and turned onto the June Lake Loop. We turned onto Parker Lake Rd, took the first right and parked right there by a little stream. We got our running shoes on and headed off on the gravel road towards the trail head a mile or so southeast of Walker Lake. Onwards and upwards towards Lower Sardine Lake, beyond which lay Mono Pass at 10,604 ft. The route we took climbed a couple thousand feet in ten miles through meadows, forest, high altitude lakes and some beautiful waterfalls. We had the trail almost to ourselves. It was one of those days you just couldn’t plan. Lower Sardine lake was beautiful. Perfectly still. We hung out on the rocks in the warm sun for an hour before heading back down along the same route. We camped that night by a river a little further along towards Parker Lake. Just us and the rushing water nearby.
Sunday it was time to heat things up a bit and hit the road for Death Valley.