Day 8: "Tarnation"

White Mountains – Bodie – Yosemite – Sonora

The trees at White Mountains are about 4.000 years old, making them the oldest living things in the world. That sounded like fun, so off we went. It was quite a climb, 10.000 feet to be exact, but we eventually got there. The view it afforded us of the Sierras was worth it in itself, to be honest. (I’m easy like that.)

Since we didn’t have that much time, we went on the short hike – a bit under a mile – to see the trees. They’re old, obviously, and the climate has twisted them around themselves for centuries, shaping them into strange forms. I was amused by the thought that the shapes looked a lot like the sort of things that pop up in H.P. Lovecraft adaptations. We also ran into some scientists from Colorado who told us we were lucky to be there, as far more flowers were blooming than usual. The tiny things kept close to the ground, but were pretty enough.

But we were obviously on something of a time budget, and off we went, heading north towards Yosemite. When we finally got to the turn-off, we decided to keep going and head for Bodie. Bodie is a ghost town, and according to the literature, the best one to see. No fast food franchises or souvenir shops, just the remains of what was once a bustling town rivaling San Francisco in its heyday. We knew we’d kick ourselves if we didn’t go, so we added the 32 miles or so to our journey and kept going north. The road was mostly good, but the last three miles was a simple dirt road and wreaked havoc on the suspension. Still, it was worth it. There was a couple of other tourists there – mostly European, as far as I could tell – but you could hardly say it was crowded. Only bits and pieces of the town remains, but it was enough to give an impression. The silence that blanketed Bodie was eerie. Everyone kept pretty quiet, almost as if nobody wanted to disturb the sleeping houses. Random objects of every grade lay strewn around, abandoned to itself and the mountain. Who lived here, what were they like? Where did they go?

Fun fact: Bodie was also the place where the word “hooker” originated. Apparently, a general by the name of Hooker brought some pleasure girls with him; they were known as “Hooker’s girls”, but as often happens in that wonderful colloquial way, the phrase was quickly pruned down to the more manageable “hookers”. So now you know.

But enough historical fun. We still had some miles to conquer, and in a serious way. So we made a beeline back to Yosemite and headed in. You can go straight through, but a magnificent canyon aside, we were almost disappointed. The fact is that from the road, it all looked like the Norwegian countryside. Sure, maybe bigger in places, but nothing that wowed us completely. The multitudes of travelers around us was also a slight disappointment after our mostly undisturbed journeying, so we almost didn’t go into Yosemite Canyon. Almost.

So another spectacular vista later, we were in the Yosemite Valley. As with the Grand Canyon, it’s difficult to convey the grandeur of it. In the valley, you’re surrounded by staggering rocksides arching ever upwards. As I said, I’ve sort of seen it at home, but still…it was quite a sight. For the full effect, it would have been better to hike a bit, but we were now really behind our schedule, and therefore decided to simply drive on. We climbed back out of the valley and headed for Sonora. Some twists and turns later, we were at the hotel. A late pasta dinner and a few beers at a local bar (where once again we were taken for a couple) hit the spot and prepped us the following day’s journey to Napa Valley and the Bay Area.