Yosemite Seth

There was only one white-knuckled terror in my tent, bivouacked along US 395, cozily out of sight of traffic, and it was the padded rustling right at the edge of my tent ’round midnight.

You’d think I’d be accustomed to things that go “bump” in the night but no, cuz city boy. I sweated and strained as the noise circled my tent. “Why doesn’t it go to the panniers? That’s where the food is. What animal eats stringy, wanky, grampa biker?”

Soon enough I realized that it was only the wind rustling the edges of the loosely staked tent fly. But it coulda been a grizzlyrapistbikethiefpanther.

At six I was up and at seven I was riding, starting on a 7-mile uphill to Devil’s Pass. The high desert is hot af in the day and freezing at night. I chattered in my warmest clothes until the sweat kicked in. US 395 was lightly trafficked, well paved, and CalTrans had installed a big tailwind to push me up the climb. My second shot of character came as I left Bridgeport and began the 13-mile tailwind climb to Conway Summit, also topping out over 8,000 feet.

The descent to Mono Lake was a four-lane, fast freefall. I got to the town of Lee Vining at 11:30, covering 60 miles in only 4.5 hours. This was my fastest day so far. I ice creamed up, got some nuts and berries, and turned up Tioga Pass leading to Yosemite, which was closed due to “smoke hazard,” at 1:00. It’s only twelve miles and not that steep, but as the third major pass of the day it hurt at the bottom, boding poorly for miles 2-12.

It took me an hour to go four miles. There was haze but zero smoke, another senseless example of kneejerk closing everything. Inyo National Forest, which borders Yosemite and which I’d counted on for camping, was also closed. There was almost zero traffic. With five miles to go I was thirsty, hot, and tired. It was windless and the views were astounding even with the haze. A minivan had parked in a pullout, so I pedaled over to beg for water. The guy gladly filled my bottle. “You don’t look so good,” he said.

“I feel worse.”

A little girl in the backseat chirped, “Give him some ginger ale, daddy. What’s he doing?”

“Riding his bicycle.”

“Up this big hill? Why? Don’t he have a car?”

“Not everybody drives, honey,” he said as he handed me two cold cans.

“People are damned nice,” I said to myself. “And little kids are damned smart.”

Now I was over 9,000 feet and it was going to be bitterly cold. The urgency to make camp crescendoed as I scouted the roadside. My legs were done, my stomach was growling, and I’d covered big miles and a ton of elevation. Tomorrow would be another hard day; time to quit.

With about three miles to go I heard a stream and saw a path that was marked “Closed.” I whipped in and found a lovely pine grove next to a stream. After pitching the tent I made coffee, spread my blanket, and listened to the gurgling stream in the shadow of El Capitan.

You can close a forest, you can can close a park, but you can’t close the whispering of the gods.


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17 thoughts on “Yosemite Seth”

    1. If I remember correctly, and that is a challenge, the road across Toualame Meadows and over to the gateway into the valley is rolling, to generally losing elevation. Tioga Pass is over 9K and the Yosemite valley is at around 3K, so at some point it is a really beautiful windy road that descends to the valley, which I think/hope is where Seth is headed. If it isn’t closed.

      The other thing I remember is after climbing back out of the valley, because you do have to climb back out, we spent the whole rest of the day basically losing elevation until we came out on the far eastern edge of the Great Valley.

      So I think Seth will have earned some very nice conversions of Stored Potential energies into enjoyable kinetic energies.

  1. Keep Furthering. The Grid does not care. For the Grid suffers a desiccated heart. Hold on tight with supple mind. Embracing Mother.

  2. We got pics from a few days? They look great, and kudos to you getting up and over all those passes. You lucked out on Tioga for sure. You will probably be pretty damn cold your first night in Yosemite.

  3. I had suggested earlier a ride up the spur road to Glacier Point. If you’re on a schedule to get back to LA (Louisiana), then you probably don’t have the time.

    Unless your exit from the valley is via the tunnel. Then that takes you to the hard part, a grueling climb after the tunnel. ‘Bout 7 mi after the tunnel Glacier Pt Road is on the left.

  4. This ride is even more awesome than getting 11th place in a Masters Crit at a nameless business park! Great material for the new edition of “Cycling in the Not South Bay”. I know that pull out where you camped, bivy’ed there quite a few times. Let’s catch up at next Boulevard RR 2021 🙂

    Ps I’ll take getting buzzed by a bear over getting buzzed my Cher any day of the week. Thanks again for the inspiration to get outside, love it

  5. For a few years we’ve done a camping trip, and biked from Crane Flat up Tioga Pass Road to the pass, and back. It’s about 95 miles, and it is so beautiful!

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