Nevada and California— In April of 2014 my cousin and I took a spontaneous trip around the Sierra Nevada mountain range making stops at Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, Death Valley National Park and more. I grew up on the east coast in New York while my cousin Thomas grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. I never realized how loud New Yorkers are until I spend time being quiet with Thomas. We’re always talking and sometimes it’s nice to just sit and take in your surroundings without speaking. Although we grew up far apart, the similarities between our personalities are eerie. You can’t deny DNA I guess.
So after a home cooked meal and much needed coffee at our grandparents house we set out to circle a good portion of the Sierra Nevadas in just 5 days. I decided to make the initial drive through the Nevada and California desert highway in the evening to get it out of the way. I always try to do the less-scenic drives at night and save the best for daylight.
First stop was Yosemite National Park. This was my second visit to Yosemite but there is so much to do there, it felt like the first time all over again. And the fog was in full force…
We stayed in Curry Village in a non-heated canvas tent for $80 a night (the cheapest you can get in Yosemite Valley without bringing your own gear). We only needed one night and the staff was very accommodating in switching our stay after arriving a day early.
That night it snowed and the temperature dropped to 23 degrees. Luckily we had just picked up some sleeping bags on the way in but it was rough. These sleeping bags were made for 40 degrees minimum. Not an inch of skin could be exposed, that’s how cold it was. My cousin, who grew up in the desert was not used to this…
The next day, it cleared up and we packed our hiking shoes with some plastic bags (hobo-style) to keep moisture out and our feet dry. It really works. We had great weather in the morning and did the Yosemite Falls trail which was a great 2-3 hour round-trip hike. Probably faster if there aren’t many people on the trail. You’re able to see some great views of Half Dome and the rest of Yosemite Valley on the way to the falls. Don’t be disheartened at the beginning of the trail head, it gets better, much better!
That night we headed out to get some rest at a local motel outside of Yosemite and get a head start on the next day’s drive to Lake Tahoe. Bye Yosemite…
I nailed myself a speeding ticket on the way (probably because we were heading for In N Out burger). It was a speed trap… and the whole “we’re cousins on the road, traveling, our grandpa was a cop” story didn’t pan out the way we planned. $219 later and no points on my license, here we are, life goes on. We’re just happy he didn’t pull us over while Thomas was hanging out the window filming cattle on the side of road. Oh and we made it to In N Out… yeah, just stare at it for a little while.
Lake Tahoe was covered in snow… and sunlight… then snow… then sunlight. Mountain weather can be strange.
In South Lake Tahoe we stopped at Bert’s Cafe. Which is a must, this place rules. This is exactly the kind of diner you want to find after a hike. They have hearty breakfasts and tons of cool menu items. I got the Corned Beef Hash Eggs Benedict with their homemade Hollandaise sauce. Try that sauce on everything. They even hooked us up with some free coffee.
On the way down south towards Death Valley National Park we stopped along the way to grab more footage at Mono Lake as well as some other turn offs from the highway. When we got to Death Valley the temperature started to rise quickly into the 80s and low 90s. Death Valley is vast and so quiet you can hear the blood in your head flowing if you just pull over and shut up for a second.
We stood in the middle of the road for awhile impressed by how quiet it was and out of nowhere a military jet flew over making for some cool footage. We trekked across lots of desert brush, red dirt, sand dunes, and found some bearded dragons before making our way back to Las Vegas to pass out after 5 full days of hiking, filming, and driving.