Two Great Alternatives Outside Yosemite

One of my close friends and travel companions was recently in the Lake Tahoe area and wanted to do some time at Yosemite. I gave her a couple of alternatives nearby, in case the steep road up to the Tioga Pass was closed. Upon returning, she described Yosemite in two words, the first one being “cluster” and the other starting with “f” and having four choice letters. The sentence went something like this: “Yosemite was a cluster f*** of people.”

Yeah, been there, done that. In my bid to hike all sixty United States national parks, Yosemite was one of the first I eliminated. In fact, Yosemite was the first one I ever visited, way back in 1987 when I was a newbie traveler. Don’t get me wrong, I love the place. Ye olde Yosemite holds a lot of nostalgia for me, as my mom and I discovered it together, and revisited it a couple of times afterward. But it’s not the first park I would run back to, as I hiked it for several days, and oh yeah, there’s that people problem!  (Thanks, John Muir!) What I would do again, however, is hit my two favorite sites in close proximity to the park. If you’re in the area, don’t miss them! And you can see them both in a long day if you only have one.

Mono Lake & the South Tufa Trail

Located on US 395 just north of the east entrance of Yosemite, Mono Lake was nothing more than a crystal blue alpine persuasion the first several times I saw it. It wasn’t until a decade or more later that I learned that the super-salty body of water actually had a trail leading to some other worldly formations of “tufa” made from calcium carbonate. Thus, the South Tufa Trail became one of my favorite trails anywhere. And like so many other incredible walks in the American West, anyone can do it. It’s short, flat, and spectacular.

A brief gravel road leads down to the lake, and a small parking fee is charged once you’re there. Mono Lake is one of those places where the sky makes all the difference. As you can see from my pictures, the white puffy clouds were on my side the day I stopped by.

Like anywhere a stone’s throw from a world famous national park, don’t expect to have the place to yourself. But most of the crowd will be at Yosemite. Promise.

Bodie Ghost Town

Anyone who knows their ghost towns knows that it doesn’t get much better than Bodie State Historical Park. To get there from Mono Lake, continue north on US 395 approximately twenty miles to California 270 east, just south of Bridgeport. Bodie is a fair weather destination; don’t underestimate the power of the three-mile climbing dirt road at the end of 270. The town sits at 8,375 feet above sea level, and you will feel it in your chest as you walk the dusty streets.

If you’re looking for an amusement park, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re looking for a genuine ghost town, you’re in for a real treat. Bodie is kept in what is called a “state of arrested decay,” meaning that it’s preserved but not restored.

You aren’t going to see any slick mining rides or “old west” shootouts. What you are going to see is the fascinating remnants of a once-vibrant gold mining town that at its peak was home to 10,000 residents and offered up as many as sixty-five saloons and a busy red light district. Bodie also has an amazing cemetery. If you love a good boneyard, there isn’t anything that quite compares to a ghost town burial ground. Don’t forget to check out the final resting place of Rosa May, the beloved madame of Bodie, who even in death is still bringing in the cash!

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After you’re done with your walk, don’t forget to marvel at the simple beauty of the landscape. And don’t forget to thank me for a day away from the crowds at Yosemite!

 

Be A Weekend Warrior!

As I head back to my teaching duties after another summer of total freedom, I’m faced with the prospect of not being able to leave town for three whole months. It’s the longest stretch of time of the year for me that I have to be home, playing it cool. Most people have twelve-month jobs with even longer periods between time off. If you’re in a new job, it could take a year or more before you have a paid vacation. Maybe you don’t even get a paid vacation. Does that mean you have to be miserable until you’re cut free for more than a few days in a row? Absolutely not! The answer is to become a Weekend Warrior!

Yeah, we all have to clean our homes, take care of the yard, and pay the bills. But, we have to be careful that those things don’t encroach on our down time. What you NEED to do doesn’t have to always eat up the time that you could be doing what you WANT to do with. Make this your mantra: DO MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AND LESS OF WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. That’s the first step in being a Weekend Warrior. Don’t let what you have to do overwhelm you to the point that you can’t find time for fun!

Truth is, I used to be an obsessive cleaner. Cleaning was my thing. Couldn’t see a spot anywhere. Well, not anymore! I still must live in a clean and tidy home. But you won’t catch me pushing a mop any more frequently than every other week.  I’d much rather be hiking. So, that’s what I’m doing instead of cleaning. The real trick is getting your surroundings just the way you want them, so that when things get a little out of sync it’s quick and easy to get them back that way. If you let things go for too long it’s too difficult to remedy them quickly. That’s when we get bogged down, and soon we’re working instead of having fun. Who wants to spend every hour of free time dusting shelves or cutting the grass?

Once you get things behind the scenes the way you want them, you’re ready to be a Weekend Warrior.

The Great Outdoors

My first choice for the weekend is being outdoors. And you can be sure I won’t be sitting still. Do you know how great it is to love doing something that also keeps you healthy? I read a great article years ago about things that are a waste of money. Joining a gym was included on the list. Can’t help but agree with this. Mother Nature has the world’s biggest gym. And it’s free! “The outdoors” can be just about anywhere. That doesn’t necessarily mean being in the woods. I’m lucky enough to be able to take day trips to New York City or Boston. The next day I can be in the mountains or hiking around a peaceful lake. Maybe you live close to a different city. Take a bus or train and walk the streets for a day. If you’re a foodie, (I’m not!) sample the street cuisine. If you aren’t, pack a couple of meals in a backpack and find the best view possible when it’s time to eat lunch. Are you fortunate enough to live near a National Park? Well first, I’m jealous! Second, how good of a day or overnight trip is that? Unless you live on the moon, I’ll just bet that you live somewhere near a state park or forest. It takes three hours to hike six miles at a normal pace. In the same three hours you can walk nine miles at a normal pace. Maybe you love being on the water instead of walking around it. Renting a boat for a day doesn’t cost much. I know a lot of people, and not just men, who find fishing totally relaxing. You don’t even need a boat to do that. You can do it from the shore and bring a nice picnic lunch for those moments when the fish aren’t biting. Doesn’t that sound better than cleaning?

The Great Indoors

I personally think that eating out a lot is a waste of money, but if it’s your thing and it relaxes you and allows you to escape thoughts of work, then do it! Maybe a morning walk, lunch at your favorite place, then a movie.  You’ll still have time to relax on the couch at home and have a glass of wine after several hours on the town. How about reading? Does anyone besides me take the time to read as a hobby? This is one that I wish I had more time to do. I’d love to just sit around for hours a day and read. But that doesn’t put steps on the pedometer, and there’s no view! Still, having a book on the kitchen table to read while you have coffee or a snack, or in between Weekend Warrior activities can make those pages go by pretty fast and allows you to keep your brain active and entertained.

Sporting Events

I have to give this its own category, since sports are both inside and outside. If spectating is your thing, there are plenty of opportunities to support local or national teams in every sport under the rainbow. Being there is a lot more interesting than watching it on TV!

Craft Shows and Fairs

It’s staggering how many specialty shows and fairs are out there now to enjoy. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a show for you. You just have to find it. Your local AAA chapter can likely help!

And last, but not least…

Meetup

Don’t have anyone to Warrior with? Need some new and fresh ideas? I highly recommend Meetup. Let’s face it: It’s hard to meet people, what with everyone hiding behind a computer or cell phone. Meetup gives you the chance to come face to face with men and women that have the same interests you do. There are groups for just about everything, and the ones I’ve checked out have made me feel very welcome from the first get-together. It’s 100% free to join, create a profile, and search for events, and a lot of the groups strive to schedule low-cost meetups so members can attend frequently.

Listen…no excuses now! Put down that cleaning rag and have fun during your time off instead!