Day 7: Desert to Mountain (aka Dia de los Muertos)

Tom taking over for today’s blog for reasons that will become apparent below.

Day 7 was a driving day – all the way from Death Valley, round the Southern end of the Sierra Nevada and then up into the mountains and Kings Canyon National Park. A little over 400 miles driving and taking 6+ hours from start to finish.

While some of the scenery that we drove past was spectacular (we didn’t stop to take photos as we had so much ground to cover – you will just have to take my word for it – you can trust me I’m a solicitor), much of it was, to paraphrase General Melchett, quite literally a barren featureless desert, while the rest of it was merely long, straight, tedious roads.

Before we set off, however, Jenny and I had planned (over a few beers the night before) to retrace our steps and visit the Devil’s Cornfield and the Mesquite Dunes which we had driven past the in dark.

Unfortunately, due to drinking copious quantities of fine Ka tequila (the stuff stored black skull shaped bottles – the clue is in the presentation) Jenny was suffering her very own “dia de los muertos” and was feeling too, er, tired, to get up and see the sights.

Jenny's nemesis: 'Ka' tequila. We had to bring some home!

Undeterred I got up before dawn and drove back along Hwy 190, as the sun began to rise behind the mountains, to see the Devil’s Cornfield – so named because the arrow weed looks a bit like sheaves of harvested corn – and the Mesquite Dunes. The photo doesn’t show the true extent of the Devil’s Cornfield – it went on for miles and miles out across the valley floor and you can see why the first settlers to discover it gave it its name.

The Devil's Cornfield in Death Valley - not much like a cornfield but pretty wierd to look at . . .

The Mesquite Dunes were pretty spectacular and, once you walked more than about 100 feet from the car park, were unspoilt. The dunes are described as being Sahara like and I have to say, having spent some time toiling up and down the dunes, I never want to be stranded in the Sahara! It was really hard work and I was building up a healthy sweat – and this was before it started heating up for the day! Anyhow, I took about a million photographs (so that Jenny could see what she missed) and headed back to Stovepipe Wells for breakfast.

The Mesquite Dunes - these are suprisingly big when you try to walk up them

After a hearty American style buffet breakfast (for me at least) Jenny and I hit the road. Jenny’s dia de los muertos was continuing and she promptly fell asleep on the passenger seat. A state in which state she spent most of the day which meant that she missed such highlights as:

  • long straight roads with only the occasional farm house (often abandoned) to break the monotony;
  • the Bakerfield ring road; and
  • more long straight roads.

Jenny only really started to recover after we went past Fresno and stopped to take on fuel – regular gas for the small tank we were driving and burgers and pepsi for us.

After a pint of Pepsi (and 6 hours sleep) our patient makes an amazing recovery!!

After Fresno we began to climb into the mountains. We left behind fertile farmlands and climbed into woody hills. Unfortunately this meant that the roads became increasingly small and windy.

This would have been great in the Audi but in our car, which cornered about as well as an oil tanker, meant that driving became a little challenging. A challenge which was compounded by night falling, snow on the road and fog! Eventually we found ourselves doing about 10 mph and hugging the centre line of the road to ensure that we didn’t drive off the sheer drop that started about 1 foot from the side of the road and which would have put a real, if not terminal, dent in the honeymoon.

Eventually we arrived at the John Muir Lodge at Grant Grove Village (elevation approx 7,000 feet) where we were to spend the next few days. It was really surreal to have started the day below sea level wearing t-shirt and shorts in the desert and to finish the day at 7,000 feet surrounded by 5 inches of snow and wearing ski gear!

Please see the gallery for more photos! (NB: click on the photos for larger versions/slideshow.)

The date was 7 November 2011. Next day – Day 8: Kings Canyon National Park.

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One thought on “Day 7: Desert to Mountain (aka Dia de los Muertos)

  1. Pingback: Day 6: Death Valley | Jenny and Tom

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