19 (or 20) More Highlights from the Miller Road Trip 2017

It’s been a week and a half since my last update and so much has happened on our adventure.

We’ve had tons of “moments,” laughter, tears, exhilaration, trail mix, frustrations, jubilations, irritations, bacon, excitement, no cell service, delight, thrills, no showers, gloriousness, dirty laundry, s’mores, elation, Gatorade, smiles, giggles, highs and lows. It has been one adventure after another, and despite it all, I can say without any hesitation, we’ve had So. Much. Fun. And there’s more to come.

I’ve learned so much…about myself, my kids, our great land, and people. People truly are just people, no matter where they’re from or how they got to where they are. All the lessons I’ve learned can fill up dozens more blog posts, so I’ll save those. For now, here are a few more highlights of our adventures.

  1. I can totally set up the tent on my own…after a stop at Target to pick up a light-weight three-step step stool, of course.
  2. They price gouge gas outside of Yosemite, so plan accordingly! I think I paid around $4.50 a gallon in Lee Vining outside the east entrance of the park. I didn’t want to find myself in a worse situation, so I paid the crazy price for a half tank.
  3. Yosemite is huge, and I’m talking about the land area. It was at least 50 miles from the East entrance to Yosemite Valley where all the famed rock formations are. The drive was still gorgeous, and we stopped for several not-to-be-missed, but less-famous views.
  4. Yosemite Valley is as awe-inspiring as every Ansel Adams photo you’ve ever seen. When we caught our first glimpse of the Valley, it literally took my breath away. A photographer’s and nature lover’s delight.
    Our first glimpse of Yosemite Valley.
    From Inspiration Point.

    Half Dome in the background. Rock climbing at Glacier Point.
  5. There are gazillions of people in the Valley, and it’s true, there is no place to park. The boys have been collecting park stamps in their National Park Passport books, and all we wanted to do was get two freaking stamps. We couldn’t even get to the visitors center without parking and walking. Parking was out of the question, and I wasn’t about to send my two boys down a crowded road to who knows where. It was frustrating. We ended up getting the stamps at another visitors center near a different entrance.
  6. There was a massive wild fire just outside of the park to the west near Mariposa. In fact one of the roads heading out of the park was closed. It wasn’t the road we wanted to take, so we were good. However, there was a haze across the park that made for a beautiful sunset, but some watery eyes.
    From the top of Sentinel Dome. Haziness in the Valley.

    The tent! And an ominous-looking smoke cloud.
  7. They say that half the campsites in the park are reserved and half are first-come, first-served. If you want one of those first-come, first-served campsites in the park, you better wake up at 4 a.m. and get in line. There are casual campers (that’s me) and there are professional campers (not me). The pros get the primo sites. The casual ones? We have to drive 20-30 miles outside the park to find a mediocre, dusty spot just a little too close to the bathrooms (read: a bit stinky).
  8. I knew we were dirty and even a bit ripe, but I didn’t know how much so until I saw Rocco’s feet at our campsite outside of Yosemite. How does one collect so much dirt on one’s foot?!

    Dirty child.
  9. Flip flops, Converse tennies and even fashion sandals all make adequate hiking shoes apparently. Listen, I know not everyone needs or has proper hiking shoes, but seriously, a lace-up pair of Dolce Vitas or Sam Edelmans do NOT belong on a dusty, rocky hiking trail. At least wear your fashionable Birkenstocks!
  10. Kings Canyon is so worth the drive. It’s picturesque, remote and uncrowded. And I thought it was as equally majestic as Yosemite but without all the people.
  11. Sequoias are massive trees. I knew they were large trees, and I’d seen pictures, but until I saw my boys next to one, I didn’t appreciate how truly magnificent they are.
  12. Coming out of the south side of Sequoia National Park is the longest, steepest, windiest road I think I’ve ever driven on…and I’ve driven over Independence Pass and the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains many times. The road coming out of Sequoia seemed to never end. The boys slept for most of it, or it would’ve been barf fest.
    Kings Canyon.
    More Kings Canyon.
    Massive Sequoia trees.

    Bitty boys in a grove of Sequoias.
  13. I knew California was the biggest agricultural producing state in the nation, but I had no idea what that actually looked like. There were miles and miles of orchards. I’m not sure exactly what was growing on all those trees, but they made me appreciate all the almonds in the bag of trail mix I had my hand stuffed in.
  14. Central California is sort of like Central Kansas – flat, dry and hot – except instead of wheat fields, it’s all those orchards…and some vineyards, too, of course.
  15. I knew the Central California coast could be cooler in the summer, but seriously, did it have to be 60 degrees? The boys and the dog could’ve cared less. The waves still crashed on the beach and the sand still made castles.

    Fun (in no sun) on the beach.
  16. Bot flies exist in the wilderness and if they bite your dog, they lay an egg that grows into a larva and eventually a fly, all just beneath the skin. The bite looks like an oozing infection that may require surgery – that is until a veterinarian in Bakersfield examines your dog and squeezes said larva out of the bite and sends you on your way with five days worth of antibiotics and $133 less in your bank account. Thanks to the kind vet, but that larva was one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen.
  17. A drive up or down California’s 395 is worth the 100+ degree heat in the southern valley and the inflated gas prices further north. The east side of the Sierra Nevadas is magnificent, including Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 (yes, it’s taller than all of Colorado’s 14ers, but not by much).
  18. As we drove up 395 to Death Valley National Park, my thermostat got as high as 106 degrees. I thought that was as hot as it was going to get – that is until we reached the sand dunes in the park. The thermostat registered 122 degrees. The boys and I got out of the car just to see what 122 degrees felt like. Just to be clear, it felt hot.
  19. The Oasis at Furnace Creek, where we stayed in Death Valley, wasn’t really an oasis at all. It was more like a pit stop with air conditioning (sort of), terrible food and hot water coming out of the bathroom faucet no matter if you turned on the hot or cold. It did have an 84-degree natural spring-fed pool and a big, wide open sky where it seemed you could see every star in the universe.
  20. The drive through Death Valley was strangely serene and peaceful. In the lowest parts of the valley, there was little to no vegetation or any other signs of life. It was in stark contrast to Las Vegas, which was where the road took us on our way to Hoover Dam.
    The pool at the Oasis.
    The salt flat at 282 feet below sea level.

    Hoover Dam.
  21. A view of Las Vegas was a reminder of the “fun” we humans manufacture. Las Vegas has its place and purpose, but it’s the antithesis of our experience on the Miller Road Trip 2017.

At this writing, we’ve been to the Grand Canyon and Zion, but I’m going to save those for my next post, which will likely be after we’re home. There are already tons of highlights from those parks, too, but it’s late and I’m not ready to write a novella. So until next week…



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