Packing everything up and leaving San Clemente was a huge mission but having a tank to pile it all into really helped. We managed to get on the road in good time and started out on our four hour journey inland to Lone Pine.
Once again, credit where credit is due…. this next section of our journey was inspired once again by the lovely Flora’s blog on her Californian road trip over at Violet and Percy.
The drive initially was really dull. Lots of suburban sprawl, endless drive-ins and motels (did you know you can do drive through banking and prescriptions in the USA…. yep.) But eventually the landscape started to change and I hate it when my kids use this word but ‘epic’ is the only way to describe it.
Lone Pine is supposedly haunted. It sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert, Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The top temperatures on the coast had been near to 27 degrees most days. In Lone Pine the mercury was nestling neatly at 40 degrees. It’s hot. But bearably hot, a dry heat, so no humidity. From almost anywhere in the town you can see Mount Whitney – the tallest peak in the congruous United States (that means the main fifty states that are conjoined – I didn’t know either.)
It’s a great place to visit but really just a stopover. We stayed at the very basic but perfectly pleasant ‘Comfort Inn‘ – it’s a typical American motel but it had a good size fridge which is worth knowing when you’re on a road trip! It also had a tiny swimming pool which we appreciated. (I should have said earlier but the great thing about most hotels in the US is that rooms with two double beds are readily available which meant massive teenagers don’t have to share.)
Finn and I took a quick tour of the Lone Pine film museum which was nice to cool off and see some mainly Western film memorabilia. Django Unchained was filmed in Lone Pine so he was chuffed to see some donated items from his film idol Quentin Tarantino.
An all American dinner with plenty of beer followed at the Mount Whitney Restaurant, followed by a walk in the cooler evening air and that was as much as we saw of Lone Pine!
The Comfort Inn was the only place we stayed that offered breakfast so the boys waffled up and it was back on the road for the two hour drive to our next stop, June Lake.
We did the drive with minimal stops but did call in for a walk and a look at the Hot Creek Geological site en route. Stunning scenery overlooks a beautiful river and turquoise ponds of hot springs bubbling straight up from deep within the earth’s crust. You’re advised not to touch the water as the temperature can vary massively so swimming was not an option but the sight was incredible. The mountains themselves are just enormous and you really do feel aware of how minuscule we all are and how the earth has changed over millions of years as tectonic plates and glaciers slide and crash over the landscape causing ravines and gullies.
Before we arrived at June Lake we drove through the town of Mammoth which we really loved. A ski resort in the winter, the town had a really fun vibe and was full of people enjoying the great outdoors; hiking, cycling, climbing and horse riding. June Lake was a little smaller but definitely had a similar feel and swimming in the cool lakes was magical. The water was so clear and crisp.
On Flora’s advice we opted for the Double Eagle Resort. Our party was a little bigger than hers so we had a two bed cabin (not as big as it looks – there’s nothing on the ground floor – so there’s two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette and living room with a pull out bed.) They are not as fancy as the studio rooms that Flora stayed in but it was still a nice place to stay. Bears roam freely around the area (we didn’t see any) as do deer (saw lots of them) so you have to have your wits about you and be careful with food. There’s also a lot of mosquitos!
We had intended to stay for four nights but we’d enjoyed our time in San Francisco so much that we decided to reduce it to three and have an extra day in the city before we went home and that turned out to be the right decision for us.
As far as activities when we were in June Lake we enjoyed some great walks on really well posted trails (good lengths for the little one), and James and Finn did a trail on horse back, a mini version of which I led Lila on too. We barbecued a lot and and finally got to toast the marshmallows I’d been carrying around since Monterey and make schmores. It was messy!
June Lake is about a two hour drive from Yosemite National Park and a lot of people would visit for the day. We made the call that an extra five hours in the car for Lila would be too much so on the day of departure we left at 5am and were in the park at 7am when it was really quiet (it can be overrun with tourists.) The drive there was magnificent. I had to drive as James nearly crashed about twenty times when he got distracted by some bird or massive view he needed to see!
We parked up and had breakfast at Yosemite Lodge where you can see the incredible Yosemite Falls. If we didn’t have Miss Little Legs with us we would have walked to the top but the lower falls had to suffice and James and Finn carried on a bit and went for a dip.
We made use of Starbucks at the Lodge for breakfast and drove over to El Capitan, the amazing shear rock featured in the film Free Solo. Again you can fairly easily walk to the top but not appropriate for little legs.
Then it was back on the road and our longest drive yet back to San Francisco. Five hours and we were back in the city we’d loved so much on our first visit staying at just the same place.
We hung on to the tank for a night so that we could explore a bit more of the city the next day. We drove down infamous Lombard Street with it’s twists and turns multiple times and visited Mrs Doubtfire’s house on Steiner Street. A quick trip to Golden Gate Park, Haight-Ashbury for last minute vintage shopping and Union Square for the boys and that was the day gone.
And then it was home time. Four weeks, 2000 miles. Done.
Hope any of you thinking of doing something similar find this useful. The memories will stay with us forever.