Previously: Simon, his 88-year-old brother and two children drive into the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains to hike. After Thayer has a bout with dehydration, they change plans, deciding where/ what to see as they drive along.

Noon. As we break camp, I say, “I’d  like to drive up to the Sonora Pass with its 9,624 foot elevation.”

Everyone agrees. So, with the car loaded, we head east for the pass. This winding road with double backs is the steepest climb for cars in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Chris drives. I look into the steep gor-ges and ponder what it must have been like for the early pioneers, as they made their way over what must have been extremely hard and treacherous areas on their way West.

At this altitude and steep incline, the car labors and shifts down automatically. It’s so simple now, even with the dangers at the edge of the road!

Everyone is quiet. Chris concentrates, rounding the sharp turns back and forth. Soon it’s eight thousand feet, and then nine thousand feet. The engine revs past 3,000 RPM and anticipation builds. I see a big sign up ahead.   We’re almost there!

When we pull over, several tourists are taking pictures of each other at the Sonora Pass sign. We join in.

Should we turn around now, and head back to Berkeley? As we discuss the possibilities, I recall Thayer had mentioned the special camp in the area and I had found it on Google Earth. I suggest, “Let’s continue on to see the Marine Severe Weather and Mountain Warfare Training camp. It’s only a few miles ahead on Highway 108.”

We motored on.

2:00. We spot the training facility farther down the mountain and park in a scenic pull off to take pictures of it and a stream flowing through a valley meadow. A bit further down the road, we spot a camping site at Levitt Meadows and take a much needed potty break. There, I see our first really clear mountain stream, revealing the rocks in its depths.Nothing like the muddy rivers of the lowlands in the Midwest.

2:30 I remember from the map, that we were not far from the turn off that went south to the abandoned gold mining town of Bodie, which was made a State Park in 1952. My folks had taken me there on a vacation trip years and years ago. “Hey,” I said to the gang, “We’re this close, why don’t we check out Bodie?”

Everyone agrees so we press on. Having driven down almost to 6,000 feet, we find ourselves winding up past 7,000 and 8,000 feet again, before turning off on the road to Bodie, which after a few miles turns to gravel.  Hmmm.

Some of the curves had revealed significant drop offs up to this point.  Three miles of dirt road to Bodie!

Robin turns to me, “Hey Clark T. Griswold! Where are you taking us?”

“Yeah!” Chris chimes in, Are you sure it’s not to see a big ball of string?”

I get the reference to a scene from “Vacation,” the movie where Chevy Chase says, “Hey Kids! Let’s go see the world’s second largest ball of twine, it’s only four miles down this dirt road!”



Simon Stargazer III (July ‘15) adds, “And so we change the disappointment of one failed goal into the camaraderie of a new adventure, building golden memories for years to come. This is evidenced by the great big smile that leaped onto my face, as I looked at our picture at the Sonora Pass!

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