September 27 -28
Before leaving Lake Powell, we had decided that our next stop was going to be Yosemite National Park in the Sierras. We were supposed to go there earlier in the road trip, but the park was closed for over a week due to hazardous smoke from the nearby wildfires. This park has been on our list for years, but nature has seemed to not want us to be there. Last time we were planning to go, there was a late season snow storm in May. We decided since they had opened up the park again and the conditions looked good, I scouted the campground reservations website the week before and was able to get a last minute campsite in the valley for our desired dates. We knew there would be on and off smoky conditions in the park, it was still worth showing up and hoping for the best.
We clocked the distance from Lake Powell to Yosemite, which came in at about 12 hours of driving. We decided to split this into 2 driving days and looked for something fun to do on the route. About 1/3 of the way there was Vegas. Bijan had never been and this was definitely not on our list, but we decided to add it to the itinerary and make a 1-night stop in Sin City. We booked a hotel on the strip, the tackiest one I could find, just to get the full Vegas experience.
We left Page, AZ the morning of Sunday the 27th after packing our car yet again like a real life game of Tetris. We passed through the small town of Kanab in Southwestern Utah, admiring the coral cliffs that are the backdrop of this western town. We stopped at a food truck for breakfast and coffee, one that we had been to before on a previous trip.
We passed through southern Utah and then through winding, dry, yellow canyons following the virgin river in the northwestern corner of Arizona before crossing over into Nevada. Nevada was dry, flat desert with low-lying shrubs and scattered Joshua trees with jagged mountains in the distance.
We arrived at the Luxor hotel, the Egyptian pyramid themed resort, for check- in with Charley in tow. We got Charley settled in her suite and headed out for a night on the town.
Bijan and I left the Luxor hotel and walked down the strip. It was as tacky and flashy as I remember. We walked through the maze of various hotels and casinos. The smell of cigarettes, sewage and hot trash filled the air as we walked through the streets. I’m pretty sure we went though an entire bottle of hand sanitizer in one night.
We settled on a sports bar for dinner, and Bijan did some gambling on the roulette table afterwards. He was up quite a bit of money, but lost most of it in the end. Vegas always has a way of getting it’s money back!
We were both tired and ready for bed by 10 pm, I guess we were not built for Vegas. We hit the hay back at the hotel. We woke up the next morning and headed to the famed “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign for a quick photo op and grabbed a quick breakfast at Perk Up coffee on the outskirts of the city. Bijan says this was his favorite part of Vegas.
We hit the road, with our destination set on the West entrance of Yosemite National Park in California. Driving from the city of Las Vegas, we hit the “middle of nowhere” very quickly. Outside the city, were endless desert vistas with a dry landscape and distant mountains. We crossed over into California (yay!) heading west then north through the endless fruit and nut farms.
The sky quickly turned from blue to gray and everything in the distance looked hazy. Wildfire smoke covered the Central Valley of California, thicker in some areas than others. We drove up the highway, then pulled off on some side streets to cut over into the sierras. We drove up the Golden Chain Highway through the mountains, which were covered in golden grass as the name suggests. The smoke started to clear and we got amazing views.
Charley’s first smell of the smoky California air!
We dropped Charley off at her accommodations at Big Creek Boarding for the next few days and made our way to the Yosemite Westgate Lodge for a good night of sleep before we hit the park.