We left Mono Vista RV Park intending to drive up to Tioga Pass and through Yosemite to Calaveras Big Trees SP. We did drive up to Tioga Pass but found that even though it was a state route, CA 120, we were not allowed to enter Yosemite without a day pass as part of their COVID-19 protocols. They rangers told us that we were going out of our way and it would be shorter to take CA 4. So back down CA 120 we went to US 395. We went back up Monitor Pass at 8,314 feet on CA 89 and down the other side to the junction with CA 4. We started up and saw a sign that gave us pause.
Where have you seen a road with 24% grade?? We stopped and had a break and talked about it. We looked at the map and the only other way to get there was to take either US 50 or CA 108 and it looked like about 4 times as far because of the over and back path to Calaveras Big Trees SP. We decided to go for it, and if the road was so steep, we could always put the Jeep in low 4WD to make it. We also knew that the east side would be steeper and I would rather go UP 24% than DOWN 24%. We emptied our fresh water tank to eliminate some weight.
The road started out nice enough, and when we started climbing a little, it was still OK. Then we lost the center yellow line as the road narrowed. The steepest parts seemed to be on the hairpin turns. Well, you are going slow there anyway, right? Fortunately, we didn't meet any large vehicles coming toward us. We made it over the pass at 8.730 feet, and then had to go over the second pass, Pacific Grade summit at 8,050 feet. We drove by Alpine Lake, a gorgeous lake, and picked up the yellow line again, and went down the western side which was more gradual. For future reference, Sonora Pass was higher at 9,624 feet but a full two lanes the whole way.
When we got to Calaveras Big Trees SP, we found that they had a fresh water fill right after the dump station, so we knew we could fill our fresh water tank and also dump before starting home. Unfortunately, when I tried to close the valve on the tank, the little plastic handle broke off. I managed to use pliers to get it mostly closed, and we put a piece of plastic wrap and a rubber band over the valve so it just dripped very slowly. We knew we could always return and get our tank filled again if needed. As it turned out, there was a water spigot in our campsite so we could have filled our tank there.
Calaveras Big Trees SP is named for its groves of Sequoia trees. After we arrived, we walked through the North Grove campground to the boardwalk over the meadow in the middle of the campground. The next day, we hiked around the North Grove trail. They had marked it as one way to reduce chances of virus exposure. The grove was different from other Sequoia groves in that there was a mix of trees whereas other Sequoia groves were mostly Sequoias. It was a pleasant walk and most hikers wore masks - but not all.
After walking the North Grove, we stopped at the visitor center and found that the center was closed except for the gift shop where they allowed only up to 10 people at a time inside. That worked for us and we got our usual decal to put in the trailer and our park t-shirts.
We drove the Parkway that connected the north grove to the Stanislaus River and the south grove, which is much larger. It was a 5 mile hike so we decided to just walk the Beaver Creek trail which was much shorter. We walked to the creek which was pleasant with a number of people wading in the cool water. Then it was back to camp. We had no Verizon coverage but the park had Wi-Fi at the visitor center and our Wi-Fi booster gave us a good signal at our site.
The Calaveras Big Trees SP was a great park to end our ten day trip across the Sierras and back.
We went home by following CA 4 down the Sierras and through the Valley. It was a bit curvy and rough across the delta. It would have been better to take CA 49 and 16 to Sacramento and then take i-80 home although more miles but not necessarily more time.
Retirement is great. We bought a travel trailer and are exploring National Parks. (Actually, we bought one and sold it and bought a second one better suited to us. It happens...) And I have time to do some woodworking projects and things around the house. And now I have gotten interested in ham radio so there goes any free time.