May 1997 Motorcycle Mini-Trip
A short motorcycle trip was taken over the first weekend in May, the goal being to traverse the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway (never heard of one of those, eh?) east from Oakhurst, California.
Carl Jones and I started out early with our bikes and trailer with weather in the 70s, and immediately learned that there are many folks of Portuguese descent living in Los Banos and making fine linguica sausage. Score one for cholesterol. We pulled in to Maryann Hackworth's Mariposa cabin at midday to unload the bikes and drink the Yosemite dark beer she had on hand. We drove north a bit on route 49 to the Old Hornitos Toll Road. We would have been pleased to pay a toll if they had paved the damned road. Dust in the chain, alas. Hornitos (not to be confused with any other horny part of the body) means "little ovens" and has a fine church and graveyard dating back to the 1850s as well as a very dark saloon. 4-H kids actually arrived while we were there to clean and groom the cemetary.
Heading southeast along Indian Gulch road, we passed through Cathey's Valley and Bridgeport. Now both Hornitos and Bridgeport are both small square marks on the map we had, but Hornitos had buildings, while Bridgeport had an intersection. We re-intersected route 49 at Bootjack, where fluids were acquired for persons and vehicles. Arriving at Oakhurst late in the day, we made camp at a motel, saw Volcano (the movie, not the town), and ingested beef and beer. The town of 2000 residents is actually quite bustling, as it's the southern gateway to Yosemite: the logical way for Angelenos to get there.
The next morning we proceeded to South Forks, to gear up for the mountain trip, and see the Sierra Mono museum, run by an Indian group. Now on the map, the byway, a horseshoe-shaped road with no entry or exit except at the base, looks to be about 40-60 miles around, 80 at most. It was when we saw the sign indicating that Mammoth Pool was 41 miles away, we knew there could be range problems: the pool appeared to be 1/4 to 1/3 around the horseshoe. Them map-makers don't show all the wiggles. But we knew that the range problem would not be troublesome, since a map at the ranger station (and a ranger) said: "road closed November through May".
At its eastern-most point, the horseshoe gets within 10 miles of Devil's Postpile in the eastern Sierra. This was surely true, since there was a magnificent view of the snow-covered eastern Sierra peaks from most of the road. Above 6000 feet the first patches of snow appeared in the forest. Estimated temperature in the 50s. A mile or two beyond that we negotiated 6 inch-high patches of snow on the road through tire tracks. Finally there was a foot-high patch with no tracks at all; we had reached the end 50 miles from the start of the byway.
As the saying goes, it was all downhill from there. A long and tiring trip to the base, return to Mariposa, pack the trailer, and head to Merced for more cow. Pulled in home at midnight. Shoulders still ache from wrestling the beast down the mountain. A good two-day trip.