Population = 3,074, latitude 37º19’, longitude 119º38’, elevation 2274 feet, average January low temperature = 25.9, Average July high temperature = 94, average sunny days = 266, annual snowfall = 1”, annual rainfall = 28.4”
The drive from Casita Springs to Oakhurst crosses a few different planets. We started with glittering ocean and lush green valley in our rear view mirror. Then we were climbing up mountains and the foliage was growing more sparse, with only scattered sprays of wildflowers dotting the sand. After the long coast down the backside of the mountains, we were in farm country. Vast fields of nut trees and strawberries and various other unidentified crops stretch in all directions. Impressive but not very exciting.
The towns pass by one after another as we cruise through the mostly flat San Joaquin Valley. Finally, after Fresno, we start climbing again. The palms are gone now and it is getting to be mostly tall pines. We are well into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the road is starting to take on the roller coaster feel of a mountain road. We crest the last hill and see Oakhurst sprinkled across the valley below us.
The next day is Sunday and, even though we are excited about seeing Yosemite, we decide to wait for a weekday when it is not so crowded. Oakhurst, like many a small town, has a great community theater and we were lucky enough to catch the final performance of their “Shake” musical. It is corny and schmaltzy and full of great old songs for us to sing along with.
The next day we go out exploring. Since we missed the Sequoia National Forest, we don’t want to miss a chance to see some here. On the map it looks easy enough to get to Nelder Grove. On the mountain, it is a steep climb up convoluted roads, perched precariously on the side of cliffs. When we get to the entrance, the gate is shut so we are on foot for the next half mile to the campgrounds. From there, the trail through the huge pines take us a quarter mile to the Bull Buck Sequoia. It is hard to get a photo of this monster that shows the scale. The circumference at ground level is 100 feet.
The next day, we set off to see Yosemite. The roads are every bit as winding and steep as Nelder Grove, but these go on and on forever and elevation signs notify the driver for every 1000 feet gained. Suddenly the visitor comes to a mile-long tunnel. At the tunnel exit lies the iconic spot for photos at Yosemite. From here you can see El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome, stunning in their size and majesty.
At the next stop we try to get closer to Bridalveil Falls. We join the flow of people climbing into the fog and spray, hoping for a good photo. Then we join the flow back to the parking lot, damp and laughing about climbing into all that spray.
There are too many things to see than there are hours in the day, so we blow through a lot of the viewing sites. The ones we see are spectacular. Soaring mountain vistas. Gushing rivers. Gigantic pine forests, fragrant with the perfume of freshly crushed pine needles underfoot. Finally, as we make our way out of the park, we stop for one last photo from the Glacier Point Road. From here, the floor of the valley lies about 3000 feet below and you can just see a few reflections from the Merced River below.
Our last exploration into the area completes the scenic trifecta: first forest, then mountains, then lake. We spend a very nice afternoon driving around Bass Lake. It is not the biggest or bluest or anything, but it is still very scenic and restful. And the ice cream at Miller’s Landing is worth the drive.
Oakhurst was a nice town to visit. The local brewery and winery are both fun to visit make great libations. The town has some good restaurants. There are amazing scenic wonders nearby. For me though, Oakhurst is a bit small and isolated. I am looking for a bigger town, closer to airports and freeways.
Next up: Riding Highway 5