First, let me just say that the Austria Hof Lodge in Mammoth Lakes, California is simply amazing. It is beautiful, the staff is wonderful and the rooms ared lavishly comfortable. That having been said, I wish they were at an altitude slightly lower than 8500 feet.
After a night of pretty rough sleep and continued light headedness, I made the decision to move on today. I realized that I wouldn’t really be able to see and do all I wanted if I had to cough up blood to do it. Had I been able to stay for a few days, I would have no doubt become acclimated and all would be good.
I got on the road around 8:30am and proceeded up Highway 395 towards Reno, Nevada. Only one of the passes through the Sierra Nevada’s was open (the 108), but that peaked at the Sonora Pass at over 9200 feet – one of the highest driving passes in the country. Given my bout with altitude sickness and my concern for a car made to run at sea level, I decided to take 395 all the way to Reno and then take Interstate 80 into Sacramento where I am now. Great move.
The drive up 395 was really breathtaking. I went fairly high up (the highest summit at 8100+ feet), but the roads were great and the scenery was amazing. I stopped many times to take pictures at places like Mono Lake in the really beautiful Mono Basin.
After clearing the 8100 foot summit, I realized that my empty stomach probably was making the altitude-enduced headache worse than it should be. I immediately stopped at the first place that looked good in the first town I drove through. Boy, was I lucky.
I ended up at the Hays Steet Cafe in the tiny town of Bridgeport. The first thing I saw on the menu at this breakfast-and-lunch-only restaurant was a breakfast consisting of 2 eggs, hash browns and an English muffin. Perfect. Let me just say that the hash browns were, seriously, some of the best I’ve ever eaten. All of that for 7 bucks! Woot!
Upon leaving Bridgeport, I wound my way down in altitude to my favorite drive of the trip thus far through the Toiyabe National Forest. The drive wound through canyons following the path of a small river that was whitewater most of the way. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen with pine trees clinging to the walls of parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that shot up thousands of feet. The winding road curved along with the river for what seemed like miles, but probably wasn’t that far. It just took a while.
After leaving the National Forest area, the canyon opened up into beautiful meadows full of cows and horses. In the area leading up to Toiyabe was full of animal life, wild or otherwises. In addition to cows and horses, I saw donkeys, sheep and wildlife including all manner of birds like roadrunners and hawks and tons of chipmunks and groud squirrels.
After leaving the canyons, I drove across the Nevada border. Literally, within a quarter mile there was a casino. They know where their bread is buttered.
I proceeded through downtown Carson City and on to Reno before taking the last leg of the trip across I 80 through the Sierra Nevada range one mored time. The interstate hit its highest point at over 6000 feet where I was even able to stop and make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me that snow was still on the ground. Ok, it’s more ice than snow, but still.
On the decent down to Sacramento that went from 6100+ feet to under 2000 in about 30 minutes, the temperature went from 51 to 80 degrees and the scenery was spectacular.
I’ll be editing photos from the first 3 days now that I’m settled. But, I should have plenty to see later tonight.
Tomorrow, it is on to my friend Ange’s in San Francisco after a tour of the California state capial. I realize that I’ve now been through 3 state capitals on my way out – Phoenix, Carson City and Sacramento. Another thing to add to the tour.