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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Touring CA in a near depression - part 2

The second installment post of my recent 7 day CA road trip starts at Tioga Pass eastern entrance to Yosemite Park. Please see previous post for trip introduction and background.

I payed the $20 entrance fee at Yosemite entrance station and proceed down Tioga Pass Road. It was late in day and as i was trarveling without a reserved camping permit on a busy labor day weekend i needed to find an available campsite before dark. So i quickly passed thru Yosemite Park late in the afternoon. After a long descent down route 120 I lucked out and found a rarely used National Forest campsite. Poor, flat and dusty but available. So bad is was I decided not to even pitch my tent but set up a tarp cover over my pickup truck bed to make a sheltered sleeping spot . Drank lots of liquor to sleep quick and forget i was on that poor site. Up early and got out quick. It is Sunday Sept 4 mid-labor day weekend. Continued along route 120 and passed thru Groveland, a picturesque mt community which appeared to be one of the few CA Mt villages riding along ok in the CA great depression 2

Right after passing thru Groveland i got onto route 49 and went north thru the fabled CA gold rush country. There are lots of CA historical markers dotting the countryside- stone basilisks with a bronze plaque description of some historical event at a nearby site/ place of interest. Passed thru Chinese Camp and got to Sonora. Stopped to chomp down on a Carls Jr burger ( i had a discount coupon), then went to pick up supplies at a nearby Sonora discount mart. Surprized that Sonora population was almost entirely Caucasian.

Rushed thru at a rapid pace thru an area of California rich with historic gold rush sites but i had to go quick as i had only a week to do my trip and was only 1/3 way thru the journey which i had to finish on Sept 7.
Went into Columbia State Historic Park, which had a re-creation of a gold rush town/old west village. Good crowd activity here as it was Sunday on a labor day holiday weekend but mostly locals. There was evidence of poverty as i was passing thru here ; closed/shuttered shops, idle teens, yard sales, and foreclosed properties. No surprise as unemployment rates in Tuolumne & Calveras Counties are 13.5 % and 17.3 % respectively.

Went on to small, tidy Angels Camp, which appears kept up despite my seeing few tourists. Not much historical stuff to see here and town too gentrified so i got some info from the local tourst center/ rest stop and went returned back along 49 route in late afternoon.

It is Sunday September 4 late in the afternoon and i am passing thru sparsely populated Sierra foothill open oak woodland/grassland areas. Very empty of travelers. Stopped briefly at the route 49 hwy bridge span over an arm of the Don Pedro Reservoir. Lots of dammed up rivers and backed-up reservoir lakes in this part of CA, a feature alien to my Southern California/ Los Angeles experence

Passed thru tiny mountain community of Coulterville, which was decked out in full labor day regalia, complete with flags and bunting, but was completely empty of tourists. Even the locals at the old west style saloon looked bewildered when i passed thru.

Arrived at an undistinguished little campsite sited along an arm of Lake Mcclure, in the Bagby Recreation Area. I was lucky to find last worst available campsite( notorious site 18). Horrible privacy and little space but no matter. All i needed was a picnic bench table and space for a single vehicle so i snatched it. Talked that evening with a friendly neighboring camper about bad state of CA(in both senses).
After a few drinks i slept well, woke up early and got out quick from that forgettable site 18 and that dismal barren lake, which was geared toward large RV's and power boat lake recreationists.

Drove thru some fine oak/grassland rolling foothill country(California's version of the African Savanna without the wildlife). Passed thru Bear Valley, which had signs of great recession deterioration with abandoned properties galore before reaching Mariposa. Stopped at Mariposa visitor center at intersection of hwy 49 and hwy 140, which issues direct from Yosemite Valley and heads southwest, passing thru Mariposa. Very few tourists and day trippers at this main city junction on a Monday Sept 5, offical labor day. Maybe because Mariposa offers little worth seeing.

Leaving Mariposa I headed south/southeast-bound along route 49, passing thru deteriorated foreclosure-racked tiny mountain communities like Nipinnawasee and Ahwahnee before arriving at the built-up, suburbanized mountain community of Oakhurst. This southern gateway into Yosemite appears to have collected every major CA fast food franchise, and here was the first sign of heavy latino presence in a CA foothill/ mountain community. I stopped at a nearly empty Carls Jr. Like Marioposa, Oakhurst was virtually without tourists on a Monday the 5th, labor day. Saw only one at Carls - a couple pulling a powerboat thru the parking lot. Leaving Oakhurst i headed southbound along route 41. I passed thru Coarsegold, which was absolutely bustling and bursting from RE runup back in 2006 when i last passed thru there. Now it was less crowded and only activity was a town farmers flea market, which looked only half full on Sept 5th, labor day.

This completes the second installment of my CA trip log. I am now heading south along CA hwy route 41 on way to Fresno. It is Monday Sept 5th midday, temps are over 100% , and I am entering the CA Central Valley farmbelt.

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