I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area earlier this summer and have since settled into my 9-5 work routine. This week especially, I felt like I needed to get out and enjoy what Northern CA has to offer.
On Wednesday, I was trying to decide where I would ride. I opened up Google Maps and realized how many amazing options I have for epic rides within hours of where I live. I’m really interested in recording time-lapse sequences, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to shoot a sunrise in Yosemite National Park. The park is about four hours from San Francisco, so I figured I should get to Yosemite the night before and be ready to head up to Glacier Point first thing in the morning.
I visited Hipcamp.com, a great website for booking campsites in CA, to look for a place to stay. Yosemite campgrounds are typically full in the warmer months of the year – needless to say, it’s a popular camping destination. To my surprise, I found a site available in the valley for Friday night. It would put me an hour away from Glacier Point for the following morning.
I wanted to keep it simple and really only bring what I needed. I had a tent, sleeping bag and warm clothes. I only took with me what I was able to fit in my hard cases, which also included some Survivor Man items: first aid kit, headlamp, knife. I try to always have these things with me when I ride, especially when I’m by myself.
I was able to leave work at about 3 PM, though it didn’t help much. I was lane splitting all the way from The Bay to the Central Valley. Traffic only opened up once I was on Highway 120, out in the middle of nowhere. I made it to Stanislaus National Forest just as the sun was setting. I hadn’t been there since before the Rim Fire last year and was blown away to see the devastation. Also, Don Pedro Lake, about an hour and a half outside of Yosemite, was at an incredibly low level due to the drought. I drove the last hour up twisty roads to get to my campsite inside the park. In the darkness, it was a constant shuffle of turning my high beam on and off as vehicles leaving Yosemite passed me. I was really glad when I finally arrived.
I set up my tent and met my campsite neighbors, who had built a campfire and offered me some of their food and drink. I wasn’t expecting to have a group of such friendly people camping near me, and of the three couples, one of the guys ended up being a San Jose motorcycle police officer. We chatted for awhile and once they went to bed, I stayed up to let the fire die out completely. Then it was time to get some rest before my 5 AM wake up call; the sunrise was scheduled for 7.
I heard some rustling near my tent in the middle of the night. As it came closer, I heard a strange grunting sound which was not human. It was either a deer, coyote or bear, but the jury is still out – I didn’t open my tent to find out. A sign at the front of the campground boasted a hefty number of bear incidents so far this year, reminding all campers to put their food in the provided bear boxes. So for the sake of storytelling, let’s just say I survived a bear encounter, and move on.
My alarm woke me at 5 AM, and I boiled some water with my JetBoil. I drank some coffee and got ready to head up to Glacier Point by 5:30 AM. When I rode in the night before, the temperature was in the 70s, but it had dipped down into the high 40s by morning. I made sure to put on extra layers of clothing since I was going to be riding up to a much higher altitude. On the way up, it dipped into the mid 20s and my bike did something it had never done before. The temperature gauge started flashing and a snowflake symbol appeared on the screen. Nice touch, BMW.
I set up one of my two GoPros for the time-lapse and the other I used as a handheld to capture other views. I recorded for about an hour and then was ready to go back and pack up my campsite. It was great being able to do an epic ride like this to a National Park so close to home. Checking Yosemite off the list for now – on to the next.