Overview of Yosemite Trip
The planning for the trip begun a couple months back when we made the reservations for the camp site. We enjoy going to Yosemite during the off season since there are much less people there. It is almost impossible to get a reservation during the summer season.
The preparations included finishing up a few interior renovations that were still on the list which included getting the couch and chairs reupholstered and putting in the new flooring in the galley. I picked up the furniture the afternoon before we headed up to the motor home the next morning. I'm really glad we didn't have to sit on lawn chairs for a week in Yosemite.
Our motor home trips begin with a 250 mile drive from the Bay Area up to the Redding area to pick up the motor home. We stayed up north overnight and began our 350 mile trip south to Yosemite Valley the next morning.
At the property up north, I can generally leave the motor home plugged into electricity so the refrigerator was already cold and the batteries were fully charged. We finished up our grocery shopping up north and I went through my pre-travel checklist such as checking all fluids and checking tire pressures.
It was about 9:30am the next day before we left the ranch property and headed towards town. It's about a hour drive down the mountain to Highway 5. Once we filled up the fuel tank, we were on Highway 5 driving south. The goal was to get to the town of Angel's Camp just about 80 miles outside Yosemite Valley in the mid afternoon where we would stay for the night.
A couple years back when we did our first trip to Yosemite, we had ignition problems with the motor home engine and we got into Yosemite Valley in the dark. After that, we preferred to drive into the valley in the morning under bright blue skies! And who wouldn't? It is a beautiful drive and it should be done during day light.
We stayed at the Angel's Camp RV Park in the town of Angel's Camp. It's a small but nice park and the owners are wonderful. Before we headed up into the foothills to Angel's Camp, we got fuel at a Costco gas station in Lodi. This gave us plenty of fuel to get into and out of Yosemite Valley and would allow us to use the GenSet a bit if needed.
The motor home drove wonderfully for the entire trip with no issues at all except for the continuing A/C fan issue that I have. I really enjoy driving the motor home. It handles well and has a nice smooth ride. After finally installing the correct fan clutch, it is a very quiet ride inside the Airstream and it was nice to be able to carry on conversations!
There are three campgrounds in the valley for tent and RV camping. There are no hookups at these campgrounds, but there is a dump station with potable water and water available at the various restrooms. The camp spaces are all paved and mostly level. Our space was level and all that was required was to use the leveling jacks to stabilize the motor home.
I pulled out the awning, plugged in my Yamaha 2000 generator and setup my solar panels. That's about all we had to do to setup the motor home. I have a 65 watt three panel portable solar unit. For solar to work well, they really need to be exposed to direct sun light for many hours during the day. This is not possible in the valley with all the trees and the canyon walls so close, but the solar panels did help. I found that I have to run the portable generator about two hours each day to keep the batteries fully charged. Once the house batteries are charged and we are not using the 12 volt
system except for the refrigerator and the propane detector, the base draw is about 1.5 amps. When the solar panels are in direct sunlight they were putting out about 3 amps.
Since we were boon docking for seven days, we had to manage our resources wisely. We use water sparingly and place a pan in the galley sink to capture as much wash water as possible. The restrooms have a gray water disposal sink and we dumped our dish pan water there. We used lights sparingly as well and ran the furnace a bit as needed. I ran the Onan GenSet once for a hour on one of the days just to exercise it. I ran the portable generator for about two hours each day to keep the batteries charged. The battery monitor I installed last summer really helps to manage the house batteries.
I recently read a long thread here on Airforums about campfires and the use of generators at parks and campgrounds. I have some very mixed feelings about what was posted. I'll just say this, if you don't like campfires and generator use, then don't go to Yosemite! These days there are more RV's in Yosemite then tenters and everyone uses their generators. Most use portable generators that are fairly quiet, some use their noisy built in GenSets. Everyone has a campfire and we are all right on top of each other. The smoke gets so bad in the valley that campfires are strictly limited to 7-9pm during the summer season. Campfires are a part of the Yosemite experience, if you don't like that or have medical issues with the smoke, then don't go. On the last night, we went to bed and within minutes the CO/propane detector sounded...twice! The smell of campfire smoke was heavy in the motor home and I had to turn the roof fan on to clear it out. Do I have campfires? Absolutely!
Bears are a wonder part of Yosemite and this is their home, not ours. It's been many years since I have seen a bear in Yosemite, but they are there. The rangers said the number of bears this year coming into the valley and into the campgrounds are heavier then in the past. It's important to take the bear problem seriously and properly secure your food. If a bear gets human food even once, it most likely will become pattered to continue this activity. These bears have to be captured and put down. There are food lockers for every campsite and we use them for extra drinks, etc. If you have a hard sided RV, you can store your food, etc. in your refrigerator. You must have all doors and windows closed and no food or drinks visible when you are away from the RV. The rangers come around multiple times during the day and night to check the campsites. They will and do site people for breaking the rules.
Speaking of RVs, I don't think I've ever seen so many RVs in Yosemite as I did last week. I should clarify that...rental RVs! The last few weeks have been spring break weeks and there were a lot of families visiting and many in rental Class C motor homes. Many are visitors from overseas that have come to experience Yosemite first hand which I think is wonderful. We have been to Yosemite in the past at the end of April after spring break is over and I think that will be our plan again next year!
On our last full day in Yosemite, we met a wonderful couple camping in a travel trailer just behind us. They were familiar with Airstream trailers, but had never seen an Airstream motor home. I gave them not the nickel tour but the dollar tour of Dad's Toy. They were sold and were going to begin their search for a classic Airstream motor home! I let them in on the little secret of what they would be in for! The subject of what I would sell Dad's Toy for came up. I could have walked away with a check in my hand, but...Dad's Toy isn't for sale! Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to see this couple again and maybe with their "new" Classic Airstream motor home!
The weather in Yosemite can change quickly and dramatically. You need to be prepared for this, especially if you are hiking outside of the main valley area. When we arrived on Saturday, it was shorts and short sleeve weather. Sunday night it rained heavy for most of the night. We woke up to a good covering of snow on the ground and the trees on Monday morning. By the evening, the snow was mostly gone. Tuesday was sort of windy and cold and after that the weather just got better and better!
There is lots to do and see in the valley. On this trip, we mostly just rode our bikes around the valley. They have a great bus system running in the valley and you can also get around that way if you don't tow a car and don't have bicycles. There is a fairly large grocery store in the valley if you need anything. We prepared ahead of time and brought enough food for the week with plans to eat at the Ahwahnee on Sunday night. The lodge is beautiful and the food is top notch. One afternoon after a long bike ride, we went to the Ahwahnee for drinks. A total of six beers, three each was $50 plus tip! So, you can get an idea of costs for dinner from that. But the scenery was priceless.
Before we new it, the week was over and we were packing up to leave the valley. We left early on Saturday morning in order to get all the way back to the Redding area in one day. We used the dump station at the entrance to the campground before we headed out. It's a nice little climb out of the valley and a windy slow decent on the other side. The motor home did just fine going over the mountain. I just take it slow and easy so not to put a big load on the engine and transmission and to not overheat the brakes on the down hill side. I am very glad the Airstream has disc brakes all the way around.
We fueled up again in Lodi and headed north. From Lodi up to Sacramento, we take Highway 99. There are a couple of rough spots but for the most part it is fine. The only thing to watch out for is the exits and entrances to the highway are extremely short and when most autos enter, they don't speed up and you will be slamming on your brakes. Going through Sacramento is another story...it's just crazy. You must pay very close attention to the exits you must take to go from 99 to 50/80 to Highway 5. The other problem is that it is a race track through there...be careful. Highway 5 is a beautiful highway. Some think it's boring, but I think it is a very relaxed drive. There are lots of 18 wheelers out there but they are not really a problem, just watch out for the California Highway Patrol! I typically drive at a speed around 55 to 60. Sometimes I find it a bit hard to stay under 60. About 100 miles from my destination, stopped at a rest stop, of which there are many along the route, to add a quart of oil. We got back to the ranch property about 5pm, got the motor home hooked up and BBQ'd some burgers!
I love driving the motor home and camping in it as well. With all the work I've done on it over the last two years, it's a real pleasure to use. The work however isn't done! I still have a long list of things to do, but hopefully at this point my wallet can recover some!