We planned to cross the Sierra Nevada on CA 120 over Tioga Pass. At 9,943 feet it is the highest paved road across the Sierras and since it is not plowed, it usually closes in October. We did not want to detour back north to I80 or US 50 or drive the extra 200+ miles to the next crossing south so we were fortunate that the road was still open even though it had already snowed.
After crossing over the San Mateo Bridge we headed up the foothills covered with golden grass and scattered oak trees. After less than 20 miles of Interstate we were on CA 120 heading to Yosemite National Park.
As we reached the mountains we saw the dramatic damage done to drought stricken trees by pine bark beetles. There were ghost forests of dead trees with brown needles that dramatically raised the wildfire hazard.
At higher elevations after we entered Yosemite, there were stunning views of the snowy High Sierras. Of course none of the campgrounds were open this late in the year so we continued over the top and down to Lower Lee Vining National Forest Service campground. At 7,300 feet we knew it would be a cold night.
The campground wound along Lee Vining Creek and had pit toilets but no potable water. We moved all food from the truck into the camper to deter bears and protect it from freezing.
Lesson Learned: For extra safety, lock the camper deadbolt at night and move the bear spray from the truck to the camper just in case you need it.