Horseshoe Bend, Lake McClure

Nice campground with a view of the reservoir.

Well here’s one we had not yet been to. I think I reserved a couple of times and it got closed on me, whether for Covid or fire, or both, not sure. There is certainly evidence of a big fire along 120 that looked fresh and still smelled pretty strong, despite the recent rains.

Sierra roads can be tricky.

This one is a long drive for us, no matter how you slice it. Navigation on the Passport suggested taking 120 all the way to 49 and cutting south there. Google said to take 132 through Modesto. We went with taking 120 out of Manteca all the way to 49 and that was a little too exciting for a four hour, pushing darkness, drive. That stretch of 49 is mostly fine except for about two miles where the shoulder disappears and the elevation above the riverbed climbs quickly. There are some blind corners with nothing but little piles of pebbles along the edge as the only form of guard rail. It didn’t help that it was dusk and raining. And the rain at the summit looked suspiciously like frozen rain. I did not like that. But we made it! And the site was easy to back into, and the sound of rain on the roof was lovely.

Playing our game of find the yellow bikey guy.

On Saturday, I hotspotted off Richard for a while to do some figuring, plotting, and planning on how to safely get kids back to in person Learning Center. Eventually, he pulled the plug and took his phone away from me because he wanted to go on a ride. Fine. So I leisurely showered and headed out along his route until I caught up to him. His ride took him through the adorable little town of Coulterville and up Priest Coulterville Road until it hits 120. From there, it’s about fifty more miles of climbing to get to Yosemite, but that was not our destination. Instead, we threw his bike in the back and drove down the really twisty part of 120, back to the intersection with 49. I wanted to do that scary stretch again in the daylight and without a trailer, just to see if I still thought it was daunting. And yeah, it’s not so bad when it’s not dark any rainy, but still, that one stretch gets my heart racing. One of the goals I had in repeating the drive was to have Richard document scary pictures of it. But did we remember? No. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

From Highway 120 looking at Old Priest Grade Road.

We took some shots of one of the craziest roads in California: Old Priest Grade Road. This road clocks in at an average grade of 12%, with peaks at 20%. You don’t want to try this on a bicycle. Or with a trailer. Or with an old VW van with a manual transmission back in the sixties. I have a childhood memory about that that still causes me to cringe at long, steep grades. You have to be careful in the Sierras. Those roads do not mess around and this one is NOT a shortcut to Yosemite.

Super pleasant Highway 132

We had a deliciously lazy rest of the day. Sunday we dumped and stopped for a sandwich before heading back. We decided to try 132 going back and that is hands down an easier drive. Clearly, the big rigs sharing the loop with us must have come that way because I can’t picture them braving the narrow, cliffy 49. The only thing we have not yet tried is taking a cutoff on La Grange Road to cut some miles off and skirt Lake Don Pedro to get from 120 to 132. If you’re not looking at road routes in that area right now, you can skip most of this post.

One last fun thing to mention is that we decided we really did want new binoculars and discovered there was curbside pickup available at a Bass Pro Shop right on our way home. Now we can have binoculars in Bruce and in Lola because you never know when you might need to see something far away.

Water levels are pretty low…

Overall, I’d return to this campground but would take the easier route. If the water levels weren’t so low, it would be a much more impressive water view. But even without much water, it’s got the remote foothills of the Sierras feel and it isn’t too hard to book. Plus hookups and strong cell service for one of us. All wins.

Total miles: 136.2, 4 hours 2 min via 120 to 49, 17.5 mpg. Site G10. Nice. Also nice: G12, G13. Great solar. Nice view of lake. Electric and water hookups. Good dump. NO cell for ATT but pretty good LTE for Verizon.

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