My wife Judy and I are Californians, born and raised, and as I am sure all of you know, whether or not you are a Californian, there are 4 requirements to live and thrive in California: 1) You must be a beautiful person (check for Judy, check minus for me), 2) You must own a Golden Retriever (check), 3) You must drive a green car (check, we drive a Tesla Model S 85–it’s blue, but green) and 4) Every ten years or so, you must make a pilgrimage to Yosemite Valley. As luck would have it, some friends of ours, Jake and Charlene, were headed to Yosemite for a long weekend in early June, and they asked us to join them. This is an account of our round trip in our Tesla Model S 85 from our home in Vista, California, to Yosemite Valley during the first weekend in June.
Day Minus 1: Drive to our Cabin
Vista, California, is located in North San Diego County approximately a day’s drive from Yosemite, over 400 miles, but unfortunately the shortest route to Yosemite from our home is through the center of Los Angeles. No one, not even someone who lives in LA, wants to drive through the center of LA, ever. So whenever we can, we drive around LA. Luckily for us, we have a cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains above LA that enables us to do just that. It takes some additional time, but it is always worth it. Wrightwood, the small town where our cabin is located, is two hours north of our home in Vista. So after dinner the night before the long drive, we load up the Model S, named “Tessie,” with our luggage, our cooler, and our dog Nika, “The amazing barking dog,” and take off. Unfortunately for Nika, she is not allowed on the trails in Yosemite, so along the way we drop her off at her favorite dogsitter’s. (We always tell her she’s going to a Dog Spa and she always believes us. Goldens are pretty gullible.)
We leave home with a 100 % charge, which for our Model S 85 converts to a rated range of 265 miles. Our cabin in Wrightwood is less than 110 miles from Vista, but the elevation change is over 6,000 feet, so when we arrive at the cabin after driving most of the way at 79 mph using autopilot on Interstate 15, we’ve used more than 160 miles of rated range. On our way to Wrightwood, we pass two superchargers but don’t stop because from experience we know that we have plenty of range to make it to the cabin.
We arrive in Wrightwood on a beautiful 70-degree cloudless evening. First thing, using our mobile connector, we plug Tessie into the 240 volt NEMA 14-50 outlet that we installed two years ago in the garage of our cabin. During the night, in a little over five hours, the battery is back to 100%.
Day 1: Road Trip
After a quick breakfast, we are in Tessie with a 100% charge and are headed for our first supercharger stop in Mojave on one of the shortest legs of our journey, only 86 miles. Mojave is a small town located just north of Lancaster in the high desert on California Highway 14 at the Highway 58 junction. With not much to see at the Mojave supercharger and too early for lunch, we walk to the grocery store and stock up on water, sodas, bagels, fruit, and trail mix. For the next leg of our trip, we have a choice: go to the supercharger at Fish Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or go to the Fresno Supercharger at the base of the Sierras. The Fish Camp supercharger is closer to Yosemite, but it’s 228 miles from Mojave. 228 miles is doable in Tessie–we have gone farther than this on one charge–but Fish Camp is at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Mojave is almost 3,000 feet, but because of the elevation change we decide not to chance it. So we take the conservative route to Fresno, about 180 miles away and at an elevation of only 300 feet. This takes us about 30 miles out of our way, adding over an hour to our trip, but we have plenty of time and need to get lunch anyway. Continuing to California Highway 58 from Mojave, we drive through the beautiful high desert and the Tehachapi Mountains to Highway 99 at Bakersfield and then on to the Fresno supercharger.
After lunch at Jersey Mike’s and a 30-minute charge in Fresno, we head up to Fish Camp, which is only about 60 miles from the Fresno supercharger but the road is mountainous and the elevation change is about 5,000 feet. So a little over an hour and a half later, we hook up to the supercharger in the parking lot of the alluring Tenaya Lodge in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Because this is the last supercharger we’ll encounter before Yosemite, we relax with a drink, no alcohol of course, in the lobby of the lodge for over an hour while we charge to 100%. With charging complete, we leave Tenaya Lodge and in 40 minutes arrive at the cabin rented by our friends in the small development of Yosemite West, about 20 miles from Fish Camp. After unpacking, we plug Tessie into the cabin’s 110v outdoor outlet. (In addition to our mobile connector, we always carry a 100-foot 12-gauge extension cord.) As you probably know, a 110 outlet charges a Model S at a rate of about 1% per hour. This is not much, but by the next morning when we leave for Yosemite Valley, the charge is back to 100%.
Day 2: Yosemite Valley
After a leisurely breakfast with our friends, we all pack a lunch, climb into Tessie and head to Yosemite Valley. Yosemite West is less than 20 miles from Yosemite Valley up scenic, twisty-windy, fun-to-drive California Highway 41, aka Wawona Road. After traveling about 45 minutes, we exit from the Wawona Tunnel to a view that is beyond spectacular. Tunnel View provides one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley with Bridalveil Fall and El Capitan rising from the valley floor and Half Dome in the background. Just this view is worth the 400-mile trip from our home in Vista.
Descending into the valley, we remember that Yosemite in the summertime is a driver’s nightmare, even with Tesla Autopilot. So the smart thing to do is to arrive early, find a parking place near a shuttle stop and use the free shuttles to visit the sights. We find a parking spot near Camp Curry at the far end of the valley a short walk from a shuttle stop. With not much to see at Camp Curry, we board a shuttle.
Agreeing to meet up for lunch back at Camp Curry, our group splits up, the women getting off at the trailhead for the Mist Trail, which leads to the top of Vernal Fall, and the guys continuing on to disembark at the more leisurely trail to Mirror Lake. Often described as Yosemite’s signature hike, the Mist Trail lives up to its reputation today, as Charlene and Judy find out. A relatively steep three-mile round-trip trek to the top of Vernal Fall with breath-taking views at the top, it bathes the women with an extraordinary dousing of mist the closer they get to the fall, along with hundreds of other hikers who crowd up and down the steps leading to the top. But the views and the experience are well worth the crowds. While the women are braving the ascent, the mist, and the crowds, Jake and I hike the more leisurely Mirror Lake Trail, two miles round-trip and relatively flat. The great thing about Yosemite is that every trail, easy to strenuous, results in incredible views and experiences. Mirror Lake Trail does not disappoint. We have some superb views of Half Dome reflected off the mirror-like surface of the lake.
After our hikes we meet back at Camp Curry for lunch and then board a shuttle for a ride to the base of Yosemite Fall, which happens to be the tallest waterfall in North America at 2,425 feet, and boy, is it a spectacular sight in early June after an extraordinarily wet winter. We forego the hike to the top and view it only from the bottom, but it’s quite impressive. We then saunter over to Yosemite Village, eat some ice cream, and head back to the Tesla for the return trip to the cabin.
With all the traffic from the hordes of visitors, the nine-mile trip from Camp Curry to Tunnel View takes us over an hour. So I just put Tessie in autodrive, relax, and chat with the others. About halfway to Tunnel View, we park in a turnout for a quick walk into the center of the valley to view the crazy people, i.e. rock climbers, who are attempting to scale 3500-foot El Capitan. On the way o ut of the valley, we park for a jaunt over to Bridalveil Fall and are met with a pleasant surprise–a double rainbow at its base. One last stop at Tunnel View and we h ead back to the cabin, where we plug in Tessie, relax, enjoy a yummy dinner, and plan our next day’s adventure to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Day 3: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Glacier Point
John Muir said of the Hetch Hetchy Valley that it was “a grand landscape garden, one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life.” So, of course, the state of California dammed up the entrance to the valley and flooded it with water to create a stable water source for the inhabitants of San Francisco. But even filled with water, the Hetch Hetchy Valley is worth visiting, so after breakfast we are back in Tessie for the 50-mile, two-hour trip to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The trip takes us back through the tunnel toward Yosemite Valley, and after the required stop at Tunnel View, again spectacular, we briefly touch down into the valley and then back out and on to Hetch Hetchy. Arriving at the reservoir, we park at the O’Shaughnessey Dam, which is huge and high with thousands of gallons of water pouring out every minute. Our plan is to walk across the dam to the trail to Wapama Falls, a relatively flat five-mile round-trip hike that takes a couple of hours to complete.
Halfway to Wapama Falls, Jake and I decide we’ve hiked enough for the day and leave Judy and Charlene to complete the trip by themselves. On the way they encounter hikers who warn that, because of the tremendous volume of water in the falls due to overabundant rainfall, crossing the bridges at the base of Wapama Falls is more like walking through a waterfall than over it. So they revise their plan of viewing the falls from the bridges and vow to view them from the bridges’ edge. Upon arriving at the falls, though, with a burst of bravado they race across the bridges through the tumultuous splashes and get thoroughly soaked. Giggling like schoolgirls, they make it back across safely, and we meet them back at the dam, both of them sopping wet and chilled to the bone, thanks to the high winds that have whipped up and the dramatic 20-degree drop in temperature. Drying off and gobbling lunch warms us all, and we head back toward Yosemite Valley. About two hours later Tessie begins the climb up to Glacier Point.
The temperature continues to drop such that it’s below freezing by the time we reach Glacier Point, a lookout on the west rim of Yosemite Valley that allows for spectacular views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. As we admire the view and take lots of photos, it begins to snow. Snow in early June in the Sierras is not unheard of, but it is certainly unexpected. So we climb into Tessie and head back to the cozy, warm cabin. After another wonderful dinner and good night’s sleep, we awaken to a winter wonderland in late spring.
Day 3: Homeward Bound
The morning view out our bedroom window is of snow-covered evergreens as far as we can see–something you might expect in the dead of winter, but not in early June. Even Tessie is covered in a dusting of snow. After a hearty breakfast, we say goodbye to our friends, unplug Tessie, brush off the snow, and head back to the supercharger at Fish Camp.
While Tessie charges, Judy and I enjoy the fire in the Tenaya Lodge lobby and discuss the route back to Vista. Just as on the trip to Yosemite, we have two options: go around LA or go through LA. This time we decide to go through LA. (I know I implied earlier that no one in their right mind ever drives through LA, but one of our favorite places to eat is in the middle of LA across the street from Union Station.) We look forward to partaking of lunch at Phillipe’s, the Original, the home of the French-dip sandwich, which in our opinion makes the best French-dip sandwiches and coleslaw on the planet, so the trip through LA is well worth suffering its traffic. So from Fish Camp we head to the supercharger at Fort Tejon on I-5 at the bottom of the Grapevine Grade. We spend almost an hour chatting with other Tesla owners while charging the Tesla to 100%, which is more than sufficient to get us to our house in Vista, including the stop at Phillipe’s. The trip through LA is stop-and-go much of the way, but with autopilot we just let Tessie do the driving. Most people can see the advantage of autopilot on a long trip on an interstate, but where it really shines is in stop-and-go traffic. The car stays in its lane, matches the speed of the traffic, and never gets upset when we
come to a complete stop or if someone cuts in front of us. We just relax and talk, or listen to Mozart. After a great lunch and a relaxing autopilot-assisted mosey through LA traffic, we arrive back home with a 30% charge left in the battery. The trip to Yosemite was outstanding. The experience was unforgettable and quite easy in our Tesla Model S. Summer is coming, and Judy and I would like to encourage every Tesla owner to go visit the wonders of our country, or yours if you live outside the U.S. With the continually expanding supercharger network and a little planning, you can drive almost anywhere.
Mark & Judy