Lee Vining fronts the Tioga Road gateway to the High Sierra in Yosemite National Park, California, USA.
Leaving Twin Falls, Idaho for the full day drive to Lee Vining in California, the stop for lunch occurs in Lovelock, Nevada (population 2,003 - elevation 3,900 ft) where "Your love remains locked".
Our down-home, righteous-cookin' lunch is memorable at an establishment called Cowpoke Cafe whose motto is, "Eat here now before we both starve".
The spectacular drive south on I-95 passes the Fallon Naval Air Station, then under the steep cliffs towering over the west shore of Walker Lake, past Mount Grant and Corey Peak, for the turn right at Hawthorne onto Hwy 359.
The drive passes the interesting and high-security Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant and up and over 7,626 ft (2,323 m) Anchorite Pass to the Nevada-California border.
Here, the same highway changes to Number 167 and swings west past the north shore of Mono Lake, a gravel road exit to Bodie and a T-junction at Hwy 395 where a left turn and 7 more miles (11.2 KM) passes the fascinating west shore of Mono Lake into the small, bustling, tourist town of Lee Vining, California, USA.
Arrival in Lee Vining is best achieved with advance reservations. Our arrival later in the afternoon without reservations finds most of the limited accommodation is filled. Wandering about town searching for a reasonably priced motel room is first discouraging, then followed by a stroke of luck.
The Lee Vining Motel opens their reservation office at 4:00 PM each day and notifies the public by hanging a flag out front. Who knew?
By some merciful circumstance, we happen to be wandering past at 4:00 PM and stop in to book the first of the thirteen rooms. The office closes when all the rooms have been taken, usually about 20 minutes later.
Lee Vining Motel accommodation is reserved for three nights, as the staging location for hiking in the northeast part of the High Sierra in Yosemite National Park.
The remainder of this day continues with a walkabout around town before supper at Nicely's Restaurant.
Veering off the main street towards Mono Lake discovers the Mono Basin Historical Society Museum on a corner park where a collection of interesting exhibits command attention as reminders of days gone by.
One of the most intriguing is the Upside Down House.
Adjacent to the Mono Basin Historical Society Museum is Hess Park, named after Gus Hess, the father of Lee Vining, with picnic tables and a children's playground.
During the stay in Lee Vining, walking through the back roads of town occurs in early morning before an excellent breakfast at Nicely's Restaurant or, at day's end, after supper.
Nicely's offers standard fare, done well, and the service is provided very efficiently by hard-working staff. The Protestant and Catholic Churches are walk-time discoveries as well as an empty, closed building, for rent, with no parking, welcoming the world.
Lee Vining is a small, bustling tourist town in the summer, strategically located near the east entrance to Yosemite National Park. In winter, when High Sierra snow closes the Tioga Pass Road, Lee Vining is predominantly closed.
There are few customers and only a few local inhabitants endure the winter waiting for the next tourist season to arrive.
From Lee Vining, hikes are conducted to Gaylor Lakes, Lembert Dome, Dog Lake, Bodie State Historical Park and Soda Springs.
Traveling up through Lee Vining Canyon one last time on the route across the center of Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass Road (Hwy 120) travels from the east side to Crane Flats, then south past Yosemite Valley to the next staging location in Mariposa, California.
Mariposa is near the southwest corner of Yosemite National Park. A lot of remarkable trail is left unexplored in the High Sierra.