Story 5: Mariana and Josh’s Last Leg to the West Coast

By: Mariana Carnahan


Last leg of our cross-country road trip: Park City, UT to Mammoth, CA time was early November.

We drove for over 10 hours that day from snowy Park City to get to California. As the lights of Reno, Nevada disappeared in the rear view we had a major decision to make, go to Lake Tahoe or go to the Sierras and Yosemite.  

Flashback 7 days, we were newlyweds leaving Pennsylvania and moving to California with our two dogs and an overly packed Honda Accord. As we made our way across the diverse northern United States we experienced several climates. The cold farmlands of Nebraska, the snowy mountains in Park City, the Salt Flats in Utah, though our trip was wrapping up we decided to add one more stop, Yosemite National Park, before reaching our final destination, the Bay Area.

We trucked down Route 395 hoping to get some rest in Mammoth and head into Yosemite in the morning. It was late and we had been driving for hours without any breaks, the sky was pitch black and more than anything I could feel the presence of the snow covered Sierra Mountains, a mountain range in the Western United States with 14,000 ft. elevation, to my right. I felt nervous and scared, my husband was tired, I was tired, the dogs were tired and of course we were low on gas.


When we finally arrived in the sleepy town every thing was closed, it was the off season but it was also really late. We vetoed a gross motel room though extremely tired then luckily the Best Western took us in, a pet friendly room equipped with doggy bowls and bed, the only one of the whole trip. We dragged our things inside the room to be safe of bear break-ins and collapsed into bed.

We woke up with sunshine and felt excited about Yosemite. Quickly, we learned quite the disappointing news that Tioga Pass was closed for the season. Tioga Pass serves as the East entrance for Yosemite National Park, the other entrance being more than 400 miles away. This mountain pass is the highest in California and the snow came early that year. I had never even thought to check and felt like the most inexperienced traveler, I never even knew about mountain passes in general coming from the seemingly flat East Coast. How could we make such a mistake? Adding on hours to our trip just to be blocked at the front gate, basically.  

I learned quickly that we weren’t on the East Coast anymore.


After being stuck in a car for 7 days and for about 10 hours a day, I started to desire nothing more than to have my feet on solid ground and now we just added 10 extra hours to this trip. Staying at hotels wasn’t fun anymore, eating junk food wasn’t fun anymore, wearing yoga pants and uggs wasn’t comfortable anymore, but what choice did we have but to keep going…

We drove south on 395, the only road out. We passed by little mountain towns, ghost towns, a whole lot of nothing and through the highly populated and grimy Bakersfield. Our last night would be spent in Carmel by the Sea, a storybook-like town with unique and very expensive houses tuckered in the tiny streets. We checked in late and spent our last night in a cute beach hotel reminiscing about the trip and excited about our future.

The next morning we were up early, feeling rested and refreshed. We spent the morning on the beach with our pups. Tip: Carmel is known as one of the most dog friendly towns in California.

Flash forward 2 years. We have gone on countless journeys, spent more time on the road exploring the woods, the coast, the mountains and I couldn’t be happier.  


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