Tioga Pass

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Tioga Pass Unwrapped: A Rare Midwinter Glimpse of “The Roof of California”

Authorities finally closed California’s highest mountain pass this week. Right before they did, Climate Watch contributor Dan Brekke got to see what few of us glimpse this time of year.

Dan Brekke

Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park winds toward Tioga Pass. The road closed Tuesday night after its longest winter opening since at least 1933.

It first captivated me back when I was an adolescent map reader back in the Midwest. I was poring over maps of California for a trip that didn’t happen—then—and took note of the roads across the Sierra Nevada. And the highest of all the mountain routes I could see crossed Tioga Pass, at an altitude that rounds to 10,000 feet. Nearly two miles above sea level.

Eventually I took that trip to California, but it was still a long time before I actually saw the place the map depicted. A good 15 years or so after I moved out here, I managed to scramble up there on a long weekend and spent a single afternoon driving Highway 120, the Tioga Road. Continue reading