Highway 580. Highway 108.
The contrast of driving in the San Francisco Bay Area freeways and driving the roads and highways of the Sierra Nevada Foothills is striking. A main artery of the Bay Area commute is Highway 580 that goes from San Francisco to Tracy. A prominent road in the Foothills is Highway 108 that stretches well beyond The Golden K into the high country up and over the Sonora Pass.
Until a year ago I was still commuting to the SF Bay Area once a week. The two hour ride home in the late afternoon was a great example that contrasted these two worlds – the Bay Area and the Foothills – and was in the forefront of mind, body, and soul every time. Coming out of Bay Area traffic within a sea of cars four or five lanes wide into two lane highways with cars flowing freely was always a welcome and cathartic transition. Usually starting from Pleasanton my weekly trek back home took me through through Livermore (my home of 23 years), onto Tracy, Manteca, Escalon, Oakdale, Knights Ferry, Jamestown, Sonora, and finally reaching The Golden K located Tuolumne that sits on the edge of the Stanislas National Forest.
There is a left hand turn in Oakdale onto highway 108. Leaving Oakdale and “heading up the hill” is where I would feel my body relax and anticipate the wonderful feeling of pulling into The Golden K about 40 minutes later. Heading up the hill on 108 the world opens up around you. Buildings and strip malls are left in the rear view mirror and straight ahead is what I have heard so many refer to as “Gods Country” when I tell them where I live. The air is fresher and the sky is bluer. The highway caresses the landscape and my truck seemed to drive itself as I sat back and enjoyed the scenery (with of course hands on wheel and eyes mostly on the road..).
But wait that’s not the end of this road….
A Better Drive
The Golden K sits at about 3100 feet elevation. There is a lot of hill left beyond the GK for one to explore and enjoy. Leaving from Tuolumne and heading north on 108 you’ll pass by many small towns with rich history and a special vibe of their own. Twain Harte, Confidence, and Mi-Wuk Village are all within a few miles of one another and just 20 to 30 minutes from Sonora. Passing through these communities the air gets slightly cooler, and the smell of the pines becomes more prominent. Head up the hill further and the world opens up just a little more as you pass through the towns of Long Barn, Cold Springs eventually getting to Pinecrest and Strawberry. But why stop now? Don’t you want to go over the Sonora Pass at 9,600 foot elevation? If you do you will go through Dardanelle, pass by Kennedy Meadows, and eventually up and over the famous pass.
The physical beauty Highway of 108 is the scenery and people that you experience along the way. The figurative beauty is that Sonora to the Sonora Pass and back is a day trip even with a few stops along the way to smell the fresh air, fish, swim, or simply co-exist with Mother Nature. On the other hand why not take a few days and head down Highway 395, passing through towns like Bridgeport, Willow Springs, Mono City eventually finding your way to the East Entrance of Yosemite National Park.
The Best Drive – Home
Ok, better make it a week! And who knows you may find that one of these communities is where you want to spend the rest of your life with your own romantic perspective of life at (fill in the elevation once you get there) feet.