As if we needed it, we got further evidence that Elli is ready for home. She was very difficult at bedtime and if the campground had been crowded, she probably would've earned us a visit from the park ranger. Thankfully, we all felt better after a pretty good night's sleep. I was pretty surprised that I was the first one up at 8:20. The rest of the family was still dead to the world, so I started breaking camp on my own. I finally roused them at 9 am and we hit the road before 10 am.
Our 39 mile drive through Yosemite to the western entrance was just as incredible as the previous day's tour through Yosemite Valley. We found another spectacular view of Half Dome and took a very short hike to snap some more photos. The drive took us over Tioga Pass which topped out at 9,955 feet, our car's highest elevation of the summer. We then started a gradual descent on Rt. 120 through eastern CA. That portion of the drive had us all pretty giddy as the road had lots of ups and downs and dips that made it feel like a roller coaster. The kids were raving about this being the best drive of the trip!
If only that elation had continued. As we drove through western Nevada, we felt increasingly deflated. The scenery was rocky, gray and desolate with very little vegetation. The most depressing towns I've ever seen cropped up every 30 miles or so dotting the landscape with dilapidated double wides and yards littered with junk and broken down cars. I didn't see a sign of life in any of the towns, so they may have been deserted for all I know. I almost hope they were deserted because it was hard to envision what kind of existence the residents eked out in such a bleak place.
So, maybe we were pre-disposed given our first impressions of Nevada, but we were distinctly underwhelmed by Lake Mead National Recreation Area where we planned to camp for the night. Maybe it was the 100 heat, the dusky lighting, or the poor comparison to Yosemite, but none of us were interested in camping (except for Elli who just really likes her sleeping bag). A web search and a phone call later, we had booked a room at the Loews' Hotel in the Lake Las Vegas resort. It cost about 10 times what camping would have, but the comfy beds and outdoor patio made it worthwhile. Elli gave us trouble again at bedtime, but a couple of beers on the patio helped wipe away that memory.