EASTERN SIERRA IDYLL: If you talk to anyone who is enamored with the U.S. Highway 395 and its towns and attractions -- hello Lone Pine and Bishop and the Bristlecone Pine Trees and Mammoth and June Lake and Mono Lake and Bodie and all of you scenic spots -- you know that they're pretty dang happy just hanging close to whatever Eastern Sierra area they've chosen for a vacation destination. But, and it is a very big but: Yosemite is near. Very near. Granted, it's over some rather sizable peaks, some of the most sizable peaks in all of the West, but its closeness can tantalize the Eastern Sierra weekender. What's the answer? Well, you can certainly drive into Tuolumne Meadows or the valley on your own, or you can hop on the YARTS -- that's short for Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System, of course -- and wend your way into the pretty high Sierra and the famous national park.
PICK-UP SPOTS: The shuttle service just kicked off for the summer -- a bit of a late-summer thing, it is true, but consider the early fall visitors that will want to hop aboard. Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, Lee Vining, and Mono Lake are all pick-up points, so you'll need to get to one of the spots where the shuttle stops (yep, Lone-Piners, you're too far south; gotta make your way north). But here's a new fun addition for 2013: The Hiker's Bus, which has a near-dawn start. You'll need to be up and at 'em for your 6 a.m. pick-up.
COST: A one-way ticket on the YARTS runs anywhere from two to nine bucks, but check this sweet action: Your park fee is waived. That's twenty dollars, so you're already making a little bit of a savings, just by kicking back and shuttling it into all of those gorgeous meadows and valleys. Good on you, budget-minded adventure. Good on you.