Wednesday, October 8, 2008

June Lakes and Alabama Hills

Friday, October 3
Another driving tour day. We had been through the town of Mammoth Lakes to Devil’s Postpile before, but we had not been to the lakes area. At the end of the road, I enticed Dorothy to go up the trail to McCloud Lake for 10 minutes just to get some exercise. It worked, she was huffing and puffing in short order at 9,000 feet, but we made it the half-mile to the lake in 30 minutes.

I noted a geologic feature on our Delorme map called Hot Creek. It was just down the road, so we had to see it. So did a few other people, including a geology class from a college in San Luis Obispo. It was a mini Yellowstone.

Our final stop for the day was Convict Lake, scenic, but covered up with people in a fishing tournament.

Pam caught several more trout so we had a divine dinner.

Saturday, October 4
Big winds last night. We woke up to snow above 10,000 feet. It was the first snow of the season. More is expected tonight down to 8,000 feet.

Driving south, we came down from 8,000 to below 5,000 feet. We stopped Bishop for gas and to do laundry and changed into shorts. Darn warm. A big climate difference in 60 miles.

We arrived at our destination, the Alabama Hills, after 3. We found a good location to set up camp - off the main road, but in the open so we have a 360 view. While we were having cocktails, a young couple from Germany drove up and asked if they could stay with us - Hans and Beata. It turned out that he had been to the US about 25 times and to the Alabama Hills seven times before. He is an accomplished photographer, we saw a few dozen of his prints. We chatted with them until bedtime and set our clocks for 5:45 to capture the Sierra Nevada before the sun comes over the Inyo Mountains behind us.

This is our third visit to the Alabama Hills. It’s a very special place for us. The Inyo mountains to the east are the second of four ranges blocking moisture from Death Valley and they look like what you see in Death Valley, unremarkable. The Sierra Nevada to the immediate west is to our way of thinking the best mountain range in the lower US. Ragged, jagged, snaggle-toothed mountains that rise suddenly from the valley floor.

Sunday, October 5
When the sun is still behind the eastern mountains, the tops of the Sierra Nevada glow hot pink. This lasts less than five minutes and then a white band descends down the mountains replacing the hot pink.

We said goodbye to Hans and Beata who were heading north to the White Mountains.

We spent an hour or so jeeping around in the hills stopping frequently to read the signs erected this week for the film festival, showing which movies were filmed at which set of rocks.

After lunch we drove into town and visited the Lone Pine Film Museum.

Monday, October 6
We got up at 6:30 and drove a short distance to capture a few more photographs at first light. I think we got better ones today.

After a breakfast of biscuits, we drove north to Independence and took Onion Valley Road 9,200 feet up into the mountains. This drive is as good as the several we have done in the Owens Valley. The roads go directly up, as you ascend from 4,000 feet to 9,000 or even 10,000 in 15 miles or so.

We did a short hike as Dorothy was not having a good day, altitude wise. The trail I choose was washed out after only ½ mile. We tried another one with the same results. And so it goes.

Tuesday, October 7
Oh Boy, we went and did it today. We had hiked the Mt. Whitney trail before, but only two miles RT or so and that was more than enough for Dorothy on that day. Today, we went three times that distance, 5.6 miles, with a 1,590 feet elevation gain. We started out at 9am at 8,360 and went to Lone Pine Lake at 9,950. We huffed and puffed all the way up and spent a lot time resting. It took us 3:45 to get to the lake and 2:40 to come down. That means we spent about an hour resting on the way up.

Dorothy has several blisters and is out of action for the rest of the day, but she is in good spirits after a Coke and a martini. We are setting four miles as our hard limit from now own.

Wednesday, October 8
We get up early, have a quick coffee and cereal and reluctantly break camp. We are about out of water and would need to dump in one more day. Besides, we really need to head home.

We stopped to see the arch, which we just heard about the other day (from a BLM chap who stopped by to say hello and warn of fire danger). Of course, we have probably seen more of the hills than most who visit here. Some of the roads are for high clearance vehicles only. We plan to come back one year. Perhaps the first two weeks of October at June Lake followed by two weeks at the hills.

We drove 3.5 hours to just east of Barstow to a non-descript CG in the Mojave. After months of great scenery, the trip home is going to be boring on I40. The choice of CG’s on I40 is really sad.

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